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Quartet don't pander to pop radio trends

Warpaint Warpaint (Rough Trade)

JANUARY. The bright lights have been taken down. We've been battered by storms, attacked by micro-bugs and a spate of second division reality TV shows.

I, for one, certainly wasn't expecting four women from Los Angeles to take the downbeat mood and transform it into a soundtrack of dreamy charm and anaesthetic delight.

Warpaint are well-connected. Seven years ago, their debut EP was mixed by John Frusciante, then boyfriend of singer Emily Kokal.

AMBITIOUS

But it's talent not speed-dial that ensures a band's longevity. Four years on from their acclaimed debut The Fool, Warpaint are back with an ambitious 12-track set that's as louche as absinthe and seductive as musk.

There's a strong sense of orchestral musicianship on this collection which opens with a killer angular drum beat from Stella Mozgawa as swathes of synth and guitar arpeggios lure the listener into an escape.

With Kokal's voice, the ensemble is complete, a dark schola cantorum pushing to escape the vaulted gloom.

The single Love Is To Die offers optimism. "Love is to dance," they refrain languidly over a glitchy funk rhythm.

CONFECTION

Warpaint have a new addition in their armoury. Producer Flood had already worked with Nick Cave, Depeche Mode and Cabaret Voltaire before teaming up with U2 in the 1980s. Here he helps weave a sonic confection that is the audio equivalent of The Cabinet of Dr Caligari with deep burbling synths, reeded top lines, multi-tracked voices and unsettling beats.

A curious development is the sacrifice of any obvious attempt to pander to pop radio trends. There are a few old-style hooks here but you have to let them find you.

Disco//Very lopes along in a manner echoing the diversionary late-night club mash-ups of The Slits.

This pretends to be fragile but it's undeniably tough. HHHII

Warpaint will be playing Electric Picnic this year


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