Lucius & Milo - Helicon

by Oliver Rose

As a local musician myself, I’m always excited to see what other music Exeter Uni students are churning out. My band actually shared a bill with Lucius and Milo at Campus Bands’ Battle Of The Bands in the semi-final, and I remember very well their folk-rock energy (particularly Dom Ford’s furious percussive crescendos). It propelled them to victory that night – so how does an EP of their recorded music hold up by comparison?

Pretty darn well is the answer. For a first release, the mixes are superbly crisp and there’s a well-engineered balance between the instruments. Opener, Streets Of London, immediately establishes this quality, which then remains constant throughout. Whilst not a bad track at all, I found that track two had started before I got really excited. Though to be fair, I did, at this juncture, and with each track thereafter, get very excited… (to these ends then, they’ve definitely put Streets Of London in the most satisfying place, overall).

The Harvest is a dreamy, acoustic rock track that builds up toward a spectacularly drummed finish, with a lovely, meandering bass-line wriggling through its four-minutes. With its throaty croon and prominent piano parts, I’m reminded very much of the Beautiful South. When the track reaches its slowly built, explosive finish however, I’m thinking less of Paul Heaton and more of the epic-scale soft guitar-rock out there – Red House Painters, or Neil Young even. Muse has a similar feel, with much tighter bass and an equally propulsive crescendo (and some lovely-jubbly wah-wah in the middle) from one guitar effects fan to another Davide Scarpignato, a fond wave.

Alinon’s song-and-a-half structure gives us an almost uninviting slow introduction that finally gives way to a really great folk-rock track, with some fun lead guitar parts; they’re not mind-blowingly complex or anything, just melodically satisfying in that simple, Joey Santiago way. The vocal takes a bit of an alt-rock turn here too, as the falsetto blends folksy gentility with the convicted strain of a harder sound – like Jeff Buckley and Jeff Magnum attempting Pixies’ Silver together. My favourite part of the entire EP comes at the end of this track, as an unexpected key-change hurtles the listener into the full, 4AD alternative rock territory; think Cocteau Twins meets Mumford & Sons. I loved this song and, while it takes some time to get going, which may or may not be something worth working on for live performances, but that ending – stellar.

Pulse is my favourite song here – I’m glad they left it ‘til last. The energy sounds most inspired, most original and most genuine here; the band does, pardon the pun, really pulse here. The bass-line is brilliant, the vocal melody is catchy, the crystalline lead guitar sparkles and, as is by now routine, the ending is massive, a lion tamed by the consistently frenetic drumming of Dom Ford. As with everything on this EP, it’s obvious that Lucius and Milo are new to the studio – the exactness of their live contingent is a little looser and adherence to timing, less strict, but that’s not abnormal or even off-putting; purely a hallmark of the debut release.

If I had any other criticisms of this EP, they’d all be technical. Sometimes, the vocals get lost a little under swathes of guitars and drum-work, and similarly, the band’s tightness still has room to develop – but that’s all picky really, and it is the band’s first outing. For effort, 1110 – it’s a very, very strong start to something that will hopefully be awesome. It’s also worth mentioning that however big the sound is here, this is a band that packs a significantly bigger punch live (which is to be expected from any great band, right?). So if you get the chance, make sure you actually see them play – in the flesh, those ramped-up finales are really something else.