When we first introduced Conveyor nearly a year ago, it seemed as if the band was in transition: on their debut EP, happy-go-lucky tunes with thick instrumentation like “Sun Ray” sat alongside more chilled tracks like “Foreword”, a song so serene it bordered on being slowcore. The mix of styles could easily have been put down to growing pains, with Conveyor getting used to being a four piece band rather than the keyboard duo they once were.
Now, with the release of their self-titled debut LP, it’s clear that mixture was absolutely no accident: on Conveyor, tunes of unbridled joy and occasional silliness rub shoulders with sombre, exploratory numbers, all of which are wrapped in extremely ambitious instrumentation and delightfully tight harmonies. It’s refreshing to hear a band so unafraid to demonstrate just how many things it can do, even if the result is an album that occasionally feels more like a brainstorm than a coherent whole.
Conveyor’s cheeky side is exposed early and often. Opening track “Woolgatherer”, after a slightly deceptive leading drone, turns into a wildly upbeat tune that mixes bubbling and swooning synths with acoustic guitars and clacking drums to form a sound that somehow feels all natural, like a frolick in some unfathomably cheery dream-forest. It also displays Conveyor’s penchant for Mercury Rev style plays on words, mixing homonyms together to form sentences that seem to very nearly make sense: “Oh wood, I wouldn’t give you up to be outside, outlie. I’m thinking like an extra color or two would do, wouldn’t you say?”
The wordplay and general sense of good cheer that “Woolgatherer” fosters recur through much of the album, most notably on the immediately catchy “Short Hair” and the deliciously silly “Mom Talk”. But for every track that angles for childlike wonder, eventually a more serious one comes along. “Reach” feels just as natural as “Woolgatherer”, but its breathy, deep vocals and faint xylophone strokes evoke a wholly different environment, a singalong in a dripping cavern maybe, while “Homes” abandons the natural feel, rumbling along so sparsely, at just sixty beats per minute, that it’s hardly there.
It’s no surprise that The Beach Boys made it onto Conveyor’s Desert Island Discs feature for us earlier this week. At it’s best, Conveyor is in many ways reminiscent of Brian Wilson’s SMiLE, and it’s not just the harmonies that give that impression, though they certainly help. Much more than harmony, it’s the skitlike nature of some of these tunes and the way Conveyor fluctuate between styles without ever sacrificing the precision of their near-orchestral instrumentation that recalls that great album.
If anything, Conveyor is just a little too short to contain all of the ideas that it does and has the potential to be somewhat overwhelming. We’ll have to wait and see whether Conveyor ever settle or if they continue to record every sound they can conceivably make simply because they can. Right now though, this joyful, eclectic album is well worth checking out.