Sons & Daughters' new album Mirror! Mirror! feels rotten to the core. Produced by Keith McIvor, also known as JD Twitch and one half of Glaswegian DJ duo Optimo, it feels significantly darker than anything the band have done before.
Drenched in black with stripped back production Mirror! Mirror! feels a bit like the post-punk revival of the past ten years never happened. Whilst the band cite inspiration as coming from Stevie Nicks, Siousxie, PJ Harvey and Fever Ray it's really more a fairly faithful interpretation of the sounds of Joy Division, Gang of Four et al. Not that this is a bad thing - Interpol and more recently the Horrors have both created great music by using little more than a collection of four or five records from 1978-1983 as inspiration.
In fact Sons & Daughters sound so raw on this record that there is very little not to love. The Optimo sound surrounds this record like creeping dense fog - it's claustrophobic and pretty much impossible to escape. Guitars crunch whilst feedback cuts from left channel to right like a knife on 'Orion', all of it underpinned by David Gow's tight percussion. And the rhythm is the real star of the show here - whether straight up, no-frills and uncompromising as on reverb heavy 'Don't Look Now' or the punchy bass of tribute to murdered actress Elisabeth Short 'Axed Actor'.
The same is true of the 'Ink Free', which tackles singer Adele Bethel's writer's block, and it is a real highlight. Heavy and taught with the production applied with a subtle enough touch to give enough room for Bethel and (second vocalist and guitarist) Scott Paterson's frankly terrifying duet. The occasional burst of distorted white noise and the snare hits that punctuate the atmosphere feel like they actually leave a holes in the structure of the song.
Mirror! Mirror! is lean and focused and for that it should be applauded. Sons & Daughters have created, with the assistance of Keith McIvor, a dizzying and uncompromising album full of tiny details. As a whole body Mirror! Mirror!, the title surely a reference to self-absoption, talks more of the spiral of depression than anything else and that comes through in the palpable claustrophobia this record seeps out throughout its length.