Recorded at Oxford’s Courtyard Studios in late 2012 with Band of Skulls producer Ian Davenport at the helm, ‘Imola’ – the debut EP from Bristol trio Armchair Committee – is immense. During its playing time of just under sixteen minutes, the band waste no time in grabbing the attention. The riffs are laid on thickly, while other more atmosphere driven elements are often delivered with a layer of distortion for good measure.
‘Boxcutter’ kicks things off with best foot forward, as moody muted chords pave the way for a naturalistic vocal. Before too long, the rest of the band crash in with a riff which combines a strong alternative rock vibe with a smidgeon of shoegazey distortion. As the early 90s drum grooves mesh with a brilliantly upfront bass (including a nifty lead break), the vocals become less important and the tune takes over, with a very strong sense of melody lurking beneath the many layers of overdrive and pedal-driven fuzziness. In these four minutes sounding a tad like Helmet’s lighter cousins in places, Armchair Committee will either grab you…or not. If the latter applies to you, it’s time to move on, but it’s your loss… Taking a slightly more lo-fi stance, the intro to ‘Codeine’ presents a quieter side to the band, a side which although not always as instantly enjoyable, brings a greater feeling of scope to the array of sounds within their musical armoury. A mix of muted chords and warm bass are topped by brief slide guitar before Tom Hackwell lends a slightly breathy vocal with hints of early Radiohead. While this number could almost be the work of a different band to that which delivered ‘Boxcutter’, it’s as equally well crafted, with occasional echo and reverb adding further to a near cinematic feel.
Taking the cinematic and winding the mood down a little more, ‘To Arms’ has a slight bluesy rhythm at first, as the drums lay down an intermittently solid backbeat, overlaid by great sounding ringing guitar. This is deceiving, since before too long, Armchair Committee shift away from the hinted rhythm, subsequently increasing the volume of guitars building a layer of distortion before segueing into the title track. Finishing the EP with their most instantly enjoyable tune, that title cut pulls together most elements of Armchair Committee’s sounds via a big, fuzzy affair, an extremely confident outing with equal parts distortion and melody. A huge riff combined with some killer lead breaks (with a very naturalistic style) brings out the best in Davenport’s lo-fi production as well as giving a strong sense of the power within the band’s more forceful elements. As with most of Armchair Committee’s work, there’s not always complete originality, but there’s passion and professionalism – both of which go a long way to making ‘Imola’ an impressive release.
Whether tackling atmospheric sounds for your head or going straight to your gut with crushing alternative rock, Armchair Committee’s sound is often captivating and ‘Imola’ presents the listener with approximately a quarter-hour of fuzzed up joy. You may not always find yourself singing, or particularly latching on to a chorus, but in fairness, that’s not really what this release is about. With a truckload of classic nineties influenced sounds, but without too many of the noughties math rock elements, this band should be placed highly on your list of listening priorities.
Listen to the single ‘Boxcutter’ below.