London based duo, Big Deal, first grasped our hearts with their stripped bare debut record, Lights Out. An LP forged by two desolate voices musing over unrequited love, longing and lust, all to the sound of two guitars interweaving like isolated threads combining into one brittle, cohesive lament. For the pair’s sophomore album, June Gloom, the band have maintained the raw intimacy of their first offering but lassoed in drums and bass for a full band arrangement. If the body of Lights Out hinted at a group with a penchant to embrace grunge pop, June Gloom realises this theory thanks to Rory Attwell on production duties (Paws/Veronica Falls).
Alice Costelloe and Kacey Underwood’s new release is akin to the duo cooing together as before but with Attwell alumni, Paws acting as their backing band (they are good buds after all). Both Costelloe and Kacey sound unmoved by their new found love for fuzzed up riffs and crashing drums, the twosome act as the eye of the storm and the remaining buzz of noise is the chaotic outskirts. First single ‘teradactol’ brought Big Deal back with a bang thanks to the tracks massive drums, static like fretwork and stop/start shifts in dynamics. Think of ‘teradactol’ as a warning shot because the rest of June Gloom doesn’t veer too far from this nuggets template. Follow up single ‘in your car’ takes a more pop grunge approach with a simple rock ‘n’ roll like sensibility about it.
Ultimately June Gloom is a big jump from the pair’s debut but it’s not an unpredictable surprise, more of a necessary evolution for Big Deal. Costelloe and Kacey have not completely shunned their past lives either and at times the two worlds collide, notably on ‘pg’, which erupts into a wall of reverb fuzz to then dissolve into almost nothingness, this nugget plays out like a tug of war between the intimate Big Deal and the new noisier unit. Equally when the Londoners foray back into pin drop poignancy like on the delicate ‘little dipper’, which flickers like a solitary candle on a window sill thanks to a lullaby like guitar line and Big Deal’s hushed tones, the two piece haven’t forgotten their roots.
Interestingly when Costelloe and Kacey stray from their previous lives and their new found kinship with grunge, you’ll find further uncharted territory. ‘Dream Machine’ incorporates an 80s drum beat and something that can be almost euphoric while the brooding ‘pillow’ illustrates a dark ambience to June Gloom with a sound that sashays from stark beginnings to a hazy, crescendo driven finale.
“A change is as good as a rest”, the old saying goes and with June Gloom, Big Deal have taken the bold step to mess with the blueprint without completely jettisoning their past and not unlike the album’s moniker, the pair’s new sonics are the equivalent to a storm cloud smeared across a summers sky.
Words and Thoughts of Adam Williams