The lineup: Rosie Blair (vocals), Michel Collet (guitar), Louis McGuire (drums).
The background: Ballet School come highly recommended by none other than Grimes, who posted on her tumblr how much she loved the new Berlin-based trio, especially Rosie Blair's singing. "Her voice is utterly amazing - reminds me of Liz Frazer plus the Cranberries or something," she raved, although "rave" is a term we'd use advisedly in connection with the Cranberries. The Fraser link seemed far-fetched - it always does whenever the Cocteau Twins frontwoman's name is evoked in discussing a singer with a vaguely high voice because no one since Fraser, with the exception of Björk, has managed to scale those heights. But listening to Heartbeat Overdrive, the band's new single, and the fluttery rapture expressed by Blair, Fraser really is the most obvious reference point. She doesn't have Fraser's otherness - she sounds like a pop singer with a decent range - but when she starts trilling and cooing, well, Fraser-esque is the phrase that springs to mind.
Maybe we - and Grimes, to be fair - are being insufficiently lateral in our dots-joining, because Stereogum described Ballet School's music as "Emotions-era Mariah [Carey] meets the current wave of alt pop". In a way, the vocals do have the melismatic, tremulous quality of an R&B singer, even if the band are decidedly not attempting anything that slick. They do do urgent, though, and that urgency shines through. There is a propulsive rush to their songs. As though they wrote them in a state of high anxiety and purple inspiration. They remind us, in that way, of the great Associates, who always sounded feverishly excited. Ballet School have a similar urgency about them. They only formed eight months ago after the Irish Blair met the Japanese-Brazilian Collet in Berlin. In December 2012 they began working with McGuire, "another fixture on the Berlin DIY scene".
That breathless determination to be heard is conveyed in the three or four tracks we've got by them. All Things Return At Night is a florid fusillade that seems to starts at full pelt and continues from there. It fairly gallops along, with guitars and drums keeping pace as Blair soars here and there. Ghost also appears to begin halfway through, as though there isn't a moment to waste. This recalls '80s alt pop at its ripest, even if they don't have in their ranks a multi-instrumentalist of Alan Rankine's ability, a producer of Mike Hedges' vision or a talent as mercurial as Billy Mackenzie's to take things into uncharted Associates-style territories. Promisingly, their best track is the newest, Heartbeat Overdrive. Blair is in her element on this, their most melodically rich concoction yet, with a production that takes it beyond the realms of indie, hinting at a more polished pop future. Everything about it, starting with the title, suggests heightened emotions and a sense of giddy rapture, as though they know what's coming. Maybe they should send it to Mariah.
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