Seazoo: Dog Hotel/Royal Tattoos (self released)
The good folks at Seazoo Lab, in Wrexham, appear to be working double time these days. Nat Lyon appreciates their efforts.
It seems like almost yesterday that I reviewed the July release of the Uncle Ken Remix. By all accounts they turned in a very tidy performance in late October at the Sŵn Festival– and the weekend coincided with the release of a new single, Dog Hotel b/w Royal Tattoos.
In their relatively short life as a “real” band (April 2013) – Seazoo have released a great first effort EP (Ken) and opened their work up to sonic experiments (the Uncle Ken Remix EP). Dog Hotel is another step forward – though at the rate they’re going it seems that Ben Trow and Llinos Griffiths are more accurately leaping forward (this time joined on drums by Seazoo Lab research associate Steffan Owens). Like the previous works, Dog Hotel is a complete DIY affair and with each new iteration the quality of Seazoo’s writing, music, and recording noticeably improve. Actually, Seazoo is starting to blow my mind more than a little.
The title track to the single, Dog Hotel, starts less frantically than most of the songs in the Seazoo catalogue. Ben Trow plays a combination of loose psyche rock riffs and choppy chords that are rich and sparkly. And when Llinos Griffiths steps in with the second vocal and keyboards you’re well into the hook and the song is hitting full stride nearly from the start. With a pretty minimal arrangement (guitar, bass, drums, keyboard), Team Seazoo shows builds a tight, up tempo, and very smiley melody without overdoing it. The lyrics are gauzy and abstract but the dog imagery looms large: “And have you seen him faithful by the gravestone? Collared to be well known yeah!”
The engineering is top notch for a home recording and the music matches perfectly. They’ve been doing they’re homework at Seazoo Lab and it shows. From this point forward, I’m never going to refer to Seazoo as home recorded again because with Dog Hotel they have turned in their lo-fi badge. Seazoo are now DIY pros of first order. Unlike the previous two Seazoo EPs, the sound is extremely smooth and each instrument is distinctive and joyfully played. Griffiths’s synth parts are minimal, yet integral to the sound of every song and her voice adds another dimension to the lyrics. The guitar tone is clean, and Trow applies non standard techniques rather than clichéd leads or pyrotechnics to bring additional interest to both Dog Hotel and Royal Tattoos. While Trow and Griffiths are both more than competent percussionists, the contribution here from Steffan Owens kicks these two songs up a notch.
The B side to the single, Royal Tattoos, is another great piece of pop and this is quickly becoming one of my favorites. There is a lot of subtlety and care in Seazoo’s arrangements and the dual boy/girl vocals make the lyrics sound especially heartfelt in this song about tattoos and identity, “We’ve got marks on our bodies, marks in our minds, yeah it’s marked on the family, markings to hide,” sums up the message, but the melody gives it a soft punch. While Royal Tattoos clocks in under two and a half minutes it has all of the proper, and wonderful elements that give Seazoo a distinctive sound. The first verse is less than 20 seconds long and then you are very gently launched into the lush pop chaos of the two part chorus.
If you liked Ken and Uncle Ken then you are in for an absolute treat with Dog Hotel. The lyrics use simple language to tell very not simple stories in less than three minutes. The vocals and musical performance create a quiet sense of urgency without panic and the melodies on this new single show that Seazoo is quickly, pleasantly, and quietly evolving. This is thoughtful, proper and smart pop (with a wonderful twist of the abstract) in the spirit of Yo La Tengo and Gorky’s Zygotic Mynci.