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Step Right Up: Blank Realm

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This week heralds the release of Australian quartet Blank Realm’s latest album on Fire Records — ‘Grassed In’ — the follow-up to the band’s year-old debut ‘Go Easy’.

Words: Mark Carry, Illustration: Craig Carry


Blank Realm comprises the talented siblings of Daniel Spencer (vocals & drums), Sarah Spencer (synths & vocals) and Luke Spencer (bass) with the addition of Luke Walsh on guitar. The Brisbane quartet have released, this week, their eagerly-awaited follow-up to last year’s psychedelic gem ‘Go Easy’ in the form of ‘Grassed In’ (Fire Records) and what a truly spellbinding record these young Australians have conceived.

The irresistible guitar pop of ‘Falling Down The Stairs’ conjures up the sound of The Servants – a timeless sound from a distant era. Across six heavenly minutes, the jangle-guitar tones of Walsh dances majestically with Daniel Spencer’s pristine vocals that could very easily be Luke Haines and David Westlake from late 80’s Middlesex, England. The rasping voice shares the towering folk blues of Kurt Vile & the Violators, particularly on the song’s opening verse where Spencer sings “I saw the lightning / I felt the golden shadows / I felt the lightning in your hair tonight.” A transcendent feel permeates the pop-laden guitar hooks and the dazzling drum backbeat.

‘Bell Tower’ is a brooding psych master-class. An ethereal dimension is arrived upon here that belongs to the songbook of Bradford Cox. The verse contains reverb-drenched vocals, filled with darkness that is reminiscent of Atlas Sound, before the anthemic chorus evolves into full-blown rock territory of Deerhunter. An eerie feel radiates throughout: “I can’t read your postcard / You must have written it with a dead hand.” The fat, clean guitar tones (sharing Creedance Clearwater Revival’s chooglin’ rhythms) serve the blood flow to ‘Bell Tower’s creeping desert blues of dusted and broken dreams. The chorus refrain of “Bell tower in my brain / Girl you’re driving me insane” is one of the album’s many transcendent moments. “Life flickers on your velvet dreams” and “My hotel bill is overpaid” are more embellishes of Blank Realm’s peerless songcraft.

A gorgeous haven of blissed out psychedelia is dotted across the sprawling canvas of ‘Bulldozer Love’. The longest cut on ‘Grassed In’ — eight-and-a-half minutes of heavenly synths and hypnotic guitar licks — represents the album’s towering centerpiece. The multitude of layers and dimensions inherent within the sonic framework is staggering, at times recalling the expansive krautrock explorations of Neu!, the swaggering rock rhythms of Royal Trux and Philadelphia’s The War On Drugs. A heightened focus towards an electronic avenue is explored on the following ‘Violet Delivery’ where the listener is effortlessly teleported to the oscillations of Silver Apples infused with Echo And The Bunnymen’s heavenly pop creations.

‘Baby Closes The Door’ is a sparse gem awakened with gleaming bursts of swirling noise. Moments later, the drums enter into the mix alongside wavering harmonies. Think Sonic Youth. The album’s penultimate track, ‘Even The Score’ is ‘Grassed In’s moment of looming light that brings forth a flicker of hope and sense of survival. The magical guitar chords are blended effortlessly with pulsating synths that forms a beguiling landscape of unforgettable beauty. At times I think I hear Dylan’s voice singing to me, while moments later a sense of euphoria comes flooding into my mind (My Bloody Valentine’s ‘Loveless’, perhaps). The lyrics are honest and bare: “There is nothing else you can give me / Except the chance to even the score with you.” Undoubtedly, beautiful magic is captured.

Where album opener’s ‘Back To The Flood’ contained a charge of explosive guitars, the closing ‘Reach You On The Phone’ is a heartfelt journey encompassing 80’s synth pop and the current Brooklyn indie scene. The lyric “try to make it on your own” conveys the uplifting and enlightening feel that floods through the guiding words sung by Spencer. For fans of perfect guitar pop and shimmering psychedelic explorations, your name is written all over Blank Realm’s momentous sophomore effort.


‘Grassed Inn’ is available now on Fire Records.


Written by admin

January 14, 2014 at 12:23 pm

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