EP REVIEW: Tape Runs Out – ‘Ghost Fruit’: hail Cambridge’s new intelligent indiepop geniuses

WE DON’T know a massive amount biographically about Cambridge’s septet Tape Runs Out, but we know this already: they have quite a way with a tune.

They’ve actually been together since 2012, they self-proclaim shoegaze leanings, so fine by me; but once we get stuck into their new eight-track EP for Brighton’s Austerity Records, you’ll see they’re bringing so much more to the table. So much more.

They actually released their debut EP, Covered In Tape, back in 2013, and have slowly added to that number as we rolled through the twenty-teens: 2015’s Knife, Go To Sleep a year later; in 2019, Talking Through The Walls and last year’s Sleepwalking Into A Fire, before arriving here today with a new helping of tunes.

Let’s introduce them. Take a bow Liam Goodrum-Bell, on vocals, guitars, and synths. Taylor Vaughn handles the keyboards department; Ellie Winter brings vocals and the hammered dulcimer; Clare Myerscough is violinist and vocalist. Rich Barker is guitarist, Takeshi Kanemoto is bassist and Dan Dawson is responsible for keeping the percussion ticking along.

They signed for Austerity at the back end of last year, sending in a tape; and the label that’s already home to Winter Gardens and Daisy Coburn leapt at the chance, as the label’s Garry Saunders recounts: “We were all over it as soon as they sent the demo in!

“I listened to ‘Hospital’ on a Sunday morning and [Austerity staffers] Jim, Matt and I were bouncing off each other as soon as we heard it – metaphorically, of course!”

They dropped the languid stunner “Hospital” as a taster last month, and we fell over; we’ve embedded that video for you again and you’ll see why.

We said then: “It’s sleepy-eyed and properly British-indie beautiful, and if you’re of a certain age or inclination, will make you scramble for references like The Field Mice and Brighter and maybe even a little bit of Pacific, and just swoon again for indiepop that comes to you on a 7” in a plastic bag with a fanzine.

Liam’s vocals are whisper-close, confessional, it’s such a slowly unfurling thing of delicate indie beauty; “and you think you’ve got the measure of the song, and then the hairs on the back of your neck prickle as a whole collective chorus of backing harmonies kick in, boy and girl next door-angelic, and it’s all just a bit too harmonically delicious, in the way The Dream Academy’s “Life In A Northern Town” is, and you play it again and again.”

This is all true. To follow the John Peel maxim – when he immediately played “Teenage Kicks” again from the beginning – we played it what? Five, six times straight. Yeah I know, fanboy. But what, you don’t want music to do that to you?

Tape Runs Out

The next best thing to that placky-bag 7″ mentioned above is this: Austerity are issuing a cassette-only EP, Ghost Fruit, on February 19th; eight tracks, of which “Hospital” is just one. There’s only 25 of the cassette. It’s petrol blue, hand-numbered, and includes a die-cut vinyl sticker and digital download. You can get your order in here.

OK, you say, and being well versed in the Bard, you caution that one swallow doth not a brilliant indiepop tape summer make; so let’s take a look at the EP as a whole, now.

Press play on your cassette deck and the first delight we stumble into is “Crumbs + Crumbs”, beginning in pinging cymbals and a slowly unfolding electropop atmosphere, oscillating, ticking, swirling. There’s a little punctuating guitar lick that could be Daft Punk, if used otherwise; it has that French funk, but here sounds summery, euphoric, and Liam’s languid vocals drape the heavy lids and half-smiles of a shoegaze classic into proceedings, the guitars swooning and surging like sugar in your veins in following suit. Yes, it is shoegaze, but shoegaze that brings other disparate things to the mix; could it be a little bit early Tame Impala, even Technique-era New Order? It kinda almost could, too. It has a dance music metronomy, a tight groove. Bold, audacious and delicious.

“The Floor” continues in the same vein: sun-kissed, sun-blissed, the mighty ‘gaze as if taken on board by the aforementioned Mancunian musical giants. It hangs on a crisp, stern piano motif around which waves of higher electronic gleam break and wash. It’s at once a lo-fi indie blur and a tune you could admirably shake a very relaxed tail feather to. And then? “Hospital”. Aaaah, Christ on a bike, tune. Zips gob before he gets all emotional about that again.

“ANSA” changes things around, kicks back with a foot on the monitors, rawks a groove of guitar and underpinning organ à la … Dandy Warhols actually, tight and spinning your head in that zone where alt.rock chimes and has a motorik. “I’m not afraid, I’m not afraid,” sings Liam as a hook through a veil of distortion, and you sense, musically, he and the assembled talents of Tape Runs Out … they’re really not.

“Mirrors + Mirrors” changes tack once more, back towards a leftfield indie-dance mechanism of tom-toms and swift guitar chops; is tempered in a pretty keyboard figure with boy-girl harmonies filling out the skeletal melody. It’s a really bloody clever song from a really bloody clever band, with a sort of electronic folksiness, a winter mournfulness, a pristine and timeless pop intelligence.

“Matisse Palette” sings with dream pop grandeur, all ringing bliss meets a very English, very bookish way with a tune and an arrangement. Maybe even think Paddy McAloon, circa Steve McQueen, heading up Chapterhouse, or in the studio with Ulrich Schnauss. That unexpected and full of nous. Towards it end it yaws away in a pitch-bend, stutters to a halt, almost like a cartoon lorry that bends and teeters forward as it pulls up before Road Runner; immediately recommences for its final line and then finally concludes.

“Mood Be Free Of Life” is maybe the only track that approaches actual filler here – no, maybe that’s unkind, it’s more of an interluding skit – but it still hints at all kinds of possible directions: I won’t mention the ‘G’ word, but it is a little bit sawingly Seattle, or maybe that wonderfully bloody-minded thing you got with classic mid-80s The Fall. We’ve found an almost discordant riff and we’re sure as hell gonna use it. It comes beamed in from a room nearby and is garlanded with acid synth.

It’s back to safer and very beautiful grounds with closer “Safe Flight”, which is like waking from a dream into a sunny morning; woody bass, a pretty riff, sleepy vocal haze, again a Sarah Records’ appreciation of melodic strength and simplicity, colours flickering as you strrretch and sigh. A gem of a track, really.

If you’re a jaded old reader used to old hacks getting their knickers in a twist about the next big thing and disappointing you – please discount such burblings here. I really, genuinely think Tape Runs Out may one day take a place in the pantheon of proper eccentric, intelligent British pop genii – they can turn their hands in any direction they wish, seemingly; know how to arrange a tune so it makes you sit bolt upright, aren’t afraid to push that tune in whichever stylistic direction it seems to demand; yet are also completely enthralled to the brilliance of a well-turned pop song. You sense this also comes entirely naturally.

They’re brilliant, they’re insouciant and they’re so intelligent; buy.

Tape Runs Out’s Ghost Fruit EP will be released by Austerity on a very limited run of cassettes on February 19th, but you can pre-order yours now, here.

Follow Tape Runs Out on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Bandcamp and follow Austerity on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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