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Liemba - Burning Wicks EP Review
The goal of Brighton indie/folk trio Liemba (made up of Simon Gledhill, Nelson Day and Damian Best) is to create classic sounding songs with a modern twist.
´Burning Wicks´ is their second EP since forming as a duo in 2015, and with it, they do indeed mix classic sounds from the 60´s and 90´s, which they bring to the 21st century.
But does it pay off?
´Burning Wicks´ is more than just their second EP; it´s also the second in a three-part series, planned by the original twosome with the specific intention of tracking the changes to their collaborative sound over the years as they develop as musicians.
This time around, with more instruments and addition of a third male harmony, Liemba do indeed show they have grown. Simon Gledhill and Nelson Day are both clearly more than competent guitarists and have now expanded to the piano and beyond.
The overall result is a gentle, borderline poppy collection of songs; think the soundtrack of ´Begin Again´, mixed with a healthy helping of Newton Faulkner. The vocals and harmonies are lovely and clearly offer a respectful nod to male harmony bands of the ´60s. The arrangement of the instruments is well thought out, however the accouterments often end up sanding off any potential for edginess.
The title track ´Burning Wicks´ gently eases you into an album that, by and large, never leaves easy listening. This is a solid track however, which gradually builds to a fairly powerful, yet strangely safe feeling climax. I especially enjoyed the very cute little key change at 0.40.
My colleague found lyrics like "You could never understand the passion in me" a little condescending. Personally I was more troubled by the lack of lyrical development in the song, which had said all it had to say within the first minute. Still, a pleasantly compelling angsty track.
The second track “Dust” provides the biggest surprise of the release, with its jazzy, chill out groove and smooth guest vocal from Swede, Elin Ivarsson, it´s like a different band. I could be at the Cafe Del Mar at sunrise, that is, until two and a half minutes in, when out of nowhere Cosby, Still and Nash appear to hijack the track and drop a beat! It´s unexpected and kind of brilliant.
´Living As They Should´ is a particularly Faulkner-esque track. Musically scaled back with a catchy, up-beat riff. Lyrically it explores the insecurities of our current comparison society. Unfortunately it doesn´t really have any insight to offer, other than, that the singer (and I guess by projection all of us) are a bit crap.
Meanwhile ´Rattlesnake´ brings electric guitars into the forefront for another little genre change. For a track named after a deadly wild animal, it is somewhat tame, although make no mistake, it will stick in your head for hours. Again, a misleadingly cheery tune masks lyrics that hold a little bit of a bite.
This EP makes for pleasant, mild and uncomplicated listening. When compared with their earlier work, the extra instruments and professional production give slickness but somewhat at the expense of feeling, although the new third harmony does bring something special. While the sound is new from the band themselves, it is a little too familiar to listeners. Hopefully their third instalment will see the band take their, not unsubstantial, talents to riskier terrain. I look forward to hearing how they develop.
Listen on Spotify here!