Gengahr – Icarus

North-London four piece Gengahr have recently released their third album, ‘Sanctuary’. They’ve released five singles from the album, with one final release, ‘Icarus’, featuring the previous four. The band’s dreamy, multi-layered tunes have continued to entice, with ‘Before Sunrise’ from 2018’s ‘Where Wilderness Grows’ and ‘She’s A Witch’ from their 2015 debut ‘A Dream Outside’ starring examples of the bands pleasurable adventurism.

Back from recording ‘Sanctuary’ in Cornwall, the band have been receiving plenty of airplay on radio, as well as a live session with Annie Mac at the iconic Maida Vale studios. The band, consisting of Felix Bushe, John Victor, Hugh Schulte and Danny Ward, will be playing intimate in-store gigs throughout February to promote ‘Sanctuary’ before kicking off a UK tour culminating in their biggest London show to date at EartH in Hackney. A Europe and Australia tour follows.

The first single they released in the build up towards the album was ‘Atlas Please.’ Although showcasing that same energy felt in the albums before, ‘Atlas Please’ is noticeably different from their past works. A booming, funky bassline and tinkling keys create a psychedelic feel to it, similar to the lighter works of Tame Impala. The heavy bassline is balanced with the light airy vocals and the keys, all together creating a sound that is new but at the same time seemingly akin to their past tunes.

‘Everything & More’, the lead single off ‘Sanctuary’, is more of the past Gengahr brilliance, and leans more towards pop-rock. A well pieced together track that slowly, intricately builds up, with a sharp guitar solo as a crescendo. The falsetto and twinkling guitars are present, to again bring that dreaminess, with the reverb of the guitars providing power, depth, and emotion.

The lyrics are emotive and adds to the depth, and is perhaps an introduction to the troubles front man Felix Bushe has gone through in the making of the album. The passing of his mother, and his long-distance relationship with his wife returning to her native Australia has meant that ‘Sanctuary’ is his most personal album to date, exploring his own feelings and contending with the turmoil in his life.

‘Never A Low’ sees the band deviating further from their sound in past albums. The emotion and depth from ‘Everything & More’ is continued, but in the case of this tune over moody synths and a strong beat. Venturing further into their alternative side, ‘Never A Low’ gives out Alt-J vibes. Charming throughout, there are moments where front man Felix’s falsetto and the ambient synths come together beautifully, that Midas touch.

‘Never A Low’ is a culmination of the band’s adventure into what was the musically unknown for them, as the band explain: “Experimentation, collaboration and pushing ourselves out of our comfort zones is at the core of this album and in the process of making ‘Sanctuary’. Our sound and the way we work together has really evolved, and ‘Never A Low’ is the track which for us which best represents the results of this change.”

The funk doesn’t stop at ‘Atlas Please’. ‘Heavenly Maybe’ is a fun surprise, as the band get their groove on. The almost hypnotic bassline, the slick guitars and synths gets your head bopping, not to mention the snappy high hats laying the beat. It plays out like an indie rock electro disco dream. There are multiple layers of synths and different sounds, all brilliantly put together.

The song is thematically strong as well, with the infectiously danceable tune proving to be a more than suitable vehicle to carry lyrics about escapism, running away from your troubles and getting lost in the moment: “The song itself is essentially about going out and trying to forget about all of your troubles, and how ultimately problematic that is as a form of release.” they say, about the message behind ‘Heavenly Maybe’.

The final tune released before the rolling out the album is ‘Icarus’. Compared to all the other tracks, ‘Icarus’ is more reminiscent of their previous work. It’s catchy, energetic and still features that intricacy of sounds that is found in their tunes. The synths, guitar sounds and the vocals all charmingly come together, complimenting each other.

“Oh, child, listen to your innocence, I can build you better than developers, your smile, given by your mother, but that don’t seem to matter now, we’re going up” Felix chimes, repeating the message shared by ‘Icarus’, one of expectations of youth, and the adult realisation of the uncontrollable nature of life.

It is no doubt that those who were first courted by the band’s signature guitar sounds from the first two albums might long for more of the same after hearing the singles. The guitars mostly take the backseat to the basslines and keys, and that signature sound has been interpolated into new musical directions, from psychedelia to funk.

Jack Steadman of Bombay Bicycle Club’s production of ‘Sanctuary’ shows how the band are reaching out and collaborating as part of this new musical direction. They have opened up about the experimental side of the album, pushing themselves out of their musical comfort zones. This collection of tunes clearly shows that despite the unfamiliarity at first, there is a reason to keep on listening and hear what this talented band has to offer.

Aradi Priyanto