The G R E A T W A V E S backstory isn’t important, not really. Travelling with a gypsy blues band, time spent in Amsterdam and Hamburg: it is enough that these experiences shape the music they produce without delving into the minutiae. It is enough that the band is capable of turning out songs that slowly lodge themselves in the listener’s headspace and refuse to budge. At the recent Now Wave gig in an unused office block, they stood out amongst a strong field that included the likes of local stalwarts Pins, Money, and Alt+J. Too much myth-making not only seems forced, but it distracts from the crucially important matter of whether a band’s music is actually worth listening to. G R E A T W A V E S is definitely worth listening to.
If you haven’t already heard them, your first clue this might be the case is the fact that their debut single is being released on Salford label SWAYS Records, which is rapidly becoming a guarantee of quality. But the two tracks more than carry their weight, showcasing the band’s variety. If “The Shore” is mellow indie-synth-pop with psych influences, “Into The Blue” is a plaintive drone, a siren song irresistibly drawing in all those who hear it. In both cases, the band’s name is appropriate, given the way the music washes over you, otherworldly and ethereal as though you’re hearing it in a dream.
Of the two, “The Shore” is more immediate. A throbbing, pulsating drum beat acts as the heartbeat of the song, over which layers of guitar and synth fight for your attention, along with the snatches of lyrics that occasionally break through. When the vocal refrain of “yeah yeah yeah” kicks in toward the end, you can just about picture an alternate universe in which thousands upon thousands of people are chanting along in unison. In contrast, “Into The Blue” is a grower, an unhurried, condensed epic that builds slowly and assuredly without ever fully shedding its sense of restraint. The stark, minimalist arrangement is punctuated by monotone vocals that prove strangely affecting, while various instruments drift in and out, seemingly without a care in the world.
What’s arguably most striking about this first release is how polished the material is. Happily, it turns out that the lo-fi nature of their earliest recordings wasn’t simply affectation; it was necessity, the sound of a band wanting to record their music but not having the means to do so professionally. The difference between where they were six months ago and where they’re at now is striking, and G R E A T W A V E S should no longer be considered just promising. They are the finished article, and this double A-side is the sound of them announcing as much.