Posts Tagged ‘Asylums’

17th June 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

Blackpool isn’t exactly a roaring flame on the musical map, hanging in the shadow of Manchester and being more geared toward tourism than seemingly existing as a place to live in its own right. Sure, Jethro Tull originated in Blackpool, along with – although some time apart – The Membranes, and Alfie Boe – but it’s hardly indicative of a cultural melting pot with a thriving scene to represent it.

Ivory Skies may – or may not – change that. Formed in 2019, they’ve released a couple of singles already, and scored support slots with Kyle Falconer from The View, and The K’s, which puts them on the fringes of the bigger leagues.

Perhaps it’s a coastal town thing: ‘Bring Me Up’ calls to mind the uptempo punk / indie crossover sound of Southend-on-Sea’s Asylums, and it’s buoyant, energetic – inoffensive, but certainly not lacking in a bit of bite, yielding four minutes of melodic, guitar-driven joy with a dash of realism.

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Ivory Skies - Artwork

Cool Thing – 18th February 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

Hot on the heels of their explosive return with ‘Drama Drama Drama Drama’, BAIT continue the assault with the delivery of ‘My Tribe’, off their eagerly-anticipated long-player, Sea Change.

Pitched as ‘the voice of pandemic anxiety’, Michael Webster explains that “’My Tribe’ was written at the very beginning of the pandemic when none of us knew what the fuck was going on. It got me thinking about survival and protecting my family from the unknown. There’s reference to primal activities in contrast to the mundane activities taken up to pass time during isolation.”

This encapsulates the contradictions of the early days of the pandemic: the confusion, the fear, the panic, the sheer bewilderment and sense of ‘what the fuck?’ as the guidance changed daily and we were told to work from home and batten down the hatches: the number of times we heard and read the word ‘unprecedented’ was unprecedented’ – far more so than the pandemic itself. No-one knew how to react, because no-one really knew what they were even reacting to, really.

Clocking in at almost four minutes, it’s one of BAIT’s longer efforts, and it’s driven – as has rapidly become established as their style – but a thick, snarling, repetitive riff in the vein of Killing Joke, and the comparisons don’t end there, given their sociopolitical leanings. In short, it continues the trajectory of their eponymous mini-album debut, and cements everything harder, denser than before, and then veers off into hard technoindustrial that’s more the domain of KMFDM and the like for the final minute.

Tackling isolation and the internal conflicts so many of us suffered, it’s angry, but in no specific direction – because who do you direct that anger at? Some of it goes inwardly, of course, wrestling with feelings of insecurity and inadequacy, while some of it goes outwards and into the air because fuck shit, life just isn’t fair. Why here? Why now? Just why? That sense of helplessness and frustration pervades every moment of anger and anguish, and it’s almost as if BAIT were a band ready-made for the pandemic.

But while it may feel like ‘Merry Easter, Covid’s Over’ may be a tune for the coming months, it’s readily apparent that the psychological repercussions of the last two years will be long-lasting for many. The social divisions that became raw gaping wounds through Brexit have only become more pronounced, as people have become more entrenched and seemingly harbour more violent feelings towards others, and on-line aggressions have begun to manifest in an upsurge in the ugliest behaviours since people have been allowed to get back out there. Something is awry, and the world is dark and more fucked-up than ever. This, seemingly, was the plan all along: divide and conquer. This is not some conspiracy theory, it’s not about some ‘plandemic’; it’s an opportunistic power-grab by governments following a neat-global shift to the right. They want people to be scared, and, as it happens, people have reason to be scared – jut not necessarily the reason it seems on the face of it.

‘Keep them occupied / lock them up inside’ is a neat summary of how things have been managed. They slide in the line ‘Under his eye’, and while they may have been bingeing on Netflix, the totalitarian regime of The Handmaid’s Tale seems a lot closer to home now: we are living in the midst of almost every dystopia ever penned made real.

BAIT have got the soundtrack down, they’re both the reassurance that you’re not alone in feeling what you feel, as well as the articulation of the painful truth. And they’re kicking ass all the way.

 

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Cool Thing Records – 14th January 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

Asylums offshoot band Bait mark their return in blistering style with the ball-busting, ballistic blast of tension that is ‘Drama Drama Drama Drama’. Having dropped – or perhaps more accurately detonated – their explosive eponymous debut in 2018, showcasing a post-punk industrial crossover that crash-landed somewhere between PiL and Killing Joke, they reminded us of their existence in the spring of 2019 with the gritty grind of the single ‘DLP’ before falling silent.

In fairness, a global pandemic and a succession of lockdowns and limitations was never going to be conducive to the creation of new output, especially when core members Michael Webster and Luke Branch have been busy beavering away on a new Asylums album.

But, inter alia, they’ve also been working on the new Bait album, Sea Change, which is set for release in April, and ‘Drama Drama Drama Drama’ is one hell of a way of announcing it, distilling all of the pent-up frustration, fury, and anxiety of two years kept on edge into just under two minutes of eye-popping, adrenaline-fuelled sonic catharsis.

If the sneering edge of the vocal delivery sounds like it’s a put-down to those who’ve been panic stricken by the pandemic, it’s likely more a swipe at those who’ve chronically mismanaged the public’s expectations, left them separated, isolated, financially insecure, and unable to seek solace with friends or family while keeping them apart while quaffing drinks and generally having a jolly old time as well as getting minted off slipping multi-million pound contracts for unusable PPE and all the rest at the taxpayers’ expense. The reason the parties have particularly tipped people is because they missed the final moments of loved ones and suffered the immeasurable torture of enforced isolation.

The ‘drama drama drama drama’ in question here isn’t some lame Eastenders shit, this is life. The swirling turmoil and endless uncertainty of everything… On a personal level, when lockdown hit, I was inundated with messages at first, from friends, from family and especially work as WhatsApp groups were set up while we got sent home to work, and the channels of communication were beyond buzzing as everyone flipped out and I witnessed – and participated – in their panics in real-time. It was hectic, a blizzard, a blur… but it was when it went quiet I lost it. You get thrown into something so hard you have to swim. But when the armbands deflate…You text with no reply – that anguish is real and it’s intense. The minutes feel like hours. The tension rises, the panic rises, the palpitations flutter and the perspiration flows and in no time you’re a dishevelled, disoriented mess. You know it’s irrational, but panic is irrational. You struggle to steady your breathing. You can’t face the supermarket because it’s full of people. You can’t face meeting anyone. You can’t breathe. This is the drama, and it piles up and piles up and increases in intensity until it’s unbearable.

‘Drama Drama Drama Drama’ steps up the gritty edge of previous outings, and this time arrives somewhere between Killing Joke and Black Flag, which means it’s absolutely furious and relentlessly raging. It’s a killer tune with all the intensity, and the soundtrack to the now.

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Cool Thing Records – 19th April 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

BAIT’s eponymous debut last year revealed a very different musical facet of Asylums’ Michael Webster and Luke Branch, switching savvy punky indie for something altogether darker, heavier, and more abrasive.

DLP, the first new material since Bait continues the same trajectory of socio-political antagonism delivered lean and mean. The initialism referring to Disney Land Paris (I wonder if so as to avoid hassle or even litigation, since Disney are notoriously protective of their brand, forcing obscure thrash act Bomb Disneyland to rename themselves Bomb Everything), the song addresses the pressure of life in a society where there is no longer conspicuous consumerism, only a conspicuous lack of consumerism, against the realities of living hand-to-mouth at the very limit of the ever-extending overdraft.

Apparently, we’re all worth it and deserve to be out there, living our best life and making memories to share on social media, while countless people are utterly fucked on zero-hours contracts and even healthcare professionals are reliant on food banks just to eke an existence. And this is where late capitalism has brought us: stressed and conflicted to the point of being semi-functional, alienated and trapped.

The band’s musical reference points – Nitzer Ebb, Depeche Mode, Sleaford Mods, D.A.F, NiN, John Carpenter – are all very much in evidence on this slab of electro-driven frustration-venting.

‘Hooray, hooray, it’s payday’ snarls Webster bitterly over a stark industrial backdrop of stabbing synths and a gut-churningly dirty bass grind that’s melded to a murky, mechanoid beat. It’s as hooky as hell and packs a major punch. It won’t smash capitalism, but channelling anger into a three-minute sonic assault is an ideal way to release some of the tension.

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DLP Cover