Posts Tagged ‘alternative’

19th March 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

‘Elba’, the second single cut from their forthcoming second album, Small Worlds, finds alternative / post-rock act Mount Forel conjuring a shimmering sonic tapestry of atmospheric instrumentation. From a hazy mirage of shifting sounds emerges a slow-burning laconic tune that twists desert rock with country and a progressive twist.

For reasons I can’t quite pin down, I find myself thinking of The Eagles, and ‘Horse with No Name’ by America, even though it really doesn’t sound like either. What it does have, though, is a certain laid-back, vintage Americana feel that’s kinda nice. Maybe I’m getting old, maybe I’m tired, maybe I’m stressed, maybe it’s just nostalgia, but nice is alright.

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29th January 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

I have a hunch that the ethereal, bohemian songstress may not have been born Gabrielle Ornate, but it’s certainly fitting for the kind of light, decorative, yet expansive and kaleidoscopic electropop showcased on her debut single, ‘The March of the Caterpillars’.

Yes, it has that quintessentially 80s vibe, but then that in itself has become something that’s grown beyond its origins to become a genre unto itself, meaning that this single is both of a time and timeless. Propelled by a solid beat and buoyant bassline, it balances elements of both rock and pop, it’s a perfect vehicle for Gabrielle’s vocal, which switches from quiet and contemplative to full and bold in the choruses.

Lyrically, it’s about evolution and ‘respecting one’s roots’, but said lyrics are largely oblique and poetical, spinning together a succession of thoughts and images to form a semi-abstract flow, which works nicely.

It’s a strong debut, and Gabrielle seems to have emerged in full-fluttering glory.

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Christopher Nosnibor

Hailing from Hastings, Kids Love Surf came together during the eternal year of lockdown, coming together due to a shared love of dreampop to collaborate remotely from March 2020. Following on from debut single ‘OYO’ which found favour with BBC introducing.

‘Moment’ is everything its rainbow-hued cover art suggests: a dreamy drift of 90s shoegaze, with soft synths and guitars bathed in washes of reverb and effects. The drums are muffled beneath the layers while the bass strolls around amiably, not driving anything, not even holding it down, but simply wandering, and it’s a latticework of jangly guitars that layer away behind a vocal that’s low in the mix and kinda dreamy in a 90s indie sort of a way. There are hints of Stereolab and Disintegration-era Cure in the mix here, and it’s all very mellow and melodic.

As is so often the case with this style of music, I find there’s relatively little to say. That’s not a criticism or complaint, but more of an indication of how, on a personal level, I find myself detached and floating free, how I struggle to engage in the details beyond the effect, beyond the superficial. Because it seems to be less about ]engagement and more about atmosphere, how it speaks beyond words via the medium of music.

The mid-tempo ‘Moment’ is a soft wash of tripping indie that’s easy on the ear, and do you really need a message or much substance beyond that? I’m content to just let it glide….

19th February 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

After a few months out, Richard Fox (lead guitar, bass guitar, keys, producer) and Gavin Connolly (vocals, rhythm guitar, piano), aka Arcade Fortress return with the first taster for a new album in the form of ‘Sabotage’ – their first new material since the album Create More than You Destroy last September.

The first point of note is that this most definitely isn’t a cover of the Beastie Boys’ hit. This is a good thing, because you shouldn’t mess with perfection, and should always instead strive to create your own.

‘Sabotage’ is all about self-sabotage and self-doubt: the first verse is littered with images of war and combat, from naval battles to machine gun fire, before bringing things in closer to home, presenting an inner turmoil that melds domestic abuse with a n altogether more Fight Club themed feel, where all the torment and self-loathing coalesces into a harsh-inward facing nihilism and self-loathing:

‘In an abusive relationship with myself / It’s surprisingly hard to remove / This knife from my back / Stuck in my spine because of / My own frenzied attack’, sings Gavin over a sonic backdrop that builds nicely from a sparse picked guitar jangle to a fully-realised anthemic beast of a tune.

There’s nothing particularly fancy about it: it’s not innovative or unusual, but it’s a big tune with a big feel. There is simply no substitute for a killer chorus and a strong hook, and that’s precisely what Arcade Fortress bring here.

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12th February 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Released digitally last autumn, Para Lia’s Gone With The Flow gets a ‘proper’ physical release this month. The second album from the German duo, consisting of René and Cindy Methner, has already drawn comparisons to Dinosaur Jr, Arcade Fire, and The Mission, as well as referencing in the press release – the hearteningly specific – ‘early Editors’.

It all makes sense with the blistering opener, ‘My Muse’ – a post-punk influenced adrenaline shot that showcases some wild soloing that somehow manages not to sound wanky. See, I’m not one for guitar solos myself, but find that J Mascis’ best efforts are enough to reduce me to tears. ‘Kassandra’ hits that spot: it’s a cutty post-punk revival effort that’s got the pomp of The Mission, complete with the wordless backing vocals Julianne Reagan delivered to absolute perfection on songs like ‘Severina’, and topped with an absolutely melting solo that twists, turns and weeps all over it. I should probably be tired of this by now, but when presented with just the right blend of nostalgia and quality

They don’t always pull it off: ‘Riders on the Dike’ is more ramshackle punk-folk with a ragged vocal delivery reminiscent of Shane Macgowan that simply doesn’t quite sit, and ‘Time and Again’ follows a folksier bent that grates a shade, feeling slightly forces and off-track despite some soaring harmonies from Cindy.

But it’s more hit than miss, as the slow-burning ‘Fools’ brings swathes of mournful strings to the post-rock tempest that swells as the song progresses, and the tense jangle of ‘Fire’ evokes the spirit of 1985, not just instrumentally but with its thick production, where the bass and guitar clump together, cut through by a sharp-topped snare sound.

‘Kaleidoscope’ is every bit as shimmeringly layered as the title suggests, and notes of New Model Army and Red Lorry Yellow Lorry are present as they drive a forward trajectory with an insistent rhythm section and some choppy guitars pinned back in the mix. Last track, ‘No Time for Butterflies’ combines psych-hued 60s pop, folk, and 90s alternative to forge a pleasant and exhilarating finale, and if there’s little about Gone With The Flow that’s overtly ‘new’, it’s a unique combination of older forms rendered with real style and some solid songs.

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Human Worth – 26th February 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

From the first twisted, dingy powerchords that herald the arrival of Fraught in Waves with the punishing – and appropriately-titled ‘Breakage’ – it’s abundantly clear that Gaffa Bandana’s debut album is going to be an absolute fucking beast. The rest of the album only verifies this as fact: Fraught in Waves is indeed an absolute fucking beast. It may only contain six tracks and have a total running time of half an hour, but the sheer intensity is ear-bleeding, eye-popping, and gut-tearing. Yes, this is a truly physical experience, one that’s exhausting and exhilarating in equal measure.

Gaffa Bandana is Gill Dread (Bruxa Maria) and Jennie Howell (So3ek, Sleeping Creatures, Gorse, Dooman Empire), and Fraught in Waves was first released as a digital-only effort back in September of last year.

While they’re pitched as a punk duo, the pair’s noise is a full-throttle hybrid of hardcore and sludgy noise, the guitars coming on like Fudge Tunnel covering Tad. The clattering drums also call to mind the heavy noise scene of the 90s: if obscure namechecks like Oil Seed Rape and other band on the Jackass label spark a light of recognition, then we’re speaking the same language. And the vocals are just terrifying: deranged, demonic, they’re at a pitch that’s rare in the fields of either punk, metal, or doom – it’s a cracked, guttural howl, bordering on a shrieking agony.

The contrasts are a major factor in its impact: the riffs are stop / start, and for all the density, there’s a lot of space where metallic clanging chords simply hang in the air before everything piles back in, hard, and deliberate.

There are hints of The Jesus Lizard about the churning ruckus of ‘Charm Offensive’ with its choppy guitar buzz and the hollering vocals low in the mix – but if you’re looking for more contemporary touchstones, Blacklisters and (early) Hawk Eyes are fair comparisons: jolting, metallic, uncomfortable and unforgiving, everything lurches one way and then the other, from stuttering stalls to incendiary riffage that absolutely burns, there is absolutely no room to breathe, not an inch to unwind in. This shit it tense, the kind of tension you feel in your chest and your stomach, and the seven-minute behemoth that stands as the album’s centrepiece, ‘Paralysis of Will’ is all the anguish, all the torture.

Every track feels more tempestuous than the last. ‘Evil Whispers’ has its moments of stuttering Shellac-like mathy judders as it stammeringly halts and resumes, but ultimately, it’s the relentless, balls-out, stomach-churning riffing that defines the sound. There isn’t a clean note to be found in this furious mess of noise. It’s rare for an album to grab you by the throat quite so brutally, and to maintain its choking grip without a moment’s respite, but Fraught in Waves is full-throttle from beginning to end. It is harsh, it is relentless, and at times borders on the psychotic. It’s pure catharsis, and it’s perfect.

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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.