Blouse - Imperium

Blouse - Imperium

A hazy record that is both slightly broody and yet also rather unconcerned.


On second album ‘Imperium’, Portland trio Blouse have taken even more care to disavow the slick sound of modern production than they did on their self-titled debut. If it’s true that for this record – as the band’s label bio suggests – member and producer Jacob Portrait insisted on “instruments that don’t plug into the wall”, then should a music career fail him he may want to take his negotiating skills to the UN. They could probably do with someone capable of actually carrying out what they say.

The record itself is entirely sustained by the interplay between the band’s three basic elements. This may sound like something of a non-statement, but when even now-defunct JLS can still claim tribal followings for the supposed merits of its differing members, it’s always reassuring to hear a group that sounds (at least on record) equally harmonious. Powered along by the low-engine purr of Patrick Adams’ bass, Portrait’s whirling guitar and Charlie Hilton’s detached vocals, this is a hazy record that is both slightly broody and yet also rather unconcerned.

Title track ‘Imperium’ is a strong opener and its central hook and first line on the album, “Are you one of us?” catches the mood of the thing entirely. This is an album made solely for the band and its followers, not noticeably interested in winning over a new audience. From the perspective of a listener this can be distinctly alienating, particularly when Hilton’s woozy Nico-esque whisperings blur into incoherence on tracks like ‘Eyesight’, or in the case of ‘Happy Days’ are barely there at all.

In a way though, it’s this distant stance of the band’s which urges closer attention. When the light refrain of “I would never hurt you / Or disappear” comes in on ‘1000 Years’, it’s with a suitably slight jolt that we realise this is in fact a love song. Equally, the up-tempo drumming of ‘Arrested’ makes for a pleasing penultimate surge ahead of the almost frank and devotional ‘Trust Me’. These nuances of emotion that filter through the ‘Imperium’s initial bleary haze are in effect what make it worthwhile.

‘Imperium’ then is to music what Lomography is to photography. Purposefully lo-fi, it would be easy to dismiss as self-indulgent nostalgia, yet its quirky charms and understated directness more often than not outweigh its faults.