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White Noise: Sleigh Bells – Treats

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Sleigh Bells – Treats

Sleigh Bells are Alexis Krauss and Derek Miller. She's from a manufactured girl group that didn't really make it, and he's from hardcore group Poison the Well. And by all accounts, Sleigh Bells sound exactly like this mix; they are loud, aggressive, and most of all, totally euphoric.

This album is what you'd get if you took a particularly good pop album, pumped up the volume to 1000 and cut out everything that wasn't a build-up, a drop, or a vocal hook. This is instant gratification music, they are firing on all cylinders almost all of the time and the majority is pure joy.

The album has definitely got substance and consistency, Miller's heavy synths sound like a sort of industrial pop and Krauss' vocals shimmer over the top of them with glossy hooks that never relent. The marriage of these styles could have easily gone wrong, but to pay these artists the credit they're due, they get it right more than could possibly be expected.

Opener Tell 'Em starts at full volume, with a deep hook on the bass that recurs through the whole song, punctuated by synthy ray-gun noises and the occasional release of a dubby throb. Glossy is definitely the best word for the vocals, the melody shines and sails right above the noise. This is simple pop pushed to extremes and distortion by the pummelling drum machines; the contrast between the two styles is never less than thrilling.

The album continues in much the same vein, Kids builds up to an incredibly satisfying release, and the fantastic Infinity Guitars pares the sound right down to distorted guitar, condensed finger clicks and Krauss' screaming vocals which all reach a crescendo of pure, incredible energy. You could see it as heavy noise pop or you could go all out on the analysis and talk about the distorting of modern pop by a vein of underground heaviness – something purely manufactured and consumer-fed ramped up to an extreme where the most surprising thing is that it is still incredibly catchy and musically interesting.

Another surprise is that when Sleigh Bells deviate slightly from the formula, they unerringly hit the mark. Crown On the Ground is by far the heaviest track on the album with a relentlessly pounding drumline introduced by searing guitars, but it's still great fun. Run the Heart has much heavier electro stylings and is pulled off magnificently, layers of synths building under Krauss' wordless hook (the kind that'll stay in your head for weeks) into a crunchy beat that retreats and re-introduces itself with perfect timing across the track. Perhaps the most surprising is potential album highlight 'Rill Rill' in which a bouncing noise and a finger click bursts into one of the most euphoric, summery pop tracks I've heard in a long while. The heaviness is completely stripped away and still it's utterly entrancing and substantial noise pop.

This album is a triumph, it's pop music pared down to its simplest hooks and built back up into something shiny, new, and endlessly satisfying.


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