Empty Pools - Saturn Reruns (Battle)

Well written essays on literature, music and mid-to-late twenties disillusionment show potential

Released Nov 4th, 2013 via Battle Worldwide / By Ian Stanley
Empty Pools - Saturn Reruns (Battle) Empty Pools’ debut album, Saturn Reruns, smashes, fills and layers to create carefully constructed indie tracks. According to its press release, the album references many things from the musical (Dylan) to the biblical (‘The Fall’) – big ideas for a first album, but not entirely unnoticeable. The title itself is a reference to the 29-year period that it takes for Saturn to orbit the sun, which is also recognised as the time it takes for a human to go through the significant changes in life: youth, adulthood, maturity and wisdom. And therefore the problems encountered are dealt with throughout this album - nice.

The themes tackled clearly trouble the aging mind on the young shoulders of 23-year-old lead vocalist, Leah. For her, the album name is, “tying together the poem, (self portrait at 28 by David Berman) the grim lyrical themes and the TV references. Each song is a miniature, miserable revelation,” which gives an insight into the overall theme on Saturn Reruns, and helps to decipher some of the less direct lyrics.

However, the album is not just clever references, a lot of thought has gone into the production to cram in all that Empty Pools wished to say about life, love and disillusionment at today’s England – lack of jobs included. There might only be about five minutes to the average song, but there’s still plenty going on and Empty Pools find time for a few movements of music for the stand-out tracks. If you’re willing to give those songs a dedicated listen, Saturn Reruns is very rewarding and will grow on you.

The album starts strongly with ‘Debris.’ This instantly demonstrates Empty Pools’ talent for jamming with each other. It’s tight, followed by a sparse, bright, trebly guitar and a chilled out vocal. The jamming from the intro keeps returning and nudging the song along, revving up energy and progressing towards the conclusion of a final note that joins everything together. It’s a very satisfying, accomplished song which harks back to the album intros of the late nineties; the ones that warmed up for the remaining album and were destined to be the alarm music on your hi-fi.

‘Exploded View’ is another stand-out track and most recent single. This is an excellent example of a well written essay; a song that has just the right amount of references, tangents to inform the final argument and a conclusion that neatly ties everything together with a return to its strongest and most angular point: its guitar riff. There’s a dodging and ducking guitar which helps create the song’s urgency and an ever changing landscape that winds through yet still manages to keep to the main theme’s riff, which is returned to frequently to keep control of the overall piece.

The structure returns again with ‘Medium Wave’, the line of “every new convert was stretching away” within the first few minutes of the track gives you an itch. It rolls around the second time, then shouts and rushes your ears with a bendy guitar riff that’s juicy and squealingly delightful. And with those squeals, the layers pile in to the final command: commence cymbal mash up!

There are many stratums to these songs and it’s this characteristic that allows each listen a new segment to be discovered; whether that be lyrics, guitar, drums, fill or bass. It’s a tall ask to continue this level for each song, and some songs do fall a little flat in comparison and drift away into obscurity during a full listen of Saturn Reruns.

The album itself is concluded with a re-hashing of older release ‘Vanderbilt Cup.’ The undercurrent of trumpet on this track once again displays Empty Pools’ loving application of layers. There’s a sunset feeling about those moments when you hear the trumpet that helps ‘Vanderbilt Cup’ descend into darker tones for the rest of the progressions. This is a great ending to a solid debut.

Empty Pools are a band with a lot of potential, conviction of ideas and intelligence. For those searching for the return of an honest, intelligent indie band, Empty Pools give just that. At the full eardrum-bashing volume of a live performance, the violent guitar angles will be better caught. And that is very exciting. The stand-out songs on Saturn Reruns have enough layers that make them better with repeated listens. If Empty Pools can consistently produce the heights of ‘Vanderbilt Cup,’ ‘Medium Wave’ or ‘Exploded View’ – even if that means toning down the layers and trying not to cram all their hard read, listened and researched references into each song – then this record could be around for the next Saturn Return.