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Beasts tame electronics to unleash an urban beat

There can be few groups more incongruously named than Wild Beasts.

Across three albums of increasingly elegant and articulate dream-pop, the Kendal-born, London-domiciled quartet have smoothed the gnarls of youth to emerge, on this year's Present Tense, as refined as a Rolls-Royce.

The evolution that began with debut full-length Limbo, Panto and its follow-up, the Mercury prize-nominated Two Dancers - they lost out to the eponymous debut by The xx - gained real momentum with 2011's Smother, to which the stirrings of their synthetic impulses can be traced. Present Tense picks up the baton and takes it deeper into the realm of 1980s electronics acts - the dolour and yearning of The Blue Nile's first two LPs stalk the record - and such post-rock successors as Bark Psychosis, who eschewed density and daylight in favour of sparsity and streetlamps.

"The Blue Nile have been a big influence," says Tom Fleming, who shares vocal duties and swaps bass, guitar and keyboards with Hayden Thorpe. "What I love about A Walk Across The Rooftops is the way it sounds pieced together and separated, as well as Paul Buchanan's voice, and they're all love songs. We were careful to turn away from the adult contemporary end of The Blue Nile, but sonically and atmospherically ... We talk about the grey skies of Britain and late-night walks in the rain, which are definitely Blue Nile tropes."

This fondness for a band whose debut was released when the members of Wild Beasts were in nappies can be traced to the band's relocation from Leeds, to which the band decamped from Cumbria "as soon as we could stand on our own two feet", to the capital four years ago.

"You should try hanging around in east London pubs," says Fleming. "Everyone's talking about bands from the Eighties. It was only a matter of time. Every f***** and his dog is talking about Spirit Of Eden [Talk Talk's 1988 opus] or something like that."

Equally significant in the unfolding of the band's palette are such contemporary acts as Factory Floor and The Field, both of whom remixed Wanderlust, the lead single from the new album. (Less so Lady Gaga, whose 2011 single You And I they remixed - "Bizarre. It's almost like a Shania Twain song" - but that's another story.)

It's wrong, Fleming maintains, to infer there was any rationale behind the drift from guitar-based sound to programming.

"'Rationale' would be too strong because we don't tend to work to a plan," he says. "What we wanted to do with the synthetic elements was not make them layered. When you're working with electronics it's very tempting to layer, to decorate and fiddle. While production is important, it's not the be-all and end-all. With the synthetic elements it has to be: bang, they're in. It's constructed in a very simple manner, this record. Everything is audible."

In essence, their embrace of technology to create and mutate electronic sound runs parallel to their original instincts to pick up guitar, bass and drums.

"We went as far as we could go as players, so we started to design and build things. As Hayden put it, it's the difference between painting and architecture, if painting is playing an instrument and production is architecture."

Analogies like this punctuate the conversation.

"If you're not affecting the game what are you doing on the field?" he asks while explaining the collective ethic that underpins his group. Fleming is clearly a thinker, yet there is an earthiness to the earnestness, a connection with the environment in which Wild Beasts operate. After recording Smother in Snowdonia, the band chose to make Present Tense in the capital - and it shows.

"It's very much made with a slightly paranoid, cramped London mentality," he says. "There's a sense of the world being an assault on the senses and there's something of that on the record - information overload and the inability to focus. It's important to have an artistic response to that as well, not to long for the old days where you got in a room and jammed with your guys, or the bucolic Lake District and mountainsides. This record was made on industrial estates and in railway arches. It's important that things like that rub up against each other. I do think that's a British trait, that sense of paranoia."

Whether born of town or country, Wild Beasts' music overlaps that of their musical predecessors most palpably in its twilit glimmer. "Things have got more and more nocturnal," says Fleming. "It's also a progressive taking away, I guess. Nocturnal, intimate: that's what we're going for on all our records, but we're more adept now - as we should be."

Wild Beasts play The Arches, Glasgow, on Thursday.

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