How many pundits frantically casting their runes back in 1999 for predictions for the new millennium would have foreseen that TURIN BRAKES would be releasing their seventh studio album in 2016? Back then, they were hotly-tipped young ingénues, and we all know what usually happens to them in the heartless world of showbiz… Since then, music business headlines have become a catalogue of collapse. We just don’t do long-lived acts any more, haven’t you heard?
Step away from the shrinking world of the mainstream business, though, and it seems like there’s another story going on, right under your nose, so close that it’s hiding in plain sight. While many of the rest of the class of 2000 seem forever frozen into the faces in their yearbook pictures, Turin Brakes are still making their way through the century’s changing landscape. Their association with now-fallen giants EMI yielded four internationally-acclaimed albums, with all the trappings of hit singles, billboard ads, and the TV transmissions that are now beaming their way endlessly into space, but the glare of the spotlight left the secret at the heart of their vision still intact and waiting to be discovered.
Turin Brakes was created by Olly Knights and Gale Paridjanian, in a millennial South London bedroom, more out of a shared need to express a hidden message they’d both caught at the century’s end, than in a grab for stardom. Enlisting the membership of long-term collaborators Rob Allum and Eddie Myer, the band carries on because the message is still there, still hidden, still with something to say. 2010’s OUTBURSTS was followed by 2013’s WE WERE HERE, written on the back of a continuous live touring schedule driven by their fans’ need to keep tapping in. Sending out continuous streams of under-the-radar transmissions to whoever tuned in to hear, the band found their audiences staying, then growing, as more and more listeners tumbled to the secret.
The cover artwork of their new album LOST PROPERTY shows an urban spaceman marooned in a deckchair as, behind the winter lawn, half-hidden shapes loom in the dark. The image is a perfect match for this collection of dispatches from the elusive side of reality that’s just a twist away from the everyday. Their sonic camera pans wider and deeper – trademark West-Coast acoustic guitar and widescreen harmony textures wrap themselves around the enigmatic explorations of normality at the heart of Olly Knight’s lyrics. Listen carefully beneath the lush, cinematic production the band created with co-conspirator Ali Staton in the analogue world of Rockfields’ legendary studio; and you’ll hear other hints and stories, both hopeful and unsettling, resonating with unexpected echoes from your own life. The record scales up from the intimacy of MARTINI, through the uneasy domesticity of QUIET ONES, the futuristic pulse of 96, the yearning gospel inflections of SAVE YOU and the pure folk-pop of KEEP ME AROUND into the wistfully uplifting, anthemic JUMP START, leading to the towering darkness of BLACK RABBIT. There’s the intimacy and warmth that Turin Brakes have taken along with them down the years, but this time reaching up towards something bigger, more epic in scope and darker in hue. It’s a sound yearning for the wide open spaces of the USA but rooted in the grimy streets of South London, still unique, still unforgettable.
Sixteen years of touring across continents have sealed their reputation as a fearsome live act, able to hold any size crowd with the sheer chutzpah of their no-hidden-tricks raw and direct onstage presence. Turin Brakes carry on their secret life, and with a new generation of artists like Max Jury, Aquilo and Benjamin Francis Leftwich starting to beat a path to their door to collaborate, it looks like the secret is getting out.