Monday, 25 July 2011
The Bilinda Butchers - Regret, Love, Guilt, Dreams 
Artist: The Bilinda Butchers
Album: Regret, Love, Guilt, Dreams
For me, one of the most eagerly awaited releases of the year, Regret, Love, Guilt, Dreams is the first EP from Californian dream-poppers The Bilinda Butchers. Having already released a handful of tracks via BandCamp, MySpace and their official blog, it was already pretty clear that this was going to go down as one of the best releases of the year. Although the band have been compared to other European dream/indie pop groups like the Radio Dept., the place that the music takes you to is wholly different and to me, very Californian. I remember reading an interview with the London group Hype Williams where they talked about their love of "chillwave" and all of the sunny west-coast electronic music coming out of California, but that they could never make it themselves. As Londoners, they just couldn't sincerely emulate the sun-bleached optimism of their American counterparts. To me, The Bilinda Butchers represent the same polarity, but reversed.
Regret, Love, Guilt, Dreams is an incredibly well-balanced record, moving delicately between moments of youthful melancholy and the bliss of long summers. The Bilinda Butchers capture all of the emotions of youth through their California-tinged glasses, which incorporates funk basslines, electro pop, dream pop, ambient music and even echoes of hip-hop, house and Japanese music. It is the blend of these influences into a seamless, beautifully produced EP that makes The Bilinda Butchers stand out from the hoard of indie pop upstarts.
Having heard three of the six tracks already (two of which, "Tulips" and "Sigh" benefit greatly from a remaster) I was already sure what to expect from the group; "All My Friends" is a bouncy summer anthem, which to me is about those summers spent indoors alone surrounded by friends that aren't really there. "Tulips" is winner of the most bad-ass bass line competition, and throws together elements of funk, the band's own signature style of dream pop, 80's synth pop and some brilliant little nuggets of lyrical gold ("she said 'I don't give a shit about you'"). "Sigh" has a very Japanese feel to it, with the melody being driven by the sound of a koto. The song is also one of the most climactic tracks that the band has ever written, with huge white noise washes, chiptune interference, reverberating vocals and absolutely huge drum fills, all of which culminate in the outro; a massive wash of guitars and synths. And it's not even the end of the record yet. The three tracks that I hadn't heard were a welcome surprise to me. "Boyfriend", undoubtedly one of the best tracks on the EP (and according to all my friends "DEFINITELY SINGLE MATERIAL") pretty much summarises everything I love about The Bilinda Butchers, some of the best synth designs I've heard in a long time, gliding shoegaze guitars, samples of what sounds like cheerleaders or children playing and some of the most downright romantic lyrics that never suffer from sounding tacky or overwrought. "Careless Teens" shows a slightly different side to the band, where acoustic guitars clash with mechanical beats in a joyous pop cacophony.
The final track of Regret, Love, Guilt, Dreams really blew me away, and continues to do so. "Secrets" is a slow moving ambient piece, based on one long synth drone, a subtle drum beat, simple bass line and one lilting acoustic guitar loop. For me, it is the most moving piece on the record, and by the time the Chinese film sample comes in at the end, you've practically broken down in an emotional heap. This final track represents to me everything powerful about music. It is so remarkably simple, and yet through an awareness of the passage of time in music and an ear for the interplay between a drone and a simple guitar phrase, something so straightforward can be turned into an experience of great catharsis.
This goes down as one of my favourite dream pop records ever. It's concise, but forward looking and delicately done. Thus far, it's a definite contender for my favourite release of 2011. Best of all, it's available for however much you think it's worth via The Bilinda Butcher's BandCamp page.
1) All My Friends
3) Careless Teens