Pauw was one of the bands that were promised a great future in the first Oor Magazine of this year. This blog took on the challenge and gave its own view on Oor's choices for 2015 and yes, Pauw was a band that sounded like the promise was only a matter of time to be fulfilled. Come October and the debut album is there. Wo. delves in and checks whether the promise is fulfilled.
In a sense Macrocosm Microcosm is a double anachronism. The music is out of fashion since almost forever and it was in fashion for a very short period of time. Let's give it a little over a year around the original Summer of Love. The musicians on this album were not around at the time, perhaps some of their parents even weren't. That somehow makes it a bit weird that Pauw plays this kind of music. It only has a very limited time span to draw inspiration from and there is an end to how retro one can remain.
This is something different from whether Macrocosm Microcosm (MM) is a bad or superfluous album. It isn't, to give pause to potential uneasy feelings. There are many things that speak in favour of the album, a few that do not.
What Pauw does in a great way is to recreate something that went before in a grand style. Close your eyes and you can project yourself in any hippie venue in 1967 with hashish scents all around you, tripping people and fluid injections projected on walls until the moment you can't perceive what's real and what's not any more. The music on MM is of a fleeting and floating quality. The sounds coming out of the Mellotron take care of that in a beautiful way. The soft voice of Brian Pots does the rest. Layers of sound, carefully smeared out over the total soundscape make MM inescapable.
The second feather in the band's hat is for the songwriting. It obviously has listened to the best in the genre and with a critical ear too. Pauw took the sound and took notion of the craft of writing and continued to skip all the insanity and crazy stuff that made some of the music in 1967 and early 1968 so unlistenable. Instead they added some progressive rock into the hippie sound. The song that ends this album, 'Glare Pt2', may be a great pointer towards the direction Pauw may take in the future. The song is huge with layers of sounds and instruments that may take at least ten people to recreate on stage. A great way to end an album.
MM starts not unlike Jacco Gardner's debut album, one of the only negative reviews I've written on this blog. Because I had the impression that Gardner never came free from his icons or better the sound of his icons and forgot about himself in a few senses. Pauw starts MM this way as well. Despite the bite that 'Memories' has in the intro and the drums, it stays a bit to obvious throughout the song. Although I can understand Pauw wanted to start with this song, at the same time it's left its aces up its sleeve. The band grows by the song, incorporates a David Gilmour guitar lick here and there in an upper tempo song. A song like 'Visions' shows a band that incorporates familiar elements into its own vision and grows to another level. Feather three.
That brings us to the fourth feather, the arranging. Pauw is not afraid to go bombastic without going all out. Most of the time the album presents a delicate balance between a full and a too full sound. Often the band found an interesting melody or two to pursue throughout a song, with enough left to discover with every next listening session.
Key song remains 'Shambhala', with its sitar and Indian flavour. The über hippie song of MM that was on the EP as well. The main melody reminds me of Kula Shaker, but both bands have the same origins in musical taste. What else shines through? The early Pink Floyd (and David Gilmour in the 70s), Traffic, The Beatles are all influences, without becoming irritating for one second. Pauw takes the best and went to work with that. The organ on repeat from 'Who's Next' is on this album in a soft and unpretentious way, in 'Abyss'. This song combines the best of '2.000 Lightyears From Home' with a Calexico desert twang. Another great song.
On a bad day I think the voice of Brian Pots is too mellow and soft. I take to another sort of album straight away. Just like I cannot stand this hippie music all the time. Taking that away, Pauw has made a debut album it can be most proud of. The band succeeded in taking a musical idiom that was all but dead and buried (no, I know I've reviewed a dozen other bands at least in the past two years playing this music) and made it into something that is almost of today. Macrocosm Microcosm turned out as good as I had hoped after listening to the EP this winter. An EP that sold out all to fast by the way. Time to do some repressing.
Pauw has released an album that in nothing can't compare to anything I heard in this genre over the past two years. In fact it may score better than many of these records. The band must be as proud as a pauw I guess.
You can listen to 'Visions' here:
or buy on Bol.com