Posts Tagged ‘Post-Punk’

We Become Strangers is the debut EP from the new darkwave project, The Bleak Assembly, a collaboration between Kimberly of Bow Ever Down and Michael Smith of Fiction8.  While there are a few electronic textures here and there, We Become Strangers is straight-up post-punk and darkwave. Guitars, drums, and songwriting with hooks for days.  This EP sits more comfortably alongside Siouxsie & the Banshees, ACTORS, and Bootblacks than it does VNV Nation or Covenant.

Add to that list Skeletal Family, Ghost dance, later March Violets. It’s pure vintage mid-80s goth.

Regarding the nature of ‘change’ that inspired the EP, Michael Smith states, “if there’s a theme to this EP, it’s in recognizing how we’ve changed as artists and as people. What if you met your younger self and your younger self didn’t even recognize you?  That’s what We Become Strangers is about.  Kimberly goes on to say, “It’s a strong feeling of ‘being cut from the past’.  It’s a little alienating but also very liberating.”

Listen here. Do:

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Cruel Nature Records – 2nd December 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

Having raved about Pound Land’s second album, Can’t Be Arsed back in March, I was pretty thrilled to find the follow-up landing so swiftly. What with the exponential rise of Benefits, and acts like Polevaulter emerging, it seems that now is a good time for angsty, angry music with noisy tendencies and gritty sociopolitical leanings. Of course it is: it’s a sign of the times, and besides, it’s not a good time for anything else, unless you happen to be a non-dom billionaire or a CEO at an oil company.

If Sleaford Mods set a new template for the paired-back duo setup as being in vogue before the pandemic, the combination of lockdowns and crippling economic circumstance has rendered this an operational necessity for many musicians.

Pound Land may be up to their elbows in grimy dishwater and wading through excrement in streets where the drains and sewers are backed up due to torrential downpours and a lack of council funding, but they share little common ground with Sleaford Mods, and that’s despite favouring repetitive monotonous Krautrock-inspired grooves over dynamic structures: Pound Land are far doomier, dingier, lugging their way closer to sludge metal than anything you could possibly dance to.

The Stockport duo’s third album is a monster slab of punishing, gut-dragging, bass-heavy grimness, and one has to wonder how much to read into the title. The people are weary, ground down: will they rise up, or curl up and give up?

The blurb points out that the album finds the Stockport band pushing their ‘post-industrial kitchen-sink drama preoccupations even further on Defeated, exploring the dark comedy of everyday life in the dismal land of eternal recession. Sometimes the vision expands out of shitty Britain too, ‘Drone’ recounting the wearied observations of an electronic device as it traverses the globe… You’ve got to laugh, because if you don’t you’ll kill yourself. Or somebody else.’

The laughter is pretty dark and pretty hollow, though, and derives as much from the keen observations as any particular knack for a punchline (a line about mobility scooters with Northern soul stickers on stands out as particularly pithy) and the stark musical backing isn’t especially musical, more of a pounding trudge that provides a backdrop to an endless stream of vitriol and bleak depictions of the everyday, from pavements caked with dogshit and news items about rising fuel prices and their effect in the average household. If it sounds mundane, it is, but then we need art that speaks to us about life as we experience it, and the majority know far more about scrabbling for change to buy a loaf of bread than luxury cars, watches, and clothes.

‘Violence’ is their equivalent of Public Image Ltd’s ‘Theme’, a brutal, sprawling, brawling, squalling monster that opens the album with a relentlessly heavy battering ram of a racket, like Sunn O))) with a howling harmonica and sneering Lydonesque vocal. It crushes your skull, before it fades out swiftly and unexpectedly, which somehow works. But maintaining the PiL comparison, it’s Metal Box that is perhaps the closest similarity, in that the album as a whole is diverse, fractured, unpredictable.

‘Carry On Screaming’ sounds like The Fall in a three-way collision with Yard Act and Melvins. It’s a mangled mess of drum machine beats and psychedelia and noise with a monotone vocal drawl.

Against a thumping dirge of a noise, a grating mesh of distortion and dolorous drum, the title track is a gnarly hybrid of early Swans, and elsewhere, as on ‘Sick Day’, it becomes less about songs and more about spoken word narrative delivered against a backdrop of mangled noise, and at times, it’s pretty harrowing. Lyrically, Pound Land don’t pretty things up. Sonically, they don’t either. It’s magnificently raw and un-produced, and this is no more true than on penultimate song ‘Pathogen’, a dirty slow stomp that’s pure rage and invites comparisons to Uniform. And it sounds like it was recorded on a phone from the next room.

‘Drone’ sneers and snarls like Lydon at his best, closing with a venomous refrain of ‘fucking twat’ delivered in a thick, spitting Manchester accent.

Defeated may only contain eight songs, and only a couple of them extend beyond the five-minute mark, but it’s feels immense, and experience that’s exhausting both physically and mentally. Listening, you feel the weight of the world condense and compress as the angst and anguish press down ever darker, ever denser. It’s a bleak, suffocating document of everything that’s wrong right now. This is the sound of broken Britain, and it’s a harrowing insight into just how fucked everything is. But in this channelling of nihilistic anguish, you realise you’re not alone. It doesn’t change anything, but it’s something to cling to.

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2182 Recording Company – 2nd December 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

While books have blurbs that likely indicate whether or not you want to read them, records are altogether less pitch-orientated in their physicality, which, back in the day, used to make sifting through vinyl in shops and at record fairs an exercise which was a measure of one’s attitude to risk. Sometimes you’d take a punt on a record because you’d heard of the band and they sounded interesting, others, you’d go by the label or the cover or something.

Some traders – and this is something Jumbo records in Leeds still do – is put a short summary on a sticker on the PVC sleeve the record is stored in.

The virtual equivalent, for me, is scanning press releases. No way can I listen to everything I receive, let alone write about it, and some nights my inbox feels like flicking through boxes of records, unsure of what I actually want to hear until I find it. And lo, as I wander, aimless and befuddled, fatigued from another day of corporate chairpounding to keep the roof over my head and the bills paid, I stumble upon Damage Mécanique by Diminished Men. I’ve never heard of them, but on reading the pitch, I felt as if this was the thing I needed but didn’t know I needed until I found it.

Drawing from elements of film noir, psychedelic exotica, experimental rock, deviant surf and musique concrète, Diminished Men refocus their influences into something entirely unique. Collaged with menacing electricity, the raw materials are broken up and reassembled in their crude private facility. The group has spent more than a decade crafting their style and have established themselves as an integral part of Seattle’s underground music scene.

Their latest record, Damage Mécanique, thrusts the listener into a malfunctioning industrial sci-fi soundscape. Trance inducing guitars beckon with haunting wails, high-tension wires spin and spit with a crackling hiss. Circular kosmische rhythms and anxiety-drenched beats destroy and rebuild around fractured melodies and noise. The band oxidizes and melts into experimental post-punk and acousmatic environments as hypnotic groove and vertigo copulate in cinematic assemblage.

And there’s no question that they’ve got pedigree: drummer Dave Abramson is also a member of Master Musicians of Bukkake, Spider Trio, and has collaborated with Eyvind Kang and Secret Chiefs 3 among many others.

As ‘Double Vision’ crashes in amidst clattering, explosive percussion and dingy bass, I’m hauled by the collar into the realms of early industrial in the vein of Test Dept and Perennial Divide, and instantly, I’m home, knowing that this was indeed what I needed. It’s sparse in terms of arrangement, but dense in terms of sound, and it’s abrasive, rhythm-orientated, loud, heavy, and batters away at the brain.

It may seem counterintuitive to suggest that when your thoughts are in a mangled disarray and your focus is no-existent that the answer lies in music that bashes you round the bonce from all directions at once, but for me, at least, it’s infinitely more beneficial than any kind of chillout shit or ambient – although amidst loping, rolling rhythms, ‘Wet Moon’ conjures a shimmering ambience of sorts, while pointing towards esoteric oddity.

‘The Maze’ confuses and confounds with its daze-inducing cyclical riff and motoric beats which are pure Krautrock, evaporating into a mist around the mid-section of its six-and-a-half minute duration that sees it build through a jazzy post-rock segment before tumbling back into that nagging, dislocated groove – and it’s a nagging dislocated groove that dominates the wig-out weirdness of ‘Panopticon’. It’s likely of help to no-one to comment that it sounds like Murder the Disturbed but with the wild sax of These Monsters, but there it is: obscure post-punk collides with obscure jazz-infused noise rock, and it’s a corking way to end the first side of the album.

If ‘Axiel Tremors’ suggests rock excess played at a crawl, then it’s equally dragged out via some expansive jazz expressions into the realms of darkness. ‘Silver Halides’ brings a bold, brawling swagger to a cautious and subdued party of picked guitar introversion, and the final piece in this mismatched musical jigsaw, the six-minute ‘Spy’ hits the groove and drives it out of the door – while the door is still closed. Just as they clearly know how to make an entrance, they obviously understand the importance of a memorable exit.

There’s no particular or overt theme which unifies Damage Mécanique, and nor is there really anything that’s obvious stylistically speaking, as the album tosses a whole load into the mix and feels, in many respects, quite introspective in its influences and inspirations. There are, however, strong and unusual contrasts in evidence, with doomy bass and twanging desert rock working in tandem to forge a unique sonic experience., alongside, well, you name it. Quirky, atmospheric, Damage Mécanique is odd, but also compelling. It could be just the album you need, too.

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14th October 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

Our last encounter with Brighton band Dog of Man was on the release of the single ‘Hello MI5’back in the spring. A frantic, frenetic genre clash, it proved to be quite an eye-opener.

And how, here we have the album, which they describe as ‘music to lose your shit to, a ritual of intense catharsis’, ‘delves into neuroses, madness and breakdown, delivered with punchy grooves, spidery guitar lines and gloriously distorted accordion.’

Wait, what? Accordion? This is not an instrument one tends to associate with any kind of heavy psych / weird indie / thrashy (post) punk hybrid, but then, Dog of Man do their own thing and make music their way.

The title is, thankfully, ironic. Instead of jaunty indie or breezy upbeat yacht rock Everything is Easy, the band promise an album that ‘delves into themes of neuroses, madness and breakdown – all set to punchy grooves, spidery guitar lines and fizzing accordion.’ Well, if it’s fizzing, maybe it is the instrument of choice.

Single cut ‘Turpentine’ blasts in with some ramshackle guitar that’s rushed and urgent, and as much as it’s indie with hints of The Wedding Present and early Ash, as well as contemporaries Asylums, and sets the manic pace for the album, which sees them skidding into the skewed shanty, ‘Accidentally Honest’. ‘Have you ever been accidentally honest?’ they ask. Well, have you?

With ‘No Click, No Edits’, this is properly rough and ready, raw and immediate, seemingly growing in pace and intensity as the album progresses. ‘Stroudits’ is both punky and theatrical with a dash of The Stranglers in the mix, before ‘Lurking in the Overnight Bag’ goes blues metal with a roustabout pirate slant, and reading that description back makes it sound absolutely shit, but it’s a work of twisted manic genius condensed into aa sub-two-minute adrenaline blast. Doorsy keyboards and nagging guitars reminiscent of Orange Juice are pulped together on ‘Headonastick’ before it shifts from being a driving racket that calls to mind Pulled Apart by Horses before veering off into a hoedown for the break. Are these guys nuts? It seems probable.

There’s just so much going on here; the chaotic cacophony of Gallon Drunk played with the swagger of Led Zeppelin and harpooned by the energy and knowingness of Electric Six are all packed together to tightly it’s impossible to really pick it apart or really fathom why it works, let alone has any kind of appeal. But perhaps the mystery is the appeal. When something is so crazy it shouldn’t work but does, it’s both because and in spite of it. And they make it sound so effortless.

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Warren Records – 25th November 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

While Leeds has a strong reputation and record for emerging noise-orientated rock bands, Hull is proving that it’s not far behind as a spawning ground for purveyors of noise-driven angst and anger.

As was the case in the 70s and 80s, social deprivation proves to be a powerful driver for the creation of art that channels frustration and the whole gamut of expression that comes from dark places, and from adversity. Of course, it’s always the North. Leeds spawned goth, Manchester Joy Division, Magazine, Slaughter and the Dogs, The Durutti Column. Sheffield, too, has a strong heritage of bands known for innovation born out of frustration, with Cabaret Voltaire being a strong starter for 10. Hull, of course, brought us Throbbing Gristle, arguably one of the most groundbreaking acts of the 70s and beyond.

Most punk bands, especially the Pistols, simply cranked out pub rock with a sneer and the guitars turned up. Throbbing Gristle went beyond any conventions of music to create a real soundtrack to alienation.

More recently, we’ve had The Holy Orders, Cannibal Animal, Low Hummer, Parasitic Twins, and many more. And now we have Bug Facer kicking out a disaffected din, and ‘Horsefly’ is one hell of a debut single, and clocking in at over six and a half minutes it’s a behemoth of a track.

The band say of ‘Horsefly’, ‘At its core the track is about struggle. It conjures images of being trapped or stuck in a box or something but we don’t want to give away too much! We try to write music that is evocative and suggestive, not being too direct with our lyrics and ideas as we’d much prefer our listeners to tell us what it is they hear and see as they listen to our tracks. Some people have said it’s like battling through and emerging from a storm, others say it’s like someone has angered the gods.’

The sense of struggle is conveyed keenly here: you feel the pain in your bones, in your muscles, nerves, and sinews. It pulls hard at the soul, at the same time as punching away at the guts with a methodical thud.

It’s a hefty, dirgy trudge that oozes anguish, and if the organic feel is rathe in the vein of Neurosis, the bands it’s closest to are Unsane and Kowloon Walled City. It’s bleak, grinding, stark and brutal. Its power derives not from distortion, or from pace, but from sheer density and crushing volume, and from raw power. It’s the kind of claustrophobic, pulverising heaviness that leaves you aching. This is serious. And Bug Facer are instantly my new favourite band.

18th November 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

Following on from big-hitting introductions in the form of single releases ‘A Working Class Lad’, Manchester’s The Battery Farm hit us with their debut album, Flies.

They describe it a ‘an album about end times fear and societal breakdown. It is an album that tries to come to terms with the violent world we find ourselves in, and tries to reconcile with an uncertain future in world that we have decimated. It’s about the endless, screaming noise of 21st Century living and the squalid claustrophobia that entails. Driven by fury, black humour, compassion and a desire for hope.’

These are all things I’m on board with: it’s essentially a list of the top things that gnaw away at my psyche and my soul on a daily basis. Because to live in the world right now is to live and breathe all shades of anxiety.

Some people – mostly right-wing wankers and idiots on social medial, especially Twitter – like to jeer and poke fun at those who intimate any kind of panic over the state of things, laughing their arses off at those who perpetuated ‘project fear’ and the so-called ‘remoaners’ and scoffing at the idea that this year’s heatwave is anything to do with climate change citing the summer of ’76. But these are the same tossers who whine about health and safety and speed limits as being symptomatic of a ‘nanny state’, and also the same tossers whose kids will die after swallowing batteries or burn the house down lighting fireworks indoors.

What I’m saying is that anyone who isn’t scared is either beyond oblivious or in denial. The world is literally on fire and drowning at the same time. Fittingly, Flies is an album of contrasts, both in terms of mood and style. There are fiery, guitar-driven flamers and more introspective compositions which are altogether more subdued and post-punk in their execution.

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The title track is but a brief introduction, a rushed, desperate spoken work piece set against – at first – a tense bass and a growing tide of swelling drums and guitars that in just over a minute ruptures into a full-on flood of rage. Distilling years of anguish into a minute and a half, it’s got hints of Benefits about it, and then we’re into the snaking groove of ‘A Working Class Lad’, that sees The 80s Matchbox B-Line Disaster collide with The Anti-Nowhere League in a gritty, gutsy punk blast with a surfy undercurrent.

It’s the combination of gritty synth bass and live bass guitar that drives the sound of the album. The former snarls, while that latter thuds, and in combination they pack some serious low-end punch in the way that Girls Against Boys and Cop Shoot Cop did. The synth gyrations also lend the sound a tense, robotic edge that gives it both a certain danceable bounce while at the same time heightening the anxiety of the contemporary, that sense of the dystopian futures so popular in science fiction are in fact our current lived reality.

‘In the Belly of the Beast’ is a stuttering blast of warped funk. In contrast, ‘Everything Will Be Ok’ is altogether more minimal, with hushed spoken word verses reminiscent of early Pulp, and tentative, haunting choruses which exude a subtle gothic vibe. And it all builds slowly, threatening a climax which never arrives. But then ‘Poet Boy’ drives at a hundred miles an hour and burns hard and fast to its finale in three and a half minutes.

‘DisdainGain’ comes on like Motorhead at their grittiest and most rampant, and again shows just how broad The Battery Farm’s palette is. By their own admission, they draw on elements of ‘Punk, Hardcore, Post Punk, Krautrock, Glam and Funk’, and one of the key strengths of Flies is its diversity – although its range does not make for a lack of coherence or suggest a band who haven’t found their identity, by any means. What’s more, the diversity is matched by its energy, its passion, and its sheer quality. Full of twists and turns and inspired moments of insight, Flies is a bona fide, ball-busting killer album. Fact.

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Clever Recordings – 21st October 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

Hot on the heels of ‘No Chains’ in the summer, Sleep Kicks follow up with ‘Neptune’ as we fade into autumn. And there’s something of an autumnal feel to the reflective feel of ‘Neptune’.

‘Was it an act of spite / Or was it the unrelenting time / That pulled you away that night?’ Terje Kleven questions contemplatively at the beginning of the song against a warm, rolling bass and rhythmic blend of piano and chilly synths. The vibe here is distinctly early Interpol, and it suits the band, and the song, well.

Kleven’s moderate baritone rides some deftly chiming guitar that breaks into a strong chorus where the synths come to the fore and sweep upwards to forge something uplifting while still tinged with a taint of melancholy.

Yet again, Sleep Kicks have dropped a killer tune that balances darkness and light, depth and immediacy, in an example of outstanding songwriting craftsmanship. Or, put simply, ‘Neptune’ is another great tune from a consistently great band.

Delivering a resolute punch with an acerbic sting in its tale, new single ‘Stamp You Out’ sees the Manchester band return to the spotlight with commanding form and typically uncompromising style.

From its blistering post/punk guitar lines to its punishing percussives, ‘Stamp You Out’ creates an impending atmosphere of anxiety throughout. With Adam Houghton’s trademark baritone vocal booming with all the force of an omnipotent autocrat at the lectern of a police state; it makes for a powerful statement of intent that instantly envelops listeners back into the shadow-strewn world of IST IST.
Speaking about ‘Stamp You Out’, Houghton says:

“[Stamp You Out] tips its hat to the previous IST IST where the modus operandi was to try and make an impact in the most forceful way; pounding drums and bass and repetitive lyrics. I remember watching a news report where a politician, whose name I forget, just kept saying: ‘we need to stamp this out’. I was thinking ‘we need to stamp you out’, so I wrote an aggressive fight song and a call to arms about it.”

The single is accompanied by an official video that sees the band deliver a voltaic performance of the track against a flurry of incandescent lights. Watch it here:

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Of the video Keating adds: “We felt like the track is a straightforward rock song which required a straightforward video and we didn’t want to over-embellish the visual aspect. For existing IST IST fans, it re-affirms what we’re all about, and for anyone new it tells you everything you need to know.”

The new single is also accompanied by the announcement of IST IST’s third studio album Protagonists, out 31 March 2022 via Kind Violence Records. After securing their status as one of Manchester’s most exciting acts with their 2020 debut Architecture, and then consolidating the title with its 2021 follow-up The Art of Lying; new album Protagonists arrives as something of a new dawn for the four-piece. As Andy Keating says:

“This was our first straightforward album, which sounds strange given it’s the third one. Our first album was a little bit of a back catalogue, and the rest was written in the same vein to have a coherent record. The second album was a stab in the dark and written and recorded during lockdown restrictions, but it broke us into the top 100. ‘Protagonists’ feels like the first album where there’s no pressure.”

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An album all about new beginnings, with a nod to the trials and tribulations of love, tricky family relationships and the feeling of being trapped by the past, ‘Protagonists’ arrives as an attestation to a band sure of their own identity. With the time and space to experiment in order to solidify their own sound, Keating adds:

“We originally started just exploring sounds and textures which appealed to us, and it evolved into fully-fledged songwriting. There are some elements which hark back to our ballsy days of a heavy sound, but we feel like this is a band expressing themselves how they want to.”

Owing its title to songwriter Adam Houghton’s magpie-like method of writing, Protagonists finds the frontman taking prominent characters that have caught his imagination, whether fictional or non-fictional, and transplanting them into dystopian worlds with new and uncertain outcomes. As Hougton explains:
“My process has always been taking inspiration from everything around me including but not limited to TV, Books, Movies, Newspaper, Articles on Wikipedia, Crime Documentaries etc. I then use these sources to craft fictitious stories around an imagined persona. The title ‘Protagonists” seemed to work with this method.”

Blurring the lines between fact and fiction and traversing a broad spectrum of genres, tracks like “Nothing More Nothing Less” — a  “simple love song written from a woman’s perspective” — take on a gauzy and ethereal pop-tinted quality, while slightly more menacing moments like “Fool’s Paradise” and “Trapdoors” find closer alignment with the band’s brooding, brazen rock roots.

From future favourites like “Something Has To Give”, a jittering guitar track about “a stick or twist situation”, to fully fitted-out classics like the anthemic “Emily” (a live fixture from the band’s earliest days, which has finally found its place on this record), ‘Protagonists’ will provide plenty to pore over for fans new and old.

Recorded and mixed by Michael Whalley and IST IST at Milkshed Studios, the album was mastered by the legendary  Greg Calbi and Steve Fallone at Sterling Sound (The National, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Interpol).
A compulsive, character-driven record from a band hitting their creative zenith, IST IST will release ‘Protagonists’ in Spring of 2023.

To mark the release, IST IST will be playing a special hometown launch show for the new record at the Manchester Ritz in March next year – details below. There will also be a small preview tour before the end of 2022, with dates in London, Birmingham and Hebden Bridge. Standby for further UK live dates soon.

IST IST UK LIVE SHOWS

NOVEMBER 2022

3/11 O2 Academy 2, Islington,
4/11 The Rainbow, Birmingham,
25/11 Trades Club, Hebden Bridge (Sold out)

MARCH 2023

31 – Manchester Ritz

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To coincide with the release of their debut album Fiesta, Leatherette have shared their latest single ‘Thin Ice’, a turmoiled love song about taking risks. They explain: “Musically, it’s a nervous mid-tempo post-punk-ska orchestral tune, sort of Talking Heads-esque. Lyrically, it is quite representative of our approach, both as people and as a band. An approach that can be summed up by the famous Winston Churchill’s quote: ‘If you’re going through hell, keep going’. We learnt, as musicians and young adults, that things tend not to work properly way more often than they do. But it’s not a big deal, It’s actually what makes life, love and art so special”.

We loved previous single ‘Sunbathing’ so much we even made the press release for this one. Look at those quotes! They’re all on the money, too.

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Listen to ‘Thin Ice’ here:

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Christopher Nosnibor

With Jeffrey Dahmer being all the rage on Netflix, hot on the heels of David Tennant’s portrayal of Dennis Nilsen on ITV, serial killers are no longer the domain of weirdoes and fans of industrial music: this shit is now completely mainstream. So while Le Cycne Noir’ss latest effort may have previously been considered in dubious taste, that’s no longer the case. It’s not even ‘edgy’ now: it’s regular evening televisual entertainment. This is, in many ways, more disturbing than the subject matter itself. What happened? When did so many become so twisted? When did this shit become mainstream, and why?

And so, here we are: to mark Halloween, Le Cycne Noir is planning a special seasonal new EP release entitled ‘Death & Consequences’ (out 28th October, via Anger Management Records), which they pitch as “Returning with a harrowing set of songs all about serial killers, the renegade electronic/prog artist is leading the way with the featured single ‘Burn Bundy Burn’”. A nonstop lasughriot, then.

The cover art is as tasteless as the topic, and it’s a trashy slab of crisply-produced punk-tinged hard rock with a ska-tinged rhythm and piano and lyrics that rhyme ‘clinically insane’ and ‘10,000 volts right through your brain’. The semi-spoken verses remind me of something I can’t quite place and it’s a shade derivative, but for all its faults, it’s a solid tune and kinda fun.

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