Pepper Stars the second album from UK band Maia is one of those little treats you cannot help smiling over whilst in its company and long after its departure. As eclectic as the smells of summer and just as invitingly warm, the album takes the listener of travels which are celestial and inciting with a whisper of invigorating abrasive spice. Personal tastes dictates that the album is arguably a little undulating, but when it flicks on all the passions it is a mighty pleasure giving accomplice and when it misses some triggers it is still an enthralling and engaging companion.
Since forming the Huddersfield quartet of Tom Clegg (guitar/ ukulele/vocals), Joe Haig (piano/ trumpet/vocals, Simon Robinson (guitar/banjo/ mandolin /vocals), and Will Fletcher (drums/cajon/percussion), has released a well-received self-titled debut album and the equally successful Alligator EP, as well as making a critically acclaimed appearance at the 2011 Cambridge Folk Festival, headlining The Royal Festival Hall, Southbank Centre on New Year’s Eve the same year, and sharing stages with the likes of Anais Mitchell, The Hut People, and Jamie Smith’s Mabon, not forgetting a past year of impressive festival performances. The band is on a certain rise which the new album will surely accelerate as more people are elevated into a peaceful existence by their self tagged sci-fi Folk.
The album begins with distance disruptions of space and air at the beginning of Alien, the intrigue growing with the inviting guitar caresses and equally tender vocals and harmonies. The song builds to heated crescendos with eager beats and strolling melodies, swapping them often and fluidly with the slow wraps of beauty. The song is like looking up at the night sky, an expansive calm energised by striking movement and aural colour.
Leading to the album release the band has released a trio of acclaimed singles, all included on the album with the first following the great start. Zuma Aluma is simply glorious, an infectious soak of bewitching harmonies and refreshing melodies all delivered with a swing and loving swagger. It is a dessert of pop grandeur held in a precise and under indulgent weave of imagination. If you are not swaying and joining in with the chorus by the midway of the song than you just might be dead inside.
The diversity of the album is as impressive as the creativity, the collection of songs an ever evolving presence for thoughts and senses to devour with ease. Songs like Alright Adventures, a stunning rolling sea of unpredictable sounds and harmonic genius with a wonderful touch of thrilling discord to its climax whilst sounding like a striking mix of Talking Heads and XTC, and the slowly kissing title track with the falsetto group vocals which mark the band and delicate guitar touches siren like, both bringing new worlds and breaths to an already diverse trip for the heart.
As mentioned at the start not all songs quite ignite the same mighty flames inspired by others, but without debate tracks like Dear Lo, Where Else On Earth, and Sundown leave mesmeric warmth inside with their presence which moves through sultry and sensual to angelic and celebratory. As ever it is just personal taste but there is not a moment on Pepper Stars where you will be looking forward to the next song whilst in the arms of another.
Further pinnacles on the release come in current single The Grandfather Plan, a seductive mariachi coated dance for the senses, and the equally ‘wanton’ Living In The Alligator. Both hypnotise with melodic beauty fused to fiery horn teasing, the first a gentle walk of smouldering heat like a golden sunset and the other a folk dance which just cannot not sit still beneath the again sensational harmonies and electrified disturbances which line the sky of the song. It is the jazzy feistiness which steals the show though, adding another thrilling proposition from a mighty song. Arguable the loftiest plateau is found with More Strangely Than The Moon, the track another glorious confrontation for the passions, its southern twang and again mariachi/fiesta swing a contagion just impossible to resist.
Released via Vandal Records, Pepper Stars is a fourteen song delight which despite its size just flies by, its compelling and ravishing company seemingly a mere few minutes of your life offered up eagerly. It and Maia are treats to heat the coming winter months and spice the lives of all, an essential investigation for all at the very least.
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