Posts Tagged ‘EP Review’

Future Void Records – 25th August 2017

James Wells

The pedant in me – and he’s a dominant, sarcastic brawling bastard – asks if two tracks with a combined running time of just over eight minutes really constitutes an EP. The same pedant also wonders if post-rock and post-hardcore can really sit together as a hybrid genre.

The debut release by Brighton’s Chalk Hands makes him shut the fuck up. These two cuts – ‘Burrows’ and ‘Arms’ – are both brutal and beautiful in equal measure. The guitars shift between delicate chiming notes and driving power chords, the vocals a nihilistic snarl of rage amidst the tempest.

According to the band’s bio, they’ve been compared to Pianos Become The Teeth, Caspian, and Envy. Because I’m old and because it’s impossible to know every inch of every microgenre or even every genre, I don’t know any of these bands, but instead draw from a sphere of reference that includes Profane and Andsoiwatchyoufromafar, and comparisons to both are favourable in the case of Chalk Hands. However, they also reference MONO and Russian Circles, and yes, they hold up nicely against them too.

On ‘Burrows’ in particular, Chalk Hands build some awesome crescendos from delicate, rippling washes of clean, chorused guitars, presenting an impressive dynamic and emotional range.

Chalk Hands EP Sleeve R2 OL

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2nd June 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

The digital generation may be unfamiliar with the experience of leaping around their bedrooms to favourite tunes, only for their exuberance to result in the needle skipping a groove or two. While it’s unlikely to cause any damage to either the vinyl or the stylus, it has a way of disrupting the flow and making you feel like a bit of a buffoon. There’s Kent four-piece Salvation Jayne’s EP suggests, it contains rock nuggets potent enough to inspire bedroom moshing, although it’s not being released on vinyl.

After a brief introductory segment, the EP gets going properly with ‘Burn it Down’ which we covered when it first aired back in April. And it’s a cracking tune, chunky blues-based guitars chopping against a sinewy lead line and strolling bass. It also meets the ‘monster chorus’ requirement for a strong rock tune. And yes, tunes matter: on Moves That Make the Record Skip, Salvation Jayne offer tunes, with strong vocal melodies shaping the songs.

If ‘The Jailer’ contains all of the elements of infinite 80s rock bands and reminds me of many, many pub gigs I caught at the tail end of the 80s and into the early 90s in my home town (for all I know, there are still the same sort of bands cranking out the same stuff in the same venues now: Lincoln never was the most progressive of places), it’s well-executed and has the guts in the delivery to make it work. There’s also some nice slidey guitar action that brings a dirty country / blues vibe. ‘Thrillride’ starts with a low-slung bass and sassy, semi-menacing vocal from Chess Smith before she gives it some throat and everything kicks in.

EP closer ‘Whorehouse Down on the SE’ makes for a strong finish: it’s a percussion-driven hefty rock workout which has all the makings of an anthemic crowd-pleaser live. It mines a proper old-school rock seam, and calls to mind The Pretty Reckless at their best, with Smith giving it the raw, rough ‘n’ tough treatment.

 

 

Salvation Jayne - Moves

Schoolkids Records – 2nd June 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

The blurb tells me that ‘On the trail of their successful Record Store Day 7” single ‘Symmetry / Slow Grind’, Raleigh-based Schoolkids Records have announced the coming release of ‘The Shocking Fuzz of Your Electric Fur: The Drake Equation Mixtape EP’ by alternative soul and shoegaze pioneers The Veldt.’

The Veldt have been around for a very long time, now – always on the peripheries, but wholly ingrained in the same milieu as The Cocteau Twins, The Jesus and Mary Chain, et al, as well as sharing stags with an impressive roll-call of acts spanning The Pixies to Echo and the Bunnymen via The Manic Street Preachers.

The EP’s title is (in part) lifted from a poem by e.e.cummings, while ‘The Drake Equation’ is a sort of punning gag that’s both intellectual and spectacularly . Cumbersome as it is, it’s quite a tidy literary allusion, and one which illustrates both the band’s overtly arty leanings the and the immense breadth of their spheres of reference: this is, after all, a band whose name derives from a story by Ray Bradbury. If the idea of high modernism coming together with slick 21st century r‘n’b seems like an improbable and unlikely recipe for success, then it’s all down to the execution.

The five tracks on this EP may or may not ‘rage’ with ‘a sound influenced equally by emotional soul of Marvin Gaye, free jazz warriors Sun Ra and Pharaoh Sanders, various Drake hip-hop tracks, long-term musical kin Cocteau Twins, and their own fertile electric imagination.’ But what they do achieve is a compelling hybrid of styles.

Stuttering beats, somewhere between hip-hop, jazz and drum ‘n’ bass jitter and twitch beneath draping, rifting layers of sonic mist define the multifaceted ‘Sanctified’, which glides he EP into a smooth yet detailed launch. It’s the progressive soul element of their expansive shoegaze-orientated sound which renders The Veldt most distinctive:

‘In A Quiet Room’ simmers and chimes, a laid-back rhythm contrasting against the swirl and eddy of layered, FX-drenched blankets of guitars. The tom-orientated drumming on the dreamy ‘One Day Out of Life’ has echoes of early New Order about it, before a rising swell of a drifting sonic cloud.

The EP ends on a super-mellow soul trip in the shape of ‘And It’s You’: with a melody that evokes Bread’s ‘Make it With You’. Perverse as it may sound, it not only works well, but seems entirely fitting, the smooth soul vibes entwine with a slick hip-hop beat to forge a loved-up groove that’s sort of slanted, but at the same time, kinda natural. Nice.

 

Veldt EP

March 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

I’m not actually a fan of physical violence. The sight of blood – particularly my own – is enough to make me nauseous or even pass out, and I struggle with pain. And yet I’m also strangely, perversely drawn to violence. I consider the Marquis de Sade’s 120 Days of Sodom to be a comic masterwork. Why? Because violence at that level becomes absurd, as real as Tom and Jerry. It’s also perhaps important to distinguish art and life. So much brutal music and art is an outlet of the darker psychic states channelled by some of the mildest, sanest people you’re likely to meet. I haven’t met Tristan Shone so can’t vouch for his character, but his work under the Author and Punisher moniker is pretty brutal, and appeals precisely because of it.

The Pressure Mine EP, which finds Shone bring everything in-house to deliver five new tracks, all written, recorded, mixed and self-released by Shone himself balances brutality and beauty. What’s more, there’s a definite trajectory which runs over the course of the EP: something of a downward spiral, if you will, which sees each successive track prove darker, bleaker, heavier and more fucked-up than the one before. It may not be quite as gnarly and doomy s some of its predecessors, but that hardly makes this a stroll in the park and if anything, the absence of eardrum-shredding lasts of noise only accentuates the uncomfortable tension Author and Punisher is capable of creating.

First track ‘Enter This’ is a magnificent, mechanised droning industrial trudge, synths interlacing to forge a dark atmosphere over a battering mid-tempo rhythm. It’s all a backdrop to Shone’s vocals, which balance disconsolation and anguish. While reminiscent of Prettty Hate Machine Nine Inch Nails, it’s also rather more emotionally nuanced. ‘Pressure Lover’ lunges deeper into a woozy, nightmarish fugue, a dense, rumbling bassline and clanking percussion dominating.

‘New World’ warps and grinds, a dislocated discord emerging from the echoes and twisted vocals, and the last track, ‘Black Wand’ comes on like Depeche Mode on a cocktail of Ketamine and LSD. It’s not entirely pleasant, but it is unsettlingly awesome.

 

Author and Punisher - Pressure Mine

3rd February 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

As a band who really grabbed me by the throat with the release of their ‘Nowhere’ EP in 2015, the arrival of the latest offering from GHXST in my inbox was cause for excitement. And rightly so. To cut to the chase, Perish is a masterpiece.

The EP’s first track, ‘Southern Eye’, carries the refrain of ‘nowhere’ and as such, continues the theme of displacement, of outsiderdom, of not belonging which was core to the aforementioned EP. It’s a fair summary of what GHXST are about, musically, conceptually, and lyrically. Their songs deal with darker themes, and the cover art, which seems to evoke the spirit of Joy Division conveys an appropriate sense of bleakness, but also a certain, ineffable serenity and grace.

On the title track, a rushing guitar grind and reverberating samples are counterpointed by a haunting – and achingly beautiful – vocal that has hints of Alison Shaw of Cranes, only less squeaky, and Toni Halliday. The contrast is what defines the sound, and is ultimately what makes GHXST so special: it’s so rare for a band this heavy to convey so much emotional sensitivity. Theirs is not a sonic expression of nihilistic rage, but of something altogether more nuanced, possessing a heart-trembling beauty, rendered all the more distinct in their execution by the use of a drum machine. As such, they’re in an entirely different league from the few doomgaze contemporaries with female vocals one might name, like Esben and the Witch and Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard. And on this outing they expand their sound to incorporate elements of blues and country. How does that sit as a genre? But it’s not merely the fact they exist within their own niche: the tracks on Perish: the quality of the songs, and their spectacularly atmospheric execution is something special.

‘Stories We Tell’ achieves a heart-rending beauty while crushing your skull with punishing guitars and pounding, slow-tempo percussion: the guitars grate and grind, each power chord throbbing with a malevolent afterburn. ‘Summer Moon’ presents a surging pop dynamic, a dash of Jesus and May Chain against a Chapterhouse-y whirl of shoegaziness and ‘Waiting for the Night’ is a slow-surging dirge, riven with the crackling pops of Akai snare bursts which shouldn’t work but actually bring a bleak aggression to the droning. Closer ‘No Wild West’ introduces a droning desert blues element, the chugging guitars drifting over an expansive, barren wasteland as Shelley X drawls into a sea of reverb.

This is by no means inaccessible music: it’s music to lose yourself in. The songs themselves are comparatively short – none extend beyond the five-minute mark – but all bear all the hallmarks of true epics, with a sound which is beyond vast.

 

 

 

 

GHXST - Perish

GoldMold Records – 10th February 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

Once upon a time, everything was tapes. The romanticism of a frustrating and often inconvenient medium has endured perhaps largely on account of the potential impermanence of their nature: how many music fans of the cassette age mourn the loss of a beloved recording on account of a moment’s forgetfulness which resulted in overrecording, or some freak event which resulted in demagnetisation? How many hours spent spooling and respooling tape which had become mangled in the heads, or otherwise stretched or snapped? The albums of yesteryear, all recorded to quarter inch tape, slowly decaying are an integral backdrop to our appreciation of the existence of the sounds they contain.

But is with books in the printed medium over digital text, it’s easier to form a bond with an artefact which feels somehow personal and personalisable. Just as a book with various creases and marks, perhaps even annotations develops a tangible, unique sense of ownership a Kindle edition never can, a playlist can never have the same resonance as a lovingly-sequenced mix-tape with hand-scribbled notes accompanied by a creased post-it or page from a spiral-bound notepad containing a covering note, folded into quarters and stuffed inside a scuffed case. On an emotional level, at least, sonic fidelity counts for less than fidelity to a pure moment, and it’s the thought that counts: those analogue documents of yesteryear can contain the entirety of a crush that dissipates in weeks or the early stages of a lifelong relationship on any level.

While the debates over the nostalgia ‘industry’ continue to rage, it’s fair to say that the renaissance enjoyed by the cassette is not a purely economic one. After all, the costs involved in burning a bunch of CD-Rs and stuffing them into handmade sleeves is negligible, and even though a bulk batch of 100 C30 cassettes can be obtained for in the region of 55p per unit, the time and effort required to dub even a small run of tapes is proportionally greater than any number of CD-R burns. But the changing nature of the music industry means that where it’s at now is in the small-scale, the personal, and the idea that an artist or label has invested time and personal attention on a product imbues the object with an instant emotional resonance.

The debut release from Glasgow’s Forehead – the vehicle of Sean Garrett (said to be ‘the shyest frontman you’ll ever meet’ and mother goose of the Lovely Ladies) – is appropriately named, as it is being released – if you hadn’t already deduced – on (baby blue) cassette, in a limited edition of just 15. It’s also being released as a download of course. Because no artist makes a release exclusively for 15 people.

The blurb notes that the four tracks contained herein ‘have been about for a while but are only being released now, a testament to Sean’s wholly unwarranted modesty’. And yes, the songs are superb, in a sketchy, nervous, hesitant yet achingly sincere way. You get the impression that Garret’s shyness is integral to the material, to the extent that its awkwardness defines what makes it special. And by no means interpret awkward as clumsy: there’s a skilled songwriter hiding behind the sonic fog here.

Regardless of the protracted journey between conception, recording and release, in keeping with the EP’s title, Bedroom Tapes conveys the spirit of 90s analogue enthusiasm. Low-key, lo-fi indie rock songs, reminiscent less of Pavement and more of Silver Jews, define the Forehead sound. This only serves to amplify the nostalgic quality of the release, evoking the excitement of hearing something stubbornly lo-fi, dubbed from a cassette or a record, the grind of a worn stylus on cheaply-pressed vinyl, for the first time.

Forehead also captures the awkward shyness of J Mascis on ‘Honest’, and the swampy plod of ‘Corner Pieces Falling Apart’ bursts into slanted psych-hued noise before crawling off to hide under the table.

 

Forehead

Christopher Nosnibor

Sometimes, stuff just gets buried in my inbox. People – bands, PRs, family, friends – all probably figure I’m ignoring them, or just being a twat as usual. The latter may well be true, and as for the latter, perhaps so, but unintentionally. John Peel always used to make a point of listening to everything he was sent. Unfortunately or otherwise, depending on your perspective, I’m not John Peel.

“We all have that need to break out of the cycle of daily life,” says the band’s guitarist and vocalist Dein Moore. He’s right. I’m at work all day every day during the working week, which makes wading through review submissions hard. So, yeah. I’m almost six months late this this. But better late than never, right?

The seven tracks on Kleptocracy showcase the band’s immense range, often within a single track. Opener ‘Alleviate’ begins quiet, lilting, an amalgamation of folk and prog with a distinctly mainland European flavour, before rupturing into a surging alt-rock climax.

Salsa rhythms clack through the delicate, supple guitars and build gradually on ‘Colour Tone’, and if ‘Autumn Leaves’ manifests as a rather middling, mellow radio-friendly acoustic rock number, the soulful depth of the vocals have a certain appeal. There are also elements of 8 Storey Window (whatever happened to them?) and Amplifier in the arrangement, and the comparisons carry through on the driving title track, too.

There’s plenty of meat to Kleptocracy, but also a lot of detail, making for a neat balance and an EP that’s got a fair bit to hold the attention.

 

Sonitus