For too long Ivan Campo have hovered under the radar. Getintothis Sean O’Meara pokes around in their dark, unpredictable world.
Sometimes a band remains under-the-radar for so long that you realise how ridiculous a term under-the-radar actually is.
Instead of waiting to be discovered, Ivan Campo have spent eight years amassing an impressive body of work. And that doesn’t mean they’ve done a lot of demos.
The Preston-by-way-of-Manchester three-piece are now on their fourth self-release and their creative trajectory has been as satisfying to observe as that of any group currently enjoying a more obvious position in the mainstream.
Ivan Campo formed in 2003. While their contemporaries have undergone name changes and clumsily renewed their stylistic cues as trends dictate, Campo have nurtured and lovingly cultivated a lo-fi pop sound that’s all the better for its maturity.
What Went Wrong? is best enjoyed in the context of Campo’s previous offerings as it marks a subtle yet important turning point. It’s nuanced and delicate with an easy-going charm where previous offerings have been gregarious and enthusiastic and more immediate.
Local Dealer takes just two minutes and four seconds to break your heart. It’s a perfect example of the vulnerability that makes Adam Shaw such an engaging front-figure. This is a darker collection of songs, but with the characteristically fragile humour that makes this band such a delight.
On paper, descriptions of What Went Wrong could make Ivan Campo sound twee. Clarinets, whimsy and a lo-fi aesthetic make it an ad-friendly sound. Previous single, The Great Procrastinator has been used in Skins, suggesting that they’ve made an impression on a few synch departments already but What Went Wrong? is anything but twee.
There’s a muscular deliberateness about this EP, Ivan Campo aren’t trying to sell you a mobile phone, they’re just doing their best to make you feel comfortable while you poke around in their odd, often dark little world.
The simplicity of some arrangements belies an authoritative command of their craft. Will Rogers takes the microphone on Sleep, a delicate flower of a song that provides a contemplative counterpoint to Shaw’s stream of consciousness brain-spill.
What Went Wrong? sees the best elements of Campo’s previous offerings – wit, sincerity and humour – distilled perfectly. It will evoke The Coral at their most lamenting and The Divine Comedy at their most upbeat. Further disparate influences from the likes of T-Rex, Nick Harper and Arcade Fire infuse What Went Wrong? with an unpredictability that makes it a potential treasure.
For more Ivan Campo visit here.
Sean O’Meara runs new Manchester club night POP YOU! specialising in emerging music from the North West and beyond. Follow Sean on Twitter here.