Archive for the ‘Singles and EPs’ Category

17th July 2020

James Wells

Given that I’ve barely left the house other than to go to the supermarket and haven’t seen family or friends since March, it’s been a seriously fucking lonely summer, and a lonely fucking spring before this. Crying Swells’ new single may or may not be about this, but the press release suggest is may be, outlining how ‘Crying Swells is the project of East London-based Musician / Producer Daniel Armstrong, born out of lockdown. He also performs and records with UK psych-rock collective Frankie-Teardrop Dead’.

I miss bands and all that stuff, although I suspect bands miss bands even more, and in content, it would stand to reason that Armstrong would launch a new project while unable to record or perform as normal.

‘Lonely Summer’ is a really neat tune that’s a bit indie and a bit post-punk and broods hard, with a multi-tracked vocal and a bursting chorus that’s a blast of guitar that’s grunge and shoegaze exploding in a kaleidoscope of sound. Too full-on to be breezy, it’s nevertheless catchy and soars while it broods.

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7th August 2020

James Wells

This, the third single from NKOS, is one of those tunes that just grows and grows, layer by layer, until it’s absolutely immense. Starting out subtly and slightly sinister, the beats build until the drums properly kick in, and it’s such a tight, punchy percussion, t smacks you right between the eyes, while a looping, cyclical groove eddies around to create a tense, claustrophobic atmosphere. Techno meets hip-hop meets electrogoth as a grating bass and heavily processed vocal snarls all over, calling to mind KMFDM and PIG.

With additional production from Jagz Kooner, who we can forgive his work with Kasabian and Oasis on account of his work with Radio 4, Ladytron, and the cult but so-underrated Officers, ‘Lonely Ghost-Self’ is hard-edged without being overtly aggressive, attacking without being excessively abrasive, and successfully avoids cliché, and ‘Lonely Ghost-Self’ has a lot going in its favour.

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Wise Queen Records / Shapta – 4th September 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Abrasive Trees may be the solo project of Scottish-born guitarist and singer Matthew Rochford, and this may be a debut release, but already the project has acquired a roll-call of contributors on a par with Pigface or The Damned. Amongst these are Peter Yates (Fields of The Nephilim), Mark Beazley (Rothko/Band of Holy Joy), Steven Hill (Evi Vine), and Jo-Beth Young (Talitha Rise/RISE/Yates & Young).

The sum of this three-tracker bears little obvious relation to its parts, in the best possible way: there’s no sense of baggage or of any of the contributors striving to define the sound with their various stylistic signatures, and what’s more, none of the compositions sound remotely alike, showcasing a creative openness and willingness to experiment and embrace different forms.

Emerging from a thick atmospheric mist, ‘Bound for an Infinite Sea’ has gothic overtones, with picked guitars echoing out over a deep, rumbling bass. With hints of early Cure, Skeletal Family and Salvation, it broods through shadowy shapes in a fashion that’s perfectly evocative of the early 80s post-punk sound, but it’s also spun with an ethereality that owes as much to the 4AD roster and 90s shoegaze. Rochford’s voice sounds dislocated, disembodied, as it floats into the air, lost, alone. The production is hazy, a vagueness hangs over the notes, with the instruments blurring together as the percussion lingers hesitantly in the background.

Beginning with hints of expansive post-rock, there’s almost a folky feel to the delicate instrumental ‘Brother Saint’, which washes into the more abstract, experimental semi-ambience of ‘Replenishing Water (Stripped)’.

Uncertainty, trepidation, and a certain sense of otherness permeate this set, and if Abrasive Trees’ identity and direction seems unclear at its conclusion, then it’s all to the good, leaving open all avenues and possibilities for exploration.

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4th August 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

In the ever-expanding world of microgenres based on hybrids and crossovers, Montreal-based trio Boar God may be onto something as close to unique as you could imagine, describing their style as drone-punk. That said, drone takes many forms, ranging from the elongated notes that tend to feature in electronic works, to the dirgy, doom sustain of Sunn O)), with the kind of Psychedelic drone of The Black Angels in between.

Boar God’s sound belongs to none of these areas, and as such, does stand apart as different. The EP’s four tracks all sit around the six-minute mark, and blend driving alt-rock with a dash of shoegaze, and amp it all up with a spiky edge that’s as much post-punk as punk, but then I’d always say it’s the attitude that counts more than the sound in defining what’s punk.

Echoed tremolo tones shimmer like a heat-haze around guitars that scratch like sandpaper on the intro to ‘Life Eternal’. It’s a long, gradual build. The tempo quickens as the bass begins to run, faster and faster, the guitars chiming and swirling before everything breaks into a punchy clamour of everything, with Eric Bent’s vocals adding to the urgency. If it’s reminiscent of anything that immediately springs to mind, it’s Trail of Dead.

‘Azrael in Crisis’ goes all-out for the epic, with atmospheric synths swirling and wafting in the background, but still remains tightly-structured and punchy and dominated by a gritty guitar and booming bass. The energy is tempered by a chill, a bleakness, reminiscent of early Joy Division (think the outtakes that appeared on Still). The production is murky, and this is actually a good thing, as its low-budget, unpolished feel gives it an immediacy as well as replicating the late 70s’ / early 80s 8-track recording sound.

The pace and the angst are amped up on ‘The World Set Free’, a pounding amalgamation of Killing Joke and Red Lorry tallow Lorry, and again, it’s the thick, floor-shaking bass that defines and dominates the sound. Things take a twist for the gothic around two-thirds in, and as the fractal guitars glisten, the song acquires a dream-like quality.

Everything comes together at once on the closer, ‘The Tar Pits’, which locks into a motoric groove and drives it home with a searing guitar break and shrieking strains of feedback.

I know I’m a complete sucker for this kind of new-wave stuff, but as dark, angry, claustrophobic and steely-grey musings on loss go, Boar God bring a rare intensity on Near Extinction.

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14th August 2014 – Peaceville

James Wells

The second single from forthcoming album The Affair Of The Poisons, ‘Vampire’s Grave’ follows ‘Spectres of the Blood Moon Sabbath’ and, as the press release points out, ‘continues to explore the themes within the new album – the dark & insidious underworld witchcraft and the occult’ (just in case the cover art didn’t give enough of a clue).

Blending real-life crime with occultism, (the track is based on a real-life event that took place in Glasgow, Scotland in 1954, specifically the tale of the ‘Gorbals Vampire’, where over the course of a few nights in 1954, hundreds of young children descended upon the Glasgow Necropolis armed with stakes and crosses in search of a large, vampiric creature with blood red eyes that they believed was responsible for killing and devouring kids with its iron fangs), it’s pitched as being for fans of Venom, Kreator, Sabbat [JPN] and Metallica.

With its high-octane guitar and speed riffage propelled by thunderous drumming, it sounds more like Mötörhead fronted by Quorthorn, a pounding speed-punk riffery topped by a demonic, rasping snarl. It’s full-throttle, it’s dense, and it’s pretty bloody brutal – just as you’d want.

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The Affair Of The Poisons will be released on CD, LP, cassette and digital through Peaceville on 9th October and is available to pre-order now HERE

Sadly, their autumn European tour with Midnight has been cancelled due to the on-going covid-19 issues but they are still looking forward to three headline shows in the UK.

Headline UK shows

22.10.20 – London, The Black Heart

23.10.20 – Leeds, Boom

24.10.20 – Glasgow, Nice ‘N’ Sleazy

Sargent House – 13th August 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

2020 keeps on crash-landing unexpected new releases, and the first solo release from Alexis Marshall of Daughters is the latest of these.

As noted in the press release, ‘Marshall describes the experience of making the material as “the painstaking process of creating and honouring, pretending to know and asking for aide, questioning and conquering, and the pale, unending anxiety nipping at the heel. This past life come current is at last the realised direction of many excruciating years beneath the wheel. The evaluation process has grown enjoyable, the evaluation process is, at last, its own reward and the hands involved have made me a better human being; without these hands, I would surely have crashed to burn. Thank you all.

I cull the hammer. I wield the hammer. I eat, breathe, sleep, shit, fuck the hammer.”’

As anyone familiar with Daughters, especially anyone who’s caught them on tour will appreciate, Marshall is a whirlwind of intensity, a man capable of the most stunningly potent viscerality.

Beginning with a hefty, hammered drum and low oscillating drone which provide the initial backdrop to Marshall’s manic, frenzied vocals, ‘Nature in Three Movements’ lunges straight into max intensity, a wild-eyed concentrated dose of sonic anxiety that only gets more crushingly claustrophobic as the dissonant noise builds and the percussion crashes harder. Marshall screams, and it’s the raw articulation of mental anguish : listening to this is like having your head placed in a vice while simultaneously being battered with a hammer.

Less a song than a breakdown committed to tape, if it’s representative of the forthcoming album, we’re in for something truly explosive.

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Photo credit: A.F. Cortes

Cool Thing Records – 7th August 2020

The band – the coalescence of an enigmatic visual artist, a prodigal singer-songwriter and an ambitious beat-maker ‘trapped inside a digital landscape’ describe their debut, ‘Lumbering’ as being ‘about viewing the world with a sense of claustrophobia and dread, as humanity bounces between various financial crashes, wars and climate disasters, whilst continuing to lumber endlessly forwards, seemingly in a wounded state.’

This is, indeed, the world of the now, and as such, I expect it’s broadly relatable to many on its perspective. It’s certainly relatable to me on a personal level, having become attenuated to a sense of perpetual panic and wild upheaval. The only thing you can be sure of is that nothing is certain, and you can’t rely on or trust anything – or anyone. The fact is, no-one is exactly who you think, and we live in an evermore divided and more extremely polarised society, be it Brexit or the wearing of masks.

‘Lumbering’ is pitched as ‘an intriguing soundscape of skeletal guitars, layered angular rhythms and fantastic lyrics’ and a hybrid of Boards Of Canada, 00’s Radiohead and The Cure’s Bloodflowers era.

With clattering drums and a pulsing bassline, I’m reminded more of the early 00s New Wave revival as spearheaded by the likes of Interpol and Editors, as well as The Cinematics. A Cause In Distress capture that tension and sense of urgency and distil it down to a truly gripping three-and-a-half minutes of surging dynamism.

It doesn’t necessarily make me feel better, but articulates my restless tension perfectly.

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12th June 2020

James Wells

According to their bio, Milton Keynes based British metal outfit Chasing Ghosts were ‘born of a passion to create dark and melodic music’ and their latest offering ‘is no doubt their biggest and most ambitious record yet, a union of haunting female harmonies and natural sombre strings, resulting in an evolution of all the darker elements in their already present sound since the release of their critically acclaimed debut album in 2018’.

Cynic that I am, was prepared for this to bring me some suffering, with a load of overblown bombastic rock – and make no mistake, there are elements that creep towards being OTT, but they manage to balance it with enough drive and majesty and emotional resonance as to render it an engaging and powerful release.

Opener ‘Until the End’ is a bold, gothic sweep of a song with intricate guitar lines that interweave across choral vocals that evoke the spirit of The Sisters of Mercy, and, moreover, the myriad bands who followed in their wake. The rhythm guitar chugs hard while the lead picks a serpentine thread and the baritone vocals (which aren’t short on a hint of Carl McCoy) cast a mix of gloom and drama over the whole thing.

Brooding violins sway through the intro to ‘A Darker Place’ that pitches somewhere between All About Eve and Evancessence, while the title track, ‘Bring Me Suffering’, which draws the curtain, is what one would justifiably describe as an ‘epic’, a seven-minute, string-soaked rendition of emotional anguish that rides post-rock crescendos while surging to a slow-burning climax that makes you ache as you listen.

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Magnetic Eye

Christopher Nosnibor

While reviewing Hymn’s new album, Breach Us for Whisperin’ and Hollerin’, I found myself undertaking a massive detour: having decided that for a few brief bars, Ole Rokseth’s vocals bore some resemblance to Layne Staley’s, and unsure of the spelling of Staley, fatally turned to Google, after which I squandered little short of three hours reading biographical details of the late singer.

And lo, lurking in my inbox was Khemmis’ cover of Alice in Chains’ ‘Down in a Hole’, the first track to be aired from the Dirt (Redux) album forthcoming on Magnetic Eye Records via their ‘Redux’ series (which has previously reimaged albums by Pink Floyd, Hendrix, and Helmet -although the title is a little misleading. There’s no real restoration involved here: this is a covers album, where a different band tackles each track to reconstruct the album not through remixes, but rerecordings.

I’m shamefully ignorant of most of the artists on here, although Thou are clearly a strong opening act, covering ‘Them Bones’, and label regulars These Beasts and Forming the Void also appear.

Anyway: Khemmis express that they were keen to ‘stay true to parts of the song, particularly the chorus, but that we also needed to make it our own.’ Sidestepping the TV karaoke cliché where every week the judges commend the contestants for making a well-known song their ‘own’, Khemmis have actually fulfilled their ambition by bringing layers of atmosphere and expansive guitar harmonics to the verses while retaining the integrity of the choruses. And while there are guitar flourishes aplenty, it’s apparent that this cover is born out of a genuine appreciation of the original.

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Clue Records

Christopher Nosnibor

The impact of lockdown and social distancing remain a prevalent theme in the blurbs and press releases for artists who’ve found themselves at a loss in recent months. The story behind Yowl’s new vide single, then, is by no means exceptional in itself, although it does have something of a twist to the tale in that it highlights the levels of ingenuity lockdown boredom has inspired for some:

‘unable to play shows online like some of their peers who live in enviable artistic

communes, they hit on a flawless solution; in a Lilliputian masterstroke, they built a cardboard pub and filled it with self-styled miniatures. From this, the video for Sunken Boy took form as a parallel to the cyclical ennui of life in lockdown and a materialisation of an all-consuming desire for power over their fellow bandmates, all while providing an

opportunity for a nod to the seminal video for Nsync’s ‘Bye Bye Bye’.

After a solid but fairly middling indie jangler of an opening, with a largely forgettable crooning vocal, all of which invites Smiths comparisons – but for its confessional lyrics and a strong opening line, which finds Gabriel Byrde admit “I’ve convinced myself and others that I’m a decent person” – it unexpectedly erupts about three-quarters of the way through into a raw, jagged blast of furious alt-rock.

It tapers down to a bleak ending, and makes for quite the rollercoaster, both sonically end emotionally. In short, it’s a great single.

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