Words by Matt Bond

The latest offering in the CPWM 7” collection is an instant success, and a must buy in a world where independent businesses and artists in our industry need your support more than ever before. Both Van Houten and In The Morning Lights shine brightly in their own right, and yet when in unison complete a wonderful joint release.

I’ll begin with Van Houten, and the melancholic Better Than This. I’m familiar with the band, with their self-titled EP from last year standing out as a real success from what our local grassroots scene had to offer, and despite the trials and tribulations of 2020 they have truly stepped up their game in my eyes. So delicate are the vocals, so uplifting the tinkling of guitars and keys, and so warming basslines, it becomes very difficult not to be enveloped by the track. It feels balanced. I’m reminded of Kim Churchill here, early Placebo there, Bull next, and then late Bowie all in and amongst it all.

The wistful opening repetition of “there must be something better than this”, and its resonance with the listener, draw you into the narrative; from there on, you’re in. Despite the calls of “it’s moving too fast for me”, there is nothing but a sense of calm. The effortlessness in transition from verse, to chorus, to verse, to pre-chorus, to…(you get the gist) really enables Better Than This to seem complete. I find it very difficult to criticise, and even more difficult to improve on what Van Houten have put out here.

So, how do you follow that? In The Morning Lights seem to have the answer. I’m currently sitting in my garden, writing this review, and you honestly have no idea how much I needed Into Sunlight. It soars into the stratosphere, launching from an infectious, funky, groovy rhythm section, before floating back to Earth for another round. The approach and value placed on the vocals to layer the song is well-guided, and more importantly very well-executed; at no point do I feel like too much has been done to force anything. Instead, the way male and female backing vocals are layered and textured into both verse and chorus allows for a more dynamic performance on record. Occasionally I find the disparity between electronic-lead music on record versus in a live setting to be quite large, (that’s just me, sorry), but with Into Sunlight it feels so much more immersive than I’ve come to expect from similar artists.

Across the board, if I’m frank, the production on this track is absolutely spot-on. The intricately placed soundbites, looping percussion backdrops, and array of swelling synths and driving bass never overshadow each other, nor I feel the direction of the track, and that is a mark of success in my books. It’s definitely the song for right now, and I think it could well easily be the song for a while longer!

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