This Weekend I’ll Mostly be Listening to…Malory October 29, 2016Posted by WorldbyStorm in Uncategorized.
Here’s a group I’m very fond of, Malory – a German dream pop/shoegaze outfit who were active from the late 1990s through to about 2010. They appear now to be on a near permanent hiatus since then, and it is a real shame because they seem to me to have offered some interesting approaches.
Across four albums they moved on from their influences (Slowdive and groups like that from the earliest period of shoe gaze being foremost amongst them) to produce something genuinely special. Mixed female and vocals by Jordis Marschner and Joerg Kohler set against shimmering guitars, deep basslines provided a familiar template but somehow their inclination to create something a little different saw them at times range far and wide into near Cure-like, or proximate to downtempo and on occasion ambient tracks. One aspect I particularly like was their willingness to use slightly faster tempo’s than a lot of their contemporaries in addition to a more usual dreamy pace – another was their use of electronic beats. Their openness to dance rhythms is a significant positive.
Their second album, for me their joint best with their last album, had some lovely downtempo and electronica inflected tracks including a number of remixes: Lake of Doubts, Xirius Polar Station, Argo Night Shuttle. By the way, is it my imagination or is there a space rock vibe in the titles?
The third – The Third Face – was perhaps in parts a little too polished, in parts a little too shoe gaze by numbers. And tellingly the vocals were too much to the forefront, it’s a little hard to tell but I think Daniela Neuhäuser took over from Jordis Marschner, along with the lyrics. And yet I can’t listen to it and tracks like She has gone or Take me down, the latter with an oddly funky bassline in parts, or the overtly dance pop Track II, without finding them hugely enjoyable. It’s as if they chafed against the restrictions of shoe gaze at almost all times – some of the latter tracks on the album seem to nod towards IDM territory, at least in their bass and rhythm components.
The fourth – Pearl, like the second, is a further revelation – opening with a female spoken word section over restrained instrumentation on Floating before going right into reverberating guitar chords. It reminds me of the Cocteau’s but with a harder edge, a sense that they were rediscovering rock. Of course that’s a nonsense, it still is situated well within the territory of shoe gaze. But there’s something there, a grit that adds to the enjoyment of the songs. Even the hint of dub step style sub-bass on, say, The Signs or Caché, seems oddly in keeping with their previous experimentation. It’s louder, brasher, more confident than anything they’ve done before. And if the album calms subsequently it never abandons that initial rush of energy entirely. And the slower paced tracks – Water in My Hands is a good example, seem to be pushing somewhere new (listen to the phrasing of the vocals).
I listen to probably more than my fair share of shoe gaze. It’s a curious genre, one which depends so much on textural qualities in the music. Sometimes this can dip into a sort of tweeness that can be hugely off-putting, at other times it can lend groups and tracks an abrasive quality. Too often, like metal, it can see groups simply emulating the achievements of the past and others.
In their own way at their best Malory neatly managed to avoid that.
Lake of Doubts (from Outerbeats)
Xirius Polar Station (from Outerbeats)
Argo Night Shuttle (from Outerbeats)
Painted Dreams (from Outerbeats)
Take Me Down (from Outerbeats)
Falling (from The Third Face)
Spring (from Not Here – Not Now)
Dragon in You