By JackComparisons to The xx have been inevitable for the Lancashire duo Aquilo (the under-case album title doesn’t help). There is some truth to that, but their sound is more emotive: heart over groove. Their latest full-length evokes the good times and the bad on the long, winding road to somewhere.
‘I Could Fight On a Wall’ (odd phrasing) lays out their toolbox fairly comprehensively. Stuttering programmed beats, tastefully picked guitar and smooth harmonies. There’s a hazy quality to Aquilo’s music, which may present as a fugue to some. Pulse-pounding this is not.
However this is no trudge either. ‘Thin’ has an expansive instrumental chorus, with expressive synth washes and direct beat. ‘Ghost’ is a pleasingly laid-back moment of clarity, where the anxiety of their lyrics drop away just a little. You’re reminded of the sharply written, slice-of-life laptop music of The Postal Service.
It should be noted that ii was split into two parts – Side B was released earlier this month. An interesting choice of release, given it all ends up on Spotify anyway, however there is a clear stylistic delineation. ‘The Road Less Travelled’ opens the second half of ii with reverb soaked country guitar, last heard on Johnny Cash’s deathly cover of ‘Ain’t No Grave‘. ‘Silent Movies’ is a more straightforward ballad, a lonely one at that which would have fitted snuggly on Coldplay’s Parachutes.
ii is the perfect album for right now – the hesitant rain, and first few patches of summer sunshine Aquilo deal in these quiet moments of reflection and transition better than anyone.