Coalescing at the smoothed-out jazz hinterlands of dub, post-rock and psychedelic spaciousness, Grails‘ latest opus – the first for six years – finds their instrumental horizons expanded as far as their minds had ever been hitherto, drifting far out and curling right back in on the crest of a particularly languid wave of synth washes and refulgent beats. The title track hints at what kind of chalice the band might be smoking from, liquid bass chasing laid-back percussion and swiftly-sanguine melodies that locate themselves firmly at the beachfront wastrel area of their musical real estate.The trio (and their numerous guest players) are equally at home blending chugging synth arpeggiations with funky grooves and brightly fuzzed guitar lines that somehow conjure both Miami Vice and Hawkwind when Huw Lloyd-Langton was their master of the chickawacka universe. Add in a hint liberal of Talk Talkishness and some things become still more Eighties in inflection. Visions of tequila sunrises both filmic and alcoholic are brought to mind by the hazy, lazy imagery of “Empty Chamber”, while “The Moth And The Flames” and “Deeper Politics” frazzle gently fed-back melodies into their own particular brand of psychic rock, their layers of unwinding frissons confirming Grails’ ever-expanding reach. Comparisons aside, Grails still sound like their own band, whether in the nature documentary soundtrack pleasantries of “Rebecca”, all hesitant drum machines and rainforest pads looping among the flowing rivers of liquid bass and easy, sensuous vibes, or when emerging from the steel-stringed deserted blues of “Deep Snow II” and “Thorns II”, both home to particularly head-nodding grooves that stirs up a sense of (probably horseback) motion and good times to come.
Perhaps that’s Chalice Hymnal‘s defining characteristic, an easy-going geniality that manages never to become cloying or sugar-coated; so even when closing piano-led number “After The Funeral” leads off in shivery melancholic style, it bids its farewell with a calm and collected surge of emotive strings that well up, then pull back and switch further out to scrape and skree into a cinematic finale of surprisingly full and fulsome dimensions.