If you need a shot of hedonism, then knock back Mealtime’s debut EP, ‘Aperitif’. The Manchester six-piece are club rats, with a sound which spills out of the 00s French house scene, living for a hypnotic headrush and irresistible grooves. This is an EP to be gorged upon: it’s deliciously high-glamour – and, most importantly, a little sleazy. “Our ‘Aperitif’ is best served cool, pumping through shitty speakers on a park bench with a packet of Space Raiders,” they insist. If you’re crawling out of the club in the early hours in your party dress, heels in hand, but you don’t want the night to end, then you know it’s Mealtime.
‘Aperitif’ puts electronica through a y2k lens. It fulfils every 00s dance dream, but Mealtime have a steely determination to innovate. ‘Rain Like This’ brings alt-rock rancour, but filters it through a rusty, snarling bassline, at once pissed-up and pissed-off. Though the clean-cut duetting gives a nice, polished finish, it’s a bombastic mess of noise. While Mealtime are unafraid to get their hands dirty in a little pop-driven anarchy, they’re careful to keep their eyes on the road, not risking too many experimental detours.
Their control of textures is exciting. Every track has butterflies-inducing depth and detail. Justice-indebted ‘Sublime’ casts coke-mirror reflections of 90s trance. The vocoder-style vocals give it a metallic feel which cuts sashimi-sharp over its amped-up, skittering beat. ‘Aperitif’ is a nostalgic trip When you hear a Mancunian twang occasionally creep on in, it doesn’t break the spell as much drag you out from the clubs of Paris and Berlin and invite you to an unlikelier city. “We can make you feel wanted”, they promise on the Daft Punk-adjacent ‘S.P.E.C.I.A.L.’
Their sound is an addictive 8-bit galactic journey, but at times, it can feel so nostalgic that it’s like children playing dress-up with feather boas and mum’s high heels. The EP’s triumphant closer ‘Excess’ is every bit as gaudy and outrageous as the 00s chart-toppers you remember, ten steps away from trashy and yet all the more glorious for it. Filled with hollow inanities like: “I heard you been living in America / Take me there so you can understand my love”, Mealtime don’t seem interested in giving the sound a new sheen.
But they are far from one-trick ponies. ‘Teef’, though speckled with synth to make it unmistakably theirs, is almost an indie-rock reverie. A guitar-driven bassline anchors it down to earth. They’re far from lotus-eats; they can just as easily wear their hearts on their sleeve. “It’s not quite happy, it’s not quite blue / I find it harder to find a feeling of waking from dreaming of you”, they sing softly. It’s just the right dash of sincerity to give them dimension.
With that being said, the jewel in this EP’s crown is where all these worlds intersect. ‘Denim’, with its fizzy, narcotised atmospherics is a sophisticated shrug of a song: confident and cool. Digital waves wash up against a pixelating shore, but it’s driven by melodic, indie arrangements that put us into a sleeker, sharper place than M83’s ‘Midnight City’. It’s refreshing and yet calls to mind the very best of the influences they’re drawing from. It’s a bold statement of intent that dares to draw from the legacy of an era we’re only just starting to see materialise in new, innovative ways.