Sian Alice Group – Troubled, Shaken, Etc. (The Social Registry Records)

These Londoners are one of those rare outfits that defies easy genre-categorizations. There are times on Troubled, Shaken Etc. when they sound like a post-rock outfit, but there’s just as many moments where they use jazzy flourishes, Krautrock repetition, atmospheric trip-hop and shoegazey guitars. The style may be hard to pin down, but the mood is not – they’re consistently downbeat, somewhat detached and often academic, creating an impenetrable veneer that’s hard to warm up to. Lead singer Sian Ahern, has a pretty voice but it was mixed low, leaving the lyrics all but impossible to decipher – something like Portishead’s Beth Gibbons singing into a faraway microphone. The Portishead comparison goes even further, with several songs sounding like demos for last year’s Third, causing me to think “Interesting song…too bad they couldn’t get Portishead to record it”. They do however get it completely right on “Close To The Ground” – a seven-and-a-half minute number with a crystal clear vocal, an insistently thumping drumbeat and a sinister groove that gets indelibly etched on your brain. If they had an album of songs as stunning as this one, they’d be walking in rarefied air, but they’re not there just yet.