The path of Mazes has been an interesting one. From a carefree album that mixed slacker rock with some dark lyrical musings (A Thousand Heys) to a wonderfully stark album (Ores & Minerals) that was captured perfectly by MJ from Hookworms (who also gave us a magnificent album.)
Now, last year, Jack Cooper (guitars, vocals) released a couple of recordings under the name Cape Clear that further explored the loops in Ores and a project called Art is Cheap, which hinted at how the initial strokes are brushed in the canvas of Mazes. Better Ghosts, a mini album of sorts, seems to take a bit from these side projects, but now with the added bonus of the full band chipping in. The lo-fi sounds captured in Better Ghosts are less polished than both Ores & Minerals and A thousand heys, but whatever sins the audiophile may vest upon these tracks, the end product is still a good collection of tracks.
Let me put it this way: if A thousand heys was a garage party (red solo cups and all) and Ores & Minerals was a solemn trip through the crevices of the mind, Better Ghosts is a loose rehearsal session that finishes with the band looking at each other thinking “you know, we should record that right now.”
This shouldn’t be interpreted as the songs being demos. They are anything but. ‘Organ Harvest’, a slow burning track with a marvelous bass line, might be a meeting point between their previous efforts and the little instrumental segues (‘Ephermera’, ‘Purr out’) are like little slices of ginger that clean the palate. Interesting that Better Ghosts ends in such a palate cleanser (‘Purr out’), it’s a perfect bookend to the collection.
“Energetic” is another adjective I like to peg into the ever friendly Mazes. ‘Hayfever wristband’ finds the band skating downhill in punk form (minus the distortion and shouts), whilst ‘Donovan’ and ‘Higgs Boson’ are those slow, introspective moments that let the band’s music breathe and gain flavour, like a good Tempranillo wine, the kind that won’t give you reflux and will not overwhelm your gustatory senses.
If you’ve seen Mazes any time after Autumn 2012, you remember there’s been some drone happy moments, hinted at Ores & Minerals‘ ‘Slice’ and now further developed in ‘Notes between F & E’ and ‘Sandgrown’. I don’t know what is the masterplan for the band, but if it includes these sort of tracks, it sounds great.
The way technology has evolved, you can get a thousand bands trying to get your attention. For some bands, their “signature sound” may take an entire life to develop. I can’t fathom to say what Mazes‘ sound is in a couple of words, but Better Ghosts is another tool in their Swiss army knife collection of sounds.
Words: Sam J. Valdés López