Tone 9 – Scala “Compass Heart”

CD – 13 tracks

Track list:

1. HoneyLike (4:54)
2. Thirst (1:40)
3. Words And Thoughts (5:00)
4. Spread Your Wings And Fly (2:58)
5. Space (4:37)
6. Broken Down Beauty (2:35)
7. Ride On (7:22)
8. Mahatma (2:32)
9. Fearsome (3:33)
10. A Category (3:07)
11. Fuser (4:59)
Cello – Mikhael Junod
12. Hotel Room: Stream Of Light (3:05)
13. The Silence Of The Sirens (0:33)


VITAL (Netherlands):

Here’s another dainty item that I also found quite seductive. Scala are an amalgam of Mark Van Hoen (aka Locust and maybe Brilliant Trees?), Daren Seymour (ex-Seefeel, or maybe still?) and Sarah Peacock. I was not taken by their first collaboration (‘Beauty Nowhere’ also on Touch), but I now have a feeling it’s because I heard it at the wrong time (so I’ll obviously have to check it out again). This music and lyrics teeter on the edge of a precipice. Grinding, gritty ambience slithers over persistent rhythms which hammer the intimate and penetrating lyrics deeper and deeper into skinbone & brain. All the right questions. No answers. Cold desire and steaming indifference. Not for children these words of hers. An uncomfortably familiar taste of the human experience of the human. Voice like skin. Words like hooks. The feeling caught and held captive within ‘Space’ is so true it makes my spine shift each time I hear it. The premonitions in ‘Words and Thoughts’, while sung sweet and soft, warn of danger and despair. The price that love demands we pay. Instrumental interludes do little to cushion the blows. Key changes are a relief in themselves. Somebody send this to David Lynch, please. [MP]

Exclaim (Canada):

Compass Heart is the second album from two members of Seefeel (Warp, Rephlex) working with producer Mark Van Hoen (aka Locust from the R&S label). Van Hoen, once known for his Aphex-style ambient techno, has recently become the man to call to achieve a serious kind of electronic-based “pop/rock,” having just worked with former 4AD-ers now in Mojave 3 (Slowdive) and Sing Sing (Lush). His own 1997 trip-hop-pop project, Morning Light (from R&S), featured a variety of female singers. But he has now worked in Scala since 1995, achieving, with Seefeel’s Daren Seymour, a crystal clear instrumental sound made of finely textured synths, guitar and drum machine patterns that should appeal to jaded listeners of both pop and “electronica.” Over this Sarah Peacock sings her intimate songs, coolly distant but revealing of heart and intelligence. None of the tracks are entirely sweetness and light, the guitars in “Ride On” grind instead of float, and the instrumental interludes point in more abstract Seefeel-ish directions. But if this was Bjˆrk or PJ Harvey, and on a major label, the world’s music critics would be jumping up and down about it.

Side Line (Belgium):

Scala take the rhythmic, ambient guitar sonic veil of their progenitor, Seefeel, adds Sarah Peacock‚s glass-blown vocals and, most importantly (most prominently), lyrics that convey in their fragile psychic reservoir a richness of emotion and honesty, all wrapped around a misshapen center-piece: uncertainty. A perfect tentative mood is set by the music, the perfect tonal compliment to the lyrics; and then, the voice: clear like the bluest of skies, but at the horizon, an overcast shadow of doubt; and furthermore, the lyrics: the internal monologues and questions that one asks when the relationship is deteriorating (i.e. “What’s in it for you?/ What’s in it for him being so into you?/ And where are all these questions leading?” – from ‘Words And Thoughts’), questions that need to be asked but are often left teetering on the brink because the answers may be too painful–they remain, though, in the back of one’s mind, suspicion’s rats scratching at the cranial wall. A desire to be everything to save the relationship, and yet question that desire also. Not wanting to let go…and ultimately letting it all go awry. The dream-like quality of Space, hinges on the wishful imagery of lyrics on the cusp of consummate love (“Let me stay here, let‚s just lie here/Need to feel your touch forever”), while underneath, the dream is already turning potentially destructive (“Now I‚ve had a taste of you I only want more/You’re proving to be addictive and I’m hooked for sure” – the addictive quality much like the textures of obsession and denial that string the songs together). ‘Fearsome’ crystallizes the thematic compass of the heart of Scala: “Sometimes difference is the only thing we have/Sometimes difference is the biggest strength we have/ Sometimes difference is the only strength we have…the only thing we know.” The between song instrumentals serve to balance the intense material – contemplation before indecision (and, with the indecision, futility personified). Comparisons can be made to the fiction of Kathe Koja (brilliant American author whose finest works – “Skin”, “Kink” – rely so heavily on the melancholic, despairing moments-in-between, the psyche unraveling while a relationship disintegrates down an uncommon path), and even (from a different angle) the soul-peeled-back-to-reveal-the-agonizing-Truth-of-existence lyrics of Ian Curtis. (10) [JC Smith]

Yeah, great disc, quite possibly my fave this year (it’s easily top 5)…


Take equal parts of the Cocteau Twins ethereal melodies, the sonic wash of My Bloody Valentine, the other worldliness and percussion of Sky Cries Mary, and the eclecticism and danceable beats of, let’s say, a Bjork album, then top it all off with an innocent, yet touching female vocal…and what have you got? A big mess (or a bad review), right? Nope, Scala pull everything we like about the haze of the shoegazing bands of the late 80s and combine it with everything we love about the melancholic techno pop bands of the 90’s. Maybe its because the founding members of Scala come from the noteworthy, yet under recognized British band Seefeel. Much of the sound elements and samples sound strangely familiar, but with ambient instrumentals such as “Spread Your Wings and Fly” and the sitar laden “Mahatma” effectively combined with the trancy sweet vocals of “Words and Thoughts” and “Space”, Compass Heart is a welcomed and friendly release in a pair of fancy new shoes. (rodent EK)

SELF (Spain):

Scala is the best unknown band in a very familiar universe. Scala was formed when the London band Seefeel broke up. Up to now, they have recorded one CD (“Beauty Nowhere”, also on Touch) and two singles on Too Pure. “Compass Heart” is the latest release from this group, which comprises Sarah Peacock (possessor of a great voice) and Darren Seymour, developed at the same time as another project called “To you in AlPHA” (also on Too Pure), and produced by a member of Locust, Mark Van Hoen, who has also had a hand in writing and performing the tracks.”Compass Heart” weaves an intimate story of desire and cinematic nostalgia, containing brilliant, luminous scenes. From the exuberance of the first track (“Honey Like”) right up to the last (“Hotel Room: Stream of Light”), “Compass Heart” provides a refreshing escape for anyone fed up with the aggression of rock music and emotions pre-programmed by the system. While the critics and their invited audience have been obsessed with publishing and talking about their lists of ‘the greatest records of all time’, Scala have produced something really new and authentic that is sure to be a hit with all lovers of electronic music.