If there was a Venn diagram that showed pop, electronica, and leftfield/indie in the outer sections there are not many people who could claim the centre spot, but with their deft ability to meld organic and electronic elements together firestations own property there. The band are Mike Cranny, Laura Copsey, Martin Thompson, Giles Littleford and Tom Hargreaves and this EP release, Pixel Wilderness, is the third in their ‘Automatic Tendencies’ project: three EPs over a six month period. These EPs feature original work, covers and remixes of other artists.

‘Machine Country’ kicks off the six tracks with its “retro-futurist lament looking at the highs and lows of losing your sense of self in the wild hinterland of the internet”. The looping guitar lines manage to convey the sense of a machine working away behind everything and it’s also packed tight with widescreen harmonies. ‘Sun In Your Eyes’ is an unreleased track from the early days of the band that has been given a make-over for this release. It has a killer hook that bursts through the soft patter of the high-low-vocals, like lens flare streaking across this track with its message of resilience. At the mid-point of the EP ‘It’s Unreal’ is a reflective pause with the guitar acting like ripples on the surface of synthesised water.

‘Outpost Index’ sounds a more pastoral take on Simon & Garfunkel (or possibly Kings of Convenience as the lyrics reference “quiet is the new loud”) with close harmony vocals accompanied by gently picked guitar and lush waves of synth to help you break free of gravity. This EP’s cover is provided by The Leaf Library who have re-worked ‘The Circular’ from the Melted Medium EP and they have put up great walls of fuzzed guitar which create a haze around the central vocal line and lilting horn parts. It’s like corrugated metal surrounding a beautiful garden and if you could dream up folk-metal this would be its exemplar. The closing track is a remix of 2020’s ambient release ‘Dream Home’, and whereas the original was full of tweeting birds, shifting sonic patterns from the vocals and synthesisers and an 808-like beat, this version has a sharper focus with a more defined bass line, a Bontempi beat, and the birds have been replaced by synthetic murmuration’s that flock in and out of the track.

firestations weave a sense of hope mixed with a few threads of melancholy and, as a set, Automatic Tendencies, Melted Medium and now Pixel Wilderness form a perfect triangle, and any architect will tell you that it’s the strongest shape. firestations alt-pop is purposeful and forms a glorious nexus between drone, ambient, jangling guitars, perfectly crafted riffs, verdant harmonies and entrancing tunes that seem to come directly from your subconscious. This is sensory stimulation that goes to 11.

Pixel Wilderness is out on the Lost Maps label.

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Review by Paul F Cook

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