Stray Borders - EP

Bill Cummings 31/01/2007

Rating: 3/5

Given the hoopla that's rightly surrounded Los Campesinos of late; you'd be forgiven for thinking that the Cardiff indie scene was literally heaving with tuneful indie scamps in every cave, each one in awe to the likes of Pavement and The Arcade Fire. But that's not entirely true, there's still diversity in South Wales that allows a band like The Stray Borders (Borders like in countries not Skate Boarders) to emerge and begin to thrithe, under the radar. The fact that they appeared alongside Los Campesinos, Little My et al on the Twisted Cardiff bands compilation is testament to that in the underground, here, the only criteria should be whether you're good or not. Taking their influences from considerably more dark post rock depths than their counter parts ie Sonic Youth, Slint, Oceansize and Mogwai, the Cardiff four piece the Stray Borders have produced what is a refreshing and highly promising demo CD(with the personal touch of minimalist handmade artwork).

Opener "I Don't Mind Waiting" is pleasingly widescreen experimental piece, solitary metallic guitar notes slide down a Mogwai-esque rhythm section that positively clicks, with the precise rhythmic drumming, just when you think vocals will never emerge they do; the hushed tones of Matthew and Carlie holding hands for a few verses of melancholia breathing life into these gleaming patterns, then the whole thing steps up a gear, distortion is thrown into the tumble dried mix, before the door opens and the whole thing collapses in a heap on the floor, rung free of all of its emotion.

Second up is the slow burning "We Placed Our Lives In The Hands Of Traffic Lights" a repeated guitar refrain burrows its way into your head before big distorted rain drops begin to fall down from the sky, the mathematical drumming steps up a notch, and the pressure rises into scathing noise-scapes, the final minute and a half comes down a notch or two, blurring into a more atmospherically pleasing space, before the dying embers are snuffed out. One thing you could level at the Stray Borders is the sheer length of theses slabs of noise (none of these tracks clock in under six minutes) may make them currently a little uncommercial, and for some may find them at times a little repetitive, but that would be missing the point, these are dark soundscapes that need time to breath, and time to unfurl like a industrial butterfly wings, revealing their full glory.

Last up is In "Case Of Emergency break Glass" probably the highlight here; delicate notes usher in Matthews whispering vocals: giving life to this spindling Sonic Youth-esque rhythm, he reappears along with Carlie for a gorgeously wistful repeated refrain, is it a paean to a missing person? A lover who knows?“Where's she been/ Where'd you hide/oh they suffocate you.” Its hushed tones are subtle yet retain a tender beauty that's counter balanced by the art rock potential that's at work here, but by minute five the whole thing breaks into walls of fuzz, careering into the middle distance with a surprising screaming burst from the Borders, before dying to a close.

Reassuringly lo fi, and with a few signs of the naivety thats present in most unsigned bands, on the whole this is an accomplished Demo that sets the Borders up as local pioneers of the post rock sound, if their ambition isn't quite matched yet by their recording surroundings then you can be sure that one day the Stray Borders will be capable of something, honed and very special indeed. As it is this Demo record, is a very impressive first effort.

download the entire ep here