Strathclyde Telegraph

Album Review: Mazes – Ores & Minerals

Gillian Montgomery

 

There’s no introduction to Maze’s new album ‘Ores and Minerals’. In the first second of opening track, you’re launched headfirst into the song as singer Jack Cooper croons the lyrics ‘Bodies colliding and gliding around us/ And the light will go out’. The words sound morbid but the music is anything but; the song itself seems to collide and glide, enveloping you in a sound that’s much more complex than the one developed in debut ‘A Thousand Heys.’ Mazes’ style of slacker indie-pop has often been compared to the American pioneers of lo-fi rock, Pavement, and on ‘A Thousand Heys’ it was all there; that sense of youth, of lazy optimism and scuzzy guitars making superficial pop songs that make you ridiculously happy for two and a half minutes. If that album was a person it would be crazily charismatic and energetic, the type of person that everyone is enamoured with, whose attention it is impossible to hold, who has endless energy and always leaves you wanting more. ‘Ores & Minerals’ is that person’s cousin but they’re older, more aloof, and just as cool. This album’s more refined, if you will.

The staccato riff of ‘Bodies’ is simple but effective, and the seven-minute opener saunters smoothly from beginning, to middle, to end; but it’s the music rather than the lyrics that are telling the story. There’s a mini, and very mellow, breakdown halfway through which builds up seamlessly to a swooping crescendo which wouldn’t sound out of place in a psychedelic trip-out scene in a movie. ‘Dan Higgs Particle’ harks back to Mazes’ lo-fi scuzz roots, with slow, lazy sounding guitars meandering around one another as though it had been made up on the spot. ‘Ores & Minerals’ has that same chiming guitar, and Cooper’s vocals almost fade into the background, giving the track an almost hypnotic feel; that is, until a sprawling guitar and catchy ‘Ahhhh’ chorus enter the equation, making you sit up and pay attention. The first single released from the album and one of my favourite tracks of the year so far is ‘Skullking’; the band use a neat bass line to hold it all together while playing around with loops and samples, mixing together various influences and coming up with a sound that is truly unique. Closer ‘Slice’ is also excellent, with lyrics quipping ‘The U.S.A isn’t great, it’s ok’ being particularly resonant as Cooper recently wrote an article for The Guardian commenting that U.K bands shouldn’t bother trying to break the U.S, as there’s no money in it (unless you’re U2 or Coldplay).

Perhaps the best way to sum up ‘Ores & Minerals’ is to take a closer look at the title of the album. Ores are extracted by mining then refined to extract the elements of value. Similarly, Mazes have taken all the musical aspects that made ‘A Thousand Heys’ such a joy – their knack for a melody, fuzzy guitars and a strange, nervous energy – and taken them to the next level. ‘Ores & Minerals’ is refined and defined, the product of a band who have found their niche and are not afraid to stand out in the nondescript world of indie music.

 

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