Hear the Conversation’s current demo, 'Firpo'. It’s delicate, crisp, intelligent, at times stark, spare and economical. The songs often sound simple, because they are built around strong, direct hooks and gutsy, compelling rhythms, but they’re actually multi-layered, thoughtfully arranged pieces, with all manner of hidden depth. The superficial minimalism belies a flair for providing just the right melodic undertone at just the right moment. They have style, ability and brains in equal proportion. Their music is balanced and hypnotic.
'Firpo' is brilliant. It kicks off with ‘In the Suns Shine’, full of melodic purpose. This is the highlight of every Conversation live set, for now. Possessed of an irrepressible opening hook, it codas along with grace, supple power and clarity. Dylan Giles is a natural and proved it when he wrote this song. Track two ‘Still Spinning’ has a heartbreaker of a chorus, and comes on with the better qualities of 'And Then Nothing Turned Itself Inside Out'-era Yo La Tengo. A couple of listens and the song installs itself in your mind. Restraint is a much-underrated skill, requiring the ability to do more than you’re doing and the judgement not to do it. The Conversation play with heart, but they do not do what too many guitar bands do, which is bluster. They play with subtlety and attention to detail.
‘In the Aftermath’ I love for Yuri Caul’s gutsy, rhythm guitar and Dylan’s uneasy, instinctive lead. Dylan’s voice, always outstanding, has a woozy, punch-drunkenness on this track and it suits the guitar backdrop perfectly. Dylan knows how to produce his own songs, using each instrument at his disposal, his voice included, to the fullest.
‘Rain Song’, the final track, opens with a minimal drone before developing into a song which reinforces my impression of the Conversation’s blessedly emphatic way with melody, as well as their highly disciplined approach to structure. ‘Rain Song’ has a lovely, lazy lead fuzz guitar, broken fragments strewn across the jagged, mournful backdrop, strung out but thought out.
There is hope for guitar music yet.
You can talk about their influences and I would say that Tortoise and Can are the major reference points, but the sound is theirs. They aren’t comparable, over the course of a live set or an EP, to anyone else. The Conversation are making atmospheric, affecting music, original pieces which push the boundaries, but which, crucially, have a lot of soul.