Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth, the saying goes.
But when was the last time someone gave you a horse for your birthday? The old adage certainly doesn’t apply to this Glasgow two-piece, whose debut short-player offers up more deliciously toothy gemsthe more closely one scrutinises it.
I have a real soft spot for drums ’n’ guitar duos; the performance of both musicians becomes deeply necessary andnecessarily limited by the bare-bones approach, but within this limitation lies the potential for true innovation and communication; this is an area in which Gift Horse excel.
Guitarist Audrey Bizouerne serves up more heavy, wonky riffs across this EP’s 20-minute runtime than I’ve had dinners at any temperature, but more than that: she’s nailedthe art of using a loop pedal (an Electro Harmonix 45000, to be precise) to organically and effortlessly layer up multiple guitar parts on the fly, making the band sound substantially bigger than they are.
On ‘Reverse Lobster’, Bizouernelets a twangy lead shimmy over a pitched-down bass part, with neither line resolving into perfect harmony, keeping the tune in ambiguous fifth-interval territory.
Drummer David Maxwell accentuates the rhythm of the melodies brilliantly, with a bouncing snare and steady cowbell teasing ‘Reverse Lobster’s sweet syncopation to the surface like a perfectly caramelised onion.
His playing is impressively tight, considering he’s keeping time not only with another person, but with the multi-layered guitar loops as well: it’s here that the duo’s almost telepathic communicationwith one anotherbecomes evident.
Gift Horse aren’t one-trick ponies, either (hey, puns = clicks), there’s a remarkable amount of variety on this short EP, with slinky, sexy, somnambulant surf-rock songs (‘Gift Horse Dream’); sludgy Sabbathisms (‘Je Suis A La Porte’) and ‘Turn It Up’s expansive post-rock heft, which evokes the classic Mogwai of Young Teamand packs an unexpectedly emotional punch.
Both Maxwell and Bizouerne share vocal duties, and there’s a rich contrast between them in terms of delivery and lyrical style.
Maxwell is delightfully, often hilariously surreal: he does an Ivor Cutler-esque turn on closing track ‘Difficult Glasgow Hair’, the protagonist of which resolves to“jump down the swimming pool plug / to the brand new flats with a view”.
On the other hand, Bizouerne’s lyrics are vaguer and tenser, with a sense of uncertaintyundergirding the situations she describes – as on ‘Gift Horse Dream’, in which she dances “in a room full of strangers”, seemingly malevolent, who “kick and chase”her.
Meat, Jelly and Fatmarks an authoritative debut from an innovative new Glasgow band, deserving of attention from music fans and labels alike.
Gift Horse makes tempestuous, unpredictable rock music, with splashes of surreal wit and shades of genuine, disturbing darkness.
Heavy isn’t a distortion pedal, it’s an attitude, and these two have it in spades.
Gift Horse is on tour throughout April 2018; catch them in Glasgow (Bloc+, 18/04), Brighton (The Pipeline, 20/04), London (The Amersham Arms, 21/04) and Bristol (The Old England, 23/04).
Words: Graham Neil Gillespie