Alex Chilltown releases their fully realised debut ‘Eulogies’ via Fear of Missing Out Records (Tallies, Yohuna, Basement Revolver) on 24 January 2020.
A pun on Bigstar’s Alex Chilton, Chilltown is the project of London’s Josh Esaw alongside friends and collaborators. The line-up of the band, which is often in flux has featured Esaw as its one consistent member and lead songwriter. In its various incarnations, Alex Chilltown has encompassed members of projects and bands such as Big Joanie, Deerful, Toothpaste, Flirting and Tugboat Captain amongst others.
It was a DIY ethic that inspired the beginnings of Alex Chilltown some years previous. Esaw, dejected by his musical endeavours, including once being mockingly referred to in NME as “The Future of Rock” found new inspiration in a bourgeoning UK scene, releasing tapes on bedroom labels and playing shows alongside national and international acts such as Yohuna, Small Wonder, Tallies, Emperor X and The Pains of Being Pure at Heart.
In the years that followed Alex Chilltown honed their sound into the intelligent blend of art rock and luscious pop sensibility you hear today. Esaw initially begun as a worshipper of the rhythmic minimalist guitar of Ben Parker of Nosferatu D2 and Tempertwig, but through collaboration and experimentation his band discovered their unquestionable nouse for inimitable futuristic sonic textures.
An incredibly personal record, ‘Eulogies’ is reflective of a life lived claustrophobically, encased in the concrete and tarmac boundaries of South London suburb, Croydon. ‘Eulogies’ is crystallised in the kind of dreams the can only be borne by such suburban isolation.
‘Eulogies’ is a sighing ode to the place Alex Chilltown call home. Just as King Krule inhabited neighbouring South London districts in ‘The OOZ’, Chilltown fully envelop themselves inside the grey malaise and contradictions of post-industrial Croydon. The sites, smells and sights materialise in hyper realism via bursts of luscious dream pop that touch on all cornerstones of the genre without ever being pinned down under the weight of any one influence.
Though bemoaning its innumerable commercial concrete high-rises and failed redevelopments, Esaw concludes that these failings, these monuments to capitalist greed are all the making of him. “Either way these greying skies are mine” he sings on ‘Carry On’.
The sheer depth of sonic and literary detail and reference on ‘Eulogies’ is a result of Chilltown’s academic approach. Esaw spent time researching for a masters in cultural studies whilst making this record alongside Flirting’s Poppy Waring, whose enchanting vocals alight this record throughout. The theories they discussed became catalysts for a record steeped in themes of Identity, futurism, anxiety but also unshakeable hope. Sylvia Plath’s words are quoted on lead single ‘Drown’ “See life branch in front of/Just like that fabled green fig tree.”.
The music of ‘Eulogies’ is just as diverse as its themes. On lead single ‘Drown’, an arresting synth is literally chopped in half by a searing guitar riff, powering the track into a gargantuan chorus, “To not get lost / and never drown” Esaw vows. While conversely, ‘Seven’ is reverent and tender, it’s balm-like synths accurately re-creating that liminal space between sleeping and waking up.
Unlike life, which rarely has the perfect ending, ‘Eulogies’ has its great conclusion, the masterful ‘Only Ghost’. With shades of Sigur Ros, ‘Only Ghost’ starts from humble beginnings, gradually, tenuously building over its ten-minute runtime to a devastating, heart-rending climax. Above the noise, Esaw sings “In the end / We will blossom”. An uncannily accurate summation of Esaw’s journey from dejection and isolation to an artist fully in bloom.