Hatchie – Sugar & Spice EP (Heavenly Recordings)

My love for one side of the 80s started with my mother’s CD collection, which contained The Cocteau Twins and Hounds of Love. It’s the female and mystical side (not one because of the other); the fool on the hill, the witch in the water and the goddess cursing her treasure. There are faux-Latin secrets still buried within those tracks.

My love for the other side of the 80s started in Oxford, going to Burning Down the House club nights on Wednesday. This part of the 80s is populated by more mundane objects, such as waitresses, mondays, and (indeed) houses. It lacks places to hide, but it contains space to dance.

Australia’s Hatchie, somehow, stands with one leg in the bewitched water of the first half, and with the other on the solid ground of the other. Her debut EP,  Sugar and Spice, sounds first and foremost like The Cocteau Twins. But at the same time, the five tracks are direct, in a way the Cocteau Twins never were. ‘Try’, the first song Hatchie wrote for this EP, illustrates this: the verses are deep holes below which primal currents stream (Slowdive-style shoegaze is another reference), while the chorus is a reflective golden ball. In other words, whereas with music by the likes of The Cocteau Twins and Kate Bush you always feel there is something hidden, whether it is a covenant with God or a no longer spoken language, and therefore somewhere to hide, Hatchie’s landscapes are bolder and brighter, like they are filled up with water, leaving no empty space (and this gives much more room to dance). It’s another way of writing that on Sugar & Spice, Hatchie is personal and honest and vulnerable in a way ghosts never are. Listening to Sugar & Spice is like dancing to Treasure.

Hatchie, aka Harriette Pilbeam, is well aware of this duality. “I think that’s because I’m still making up my mind,” she says. “I’m kind of jumping between, ‘Do I want to just make fun pop songs? Or do I want it to be more shoegaze and more of a band sound?’ I really love writing pop songs, but then messing them up and turning them into something else. Something darker.” But what makes her music special is that Pilbeam hasn’t made up her mind yet, resulting in a sound infinitely more interesting and truly layered.

-- Caspar Jacobs, May 24, 2018