‘Welcome Strangers’ is the second record by feral pop outliers Modern Studies. Elegiac and haunted, life-giving and triumphant, this beguiling return digs deep into landscapes both real and imagined, internal and external, in a work that might perhaps best be described as “kosmiche choral” or, if we’re pushing it “arts-und-crafts-werk”. Or, put simply, glorious pop music.
It is an elemental and often spectral world of contrasting tones and hues that is found within ‘Welcome Strangers’, one whose lyrical vocabulary is of loss, light, air, sun, growth; of spires, seeds and phosphene dreams. Here is the Britain of visionaries such as Kate Bush, Broadcast or PJ Harvey, a nation of dark magic, conﬂict, celebration and confusion, all at the same time.
Witness the incandescent chamber-pop of ‘Get Back Down’: underpinned by complex jazz rhythms, and string and brass ﬂourishes, it manages to be both understated and epic as it explores a similar sonic terrain to Wild Beasts. Or there’s ‘Horns And Trumpets’, a haunting musical perambulation that burrows deep into Britain, a warm-hued hymn for future generations, and ‘Let Idle Hands’, which abandons restraint halfway through and, in a moment of musical epiphany, runs joyously to the horizon. Meanwhile on ‘Phosphene Dream’ the honeyed harmonies of Emily Scott and Rob St. John wrap themselves around each other like Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazelwood had they holidayed in draughty Glasgow tenements. Or perhaps – as on ‘Disco’ – they come closer to Kylie and Nick Cave.
“It’s an ever changing thing – an organism,” explains principle songwriter Emily of Modern Studies’ collaborative creative process, “there is space for each of the band to experiment.” Shared band listening habits include Yamasuki, Van Dyke Parks, Laurie Anderson, Philip Glass, Matthew E White, Basil Kirchin, and Nanci Griffith” (Press)