Posts Tagged ‘Single Review’

20th April 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

I was on the edge of my seat for a cover of Inner Circle’s 90s reggae-pop classic when this landed with me, but on balance, this offering from Windsor-based quartet Saharas is better.

It’s vaguely horrifying to consider the notion that anything jangly and melodic indie with a tense, post-punk undertone, reminiscent of the class of, oh, c2003 or 2004 may qualify as connoting a certain nostalgia. But then, nostalgia is a vague and intensely personal sensation. Being the age I am, I’m probably more likely to feel pangs for 1994 than 2004. And yet, 2004… pre-family, disposable income, part-time work… strolling down to my local record shop mid-morning on a Monday and splurging disposable income on the latest vinyl… Yeah, I can buy into a nostalgia for that, as I recall strolling home with releases by the likes of Editors, Interpol, She Wants Revenge, The Organ, stowed in a nice square carrier bag. I miss it. The likelihood is that someone 10 years younger will feel a nostalgia for whatever they were doing in 2004 (which may well have been a variation on the same thing).

‘Sweat’ very much captures not only the sound, but the energy surrounding the zeitgeist of the first few post-millennial years, which blended a certain optimism with the pessimism of almost twenty years previous. It boasts a spectacularly nagging chorus-soaked guitar-line that hints as much at Yazoo’s ‘Don’t Go’ as Editors’ ‘Munich’.

It’s all extremely fitting for the current climate: dark times call for dark music, and also inspire a yearning for better times. The early years of the millennium, by which time the euphoria of Labour’s 1997 landslide had slipped into a malaise even before the recession hit, echoed the wilderness of 30 years previous. In 2018, 2004 looks like a hoot.

But most importantly, it’s a cracking tune with hooks galore, and it would be so in any decade.

AA

Saharas - Sweat

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13th April 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

Being a Sister of Mercy is a long way from being a full-time job, an even Andrew Eldritch must have a lot of time on his hands these days. Ben Christo isn’t one to sit idle, though, fronting Night by Night between 2008 and 2015, before founding Diamond Black the following year, as well as working alongside Raymond Watts on Pig’s Prey &Obey.

With their second single entitled ‘Ghost in the Glass’, it all hints at something that’s a bit, well, stereotypical goth, you might say – something The Sisters have always tended to avoid, despite being saddled with the somewhat ignominious tag of being the godfathers of the genre. But you’ll not find any bats or graveyards or introverted moping in the Sisters’ back catalogue, and thankfully, Diamond Black are more about the hard edges of polished steel than the soft feelings of doomed romanticism and despair.

‘Ghost in the Glass’ is built around a very contemporary Sisters-like guitar riff, a driving rhythm and spindly lead line creating a distinct dynamic tension. The guitars are up-front and pack some grit and heft, making this a more overtly ‘rock’ proposition, but the first point where Diamond Black clearly depart from The Sisters is in the live drumming, which, tight as it is, gives a freer feel.

The second and perhaps most obvious point of departure is in the vocal style: singer J.I.Turunen is Finnish and brings a quintessential mainland Europe rock delivery: strong, but clean and melodic. Proper singing, if you will. If it carries echoes of classic 80s rock, it equally suggests that their biggest audience lies cross-channel, rather than domestically. This isn’t a criticism, not least of all because I must confess to having a soft spot for Andreas Bruhn’s solo album – and this, with its punchy rock attributes, is way better.

The production’s expansive, but doesn’t detract from the forward thrust of the guitars and the result is a song that’s simultaneously widescreen and punchy. The bottom line is that Christo has a knack for a chunky riff and a decent tune, and it’s great to hear some of them being recorded and released. More, please!

AA

Diamond Black

22nd May 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

They call it ‘moody indie rock’, and point to their ‘poignant lyrics, sugary guitar licks, throbbing basslines and soul-shaking drums’. And yes, it’s all of these things: ‘Night of the Underdog’, the follow-up to their debut, the ‘Stranded on the Path’ EP, which emerged in December 2016 continues to work the seam of brooding post-punk revival, a la Interpol et al.

There’s been no shortage of bands pushing the same line over the last few years – inching toward the last decade, even – but then again, there have been bands cranking out three-chord punk tunes for the best part of forty years now , and no-one’s really complaining, As is the case with any musical style, the question isn’t ‘does it sound completely unlike anything I’ve ever heard before’, but ‘is it done well?’ followed by ‘is it a decent song?’

‘Night of the Underdog’ is very much a decent song that’s well done. It begins gently, with an acoustic guitar and wistful melody, building fractal, interweaving, guitars and snaking melodies over a detailed yet propellant rhythm. Oh, and there are some killer bass runs, too. Bass runs are criminally underrated.

Given the tendency for every release going to crank everything up to the max, it’s refreshing to hear a song where the individual instruments benefit from clarity and separation, and yet there’s simultaneously a soft analogue haze around the guitars and with a vaguely psychedelic twist that says paisley shirts and patchouli oil, the whole thing is magnificently 1984.

B-side ‘Borrowed Hearts’ is a tense, twisty affair, brimming with urgency. Crisp, clean guitars edged with reverb jangle in a crackle of treble, but again, while the guitars fragment into a cascade of kaleidoscopic movement, the energetic rhythm section stands to the fore and drives the song home in climactic fashion.

There was a time when this release would have represented the perfect 7” release, with the B-side standing as strong as the leading A-side. Nowadays… it’s a killer release which should massively expand The Clouded Lights’ horizons and audience.

AA

The Clouded Lights -Night of the Underdog

Neon Tetra Records – 2nd March 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

With a thumping bass groove and trashed-out disco beat backing the sneering mania of the vocals, ‘Soundhaus ‘comes on like some kind of electro/goth hybrid. To liken this to a combination of the knowing dumbness of Zodiac Mindwarp and the hyperstylization of Sigue Sigue Sputnik with a dash of Electric Six probably sounds like harsh criticism, but it’s intended as high praise. They look cooler and a fair more menacing, too (by which I mean vaguely psychotic) – and with an edge that hints at a certain level of aggression, not to mention a nagging guitar line, ‘Soundhaus’ has a lot going for it.

There is a bit of a ‘what the fuck?’ element to it all, but that’s a large part of the appeal. If it’s in any way representative of the album, then they could well be one of the acts of 2018.

AA

Mickey 9s

Come Play With Me – 6th April 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

I happened to catch Brooders when they supported Hands Off Gretel in York last summer, and was taken by their grungy tunes. Specifically, the combination of weight and melody. They’re probably to young to grow stubble, let alone have been born when Kurt Cobain was still alive, and yet they’ve got the whole thing nailed, encapsulating the spirit of c.1992 with aplomb.

‘Lie’ captures all of this, along with the energy of their live show, perfectly. The hefty psychedelic aspect of the sound is also well-represented. You might reference Alice in Chains and Queens of the Stone Age, and justifiably but there’s a sludgy density to the sound that brings another dimension.

Adam Bairstow (guitar / vocals, and to differentiate from the other Adams in the band – they’re like the Ramones or something, only they’re all called Adam) says of ‘Lie’, “It’s a culmination of the stresses and pressures that come with love, loss and paranoia all rolled into one brutally honest, twisted, chaotic track.”

For all this, it’s a strangely ambiguous sensation that bubbles in my gut when I wrestle with the notion of the youth of today appropriating the music of my own youth. However objectively one tries to critique music, it’s inevitable that any response to music or any art is personal and entirely subjective. Because the purpose of art is to stir an emotional response which has nothing to do with the mechanics and technicality of its production or process.

Is part of their appeal to me the fact they stir a certain nostalgia? As it happens, no. Grunge may have embossed itself within the sphere of my musical appreciation in my teens, but what I, like anyone else – I like to think – responds to is the language of sound and the overall sonic experience, spanning lyrics, instrumentation and dynamics.

These elements are all fundamental to the driving force that is ‘Lie’. There’s nothing about this snarling mess of overdriven guitars that suggests they’re trying to artificially recreate the zeitgeist of a previous age, or that they’re anything but entirely authentic. Most importantly, ‘Lie’ is a full-blooded, full-on riff-driven effort that sees Brooders come on with all guns blazing. And it’s a real rush.

AA

Brooders

Robot Needs Home – 13th April 2018

James Wells

According to the press blurb, Kermes are a ‘self described queer-indie-punk band, born in the heart of Leicester’s close-knit DIY music community. Over the course of an EP and now their debut album, their music explores themes of transgender identity, depression, misogyny, anti-capitalism, queer relationships and being an increasingly visible target in an increasingly hostile world’.

Meanwhile, the band describe their sound as ‘trashgaze, or screampop, depending on the light’.

Lifted from the upcoming debut album, We Choose Pretty Names, ‘Yr Beast’ pulls together seemingly incongruous elements of Wild Beasts and Sonic Youth, with a dash of early Pavement to produce a wonky, angular blast of punky indie. The message is strong, clear and proud: ‘i was the beast of yr cisgender pain / and i am not sorry for the state of my body / i’ll never be sorry for that.’ The defiance of the refrain ‘I don;t have to take this from you’ is uplifting and empowering, and while its context is specific, it possesses a real universality.

They carry it off with a joyously unpolished and exuberant delivery: instead of sounding pissed off or preachy, it’s disarming and fun in an unpretentiously ramshackle way.

AA

Kermes

Loner Noise – 9th February 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

The second in their series of singles for Loner Noise, ‘Glitter’ finds Bristolian purveyors of post-punk / industrial racket mining a full-on grunge seam. And Christ, do they bring the weight on this outing. A thunderous, churning riff, as dark as hell and twice as dense, provides the backdrop to Charlie Beddoes’ angst-filled reverb-drenched vocal.

‘Glitter’ is pitched as ‘an introspective and poetic take on the mental strains of being a performer, with the moments of exhilaration on stage often coming at the cost of a great deal of stress and in some cases depression, ruminating on whether the highs would be as powerful without the lows’.

Lyrically, it’s introspective, but sonically, it throws it all out there, and slams it down, hard. And then kicks it around a bit. While Nasty Little Lonely have always had attack, ‘Glitter’ is perhaps one of their hardest, heftiest, and most unforgiving cuts to date. While instrumentally they’ve never been soft, the melodic vocal elements common to their previous outings are relegated in favour of all-out abrasion here. And it’s absolutely bloody storming.

AA

NLL - Glitter