Posts Tagged ‘Leeds’

Come Play With Me – 11th June 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

These are difficult times, fraught with division – not just the well-established social and economic divides, but with infinite fragmentation and fallout over issues and identities. It seems unfathomable that there should be any need for debate when it comes to racism and sexism, and yet here we are in 2021 and still these topics are divisive, and while Pride events have done much to raise awareness, gender issues are not only grounds of immense discrimination, but also division, and, in some quarters, infighting. It’s difficult, and for many, incredibly painful.

Over the five and a bit years since its inception, Leeds label Come Play with Me has done a lot of work to represent the under-represented, primarily in giving a platform to local artists. Its latest compilation is billed as ‘a callout to support women, marginalised genders and LGBTQ+ artists based in Leeds and further afield around the north of England’, and as such has a specific and explicit agenda, and above all, serves to provide a platform and to send a message of unity and solidarity.

The blurb informs us that ‘The album features a collection of 12 brand new diverse tracks from an exceptionally talented group of artists including emerging shoegaze/dreampop sensation Bored At My Grandma’s House, renowned composer and Carnatic vocalist Supriya Nagarajan, art-rock collective Dilettante (led by multi-instrumentalist Francesca Pidgeon), and soul/pop singer-songwriter Tyron Webster.’ And it’s true: Side By Side showcases an eclectic range of artists, which is a solid representation of the diverse, cross-cultural melting pot that is the scene in and around Leeds.

Tryon Webster isn’t the kind of artist you’re likely to see playing in any venues like The Brudenell or Wharf Chambers or Oporto: they may have a local slat, but are more geared towards guitar bands and alternative acts, and Webster’s smooth r’n’b is decidedly more mainstream, as is the smoky would of Dilettante’s soulfully smoochy ‘Single Sleeve’.

Then, in contrast, Bored At My Grandma’s House’s ‘China Doll’ demo is a magnificent sliver of lo-fi indie with some effortless low-key harmonies over a sparse acoustic-guitar-led backing and minimal arrangements.

Long Legged Creatures were the last band I saw perform a proper gig, back on 14th march 2020, and I was impressed by what I referred to as their ‘electro/post-rock/psych hybrid’, and ‘Creatures’ is certainly a drifting, dreamy number – but then again, Witch of the East mine a dreamy post-punk / post-rock seam with ‘Something’s Wrong’. Shauna’s ‘Modes of Thinking’ welds the iciness of The Flying Lizards withy some deep dance groove action that’s half nightclub, half industrial motorik grind.

The chances are, not everyone will love every track on here, and adherents of the live Leeds scene will likely be surprised by just how much non-noisy, soul and jazz-flavoured sounds are on offer here: Day 42 are leagues away from, say, Pulled Apart By Horses, and sound more like Sugababes. But that’s not only ok, it’s the very point of this release. Regardless of musical preferences, it’s impossible to fault the quality of any of the acts showcased here. Moreover, this goes beyond genre and style and musical preference. This is a statement of inclusion. Embrace it.

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1st July 2021

Christopherr Nosnibor

No doubt it’s an age thing, but the title of this compilation from Leeds noisemakers Thank – a collection of everything they’ve released to date, which number three in total existing across a brace of EPs and a one-off single – makes me think of Maureen Lipman in the 1987 ad for BT when he grandson tells her he‘s failed all of his exams except pottery and sociology, and she famously cries, ‘He gets an ology and he says he’s failed… you get an ology you’re a scientist!’ I’m amused by this, and I have an A-level in Sociology, and I’m certainly no fucking scientist (I also have a PhD in English literature, and lot of good that’s done me, too). As a further pointless digression, the title also reminds me of the third album by another legendary Leeds band, That Fucking Tank.

This is relevant, because back in 2004 or so, Tank were ubiquitous, and proved to be an absolute revelation. It wasn’t that the DIY ethos was anything new – it emerged when punk broke, and has long been a major feature of the Leeds scene. Track back about 40 years and The Sisters of Mercy were representing Leeds internationally on their own label. Whatever bollocks recent governments have spouted, the North has always been a powerhouse of its own making. Free of the sway of whatever’s cool in London at any given time, the Noeth – and particularly Leeds – has forged its own identity and done its own thing. And Leeds has, over the last tent o fifteen years, been a city with a scene throwing up a lot of angular, noisy stuff.

Emerging from the DIY microscene centred around the rehearsal space / occasional gig venue that was CHUNK, Thank draw on a host of influences from home and away, but sound like no-one else.

That debut EP, Sexghost Hellscape, from 2017, was – and still is – a wonderfully deranged mash-up of all kinds of strains of noise, with throbbing synths and punchy fink-tinged post-punk basslines reminiscent of Gang of Four providing the backbone of some off-kilter blasts of noise and some ragged, shouty vocals. The insistent pounding of ‘Punching Bag’ – a dismal, depressed swipe at celebrity taking ‘Stars in Their Eyes’ as its starting target – has that twitchy relentlessness of Shellac about it, and it really only cuts loose right at the end. Thank get delayed gratification – and sometimes they really torture us: there’s no real gratification on the squirming, crawling eight-and-a-half-minute dirge of ‘Petrol Head’ that grinds mercilessly like early Swans. It has the roaring rage of hardcore, slowed to a glacial crawl, and it twists at the gut with its low, slow percussion-driven relentlessness.

Standalone single ‘The Curse’ is an anguished roar of rage – it’s sparse, mangled, messy, and comes on like Uniform minus the riffs. It’s pretty fucking dark and brutal.

Skip on to the last EP, and it’s an even more rabidly raging effort, harder, harsher, more furious. ‘Commemorative Coin’ ups the rage another forty percent. It’s like PIL on steroids: pink and fuck, but more articulate than some three-chord thrash, many time more oppressive and infinitely more powerful. In contrast ‘Think Less’ goes full 80s electro, but it’s jitter, jarring, a three-way collision between Talking Heads, Revolting Cocks, and DAF. It’s crazed, manic, and intense. ‘No Respect for the Arts’ is all-out, foaming-at-the-mouth frenzied. It’s raw. It’s passion, and it’s real. And they speak from the heart here. Please was released in the Autumn of 2019, and this reminds us that the arts were being battered to fuck long before the Covid pandemic shut everything down. Over the last decade, successive Tory governments have been shafting the arts from every whichway. Artists have a right to be angry, but so few articulate that anger so directly though their music. We have reason to thank Thank.

Thankology give us no fewer than ten reasons to thank Thank, They stand as the very epitome of the Leeds underground / alternative /DIY scene: uncompromising, unbeholden to trends, and doing it because they believe in it, and just because. Bands like this are rare these days, and Thank stand apart in these times.

For those who’ve had a taste, this will give the full flavour, and for the uninitiated, here it all is. Get stuck in.

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Buzzhowl Records – 12th February 2021

It had to be a limited run of 23 vinyl copies, didn’t it? The latest outing for the ever-intertextual, eternally reference-making anything-and-everything-goes melting pot of a project, Territorial Gobbing, is the first vinyl release in a jaw-droppingly prolific career.

For anyone familiar with Territorial Gobbing, Automatic For Nobody sounds exactly like Territorial Gobbing, only with a greater leaning toward some softer, more contemplative moments. Meanwhile, for anyone not familiar with Territorial Gobbing, it’s a good place to start, because it is wholly representative, but also – arguably – a shade more accessible. That is to say, it sounds exactly like the three different covers. Because yes, sometimes, you can judge an album by its cover.

And because T’Gobbing is a musical magpie of a thing, because Terry T Gerbs is the ultimate in postmodernism, indiscriminately drawing on everything and everything more or less at random, we arrive at REM brought to you by the power of 23, that mystical, magical number oft-referenced by fans and students of William S. Burroughs – myself included. The fascinating thing about the so-called ‘23 Enigma’ is that once you become aware of it, it becomes wholly inescapable. So it its ubiquity real, or a case of positive determinism? It’s hard to say, of course, but probability versus frequency makes it a fascinating thing to observe.

And, whether or not it’s knowing or intentional, the Burroughs connection is strong with Territorial Gobbing: the collaging / splicing / tape fuckery approach to audio which defines the entire catalogue can be traced to the cut-up technique devised by Burroughs and Brion Gysin in the late 1950s and extended to tape experiments in the 1960s, which in turn prefaced sampling and also begat the methods deployed by Throbbing Gristle and their peers in the late 70s and early 80s. It doesn’t matter whether or not it’s knowing or intentional, either: the nature of influence is so often indirect – but like a virus, once a concept is out, it becomes airborne and has the capacity to spread invisible, subliminally.

And while Automatic For Nobody may not be quite the sonic riot of many previous Territorial Gobbing releases, it does nevertheless manifest as a massive sonic tapestry cut from infinite and divergent sources.

Sirens and birdsong and field sounds drone and fade by way of a backdrop to the spoken word opener, ‘Spontaneous Bin Lake’. It sounds like having muttered a few observations into his phone on a windy day, Theo stops for a bite to eat and a drink, and, leaving the phone recording in his pocket, manages to record about seven different sources n top of one another, and it bleeds into the scratchy, scrapy scribblings of ‘Oxfam Tulpa’.

‘Tack Says Ski Meme Free Peas Soot’ forges an unsettling atmosphere that’s eerie in the uncanny, strange sense rather than being overtly creepy, sounding like something that was recorded under water, while the eleven-minute title track does go for the creepy vibe, coming on like the ‘original’ TG, Throbbing Gristle, at their most darkly experimental, as Gowans gasps and quivers just a handful of lines repetitively in a muttering, tremulous fashion that exudes a psychotic tension, the under-breath mutterings of someone in psychological distress. It’s dark and menacing, and utterly disturbed. The tape stutters and warps, and there are yells, yelps, and howls off in the background, with extraneous noises throughout, ranging from lilting piano of children’s tune’s to fragments of music warped and deranged. The lightness of those piano pieces only accentuate the deranged horror of the demonic whispering – the words barely audible, but the menace and threat conveyed transcends linguistic articulation.

While there may not be the explosions of noise that assail the eardrums and blast off in your face, the same sonic abrasions are present – just backed off, and toned down – which renders the material here all the more menacing – and on ‘The Ocean of Black Hair is Not Your Friend’, gurgling electronics spark and fizz by ay of a backdrop to a distorted, pitch-shifted vocal, and it’s somewhere between a ransom call and Whitehouse circa Twice is Never Enough. It’s pretty dark, but only a shadow against what’s to com with the closer ‘He’s Absorbing’, which features guest vocals from YOL and Freddy Vinehill-Cliffe. This six-and-a-half-minute mess of noise ratchets the discomfort and the volume up several levels – screeding shards of noise that stop and start blast through babbling gloops and grinding earthworks, which are interspersed with inchoate shouts and yelps, and there is nothing comfortable or pleasant about this. And as everything twists, warps, crumbles and fades into a melting mess in the final couple of minutes, it feels like the very world is disintegrating. It probably is – and this, ladies and gentlemen, is the soundtrack.

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Hull quintet Low Hummer have shared new single ‘Never Enough’ on Leeds’ label Dance To The Radio.

Offering a first glimpse at the debut album the band are currently working on, Low Hummer have shared ‘Never Enough’, a driving new single that highlight the bands gift for classic indie songwriting with loving nods to bands like The Cure and LCD Soundsystem. Truly coming together in the studio, while the band poured over Joy Division and Cocteau Twins songs, singer Aimee Duncan could deliver her vocals with the cool understatement she does best, free from the noise of the rehearsal room.

Continuing their work digging into themes of social isolation, disinformation and online manipulation, ‘Never Enough’ explores Culture-bound syndromes, ageing and whether we have the ability to truly reframe the situations we find ourselves in.

‘Never Enough’ is accompanied by a new video shot in -5 weather in nearby Flamborough. Following three failed shoots due to positive Covid results, track & trace calls and extreme weather, and with an imminent lockdown in England the band set out with film maker Luke Hallett and documented their assent up Mam Tor creating a beautiful and apt account of the band struggling up a very high hill together…

Dan Mawer: Guitars, vocals:

“I researched culture-bound syndrome’s for ‘Never Enough’ – These are a combination of psychiatric and somatic symptoms, recognised only within a specific society or culture. Transmission of the disease is determined by cultural reinforcement and person to person interaction, I felt like this was an interesting topic for a song. The subject helped me pull together lines along with my own notes on ageing, self-doubt and the idea of cultural isolation. It all sounds very depressing but I hope there’s still lots of light in the lines, such as when Aimee suggests the idea of reframing the situations you find yourself in when you’re struggling.”

Watch ‘Never Enough’ here:

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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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Bad Paintings – 16th December 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

It’s perhaps fitting that elkyn should wrap up the year with a Christmas single. Bleak as the year has been for so many, it’s been an interesting and evolutionary year for the shy and retiring Leeds-based artist, 22-year-old songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Joseph Donnelly.

2019 saw Donelley tour the UK with 60’s LA legends LOVE featuring Johnny Echols, as well as playing shows with Katie Malco, Rozi Plain, S.T. Manville, Molly Linen and Mark Peters. 2020 put a halt on touring, and pushed him back into quiet retreat, and it seems that creatively, it’s proven remarkably beneficial.

Transitioning from elk to elkyn following the release of his debut ‘beech’ EP, and after a spell of silence, he returned with a slew of new material that’s as breathtakingly delicate and understated as you could conceive, beginning with a beech remixes ep and the single ‘if only it was alright now’.

How does covering a Coldplay track sit in the scheme of things? After all, they do epitomise the mainstream preference for the blandest, most diluted, tepid, fare going, the musical equivalent of instant decaff.

With chiming bells and dulcimers and soft washes of synth, this rendition certainly sounds and feels like a Christmas single, but with softly picked acoustic guitar and Donelley’s quite distinctive vocals that are imbued with a sunny 60s pop vibe, it doesn’t feet like Coldplay either. With a bold drum rolling in like thunder and a cinematic production, it’s well executed and makes for a fitting bookend to an outstanding year for elkyn.

Christopher Nosnibor

Lorin Forster certainly isn’t lacking in ambition, or ideas. Her work-rate, be it new music, a tour, artwork, merchandise a side-project of some sort, has been quite remarkable in recent years, and since Weekend Recovery formed around five years ago to say she’s been keeping busy would be an understatement.

As a restless and energetic soul who’s accustomed to being constantly on the move, she’s not someone who waits for luck to happen, or who’s particularly well-suited to lockdown life, so I wasn’t surprised to learn she’s made busy with by far her biggest project to date in the form of a festival. It felt like something we should discuss properly. So that’s what we did.

AA: Let’s get straight to the headline here: you’re organising a festival across two major cities – London and Leeds – over two days in November 2021. What inspired Ghost Road Fest?

LF: Yes, so last year we played crocro land festival which was put together my bugeye’s Angela Martin and it was such an amazing experience.

Then during lockdown I saw This Feeling released a festival-esque lineup I think called Rewired. I’ve lost a lot of passion for music during lockdown, and thought do you know what, if we all sit here like I am feeling sorry for myself then nothing will happen, I’m not gonna retrain, I’m gonna be a creative and get creative!

That’s a really positive thing to have come out of a less than positive place, and it’s interesting you should mention losing your passion and feeling sorry for yourself. You’ve been a keen advocate of mental health, so what have you ben doing to manage, and is there any advice or experience you’d like to share about coping with lockdown, especially for musicians and artists like yourself?

You know I had this conversation with someone today doing this sort of thing is what has helped me cope with lockdown. To start with I was like, great this is the time off of gigging and stuff I’ve needed but very quickly I realised gigging is a big part of what attributes towards my happiness. So I needed to do stuff that distracts me – I work a full time job as well, but the minute I stop I feel a lot more doom and gloom so keep my mind busy and excited toward achieving something is what has kept me going.

The provisional lineup is impressive, and also features a fair few acts you’ve played with / alongside in recent years with Weekend Recovery. What were your selection criteria, and how easy was it to get the acts you wanted on board?

Thank you! I wanted to play with bands I look up to and respect, the hardest part was making that long list a short list, each venue has 9 acts, that’s it! The scene is so full of amazing bands, talent and wicked awesome people, it was harder to work out who didn’t quite fit than who I wanted, and that’s what it came down too, who fit best together for the line up, without it sounding too samey. There’s only been a couple of bands I couldn’t get on board, and that was more to do with super organised agents having sorted our tour schedules than anything else.

How did you go about selecting the venues?

I went to see Rifffest – presented by Brooders at the start of the year and Belgrave Music Hall and absolutely fell in love with the venue – I love the vibe, the cocktails and the food they serve. The staff are lovely – Joe from Superfriendz has been nothing but helpful – and that aside the stage is amazing!

London I went with Kolis – a good friend of mine Arno owns the venue – we’ve gigged there a few times and again has such a cool vibe – it’s really quirky and stylish – also it located right next to a tube station so super convenient for anyone wanting to come to the event.

You’ll be the first to admit that it’s an ambitious project, and 2020 has been the absolute worst. With everything having been postponed and repostponed, and live music in such a precarious state, is planning a festival now a bold move or madness?

Oh complete madness, I’m bonkers doing this, but I hope it’s a way to stimulate the underground music scene, because fuck me it’s taken a hit. The lineup I have is ambitious but amazing, and I’m sure it will sell well, especially as the venues are quite intimate considering the size of the headliners.

But I think if you don’t try you never will. So I thought yeah I wanna play/go to a festival next year, so I’ll make my own.

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Can you tell us a bit more about the concept and overarching principles of Ghost Road Fest, and what sets it apart from other events?

We’re very focused on proportional representation, unfortunately I think this is an issue that’s still a bit overlooked. That’s not to say any of the acts were approached to tick a box, because honestly I’m in awe of who I’ve managed to book. But I want to offer opportunity for up and coming bands as much as established.

We’re also looking to offer opportunity for young people for disadvantaged back grounds who want to have experience in this sort of event; the other roles that make events happen not just the bands.

My business partner Alexandra and I have worked really hard to make everything as diverse as possible, from the crew to the acts to the partners of the festival. I’m really very excited.

Proportional representation is almost certainly still overlooked: the major festivals, Reading and Leeds, Download, Glastonbury, are all notoriously poor with their records of female headliners and on the bill in general, and often it feels like some inclusions are simply tokenismm. Why do you think this is, and what can be done about it?

I’d like to think anyone on any bill is there because they deserve to be rather than for tokenism (although I’m also quite naive and want to see the best in everyone) if it is the case and that it is to tick a box rather than because of inclusion or merit – I think people need to have a real hard look at their morals – I absolutely would like to think any bills I’ve been on have been because people like our music rather than I have a pair of boobs. But maybe organisers feel they have to to not upset people – which is sad because there are LOADS of bands with females in, or non-binary, or gender fluid people, who play fucking good music. I think there is still a really long way to go but baby steps are better than standing still.

Recent years have seen a small number of all-female festival lineups – Boudica Festival, Loud Women Fest, Native Festival in your home county of Kent: how do you feel about these from an inclusivity perspective – do they redress the balance or simply recreate the same problem in reverse?

You know I think they’re really great – they celebrate a minority of the industry, opportunities like this for women are really great! I’ve been quite lucky in that I’ve only experienced sexism a couple of times (a couple of times too many really, but compared to some…)

You’ve been a recording artist and a gigging musician for a while: you’ve managed to establish an admirable following with Weekend Recovery, and are also just embarking on a solo career, so what prompted you to branch out into management?

I sound like a right martyr but I enjoy helping people, watching them grow and feeling proud. I’ve grafted for years, paying my dues and I always wish I had the opportunity to have someone to badger and ask advice to skip a few steps almost, although those steps were the best lessons I learnt

It’s quite evocative – but why Ghost Road for the name?

It was actually a good friend of mine that came up with the name. I’m into really jarring imagery, I’ve worked under this name for a few years now, I also don’t think ghosts are always scary. I think they guide us for better or for worst.

Have you ever seen a ghost?

I haven’t! But then I haven’t ever not seen one – if that makes sense – I’m pretty open minded I’d like to think people are looking out for us when they pass over – so I guess that’s like a ghost

So what else have you got in the pipeline – that you can tell us about?

Well Weekend Recovery have our album out next year (finally) my solo tour coming up – I actually feel busier now than I did pre-lockdown if that was even possible!!

Ghost Road fest is scheduled for 6-7 November 2021 in London and Leeds. You can get updates via the Ghost Road website, as well as the festival’s dedicated Facebook and Instagram pages.

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20th of November 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Grunge is dead, so the slogan ran on a T-shirt worn by Kurt Cobain back in 93 or thereabouts. And yet, he we are in 2020 and listening to the third single by Leeds power trio Kath & The Kicks, and the evidence says otherwise.

Like punk, post-punk, goth, shoegaze, and so many genres that are intrinsically tied to a specific period in time, the legacy of grunge reverberates and returns in waves, and one of the joy of being alive now as that cross-genre hybrids of all of these are possible and emerge all the time.

‘Underground’ is all about the thick, overdriven grungy guitar. The sound is dense and dirty, and benefits from an unpolished, no-messing production that accentuates the abrasive edges. It’s the vehicle which carries Kath’s bold, powerful vocal, which, stylistically, sits between vintage hard rock and goth – there’s a dash of Siouxsie in there, while at the same time hinting at being the natural successors to sadly departed Leeds favourites Black Moth.

The dark, ever-so-slightly twisted lyrics dig into a subterranean psyche that’s part goth, part agoraphobe, part obsessive psychopath. It’s a pretty potent cocktail.

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27th August 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Leeds proves once again to be the spawning ground for some interesting experimental music, and this four-tacker from Material Loss is a work of dark, dark ambient, a genre I’ve become increasingly drawn to over time by virtue of its lack of prescription: what I draw from it is as much about my own projections, my own internal state and contemplations as the music itself, although it in turn has the capacity to reflect back at me those internalisations. And what Material Loss convey corresponds with the name – a sense of emptiness, a sensation of being aimless and bereft. Admittedly, these moods do hit from time to time and I know his isn’t something by any means unique to me, but when they descend they do so rapidly, like a storm blowing in from the horizon on a strong wind, building from out of the blue and forcing a sudden pressure drop.

And what is material? Something palpable, tangible. And yes, these four tracks, for all of their vague, effusiveness, they succeed in conveying something more concrete, somehow. It’s all about the atmosphere, which has been carefully constructed and arranged for optimal effect, and while it’s short, it reached seep into the psyche, and into the body, prodding the gut, the bowels, the lungs, and, above all, stealthily creeping around the deeper recesses of the brain.

Such dank murkiness shouldn’t be associated by any means directly with a depressive state, though: the lack of overt form or structure can be quite therapeutic, offering a form of escapism as one allows oneself to drift through the sonic clouds, The first piece, ‘Set’ rumbles and growls, and within those sonic clouds, there’s a storm brewing. It’s a distant rumbling, a dissonance, an almost unquantifiable and most unspecific unease more than anything else.

Following on, ‘UA’ manifests as a barely-audible droning hum for the most part but it’s occasionally rent with tearing shards of nose or rising tides of amorphous sound. The fact that each composition is brief means that none becomes overwhelming, r challenging to the point of traumatic, although in the infinite subtlety, the menace is always present.

‘SD-CLA’ may be brief, but it’s dark and doomy, a single beat repetitively hammered out at a funereal pace amidst fizzing electrics and splinters of breaking glass. Closer ‘Alm’ – the calm without the c – brings a sense of tranquillity, a lifting of the mood and something approximating a sense of lightness and of relief, and a sense that maybe things aren’t so bleak after all.

They are, of course: the reality of living in the now is beyond dismal, but at least, for a couple of minutes, we can perhaps forget and pretend otherwise.

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14th August 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Amongst the fermenting foment that is the melting pot of the Leeds alternative scene, J. S. Gordon, or Jack as he’s also known, is one of those people who’s to be found ambulating the underground circuit around the rehearsal space and indie venue CHUNK with noisemongers IRK. His Platitude Queen vehicle represents a less frenetic, splenetic kind of sound: a ‘contemplation on cultural heritage’, it’s pitched as an album which fits ‘the wider traditions of folk music’ while crossing into ‘the world of hauntology’.

In liner notes fitting for a philosophy graduate, Gordon unpacks the idea behind the album:

‘The form of hauntology which besieges this collection of songs is one that lurches from the depths of the past, but also recognises the (lack of) future. The traditional view of hauntology (as per Jacques Derrida) is that the present is haunted by persistent recurrence of concepts and ideas from the past. The discomfort lies in the fact that these concepts, these ghosts, do not properly belong to the past, and the observer who connects with these ghosts is therefore also removed from a common sense view of time. We are therefore forced to remove our expectations of causality and the origins on these concepts, before they “returned” as ghosts.’

In its continual plundering of the past and the immense fiscal value of the nostalgia industry, in which a collective yearning for even the most recent past has scope for commodification, Postmodernism is in some sense built on hauntology, and in its endless recycling of the past, whether through a contemporary filter or a fashionable dash of retro chic, we find ourselves in a present where the future is doomed to remain mired in the past, while at the same time any real sense of history is dismantled by an all-encompassing simultaneity. As such, everything is rootless, as fragmentary echoes of all things past reverberate around us. And so we come to Forebears.

Forebears certainly presents an intriguing aspect on what you may categorise as hauntological folk: often wonky, always sketchy, and curiously evocative, if not necessarily unheimlich in its evocativeness.

The first song, ‘Sambucus’ is sparse and lo-fi, an acoustic piece that rumbles and mumbles like a Silver Jews outtake, wistful melancholy and off-the-cuff. The stomping ‘Dance of the Mummers’ s quite a contrast, a kind of folk-punk Cossack shanty, but as if played by Trumans Water on acoustic guitars. If that description sounds addled and vague, then it’s probably about right in conveying the strange atmosphere of the album. Everything calls to mind something else, something just beyond the ken of recognisance.

‘Hob Headless’ introduces an almost country tint, and ‘Pignut’ comes on like a wonky, vibrant and wholly irreverent collision between Pavement and The Pixies, unplugged. The eight-and-a-half-minute ‘Peg Powler’ is stark and lugubrious, some Leonard Cohenesque acoustic picking growing to some layered splendour and a slow surge of tension. Forebears, then, isn’t short on intriguing moments, or, indeed, quality songs that hang suspended in an indefinable time all of their own.

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