Saturday, 12 October 2013

Stealing Sheep - Into The Diamond Sun

Oh Liverpool, so much to answer for! Kaleidoscopic mix of wyrd folk, indie and electronica on Stealing Sheep's stellar debut.

Liverpool has a fine tradition of producing psychedelic music, from the original mystic scallies of Lennon, Harrison & co, through the fey, Love-inspired Pale Fountains and epic raga-rock of Echo & The Bunnymen, right up to more recent takes on psych-pop from the Coral and The Cubical. Refreshingly, the latest psych-troubadours to emerge from Merseyside are Stealing Sheep who buck the trend by not being the standard acid-head blokes with guitars; instead this female three-piece concoct a heady brew of experimental pop and analogue electronica, with a hefty dose of wyrd folk. Theirs is a sound that has its roots in the acid-folk of the early '70s but this is no nostalgia trip, though their influences are traceable there's still a sense of the band making something new, and this is what makes Into the Diamond Sun such a joy to listen to. It sounds like they actually had fun making it rather than say over-analysing drum sounds. If only more bands had such a pleasingly, playful approach.

The heart of the band's sound is similar to the freak-folk of Devendra Banhart, or Vashti Bunyan but with a broader instrumental palette, and the feeling that they could veer off any minute on a completely different tangent. One minute there's spiky guitar lines over brooding tom-toms (The Garden), next they come across as the coolest majorette band around (White Lies). All the time their eclectic approach is characterised by the band's distinctive three-part harmonies and quirky melodic twists. You're probably already familiar with lead single Shut Eye, a delightfully infectious treat, or its follow up Genevieve, but those are just the tip of the iceberg, there's enough variety and invention on this album to keep you coming back to it over and over again, hearing new things with each listen.

As is evident from their videos, they have a fondness for all things homespun, folksy and experimental. If Oliver Postgate had started a band instead of making kid's TV shows from his garden shed the results would probably have sounded something like Stealing Sheep. Part Crosby, Stills & Nash, part Tiger, part Can, part Syd Barrett, part Bjork, but always themselves, Stealing Sheep can safely claim to have made one of the 2012's stand out releases.