I’ll be honest with you, music is bloody hard. Standard grade focused on tapping the bare bones of common time and six-eight into either a half-mute keyboard with too-big studio headphones or on glockenspiels with obscenities scrawled into the wooden body. In any case, the concept was the same - playing Merrily We Roll Along on repeat for eight hours a week wasn’t exactly rocket science.
Liverpool-based Vasco Da Gama clearly got more out of those hours than I did. Their EP Geography is riddled with weirdness of all sonic proportions, despite using instruments common to their field. It starts promisingly: Brigadiers, after a brief screech of feedback-laden guitar, introduces a young, ireful lead vocal, who delivers his lines forcefully and boldly. The music behind him jerks in and out, the band toying dynamics with abandon.
Things seem a bit more typically math-rock in Powder Post, which starts with bizarre, almost off-key staccato stabs of twin, syncopated guitar. After this firm handshake, it heads into more of the same energetic, but surprisingly melodic, barrage from frontman John Crawford. In a way, it almost contrasts against the jangly post-hardcore in the background, almost as though bringing it back into normality.
The shortest track on the record has both the longest name and the highest proportion of cowbell - Tonight We Will Eat Something With Two Colours In It is ridiculously good fun, featuring a number of distant yelps from band members as well as spasms of extreme slapback delay from guitarist Chris Lynn. It has probably the closest thing to a steady beat you’ll hear over the course of the EP.
The Greenland Problem continues the sound in the prescribed way, but seems somehow louder and more venomous than its predecessors - this is, in no small part, down to profuse application of distortion otherwise spread relatively thin throughout the fifteen minutes of music. It also contains a personal favourite lyric: “when the cat comes home with bad news / no cream, no shirt, no shoes”. So bonus points for that.
One thing is for certain here - Vasco Da Gama know what they’re doing. They may be specialising in a rather niche genre, but they pull it off with such prowess that it’s no wonder they stick at it. They’ve told in interviews how they enjoy stuff that’s dynamically interesting, and it really doesn’t get an awful lot more dynamic or interesting than this.
Geography by Vasco Da Gama is out on April 22.