Melbourne’s Minimum Chips have been releasing records since way back into the 1990s, and Nicole Thibault, Julian Patterson and friends’ latest effort, Lady Grey, is an impressive slab of soothing, electronic indie. The opening “Cold Afternoon” suggests macabre times to come, as if Low were lined up with a pile of Cocteau Twins records at the dole queue. It’s deceptive though, as much of the album seems far brighter and stylishly well-adjusted.
“Black” has lush soundscape’s comparable to Air’s Premieres Symptomes, tempered by an everyday serenity worthy of Stereolab. Aside from vocal similarity (very much a compliment), Laetitia Saddler and co. are a clear reference point. “Sleepy Pea” positively exudes Music for the Amorphous Body Study Centre. There’s nothing wrong with bringing to mind one of the best mini-albums of the nineties though, and the lyrics about post grad study and radio-phonic work surfacing also bear a trace of The Go! Team’s “Hold Your Terror Close.” “Eating Out” reaches sonic dysfunction worthy of The Flaming Lips’ Hit to Death In The Future Head, while “Alaska” could be one of Stereo Total’s slighter moments placed in the context of walking home alone from the non Hollywood Dark Water. Thibault’s coos have a scary, yet childlike rhyme, and it’s very easy to imagine a crane shot above.
Lady Grey succeeds because the band manages to embellish a consuming sonic template with variance, and without sacrificing ease on the ears. “Know You Too Well” uses a guitar riff disarmingly similar to the Manic Street Preacher’s “Kevin Carter” to underline a song worthy of Broadcast and M83 at their most immediate. The title track would compliment King of Woolworth’s L’illustration Musicale perfectly. There’s a definite Dot Allison similarity going on when Thibault sounds contemplative. “Marble Arch” touches on Low’s Trust and Damon and Naomi. On the twinkling “Goodbye” the Chips (I feel horrible for typing that but the visual image of potato off-cuts with limbs and guitars cannot be resisted) introduce indie pop and funk to the metronomic.
The penultimate “Trouble Free” absolutely shines here. With all the propulsion of Ash’s “A Life Less Ordinary” and cinematic namesake, it feels bright, breezy, with something to live for, and cleverer guitars than most. Patterson’s vocal contribution muddies the circumstances in the best possible way. I’m left thinking of another wonderful nineties Extended Play, Nyack’s Savage Smile. “Snow Peas” closes the album with hints of Goldfrapp and Rogue Wave. I’ve enjoyed Lady Grey immensely, in a very low key way. Minimum Chips haven’t needed to shout loudest or swagger most ridiculously. All the intensity in the world can’t change the fact that this sounds like a headspace which most people would pine for.
King of Woolworths – L’illustration Musicale
Stereolab – Music for the Amorphous Body Study Centre
Low – Trust