Tunng – Turbines Album Review

Bands as individual and enduring as Tunng don’t come around too often. Across their decade together, the group have gone from newcomers, experimenting in the basement of a Soho’s women’s clothing boutique, to acclaimed sonic masters, expertly threading electronic influences with unhinged, off-piste pop.

Now the band are about to release their fifth album, Turbines, through Full Time Hobby. Turbines is a warm, sophisticated record that’s moving, addictive and impossible to categorise with its eclectic range of instrumentation and ideas combining to make something as unique as you’re likely to discover this year. It’s also a more nuanced, reflective and mature album which has uncovered a new power in the Tunng sound, already winning a well-deserved wider audience.

Tunng

Tunng

The record focuses on a make believe world that’s full of strange characters and fantastical happenings. It’s their most bewitching and brilliant listen yet. Mike Lindsay, instrumentalist and founding member said: “It’s been a twisted adventure to this point, one that has taken us all over the world, an amazing journey.

“There’s a lot happened in this band in the last couple of years. Children born, people moving into different places, falling in love, skipping country, broadening horizons…maybe this is a coming-of-age record.”

Though their locations have changed, with the band now scattered between England and Iceland, there’s a powerful and surprising togetherness to Turbines that Lindsay claims is all thanks to its subject matter: an imagined fantasy village. He said: “It’s a fantasy of a place with its own characters where we don’t necessarily fit in, where we observe the others and their strange behaviour.” Dig deep into the sprawling wash of vintage synths, sci-fi noises and glowering finger-picked guitar melodies and you’ll see these characters come to life, from So Far From Here’s spirited travellers (“the mountains passed, they disappeared to the black…”) to the shamanic camp-fire crazies of Embers.

Recorded mainly in a Dorset studio, this is the first Tunng album where all six members were more or less all present at each stage of the recording process.

With only a few days until the release of Turbines, Tunng have provided a five track glimpse into the enthralling world of Turbines, plus a beautifully animated album trailer. The five tracks in this Spotify album sampler make up just over half of the album out on June 17. Mike Lindsay explains how Turbines was born: “We knew that to take things to the next level we needed to get close and create our own intense community, locked in the studio.

“It was as if we created our own imagined village where we could debate, collaborate, explore possibilities and choose the right way forward. This way we were forced to re-examine our relationships with Tunng, with the music and with each other – a completely different process from how we’ve recorded in the past. By the end of the sessions we knew every lane and alley of that village, every house and all the people in them. It’s our sci-fi folk rock album.”

Track one Once has great harmonies with the higher harmonies sending a shiver down your spine. The chorus “Sin before your life time’s over…Sin before you see…” has wonderfully layered harmonies that make it an instantly unforgettable line. It has an almost mesmerising quality to it with the harmonies helping to shape that. There are strong Lounge influences in this track with the acoustic guitar and drum beat. Total relaxation can be felt from the first note.

Trip Trap is a fantastic track and is probably the favourite of album. It slowly builds to expose weird, jerky beats that give it an unusual sound, to say the least. Once again, the harmonies and lyrics are spot on, “She is sweet she is sour/A poisonous flower/We, we’ll trip trap discover/That she will change by the hour…”. The acoustic guitar in this song is kept simple while all the other synth sounds help to add the layers and create that sci-fi feel Lindsay referred to.

World influences do not go a miss on this record. By This has a soft acoustic guitar riff that’s played lightly in background making it even more intriguing to continue to listen to. It has an almost Italian or Spanish sound to it. This acoustic guitar blended with the electric guitar riff that rises and falls makes the combination of instruments in this song perfect. Add in the Jamaican steel drums and you have a really interesting track that will not fail to impress.

The Village is the brilliant, billowing new single from Tunng. The song is set in an imaginary place, “…a make believe world, where you can’t get away from the strange characters you encounter,” explains Mike Lindsay. “It’s about the feeling that you’re the only sane person in an unstable situation. The village could be a place but also a party, a job or a whole country.” The Village is a wonderful folk inspired track which  is definitely one of the more upbeat tracks on the record. It’s certainly a song that will appeal to wider audiences compared to some of the other tracks on Turbines.

Tunng Turbines

Turbines artwork

Follow Follow begins very much like a Simon and Garfunkel song then completely alters in true Tunng style. Again, world influences creep into this song. There are lots of layers and interesting sounds but you have to listen very very carefully to catch them. This is a track where you can almost hear Tunng’s invented village come to life – the song breaths life. It makes me think of a forest with birds tweeting, trees waving in the wind and animals hiding in the undergrowth.

So Far From Here is one of the best tracks on Turbines. Gradually building into a solid, all round wonderful track, So Far From Here is very memorable. It’s a lovely, acoustic and soft number with soothing vocals and wonderful melodies. With the sudden change in tempo and the jerky beat that accompanies “And we’ll run…”, the song alters completely from the way you think it’s going to sound after hearing the start of the song. This is because the song begins with quite a dramatic and filmic approach. The second half of song has a brilliant, echoing guitar riff that instantly makes it sound like a foreign place, building on Tunng’s idea of a mystical world. The track sounds summery and belongs to a place far away from England.

Heavy Rock Warning is another Simon and Garfunkel influenced track. However this track lends itself to Indian inspired compositions in some respects where Simon and Garfunkel didn’t. It has the odd drum that sounds similar to the tabla and the guitar in places that’s made to sound like a sitar. Heavy Rock Warning is a really nice way to end the record, it’s completely chilled.

Turbines really is a superb piece of work that will surprise you, please you and inspire you. Let yourself become immersed in this record and it will not disappoint. Turbines is released through Full Time Hobby on June 17.

See Tunng live:

Mon July 8 2013 – The Lexington, London
Tue July 9 2013 – The Lexington, London
Tue October 8 2013 – Heaven, Under the Arches, London
Fri October 11 2013 – Colston Hall, Bristol
Sat October 12 2013 – Brewery, Kendal
Sun October 13 2013 – Broadcast, Glasgow
Tue October 15 2013 – Manchester Band On The Wall, Manchester
Wed October 16 2013 – South Street Arts, Reading
Thu October 17 2013 – Apex, Bury St Edmunds
Sat October 19 2013 – Trades Club, Hebden Bridge
Sun October 20 2013 – East Village Arts Club, Liverpool
Mon October 21 2013 – Old Market, Brighton

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