Over the course of the last month or so I have been joking about the blog going international with the fact I seem to be reviewing so many Scottish bands, but this time there are no need for jokes because it’s actually happened. Yep, you read that correctly The Musical Outcast is making its first foray into the Italian music scene with this review of the new EP from March Division. It’s a proud day ladies and gentlemen.
March Division are Andy Vitali (Vocals, guitar, bass, synths, programming & production) Emanuele Platania (Drum, percussions and drum machines) Stefano Lai (Bass, synth bass, programming & production) and Mattia Pissavini (Keyboards, synths & production) Formed back in late 2010 the band released their debut album Radio Daydream in 2012 but they have since undergone a bit of a change in direction. Their early material was very much in the classic brit-pop mould but more recent releases have seen the foursome move towards electronica, building towards the release of a brand new album later this year. Throughout 2014 they have been steadily gaining momentum with the video for ‘Right On My Way’ being featured in Rolling Stone Italy as well as receiving heavy rotation on Rock TV Italy.
Mixed and recorded at their own Morning Park Lodge Studio in the Alps the aptly titled Metropolitan Fragments is the band’s latest step towards the album I mentioned earlier and is a very interesting listen. It’s a wide-ranging blend of styles and influences which will hold your attention for the duration.
Opening track ‘Friday Will Come’ is March Division in a nutshell. Brit-pop/indie melodies mixed with a slight electronic twist. The intro and verses are nicely understated as the track builds to an electronic crescendo of a chorus. The vocal from Vitali is quite distinctive and falls somewhere between Richard Ashcroft and Ian Brown. The track just gets the EP off on the right foot, and gets the ball rolling nicely.
‘Lonesome Prisoner’ sees the tempo drop right down, with the electronica/trace feel of sections of the opener falling away to leave what sounds a bit like a Country influenced ballad. The central melody and verses drift along as the vocal glides over the top. Simple in construction and execution the track highlights March Division’s incredible versatility. While not a track to really get pulses racing it slides along effortlessly, making it perfect for lazy summer afternoons in the sun.
I am probably surprising no one when I say that the next track ‘Black Noon’ is once again markedly different from what went before it. In all honesty I’m really not sure what to make of it, but I think that that can be a good thing. It’s intriguing rather than breath-taking. It’s got a real psychedelic feel and rolls along without any real rhyme or reason. Think The Beatles in one of their weirder moments and you’re on the right lines; I think they were definitely an influence on this one. As a song it fits into the EP well but I think it might prove to be a bit of a marmite track, you either get it, or you really can’t work it out, personally I fall into the latter category.
‘Hangover Morning’ is probably my favourite track off the whole record. This beautifully delicate effort could have been taken straight from The Verve’s ‘Urban Hymns.’ And just for the record I love The Verve and that album like you wouldn’t believe. If you were coming round from the biggest night of your life with the biggest headache of your life you would want this song to be the soundtrack. It hits the spot in every way, from the gentle melodies, to the understated vocals it’s just a brilliant little song.
The indie pop ballad ‘Out Of Sight’ is about as close to conventional as this EP gets and it’s another nice track. The verses skip along in typical calm fashion leading to a more anthemic chorus. Something I think in time will become this bands calling card; they do seem to have a knack for it. Again the synth type sound makes and appearance in the chorus as it marks itself out against the light guitar verses, but it fits in very well and adds to the tracks impact. Also I feel I’ve got to mention here the track is dedicated to children with cancer which I think is a very nice touch and gives the song an extra bit of poignancy when you dial into the lyrics.
The penultimate track is a cover of the Chemical Brothers track ‘Star Guitar’ and the guys more than do it justice. The thumping drums and slightly heavier baseline give the track a totally different feel from the original, which I can’t say that I’m a massive fan of. But I really do like what the band have done here, there is a lot more going on for the listener to grab onto and its yet another very good track.
Closing track ‘Urban God’ is another slow build, except it doesn’t really build to that crescendo some of the earlier tracks do. The electronic influence is heavy here as the track thumps slowly along in almost futuristic fashion. It’s not a million miles away from a Daft Punk album track in all honesty style-wise. It took a while to grow on me, but the more I listened to it the more I understood it, and got to appreciate it.
The band have cited Chemical Brothers, New Order and Depeche Mode as influences on their more recent material and you can hear all of those here. There are still hints and their earlier Brit-popier days but that creates a really nice blend of styles and means that there is something for everyone. It’s not an ‘Instant’ record by any means but the more you listen to it the more you appreciate its intricacies and you really get a feel for it. You properly have to listen to it to take it all in, especially in its more psychedelic moments, but that is something I like about it. If you invest the time you get the rewards.
What is clear underneath all of this is that March Division are four very talented musicians who are not afraid to take risks. Metropolitan Fragments is full of intrigue from front to back, not full of huge highs and lows, but very very interesting. Every track is different to the last and the bands talent and versatility really shine through on what is a very rewarding listen.