Powerdove – Do You Burn

powerdove_cover It’s taken me a while to come around to this record, but that’s no slight, I suppose, more a measure of how absolutely fascinating I found the last Powerdove album. It was gorgeous in the slowest, most minimal way, the kind of record which has you hanging on every last scrape and crackle. It was a record with sufficiently little on it that every last noise became important, no matter how incidental or indistinct.

This new album moves from that kind of airless silence to a sound which, whilst hardly glossy pop, is still a little plumper and cosier by comparison. In typical Toad fashion I had a slightly adverse reaction to a fuller and less hostile sound, and it’s taken a few months of intermittent listening to ease myself into the slight difference of feeling between this album and its predecessor. When you hear it you’re going to laugh at me as well, because the differences are hardly dramatic, it’s just that I suppose the approachability of this album caught me out a little.

And when I say approachability, ah fuck, you’re going to laugh at me again actually, because the record starts with a slow, painful screech which permeates the whole first song. It sounds like it was made with feedback, but at times it could well be a fork being traced along a cymbal for how shrill it is. I don’t know if that makes Fellow an odd or an inspired song to start with, but it serves as a pretty definite fuck off at the start of the album – daring people to stick with it and listen to the whole thing, whilst making it as hard as possible to do so.

It is perhaps the second song Under Awnings which embodies the elements of this album which I am not so keen on – the handclapped rhythm and sporadic-but-structured bursts of piano hint worryingly at female yelp-pop as dismally embodied by Regina Spektor, but it is just a distant threat. This never happens, the moment passes as quickly as it appears and we move on to what is a truly excellent album.

The next two tunes pretty much set the range and feel of the album, from the woozy, textured atmospheres of the gorgeous Do You Burn, and then after an interlude, the plush (by these standards) acoustic pop of Love Walked In. I think it’s here that I realise I have to drop my reactionary response to the fuller arrangements of this album, because Love Walked In is probably the fullest, most approachable and conventional pop song on the album, and for all I love the tense atmospherics to be found elsewhere, this is also a bloody brilliant song.

At this stage I find my opinion starting to swing, and I have to acknowledge that Be Mine, the previous record, really was a little oppressive. It was oppressive in a gorgeous, wonderful way, but the way it forced you to pay attention to every last sound was almost aggressive, whereas the presence of a few breezier moments on Do You Burn break up the album beautifully and give it real range. It’s no longer an album which dares you to listen to it. Instead this is an album which is really rather welcoming and lovely, and one which only occasionally reveals the darker sides of its psyche. A fine record – buy one here.