London’s Vuvuvultures are a band who’ve expertly evaded being pigeonholed by the press – so far. It’s probably because the quartet do their best to defy definition: their sound is changeable, morphing from doomtronica to gothwave to indie-metal to art-rock that’s been squeezed through a fine sieve of chichi pop. They sometimes evoke fond memories of Crystal Castles, Depeche Mode, Deap Vally, Icky Blossoms, Nine Inch Nails, Zola Jesus, Charli XCX and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs – albeit fleetingly. It’s probably safest to say that the four mysteriosos produce some alien form of dark, Tim Burton-esque noises (i.e. vaguely gothic with a demented, childish charm), and just leave it at that.
What’s certain is they’re blindingly talented musicians, who, through their “freeform noise sessions”, are crafting some of the most menacing, intelligent pop sounds of recent years. There’s a feeling that them unleashing an album upon us is like someone removing the shackles from Cerberus’ legs. The title of the beast is Push/Pull, a record patched together in Lynchmob Studios using ramshackle gear, much of which they apparently assembled themselves, with Max Heyes and a bunch of vintage analogue equipment. They’re fascinated by the hardware that comes with music, and have shown much eagerness when it comes to revving up dusty synthesisers and Neve consoles.
‘Steel Bones’, the lead single, is a thumping vortex of sinister shenanigans. Playful and torturous, warped basslines trundle along voyeuristically behind singer Harmony (no relation to Claire ) Boucher’s luxurious slur. It’s got an operatic timbre during the chorus, as monolithic swollen synths whip around buzzing beats like a hurricane, and Boucher croons “I’ll hold you up and break you hard/ my darling, until I die.” The moniker of ‘I’ll Cut You’ is misleading; though it may sound like trial by fire, it’s actually fairly serene in comparison to much of the LP, with shuffling vocal samples and massive classic-rock chords, but a verse that recalls delirious insomnia.
‘The Strangler’ is less of a misnomer – abrasive guitars pirouette with a tango beat – and it could fit into a weird mould of goth-flamenco, if push came to shove. There are still more macabre song names: ‘Your Thoughts Are A Plague’ (a sort of funk-metal), ‘Death Of Us All’ (a squawking squall of electro-rock) and what’s eventually gleaned is the apparent violent tendencies of Vuvuvultures. They’re a dangerous band with dangerous sounds.
Push/Pull is brimming with stellar cuts. Every track is an intriguing mess, a cavalcade of hodgepodge elements that when smooshed together, far from sounding like a steaming dump, are riveting. It’s a celebration of odd-pop and weird-rock. It’s distinguished and thoroughly individual; no one sounds quite like Vuvuvultures, which is perfect. If there were more outfits channelling the excitement that this four-piece does, we’d be less inclined to care, but even the most ballsy collectives of the past six months would struggle to tackle them in a stand-off. They’re mavericks of pop, doing whatever the hell they want. But they’re also a strange bunch, so ‘whatever the hell they want’ incites some very… interesting noises.