When Saints Go Machine – Fail Forever review

A band that have hitherto yet to be properly exposed to British ears, When Saints Go Machine have already had their full debut album released in their native Denmark (mixed incidentally by Christoffer Berg, who previously balanced The Knife’s Deep Cuts and Silent Shout). In a way, it’s a shame that K7 are only dipping their toes in the water with this 6-track ‘best of’ EP, but perhaps understandable given most electronically inclined label’s tentative attitudes towards having bands on their roster. Either way, WSGM are well worth getting to know, and though limited, the Fail Forever EP more than does them justice.

Made up of Nickolaj (vocals), Simon (keyboards), Jonas (keyboards) and Silas (drums), their sound is extremely hard to pin down – such is the range of material covered in these six tracks. Title tune “Fail Forever” introduces the distinctive tone of Nickolaj’s vocals – somewhere between Morrissey and Erlend Oye – and comes over like Hot Chip’s “Boy From School” played at about 4am with a beautiful electro-orchestral backing and some sparse but effective drums and bass. “Pick Up Your Tears And Run” however really introduces the band properly – at least their abstract, almost neo-classical side. Starting with Steve Reich-esque vocal loops building over each other, Nickolaj’s lead sits atop of it all and plucks out a brilliantly oddball melody until nu-jazz pads join in and take the tune off into wonky, post-rave territory complete with concrete drums samples and a delirious reintroduction of the vocals. It is weird but wonderful stuff, like hearing Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody on mescaline, but crucially it retains that precious element of surprise, of never knowing which way WSGM will take you next.

“Pinned” also makes great use of multi-tracked acapella eerieness – pitched somewhere between Vermont trio Mountain Man and Phil Collins’ “Another Day In Paradise” at the start, it breaks into a clap-happy double-time beat that carries along a fantastic tune which slowly unfurls. While “You Or The Gang” is more Tilt-era Scott Walker, “Greys And Blues” is another pop-indie gem that lends itself to the early hours, using all manner of weird effects over another simple groove, all the while recalling Hercules And The Love Affair’s “Blind”. With dOP’s minimal remix of “Fail Forever” also included, this is a great introduction to a band that are clearly bursting with ideas and influences. But having whet our appetite with this short EP, we’re already fiending for more.

Oliver Keens