Album review: Grawl!x - Good Grief
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Some albums just don’t sound right. The debut record from Grawl!x is one of those records.
In the case of the new guise of Derby-based artist James Machin (formerly of My Psychoanalyst) the ‘not right’ appraisal is not a negative analysis, it highlights a work that transcends the normal and echoes from a more magical place.
Machin has replaced the rousing shoegaze-driven guitar sound of his previous band with a glacial, ambient take on indie that has seen him forge a singular and complete work, a real album experience that has to be enjoyed as a whole.
With a gang of worthy collaborators from the surrounding Derbyshire music scene, the Grawl!x vision is fully realised creating an immensely full sound in which all individual parts connect in a way in which nothing stands except the complete track.
Completeness is key on Good Grief, a work of colossal magnitude and beauty.
The album opens with ‘Butterflies’ a beautiful and sparse instrumental built from piano and strings that sets the tone.
The only minor criticism is that Good Grief maintains a similar feel throughout, but in a way that works never truly becoming repetitive or monotonous. In a world of pick and mix music consumption, a full album delivered as a singular artistic statement is a rare treat.
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Current single ‘Atlas Bear’ uses a sparse aural template of piano and echoed vocals teasing as if to almost disappear before bursting to life with emotive volume.
Previous single ‘Run Forever’ utilises the glowing harmonies of fellow Derbyshire act Haiku Salut, an act that Grawl!x have an obvious aural affinity with.
Even with the albums electronic input of blips and surges, there is wonderful restraint shown adding atmosphere and otherworldy air to proceedings.
Good Grief’s trump card is the way ‘space’ is used in the compositions with Machin having the confidence to allow the individual elements, in particular the haunting vocals, to breath and develop.
Lyrically Good Grief is a poetic and personal work that, like all the best sonmgwriting, can be individually interpreted to mean a different thing to different people, whilst always meaning something.
James Machin is a brilliant songwriter who has something to say, and the skill to say it.
All in all this is how dream-pop should sound – otherworldly, complete, dark yet intensely optimistic.
But I am unwilling to claim this is a perfect album, as this feels like just the beginning for Grawl!x.
Having caught them live several times over the last few weeks it is obvious that this project (now with a full band in tow made of up of musicians equal to Machin) is already evolving into something truly special.
If this is just the start for Grawl!x, the potential is there for them to become one of the UK’s most revered bands.