Review: See Through Dresses – ‘Horse of the Other World’
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We live in a world of chaos, a wheel of geopolitical instability and existential uncertainty where stepping onto solid ground is an illusion; yet one thing that remains stubbornly consistent is that Tiny Engines as label is a signifier of quality. The Wild Pink S/T and Adult Mom’s Soft Spots are two of my favorite albums of the year, while albums from Eerie Gaits, Sinai Vessel, and Spirit of the Beehive are thoughtful, sophisticated, and enthusiastically worth your time. When we published our favorite albums of 2017 so far list, it featured three of Tiny Engines’ six releases; as an arithmetic prodigy, I can confirm an impressive 50% hit rate. Essentially, when Tiny Engines put out a record, we sit up and take notice.
Horse of the Other World consolidates See Through Dresses’ expertise in – besides rad band names – reverb, more devoutly than most. Reverb of guitars, reverb of vocals (Sara Bertuldo’s voice is eerily reminiscent of Metric’s Emily Haines), reverb of structure as songs often fold in on themselves in imposing gestures. The general aural effect evokes the Cocteau Twins and Jesus & Mary Chain, with the dreamier and poppier stuff banging like a latter day Cure. Shoegaze, but winking.
Both Bertuldo and co-songwriter Matthew Carroll have calculatedly shaped this record into an ethereal meditation, less guitar-centric than its predecessor End of Days, but they hasten to reassure that it still wears its dancing shoes. Opener ‘Diamonds’ straddles balladry in theatrical kick drums and eagerly stomping synths, before leading into ‘Radiant Boy’, which deals in the propulsive and the, well, radiant, as the synths pick up the pace into prancing. It’s mood music that seamlessly passes into party music. This duality reaches heights on the soaring melodrama of ‘Catacombs’ and ‘Shelley’ where their primary toolset (reverbed everything collaborating with an expedient synthesiser) click in tandem; or when they allow their permit themselves to just rock as on ‘Lucy’s Arm’.
The entire record sounds epic without ever toeing the try-hard line, embodying a pleasant approximation between nostalgic sound and intermittent bursts of freshness; such as the submission to full-throttle emo on the title track, or the stonerish arpeggios on ‘Light in August.’
It’s perhaps not as layered or trenchant as it could be – it’s occasionally difficult to discern what exactly either vocalist is trying to express or confess beyond familiar sentiments of social and romantic angst – but there’s enough fun melodic surprises and technical prowess to paper over the meagre cracks.
– Keiran Devlin