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A different world? You can say that again.
The Homesick have a new album out and it’s wild. I may as well tell you now. The band have always made their myth from their music, often if in oblique ways. Early recordings and activities (once brandishing a toy pistol on a local TV programme) played up to an idea of bored scallies larking about in the provinces. Later they developed a sort of spiritual psychogeography, singing of Saints and supporting seal sanctuaries. Their last LP, The Big Exercise, traded in a beautiful upgrade on the kinds of impish noise Van Dyke Parks once dealt with. Now, it seems the Homesick are leaving the planet.
The theme of Youth was always a touchstone in their songs, that went hand in hand with a sort of lyrical, boyish physicality; no longer it seems, as these tracks have an ageless, even bodiless quality to them. Shadows on the wall, silhouettes, mysteries, codes, talking to aliens, other worlds… ‘Soola’, ‘Trois’, ‘Acrobaat’, what do these titles signify? What have they been putting on their cornflakes?
Many will point out parallels with another “mauve” pop outfit, Animal Collective, and on one level, yes, with this new record, you can draw that comparison with the Baltimore band. Take a track like ‘Millimetric’; the ways the song’s structure pans out, or how the lyrics seem to be more like conversations with an exclusive peer group, and especially the way the vocals sound, are incredibly reminiscent. Not that that is in any way a problem. On the contrary. The Homesick have always managed to soak up ideas only to make sparkling, brilliant weird pop music that is instantly recognisable and utterly independent of what we think of it. As they sing on ‘Millimetric’, the possibilities are endless. Europop, dub patterns, the odd flourish of a steel band, club textures, even a Yamaha intro that is worthy of John Shuttleworth at one point, it’s all here. ‘What Do You Want From Me’ starts as if it’s an outtake from Julian Cope’s Rite II. Repeat plays can leave the listener in a state of mild confusion: at times (especially ‘Good Morning III’) this record reminds me of The Orb’s Adventures Beyond the Ultraworld. Blimey.
But most of all, they remind me of this fantastical and very psychedelic Polish Film from the 1980s, Mr. Blot’s Academy, in which Mr Blot, a certifiable though lovable lunatic, runs a creative academy for poor boys. Here, food is made using colour, the boys talk to tree spirits and other planets are found at the wave of a magician’s wand. All kinds of cartoon Pepperland nonsense happens – including the braver kids standing on a ladder coming out of Blot’s head and scooping out rain clouds from the sky. Like the boys, The Homesick run wild and free, and are beholden to no-one in the creation of their world. But we can watch, of course. ‘From the Margins of Another World’ is a standout track in this regard, built up through a set of programmed, sampled and synthesised sounds, it floats lazily past us, like a beautiful gondola: the band supine, tracing their fingers in the water. The segue into ‘Good Morning’ only adds to the hypnotic state. I have no idea what is going on.
The one thing that stops The Homesick’s music from completely disappearing into the other worlds of which they sing, is the considerable emotional punch given by Erik Woudijk’s drumming. ‘Acrobaat’’s power comes from the point when Woudijk starts to rattle out a set of fills that wouldn’t be out of place on the parade ground. The way he has developed his drumming to give spiritual heft to unearthly music like ‘Soola’ or ‘Monaco I’ (listen how he steps on the gas in the latter, driving the impassioned vocals), is a joy to hear.
This record is glorious and a total trip. Chapeau!
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