Mood Rings – VPI Harmony (Mexican Summer)

The Atlantan lo-fi aural explorers take giant strides with their debut album

Released Jun 24th, 2013 via Mexican Summer / By Larry Day
Mood Rings – VPI Harmony (Mexican Summer) VPI Harmony is the debut full-length from Atlantan (the US city, not the underwater metropolis) five-piece Mood Rings, whose EP Sweater Weather Forever caused quite a ruckus upon its release back in 2011. In the time between that lauded lo-fi effort and this shoegazey LP, they've been developing their sound into a formidable beast. It's still pretty lo-fi, but instead of veering towards the surf pop drear of Wavves, they've headed for the same territory that The Mary Onettes inhabit. It's melodic, loaded with effects and chiselled into a sort of new wave revival sound that nods to washed-out '80s echo fanatics wielding guitars and synths.

'The Line' has thumping disco drums and woozy vocals. It's bleakly optimistic synthpop. There are twinkling keyed arpeggios and haze-addled pads softly licking the breathy gasps of vox like an encroaching tide. It's got a malevolent streak embedded inside; despite the general poppy atmosphere, it's subtly dark. 'Perusha' boasts shimmering guitars and warbling bass riffs writhing amongst contorted vocals from Will Fussell. A Cocteau Twins vibe reverberates, making everything seem slightly mystical and fantastical.

One of the biggest alterations from the sound on their EP to the noises they make now is intrinsically linked to their budget. With more cash lining their coffers, they’re able to afford to splash out on mixing and mastering and general production, meaning they develop richer textures and fuller aural pleasures. The jangle and fuzz of their lo-fi beginnings still exists on VPI Harmony, but a lot of focus is placed on melodic exploration and harmonies – more hi-fi than lo-fi. In no way is this a criticism of the debut. In fact, it's great that they've been able to experiment with a wider range of tools, allowing them to craft themselves the kind of record they had always dreamed of.

The brilliantly titled 'Charles Mansion' opens with neo-classical strings and desolate piano. It soars, bearing more resemblance to the element of air than water to which VPI Harmony holds such a strong bond. It's sparse and ethereal, Fussell's vocals almost evaporating in front of your ears. In comparison, tracks like 'Minor Slalom' have foundations in hurricanes – the bass squelches, guitars pitter-patter like rain and drums boom like thunder. What's most obvious, throughout every track, is that it's very organic. Even though they lean heavily on effects and synthesisers, Mood Rings still retain a sense of humanity. They're grounded.

VPI Harmony is a thoroughly engaging debut. It's not perfect – it could perhaps do with more 'big' single-type tracks like that of 'The Line' – but it's a stellar first effort. They're a band that's still growing, still learning. If they continue along the path they seem to be heading down, we could see them usurp acts like Arcade Fire or Animal Collective. As it stands now, their debut is solid, with plenty of fresh meaty chunks to get your chops around. The best thing about it, though, is that you can easily see them rocketing to stardom when it's released.