FORMED up in the wooded hills of Buckinghamshire, since relocated south of the Thames, Bleach Lab have an appreciation of the good things; think the Cocteau Twins, think Mazzy Star, think glimmer and shimmer, languid vocals spreading loving and lovelorn vocals over guitar chime. All the good things.
Despite 2020 sending a viral tornado through the lives of every musician they didn’t fare too badly at all, with November’s single “Never Be” getting deserved acclaim, garnering track of the day and so forth – hey, we were among that number, noting it as having something of that “sad-but-wide-eyed wonder of Mazzy Star’s ‘Halah’, which is of course one of languid, folksy, drowsy and blissful excellence.”
After a clutch of singles over the past year or more, Bleach Lab are finally set to release a debut EP, A Calm Sense Of Surrounding, on March 19th, with a darkness of personal experience at its core, in the shape of twin losses and the grieving that follows: the death of bassist Josh Longman’s father and the breakdown of singer Jenna Kyle’s long-term relationship. As a band that like to spark off each other and collaborate, they write the lyrics together.
The EP thus has a sadness, with a lyrical basis in Elisabeth Kübler-Ross theory of the five stages of grieving: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance; which Josh and Jenna use as a a loose frame for their experience.
And new single, “Old Ways”, which you can hear below, looks at the first stage: anger.
It’s got some very beautiful, chorus-heavy guitars under centre spotlight, worthy of a 4AD band, say Pale Saints, courtesy the talented Frank Wates; while Jenna looks back in yes, anger, rehashing arguments, finding her truth after the fact: “I never said it, I never said it,” the refrain.
Jenna says of the track: “’Old Ways’ explores the angry side of the grieving process at the end of a relationship. Anger towards the way in which they treated you but also towards oneself for still missing them regardless.”
That soundscape, swathed as it is in delicious pedal effects, ripples and trembles with a liquid quality – entirely intentional, as Frank details: “When you think about it, water has so many different characteristics. It can resemble calm, tranquillity and slowness.
“Yet it can also be utterly terrifying – waves that dwarf you, ships desperate to stay afloat, dangerous predators unknowingly swimming under your feet.
“We felt this was similar to the whole mess of emotions which grief exposes you to and it subconsciously seeped into our lyrics and soundscapes.”
The EP works through these losses, processes, achieves catharsis in melody and shoegazey guitar action. Which, for anyone who knows me? Always a winner.