One of the problems of running a site that aims predominantly at the underground scene is simply finding the time to cover all of the amazing bands that are out there. Every day we are flooded with a veritable tsunami of amazing releases, all worthy of a review and all worthy of wider attention. As a result it takes us some time to get to each release and to cover it in the depth it deserves. A case in point is this new record from the amazing Vinyl Floor who must, by now, imagine that we’ve forgotten all about them. Last time we met the band they had just completed their amazing debut record, ‘Peninsula’, a progressive gem that showcased multiple influences and a wide-eyed wonder at the power and beauty of music. Since then the band have been out on tour, spent time contemplating their next move and the result is the similarly lovely ‘Vaudeville’, an album which comes packaged, once again, in wonderfully evocative artwork (seemingly uncredited) and which offers up twelve wonderfully different songs that draw from a wide range of influences to produce something refreshingly new and ubiquitously interesting.
The band open with the heavy stomp of ‘change the song’ which draws upon David Bowie’s ‘Heroes’ as its unlikely inspiration and crossbreeds it with a modern indie sheen and the resulting song is both glossy and gritty in equal measure. Better still is the gravelly might of the Neil Young-referencing ‘shift’ which sounds like Crazy Horse going on the rampage in a fuzz-pedal factory with Morrisey and the White Stripes in tow. It is every bit as tantalising as it sounds and it gleefully rearranges the speaker cones before the band relax into a mix of Dinosaur Jnr and Strangelove on ‘time of your life’ only for the song to mutate and suddenly flood your consciousness with the sort of monumentally uplifting string section that many bands aim for and yet so few actually achieve. It’s a heart-stopping piece of music and a testament to the varied and exciting range of influences which Vinyl Floor call their own. In contrast, ‘Castles’ opts for the sort of whimsical acoustic music that the Divine Comedy made their own and then echoing guitar and gently undulating percussion draws the listener into ‘angel of crime’, a weird, progressive diversion that draws on so many different aspects of modern music that it’s quite impossible to lay its DNA bare in a simple review. ‘Just a shadow’ sees the band exploring ambient guitar textures and surging electronic pulses on a track that would, in a perfect world, be a hit single but which, sadly, looks destined to remain overlooked by the majority. It’s a beautiful song that makes perfect use of its disparate elements to create a cohesive and wonderful whole that is as memorable as it is appealing.
The second half of the album opens with ‘colorblind’ (sic), a strong highlight with its Depeche Mode – styled electronic flourishes and rich vocals and then ‘nation underground’ takes elements of Anathema, John Lennon and the Smiths for a piano-led lament that is soaked in neo-folk melody and pathos, the rich harmonies in particular recalling the similarly beautiful work of the Oysterband. Sensing that they’ve trodden the quiet road for too long, ‘Sensational freedom country estate’ comes storming out of the gate with a near punkish ferocity that carries with it the same punch that Pink Floyd’s ‘the Nile song’ carried at the heart of the soundtrack to the film ‘more’. It’s unusual to hear the band cutting loose in such a fashion and because it is a rare occurance it sounds lal the heavier for it. Returning to poppier pastures, ‘fallen leaves’ plays in a similar playground to the smashing pumpkins (if they’d had Patrick Duff singing for them) and then the massed harmonies of ‘basket of kisses’ appear and the listener is treated to a barbershop coda to an album that is alive with disparate influences. Just one song remains – the odd shanty that is ‘the abyss’ which feels like it belongs not only to a different album but to a different time altogether. If it was anybody else it would feel wrong, but somehow the band play their diversity as a strength rather than a weakness and the song feels natural despite its incongruous nature.
When I first encountered Vinyl Floor I questioned the name, contemplating whether the band were so named because their influences required a whole floor of vinyl to accommodate them. The point remains for ‘Vaudeville’ draws together music from the last century with each track evoking a different set of imagery. Less cohesive than ‘peninsula’ but, perhaps, more fun, ‘vaudeville’ is a short, sweet album that is never dull and which offers much to the brave listener keen on sonic exploration. Vinyl floor have no peers with which to compare them, they just are, and should be taken as such, a unique, very special band whose varied and expansive sonic palette may well appeal to comparatively few listeners, but who can always be relied on to craft an imaginative and exciting world for the listener to sink into. ‘Vaudeville’ is an unusual delight, and you can guarantee you’ll hear nothing else quite like it.