Nottingham’s The Soundcarriers specialize in “jazz-influenced, free-thinking and utterly spaced-out” psych pop. “Harmonium”, their debut album, was recorded over an extended period of time in the band’s home studio using all analog equipment and taking studio technique inspiration from David Axelrod and Phil Spector (and a great deal of musical inspiration from The Free Design). While this wide-eyed young foursome are clearly very skilled musicians and very sincere about what they do, the band’s entire premise is based upon a deeply flawed foundation. While I am generally (in theory) an enthusiastic supporter of people quixotically making music that has absolutely no hope of ever attaining a fanbase, even I have to draw the line at resurrecting syrupy, lazy sixties pop: the genre has not aged particularly well in the face of forty more years of musical evolution. Very few people could muster enthusiasm for music like this, and even if they did, it seems unlikely that they’d want to hear youthful revivalists instead of experiencing the naive charm of actual bands from that era.
The other elephantine flaw with this album is that there is nothing weird, edgy, or experimental about it. The Soundcarriers have a tragically delusional idea of what being “spaced-out” actually entails- throwing some flutes and bongos into a very formulaic pop song just doesn’t cut it. Stereolab sounds like Acid Mothers Temple next to these guys. That said, there are some enjoyable things strewn about “Harmonium”: the rhythm section makes some valiant efforts to disrupt the lethargy on “Time Will Come”, “Calling Me Reprise", and “Without Sound Pt. II”, while “Volcano” actually calls to mind some of Black Sabbath’s mellower moments. Also, I am grateful that they avoided The Free Design's unfortunate tendency to write songs about how kites are fun. Lamentably, however, there are also tracks like the plodding “Uncertainty” and the thoroughly painful “Caught By the Sun”, which would not be out of place in a Broadway musical about the sixties. Additionally, even the band’s minor successes are rendered unmemorable by the album’s sleepy omnipresent male/female vocal harmonizing.
The Soundcarriers are a competent bunch and have constructed a plausible pastiche of their influences, but “Harmonium” is an uncreative, emasculated, slick, and seemingly endless album. This is the sort of music that people make when they meet at music college. Please try harder next time. 3/10 -- Anthony D'Amico (8 July, 2009)