EP Review: Kopper – ‘Fading Fires’.

“Clean in intent, neat in their imagery, sharp in their focus and fever… But we’re just six months in and these things need to breathe, we’re still in the shaping and smelting…”

Six months since forming, Kopper send out their debut. Their first 4 track release meets the world. I’m greeted by influences, meanings and purpose, a “people’s proclamation” is a bold and brave claim, they want me to sit up and feel. I’m all ears and ready to listen. I’m all fingers waiting to type.

I’ve reordered and moved from the inside to out as I keep going back to the strongest. Lets begin with the songs at the centre…

The title track shifts from its easy beginnings, all gentle and brief to a howl. A grunge heavy plunge of distortion and crash, it all moves to the pace of a straight garage pound. It’s under produced and unslickened, it’s thick with a live kinda fuzz. It’s energy fuelled and compounded by vocals that act just as happy in stabs or high croon or pitched holler.

That felt heavy texture grunge learnt to rely on, it fills all available space. Everything battles for presence. Everything picks out its place.

This wall of noise only cracks half way in, when breakdowns come threaten to undo the good work of the pressure that’s been kept throughout. There’s a hint of a pre-bloated Muse, that Showbiz of sharp angst and wail. Until now it’s been Oh Sees and Flatworms and Wavves but that ease off is short lived and sharp. The last act of the song takes a headstrong prog lurch into grandiose sounds that groan like the strain of steel towers high winds. Metallic notes twist as they fight to keep shape, flexing backwards as far as they’re able. We end when there’s no give to give, we end on falsetto and scratch.

‘Empty Stores’ follows. We’re faster, more nimble. We’re somehow more focussed with more of a scrawl of surfside bleach blistered aggression. It’s the sunnier sibling of what came before; ‘Fading Fires’ is the serious big brother. Again there’s a switch at the middle. A short breath’s drawn in before ramping right up to a one-two note squeal that presses thrash heavy splash. Sunkissed backing vocals shine just for a second, we move towards a chant that lasts moments. Kick back to that worked on and relentless grove and then cut short and sweet without warning.        

I can’t say which I like more, the ‘Fading Fires’ dexterity or the ‘Empty Stores’ simplicity. If I’m pushed I’ll bite down on my natural defaults of short, sharp and sweet bugged out garage.

Outside of this core at the centre, we open and close down on less sturdy ground. ‘Sysiphus Smile’, the first track of the EP, is a loose twine of textures and twists. Half rigid, half lazy, we shift, from close spoken words to self contained measures of thickness of volume that swell and fade out without structure. Those soft open vocals are gentle, they’re honest when unfussed and pure. Through buildups and breakdowns we hear their wide range but the vehicle beneath lacks cohesion. Maybe there’s a link that ties up these movements but I can’t catch the form or the reason.

At the end of the EP, ‘Luminescent Womb’ somehow shares the same lack of clear focus. Ambition runs big as movements and acts and occasional hints at a mathrock intellipunk all flow just too loosely to follow. The song can’t quite pin down its identity. We reach out for alt-rock and stadium balladry, we toy with soundscape and suspense. But payoff gets served up too small or too slow to match right with tugs for emotion.   

Those middle tracks bristle with a frivolous energy, they sound like directed objectives. They’re clean in intent, neat in their imagery, sharp in their focus and fever. This debut release shows the start of a band still looking to pick best direction… but we’re just six months in and these things need to breathe, we’re still in the shaping and smelting. Let’s see what the next six months brings, I got hopes for their next destination.

Kopper’s ‘Fading Fires’ EP is out now on a limited vinyl release. Digital formats come out July 20. Catch music and news all right here.