Posts Tagged ‘Shoegaze’

Christopher Nosnibor

This is by no means the first time I’ll have mentioned that sometimes, the best gigs are the ones you have to drag yourself to. The dragging here is no reflection on the bands, so much as the fact that when work and life are sapping your soul and you’re not feeling like doing anything ‘people’ orientated, the prospect of venturing out to be among people on a Tuesday night is not one that fires a burst of enthusiasm. You want to stay home. You want to hibernate. But the combination of beer and live music is so often the best therapy – and this proved to be one of those nights.

I have long lost count of the number of times I’ve seen or otherwise written about both Soma Crew and Percy, and while they both fit the bracket of ‘local’ bands, they’re both bands who bring great joy to see, and no-one dismisses London bands who only play a circuit of half a dozen small venues in London as ‘local’, do they? And you can’t watch ‘local’ bands in London with a decent hand-pulled pint in a proper glass for £4 a pint, either.

All three bands are playing on the floor in front of the stage, and The New Solar Drones have a lot of instruments spilling out, including a maraca, triangle, and timpani. It’s quite a sight to behold on entering, and the additional percussion goes a long way to giving the band a distinctive sound. Mellow country flavoured indie branches out in all kinds of directions. The rolling, thunderous drums lend a real sense of drama to the waves of noodling synths. The guitar workout on a song about Hollywood gets a bit Hotel California, but it’s well executed. The final track marks a shift from laid-back easy-going Americana into some kind of post-rock progressive folk that’s rather darker and lasts about ten minutes, complete with clarinet solo. They’ve got some rough edges to iron out, but the songs are solid and it’s an impressive debut.

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The New Solar Drones

With a new album around the corner, this is Percy’s first gig in seven months. Three quarters of the band are crowded to one side of the stage, while singer/guitarist Colin is on the other. Either it’s because he’s a grumpy sod, or perhaps just because his guitar amp is so bloody loud. ‘Going off on One’ kicks off the set energetically and sets the pace for a career-spanning selection that focuses on the more uptempo aspects of their catalogue. Bassist Andy’s post-lockdown look is J Mascis, but he charges around cranking out low end beef, and it’s the rhythm section that dominates, while Paula’s keyboards bring some melody and definition in contrast to the scratchy guitar sound.

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Percy

“Fray Bentos pie! With gravy!” The slower, synthier ‘Alice’ sounds more like Joy Division than their usual jagged post­punk grind and graft, but while most of the lyrics are indecipherable, the pie and gravy seem to be the focus. They really attack the snarling ‘Will of the People’, and its relevence seems to grow by the day. Colin comes on like Mark E Smith at his most vitriolic… and there, I failed in my attempt to review Percy without recourse The Fall. Seems it just can’t be done. They close with a brand new song, ‘Chunks’, about ‘chunks in gravy!’ Yep, definitely a theme, and if Percy are something of a meat and potatoes band, it’s in the way The Wedding Present are hardy perennials and brimming with northern grit.

A resonant throb gradually leaks from the PA, and from it emerges Soma Crew’s quintessential motorik pumping. Standing near the front, I reflect on the fact I could use a wide angle lens to get all of them in. They have a lot of guitars. The front man from The New Solar Drones is on keys and lap steel and, later guitar, and the lap steel accentuates the band’s overall drone and gives something of a Doorsy vibe.

They’re on serious form tonight, sounding solid and energetic. Shifting up to three guitars, they hit a swinging rock ‘n’ roll blues boogie groove.

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Soma Crew

While I find myself drifting on this tripped-out repetition, I consider the fact that less is more. Chords, that is, not instruments. Four guitars (if you count the bass) playing three chords in an endless cycle is better than two guitars, which in turn is better than one. The songs and structures are simple: the effect is all in the layering up and the reverb. Listening to bands that are overtly about the technical proficiency is often pretty dull. Passion and mood count for so much more. Volume helps, and with a brutal backline and sympathetic sound man, they hit that sweet spot where it hurts just a bit even with earplugs. Simon’s slightly atonal droning vocals are soporific, and everything just melts into an all-engulfing wash of sound. ‘Mirage’ kicks with volume and solid repetitive groove, while ‘Say You Believe’ is straight up early Ride/Chapterhouse, before ‘Propaganda Now’ is a blistering drive through a wall of Jesus and Mary Chain inspired feedback that brings the set to a shimmering, monster climax.

I stumble out, my ears buzzing, elated. Because everything came together to surpass expectations to make for an outstanding night.

PENCEY SLOE are now premiering the video clip ‘Smile to Zero’ as the first single taken from the dreamgaze rockers’ sophomore full-length Neglect, which has been slated for release on August 19.

The band comment: “At first you think that the comfortable zone of emptiness is your friend, until it grabs you so hard that your mind twists and locks itself up”, writes singer and guitarist Diane Pellotieri. “It was important to create a video in a dimension other than reality as we all embody a virtual profile these days. The repetitive movements of the characters and their aesthetics echo the underlying problem of the digital age that is imposed on us. I view surrendering to the virtual space as a self-surrender. The video’s characters are gradually drawn into a horror, which does not even frighten them anymore. I see the same mechanism in real world situations like depression or dependency.”

Watch the video here:

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Pic by Nicolas Di Vincenzo

28th April 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

While physical formats for music may not be especially popular these days, there really is no substitute for holding an article in in your hand. It’s not just about the artefact or the possession – although increasingly, I feel that actually ‘owning’ your music seems like a sound move as acts pull their music from popular platforms – particularly Spotify – and acts who no longer exist cease to maintain their websites and BandCamp profiles and their works simply disappears. Nothing is permanent, but when it comes to things which are virtual, their ephemerality is even more pronounced. This is a long way to coming around to saying that the CD for Abrasive Trees’ new single is magnificent as an item, and it’s very much a fitting way to present the musical contents, and with three tracks including a remix of ‘Moulding Heaven with Earth’ by Mark Beazley (Rothko), it’s a proper 12” / CD single release, the likes of which are sadly scarce these days.

I don’t just love it for the nostalgia: this feels like a proper, solid package in every way, and ‘Moulding Heaven with Earth’ is very much cut from the cloth of sparse, minimal shoegazey post-rock, which provides the backdrop to a stirring spoken word performance before spinning into a slow-burning extended instrumental work. It builds and it broods, the atmosphere growing denser and tender as the picked guitar lines unfurl and interweave across a slow, strolling bass. A reflection on life and death, earth and afterlife, it’s a compelling performance, and the words would stand alone either on a lyrics sheet or as a poem. From there, it’s a gradual, and subtle journey that culminates in a crescendo – that’s strong, yet restrained.

B-side / AA side ‘Kali Sends Flowers’ is moving: again, it’s understated, and yet so very different, spinning a blend of post punk – even hinting at the gothier end of the post-punk spectrum – and psychedelia that in places hints at Spear of Destiny in the way it’s sparse yet rousing. It’s one of those songs that simply isn’t long enough, and that demands for ‘repeat’ to be hit immediately to keep it going.

Mark Beazley’s remix of ‘Moulding Heaven with Earth’ accentuates the atmospherics, and while it retains the rhythm – and if anything it highlights the beef of the bass – and is generally quite respectful in its treatment, and somehow expands the vibe and introduces a more ambient feel, while at the same time shaving over a minute off the time of the original. It’s an interesting – and I mean that positively – reworking, and one that most definitely brings something fresh to the track, rounding off what’s as close to a perfect EP as you’ll hear all year.

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Sargent House – 29th April 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

If you’re looking for the short version, Helms Alee’s sixth album is a belter – a rich, deep, and intense experience that combines the delicate and atmospheric with thunderous, grindingly heavy riff-driven assaults.

To expand on that… well, it’s hard to know exactly where to begin. It’s not really an album to dissect, because to do so would be to pick apart the magic – and yes, magic is what it is, something conjured from the air and pulling on all of the elements to create something… something beyond, and something bigger. And there are so many great tunes on Keep This Be the Way, too. Yes, real tunes, proper songs.

‘See Sights Smell Smells’ intimates a delicate chime of post-rock that builds to a crescendo, but it rapidly progresses beyond that, into a thunderous blast of tension that leaps out and scorches like a solar flare.

Helms Alee are by no means the first band to combine elements of post rock with a host of other styles and forms – And So I Watch You From Afar and pelican are among the first who come to mind when it comes to post-rock with the emphasis on rock that pack a real punch, but they’re still not particularly close comparisons: ‘How Party to You Hard’ is dreamy shoegaze but hard, like A Place to Bury Strangers covering Slowdive, and ‘Tripping Up the Stairs’ goes all out on the searing racket, explosions of noise that’s every bit as much Nirvana as it is Sonic Youth as they push their way around the dynamic range that flips between heavy and absolutely fucking raging.

Then you’ve got ‘Big Louise’, a soft, gentle, semi-ambient indie wafter that’s nice but unremarkable but for the immense reverb. You can’t exactly complain that there are a couple of cuts that seem to ease off the gas a bit, not least of all because sometimes, it’s simply impossible to any song to really hold its own in such illustrious company, and the fact of the matter is that the majority of the songs on Keep This Be the Way are so, so strong there’s only one way to go.

The seven-minute ‘Do Not Expose to the Burning Sun’ is a slow-burning serpentine twister, building around an insistent and ominous bassline into a dark, hypnotic squaller that calls to mind both The Pain Teens and The God Machine, while the yawning drone of ‘Mouth Thinker’ evokes the spirit of Ride and Chapterhouse, and boasts a breezy melody as well as scorching blasts of overdrive that emerge from nowhere to tower as shimmering walls of kaleidoscopic noise.

These contrasts provide much of the joy in listening to Keep This Be the Way. It’s an album that’s steeped in 90s vintage, and if you were going to pitch it anywhere, it would be in the indie bracket – but to pitch it anywhere, or align it to any one, or even any three genres, would be to sell the album short and grotesquely misrepresent it. Yet for all the hybridization and seemingly incongruous crossovers, Helms Alee manage to melt everything together magnificently, making not just music but pure aural alchemy.

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22nd April 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

This seems to have been a long while coming – and that’s because it has. The New-wave / No-Wave gothy post-punk duo have been kicking out killer EPs for a decade already. Six EPs and a single to be precise, with each EP containing five, six, or even seven tracks. It’s a substantial body of work, however you look at it. And yet it’s only now that they’ve got around to an album proper.

They’ve made the most of the time and the previous releases to realty hone and refine their sound, and having done so, Admire feels like a proper album. It’s ten tracks, solid, packed, back-to-back, arranged with sequence in mind. It’s a sequence that finds things getting slower in the second half, and it would be interesting to hear how this pans over two sides of vinyl. Admire would likely be dissected as having a ‘fast’ and a ‘slow’ side.

As Admire demonstrates, GHXST have remained true to their original sound and ethos – scuzzy, reverb-soaked murkinesss, with a deep psychedelic twist. There’s a lot of twist and a lot of noise on Admire. Comparisons only go so far with these guys, and while The Jesus and Mary Chain is an obvious one, they’re probably closest to A Place to Bury Strangers in their shimmering wall of sound face-melting blast of FX and overdrive. I may have also mentioned Curve before as a comparison: it still stands, and I’m wondering why when people are whittering about various 90s bands

The build on the upward arc is fairly rapid to say the least: it’s just over two minutes into single cut ‘Pls, You Must Be a Dream’ that the extra level of distortion kicks in and blows the roof off everything. And for a time thereafter, you find yourself adrift in a wash of reverb and overloading distortion. Things simply drift: it’s dense, it swashes and coasts along, splashing against the shores as the waves splash the deck, and each song has a certain supple power.

‘Sonores’, the album’s seventh track, marks the first real spot of respite as they pare things back to a swampy synth and bulbous bass notes hang in the dense air, and ‘Nights of Paradise’ slows things to a crawling trudge that threatens to take the album down into a low-tempo slump, as if they’ve run out of steam and simply got stoned to a half-pace stoned sonic swamp. In context, recent single ‘Marry the Night’ is a bit of a crawler, and closer ‘Only Lovers’ is a murky slice of wistful melancholy. Of course, all the best albums conclude with a slow-burning epic, and this is definitive. Don’t ask me why, but this is one of those slow-burning min-epics with piano and a towering wall of rippling overdrive what tugs hard on the emotions and makes me want to cry without even understanding why. But it is, without question, an outstanding finale to what is, also without question, an outstanding album.

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Avalyn formed in late 2021 after long-time friends Andy Power (Guitar & Vocals) and Ben Croft (Lead Guitar) decided to start writing together due to them both being dissatisfied with their previous musical efforts. Soon joined by Cain Garcia (Drums) and Emily Turnbull (Bass & Vocals), the band appeared all over their local music scene in 2021, including playing their first gig supporting Junodream alongside Lime Garden at The Shipping Forecast in Liverpool, as well as going into Whitewood Recording Studio with Robert Whiteley to record their latest offering.

Influenced by the great punk powerhouses, Avalyn takes their cues from the likes of My Bloody Valentine, Slowdive and Lush. What emerges is the ferociously uplifting sound that can be heard on the group’s latest track; ‘When We Were Nothing’, out 24th March. Featuring mastering work from the Lead Singer & Guitarist of the seminal 90s Shoegazing band RIDE, Mark Gardener, the track melds brooding experimentalism, with an unshakeable punk sound. Thrashing guitars play under Power’s haunting vocals, as he sings about the euphoric uncertainty that comes with youth, and the always present, uncertain future.

“When We Were Nothing was the second song we ever wrote together as a band,” says Power. “Our guitarist Ben brought in the main riff and I could tell from the beginning it was going to be great, so I wrote a verse for it and then we wrote the lyrics together.  Everything really came to life once we brought it into the practice room with the addition of Cain’s drum part and Emily’s bass and vocal Recording with Rob Whiteley was a lot of fun as we felt like he was able to help give us the freedom to experiment with the sounds we wanted as well as being able to put all our ideas together into a cohesive mix. The mastering job from Mark Gardener was the final touch that has taken the song to another level and we’re excited to continue working with him going forward.”

Listen here:

 

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LA-based noise duo GHXST has announced the release of their debut full-length album Admire, out on April 22.

They have now shared ‘Pls, You Must Be A Dream’, the first single taken from the upcoming record. The song adds a surf goth element to the duo’s signature metal-inflected sound and "is an ode to the obsessions that haunt you, like a half-remembered scene from an arthouse film. As Shelley X coldly intones “You’re the only one” over a menacing surf riff, it’s not clear whether it’s for a lost love or a memory of times past. As always, the allure is in the unknown".

The single is accompanied by a video directed and edited by GHXST’s very own Shelley X. Watch it here:

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Photo courtesy of the artist

A Place to Bury Strangers find tenderness in the unlikeliest of places with ‘Love Reaches Out’, the fifth single and new music video from their critically acclaimed sixth album, See Through You, out now (digitally) and on March 11th (vinyl) on Dedstrange.

“’Love Reaches Out’ is the hope at the end of the tunnel that concludes this album,” says Oliver Ackermann. “I went through such a traumatic experience writing this record and yet people were there to help me, so this song is about appreciating and thanking them.” With its triumphant marching snare and a hooky bassline, ‘Love Reaches Out’ concludes See Through You on a warm and fuzzy note—though not the guitar kind. No circuit can contain the electrifying joy of two souls united. “Moments like this highlight how much [Ackermann has] grown as a singer,” writes Heather Phares at AllMusic. In her review of See Through You, she praises ‘Love Reaches Out’ as “Ackermann and company’s most empathetic song to date.”

In the music video directed by horror auteur Gabriel Carrier (For The Sake Of Vicious, The Demolisher), the third in a series of horror movie directors the band reached out to, a woman unexpectedly encounters and reaches out to a shapeshifting entity in the most unlikely manner. This entity befriends her after it was left for dead and gives her the support needed to help battle her own anxiety and inner demons. “It reminds us not to turn a blind eye to the small things and that friendships can manifest in the most unlikely ways,” says Carrier.

Watch the video here:

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A Place To Bury Strangers announce the release of their sixth album See Through You on 4th February 2022. It’s not just a return to form for the band, but also a return to their fiercely independent, DIY roots on their own label, Dedstrange.

Outpacing even their own firmly blazed path of audio annihilation, this 13-track album repeatedly delivers the massive walls of chaos and noise that A Place To Bury Strangers are renowned for. It’s an explosive journey that explores the listener’s limits of mind-bending madness, while simultaneously offering the catchiest batch of songs in the band’s discography. It’s a nod to the art school ethos of the band’s origins, while forging a new and clear direction forward.

The first single ‘Let’s See Each Other’ is an intimate and disarming love song from a forgotten future. Syncopated memories and deconstructed fantasies of lovers lost in a city that doesn’t know their names. The accompanying video, directed by David Pelletier, features the band destroying the song while imploring people to reunite.

Watch the video here:

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Photo by Ebru Yildiz

Italian shoegaze and post-rock project led by Gianluca Divirgilio, Arctic Plateau have just revealed a music video for a brand new track titled ‘Saturn Girl’, which is taken from their third album Songs of Shame, due out on December 3rd via Shunu Records.

Watch the video here:

Emerging from an eight-year hiatus, songwriter Gianluca Divirgilio brings his darkest and most introspective thoughts to light with Arctic Plateau’s Songs of Shame. Recorded by Fabio Fraschini at PlayRec Studio,mixed and produced by Gianluca Divirgilio at Arctic Plateau Studio, the follow-up to 2012’s second effort, "The Enemy Inside", is an album of intimate and powerful performances that serve as the first steps toward a healing that has been decades in the making. Pre-orders are now available at this location.

Formed by Gianluca Divirgilio in 2006, Arctic Plateau is a post-rock and shoegaze project from Rome, Italy. Having signed to Prophecy Productions in 2008, Divirgilio recorded his first studio album On a Sad Sunny Day in 2009, followed by a split-release with Les Discrets in 2011. 2012 saw the release of his second full-length, The Enemy Inside, which allowed him to open for Anathema on their Italian tour.

The newest record called Songs of Shame will be released in late 2021 by Shunu Records, and distributed by Season of Mist.

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