Review: Champs – ‘Vamala’

champsTaking the basic shape and outline of their debut album ‘Down Like Gold‘ but removing the somewhat unnecessary nods to modern pop, Champs‘ ‘Vamala” instead puts its faith in simple and pure songwriting.

It is a truly economic record with twelve tracks formed seemingly out of the most ethereal of ideas. These are wistful ideas, faint reminisces and almost dream-like infusions built from seemingly nothing.

‘Vamala’ is a beautiful record, seemingly without ever trying to be. The Champion brothers have written a set of songs that fulfill their vision; continuing on from their wondrous debut, these tracks merely sharpen their sound to its true pinnacle. Mixing a number of styles and influences that are somehow disparate, yet fitting, they flit from Dylan-esque musings to some kind of angelic Pet Shop Boys hybrid.

This is not an album trying to make an impact, it is instead a comforting cushion, a place to rest your head.

From the sweet folk of ‘Forever Be Upstanding At Your Door‘ to the panoramic melancholy of ‘Send Me Down‘, it never startles or surprises, it merely satisfies every need. The sound has moved away from the more direct music of their debut album, with only ‘Blood‘ having the pounding heart and drive of that record. ‘Vamala’ is about shades and tones, it is exploring a notion and trying to find its every nuance. And there are some truly beautiful discoveries along the way.

Roll Me Out‘ is pure Woody Guthrie-wannabe era Dylan. And although this stylistically couldn’t be more different to ‘Desire’s icy edges, they fit together as if hewn from the same rock. It’s this almost patchwork quality that makes the record so wonderful. These are not pieces that would appear to sit together comfortably, yet they do, time and again/ From the subtle sincerity of ‘Sophia‘ to the brooding title track, or the stripped power of ‘The Balfron Tower‘, the album never seems to falter.

This is a complete vision, a record that has been built of a very solid and simple foundation. It’s not showy or unnecessary, everything here is playing its part. This lack of waste, with little fuss or pomp, works to make the album far more direct than a record this subtle should ever be. It may be done with the lightest of touches, but it’s where it touches you that makes it so wonderful.

It’s success is in its power, yet its power comes from simplicity and subtlety. These are not the first places people look for power. They are where people look for solace and honesty, and ‘Vamala’, instead of hiding in simpler emotions, instead builds on them. It makes a virtue of it simplicity and is honest about its intentions, leaving the music standing proudly, beautifully and quietly for all to behold. This is true power, still amongst the chaos and being counted.

These are songs that have nothing to hide, baring all beautifully.

(Dylan Llewellyn-Nunes)

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