Homelife – Exotic Interlude
FIRST PUBLISHED AT THE LINE OF BEST FIT
The last time Homelife surfaced on my radar was with the 2002 Ninja Tune release ‘Flying Wonders‘, a whimsical and varied hotch-potch of exotic styles that was more than much of the hipster muzak coming out of the label at the time. Whereas then the core members Anton Burns and Paddy Steer were assisted by a veritable orchestra of multi-instrumentalists, the first impressions of the aptly-titled ‘Exotic Interlude’ is of a much more stripped-down sound, but the shuffling jazziness and dreaminess pervade. The result of several years of honed-down jams in the spectacularly crowded Homelife studio, the DIY ethos is belied by the intricacy of the musicianship: with Burns and Steer demonstrating prowess on an impressive range of stringed and percussive instruments. It is, rather predictably, a folkier affair, but stops sliding onto the bandwagon by retaining the breezy character and charm of their earlier records.
Arguably ‘Exotic Interlude’ never returns to the heights of the two opening tracks: the folksy 60s psychedelia of ‘Circles’ and the lilting, Hawaiian-accented folk of ‘Along the Verge’. Both tracks feature gently spiralling atmospherics and have an emotional resonance less evident in their earlier albums, particularly on the yearning second song. ‘Sunday Streets’ is a lonesome rustle of trees and dusky ambience, all twinkling atmospherics and steel guitar, world-weary but not quite desolate. This melancholic take on lounge gets a welcome reprise on the penultimate ‘Atlas’, which benefits from some reverb on the vocals that enhance the air of dreamy detachment.
Such creative vocal treatment is conspicuously absent on ‘Lincoln Square’ and ‘Lazy Man’, where the Afro-Caribbean rhythms and flutters of guitar might please fans of Vampire Weekend or even Dirty Projectors. However, both tracks deserve something less slight lyrically and melodically, and Burnside’s modest vocal range is rather exposed in the mix. ‘Everywhere’ is a more successful fusion of psychedelic whimsy and the exotic, while the darker, technically ambitious tabla ’n’ bass of ‘More Wine’ is a bit too busy.
With a theoretical side 1 and 2 book-ended by a couple of fine instrumentals - particularly the dark Hawaiian/Badalamente lounge of the title track – ‘Exotic Interlude’ is an atmospheric record and very nearly a low-key triumph but for a couple of lightweight moments that dilute, rather than compliment, the air of breezy effortlessness.