Reaping synth-pop rewards

Chillwave, or glo-fi, or however you want to bracket it, has commanded a lot of media attention recently. Perhaps incited by a desire for escapism when the recession is at its bleakest, or by a simple teenage disconnectedness with reality, it has struck a chord with listeners in the US and across the pond, with main proponents Washed Out, Memory Tapes, Neon Indian, and the UK’s own Hype Williams bringing in their own slice of zoned-out anaesthesia.

Ernest Greene’s Washed Out is perhaps the major player in this scene, a tall sensitive chap from Georgia who composed his first tracks on his laptop in a house next to a field. He has since created a series of airy tracks that sound like shoegazy early Madonna, and done exceptionally well on the back of it. Hype Williams are probably the most credible UK act to have followed in his footsteps; peep their excellent redub of ‘Sweetest Taboo’, ‘The Throning’.

Ok so Summer Camp – these chaps have dodged the chillwave bracket in recent interviews, although they claimed to be “big fans of the chillwave thing happening at the moment” when they were still quite small. When we meet them today they are both wearing matching cartoon animal tops - in appropriate homage to Americana they borrow from – Elizabeth Sankey looking hot in a long black t-shirt and leggings and Macbeth-dagger lips, and Jeremy Warmsley with large National Health glasses side parting and high forehead.

One of the group’s most telling tracks was one about a painful break-up of Elizabeth’s. She sings, with feeling: ‘You wasted my time, you don’t love me like you used to’, followed by some great falsetto ‘This house isn’t big enough for the both of us’. The template lyrics suggest, and do throughout, a pastiche. Following comes a song about partying hard, house parties, ‘being sick on my shoes’ with some nice pathos and a good staccato hook: ‘I’m so much more than this’.

Then came a solo effort from Jeremy, carried off well; at the end Elizabeth says laughing: “God I know this is going to sound so patronizing....but well done!”

The whole set has a feel of playful irony, which at times feels a little strained, but is generally well appreciated by the considerable amount of Summer Camp fans who gathered to see them. It seems the beach-blanched look translates well across the pond - surf rock from bands like The Drums has been well received in the UK, which might equally explain Summer Camp’s popularity.

Apparently Summer Camp don’t go out much; Jeremy spends most of his time indoors playing 90s computer games: “You’re such a cliché!” admonishes Elizabeth, tryingly. If they could, they would party at clubs like Billy’s and Blitz back in the 80s dizzy-ay, and hang out with new romantics. Their circumstances may be different, but sensibilities have gone full circle and they are reaping the rewards of the synth pop generation.

Words by Miguel Cullen

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