It's a surprisingly warm sunday morning in the beginning of November. I just got woken up by Jehova's witnesses, way too early. I go to the kitchen to get myself a cup of coffee while trying to decide which albums I'm going to start my day of reviewing with. For some reason the French shoegaze / post rock band Utopium wins the toss. So I press 'play' and take a quick look at the band's Facebook page to find some more information. The first thing I notice is the huge list of influences, from Mogwai over Death In Vegas and from Sonic Youth to Boards of Canada. "That list creates huge expections", I mumble. After all, some of my favorite bands are in here.
The album opens with the instrumental 'Now It Exists', followed by a intensely beautiful track, named 'Above the World'. In only two tracks Utopium succeeds in blending most of the influences mentioned in that list. There's serene post rock, subdued shoegaze vocals, a touch of noise rock, the eerie atmosphere of new wave and floating ambient pieces. I'm actually pretty astonished by the extensive variation on the entire album. This quartet sounds really convincing and skillful.
As the album plays on (a few times) and the sunday morning turns into a sunday afternoon I catch myself mimicing the drums and percussion with my feet. Often I whisper to myself: "damn, this is nice". This band has done a really nice job turning all these influences into their own warm and soulful sound. Sometimes the music reminds me of The Cure or Jesus and the Mary Chain and on 'Stardust' Joy Division comes shining through. The sunday suddenly makes a huge turn towards the gloomy eighties.
Utopium is an outstanding album, combining influences from some of the best bands that ever roamed the earth while giving the whole a modern day production. Some songs on this album even get close to perfection ('Volumen' is a killer track) but even when played in its entirity it stands out. It has a lot of variation that seems to wander around a calm and modest atmosphere. Great work.