The quintet formed by guitarist Terry Bickers after his exit from House of Love severed his stylistic ties to that band, making its first impact on Britain via a pair of highly rated EPs. Coppelia’s “Smile” has the graceful restraint and tasteful texturing of prime Echo and the Bunnymen; Bickers’ relaxed deadpan shifts the focus a little, as does the production (slap-back echo on Dave Francolini’s snare, sitar effects). “Paid in Kind” sets the same sort of majestic pop structure to a more insistent beat and trebles the distortion-guitar layering, but “Rosemary Jones” is a loose-limbed ramble through gentle psychedelia.
The three-song After Ever follows a related course, droning a little (the echoey “Attached”), popping a little (“Firefly”) and tripping a little (the stunning ten-minute “Bedlam” matches the fader control and samples of ambient techno to maniacal feedback extrusion and the ethereal placidity of dream-pop). Levitation’s songwriting is calmly handsome, but it’s the band’s imaginative instrumental deployment (and the uncommon balance of the mixes) that gives the records their most striking qualities.
Coterie reprises four numbers from Coppelia and two from After Ever, although half of the old songs are presented in live, sometimes feedback-soaked, renditions that sail between de-rhythmed raviness and scaled-down U2. Otherwise, the album adds two new tunes (the brisk and sinuous “Squirrel” and the floating, Pink Floyd-like “It’s Time”) and offers a well-rounded sense of the group’s intentions.
Levitation’s first real album, Need for Not, is at once more ambitious and less adventurous. Applying its considerable weaving skills to songs that wind up sounding like ’70s progressive art-rock updated with modern trimmings, the group ebbs and flows, rushes and relaxes, roars and feints with delicately controlled power, sidling up to mainstream accessibility through the familiarity its mellotron sound, buttery basslines, howling guitars and elongated constructions should hold for baby-boomers raised on free-form radio. Next ride on the wayback machine starts in ten minutes. The line forms to your left.