In a rare interview, Bilinda Butcher (who should need no introduction) described how, back in the punk era, she was “living in the 20s and 30s.” And how she’s too shy to sing “when there are others in the room.” In a ragged-edged age’s dream of Deco, in the utopia and tragedy of nostalgia and the invocation of “shy,” the propensities of the band for whom she is an eponym are revealed.
The mood itself is familiar: will-she/won’t-he lovelornness, a pervasive sense of androgyny separate from questions of queerness (“a boy and a girl in love” is very much where we’re at here), wispy and wistful vocals reminiscent of Slowdive. But the particular way that synthetic and acoustic elements are combined is clearly original. Though the Butchers bear obvious influences from bands like The Radio Dept. — who are cited as an important influence — they develop the sound more perfectly, and add a gentle touch of hypnotic repetition that shrugs off — slightly, but noticeably — the confines of traditional song structure within which this kind of music is usually attempted.
goodbyes (which exists in five-track digital/vinyl and eight-track CD versions) is perhaps not quite as consistent as 2011’s regret, love, guilt, dreams EP, but the three-song trajectory from “hai bby” to “half open” is perfect bliss, prefaced by opener “teen dream’s” electronic shards scattered over guitar. Elsewhere, the moments underpinned by beats (as on “stevie nicks”) work best. That title indicates the same archetypal, Jungian-feminine iconicity as its moniker, but it is also evidence of the fact that this is classic bedroom pop with no smack of the dancefloor. Rather, in the clubland-bedsitland nexus, we could characterize goodbyes as the combination of the tremor of anticipation, with the melancholy of the early-morning aftermath.
Speaking of contrasts, “little leaf” features an opening line lifted from Pixies via Beach Boys via Charles Manson (now there’s a pedigree), and goodbyes also includes a cover of chiptunes maestro J Arthur Keenes’ “low tide.” The influence from gaming is by no means overt (there are no actual chip tunes or upbeat bleeps), but it’s somehow in there, in the loops and atmospheres, reminiscent of the trend toward retro in games as well as music — and also, conversely, to a more contemporary organic game aesthetic, as if one were to be playing consoles, but at sunset at the tail end of a tipsy Sunday picnic, or hanging out at an Animal Crossing.
Michal and Adam, who together make up the band, consistently describe their music as cinematic and specifically scenic — but also, lyrically, as “super personal.” So one of the feedback loops occurring here is that between panoramic atmosphere and intimate detail. And to go fractal on you, the “super personal” romantic dyad, the subject of content, is itself a feedback loop. The concept of feedback brings us back to My Bloody Valentine: Butcher describes her best MBV memory as squeezed with her band mates and all the gear in the back of a Ford Transit, falling asleep somewhere between human contact and (the memory of) machines. Such a drifting-off is an appropriate place to take our goodbyes.