This month’s feature is alt-pop group Motor Tapes, following the release of their new EP Living. In Memory. Liam chats with frontman Paul and bassist Lee.
Despite being a Cambridge local, I had never once heard of Motor Tapes prior to writing this feature. And though I don’t know anything about this alternative rock group or their influences, I have got to say, these boys have potential. What I do know, however, is that these four fellows from Cambridge (Paul, Dom, Seb & Lee) recently released their second E.P., the interestingly titled Living. In Memory, in late August. And it was from this minute collection of but four songs that I first heard the ambitious works of my local unsigned band.
Shore opens the E.P. with a memorable lone guitar riff that dissolves into gentle echoes behind a bouncing baseline and the crash of drums. The sound of this instrumentation is lay-down-on-the-sand relaxing, being almost of a dream-like quality. Vocals soon join in, with lyrics that are sung in a delicate slow fashion; sounding almost like long sighs over the music. This vocal-style reminds me of John Lennon’s performance on the 1974 track #9 Dream, in the way that it is gentle, but slightly haunting. Compelling stuff! The chorus is aptly more upbeat and is accompanied by some terrific backing vocals. Built on captivatingly uplifting guitar work, the main singing here is higher-pitched, and edgier than before. And as much as I prefer the smooth, unconventional style that is sung in the verses, I did still find myself humming the brighter chorus later on! The song also features a hard-sounding miniature guitar solo, which melts into higher notes and soothing backing singing to lead to a tranquil ending. Like the rest of the song, it really takes you back to that comforting feeling of being at the shore of a beach; without a care in the world.
But then Void kicks in with a twanging opening riff that immediately shows off their darker side, and hits at more musical experimentation to come, as well as general awesomeness. Void doesn’t have a typical chorus, and whilst the lyrics seem quite sophisticated, the main focus here appears to be the instrumentation. This Void isn’t your typical space of empty matter; no, it’s rich in psychedelic sounds and fascinating musical melodies that are constantly changing and developing. Motor Tapes take a great mixture of styles and pack them into a four minute track, and it somehow works! The easy listening breakdowns of the song are fascinating, but so are the out of the ordinary noises that accompany the word “Void” and the sometimes heavy guitar work. I can declare without a doubt that this is my favourite track from the E.P.
Despite being a four song collection, Living. In Memory proves to be an exceptionally versatile E.P. with many different sounds, meaning it could appeal to a range of audiences. The next track for instance, Sunshine Moment, came totally out of the blue with a funky electric beat that I was very surprised to hear. With the intriguing lyric, “The sun is dripping on my head”, you can instantaneously guess that this is quite a playful tune. Although I’m not sure what this song is exactly about, I did enjoy the ride! I feel it bears some resemblance to The Cure’s Wrong Number (1997); a similar, but uncharacteristic mix of hypnotic dance music and ecstatic electric guitar. Not always my favourite fusion, but definitely attention-grabbing! The boys certainly prove here that they aren’t a one trick pony, but a very versatile band that is capable of producing songs of many differing styles.
The final song, Better Way, brings together this wide range of musical genres with verses that include the best of their alternative mellow rock sound and a chorus that is lead by fast-paced electric keyboarding and frantic drumming. The finale also encompasses some spectacular orchestral moments that are worthy of note and boasts a greater handling of lyrics, starting with the line “I wanted to say what I only believe to be the Better Way”. The song gradually develops into a climax where electric guitars and keyboard clash together to bring the E.P. to a satisfyingly powerful closure.
After hearing their E.P., I am very impressed by my local band but am left yearning for a full-length Motor Tapes album to see what else they can achieve. Living. In Memory’s four songs feature a great pace, are well layered and are delivered with impressive musical versatility. Yet, I would like to hear the band experiment with more instruments and see them perform songs of a greater length. Regardless, they have noticeably improved since their début E.P.. And as much as I love the original’s ‘Aspirin’ and ‘Better Tomorrows’, I just can’t help but prefer the new E.P. on the whole.
The future certainly looks bright for the Cambridge locals and I can definitely see them finding an audience of fans outside of the Strawberry Fair!