EP REVIEW: Laura Groves – ‘A Private Road’: pristine and dreamy debut; socially distanced gig announced

SOUTH LONDON-based, Yorkshire-born Laura Groves is the latest arrival at Simon Raymonde’s excellent Bella Union, and she’s releasing her first work for the label, a six-track EP of very lovely, hazy, complex, modern pop, A Private Road, this week.

To introduce her: she likes the aesthetics of home recording and loves to take a well-crafted bit of songcraft and refract it through some experimental synthesising and texturing.

She cut her teeth and her way with a song as Blue Roses, the gorgeous and warming alt.folk project with which she released an album and a clutch of EPs at the end of the noughties, including gems of tracks such as “Coast”. She’s collaborated with other an array of other artists, such as Darkstar, Bat for Lashes, and Hannah Peel; even scored the 1920 silent film Dr Jekyll And Mr Hyde for screenings at the BFI and Latitude Festival. 

Laura says of her A Private Road EP: “This record, made mostly on my own, became both a channel for the expression of an inner world and an imagined soundtrack to my physical journeys through the city. It is rooted in the stories, atmospheres, mistakes and wrong turns, desires and layers of meaning that run through and play out in the landscapes we inhabit. 

“The songs are snapshots of late night journeys across the river, the sparks of love that transform us and keep us going, the dead ends that the mind can lead us down, the erotic, the visible and invisible places we pass through as they merge and are erased and overwritten. 

“The ability and opportunity to create and connect through music is a gift and I’m so happy to be able to share these new explorations with you.”

With the EP being released this Friday, Laura has also announced she’s to play a one-off, socially distanced, livestreamed show on the following Friday, December 11th, at Folklore in Hackney; for tickets and more details, click through.

She announced her signing with Bella Union with the lead track from the EP, “Infinite Wisdom”, which we took a look at here, if you’d care to take a dive into the video. It’s got space, elegance, mystery, and at points I swear Laura achieves a little of the dreamy, multitracked cadence you find on the Cocteau Twins circa “Road, River And Rail”. It’s almost shoegaze-impressionistic, especially with those surges of pure sound that close the song. Excellent.

“Foolish Game” is more of a torch song slowie, its haunting opening and little vocal lilts giving way to a very British R’n’B washed over with dream pop synths and glimmers, is sultry with a darker edge, and has the haunting ethereality of Simple Minds’ New Gold Dream (and if you associate Simple Minds only with stadium bombast, go and listen to the hazy ambience of this album, seriously). It was the final single drop before the EP release – watch the video below.

She says of “Foolish Game”: “[It’s] a song about the tension between the thrill and the hurt of a situation you can’t seem to let go of – the harshness and tenderness of submission to the same pattern even though we know it may be bad for us, and the strength that can come from becoming aware and taking control.

“I wanted to evoke the feeling of a slow dance at the end of a night and the thoughts that might go through your head on the journey home afterwards.”

“Faking It” opens in cityscape thrum, electric piano never raising the pace above the languid; the glide chops and stutters a in post-production skitter. It’s beautiful and melts past, demands a rewind. It’s lighter than air, a waking dream of a song. It sounds like stirring in the morning with a lover. “Red”, by contrast really brings the modern soul qualities to the fore, but Laura’s folk background lends the tune an almost Joni Mitchell quality – if say, Joni had been mainlining Victorialand and Janelle Monae. It’s very now, very bewitching.

The final brace of tracks on the EP mark the progress to the close of the day: “Sunset” has an African swirl in that organ glimmer and the riffs, Laura’s voice mellifluous; “Looking For The Stars”, a closing song of hope, has a jazz sophistication and swirl, absolutely bags of nocturnal atmosphere, her voice this bell-clear lullaby.

A Private Road is a hugely seductive EP; it’s completely a dreamscape, swirling elements of modern electronica, shoegaze, soul and a touch of folk into a set of songs that are very much looking forward; and on which you really get a sense of Laura emotionally while she also remains wraithlike, a blur of whisper and talent at the core of some very seductive music.

Laura Groves’ A Private Road will be available on digital and vinyl formats and is available to pre-order from Bella Union, here.

Follow Laura on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

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