Album Review: Syd Arthur – Apricity


Depending on where you do your research, Syd Arthur are a band who formed in 2013 or 2003.

But no matter; arguably their genesis could’ve been at any point in British music of the last three (four?) decades. Supposedly once called Grumpy Jumper in their formative years, the Kent four piece come with the trappings of a pop-psychedelia revival (their double mnemonic present handle drawn from the hoary twin inspirations Arthur Lee and Syd Barrett) but we command that you put that kaftan back in the cupboard, as Apricity is far more than an unwanted, shallow pastiche.

One of its most attractive facets is singer Liam Magill‘s voice; sometimes a rasp, sometimes a whisper, the elusive swirl around which much of Apricity’s joy finds itself centered. Magill is joined by brothers Joel (bass) and Josh (drums), along with the superbly named Raven Bush on keyboards and other ephemera. Together the quartet are potent: opener Coal Mine draws on a distinct early seventies brio, strolling ersatz blues and stoner funk in bold combination, the elements together living though very much in the fat-free, culturally appropriating twenty first century.

Those of you silently mouthing the words “Kula Shaker” whilst reading this need to lighten up; on Sun Rays they’re vibing on the ideas, not the execution of time travel, sort of like being in several places musically all at once. It’s a racket not too indistinct from the noise made by Kettering groovers Temples, an outfit who’ve decided equally that their imitation was not flattery but improvement.

Like all upgrades, the four parts move in equilibrium, taking Seraphim‘s heathen premise and affording it otherworldly grace, mainly through Bush’s insouciant keys, before brashly exorcising it in a sub-metal climax on which you can almost hear amps being stoved in.

Being located somewhere off the map has its advantages – the Arthur’s have toured with the evergreen Paul Weller – but equally there’s always the possibility of being left stranded. For the most part Apricity affords little chance of that, its ballad-like centre piece Into Eternity as far away from the woozy, free expression paradigms of their masters, instead a concise, bright and seamlessly constructed punt at the mainstream that bodes well for more high profile releases in future times.

There is always the slight irk at letting an instrumental slow momentum – in this case the monotone Portal – but whilst the titular closer represents a swelling variation on a theme, it’s the itchy math rock of Evolution that points to an alternative dimension. Alive with the edginess of early Foals but without the bombast and deliberate obtuseness, finally allowing words to revert to the background, it reveals and intuitive depth which will stump many broad minded fans for superlatives.

Apricity is proof that if something looks like a duck, it certainly doesn’t have to quack like one. Syd Arthur may be unable to decide what year they were born in, but its warmth and little magick mean it’s only their future we should be especially bothered with.

(Andy Peterson)

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