SHARKS TOOK THE REST – Grounds For Hearts To Swell

PhotobucketTaking music with strings and an almost spacious approach to the piano would undoubtedly create something atmospheric and possibly cinematic, but on this EP, British septet Sharks Took The Rest take such cinematic music a step farther by adding elements of easy jazz and electronica. This results in five varied numbers which, together, create an incredibly compelling debut release.

The string-led ‘Bring Her Back’ has a sound which is immediately familiar. Gentle drums and upright bass provide a warm loop over the viola and cello. The swirling vocal arrangement on the chorus gives a sense of building up, but largely the number maintains a mellow, flowing quality. The end sound offers something which sounds like Sarah McLachlan, although the use of upright bass lends itself to the work of Elizabeth and the Catapult. The McLachlan feeling runs through parts of ‘Ancestors’, but here, Beccy Owen’s vocal (which occasionally drifts into an uncomfortable pitch) plays second fiddle to the great work from the rhythm section. David Carnegie’s jazzy drumming is spot-on throughout the number, but Ian Paterson’s upright bass work outshines all other musical aspects.

‘Sleeping Conniptions’ showcases the busier side of the septets sound and the use of a frantic programmed drum loop here gives the number a real thrust. While aggressive drum loops don’t often have a place within such atmospheric surroundings, it works well against sounds of the strings – and especially what sounds like a heavily treated electric guitar, adding very eastern qualities. ‘Restaurant’ has a quirky air, as Louise Taylor and Becca Topping’s viola and cello are plucked, over which Nick Pride adds similarly hard-plucked acoustic guitar strings. This is overlaid by a multi-voiced, occasionally complex arrangement which really highlights the vocal talent within the band.

The closing number ‘Isobel’ has an unsettling quality. Adam Kent’s sparse piano work is overlaid by slowly building, cleanly plucked guitar. Owen’s vocal has presence, but her words aren’t always clear; when joined in harmony by a second vocal, it’s almost dreamlike. As the track progresses, the percussion builds to a climax, before falling into something gentler.

Each of the five numbers featured on ‘Ground For Hearts To Swell’ is meticulously crafted and full of warmth, while the chamber pop elements set the band apart from any vaguely similar musicians. Sharks Took The Rest have a rich sound which will undoubtedly capture the minds of listeners who have spent years enjoying other female-fronted acts.  Recommended.

February/March 2011