Posts Tagged ‘alternative’

Loyal Blood Records – 9th December 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

When the shit builds to a tsunami, your laptop’s fucked and all you want to do is curl into a ball and forget absolutely everything, noise is the answer. It’s not a cry for help or even a public moan as such, but sometimes it all gets a bit much. The little thing accumulate to the point where they’re a big thing. You feel weak for letting it escalate like that, but it’s sudden. One minute, everything is ok, and ticking along nicely, the next, you’re suddenly overwhelmed.

Having recently experienced a mammoth rush of excitement on discovering Mammock, I’m buzzing all over again having been introduced to another bunch of noisy fucks, namely Hammock. These guys really aren’t into slouching about, and their debut is tense, wired, and packs some furious energy.

The press release tells me that ‘They sound pissed, frustrated and rebellious, and play their instruments with a nasty intensity and nihilistic ferocity. Imagine a mix of Unsane, Chat Pile and Pissed Jeans and you’ll get a pretty good idea of how these youngsters sound like.’ Obviously, I’m sold before I hear a note, and have to say it’s a fair summary of their seven-song set (although the first and last, ‘Intro’ and ‘outro’ respectively are what their titles imply, bookending five back-to-back blasts of riotous racket, all of which clock in between two and a quarter and a fraction over three minutes. They really do keep it tight and punchy, and pack a lot of abrasive noise into those short sharp adrenaline shots.

The vocals are distorted, shouted, gritty, and are pithed against guitars that crash in from all angles – hefty slabs and thick chunks of distortion collide against scribbly, scratchy runs of broken math-rock noodles, while the bass snarls around and booms darkly and the drums roll like thunder, as exemplified on lead single ‘J.D.F.’

It’s jarring, fast-paced, and buzzes and roars, and it’s not just noise – there are some smart bits and pieces all bouncing about in the mix, often happening all at once. It is, at times, bewildering, but above all, it’s awe-inspiring.

There’s a moment around forty-five seconds into ‘Contrapoint’ where the bass and guitars both kick into a monster riff and it punches you right between the eyes as a ‘fucking yesssss!!’ moment that absolutely seals the EP as a bona fide belter.

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Venerate Industries – 4th November 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

Now this is a fine justification of why I don’t do end of year lists. This may or may not have made mi ne, because I simply haven’t had time to process or digest it, but it’s been out a month and a half and I’ve only just got my lugs around it, with only a week or so left of 2022 – and it’s one of those albums that slaps you around the skull and has that instant impact by virtue of its sheer force.

Their bio tells us that Athens-based ‘Mammock’s compositions stray from the typical rock forms, incorporating various elements from punk to jazz, post-hardcore and the nineties’ US noise rock scene. The quartet possesses the self-awareness and technical capabilities to carve their own sound and explore their character into finely tuned songs, which grab the listener from beginning to end.’

What it means is that they make a serious fucking racket and sound a lot like The Jesus Lizard, from the rib-rattling bass to the off-kilter, jarring guitars, and the crazed vocals. Some of the songs sound like they have some synths swirling around in the mix, but one suspects it’s just more guitar, run through a monster bank of effects. Overall, though, they seem to be more reliant on technique than trickery.

They formed in early 2018 by Giannis (guitar) and Klearhos (bass) with the addition of Vangelis (drums), they started out as an instrumental trio, before the addition of Andreas (vocals), and if it seems like a contradiction to remark that they feel like a coherent unit when cranking out so much jolting, angular discord, but that’s one of the key tricks or deceptions of music like this: it isn’t mere racket, and in fact requires real technical precision: those stuttering stops and starts, judders, jolts, changes of key and tempo require a great deal of skill, intuition, and of course, rehearsal.

They take many cues from Shelllac, too: the drums are way up in the mix – to the extent that they’re front and centre, something Shellac make a point of literally on stage, and replicate the sound on record, with the guitar providing more texture than tune, and the vocals half-buried beneath the cacophonic blur.

The last minute or so of ‘Dancing Song’ blasts away at a single chord that calls to mind Shellac’s ‘My Black Ass’ and ‘The Admiral’. The lumbering monster that is ‘Bats’ is a bit more metal, in the sludgy, stoner doom Melvins sense.

Stretching out to almost seven minutes, ‘Jasmine Skies’ blasts its way to the album’s mid-point, a wild, grunged-up metal beast with an extended atmospheric spoken-word mid-section which gives the lumbering black metal assault that emerges in the finale even greater impact.

If the semi-ambient ‘Interludio’ offers some brief respite, the ‘Boiling Frog’ brings choppy, driving grunge riffage and a real sense of agitation and anguish, and the album’s trajectory overall paves the way for an immense finish in the form of the seven-minute ‘Away from Them’ that roars away as it twists and turns at a hundred miles an hour.

Yes, Rust packs in a lot, and it packs it in tight and it packs it in hard.

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25th November 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

What we all need is a jolt, a shock. Right NOW. You may not even realise it, but consider this: while life and the world seems to be swirling in a vortex of addling bewilderment, a lot of music seems to have become incredibly safe, a retreat. I’m not even talking about that slick, mass-produced mainstream fodder: even so-called ‘alternative’ rock has become increasingly safe in recent years, in the post-emo, post Foos world. And while a few acts on the peripheries are smashing all genre conventions with sledgehammers, they’re pretty niche, and what the world needs is something that can really get into the mix and shake things up. Has anything turned the world even halfway on its head singe grunge?

I’m aware that even reminiscing about grunge places my voice in a time capsule and in the ‘old bugger’ demographic for many, but has anything really been even remotely as evolutionary since? Has there ever been a seismic event since? We talk – or talked – about the zeitgeist, but what is the zeitgeist at the flaccid tail-end of 2022? Disaffection, discontent, strikes? Maybe, but what’s the soundtrack? Ed Sheeran and the new Adele album sure as hell aren’t the voice of disaffected youth.

Brighton’s ‘rising alt-rock rebels’ Fighting Colours might not be the face of the revolution, but they are the band to deliver that much-needed shakeup.

The vibe around the opening of the first of the EP’s four tracks, ‘Your Choice Now’ is a bit post-rock, with a nice, clean, chiming guitar sound – but it yields to some beefy riffage that’s pure grunge, it’s clear from the outset that they’re keen to mix things up and create their own blend, and it’s one that works well. And then Jasmine Ardley’s vocals enter the mix, and with this kind of chunky alt-rock being so male-orientated, to hear a female voice is unusual – and while Ardley has a clean vocal sound, it’s not unduly poppy.

‘The Boat Starts to Shake’ shuffled closer towards the jazzier, noodling end of the post-rock sound that was ubiquitous circa 2004, but the mathy verses contrast with massive slugging grunged-out choruses and a climax that’s nearly nu-metal and beings some hefty noise.

‘The Cure’ is different again, venturing into almost urban territory, while still anchored in jazzy math rock elements, before rupturing into a bold chorus that’s in between Evanescence and Halestorm, both gutsy and melodic and with an ‘epic’ feel, and it’s delivered with style.

The final cut of the EP plays the slower, emotion-filled arena anthem card, but still has more than enough guts and a keen melody, not least of all thanks to Jasmine’s voice, to separate it from the countless Paramore-wannabe alt rock acts out there.

It all stacks up for a strong set with a lot of bold and exhilarating rock action. It’s the kick up the arse alt-rock needs.

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Fighting Colours - Wishing Well - EP artwork (Gypsy Rose Design)

14th October 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

Our last encounter with Brighton band Dog of Man was on the release of the single ‘Hello MI5’back in the spring. A frantic, frenetic genre clash, it proved to be quite an eye-opener.

And how, here we have the album, which they describe as ‘music to lose your shit to, a ritual of intense catharsis’, ‘delves into neuroses, madness and breakdown, delivered with punchy grooves, spidery guitar lines and gloriously distorted accordion.’

Wait, what? Accordion? This is not an instrument one tends to associate with any kind of heavy psych / weird indie / thrashy (post) punk hybrid, but then, Dog of Man do their own thing and make music their way.

The title is, thankfully, ironic. Instead of jaunty indie or breezy upbeat yacht rock Everything is Easy, the band promise an album that ‘delves into themes of neuroses, madness and breakdown – all set to punchy grooves, spidery guitar lines and fizzing accordion.’ Well, if it’s fizzing, maybe it is the instrument of choice.

Single cut ‘Turpentine’ blasts in with some ramshackle guitar that’s rushed and urgent, and as much as it’s indie with hints of The Wedding Present and early Ash, as well as contemporaries Asylums, and sets the manic pace for the album, which sees them skidding into the skewed shanty, ‘Accidentally Honest’. ‘Have you ever been accidentally honest?’ they ask. Well, have you?

With ‘No Click, No Edits’, this is properly rough and ready, raw and immediate, seemingly growing in pace and intensity as the album progresses. ‘Stroudits’ is both punky and theatrical with a dash of The Stranglers in the mix, before ‘Lurking in the Overnight Bag’ goes blues metal with a roustabout pirate slant, and reading that description back makes it sound absolutely shit, but it’s a work of twisted manic genius condensed into aa sub-two-minute adrenaline blast. Doorsy keyboards and nagging guitars reminiscent of Orange Juice are pulped together on ‘Headonastick’ before it shifts from being a driving racket that calls to mind Pulled Apart by Horses before veering off into a hoedown for the break. Are these guys nuts? It seems probable.

There’s just so much going on here; the chaotic cacophony of Gallon Drunk played with the swagger of Led Zeppelin and harpooned by the energy and knowingness of Electric Six are all packed together to tightly it’s impossible to really pick it apart or really fathom why it works, let alone has any kind of appeal. But perhaps the mystery is the appeal. When something is so crazy it shouldn’t work but does, it’s both because and in spite of it. And they make it sound so effortless.

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Dog Of Man Artwork

It’s pretty perverse to release a single entitled ‘Summer Assault’ in November, but then Dubliners Thumper are pretty perverse.

The single sees Thumper venture into new territory as they release their first brand new offering since their debut album released in 2022. The single comes off the back of their extensive European, UK and Irish tour, including sell out shows in Amsterdam, London, Paris and Dublin’s Whelan’s. The bombastic Dublin outfit have also played at Sŵn Festival in Cardiff and are gearing up for a set at RTE 2FM’s Rising on the Road.

‘Summer Assault’  is a vignette of self sabotage, an anthem of small failure. It’s about a doomed relationship that carries on regardless — a narrator banging on the glass trying to warn the song’s inhabitants. Each melody and hook competes for space over an ever expanding wall of guitars, bass and their signature double drums. In just over three minutes, ‘Summer Assault’ sees Thumper boil their trademark noise wall into an ear worm of a pop song.

It calls to mind the whirling punk-infused pop or pop-infused punk of Asylums, not just in the energy and melody, but the simultaneously soaring, buzzing guitar, and we love it.

Get your lugs round it here:

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14th October 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

I’ve likely mentioned it before, but on the one hand, Leeds has quite a distinctive sound, albeit one that’s evolved over the last decade, bit on the other, its scene is characterised by its diversity and eclecticism. It’s too be expected, of course: it’s a big city with two massive universities and a lot of small venues where artists can try out and develop their style and draw influence and inspiration from others. Time was when everyone was either doing instrumental post-rock or making a massive fucking racket.

Leeds based musician and recording engineer Rob Slater AKA Carpet belongs to the eternal production line of acoustic-based artists that’s not so much a Leeds thing but a music thing – but he himself is an integral part f the Leeds scene, having played in a number of standout bands, including Thank, Mi Mye, Post War Glamour Girls, and The Spills, as well as ‘working as a recording-engineer/producer from his own Greenmount Studios in Armley where, this year alone, his credits include Yard Act’s debut ‘The Overload’, as well as debut albums from Leeds peers Thank and Crake (with whom Slater plays drums, and who I reviewed just the other day for Whisperin’ and Hollerin’.

The press release promises ‘four tracks of thoughtful and introspective beauty, offering a compelling and unhurried insight into Slater’s musical world’. And it does that.

There’s nothing remarkable about the songs or their execution: Slater’s songwriting and execution is simply exactly as it should be: tight, emotive, melodic. It’s not exciting or dramatic by any means: it’s overtly introspective and thoroughly accessible, with easy-going songs. It’s clear that Slater simply has no interest in going massive. This may not be his choice, so much as a limitation of the medium. That’s certainly not a criticism: Carpet has a wide, if low-level appeal, and while it is, in many ways, a functional indie folk work, it’s also musically entertaining and easy on the ear, and does the job.

What is the job? Of being music. Yes, sometimes, that’s enough.

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To coincide with the release of their debut album Fiesta, Leatherette have shared their latest single ‘Thin Ice’, a turmoiled love song about taking risks. They explain: “Musically, it’s a nervous mid-tempo post-punk-ska orchestral tune, sort of Talking Heads-esque. Lyrically, it is quite representative of our approach, both as people and as a band. An approach that can be summed up by the famous Winston Churchill’s quote: ‘If you’re going through hell, keep going’. We learnt, as musicians and young adults, that things tend not to work properly way more often than they do. But it’s not a big deal, It’s actually what makes life, love and art so special”.

We loved previous single ‘Sunbathing’ so much we even made the press release for this one. Look at those quotes! They’re all on the money, too.

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Listen to ‘Thin Ice’ here:

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6th October 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

Most Dinosaur Jr fans are aware of the prehistory – the band’s primordial swamps, or whatever, which saw the band emerge from she ashes of hardcore punk act Deep Wound, although significantly less seems to have been made of the band’s reunions in 2004 and 2013. But no matter – perhaps more should be being made of the work of Deep Wound’s less celebrated co-founder Scott Helland, who is one half of Frenchy and the Punk, along with Samantha Stephenson.

There’s no getting around it: it’s an awful name. Kinda corny, with connotations off Grease, it’s one of those monikers that’s so cliché It’s probably fictitious. But no, they’re real, very real, and according to their bio, ‘the duo thrive in their trademark blend of post-punk and dark folk music’. And they’ve been going for a while: their upcoming album, Zen Ghost will be their seventh long-player.

And that they do. ‘Come In and Play’ is pitched as an upbeat Siouxsie-esque delight, is the second enchanting single from their forthcoming Zen Ghost album, following the lead track ‘Mon Souvenir’. Their seventh long-player record, this will be released via the EA Recordings label on October 28th.

‘Come in and Play’ is layered, elegant, haunting fashion that combines elements of trad goth with folk, landing somewhere between Siouxsie, Skeletal family, and All About Eve. With picked acoustic guitar providing texture and detail, it’s driven by a solid bass groove. The overall feel is quite the contradiction – it’s an alternative rock song with a paired-back arrangement and quite spartan, brittle production that solidly recreates the essence of 1984.

On the surface, it’s a simple, song, but scratch to the next layer, and there’s plenty going on and then some, sonically, musically, and emotively. Stephenson’s vocal is outstanding, and the real attention-stealer here as she swoops and soars and switches from angelic drifting to a full-lunged expellation, while swiping various shades and stylistic elements in between.

‘Come in and Play’ is both haunting and confident. It’s one of those songs where you absorb the atmosphere more than you absorb any instant hook, and that’s ok – more than ok.

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3rd September 2022

James Wells

Naff name, great tune, relatable content. I know precisely nothing about this band, and the scant info online suggests they haven’t really decided anything either. The Leicester-based post-millennial music-collective have been described as purveyors of ‘proletarian garage rock’.

Maybe that’s what it is. It’s definitely noisy, and it’s brief, the sound of the band in a hurry to say their piece and get the hell out of the way.

‘Existential Dread’ is an ominous, bass-driven, bowel-churning slab of hard psychedelia that’s driven by thunderous, propellant drums with choppy, echoed guitars and needling synths – or heavily processed lead guitar – over it. Initially, I’m thinking The Black Angels, but his is harder, darker, punkier, and it’s totally exhilarating and totally relevant.

We’re fucked. All of us. One way or another. If you’re not tense with existential dread, you’re either incredibly rich or incredibly stupid, or both. This is the soundtrack to the shit we’re living through. It’s real, it’s sharp. It’s not comfortable: just face it. Embrace the dread.

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Ahead of the release of the debut album, Druids and Bards, out later this month on Yr Wyddfa Records, Welsh alt-rock/indie act have released a further single in the shape of ‘Away we Go’.

Hear it here:

Championed by Gary Crowley on BBC Radio London and Playlisted on Amazing Radio’s A List, with BBC Radio Wales support from Huw Stephens and Adam Walton, North Wales Indie-Psych Band Holy Coves have had quite a year so far. They share a brand new single called ‘Away We Go’ before their highly anticipated new Druids And Bards album is released via Yr Wyddfa Records on the 14th of October.

Through long time friend and Producer David Wrench, Holy Coves were put in touch with Texan Producer Erik Wofford (The Black Angels / Explosions In The Sky) and have built quite a magical working relationship, one where Wofford found himself on Mixing and Mastering duties for the material and certainly contributes to their new sound.

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