Any time a band says they’ve completely ripped up their formula and started over, alarm bells go off for fans everywhere. We could worry devotees of Admiral Fallow further by telling them that the Glasgow collective, who charmed us all with their rich but subtle blend of traditional instrumentation, have ditched the acoustic guitars and started talking enthusiastically about loops, effects and, uhm, “big disco party sections”.
But while it’s true that they’ve have reinvented themselves considerably, Tiny Rewards is still unmistakably an Admiral Fallow record, and another brilliant one at that. The story of 2012’s Tree Bursts In Snow was about how Louis Abbott had realised his bandmates played more instruments than he had known and he swiftly put them to work. Three years on, Tiny Rewards is the sound of them getting truly inventive in how they go about using them.
Yes, they use lots of loops. Yes, they use lots of effects. The big brooding sound of ‘Happened In The Fall’, the endless loops on ‘Holding The Strings’ and driving rhythms of ‘Some Kind of Life’ – this is stuff you have never heard the likes of before from Admiral Fallow. But no, they have not lost any of their charm. The trademark swirls of notes, the kaleidoscopic sounds, are still very much in evidence, like reassuring waves as the big sound of opener ‘Easy As Breathing’ gives the first signal of chance. They may have kicked things up a gear, but they have lost none of their subtlety, both in the vocals of Abbott and Sarah Hayes, but also in the little licks and touches that give them their identity.
As much as fans don’t always like the idea, any artist has to reinvent to remain vital – no one ever got anywhere by standing still. How well you manage to do it determines how successful you can be – and on this evidence, Admiral Fallow are setting their sights high.