In honour of todays main event we thought we’d have a look at some of the more novel instrumental choices in music history. From the theremin in Good Vibrations to the penny whistle in Call Me Al, plenty of bands have chosen to step away from the well trodden bass, drums, guitar blue print and found joy in alternative instrumentation.
The lasting imagery of PJ Harvey’s triumphant Mercury winning album album Let England Shake is Polly, centre stage, resplendent in a feathered head-dress, cradling her auto-harp close to her body. The instrument has been a key component of her albums since she first used it on 2004’s Uh Huh Her, but it was with Let England Shake that it came truly to the fore, with much of the album being written on the autoharp. As an instrument it has a rich history, particularly present in the music of many of the great female musicians, from Janis Joplin to Joni Mitchell, and perhaps most famously of all June Carter-Cash.
Whilst cowbells were originally used for herdsman to identify Cows on the move, they’ve become a surprising part of musical history. Cowbells were commonly used in the Hillbilly music coming out of America in the 1920’s, but they perhaps first came to public acclaim via Buddy Holly’s 1958 nearly a hit, Heartbeat. It continued to pop up throughout popular music history, appearing on tracks by bands from the B-52’s to The Rolling Stones, but it was perhaps with the rise of DFA Records in the early-noughties, and acts like LCD Soundsystem and The Rapture that the cowbell became deeply linked to the more danceable-side of indie music.
Though if it’s a truly impressively, weird sounding instrument you’re after, look no further than the ondes Martenot. One of the earliest electronic instruments to be invented, it’s design somewhere between a keyboard and a theremin. Whilst it was first integrated into popular music via the French chanson music of the 1950’s and 1960’s, in more recent years it has become a vital part of Radiohead‘s sound; Jonny Greenwood in particular is a huge fan, and How To Disappear Completely has allegedly included up to six ondes when performed live!
Choosing your instrumentation is a vital part of perfecting the production of a song, and whether you choose an ondes Martenot or a guitar, an auto harp or a harpischord, a cow bell or a tambourine, whatever you choose it can only ever be as good as the song you’re playing on it!
The Tamborines are a duo consisting of guitarist Henrique Laurindo and drummer Lulu Grave, with both providing vocals. Evoking the spirit of DIY, they played, recorded and mixed their album entirely on their own in their home studio in Shepherds Bush.
There’s something delightfully simple about the music The Tamborines make. Persistently pounding drums, guitars that are a textural blast of reverb and distortion, yet remain distinctly accessible and in many ways classically pop. The vocals, normally provided by Henrique, are equally low-key, tuneful, but laid back, reminiscent of Teenage Fanclub’s Norman Blake or Seabdoh’s Lou Barlow, and when Lulu takes the mic, on Indian Hill, she seems equally maudlin, with a slight Nico affectation to her voice.
Whilst they’re now based in London, they’re originally from Brazil. The most famous Brazilian musical exports include; 1990’s rock band Los Hermanos, and the spin off side project of their guitarist Rodrigo Amarante, Little Joy which feature Fab Moretti from The Strokes, dancefloor filling indie-electro acts such as Bonde do Rolê and the Lovefoxxx fronted Cansei der Ser Sexy and long running heavy-metallers Sepultra. None of which sound much like The Tamborines.
The Tamborines first appeared back in 2007, with a single on Sonic Cathedral which was followed by the release of their debut album Camera & Tremor back in 2010 on their own Beat-Mo Records. Following Black & Blue, a 2011 single on Soft Power Records, they’re set to release their second album Sea Of Murmur on March 30th, again via Beat-Mo Records.
From the first note of Another Day, the opening track of The Tamborines of Sea of Murmur, it’s clear this a band with a back catalogue littered with the great and good of Indie-Pop’s history. It’s the sort of jangling, melodic and simplistic beauty that’s been pedalled with consistent success since the late 1980’s. There are shades of The Vaselines, Teenage Fanclub and Beat Happening throughout. The downbeat Ghost at The Lighthouse, has a wonderful meandering guitar line, and a gentle pulsing drum beat that brings to mind Real Estate, whilst the organ outro is just a beautiful thing. Whilst elsewhere the cinematically influenced track, Felini’s Thorn sounds not unlike Allo Darlin’ at their saddest moments. One Afternoon is a rapid blast of distorted guitars with shades of Deerhunter or No Age and Be Around sounds, well a bit like Feeder! Closing track, The Most Important Thing, is a lovely slab of boy-meets-girl, cries, forms a band indie-Pop, and in it’s utterly pretentious nature there’s something very admirable. Best of all might be Dreaming Girl, a swampy, low-end blast of frantic guitars and propulsive, gun-shot drums, it’s the middle ground of The Cramps and The Velvet Underground; we never knew we were missing, and it’s frankly twisted sounding piano outro is a thrilling moment.
For most of the same reasons we’ve said you might love this band, you might just as easily be entirely uninterested, incessant jangling, simplistic almost primal drums, and the sort of production – you’ve heard it all before! It’s true they don’t take the genre anywhere it hasn’t been before, but there’s joy in nostalgia from time to time and with the current return of Ride and Slowdive proving so popular, there’s plenty of evidence this music can still find a place in 2015.
Sea Of Murmur is release on March 30th via Beat-Mo Records. They play a headline show at The Lexington in London on March 31st with a full UK tour planned for later in the year