Find a test tube from 1984. Fortify it with the vulnerable doe-eyed gazes of countless teen actresses (see Leah Thompson) whose heart numbing fragility only John Hughes could capture. Squeeze the pulp out of some Top Gun era Berlin. And while you’re at it, liquify a casette copy of The Stone Roses and a Sixteen Candles soundtrack. A few droplets of Bartles and Jaymes and a pinch of hydrochloric acid later you end up with a volatile ester — a condensed acid reacting with an alcohol — or many.
This London quartet ain’t quite your momma’s Jennifer Grey either. They’re actually named after recycled trabant cars from East Germany that one Dr. Franz Gunther, a mad communist scientist, declared “that such beautiful cars could be made useful again.” One man’s trash becomes Doc Brown’s fuel of the future. Where we’re about to go we don’t need...Depeche Modes.
I’m done with terrible ‘80s references (promise) but certainly just beginning the heaps of praise headed toward an outfit that finally (with the exception of Nerves Junior) finds that invisible median between analog and digital. How do they do it? Well technically, according to their ace guitar smith Jimmy Lee, they record all tracks on a Tascam 8 field recorder. It’ll set you back $3,500 but its ability to merge the warmth of analog with the sharp presence of digital is unmatched.
“Candy Girl”, a buzzworthy single that’s emanated from the far nether reaches of the Interweb the last few years, illustrates my point perfectly. First off, two plucks of Adam Jaffrey’s bass will plunge that rarely exorcised smooth muscle you call a heart into skipping a quantam beat. His ability to sink us into the depths of depravity without hardly lifting a finger is as haunting as it is devastating. Suzanne Aztoria’s honey-combed pipes are akin to Bethany Cosentino’s on quaaludes. It’s a remarkable instrument that croons and howls with crystalline pitch.
A kaleidoscope of tones swallows you on “Wish You Were Red.” God damn what a beautiful f*cking song. Sad as shit, teeming with bleary-eyed resignation. Normally I’d be all over a song like this for being entirely too repetitive, but if your hook is piloted by Lee’s sonic waves and drummer Dayo James simple but unexpected electronic fills, I’ll be too high to whine.
If you prefer something a bit more whimsical than self-loathing, look no further than “Dies in 55.” A flurry of chamber pop intonations, accompanied by some decadent drum machine virtuosity, are guided effervescently by Aztoria until they submerge beneath amber waves of bass and grime. An introspective lullaby cruising through the clouds with effortless grace.
Even some of the more abstract tracks on the album, I’m looking at you “Engelhardt’s Arizona” and “Starlatine”, never lose total focus because they all acccentuate one well-honed ingredient — Aztoria’s maudlin muse. As long as she is the centerpiece, the boys can serve as slow and steady feng shui.
Maybe TTT has struggled walking that tight rope between the analog world our bodies were designed to occupy and the digital virtual schism that becomes increasingly fuzzy each day. Ester is a chemical prescription for this our postmodern condition.
Stream 'Ester' in its entirety here.