A mélange of dark and introspective sounds, the British band LOCKS recently released their debut album, Skeletal Blues, which is a collection of Gothic blues that explores the complex darkness inside everyone of us. The string-based quartet (guitar, fiddle, and double bass plus drums) works from where Lou Reed or even an older Leonard Cohen might have left it to add a musical wittiness that takes the listener by storm. L. Geary’s Griffin voice has a haunting sound that combines with a very rich toolbox, such as when she goes from the mystic subtlety of “Skin” to the darkness of “Skeletons” with ease.
The album starts with “Bodies”, an up-tempo folk tune that evokes the scene at an old club by the harbor in the 1940s. The fiddle works as a melodic layer as much as the vocal, enhancing the continuous “walking beat” of the percussion. The song ends in a powerful outro, a jam really, between the heavy drum toms and the strings.
“Skeletons” feels like a death kiss. The snare in the intro sounds like a shotgun in the middle of the night, the drums clearly benefit from a mixing approach that is very contemporary in how it compresses sound and the vocals have a touch of distortion that places them inside the music with that dark quality the lyrics speak of.
They follow up with “Skin”, an inspiring tune where the drums switches to sticks and the production keeps adding layers with the appearance of church bells and horns. In “Mirrors”, one of the album’s ballads, the double bass delivers a masterful performance, sustaining the song’s energy while crafting a very melodic walkin’ bass line.
“In the City” carries the sound of ghosts with it. The gasping voices that act as a counter instrument give the song that graveyard sound that is enriched by a dramatic fiddle, very well versed in the art of old folk and traditional music.
“Devil and Me” is an elaborate percussive composition that moves around a steady beat of claps and snare rims. The harmony evolves around a pedal, over which L. Geary’s words rest comfortably and in a very elegant manner. Her vocal nuances shine through in this song. “The Chase” is perhaps the poppiest of all the songs in the albums but it still carries that muddy and spiritual resonance with more haunting vocals.
“Toes” builds up from the ground. Starting with just bass and vocals, the song ends up becoming an emotional counterweight to the rest of the album in that it portrays a more up-lifting and optimistic feeling. Special mention for the fiddle and the beautiful embellishment of the melody it does when the song starts to build.
“White Blues” takes me to a smoky cabaret. The dancers on stage, interacting with the audience while a witty barman offers to pay for a round. The door opening every 34 seconds with the doorman swearing.
The album ends with “Laveau”, a mellow tune that is built on the punchy double bass percussions. With a Celtic violin solo at the end and very darkened vocals for ambiance, LOCKS end their debut album on a high note, saving one of their most intricate compositions for last.
LOCKS are a London based alternative skeletal strings bluesy band made up of L.Geary-Griffin (lead vocal / guitar), Mike Byrne (double bass), Marian McClenaghan (fiddle), and Andrew Marvell (drums).
Skeletal Blues is out via Zen Ten Records. Available as digital download, vinyl & CD.
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