Inspired by a shared love of Cold Wave, Post Punk and the city of Glasgow, Causal Worker offer to us a mesmerising record that portrays a deeply captivating story, all wrapped up in hazy distortions and melancholic, emotive energies.
Lockdown was many things to many people, but throughout 2020 and the first half of 2021 a slew of incredible music came to the fore, with surprises and experimentation at the forefront as being indoors within a sedentary existence allowed for meditations on how sounds could be crafted. Eve King and Hamish Wickham were two such creatives who utilised this period to great effect, expending much of their energy during this time into crafting the music that would make up their debut record. The name Causal Worker was inspired by the notion of the 0 hour contract of the same name given out within the hospitality industry, of which both King and Wickham were on at the time, and the name nods to the dissatisfaction that so many young people are subjected to these contracts. The duo's debut EP, "Mousetrap', alludes also to this lifestyle, and how many become trapped within an endless cycle of employers exploiting those on such contracts. The music itself, built upon Wickhams' instrumental demos before King would add lyrics, is an intoxicating mixture of the aforementioned genres alongside a hefty level of originality and emotive development, all wrapped up within razor sharp production values and a kinetic dynamism. The mixture of electronic elements alongside live instrumentation is balanced very well, with King's voice crafting spells up top, convincing us all to take a deeper dive within the layers. Each track operates superbly on its own, but as part of a larger story there's more to pick apart, with the five cuts speaking of a highly refined sound which revolves and evolves as we move through the experience. The differences are found within the highly charged synths, the engrossing transitions between thick, heavy set structures and light bass and drum segments, all knitted together by a supreme understanding of how each track will evolve. What we are left with is a series of moods that whisper as much of the past as they do the present, a perfected blend of pop sensibilities and brooding, emphatic electronics that have an abundance of soul and character. We leave with the experience in the rear view mirror, our eyes locked on to what we just passed by, with our fingers itching to turn right back round and float through it all again, and we can assure you that this is exactly how you will feel when the record stops to play. On that note, lets take a dive through this enriching record, one which will make you wanna dance as much as, perhaps, it will make you want to feel and live....
Up first comes 'Allison Street', named after a street in the Govanhill area of Glasgow, and this one begins with the rising synths to get us going. The crest of the wave is reached before the crisp drumming patterns and the smooth, rhythmically engaging bass line come into view, with the instrumentation allowed some time before the vocals come into view. Kings' voice hangs in the heavy air, drenched in texture and presence, filling up the top end of the track with plenty of meaning, with the slide into the chorus adding plenty of density. The swing back into the segment after sees some light melodic touches come to the fore that add additional levels of expressionism, with the track moving quickly between choral sections and verses as the structures underneath shift and sway with the groove. The guitar that comes in towards the end only expands the scope, the world above the drums blowing up beyond the horizon lines, effortlessly feeling out the absolutes so that the fullest experience possible is provided. Top notch, this one. 'Chem 91' comes next, and this one is immediate. The captivating synth line leads the way, bombastically moving across the screen with the idea of filling up every single bit of space, with little additions adding to this all encompassing feeling. The synths float away to leave us with the first verse, with the application of the voice here working very well alongside the bass and drum layers. The manner in which the guitar comes back into view is handled expertly, with these blemishes in energy keeping the listener fully on board as time passes by, the fluctuations working so very well indeed. The repeating line of 'how do you know' channels right into the soul, and builds things up very nicely as we enter into a deeply mesmerising instrumental section, but the track subverts and leads into an incredible mixed bag sequence that sees densities shift at full throttle. There's time to a big old break down around the 3 minute mark, and this gives us time to catch our breath, and when the climax hits its utterly glorious, with emotion and mood seeping out of every corner. Stunner!
'Everything' comes into view next, and this one begins with the energetic beats and the swelling synths. The ensemble is joined by the bass line that is joined by a droney guitar line that operates seemingly both within the middle but also up top also, and just as we get familiar with the main thrust everything falls away as the vocals come into view. Their presence is soft, connective, inviting and comforting, gently moving along as the powerful foundation keeps things ticking over underneath. This track keeps things on the lighter side in regards to layering but its by no means less effective, it simply showcases a different approach to achieving the cavernous and tightly knit sound we have come to know on this record. The manner in which swells are handled here is superb, with the keys growing from such a small point before occupying the full view up top, with the shift into the breakdown around 2:50 mark providing a nice contrast to the rhythm laden sections. The melodic pool is tantalising, but we are never far away from the total experience with these two, so there is one final salvo left up the sleeve, and it hits as hard as ever. The title track comes next, and this one features a swinging beat with plenty of claps. The space left between the percussive elements is filled up quickly as the keys and vocals make their presence know, quickly stating their case before the guitar riff provides the lead melodic hook. The instrumentation sections here are gorgeous, the listener place right within the middle of the space to great effect, with the music swirling around the ears with shadow like interplays and delicate, boundless cascades. The vocals drift in and out of view to great effect, with the line 'Do you know who I am/can you tell the difference' lingering long in the memory after the track comes to a close, with that guitar riff playing out in the heart and the soul. To wrap things up, we have 'Mother', and this one begins with the hi hat and cymbal heavy percussive structure. The melodic features which emerge have a proper driving quality to them, the various motifs working alongside each other to propel the composition onwards and upwards. The vocals ring out high and true up above the propulsion, captivating with their tone and delivery, and when the chorus arrives the heavy crunch of the guitar and synth that slides in underneath is particularly effective. 'You are a mother/care for yourself/you are your daughter/maybe its okay' is the call that comes out of the chorus, a beautiful and effective hook that draws you closer to the messages hidden within the reeds, and the guitar work that comes after the chorus is beyond anything I could use to describe it. There's one final time for the chorus to wrap itself around our little finger, and like that we leave the experience behind in the mirror, with plenty to say and so much having been felt, and we are all the more better for it. As debuts go, this is something quite special.
Some records reveal plenty about the bedrocks to which a sound is formed, speaking to a wider narrative at play that provides not only something in the short term to enjoy but a long term excitement that keeps us dreaming about what might come next. Causal Worker have distilled their myriad of influences and production capabilities into a sound which envelopes and entices to great effect, their tunes moving through the gears with an effectiveness that only comes from passion and perception. Their sound, wrapped up within the here and now and the stylistic tendencies of iconic 80s Cold Wave, is a joy to sit within, partly due to their great ability to blend expressive percussion work with the most emotive of key playing and guitar noodling. Nothing is left to waste from a spatial perspective, with room found for every element to shine, and the manner in which each track reverts around their core ideals means that you enter into each one with a renewed sense of purpose and excitement. Its a wonderful first effort, and we for one are tuned in to what this duo might come up with in the future. Stellar stuff all round.
You can pre-order 'Mousetrap' via the bands' Bandcamp page:
If you're in Glasgow, you can catch Casual Worker playing on the 23rd of September at the Rum Shack alongside Brenda and Rachel Aggs, as part of the venues' 8th birthday - tickets can be purchased via the link below: