Eclectic English trio Belleruche appropriately titled their debut album of 2007 Turntable Soul Music. On their third, 270 Stories, they've made some subtle yet clear changes: turning away from the laidback bluesy and soulful elements of their sound for something scratchier, punkier and more claustrophobic, with increasingly cryptic lyrics to match.
Guitarist Ricky Fabulous has swapped the safe territory of traditional blues and soul riffs for tinny bass chords and grungy axe-work. DJ Modest, meanwhile, opts for a wider range of tempos and looser drum-breaks while his ear-catching audio squiggles have become more prominent in the mix.
What hasn't changed is singer Katherine deBoer's rich, captivating voice. But although her lyrics continue to centre on relationships, they seem guarded compared to the previous two albums, in tandem with the newfound sense of menace in the music. Penultimate track Gold Rush even showcases her rapping with admirable rhythm and flow.
These songs may be less funky and melodic yet they still feel like proper tunes. Opener Fuzz Face swaggers with rock attitude; Tired Robot is a late-night indie disco stomper; 3 Amp Fuse marries wild, almost big-beat drums with aggressive strings. Only the repetitive vocal on closer Churro falls short of hypnotic, managing merely repetition.
With a penchant for fanciful biographical info, a name nabbed from a famous dog, and music that self consciously defies description, Belleruche have always liked to keep things opaque. In the past deBoer has parried suggestions that she is influenced by trip-hop groups like Portishead and Lamb, but while such comparisons are superficial, their new direction retains an unmistakably 90s feel.
As an introduction to the band, categorising the three-piece as soul may seem misleading. For Belleruche fans, however, this organic yet definite progression is in keeping with the philosophy of a group where nothing is set in stone.