Having missed their 2012 debut EP, and knowing only that one of them used to be in the Super Furry Animals, of whom I’ve never been the biggest fan, I was prepared to be underwhelmed by this release by Gulp. Whilst I’m sure the SFA connection will draw in some listeners, for me it was almost enough to put me off. Almost. Thankfully I rarely listen to myself; otherwise I would have missed on the most intriguing releases of the year so far...
Guto Pryce is joined on vocals by Lindsey Levin; with the addition of guitarist Gid Goundrey and drummer Gwion Llewelyn, they have recorded an album to flesh out their utopian dream of a simpler existence; less technological reliance more getting back to nature. To soundtrack their dream, the album was written on journeys through the dramatic naturescapes of the Scottish Highlands and the Californian desert and recorded in basements and community centres on strictly analogue kit.
The result is a quite lovely, sweeping maze of electronica fused with dreamy folky guitar. Easing us into it, the psychedelia tinged Game Love is an astonishing introduction to Leven’s soaring voice that begins sparsely but creeps up on the listener, opening up into a beautiful multi-layered, multi-instrumental arrangement. The delicate, airy vocal delivery has a counterpoint in the darker, more solid sounding vintage organ that, together, invoke a soundtrack to quest and mystery which continues as we delve further.
Grey Area has a fairy-tale sound to it, with a meandering guitar and Leven’s falsetto perfectly matched by a mere pattering of drums, that tips us faultlessly into the well placed prog-synth latter third of the track. There’s a distinct air of the British Isles, of long grass and secret gardens that reminds me of early Patrick Wolf in its joyousness. Hot Water is delicious, beginning with a smattering of birdsong and a rich guitar melody that winds itself around layers of synth until it ends, all too soon half way through its third minute.
The nods to the past and the more forward looking folktronica bleeps and beeps combine best on last track I Want To Dance, a simple synth pop ode to the giddy first rush of love that results in a track heavy in stylized 1960s futurology. There are a few rare occasions where the blend of old and new works less well; Everything descends in places to more of a straight up nu-disco affair reminiscent of We Have Band. Vast Space reverberates with treacly thick Memphis guitar, which, as it happens, is a perfect pairing for Levin’s ethereal gasps; in isolation it’s by far my favourite track, but feels out of place on album that is, elsewhere, dizzy with Britishness.
Overall, there’s a synesthetic quality to it; the piercing yellow of the sun on Hot Water, the lush green of Let’s Grow, a rainbow of colour positively gushes out of it. Seasoned Sun is a nicely pitched attempt at putting a modern veneer on the better elements of truly British folk, In that sense, it has a lot in common with the Super Furries; cherry picking the best of a variety of elements and chucking them in a blender, but for me, Gulp do it better. It doesn’t quite meet the self-set goal of being a record for people to dance to, but it will make you want to sway, in a field in the moonlight, with a flower in your hair and the distant hum of an electronic bass line carried on the breeze.
Words - Angi Strafford