In late 1993, heavy snow trapped Nirvana in the studio for two weeks and they ended up recording ‘In Utero’. Twenty-odd years later, London three-piece Mazes arrived in New York to lay down tracks for their own third album. They’d been there for less than an hour, preparing to go upstate to an isolated studio the next morning, when their van was broken into and their equipment stolen. Then a snowstorm hit. When Mazes eventually made it to the studio, they were snowed in there for a week. But, as Nirvana had found, isolation worked wonders. The trio knuckled down and get to work without any distractions, producing their best record yet.
Weather conditions aside, recording in an actual studio seems to have helped too. The band’s two previous albums had been recorded on a boat, in a backroom at the Shacklewell Arms, and in singer Jack Cooper’s bedroom. This time a full studio set-up allowed Mazes to record live, giving ‘Wooden Aquarium’ a real kick and ensuring the trio’s songs have been properly polished for the first time. So opener ‘Astigmatism’ is frenzied and hypnotic, thanks to the motorik rhythms and Cooper’s laissez-faire vocals. ‘Salford’, a nod to Cooper’s home town, is punkier – but the transitions are seamless between that or the equally upbeat ‘Letters Between U&V’ and the much slower, almost shoegazing ‘Vapour Trails’ and ‘It Is What It Is’.
‘Wooden Aquarium’ is much more cohesive than past Mazes releases: for the first time they’ve made something that feels less like a collage and more like a proper album. Easy on the ear and paying dividends on repeat spins, it’s a real arrival. Give them two weeks in an igloo next winter and they might do something astounding.
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