Electrelane's debut album, Let's Rock It To The Moon (2001), was packed with raw energy and tension. Developed over eleven dense instrumentals, the band's sound was built around hypnotic bass lines and abrasive guitars and Farfisa riffs. Heavily influenced by the krautrock movement, this album reinforced the impression created with their previous series of EPs that Electrelane were something of a unique outfit.
Originally formed in Brighton in 1998 around Verity Susman, Emma Gaze, Mia Clarke and Rachel Dalley, the band found themselves very much in demand after the release of their debut album and toured almost constantly for some time. Three years on, the band returned with their sophomore album, The Power Out, released on London-based record label Too Pure. Produced by the legendary Steve Albini, the album gave the band the opportunity to develop their sound in a different direction. Already, the EP I Want To Be The President featured vocals by Susman, and the album provided a further opportunity to showcase her deadpan voice, singing in turn in French, English, German and Spanish on half of the tracks.
Just a year later on, and following the departure of Dalley, replaced by Ros Murray, the band appear to return to some of their earlier instrumental sound with this third album. Yet, they also once again go into new directions, pushing the exploration with vocals, more convincing and assured here, and developing more organic melodic structures. Once again produced by Albini, Axes is Electrelane's more mature record. In a recent interview with David Stubbs for The Wire, the members emphasised the importance of a democratic process when composing to avoid falling into too formulaic melodies or instrumentations. This is, to a certain extend, taken to the extreme on Business Or Otherwise, which captures the band in full free improv mode. If this could sound somewhat pompous, the result is actually surprisingly light and elegant, at least in parts, and when suddenly things appear to fall into place and a melody takes shape, the synergy between the four members becomes totally palpable.
Elsewhere, Electrelane toy with a variety of mood, often referring to the energy of their original recordings without paraphrasing themselves (Those Pockets Are People, Gone Darker, Suitcase). With I Keep Loosing You, Electrelane create a delicate piece, originally built around a lonely banjo before additional layers eventually provide a subtle background for the Chicago A Cappella Choir, already featured on The Power Out's The Valleys, to throw a dense and haunting vocal blanket over. Electrelane also attempt a cover of Leonard Cohen's The Partisan, swapping the original folk mood for incendiary rock and resolutely reaffirming their own sound in the process.
Since their first album, Electrelane have brought on board a vast array of new influences, yet the creative process still derives remains almost untouched. This gives the band great diversity and versatility. If The Power Out proved a bit of a disappointment, Axes appears to takes the best of its two predecessors and build up from there, giving it a superb edge and reaffirming Electrelane as one of Britain's best leftfield rock outfits.