Returning from the wilderness is An Horse, with ‘Modern Air’, a first full-length album in eight years. After the Brisbane duo of Kate Cooper and Damon Cox formed in 2007, two albums, an EP and tours with the likes of Death Cab for Cutie followed, but so did a lengthy hiatus beginning in 2013.
What is immediately clear is that the shimmering, sun-kissed sonic imaginings of Cooper and Cox have seldom changed in the interim, with the former’s light tenor still soft as sand and the guitar-led textures still rich.
‘Get Out Somehow’ came out last year and heralds the band’s return in convincing fashion, well-received on account of its direct, infectious approach. Heavily overdriven guitars form a wall in coalition with the two members harmonising an irresistible chorus hook.
‘Modern Air’ does seem to enjoy itself most with the volume cranked up and the instrumentation streamlined. ‘This is a Song’ reveals the punkier side of An Horse, and a hinted release of frustration pent-up since the hiatus: “For all the times we didn’t belong / and all the times they got us wrong”. Discontent with the industry has been cited as the reason for the break, and this record marks a change of label.
But for every shout, there is a whisper, and ‘Bob Ross (Be the Water)’ induces a stupor as it layers on reverb-drenched falsetto, electronic rhythms and atmospherics all carried by rumbling, murky drums that are impossible to identify as originally acoustic or not.
Quite apart from its hovering strings and a nursery-rhyme-like round of a hook, ‘Mind Reader’ offers an opportunity for a closer examination of Cooper’s genuinely wonderful voice, in itself one of the sharpest tools in the An Horse box.
A return perhaps more easily admired than actually enjoyed – the constructions of the songs elevate fairly average writing – ‘Modern Air’ is slickly efficient.
‘Modern Air’ by An Horse is out now on Lame-O Records.
Words by Peter Stewart (@PeteStew_)