When Morcheeba released their third album, introduced by the hit “Rome Wasn’t Built in a Day”, the band seemed to be willing to declare to the world they didn’t feel being Trip Hop anymore. Their music was “too happy”. But their past spoke for themselves: Big Calm is considered a masterpiece of the genre still nowadays.
A little comparison of this style evolution, can be made with Oxford young ensemble Glass Animals.
The four member band is composed by frontman Dave Bayley and his childhood friends Joe Seaward, Ed Irwin-Singer, and Drew MacFarlane. Their second album released in 2016 How To Be A Human Being, is a mixture of happy songs and danceable tracks. With this LP Dave Bayley’s band seemed to be willing to announce their music was too happy to be mislead and compared with downtempo genres.
But let’s take a step back to 2014 when the band released their debut ZABA. ZABA is inspired by William Steig’s exotic “The Zabajaba Jungle”, an illustrated book for kids. Every track is filled with slow, profound tropical percussions and a jungle atmosphere, often depicted through ambient sounds, such as bird’s chirps and night animal groans, on the background. This jungle-like inspiration is recognizable also in the cover art of the album: a dark drawing of a thick clearing in which humans, tropical plants and animals meet themselves during a calm, unharmed and sleepy night.
Sleepy is the correct adjective to define this precious album: tracks such as the overture “Flip” or “Gooey”, “Toes” (which lyrics recall “The Island of Doctor Moreau” and “Heart of Darkness” settings) are filled with deep R&B bass, slow ritualistic drums and a handful of electronics blips and far away atmospherics. Sometimes the rhythm gets a little faster (“Walla Walla”, “Pools”) but it suddenly relaxes again with the following songs (“Hazey”, “Wyrd”). What lead to 2016 transformation is probably the joyful attitude of the band: even if Zaba’s songs are slow and “bass rumbling”, Bayley sings with a jovial portment. Glass Animals style is never sad or fearful, that’s why Zaba cover art is dark but still recalls a safe place.
Critics have defined Glass Animals’ debut a Psychedelic Indie Rock album, but it’s pretty clear that it is hardly classifiable and that’s probably why it captured attention.
While waiting for their new work, that may probably follow the cheerful path of 2016 How To Be A Human Being, we keep listening to this 2014 little jewel, strongly recommended for those who love sprawling on the sofa on a chill out Friday night.