Jez Williams, Andy Williams, and Jimi Goodwin have been together as a band for nearly ten years; they just haven’t always called themselves Doves. For the earlier part of the 90s, the three Manchester lads comprised the UK acid-house act Sub Sub. They enjoyed modest underground success, attracting guest vocalists such as Tricky and New Order’s Bernard Sumner, and appearing on an early Astralwerks Records compilation.
But the trio yearned for something more than as Goodwin puts it “[being put] in a corner we didn’t want to be in, with all the disco dollies.” A few years back, as Sub Sub was laying down tracks for their second album, their yearnings became reality. A studio fire wiped out all of their equipment, all of their master tapes, and essentially wiped out Sub Sub. Rather than trying to rebuild the band from scratch, the Williams brothers and Goodwin opted to scrap the whole techno thing and become a rock band.
Re-christened as Doves, their debut album Lost Souls was released last year on Astralwerks. It’s an interesting twist, not only because the label had previously carried the trio in their electronic incarnation, but also because looking at Astralwerks’ roster, the band bearing the closest resemblance to Doves is the French moog-goove duo Air…and the resemblance isn’t that close. Lost Souls’ atmospheric opener, the instrumental “Firesuite,” is slightly akin to “La Femme D’Argent” from Air’s Moon Safari, and both bands keep a subtle reverb ambience throughout the whole of their work. The similarities stop there, however.
Where Air leans towards dreamy space-pop, Doves go for a more grandiose sound. “Rise” is an ethereal trip, but it is also intensely dramatic. Lofty keys and strong drumming flesh out a constant guitar line A resounding harmonica solo carries the song to its climax. The feedback-laden “The Cedar Room” recalls Chrome-era Catherine Wheel, and the straight-up rocker “Catch The Sun” intricately layers harmonized vocals and doubled fuzz-guitar. Even the simple, somber ballad “The Man Who Told Everything” is kicked into ultra-agonizing mode thanks to a string quartet and well placed low-key guitar noise.
Mood swings also characterize Lost Souls. The positively catchy “Melody Calls” gradually declines to the melancholy “A House,” a drum-free acoustic number whose vibe is distended by an organ and a sample of a rumbling train. The bonus track “Darker,” with a chunky guitar riff and rough drums, dives deeper into the realm of anger.
Lost Souls is pure brilliance, and the trio has hit the road in support of it. Their first U.S. jaunt brings then to Philadelphia’s Upstage this weekend. While it remains to be seen how well the album’s layered complexity will translate with just three guys onstage, the result shouldn’t be anything less than stellar. If you can, check it out, as Doves won’t be contained by tiny venues for much longer.
If you go:
Doves w/ the Stokes
Saturday, Feb. 24, 9 p.m.
Upstage, 22 S. 3rd St.