The trick, so it seems, is to master the art of malleability; to sop up the sound of your surrounding environment without saturating it with try-hardy pastiche. Some bands get it. Some don’t. Either way, it’s difficult to oppose even the blindest stab at musical reinvigoration. After all, is there any more odious sight than a weather-weary rock star regurgitating album after album of three-chord ditties like Britpop never went away?
Over the past five years, Edinburgh based music/art collective Found have proved able purveyors of a curveball or two. Admittedly, their defining revelatory moment came from a more cultured pursuit than pure music – last year’s BAFTA-awarding winning sound project, Cybraphon, was a post-modernistic triumph that had high-brow art critics slavering like spaniels over a tin of Pedigree Chum. But Found’s penchant for glitchy melodies has brought its own occassions of eardrum-prickling bewilderment, particularly during 2007’s bleeping folk-sprawl, This Mess We Keep Reshaping.
Now residing in Glasgow’s Chemikal Underground stable, Found’s experimental meandering infuses album number three, Factorycraft. But rather than a zig-zagging, space-age ascent into the unknown, the trio of Ziggy Campbell, Kev Sim and Tommy Perman - newly culled from the five piece of old - have reverted to more basal sounds, rotating around wiry guitars, drum machines and Campbell’s laconic drawl. It’s as close to flat-out indie rock as Found have ever gotten. And, for a band so willing to take a progressive musical stance, it’s a bold, almost radical, move - but one that pays off.
What Factorycraft lacks in electro-contorting gimmicks, it more than makes up for in storytelling. The record’s threadbare structure pushes Campbell’s fuggy accounts of doomed relationships and dead-end towns to the fore, revealing a flair for magnifying the minutiae of life in Scotland's backwaters. His monotonal brogue is instantly arresting; the sparse guitar twinges running through opening number ‘Anti-Climb Paint’ creates a platform on which Campbell eases out deliciously introverted couplets like “my love comes staggered / dug-eared and haggard”.
This overt self-scything recalls Arab Strap’s more distressing moments and, in the quivering cold-hearted blows of ‘You’re No Vinvent Gallo’ and gut-wrenching farewell ‘Blendbetter’, definite strains of Messers Moffat and Middleton exist. But, Factorycraft isn’t built on the recycled remains of Scottish bands past. The record’s inner-working is a panoramic sweep that goes beyond local pastures: ’I’ll Wake With a Seismic Head No More’s nocturnal bass and matadorial guitar is pure Wire in aura, while ‘Machine Age Dancing’ breaks into sporadic ticks of mammoth Phil Spector-styled orchestration.
By moving in to relative orthodoxy, Found seem to have honed their experimental nous. Where once they would digress, here their ideas have a greater sense of cultivation. At times, the gamble doesn’t always come off – ‘Lowlandness’ is a heel-dragging bore, plodding along to a grind of stale, tepid rhythms with less pulse than a necrophiliac’s love interest. But, album highlight ‘Every Hour That Passes’ reinforces the band’s knack for nimble, genre-crossing cuts, penduluming between heart-swelling lament and calypso-blushed lollop.
As a band with a remit for pushing boundaries, Found are in strangely familiar territory. Sure, it may sound like a disarming shunt in direction, but Factorycraft challenges the notion that progress revolves around a spewing of effects-board wizardry. Much like kindred spirits The Beta Band once did, this is a band plugging the gap between pop finesse and esoteric art school gristle without reverting to gimmicks or cliché. And, for Found, that’s very little to be surprised about.