Archive for the ‘Singles and EPs’ Category

Metropolis Records – 16th June 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

Since their initial (slight) return with the EP produced in collaboration with Cubanate’s Marc Heal on his guise as MC Lord of the Flies in the spring of 2015, PIG have been on a real (sausage) roll.

Hot on the heels of the remix album Swine and Punishment lands the Prey & Obey EP, which features three new tracks spawned from the same swirling cesspit of sleaze which gave birth to The Gospel, the first PIG album in a decade. Bringing extra meat to the lineup for this outing is Sisters of Mercy guitarist Ben Christo, who also receives co-writing credit for ‘The Revelation’. Meanwhile, the eternal PIG / KMFDM overlap is maintained courtesy of the En Esch, who contributes a remix version of the lead (prime) cut.

‘Prey & Obey’ positively explodes with heavy-duty guitar-led grunt and chug. It’s vintage PIG, drawing all of the elements that define the band’s sound from the span of their career: Watts spits and snarls over overdriven guitars melded to a thumping industrial disco beat while a swirl of strings whip up the layers of drama. It’s all delivered with a knowing bombast and, and as such, sits up there with anything in the substantial PIG oeuvre.

‘The Revelation’ references PIG classic ‘Serial Killer Thriller’ in the sinewy lead guitar part, while Watts, snarling menacingly, juxtaposes bodily fluids and biblical references like only he can (and get away with). The third of the new tracks, ‘The Cult of Chaos’ is also of premium PIG standard; slower, grinding, it twists a goth-tinged lead guitar over a throbbing groove that’s equal parts guitar and electronic, while a brooding piano strolls around in the background

Of the remixes, the Leæther Strip remix of ‘Prey & Obey’ fits the predicable technoindustrial groove version requirement, while the aforementioned En Esch reworking is darker, murkier, grimier, and more atmospheric. Collectively, they make for a rounded representation of what PIG are about. There’s snout wrong with that, and Prey & Obey is not only a rip-snorting effort, but up there with the best PIG releases.

 

PIG - Prey & Obey

2nd June 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

The digital generation may be unfamiliar with the experience of leaping around their bedrooms to favourite tunes, only for their exuberance to result in the needle skipping a groove or two. While it’s unlikely to cause any damage to either the vinyl or the stylus, it has a way of disrupting the flow and making you feel like a bit of a buffoon. There’s Kent four-piece Salvation Jayne’s EP suggests, it contains rock nuggets potent enough to inspire bedroom moshing, although it’s not being released on vinyl.

After a brief introductory segment, the EP gets going properly with ‘Burn it Down’ which we covered when it first aired back in April. And it’s a cracking tune, chunky blues-based guitars chopping against a sinewy lead line and strolling bass. It also meets the ‘monster chorus’ requirement for a strong rock tune. And yes, tunes matter: on Moves That Make the Record Skip, Salvation Jayne offer tunes, with strong vocal melodies shaping the songs.

If ‘The Jailer’ contains all of the elements of infinite 80s rock bands and reminds me of many, many pub gigs I caught at the tail end of the 80s and into the early 90s in my home town (for all I know, there are still the same sort of bands cranking out the same stuff in the same venues now: Lincoln never was the most progressive of places), it’s well-executed and has the guts in the delivery to make it work. There’s also some nice slidey guitar action that brings a dirty country / blues vibe. ‘Thrillride’ starts with a low-slung bass and sassy, semi-menacing vocal from Chess Smith before she gives it some throat and everything kicks in.

EP closer ‘Whorehouse Down on the SE’ makes for a strong finish: it’s a percussion-driven hefty rock workout which has all the makings of an anthemic crowd-pleaser live. It mines a proper old-school rock seam, and calls to mind The Pretty Reckless at their best, with Smith giving it the raw, rough ‘n’ tough treatment.

 

 

Salvation Jayne - Moves

Schoolkids Records – 2nd June 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

The blurb tells me that ‘On the trail of their successful Record Store Day 7” single ‘Symmetry / Slow Grind’, Raleigh-based Schoolkids Records have announced the coming release of ‘The Shocking Fuzz of Your Electric Fur: The Drake Equation Mixtape EP’ by alternative soul and shoegaze pioneers The Veldt.’

The Veldt have been around for a very long time, now – always on the peripheries, but wholly ingrained in the same milieu as The Cocteau Twins, The Jesus and Mary Chain, et al, as well as sharing stags with an impressive roll-call of acts spanning The Pixies to Echo and the Bunnymen via The Manic Street Preachers.

The EP’s title is (in part) lifted from a poem by e.e.cummings, while ‘The Drake Equation’ is a sort of punning gag that’s both intellectual and spectacularly . Cumbersome as it is, it’s quite a tidy literary allusion, and one which illustrates both the band’s overtly arty leanings the and the immense breadth of their spheres of reference: this is, after all, a band whose name derives from a story by Ray Bradbury. If the idea of high modernism coming together with slick 21st century r‘n’b seems like an improbable and unlikely recipe for success, then it’s all down to the execution.

The five tracks on this EP may or may not ‘rage’ with ‘a sound influenced equally by emotional soul of Marvin Gaye, free jazz warriors Sun Ra and Pharaoh Sanders, various Drake hip-hop tracks, long-term musical kin Cocteau Twins, and their own fertile electric imagination.’ But what they do achieve is a compelling hybrid of styles.

Stuttering beats, somewhere between hip-hop, jazz and drum ‘n’ bass jitter and twitch beneath draping, rifting layers of sonic mist define the multifaceted ‘Sanctified’, which glides he EP into a smooth yet detailed launch. It’s the progressive soul element of their expansive shoegaze-orientated sound which renders The Veldt most distinctive:

‘In A Quiet Room’ simmers and chimes, a laid-back rhythm contrasting against the swirl and eddy of layered, FX-drenched blankets of guitars. The tom-orientated drumming on the dreamy ‘One Day Out of Life’ has echoes of early New Order about it, before a rising swell of a drifting sonic cloud.

The EP ends on a super-mellow soul trip in the shape of ‘And It’s You’: with a melody that evokes Bread’s ‘Make it With You’. Perverse as it may sound, it not only works well, but seems entirely fitting, the smooth soul vibes entwine with a slick hip-hop beat to forge a loved-up groove that’s sort of slanted, but at the same time, kinda natural. Nice.

 

Veldt EP

17th April 2017

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: because neither music reviewing nor cranking out postmodern novels no-one reads doesn’t pay the bills, like most writers and people slugging along in the lowest reaches of the music industry – personally, I like to pretty it up by describing it as ‘operating at a grass roots level’ – I’m compelled to endure the drudge of corporate life to survive. After a bad day at the office – which is every day – I like the fact I can either escape into discovering brilliant new music. Equally, it’s immensely satisfying to savage a release just because I can’t get away with calling my boss a cunt and the rage has to find some outlet.

So here I am, unwinding with a pint of homebrew and among the email stack that’s perhaps even more terrifying than my inbox at work, and Plastic Baricades present themselves. I really shouldn’t like this: the band cite an incongruous list of influences including Radiohead, Oasis, The Shins, Biffy Clyro, Coldplay, Muse, Razorlight, and Nirvana.

They’re pitches as being ‘romantic and honest, gloomy and curious, melodic and melancholic’, a band who ‘chronicle life in the troubled yet fascinating XXI century with painstaking sincerity.’ No question: these are troubled and fascinating times. If we entered the new millennium with a sense of trepidation, there was no way anyone could have predicted the shitstorm that is Trump and Brexit and… well, the list goes on.

‘How Goldfish Grow’ is a supremely summery tune with a feelgood vibe. It’s built around a nagging guitar line and buoyant bass groove, and with a huge, hooky, singalong chorus, infectious may be a cliché but the most appropriate word going to describe ‘How Goldfish Grow’.

Plastic Barricades

Burn Church Press – 26th April 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

Just because I’ve spent the last decade whittling down my cassette collction from over 500 to fewer than 50 doesn’t mean that I don’t think the tape renaissance isn’t cool. It represents a return to the appreciation of tactile, physical media, as well as a format that has a certain fragility which adds to its appeal: the idea that the cassette was cheap, convenient but also potentially damageable and disposable means that it’s possible to enjoy something of an ambivalent or even conflicted relationship with cassettes, often on a tape-by-tape basis. The return of the cassette suggests bands are haring back to a bygone age when acts – before the advent of the CD-R – would sell tapes at their gigs. These were often bands too new or too skint or too unsigned to have any vinyl releases.

The title of the debut release by Newcastle post-punk band Lost on Me also reminds us of the pre-internet era when bands would cut a demo and send it around gig promoters and record labels the like in the hope of getting gigs and more exposure, or even a recording contract and the chance to record in a proper studio rather than on a beaten-up four-track borrowed from a mate.

‘Protection’ bursts from the speakers in a blizzard of fractal, interlooping guitars, a mass f chorus and delay, and one might be forgiven for an initial thought which incudes Editors by way of a reference point – I’m thinking forst album era, I’m thinking ‘Munich’ in particular. But then Martin Downing’s dense, dark baritone enters the mix, and its heavy timbre has far more ‘gothy’ connotations, calling to mind Chris Reed from Red Lorry Yellow Lorry.

‘Landslide’ is a chiming pop tune at heart with a nagging guitar line, but the throbbing bass and deep, growling vocal casts heavy shade across its sunny surface. Third track ‘Balance’ brings a sinewy tension and a density that, again, is reminiscent of the Lorries.

The stuttering bursts of drums propel the wistful, emotive closer, ‘New Beginnings’ into territories which bring together contrasting dynamics to good effect, and once more indicate that these guys have studied the darker (and often more drum machine driven) side of the early 80s alternative scene. The production also contributes to the effect in a major way, with deep, deep reverb all over everything and a slightly hazy, murky analogue veil hanging over the guitars, in particular the thick bass tones. It’s all in the details, and they’re certainly not lost on me.

 

Lost on Me - Demonstration

This is it Forever – 12th May 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

It may only contain two tracks, but Gavin Miller’s latest solo offering is not only magnificently executed but also displays the epic qualities of a full album over its understatedly intense twenty-minute duration. Released digitally and as a USB lightbulb, the concept extends far beyond the title, although the music this release contains does very much explore the contrasts between light and dark – not in the extreme contrasting sense, but in the form of subtly arranged compositions which exist in the space between the two, a shadowy intermediate space.

It begins with an echoing piano chord and hesitant beats kept low in the mix swathed in a sea of reverb. Acoustic guitar and tapering synths enter the mix and gradually the layers build, both in terms of sound and atmosphere. There’s almost a touch of mid-90s Swans about the hypnotic repetition and opiate sedation which permeates the track’s first segment. Slowly, the structure evaporates, leaving a fogged air in suspension, intangible yet still in motion. And then the heavy beats – bassy, bulbous, booming – begin to drop against the sparse contrails which linger and drift. And so ‘Floodlit’ intimates – by means of a deliberate, repetitive motif structured essentially around two picked chords which transition to another place altogether – the power of artificial light penetrating darkness.

‘A Brief Flicker’ presents a different kind of illumination, something altogether more fragile and less harsh than the fixed white glare of the floodlight. While a haunting three-note sequence hovers in the background, this is a track which is overtly ambient, and with a loose structure built around amorphous sound which drifts and rumbles around the canals of the mind.

Gavin Miller - Illuminate

Contrast is the key here: the two pieces are contrasting within themselves, and against one another. The lighting may not be bright but it’s in the direction and the relief it shines that Miller steers the focus onto less obvious details.

Gavin Miller - Bulb

GoldMold Records – 24th June 2017

James Wells

‘The Sinking Feeling is testament to the fact that you can take crushing self-doubts and turn them into something else. With three totally unique personalities and backgrounds, the band converge on subjects of depression and loss. Each with their own trials, each member contributing to the unique dynamic that is proof that there is beauty and worth in every tribulation.’ So says the press release. Who would have known they’d have been from Glasgow? Not that all bands from Glasgow are depressed, miserable fucks,

Even without the blurb, the vocals are a dead giveaway, however murky the production. And the production is seriously murky. It sounds like a sock was stuck over the condenser mic they recorded the songs into while packed into one of their parents’ bedrooms. But beneath the mud is gold: the three songs which comprise the ‘One’ EP are magnificent slices of punky grunge alt-rock with some neat hooks buried like depth charges

There’s the bluster of Bug era Dinosur Jr about the three songs on this EP, particularly opening track ‘Standard’. Closer ‘Mary’ goes a bit more post-hardcore with some angry, throaty vocals contrasting with the slacker drawl that runs alongside.

Would it benefit from better production? No. This is music that’s real, raw, emotionally charged and played from the heart. And no multitracking and crisp EQing can supercede that.

 

 

The Sinking Feeling