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Album Review

EP: Sisteray – ‘Sisteray Said’

WORDS BY RUSSELL HOPE

It’s been a while since a band has been a London band, were Blur London? The Clash were. Hard-Fi tried to be. Sisteray are London and they want everyone to know. Their newest release, EP ‘Sisteray Said’ is the last serving from punks finest fledglings.

Pure melodic power punk through and through – particularly in track ‘Wannabes’ – this new offering is powdered mosh pit, just add sweat! The band have been linked to 90’s punk and indie with a swagger which Oasis made so clear on their rise. Combined with a punk backed by tribal floor toms and bass which is reminiscent of the Green Day ‘Dookie’ era.

Further down the track-listing, ‘Rumour Mill’ has all these traits and more; moody and preaching a future we don’t know of yet. If you like Reverend And The Makers and are all about that punk swagger, you’ll love this one. ‘Algorithm Prison’ is a every inch an aggressive nod to a broken social scene, all about the likes of Facebook and other social media capitalist movements. Step aside Zuckerberg because Sisteray are ready to fill cover any qualms about the social media movement! The punchy chords of the title track ‘Sisteray Said’ gives a tour of London and the Sisteray angle on the scene down there. This could quite easily replace ‘My Generation’ in THAT House Party scene on Quadraphenia. A soundtrack to a regional scene and a new generation of punks, giving the finger to what is right and what is wrong… because they said so!

The band are earning their stripes on the live circuit too with plenty of recommendations from the punk hardcore including John Robb and the Louder Than War crew.

The band are on a national tour. If they’re playing your town get out for it, they won’t be playing these small venues for long now!

Read more about the latest music news and reviews over on our blog 👀

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ALBUM REVIEW: HONNE – ‘Love Me/Love Me Not’

WORDS BY JODIE BRYANT

Andy Clutterbuck and James Hatcher are the electro-pop duo that makes HONNE. The pair have unleashed their skills and sound with the new album ‘Love Me/Love Me Not, released on the 24th August 2018.

The album itself is easy listening at it’s smoothest – soulful and poppy but not life changing. The noteworthy, most popular track is ‘Day 1’ which encloses a catchy hook with funky beats and gentle piano. On that same first side of the album ‘Me & You,’ features Tom Misch, who compliments HONNE‘s style perfectly by way of raw harmonies. The song has a disco / funk element with a bright, reassuring and optimistic undertone. All songs on the first side of the album are accompanied by the image of a circle half coloured in ◑, perhaps showing the ‘yin and yang’ of HONNE.

Side two, with the circle the other way round ◐, is less loved up – it’s called ‘Love Me Not’ after all. The opener, ‘Shrink’ is a lighthearted take on the future and implies that the shrinks are going to be packed and rammed to the rafters:

“YOU BETTER BOOK ME A SHRINK FOR 2020
COS BY THAT TIME I’M GOING TO BE CRAZY”

This ‘yin’ side of tracks is overall less funky than the opposing ‘yang’ and oozes calmness in a more negative and emotional manner. ‘Crying over You’ features BEKA and is an interesting take on a breakup. It addresses the difficulty of knowing that the time has come and it’s right to end a relationship and the heartache that comes along with that. BEKA plays the female counterpart of the relationship, equally anguished by the situation.

Later on the track list is ‘Forget Me Not’ which maintains a strong beat and ends the album with a sense of loss and apology. Both sides of the album are enjoyable to listen to and the second half in particular is lyrically impressive.

As a whole, HONNE had already established their sound back in 2016. ‘Love Me/Love Me Not’ fulfils the expectations now set for HONNE, picking you up in that aforementioned ‘yin’◑ method with glaringly positive tracks, then releasing you with that alternate ‘yang’ ◐ side.

A fan of Honne‘s work? The duo will soon be touring, tickets can be found HERE.

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ALBUM: Her’s – ‘Invitation To Her’s’

WORDS BY BENJAMIN CASSIDY

Her’s are the unstoppable Liverpool-based duo that have risen through the ranks over the past year and have now released their long-awaited debut album. There’s certainly bags of character to it, coupled with wonderfully imaginative music. The first influence/comparison that sprang to mind was perhaps Belle & Sebastian. The music is a lot of fun and easy to listen to, but the lyrical prowess shows wit and intelligence, and even a darkness at times.

‘Invitation to Her’s’ opens with ‘Harvey’, with gentle, ethereal melodies that are counterpoised against a somewhat mournful sounding vocal. It gives off a slow, ballad type feel, in the poetic sense that the song is a story, more than a statement or anthem, in the traditional sense.

‘If You Know What’s Right’, the third track, has a carnival type vibe to it, but again, if you listen carefully, there’s much more than just pop-tones and pretty, bubbly melodies. The potential pain and melancholy is deftly under-stated – like The Smiths, but not as obvious and a little more nuanced – in terms of theme. Comparisons always feel a little bit of a cop-out in album reviews – perhaps even more so with a band’s debut album, so it’s important to know that these guys can’t be pigeon-holed.

The Smiths feel comes from the contrasting sound and lyrics, that combines upbeat with serious topics. Those groups mentioned certainly come through in certain songs – and parts of them – but there no clones. This group has clearly worked hard to find and hone its own sound. They show that with the diversity they offer, between songs. ‘Carry the Doubt’, for example, embraces the more sombre side and is more haunting to the ear, after leading you into a false sense of security with its light intro, before the ghost-like vocal starts. The deep voice, that sings slowly and softly, is combined with harmonies much higher. The effect is lovely, if a little unsettling – but that only serves to make it more interesting.

At what’s almost the mid-point of the album you start to feel you know where you are. ‘Low Beam’ is a little more revealing than earlier tracks, embracing more fully the suggested melancholia of the singing through matching it with a subdued and low-key beat; but, it’s not that straight-forward for the rest of the album. It continues to bring surprise after surprise. ‘Breathing Easy’ sounds more directly claustrophobic than any of the other songs before it. The heavy synthesiser and occasional piano laid over the top of the track is set at a slow tempo, sort of creating a suffering effect, via music. The different sounds put into a collage is reminiscent of some tracks on Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon (1973).

Directly following this song is Blue Lips, that is a jazzy number, in sound but not lyrically. The flow of the sound of this song, and others, is a little bit like 10CC’s I’m Not in Love. Slow and expressive, with clever lyrics. There’s always more going on in the background with this band than you hear first timer around. More clever use of synthetic sound helps to make the next song, She Needs Him, another marking out of a tendency in this band’s sound – happy, jangly vibes against mournful lyrics – and their own unique take on traditional pop.

The final three songs of the album fuse sound concepts that have already been established, with something new. ‘Love on The Line‘ is quite poppy, when it starts, but once you focus on the lyrics that familiar theme of loneliness and an increasing withdrawal is present. This band draw you in by creating scenarios that make you care for the voice singing about them. The well-sculpted, tight structure of the songs works well to drive the messages home.

The bass heavy intro of the next song, ‘Don’t Think it Over’, is set against sparely delivered snare drumming. This makes for a sound of fatigue, which is an astonishing feat – the fact this is achievable makes one thing sure – you don’t tire of listening to this group. The album ends on a song that sums up what has already been said, though it does it in a unique way. It discusses the painful experiences of love by using a dreamy, slow sound to understate everything. ‘Under Wraps‘ is a gentle sound, with a sadness to it, that is relatable to anyone that’s been in love. It works so well as something that reaches the listener because of the general truth it talks of, instead of being a personal outpouring. It’s clear that everything being created is measured and delivered with careful planning. That’s a sign of the work that’s gone into this much anticipated debut album.

Overall, this is a debut album that’s innovative, thoughtful, and as a result memorable. As mentioned, comparisons will always be made, but that shouldn’t detract from the originality of this album. It’s a soundscape, that fuses the melodic with the melancholic. The songs tell stories and demand attention, whether they intend to or not. As a first album, this brings much promise. It’s a great late summer selection that discusses lost love, strangeness and hints at the darker emotions of life, that are always there, but often go unnoticed – so quite a poignant listen.

The music reveals itself slowly building an atmosphere that the lyrics compliment so well. The familiar is somehow made new. With its unique sounds, tight mixing and layering of precise instrumentation, together with the wisdom of the words, sang in a voice possessive of a wide vocal range. What is created is an album that you could almost swear you’ve heard before, but you most definitely haven’t. Make sure you do, as you’re not likely to hear much else any time soon that manages to achieve what this album does so effortlessly: catchy melodies, creative mixing, with thoughtful lyrics. The next time you do will be their next release.

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negro swan

REVIEW: Blood Orange – Negro Swan

Words –  Mwika Bulaya

London-born Dev Hynes, otherwise known as Blood Orange and previously under the moniker Lightspeed Champion, has created something of a piece of art with his highly-anticipated new album, Negro Swan. The new release is Hynes’ fourth solo studio album as Blood Orange,  which has come just two years after the critically acclaimed Freetown Sound.

The album cover itself is an indication to the direction that Blood Orange aims for with Negro Swan: A black man in a white do-rag donning angel wings – standing out but somehow fitting in, in his own way. As expected by case of his previous projects and albums before, through the album artwork alone, Hynes has paid extra attention to detail. Negro Swan is no exception.

Hynes gives his own unique take on love, life and self-perception in this thought-provoking 16-track project. With his velvety-smooth falsetto running throughout, juxtaposing with the harsh realities of life that he addresses, Dev Hynes has created something special.

Beginning with the single ‘Orlando’, we are slowly eased into a body of work with an endless number of layers. The slow tempo allows the listener to find their feet to begin with before being swept up in addressing gender norms, challenging stereotypes of queer people of colour, and a guide of how to authentically be yourself.

Negro Swan has an old-school feel to it, especially with the inclusion of Jazz, Funk and Hip-Hop fusions with melting vocal harmonies. This mood is mostly found in tracks such as ‘Charcoal Baby’ and ‘Vulture Baby’, both of which feature a constant drum pattern and soothing vocals. Interestingly, there are also elements of 80s synth-pop and electronica with the inclusion of songs such as ‘Chewing Gum’ and ‘Out of Your League’.

Hynes incorporates several mini-monologues from different artists speaking openly about life. No effects, no façades, just honest speech that allow listeners to be immersed even more into this progression of self-love. One monologue included in the album is by Janet Mock, a writer and transgender rights activist who introduces the first single from the album, ‘Jewelry’. She states: “We were not ever welcomed in, we were not invited, Yet we walk in and we show all the way up…”. This idea sums up much of the theme running throughout Negro Swan – from the artwork to the music & the featured guests, Hynes addresses the common problem within society that there are still many people who don’t embrace the differences in others despite these differences making people who they are.

Features on the Negro Swan include household names like Diddy, A$AP Rocky and Steve Lacy (amongst others) – musicians all from contrasting years in music history with their own unique take on the album that seem to fuse the body of work together. Diddy brings forward an air of old-school rap whilst A$AP Rocky adds his own modern twist. In contrast, 20-year-old Steve Lacy is a fresh, new, vocalist and manages to create an upbeat and soulful standout feature in the album.

The album ends with the track ‘Smoke’, a complex yet simple addition, led by only vocals and an acoustic guitar. A space to reflect on the unapologetic, imperfect and relatable compilation that is Negro Swan.

Listen in full, below.

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ALBUM: IDLES – ‘Joy as an Act of Resistance’

WORDS BY MARIA PASSINGHAM

IDLES are on the warpath. But it’s a warpath lined with glitter bombs rather than the more traditional, explosive type, and they’re marching with smiles on their faces and their arms wide open. ‘Joy as an Act of Resistance’ is the much anticipated second album from Bristol’s most talked about punk act, out Friday 31st August on Partisan Records and boy, is it good.

The record’s first single and opener ‘Colossus’ establishes the subsequent forty minutes as a no-shits-given parade. All at once the album protests all manner of modern politics and social views whilst still remaining overwhelmingly positive and infused with love for fellow mankind. Starting with simple clock-ticking style drumsticks and a heavy distorted repetitive chord, the opener builds and builds into an ominous noisy climax, making sure if you’re listening – you’re bloody well listening. No passive, Spotify radio-browsing, wannabes here please.

Steadily working their way through class divides, immigration, masculinity, the NHS, advertising, love, and everything in between IDLES punch holes in the status-quo. The lyrics flit between disarmingly honest and heavily ironic, but true to the album’s title and the band’s signature style, the songs are joyful anthems; simultaneously calling out established, dangerous ideas and championing those that they prefer.

From the simple, super tight ‘Television’ that confronts media-enforced ideas of beauty and instead commands you to “love yourself” to the take down alpha male ideals in ‘Samaritans’ the Bristol five-piece sugar-coat nothing, yet retain an utter sweetness and charm across the album.

“THE MASK OF MASCULINITY
IT’S A MASK THAT’S WEARING ME
I’M A REAL BOY, BOY AND I CRY”

IDLES are pros at keeping you on your toes. If you dare to drift away, a sudden change in tempo or rhythm, or a switch from sung monologues to shouted refrains will snap you back to attention. If you can’t keep up with the relentless pop culture references you’ll be left by the wayside in no time (although probably one of the IDLES guys will rush back to make sure you’re not seriously hurt – checking on the crowd’s safety and happiness is a trademark of their live shows).

‘Joy as an Act of Resistance’ makes you want to fight and proclaim your love for the humans around you at the same time. It’s a battle cry for the modern man, where the battle is against the media and the politics that run through it. It’s a solid-as-a-rock second offering from what has to be the UK’s finest punk band right now. So why don’t you buy the record? Even Tarquin’s bought the record.

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FOUR PLAY: TWANG DJ’S MONTHLY ALBUM REVIEW

Every month Twang go through the best new releases and – as ever – this month there have been a bunch of records to get lost in. To make it a bit easier for everyone involved, they do the hard work and pick out the top four albums at the moment – to create: Four Play! In no particular order…

ROLLING BLACKOUTS Coastal Fever – ‘Hope Downs’

The debut album from Australian quintet Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever is thirty-five minutes of upbeat contemporary indie. With the three lead singles making up the front end of the album, the first track, ‘An Air Conditioned Man’ continues their speedy, unique riff laden music. Followed by ‘Talking Straight’ & ‘Mainland’ the album sucks you straight in.

After releasing two six track EP’s since formation, in a relatively short space of time, surely the songs that would typically make up that debut album had already been used. Don’t be daft. With three singer-songwriters in the bands, it becomes clear that the creativity in the band is coming from many different avenues. Despite this though, the themes in the songs seem intertwined, and displays how tight the members are.

It is some feat in this era of music to make a record that has this much power, with such a simple formula at its core. It is incredibly hard to pick stand out songs from this album, it’s a modern day masterpiece that deserves all the recognition it is getting. Proving that despite what the pop charts might be championing, guitar music that is this good is never really going to go away. – Andy

RBCF return to the UK this autumn at Manchester Academy 2 on Friday 19th October

Aydio – ‘Inversion’

The best electronic music evokes deep emotion in you, even though there is no lyrics to orchestrate and pull on your heart strings. Aydio manages to capture your attention on almost every track of ‘Inversion’, this is not to say it’s a melancholic piece, not in one bit.

The opening track ‘Surface of Revolution’ starts smartly enough but breaks and cascades into soaring beaut. About 2 minutes in, you know you are dealing with an elite level album. There is no, what you would class as discernible beat on there. ‘Taurus’, lets strings dive and echo throughout the song, but then on ‘Sonrisa’ (the next track), he compensates with a heavy 4×4 beat interplayed with filtered flamenco-guitar sounding riffs.

Reading an interview with him, the man behind Aydio – Adam Harper – doesn’t have a set way to build music and draws his influence from all types of world music. This shines through loud and clear in his music. You feel a suggestion of an instrument in every track and you could maybe identify a country, but which country that may be, you can never quite pin it down. I compare this to Caribou, not because it sounds the same (because it doesn’t), but because it’s electronic music that you can daydream to, get surges of positivity to or completely break your heart to. But you’re not exactly sure why. – Mal

Miles Kane – ‘Coup De Grace’

Is it too early to start calling Miles Kane a legend of Brit Rock & Roll? Maybe so, but he is certainly on his way. His third solo album ‘Coup de Grace’ is a fierce tirade of his trademark tunes; interspersed with glam rock offerings. His last musical release was on behalf of The Last Shadow Puppets and this time round he has teamed up with pal Jamie T and Lana Del Rey for his solo release. With those names at the helm, how could it possibly go wrong?

Where his TLSP bandmate, Alex Turner, took the Arctic Monkeys down a more crooner and lounge-esque path, ‘Coup De Grace’ plays right into the hands of those that love a chorus to sing-a-long to and to lose themselves at sweat drenched gigs.

His formula hasn’t changed particularly, with the guitar riffs and melodies flowing like they have on his other records. This is classic Miles Kane, but the key album moments come on the slower, moodier, glam tracks. Lead single ‘Loaded’, was where Miles worked with Lana Del Rey and it produces a euphoric chorus, depicting the trials and tribulations of an ending relationship.

‘Coup de Grace’ is the albums highlight, a rolling bass walks through the tracks intro, before the echoing lyrics explode into the chorus and funky guitar come to the fore. ‘Cry On My Guitar’ has Bolan written all over it, a real true pounding drum beat hammers home throughout the whole track.

This will be a certified instant hit with the core Miles Kane supporters. His love for his craft is what makes it spectacular. Trialling the songs in small venues and intimate gigs all around the UK shows how much passion he has for just playing his music to the fans. He states on Twitter ‘Keep it simple and real and you can’t go wrong’. Never a truer word spoken.

Clearance – ‘At Your Leisure’

We have always been admirers of smart snappy roilling guitar music. Underlining that very fact is our review of Rolling Blackout Coastal Fever’s album this month. Well please allow me to wade in with another.

I happened across another review of this album and it centred on what the reviewer perceived as blandness, which I feel completely misses the point. Sure the tone of this album remains the same as the previous one, the effects of the guitar and the pitch of Mark Bellis’s vocals remains the same as it always has. And it’s also true when a band takes this approach, you definitely don’t get the soaring peaks and troughs you get with other albums. But when an album in its entirety is this good, then the gamble has paid off handsomely.

The album cracks along, the opener ‘Chances are’ immediately drags you in with bright jangly guitar and warm understated vocals. The tone is set. I interpret this album entirely as consistently, subtlety brilliant. If you are a fan of bands such as Quilt or Ultimate Painting, then you will appreciate this album. I haven’t stopped listening to the album and it really does gets better with each listen. Trust me. It’s a great little album to have in your collection to turn to when you need a smile putting on your face. At your leisure indeed. – Mal

Catch Twang live in the Ancoats General Store Studio monthly on MCR Live 🎵
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EP: The Yossarians – ‘Ambition Will Eat Itself’

WORDS BY HENRY COLQUHOUN

Mancunian legends with a range of different band members over the years, The Yossarians are now back and fully formed, complete with a new EP release: ‘Ambition Will Eat Itself’. You might even happen to know a member of the band, working idly alongside you. I was recently chatting with a friend about the many bands he’d been in when he started mentioning tours around Europe and the like. Naturally, I stopped him to enquire with whom this touring may have taken place. Theoss Airienne. “What?”. The Yess Aliens. “Sorry, what?”. The Yossarians.

Although I’d heard of the book, I was unfamiliar with its main protagonist Captain Yossarian and struggled to grasp the pronunciation of his surname. But on the flip-side, it would seem to be a memorable band name since here I sit.

From the little I’ve heard or read about them, I know that they’ve been compared to Bad Seeds, The Birthday Party (anything Nick Cave related really) and Swans. Not a bad comparison in sight. The first track – ‘Caramelised’ starts off like some dark gruesome song you’d find one of the above artists playing: staccato riffs and jarring guitars coming into the fray during the chorus. As singer and guitarist Tim Schiazza lingers on some “ing” endings as the manic rhythm and feel continues to pound, you’re reminded of The Veils at their punkiest.

“LET THE DEAD SING
PENDULUM SWING”

With my latest comparison in mind, second track ‘World’, a much calmer and relaxing number, albeit with eeriness intact, complete with a simultaneously rousing and drifting off ending, complete with soft arpeggios and violin. In fact, ‘Ambition Will Eat Itself’ is a most appropriate apocalyptic record.

#yossarians #CDF #celebrationdaysfestival @celebrationdaysrecords

A post shared by Alice May (@alicemayaquarius) on

The sound is amped up again for third track ‘Friends We Are’ and the driving pounding rhythm on the album opener returns, notably with the recurring “friends of friends of friends of friends” lyricsAnd before you know it, the song has raced to its ending. By now, I’m wishing the album didn’t flow so quickly and smoothly. At a mere 17 minutes, it flies by and leaves one desperate for more. Another comparison comes to my fore on standout track ‘Ambition Will Eat Itself’ as the guitar sound and opening lines remind me of none other than Alex Turner and the Arctic Monkeys on their darker material (Josh Homme-era). A familiarity I also felt on the closing chords to second song ‘World’. Schiazza snarls like Nick Cave at points, the violin drones on like Warren Ellis and the title track thumps repeatedly like the Bad Seeds. But as the piano softly fades into nothingness, this is no meager amalgamation of bands I’ve compared them to, after all, they have been going for long enough to have forged their own particular sound and style which begs to be delved into and I personally can’t wait to dive into their back catalogue.

They end the EP as many EPs should, with a wonderfully weird instrumental track: ‘As In Life As In Chess, As In Chess, As In Sex’, that starts off with a Twin Peaks-like synth drone, before guitar comes galloping in and piano echoes incessantly in the background before a single deep drum kick signals the end. The Yossarians are back and here’s to hoping that they stay with us.

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helena hauff qualm

Review: Helena Hauff – Qualm

A bleak future sparkles gloriously on the German heroine’s second LP, Qualm

So much has been written about the dystopian futurism of electronic music that, these days, portraying any deep-slung industrial techno record as ‘the sound of the future’ is a hackneyed cliché. In the early days (and arguably rightly), genres like acid, electro and EBM were straight-faced and categorically freezing – oozing the dinginess of the Berlin Wall era and Reaganomics. More recently, artists like DJ Stingray, E. Myers – and this review’s own protagonist Helena Hauff – have taken the starker implements of these purveyances and turned them into spectacularly warm, if still deeply twisted workings. Hauff’s second LP Qualm is at the pinnacle of that notion not just for her back catalogue, but for flavour-spanning techno in general.

In her astonishing Essential Mix for BBC Radio last year (awarded THE Essential Mix of the year by the show’s panel), Hauff took the essence of the decidedly imposing, seamless charisma of her Golden Pudel residency and exposed further just how much genre traits could be manipulated – pulling and diverting sounds to create refreshing glances at age-old themes. Her meticulous record digging further seeps into Qualm too; everything is positioned for full effect, whether that be aimed squarely at club orientated vibes (‘Lifestyle Guru’, ‘Hyper-Intelligent Genetically Enriched Cyborg’) or subterranean no-man’s-land apartment buildings (‘Primordial Sludge’). But crucially, no matter how harsh the sounds get, everything glistens deliriously. Instead of wanting to watch the world burn, Qualm makes the most of the aftermath.

There is, of sorts, a narrative arc to the record. An arc that doesn’t wholesomely accentuate a dystopian setting, but does hint at a cycle – an evolutionary foot forward into the abyss. ‘Barrow Boot Boys’ and ‘Lifestyle Guru’ are both deeply hypnotic death dances, the former like wasps lured into a citrus soaked metal tin and the latter a searing strobe light angling its way around a Bladerunner- style bar fight in the year 2182. Next comes the heady descent into truly head-spinning realms, as ‘bdtr-revisited’ marries influences like Drexciya and Autechre in an effortlessly paranoid way before the beatless sci-fi wooze of ‘Entropy Created You & Me’ stamps its claim as the most melodic moment thus far.

The phenomenally titled ‘Fag Butts in the Fire Bucket’ continues the discombobulation by offering seismic but steady jabs to the rib cage with side lashings of screeching synths and deep-set kicks, before the aforementioned ‘Hyper-intelligent Genetically Enriched Cyborg’ rolls through as one of the squelchiest and most grin-inducing records Hauff has recorded to date. Throughout the record, Hauff guides one through neon EBM-indebted keys and an irresistible, intoxicating 4/4 groove. ‘Primordial Sludge’ is nail-bitingly tense, but its increasingly wet sojourn through mucky matter and Stranger Things-esque cinematic overtures oozes out like a genial – almost comical – beast from a tide of filth.

It’s towards the record’s end, with the scintillating double tap of the title track and ‘No Qualms’ that Qualm sounds most mournful, but even that sense of uncertainty is delivered with a spring in its step. The LP does depict the future as bleak, but never offers this up as a totally negative thing either. Maybe Qualm is the comfort blanket we all so desperately need.

Listen to the full album, below.

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gaika basic volume

Review: GAIKA – Basic Volume

Gaika Tavares’ full-length debut for Warp records

In a scandal-consumed post-Brexit, post-Windrush world, the highlighting of the immigrant experience in London seems more necessary than ever before. Gaika Tavares has been encapsulating feelings of otherness in his music for the last three years, hopping across and blending a whirlpool of genre tropes that directly reference the diasporic value of sound system culture and the rich, historic, tapestry it weaves. But as knife crime figures soar in Britain’s capital, Basic Volume (Tavares’ debut full-length for Warp Records) feels more timely than any of his previous releases, and appropriately walks the line between navigating an alien, insurmountable cityscape and a guided tour through a lack of belonging.

In an interview with the Evening Standard, Tavares outlined an encounter in the immigration line at Stanstead airport upon returning home from Barcelona. Despite brandishing a British passport he was singled out and questioned persistently about his purpose in the UK. Aligned with the fact that the title of the record is an ode to his father, who passed away last year, Basic Volume immediately stakes its claim as Gaika’s most personal and emotionally charged LP to date. His music has always been bitter, angry and desperately searching for a sense of self, but here he uses London’s bleakest side not as a tool by which to sue himself into submission, but as an emboldening foundation upon which life for black people, and particularly the kids at the mercy of gang crime, can be improved.

A record as thematically sprawling as Basic Volume is theoretically difficult to find a solid sonic palette for, but Gaika’s vision is steeped in pulling elements together in ways which require three or four listens. Here his fusion of dancehall, hip-hop and industrialism feels more gruelling than the more accessible R’n’B flavoured climbs of 2016’s Spaghetto. The opening title track sets a cinematic precedent, built on a hyper-coloured synth overture that glazes along a crawling boom-bap groove that oozes the rusting mechanisms of London’s more fragmented areas, and immediately unpacks the fears that come with “being naked and black in a white man’s world”.

The nightmarish low-end dissonance and ear-piercing squeals of ‘Hackers and Jackers’ sits perfectly as the backdrop to tales of inner-city corruption and physical brutality simultaneously, whilst the metallic, brick-to-skull intensity of ‘Black Empire (Killmonger Riddim)’ is as fitting as can be a foundation for a gloriously unashamed and righteous call to arms for London’s black community. There are softer moments, like ‘Ruby’, and an eerie (but gorgeous) 4th dimensional melody is a powerful weapon at the heart of tunes like ‘Born Thieves’ and the celestial highlight ‘Immigrant Sons (Pesos & Gas)’, both a fist-clenching feminist mover, and a declaration of the individualism and distinction of all of the UK’s minority communities.

The push-and-pull equation between personal and cultural lows that runs through the whole record unerringly magnifies the need for a real change of status quo (something which Tavares himself has said he hopes to achieve with the album). Nowadays, with the crushing cuts to arts facilities and venues across the city, it’s easy to feel like art is losing its ability to mobilise real social change. But Basic Volume wonderfully underpins the notion that by not giving up, by consistently challenging in consistently leftfield and creative ways, an escape is provided not just for those faced with grim reality but provides a sense of belief for those who are really living it.

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Blushes

TRACK REVIEW: Blushes ‘Cielo Rosa’ and ‘Dust’

Hailing from Aylesbury, Blushes are an indie-pop band with a sound that best described as the pop version of Foals whilst drawing similarities to both The Vaccines and Mark Ronson. In their Twitter bio, the band describes their music to be “for fans of psychedelic nights in, mad nights out”, but the music Blushes make is much more than this – it holds a dreamy indie undertone with the songs which vary from psychedelic to pop-rock bangers whilst vocals are always light and distant, creating the delicate sound to complement their varying instrumentals. Blushes have recently released two new singles, titled ‘Cielo Rosa’ and ‘Dust’, and we gave them a run-through review.


Cielo Rosa

Meaning pink sky, ‘Cielo Rosa’ (the first track of the two) perfectly melds the bands two sounds with an indie-rock instrumental combined with dreamy vocals and plenty of synths + definitely deserves to be listened to with headphones to truly appreciate the depth the track carries. Cielo Rosa begins with vocalist and guitarist Bradley Ayres singing chorus to a more rocky sound, eventually transitioning into dreamy verse sung by Blushes’ other vocalist, and synth player, Tiffany Evans and harmonies continue throughout. The song features an instrumental toward the end which has more rock associated riffs, but the band still manage to maintain that whimsical sound with long-lasting background notes.

Cielo Rosa is ultimately quite upbeat and catchy. It borders between a catchy pop song and an indie classic, while simultaneously holding a unique air, as do most of their prior releases.

Dust

Out of the two, I’d say ‘Dust’ is the more relaxed, chillout offering sitting slightly slower with a definite ‘sitting out in the sun with a beer’ vibe. ‘Dust’ has slightly stronger drums throughout, but overall keeps a very mellow sound – it is definitely the kind of song I could zone out to thanks to Blushes’ commendable showcasing of subtle guitar riffs and dreamy, muted vocals.

Personally, ‘Dust’ takes on a more instrumental role than previous track ‘Cielo Rosa’; not necessarily because it has fewer vocals, but because the vocals pop less and melt seamlessly into the backing of the song. There’s not a massive focus on the words and what they’re saying, but instead the vocals act as another instrument for the band, creating a truly unified piece. Many artists – and listener alike – view the instrumental as just a background for the vocalists, however Blushes counter this in many of their releases. Their music, instead, uses the Evans’ and Ayres’ vocals as another instrument to add to the total sound, which gives their songs the dream-like quality.


Summary

Both singles, ‘Cielo Rosa’ and ‘Dust’, complement each other well, befitting of Blushes’ prior releases. The songs have a relaxed, summery sound and continue to solidify Blushes’ position in the unique genre of music that the band have carved out for themselves.

 

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