Friday, October 23, 2015

Deaf Wish : Pain

One tricky thing about writing an album about the personal aches and pains is a lot of people have done it.  A lot of people have made great music about having a bad day, week … year.  So why try and compete?  Because there will still be a way that hasn’t been thought of, and as a band find their voice there will always be a different angle taken on it that might reach someone new.  This is where antipodes Deaf Wish come in.  Their follow up 2010’s ‘Mercy’, ‘Pain’, pulls together ten songs of battered malfunction; connecting with impulses of injury for an album delivering something wholly cathartic.   Sarah Hardiman (Moon Rituals), Nick Pratt, Jensen Tjhung (Exhaustion, Lower Plenty) and Daniel Twomey (Lower Plenty) have been working together very much on their own terms for the last 8 years.  As a listener it feels like being treated to a warts and all experience, watching the four-piece grow into the band, figure out what the project is and how they all fit into writing the songs.  ‘Pain’ builds and expands on the last record, painting a fuller picture of what Deaf Wish is – or is not.  Deaf Wish may not in fact be writing songs for people to enjoy, but perhaps offering a lifeline making a direct link with suffering and those who suffer.  

Right out of the gates ‘The Whip’ induces a sense of chaos, guitars ring out and unravel alongside incanctative vocals calling out to and reeling in a mind-set of ennui to feed off, “Our sentence is illness, your youth is smoke, you live in the arc of the whip, outside, outside, striking the sound of the whip song in you”.   The album is reigned in at parts for a more lamenting listen, focusing more on dejection rather than outright angst.  ‘Sunsets Fool’ wanders on the periphery reflecting on things running away from one’s grasp, this downwardly introspective viewpoint is balanced by indie-pop influences on the guitar’s melodies lifting up the song.   ‘Dead Air’ brings an industrial approach to the fore playing out cramping guitars apace with meteoric, lashing rhythms and gulping bass holding it all down; every last notion of frustration is teased out by the end of the song whereby this open discordance seems determined to drown out internal noise.   ‘Pain’ is confrontational in the dogged way in which Deaf Wish address this collective sense of hurt, and it’s the pure and honest method that I think explains why so many people were excited for this new record.   It was Sub Pop who got in touch with Deaf Wish to see if they had any new material, which resulted initially in the 7”EP ‘St. Vincent’ being released.   This seemed to have lit a fire under the band and after ‘St. Vincent’ they committed to writing an album and here we are with ‘Pain’.   Keeping things simple the album instantly displays the foursome’s undeniable chemistry and unswerving energy.   ‘Pain’ might not be the answer to anyone’s problems, but it might make you forget about them for a little bit.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Spray Paint : Punters On A Barge

Spray Paint's newest album 'Punters on the Barge' (Homeless Records) sees the Austin three-piece delve further into a stormy vortex of industrial dysfunction.  10 new songs explore minimal, angular guitars and metronomic rhythms forging a stark album aptly reflected in the numbed vocal delivery.  Instinctively led twanged and twitched gestures from both guitars punctuate the songs amplifying the anxiety Spray Paint typify.  One stand out element throughout 'Punters On The Barge' is how the guitars toll or ring out in a summoning motion adding a whole new creepy dimension to the songs.  The use of a drum machine isn’t something I think I’ve heard on their previous releases; it’s a great component that recalls 80’s death rock and/or post punk of the same era.  “Day of the Rope” not only employs a drum machine but some synthesized glitches as well .   “Middle Relief” is great too in how slurred, plaintive and menacing the whole thing plays out to be, low rolling tones juxtaposed with tense top end notes alongside big thundery drums fittingly round off the album with apocalyptic aplomb.  It's a sense of paranoia and abandonment that best sum up Spray Paint's approach, locked in a perpetual groove, building pressure that never lets up.  They resolutely confine themselves to this one state creating a passage for bleak explorations of extreme agitation.  Spray Paint has a definite structure when it comes to assembling their songs, and within these boundaries they push and draw from those constraints to bring us something even more unsettling, I can’t wait to see how far they’re willing to go next time.

You can have a listen HERE

Friday, September 25, 2015

Exhaustion : Phased Out

Ranging deeper into industrial experimentalism on this new 12” ‘Phased Out’ (12XU), three piece from Melbourne offer up abstractions of corrupted guitars, smokestack vocals,  narcotizing bass riffs and dogged rhythms.  Within this unwavering structure Duncan Blachford, Per Brystrom and Richard Stanley freely roam; forging something renewed and riveting by testing this format to and beyond its limits.  Both tracks ‘Phased Out’ and ‘Colleague’ get the remix treatment by Mikey Young and Rites Wild respectively and only expand the possibilities of where Exhaustion could take things next.  Exhaustion is a band that has been pretty solid for me and this 12” is another string to the bow.  This is the third post and counting on Exhaustion, now’s the time to go and check them out!  

Buy it HERE

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Royal Headache : High

There hasn’t been a follow up album more talked about than Royal Headache’s for quite some time.  And, since ordering my copy online I feel a little like I’m wading in after many glowing reviews have already sung its’ praises, I don’t know if anyone even needs my unprofessional opinion at this stage, but here it is;  ‘High’ is 10 tracks of pure bloody joy.  They’ve written an album that’s raw, direct and fun, reflecting on reality in contrast to fantasy.   

The opener called ‘Fantasy’ explores this idea looking at everyday life being in a band compared to the mythology of a “rock ‘n’ roll life style”.   Chugging, hyper guitars, saccharine keys, racing beats and a rubbery bass set the tone for the album, balancing total euphoria with a sense of restlessness.  This is pursued through the album, particularly when we reach ‘Carolina’.  Hall hollers “now your future passions do you harm, you know you should have never left the farm, somebody save her”, over fuzzed out guitars (Law) and bass (Joe) held up by solid pop fuelled beats (Shortty).   This is the first track to get a video treatment off ‘High’, directed by Damian Sawyers and catered by Lawrence’s Mum the video brilliantly shows the boundless energy that the record is chock full of.   ‘Garbage’ is another song on repeat, I could listen to that heady bass riff all day – “you’re as low as they come, you’re not punk, you’re just scum, you’re garbage,” Hall protests in his fiercly raspy register.  Released via Distant and Vague Recordings in Australia/NZ then What’s Your Rupture everywhere else the LP seems to have disappeared pretty quickly, and it’s easy to see why.  Leaving just as fast as they charged in ‘Electric Shock’ certainly captures the manic pace on ‘High’,  it shows the need for focus in a state of agitation, existing in the middle somewhere is what informs these songs; and the desire to breakaway, flip over and start again.

Listen on Royal Headache's BANDCAMP


Thursday, August 13, 2015

Pega Monstro : Alfarroba

Satisfying rock experiments making one want to flip a cartwheel are captured on this new album by Pega Monstro.   ‘Alfarroba’ is comprised of ten dizzying songs displaying stellar reaches of what a core set up made up with drums, guitar and keyboard can truly achieve.  Sisters Julia Reis and Maria Reis are the pair behind Pega Monstro.   The name translates to ‘catch the monster’ but is also linked to a jelly shaped toy hand attached to a string that kids throw at each other in the band’s home of Lisbon, Portugal.  The sisters began playing music together when they were 15 and 17 respectively although they started out in other bands before making the move to write and perform together.  In 2010 Julia and Maria launched Cafetra Records, their own label with a focus on celebrating Portugal’s garage punk scene.  Pega Monstro’s momentum grew after self-releasing their first EP ‘O Juno-60 Nunca Teve Fita’, which was followed by their debut album in 2012 - and as if the band needed any further assurance things were going in the right direction B Fachada, a prominent figure in Portuguese music produced their work.   

And here we are, with the latest offering and second full length release from Pega Monstro ‘Alfarroba’ (Upset The Rhythm).  ‘Alfarroba’ references a sugary flavoured bean called ‘carob’ which can be found growing on wild trees that sprout up randomly along the Mediterranean coast.  The songs deal with love, growing up as well as reflecting on the process of writing songs and describing things from a woman’s viewpoint.   Maria’s guitar eddies and chugs through my song of the summer ‘Branca’, I don’t speak a word of Portuguese but now am singing “shoe, sha, shee” compulsively and some might argue incessantly – it’s so bloody catchy.  Bursting in fun with its dreamy melody and overdriven approach, ‘Branca’ aptly shows how unswerving and sensational this album is.  The interesting thing about Pega Monstro is it seems as though they draw from a frame of mind as opposed to sifting through their record collections for ideas.  What we’re given is something that purely represents them in the process, ‘Alfarroba’ isn’t trying to fit in anywhere rather it embraces sounds that come naturally, and for that reason it stands boldly amongst many bands using guitar, drums and keyboards.  ‘Estrada’ blasts bright hooks, angelic vocals, Julia's hyper drums and curiously plummets into metal groves which further unravel into psych inspired breakdowns; revealing the diverse elements incorporated into the album.  ‘Alfarroba’ has a softer side too ‘Fado d’A’gua Fria’ has a soothing sort of lullaby quality that envelops folk into a mesmeric moment on Side B.  Have you had enough of the gushing yet?  I really tried to rein it in here, but it all just came pouring out.  Pega Monstro does something vivid and exuberant in their song-writing and this just spills over to those who encounter it.  Truly an exciting new band worthy of your time – you have a chance to see them this Saturday too (15th August) at The Vicotria in Dalston BUY TICKETS HERE!

Friday, July 31, 2015

Rattle : Interview

* Photo - Simon Parfrement

Nottingham outfit Rattle have been making huge strides with their duelling drums and vocal performance up and down the country lately.  After seeing them a few times this year I had to know more about them, so here we are, a few questions shared with Rattle, if you've not had a chance yet check them out FACEBOOK & BANDCAMP or try and catch them at a show - totally worthy of your time!
Hi – after some digging I couldn’t find much in the way of interviews on Rattle so thought I’d kick this off with some ‘get to know you’ questions, how do you know each other?  I want to know about the start of Rattle!

KB: This is the first interview! 

Theresa and I both live in Nottingham; we’d both lived in Nottingham for quite a few years playing in other bands before we became friends. First of all we got together to trade music skills – the plan was that I would teach Theresa to play the guitar, and she would teach me to play drums. But instead Rattle happened.

TEZ: There was a period where I’d often go out and recognize people that were going to the same gigs, with the same coats on, week after week for about a year. It took a while before we started chatting and became friends, and fairly soon after we started making music. 

Did you have a goal in mind when you started Rattle? Is there something you want to achieve from this project?

KB: Rattle happened very organically, almost by mistake. I had a sneaking hope that maybe Theresa and I might make some good, worth pursuing music with me playing guitar and her playing drums, but all of sudden we were playing something that become the song ‘Boom’. It was very clear right from the start that we didn’t need anything else but the drums and voices. In terms of what we want to achieve or a goal - we both wanted to make an album, which is something we have very almost done, and I think we just wanted to play as many gigs as possible, and get out and about.

TEZ: When we started playing we were just working out how different rhythms worked together; they didn’t feel like songs until Katy added some vocals and we started structuring them. A lot of people asked if we were going to add any additional instruments, but it never felt like there was any space or need for anything else and it felt really freeing to focus on what people might overlook as ‘the backing track’, and to be really attentive and creative with that. I think Rattle’s also partly a response to hearing bands cluttering their sound with too many changes or instruments, I find that sometimes turns me off a bit and paring things down can be much more exciting.  

Bit of a straight forward question, but to get some background on Rattle I was wondering what kind of drummers you are drawn to?

KB: I am always drawn to anything that seems to me to be different and unusual. I’m really lucky to have met and have played with most of my favourite drummers, Charles Hayward of This Heat, Katherina Bornefeld of the Ex, Sayaka Himeno of Nisennemondai, Jim White of Dirty Three, Yoshimi P-We of Boredoms.

I also love Chris Corsano, Ringo….

TEZ: All of the above – I guess we’re both drawn to un-flashy, percussive drummers who can give a different feel to the song, I’d add to that list Mick Fleetwood.

On your Facebook page it says Theresa is ‘highs’ and Katharine is ‘lows’, I don’t play the drums could you outline what you both take charge of when you’re writing/performing?

KB: Theresa is highs, ie: high hat, cymbals, cowbell, snare, but also the low low floor tom. I am lows, which is the bass drum, toms, and snare.

I suppose it is a bit like a band with two guitarists sharing one set of guitar strings between two guitars.

Can you talk about the song ‘Starting’?  It’s really stuck in my head!

KB: Starting started with a Theresa rim beat, and I came in with the bass drum and the toms. I think on that one I was trying to be purposefully awkward in the best sounding of ways, to go against Theresa’s beat as much as I could in the catchiest way possible. Awkward and catchy are definitely two things I think I try to get involved in as many songs as possible.

Tez: It’s got a stop and start to it that is a bit cheeky, I really like stop/start or false endings, you enjoy the song so much you’re a bit sad when it ends, then it comes back again and you’re extra excited! It’s a good positive mantra of a vocal line. 

How long does it take to complete a song, and how do you get started? 

KB: We start with an idea, something that is made up on the spot or something that might have popped into my head in down times at a Kogumaza (the other band I play drums in) practice or through Theresa’s practicing. I write the vocal melodies and words, sometimes whilst playing in our practice room and more often later when I am driving in my car listening to practice recordings. It depends how complete and how good the starting point is I suppose. Some songs have become quite full in the first few minutes or even seconds of playing them, and we’ve been able to play them live after a few rehearsals and keep them growing slowly like mould. But some have needed some real elbow work to bend into shape. 

TEZ: It’s really easy to get together and make a beat/riff that works well, but it takes a while to get it structured so it resembles a song.  There are also loads of things that might be changed or added when we’re recording so it doesn’t feel fully complete until we’ve finished that stage. We’ve had stuff knocking around for a couple of years now that are finally coming into their finished form. 

To my ears at least Rattle reminds me a bit of Talk Normal – do you know that band?  What do you make of that comparison?

KB: I’ve seen Talk Normal once before, I do remember really enjoying them, particularly the performance aspect, definitely something quite natural and raw about them which I think is something I hope we do have in Rattle, even without the distortion and the dirty sounds you can get out of a guitar.

TEZ: I hadn’t heard about them at all until you mentioned them but now I’ve heard them I like them, so thanks. 

How do you feel about being compared to other bands in general – is it weird?  Do think it helps or hinders trying to get people to form an idea of what your sound is like?

KB: I think we are very lucky in Rattle and it happens very little. We often get told “I’ve never seen anything like that before” or “I haven’t seen anything like that for twenty years” which to me is very exciting and flattering. Do we want to see things we’ve seen before? It’s much more exciting to see something you can’t place. It’s Starting! Rattle would probably be quite difficult for the lazy journalist. We’ve been compared to The Raincoats a few times, The Slits, The Melvins and The Sugarcubes. Lots of ‘The’ bands!

TEZ: It’s been great generally as people don’t really know what to compare us to; we sometimes get some slightly off the wall comparisons which is flattering and a good way to find new stuff (as in your last question).   

How long have you been playing live?  It felt like you’d been doing it for some time during the shows I’ve been to this year

KB: We’ve been playing live since 2012. We like to play live with Mark Spivey, also from Kogumaza, who adds effects from the desk.

TEZ: We started playing live quite soon after we started and we’ve been lucky enough to get offered some really great, interesting gigs when we only had a few ideas put together. I think we’ve really developed what we do as a direct result from playing live and we would have gone in a totally different, probably much duller, direction if we hadn’t been able to get out of the house. When you rehearse you know you can always stop and start again if you make a mistake, you can think too much, but there’s loads of good pressure and good mistakes that come out of playing live that keep things fresh.

As a relatively new band I was wondering, do you find performing live is something to develop as you play more, or does the chemistry between you two feel spot on and it just works? 

KB: We’re definitely getting more comfortable playing live the more that we play. We don’t put on much of a show, but I think people find it interesting to watch the interplay between the two drums. I’d like to develop the ‘live show’ aspect of Rattle, we are both visual artists too and love making films and I think there is a lot we could do with that, and lights, and reflections, but at the moment the most important and fun thing for me certainly is playing the drums and singing, so any Rattle time we have is focused on that!

TEZ: We just work on the songs and getting them right, it’s good to give the impression when we play that we’ve totally improvised everything in the moment, but in reality we’re usually counting numbers and hoping we get the changes in time. As we’ve played more and more though we definitely feel more comfortable with just responding to what each other are doing, a lot of the time it feels like we’re carrying a tea-set on a tight-rope, but that’s when we can play the best gigs. 

What’s been the most memorable show you’ve played?

KB: We were incredibly happy to invite Charles Hayward (This Heat) up to Nottingham to play at our EP launch at a Nottingham gallery space last year. His set was amazing and he’s a really incredible and inspiring person. We also worked with Jim Boxall, a  visual artist who created some film projections for our set which worked really well.

TEZ: We played with The Ex a couple of times last year and that was awesome as they were so great, just so energetic and inspiring.  

Who have been your favourite bands to play with?

KB: Charles Hayward, The Ex, Obits, Sauna Youth, Xylouris White, Richard Dawson 

TEZ: … Konono no. 1, Sleaford Mods, The Wharves

If you could choose a line up to be on, any band, any era, which 3 bands would you like to share a bill with?

KB: Oh my. I like to dance after we’ve played. So:
Joy Division, B52s (circa 1979), Moondog

TEZ: Talking Heads, David Bowie, New Order 

Are there any bands you’d like to play with that are around now?

KB: We have been very lucky, a lot of my dreams have already come true in this respect. 

TEZ: ESG, Earth, Cate Le Bon, there’s lots

What’s the most memorable show you’ve been to?

KB: Neurosis at Dudley JBs in 1999. They were a physical force!

Tez: Thee oh sees at the Leeds Brudenell 2013 

You’re from Nottingham – what can you say about the music scene there? Is there anything you would change?

TEZ: Nottingham has a huge collection of talented people who are doing really interesting things, completely unrelated to each other artistically but socially connected and really supportive. It’s really uncomplicated and inexpensive to put a gig on at the Chameleon, JT Soar, or Stuck On A Name, and have amazing sound quality and people who really, really look after you and love independent music. 

All of this isn’t necessarily represented by the way the music scene is sometimes marketed, which is often represented by someone trying to make out there’s a certain ‘sound’ or to push for a no. 1 single, that sometimes feels at odds with people making a really independent and diverse scene that’s frequently amazing. 

What was the first album that really made an impact on you?

KB: Nirvana, Nevermind. That bit on Drain You with the build-up. Suddenly just listening to music was never going to be enough!

TEZ: This question has set off a BLUR (arf) of 90’s album listening and it’s hard to pin-point just one, but in terms of thinking about playing music I remember listening the Stone Roses 1st album and thinking I’d like to play the drums, Reni had such intricacies and riffs, what an ace drummer!  

What’s coming up for Rattle so readers know what to try and catch – shows, recorders etc!

TEZ: We’re playing Cops and Robbers summer bash in Leeds Wharf Chambers on 24th July, and at the tramlines fringe festival at the Picture House Social Sheffield on 25th July, in Manchester on 1st August and the double dot bash festival on 12th September We’re finishing off recording and mixing our first album and we’re hoping to put together some kind of tour in the autumn.