Album Review: Reciprocate’s explosive and extraordinary performance on ‘Soul to Burn’.

The Breakdown

Balancing raw energy and fluid sensitivity, Reciprocate are able to deliver so much with a very barebones approach to noise rock. Well worth a listen just for the fantastic performances alone, certainly a band to watch.

New from London noise-rock trio Reciprocate, is a record that seems inspired by the sounds of all popular noise rock of the last 25 years. From the on-the-nose heavy riffs of bands like Death from Above 1979, to the more math-centric complexities of bands like Hella and Lightning Bolt, there’s a sound on Soul to Burn that will probably strike a chord for anyone who’s even remotely interested in the loud and experimental.

Key to this record’s identity, with exception of a few songs, is its idiosyncratic grooves and stark, multifaceted riffs. This formula is played around with, and tonally they run quite a large range of atmospheres driven by their own live instruments and performances. The opening track ‘Sleevetugger’, with its off-kilter marching quality, manages to crash in and out of composure with amazing ferociousness whilst never giving into a pure shoegaze drone. 

The drumming on this track, and throughout the whole album, is fantastically versatile and direct without any exaggerated flair. This record relies greatly on knee jerk changes in tempo to deliver the vast amount of instrumental ideas that the band constantly rifles through, and without a bit of a maniac on the drums I don’t think this would’ve been scientifically possible.  

On the other end of Reciprocate’s repertoire is the drilling, laser focused melodies on tracks like ‘Rhodia’ and the gloriously theatrical ‘Newhaven Dieppe’, the latter showcasing well another major facet of the band’s sound: Stef Kett’s lead vocals. There’s elements of a certain era of British indie music in Kett’s voice, which might very much be to the listener’s taste or not. But for me, I think the vocals are impressive, with Kett’s range really managing to push through the instrumentals and lend emotional weight to what is already a pretty intense album.  

Reciprocate (Left to right) Marion Andrau, Stef Kett and Henri Grimes.

The title track ‘Soul to Burn’ really melds all of what I think makes Reciprocate an invocative and exciting band, just a really electrifying track. In my first few listens, the lyrics throughout the album struck me as found poem territory with really fragmented and often eccentric lines that sometimes sounded like snippets taken directly from a diary. ‘Soul to Burn’ seemed more straightforward, almost blunt in contrast. A heartfelt plea to hold yourself in high regard, that came off emotionally poignant and meaningful in the few seconds before the band threw itself back into more jagged riffs. 

This tender balance between the noise and emotionality is explored sonically as well, particularly in more instrumental tracks like ‘Alsabus’. The band breaks the tension enough to simmer into a more sombre direction. This approach gave the record a bit more variety and room to breathe, particularly in the closing track ‘Church’ that seems to exhale itself into this rattling drum loop and strange, echoing chords. For an album that’s full of constant crescendos, it made for a very introspective mood to close on.

Any complaints relating to the sound of this record may be down to a listener’s taste, but I will say that some of these songs left me wanting for some depth in the production. What feels like an aesthetic choice to record an album as pure to the band’s live set as possible, ends up sounding at times skeletal and maybe under ambitious. This is could be a direction Reciprocate for pursue in time, layering and building up the sound they make with the talent they clearly have, but for now this would be my biggest complaint of ‘Soul to Burn’ as an album.

This is a record with some of the best performances I’ve heard this year. The track list is engaging and emotionally stirring even when delivered in the straightforward way Reciprocate has made this record. This band has the range to be one of the greats and I very much look forward to seeing them on more listeners’ radars. ‘Soul to Burn’ is out now via Gringo Records, and is available to purchase on vinyl on Reciprocate‘s bandcamp.

Soul To Burn by Reciprocate
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