Album Review: Exit Spells – Exit Spells

Exit Spells is the self-titled debut album from York-based electronic duo Exit Spells. It’s a soothing sonic landscape of such a high quality I found myself wondering why I hadn’t come across these guys before.

By Graeme Smith

A great album needs a few things. One of them is a strong production. The co-production and mixing for Exit Spells comes from Abe Seiferth who has worked with the likes of Yeasayer, Nation of Language and Car Seat Headrest and everything has a rich, professional feel to it.

But well-produced music is nothing without a solid idea and a sense of voice. Exit Spells is nine tracks of layered synth, smooth vocals and a deep sense of brooding. Men with synths inevitably draws comparisons for me with Pet Shop Boys and Kraftwerk and you can see their legacy in Exit Spells’ music. It’s more romantically ambient though – better suited to the bedroom than the dancefloor.

It’s tricky to call out any individual tracks from an album that feels like a cohesive whole but special consideration should be given to the three singles released so far. Bishops, Gaps and Summer Flow. Summer Flow in particular stuck in my mind. There’s a wonderful sense of texture to it, with loud and quiet moments and a delicately unfolding melody. It builds to a wonderfully melodramatic climax, tinged with a sense of regret.

Also of note is the track that follows straight on from Summer Flow – And Then It Spoke. It represents an experimental interlude at the heart of the album, featuring distorted vocal samples and an ever-present percussion that feels like a ticking timebomb. The explosion at the end is Afterglow, bombastic compared to what has come before with driving percussion and big, echoing notes.

Proceedings close with Clipped Heels, an ambitious, slow-building effort which runs for almost seven minutes. As it progresses, the brooding opens up to something lighter. Regret is replaced by hope, memory with anticipation. It closes with a singularity of a note which will resonate in your head even when you are suddenly returned to silence.

Exit Spells is an excellent debut for an act that could well be York’s next big musical export, following in the footsteps of The Howl And The Hum and Bull. Watch this space. The album is released digitally on 14 June, with a vinyl release planned for later this year.