If you took the Military Wives Choir, stripped away the husbands, jingoism, lumbering tunes, and Primark jeans, and swapped in monstrous crow costumes, glitter, feminist rhetoric, anti capitalist lyrics, and some goblins playing the xylophone, you might end up with something like Gaggle. An all female choir with 20 plus members, Gaggle consider themselves more of a travelling circus than a conventional act- and whilst this means that their live show is a brilliant, brain melting cavalcade of facepaint and whooping, it doesn’t necessarily bode well for their debut album as a listening experience.
Fortunately it turns out there are a number of high points. At it’s best the album scatters innovation like snowflakes- the choir sing over a kind of gothic fantasy orchestra backing that’s carved from booming drums, quirky instrumentation and glitching chimes. The only really comparable work in modern pop is the baroque stylings of the last These New Puritans album. The funeral paced title track is marvellous, powered by the elements, with crashing gongs, chain gang percussion and delicate swirls, and Liar is a well crafted modern day folk song, a warning list of shitty spouses and their inevitable lies, and what should be done with them when they are found out.
The album works best when the choir utilises the depth and variety 20 voices can muster, different timbres and pitches offering different perspectives on a lyric. On the flip side there are points when the tunes feel like they miss the focus of a single singer coming forward to take a solo, like the choir is a bed that another vocal wants to lay on—maybe I’m listening to the music wrong, and maybe this is a deliberate comment on individualism in our society- choirs being inherently communal affairs – but in all honesty it becomes a touch grating at times, and I found myself wanting someone to come forward, take a track by the scruff of the neck and give it a shake.
So, an interesting album, and although problematic, a better one than may have been expected—From the Mouth of the Cave may well be somewhat of a niche proposition, but it has more ambition and creation than much of its contemporaries- indeed, that is if the group actually have contemporaries. If you’re hungry for something fresh, awkward and intriguing, then you’d do worse than let Gaggle lead you through the shadows. 7/10