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Champs - Vamala (Review)

Champs, Vamala

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 4 out of 5

PROLIFIC brothers Michael and David Champion – aka Champs – have wasted no time at all in following up their debut LP Down Like Gold with their sophomore effort – and it’s every bit as good.

Vamala offers up 12 new songs that weave an emotive path through the brother’s personal and collective environment. That it arrives a little over 12 months since their debut makes it all the more remarkable.

There’s no sign of difficult second album syndrome and no indication that things have been rushed. If anything, the slower pacing of some of the songs suggests that they have even matured and really found their groove. There are some striking contrasts.

It opens on a familiar note with former single Desire immediately setting the standard. Beginning in almost a capella fashion, the song eventually ushers in a throbbing electronic pulse and some New Order-style electronics and beats to hugely satisfying effect, complete with a falsetto vocal from Michael Chapman. It’s an intoxicating mix and early evidence of just how effortlessly this duo seem to be able to craft a good pop record.

In contrast, there’s a heart-on-sleeve melancholy to the piano-soaked Sophia, which – if anything – has an Andy Burrows meets John Lennon kind of vibe.

In similarly low-key fashion is the sparse, acoustic-based Forever Be Upstanding At The Door, which actually leans towards a Simon & Garfunkel comparison, not least in the way they have wrapped some beautiful but simply constructed melodies around a song that’s dripping with honest observations and emotions. And just wait until the subtle back-beat drops just ahead of the two minute mark.

Other highlights come from 3000 Miles, which picks up the pace slightly and even appears more moody. It’s a great driving record in waiting, evocative of classic Fleetwood Mac.

The quality is maintained on title track Vamala, which drops one of the album’s most emphatic beats and emerges as another instant favourite complete with a doozy of a chorus, while Blood lays down another of the album’s punchier sounds that’s clearly and effectively designed to be stadium-sized and anthemic.

True to form, however, Champs then slow things back down with moody, even haunting atmospherics swamping Down (Alone on the Avenue) to stunning, cinematic effect, before then stripping things back completely for another acoustic beauty in Roll Me Out – a Johnny Cash folk-rocker, if ever there was one, complete with a mesmerising whistle halfway through.

In truth, though, Champs have delivered the goods once again… and this is a truly excellent second album from a duo that are becoming impossible to ignore.

Download picks: Desire, Forever Be Upstanding At The Door, 3000 Miles, Vamala, Blood, Down (Alone On The Avenue)

Watch the video for Desire

Listen to Blood

Track listing:

  1. Desire
  2. Sophia
  3. Running
  4. Forever Be Upstanding At The Door
  5. Send Me Down
  6. 3000 Miles
  7. Vamala
  8. The Balfron Tower
  9. Blood
  10. Down (Alone On The Avenue)
  11. Roll Me Out
  12. The Devil’s Carnival