Ambient Birmingham duo Malpas have a fancy for melding their sequences and loops with traditionally bucolic stringed instruments. You might fear this would result in an even-more lightweight take on the fragility that marks much British indie-electronica. Fortunately, this songwriter/producer pairing are deft enough to create a densely textured whole from their diverse instrumental parts, interweaving folksy melodies and flabby synth swells to pack quite the emotional punch. Sure, there’s a vulnerability to the four songs on Malpas’ debut EP, but it’s the wavering upper-register vocal that delivers it, granting an aptly plaintive edge to the “When Will You Return To Me?” refrain of lead track ‘Charlemagne’. Commencing with a choppy mandolin overlain with acoustic arpeggios, then segueing into a wobbly dubstep base, ‘Charlemagne’ soon settles into the poppiest and most radio-friendly track here, if the least interesting. Better the catchy, bittersweet ‘Here Comes The Rain’, an absorbing three-minute mashup of new-folk and sub-bass, while ‘Us Afloat’ steadily crescendos from gentle pizzicato to obese digital outro, turning the mournful “I Can’t be Trusted” lyric on its head. It’s ‘Promise’, with its haunting vocal and stunted skiffle groove that really impresses, though, its blissful choral progression all too fleeting, a near intangible few bars of loveliness that demands repeat due to its very brevity. Fragile, yes, but disarmingly so.
‘Promise’ is released via Killing Moon on 23 September.
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