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SINGLE REVIEW: Sundara Karma – Little Smart Houses

WORDS BY: CALLUM MITCHELL-SIMON

Sundara Karma started out from humble beginnings, formed in 2011 as a high school band in Reading. They releasing their debut singles via Soundcloud, before several years spent developing their sound, releasing the odd EP, and touring alongside the likes of Wolf Alice. They came on leaps and bounds upon the release of their 2017 debut album Youth Is Only Ever Fun In Retrospect, which featured huge singles She Said, Olympia and Happy Family.  They’re set for bigger things in 2019, with a new album Ulfilas’ Alphabet due on March 1st on Chess Club/RCA, and a headline slot at Live At Leeds in May, preceded by a huge headline UK tour in April.

 

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With their spiky guitar riffs and heavily stylised art-rock leanings, they bring to mind a hungry young Franz Ferdinand or Foals. The Guardian even compared them to the likes of U2 and Arcade Fire. A daunting comparison maybe, but these guys seems to understand this crazy old rock and roll game – they dress up and play their respective parts with aplomb, lead singer Oscar “Lulu” Pollock in particular doing his utmost to channel a modern-day Bowie (this writer came close to seeing them live in 2017 at Y-Not Festival, but that turned out to be the fateful year that the whole thing was rained off).

Their return is heralded by new track Little Smart Houses. Whilst their debut was itself a very fine record, it, by and large, stuck to a set palate of influences, like a band finding their feet. This time around they appear much more confident to stretch out their sound. This is bolstered with some inspired 80’s touches, such as Pollock‘s heavily indebted Duran Duran-esque vocal inflections. A bouncy, guitar-led intro is abruptly halted by some stop-start vocals, before a wave of shimmering electronics bridge into a rousing chorus. Pollock sings of yearning for a broadening spiritual awareness “free yourself and you will conceive, a life beyond your wildest dreams”, and the habits we inflict on ourselves to prevent us from achieving this “We’ll stay inside because we’re torn and dumb, kept warm in little smart houses”.

It’s a bright, technicolor slab of indie-pop, with slick, polished production. It’s a confident artistic step forward, likely to keep the returning fans happy, whilst winning over many more new ones in the process.

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ALBUM RELEASE: YAK – ‘PURSUIT OF MOMENTARY HAPPINESS’

WORDS BY: MATTY PYWELL

Pursuit Of Momentary Happiness is Yak‘s sophomore album, coming almost three years after their debut record Alas Salvation. British indie music has had mixed fortunes of late, not many of the artists can really claim to be making music that’s very original or thought-provoking, a lot of them relying on re-hashing the sounds of old, to keep hold of a demographic fiercely loyal to anything with a guitar in it. This isn’t to say that all British indie bands are terrible, quite the opposite, you just have to wade through a swamp of mediocrity to get to the good stuff. I am here to tell you whether the new Yak album belongs in the swamp, or the green grass beyond it.

The first sound you’ll hear on this record, is that of a pan flute on Bellyache, used to signal the start of the industrious and mechanical repetition of, “you’re tired of greedy bodies”. The song’s lyrics point towards gluttony within society, the belief that money is power and once we get money we want more and more and more. Perhaps it could be perceived as a slight jab at capitalism. The track is erratic, there are ever so slight elements of psychedelia buried deep within the sound, under the brash riffs. Starting off slowly, Fried bursts into a more volatile and chaotic punk-rock track, boasting riffs that remind me of last years Shame record Songs Of Praise.

Words Fail Me sees singer Oliver Burslem being unable to open up and express his feelings in key moments. It features some really crisp and momentous orchestral sections, which pop up every so often throughout the run-time. They peak during the songs outro and it makes for a thrilling climax, but before we get to that point, the track is such a slow-burner that It’s doesn’t really justify the buildup to get to the momentary climax. In contrast, Blinded By The Lies is a non-stop adrenaline rush, the guitar riffs shred to the effect of an incoming stampede, as the lyrics point a middle-finger towards people of upper-class backgrounds who are drawn to big cities like bees to a hive. On one bridge, Oliver screams, “Kick em’ in the face!” over and over, while the drum-kit sounds as though its being butchered by a mace, it’s beautifully violent, one of the most satisfying kicks in the eardrum you will ever have.

Then there’s a rather pointless interlude track, that is honestly on the album for no real reason other than to fill space, there’s nothing particularly interesting about it at all. But then we’re straight back to where Blinded By The Lies dropped us off, with the equally vicious White Male Carnivore. But aside from having some gloriously animalistic hooks, what impresses me most about this song is the lyricism, seemingly pointing towards the sense of toxic masculinity within society. “With a low pain threshold. Am I the glass house throwing stones?”, in my interpretation, theses lyrics refer to how, stereo-typically, men are supposed to be big and tough, almost unfeeling, which is complete rubbish, men have a right to feel comfortable talking about their feelings. The culture of ‘bottling it up’ is toxic and a killer.

The final cut on the album, This House Has No Living Room is a little bit of a mixed bag. Running for about 8 and a half minutes, the track has a lot of space to fill, the first part centering around this decrepit house, which is seemingly stuck in a soulless, empty land. The first part of the song does get a little bit repetitive though and doesn’t really have anything interesting to say. It suffers from similar problems to Words Fail Me, there’s a brief moment of intrigue as the song reaches a slight crescendo half way through, but this then dissipates in to a combination of bird noises and synth. While the bird noises are relaxing, it adds nothing to the meaning or context of the song, I feel like the last two minutes of the track should have been cut completely.

 

Overall, this record confidently makes it over to the green grass. There are some fantastic guitar hooks on this record, especially on Bellyache and Blinded By The Lies. I feel as though the lyrics give an accurate portrayal towards modern-day societal attitudes, especially concerning capitalism, greed and our everyday struggle towards finding what makes us happiest. A couple of the tracks get bogged down by being a little bit too ponderous in their buildup and the last song is a disappointing bookend, but overall Yak have made an album that encapsulates the best elements of modern-day guitar music.

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SINGLE RELEASE: Working Men’s Club – ‘Bad Blood’

WORDS BY JAY PLENT

Indie newcomers Working Men’s Club bring a sharp electro flair to their new single Bad Blood.  Combining influences from across the 70s, 90s and ’00s, there’s plenty to like if you’re a fan of clean-cut post punk with a little synthetic edge chucked in for good measure. Sonically it feels a little rough around the edges, much in the way your favourite nightclub might. Despite the sombre title, the track is violently upbeat, the band taking angular stabs at good ideas throughout, some of which land, some of which don’t.

Opening with sharp drums and mercilessly clean bass hits, you’d be forgiven for mistaking this track for a forgotten ’80s B-Side, as it embodies much of the fun, party-wise atmosphere of most of the era’s pop hits. Whilst comparisons can be made with Talking Heads, the track actually has something of a B52’s vibe. Much like a love shack, it’s sleazy and carefree, but with plenty of fun to go round. Guitars chug along, with riffs occasionally entering to enliven the texture, and the peppy synth that slams in with the choruses provides the track’s best uplifting moments.

All that being said, Bad Blood doesn’t fully realise its potential. A few new elements trickle in, yes, but not enough to keep things really interesting. There’s no progression or change that really pricks up the ears. Though the initial rhythm and yelping vocals are very characterful and fun, eventually the track just devolves into repetition. The band clearly have potential, and were they to embrace more of the madness of Talking Heads, who repeat only if it builds to a larger overall wall of sound, it’d be a serious step up.

However, despite this, Bad Blood does feel very distinct from any other new bands rolling off the perpetual conveyor belt of music. Also, as much as the repetition will be a hindrance to some, it works in the track’s favour in the sense that it is very catchy, and much as the chorus begs of us “be happy when the sun shines”, so to will you feel happy when this track plays.

Like this? Read up on all of our blog posts HERE 👀

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ALBUM RELEASE: Rukhsana Merrise – ‘Child’

WORDS BY ELEANOR FORREST

Rukhsana Merrise has released the first half of her highly anticipated, debut album ‘Child’. But there’s a twist. The London singer-songwriter who’s previously toured with well-known artists such as Rag ’n’ Bone Man and Michael Kiwanuka, allows us to dip our toes into her new sound.

By releasing the first half of the album, entitled Child, it serves as a teaser for more to come. Famous for her honest stage performances, beginning all her shows with a quick ‘alright darlin’ to the audience, Rukhsana demonstrates her softer side with ‘Child’. 

Known for making music regardless of the genre, her musical evolution now features a variety of new sounds. This is most notable regarding the initial track, ‘Could’ve Been’. Incorporating elements of the country music genre and mixing it with an indie pop element, there is a contemporary feel to Rukhsana’s sound. Like any good album, ‘Child’ showcases the artists’ lyrical talent. With tracks like ‘Sober’ that incorporate the lines “I spend too much like my pennies are pounds” and “I gotta call you and finally get the words out” she relates all too familiar feelings and behaviours many of us understand. 

Taking on a different tone from her previous work a more heartfelt side is expressed with her angelic vocals. Rukhsana created a catalogue of work that opens the door on what we can expect in the future from the talented ‘So they say’- artist.

‘Child’ is an impressive teaser to what fans can expect with the release of the complete debut album. Utilising her lyrical and vocal abilities, she expresses herself in such a relatable manner that creates a unique familiarity. Ultimately allowing her to connect with her followers. Keep your eyes open for the rest of this already talented piece of work!

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REVIEW: One Cut of the Dead @ HOME

WORDS BY ALICE SALMON

When you think of horror-comedy, you’ll probably go straight for the Scary Movie franchise – and with good reason. It takes something special for laughs and scares to sit comfortably in the same script without lapsing into parody or farce – did somebody say Sharknado? One Cut of the Dead is a breakout zombie horror classic that marries the two in award-winning fashion. It screened at HOME last night as part of Film4’s FilmFear season.

One Cut of the Dead is the brainchild of Japanese writer-director-producer Shin’ichiô Ueda – and it simply can’t be reviewed without first acknowledging the 37-minute single-take opener that has audiences going mad. At first, it’s disorientating: who is it that keeps wiping blood spatter off the camera lens? It only becomes clear later on that this isn’t an overlooked continuity error – it’s actually the central axis of a stellar meta-comedy.

“POM!”

But back to the plot. The film opens in a disused water filtration plant, somewhere in rural Japan. A megalomaniac director berates two young stars for their apparent ineptitude during filming of – you guessed it – TV zombie flick, One Cut of the Dead. They take a break after a scene’s 42nd take as the mood gets fractious. Needless to say, the cast are then split up very quickly, after some brief exposition – which is when the zombies come to play.horror, one cut of the dead, home, manchester

As the living and undead play a game of cat-and-mouse around the abandoned plant, the director pops back at the worst possible moments, delighting in how realistic everyone’s fear seems – and how great his film is shaping up. Watch out for make-up lady Nao’s invaluable self-defence lessons and being surprisingly handy with an axe.

Side note: it’s really difficult to not give away all the spoilers on this one, so it’s best you witness how the plot unfolds for yourself…

Every film genre features the joke-within-a-joke trope. Yet here it feels organic, the plot more relatable and the humour more…human.

The trailer points towards One Cut of the Dead being just another gore-fest at the hands of an unknown director. But that’s just a secondary device around which the main plot is based – which in itself replicates the reality of Ueda’s entire project. Any initially clunkiness adds to the comedic credibility of the latter stages of the film as Ueda’s intent slots into place.

This film comes highly recommended for those who aren’t so good with gore. Ueda portrays the trials of filming on a tight budget with aplomb, making easy bedfellows of contrasting concepts: a cast making the best of things, a father-daughter reconciliation and the universal appeal of slapstick.

No wonder it has a coveted 100% rating (97% viewer rating) on Rotten Tomatoes. Heartily endorsed by Film4 Channel Editor and FilmFear curator David Cox, One Cut of the Dead lovingly pokes fun at the genre it inhabits. This irreverently self-referential offering is one to watch, laugh and recommend to everyone you know: you won’t regret it.

You can still buy tickets for FilmFear here, taking advantage of HOME’s multi-save ticketing system.

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perfect body psych

EP: Bubblewrap Collective Presents Perfect Body & Zac White

Words – Richard Samuel

When it comes to psychedelic/shoegaze indie, Wales punches above its weight with its most famous export the Super Fury Animals still flying the flag well across the globe. Cardiff-based Bubblewrap Collective are keeping up that fine tradition. The label, who were behind 2017’s successful split EP with Boy Azooga and Buzzard Buzzard Buzzard, have just dropped their latest split EP release from psych-upcomers Perfect Body & Zac White.

Kicking off the two-track release, Cardiff’s Perfect Body. Formed in early 2017 and inspired by the sonic experimentation of bands like My Bloody Valentine, Stereolab, and The Brian Jonestown Massacre, Perfect Body are one of the highly-tipped in the Welsh capital. Having secured a place on the Green Man Rising stage earlier this year, in just over a year the five-piece have secured huge support from music outlets including Drowned in Sound, BBC Introducing alongside the PRS Foundation backed artist development scheme – Forté Project.

Upon pressing play, Perfect Bodies present us with the delicious pysch-pop track ‘Fields’, the music equivalent of sinking a pint of your favourite ice-cold beer. The distinctively polished production gives a garage-pysch feel to the reverb smothered hooks, the woozy glacial synthesisers that really drench in character from the otherworldly three-way vocals haunt the track. There is a certain haze and shimmer that shrouds the track, in turn making you envisage the band huddled together to record in their bedroom. Perfect Body retain pop sensibilities making it a wholly accessible listen, taking you on a trip that knows where it’s going but via the lovely scenic route to get its destination. Whether you want an easy or complex listen, this track has it both.

Zac White perfect body

Next up, 19-year-old Zac White. Honing his own sound based on influences such as Wilco, Loose Fur, Sonic Youth and Broadcast, Zak’s 90s/00s off-kilter indie sound has grown from minimal arrangements with drummer Ethan Hurst into a rollicking, reverb-drenched, garage-psych experience; or so we’re informed by the accompanying press release.

Zac’s new single ‘Spent On You’ featured on this split EP differs from that of which Perfect Bodies offer. Whilst it’s more accessible for a casual listener, once again the musician retains his soon-to-be trademark pop sensibilities with a contemplative sun-kissed melody, bounding baselines, and glistening riffs tiptoeing into a heart on the sleeve sing-along. Its hazy-pop perfect for those clear sunset evenings that the autumn brings.

The record – pressed to limited edition purple and orange vinyl – will be released on November 23rd, which you can Pre-order here.

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UPCOMING: Dexys Midnight Runners’ Kevin Rowland
@ Night & Day

WORDS BY HANNAH TINKER

Fast becoming legendary on the Mancunian nightclub scene, Let’s Make This Precious has seen a roster of talent provide DJ support for the night. Including the likes of Cabbage, The Orielles and the man himself Kevin Rowland of Dexys Midnight Runners – the original team behind illustrious track ‘Come On Eileen’. Never one to shy from a stage, Rowland is making another appearance for LMTP on Friday 7th September at Northern Quarter’s Night & Day Cafe.

Besides the obvious headline character, this isn’t just any standard DJ set. Kevin steps out of the box from your regular, modern Spotify-playlist DJs and sings the vocals of the tracks that he plays. If his last set at the club night is anything to go by, the man of the hour will likely be front and centre on the stage of Night & Day, eager to please his audience.

After their glory days, Dexys made a return in 2016 with hit album ‘Let the Record Show’. Let The Record Show: Dexys Do Irish and Country Soul is a project that Rowland says he wanted to do in 1984, but the band unfortunately split before he got the chance. It’s a collection of Irish songs that have been reimagined alongside other ‘selected compositions’ that the band have chosen. The group, which now comprises of Kevin Rowland, Lucy Morgan and Sean Read, have gone to great lengths to explain that the album is not a stop gap. It is to be considered alongside the rest of the band’s material; as a new chapter added to their cannon.

Expect a fanfare, disco ball and soul-filled evening, taking Night & Day into the forefront of your Friday evening plans. Dexys days are never over and disco never sleeps.

Ready to boogie? Find out more on the event page 🕺

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wales mcr live

FUTURE FIVE: A Spotlight on the West Wales music scene

Cardiff has recently been crowned the UK’s music capital with its abundance of venues, initiatives and a community centring around the musical scene. However, the sheer talent that has been birthed outside the capital boasts a further array of artists that deserve to be discovered yet with their location oftentimes struggle for exposure, staying hidden gems in the Welsh countryside. From folk to electronic, the scene in west Wales is teeming with acts that are sure to blow up. If you fancy discovering some of the best talents from West Wales, the land of song, here are our five top picks you should invest some time in to.

The Tates

Having started in their hometown Carmarthen, The Tates are an indie outfit laced with a pop twist though they’re not as simple as that. Regarding their recorded material, the outfit possess a catchy collection of tracks all with an original flare, helping the band to stand tall within a notoriously popular genre. But, what sets The Tates apart proves to be in the beauty of their live shows; the band break any pre-disposed expectations the audience may have regarding their indie nature with sets consisting of powerful electronica and fearless energy. Having been likened to some pretty impressive names including Depeche Mode and New Order, The Tates bring a seasoned sound with a modern twist.

Alex Dingley

Alex Dingley is an artist who endlessly pushes the boundaries of folk with plenty of punk interjections. Travelling all the way from west Wales to California, Dingley’s forthcoming 3rd album ‘Beat The Babble’ sees creative input from the likes of Samur Khouja, Cate Le Bon and Tim Presley. ‘Beat The Babble’ has already been released in the US, with a highly anticipated launch on home UK turf coming up shortly on June 15th.

Roughion

Birthed in Aberystwyth and now based in Cardiff, electronic duo Roughion are making waves across the Welsh dance scene. Steffan & Gwion have recently collaborated with Astroid Boys frontman Benji for an exciting new upcoming release, as the pair continue to explore avenues that are bold & leave more than a statement. Their music is profoundly diverse, so diverse in fact that the musicians have been heralded as “Wales’ answer to the Chemical Brothers” – bold statement, eh? With an EP on the horizon, these guys ones to watch for those who need a new flavour of electronica in their lives. Check them out for yourselves, above.

I See Rivers

I See Rivers are an enchanting trio residing in West Wales’ Tenby after uniting all the way over in Norway. Their music is expansive and explores wondrous melodies with unrelinquishing elegance. Having dubbed their sound as ‘Float Folk’, they are comparable to the likes of Sufjan Stevens and Fleet Foxes. I See Rivers have an EP due out this Spring and what we have heard thus far is a clear representation of how they’ve grown in musicianship and production, with their latest single ‘Give Up’  receiving astounding reaction.

Adwaith

Adwaith are an all-female trio that define versatility. Encompassing both Welsh and English lyrics, their bilingual material can showcase everything from post-punk to stripped back folk with equally absorbing power. The Carmarthen girls have been appearing on festival bills for years, where their fanbase is growing rapidly out of love for their authentic sound with emotional pulls & we know they’re just a stone’s throw from breaking.

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