Lay of the Land Gives You That...And More
Rob Levy
6/2/2004 3:29:10 AM

Nottingham’s Seachange are ferocious buggers. The sextet’s debut album, Lay of the Land [Matador Records] doesn’t hold anything back. It’s a deep record; an amalgam of dense songs that adeptly juggles jangly melodies, subtle string arrangements and the rolling, cascading pop sounds typical of today’s best British bands.

From start to finish, Seachange exhibits fourteen examples of their musical versatility.
“Anglokana,” the first song on the album, takes a simple James Vyner bass line intro and quietly expands it into a freefalling, agitated tempo that, without warning, bursts into something more frantic. Next, a stunning violin solo comes along, intertwining texture and beauty before suddenly stopping into a jarring melee. The lead single, “Glitterball,” begins as a straightforward Britpop song but merges slowly with a crescendo of feedback that winds and twists, becoming something entirely complex. Near the end, a spot of brilliant spontaneity occurs as violinist Johanna Woodnutt joins in, adding gorgeous, calm layers underneath the swirling guitars.

These days, most albums languish by the fourth or fifth song; where the dreaded ‘tonal rehash’ happens, inevitably causing things to fall apart. This does not happen with Lay of the Land. Shrewdly, Seachange picked the midway point to become marathon runners. Dead center is where Lay of the Land gets its sonic legs, waging war on the distortion pedal. The influences of Iggy Pop and Sonic Youth resonate throughout these songs, especially on “AvsCO10,” a short, raw song with jagged guitars and highlighted by Simon Aldcroft’s urging drumming. “The Nightwatch” has massive walls of sound, similar to Ride or early Dinosaur Jr. Next comes “SF,” a bashing, screaming rocker, loaded with frenetic guitar work and glossed over by Eastop’s unnerving yelling. Although “SF” packs quite a wallop, its unexpected crash landing into “Forty Nights” is brilliant. “Forty Nights” is a flat-out feedback monster that resembles early My Bloody Valentine with its capillary expanding stream of earsplitting harmony.

As a singer, Dan Eastop bares more than a casual resemblance to Blur’s Damon Albarn. Nowhere is this more evident than on the last quarter of Lay of the Land. Despite remaining noisy, the proceedings settle into more traditional alternative rock fare on “Do It All Again,” “Carousel” and “No Questions.” “Come On Sister” is a tune that draws upon Blur’s more ruffian moments before colliding out of control into an astounding manic clatter of guitars and percussion. “Fog” closes the album by quietly showing our sweaty carcasses to the exit; numb, ears ringing and entirely captivated.

Formed in the late 90s while living in a haunted house, Seachange spent the early part of the new century rigorously touring and getting indie street cred, a process that helped them round out their sound. The fruit of their labor is evident on Lay of the Land. This sextet knows what they are doing. Eastop is a songwriter with a great voice and unlimited potential. Oftentimes when a band incorporates strings into the tapestry of their music they never really make it compliment their sound. With Seachange things are different. String arrangements on “Anglokana,” Glitterball” and “The Nightwatch,” for example, never become obtrusive. Throughout the album the band never heavy-handedly throws Johanna Woodruff into spaces where she doesn’t belong. The rhythm section is tight, together and tough. They never overpower or overwhelm, but still ‘rock.’ Simon Aldcroft’s drumming holds it all together by creating a skintight percussive framework for the songs.

Despite auditory similarities to early Psychedelic Furs, Joy Division and Blur; Seachange has made a scintillating, texturally intricate debut album. Seachange ensnares two distinct sounds, the guitar and the violin, and then wraps their syncopation with an innovative eddy of crunchy percussion, intense guitar work and enigmatic vocals. On the surface Seachange appear to be another British band of the moment trying to cross the Atlantic. However, upon further listening, Lay of the Land reveals itself as something more. Buried beneath the surface layers of lyrically smart, densely delicate songs is an album of sonorous, gloriously spontaneous exuberance. Seachange have raised their voices above the din and made them a band to keep an eye on.


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