Formed over a cold dark winter on the tiny island of Sark more than half a decade ago The Recks have had a tumultuous history that’s seen them go from local pub The Mermaid Tavern, to Boomtown and Isle of Wight festivals, to a near devastating break up to an increasingly triumphant return – with a few customary changes of personnel along the way (consistent throughout has been guitarist and vocalist Richey Powers and trumpet player and vocalist Ash Jarman).
In that time they’ve also released a few singles, and now (in something akin to a small-scale indie-folk version of Guns ‘N’ Roses’ Chinese Democracy) the long rumoured, and previously only fleetingly glimpsed, album recorded in those same sessions has emerged, Cthulhu-like… The Beast From The Sea.
I will admit that when I first put the record on, being used to the band’s renowned energetic and mesmerising live performances, I felt a bit lost in the multilayered sounds coming from my speakers.
Not only are the songs the genre bending creations that are familiar but, along with producer Jason Boshoff (a man previously nominated for a Mercury Music Prize amongst other things), the band have layered in all sorts of extras from mariachi style brass, to pianos, to bizarre and, at first obtuse, sound effects.
However after this first listen, something about it stuck in my head in a way that some records do, crying out for another spin on the metaphorical turntable.
As I hit play a second time, a few days later, the songs suddenly opened up, welcoming me into a kind of atmosphere reminiscent of a grimy, low-key music festival in the height of summer existing in a reality tantalisingly close to ours but just out of reach – for wont of a better description, this is the world of The Recks.
Lead single Lovers In The Night welcomes us in to this slightly more laid back version of The Recks’ universe (though I guess to those less familiar with the band live it’s probably not so relaxed) before it leads us through the minds of the creators building and building across nearly an hour to the crazed rag time inflected climax of Valentine.
In between there are more than a few highlights.
Low Life is a great upbeat mix of indie and hip hop that made an excellent single a couple of years ago, while Spanish Relations brings a laconic swing groove to proceedings that, along with Lights, shows the band aren’t just a high energy dance group.
The real highlights though for me come in the second half of the record with two songs standing out particularly.
One is recent single Train Wreck that manages to capture a gritty slice of life feel, but within the context of this psychedelic jazz folk, with an intense and darkly hued vocal performance from now former band member and founder Wez Coombes (banjo, guitar, vocals and more).
The other track is the dark fairy tale Stranger that sees the whole band (completed on the recording by bassist Attila Nagy and drummer Barney Winter) really come together to create the record’s menacing masterpiece that combines this barely concealed depth with a real crowd pleasing sing along aspect.
Given the multitude of personalities in the band it’s no surprise that their sound has, in the past, been described as schizophrenic, but, when your own mind adjusts to this, that is what makes The Recks so compelling as the potential mess coalesces into a journey like few others.
While it may not capture what it is I like so much about The Recks’ live shows, The Beast From The Sea captures another aspect of the band with a depth that feels like its only going to grow in the mind with more listens.