Malpas | website | facebook | twitter | soundcloud |
Released on July 31, 2015 via Killing Moon Records
Malpas have returned with their first full length album, Rain, River, Sea, following the release of their 2013 EP, Promise. Considering that every track on Promise can also be found on Rain, River, Sea, there is comparatively not a grand departure in the sound and feel with this release. Malpas consists of an intriguing collaboration between songwriter Ali M Forbes and renowned music producer, Andy Savours. While Andy Savours may not quite be a household name, his CV boasts an involvement with some acts that most certainly are (My Bloody Valentine and Sigur Ros).
Given the backgrounds of the two artists that form Malpas, it is clear how their respective talents have created an album such as ‘Rain, River, Sea’- fantastic production coupled with folk stylings are a constant throughout the album. BUT, that simple descriptor is not giving Malpas their due; there are plenty of intelligent and intricate passages throughout ‘Rain, River, Sea’ that produce a full and zesty sound. Perhaps most notable is Malpas’ ability to layer vocal textures with electronic and acoustic instrumentation.
Album opener, ‘Under Her Sails’, is a fine example of this, with repeating layers of Forbes’ vocals building up and ‘crescendo-ing’ with strings and acoustic instrumentation. Of course, rhythmic vocal layering is not an innovation in itself; countless bands have been using this technique with varying degrees of success for many years. However, what Malpas manage to achieve with their use of vocals, and their arrangements in general as a matter of fact, is a feeling of nuance and clever understatement. For example, tracks such as ‘Us Afloat’ and ‘June Exit Strategy’, simply let their melodies do the talking (or singing?) and utilise electronics to amplify but not overwhelm the fine songwriting.
A definitive album highlight is ‘Promise’. The track is an absolute powerhouse, mostly thanks to Forbes’ punchy vocal delivery and arrestingly simple lyrics : ‘We made a promise and we swore upon it. You swore upon it’. Oh, and what a bloody chorus. This is Malpas at their best.
‘The Green Light’ is a fantastic advertisement for the sound that Malpas have created. Crunching drums laced with bright acoustic guitar and Forbes’ earnest vocals make ‘The Green Light’ a song that conveys both urgency and delicacy. ‘Sea Decide’ provides another highlight with dense instrumentation, full and bright synths and a delightfully anthemic vocal performance that screams of vigour. A comprehensive clue for quality can be when an album drenched with electronic instrumentation can also be described as raw and personal.
There is no argument to be had against the production of Rain, River, Sea. Simply put, it sounds fantastic; spools of instrumentation are carefully spread with full and jangly chords reminiscent of acts such as Grizzly Bear. There is also no argument to be had against the songwriting prowess of Malpas; although there are comparatively weaker tracks to be heard on ‘River, Run, Sea’, there are certainly no bad tracks. Nevertheless, although every track does hold its own, ‘Rain,River, Sea’ is not a perfect album. A full listen brings home the fact that Malpas never stray too far in theme from first track, ‘Under Her Sails’; This results in an album that almost flows too consistently. Perhaps this could be seen as a good thing and a harsh observation; a direct result of producing a body of work that is cohesive. However, I feel that there are times when ‘Rain, River Sea’ feels like a great song that is a little too long.
In some ways, Rain, River, Sea can be seen as an ideal début album: Compelling, ambitious and a little flawed. I’m just excited to listen to whatever they release next.