Increasingly, you can feel artists giving up on trying to make sense of everything – anything, in some cases – and just trying to make things as relatable as they can to the mess they see in front of them.
Brighton trio THYLA are in this camp; in motion since 2017 but in a now familiar chain of events, finding their self-titled debut record set back because of the pandemic’s numbing black hole for opportunity.
Singer Mille Duthie however is quick to explain how the band have creditably looked to the positives: ‘The social contract has been broken and now our music and what we write about makes even more sense…Our album began as a progression of the inward journeys we’re all on and right now, it has never been more relevant to the individual who may be looking for help with whatever they’re going through.’
Sometimes it’s almost impossible not to slip down the cracks between actualization and self-indulgence. But again, in the plus column despite a tendency to look beyond the passe in lyrical terms, THYLA’s music still packs a punch to go with its payoff.
Moving nimbly between textures – most obviously shoegaze, dream pop and indie rock – opener Amber Waits showcases a deliberately tougher edge, scored back from the more clear-eyed works of the past.
It’s a directness which they feel these stories need as vessels, more so than in the haze of old, one that the anthemic peaks and troughs of 3 – with its reality of a terminally damaged relationship – demands.
This shift can lead to disorientation for those not hearing closely; as on Gum, which begins in classic fx-pedal mode with nuggety guitar under the top, before getting partially lost in grungy swirls and then coming to what seems like a brick wall of a conclusion.
This is territory which is in the present also occupied by Pale Waves (the saccharine Breathe is more than adjacent, along with Making My Way Through The Skyline) and was in the past by Wolf Alice, who are in a former life equally present in the background on the sinewy Dandelion.
Not that this is necessarily a bad thing, and nothing on THYLA is even close to derivation, as you would expect from a record built philosophically on doing everything according to your own template.
The best moments with this in mind unsurprisingly contrast, the glitzy riffs and sweet peaks of Kin a direct right angle to closer Rabbit Hole. Reflective and as visceral as they get, the band feel the latter has a message which lies at the record’s core: ‘It’s about how accruing wisdom and knowledge unveils more mystery, and the further you go, the crazier and more unintelligible it gets.’
Put more simply, the answer is there is no answer, only more questions – or 42, or whatever you want it to be. THYLA have thrived in their own world, the heat and noise and confusion only serving to make it seem less utilitarian and frightening.
Delayed, their first chapter is a study in how to make this planet feel worth exploring, and although it’s a place that sometimes feels like it overlaps with others a little too much, it’s still one to get a ticket for, even if certainty is pretty much still your go to.