Album Review: Pynch – Howling at a Concrete Moon

Occupying a unique sonic space somewhere between indie and electronic, Pynch are a band that fuse together pop guitars, glitchy synths, dance-worthy drumbeats, and thought-provoking lyricisms.

Their highly anticipated debut album Howling at a Concrete Moon, released under Chillburn Recordings, co-produced by Andy Ramsay of Stereolab, and whose name is taken from a Simpsons episode, epitomises all that makes this band special. It’s an absolute joy from start to finish. Not only is it sonically dynamic and unpredictable throughout, each track’s lyrics are emotive and wry – ever bouncing between the personal and the political. They explore themes from love to the disillusionment that comes with growing up in an austere Britain, all the while accompanied by wistfully textured, lo-fi instrumentals. The album is buoyant, nostalgic, even at times poignant; and epitomises as well as romanticises the dichotomy between the inner city and the stars.

‘Haven’t Lived a Day’ kicks it all off with a soaring Sonic Youth-esque guitar driven melody and synth sounds that twinkle in the background, as lyrics grapple with modern-day existentialism and feeling directionless. These synth-made sparkles float around in the background of most of the songs on the album, elevating the feel of the music and, it could be said, echoing its themes of urbanisation and city dwelling – almost making you feel as if you can look past all the skyscrapers and light pollution and into a clear starry night. The same goes for penultimate track ‘London’ – a relatable song that explores living through financial and housing crises, with lyrics such as “is this everything you ever dreamed? Is this everything that you thought it would be?” evoking the disillusionment that comes with growing up in such a turbulent cultural and economic landscape. ‘Disco Lights’ has a bright, classic indie guitar sound and gritty bass, and ‘2009’ is more akin to dreampop, lyrically traversing the nostalgia of youth in the noughties. The track is almost bittersweet in both its melody and lyrical reminiscences of simpler, more innocent times.

‘The City’, which is split into two parts, is a real highlight. It demonstrates the band’s inventiveness and shows their capacity to make both striking creative and political points through their music. In a reversal, ‘The City (Part 2)’ comes first on the track list. It’s a slower, balladlike track which paints a lonely picture of city life and the monotony of a 9-5. “Is this what we were made for?” is the question that leads the chorus, to which Spencer (vocals) answers, “fuck no” before a booming and cathartic crescendo takes over. ‘The City (Part 1)’ then switches this melancholy on its head, with playful LCD Soundsystem-esque drum beats, a bass-led melody and echoey vocals, the song marvels at a city’s beauty and that “tomorrow is a lifetime away”. It’s an impressive and exciting sonic journey. Closer ‘Somebody Else’ brings the album to a sentimental and cathartic end, almost akin to the credit scene of an 80s coming-of-age movie – with an unfaltering bass line and drumbeat, almost jarringly unexpected synth arpeggios, reflective lyrics, and swaying instrumentals that epitomise their signature lo-fi sound.

All in all, Howling at a Concrete Moon is a triumphant debut album filled with indie groovers and earworm tracks. There are songs to dance to, yet also songs to listen to while staring wistfully into the night sky. However optimistic or disillusioned you might feel about the future, there’s something on there to be the soundtrack.

‘Howling at a Concrete Moon’ is out on 14th April 2023 via Chillburn Recordings

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Review by Rebecca Kesteven (Instagram)

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