Whenever producers emerge from the desk it’s always tricky. Yes you might be able to make other people’s songs sound great, but do you have the chops yourself? Some have been successful in creating wonderful albums, David Sitek springs to mind, others haven’t been so luckly. Mark Ronson’s Record Collection is a notable damp squib. Now Andy Savours is stepping out of the mixing desk’s shadow and onto the main stage. You might not know Savours name, but if you’ve heard Sigur Ros, My Bloody Valentine or the Horrors you might have heard his work. Savours isn’t going alone though, he’s teamed up with Birmingham singer songwriter Ali Forbes to form Malpas.
Malpas’ debut album Rain River Sea is ten tracks of downbeat folktronica, that likes of which hasn’t been heard since Tunng mid 2000’s. The songs sound simple at first Forbes’ vocals and an acoustic guitar wrapped up in a bubble of soft electronica. However the more you delve, the more layers you find. Basslines disguised as synth loops pepper the tracks and harmonies fade in and out at the drop of a hat.
Lead single Under Her Sails kicks this off in fine form with a twinkling xylophone loop and hand claps until bittersweet vocals and an acoustic guitar enter the mix. The outro is exquisite, with maelstrom-esque synths swirling through the delicate vocals deliver. Where the River Runs follows the good impression of Under Her Sails. It’s more of the same. Melancholy drips through Forbes’ vocals, and through strings and driving bass Savours creates the fitting backing. On new song Sea Decide Forbes shows off his vocal range. When he hits the higher range of his falsetto spectrum Malpas are evocative of Matt Hales from Aqualung but you know, more glitchy.
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Old favourite Promise keeps the album bubbling over with another luscious production from Savours. The Green Light is another slab of downbeat folktronica. The beats are crunchier than on previous songs, and this change in texture is much needed, as the previous five tracks had the consistency of fog. You can see if, but there is nothing to stop you travelling through it. Stand out track Spiders ups the tempo, but just then you think Malpas are about to break out the big guns, the intensity slightly drops and the whole process starts again. The album closes with another new song June Exit Strategy. A plinky plonky riff conjures up Summer walks through country lanes, while hazy synths provide a spot of shade from the baking sun for a reflective rest.
Rain River Sea is at its best when Forbes and Savours are sparing with each other. Forbes throws in a pretty chord progression and Savours blocks and counters with some production trickery. The only real downside to the album is that six of its ten tracks had already been released on previous singles and EP’s. While this is fine for newcomers, older followers might have been hoping for a few more new tracks.
‘Rain River Sea’ is out on the 24th July 2015 via Killing Moon.