London trio Belleruche notch up their fourth LP with the release of Rollerchain, and though it's not a total change in direction, fans of their previous release 270 Stories might find themselves a little confused by the spacey, restrained electro, trip-hop, almost garagey-sounding approach on the new album.
The warmer, rhythmic, percussion-led songs on 270 Stories have been replaced by darker, bass-led, broken beat tracks. They're still catchy, still emotive, and Kathrin deBoer's eerie vocals range from childlike to seductive, fragile to scornful.
There's a lot of space between the layers of bleeps, acoustic guitar, bass, and sparse drums, and the production sounds a little cold for such an intimate palette, perhaps a little aggressive and sharp. That may be the sound they were going for, as a contrast to the haunting vocals - it's just not entirely convincing in engaging the ear. It's a little frustrating given that this somewhat esoteric, modern and clever album has much to offer in its thoughtful songs, and occasionally the odd production blend works - Cloverleaf is a mid-album confounder that somehow pulls at the heart, 16 Minutes draws you in with its mesmerising repetition, and Limelight is a whimsical, up-tempo catchy dance-floor number that shows off deBoer's pop talents.
Belleruche are clearly interested in pushing boundaries, and evolving their style, but though there are some cool ideas here, they haven't quite joined all the links together with Rollerchain.