West Yorkshire-based EP Emsley is living the dream. He kicked around government institutions for a while after playing in punk-inspired bands for years. Well, that didn't bode well so Emsley declared himself insane and spent some time in a better place. He got out, attempted to build a flying saucer and when that went south tried his luck with a government gig again. Again his situation soured, and here we are with Under Belly. I don't know if this is the start of something great or the end of another dead-end journey, but the music is pretty damn good.
On this record EP Emsley plays whimsical, jangly bedroom pop with noticeable nods to psychedelic rock. I guess recent acts like Tame Impala and TOY are decent comparisons, though Emsley keeps things simple in terms of composition rather than go for baroque, which lends more punch to his fanciful lyrics. The music is also fuzzy as hell. Production is very sharp in regards to the string arrangements, while percussion is muted, and however it's done, it reminds me an awful of The Orange Alabaster Mushroom, words I'm very glad to have finally said.
A lot of this makes me think of the word fairytale for some reason especially on songs like "Wait, (What Did I Do?)" and "Rainbow Child.” "Painting with the colors of life / She’s keeping all the colors alive / She’s a Rainbow Child," is hippy, drippy and I love it. These are exactly the sorts of sun-dazed daydreams our parents gave up on, the kind we need more of. Emsley constructs songs like a baker decorates cake, very thick guitar work with dashes of more exotic instruments. Sitar-sounding action is woven throughout the album, as well as the harmonica on a few of the tracks
.There are some missteps, like the overly long instrumental "Slough Station Freight Train Blues," and I guess "808 Late" is meant to evoke something like a wall-of-sound swathed in light keyboard strokes with grinding guitar harmonies but in execution it's a hot mess of a song. Still though, little accidents like these are blanked, even tipped, by works such as the rickety good (sad) time of "Lost Cities" and the rustic pop of "Siren."
I'm digging this. EP Emsley's backstory is weird and the music is appropriately eclectic. Could he be the Syd Barrett we didn't realize we needed?
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