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"Another Night's Dreams Reach Earth Again"

8/10
Outfit – Another Night's Dreams Reach Earth Again
05 June 2012, 08:58 Written by Chris Lo
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When a band channels a wide range of influences in their music, there’s always a risk that they’ll be accused of indecision and trend-chasing, of cynically flinging musical spaghetti at the wall in the desperate hope that something will stick. For the most part, albums hit hardest when they swing from one irresistible angle; with multi-limbed attacks, it’s just that much harder to land the killer blow.

It’s a risk that enigmatic Liverpool five-piece Outfit have been taking since they formed at the beginning of last year. On early tracks like the woozily tropical ‘Two Islands’ and the spidery art-punk of ‘Firemen Don’t Fly’, and now on debut EP Another Night’s Dreams Reach Earth Again (a title so oddly worded that it makes you wonder if its acronym – ANDREA – bears some significance), Outfit have consistently shown a fondness for dramatic shifts in style, both between and within their songs. The band’s relatively modest output so far conjures musical touchstones from across the length and breadth of Planet Pop: to your left you’ll glimpse a loping, funk-inflected bassline; on your right you’ll pass a flock of New Order-esque synths; coming up over the horizon you might be shocked to notice an agile R ‘n’ B falsetto accompanied by a beat you’d expect to find The Weeknd crooning over.

Despite any reservations about this kind of restless genre-hopping, on every release so far Outfit have managed to pull it all together into a form they can confidently call their own. Another Night…, a four-track showcase leading up to the full-length album the band are currently writing, is no exception. Opener ‘Everything All The Time’ begins with unnerving wind chimes before hitting the dancefloor with a strutting bassline and stuttering synths that evoke the dawn of disco as much as The Rapture or Franz Ferdinand. ‘Humboldts’ washes in and out of focus like a tide; the song gathers momentum with an insistent beat and spindly guitar flourishes, then retreats into an otherworldly cocoon of spacey melodies and faraway vocals courtesy of Thomas Gorton, who proves as adept at hitting high notes as the band’s regular vocalist Andrew Hunt.

The EP’s second half provides a natural counterpart to the post-punk disco feel of the first two tracks. ‘Drakes’ opens with growly electronics and a ghostly beat that you could easily mistake for something off John Talabot’s dark house masterpiece Fin, at least until the slick guitar lines kick in and the song morphs into the soundtrack to some gritty detective story. And it’s all change again for ‘Dashing in Passing’, a hot caramel slice of R ‘n’ B driven by pulsating bass and a blissed-out chorus that finds a satisfying middle ground between Frank Ocean’s introspection and the giddy sensuality of the Scissor Sisters.

It’s a real surprise that in a mere four songs, Outfit manage to corral all of these inspirations to produce something that feels so well put together while still making room for their own idiosyncrasies. The prominent use of warm, organic bass throughout certainly helps tie everything together, but the band have also made a virtue out of their own flightiness by making the search for identity a key concept in these songs. In this regard, the very first line of the EP – “I wanna be everything, all the time, and I just can’t decide” – emerges as its key lyric; a kind of ants-in-pants exploration of all possibilities, musical and personal, seems like Outfit’s M.O. It’s impossible to say whether this wanderlust will work out in the long run – at this rate their debut full-length might find them dabbling in opera or trying their hand at West Coast rap. But in the confines of this highly promising EP, the fact that you genuinely aren’t sure of what’s coming around the next corner is an unexpected and welcome thrill.

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