The Lonely Surfer

New single from the Fang Bomb label is by Sons of Viljems, a guitar & bass duo comprising Andrea Giommi, an Italian musician who has also performed briefly with Leg Leg and Edible Woman; and Nejc Haberman, a Slovenian fellow who played with a band called Jazoo, a combo notable for their ambitious musical appetites, embracing jazz, ethnic music, ambient and electronica under one roof.

At one time I could rely on Fang Bomb to send me gorgeous records of depressing, wretched abstract noise and cryptical audio statements of a challenging nature, but today’s item – jointly released on their subsidiary label, Future Homes – shows a move towards more tuneful and accessible zones in the pop song form. In fact the label press describes Jelena / Steaming Black Sea (HAUS 001) as “melancholic drone pop”. Filip Sijanec joins the team for this outing, working hard to provide additional instrumental richness with his keyboards, percussion, tapes, and backing vocals; Filip has a background in film score composition, and SOV may be counting on his sense of dramatic poise to add a certain amount of smoky film-noir intrigue to the session. The song ‘Jelena’ has the kind of strained, whispered non-sung vocals that do very little for me on this occasion, but I can appreciate the musicians are aiming for a sinister gothy vibe with the bass guitar’s simple repeated figure taking the role of a stalker following us down a smokey street by night, with malign intent. The emotional range is deliberately restricted, much like the minimal musical arrangements; we’re left with a puzzle in song form, our expectations left dangling by the uncertain ending.

Pound for pound, I’m getting a richer sensual dive from ‘Steaming Black Sea’ on the flip; all instrumental, sombre and moody, with a dash of sleaze and menace added by guest sax toots of Matjaz Mlakar. The bass guitar is tentatively trying for something deep and menacing in the Kevin Martin mode, hence the press notes reference to “knee-deep in dub”, but he hasn’t quite got the necessary weight and heft. It’s Giommi’s strung-out guitar solo that saves the day. Feeding her axe through the FX pedal marked “plangent and depressive”, she turns in a post-modern take on The Ventures, played slowly and deliberately, as if attempting to surf on a sluggish wave in this “steaming black sea”. The combo make more of an effort to structure the tune this time, so for 6:39 mins we’re carried through a mini-symphony of sorts, with its modulations and crescendos (all very understated, of course). Limited edition 7-inch package which is a splendid tactile item. From 26 May 2021.