Words by Carly Gibbs
Experimental alt-pop four-piece, Gengahr, are the tale of a modern-day phoenix, a band resurrected and reborn from a tumultuous but epic journey. ‘Sanctuary’ is the follow-up to their acclaimed 2015 debut ‘A Dream Outside’ and 2018’s ‘Where Wildness Grows’ and sees songwriter Felix Bushe tapping into personal pain but coming out stronger. During the writing of this album, Felix was picturing himself as Odysseus, and as he says, “in a captive journey” fighting to overcome his recent traumatic experiences to get back to a place where he was happy and where he wanted to be. His Mum had passed away and then his wife, the woman that helped him hold it all together, had to return to Australia due to visa issues. He was left broken and alone. This saw him focus and channel that pain into writing 60 new songs, which at that early stage it was unclear as to what the songs would be used for. A solo album was potentially on the cards as the experience of recording that last album with the band was quite rocky and turbulent. Bandmates John Victor, Hugh Schulte and Danny Ward, had no idea if Gengahr were going to get back in the studio.
But, thankfully, there was no way that any of them could turn down the opportunity to create ‘Sanctuary’ and they decided to try something a little different to the previous albums and recorded without a label or management. This resulted in them paying for the sessions directly out of their own pockets. A real DIY story. It also allowed was for the boys to recapture some of that excitement and enthusiasm that they had felt whilst writing and recording ‘A Dream Outside’ and this is most certainly reflected in the final product of ‘Sanctuary’. They later enlisted their old friend Jack Steadman of Bombay Bicycle Club fame as producer who added his distinct, meticulous expertise to Gengahr’s already complex and layered sound.
Now, I know that is quite a lot of a back story to this album and as a pre cursor to this review but I think it helps the listener to completely understand the depth and the amount of feeling that is running through the veins of this record. More ambitious than anything they have ever done before the record is extremely heartfelt, expansive and creates beautifully ambient soundscapes that take the listener on an emotive ride through heartbreak to triumph. It is a really focused offering and feels cohesive and sophisticated. In parts, the high twang of the guitar against Felix’s deep, dulcet tone is absolutely stunning.
The opening track Everything & More starts with a basic drum beat and twinkling synth which pave a golden path for Felix and his soothing voice. There is something so familiar and comforting about his tone and I am instantly drawn in. The music created by John, Hugh and Danny is beautifully considered and every note and drum beat has its place. The lyrics will resonate with anyone who may have lost someone before having the chance to make amends or say what they wanted to say.
“For the chance to say what I’d do
All the waking hours
I regret the way I left things now
And that’s what really hurts”
Heavenly Maybe is another track that has already been released from the album and if you are lucky, you may have heard it already. It’s a poppy little dance track and I can’t help but sing along and dance every time I hear it. Considering it has come out of North London with its renowned gloomy weather, there is a distinct Summer vibe to it which gives images of a road trip in a convertible, warm air tousled hair and arms slowly undulating above the roof line like two sultry snakes.
Anime, as its name suggests, has sounds sonically akin to those you may hear on a video game or in a Japanese cartoon in the 90’s runs alongside Felix’s ethereal yet strong voice.
Whereas, You’re no fun is upbeat in tempo with a rockier vibe and a fuller sound but the chorus somehow has a tinge of melancholy to it.
The beautiful, twinkling Moonlight hints at a positive future. “I do want the album to be hopeful and Moonlight is all about that,” Felix explains. “It’s a harmonious ending of unison and togetherness.” Written while in Vietnam with his wife, its lyrics turn Felix’s self-doubt into a lush, low-key eulogy for the bad times. The perfect closer to the album.
‘Sanctuary’ is a perfect example that from darkness comes light and is the audible commentary of our human condition.
Your ears drums might well have already been pleasured with Heavenly Maybe or Everything & More which are being played on local and National radio such as triple j but you can take a look at the film clips here-
‘Sanctuary’ is set for release January 31 via Liberator Music.
To pre order ‘Sanctuary’ or to link through to listen to the songs that have already been released, click HERE.
The boys will be making a brief appearance in Australia this year with dates for Melbourne and Sydney only at this stage as part of their world tour.
Fri 13th March 2020 – Lansdowne Hotel, Sydney
Sat 14tth Mar 2020 – Howler, Melbourne.