Saturday, 11 March 2017

EP: Montauk Hotel - Montauk Hotel

Montauk Hotel EP Review

Info: Montauk Hotel are a shimmer-pop act based in Dublin. Taking influence from the glimmer of early 80s indie-pop, Montauk Hotel have fused strong melodies with glistening guitars to create a sound that is their own.

Formed late last year, Montauk Hotel are made up of Claudia Verdecchia (vocals), Shell Dooley (guitars), Aoife Hester (bass) and Karima Dillon-El Touhky (drums). Their debut single 'Black Dress' was released in late January to critical acclaim.

Montauk Hotel made an impressive impact on the Dublin live music scene in 2016 with shows including The Last Mixed Tape’s Lost Tapes series, The Sound House, The Bowery, Whelan’s and Sin E and supporting acts such as Paddy Hanna, Beauty Sleep, Jem Mitchell and Odu.

Debut single 'Black Dress', which opens Montauk Hotel's debut EP, is the perfect introduction to their original brand of new wave indie-pop. When reviewing the single earlier in the year I had pointed in the direction of The Cure, and the jangle-pop stylings of The Soft Boys, but Montauk Hotel are difficult to pin down in terms of references. In their more pop moments they crossover to a mix of The Go-Go's and The Bangles, but I'm not entirely comfortable with that description, as the four-piece are deeply embedded in a ying and yang timezone which doesn't really exist, dark yet upbeat, unique yet accessible.

This sense was articulated throughout their set last night in Whelan's for the EP's official launch, and no words will adequately describe what their sound is without the experience of witnessing them in a live setting first.

Montauk Hotel Remy Connolly

'Black Dress' is very discreetly pained, both guitar and vocals are highly contemplative, eliciting an emotional response from the listener, it's a finely balanced thing to be able to let a tinge of sadness ripple under an upbeat melody and sound, seemingly effortless for Montauk Hotel however. The song as a whole is the perfect track to grab the attention and create a desire to hear and know more about the band.

I'm often reminded in music of how the power of fully understanding the story behind a song can elevate its resonance far beyond that initial reaction, a recent case being Sufjan Stevens' Carrie & Lowell album. Second track 'Dust' is a reflection on the tragic disaster that befell singer Claudia Verdecchia's hometown in Central Italy where up to 300 people perished in August last year. The opening bass and riff in isolation feel poignant, but ultimately the thrust of the song is one of hope, resilience and renewal, and it respectfully draws its impact from this theme.

Montauk Hotel Whelans Remy Connolly

As the title suggests, third track '1984' pays homage to George Orwell's harrowing 1949 novel, described by Julian Symons in its introduction as the nightmare fantasies through which we always see the outlines of our own real world. The opening gambit of; 'Wondering what is going on on Mars, we hesitate to explain each others scars, in times like these, the water leaks, and drop by drop it flows', and; 'In times like these the air is thick, and breath by breath we choke', could be interpreted as a lack of awareness on the here and the now, a deliberate, subconscious or perpetrated denial of reality which is built up from the day we are born, becoming solidified. Heavy stuff, but as always, tempered by the medium of the music itself.

The EP closes with 'In The Land', an ethereal intro that has a mythical Celtic and pagan ceremonial feel to it. I wouldn't quite go as far as saying that the combination of the guitar and vocals are bordering on heart-breaking here, but they come close, and I would struggle to avoid referencing once again that it feels like there is a deep sadness to the music on this particular track, and in small pockets on others. Interestingly, if you zoned out whilst listening to this collection of tracks and just let the music wash over you, you would probably feel quite elated, the music over-rides any sense of melancholy. To misquote Orwell, just like in Oceania, with Montauk Hotel, nothing is quite as it seems, and therein lies the intrigue. It's early doors, but a finer debut EP will be hard to come across before the year is out.

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