The first thing to point out about the Brooklyn Based duo NewVillager is that they are more than just a band. A self-described ‘multi-media’ group, their music is accompanied by a visual artistic concept; this augments their infectious eponymous debut, which is both frantic and soothing.
To coincide with the release of the album in June, NewVillager promoted their album as an art installation in New York, which really explains a lot about what the band are trying to create. Along with co-founder Ross Simonini and recent part-time collaborator Colin Palmer, Ben Bromley reveals in an interview to Scotch and Murder Music, that the album is a mythology: ‘…not a story, but a lens to look at the world. It’s a ten-part framework of understanding the process of change. How does an object or a person or an idea go from one state to another state? It’s a question everybody asks any time anyone tries to create anything and the mythology is just our attempt at answering it.’ This combining formation of performance art and music is best seen in their video for the quite brilliant single Lighthouse, in which ten bizarrely dressed characters theatrically prance, swerve and gyrate around some kind of warehouse. As there are ten songs on the album, one wouldn’t be blamed for interpreting the ten characters to each represent one of the songs.
The most compelling thing about NewVillager’s sound is their variation of vocal pitch and speeds. There are chants and echoes; a variation from abounding bass vocals to a near impossible falsetto in one song, and even spoken word. These are accompanied by a variety of noises and instruments from synthesised hooks, string and flute accompaniments to tribal beats and xylophones. All of this is seen on the standout single Lighthouse. The rest of the album is, however, filled with quite incredible songs. Album opener Cocoon House is a wonderful slow march to begin the journey; while the other single Rich Doors (also with a artistic video) is a pulsating number you can really imagine causing an improptu dance-off in the middle of The Serpentine Gallery. Black Rain is a great dreamy chill-wave song, while Shot Big Horixon and the far-less impressive Bad Past Gone Away are both multi-layered; crammed full with variation of styles typifying the through-line of the album. I can hear everything from The Knife, Bon Iver, Hall and Oates, Simon and Garfunkel, Antony and The Johnsons to Sufjan Stevens in songs such as Upholder, How To Get Back, and the quite impressive Say The Code. There’s dance, grimey electro, folk, ballads with guitars and pianos all climbing all over eachother to reach some kind of destination by the end of the album. The closing track Overpass is a disappointment by comparison, but does suggest finality to the journey concept NewVillager set out to perform.
An album that has everything in it, can be in danger of being over complicated, and NewVillager’s music isn’t exactly ABC. Unique is an overused description in the sense that every new album could in one way or another be seen as ‘unique’. Yet NewVillager’s avant-garde approach to music, and their creation of a sound and concept so complex, yet fresh and innovative makes this an album, which really deserves a lot of attention this year.
NewVillager is out now on IAMSOUND Records.