Release Date: Jun 16, 2015
Record label: PIAS
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
Gengahr have an eye for the fantastical. Frontman Felix Bushe will swamp sentiment in metaphors, doing his absolute best to ditch reality. Across their first work, they cover all sorts - witches, phantoms, poltergeists and deep sea animals. ‘A Dream Outside’ threads together this free-flowing, outward thinking.
In March last year, Gengahr emerged from north London with breakthrough demo ‘Fill My Gums With Blood’, a vampiric love song on which singer Felix Bushe implored, “Let me in/So I can drink from you”. The quartet’s debut album sounds just as unsettling. “I’ve changed for the better now there’s metal in my heart”, sings Bushe in delicate falsetto on the iridescent ‘Heroine’, like some kind of lovelorn Iron Man.
This has been the year where the psych revival swam into unfamiliar waters, with Tame Impala and Unknown Mortal Orchestra trying out disco and funk directions, and Stealing Sheep chucking dance and Sarahan folk into the mix. A Dream Outside, the debut album from London outfit Gengahr, doesn’t quite mess with the formula as dramatically as any of those examples, but does offer its own subtle refinements. This is psychpop with heavy emphasis on the pop, its frazzled melodies feeling both unsettling and festival-ready, and noodling kept to a respectable minimum.
It’s hard to take a band seriously when they name themselves after their favourite Pokémon (with a slight spelling change to avoid copyright issues, that is). Add to that the fact that it isn’t even Pikachu – come on guys, EVERYONE’S favourite Pokémon is Pikachu – and your second eyebrow is suddenly reaching the same height as the first. But North London quartet Gengahr have done exactly that, after their initial guise of RES attracted some unwanted legal attention from a New York rapper of the same name – no, you probably haven’t heard of him either, but that’s beside the point.
Sharing stages with UK-indie royalty like Alt-J and The Maccabees certainly helps, but Gengahr’s rapid emergence as one of the country’s favourite up-and-comers came mostly by their own design. Ever since the timid, groove-laden debut single ‘Fill My Gums with Blood’ set everything into motion, the London four-piece have created a unique space for themselves in people’s estimations – a string of sugar-coated singles followed, containing about as many solid hooks as possible in under four minutes, and before too long (seriously, just over a year) the inevitable debut-album-hype was rearing its pressurising head. Across their concise, colourful first record, Gengahr prove well equipped at dealing with that pressure.
At first listen, this debut from young north London indie four-piece Gengahr appears to float past pleasantly without making much impact, its gentle hooks seemingly too gossamer-like to lodge in the memory. But stick with it and behind the unassuming facade some deceptively catchy songs materialise. Standout She’s a Witch recalls the gently skewed psyche sounds of MGMT, minus the self-indulgence, while Bathed in Light tiptoes its way into a sumptuous chorus.
As the UK embarks on another sporadically sunny season, a new indie band will inevitably creep through to soundtrack the damp festivals, long evenings and hazy days we have head. Where some fall away with autumn though, Gengahr are a summer romance set to last. Their debut album is the culmination of over a year’s worth of work that's seen them emerge from the sidelines and become increasingly more of a mainstream concern.