Rumpled and unpunctual, Younghusband arrive at indie-pop’s party like an aggravated neighbour who’d have preferred a decent night’s sleep. The Watford group’s debut, conceived in the refurbished wet-rooms of a former halfway house, is a psych-leaning LP that pulses and frazzles, but its passion is reluctant. Though crafted with evident patience and perfectionism (early Younghusband press dates back to 2007), Dromes feels like a record that didn’t want to get made. And that’s what makes it interesting.
Take an example: on the title track, an alloy of Shack and the Jesus and Mary Chain, there flutters into verse two a balletic, semi-audible riff that tumbles and pivots. As verse transitions to bridge said riff vanishes from the mix, an incident which hardly registers with casual listeners but strikes the obsessive as unignorable and jarring. Far from niggling on repeat listens, however, this blemish highlights something conceptually vital: as with the lyrics of stasis and futility - the muffled vocals of ‘Reunion Message’ - to clock ‘Dromes’s phantom riff is to witness music resisting its own materialisation.
Ultimately it’s inconsequential whether that resistance is conscious. What’s important is that there comes a point where Dromes is no longer a vessel for listener immersion but rather an analysis of the type of person that craves immersion: in this case, a demoralised artist given to short-term gratification - unearthing synth sounds; making an indie-pop record - rather than big-picture concerns (sonic continuity and clarity; getting psychiatric help).
Again, it’s likely intentional that the record’s apparent shortcomings mirror certain psychological dissonances. Even the glitch aesthetic, which dominates Younghusband’s visual presence, is an artform devoted to transfiguring malfunctioning systems. On songs like ‘Constantly in Love’, the faulty motherboard of singer Euan Hinshelwood’s attention happens to be his own. That song is a ballad of perpetual detachment, of underlying despair borne of constant satisfaction. As unsteady major chords backlight proceedings with a bleak reverb glow, its narrator is “burning like a catatonic fire / Useless every night and day”. Likewise, on ‘Running Water’ life passes by in a series of liquid states, Barrattesque flicker-poetry adopting the language of the drained and scared and depressed.
Produced by one Nicolas Vernhes, best known for his work with Deerhunter (whose fixation with repetition characterises the record), Dromes had a metaphorically apt recording process: Vernhes’s fast-moving, 'Whatever, it’s great, move on' method (Hinshelwood’s words) represents exactly the kind of philosophy that eludes people like Hinshelwood in daily life. Listening closely to the record, though, what stays with you is something subtly heartening: not that Dromes successfully vindicates its detachment with slow-burning optimism (which it does), but that it emerged from Hinshelwood’s hopelessly insular universe at all.
7Jazz Monroe's Score