It is rare for a band to consider their music as merely subsidiary to the artistic experience which they offer. Perhaps this is what is so captivating about London six-piece Lola Colt, who see their debut LP Away From The Water not as a complete entity in itself, but rather as a soundtrack to an unmade movie. Their live shows rely heavily on this unusual visual element. Citing Western films as its primary influence (from which the name Lola Colt comes) the self-styled ‘Spaghetti-noir’ group is a powerful, psychedelic blend of cowboy and hippie. The effect is, unsurprisingly, disorientating: a kind of dark, drugged-up shoegaze that, when over, leaves you feeling as if reality is that little bit less colourful.
A few introductory chords on opener ‘Rings Of Ghosts’, and then it’s not long before Away From The Water sucks us into a kaleidoscopic vortex of reverb, snaking riffs and thudding bass. Combining clichéd cowboy tropes (yes, there’s rattlesnakes and tumbleweeds in there) with elements of classic rock and blues, there is a refreshing craftsmanship to the record’s songwriting, a task shared equally between guitarist Matt Loft and Danish singer Gun Overbye. There’s more than a little of the desolate soundscapes of The Jesus And Mary Chain on a few of the tracks, in particular the slow-burning ‘Storm’ and ‘Highway’. Lead single ‘Vacant Hearts’ provides us with a foot-tapping hit, while the schizophrenic, whirring, ‘Driving Mr Johnny’ also stands out.
The way the record unfolds is something like a shootout in a Western, though its greatest problem is that it never quite gets to the good bit. Tension is constantly being built, through lyrics evoking danger and through ominously repetitive hooks, leaving us searching for a climax which we never really find. The closest we get is about sixteen bars’ worth towards the end of the title track ‘Away From The Water’. This unshakeable tension, an unsatisfied feeling that the record is constantly about to lift off and fly in a new direction, is at once what so deeply frustrating and so profoundly alluring about Away From The Water. If intentional, Lola Colt's debut is a superb piece of writing. If not, this album has to be seen as disappointing.
Nevertheless, the record is stylistically excellent. Transplanting a visual aesthetic into a piece of music was never going to be easy, but Lola Colt has created an album which is both experimental and, ultimately, utterly listenable. Moody, sexy and hypnotic, Away From The Water is certainly worth the experience.