Archive for the ‘Singles and EPs’ Category

7th March 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Videostore are on a serious roll at the moment, and continue to exploit the benefits of being a DIY operation, with their latest cut, ‘Anglepoise’ being conceived, written, and recorded on Saturday. Today is Sunday, and here it is, released with a promo video.

‘Anglepoinse’ reminds me of ‘A Gentleman’s Agreement’ by The Fall, not least of all because of its sparse, downtempo style that contrasts with the majority of their other material, and also because Nathan’s reflective, introspective vocal delivery is a laconic drawl. As is characteristic of their sound, the vintage drum machine sound, kicking out a simple, metronomic beat and the juxtaposition of the two vocals are the defining features of this lo-fi indie tune.

The video is another lo-fi, no-fi effort: this time, instead of the pair miming in their living room, we get to watch their sea monkeys gliding and flitting serenely around their tank, and it feels oddly appropriate as a visual accompaniment. And it just goes to show that you don’t need budget, sets, or even much by way of equipment – just an ear for a tune and a bit of imagination, and Videostore have both.

15th February 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

I’ll admit, of those who were highly anticipating the latest output from the ‘Chicago-based one-woman industrial army’ who is I Ya Toyah, I wasn’t among them. No-one can know all of the music, and it actually amuses me rather when obscurants give that stunned look or otherwise make like you’re utterly clueless when you haven’t heard of and aren’t into every ultra-niche act they are, as they make like the artists with maybe 1,500 likes on their Facebook page are household names.

For a cult / underground artist I Ya Toyah has a pretty healthy fanbase, but not enough to guilt me into thinking I’ve been living in a cultural void for however many years. However, the arrival of new single, ‘Out of Order,’ the lead single from the EP of the same title, is a proper punch. It’s a dark, brooding electropop affair with breathy vocals that suggest an array of emotions, and it’s accompanied by a disorientating video that’s pitched as ‘a surreal story of a gradual mental breakdown, caused by an isolation and misinformation fed by media’, which was inspired by ‘the film art of David Lynch and the pandemic’.

It’s probably fair to say we’re all influenced by the pandemic, our every thought and our every move – or lack of. Has lockdown made us more paranoid? Probably. Has revisiting David Lynch been a common and rational pastime? Probably. Lynch was twisting things before everything got so very twisted, and now, the twisted seems fairly rational, or otherwise makes sense as a metaphor for the present if nothing else. And this slow-burning tune fits nicely. It’s not an instant grab by any means, but then, nor has the impact of life in lockdown – it’s been creeping, cumulative, the result being a new kind of fatigue that’s certainly mental, but for many manifests as physical. What do you actually do with that? There isn’t actually much you can do, other than find solace in music. And that’s where I Ya Toyah comes in. ‘Out of Order’ speaks beyond what it says explicitly, and through her art, she captures something about these difficult and desperate times, and about the human condition more generally.

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5th March 2021

It’s Friday afternoon: it’s been a tough week in a succession of tough weeks because lockdown, home working and home schooling since January has felt like an eternity. But arriving at the weekend alive and intact as the rain stopped and the sky cleared felt like some small-scale event, and an uplifting one.

Cracking open a beer, I experienced a brief moment of okayness: nothing nearly as extreme as euphoria, but something above calm. In the current climate, what could be better? What more could I ask for? The answer lay in my inbox with an email informing me that ‘Today Uniform launches an ongoing series of remix collaborations with digital releases exclusively on Bandcamp. Kicking off with Uniform X Zombi, new releases between Uniform and another artist remixing each other will continue over the coming months. In this first installment, Zombi gives Uniform’s ‘Shame’ an ominous rework and Uniform gives Zombi’s ‘XYZT’ a searing spin’.

It may seem perverse that I should experience such a surge of excitement at the prospect of being assaulted by gnarly noise, but there’s an inexplicable thrill with imminent catharsis, which of course is realised with the achievement of said catharsis.

The Zombi remix of Uniform’s ‘Shame’ isn’t a disappointment, but it’s not the raging racket one would anticipate. Everything is pulped down to a murky swamp of malevolence, Michael Berden’s vocal a slowed-sown metallic slur that finds itself enveloped in slow, gloomy synths that drone and grind as the drums plod dolorously. At times reminiscent of The Cure’s Carnage Visors, it melts toward abstraction, but the atmosphere is dank and oppressive. It may not be cathartic, but it is suffocatingly dense. It’s pretty much the perfect remix in that it isn’t kind or reverent, and instead takes the original material in a completely different direction, while still preserving its essence – in this case, the bleak anguish and soul-crushing nihilism – of the original.

Uniform return the favour by mangling the expansive math-tinged progressive ‘XYZT’ from Zombi’s last album 2020. The soaring guitars and intricate ‘Tubular Bells’ like synth motif is compacted down to a grainy murk of distortion, propelled by a hectic, stammering beat that’s pure tension. Again, it doesn’t bring the catharsis, but it does bring a whole lot of shade and discomfort. It seems right for the times: nothing is certain, it’s impossible to really settle and the light at the end of the tunnel remains shaky and may yet still be just a guy with a torch who’s lost. As we all are. But at least more Uniform provides some solace.

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Human Worth – 5th March 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

I am, unashamedly, a massive fan of Modern Technology, and have been from day 1. And their DOIY label, Human Worth, too. Not only do they make and release amazing music of immense weight, but they have real principles, donating a cut of the proceeds of every release to charity, and being thoroughly nice guys on top is just a huge bonus.

The label’s latest release – their first 7” single – is absolute gold (despite actually being marbled silver and black) And that’s another thing: the quality of the label’s product is magnificent, from the design to the finish. With vinyl’s resurgence, we’ve witnessed a greater attention to the physical product as an artefact to behold and to cherish, for all the reasons fans of vinyl spent about 20 years going on about at every opportunity while people moved away, first towards CDs and then towards streaming. I suppose aficionados of the ‘physical product’ proffer the same kind of case for vinyl as books, but when Kindle fans counter that ‘it’s just like a book’, the common retort is that what’s even more like a book is a book, and there is simply no substitute. Streaming fans don’t even have that: all they have is ‘convenience’, but they simply don’t grasp how much is missing from the experience when interacting with a physical format.

I may digress, but it’s relevant: when presented with a gut-punching welter of noise, it always hits harder when blasting from a fat chunk of wax through some speakers with a bit of poke. And shit, is this a gut-punching welter of noise.

Modern Tech and 72% crossed paths just days before life was placed on pause in March 2020. Sharing a bill for Baba Yaga’s Hut in London, no-one foresaw the year that was to come. With the prospect of live shows remaining tentative at best, this single feels like a necessary release of energy.

It’s 72%’s ‘Drowning in a Sea of Bastards’ that’s the (nominal) A-side, and it’s a squalling, full-throttle noise attack. It’s actually the drumming that dominates, while everything else collapses in on itself to create a volcanic sonic explosion of frenzies guitars that are played in such a way as to not really sound like guitars as much as a wild cacophony. There’s screeding feedback and all kinds of chaos flying every whichway, and somewhere, buried low in the mix, are some anguished vocals. You can’t make out a word of it, but the sentiment transcends language.

Meanwhile, Modern Technology continue to go from strength to strength. The first new material since their debut album, Service Provider in September, ‘Lorn’ is a six-minute monster. The droning feedback that howls from Chris Clarke’s bass is more mid-rangey than usual, bringing a sharp, brittle edge to their dark, dingy abrasion that’s pushes forward slow and heavy, propelled by Owen Gildersleeve’s crushing percussion. When the chords hit, they hit hard, and – as is now well-established as integral to their distinctive sound, Clarke’s vocals, distorted and buried in a wash or reverb, snarl and growl all the rage, landing somewhere between Lemmy and Al Jourgensen circa Filth Pig. It’s a trudging slow-burner that builds with a cumulative effect.

Oh, and there’s more: a brace of bonus tracks, starting with a head-shredding remix of ‘Drowning in a Sea of Bastards’ by Wayne Adams (Ladyscraper / Big Lad / Petbrick). Unrecognisable against the original, it’s a pulversing mangled mess of clanging metal and industrial-strength overloading distortion. Gnarly as fuck, it’s bloody brilliant. And as a double bonus, the additional cut from Modern Technology is another new track, ‘Ctrl’. In something of a departure, it finds Clarke deliver a spoken-word piece against a backdrop of thick, booming bass and slow, slow drums. As the murky layers build, so does the crushing weight of a track that’s reminiscent of Swans circa 1984: it’s claustrophobic and suffocating, and makes you feel tense.

It may only be fifteen minutes in total for all four tracks, but to describe the experience as intense would be an understatement, and I find myself simply too blown away to conjure a pithy one-liner to wrap up. Yes, it’s absolute dynamite.

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Sargent House – 2nd March 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

What to make of The Armed? The lineup is immense, comparable to Revolting Cocks, Pigface, or KMFDM, to the extent that you don’t really know who does what on which song or even who’s in the band or who just tuned up at the studio or rehearsal session. The videos for new single, ‘Average Death’ and its predecessor, ‘All Futures’ don’t help: is it even the band we’re watching? And ultimately, does it matter?

This second single release, ahead of the album’s unveiling in April demonstrates that The Armed are master of churning noise, differentiated by an uncommon accessibility. That is to say that I have no idea what to make of this. While ‘All Futures; was a raging, rampant blast of noise that called to mind Nine Inch Nails, ‘Average Death’ spirals into some heavy shoegaze. If industrial shoegaze isn’t a thing before now, it should be as of this release. It’s deeply immersive, a glorious wash of soft edges, propelled by a squalling wall of noise and frenetic drumming.

So while The Armed and their videos are all the questions, there is no question over the killer nature of their songs.

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Christopher Nosnibor

Hailing from Hastings, Kids Love Surf came together during the eternal year of lockdown, coming together due to a shared love of dreampop to collaborate remotely from March 2020. Following on from debut single ‘OYO’ which found favour with BBC introducing.

‘Moment’ is everything its rainbow-hued cover art suggests: a dreamy drift of 90s shoegaze, with soft synths and guitars bathed in washes of reverb and effects. The drums are muffled beneath the layers while the bass strolls around amiably, not driving anything, not even holding it down, but simply wandering, and it’s a latticework of jangly guitars that layer away behind a vocal that’s low in the mix and kinda dreamy in a 90s indie sort of a way. There are hints of Stereolab and Disintegration-era Cure in the mix here, and it’s all very mellow and melodic.

As is so often the case with this style of music, I find there’s relatively little to say. That’s not a criticism or complaint, but more of an indication of how, on a personal level, I find myself detached and floating free, how I struggle to engage in the details beyond the effect, beyond the superficial. Because it seems to be less about ]engagement and more about atmosphere, how it speaks beyond words via the medium of music.

The mid-tempo ‘Moment’ is a soft wash of tripping indie that’s easy on the ear, and do you really need a message or much substance beyond that? I’m content to just let it glide….

Fierce Panda Records – 24th February 2021

Here we are: it’s the end of February 2021, and COVID-19 isn’t still a thing, but just a few weeks short of a year after the first lockdown was announced here in the UK, it’s pretty much the only thing, and it dominates and dictates our lives in ways we could never have predicted back then – or, arguably, even in September, or at Christmas.

In a time when the music industry isn’t as much in crisis as halfway on its knees and wondering what the actual fuck to do while touring remains off-limits both home and away on account of the pandemic and Brexit meaning the future of the foundations of musicians’ livelihoods is in question, while at the same time the debate over the equity of streaming services for artists has stepped up several notches, the need for an indie label like Fierce Panda seems even more vital. They’ve never gone with the grain and have continued to carve their own niche, focusing on single and EP releases.

The Covid Version Sessions EP is a classic case in point: bringing together a selection of artists you probably haven’t heard of alongside a selection you really ought to have even if you haven’t, it showcases six standalone cover (Covid) version (boom boom) releases, recorded during the pandemic by acts striving to find ways of working together while apart or otherwise unable to operate as normal.

It’s an eclectic mix, with some interesting takes on some well-selected tunes. While we’ve already given praise to National Service’s stripped back, haunting take on The Twilight Sad’s ‘Last January’ (released this January), it’s Moon Panda’s slick, sultry jazz-tinged cover of ‘Call it Fate Call it Karma’ by The Strokes that raises the curtain on the EP. It captures the essence of the original, but somehow manages to sound more authentic, perhaps because of the lack of self-consciously ‘retro’ production.

I’ve long had a soft spot for Pulp’s This is Hardcore album, not least of all because of the admiration inspired by their apparent commercial suicide in following one of the biggest albums of the Britpop era with such a desperately dark pop record. But also, because it has so much more depth and resonance. Desperate Journalist have an ear for drama, so their covering ‘The Fear’ is pretty much faultless: again, it’s a straight rendition, but magnificently executed. The same is true of Jekyll’s rendition of Japan’s ‘Nightporter’, which captures the understated, brooding theatrics of the original.

After Johnny Cash, is there any point on covering ‘Hurt’ by Nine Inch Nails’? Ghost Suns arguably step back closer to the original with electronic instrumentation, and in fact swing more to the other side, landing in ambient / synthwave territory. It’s not as good as Cash, and nor is it a good as the original, but then, it was a hugely ambitious undertaking and yes, it stull brings a lump to the throat – because it seems no matter what spin you put on this song, it is a classic that can’t be contained or twisted to be anything other than a blow directly against the heart.

The Covid Version Sessions may not offer much cheer: in fact they’re draped with sadness and remind us of all we don’t have – but they also remind us that we’re not alone in being alone, that it’s ok not to be ok, and that sometimes, the solution is to just take some time out, listen to some haunting melodies and remember that tomorrow is another day, and that for better or worse, nothing is forever.

28th February 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

VVolves seriously impressed with their debut single, ‘Momentum’, unveiled last June – a heady rush of shoegaze and pop with ethereal vocals and a repetitive groove, it was, well, impressive.

‘Well-Loved Tales’ is an admirable follow-up: rich in atmosphere, but at the same time, a bold electronic pop tune, it’s a magnificently balanced composition. The rolling drums and teetering piano add drama to a guitar soaked in chorus and reverb, and with a rich, luscious production, the sound and the feel and the vibe is every inch the Cure’s Disintegration. And let’s be straight: if you’re going to take your cues from any classic album that has a truly timeless feel, that’s probably a top pick. There’s also a hint of ‘Naked and Savage’ by The Mission in the brooding, hypnotic hues, too.

There isn’t an attention-grabbing hook or an overt immediacy about ‘Well-Loved Tales’ – rather it casts a dreamy sonic spell that draws the listener in with a captivating sense of melody.

The ‘sparse’ version which serves as the B-side lives up to its name: stripped of the drums and the drama, slow-drifting synths provide the main accompaniment to a dreamy vocal that’s almost folksy, and equally, almost part of the instrumentation, and it’s nice. Very nice. As is the mesmerising video which accompanies it.

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17th February 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

It’s completely fitting that ‘something’, the new single from the Leeds-based artist elkyn is accompanied by a truly expansive video that slow-pans an immense landscape – a slow-panning view over a valley in the Lake District which touches me more than I’d have expected. But then, The Lakes is my happy place, a space away from the world and while the swinging pan shot is close to inducing motion sickness, it’s also a perfect accompaniment to this dreamiest of tunes.

The track follows up on last year’s single ‘if only it was alright now’, as well as the debut EP Beech. The song maybe but a mere two minutes and ten seconds of acoustic guitar, simple synths and basic drum machines, backing Joseph Donnelly’s hushed, introverted vocal musings, but it’s a world unto itself. And being drawn into that world is a breathtaking experience, and one that is far, far greater than the music alone.

The vocals are a soft wash that melt into the marshmallow instrumentation, meaning you focus more on the overall tone and atmosphere than the words themselves – words that according to the liner notes contain ‘a heart-felt personal confession of feeling hopeless and desperate.’ That’s certainly a relatable emotion, and, paired with the visuals, combines a certain tension and a sense of claustrophobia and entrapment with magnificent space and freedom.

The sensation is vague, the mood is intangible yet touching, and ultimately, elkyn has – again – delivered ‘something’ special.

19th February 2021

Thinking big is maybe the starting point for bands who want to go places. How many local bands have you seen or heard and thought ‘but these guys could, and should, be huge?’, and yet five years later they’re still plugging away at the pub up the road playing to maybe forty people. Yes, you need material and a decent show, but more than anything, progress takes drive – the drive to play further – and further – afield, and more often, to get some decent PR and do some marketing. Sadly, all the word of mouth in your hometown won’t lead to world dominance, even at a snail’s pace, however good your songs are.

This four-piece garage rock band from Newport, South Wales clearly have some motivation: starting as bedroom project in late 2017, they’ve won themselves a substantial fanbase on the Welsh circuit (playing their debut gig not in their hometown but in Pontypool, and working up to selling out 100+ capacity gigs in both Newport and Cardiff), and as a statement of their intent and ambition, they recorded their debut EP with Jeff Rose (Skindred and Dub War).

It’s ALL about the ENERGY with ‘Last Call’. The intro just powers in all guitars and guns blazing, positively popping and at a hundred miles an hour. The clean vocals keep it accessible to a wider audience, but it’s not a sanitised, cleansed, crisp and commercial cut: here, Finding Aurora prove it’s possible to do melodic and ballsy riffing at the same time. And what’s more they pack it into a tight three-minute burst. With a killer chorus backed by some big guitars, it’s pretty hard to fault, and you’d have to be deaf not to hear the mass potential here.

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