Posts Tagged ‘Disco’

What does worldwide quarantine do to our favourite porcine libertine? Raymond Watts holed up in his sty and created The Merciless Light, the new album by PIG. Ably aided and abetted by long time accomplices En Esch and Steve White, Watts also welcomes a new swine to the trough as Jim Davies (Pitchshifter/The Prodigy) adds another new level of impeccable (in)credibility and talent.

The Merciless Light seethes, swings, seduces and snarls. Extraordinary electronics and a glut of glitz, glam, guitars and grooves create a masterful mélange of mirth, malice and winking wit from our very own venerable Vicar of Vice.

A stellar sample comes in the form of the snazzy ‘The Dark Room’, which clocks in at exactly three minutes and delivers a massive knockout punch with mercifully no paunch. A video for the song directed by LA based Ibex is available now. Watch it here:

Four further tasty morsels from the album can be consumed in the form of video snippets, while album opener ’No Yes More Less’ has also been released as a single ahead of the main course being served on 23rd September.

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PIG photography by E Gabriel Edvy

4th August 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

Back in November of last year, I gave ‘What If I Were the Boy?’ by The Vaulted Skies a massive double-thumbs up, having previously raved about their debut EP, No Fate back in 2018. And now ‘What If I Were the Boy?’ has been rereleased, this time as a remix courtesy of Mark Saunders, whose eye-poppingly extensive discography includes work with The Cure, Lloyd Cole, Depeche Mode, Siouxsie and the Banshees… and many others, including some truly huge names like David Bowie, but those I’ve picked out are relevant is they’re illustrative of his longstanding links with post-punk, of which The Vaulted Skies are emerging contemporary exponents. But Saunders also has a long history of wording on radio-friendly and more dance-orientated material, and it’s fair to say that his remix of ‘What If I Were the Boy?’ brings these two threads together very neatly.

The song itself draws on contrasts in its take on a ‘nostalgic tale that is filled with reflection and regret’, inspired by an encounter experienced by vocalist/guitarist, James Scott., who recounts how “In college, I was paired up in an acting assignment with one of the popular girls. She propositioned me and in doing so, verbally and indirectly alluded to a very troubled home life. I wish I’d recognized the cry for help underneath it all. This song captures the desperation I have felt when wondering what became of her.”

Saunders sensitively preserves the stark, haunted angst of the original, but subtly packs some extra oomph and wraps it in a dark disco groove. The chunky gothy bass of the original is smoothed into a more dancefloor-friendly sound, the drumming – the cymbals in particular – is slickened down and given a more buoyant disco twist. If the original sounded in some way tentative, despite its solid assurance, then the remix rolls it all out and effortlessly stretches it past the seven-minute mark in vintage 12” single style.

If the grit and flange of the driving guitar in the chorus is backed off a bit in favour of a more even sound, well, it works, as does the cleaner vocal treatment. In short, this version may lack the ragged punch of the original, but it by no means does The Vaulted Skies a disservice, and will likely be a major step toward connecting the band with the larger audience they so richly deserve.

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1st May 2022

James Wells

As a slice of buoyant yet dreamy electropop, it’s hard to fault ‘Dream Curve’, the new single by self-professed ‘witchy goth rock band’ Metamorph. Well, ok, lyrically it may not be quite Leonard Cohen or Richard Butler (both completely piss on the popularly esteemed Bob Dylan and Jim Morrison), but then ultimately, the purpose of pop music isn’t primarily to distil every word into a moment of poetical genius. No, the purpose of pop is to entertain, and, where possible, to stick in your head, and here, Metamorph achieve.

‘Dream Curve’ blurs fragments of image and reflection amidst a swirl of synths pitched against an insistent bear and pulsing sequenced synth bass. It’s pure Europop: it’s fundamentally simple, but it’s effective.

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26th November 2021

James Wells

This one’s been a looooong time in the making. Like so many other creative projects, the pandemic compelled Frank Svornotten to get his shit together to revive a project that to all intents and purposes was dead and buried, and to see it to completion.

As the bio that accompanies Retroject explains, ‘Retroject is an album that was begun in 2001 but has just seen the light of day in 2021. Some of the songs may feel nostalgic and dated and that is because, well, they are!!! An excess of free time during the Covid-19 pandemic eventually grew tiresome and monotonous. So, it was decided to finish the album that had begun many years prior!’

Much as I sympathise with all of the people unable to work during lockdown, and all of the furloughed workers who struggled on reduced salaries, I can’t help but be a shade envious of all of these people who found themselves with an abundance of free time to explore creative avenues. Having a dayjob that meant working from home was entirely feasible, meaning that it was business as usual, but with home schooling on top thanks to the closure of schools, I found myself with less time than ever, and I couldn’t even go to a gig or hit the pub to unwind after.

Retroject certainly isn’t an album to unwind to, either. It’s a gnarly electogoth effort, with hefty dollops of early NIN and the signature Wax Trax! electro sound providing much of the influence there. ‘W.H.A.T’ could easily be mistaken for an outtake from Ministry’s Twitch, and would also have easily made the cut for a Wax Trax! single release in the late 80s / early 90s, while ‘Love, Hate and Machines’ really brings that KMFDM vibe and slams it in hard with some cybergoth dance grooves. Elsewhere, ‘Train Song’ is pure pop and is more Aha than aggrotech.

Some of the tunes may sound a shade dated (‘Mysterious Angel’ sounds like Depeche Mode circa 1981, which is particularly eye-opening for material from 2001), but then again, there are acts still cranking out material that sounds exactly like this, and there are some real industrial stompers along the way, and these never tire or grow old, regardless of the instrumentation, regardless of how tinny or trebly the synths sound. What matters, ultimately, are the songs, and Retroject packs some real bangers, propelled by throbbing synths and splenetic rage.

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Christopher Nosnibor

Over recent months – and more – we’ve unravelled the series of releases by experimental oddballs Kröter, via their affiliation with the king of quirk, Mr Vast, formerly of cack pop maestros Wevie Stonder, aka Wevie De Crepon. You can never have too many side-projects, offshoots, and affiliated acts, and so it is that Kröter-associated Hunger give us Wollufos. (Hunger is Christoph Rothmeier & Jörg Hochapfel; Rothmeier is the other half of Kröter along with Henry Sargeant, aka Mr Vast). This is their eighth self-distributed album, and their first on vinyl.

Have you managed to keep up so far? Good, because it’s only going to get more complex and convoluted, because these guys are a prolific, self-contained community cranking out endless oddities, and Wollufos is no exception. They pitch it as ‘mixing fake folk acoustic instrumentation like banjos and open tuning guitars with Harry Partch-style homemade devices’. Fake folk?

From the springy sproingy lo-fi shuffling synth whackout of the brief intro piece that is ‘Zwergenfieber’, it’s immediately apparent that this is going to be a substantial serving of quirky, off-the-wall music that doesn’t conform to any conventions, even their own. The Berlin-based duo work across time signatures and genres at the same time, with some woozy, warpy synths and picked guitars existing in the same space but seemingly playing different songs. Then there’s the leaning towards titling their quirky, heavily rhythm-orientated instrumental ditties in French.

‘Mambo Momie’ is an exercise in bleepy motoric minimalism, and the album is brimming with minimal beats and squelchy synths, as is nowhere more apparent than on the strolling ‘Sunset Sling’. When it comes to making music with all the bells and whistles, Hunger take this quite literally: download bonus cut ‘Schuhe aus Brot’ sees them pull out all the stops to create something that borders on the overwhelming, with additional droning horn sounds and blasts of noise on top of the stuttering, clamorous percussion, before winding down to trickling chimes.

There’s some kind of half-baked wonky country / space crossover on ‘Chariot de Pipi’, and the atonal, off-key pickings of ‘Macramée Cramée’ are truly brain-bending. And then there’s the twelve-minute ‘Hundenebel’, a quivering proggy space-rock workout that makes optimal use of space and distance and of Daniel Glatzel’s clarinet to forge a vast sonic vista. Great, yawning siren wails rub against bubbling synth swells, and there are so many contrasts, to may layers, so many juxtapositions.

Why do we find discord so difficult to process? Even while I enjoy it, I find that numerous things that are seemingly disconnected or otherwise independent create something of a sensory overload that isn’t always entirely pleasurable, and can at times prove quite disorientating and uncomfortable. It messes with our orientation and equilibrium, trips our sense of balance and spins us off centre. Wollufos will leave you dizzy. At times it’s quite bewildering, but it’s never dull or lacking in inspiration.

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Christopher Nosnibor

The return of live music remains on a balance beam of managing finances and staff / punter safety, especially in terms of what people are comfortable with. Every gig, therefore, is a gamble, and tonight’s is no exception: for while The Fulford Arms had spent lockdown not only working on making nots own space as safe and accommodating as possible, as well as campaigning hard for other local venues and live music in general, they’ve used the time to make improvements that had been longer-term plans, they still face the challenge of bringing punters in.

Tonight’s event benefits from a Lottery-funded two for one offer on tickets, which has encouraged a respectable showing for a wet Thursday night. It’s all good, but PINS have been struck by (non-Covid) illness and are two members down, and so are playing a stripped-back set as a foursome without a drummer. But they’re troopers, and so the show goes on, and Tides walk on to crashing waves and crystalline ambience, before launching into a set of jangly, melodic indie with a distinctly late 80s / early 90s vibe. The foursome are young, and while not especially outgoing in their performance, play with an assurance that comes across well, and they’re tight and solid, but still with much to learn.

They land the slowie early, with the emotive ‘You’ being third in an eight-song set. Revelling in their poppier leanings is a cover of Lizzo’s ‘Juice’, and it’s well-played, but bland, although well-received by their friends down the front. But two covers in such a short set isn’t best form: either they’re yet to accumulate enough original material or lack the confidence in what they have, but the less said about their competent but characterless rendition of Shania Twain’s ‘Man, I Feel Like a Woman’ the better, as well as the sixth-form handbag dancing it inspired. They feel like a band who haven’t fully decided their identity yet, swinging between a slick contemporary pop and more of a female-fronted Smiths or Wedding Present. Given time, they’ll hopefully figure out how to combine the two, but in the meantime, they prove to be a fun and competent support act.

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Tides

PINS are one of those bands I feel I should know but simply haven’t got to for various reasons, and so I won’t claim in any sense to know the tracks from their three albums – but the strength of any band is to deliver a set than has the capacity to not only please established fans, but to convert new ones from among an impartial crowd.

Admittedly, I took little convincing: the first song of the set lifts a 3-note motorik looping bass groove from Suicide’s ‘Ghostrider’, and they hold that insistent repetition into the second. It’s an instant grab. It actually sounds a bit like 90s indie / shoegaze / goth act Sunshot, who I revisited just the other week. It’s certainly no criticism, so much as an indicator of their post-punk/ shoegaze / crossover sound, propelled by sparse percussion with a vintage drum-machine sound. Landing in at the third track in the set ‘Bad Girls Forever’ brings a country / gospel vibe to the thumping new wave sound that’s counterbalanced by an abundance of electropop sass, while ‘Ponytail’ sashays and swishes through an easy pop that carries a sentiment of girl power 2020s style. They do political, too, with the stomping ‘serve the Rich’ snapping and sneering over a thumping bass groove.

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PINS

In terms of performance, PINS are the epitome of cool, with Faith Verne’s oversized shades positively screaming ‘pop icon’ and Lois MacDonald guitarist affecting the best bored face as she treads on the spot throughout the set.

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PINS

If the sound itself is a well-realised take on preexisting forms, it’s the multi layered vocals that really make PINS stand out here, and it all makes for an engaging show. The women who’d spent the set dancing down the front were up on stage for the final song, and there sense of togetherness was palpable. If any reminder was needed that there really is nothing like live music to nourish the soul, then PINS provided it here tonight.

Live music is back. People are rejoicing. Coming together and feeling the togetherness, the community, the connection has been so sorely missed by many, and for reasons far beyond the industry itself. It’s a way of life and an integral social agent. But it’s clear that coming out of lockdown and navigating the lifting of restrictions is not going to be a quick or easy process: whereas lockdown hit hard and fast, coming out – or, indeed, going out – feels like venturing into unknown territory. Anyone who talks of this being society ‘getting back to normal’ has either forgotten what normal was like before, or is simply trying to convince themselves that we’re anywhere near because it’s preferable to facing the reality. Is this the ‘new normal’ that was mooted back in the strong and summer of 2020?

It’s clear upon arrival that many of us are varying shades of apprehension and social and musical rustiness, and I will admit here a heightened anxiety over making my first journey by train in over a year, ahead of my first outing as a solo performer. Arriving at a familiar venue comes as a relief, but there are numerous elements of unfamiliarity: signs about the venue about the wearing of masks, the bar behind Perspex, and having to show proof of a negative test within the last 48 hours on arrival all combine to present a scene straight out of a movie or series set in a dystopian future – only, it’s not the future, it’s now, and this is real. Plenty find comfort and security ion these measures, but as the messaging has shifted from ‘beating’ the ‘invisible enemy’ to ‘living with covid’, then the question of this being the forever future is a difficult one, as it certainly feels as if something has been lost in the eighteen months since we last had ‘proper’ gigs.

Tonight’s event was also operating on a reduced capacity, but as it transpired, it was far from packed making social distancing no issue, and one suspects that while so many have lamented the absence of live music for so long, fear continues to keep them away.

The joy of EMOM night anywhere in the country is their sense of inclusivity, a broad church for outsiders from a vast array of genres, and the premise is straightforward – short slots, one act setting up while the one before plays, keeping the music going more or less continuously through the evening, and tonight’s brought the eclecticism in spades.

How to Use this Manual was up first. The style is gentle, textured instrumental with nice beats, by turns easy and sturdy, with a dash of funk in the mix. It’s easy on the ear, and deftly executed, and there really isn’t anything to fault here. These nights never fail to amaze with the sheer quality of music and clear talent of the performers.

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How to Use this Manual

There’s always one who has to be difficult, of course, someone who disrupts the flow and uses the tools and forces for dark ends. I think my set went well enough. It was short and harsh, as intended. My head was swimming, I couldn’t see the screen of my notebook clearly and I may have fluffed few lines of lyrics, but no-one died, not even me. I think there was even some applause at the end, which may have been appreciation or relief. Certainly, the latter for me was immense.

The spectrum of electronic-based music never fails to yield new and unexpected permutations, and Chaos Lol spans an immense spectrum, and is rare in the way vocals are such a prominent feature of the set – a set that starts out black metal then gets symphonic and beyond. It’s an unusual hybrid of sounds. Heavily echoed vocals are enmeshed in a swathe of sound and are paired with some bulbous beats that venture into drum ‘n’ bass territory in places. It’s hard to form an opinion or decide whether one actually likes it or not, because it’s like being slapped around the face repeatedly and in quick succession, and you simply have no time to compute. But there are no two ways about it: this is technically accomplished, ambitious, audacious, and gutsy. Kudos.

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Chaos lol

Quiet Fire, aka organiser Joe Kemp, who’s up next, treated us to more mellow, more conventional instrumental with electro vibes, pleasant but undemanding – which is probably what everyone was ready for after the last couple of acts. His sound is softer, leaning toward the accessible, bouncier side of electronica – not quite dance, but danceable, and unquestionably with mass-market potential.

Flaves proves to be the evening’s greatest revelation. This guy has got some serious chops, and brings freeform dubby hip-hop using the most minimal setup of the night – literally an iPad. And it’s sparse but seriously banging. There’s a lot of detail and depth to the arrangements, and a lot of seriously heavy bass. The final track of the set is dark and noisy, borderline industrial, and it’s an absolute killer.

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Flaves

I’d chatted to Matt Wilson earlier in the evening as he’d lugged his suitcase of children’s toys and assorted random kit into the venue, and is so often the case, the nicest, most down to earth people make some of the weirdest, most demented music. Using a sackful of educational toys and the like, he gets down to whacking out some mental circuit bending noise was utterly brain-bending. Circle! Square! Yap! Yap! A primitive drum machine thumps out a simple beat, and it all harks back to the sound of early 80s samplism and tape looping. What it lacks in sophistication, it makes up in impact.

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Matt Wilson

It was around this point I came to realise I can only take so much impact, and having performed myself I was fully out of steam and hit my limit, mentally. While hearing music is usually my priority at the exclusion of all else, I caught up in the bar with a friend I’d not seen since February 2020. Ordinarily, I’d feel guilty or even skip posting a half review, but then I remember – since it’s impossible to represent everyone’s experience, the job it to ultimately document mine. I can aim to be objective, but criticism can only be so balanced, and perhaps my job is to more document what I see as I see it in the moment. So here we are. And if live music is about music, it’s also about connecting with friends. Maybe this, then, is how we will find our way back to normal. Meanwhile, we all just continue to fumble our own individual ways.

Klanggalerie – 18th December 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

There’s no questioning Eric Random’s pedigree, having begun his musical career with The Tiller Boys with Pete Shelley and Francis Cookso before becoming part of the post-punk and experimental milieus of both Manchester and Sheffield, recording his first solo works at Cabaret Voltaire’s studio, and later fronting Nico’s band until her death in 1988. But while many artists dine out on their former glories – and it’s true that since the majority fail to scale to any great heights, a brimming resumé is something to celebrate, there’s equally a certain truth in the belief you’re only as good as your latest work.

No-Go is his fourth album since his return in 2014 following a lengthy time out. Pitched as a step further into an electronic dance direction, and inviting comparisons to Wrangler and Kraftwerk, No-Go is brimming with 80s stylisations, and all the 808 and Akai snare cracks and robotix vocals you could imagine are crammed into these eleven tracks.

A jittery stammer runs through the entirety of the opener, ‘Synergy’, while all over, multiple other synth sounds swipe and bleep over the ultra-retro groove, and all over, Random recaptures not just the sound of the late 70s and early 80s scene in which he was so deeply immersed in, but also the feel of the period. It’s easy to forget just how vibrant the energised spirit of newness was around that time, with the rapidly evolving – and ever-cheaper – technology opening new doors to seemingly infinite possibilities. This was music that sounded like the future in every sense, and while a lot of it may sound dated now, the fact there appears to have been some kind of revival or renaissance under way for the best part of the last 30 years speaks volumes. Of course, where Random differs from the oceans of retro revivalists is that he’s not attempting to reconstruct a fantasy version of a bygone era: he was there, at the cutting edge, doing precisely this.

‘Compulsion’ is a bleak wheezy cut with tinny marching drums and vocal that are oddly reminiscent of early New Order in their flat, distanced delivery. It’d Depeche Mode that spring to mind in the opening bars of the buoyant yet bleak ‘Is the Sun Up’, but then

‘Sinuous Seduction’ leaps out on account of the sample of William S. Burroughs narrating a segment of Naked Lunch, and while one of the numerous passages about giant black centipedes may not be revelatory or even particularly inventive, it does serve as a reminder of Burroughs’ vast influence on music, in particular acts like Throbbing Gristle and Cabaret Voltaire, who swiftly recognised the analogy between the cut-up and the sample, something Burroughs himself had initiated with the experiments he conducted with tape in the late 1950s and early 1960s with Ian Sommerville. But then, equally, there’s just something about Burroughs’ creaking, dry-as-sticks monotone that is just unbelievably cool, and also sends a unique shover down the spine, distinctive to the point of being immediately recognisable, and also really not of this world, that detached, flat intonation about stuff that’s plain weird is perfectly suited to the music of the early years of the electronic age. The track itself is sparse, monotonous, robotic, and while it’s as much an example of doomy Eurodisco in the vein of The Sisterhood’s Gift, it’s not a million miles away from The Pet Shop Boys circa Disco – and that’s by no means a criticism.

Sandwiched between this and the blustery hard-edged disco of ‘No Show’, the ‘It’s come again’ offers some welcome respite with its more loungy leanings. Things get lively to the point of dizzying with the last few tracks, which are uptempo an mega-layered with bewilderingly busy arrangements, and it’s a tense climax to an album that shudders and judders, bubbles, foams, and fizzes with electronic energy.

In going back to his roots, Random has really hit the zone and delivered some old-school stompers in the process.

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Fight the Power Records – 1st October 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Inego, who hail from Manchester, proclaim to channel ‘some of the city’s finest musical heritage such as New Order, James and Oasis; blending them with other influences that range from Daft Punk to Fleetwood Mac, Phoenix to Chic, and meeting somewhere in the mid-Atlantic to create their own unique brand of anthemic leftfield indie dance rock with pop and disco-funk sensibilities’.

I see ‘disco-funk’ and shudder to my core. I expect the problem is with me, and believe it’s biological or neurological. I don’t have a funky bone on my body, and funky shit all too often fuels an almost unspeakable rage that roars from the core of my being. On calmer days, I just get irritated.

But actually, Inego’s Departures draws on elements that appal, perhaps largely on account of their retro elements, most of which hark back to 80s pop. The production is clean and crisp to the point of near-sterility, and I’m frankly in awe: while many dismiss Duran Duran as vapid and overpolished, there are darker undercurrents to be found in their songs, and the production, as smooth as glass, is something else – and that’s what Inego recreate here.

Opener ‘Je Sais Ce Que Tu Ressens’ has heavy hints of The pet Shop Boys in the mix, and there’s a strong pop sensibility that runs throughout. ‘I Need Your Love’ is unashamedly cheesy, a nagging bass and clean guitar defining the sound, and at its best, Departures sounds like Mansun’s Paul Draper fronting The Psychedelic Furs circa 1982. ‘Can You Feel’ throws some bold, arena-friendly cinematic ambition into the mix, hinting at U2, and maybe later Editors and New Order, specifically amalgamating ‘Ceremony’ with the sound of ‘Republic’.

And so I should absolutely detest he slick groove of ‘Coming Up’, but nostalgia prevents me, hearing, withing its hectic shuffle The Associates, Mansun, Duran Duran. The slower, acoustic-based ‘She Don’t care’ is soulful and sincere, and affecting despite being heavy on the brass.

The bottom line is that this is a really, really good, solid album. It’s not challenging, it’s not contemporary, and it’s got the most overwrought bass and slap bass than anyone’s likely to have heard since Top of the Pops circa 1983. But it’s got songs, and they’ve absolutely nailed the sound and the production.

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Inego Album Artwork

Bearsuit Records – 20th April 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

Try as I might – and I do, I really do – I find it impossible to avoid words like ‘weird’ ‘whacky’, and ‘oddball’ in reviews of anything released on the Edinburgh micro-label Bearsuit Records. This is no reflection of a lack of vocabulary on my part: it’s simply what they do. Every boutique label needs some kind of signature or house style, and a micro-label really needs a niche. Bearsuit specialise in stuff that’s so far out it’s beyond.

Fear of the Horizon is actually pretty conventional by Bearsuit standards – but these things are all relative. ‘Eamon the Destroyer’, the album’s first cut, arrives in a flourish of expansive prog-rock guitar and twittering electronics, all on top of a thumping beat that’s pure dark hip-hop. And then the guitars really takeover and we’re in territory that’s suspiciously close to be being categorizable as ‘rock’. But then ‘The Positive Approach of Talkative Ron’ swings into view in waltz-time and goes all weirdy… and then there’s whistling and another epic guitar solo.

Pancultural influence are infused within the glitching electronic fairground fabric of ‘Woman With the Plastic Hand’, with its stuttering beats and woozy organ sound, while ‘Vandal Schooling’ brings with it a crunch of industrial noise and stabs of bold orchestral brass, taking a sharp turn from abrasive to mellow around the mid-point and locking into a metronomic hard, industrial-disco flavoured groove near the end. For the most part, though, the sounds are soft-edged, mellow, supple, analogue.

‘The Horizon Project’ brings together mellow and woozy, its mellow motifs and nod-along beats cracked with a stylophone break and underlying hiss of distortion. It runs contra to the chilled beats and quite accessible lead melody.

‘Weird’ ‘whacky’, and ‘oddball’… they’re all entirely appropriate adjectives, but fail to account for the depth and range of Fear Of The Horizon. As hard as it may be to take seriously an act going by the name of Bunny & the Invalid Singers, there’s real merit to this work that goes far beyond the superficial quirkiness. ‘Weird’ ‘whacky’, and ‘oddball’ don’t convey the wistfulness, the melancholy, the nostalgia, range of emotions, moods and mindsets.

This is where I should sign off with a suitably witty flourish, or some pun-based punchline, but such flippancy would be to only further undermine the true merits of an album which clearly shows no fear. Fear Of The Horizon is a fun, entertaining, and enjoyable work but don’t let the oddness and goofiness lead you to believe it isn’t serious, or art. Because it’s most definitely both.

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Bunny & the Invalid Singers – Fear Of The Horizon