London dream-pop outfit Novella have returned with their follow-up to 2015’s ‘Land’. Billed as a reflection on the stormy events of 2016 — Brexit, Trump, a never-ending stream of bombings and shootings, and the passing of a stupid number of musical and cultural icons — ‘Change of State’ chimes in with some refreshing takes on familiar shoegaze expressions.
‘Does The Island Know’ fades in with the record’s first of many beefy bass lines, as airtight drumming knocks efficiently beneath dovetailing vocals that call to mind acts like La Luz and Sunflower Bean.
Krautrock cut ‘Thun’, which shares its name with a Swiss town and probably also a DIIV track (in the world of alternative facts) — is major league, with a two-minute intro that builds massive atmosphere and provides the LP with its most critical listen. ‘Come In’ works in a similar vein, with Suki Sou’s bass leading over bleeping electronics.
Novella hit their prime as a unit on the record’s relentless title track, a subversively-dubbed centrepiece that’s rivalled in thrust only by the most dynamic ‘A Thousand Feet’, where lead-singer Hollie Warren drops some Brexit wisdom — “and I feel this country move away/all our senses scream to stay”.
In combination with bare-bones 8-track production, both songs contribute heavily to the band’s clearly improved sense of cohesion. This growth is celebrated on ‘Four Colours’, which opens with Life Without Buildings-style swagger, while ‘Seize The Sun’ dives down a twisted classic rock rabbit hole, concluding what is a highly accomplished record but not the overtly political one that its ominous title might suggest.
‘Change Of State’ sees Novella do the exact opposite of dwelling in dystopia — it has them rising above the political tumult with a dry and devilishly powerful psych rock collection, hard-nosed and sinister in all the right ways.
Words: Noveen Bajpai
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