With a name that quite literally purrs with lush assonance, Lush Purr are a band who might take you to the hypnagogic depths of dream-pop consciousness; but despite the quirky sincerity, they won’t give up their humour.
Their debut album Cuckoo Waltz is a satisfyingly kooky treat that effortlessly slides into that slightly quixotic zone of Glaswegian musical history, the realm of the lo-fi that here spreads out into something more sunshine vibes than My Bloody Valentine, more sugar rush than psychedelic epic.
Opener ‘Wave’ casts adrift with tinny strumming that lifts in soothing vocal harmonics, bristling at the edges and drawing us into a rollicking, twangly piece of whimsical indie towards the end.
Cuckoo Waltz embraces throughout its band’s psychedelic predilections, but such interests are never extravagantly indulged but rather seamlessly woven into infectiously sweet licks and distorted vocals.
Combining male/female vocals may be a tried and tested dream-pop trope but it doesn’t appear tired here; Gavin Will and Emma Smith together reach that airy, carefree accord which, set against the quick pace and zesty drums on the likes of ‘Horses on Morphine’, feels a bit like rushing downhill on a bike, green scenery flying past in vivid montage.
What makes Cuckoo Waltz a perfect record for summer is its artful balancing of punkier, more upbeat tracks (many race in at under two minutes) with slower numbers, which draw us into a heady morass of feedback, arabesque guitar licks and darkly glowing vocals.
On the surface, Cuckoo Waltz is a light-hearted breeze through the shoegazed landscapes which might lead you to the deeper recesses of Slowdive or, with grittier peaks, fellow Glaswegian dream-pop gods, The Jesus and Mary Chain.
However, it’s Lush Purr’s nuanced attention to modulating moods, to lushly layered instrumentation, that earns this album multiple listens.
‘Mr Maybe’ uses weird-sounding synths and an analogue drone under bright, fuzzy guitars to lure us into the narcotic warp of its opaque vocal delivery, while ‘Jamiroquai at the Karaoke’ retains a reverent art-pop atmosphere, curled around a harmonic chorus.
Listening to such tracks can be quite disorientating, as different instrumental layers are given precedence and then withdraw; a juicy electric riff recedes under groans of bass, while vocals softly negotiate various points of entry into rhythm and melody.
This, of course, is one of Lush Purr’s dream-pop triumphs, and it works alongside surreal lyrics to create an echoing, mirror effect where being lulled into the casual, deconstructed scuffle of guitar is no cure for the sometimes jarring, sometimes mesmerizing reflective melodies.
What some might find irresistibly odd, a voyage through various chimerical fantasies, others might deem wilfully obscure, and while Lush Purr deliver warm and pleasing riffs, Cuckoo Waltz isn’t exactly swimming in catchy choruses.
Still, it’s in this vague chaos of noise pop that treasure may be found: the lucky discerning of a lyrical fragment—“use your imagination”, “hallucinogenic”, “it’s just potassium thrill”—the sudden burst of a head-banging riff, as on the lively ‘(I Admit It) I’m a Gardener’, which recalls The Horrors meeting the sassy howl of Karen O while gracing all that strangeness with sweetly fuzzing Pastels guitars.
In a way, guitars take centre stage for much of the album, and Lush Purr deserve respect for transmuting the nostalgic garage haze shared by the likes of Spinning Coin and Savage Mansion into glassy veneers of sound that betray more weirdness than wistfulness.
Rumbling with a dislocated, quirky sense of spirit (‘Bear at Midnight’), or seducing you into the growling depths of a languid afternoon (‘I Bore’), this is a record for summer; a summer spent under abyssal blue skies, or inside at night, letting the sound of rain rush warm among cider-soaked dreams.
Cuckoo Waltz may be a little fuzzy at the edges, but this is its seductive charm; let it envelop you and maybe you’ll find gold in the haze of that halo.
Words: Maria Sledmere