Archive for the ‘Singles and EPs’ Category

28th May 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

In recent weeks, there have been features in certain quarters of the media on the death of the band, led by Maroon 5’s Adam Levine proclaiming there ‘aren’t any bands any more’, and outlets like The Guardian supporting the claim by noting ‘if you look at the numbers, he’s right’, substantiating this with the statistics: ‘Whichever metric you use, the picture is clear. Right now, there are only nine groups in the UK Top 100 singles, and only one in the Top 40. Two are the Killers and Fleetwood Mac, with songs 17 and 44 years old respectively, while the others are the last UK pop group standing (Little Mix), two four-man bands (Glass Animals, Kings of Leon), two dance groups (Rudimental, Clean Bandit) and two rap units (D-Block Europe, Bad Boy Chiller Crew). There are duos and trios, but made up of solo artists guesting with each other. In Spotify’s Top 50 most-played songs globally right now, there are only three groups (BTS, the Neighbourhood, and the Internet Money rap collective), and only six of the 42 artists on the latest Radio 1 playlist are bands: Wolf Alice, Haim, Royal Blood, Architects, London Grammar and the Snuts.’

But this takes a very narrow perspective. Are the charts representative? No. And it should be born in mind that the same debate was happening five or six years ago on online forums as to why there are no bands in the mainstream anymore. People were bemoaning the fact the only bands left are Coldplay and Mumford & Sons, and how rock’s no longer a mainstream force.

What goes around comes around, and for those of us who have been around a bit longer and who have longer memories, the whole reason grunge was such a thrill was because it broke through at a time when the charts had been utterly swamped with lamecore rap and dreadful dance. But with such a fragmented scene now, does the mainstream represent anything other than itself? Arena-filling acts like The Manic Street Preachers and Placebo won’t trouble the charts not because they don’t have an immense fanbase, but because of how charts are calculated and how music is accessed by different generations.

Third Lung may belong to the new generation of streamers, but stylistically belong to the generation before. Just two months on from ‘I A Fire’, Third Lung give us ‘Hold the Line’ as a further showcase of their immense mass-market appeal. And once again, they’ve got epic chorus bolstered by epic production as their signature, and this one really soars.

The piano that’s as integral a part of the rhythm section as the bass and drums is almost buried under a surge of skyward guitars, and while certain aspects of their sound does hint at (early) Coldplay and turn of the millennium ‘bands’, there’s also a 90s alternative slant that points towards the like of Mansun.

Third Lung remind us that it’s possible to be ‘alternative’ or ‘indie’ and still break the charts without being mainstream – and while that seems unlikely at this moment in time, ‘Hold The Line’ is one of those songs that by rights should be an indie classic while also smashing the charts. In the current climate, they6’re unlikely to touch the charts, but ‘Hold The Line’ is a corker, and Third Lung prove that there really are plenty of bands, and good ones, too.

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7th May 2021

James Wells

Having just released her new EP “one-woman industrial army” follows single cut ‘Out pf Order’ with ‘Pray’, which goes beyond its superficially religious themes and strives to ‘bring hope to life in lockdown’ described as an ‘outreach for hope – an asking for the sign that there is a future waiting for us in the times where the values we all stand by no longer define humanity’. The press release also goes on to suggest that the music video, ‘a visual representation of this message, takes it to an even darker and more obscure space’.

It’s certainly an extravagant piece of filmography, but that’s no criticism: in lockdown we’ve become accustomed to visuals that – by necessity – are DIY and homespun, with blurry clips of local walks and home interiors, so this is an extremely welcome change. Said promo finds I Ya Toya in an array of dramatic illuminations and dressed in feathers, among other things, while the song itself pivots between a writhing, low-key grind of a verse and a bold, anthemic chorus.

She wrestles with the torment of life in lockdown, the isolation, the aching emptiness, the anxiety and low mood, that not knowing what to do with yourself and the lacking the motivation and wherewithal to do the things you do want to… and it resonates. While so much industrial music – by the very nature of the genre – is depersonalised and lacks that human, emotional edge, ‘Pray’ sees I Ya Toyah break free of the machine to reveal a rare warmth and vulnerability.

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SN Variations – 7th May 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Did downloading really kill physical formats and the music industry? If you believe the media and the major labels, yes, and again, when it comes to non-major artists, it’s clear that the current industry model is not one that benefits them kindly. Then again, streaming services probably did more damage than downloading – or home taping – ever did. But there is also a very definite flipside, in that the cost of producing physical releases on a small scale is phenomenally expensive on a per-unit basis, to the point that it’s often prohibitive, and that’s before one factors in issues of distribution and postage.

There’s also a matter of purpose: conventionally, singles were released to promote albums, and in order to achieve that aim, tended to be the most commercially viable song(s) from said album that radio stations (and, later, blogs and the like) may play and draw potential buyers in. But artists like Adrian Coker don’t make music that has that kind of marketability. You won’t find his music being played on commercial radio, and a single is probably likely to sell a bunch of albums.

No artist makes music for it not to be heard. And so it is that SN Variations release Adrian Corker’s ‘9 Spaces’ single as a download only, and it makes sense, particularly in context, as a musical work that was only possible via digital means, as Corker explains: ‘This piece started quite a while ago in a room with me, Chris Watson and an electro magnetic receiver made in Russia. It ended with the processing of these parts by Takuma Watanabe and a percussive improvisation by Tatsuhisa Yamamoto that left my original demo in his recording worldising my track in Japan. In between over the last year musicians such as Aisha Orazbayeva, the Ligeti Quartet and Pascal Wyse sent me parts remotely from London and various places around Europe. A track that was made in 9 spaces of which I was in 3’.

It’s in this context that the title makes sense also. And the roll-call of contributors is quite something:

Tatsuhisa Yamamoto – percussion

Takuma Watanabe – max

Chris Watson – field recordings

Aisha Orazbayeva – violin

Pascal Wyse – trombone

Ligeti Quartet:

Mandhira de Saram – violin

Patrick Dawkins – violin

Richard Jones – viola

Val Welbanks – cello

The first version, a quite punishing nine-and-a-half-minutes in duration, begins with grating drones and serrated buzzes, somewhere between an electric hair clipper and a palm-sander, before transitioning into trepidatious territory, with skittering fleeting buzzes and swarming sounds creating an unsettling tension atop a sparse, hesitant bass that stops and starts, single notes echoing and halting, And ultimately, it’s quite challenging – but to be clear, that’s no criticism. Art that isn’t challenging isn’t really art, but entertainment.

‘V2’ is subtler, quieter, stealthier, the drones trimmed, more mid-range, cleaner, manifesting as more like organ notes that quiver and quaver into space, disturbed only by the occasional extraneous disruption. As such, it’s more ambient and less upfront. It’s also everything a single should be: a snapshot of the artist, showcasing different aspects of their sound in contrasting and complimentary fashion.

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21st May 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

With their latest single in the run-up to their debut album due to drop in July, SENSES threaten ‘an absolute stomper soaked in bass and synth… one for any BRMC fans out there’. And in a bit of a shift from the previous two singles, which showcased more psychedelic and indie leanings, that’s what they deliver. ‘Harder Now’ is one of those classic, scuzzy rock ‘n’ roll tunes that’s simple but effective, and centres around a solid rhythm section and nagging, repetitive riff.

So maybe it does nab the bass stylings of the intro to ‘Spread Your Love’ and the drawling vocal hook of ‘Stop’, but so what? BRMC always amalgamated an almost stereotypical rock ‘n’ roll swagger with a dash of The Jesus and Mary Chain – breezy melodies in a collision a with a whole load of overdrive – and no-one owns these things. That’s the beauty of rock ‘n’ roll: it doesn’t have to be radically new, or break new ground to be of merit: it just has to be good. ‘Good’ can be many things, of course, is subjective, but objective good is having that all-important riff that hook, that self-confidence, and a certain knowingness.

In context of their releases to date, it’s clear that SENSES have a sense (sorry) of history, and a keen appreciation of a span of music of a certain vintage – a vintage that has come to possess a timeless quality.

They’ve got some savvy songwriting going on, and the musical skills to deliver it with just the right vibe, and ‘Harder Now (For Love)’ is a cracker.

Harder Now (For Love) single cover

Christopher Nosnibor

Six months on from ballsy grunger ‘Underground’, Kath & The Kicks return with their fourth single, ‘I’m Alive’. The news of their being alive comes as something of a relief. It may sound like I’m being facetious – As usual – but I do mean it. Even before the pandemic, I’ve discovered people who’ve been off radar for a while are no longer with us, and in the last year or so, many of us have lost friends or relatives – not necessarily to Covid-19 – without being able to exchange our last words or see them that one last time.

For bands accustomed to working together, in a room, lockdown has impacted many, including Kath & The Kicks, who’ve had to adjust their approach in order to continue writing and recording new music, and ‘I’m Alive’ marks something of a stylistic shift from its predecessor.

‘I’m Alive’ starts out subtle, brooding, with lacings of post-punk draped around a soft, insistent bass and understated chorus-tinged guitar… and then when the chorus hits it absolutely erupts. Bass and guitars set to stun, it kicks in with maximum swagger and a deep, deep groove that’s hard and absolutely gripping, going straight for the jugular.

This is more stoner rock than anything else, for those set on genre: otherwise, it’s just a monumental riff-led beast of a tune which really showcases Kath & The Kicks’ versatility and their knack for monster riffs. What more do you need?

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Cleopatra Records – 23rd April 2021

James Wells

Ahead of their debut album, set for release on longstanding industrial / goth-leaning label Cleopatra Records – who will forever be a favourite with me for their releasing Rozz Williams-fronted Christian Death albums in the early 90s, although their catalogue is impressive in its depth and breadth – Handsome Abominations deliver their debut single, ‘Slave’.

The band are pitched as purveyors of ‘sleaze industrial’ – but then, isn’t that so much industrial? Leading exponents of technoindustrial, like Revolting Cocks, KMFDM, and PIG are aaaaaall the sleaze, and NIN – probably the biggest name in the field – are hardly clean and family friendly (‘Closer’, anyone?). This kind of grind has long associations with dingy nightclubs, latex, and S&M, and Handsome Abominations are all about that scene here.

As Baron VonSchnell says, “When I heard the strong, primeval beat that Tufty Hacka had programmed, I instantly knew that we had to write a writhing, sleazy anthem that would suite a fetish club.” And that’s precisely that we have here: ‘Slave’ is grimy, sweaty, slippy, heaving with all the wrong desires, and it’s clearly pitched at a specific audience.

There’s a whole lot happening, and a whole lot to unpack and discuss. ‘Slave’ is, without doubt a quintessential industrial disco cut that combines that low-down groove and blends it with some less than subtle lyrics that are all the sleaze. Of course it does. Nor would the blurb be justified in promising a song where ‘a sleazy, groovy musical orgy breaks out’ if it didn’t.

But at what point does the world of S&M fantasy stray into something that’s uncomfortable? I’m no advocate of trigger warnings, especially having run into trouble over an absence of them when referencing suicidal thoughts at a spoken word night a couple of years ago, but sometimes it’s possible to wander over lines in the name of ‘provocativeness’. So when Mistress Misha moans ‘Tie me down and rape me’, it sends a prickle. What is the message there? I suppose the question may ultimately come down to an understanding of the scene, in that rape fantasy is an entirely separate thing from the reality of rape, and the rape culture under discussion in the media right now, although it’s likely difficult to understand the distinctions and nuances of the scene for a straight. It isn’t the job of Handsome Abominations to explain this, and nor should art have to justify itself: it’s just difficult to draw distinctions in the current climate. But one thing is without contention, and that’s that ‘Slave’ is a cracking tune.

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Following a handful of corking releases including US release of the stunning debut by Health Plan, fledging Iowa label Nim_Brut look set to really make their mark with the release of the snappily-titled compilation DEPRIVED OF OCCUPATION AND PLEASURE WE FEAST.

It boasts a cracking array of contributors, and the first available track is ‘No Cure For The Lonely’, a cover of the Swans song from their 1992 album Love of Life by HUBBLE, the rather more gentle side-project of Ben Greenberg, guitarist with New York’s harshest, Uniform.

I personally have a serious soft spot for White Light /Love of Life era Swans, despite many diehards being less keen on the more accessible folksier sound that defined it: the songs felt rather more like songs instead of crushing slabs of brutality, and instead we witnessed the band discover a more expansive, epic sound.

The last track on Love of Life, ‘No Cure for the Lonely’ is a simple, sparse acoustic song that’s only a couple of minutes in duration and finds Michael Gira downbeat and introverted, and HUBBLE recreate the mood perfectly – albeit with a much fuller arrangement and a more psychedelic folk sound.

Ben says ‘It’s a Swans cover, with four finger tapping through an approximation of Terry Riley’s ‘Time Lag Accumulator’ method via a Boss DD-5, which is actually the guitar sound for every Hubble track.’ The floating vocals are bathed in reverb and are definitely secondary to the intense guitar work that dominates. It’s unexpected, and inventive, and sets the bar high for the rest of the album.

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30th April 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Ten months on from last year’s ‘Summer ‘ EP, headed by lead track Recovery, Sleep Kicks return with ‘My Own Demon’, and it’s a solid second single to say the least, putting meat on the bones of the live acoustic version that featured on the EP.

The comparisons I drew to A-Ha and Editors in reference to its predecessor are again applicable here, as the Norwegian foursome spin a hypnotic atmosphere through the medium of strolling bass and chiming, reverby guitar to carve a song that’s a balance of taut 80s pop and brooding new wave, and anthemic is the only word to describe its epic finish. With a wash of guitars and a powerful, uplifting ‘wo-ah-hoh’, you could easily picture this being played in front of a packed arena with several thousand hands waving aloft in time.

Yet, at the same time, the delivery of this big, soaring chorus, is quite a contrast to the lyrical content, which are so striking in their intimacy:

Always feels like someone’s coming after me

Never seem to find a cure for this anxiety

Every day it stays the same, I fear tomorrow’s call

Would be better if it never came at all

We all have our demons and our anxieties, but tend not to talk about them, despite the fact we probably ought: free and open discussion is the only way we will change attitudes to these things, and normalise the topic of mental health, and how it feels to wake up wishing you hadn’t. But we’ve all – or nearly all – been there at some point. It takes real strength to not only commit such lines to paper, but also actually sing them out loud, but it’s that investment of emotion that resonates, and – as I often say – in the personal lies the universal. And this, this reaches out and touches the soul in a special way.

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Magnetic Eye Records

Christopher Nosnibor

This is my first encounter with Swedish psychedelic doom-riffers Domkraft, and it must be something to do with the power of three, given that this is the third single from the forthcoming third single by the trio.

And when a band puts out a nine-minute track as a single, you get a sense of where they’re coming from. This clearly isn’t a band going for radio play here, the no-compromise approach of a lack of an edit demonstrating a solid anti-commercial aesthetic. But then, how would you do justice to an absolute epic like this by cutting it down to three, four, or even five minutes?

No, you need to hear – and feel – the full thing, from end to end. Build? Yeah, you, might say it builds. After a couple of minutes or so that are a welter of guitars and a monster wall of riffage, it really takes off, before it simmers down into a lumbering, soaring expansiveness that’s even vaguely proggy. No criticism, but a sense that certain parts don’t quite deliver on the threat of the band’s bio or commentary on the single. If anything, this is very much for the better, because ‘Audiodome’ is so much more, and transitions between passages of varying tempo and weight to outstanding effect. Around the right-minute mark, they really slam in with some eight, and it thunders hard.

It feels less like a single than an album condensed into a single track. Epic is indeed the word.

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23rd April 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

They may be in the midst of a lineup change and lacking a guitarist and drummer, but while live activity isn’t an option, London-based Emergency are still in aa position to raise their profile with the release of single ‘Another Hit’, a swipe at social media and its content creators, while also turning the lens inwards and reflecting on the role of the consumer and the element of hypocrisy that’s inherent within that.

It’s relatable, to the extent that most of us do it, and I’ll confess my guilt also: I’ve spent what feel like an eternity bitching about Instagram being the platform for vain hipsters before finally relenting and setting up and account ostensibly because, y’know, maximum exposure and all, but I feel like a sell-out and a hypocrite, but it’s just the way of the world, right? Like being absolutely sick to death of everyone’s pictures of their pets and their meals, so electing to do the same, only ‘ironically’ – right? Fuck it. Postmodernism is dead, irony is dead. Thankfully, killer tunes played with energy never die, and ‘Another Hit’ is tight, punchy, zesty, and a shade acerbic, packing some sharp critique and packaged into some astute guitar-driven post-punk influenced indie, with a dash of surf rock and a hint of Franz Ferdinand in the mix.

It’s choppy, dynamic, and has one of those buzzing riffs that drills into your head on the very first listen. Absolute killer.

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