Monster Movie has two central members as the core of the band: Christian Savill of Slowdive fame and Sean Hewson. Monster Movie officially formed in the year 2000 with Savill and Hewson having been band mates before in their band The Geeks, which was birthed in 1988. Since 2015, the duo has been joined by Nick Chaplin (Slowdive), James Harrison (Air Formation), and Ryan Graveface (Dreamend). Keep the Voices Distant is Monster Movie‘s seventh studio album with the last album, Everyone is a Ghost, coming out seven years ago, the longest stint between albums. This is definitely a Monster Movie album, but it is lacking the mesmerizing vocals of Rachel Staggs and the acoustic flavor makes an appearance only at the very end. The album is fuller, has a rather harsher edge, and feels a bit dipped in acid, which I don’t mean as a slight. It’s fuzzier edges and grander moments are what make Keep the Voices Distant brilliant.
The album begins with the strumming guitar that has slightly fuzzy tones, giving an instant indicator for what is to come as the album progresses. “Trapped” is a swirling, densely off-kilter composition with a hooky melody in the vocals that is addictive. The brief 2.41 is a shot of adrenaline and is the perfect opener for Keep the Voices Distant. “Going Backwards” also begins with as a full-throated track with bass and drums thumping along. Guitars jangle and glisten, creating a foredrop for the vocals. Here, the vocals are no longer fully distorted but rather almost shimmering as they sit just deep enough in the mix to feel recessed. The chorus rings out as if a vocal group was harmonizing amid a sonic maelstrom. It’s in the bridge, however, that those Slowdivespue tones peer through the Monster Movie sound.
“In the Pines” is a slower piece with layered guitars that shimmer amid thumping toms that beat an almost tribal thrall. If one could call something a ballad on this album, “In the Pines” is it. It is an emotive anthem that builds quickly and then fades to silence. “No More” begins with digital sounding synths that are quickly overtaken by the fuzzed-out edges of huge guitars. Like its title suggests, the track is defiant as the chorus sings “I’m getting older / I’m getting old / Time’s taking over”. “No More” seems to be about that wisdom that comes with age as one begins to live a life of no regrets and leave the past behind.
“Keep the Voices Distant” is dreamy and awash in Christian’s signature guitar sound. I especially like the bass work on this song. It’s subtle but important, as it glues together the guitar melodies and the persuasion with a rather effortless ease. This titular song is a great centerpiece to the album as it is slow, yet catchy, being one of the more dreampop/shoegaze tracks on the entire LP. The bridge is especially gorgeous with ghostly guitar tones and reverb drenches “oohs”. “Keep the Voices Distant” fades and “Shouldn’t Stray from the Shadows” explodes into the speakers with aggressive guitars and tripped out percussion. What Monster Movie does on this LP is craft brilliant, catchy vocal melodies and “Shouldn’t Stray from the Shadows” is one of the best on the album. Also, the piece is laden with an organ that sings out while floating on a bed of fuzz and dense guitar composition.
As the listener makes her way further into the back half of the album, she is greeted by the hazy “In the Ground”. A rock laden track overlaid with a dense wall of sound, “In the Ground” has a bounce to it that is juxtaposed to the more minor feeling melodies. The contrast is brilliant and gives the song a conflicting flavor. “Don’t You Want to Love Us” is another anthem, with fluid and dreamy melodic vocals over floating synths and perfectly accented percussion. “Into the Light” is the penultimate track that that has a swaying tempo with jangly, slightly distorted guitars The layered vocals are bare and open at one point, stripping away the mass of guitars and having the vocal melody float over the bass and drums. It’s a lovely moment on the album and shows that the vocals are not hidden under layers simply to hide flaws. The vocal melodies are the real deal and they are gorgeous when let out in the open. The finale, “Dead in the Water” might be my favorite piece on the entire disc. It begins with bare vocals over bass and droney synths. At about 1:47, a synth is laid bare and drones then more aggressive guitars kick in and the tone of the song changes. The guitars build and layer and explode as the bass takes on a prominent role in the mix. The song then changes once more at about 4:38. The guitars peel away and a drone remains. Acoustic guitar comes up in the mix and plays a haunting melody. For
The finale, “Dead in the Water” might be my favorite piece on the entire disc. It begins with bare vocals over bass and droney synths. At about 1:47, a synth is laid bare and drones, then more aggressive guitars kick in and the tone of the song changes. The guitars build and layer and explode as the bass takes on a prominent role in the mix. The track then changes once more at about 4:38. The guitars peel away and a drone remains. Acoustic guitar comes up in the mix and plays a haunting melody. For a long time Monster Movie fans, the acoustic guitar will be noticeably absent from the rest of the album until this very moment on the LP. It’s a beautiful way to end the album, with drones that fuzz and pop and growl a bit.
Seven years was a long wait for fans to hear more Monster Movie. However, 2017 seems to be the year where the music world keeps on giving us gem after gem and Keep the Voices Distant certainly is one of them. From the densely swirling “Trapped” to the gorgeously varied finale “Dead in the Water”, Monster Movie have produced an album that has encapsulated an infectious and raw sound that soars into the atmosphere. Savill, Hewson, and company made the long wait worth it and I can’t recommend the album enough.