Posts Tagged ‘alternative’

1st January 2021

James Wells

After many years out of music – mostly to pursue medical school and a career as an oncologist, Karen Haglof, former luminary of the New York scene and also a member of Band of Susans among others, made her return just a few years ago, and has seen her release a flurry of new material. Making up for lost time, Haglof looks like an artist rejuvenated and energised, and what we’ve heard to date sounds like it too.

Kicking off the new year with new song, ‘Devastation Competed’ is the first of several tracks she’ll be releasing in 2021, and while featuring a host of musicians and instruments, including CP Roth on bass, piano, Hammond organ and percussion and Mitch Easter on Moog, the end result is stripped-back but solid sounding.

Less is more, for sure.

‘Devastation Completed’ is a reflection on the present, but also a call to unity and hints at optimism. It’s been a hard year / no-one would argue that’, she sings by way of an opening, with a chunky bass cranked up and booming fuzz on a rootsy blues riff. It’s simple, repetitive, and ends with an explosion. Right now I wish it would, but meanwhile, this is a great head-nodder of a tune.

Having talked with Lori Forster just a few weeks ago about her plans for a new, curated festival straddling London and Leeds in 2021, things have moved on apace at Ghost Road Fest HQ, with the announcement of the first four acts and the release of a batch of super-discounted, super-early bird tickets… and here’s where things start to get exciting.

Announced so far:

The Virginmarys (London only)

SHEAFS (Leeds only)

Weekend Recovery (London and Leeds)

SNAYX (London and Leeds)

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The Virginmarys are clearly major draw for the London show, being a well-established and respected live act with a solid and swelling fanbase, and running parallel, SHEAFS are very much a band on the up, having been booked to support The Slow Readers Club on their next tour when it finally happens. This is a big deal, and the chances are that with exposure like that, SHEAFS will be laying considerably larger venues before long. This makes the opportunity to see them likely to be pretty special.

But the measure of any festival is the depth of the lineup, and the early signs are that Ghost Road Fest is packing the lineup with quality all the way, with SNAYX playing both London and Leeds. The crunchy bass / guitar alt-rock duo sold out their last show before lockdown in March and again, after a string of high-profile support slots have shown they’ve got game.

Weekend Recovery have been AA regulars for an age, and they just kick ass harder the further on they go. Stripped back to an ultra-dynamic power trio with the immensely talented Loz Campbell now on bass, and a new album out early next year, they threaten to be explosive while playing both the London and Leeds shows.

With November a safe enough distance away, this looks like being a belter already.

Tickets and updates are available here.

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As the world reels from a deadly pandemic and the U.S veers towards civil war, 13,890 nuclear weapons lie dormant. In their first single since signing to APF records, Indica Blues’ imagine a catastrophic very-near-future scenario in which current world events lead to all-out war and nuclear annihilation: We Are Doomed.

Indica Blues (in-deh-ka) are a four-piece psychedelic doom band from Oxford, U.K. Once described as ‘bong filling rock that is platinum heavy, but blessed with a melodic sensibility underneath it all,’ the band’s unique sound has garnered fans across the world since their formation in 2014. They have gigged with stoner rock luminaries such as Elder, Samsara Blues Experiment and Mars Red Sky.

On the new video for ‘We Are Doomed,’ Tom Pilsworth (guitars/vocals) comments, “This song is our vision of near future nuclear annihilation, written in response to the chaotic world events of the last four years. We spent six hours in pouring rain at an abandoned cold war missile facility with director Josh Horwood and his team, and he couldn’t of done a better job. We hope people enjoy watching it as much as we enjoyed making it.”

The video reminds us just how much we miss seeing bands knocking out heavy chords in small rooms. This shit hurts. It’s a top video though.

Watch the video now:

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1st January 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

‘Surt Skum’ is a sweet Swedish treat and translates to ‘sour foam’ – at least according to the missive that accompanies the latest release from psych rockers Cave Suns and their missive from Tier 3 Newcastle, who report that they ‘entered their lysergic bubble of a practice room, to escape the impending mask strewn, gig parched landscape of the North East’.

Emerging from a series of improvisations, this EP offers some solid – if ragged – grooves and a fuckload of energy – not to mention some wild wah-wah action.

The title track kicks things off in a suitably raw but dynamic style: propelled by motoric drumming and a throbbing, repetitive bass that provides the backdrop to a sprawling, wah-laden lead, it’s a dense rush of heavy kraut-infused psych played rough ‘n’ ready, and this sounds lie a one-take live in the studio affair, and the up-front drum thump that clatters and crashes through ‘Sleep Never Rusts’ isn’t so much underproduced as unproduced – but the sounds very like Joy Division’s ‘Dead Souls’, and the nagging bassline isn’t the only factor in this epic builder.

Six-and-a-half-minute finale ‘Sloop John Dee’ brings goth-tinged Celtic guitars as if played by Hendrix to a heavy stoner riff that’s welded – albeit loosely – to a stomping tribal beat that’s pure new wave.

It all adds up to a pretty intense experience, and a cracking release.

Christopher Nosnibor

A collective of international origins spanning Belgium, Italy, and New Zealand, All Runs Red’s debut is a stylistic hybrid, too, beginning with a drifting picked intro that’s a bit prog, a bit post-rock. It’s one of those tracks that makes a series of rapid transitions and leaves you feeling a shade dazed, but also confused and confounded, as you sit, stunned, just three minutes or so later, wondering how you got from A to B.

Initially, it packs a simmering tension, but one infused with a certain slickness, even a light funk groove before hinting at something else. I’m on the fence here, then between loving and loathing, because that smoothness reminds me of insipid cack like Maroon 5, but then there’s something building beneath the surface… and then the chorus breaks and it’s got ‘stadium’ written all over it – or at least arena. It’s sonically immense, and big on emotion, too, then there are howling backing vocals and a huge guitar workout breaks forth and then…it fades out? What? How? Who would do this, and why? I feel a little short-changed, and like I should perhaps complain – but what good would that do?

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Better Noise Music – 28th August 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

This may be a little belated, but then arguably, so are the band: From Ashes To New trade in melodic alt-rock that crashes in with the blustery force of post-metal before petering out into some middle ground that’s rooted in the turn-of-the-millennium tats ‘n’ haircuts trend. It’s hard to feel the fire and fury of such angst-by-numbers.

Don’t get me wrong: I feel a genuine sympathy for these guys: the scrolling text at the start of the video reminds me of all of the cancellations I’ve had to witness this year, from gigs and holidays, to conferences to recording sessions to…well, absolutely fucking everything. The office setting for the video hauls me back to the day I was required to return to the office – closed for the foreseeable future, possibly permanently – to collect my personal belongings. It felt like an ending, and a weak one that sputter out to nothing at that. The hangar-like empty space could, under different circumstances, have been quite exciting, even exhilarating, but under the eye of a gloved and masked security guard who watched as I separated out personal and company belongings from my desk, bagging up the items that were my own and separating out stationery, IT kit (although I regret not squirreling away a spare mouse now) and paperwork for recycling before leaving the gloomy open-plan building, the blinds half drawn and the lights off for what was probably the last time. It didn’t occur to me that maybe this would be the setting for recording a rock video: much as I wanted to capture the bleakness of the empty space, I was more preoccupied with making sure I’d loaded up and was off the premises in my allotted twenty minutes, and while the security guard was nothing but friendly, I felt tense and pressured, and yes, maybe the pressure was of my own making but I felt like an intruder and like I needed to get out before I cold relax and breathe properly again.

On departing, it struck me that with more of us being designated permanent home workers as the company looks to finding ways to recoup the immense costs of providing everyone with a laptop, the cost savings of not paying for electricity, cleaners, maintenance, and all of the other things associated with an office housing around 80 staff, I may not see many, if any, of the people I’d spent the last few years working with, in close proximity, ever again. Granted, half of them I could take or leave, some of them were cunts, but they all contributed to the fabric of life. I miss life, and I may even miss some of the people.

But it doesn’t change fact that this is some fairly generic and somewhat dated-sounding Limp Bizkit / Linkin Park lift, and while I feel their pain and panic, it’s all downhill from the intro: the video, likewise, as we move away from the TV screen, the source of the panic, to the empty office, something they seem to revel in but which carries quite different connotations for me and no doubt many.

This isn’t clear-cut, and this is personal, and sometimes, the personal does not lie within the universal. ‘Panic’ will no doubt speak to some, even many, and maybe it’s a matter of demographic, but it certainly doesn’t speak to me.

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Cruel Nature Recordings – 16th October 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

While the 90s was awash with obscure bands cranking out gnarly, guitar-driven noise, the last decade or so (alright, I mean two decades, because I’m old and still can’t get my head around the fact that 1990 was 30 years ago and that Nevermind is 30 years old next year) has seen such music emerge only in pockets, with the likes of Leeds’ Blacklisters being prime exponents and one of the few to reach a wider audience – and it’s Blacklisters who probably stand as US noisemongers TRVSS’ closest contemporaries.

TRVSS are very much in the early 90s vein: I’m not just talking Am Rep and Touch and Go, but way further beneath the radar. Listening to the grainy, gritty grind of New Distances, I’m transported back, way back, and while I’m hearing The Jesus Lizard, I’m equally hearing Zoopsia, Headcleaner, Oil Seed Rape. Not familiar? To be clear here: I’m not promoting obscurest elitism here, but trying to give a flavour of just how choc-full of rabid guitar bands the underground scene was at a certain point in time – a time when bands like Terminal Cheesecake and Tar would receive coverage in the national music press, back when there was a national music press. They were exciting times, and that’s not the rose-tinting of a 45-year old reflecting on his youth: things were changing, and fast, and there was something in the air, and in your local record shop, in pub gig venues, and even on the radio

New Distances is a nasty mess of guitars driven by low-slung lurching basslines and drums that thud away in the background, half-buried in the welter of noise. Things are still changing at pace, of course, but mostly venues are closing, and there are no solid channels by which to access new and emerging talent. Where are the equivalents of The Tube, Snub:TV, The Word now? The Old Grey Whistle Test wasn’t even entirely the domain of proggy old farts, and now, we don’t even have Jools fucking Holland. There’s no M on MTV, and 4Music is a misnomer as well, but I digress.

TRVSS would probably never have made TV even back then, but it’s almost certain that John Peel, Melody Maker, and NME would have found a bit of room for some exposure for their raging, demented brand of no-wave / noise mania, and New Distances has no shortage of meat to give it appeal to a niche but substantial audience.

‘Stigma’ encapsulates the album’s rabid grunged-up noise-rock vibe, coming on like both side of the Nirvana / Jesus Lizard split ‘Oh The Guilt’ / ‘Puss’ simultaneously with it jarring guitar riffage and raw-throated vocal roar. ‘The Ventriloquist Always has the Last Laugh’ pitches skewed guitars galore, crash-landing in the space between The Jesus Lizard, Shellac, and the criminally underrated and proportionally obscure Milk.

It’s likely that TRVSS will remain forever obscure, although not on account of lack of appeal or lack of ability: sure, their stuff is dark, driving and ultimately extremely niche but all of this is ok: against the backdrop of blanket mass-media and sameness, such deliberately obscure an anti-mainstream music is essential and invigorating: lap it up while you can.

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7th August 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Having built themselves a solid fanbase since their formation in 2017, with a series of single and EP releases, supported by some live shows primarily in their regional territory of Kent, Salvation Jayne have been going from strength to strength.

As has been the situation for so many bands, lockdown has put paid to pretty much all activity: gigs simply can’t happen, rehearsal rooms and studios have been closed, and it’s not been feasible for many artists to record at home for various reasons, not least of all not being allowed indoors together.

Despite all of the hot air and rhetoric and the unprecedented use of the word unprecedented, the 1918 so-called Spanish flu pandemic bears remarkable similarities to the present, and it’s like we’ve learned nothing in the last century. However, two major differences are that in 2020, we have the Internet to connect us, to spread misinformation, and to perform live streams and so on, and exchange chunks of audio.

For Salvation Jayne, exchanging chunks of audio wasn’t conducive to the creation of new material, but did facilitate a quite unexpected project, whereby other people could put their spin on cuts from the band’s back catalogue by means of some remixes.

For this project, they’ve enlisted a diverse array of collaborators: John Tufnell (Saint Agnes) – Black Heart; Jericho Tozer (SKIES) – Coney Island, Baby!; Eden Gallup (Violet Vendetta) – Cortez; Sara Leigh Shaw (The Pearl Harts) – Juno; Fuji Hideout – Tongue Tied, Tiiva – Jayne Doe. And at launch, they donated the proceeds of sales from Bandcamp to Refuge.

Witnessing bands so sorely deprived of income using their art for the greater good has been one of the most heartwarming things about lockdown: infinitely more meaningful than clapping for NHS workers in a display of virtue-signalling solidarity, artists making genuine sacrifices for charities spanning foodbanks, support for the homeless and mental health support shows where the real heart is. It’s always the grass roots acts passing up on Royalties, too, not fucking Bono imploring punters to donate, and that’s significant too. This is real charity.

It also matters that the product is of a certain quality, and this really is there: these remixes showcase the breadth of Salvation Jayne’s material, which may be rooted in solid alt-rock with more classic twists, but are well-suited to adaption.

The Saint Agnes Lockdown remix of ‘Black Heart’ explodes in a blast of abrasive noise and steers the song into a kind of early 00’s Pitchshifter industrial noise and distortion space, with pounding percussion and slabs of overdriven guitar backing Chess’ fuzzed-out vocal. With more disco-orientated verses, it shouldn’t work, but it does, and what’s more, it packs some real groove.

The Pearl Hearts’ take on ‘Juno’ is another stomper, disco beats cranked up to industrial strength, and this take also has a much harder edge than the original, and it works surprisingly well, as does ‘Coney Island, Baby!’, when SKIES sub the post-punk feel of the original version with something slower, heavier, more industrial, then sling in some epic strings on top. The result is pretty spectacular.

‘Cortez’ is a standout in the SJ catalogue, and to hear it pumped up, grooved up, and sped up is a major rush, and the same is true of ‘Jayne Doe’, released in May of this year and here given a radical and full-on dance reworking. It may divide the fans but it’s important that the band continue to push their parameters instead of limiting their horizons. Ultimately, this is what the remixes EP is all about: Salvation Jayne may be a rock band with a certain post-punk leanings, but above all they’re a band who don’t want to be pinned to a style, and a band with range, and these remixes showcase both the sound and progressive attitude perfectly.

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28th August 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Spar Marta’s Facebook page defines them by what they’re not rather than what they are. Specifically, the quintet – consisting of Ieva Aleksandrovičiūtė, Luke Wilson, Conor ‘Corndawg’ Taylor, Sam Liddle, and Dan ‘Danno’ Purvey – are at pains to point out that they are not an acid jazz trio. The fact there are five of them is a significant clue, but, it has to be said, three of them do have beards… and y’know, nothing says jazz like beards, right?

This six-tracker, which features previous singles ‘The Postman’, ‘Frey’, and ‘Let is Go’ (which has absolutely nothing to do with the Disney smash Frozen – thankfully) showcases a mighty guitar-driven sound tempered by a keen sense of melody and a vocal that’s got guts and sass in equal measure. Recent years have seen a real surge in exciting female-fronted hard rock bands, who punch hard and pack some killer tunes.

With Leeds titans Black Moth having called it a day, the arrival of Sky Valley Mistress, and now Spar Marta is more than welcome.

It’s ‘The Postman’ that opens – or, more accurately, rips things open – with a hefty blast of overdrive, a busy, cyclical riff and gritty rhythm guitar. The shift to a ska-influenced riff for the middle eight is unexpected, but equally unexpected is the fact that it not only doesn’t suck, but actually works, and when they lumber back into the full gut-punching riffage, it hits even harder and calls to mind The Pretty Reckless at their best.

As the nagging mid-tempo ‘Let it Go’ demonstrates, they’ve got a real knack for dynamics, a clean, buoyant verse ‘I’ll never let you go’, Ieva Aleksandrovičiūtė sings, and it sounds like as much of a threat as a promise of support, and it’s all driven home with a full-throttle riff-mongous finale that fills the final minute.

What we get from this EP is the work of a multi-faceted band who’ve got an ear for an accessible alt-rock tune in the Paramore vein: ‘Frey’ is very much representative, being a bit more arena / Kerrang! radio friendly and suggests they’ve got the capacity to reach a much wider audience – but it’s when they put the pedal to the metal and rage hard they’re at they’re best by far, and ‘Take Control’ brings the fretwork fury propelled by some hefty drumming.

Closer ‘Run’ is a real beast of a closer, beginning with a soft, tripped-back intro that hints at something wistful, transitioning through a succession of segments to culminate in a raging, rip-roaring climax, all the while keeping one ear on the melody and filtering some palpable emotions through it all. It’s accomplished work, and while the production is full, it’s not excessively polished, meaning the songs are delivered with bite, and the passion behind them is very much to the fore.

Stream by clicking the image below.

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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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