Posts Tagged ‘Shoegaze’

Christopher Nosnibor

The return of live music remains on a balance beam of managing finances and staff / punter safety, especially in terms of what people are comfortable with. Every gig, therefore, is a gamble, and tonight’s is no exception: for while The Fulford Arms had spent lockdown not only working on making nots own space as safe and accommodating as possible, as well as campaigning hard for other local venues and live music in general, they’ve used the time to make improvements that had been longer-term plans, they still face the challenge of bringing punters in.

Tonight’s event benefits from a Lottery-funded two for one offer on tickets, which has encouraged a respectable showing for a wet Thursday night. It’s all good, but PINS have been struck by (non-Covid) illness and are two members down, and so are playing a stripped-back set as a foursome without a drummer. But they’re troopers, and so the show goes on, and Tides walk on to crashing waves and crystalline ambience, before launching into a set of jangly, melodic indie with a distinctly late 80s / early 90s vibe. The foursome are young, and while not especially outgoing in their performance, play with an assurance that comes across well, and they’re tight and solid, but still with much to learn.

They land the slowie early, with the emotive ‘You’ being third in an eight-song set. Revelling in their poppier leanings is a cover of Lizzo’s ‘Juice’, and it’s well-played, but bland, although well-received by their friends down the front. But two covers in such a short set isn’t best form: either they’re yet to accumulate enough original material or lack the confidence in what they have, but the less said about their competent but characterless rendition of Shania Twain’s ‘Man, I Feel Like a Woman’ the better, as well as the sixth-form handbag dancing it inspired. They feel like a band who haven’t fully decided their identity yet, swinging between a slick contemporary pop and more of a female-fronted Smiths or Wedding Present. Given time, they’ll hopefully figure out how to combine the two, but in the meantime, they prove to be a fun and competent support act.

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PINS are one of those bands I feel I should know but simply haven’t got to for various reasons, and so I won’t claim in any sense to know the tracks from their three albums – but the strength of any band is to deliver a set than has the capacity to not only please established fans, but to convert new ones from among an impartial crowd.

Admittedly, I took little convincing: the first song of the set lifts a 3-note motorik looping bass groove from Suicide’s ‘Ghostrider’, and they hold that insistent repetition into the second. It’s an instant grab. It actually sounds a bit like 90s indie / shoegaze / goth act Sunshot, who I revisited just the other week. It’s certainly no criticism, so much as an indicator of their post-punk/ shoegaze / crossover sound, propelled by sparse percussion with a vintage drum-machine sound. Landing in at the third track in the set ‘Bad Girls Forever’ brings a country / gospel vibe to the thumping new wave sound that’s counterbalanced by an abundance of electropop sass, while ‘Ponytail’ sashays and swishes through an easy pop that carries a sentiment of girl power 2020s style. They do political, too, with the stomping ‘serve the Rich’ snapping and sneering over a thumping bass groove.

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In terms of performance, PINS are the epitome of cool, with Faith Verne’s oversized shades positively screaming ‘pop icon’ and Lois MacDonald guitarist affecting the best bored face as she treads on the spot throughout the set.

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If the sound itself is a well-realised take on preexisting forms, it’s the multi layered vocals that really make PINS stand out here, and it all makes for an engaging show. The women who’d spent the set dancing down the front were up on stage for the final song, and there sense of togetherness was palpable. If any reminder was needed that there really is nothing like live music to nourish the soul, then PINS provided it here tonight.

Vinyl Eddie Records – VINED006 & VINED007 – 9th July 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Opposites and opposition – and the way in which those contrasts are core to our understanding of the world and our place in it – have been key points of exploration in art for centuries. The concept of either / or, light / dark, heaven / hell is the foundation of Judaeo-Christian religions and those polarities became the core tropes of Elizabethan poetry, at the dawn of modern literature. Sir Thomas Wyatt’s ‘I Find No Peace’ cements these tropes that have come to define both internal conflict, the turmoil of love, and the fundamental dichotomies of the human condition.

And yet it’s Earth’s Angels Of Darkness, Demons Of Light, released in two parts that comes to mind when presented with Soma Crew’s new offering, a twin vinyl release capturing two days’ intensive recording to collectively forge one monumental document of the band’s creative work since the release off 2019’s F for Fake in 2019.

I know, I know I always say the same when writing of Soma Crew – which I have done often since they formed under the guide of Muttley Crew back in 2013 – that they get better with every release, with every show. But that’s the simple fact of the matter. They tend not to deviate far from their psychedelic drone style that’s most reminiscent of Black Angels, but that isn’t to say they don’t push their limits in the execution. But most importantly, they know how to batter away at a riff for an age and whip up a psychedelic haze.

Out Of Darkness / Into Light is a slow-burner, and marks something of a shift, and on first listen, I was a shade concerned by the lack of motoric beats and shimmering walls of distortion and delay rippling over cascading riffs. But this is the new direction: the beats are still motoric, but simply more minimal and subdued, and the emphasis has shifted toward a more understated and minimalist sound.

The first track, ‘Phantom’ starts off simple, plugging away at a four-chord riff with a hint of swagger that’s almost Primal Scream. The guitar sound is clean, shimmering, and Si Micklethwaite’s vocal is pretty low in the mix, meaning everything blends together gently. There are heavy hints of early Fall about the six-and-a-half-minute ‘You’re So Cool’ – the easy-tripping clean guitar with its naggingly repetitious riff is straight off Live at the Witch Trials or Dragnet. It’s simple, it’s immediate, and the fact it was recorded on the spot only accentuate these qualities.

Soma Crew don’t do short songs: of the twelve here, only two are under five minutes, with the majority clocking in around the six-minute mark. There’s plenty of throbbing bass runs and repetitions and spacey slide guitar going on here, and these qualities are integral to the Soma sound. They’re not a ‘chorus’ band, but a band who create a hypnotic atmosphere through their endlessly cyclical riffs and the plod of the percussion – by no means a criticism here, as drummer Nick understands that less is more – using a setup consisting solely of snare and floor tom for the duration. This minimal ‘Bobby Gillespie’ setup works well, meaning the instruments occupy the space – or don’t – instead of the conventional sound whereby crashing cymbals fill the sound the a load of top-end mess that so often sounds crap.

‘There’s a Fire’ steps up the urgency eight songs in, but instead of going all guns blazing with distortion and a blast of cymbals and snares, Soma Crew hold steady. The slow down again for the forlorn country meandering of ‘Broken Matches’ and counterpart ‘Machines’ with some nice lap steel work, and there’s no question that Out Of Darkness / Into Light is a more ponderous, reflective set of songs, and rather than being a set of two distinct halves, it’s very much a coherent and unified work.

If anything about Out Of Darkness / Into Light intimates production values that eschew slickness and polish, that’s one of its real selling points: recorded live over two days in January 2020, this is a band at work, and it’s an album that captures what they actually sound like, rather than a studio-based tweaked and fiddled fantasy version of what they might sound like if they were another band entirely. Hearing them stripped back and sparse, they sound musically confident even while Micklethwaite’s plaintive vocal navigates seams of self-doubt and introspection through the lyrics, and this album shows that plugging away at simple, cyclical chord structures is as effective and hypnotic without the deluge of effects as with.

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Dedstrange Records – 16th July 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

It’s been a while since we last heard from New York’s purveyors of treble-blasting psychedelic post-punk noise – they slipped album number five, Pinned out back in the spring of 2018, since when they’ve been relatively quiet. Not that one of the contenders for the ‘loudest band in the world’ tag ever do quiet, in terms of volume of output, with an EP and self-released single in 2019.

The Hologram EP is the first release with a new lineup, whereby core member Oliver Ackermann is joined by John Fedowitz (bass) and Sandra Fedowitz (drums) of Ceremony East Coast, and comes from a difficult place at a difficult time, ‘with songs addressing the decay of connections, friendships lost, and the trials and tribulations of these troubled times, Hologram serves as an abstract mirror to the moment we live in’, details the press release. The tone is pretty apocalyptic: ‘Written and recorded during the on-going global pandemic and in the midst of the decline of civilization, Hologram is a sonic vaccine to the horrors of modern life.’

And if Pinned was perhaps their most overtly 80s-sounding release, Hologram pushes the experimentalism that began to become pronounced from Transfixiation while amalgamating all of the elements that have featured across their career to date.

Previous singles ‘End of the Night’ and ‘I Might Have’ provide the opening salvoes: the former’s murky percussion-driven blast of noise is a bassy, booming, raw slice of fucked up psychedelia. Everything is warped, melting, overloading, like MBV covering The Monkees, and the latter being pretty much classic APTBS, a blur of three-chord rock ‘n’ roll riffing – the Jesus and Mary Chain as filtered through Black Rebel Motorcycle Club – minus any desire for even the slightest hint of polish.

‘Playing the Part’ is short, a melodic indie jangle with a light, easy melody and a melancholy that belies the breeziness as it emanates from the frayed edges. ‘In My Hive’ revisits the form of ‘Now It’s Over’ from Transfixiation, only it goes somewhere else – and if Transfixiation pushed the boundaries of songs that felt incomplete, fragmentary, as if the structures are only partial and prone to cracking and splintering apart as they go, then the Hive is being used as a piñata by some crazed maniacs, and all the while the insistent beat hammers away like a palpating heart in the midst of a panic attack.  

Things gets slower and dreamier with the slow-unfurling shoegaze wisps of closer ‘I Need You’. With a Cure-like wistfulness, it’s again familiar territory, particularly in context of Pinned, but also songs like ‘Dissolved’ from Worship. Where this differs, again, is in the production: the brutal shards of feedback still swirl and soak the bass and vocals and at times almost bury the sparse drums, but whereas before the EQ was geared toward the top-end and walls of ear-splitting treble, there’s a lot of mid- and lower-range present here, which creates a more subdued and less attacking sound.

As with everything APTBS do, it sounds distinctively like ABPTBS, but once again, sounds and feels different, and the mood on Hologram is as much the departure as any aspect of the songwriting or sound itself. Whereas there has historically been a sense of obliterative catharsis about the shattering noise that defines their catalogue, Hologram feels darker and more introspective, and it feels fitting.

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A Place To Bury Strangers share new single/video ‘I Might Have’ from their forthcoming Hologram EP out 16 July on founding member Oliver Ackermann’s label Dedstrange. Following lead single End Of The Night‘, ‘I Might Have’ is a fuzz-soaked sonic disaster in the best possible way. Past reflections collide with the brutality of a disintegrating world, stories of personal trauma, acceptance, and human failings emerge from the rubble of noise and destitute motorik rhythms. This is A Place To Bury Strangers at its most honest and unfiltered. Hologram serves as an abstract mirror to the moment we live in and ‘I Might Have’ smashes that mirror into a thousand pieces.

‘I Might Have’ is about the insecurities of life and growing up and when you just have to turn around and say ‘F*ck it,’” says Ackermann. “Life sucks so we may as well have a good time.” The accompanying video visualizes this mentality as it shows the band raucously hanging out together in New York City.

Watch the video here:

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A Place To Bury Strangers 2022 Tour Dates – Tickets on sale NOW

Wed 09 March – Hafenklang – Hamburg, Germany  

Thu 10 March – Beatpol – Dresden, Germany

Fri 11 March – Klub Poglos – Warsaw, Poland

Sat 12 March – Futurum – Prague, Czech Republic
Sun 13 March – Randal Club – Bratislava, Slovakia

Mon 14 March – Durer Kert – Budapest, Hungary

Wed 16 March – Control Club – Bucharest, Romania

Thu 17 March – Mixtape5 – Sofia, Bulgaria
Fri 18 March – Eightball – Thessaloniki, Greece

Sat 19 March – Temple – Athens, Greece
Mon 21 March – 25th of May Hall – Skopje, Macedonia

Tue 22 March – Club Drugstore – Belgrade, Serbia

Thu 24 March – Mochvara – Zagreb, Croatia
Fri 25 March – Freakout Club – Bologna, Italy

Sat 26 March – Largo – Rome, Italy
Sun 27 March – Legend Club – Milan, Italy

Tue 29 March – Bogen F – Zurich, Switzeralnd
Wed 30 March – Backstage – Munich, Germany

Thu 31 March – Caves Du Memoir – Martigny, Switzeralnd

Fri 01 April – La Trabendo – Paris, France
Sat 02 April – Lafayette – London, UK
Mon 04 April – Kayka – Antwerp, Belgium
Tue 05 April – Gleis 22 – Munster, Germany
Wed 06 April – Melkweg – Amsterdam, Netherlands

Thu 07 April – Vera- Groningen, Netherlands
Sat 09 April – Hus 7 – Stockholm, Sweden
Sun 10 April – John Dee – Oslo, Norway
Mon 11 April – Pumpehuset – Copenhagen, Denmark

Tue 12 April Hole 44 – Berlin, Germany
Wed 13 April – MTC – Cologne, Germany

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Big Stir Records – 4th June 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Well here’s a wakeup: The Speed Of Sound are into their fourth decade, yet are so underground they’ve bypassed me all this time. I feel a certain sense of both guilt and shame for this. Obviously, no reviewer can know everything about every band going, but sometimes, a band will slip under the radar and leave you kicking yourself. The Speed Of Sound is one such band.

The fact they’re releasing a double A-side says something about their vintage. 7” singles may still be a thing, but they’re a niche, collector thing rather than the thing you’d experience as a youth. I was in my early teens – perhaps younger – when I’d go into town and visit WHS or Boots or perhaps Woolworths and pick up a 7” single for 99p, and the B-side would often be as integral a part of the experience as the A-side, while a AA said sometimes meant the second A-side – the one less likely to be played on the radio – was the better one. Hearing it would be a revelation after you slipped it over the spindle and onto the turntable. It was a magical experience that words struggle to convey.

The two tracks on this release are thematically-linked in that they’re all about the band’s love for sci-fi soaked in reverb and with some hints of dappled sunlight mellowness.

The inspiration behind ‘Replicant’ probably requires little explanation as it draws the comparisons to the world of Bladerunner and the contemporary corporate world. The Hearing Ann-Marie Crowley enunciate ‘Replicant’ calls to mind Johnny Rotten emphasis on ‘Pretty vacant’, but more than anything, the uptempo acoustic guitar that leads the track has a distinctly 90s indie flavour to it, and it jangles along nicely.

‘Melancholy Rose’ is a spacey indie-psychedelic folk effort with the jangle of the early 90s and some mellow shoegaze meanderings, sort of like The Fall covering The Charlatans. There are hints of sleepy, summery funk to the track, too.

Together, it makes for a nice single that does very much evoke the experience of yesteryear’s 7” purchase.

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The Speed Of Sound Artwork

Pennies By The Pound present classic/psych-rock-imbued ‘Indigo Screams’ ahead of new LP, mastered by Ride’s Mark Gardener. 

With comparisons to Bob Mould, And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead, Marillion, and Jethro Tull being tossed around – and not wrongly – there’s a hint of early 90s Dinosaur Dr in the mix, too. Check ‘Indigo Screams’ here:

Hailing from Helsinki, Pennies by the Pound was formed in 2016 by Johannes Susitaival as a solo project, but it quickly became a three-piece involving musicians from his past bands.

While still part of a punk rock band, Johannes began exploring some quite different musical avenues, which led to the self-produced ‘Bloodshed and the Blinding Sunlight’ EP in 2018. Having found their ideal producer after several years of searching, they began recording demos in 2019 for what would become this album. Due to the pandemic, they were finally able to record these tracks in autumn of 2020.

Pennies By The Pound’s sound blends ’80s prog rock and ’90s-early ’00s alternative rock – essentially heavily guitar-driven with a touch of keyboards… Big choruses, quite a few guitar and keyboard solos and grandiose arrangements.

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Christopher Nosnibor

Ahead of their debut album, Little Pictures Without Sound, due out on 16th July, SENSES offer a second taste of what’s to come with ‘Drifting’. On the one hand, it’s a slice of quintessential indie, drawing heavily on the sound of the late 80s / early 90s jangle – it would be almost impossible to not mention The Stone Roses by way of a touchstone – but on the other, there’s a lot more going on here than some direct and derivative copy.

The chiming guitars emerge through an atmospheric haze and some samples of dialogue, and soar away on a wash of dreamy shoegaze vibes. The song’s certainly appropriately titled, as it floats along… it’s less about verse/chorus dynamics and hooks than it about the overall sensation, as layered harmonies lift the listener and carries them through hues of golden sun and a sense of time without time. It’s blissed-out and mesmerising, and under four minutes is nowhere near enough.

Sargent House – 2nd March 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

What to make of The Armed? The lineup is immense, comparable to Revolting Cocks, Pigface, or KMFDM, to the extent that you don’t really know who does what on which song or even who’s in the band or who just tuned up at the studio or rehearsal session. The videos for new single, ‘Average Death’ and its predecessor, ‘All Futures’ don’t help: is it even the band we’re watching? And ultimately, does it matter?

This second single release, ahead of the album’s unveiling in April demonstrates that The Armed are master of churning noise, differentiated by an uncommon accessibility. That is to say that I have no idea what to make of this. While ‘All Futures; was a raging, rampant blast of noise that called to mind Nine Inch Nails, ‘Average Death’ spirals into some heavy shoegaze. If industrial shoegaze isn’t a thing before now, it should be as of this release. It’s deeply immersive, a glorious wash of soft edges, propelled by a squalling wall of noise and frenetic drumming.

So while The Armed and their videos are all the questions, there is no question over the killer nature of their songs.

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Christopher Nosnibor

Hailing from Hastings, Kids Love Surf came together during the eternal year of lockdown, coming together due to a shared love of dreampop to collaborate remotely from March 2020. Following on from debut single ‘OYO’ which found favour with BBC introducing.

‘Moment’ is everything its rainbow-hued cover art suggests: a dreamy drift of 90s shoegaze, with soft synths and guitars bathed in washes of reverb and effects. The drums are muffled beneath the layers while the bass strolls around amiably, not driving anything, not even holding it down, but simply wandering, and it’s a latticework of jangly guitars that layer away behind a vocal that’s low in the mix and kinda dreamy in a 90s indie sort of a way. There are hints of Stereolab and Disintegration-era Cure in the mix here, and it’s all very mellow and melodic.

As is so often the case with this style of music, I find there’s relatively little to say. That’s not a criticism or complaint, but more of an indication of how, on a personal level, I find myself detached and floating free, how I struggle to engage in the details beyond the effect, beyond the superficial. Because it seems to be less about ]engagement and more about atmosphere, how it speaks beyond words via the medium of music.

The mid-tempo ‘Moment’ is a soft wash of tripping indie that’s easy on the ear, and do you really need a message or much substance beyond that? I’m content to just let it glide….

28th February 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

VVolves seriously impressed with their debut single, ‘Momentum’, unveiled last June – a heady rush of shoegaze and pop with ethereal vocals and a repetitive groove, it was, well, impressive.

‘Well-Loved Tales’ is an admirable follow-up: rich in atmosphere, but at the same time, a bold electronic pop tune, it’s a magnificently balanced composition. The rolling drums and teetering piano add drama to a guitar soaked in chorus and reverb, and with a rich, luscious production, the sound and the feel and the vibe is every inch the Cure’s Disintegration. And let’s be straight: if you’re going to take your cues from any classic album that has a truly timeless feel, that’s probably a top pick. There’s also a hint of ‘Naked and Savage’ by The Mission in the brooding, hypnotic hues, too.

There isn’t an attention-grabbing hook or an overt immediacy about ‘Well-Loved Tales’ – rather it casts a dreamy sonic spell that draws the listener in with a captivating sense of melody.

The ‘sparse’ version which serves as the B-side lives up to its name: stripped of the drums and the drama, slow-drifting synths provide the main accompaniment to a dreamy vocal that’s almost folksy, and equally, almost part of the instrumentation, and it’s nice. Very nice. As is the mesmerising video which accompanies it.

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