It only takes a few seconds to get caught up in the music. A series of piano chords, shimmering and melodic, a discreet drumming with a hit on the hi-hat and one on the bass drum, a liquid and distorted electric guitar, and a raspy and lived-in voice. This is how Springtime‘s album begins, with the inexorable crescendo of this pattern, whose cyclical repetition ends up overwhelming the listener’s senses.
At the end of the first song, ‘The Will To Power’, I had already decided to start my review with the above words, but already with the next track, ‘The viaduct love suicide’, I had changed my mind, completely captivated by the few scattered piano notes immersed in reverb and by an almost imperceptible drumming in the background. A spell that casts you on the seashore caressed by the sound of the waves. When that pained voice enters, endowed with a Nick Cave-like magnetism, you involuntarily begin to move forward, immersing yourself, step by step, more and more in the water. The song slowly takes shape, a foamy form, the sound of a guitar attracts you like the song of the sirens and you realize that you no longer feel the earth under your feet, but that you are floating. Everyday life has never seemed so far away.
Opening with both of these paragraphs, so different as the two songs are, seemed to be the best way to properly frame the album; it is, in fact, an album that is characterized by a dizzying “altitude difference”, expressive and emotional, whose peaks and valleys are perfectly represented by the first two tracks.
But who is Springtime? They are an Australian trio formed by Gareth Liddiard (vocals, guitar) of Tropical Fuck Storm and before that of The Drones, Chris Abrahams (piano, organ) of The Necks and Jim White (drums) of The Dirty Three, Xylouris White, and a thousand other projects. A supergroup then, a recurring term in rock music that often brings with it great expectations and modest results. This is not the case, however, and the album has already booked a place in the end-of-year charts.
This is not a mere juxtaposition of the three components, as often happens in supergroups, but a synthesis to which each one contributes with its own characteristics and sensitivity. Using a cinematic metaphor, one could say that if the album were a movie, Gareth Liddiard would be nominated for best vocalist (my associates tell me he’d be up against Joe Talbot of Idles) and special effects (strictly analog and handmade) for his guitar work, Chris Abrahams for best supporting actor for his masterful work in the background, and Jim White for best set design for his ability to create the scenic scaffolding around which the songs develop. But what makes the difference is the synergy established between the three of them which, by enhancing their individual peculiarities, results in a performance of monstrous intensity and almost, especially in the case of Liddiard, of “life or death” (artistic).
If we add to this emotional density a powerful writing, the final result is an album that is more than simply “beautiful”, but also memorable and, as such, destined to remain, which is no small thing at a time when everything seems ephemeral. The tracks are all significant and worth mentioning: there is the litany of “Jeanie in a bottle” with a rolling piano overwhelmed in the end by a noise rush, the heartfelt ballad (recorded live) “West Palm Beach” (a cover of Bonnie Prince Billy‘s Palace period but made their own by the trio) that culminates in a superb and dissonant guitar solo, “The Island” where a delicate pace is followed by a psychotic delirium and the dramatic nine minutes of “The killing of The Village Idiot”.
I deliberately left for last the Irish traditional “She moved through the fair”, reinterpreted in a version that, in its lyrical and modern declination, suspended between an avant-garde spirit and a static, almost slowcore pace, does not lose a bit of its original evocative and ghostly identity.
We don’t know if this is an isolated episode or if Springtime is destined to become a full band, but the album seems to represent one of those rare once-in-a-lifetime planetary alignment moments that, when you’re lucky, you can see. Let’s hope we’re wrong, but in the end, it’s not that important as we can enjoy, here and now, what good fortune and the three Australian artists have given us.