In many ways Fifteen, and indeed SPC ECO’s music in general, seems like the latest chapter in an ongoing story, one that was only ever aimed at a more discerning, left-field and underground audience. Whilst many are familiar with where the story line jumps off, a swirl of experiments and musical visionaries embracing new and strange technologies to make new, wholly original music released on small, independent record labels a generation ago, far fewer have kept up with the plot line as the story has moved on. And that is a shame as, perhaps unexpectedly, as those characters in the story have grown up they have become more interesting, more creative, more exploratory rather than less so.
SPC ECO’s particular plot thread runs back through such bands as The Secret Meeting, KGB and most notably Curve and the last decade has seen Dean Garcia and Rose Berlin release a series of albums that combine the shimmering ambience of early Cocteau Twins with more celestial and restrained soundscapes.
Ahead of Fifteen they have released A Heart and Soul, the perfect calling card for what is to follow, a drifting, hazy blend of half comprehended vocals, glistening electronica and shattering guitars all pinned down by a lazy, trippy beat. And whilst SPC ECO have certainly built a signature sound around themselves, within that there is still plenty of room to explore, to push against their own loose musical demarcations, jump their own musical fences. Breathing drives on a pulsing intensity, Rose Berlin’s vocals all drenched in effects yet still giving off an enticing futuristic Arabesque quality, Gloria Sudafed taking a Portishead vibe but removing it from the grimy streets of Bristol and recreating it in the astral plane and The Reason Why blending martial drums with classical sweeps and a brooding, pent up energy.
SPC ECO may not be a big name but they should be. Those of a certain age who were beguiled by the strange new sonics that were generated by record labels such as 4AD should purchase their music without hesitation but it has a much broader appeal than that. 90’s urban trip-hoppers and underground indie kids (before indie meant just having complicated hair and a deal with a Sony imprint,) fans of dream-pop, those looking for music to relax, dine or muse too, those seeking an alternative to the mainstream machinations and the industry’s latest creation should all take note. In fact unless you bought Ed Sheeran’s latest album on the day of release or are excited about The Spice Girl’s reunion, you really are the target audience. And even then…