Album Review: Boy Friend – Egyptian Wrinkle

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Boy Friend - Courtesy of Work It Media

This ambient-pop crossover blends calming, yet oftentimes achingly poignant melodies to great effect. Dubbed ‘the first great album of 2012’ by The Guardian; duo Sarah Brown and Christa Palazzolo’s synthesised chords layer on an overblown dreamlike setting, pierced by their emotive vocals. Just as Thom Yorke once sang “for a minute there, I lost myself”, the listener is frequently enveloped in cold, dark lamentation. Quite apart from standard connotations with the group name Boy Friend, the overriding mood is that of dreamy, reflective love-loss rather than straight up romantic love.

The crux of the album is the blending of synthesised chords and distorted guitars, as in its moodiest moments Boy Friend seem most evocative. Highlights include the title track Egyptian Wrinkle and The False Cross. The latter serves as a worthy emotional climax, with accompanying bass guitar deepening the particularly haunting chorus. This seems a rare example of progression and variety on the album, as attention may potentially wane elsewhere with long stretches of minimalism across such short, intermingling tracks. Yet this can be viewed as a strength – the listener is forced to embrace the calm, unrelentingly beautiful ghostliness.

The pace is enforced unpretentiously from the heavy, slow moving beats of Bad Dream onwards, constructing a setting where every sound is penetrating. The use of ‘exotic’ instruments such as Bongo drums in Egyptian Wrinkle enforces a sense of organic beauty. Indeed, the accompanying birdsong at the start and end of the album expresses a classic sense of romanticism, helping to construct the hair-standing-on-end quality which makes Boy Friend’s music so effective. This seems most prevalent with the prominent yet distorted vocals, as focus is placed away from the lyrics and towards the visceral heart-wrenching nature of the cries. The outcome is an album which feels mysteriously organic, to the extent that it could fittingly accompany the BBC’s Planet Earth TV show.

Whether interest is fully sustained, this album certainly introduces the duo’s enormous song writing potential. The vocalisation in particular enhances the piece as a calming, draining yet strangely enriching experience. This sustained, chilled feeling seems central, while much of the material retains a surprising sense of accessibility. Perhaps in future the duo could experiment further with guitar driven material to add more of a refreshing variety. The punch of the bass guitar seems perhaps underused, as its rare accompaniment contributes to the deeper, darker and more effectively climactic set pieces. As an album, Egyptian Wrinkle feels a little underdeveloped to be staunchly labelled as a classic, yet I for one am happy to bask in its seductive peace.

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