Release Date: Sep 8, 2014
Record label: Fat Cat
After recording one album that sounded like a bunch of kids hammering out their favorite Pavement and Guided by Voices songs (2011's A Thousand Heys) and another of carefully pieced together German art rock-influenced songs that noodled around while still delivering some indie rock kicks (2013's Ore & Minerals), Mazes' third album could have gone just about anywhere. Recorded live by Parquet Courts' producer Jonathan Schenke with few overdubs and mostly using first takes, 2014's Wooden Aquarium splits the difference between the two approaches and comes up with a result that really works well for the trio. While keeping the (mostly) more considered tempos and retaining the oft-complicatedly intertwined guitar parts, Mazes brought back a little more of the energy that they initially displayed.
For their third album, London’s Mazes immersed themselves in America. They recorded ‘Wooden Aquarium’ in snowy upstate New York with Parquet Courts producer Jonathan Schenke. Like the NYC band, Mazes enjoy their words, as the dual spelling in ‘Explode In Colo(u)rs’ emphasises. Scruffy melodies informed debut album ‘A Thousand Heys’ and they return here (‘Vapour Trails’) but Jack Cooper’s homegrown themes are interwoven expertly.
Mazes sure know how to open a can of worms. Winning over fans with their incredibly likeable lo-fi pop debut in 2011, the main draw was the three-piece’s knack for a killer hook as well as their charmingly lackadaisical lyrics. Things then went off the beaten track with 2012’s follow-up ‘Ores & Minerals’, as the band experimented with krautrock and psych-pop to the surprise of many.
One of the albums of the year so far is undoubtedly Parquet Courts’ Sunbathing Animal, a work by a band that readily acknowledges one of their chief influences – Stephen Malkmus – and in particular his American slacker rock outfit Pavement. Manchester’s Mazes introduced themselves to the world in 2011 two years after their formation upon the release of A Thousand Heys, a well received effort bearing all the hallmarks of the ‘90s American indie rock that had also defined Pavement. The trio headed by Jack Cooper have since toured with both Parquet Courts and Malkmus, and throw in the Courts’ producer Jonathan Schenke for their latest effort and you have a pretty good idea of what it’s going to sound like, right? Well, partly right.
There’s a beautiful story behind Wooden Aquarium, the third full-length from British Ameri-indie devotees Mazes. It involves travelling to an upstate New York town where their gear was stolen, conditions turned wintery, and the band had to dig their way through thick snow to get to the studio each day. That paints a romantic picture of both isolation and commitment, with the band hunkering down to record as the world turned white around them.
Head here to submit your own review of this album. They've only been together for about five years, but there's no question in my mind that Mazes are one of British alternative's great hidden gems; blending lo-fi sensibilities with irresistibly poppy hooks and rough-around-the-edges guitar work, their already-long list of impressive support slots demonstrates that plenty of their contemporaries have picked up on their endearingly energetic sound - quite why the same can't be said for the wider consumer base that their music certainly ticks all of the appropriate boxes for, then, is a mystery indeed. After their debut full-length, A Thousand Heys, did a neat job of translating the visceral energy of their live shows to record, and introducing the band to the wider world in the process, follow-up Ores & Minerals displayed clear progression in terms of the quality of the songwriting; suddenly, they weren't just sounding like Sebadoh and Guided by Voices on a superficial level, but channeling the sheer intelligence of their approach to quickfire pop-punk, too - that album was heavy on cleverly-arranged pop songs that throw up far more subtleties than you might initially give them credit for.
Manchester outfit Mazes have spent the last two albums feverishly searching for their ‘sound’; attempting to stand out in a densely humid music terrain. Floating from off-kilter American-inspired indie to experimentalism and psych, the princes of the DIY microcosm that sprung up at the turn of the decade - lamenting and drunk off Pavement – here attempt a re-focusing of their efforts. Following the compilation release PVI0006/IBB004, which features Mazes along side Male Bonding, Cold Pumas, Fair Ohs and more of that ‘slacker indie’, the outfit revealed their debut A Thousand Heys to mixed reception.