Finally, oh God, a new British psychedelic record that doesn't suck in the songwriting department. Bitmap is Luke Barwell, who used to be in Salako and tried manfully to pin the fluttering Fonda 500 onto compact disc, without useful success. The ground rules are set: we're in low budget land, building equipment from scratch, surrounded by the hills of northern England and a history of gallant failure. And what we're presented with, in that context, is one of the finest collections of production-led pop songs I've heard. After opening with the countryside drive'n'jive of 'Run James Run', 'Alpha Beta Gamma' veers confidently between layered electro pop, bashful low-key funk and flimsy acoustica.
All of which is a well trodden path. But it's the songwriting here that raises the game and these choruses are genuinely brilliant. The quieter songs - 'Spyrograph' is an early example - touch base with Elliott Smith's melancholic chord-bending or Yo La Tengo's wobbly bossanova. Meanwhile the wibbling bits are properly bonkers, with an economic gear-changing Gong vibe that weaves the whole lot onto one mural. 'Can You See The Sunrise?' blows Seventies west coast breeze through your speakers and when the guitar lines blend with the spacey noises, you've forgotten how cheap it all is. This is exemplary stuff.
'Alpha Beta Gamma' is a hook-drenched treat and left me thinking Mr Barwell should be earning fat funds knocking off 'Don't Stop Movin' type pop hits for Simon Cowell in his lunchbreak. Listening and listening, you'll occasionally suspect Barwell is nuts. But never mind, he's built you one helluva heady garden-shed soundtrack to go insane to.
8Toby Jarvis's Score