Words by Greg Walker
Venice Beach, CA instrumental duo Movie Club excel at maximising minimalism, creating a vast sonic profusion from just guitar, drums, bass, and the occasional trumpet and flute.
Drummer Jessamyn Violet and guitarist Vince Cuneo have been on the up and up since Movie Club’s 2018 inception, already boasting four EPs and a debut full-length, as well as notable support slots, headlining tours, and residencies at L.A.’s House of Machines, Brooklyn’s C’mon Everybody, and most recently their Psychedelic Circus residency at Hollywood’s Harvard & Stone. This wealth of expression culminates in the release of the fully formed sophomore album, Great White.
The first thing that struck me about Movie Club’s latest LP is the standout album cover, a blacker than black background brilliantly contrasting the vibrancy of a hibiscus flower laid in central position, haloed by the stark arid white of a dried shark jaw bone. My immediate thought was this would make an excellent t-shirt.
Intro track Requiem establishes the album’s ambition and makes way for the lead single released way back in March; Spinner is an instant time warp, a trip back to the 1970s coming in layers, a neat rhythm setting the foundations for an overlay of free-flowing fuzzy guitar exploration. Tim Lefebvre‘s bass wah bears resemblance for this old metalhead to Cliff Burton‘s innovative work on Metallica‘s instrumentals The Call Of Ktulu and Orion.
Finding myself easily absorbed in the roving tune, the four-and-a-half-minute ride feels much shorter and ends on a brief bar of a vintage 70s heavy metal riff. An encompassing introduction to Great White.
Speaking of the 70s, second track Crocodile is a hefty collection of the classic era, effortlessly contrasting a hefty main riff with a subtle groove and a tasty bassline with a meandering climaxing solo. Reef is ambient, laid back, a little climb snapping you out of drifting away. There’s a hint of a Black Sabbath or Ghost feel when Reef attacks that retro vibe. Thresher is the second single, with a determined tempo that ticks over with bursts of urgency. Accompanied by beautifully audible bass work, the track is a slow build to a rattling crescendo.
Dusk is aptly titled, conjuring images of a fading day, scenes of a sunset descending over an abandoned desert landscape. An all too brief experience, Dusk is striking in its subtlety.
Fourth single Tiger is another example of Movie Club creating a gorgeous trip in which to lose yourself with little flourishes here and there to keep you focused yet relaxed in the atmosphere. Clearly divided into three sections, the opening stanza establishing a sense of ease to be followed by a slow woozy central piece complete with trumpet by David Ralicke, the third act coming in with a lively heartbeat. Coming full circle to close out the lengthiest track on Great White with a combination of all elements introduced, Tiger is an intriguing journey.
Galapagos demonstrates that the drumming throughout is understated yet essential, the other instruments seeming to act as support to the faithful percussive groove on this one rather than traditionally the other way around. Emphasised by the accented beats making my point, these punches close the song out abruptly. The opposite is the case on Kitefin where a beautiful guitar melody creates mood over the heavy riff, flowing effortlessly into ambiance and back again, orbiting back to the opening vibe to finish.
Closing with Goblin, the third single (fittingly released on Halloween) opens with a dark feel unlike anything on the rest of the album, Movie Club’s nostalgic dalliances retreating way back to indulge a very 1930s horror feel. Goblin is devoid of the sunny feel of the other tracks, stark and haunting, unusual but compelling, a curious addition and an intriguing end to the album.
I love an album that is a journey, and Great White is certainly that. Expressive, ambient, a spinning galaxy of vibrant musical colours and textures, Movie Club has mastered the modern retro feel. As Cuneo concludes, “I believe this record is a true representation of who we are as a band right now while also opening doors to new sonic possibilities to come”.
It will be interesting to be along for their ride from here.