Tuesday 24 January 2023

Like the deserts miss the rain - the return of Everything But The Girl

Colour me surprised to find a new upload on the official Everything But The Girl channel last week. First things first I didn’t even know they had a channel and second I haven’t even browsed that much EBTG content there so who knows how the algorithm decided to suggest it my way. This post was supposed to go up last week but I postponed it a little while I ironed out those previously mentioned tech issues, it was the right move to make in hindsight as I’ve had a little more time to spend with it and think on what I was going to say. So let’s get into it.

First, some backstory (albeit an extremely condensed one). EBTG started out as a folky kinda pop band duo back in the 80’s. Around 1995, hot off the heels of the now legendary Todd Terry mix of Missing they would take a more electronic approach - it’s here that most of the stuff I’ve posted of them comes from: 1996’s Walking Wounded and ’99’s Temperamental leaning heavily on the side of Drum & Bass.

And that’s about where the story ends, outside of some album reissues with old demos included and some solo albums from both Tracey Thorn and Ben Watt, there hasn’t been any *new* EBTG material since 1999. Until now, that is. They have a new album penciled in for April 2023, having been recorded in 2021 (which despite what you might think, isn’t a product of lockdowns so say the band). First single is the first track off the album Nothing Left To Lose, a fittingly melancholy title given the content of previous EBTG albums. More thoughts after the video itself.

It sounds cliché to say, but really it is like they never left, from the jump we’re back in 2-step garage town and there’s some proper shelf rattling bass backing it up as well, sort of retro but with a distinctly modern feel. The 24 year gap has done nothing to dull the duo’s production chops. EBTG’s work, especially Temperamental had a real focus on city spaces which I think the sound reflects very well.

And of course, it wouldn’t be a return to EBTG without Tracey Thorn’s vocals. Her delivery on some of the previous records is among my favourites, and her lyricism is usually full of colourful wordplay hiding the bleakness in the content. On first listen, I wasn’t sure it was her on the vocals, but after a few more listens it became more and more clear that it is. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about phrasing this part, her voice has changed quite a bit since the Temperamental days (but again, it has been *24* years, so that’s to be expected), feeling a lot more mature than the fragility of, say, her guest vocal on Massive Attack’s Protection. To be perfectly clear I don’t mean that to be negative at all - her vocals are still incredibly effective and evocative, and twins excellently with the sounds on display here. I find myself replaying the explosion in sound at 2:54, backed by Thorn’s plea to “Kiss me while the world decays” over and over again.

I’m interested to see where the rest of the album goes, previous ones weren’t always strictly Drum & Bass so this change in sound isn’t too unexpected, I would love to see an update to the ‘classic’ sound in future singles but I also wouldn’t complain if it were all in this vein. I’ll certainly be keeping tabs on it going forward, and if I’m feeling up for it might actually do a review when the time comes.

I’ve got this far and not even mentioned the video at all! It’s a fairly simple setup all things considered, but the camerawork and choreography is pretty great. Feels like a bit of a callback to the days where music videos were more common on TV than they are now - where artists like Aphex Twin and such would make wild videos to get the people talking. Slightly unrelated but my favourite of their previous ones is the video for Five Fathoms, which is just a bunch of guerrilla footage of a town center’s denizens on some night out in 1999, with a pretty heavy focus on a DDR machine for extra nostalgia!

But that’ll about do it for today, hope you dig the tune as much as I do, I’ll be back around soon enough with more but until then, as always, stay safe and enjoy the music.


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