Ava Luna – Electric Balloon

Electric BalloonThink back to a time in the mid Noughties when precious few dared to rally against the mainstream-abiding independent scene. While the commercially successful bands of the day used monotonous vocals and skin tight jeans, a handful of artists pushed the envelope with daring panache. They were unafraid to use the words “avant” and “garde” in their MySpace descriptions. They were loved by some, but hated by many. To a large extent, this is the scene from which New Yorkers Ava Luna have emerged, albeit half a decade later.

Now armed and ready to clunk with their third album Electric Balloon, the five-piece have honed their sound to a peculiar eleven tracks. Their closest comparison remains The Victorian English Gentlemens Club - much loved by DrunkenWerewolf, giving a good indication of our disposition towards Ava Luna. Ducking and diving behind a wall of loops and studio madness, there are also moments of contemporary alt-pop, soul and electro to be found on Electric Balloon. In its entirety the album makes for an engaging, yet distinctive and confused listen.

The relatively radio friendly opener “Daydream” pays tribute to the band’s three vocalists: Felicia Douglass, Becca Kauffman and Carlos Hernandez, who in particular emulates the rhythm and blues genre. Throwing brass and angular guitars into the mix, tracks like this and “Judy” err towards XX Teens territory. Mangling a rock hook with a banana and plenty of sauce - this side of Ava Luna’s résumé calls out for synchronised, chicken-legged dancing.

On the opposite side of the board, an undercurrent of electronica sees “Sears Roebuck M&Ms”, “Crown” and “Genesee” look towards the uber-cool likes of Banks and Emily Wells. Understated and sultry, these songs lack the ‘so ludicrous we want to live in their basement’ quality otherwise prevalent throughout Electric Balloon. They nevertheless offer some much needed downtime from the insanity.

There are also some more straightforward tracks on Electric Balloon. Nougats of clarity are scattered throughout, not eager for the picking but acting as gasps of fresh air at least. In terms of full plays, “Plain Speech” and “Hold U” may be a million miles away from conventional, but they make the most of Hernandez’s vocal pop sensibility.

As is always the case with albums such as this, Electric Balloon’s failure is its stubborn refusal to provide a hit. There’s a lot going on, and not much of it makes sense. More to the point, there’s not much to grasp hold of. Listen to the album on repeat for a day and you might well go mad. Listen to it for a week, and you’ll find yourself singing tit bits in your sleep. It’ll whet the appetite of experimental fans, but turn most others green. Is it too avant garde for its own good? Maybe. Do I like it? Yeah. Will you like it? I have no idea.

Release: 10th March 2014, Western Vinyl

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