Dara Higgins is pleasantly surprised by the “fully formed, fully realised” The Company Of Friends from Water Cycle.
Faint praise? I’ve had it. And I’ve had mangled high praise too. Once upon a time I was told that something I had done sounded “like proper music”, and it was meant. Water Cycle sound like proper music. Like fully formed, fully realised ideas. Indeed, like a suite of songs put together to be a comprehensive piece, an Album, if you will. It’s a rare treat to come across something which is hitherto unknown, but so accomplished. I know nothing about this band, but now I want to.
So Bright introduces us to the man, Aaron Page, and his voice, a Kurt Wagnerian, Matt Beringerian sonorous baritone, used in conjunction with a gossamer female accompanist. At once, this prick’s ears are pricked, because it sounds like these chaps know what they’re doing, and that is a rarity among nascent bands, all to eager to scribble down, and release, their first ideas.
Good Friends choppy, poppy guitar effortless transitions, hung with melody and rousing trumpet cavalcades. Similar to, but far less annoying than, the Divine Comedy. Hazel, crappy pre-programmed samba beats that sound like an old Casio work well. Much is given away as to Page’s formative introspection; “Eleven is such an awkward age to be unhappy, don’t you agree?” I know where he’s coming from. As the album progresses, the wonky beats come back, trumpets march over the horizon, synthesized arpeggios take off, accordions and tickled dulcimers create a roomy atmosphere, a violin twins itself with a vocal harmony. There are layers and depths. In The Roses piano twinkles and beats ends up as a entirely different animal to the one it started out being, a little overblown. Occasionally the point can missed here, with the stacking of change upon change, when it seemed it be working before it got so overwrought and somewhat agonised, but it’s a minor quibble, after all.
In the end, there’s Avi, a kind of emotive rock piece. Reminiscent of slowed down Bob Mould or Illionois noise-ephemera Hum, which turns from the crunching guitars and ends resting on sustained synthesiser chords, washing up as a wake, sucking dolorously at the pebbles, and receding again.
There’s definitely something in this record, the voice, the tunes, and along with the succinct production, and the evident effort that’s been put in, this is an album well worth checking out.