At first glance, Still Corners’ early single, “Endless Summer,” bears many of the familiar elements so often linked with indie rock’s ever-growing line of indie rock nostalgia merchants. It has the detached female vocalist, the “Be My Baby” drum pattern, and lots of soupy layers of reverb. But even a slightly more attentive listen reveals something much more sinister at play. Its mixture of minor key guitar melody and spooky organs sound much more closely rooted in eccentric ’60s psychedelia, and vocalist Tessa Murray sounds almost as if her voice is being transmitted from beyond this earth. At first it’s catchy, but soon thereafter, it becomes chilling and hypnotic, a curious musical apparition that’s reminiscent of times long past, but existing in its own plane outside of terra firma. This is something mysterious and special.
Formed by Murray and songwriter Greg Hughes after a chance meeting at an unplanned train stop in the UK, Still Corners boast a biography and a uniquely haunting sound that works of surrealist film noir are made of. Their ethereal diva and sinister mastermind pairing is breathtaking dream pop at heart, but delivered through the darkest of a filters. On their Sub Pop debut, Creatures of an Hour, Still Corners lure their own spooky creatures out of the woodwork via otherworldly effects, mesmerizing melodies and rhythmic pulses that prove as charming as they are unsettling. It’s part siren song and part séance, and highly compelling throughout.
“Endless Summer,” originally released last year, reappears here in all its beautifully chilling glory, while new single and leadoff track “Cuckoo” is a hazy stunner in its own right. Boasting a much subtler kind of darkness, the track finds Murray chirping some deceptively silly lyrics: “It’s like we’re going cuckoo/ me and you-oo.” Yet its gorgeous drones wrap a kind of delicate melancholy, whereas the throbbing rhythm of “Circulars” boasts a much heavier, more ominous groove. These seamless transitions between more ethereal fare and abrasive creep-outs find the band carrying on a trippy tradition laid out by Broadcast, though a rhythmic excursion like “Into the Trees” suggests that Stereolab’s music may very well have played a part in their evolution.
Deeper into the album, Still Corners’ supernatural, classic horror element becomes even more pronounced, particularly on the aptly titled “I Wrote in Blood.” Several various elements add up to a truly sublime haunting, from the organ’s sickly drop in pitch, to the thunderclap introduction of drums, to the “Tubular Bells” styled keyboards. Eerie waltz “Velveteen,” meanwhile, doesn’t seem to signify any specific horror movie tropes, but there’s a minor key ethereality that abounds, layered with whirring ambience and glassy shrieks, further adding to the strange feeling of having witnessed an apparition of sorts.
Presented in almost equal parts striking melodies and spine-tingling effects, Still Corners’ Creatures of an Hour is the type of record that makes a significant impact on first listen. And yet it makes that impact through atmosphere and mood, its spacious and ghostly sounds appearing almost like some kind of miraculous illusion or a confusing and beautiful dream. But through their combination of sweet sounds and menacing undertones, Still Corners remind us that nightmares are dreams too.
Stream: Still Corners – “Into the Trees”
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.