Tuesday, 21 April 2015

DON'T TOUCH THE WALLS

CD Review

The Creation of Noah

The debut album from Birmingham five-piece band Don't Touch The Walls is something of a strange hybrid in that they market themselves as a folk-rock group but there are a great many other elements at play and the folk strand doesn't seem to be the strongest of those on this album.

Don't Touch The Walls
Their songs also straddle the alternative, country and world music genres. The opener, Echoes, is an explosion of sounds where the band seems to be cramming everything into one song, almost as an overture for the whole CD, but the vocals do get lost a little.
It has the feel of a track from a West End show or a concept album.
The mish-mash of sound from Richard Buka, Holly Necchi, Milly Schmid, Adele Bailey and Luke Davies, continues with the following track, Running Like It's A Sunday.
This is about a refugee child in the Second World War however, the pop feel of the song seems a little out of kilter with what one presumes was intended to be a fairly serious subject. Perhaps it was coming from the child's point of view when they are naive and don't see the seriousness of the situation, just the adventure.
They seem to have pulled together a much more coherent sound by the third track, Staring Into Mirrors, sounds remarkably like a track from Swedish sisters First Aid Kit. This has a definite folk element to it and seems a much more clearly defined sound from the band.
With the production on In the Distance the vocals seems to be fighting with the piano backing. It is a much more stripped down sound than the previous tracks. The vocals are good but seem to be lost a little in the production.
By now what you get a feel for with DTTW is they have a full range of weapons in their musical armoury, they are versatile and not afraid to grab elements of other genres and incorporate them into their sound.
The singer on this track does have a strong clear voice although there is nothing in the sleeve notes to tell which of the female vocalists it is.
The debut album 
Following where the last track left off, with the undulating piano sound, the title track has the same problem of the backing music being a little intrusive
Once again the vocalist has a strong and clear sound and there are definite and strong harmonies in there too which are part of an unusual mixture of sound and it does have the feel of a song from a rock opera.
You and I opens with the same galloping-style rhythm of previous tracks which seems to suit their style of playing more than anything and once again it's based around strong vocals from both the male and female contingent and at the risk of sounding repetitive they seem to be trying to pack too many strands into one song. Individually they are all well done and strong but they don't always fit together as a symbiotic whole.
It's almost as if they are trying to cram every talent they have into one track and it sort of grates on the ear after a while.
DTTW do have a feel for a strong rhythm and don't skimp on giving the listener something to grab onto and this time the slightly funkier sound does give it a more coherent sound.
Opening with the single guitar, The World Is Over, is yet another divergence but the effects used on the vocals don't add anything to the whole and seem slightly amateurish. It's again that problem of having several strong elements that never quite fit properly to make a whole.
You get a better sense of their harmony and ability working as a whole with the ballad Growing Old and once again they are back to that galloping sound which they seem to like and is once more reminiscent of First Aid Kit
The penultimate track is a ballad which is mostly piano and vocal harmonies which again instead of working in tandem seem to be battling for supremacy. The female vocalists Necchi and Bailey do have strong voices but they sound as if they are singing separate strands without being aware the other is there too.
Io one of Jupiter's moons
The final track, Io, inspired by a moon of Jupiter as a metaphor for loneliness does have a feel of the early days of bands such as Steeleye Span and Fairport Convention who were exploring all kinds of ethereal themes.
What is really strange is that the 11 minutes plus track goes silent about half way for almost two minutes before the track resumes which makes you ask what they thought that added to the track.
It would be a difficult task to find a band, who are all in their early 20s, that has tried harder to cover all the bases on one collection. The parts which work, work really well however, the elements which don't give a fractured sense to the album.
There is certainly plenty to listen to on this album but whether it should all be on there is a question which needs to be asked.

The Creation of Noah is released on Fish Records on April 23 and the band is holding a launch party at the Met Studio of the Gatehouse Theatre, Stafford. The show starts at 8pm and tickets are £5.50.