Overland Inn are a French trip-hop duo who came together in 2006, with Etienne on guitar, occasional background vocals and what they call ‘machines’ – the latter of which are also operated by Chloe, who also does vocals and keyboards. They’ve spent the last four years or so in Prague and Between a Dog and a Wolf, their third album, was recorded there. The twelve-track album is described in their press release as being a series of stories about life after the apocalypse – but don’t imagine it’s some kind of sci-fi concept album as it appears to be more about the apocalypse of broken relationships.
The vocals, all in English and usually double-tracked, have a vulnerable haunting quality. There’s a Year 8 schoolgirl choir on ‘September Rains’ but perhaps more could have been made of them: they don’t really impose themselves on the song. The music is mostly provided by very punchy old-school synthesizers and drum-machines but there’s plenty of guitar and what sounds like a drum-kit on some songs. There’s also a nice tabla sound on ‘Mike is Leaving for Canada’. The playing isn’t over-complex in itself and there are very few solos but there’s a rich variety of sounds and the tracks have been well-mixed, and there’s usually an alluring aural tapestry if you listen carefully. The artwork on the CD cover and the lyric-sheet insert shows a dark forest with unidentified animals and this complements the sombre moods of many of the songs.
The opening track ‘Crepescule’ is one of the most impressive and it has shades of the Cure with its tight rhythm and banks of insistent sound. Its lyrics about finding yourself lost in a forest don’t hinder this comparison. The song ends in one of the duo’s signature quirky synth codas. ‘Into the Woods’ has more of an orthodox pop song structure and even a chorus while with its more prominent guitar ‘Europa’ is reminiscent of U2 on ‘Achtung Baby’; but these two songs are untypical of the collection as a whole.
The lyrics here often speak of unhappiness:- “I’m looking for a lover, I’m looking for a dream”; “Everywhere you go they’ll hurt you”; “Since you left… an empty space…I’m not sure that I’m not a threat for myself”; “Have I already told you about my land where a king has left an empty throne?” Having said this is no sci-fi concept album, the final track ‘Alpha’ has very terse lyrics including “Mission aborted. Station Alpha Destroyed” but later “Spaceship Desire”, which conjures another image entirely.
Overland Inn have been doing a number of gigs in the Czech Republic recently but I hope they can play in the UK in 2017: I’m sure they’d create an atmospheric evening in the right venue.
Overland Inn’s Between a Dog and a Wolf is available from iTunes, priced at £8.99.