4AD just revealed that they’re releasing Aussie trio Methyl Ethel’s debut album Oh Inhuman Spectacle in North America this year, and rather than giving the project a lengthy rollout, they’re making the whole thing available right now in conjunction with the announce. Hailing from the remote outskirts of Perth, Australia, the band has evolved from a means for multi-instrumentalist Jake Webb to release his room recordings. Their moniker comes from the chemical compound methyl ethyl ketone peroxide, which Webb’s father uses to make fibre-glass. Though that may seem like a random Snapple fact, it actually mirrors the sound of the album. The music’s versatility gives it a liquid fluidity, and despite the variability of each song’s respective hermetic existence, they meld to become a confident, cohesive body of work.
The guitar ranges widest on the album, its various sounds bound by a reverb-soaked ethereality. The bright, ringing notes of the opener “Idée Fixe” morph into dozens of different patterns and sounds by the time they give way to the deep bass on the closer “Everything Is As It Should Be,” but the playing is exquisite in each instance. The album leans toward the soul-rock of Alabama Shakes in certain spots, like on “Obscura,” but songs like “Rogues” and “To Swim” have an undeniably dreamy quality. The layers of acoustic and electric guitar interact beautifully, and the constantly shifting aesthetic keeps the ear engaged. Though the guitar is something to marvel at, it is also enveloped by an array of atmospheric sweeps and varying drums, and tempered by a adept use of pace and energy.
The lyrics are catchy and highly melodic in delivery, but their content is piercing and deeply contemplative. When the variant sounds are pulled back for the lyrics to take command, they register in the full range of emotions. Joy, melancholy, anger, sadness, all coexist in certain moments with a deft malleability that allows them to flow into each other. The varying sonics and moods on this album could prove difficult to wrangle in less skilled hands, but Oh Inhuman Spectacle came together brilliantly. This is a very strong debut; stream it below.
Also, watch the video for opening track “Idée Fixe,” directed by Olivier Groulx: