The Big Pink - A Brief History of Love

Bill Cummings 14/09/2009

Rating: 4/5

The core members of The Big Pink are music business insiders Robbie Furze and Milo Cordell. The Big Pink are both from London: Milo is the man whose Merok label helped launch Klaxons and Crystal Castles, while he's also unleashed underground releases. Furze's pedigree is just as impressive, making a name for himself with industrial architects Alec Empire and Panic DHH. The Big Pink are above all a melting pot of ideas, BIG, towering, dream-like melodies that are plugged into a vast emotional mainframe of sound: swirling walls of shoe gaze fuzz that harks back to the work of Chapterhouse, moody synths and dark disco beats that draw favourable comparisons with a fellow 4AD act, the most excellent Cocteau Twins: this is the Big Pink formula, crafting compelling electro rock bricolages of an exemplary standard. It's one that comes to a magnificent realisation on this, their debut long player A Brief History of Love.

Recording began in New York, alongside mixer Rich Costey (Mastodon, Muse, New Order): from the shuddering, clicking opener 'Crystal Visions' with its rolling pysch guitars stabbing keys and Furze's swaggering, mirage-soaked vocals that are flecked with elements of forgotten late 90s act Campeg Velocet, to the stomping grandeur of recent single 'Dominos' whose early 90s baggy beats and squalling My Bloody Valentine-esque feedback give way to crashing, violent, sneering crescendos, as countless doomed relationships crumble in front of our eyes ('the hardest love has the coldest end'). A Brief History of Love is an album of epic moments and digital experimentalism.

'At War with the Sun' shifts from the uplifting pop melodies to sweeping synths that light up the night sky. 'Frisk' is the closest these tracks comes to even hinting at the industrialism of early NIN typified by its slicing instrumentation and clattering beats, the 'oooh oooh' backings softening the bitterness of Furze's central vocal performance, while the melodic moments of 'If This is Love' are redolent of the much under rated Manchester act Pureessence. It's not all pitch perfect though, with 'Too Young to Love' perhaps a little too trippy and lightweight coming off like a Primal Scream b-side. 'Tonight' falls into the same trap, its overly simplistic vocal refrains lacking the brevity or interest of the arresting counterparts that surrounds it in the track listing.

In contrast there are the more minimalist, down tempo moments that add real light and shade to this album, the gorgeously bittersweet 'Love in Vain' is almost indebted to Motown: thudding bass lines caress, while subtle strings and winding keyboard motifs float above fluttering guitars gradually building from the sedate to the broadly confessional, to anthemic and back again. The title track is a stunning blissed-out duet featuring the brittle tones of guest Jo Apps. Furze's conversational vocals peaking with the insistence that ('it's up to you to mend my heart/Please don't let go'), while the wonderful pitter-patter synth patterns of the middle eight are delightful; it's simply heartbreakingly good.

But the undoubted highlight comes with previous single 'Velvet' (mixed by Alan Moulder), a master class in gloom pop with its glitchy, juddering beats that are the sound of a 80s computer whirring into action, and droning guitars that spin like a washing machine stuck on full blast. Furze's vocals sound their clearest and most pointed, from philosophical meditation to the searingly emotional, it's the sound of someone staring into a glass at 2am thinking about the endless dichotomy of love (You call out my name, for the love you need/Which you won't find in me), and it's quite brilliant.

Milo Cordell recently told BBC 6 Music that the Big Pink's debut album encompasses "every different aspect of love... The good, the bad, the boring, the exciting, the dreams, the nightmares, the whole thing." A Brief History of Love really does, most of the tracks here are expertly executed, off-beat pop, their shifting musical influences given humanism by the clear voice at their beating heart. Despite the experimentalism that surrounds it, each line imbued with a defiant “I can see the light at the end of this deep dark tunnel” theme that plunges deep into your sub consciousness and pulls out countless epiphanies, ultimately providing one of the most satisfyingly intriguing and emotional pop albums of this year.

Release date: 14/09/2009