By: Eric Greenwood
If Kate Bush had an evil twin she might sound like Anne Reekie- emotionally disturbed and angry but still very feminine. The nervous quiver Reekie intones could easily frighten small children. Her vocals refuse to blend with the dark, atmospheric rock that her band weaves around them. Instead, they hiss and slither amidst the warm analogue textures.
Fiel Garvie is very English, and by that I mean artfully pretentious. This Norwich quartet is out to make waves, evidenced by the sado-masochistic artwork, which features a shirtless man in leather pants with multiple piercings sticking his tongue into a candle's open flame. Normally, I would be inclined to write a band off that tried so hard to shock me, but I have to admit I was intrigued. Despite the picture, the packaging is gorgeous.
The band's music is hard to pin down immediately. There's an electronic undercurrent, but guitars definitely carry the songs. There are moments when I am reminded of Kate Bush, but that's mainly because of Reekie's voice, as I've said. Cocteau Twins come to mind, too, but the sound is so much heavier than any of Robin Guthrie's swirling, airy-fairy production. There are gothic overtones to these minor-keyed dirges, but the hooks are not obvious. The band seems to enjoy making you squirm with its neurotic, edgy rock.
"Right Out And Forced" begins the creepshow with Reekie's trembling voice, which sounds delightfully mad as she enunciates each note starkly with that thick Norwich accent. The bass rumbles underneath a clean indie rock guitar riff that morphs into an effects-laden squall in the chorus. "Risk" couldn't sound more out of place following such a bizarre beginning with its simple chord structure and pop sensibility. Reekie's voice ensures that no one will mistake it for an honest ballad, though. Her voice trembles so much you'd swear she were crying. This effect can be annoying at times, but the darker the song the better it works.
"Hold On" switches gears back to eerie rock with spidery guitars and metallic noise effects. I can't help but think of a witch stirring up a pot of flesh and bones when I hear Reekie's breathy, forced vibrato. On "Better Gaze Than Fear" the guitars rise to the occasion and challenge Reekie's dominance of the song. The percussion sounds processed, and there's a textured glaze over the whole song, recalling a hint of The Jesus And Mary Chain's pre-shoegazing wall of noise. The band plays up to its own gothic subtext with haunted house organs on "A Man."
Fiel Garvie's dynamic is minimalism versus a controlled dissonance. The band never really explodes, but the tonal shifts are sudden and distinct when they do happen. A more organic sounding Curve, maybe. Or, perhaps, even a less commercial-sounding Garbage. Again, none of these references are spot on, but there are vague similarities. "Dress Down" dredges up that old Smiths trick of marrying upbeat music with spiteful lyrics. Reekie sings "I loathe you/I hate you/and your dress sense kills me" over a light piano line that merges with dramatic keyboards and booming percussion. The song builds into its noisy conclusion, proving itself an exception to the abrupt loud/soft dynamic typical of the rest of the album.
Vuka Vuka is as intriguing as its artwork. The band is most successful when it matches the tension of Reekie's vocals with equally frightening music. The best example is the nervous and twitchy paranoia of "For What I Love." Reekie's lyrics would sound somewhat campy coming out of any other mouth, but her voice lends credence to the cartoonish nightmares explored on this debut. Vuka Vuka is unquestionably unsettling music. The perfect soundtrack to a supernatural horror film.