“Sea Within a Sea”
Primary Colours, 2009
I’ll just say it straight away: I am totally infatuated with The Horrors. For years now I’ve just thought they’re the bee’s knees. I don’t even really like that expression, but it aptly expresses just how dorky my feelings for them are. I knew that when I started writing for Stacks, it wouldn’t be long before I wrote about them. They’re one of my favorite bands, so if it sounds like I know way more about them than the other artists I feature, it’s because I do. The Horrors don’t seem to have the largest following in the U.S., which to me seems almost tragic. Even if you don’t like this song, I highly recommend checking out their other works, they’ve got a decent spread at this point so I feel like there is something for everyone mixed in there. Moving on…
Their first full-length album, Strange House, started with a cover of Screaming Lord Sutch’s “Jack The Ripper”, and from that point I was in love. That whole album maintained that spooky retro garage rock and roll feel. Their sound, their look (waifish mods in a uniform of all black, kohl rimmed eyes, and winklepickers)—they truly suited their namesake.
Then Primary Colours came out, and before I even got to hear it, I read reviews that it was totally different, that they had basically abandoned their signature sound that I loved so much. I was honestly a bit worried, thinking they may have just lost all that was good about them. Thankfully my worries were completely unfounded, though Primary Colours does basically chew up Strange House and spit it out. The sound presented on this album is one of maturity, and is focused more on quality than theatrics.
“Sea Within a Sea” is an eight minute track that starts with a relatively simple driving rhythm with overlaid distortions that recalls a bit of the darker sounds of the first album. However as the synth overwhelms the traditional instrumental roles, this song soon shows how important the electronic elements will be on this album, and later for their third release, Skying. Shortly after the 3:30 mark, a shift toward the light occurs, and it’s just beautiful - like ‘the clouds parting’ type of beautiful. The distant echoes of Faris Badwan’s vocals over the layered arpeggios create a dreamy curtain of sound that I could truly listen to almost endlessly. This track is one that I’ve found sounds best when I’m laying down with my eyes closed, allowing myself be totally immersed.
This song, particularly the synth parts, makes me feel all lovey and happy in ways I didn’t realize were possible. Then I read this quote from Tom Cowan and it just fit so beautifully: “Electronic music is completely fascinating. I think it’s amazing that some of the most moving records, with so much feeling and love, are made from machines.”