Something of a litmus test happens early on in Still Corners’ debut. It comes in the form of the word “cuckoo,” and it’s repeated often throughout the song of the same name.
It’s a ridiculous word, especially in a grown-up song with twilight atmospheres and a feeling of romantic confusion. Yet Still Corners has a secret weapon: vocalist Tessa Murray.
She doesn’t sing so much as quietly exhale, with words appearing like mystical creatures that slowly dissolve into warmly minimal and foggy atmospheres. Still Corners invites such English Lit 101 descriptions, as their music lives in the shadows without being Gothic. Indeed, the London quartet is adept at conjuring a mix of synths and reverb that touches on melodies as often as it obscures them.
Those who stick with this 10-song, 32-minute effort will find plenty that’s rewarding. “Endless Summer” places one foot in Girl Group classicism but stretches out with a dizzying organ, ripped either from a haunted house or an old Broadcast song, and a chorus that’s all rhythm and bewitching croons. “Circulars” goes so far as to largely do without vocals. Listeners hear Murray’s teasing whisper in the back, but as Leon Dufficy’s guitar vibrates like a metal scythe, one doesn’t know if she’s seducing or running.
Creatures of an Hour is primarily about creating mood, and its relatively brisk run-time ensures it doesn’t overstay its welcome. It’s a familiar sound—a more spooked Stereolab or a less-aggressive Electrelane—but it’s done well and hints that the best is still to come. “I Wrote in Blood,” for instance, sees Murray acting femme-fatale cool, singing over a guitar riff anxiously tip-tapping away. “Wrote a little book where I put your name,” she sings, and it’s a music/lyric combo that says just enough to let one’s mind run wild. —Todd Martens