A number of weeks ago, having embarked on a brief perambulation, I suffered the deep misfortune of falling victim to a kidnapping; a posse of ruffians forced a hood over my head and scooped me into the back of a transit van and I saw nothing until I awoke; alone, my surroundings, a pleasant yet unsettlingly corporate board room. There were some biscuits in a little dish so I took one. “Hmm”, said I, “These biscuits taste as though they have been produced with Kworn™ High Quality Meat Substitute”.
“That’s right!” a voice announced, its owner following suit, crashing ominously through the door, “It is I, Devin Brennan, CEO of Kworn™ High Quality Meat Substitute. Welcome to my lair, I bear an ultimatum for you! I beg, observe this short video”. One can only imagine the shock that overtook me as Devin’s projector fired up and proceeded to beam a clip of venerable, Bristolian, psych-prog trio Memory of Elephants into the boardroom. In silence, we observed: I think I even saw a tear grace Dev’s cheek though, when the performance ended, he soon reassumed his snarl. “Hear this! For years, at Kworn™ High Quality Meat Substitute, I have strived to produce meaty, high-quality and fulfilling products, however the riffs of Memory of Elephants may be the meatiest, most high-quality and deeply fulfilling thing I have ever found. Will you help me refine them into my products, oh source of reasonable knowledge of UK math-rock stylings, lest I feed you to my dogs? Will you? Willlll you?!”
Sadly, aside from the elaborately staged metaphor about MoE’s riff talents, everything I just said was a complete lie. However, I’d dispute that, as to understanding Beachballin’, it was entirely meaningless; Memory of Elephant’s compositions are extended, snaking and psychedelic, each an experience not totally dissimilar in feel to the surreal, winding events above.
However, Beachballin’ offers more than a twisting riff-fest and it’d be criminal to sell it short: the stalwart’s long anticipated debut is the culmination of years of work, shown gloriously in the crafted nuance evident across the album. ‘Psychological extras’’ rich, hazy atmospheres open the record delicately, though soon are punctured by an abrupt battering of the group’s trademark thick, layered, psychy noise, all beds of guitar screaming over chunky, rhythm-section warmth. ‘Teflon Wombat’ is a highlight too, broaching a myriad of ideas – from knotty, juggernaut riffing to fuzzy, feedback-clouded post-rock ambiences – across it’s 8-minute run time, and ‘Sex in Sevens’, seeing the group’s guitar/bass/drums layout graced by intricate piano and lilting violin, brings a palpable sense of beauty and colour to an already wondrously vivid tracklist. The somewhat krautrock-flavoured, behemoth ‘Tiles, you’re dead’, closing the album, is enormously special too: it’s opening sections, juddering erratically in and out of half-time, are a stroke of pure and undiluted genius.
Really, I think that word ‘special’ sums up Beachballin’; it’s a complex, curious beast at times but an album that feels simultaneously warm, gleeful and – above all – incredibly fun.