The Just Played Verdict: Banjo Or Freakout ‘Banjo Or Freakout’

Don’t be put off by the name. Let’s remember that one of the biggest releases to appear in the same week as this record is by a band called Elbow and remember not to judge. Not that the artist in question, Alessio Natalizia, wasn’t right to opt for a moniker which at least hinted at the sonic terrain found on his records.

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Gently lumbering into view, single ‘105’ provides a fitting opener. Less a wall of sound and more a plush curtain, it lulls you into an appropriate state for what follows. Distant, slight and yet endearingly melodic vocals whisper out from a beautifully constructed soundscape on ‘Go Ahead’, swathes of throbbing bass rising from behind a muted, mechanical drumbeat.

 

The Bradford Cox comparisons are not unjustified and the guitar washes evoke Kevin Shields with a case of exhaustion and a strong cold, but I also find myself thinking of the 2007 debut by Maps. Built in a similarly DIY fashion and with comparably hypnotic qualities, ‘We Can Create’ may be more dance-oriented but it offers the same sense of hazy optimism and aural wonderment that’s available on ‘Banjo Or Freakout’. ‘Move Out’ ticks the late Eighties/early Nineties slacker indie box whilst ‘Idiot Rain’ is a stirring, keening delight which barely gets above somnambulant but somehow still manages to sound triumphant. It’s crying out to be the soundtrack to a summer evening wander: the sort of song which comes on and makes you feel like you’re starring in your own film.

The scraggly layers of ‘Fully Enjoy’ give way to the more focussed ‘From Everyone Alone’, on which the customary falsetto is left open against the gusts of unsettling angst at play beneath. ‘Dear Me’ seems to collapse under its own weight, retreating into a low hum of repeated loops and bass, resulting in a second half which is woozily compelling. Vocal and music appear to battle for the limelight in album closer ‘I Don’t Want To Start All Over Again’ sounding not unlike the glacial and wounded part of a Spiritualized song; the lunging, repetitive space rock bit which would have tripled the song’s length is not included.

While ‘105’, ‘Idiot Rain’ and ‘From Everyone Alone’ are the ones which will rack up the extra plays, this is a fine debut outing and enough to satisfy those of us who have been eagerly anticipating his first full collection. The trouble with being an act whose music can be quite so full of wonderment on its first hearing is trying to recapture that initial thrill again and again. It’s not quite a 100% success rate, but there’s still time.

2011OTR

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