Aside from the title, there’s a fair sprinkling of Latinisms on Constant Supply’s sophomore album. Phrases like ipso facto and terra firma, well understood but retaining a whiff of erudition, pepper James Gillen’s vocals at key points over the course of the LP. Such multi-lingual insertions can often come across as pretentious and incongruous, but on ‘Ex Nihilo’ they fit right in. This is an intelligent album. Starting from a position firmly rooted in the tradition of alternative music, the quintet extrapolate out from there in about twenty separate directions. In the process they have carved for themselves a sound both respectful to their forebears and novel in itself.
You wait around for one Donegal-based outfit to come up with sweeping soundscapes creaking under the weight of pure musicality, and a flock of them come along at once. Much like fellow North-westerners SlowPlaceLikeHome, Constant Supply render in their compositions expansive vistas with as many sonic reference points as the ingenuity of their members can fit.
Take An Idea. Starting off with a horn line straight out of a mid-century film score, booming away over an ambient background, we are introduced through bass, synth and repeated refrains to a place where a blunter band would merely bash away at some barre chords. One of the early high points, the big build-up of the song is paid off with a swirl of brass and group vocals. At moments here, Gillen sounds not unlike Gerard Way, of all people. Elsewhere, we’re reminded of the late Lou Reed. On songs like Sad Brunette we’re firmly back in Matt Bellamy-town. The influences are often clear, but they are also multitudinous and varied.
Repeatedly on ‘Ex Nihilo’, what the band does best is shown to be this melding and synthesising of these influences to make something compelling. On The Cable Car Is Waiting, they play around with dissonance and echoes of turn-of-the-century Yorke-isms, ensuring too that we know they’re glad to play around with a fuzz-laden guitar from time to time. Some of the album’s best moments come in the instrumental introductions to tracks, managing, as on I Have No Money For You to segue from the main current of indie history-homage, to the intriguing whirls and eddies of a moodier, more avant-garde-sounding part of the river. The territory being covered often isn’t too far from the realm of epic. Ipso Facto Pier and Gone Away (Bonne Nuit) seem equally at home with rich emotionality and a detached, discordant coolness.
What emerges after 10 tracks, hacking their own way down paths both bright and dark, is a rich palette of sound and colour without much of a discernible dip in standard. If, at certain moments, the end result doesn’t quite make that final click, we shouldn’t complain. Constant Supply do a service regardless by taking us to such interesting places, and the fact it so often works is quite the bonus.