Formed in 2015, Minor Victories are a British alternative rock supergroup of sorts made up of vocalist Rachel Goswell (Slowdive), guitarists Stuart Braithwaite (Mogwai), Justin Lockey (Editors), and film-maker James Lockey of Hand Held Cine Club. The band released their self-titled album in 2016 and Orchestral Variations is a curio as it is an instrumental interpretation of the group’s debut.
‘Cogs’ is built around a plaintive piano and backed by cello and loops and even though it can be a tad repetitive it is nonetheless held together by a captivating melody. ‘Breaking my light’ treads the same territory as again the piano is to the fore but with added Hitchcock Psycho stabbing strings. The layered sound give way to both a melody and rhythm that wouldn’t sound out of place on that 70s behemoth Tubular Bells.
‘The Thief’ is more subtle in approach but as before we find lush landscapes conjured up for our aural pleasure. ‘Give up the Ghost’ is a tribal affair with glockenspiel overtones and a rather delicious use of hand-clapping rhythm to give the song the required lift. ‘Scattered Ashes’ (as the title suggests) is more sombre affair and indeed its follow up ‘Folk Arp’ continues the serious timbre of its predecessor.
‘For you always’ is a gentle piano piece that has a filmic quality. ‘A Hundred Ropes’ is another soundtrack type song that is, yet again, built around the piano. ‘Higher Hopes’ and ‘Out to Sea’ continue in a similar vein with the latter soaring on a wave of piano and strings. One of the main problems with this album is lack of variety as at times the songs can be a bit too familiar.
This is a collection that is not for everyone, however, it does continue that strong tradition of instrumental albums whereby vibe-y, mellow music washes over the listener and maybe in these troubled times that is no bad thing.