More Than The Other
ou’re losing interest in me / just as I was getting interesting” is the opening line of this album, and probably says more about Coldharbourstores’ music than I can in the next 450 words or so. The London-based quartet (signed to Vinita Joshi’s small but perfectly-formed Rocket Girl label) deal in sweetly nonchalant and formless ambient pop that’s often beautiful but always hard to pin down, circular motifs and oblique layers of sound combining to form intangible washes that never overwhelm but still manage to beguile.
Produced and engineered by Graham Sutton of Bark Psychosis and Boymerang repute at his Dustsucker Sound studio, More Than The Other sounds as immaculate as you’d imagine it to, with rich but never-overbearing acoustic guitars, sparse raindrops of piano and delicate plains of effects-ridden electric guitar and synths driven by impressively unobtrusive drumming. Sutton allegedly plays bass on the album as well, but you’d be hard-pressed to notice it. Coldharbourstores have less in common with Bark Psychosis than you might think, and when they do it’s the Bark Psychosis of “I Know” rather than “Manman” or “Scum”, the strum of an acoustic guitar forming the bedrock of all ten songs like an ambient take on The Strands, Hayden or Sparklehorse’s last album. The weightless layering of concentric rings of guitars and synths meanwhile recalls Kitchens Of Distinction (except, of course, that KoD didn’t use synths) or Ride shorn of the songwriting fetish. But not, interestingly, the destructive harmonious feedback of Loveless.
There’s an intense shyness and scarcity of ego at work on More Than The Other which could be mistaken for lack of character, and which creates an absorbing mixture of intimacy and distance, possibly simplistic lyrics and themes made both intriguing and irrelevant by the ethereal and unremarkable vocals. The brief “Unclear”, with its strummed and whistled country intro, is the sound of Teenage Fanclub dissolved in water until their choruses and harmonies have evaporated. The candid, skittish drums and guitar spirals of the powerful “Overleaf” are tethered to the guy rope of acoustic strum and would seem hindered were the guitar foundations linear rather than textural.
Slow, destination-free verses open up to reveal extended instrumental passages that often find themselves very close to beautiful, such as the moment two and a half minutes into “Long Ago” when the drums kick in and the soundstage widens into cinemascope. More Than The Other may be all one pace, but it’s the beautiful, languid pace of rising tides and drifting clouds. Given a trumpet and copies of Bitches Brew and a good King Tubby collection, Coldharbourstores’ next album could be wonderful. In the meantime this will more than suffice.
Reviewed by: Nick Southall
Reviewed on: 2003-09-01