Archive for the ‘Singles and EPs’ Category

5th May 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

The pandemic may be over – or not, depending on your viewpoint or your government – but there’s no question that the pandemic affected us all in some way, shape, or form, and that as much as people are getting on with their so-called ‘normal’ lives, we’re not all fully over it. Some of us may never be.

‘The Day the Drum Stopped’ was penned during the height – or depths, depending on your perspective – of the UK pandemic lockdown, and captures the instantaneous psychological spasm of the moment everything halts abruptly. ‘The Day the Drum Stopped’ is perhaps another way of phrasing ‘the great pause’, and it was a strange time to say the least.

For many – not least of all musicians, those in hospitality and retail – everything stopped. For others, who continued to work from home, while also trying to manage home-schooling, the pause was less pronounced, marked more by the absence of people and traffic in the street when venturing out for the prescribed daily exercise or trip to the local supermarket in the hope of scoring both loo roll and pasta. But no question, it was strange, a plunge into the unknown, the unpredictable, and this was a cause of major anxiety for so, so many.

Kristina Stazaker has articulated this succinctly and in a most accessible fashion on her new single, propelled by some sturdy percussion and ‘builds up to a powerful ending where the drums restart and the electricity of life flicks into action again’. It starts with a solid march, before loping away like a galloping horse, and there’s optimism there, as Stazaker remains positive that ‘the drums will come back again’, and it’s a rush and then… it stops, and you’re left, vaguely nonplussed, wishing there was more. Which seems like life, really. Cracking single, though.

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 Artwork - Kristina Stazaker

6th May 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

The second ‘The Beyond’ begins to rumble from the speakers (I always prefer speakers; earphones and headphones are fine for in transit, but if you’re going to sit back and listen to music, turning it up and letting it breathe and fill your space by listening through speakers, can’t be beat) you’re slapped with solid straight-up 70s vintage. If the comparisons and parallels with the inevitable nods to Sabbath and Led Zep seem predictable, don’t for a second think that that’s all there is here.

The guitar is dense and the bass is chunky, and there’s a deep psychedelic twist to this monster slab of ball-busting stoner blues steeped in reverb… and then you backtrack and realise they’re a duo, with one guitar, drums, and vocals. What? Really? Yep.

White Stripes may have started the rock duo trend, but it’s taken a while to really become truly accepted and widespread, and you could probably contend that while the likes of Blood Red Shoes, DZ Deathrays, Yur Mum, and Lovely Eggs (who are finally gaining the recognition they richly deserve) have been doing it and doing it well for absolutely ages on the grassroots circuit, it was Royal Blood who broke the doors down contemporaneously. But since Royal Blood went off the boil after just one album, there’s an abundant space for quality duos to show that it’s possible to achieve a full band sound without a full band.

As ‘The Beyond’ showcases, This Summit Fever show how by cranking it up and playing hard, two can achieve the sound of four, and what’s more, they’ve got tunes to back it up. And this is a tune, alright.

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LIVE DATES

May 15th 2022 – The Asylum 2, Birmingham

June 10th 2022 – The Black Heart, London

October 22nd 2022 – Tap ’n’ Tumbler, Nottingham

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2nd May 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

‘Bitch 16’ is the debut single from French darkwave project Distance H. It was recorded in collaboration with Ophelia from Saigon Blue Rain, one of a number of female vocalists to feature on Distance H’s forthcoming EP, Intimacy.

It’s a deft slice of dark pop with both atmosphere and edge, not to mention hints of Garbage. And while not without hooks – it has plenty – it’s the atmosphere that stays with you, at least after the first listen, and it’s the vibe you want to revisit and which makes you hit repeat – and that urge to hit repeat is strong.

Propelled by an old-school drum machine sound, there are some retro drum fills that sound just a shade clunky against the austere, smooth-surfaced synths, but there’s a compelling urgency, and a certain sass about ‘Bitch 16’ as Ophelia’s vocals glide and soar – and yes, perhaps it’s something about the translation, as the band summarise that ‘Bitch 16’ is ‘in some ways opposed to Sweet 16 and its form of happy, carefree transition. When sweetness gives way to brutality; when detachment gives way to obsession, when desire gives way to disgust’.

These are strong emotions, and Distance H have distilled them into a taut four and a half minutes, making for a strong debut.

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1st May 2022

James Wells

As a slice of buoyant yet dreamy electropop, it’s hard to fault ‘Dream Curve’, the new single by self-professed ‘witchy goth rock band’ Metamorph. Well, ok, lyrically it may not be quite Leonard Cohen or Richard Butler (both completely piss on the popularly esteemed Bob Dylan and Jim Morrison), but then ultimately, the purpose of pop music isn’t primarily to distil every word into a moment of poetical genius. No, the purpose of pop is to entertain, and, where possible, to stick in your head, and here, Metamorph achieve.

‘Dream Curve’ blurs fragments of image and reflection amidst a swirl of synths pitched against an insistent bear and pulsing sequenced synth bass. It’s pure Europop: it’s fundamentally simple, but it’s effective.

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28th April 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

While physical formats for music may not be especially popular these days, there really is no substitute for holding an article in in your hand. It’s not just about the artefact or the possession – although increasingly, I feel that actually ‘owning’ your music seems like a sound move as acts pull their music from popular platforms – particularly Spotify – and acts who no longer exist cease to maintain their websites and BandCamp profiles and their works simply disappears. Nothing is permanent, but when it comes to things which are virtual, their ephemerality is even more pronounced. This is a long way to coming around to saying that the CD for Abrasive Trees’ new single is magnificent as an item, and it’s very much a fitting way to present the musical contents, and with three tracks including a remix of ‘Moulding Heaven with Earth’ by Mark Beazley (Rothko), it’s a proper 12” / CD single release, the likes of which are sadly scarce these days.

I don’t just love it for the nostalgia: this feels like a proper, solid package in every way, and ‘Moulding Heaven with Earth’ is very much cut from the cloth of sparse, minimal shoegazey post-rock, which provides the backdrop to a stirring spoken word performance before spinning into a slow-burning extended instrumental work. It builds and it broods, the atmosphere growing denser and tender as the picked guitar lines unfurl and interweave across a slow, strolling bass. A reflection on life and death, earth and afterlife, it’s a compelling performance, and the words would stand alone either on a lyrics sheet or as a poem. From there, it’s a gradual, and subtle journey that culminates in a crescendo – that’s strong, yet restrained.

B-side / AA side ‘Kali Sends Flowers’ is moving: again, it’s understated, and yet so very different, spinning a blend of post punk – even hinting at the gothier end of the post-punk spectrum – and psychedelia that in places hints at Spear of Destiny in the way it’s sparse yet rousing. It’s one of those songs that simply isn’t long enough, and that demands for ‘repeat’ to be hit immediately to keep it going.

Mark Beazley’s remix of ‘Moulding Heaven with Earth’ accentuates the atmospherics, and while it retains the rhythm – and if anything it highlights the beef of the bass – and is generally quite respectful in its treatment, and somehow expands the vibe and introduces a more ambient feel, while at the same time shaving over a minute off the time of the original. It’s an interesting – and I mean that positively – reworking, and one that most definitely brings something fresh to the track, rounding off what’s as close to a perfect EP as you’ll hear all year.

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25th March 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

Skylights have been making waves of late, especially locally. But then, the question of local success is, to what extent can it translate regionally, nationally, and beyond? Recently, there has been significant coverage of the band playing a brace of major shows (two due to such high demand for the first) at a large-capacity venue – in a village on the edge of York. Now, I applaud their DIY ethic, the fact they’ve sorted these Easter weekend shows themselves and sold them without press or PR or label backing. Recent years and moths have really shown just how far bands can go independently, with Benefits in particular really owning independence to the point that they’re selling out bigger venues nationally with no backing beyond word of mouth and Steve Albini.

Of course, there’s always an element of luck, but outside of the world of manufactured success, it’s largely down to whether or not what you’re selling has demand, and in Benefits’ case, the demand is there by the spadeful.

Skylights may not be as unique as Benefits, but they’re carving their own niche, and on the evidence of the first single from their debut album, they’ve clearly got game.

‘Outlaw’ packs that mid 80s post-punk Leeds sound with heavy hints of The Rose of Avalanche and Salvation, with a big dose of The Cult thrown into the mix. ‘Outlaw’ isn’t exactly a ‘She Sellls Sanctuary’ life, but the guitar break definitely takes some cues from the Bradford band’s major smash. If Editors and Interpol and White Lies spearheaded a new wave revival around the turn of the millennium, the latest crop of revivalist acts definitely offer something different.

The production balances pomp and haziness, the defining factors that allude to the ‘big’ sound of the 80s; it’s ultimately an amalgamation of goth, indie, and arena-rock, and some thirty-five plus years on, it’s a sound that seems to be coming back in vogue. Skylights have the sound absolutely nailed, and better still, ‘Outlaw’ says they’ve got the songs to back it. The future is looking bright for Skylights.

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22nd of April 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

I can’t help but think of Stewart Home’s riotous 90s novels with wild tales of skinhead antics around London penned in parody of Richard Allen’s seminal pulp youthsploitation ‘Skinhead’ series of novels from the 1970s when I see ‘Sta Prest’. In Home’s early novels, there’s a skinhead dropping his Sta-Press trews to receive a blowjob every ten pages, and it’s high comedy and the pages are infused with the sounds of punk rock and ska.

Essex snappy-dressers Sta Prest can genuinely claim to have been there, having started life in the 1970’s. Their return after a LONG time out follows the retrieval off their demos from ‘78 from the vault at Abbey Road Studios.

Back in the day, they only released a brace of singles, with a retrospective compilation emerging in 2010, and it’s only now that they’re finally getting to release their debut album proper, Shadow Boy, with ‘Keep Drinking’ being the first cut released to the world.

They describe it as ‘a modern drinking shanty’ and it’s a rough and ready, choppy, jaunty slice of punk that sounds like the school of 78, only with references to conference calls at lunchtime;’ and various other contemporary markers. Ultimately, as much as it’s a shanty or a punk rock tune, it’s an anti-capitalist, anti-organisational song that’s delivered with a fist-pumping energy. And the sentiment – the desire to ditch it all and fuck off down the pub – is timeless. It’s energetic, it’s fun, it’s relatable, and I’ve got time for one more.

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Sta Prest - Artwork

29th April 2022

James Wells

I keep hearing – mostly from people over thirty-five, admittedly – that there’s no decent new music now. They’re talking crap. There has always been decent and exciting new music if you keep your ear to the ground instead off R1 and Jools Holland and don’t rely on recommendations from Spotify for everything.

Having formed in 2017, Glasgow duo Run Into The Night managed to build a fanbase with some hard touring before the pandemic hit, and ‘Common Stream of Consciousness’ slams into the public domain to coincide with their return to the live arena with a tour in May. It is, unquestionably, and absoluter belter.

‘Common Stream of Consciousness’ is s thundery, blustery, bass-driven (post) punky sonic attack that’s barely three minutes in duration, and it’s The Runaways, it’s Suzie Quattro – and it’s also early Royal Blood and Queens of the Stone Age. It’s proper energetic rock, and it’s a cracking tune.

Artwork - Run Into The Night

eMERGENCY heARTS – 6th May 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

SINE’s new 5 song EP, Mantis 1, is the first in a trilogy of EPs, “Mantis 1, 2 & 3”. The hype for the release pulls a spotlight on the involvement of a name producer, with the EP being ‘produced by SINE founder, Rona Rougeheart in collaboration with esteemed audio engineer Charles Godfrey at Scary American Studio in Austin, TX. Godfrey, in his two decade plus career, has been engineer/producer on over 75 recordings, including the Yeah Yeah Yeahs’, It’s Blitz! and Mosquito, The Black Angels, Indigo Meadow, and notable work for…Trail of Dead, SWANS, among so many more’. No question: Godfrey’s resumé is impressive, and there’s similarly no question that a decent producer can make a huge, huge difference, with great production having the capacity to render a recording far more than the sum of its parts (Joy Division simply would not have been the same without Martin Hannett’s work, however unconventional and difficult his methods), while equally, poor production can be crippling. Then again, engineering is perhaps equally important: it’s worth noting that Steve Albini doesn’t consider himself to be a producer, but his engineering skills have brought the life to so many albums, and not just the ones he’s renowned for. Still, for all that, you can’t polish a turd: you still need songs and for them to be played in a way that does the material some kind of justice.

Everything comes together just so on this release, and one question I often consider is how close to the artistic ambition is the end result? I have a sense that Mantis I is everything Rougeheart had in her head at conception.

‘Attack’ certainly brings plenty, a combative, dark disco thud of a beat pitched against a relentless throb of synthesised bass. In contrast, ‘Until’ is more overtly pop, but it’s pop in the way Garbage are pop – eclectic, savvy, the production simultaneously crisp and grimy. ‘Future Whores’ is stark, and if there’s something of an early New Order vibe about it, there’s equally some early Pet Shop Boys, and that’s by no means a criticism. Then again, the expensive, yawning notes border on the mellow new age grooves of The Beloved, while the distorted vocals and thumping bass are more industrial… in combination, it crashes hard in the domain of industrial shoegaze, and if that’s not yet been recognised as a thing, now is the time because it’s here and it’s in your face.

Things get murkier and meaner on ‘Blurred’, where I’m reminded of The Human League’s ‘Being Boiled’, only with a harder technoindustrial edge, and the pulsing, bulbous bass is dominated by Rougeheart’s blank, robotic monotone vocal, that’s treated with a metallic edge and some grainy reverb.

Closer ‘Control’ burrows deeper into the darkness, a shuddering mass of slow velocity – yet for all the crushing grind and gnarly digital distortion, the dislocation and thunderous tribal drums, it still slides in a truly aching bridge with a magnificent vocal melody that evokes wistful summer scenes, before crushing them like ant underfoot in a driving death-disco slam.

It all adds up to a meaty and pretty powerful release, and if the idea of releasing three EPs instead of an album seems perverse, it will be interesting to see how SINE utilise the format after such a strong start.

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11th March 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

When it comes to goth, you might say that the apple never falls far from the tree: there’s a long history of references and recycling, with bands often taking their names from songs or otherwise referencing other bands, and there is, or at least should be, a goth band name generator somewhere on the Internet, with ‘Children’, ‘Sisters’, ‘Grooving’, ‘Dead / Death’ and ‘Ghost’ featuring prominently in the not-so random permutatable word selections. Funerals and marionettes are pretty popular, too, from as far back as 1986, when The Marionettes began life as The Screaming Marionettes.

Taking their name from the Charles Gounod composition of the same name, best known as the theme music for the television program Alfred Hitchcock Presents. The Funeral March of the Marionettes go back to that mid/late eighties heyday (broadly 84 or 85 to 87 or 88) that saw ‘goth’ solidify from being a nebulous array of post-punk bands (The Sisters of Mercy, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Bauhaus, Alien Sex Fiend) being lumped under an umbrella by a lethargic press into an actual genre with more defined stylistic boundaries, typically drawing on the aforementioned acts, but with more indie-leanings typical of The Mission and the style of guitar Wayne Hussey introduced to The Sisters on his arrival in 1984

The Funeral March of the Marionettes, from Rockford, Illinois, cite The Cure, Bauhaus, Joy Division, Siouxsie and the Banshees, and others among their influences, and while they describe their latest offering as something of a departure, it’s still dense with latter-day gothic tropes, albeit leaning more towards the atmospheric post-punk/industrial crossover space, whereby you’ve got Depeche Mode covering Joy Division, a brooding atmosphere as cool synths drift in an ocean of reverb while angst oozes from every corner of the dense, gloomy production.

Yet for all its adherence of those tropes, for all its stylistic familiarity (just look at that cover art, that’s The Sisters of Mercy / Merciful Release meets Joy Division via Rosetta Stone), ‘Slow’ hits a spot, because it’s dark, dark, dark, and the execution is spot on, sending a shiver of torment down the spine that entices you to bask in the gloom.

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