Animus is the debut album from Mayfair Kytes, a four-piece folk-art-pop band from Melbourne, following the recent release of single "Sleepyhead."
Mayfair Kytes pride themselves on close vocal harmony and creative string backing, creating an end product you might sometimes call chamber-pop. In a fitting indication of their value for authentic musical sound and lack of fear for the quirky, parts of the album were recorded in a converted chapel in the inner north of Melbourne so that the natural reverb of the string backings could be used in the recording as is, without extra effects. Speaking of strings, the band aimed high and enlisted musicians from the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra to feature on the record. Simon Mavin and Paul Bender of Hiatus Kaiyote also contributed extra synths and production to the album.
Songwriter and lead vocalist Matt Kelly describes their single "Sleepyhead" as a reflection on the relationship of ‘the creative process versus the logical world’, the conflict that can arise between them when an artist’s ‘long road of self-discovery’ may ‘clash with more pragmatic streams of life’, and coping with the mental struggle that can result from living in this conflicted state. The video clip attempts to depict this visually, with an anonymous male figure gradually removing restrictive layers of fabric with progressively less restrictive movements, fairly easily symbolising Kelly’s intended idea of ‘shedding the things that hold you back’.
The album as a whole features eight individual tracks that meld nicely into each other without being too similar. Opener "Seasonal Thaw," which was released by the band last year, sets the dreamy tone, the solo vocals quickly joined by gentle harmonies over a simple and steady backing. Listen out for the strings features in this track and throughout the album. The swooning synth ending to the title track that builds over what initially seems like a relaxed percussive fade is another musical moment to enjoy.
To this reviewer the album (and the title track in particular) seems to channel a bit of Augie March in its gentle introspective tunes, soothing vocal harmonies, and a touch of melancholy.
It's a charming album to have on in the background and evokes scenes of lazy afternoons and chilled out evenings with friends. It will be interesting to see how the dreaminess translates into a live show, and how much of the gentle mood will be continued into live representation or if the setting will necessitate a 'noisier' set. This album may be one to check out in person as well as recorded.
Debut single Sleepyhead is out now, Animus drops online on April 1, with an official launch in Melbourne a week later. You can check out the Sydney album launch at The Vanguard, Thursday April 28.
Mayfair Kytes are:
Matt Kelly (vocals, guitar)
Austin Busch (vocals, guitar, keys, samples)
Jack Nicholson (drums, samples)
Phoebe Jacobs (vocals, samples)