A New Tide

The British quintet, Gomez, defies simple categorization. They weave pop, rock, psychedelia, electronic, and folk into a hazy aural quilt that can be comforting if you don’t mind the scratchy edgings. The band’s 1998 debut Bring It On won top honors from critics and captured the Mercury award prize for album of the year. Since then the band has morphed from album to album, alternating the focus of their myriad influences.

A New Tide seems to refer more to personal situations within the band’s lifestyle then to the direction of their music. Several members of the band have moved to the U.S., others have married and singer Ben Ottewell fathered twins. This settling among the musicians may account for the mellow atmosphere of the new release. Certainly the boys aren’t breaking new ground, musically speaking but they are having fun playing in the studio. Having formerly worked with disciplinarian Gil Norton, Gomez chose to have Brian Deck produce this release. As a fellow musician Deck takes a greater hand in the actual creation of the sonic atmosphere of the record, playing on several tracks as well as overseeing the recording and writing process. The album has a looser feel than previous work and allows for a few surprising twists and turns in the arrangements. You might say the band has found a more subtle approach to musical experimentation.

Gomez’s songs are credited to the band but songs originate with individual members and are then brought into the studio for development. Often the songs on A New Tide begin with acoustic structuring then build into swirling layers of psychedelic guitars or programmed elements. Track one,“Mix,” opens with strummed guitar then builds to electric crescendo. Ben Ottewell said during a recent interview that electronic programming was a conscience writing choice as opposed to a programming afterthought so perhaps this is the new tide.

Beginning with their first release Gomez’s sound has always harbored bluesy tendencies so it makes sense that A New Tide was recorded primarily in Chicago and sneaks in a few blues references. Additional recording took place in Charlottesville, Virginia, formerly the home of ATO founder, Dave Matthews. There are a few guests, most notably Amy Millan of Stars, and there are a few added players to play organ, cello, viola, sax and wind woods. Mostly the focus falls on the band’s playing and certainly they prove themselves expert but it is their songwriting that grows more complex and intriguing. A New Tide finds Gomez’s sound morphing from song to song and sometimes within a song. Although this is unlikely to win them a larger audience – if you can’t categorize it how are you going to sell it – it should greatly please those of you who look for intelligent songwriting, production and arranging surprises, and solid musicianship.

Rosemary Welsch (Afternoon Mix Host)