Mermaid Chunky: Vest (Faith And Industry)

Eclectic, offbeat technicolor pop on the Gloucestershire duo's debut LP

Released Nov 9th, 2020 via Faith and Industry / By Al Judkins
Mermaid Chunky: Vest (Faith And Industry) Titillation. And lots of it. This is an ongoing feeling that completely applies to Mermaid Chunky from the moment upon being presented with the band name in question, right through to hearing the final notes of this half hour sweet sonic adventure that is their debut album. The duo hail from the striking hillside town of Stroud, Gloucestershire, which to outsiders may seem like it’s slowly developing into an exclave of Bristol, but simply put by their words; “is full of mums and promise”. They are also rather active in London, making the record at Total Refreshment Centre with Capitol K (and going through his label too) also playing a recent streamed gig at Café Oto with Yama Warashi.

The mermaid chunks bubble up gently in the opener – an arrangement akin to a loose wicker basket, containing an array of trinkets to keep the beard a-stroken. Well woven with whistles, organs, warping effects, it amounts to an intricate intertwining texture and snowballs into something almost Four Tet-like, but without the need for any sort of beat. One for the Ninja Tune-savvy heads indeed, but for the rest, it’s quite difficult to find many artists to liken the music to - parts of it feel a little like Tori Amos’ kooky nieces have stepped in the room, whereas other times there are tenuous tendencies of CocoRosie, and occasional Bunty-isms too. Clutching at straws perhaps, but what’s been said surely speaks volumes of the originality levels here.

Building up fun layers of loops seems to be part of their shtick, as we can hear in Friends - an infectious and scintillating eight minuter complete with unorthodox rhythms, warm chords, smokin’ hot sax, slide whistles and the word ‘friend’ approximately three hundred and twenty times. Gemini Girls feels like the catchiest tune and sounds like it could be an old M.I.A single if it wasn’t slightly on the short side. Still a banger mind, and if you heard it you’d be instantly rubbing up on whatever the equivalent of a dancefloor is these days. Probably with a pet. These Girls scores as the most quintessential out of this series of tunes. Solid and loose at the same time, the vocals shine just as much as that saxophone part bringing it all back in halfway. It fits well in the middle of the track listing and there’s a video to accompany this where a giant sultry pair of lips are basking on a deserted beach in Cyprus.

The record finishes with King Of The Herbs. Across society, basil is widely considered to take the crown of the herb kingdom (Google it) and it is personified in this number as Sir Basil - enthroned in equal hierarchic status to that of Fawlty, Brush, Rathbone, and er, Don. He is portrayed as a herb-obsessive alpha male not without his unreliable tendencies, and by the end of the track, you’d be forgiven for assuming you’d found yourself amidst an illegal woodland rave complete with witch doctors, ewoks and the kind of trees that start dancing after a few helpings of herbs. If only the marketing director for Schwartz was listening in, these ladies would have one tasty advert sync to their name. It peters out into a well-recognised school hymn, almost hypnotising the listener that nothing happened at all prior to.

Lyrically, this is rich in imagination while giving itself freedom to roam. Playful yet naïve – but in a good way, think Captain Beefheart experimental side of naïve (check penultimate track on here Newbury Bypass for an example) And musically... well would a profound and enchanting mix of electronica, poetry, folk and house be enough to titillate you too? One hopes so. So much is to latch on to here; it would be interesting to see what emanates out of this project in future. 4/5