Sacred Paws is a project that owes much to the cultural ley line that ripples between London and Glasgow, a project that hinges on the efforts of Eilidh Rodgers (once of Golden Grrrls) and Rachel Aggs (also of Shopping and Trash Kit).
The pair’s skittering, skipping, gleefully bittersweet sound fuelled a fantastic 2015 EP, with material that joined the dots between the post-punk of The Raincoats and The Au Pairs, say, and West African highlife compilations.
Debut album ‘Strike A Match’ is the grandest document from Sacred Paws yet, their most confident, outward, lucid, engaging statement in a slim catalogue that already seems to revel in and exemplify such adjectives.
Opening cut ‘Nothing’ is a brass-bolstered gem, those dual voices intermingling as trumpet and saxophone buzz like summer flies on a sugar-laced melody. ‘Rest’ is all percussive flow and downcast vocals, while the handclaps on ‘Everyday’ have a child-like sense of innocent glee.
It’s not just a head-long rush into the saccharine, though. ‘Strike A Match’ has moments of real tenderness and genuine melancholy, matching the innately uplifting sound of the duo’s harmonies to lyrics that focusses on self-doubt, regret, and the dissolution of relationships.
‘Stars’ has an oddly urgent minor-key feel, while the lyrics warn “it won’t last long”. Meanwhile ‘Empty Body’ shoots in leaps and bounds, caught up in an ever-flowing rhythm, before the vocal intrudes: “My empty body is full of worry...”
Remarkably concise – only one song clocks in at over four minutes - ‘Strike A Match’ finds Sacred Paws utilising brevity almost as an instrument in itself. The title cut is a series of short meditations on that addictive, crisp guitar riff, while ‘Ride’ is a blast of revenge dominated by those biting drum rolls, those lethal cymbal crashes.
Over in a flash, the mini-melodramas spun by Sacred Paws reach their apogee on final cut ‘Getting Old’. The spiky guitar lines interweave, the drums unfold with chaotic grace, while the vocals hit those exact notes of the bitter and the sweet. The lyrics, too, match the moment of realisation with the regret of a life misspent: “You spent so long doing what you’re told, playing a part...”
In the press note we’re told that Eilidh Rodgers and Rachel Aggs would spend weeks apart, only to re-unite in brief flashes when songwriting would occur. A collection of such flashes, ‘Strike A Match’ feels like it is racing against itself, a gentle, playful intensity that feels wholly inviting.
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