GULF // Emitter
Renaissance is a term that’s nowadays thrown around with real indifference, more of a go-to adjective for marketing professionals than a ‘real’ word, but it’s fair to say that it could fairly be applied to left-field pop music in Liverpool at the moment. GULF are the latest act to add to this supposed ‘rebirth’ of finding melodies in the strangest places, a musical u-turn that’s perhaps as close to objectively proved as possible by the success of Liverpool’s International Festival of Psychedelia over the weekend.
Call it overstating the case, or mistaking the allure of partaking in a cocktail of drugs assumed to be abandoned in the 70s and viciously-hopped craft ales in a cavernous warehouse for shifting ideas; but somewhere near the river Mersey this weekend a sold out crowd were blinded by a smorgasbord of motorik beats and warping hooks. Ask me (and for the purposes of this piece continuing I’ll assume that you have) and I’ll tell you that both phenomena are the result of an ever-changing mindset and aesthetic of a city.
Sounds like the sort of thing that a primary-school level sociologist might pop out with, but give it a second’s thought and accept its obviously general nature, and it’s impossible to escape the conclusion that culturally rich cities of course do have collective mentalities to some extent. And though groups will buy into those attitudes to different extents, there’s no doubt that GULF’s wobbly, sun-baked strain of psych-rock bears an expansive, experimental mindset reflected by many of the city’s bands, venues, magazines, and, yes, festivals.
The importance of that mindset of course is the paradox that it is both encouraged and defined to some extent by the city, but leads to music that transcends definition by regions. Essentially, GULF seem to reflect the sea-change playing out in Liverpool, but sound definitively global in scope and ambition.
‘Emitter’ is the first we’ve heard from the outfit, (who interestingly claim to “not really tie in with the current Liverpool scene”) and it sounds sturdy enough to support the broader resurgence in psych-sounds, let alone the one in Liverpool. Tame Impala comparisons may abound, but ‘Emitter’ seems unique in how overtly melodic it is. It may be making overtures to the mind-altering, but at heart it’s a perfectly poised pop song, balanced just on the edge of extroversion and clarity.
The main difference between the two bands is that everything grabs hold of you rather than gliding by and nudging you into a state of inertia: from the warm, disorientated guitars that announce the track to the floating synths they collide against, literally everything feels like a hook. In that sense that might just have out-Tame-Impala’d Tame Impala, which is quite an impressive achievement for any band, anywhere.