Album Review : Urvanovic – Let’s Not Be Here : expansive chamber pop which rises above the convention.

The Breakdown

Charged electronics, vociferous synths and front-foot rhythms add to the drama of ‘Let’s Not Be Here’ without losing Urvanovic’s intricate Grizzly Bear-ness.
Common Grounds Records 8.8

There’s always something intriguing when a band that you thought had disappeared suddenly stick their heads above the musical whirlpool with a new album. So where have Scottish pop orchestrators Urvanovic been hiding? Their 2015 debut ‘Amateurs’, all Admiral Fallow harmonies with hints of Frightened Rabbit big music, made ripples amongst homeland fans and drew appreciative nods from the muso press. Admired as a sparkling indie-folk gem, it got listed as one of the Scottish albums of that year and the step-up for this collective looked inevitable.

Then, besides a couple of toe dipping singles, things went quiet for team Urvanovic, a prolonged hiatus that’s now relented with the release of their follow up ‘Let’s Not Be Here’ (out via Common Grounds Records). Not that the nine year stretch between debut and sophomore albums has been spent locked in agonised studio noodling, the story of the wait is simply that life has happened.

The central Urvanovic partnership of singer/songwriter/composer Tom Irvine and musician/producer Niall Sinclair had actually completed much of the work for ‘Let’s Not Be Here’ between 2018 and 2020. Then the world stopped for the Big C, plans were shelved and things shifted. Irvine relocated to Copenhagen to continue his composition studies at the renowned Det Jyske Musikkonservatorium in Aarhus and Sinclair, already an engineer at Edinburgh’s seminal Chamber Studios (yes a Mogwai haunt), focused on developing his own set up.

Luckily Urvanovic are a resilient bunch, so the ‘Let’s Not Be Here’ project has finally been completed with singer Seonaid Stevenson and drummer David Hill, both from the original ‘Amateurs’ ensemble, joining Irvine and Sinclair in a bone fide four piece. With a wider convergence of influences and ideas, this new album steers a more urgent, dynamic course than its predecessor. Charged electronics, vociferous synths and front-foot rhythms add to the drama of ‘Let’s Not Be Here’ without losing Urvanovic’s intricate Grizzly Bear-ness.

The album’s opener RAZE! grandly welcomes in all these elements. A Moody Blues-ish mellotron loop, a swelling textured drone from the string section plus crashing drum rolls conjure a sense of theatre beneath the choral harmonies and Irvine’s lilting vocal. ‘My ears are burning with the call of the grandiose’ he sings in the rising swirl of momentum. Seonaid Stevenson when talking about the making of ‘Let’s Not Be Here’ has said “We wanted to be noisier, more chaotic, and just more” and this intention is made clear here.

The freedom that Urvanovic give themselves this time around brings other ambitious variations and inventive shifts. Move to Anatomy starts prog baroque then bursts into full-on anthemic rock mode with Hill’s flailing drum volleys and a banshee synth lick. It’s a bustling production, pumped with Editors-like crescendos plus an Arcade Fire choral blast that’s destined to get any crowd shouting and pointing back. Prog leanings again nudge into the stomping folk dance of Small Talk, where the vocal interplay zips around Gentle Giant style within some distinctively stunning string section framing. ‘Let’s Not Be Here’ also brings balance by allowing space. The daring minimalism of the pared back (Feed) or the gothic chill core of A Forest sees Urvanovic pushing into a more unpredictable experimental zone without any reticence.

Thankfully the band still build on the core strengths which made their debut, all those years back, so arresting. The deeply woven orchestrations and meandering melodic pathways continue to underline Tom Irvine’s compositional gifts and elevate Urvanovic music way above the usual chamber pop catch alls (e.g. anything with strings, a hook and emotional pretensions). The album’s title track mixes a chunky beat, Farfisa stabs and synth projectiles then somehow blossoms into a thrilling, multi- layered electro-acoustic soundscape. APX is gentler but no less musically expansive, a vocal conversation between Irvine and Stevenson as entwined as Sondheim scenario. It surprises and the lines “I’ll control the seasons/I’ll control the flow of time” hit hard with their shimmering desperation.

That lyrical theme of breakdown but then some hope, near disaster that can bring change, gives the album an astute but not over-wrought narrative. Navigating that fine line is most fully realised on the pivotal Built To Unravel, which takes it’s emotive hook from a sleepy semaphore beginning onto somewhere massive then back again. The track’s mid-song pause will slay every time.

Maybe there’s something reassuringly familiar about Urvanovic’s music on ‘Let’s Not Be Here’ although the band’s craft ensures nothing feels over-derivative or wearyingly conventional. It’s not so much an album of its time but a recording where its era will be seen as irrelevant (perhaps thought of in the same way as the work of Guy Clark or Sweet Billy Pilgrim). A record of promise, an album to be revisited and one which demands a less protracted next instalment.

Get your copy of ‘Let’s Not Be Here‘ by Urvanovic from your local record store or direct from Common Ground Records HERE

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