Posts Tagged ‘Indie’

25th November 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Following what, at least to the outside world, appeared to be a fallow spell between the release of beech and its attendant remixes version, during which time elk became elkyn, Joseph Donnelly returns remarkably swiftly with a new single, ‘if only it was alright now’.

It’s a sentiment that’s so, so relatable right now as we find ourselves eddying along in a relentless tumult of who knows that the fuck. And in the space of just over three minutes, Donnelly captures and articulates all of the uncertainty and wraps it around with a warm, thick blanket of home and opens the window to let the light in.

It begins in what’s swiftly become trademark style, his quiet, introspective vocals almost a mumble, trepidatious, accompanied only by sparse, picked acoustic guitar. And it’s truly beautiful, in that most intimate, soul-searching of ways. But from here, things evolve as layers of textured sound build on one another, and at pace, and in no time, galloping drums are bounding along, pushing the song onwards, and it’s a rush – a clean, uplifting rush, like a warm breeze on a perfect summer’s day, where the clouds are just wisps, high in the upper reaches of the atmosphere.

Comparisons and references that spring up here and there, but to evoke them feels futile, and moreover to diminish the emotional and sonic richness of the work, which exists in its own self-made space, and completely apart from all external forces of influence and time, creating a brief but magical moment you wish could be frozen to last for all eternity.

20th November 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

So often, less is more. Lyrics that are personal and specific yet vague have the capacity to convey as much more than lines that are direct or explicit. And so it is with ‘Wander & Lost’ that Kin speak of loss and yearning, of distance and sadness and that sense of feeling cut off and alone.

As much as ‘Wander & Lost’ is ostensibly a pining, post-breakup song, it equally stands as a summary of the sense of loss that the distance so many are feeling from friends and family under life in lockdown. Maintaining closeness simply isn’t as easy, and everyone, everything has changed, is changing.

Wander & Lost begins with a wistful, minor-key guitar, picked and chorus-laden, and it provides a delicate backing for the dreamy, contemplative vocals. The drums are distant and everything is balanced, the instruments and vocals all infusing to form a cloudy aural drift. There are shades of melancholy lingering on the peripheries, and it’s never easy to determine if this is the music or projection – but then again, this is why music resonates beyond its immediate boundaries, and ‘Wander & Lost’ transcends its immediate aims on account of a certain musical intuition.

This is one of those songs that’s all about the slow build, and it doesn’t suddenly erupt or explode, but instead gradually swells into a soft, rippling wash of introspection. It’s a sad song that hits that perfect sad song sweet spot.

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Kin press shot

23rd October 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Well, it’s an odd choice of name for a band. Maybe it’s an age thing or a Lincoln thing, but growing up, kecks were underpants. This is why it’s important to consider all aspects and angles when choosing a band name: what does your band name say about you? Still, it’s not as bad as The Front Bottoms.

The Kecks are based in Hamburg, although their members hail from Australia, the UK, Austria, and southern Germany, making them a truly international collective, and ‘All for Me’ is one of those songs where the lyrics don’t seem to entirely connect, a kind of patchwork of images and ideas and expressions that endlessly bounce off one another to convey… well, what, precisely?

It’s not a criticism as such: the same is true of so many lyrics: even boiling down pop greats from Bowie to Duran Duran reveals a lot of songs lack a general cohesion.

‘All For Me’ is a mid-to-low tempo indie tune that’s got hints of The Smiths and early Pulp about it, and somehow, in context, when Lennart Uschmann pours anguish and angst into the lines ‘And I wrote some songs for you / but you would always listen to / all of that white noise in between the radio stations’ it all makes sense somehow, on an instinctive, intuitive level, all of which is anything but pants.

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Kecks promo image

30th September 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Ben Wood & The Bad Ideas return to follow up on August’s ‘Black’ with ‘You’re The Crash I Needed’, and of this release Ben says, “We wanted the lyrics to reflect an awakening, a coming-to after a period of being insular and unaware of one’s own actions but for that to be entirely forced upon you by someone else. Musically ‘You’re The Crash I Needed’ was composed to mirror that sensation of when you fall asleep in front of the TV and then it seems explosively loud and totally overwhelms the senses when you wake up.”

That jolt… to nab the line penned by Editors, it kicks like a sleep twitch. We’re all guilty of sleepwalking through life at some point or another, oblivious of ourselves and the potential repercussions of our actions, and such somnambulance has become the characteristic behaviour in 2020 as we drift from one day to the next. The kick will happen, and no doubt the jolt will provide a real shock to many.

‘You’re The Crash I Needed’ is an indie-goth gut-punch of a song, with hell-for-leather drumming and interweaving guitars reminiscent of Rosetta Stone and early Mission and it’s got a vibrant energy and a kind of sweeping openness that’s simply not commonplace in contemporary music. Then again, nor is that kind of chorused guitar sound.

Balancing breeziness and shade, this is a tight and tense rack and a clear single choice, and while it’s retro it’s anything but cheesy. I for one am excited.

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Single artwork

19th September 2020

James Wells

We love an unsolicited approach from bands who just bung all the press blurb and links on a message via FB. Because we’re not already so swamped we can’t read even a quarter of the emails we get sent, which means in terms of listening and coverage – maybe 10% on a good month.

We’ll forgive Swedish psychedelic act Melody Fields, though, since their brand of swirling, paced-out psychedelic shoegaze has heavy hints of early Ride and Chapterhouse as well as more recent acts like The Early Years, but then there are also vaguely baggy hints that call to mind early Charlatans. So when they describe themselves as ‘No retro, no seeking for effects’, and as a band with ‘a depth and a substance in their song writing, that feels unique in an ontherwise effect seeking scene’, my instinct is to ask if they’ve really done their research.

There are heavy far eastern influences in the serpentine guitar lines which they describe as ‘LA meets mystic Far East meets melancholy North’, as much reminiscent of The Mission’s drawing on Led Zeppelin as anything else and it’s not shit it’s just derivative.

The title track captures a hazy 60s vibe – a blandly generic assimilation of the era and the style, there’s a hippy-trippy wide-eyed wonderment spun into its folk-infused pickings, before the pleasant but predicable and somewhat turgid ‘Painted Sky’ brings Black Angels drone into a slow-mo collision with plodding Kula Shaker indie. There are some nice harmonies, but not nearly enough to make Melody Fields special.

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28th August 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

In a format frenzy reminiscent of Mansun back in the late 90s and around the turn of the millennium, which saw the band release around two albums’ worth of material as B-sides over the course of just three or four years, this is the first of a two-part double EP release from Londonites Latenight Honeymoon. It’s a set that wasn’t only written and recorded during lockdown, but that is a product of lockdown in it lyrical explorations, manifesting as a raw, vivid, visceral and personal working through the anxiety, tension, anguish, and insomnia of living life in social separation.

The band’s biographical details may be sparse, and if on one hand it may be frustrating, it’s maybe a strong positive, in that the focus is on the music itself. Does anyone actually need to know who does what? No, of course not: that’s all ego. The singer doesn’t have a conventionally musical voice, but does have a way for delivering a lyric – which always worked more than adequately for Morrissey, Mark E. Smith, and John Lydon, among many others. Rock, pop, and punk aren’t about perfect pitch, but about communicating in a way that registers on an emotional level. And here’s a lot of emotion on the songs on offer here, to the extent that I do feel like I’m being dragged through someone’s lockdown trauma and the correspondent emotional ups and downs as I listen to this EP.

Lead track, ‘Afterglow’ has a certain swing to it, a post-punk indie cross with a dash of funk and blue-eyed soul infused into the spring-stepped guitars that bounce, crisp and clean, over a light-footed rhythm section. The band describe the song as ‘an ode to all the healthy relationships transformed into nightmares thanks to the unprecedented times we find ourselves in. Communicating so inhumanly via the phone screens we are chained too,’ [sic] and it’s likely universally relatable. Hands up who doesn’t miss people, or at least some people?

‘If it’s not your fault / then it must be mine’ the singer sings on ‘B.S.T.’, a heavy hint of resignation in his voice, and it’s a lack of conviction and a sense of hollowness that colours the lines ‘Oh baby please don’t worry / I think were both gonna be alright / in spite of tonight / 2020 / How could you do this to me?’

The vocals are particularly raw and ragged on ‘[What If?]’, landing somewhere between Kurt Cobain and Shane McGowan as he hollers every last ounce of anguish and a piano played heavy-handed hits the mark as the lyrics reprise the chorus of ‘Afterglow’, while referencing Shakespeare’s ‘Sonnet 18’ and Tennyson. There’s no shame in poeticism or literary referencing, and it rounds off the EP nicely.

Given that they’ve already scored some high-profile support slots, this EP is bound to only enhance their reputation and solidify their fanbase, and deservedly so.

Stream the EP by clicking the image below.

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7th August 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Having built themselves a solid fanbase since their formation in 2017, with a series of single and EP releases, supported by some live shows primarily in their regional territory of Kent, Salvation Jayne have been going from strength to strength.

As has been the situation for so many bands, lockdown has put paid to pretty much all activity: gigs simply can’t happen, rehearsal rooms and studios have been closed, and it’s not been feasible for many artists to record at home for various reasons, not least of all not being allowed indoors together.

Despite all of the hot air and rhetoric and the unprecedented use of the word unprecedented, the 1918 so-called Spanish flu pandemic bears remarkable similarities to the present, and it’s like we’ve learned nothing in the last century. However, two major differences are that in 2020, we have the Internet to connect us, to spread misinformation, and to perform live streams and so on, and exchange chunks of audio.

For Salvation Jayne, exchanging chunks of audio wasn’t conducive to the creation of new material, but did facilitate a quite unexpected project, whereby other people could put their spin on cuts from the band’s back catalogue by means of some remixes.

For this project, they’ve enlisted a diverse array of collaborators: John Tufnell (Saint Agnes) – Black Heart; Jericho Tozer (SKIES) – Coney Island, Baby!; Eden Gallup (Violet Vendetta) – Cortez; Sara Leigh Shaw (The Pearl Harts) – Juno; Fuji Hideout – Tongue Tied, Tiiva – Jayne Doe. And at launch, they donated the proceeds of sales from Bandcamp to Refuge.

Witnessing bands so sorely deprived of income using their art for the greater good has been one of the most heartwarming things about lockdown: infinitely more meaningful than clapping for NHS workers in a display of virtue-signalling solidarity, artists making genuine sacrifices for charities spanning foodbanks, support for the homeless and mental health support shows where the real heart is. It’s always the grass roots acts passing up on Royalties, too, not fucking Bono imploring punters to donate, and that’s significant too. This is real charity.

It also matters that the product is of a certain quality, and this really is there: these remixes showcase the breadth of Salvation Jayne’s material, which may be rooted in solid alt-rock with more classic twists, but are well-suited to adaption.

The Saint Agnes Lockdown remix of ‘Black Heart’ explodes in a blast of abrasive noise and steers the song into a kind of early 00’s Pitchshifter industrial noise and distortion space, with pounding percussion and slabs of overdriven guitar backing Chess’ fuzzed-out vocal. With more disco-orientated verses, it shouldn’t work, but it does, and what’s more, it packs some real groove.

The Pearl Hearts’ take on ‘Juno’ is another stomper, disco beats cranked up to industrial strength, and this take also has a much harder edge than the original, and it works surprisingly well, as does ‘Coney Island, Baby!’, when SKIES sub the post-punk feel of the original version with something slower, heavier, more industrial, then sling in some epic strings on top. The result is pretty spectacular.

‘Cortez’ is a standout in the SJ catalogue, and to hear it pumped up, grooved up, and sped up is a major rush, and the same is true of ‘Jayne Doe’, released in May of this year and here given a radical and full-on dance reworking. It may divide the fans but it’s important that the band continue to push their parameters instead of limiting their horizons. Ultimately, this is what the remixes EP is all about: Salvation Jayne may be a rock band with a certain post-punk leanings, but above all they’re a band who don’t want to be pinned to a style, and a band with range, and these remixes showcase both the sound and progressive attitude perfectly.

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Weeping Prophet Records – 31st July 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

The facts and the pitch are that Fuse Box City is a new London based band. They combine indie and electronic with noise and melody; the intricate layering of which produces a rich sound that provides a platform for Rachel Kenedy’s fragile yet mellifluous vocals to sit on top. Talking about the stuff that matters all in the same breath.

I like hybridity and eclecticism, and have developed an increasing appreciation of some of the 80s samplist / looping acts that broke through in the late 80s. It wasn’t immediately apparent at the time, but this wasn’t about simply making dance music and turntable scratching and drum machines: this was utilising emerging technology to create a soundtrack to our ever-faster, ever more fragmented experience of life.

Revisiting the spirit of then makes sense to an extent: we’re witnessing even less comprehensible times, even faster, more fragmentary lives, and even niftier tech while in a position to cast an eye back over recent history.

But sometimes blending lo-fi indie and experimental electronica and throwing in bits of prog and 80s hip-hop means the elements don’t always gel especially well, and ‘Shine On’ makes for a shaky, somewhat chaotic and disjointed start.

Maybe it’s a matter of adjustment, or maybe the band really do find their groove better as the album progresses, and it’s when they slow things down a bit as they do first on ‘Pub Licker’ and then on ‘Crossing Swords’ that things begin to feel rather more cohesive, and find FBC explore a territory that sounds like a trip-hop reimagining of Young Marble Giants.

The album’s closer marks another departure: the thirteen-minute ‘Bendy One’ starts out a low, slow semi-ambient work with a murky beat stuttering away like a fibrillating heart, and low in the mix before slowly taking form: the beat becomes ore solid, regular, insistent, and comes to dominate a vague wash of a droning backdrop which stretches and yawns and swells behind Kenedy’s soaring choral vocal. Somewhere along the way it emerges as a new ag stomper with a thumping tribal beat and some squirming electronics that bubble away in the background of some approximation of a celebratory sunset incantation.

The end product seems to be that of a band who are ideas-rich and unafraid to experiment, while still finding their feet and sense of direction. Despite its messier moments, which often boil down to execution as much as concept, it’s a bold debut, and never uninteresting or uninspired.

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Long Division – 21st August 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

The second of the albums released as a fundraiser for Wakefield’s Long Division Festival presents another mix of established, up-and-coming, and new acts which encapsulates the festival’s egalitarian ethos. With its focus primarily on the local and regional, one may be forgiven for expecting a mixed bag both in terms of style and quality, but local is by no means a byword for low standards around these parts, and while this second collection – like its predecessor – is stylistically varied, the quality is remarkable.

It’s also arranged as an album of two halves, with the second being considerably more commercial, and what you’d probably call summery.

York’s Cowgirl – one of the countess projects from the city featuring the wide-ranging talents of Danny Barton (who’s also just released a new single under his Wolf Solent moniker) makes for a strong start, with its Pavementy slacker indie stylings. It’s got that up-front, full-tilt, everything-loud energy-bursting lo-fi production that delivers the buzz direct into the brain and makes you feel good instantly.

Priestgate’s ‘Now’ is a more 80s vintage style, while ‘Walking Backwards’ by Glasgow’s Life Model’s is a wonderfully poised shoegaze affair. The vocals sound lovelorn, but sign off with a strong and determined refrain of ‘I never liked you at all’ before a swell of rippling guitars surge in.

I’m waiting for a weak track, but Lemon Drink certain aren’t the one’s to serve it, with ‘Manic’ being a tight and lively slice of zesty grunge-tinged indie pop.

Mt Doubt might lack immediacy but bring mood, and HerTiltedMoons’ contribution, the brooding but lightly melodic piano-led folk-pop of ‘Orange Grove’ arrives as quite a surprise in its Coors-like commerciality, and taking a different but equally accessible tack, the quirky electronica of In The Morning Light’s ‘Milk and Honey’ is a groove-orientated tune. Bunkerpop bring a taste of the Caribbean.

It’s back to the 80s again with a dash of Ultravox and a splash of Spandau – and even a hint of B-Movie on Macroscope’s ‘Reveal’, and drawing the curtain on the collection, Little State of Georgia offer up the sparse and intimate ‘Little Tiny Ones’, a devastatingly cool work of brooding minimalist electronica that’s haunting and emotionally resonant, presenting a classic case of less being more, before swelling into a cinematic power-ballad finale.

Once again, there’s something for everyone here, and more significantly, New Addition Vol 2 showcases a wealth of talent that is entirely dependent on grass-roots venues gigs, independent festivals, and indie labels who are willing to take a punt. Because acts who break through are rarely the best ones, but the ones with backing – but getting that backing requires that initial exposure and support. Without that, it all falls apart.

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Ideologic Organ – SOMA034

Digital release date: July 3/10 / Physical release date: mid August 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Ideologic Organ label owner Stephen O’Malley effuses over Ai Aso’s ‘immaculately crafted form of minimalist pop music skirts the edges of tensity with the manner and with the skill of a tight rope walker, calmly balancing repeatedly at every step, with a combination of surety and the risk of a slip, a fall, and an unknown uncoiling of events’.

Pop may not be a genre commonly associated with he label or the Sunn O))) founder, but Ideologic Organ do have a track record for venturing beyond the expected and showcasing some unusual talents, and Ai Aso is definitely one of those, as the nine tracks on The Faintest Hint demonstrate. Legendary Japanese rock band Boris accompany Aso on two of the pieces, but if you’re expecting powerchords, keep moving on.

Picked acoustic guitar alone accompanies Aso’s voice for most of the first song, ‘Itsumo’, and indeed, much of the album, and even with the multi-tracked vocal, it’s a simple, spartan, and intimate recording. The guitar and voice are in the room with you. And they touch you accordingly.

‘Scene’ is more post-rock, a slow, quivering bass chord echoes out against chiming guitar notes and Ai’s soaring ethereal voice calls to mind Cranes at their most delicately haunting, but also at times is simply a shy humming that’s endearing in its understatement and apparent reticence.

Sometimes, quietness and sparseness simply seem to equate to sadness, and the low, mumbling low-note repetitions of ‘Gone’, despite the words being unintelligible, emanate an aching sadness, while in contrast, ‘I’ll do it My Way’ carries something of a playfulness, not to mention a certain Young marble Giants lo-fi bedroom indie vibe. The straining electric guitar discordance that disrupts the singsong easiness of the song toward the end is a nice touch. She trills, swoops and croons on ‘Floating Rhythms’ in a way that sounds like she’s singing to herself – and this intimacy provides a large part of the appeal.

If there’s anything about The Faintest Hint that may suggest ‘amateurish’ to some, that’s certainly not the reaction from my ears: Aso’s minimal approach to songwriting and performance gives a rare immediacy, and it’ss unhampered by conspicuous production. It’s touching, intimate, and special.

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