Posts Tagged ‘Sex Cells’

Pretty Ugly Records – 13th March 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

So I stumbled over Sex Cells by practically sticking a pin in last year’s Live at Leeds programme, and it paid off. Ok, that’s not quite true: while surveying the schedule, they looked interesting and probably worth a punt, so I took a gamble it paid off, with the their tense industrial-edged electronica that reminded me of Pretty Hate Machine era Nine Inch Nails, only weirder and sleezier. Coupled with the duo’s slightly oddball, even vaguely awkward, presentation, it was compelling. The same has been true of their releases to date, which lead us to this, their debut album.

The album’s cover is a bizarre watercolour-style tableau of the pair, and on the one hand, it’s naff (and I’m being polite: the more you look at it, the more awful details reveal themselves. Like, is the cat really supposed to be licking her nipple? What’s that on his dick?), but on the other, it’s a perfect encapsulation of their perverse, quirky style. They don’t play by the rules. And if their name is a play on the adage and Soft Cell, then it’s entirely fitting. If it isn’t, it maybe ought to be.

The headline here should perhaps be that David M Allen is the lead producer here. Renowned for his work with The Human League, The Sisters of Mercy, The Mission, Depeche Mode, The Psychedelic Furs, Wire, The Associates, and The Chameleons, little more probably needs to be said here, beyond the fact that in terms of production, ‘That’s Life’ sounds like you’d probably expect.

‘That’s Life’ bridges the gap between The Human League and Nine Inch Nails, and doesn’t include any of their previous single releases apart from leader ‘Deranged’, which crashed in with a suitably salaciously shocking promo video in March, demonstrating their tenser, harder-edged side while at the same time nailing everything about the band into a box of two-and-a-half minutes.

Opening song, ‘Shimmer,’ is dominated by a low-slung oscillating bass and trudging drum machine that provides the backdrop to Matt Kilda’s monotone spoken word vocal and Willow Vincent’s lost, demented banshee shrillness that calls to mind Skeletal Family, early Siouxsie, and early Cranes.

‘We Are Still Breathing’ is a neatly-crafted reflective electropop tune. It’s got hooks, melody, and a dreamy quality. Things take a dark turn on the next song, ‘Human Costume’ a spiky post-punk electrogoth stomper that screams Hallowe’en and horror, with some pretty barbed lyrics that turn the mirror on society and the human psyche. And it still packs a killer chorus, too.

They go full death disco with ‘Cruel Design’, and Willow coms on all breathy and ice witch in the vocal department, bringing a contrast between the vibrant energy of the instrumentation and the cold detachment of the voice, in a role reversal between human and machine. It’s a complete contrast to the final song, ‘Hang the Flowers’, which is a sparse, folksy number that ripples dappled shade to fade.

The combination of shock tactics and neat dark-edged electropop is a well-established tradition that can probably be traced back as far as Suicide, but really became a thing in the 80s, and as such, Sex Cells should by rights be a yawn, their edginess predictable, their material laden with well-worn tropes, and the metaphorical shrug of a title does nothing to raise expectations. And yet they make it work, and make it exciting.

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Pretty Ugly Records – 24th May 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

The London synth duo follow up on last year’s debut double A-side ‘Are You Ready’ / ‘Hell Is Where the Heart Is’ with ‘Modern Witchcraft’, which according to the press release ‘sees the band explore Britain’s lost highways in their darkly psychedelic animation’.

Having spent the last few months holed up with Dave M. Allen (The Cure, Sisters Of Mercy, Yassasin), Matt Kilda and Willow Vincent have been experimenting hard, and this singe is the first fruits to be revealed from the forthcoming ‘Cheer Up The Apocalypse Is Here’ EP.

Instead of lamenting the absent comma, I shall instead concentrate on focusing my energies on celebrating the taut goth-hued electropop of ‘Modern Witchcraft’. It mines a supremely retro seam of 80s bleakness, pulling together Gary Numan, The Human League, and Depeche Mode, with the warmth of analogue condensing against a chilly atmosphere and brittle, stripped-back production to evoke a sense of desolation, of isolation.

Whichever fan review suggested Sex Cells are ‘helping define the anxiety and utter dread of late-stage Capitalism’ was on the money: if it’s the sound of the 80s intensified for the post-millennial world, it’s fitting, given that the parallels between then and ow are clear – only then, we only had one clear enemy and cause of social division, and less CCTV.

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Sex Cells

London based synth duo, Sex Cells have shared the video for their debut single ‘Hell Is Where The Heart Is’.

The double A-Side release also features ‘Are You Ready’ and will be available digitally and released on limited edition seven inch vinyl on their own Pretty Ugly Records. Under the guidance of Raf.E and produced by Dave M. Allen (The Cure, Yassassin), the two songs will be accompanied by a series of surrealist artworks made by the band – like a love letter to a nightmare.

Taking their inspiration from early synth pioneers such as Wendy Carlos and Delia Derbyshire, Sex Cells perform a kind of ritual dance – a mixture of Suicide, Psychic TV, and Art House sensibilities. The band are Matt Kilda and Willow Vincent, originally hobbyist promoters running monthly nights of live music and visual projections for experimental noise acts. Sex Cells started off life as a purge of shared anger after the pair were ripped off in a house rental scam. Left completely penniless from the fraud, they sought sanctuary in a Peckham rehearsal room where they decided to document their crisis with a synth and house drum kit.

Soon after, early shows in South London for Trashmouth Records introduced the pair to those at the centre of the same scene that The Fat White Family and Shame have risen through. Finding musical allies in bands like Meatraffle and Madonnatron, Sex Cells have become regular fixtures at nights around London, sharing bills with the likes of The Rhythm Method and HMLTD.

Sex Cells  have been navigating London full circle ever since, setting up camp wherever they can, and rarely staying in one place for longer than a few months. Together with a mutual interest in Dadaist values, Surrealist imagery and an obsession with ‘lost London’ and the esoteric, the band’s slum living conditions and precarious existence has provided a fitting thematic universe which both of these tracks draw from.

Watch the video here:

A truly exciting live prospect who reject the modern stereotype of electronic music made by laptops, Sex Cells will play following London shows in August:

LIVE DATES:

AUG 09TH    THE FINSBURY, LONDON N4

AUG 11TH    THE FIVE BELLS, STREATHAM, LONDON SW16