Recoup - Worthwile

George Bass 03/04/2006

Rating: 4/5

Their Myspace cites them as 'a live band that maintains a strong electronic feel' - a somewhat easy claim to make these days, when anyone with an amp and a copy of GarageBand can apply for membership of the Fender electro club. Still, tunes that have been honed in an East London warehouse and a helping hand from a couple of heavyweight producers should mark experimental trio ReCoup and their debut mini album clearly out from the collage of bedroom electronica, right? In a word: ish.

Worthwhile certainly doesn't waste any of its twenty-seven minutes, and shows that the band are clearly giving it their all. They have a stab at most things, whether it's bridging the gap between Hard-Fi and The Blue Nile on opening number Origins (and that's some gap), or conjuring up the PWEI a-side that never was on the epic Thundercloud. In fact the latter has to be heard to believed - guitars alternate between white water crashes and Explosions In the Sky chiming, while synthesisers deliver the occasional Gameboy sneeze. As with most of the record, frontman Pieter Theron punctuates the music with his soulful crooning, for better or for worse depending on how you like your electro-rock. Sometimes his musings wander into sixth form prog-rock territory ('Can you see the crease in this line/Do you feel the thorn in my side'), but what they lack in eloquence they make up for in sincerity. This is most evident on Understand Me, which is not only a cohesive fusion of the various styles on the record but also more than capable of serving as a standalone single. Out of a sunrise of keyboards comes a ghostly 4x4 beat, building and building till it's thick as a Maccy D's milkshake. Theron's voice arrives alongside some burst-fire synth to induce a cathartic headstate ('You've got to try, there's so much to do/ You've got to try, you've got nothing to lose'), before the whole thing goes up in a flash of distortion guitar. Impressive stuff.

The album doesn't shy away from exploring the more downbeat crannies of cinematic IDM once the brighter moments are all done and dusted. The title track is a foreboding sprawl of nightvision - imagine Ulrich Schnauss in sulk mode crossed with a more lively sounding Christ (no, not Him) - and closing effort OneSixty is the stuff that insomniacs dream of; ticking along with a migraine beat and knots of bass like acid indigestion. There's a quick pit-stop of white noise while the track divides and part two kicks in, sounding not unlike Underworld at their most experimental. 'Nothing can stop you from breaking out', intones Theron over a calm speedball beat and those gloomy chords. On this occasion you cling to the vocals like a drunk to a hedge.

Worthwhile is a solid enough debut, though perhaps wisely trimmed to less than half an hour. ReCoup's homegrown blend of operatic vocals and synthesised machinations isn't as immediately engaging as more cut-glass acts like The Fishery Commission, and some of Theron's lyrics might look better in an emo blog than printed on a digipak sleeve. Nevertheless, it's been a while since anyone has married guitars and samples as effectively as this, and the band manage to pretty much pull these seven tracks out of the bag.