[sic] Magazine

Girls Names – Arms Around A Vision

As a concept, ‘home’ is difficult to pin down. Some may pine for a place of birth or adolescence. If you’re a happy sort it’s often wherever you lay your hat. Others may still be searching. Girls Names hail from Belfast, but musically – and temporally – they’re all over the map. Arms Around A Vision is the new-look four-piece’s third LP and, having already taken in gloomy garage-surf and blushing New Wave synths on previous outings, it picks up where this year’s kraut-rocking Zero Triptych EP left off – a three-piece homage to the Zero Group art movement none of which features here. Roaming then the square-jawed Straßen of Düsseldorf and Köln, as well as being run through with the atonal angles of post-punk, a track like “Desire Oscillations” maximises accordingly on half-mast micro-repeats and organ drone. The metallic clatter that opens the LP on the other hand breaks new ground in anyone’s book, the remainder of “Reticence” veering between the dark dissonance of Eagulls and label-mates Autobahn and much more svelte synth work.

Arms Around A Vision’s 45-minute running time is split into three distinct parts by two palate-cleansing instrumentals. Any notion of high art should be left at the door, however, because this is an album set up for full-frontal immediacy. Right on cue, the six-minute single, “A Hunger Artist”, dares you to look away as gets by on the bread line. Gauging the opposition with a few well trained jabs, it blends steely riffs with stellar organ, arpeggiator scales and braying sax, Claire Miskimmin’s magnetic bassline cadged from a kosmische version of Blondie’s “Atomic”.

Relishing the new direction, singer Cathal Cully finds favour in the anti-frontman role, stumbling and slurring his way around the mix at a near-spoken word reminiscent of a certain Mark E. Smith. As his drunken, melodic sneer flirts with high-frequency synths and despondent surges, Girls Names’ orbit begins to align with another recent art-punk convert: Iceage. Like the angry Danes, they deploy a wealth of instrumentation and hooks and each is riding a wave of cleaner, more controlled production, but so too in each camp is there a bit of identity crisis going on. As was last year’s Plowing Into The Field Of Love, Arms Around A Vision is a bit blurred as a result, its message – or indeed point – often hard to extract.

Dragging the album above the mire thoughout though are Miskimmin’s killer basslines. Before disappearing into a k-hole of reverb, “Chrome Rose” partners one with shooting space-rock synths, for example. The interplay with the guitar on “Dysmorphia” is straight out of the Interpol canon, Cully’s sleazy vocal spat out in disdain on this occasion. Another belting bassline undercuts the icy jangle of effects on the standout “Málaga” and, alongside a heavily distorted outro, it makes for a real exercise in contrasting tones: beauty and the beast stuff. Even the Nick Cave-like minimal art-punk of “I Was You” has a spidery bass turn tiptoeing around its thudding and blackened heart. With so much going on, Girls Names may not quite know the way home with their current direction, but wherever they’re headed you’ll be sure to hear them coming.

Best track: “Málaga”

~Arms Around A Vision is released October 2nd 2015 via Tough Love.~