MODERN STUDIES – ” We Are There “

Posted: February 18, 2022 in MUSIC

After debuting with 2016’s enchanting “Swell to Great“, U.K. psych-folk outfit Modern Studies spent the next half-decade testing the boundaries of their unique sound. The group’s ambitious follow-up, “Welcome Strangers”, seemed to receive the full bore of their creative might while 2020’s “Weight of the Sun” was a much more downplayed foray into contemporary dream pop. With album number four, Modern Studies migrate toward their tonal centre, collating their best attributes into a consistent and very appealing set of songs. As ever, the combined voices of Emily Scott and Rob St. John are the band’s true north, guiding the music through the quiet glades of “Comfort Me” and the winding stream of “Two Swimmers,” occasionally dipping into harmony, but more often in unison. The mood of “We Are There” is rich and loamy with hints of ancient Albion folk tradition and an insistent baroque pop presence thanks to its many fine string parts.

The album’s lyrical meeting of naturalist poetry and inward exploration only enhances the beguiling arrangements, which lean more toward the organic than some of the group’s more recent synth-driven work. Perhaps the best of the bunch is “Wild Ocean,” a magnificent specimen of lotic psych-pop that stands among the best songs Modern Studies have produced.

Sweeping strings carry Modern Studies into unchartered terrain on their new album ‘We Are There’, flying high above their psych-folk roots, it’s an epic journey that’s exquisitely delivered, transcending categories, nodding to Brubeck, Low, Talk Talk, Jim O’Rourke and Pentangle, making music that is ready to cross over in these modern times with songs of substance.

Through the hazy daze of a smoky folk opus, Modern Studies craft rich soundtracks, stuttering Super-8 sketches from a washed-out world of melancholy, hand-tinted and tantalising. Lullaby couplets blossom into gorgeous chamber pop melodies, the drama unfolding behind Emily Scott’s plaintive vocal; part Julie London, part Sandy Denny, a little bit Kate Bush, with a hushed sigh of Joni.

The primary piano/guitar/bass/drums instrumental combination drives the ship with a sense of energetic reserve, especially on some of the more dynamic cuts like “Won’t Be Long” and “Do You Wanna,” over which the harmonic convergence of strings and voices plays out. As a collection, We Are There feels sophisticated yet elemental in its fine construction. It sounds like the work of a band who know themselves and trust their instincts.

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