Posts Tagged ‘Single Review’

Only Lovers Records – 4th February 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Sometimes, it doesn’t take much to change the mood of the day, and for me, it’s often the case that the ping of an email containing a release by an act I like that can be that mood-lifter on a barren or otherwise unremarkable day. The arrival of Mayflower Madame’s latest offering was today’s: having been snared by their debut album, 2016’s Observed in Dream, I’ve been on the edge of my seat for more, and while 2018’s Premonition EP was more than welcome, it felt like something of a placeholder ahead of the next event proper.

With album number two, Prepared for a Nightmare around the corner, they’re offering a taste of what’s to come with single ‘Vultures’, a song about ‘desire, gluttony and vanity – both on a personal level and as a general symptom of the excesses of modern society’ which is ‘partly inspired by the art of George Grosz and Hieronymus Bosch’.

‘Vultures’ very much cements the style and sound they’ve showcased previously, with reverby guitars dominating a psych/goth hybrid form that’s got tension and drama by the spade, but also a brooding, doom-laden atmosphere. The pessimism isn’t explicit, but hangs heavy in the air. But while retaining that psychy / dark surf twang, ‘Vultures’ is harder-edged than anything they’ve released to date, pinned down by an insistent beat with the vocals low in the mix and soaked in reverb and angst. The production more muscular, too, and it all stacks up for a belting blast of tense, dark contemporary post-punk that says the album is going to be a corker.

AA

Mayflower Madame - Vultures (cover)

Christopher Nosnibor

Videostore – the lo-fi indie duo consisting of Argonaut members Nathan and Lorna – are on a major roll at the moment, and their latest effort – pitched as a ‘love song for the apocalypse… channelling Stooges, Suede and Spacemen 3 guitars against a relentless drum machine and Atari samples’ – is their strongest to date.

It kicks in hard and that vintage mechanised drum track pumps away like a piston all the way through to the finish: no fills, nothing fancy, nothing but uptempo motoric 4/4 with that classic Roland-type snare sound.

The guitars are big and fizzy and when the extra distortion kicks in, it hits that treble explosion sweet spot that takes the top off your head, and you just don’t get that buzzsaw bliss with slick studio production.

The dual vocals contrast Lorna’s sassy drawl with Nathan’s blank monotone croak and the end result comes on like a riot grrrl rendition of a Pixies song covered by Metal Urbain.

Yet for all the retro, ‘My Back’ is very much a song for now: these are dark, paranoid times and it feels like we’re on the edge of the abyss, and this guitar-driven blitzkrieg is the perfect soundtrack.

James Wells

Largely eclipsed by the vast melting pot that is Leeds, York tends to exist some way off the musical radar. Years of acoustic blues and middling indie acts probably didn’t do much to promote the city, either, but lately, some interesting and angry bands have emerged, with Old Selves being the latest to throw down some fiery post-hardcore with debut single ‘Strength In Four’.

It’s 3’33” of roaring fury, which throws lashings of loathing inwards and out. It’s tightly structured, and pins down a nice alternating loud / quiet verse / chorus before erupting into a driving mid-section propelled by a springy bass. It’s solid, and says these guys are an exciting prospect for 2020.

AA

Clue Records – 22nd November 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

The thing about Team Picture is that they just don’t fit. Anywhere. Stylistically, they’re a bit of this, a bit of that. A bit indie, a but pop, a bit shoegaze, a bit Krautrock. To see them performing, they don’t even seem to fit together. They’re like a satirical homage to The Village People: despite the uniform, they present as a selection of characters / caricatures with no obvious connection, separate, pulling in different directions.

And yet somehow this most disparate bunch work, and incredibly well. They’re incredibly adept at forging strong songs – which ultimately, is what being a band is about (unless it’s an avant-garde jazz band, where the objective is to make as discordant a racket in as many different tie signatures as possible). Their songs manage to represent their divergent personalities, pulling apart as much as together. And yet they work, and this latest single is no exception.

‘Another Always’ starts with space-age synths before shifting into some new-wave / indie crossover that smooshes together jerky, quirky vocals and chorus-tinged guitar to forge a sound that’s a collision of The Cure and The B52’s with a post-millennial retro sass and a certain yet oddly distinctive Leeds twist.

AA

Team Picture - Another, Always (artwork)

Buzzhowl Records – 24th January 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Masks are generally used to either obscure, hide, or otherwise present an alternative identity. The press blurb which accompanies the debut release by Masks, which arrives in the form of a two-track (lathe-cut) seven-inch gives little away, beyond the ‘fact’ that Masks is a New Zealand based artist. Singular. Although this is immediately thrown into question by the statement ‘We’re very excited to be putting out Masks’ debut release. We’ve been fans of the people involved for some time now.’ This doesn’t discredit the singular aspect, but does compel questioning. Toward the end of any interrogation, it’s perhaps worth asking ‘does or should it matter?’ Probably not, although our instinct is to seek something upon which to pin an identity or similar concrete elements as identifiers, as a means of basing experience and engagement.

Most songs about weekends I’m aware of are jaunty, jubilant, celebratory tunes. Take Michael Gray’s 2004 chart smash ‘The Weekend’, accompanied by a video with a sultry secretary busting moves around a photocopier, for example Reverend and the Makers’ ‘Living for the Weekend’ was irksome wank, and ‘The Weekend’ by Interpol is one of their weakest tracks by yards. The emphasis is very much on the separation pf the working week, and the weekend, which for many is not the reality of how work and life balance.

Masks sounds like their weekend contains back-to-back funerals as they grind and hammer their way through a murky mess of guitar that’s more about atmosphere than definition or tune. The percussion is pure punishment, industrial-strength pounding, while a synth howls an anguish-inducing drone around a monotone vocal that carries hints of Brian Molko. Yes, ‘Our Weekend Starts Tomorrow’ comes on like a bleak industrial / post-punk Placebo and packs some serious punch in a lugubrious, mid-tempo but thunderously dense sense.

There’s a change of mask for ‘Broken Glass’, a drifting, beat-free swell of instrumental ambience. It’s pleasant, but dark and contrasts starkly with ‘Our Weekend Starts Tomorrow’ in its overt formlessness. Is it a different face of the ‘band’ / ‘artist’, or another identity altogether? It’s unquestionably a departure, and if nothing else, suggests that Masks are multi-faceted.. complex. Unpredictable. Subject to change. What lies behind the mask? Maybe all will be revealed in good time…

Artwork Credit_ Sven Soric

29th November 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

Ahead of the release his seventh solo-album, Exo, in January next year, Swiss electronic artist Bit-Tuner indicates a significant change in direction with this single release. The two pieces on offer here are brief and – here’s the headline – beatless, as Bit-Tuner goes fully ambient.

It’s also a surprisingly succinct sonic document, the two tracks combined clock in at a mere fraction over seven minutes. ‘Passage’, the press release tell us, is ‘based on field-recordings, synthesizer pads and fluttering arpeggios,’ and ‘resembles a winding descent into a weightless but fragile science fiction world.’ The music in itself conveys almost nothing of this yet at the same time, succeeds in creating its on psychological space through the language of sound. It’ hushed, subdued, fragmented. Sounds like seagull calls drawl across ethereal twistings. Sometimes, abstractions conveys more than anything concrete or specific.

Virtual flipside / counterpart ‘Irisia’ is described as ‘a call from way below’ in which ‘a thunder-like growl from the underworld wraps itself around a floating choir-drone’. At a mere two-and-a-quarter minutes, and consisting of echoed notes and a mist-like sonic mist swirling directionless, it’s barely an interlude. And yet, despite its lack of substance, it has atmosphere and a certain depth.

I am left pondering the oddity of a ‘single’ release in the context of an ambient work that’s most likely designed to be consumed as a single while, but this showcases Bit-Tuner’s latest work in a digestible and readily accessible, bite-sized format, and it works nicely.

AA

OUS022_cover

Buzzhowl Records – 18th October 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

What came first, the music or the mindset? I’m going to put it down to how some of us – myself included – are wired, and will forever be drawn to that tense, dark sound that came out of the late 70s and early 80s that was a reaction to – and against – everything that was happening at the time. Just as punk was a reaction to – and rebellion against – prog and the beigeness of the times, so post -punk and its various strains, including (dare I whisper it?) goth harnessed the frustration and the dejection that was a product of the first years under Thatcher and the political climate of the second cold war and rendered it in a more articulate, and perhaps more musically resonant way (because let’s face it, 90% of so-called punk bands were just playing pub rock with the amps up).

To revisit briefly an observation I’ve made variously in recent years, these are bleak, bleak times, and the future is well out of hand. The post-punk renaissance that began around 2004 with the emergence of Editors and Interpol grew from an underground which was there long before, but now it’s in full spate. Reading’s Typical Hunks fully embrace all of this as a guitar bass duo backed by a drum machine.

The guitar on ‘Snakebit’ is spindly, reverb-heavy, weaving one of those tense post-punk guitar-lines that’s pure Joy Division, and it snakes its way around a tight, insistent bass that booms and drives along with the insistence of the grooves Craig Adams laid down to define the sound of The Sisters of Mercy in the early years. That in turn is wenled to thumping beat that’s a distillation of all things Yorkshire circa 1983-4. It’s all in the programming: nothing fancy, no attempt to make it sound like an actual drummer, no flash fills or flourishes, just a hammering repetition and a snare sound that’ll slice the top off your head. Those Boss Dr Rhythm machines really are unbeatable. The vocals are tense, paranoid, and channel disaffection.

Strains of feedback and a hesitant bass hover before everything locks in around another relentless rhythm on ‘Unravelling’ with elements of March Violets, Red Lorry Yellow Lorry, and early Danse Society all spun into a solid block of discomfort. Vintage in its roots yet ultimately providing the soundtrack of the zeitgeist, this is a cracking Aside / B-side combo housed in a suitably barren sleeve, that showcases Typical Hunks at their strongest and most focused yet.

AA

Artwork