Sunday, May 22, 2016
Album Review :: Minor Victories - Minor Victories
June 3 2016 (Play It Again Sam)
Words: Dave Beech
The idea of the supergroup is an archaic one. Born out of the in-band disputes and inflated egos of the late 60s and 70s, it's a term arguably only as relevant now as the bands for which it was coined. Sure, the likes of Foo Fighters, or more recently Atoms for Peace, could be considered as such, but in doing so we make the assumption that whatever a band releases will be of a better or equal quality to the material released by the sum of its parts. Fortunately for us, the music industry is a fickle business, allowing me to get away with the following blatant contradiction:
Minor Victories are indeed a supergroup. In every sense. Originally conceived by James Lockey as “an extreme noise EP topped off with delicate female vocals”, it soon became the ten-track cinematic monolith it is now, following the addition of brother Justin (Editors), Mogwai's Stuart Braithwaite and Rachel Goswell of Slowdive.
With the line-up reading like a generation spanning who's who of atmospheric alt-rock, it's hard not to imagine what 'Minor Victories' will sound like, even before pressing play. The fact remains, however, that it's every bit as good as one might expect. And then some.
From creeping, insidious fuzz of opener 'Give Up the Ghost', it's clear that creating a sense of atmosphere was high on the band's list of priorities - hardly surprising given their respective backgrounds. It's an ambition they easily fulfil. 'A Hundred Ropes', with its sequenced synths and throbbing bass, is straight out of the Mogwai play book, while Goswell's weightless vocal provides the counterbalance to a turbulent bottom end.
This dichotomy of imposing, often abrasive noise, juxtaposed against Goswell's vocal and occasional string arrangements is something employed throughout, allowing James Lockey's original concept to be fully realised. What's more, there are occasional moments when the melody far outweighs the melancholy. It's here Minor Victories flourish.
'Scattered Ashes (Song for Richard)' is one such moment. Both understated and anthemic, hazy synths create a wistful bed for the dual falsettos and The Twilight Sad frontman James Graham on supporting vocals, flowing towards its explosive chorus. Album closer 'High Hopes' is another; transcending its initial mournful ambiance in to something truly euphoric.
The emphasis does seem to be on melody over discord, but even then there's an ominous undercurrent running throughout. 'The Thief' for instance, marries the two together. The brooding bass a pulsating constant behind sorrowful strings, culminating in an expansive and optimistic crescendo.
That these musicians should come together to create something as ambitious and as exquisite as this is impressive, though not overly surprising. What is surprising though, is that before its completion they'd barely been in the same room together. Instead 'Minor Victories' was painstakingly pieced together online, though it's impossible to tell.
The result is a record of almost masterful quality. Both aggressive and elegant, it's staggering in its nuance and dizzying in its delivery. What Minor Victories have done here is fail to fall victim to the hyperbole of the term 'supergroup' and instead have quite literally embodied it.