Thought Bubble – Around

It seems like an age since I heard from our good friends at Dirty Filthy Records. It’s been awful quiet without them around. But what’s this? A new release? Huzzah!!

It’s something a bit different this time. DFR are heading into electronica with English duo Thought Bubble and their new album Around.

Thought Bubble are an alt-electronic duo whose music regularly veers into various noisy skronk fusion pigeonholes. Having spent the last decade or so as members of various psych and spacey fusion bands, on the psychedelic rock festival circuit, keyboardist Chris Cordwell and percussionist Nick Raybould had maintained Thought Bubble as their cherished side project. It’s now time to bring it into the open.

Let’s dive in and see what delights are in store.

The record begins with the ominous and foreboding tones of ‘The Waves’. This is a tune “full of eastern promise” (can any of my readers name that TV advert?) This song has a slouched, downtempo pace, however, that allows room to showcase some stunning rhythmic work alongside some gloriously exotic keyboard textures. It recalls to me the Peace Orchestra album that Peter Kruder put out back in the 90’s. I’m not sure I could pay this track a higher compliment.

The pace picks up on ‘Beatwave’, a krautrock inspired, pedal to the metal freak out. Your attention is demanded right from the get go and is rewarded throughout. Synth strings give way to acid squelches and glitchy synth. Not to mention a cheeky ladies voice popping up from time to time.

There is a nod to Lemon Jelly in the intro to ‘Mobius Trip’. The spoken word intro describing the famous mobius strip being mirrored in the cyclical repetitions of the music. It builds and builds on that foundation, adding guitar and more spoken word making this a truly psychedelic experience.

‘Rat Race’ comes in all anxious and pounding. That feeling is amplified and skewed off on a number of themed tangents. From the tight, fractious percussion to the scattergun synth and samples, this shakes you from the psychedelic stupour of the previous track and slaps you about the face.

Throwing us another curveball is ‘Fluctuate’. This track is beautiful. Its chilled out floaty vibes carry you away and make you feel all warm. Even in the closing section where the tempo drops and the mood gets slightly darker, it still made me smile. A big smile! This is my album highlight!

We close on ‘Devoider’ a spaced out rock jam. This is a cosmic trip amongst the stars. The introduction of a fuzzed out guitar is a welcome new texture to their sonic pallate. It’s wonderful way to close out a much varied and interesting album.

Thought Bubble are clearly fans of the G-Stone and Compost records from the 90’s and they have taken that influence and built something new and unique with it. By playing with tempo and textures they bring us into their world and excite us with each new experience created. This was a very rewarding listen and one I will continue to enjoy.

Around is out now on Dirty Filthy Records!

The Churchill Garden – Grounded

Friends of Static Sounds Club, The Churchill Garden return with their new single ‘Grounded’.

For those new to the band, The Churchill Garden are multi-instrumentalist Andy Jossi and singer / lyricist Krissy Vanderwoude. They create lush, vast soundscapes you can lose yourself in. If you are looking for a great starting point to explore their music, I can heartily recommend their stunning Heart & Soul album. As well as being a fine collection of songs it’s also one of the most sumptuous records I have in my collection.

Let’s talk about the single. ‘Grounded’ opens like a lost Stone Roses track before erupting into the trademark Jossi sound. Chiming guitars trade off against a fuzz driven bass and driving drums. Vanderwoude has a knack of telling a story in a song. Straight from the heart. I think a lot of us could identify with the daydreamer in the song.

There’s something really special about the musical relationship these two have. The bond between the instrumentation and lyrics is so life affirming and buoyant. Real sympatico in action. That for me is the core strength of the band and one they deliver on time and again.

‘Grounded’ is out on September 8th. Check out The Churchill Garden Bandcamp for the single and their back catalogue.

Dive and Drown – Here and Now.

I’m a huge fan of that ethereal sound the Cure were producing around the time of The Top and Head on the Door. I was so happy when I received the Here and Now EP from French musician, Laurent Guerrier that records under the moniker Dive and Drown.

Guerrier is heavily influenced by that era as well as 4AD bands like Cocteau Twins. This six track instrumental EP is a real homage to that period however it doesn’t wallow in its mores and idioms but uses it as a foundation to build from.

We open on the gothic splendour of ‘I’ll Give You This’. Spanning that early Cocteaus and Cure sound but with an added eastern influence this sets the mood for the EP and stamps Guerrier’s identity on your mind.

‘Discontent’, whilst a darkly bass driven track, is also a gloriously light and airy experience. The guitars are gossamer fine and drive a mean hook in the chorus movements.

Taking the pace down a notch ‘The End Of What Never Was’ enters into some really dark territory. Like a scary walk through some haunted woods at midnight this track had me on tenterhooks start to finish.

 If ever there was an aptly named track its ‘This Sea’. The tension builds like the waves in an embryonic storm until we are being bombarded with sound and textures. It’s a very clever piece of work.

In contrast to the deafening roar of the previous track ‘Yet You Stand Tall’ is almost minimalist in its introduction. Then the rug is pulled out from under us. A* fuzzed-out bass blasts from the speakers and the drums kick in. This is a powerful, driving and vital track. It’s so full of life and is my stand out track.

We close on the epic ‘Dispossessed, Forgetful’. Like an amalgam of all we have heard so far, it’s a sprawling journey through the sonic palette of Here and Now. There is no better way to draw this experience to a close.

Guerrier has succeeded in creating a cohesive and all-consuming vision that stays true to itself from beginning to end. I think if Robin Guthrie heard this EP, he would be seriously impressed at what he heard. No greater compliment could I offer.

Here And Now is out now via the Dive and Drown Bandcamp page.

Crome Yellow – No Friends or Mirrors

As the summer draws to a close, I was on the hunt for some new mellow tunes to chill out to. I didn’t have far to look. Waterford’s Crome Yellow have released an album that has been practically glued to my turntable since it arrived from the label.

No Friends or Mirrors is their second album and is a step forward in ambition and scope for the band. Crome Yellow brew a heady blend of psychedelia with a pinch of funk, a sprinkle of 60’s mod vibes and a knowing drizzle of 90’s baggy. Thirsty yet? Me too. Let’s drop the needle and see what this is all about.

We ease into the album with the smooth ‘2.0’. Setting the tone for the album the song grooves along with a gentle sway. Drawing influence from both 70’s funk and new soul of the early eighties. It’s a glorious sound of sundown on a summer’s day.

‘Constant Delay’ maintains that chilled out pace. Even opening on the line “I’m already ready to take it really slow”. What sets the song apart is the cascading guitar lines at the end of each verse. They’re absolutely mesmerising.

After the spaced-out sound experiment that is “Instant Replay” we move into my album highlight.

“Pocket Protector” caught my ear immediately with its shifting off beat chorus and silky guitar lead. There’s nice vocal interplay playing the lead vocal off of a falsetto. This, for me, is this album distilled down into one track.

Next up is the 90’s Madchester inspired “Don’t Really Want To Know Ya”. It sounds like John Squire joined forces with Tim Burgess and Clint Boon. This is the band really having fun. That comes through in buckets. You can’t help but smile and nod along to the infectious groove.

The breathy ballad ‘October’ follows, full of sombre reflection. This song clocks in at just over six minutes but it certainly doesn’t feel like it. The commitment in the vocal delivery is very engaging and holds your interest throughout.

‘Oh How It Feels To Be Down” gives us a false start before kicking into a psych-soaked funky jam. Make no mistake, this band have chops. I can imagine this song would be amazing to see live.

After another short interlude in the company of the distant and shimmering ‘Friends’ we’re back on familiar ground with ‘Nobody Told Me’. There’s something of the Hendrix in the guitar licks on show here. Not too flamboyant but enough to compliment the solid backline. I love how the guitar seems to fight its way through the gaps in the vocal.

From this point on the album switches things up. Gone is the funky, baggy groove replaced by something deeper and more complex.

‘The Ballad of John Who Can’t Open His Eyes’ is nothing short of genius. Channelling the Ready Steady Go Carnaby Street 60’s mod vibe and honing it for 21st Century ears. It’s a fun trip and you will love it.

Our final sound experiment of the album ‘Mirrors’ follows. I really loved it. Perhaps they will develop that idea into a fully-fledged song one day.

The Pink Floydesque ‘No.9‘ follows. To say this is a triumph of song writing would be understating things somewhat. There are moments here where I feel I’m listening to some lost Beatles track from Sgt Peppers. It’s story telling with razor sharp observational lyrics.

Closing the album out is the summery ‘Daffodils’. Apt for a band called Crome Yellow. A cool as a cucumber guitar riff dances along accompanied by a squelchy keyboard motif. This creates another new texture and ambience on this album. It’s the perfect closer, as it leaves you hungry, wanting more.

I think it’s fair to say, Crome Yellow have recorded an album that’ll be appearing in a lot of end of year polls. Its fun, funky, chilled and a deeply satisfying listen. I highly recommend consuming at sunset with a cool beverage of your choosing. Cheers Crome Yellow. Here’s to your health.

No Friends or Mirrors is out now on the brilliant Fuzzed Up and Astromoon Records. Make sure you go check out their other releases. They’re a very discerning label. You can grab a copy of the album over at the groups Bandcamp. There are some lovely yellow themed vinyl variants on offer.

Static Sounds Club takes to the air at One!

It’s hard to believe that a year has passed since I created this blog. I wanted a place of my own to express how much I love music. Somewhere to showcase and share amazing bands. One year on and I feel I’ve only just started doing that. Looking back, I’ve been lucky enough to have had a sneaky peek at a lot of amazing music. I’m eternally grateful to all the bands and their PR people for working with me to achieve that. It’s something I never take for granted and always relish.

Now, Static Sounds Club is about to evolve into something else entirely.

I’m fortunate enough to contribute to the blog at DKFM Shoegaze Radio. I started doing that around the same time as starting this blog. I cannot stress enough how much I love my extended family at DKFM. They welcomed me with open arms and have got me involved in so much great stuff. From the initial blogs to providing video introductions for the International DreamGaze events during lockdown. This years highlight was collaborating with Deborah Sexton on The Velvet Hum show to showcase the shoegaze and dreampop talent across the UK. It’s all been amazing.

I’ve now been given an opportunity to create my own radio show based around this blog!

Static Sounds Club is going live! Me? A DJ? With my own radio show? On DKFM? I’m still getting my head around that.

Just like this blog, I’d like to use the show to showcase the best Shoegaze and Dreampop the UK and Europe has to offer. I’ll also have a segment where I can devote my attention to bands from further afield, don’t worry about that. Bands, keep getting in touch. You’ll find my contact details in the about section of the blog. Who knows? I might be playing your band next month.

I’d like to thank Greg Wilson at DKFM for taking a shot on me. I really appreciate it!! Also, thanks to Deborah for reaching out and getting me involved in your amazing show, The Velvet Hum. Finally, thanks to Krissy Vanderwoude for all the words of encouragement in those early days.

The first Static Sounds Club radio show goes out on DKFM Shoegaze Radio on Tuesday 17 August 10pm Central, 8pm Pacific, 11pm Eastern, 4am GMT and repeated 12 hours later. For the best listening experience, I recommend downloading the DKFM mobile app from the Apple App Store or if you have an Android device from the Google Play Store. Hope you can tune in!

Paper Birch – morninghairwater

Paper Birch have just released their stunning debut album, morninghairwater on vinyl via Reckless Yes. It was written under lockdown between May and June 2020. A fervent correspondence of lyrics, ideas and sounds between musicians Fergus Lawrie of cult band Urusei Yatsura and Dee Sada of NEUMES/An Experiment on A Bird in The Air Pump.

As a massive fan of Urusei Yatsura I was dying to get this one on the speakers but as I was to discover, this is a quite different animal altogether.

The album opens on a screech of feedback the Jesus and Mary Chain would be proud of. “Summer Daze” is an extreme noise experiment against the gentlest of vocal deliveries. It’s almost like Sonic Youth teamed up with Vashti Bunyan. Totally exhilarating and enthralling, you won’t be able to do anything but focus on the sounds coming from your speakers. What a start.

In contrast “Love for the Things Yr Not” is a sparse, pared back piece of indie pop. With both Lawrie and Sada delivering vocals throughout, this has a romantic vibe. Like two lovers, separated by distance, singing to and about each other. It’s quite beautiful.

“Elegy As We Mourn” is led by Sada’s powerful yet tender vocal. All the while it is being increasingly pummelled by the electronic conjuring’s of Lawrie. Only dropping in the chorus of “And it’s black…” the textures he weaves are fascinating and ever evolving. I can listen to this track all day.

“I Don’t Know You” reminds me of a lo-fi Primitives track. It has that late 80’s kind of alternative feel like something from their Lovely album. While the driving drums get your foot tapping Lawrie assaults and delights us with his ferocious guitar squalls. This is my kind of song.

“Hide” is the most experimental track on the album with its arhythmic drums and discordant soundscape stretched over six minutes. Whilst not an instant hit with my ears, after soaking this up a few times in the headphones I found myself getting lost in it. Surrendering to the void and letting Sada’s soothing voice guide me. There is some ancient magick at work here.

“Cemetery Moon” has a big Beck influence sounding not unlike “Jack-Ass” in places. That only endeared it to me. After the intense experience of ‘Here’ this was a welcome change of pace and tone.

“Blue Heartbreak” is a brilliant slice of lo-fi indie pop. Over a drumbeat that sounds like it came from a Casio keyboard (other keyboards are available folks) is a stunner of an indie pop track. Love the vocals on this, very much like the opener.

Taking the pace down a notch is “Curse Us”. A sparse and bleak affair, punctuated by a stuttering electronic backing. The rest of track is populated by Sada’s low and tender tones and Lawrie’s guitar attacks. It’s just lovely.

The album closes as it began on a sea of feedback upon which floats a killer melody sang by both members. The bass plucks out the path to keep the song from flying out the speakers. This is a stylish way to end the album and makes a real statement.

It’s something that Paper Birch excel at. With every track they have indelibly stamped their unique identity all over them. That’s down to the strength of the songwriting at play here. Beneath all the textures and tones live stunningly beautiful songs. Lyrics that will break your heart and lift your soul. This album left me smiling and reaching for the play button again. That’s the highest praise I think I can give.

morninghairwater is out now on two colour variants on vinyl and CD via the Reckless Yes Bandcamp page as well as the bands own Bandcamp page.

PREMIERE: Lorcán – Circles and Turns

Bristol is well known as producing some of the most innovative music of the last few decades. Adding to the city’s roster of talent is Lorcán, a DIY artist who makes a beguiling blend of dream pop, ambient and indie music. With releases stretching back to 2016 he is set to launch his first studio recorded single, ‘Circles and Turns.’

The song features childhood friend and solo artist Ailsa Tully, providing a sparkling falsetto foil to Lorcán’s lush baritone voice.

It’s on Tully’s voice that the song opens. Moving at a sedate pace we are engulfed in the most beautiful soundscape. A gently picked guitar plays against the sharp programmed beats. This is a sublime and accomplished track. It’s no wonder that Lorcán was recently asked to support White Flowers for their album launch.

‘Circles and Turns’ is the first single from Lorcán’s upcoming debut EP Sleepy City, a taster of what’s to come. The single will be available to stream on all major platforms from today.

To accompany the release Lorcán has created a graphic video to suit the vibe of the song. I’m proud to be able to be to premiere that for you here.

White Flowers – Day by Day

After three exquisitely crafted single releases in ‘Night Drive’ and ‘Day by Day’ and ‘Within a Dream’, Preston’s White Flowers finally release their debut album, Day by Day.

White Flowers is made up of Katie Drew and Joey Cobb who together weave the most wonderful soundscapes blending post-punk, goth, dreampop and shoegaze in their own unique way. The atmosphere created across these ten tracks is one of sheer escapism and finding wonder in the everyday. The band take pride is keeping tight creative control over the band’s aesthetic. From the black and white imagery on the cover of their records to the striking visuals at their live shows. This commitment to their craft has led to them producing one of 2021’s most cohesive and accomplished albums.  Let me explain why.

The album opens on the appropriately titled “Intro”. Very much setting the mood and sonic palette for the album it’s a short and breathy burst before we are into “Night Drive”.

Those of you familiar with the band will know this as the lead track on their 2020 single. They really have captured the oppressive and paranoid feel of a late-night drive. I can picture myself on a rainy motorway as I listen.

As if flipping to the opposite side of the coin “Daylight” shimmers and sounds like starlight on a rain-soaked pavement. The arpeggio guitar line is just gorgeous, as is Drews vocal. Passionate and committed. You can’t help but stop what you are doing and pay attention.

 “Stars” is a stunning slice of Cocteau Twins like, song writing. The ever-moving guitars play against a heavy programmed drum loop that sounds like something from “Head Over Heels”. It’s a potent track that is equal parts intoxicating and moving.

“Tried to Call” is such a romantic slice of dream pop belying the tragic love story being told. Breathy vocals float over the most spacious guitars and echoing drums. The chorus just grabs you as it lifts and soars. I can see this becoming a big fan favourite.

Following is my album highlight and the oldest track on the album. “Help Me Help Myself” is song writing on a grand scale. From the gentle back and forth of the verses to the stratospheric lift in the chorus this is undoubtedly Drews finest vocal performance on the album and Cobb’s most breath-taking soundtrack.

“Day by Day” their debut single for Tough Love Recordings is up next. A gloriously bleak lyric plays out against a bombastic backdrop of chiming synths and guitars on the edge of feedback. This is truly a northern song.

“Different Time, Different Place” hangs a silvery, gossamer backdrop over a steady and surefooted bassline. As with so many of the tracks on this album there is a theme of being in cars. I love the pre chorus line of “In the summer we are driving in the back of someone’s car”. Such an evocative line which leads to gorgeously sung title.

I was so excited to hear “Portra” as I had missed on grabbing the single at the time. I was also intrigued by the title as I had grown up with a photographer in the house and often seen Kodak Portra film lying about. On face value this song appears to be about a trip. The woozy, out of focus guitars and seductive nature of the lyrics all add up to very heady mix. Thankfully it’s a very pleasant trip we are taken on with “colours everywhere”.

The album closes where we began, at night. “Nightfall” starts a lot more sparsely arranged than the rest of the album. Slowly Cobb weaves in pulsing drums and more guitars before reaching a crescendo. This plays well as the finale. 

White Flowers have crafted a debut album that is indelibly stamped with their identity, with the shadows of their upbringing in the north of England. Every note has been carefully planned and played so as to capture the mood of the lyrics sung by Drew. What I really love about Day By Day is that it instantly won me over yet each time I put the needle on the record I hear something new, feel something different about the songs in those grooves. To achieve that in your career is amazing. To achieve that on your debut? Well, that’s incredibly special.

Day By Day is out now via Tough Love. Alongside digital formats, it has been pressed on a variety of vinyl variants. The blue vinyl variant is currently available from their Bandcamp page.

Beachy Head – Beachy Head

The beautiful Beachy Head cliffs in England are a popular tourist destination as well as a notorious suicide spot. It’s that dichotomy between the joyous and the heart wrenching despair that run up the back bone of Beachy Heads self-titled debut album.

Founded by Slowdive guitarist Christian Savill along with Ryan Graveface of The Casket girls and Graveface Records, Steve Clarke of The Soft Cavalry, Matt Duckworth of The Flaming Lips. If that list of illustrious players wasn’t enough Rachel Goswell of Slowdive and Mojave 3 fame lends her considerable vocal talents to the project too.

I pre ordered this album without hearing a note based on the strength of that line up. I have been so looking forward to hearing it start to finish. Let’s drop the needle and see what they have in store for us.

The album opens on the luscious “Warning Bell”. The verse has a Celtic almost folk vocal feel before erupting into the most euphoric chorus. As an opener I don’t think they could have picked a stronger song. This one hits you right in the feels.

Next up is “Michael”. A song which feels steeped in nostalgia. There is a blend between 80’s synthwave and dream pop pulsing through. The video taps into that nostalgia too with a family playing some VR game that wouldn’t have looked out of place on the TV back in the 90’s.

“Distraction” darkens the tone a little with the band channelling the spirit of Depeche Mode to great effect. Fluttering electronica dances over the sultry bass and echoing synth. I love the dark, almost gothic vibe the band conjure towards the end of the track. Makes you want to skip back and listen again.

But onwards we go.

The darkness remains for “All Gone”. The song opens with Savill, like a troubadour, laying it all out there. The song is swathed in an eerie undulating drone and swelling synths giving it an other-worldly feel. Whilst the listener is left with a feeling of uneasiness, as if having eavesdropped on a deeply personal conversation, it is tempered by the sheer beauty of the vocal delivery.

“Looking for Exits” comes bounding out the gate all happy chords and Duckworth laying down his trademark drum sound. Alas the lyrics tell a more ill-starred tale “I held on to the fragments cause she was only looking for exits”. This is the magic of Beachy Head. Taking the deeply sorrowful and couching it in a killer melody. Coming in at just under three minutes I was crying out for more. Something tells me that was the plan.

This album’s acoustic ballad is up next in the shape of “October”. There is an unmistakable Mojave 3 influence in the delivery of this number. That is then warped as the song progresses as it is slowly overwhelmed and engulfed in a slow building wash of reverb. 

In striking contrast “Hiddensea” is a strident electronic pop smash. It’s like a mash up of Castlebeat and Tubeway Army. This song is my absolute favourite on the album. The simplistic guitar line really appeals to me. Ultimately though, it all comes back the chorus. In “Hiddensea” Beachy Head have the most devastatingly catchy hook. This song alone will keep the album on my turntable for a long time to come.

The closer “Destroy Us” leans into that Tubeway Army vibe instigated on the previous song. The vocals are massive, like medieval castle turrets bearing down on the rest of the song. I love how the synth mirrors the vocal line. It adds that extra texture to lift the song from really good to absolutely exceptional.

What Savill & Co have created in Beachy Head is another world. A place where you can lose yourself for half an hour in the glorious song writing on display. Compound that with stellar performances from all involved and you have a sure-fire hit on your hands.

Beachy Head is available now via Bandcamp and in independent record shops.

Piroshka – V.O.

With their new album Love Drips And Gathers due for release 23rd July via Bella Union, and having previously shared a video to lead track ‘Scratching At The Lid’, today Piroshka share a video to new single ‘V.O.’ The band features members of Lush, Moose, Elastica and Modern English in their line up and had great success with their debut album Brickbat.

Of the track, which is a tribute to Vaughan Oliver, 4AD’s legendary in-house art director who died in late 2019, Piroshka vocalist Miki Berenyi says: “I wrote this originally as an instrumental but the rest of the band convinced me to put a vocal on it. The lyrics are snapshot snippets of Vaughan Oliver’s funeral in January 2020 – lines from the speeches, fleeting impressions of the day. I’m getting to the age where the people I grew up with are dying and I find funerals a comfort in the sadness, formal but emotional, a celebration of a life, a space for the living to reconnect.”

Video director Connor Kinsey adds: “We wanted to put this ominous-being centre frame and allow the viewer to reflect on fear and loss whilst also embracing hope and futurity through its life experiences. Giving the subject no recognisable features meant that it’s emotional journey through the different timelines felt more relatable to a wider audience.”

Here is the video for you to enjoy.

PREMIERE – Go With Strangers – Further

Once again Static Sounds Club are proud to be bringing you another exclusive premiere.

Malaysian multi-instrumentalist Eugene San has created a new musical project called Go With Strangers. Determined to face his social anxiety head-on, and picking up the mic for the first time in his life. Go With Strangers marks Eugene’s first entire solo effort (self-produced, written, and recorded) in a full-band format.

What a lush affair it is too. A dense wall of sound laced with moments of that glide guitar we all love so much. A powerful rhythm section drives the song forward with real purpose. Meanwhile Eugene provides the gentlest vocal delivery, being both comforting and poignant. Fans of Nothing and Tennis System will find a lot to admire here.

The single is accompanied by stunning video which I am proud to be premiering on Static Sounds Club. I hope you enjoy it.

The single ‘Further’ is available from all usual streaming outlets now.

Un.Real – Islands

Close observers of the shoegaze scene will have picked up the last two singles from Puerto Rico’s Un.Real. “Blue Garden” and “Lovely One” heralded a band arriving fully formed and ready to conquer the world.

The band have had an ever-evolving list of members around main man Gardy Perez-Ruiz. With influences ranging from The Cure to My Bloody Valentine and Slowdive they have forged their own unique brand of dream pop. They now present us with Islands, their debut LP.

The album opens on “Kids are Astronauts”, a swaggering, dreamy opus. This is what you call coming out swinging. This song grabs your attention from the outset with the contrast between the heavy and dreamy guitars, the male and female vocals. There’s some nice dynamic stop/starts as well. This bodes well for the rest of the album.

We segue through a looped guitar riff into the strident intro to “Drones”. I love the vocal melody here. It slip-slides over the fuzz-driven guitars like raspberry sauce over an ice cream cone.  No sooner has the song begun than it is bidding us farewell on a wave of feedback.

Following on is “Lovely One”. This song has fascinated me since I first heard it. It begins with the two contrasting guitar lines that define the song. One shrieking and just holding itself together from the feedback, the other chiming through a warm comforting blanket of lush reverb. Couched in between comes the beautiful vocals of Bernice Cruz lifting the song to another level. Her voice centres the whole track whilst supporting and building on the foundational guitar lines.

The feeling of space is palpable when, by rights, we should be crushed beneath the waves of sonic distortion. And it’s just when we are lifted the highest that the song segues into “Islands”, which is just the most beautiful acoustic and synth-led instrumental. It is so different to the previous track that each time you hear it you are still taken unawares.

The first single for the album is up next. “Blue Garden” is a beautifully textured tone masterclass. Robin Guthrie himself would kill for this song, I should think. As we move into the ascending chord swell of the chorus it gives you goosebumps every time. The guitars compliment the vocal melody so well. This is a very accomplished piece of music.

Like the title says, “Nylon Pop” is a jangly indie pop song couched in the reverbed and tremolo-soaked tones of Perez-Ruiz’ guitar. It’s like a Primitives song performed by My Bloody Valentine.

“Voltaire” enters all brooding and dark. Like a seventies sci-fi theme curling, looping and evolving. Getting steadily more mechanised and intense until it simply evaporates into the ether.

As if to immediately counter the darkness, in comes “You’re Smarter”, full of the rampant joy the early Stone Roses singles had. I love how the band work that early nineties sound and morph it into something unique. Without a doubt my album highlight.

“Sun Like Star” sets us up for the end of the album with a peaceful and gentle intro, leading us into the dreamiest of choruses. There is a really cool drop in the middle of the song where you think it’s all over, only for the guitars to slowly start to build again. I can imagine this will be a huge live favourite when the band are able to get out and gig this album.

The album closes on the sprawling soundscape that is “Space Shore”. Sounding very like some lost Pink Floyd track, the song floats along as though weightless, airborne. I can imagine this is what being in space feels like. As we settle in and get comfortable, the band have a surprise in store for us as a fraught saxophone comes in on the outro. Building to cacophonous crescendo, the song then drifts off into farthest reaches of the cosmos.

The promise of those early singles has well and truly been met and exceeded on Islands. There is a lot to enjoy immediately, as well as repeated listens rewarding you with something new each time.

Islands is available to pre order now on incredibly limited vinyl via Qrates. The back catalogue is available to listen and buy over on the Un.Real Bandcamp page.

PREMIERE: Beatastic – Echoes Through the City

Brighton based Beatastic is the solo project of one Nicholas Wardell. Founder of Shoredive Records, Wardell is a busy fella being a member of Xeresa, Futurafter and numerous other collaborations. I am very grateful and honoured to be have been asked to share with you an exclusive premiere of the video to ‘Echoes Through the City’ from his upcoming Refraction EP.

The song is a slow-burning synth-led ballad with an ecological theme. The organic sound of an acoustic guitar strumming like a ghost of the song is only fully revealed in the closing seconds cleverly.

When the song suddenly blooms into a synthwave anthem it takes your breath away. The sound now augmented with pounding drums and droning guitars.

The video features stunning footage shot by drone photographer Tom Fisk. His unique style of getting his drone close to the subject creates some exceptional and awe-inspiring moments. You can check out more of his work on Instagram.

The Refraction EP is out on 22nd May via the Shoredive Records Bandcamp page. Without any further ado here is the world premiere of ‘Echoes Through The City’

Fallen Arches – Pen to Paper

This is one waaaaay overdue blog. Little over three years ago I promised to meet up with West Coast of Scotland singer songwriter Colin Bell to talk about his album Pen to Paper. That never happened. I still don’t know why to this day but sitting here now listening to the album I am regretting my shoddy memory.

Colin plays under the name Fallen Arches and to date has this, his debut album and the Footprints EP under his belt. Pen to Paper was deservedly nominated for a SAY award at the time and listening now I can see why.

So, lets drop the virtual needle on this album.

The album opens on the delicately picked chords of ‘Burn Bright’. The light and shade on the instrumentation is so well layered. The chorus has this sheen of midi strings and pounding drum. What’s more immediate is Colins lyrics. He has the poetic leanings of a latter day Woomble with a delivery that would have made the late, great Scott Hutchison very proud indeed. It’s obvious we are in for an emotional ride.

The rhythmic strumming of ‘Lost at Sea’ eases us in before the timing is switched up, as if the song itself is having a panic attack. “I can’t help the way I feel, I’m inside out I’m lost at sea” implores Bell. Whilst the song is simplistic (two chords mostly) through manipulating the pace of the song our interest is held firm. This is from the heart stuff.

A Christmas song next. Really cheerful, jaunty chords strummed with attack ushers the song in. Bell is switching up the mood. That is until the end of verse one when the song spins on a penny and we hear about the hardship faced by so many at Christmas. This is so cleverly composed. It also speaks to Colin’s eye for a song fighting with his social conscience.

‘Foreign Noises’ grabs you immediately. Patently written about an experience in an hospital, losing someone, it’s so heartbreakingly relatable. By the time the chorus comes in on the low cello hum we are already emotionally invested. I actually can’t find the words to say how deeply this affected me. ‘Foreign Noises’ is a stunning piece of song writing.

The albums title track comes in at pace lifting the mood. This is a song straining at the leash, dying to stomp on the distortion pedal and rock out. Again, the dynamics make this song a really interesting listen. It also helps there is a killer hook for the chorus.

‘Eggshells’ is perhaps the most complex song on the album so far, musically speaking. From the simplistic opening of picked chords under Bell’s stream of consciousness delivery we double time into a darkly hewn chorus. Out of nowhere the drums suddenly double time again like we are running at speed from some unknown assailant. I would have loved this section to go on a bit longer, perhaps that was the intent.

Nostalgia is always the friend of the songwriter. That said it is incredibly difficult not to sound schmaltzy or to create that picture in the listeners head that you set out to when you first put pen to paper. Oh, that’s a bit meta. Moving on. In ’Seventeen’ Bell paints a vivid picture. He gently takes our hand and leads us through his memory. We walk through reminisces good and bad but no matter how bad that memory may be, he always leads us back to the light. “we were invincible, untouchable and no-one will ever take that away from us”. It is apparent that hope is important to Bell as it should be to us all.

Nowhere on the album is that more obvious than on the epic closing track ‘Let It All Out’. This is one special song. If you forced me to recommend one song to sum up what Fallen Arches is all about, it’s this one. A paean to looking after your mental health for the sake of yourself and those you love. It’s chock full of quotable lines like “Counting blessings and ignoring years, gaining inhibitions and losing friends”. That line floors me every time. It also has a chorus that will be spinning round and round your head for weeks. Isn’t that the sign of a great song?

In Pen to Paper Bell has created a portal into his reality, his existence. There is no filter and we take him as we find him. All these songs are intensely personal and we feel fortunate to have been allowed to visit and spend time there. What is left is an image of a humble man with an incredible talent for weaving these melodies from the threads of his own life.

Keep your eyes peeled for more music coming soon from Fallen Arches, I can exclusively reveal his new album Passing Disaster will be out later in the year with another album to follow this in 2022. Before lockdown Bell was one of Scotland’s hardest working musicians out gigging most weekends. Thankfully with things easing he will be back on stage in Glasgow at The Hug and Pint on November 7th 2021 with more gigs to be announced.

Meanwhile you can find Pen to Paper on his Bandcamp page as well as streaming in all the usual places.

Tennis System – Truth Hurts

As a huge fan, I was thrilled to receive the latest single from LA’s Tennis System.

San Francisco based label, Quiet Panic have picked the band up and are unveiling the new single and music video ‘Truth Hurts’, the first track off the forthcoming release Autophobia, scheduled for release in late-summer 2021.

Written and recorded entirely during the pandemic, Autophobia is the first new full-length since 2019’s Lovesick and marks a thrilling new chapter and a logical shift in sound for, the now solo project of, guitarist/vocalist Matty Taylor.

Though minimalism reigns on Autophobia, the chorus-heavy anthems Tennis System are known for bleed into the first single, ‘Truth Hurts,’ in which Taylor lays out an argument that being alone is not necessarily being weak.

The trademark Tennis System modulated glide guitar ushers in Taylors vocal. A vocal that has been given a more prominent role in the mix than any of his previous work, and it’s a revelation. This is by far the best performance I have heard from Taylor, poised and in control. the whole song hangs around it like a new suit.

Something else that is refreshing and new is the pace. It has been dialled down to a more sedate and leisurely stroll as opposed to the frenetic dash of the tracks on Lovesick. This gives Taylor room to explore his new sound. Synths now envelope his fuzzed-out riffs creating a beautiful glass like sheen to the overall sound. Something fans of the genre will fall for immediately.

It’s so great to have new material from Tennis System. I’ll be back with a full review of Autophobia nearer its release date. Meanwhile you can pre order your copy on the Quiet Panic Webstore in the US or if you are in the EU/U.K. you can grab a copy from Through Love Records.

Kali Ma and the Garland of Arms – Notions

I’m a huge fan of the comforting sounds of dreampop, the hypnotic drone of psych and the driving rhythm of space rock. Wouldn’t it be brilliant if I could find a band who deliver on all those points?

Enter Kali Ma and the Garland of Arms.  This amazing band hail from Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania and formed back in 2017. Their music encompasses elements of rhythmic, psychedelic minimalism as well as the swoon-some sounds of dream pop.

This week they released their latest single ‘Notions’ and I was immediately struck by the complexity of its composition. Building on a foundation of drums with a real swing and driving bass we have fuzzed guitar and soaring synths. Atop all of this leading the way with her stellar vocals is Jami Kali. Kali’s vocal style is hard to pin down. I think that’s why I took to the band so quickly. Fans have compared them to Cranes and Mira but I think they sound more like if Medicine met Tanya Donelly.

‘Notions’ is out now and you can check it out over on their Bandcamp page. In the meantime, here’s the video for the single.

Hadda Be – Wait in the Dark

Ahead of the April release of their debut album Brighton’s Hadda Be are back with an incendiary new single and video. Last month we looked at their ‘Another Life’ single which we loved. This track ratchets the tension and pace up another level.

‘Wait in the Dark’ really lives up to the title. It is a dark, frenetic rush of grunge laden adrenalin. Whilst their previous single touched on the more anthemic Brit Pop this one digs into that US Seattle sound. Guitar’s thrash and wail but it’s the sheer explosive nature of the drums that frame this whole song. There is a real anger in singer Amber Oliver’s delivery but at the same time you can hear she is having fun playing with spoken word delivery in the chorus.

This is post punk grunge with a twist in that it’s seriously hooky. You’ll find yourself singing the chorus to yourself for days after hearing it. I can just imagine this being played live and the whole place going off. It’s an anthem for the mosh pit for sure.

You can stream the single right now and pre order the album over at Last Night From Glasgow.

Metrosideros – var.EP

New Zealand has been doing a lot of things right recently and their music scene is equally as strong as their current leadership.

I had the good fortune to be sent the last EP from Wellingtons Metrosideros last August and it made me sit up and take notice immediately. Now they are back with the var. EP and it’s just as exciting and refreshing as the last.

Metrosideros is the project of Matt Dalzell who plays all the instruments and does all the programming on these six tracks.

The EP kicks off with ‘Blacksands’ with the stunning vocals of Alba Rose powering out the speakers. Like a calling card Dalzell creates this psychedelic trip hop ambience for the song to inhabit. It is reminiscent of the very best of the Bristol scene from the 90’s. It’s this sound that he has reimagined, reshaped into something all his own and it’s addictive.

‘Summerstorm Lullaby’ follows with its fuzzed-out guitars juxtaposing with the shiny production on the synths and piano. This is what we call a banger here in Scotland. This song has the catchiest chorus and the way the song lifts in the chorus gets you right in the feels.

Glitchy synths and drums introduce us to ‘Beyonder’. This is destined to fill dancefloors. Rose is back on vocal duties and delivers in buckets. Dalzell is magpie like in his production. I can hear some Bjork influence in the mix now. This EP truly is a joy to listen to. It’s like eating pick ‘n’ mix sweets. You never know what you are going to get next.

The claustrophobic intro to ‘It’s Just So’ feels like its sucking the air from all around you. Bringing the warmth back to the proceedings is the vocal talent of Coralie Martin. There’s something eerie and unsettling about this track. Its glacial mood is punctured by a low synth droning buzz over two notes. It’s really simple but so effective.

As if he is reading my mind ‘String and Bones’ opens on a lush, warm sequence as if to thaw us after the previous track. Rose returns on vocals and delivers another striking performance. There’s some lovely psyche influenced synth on this track. Mantra like they hypnotise you and pull you in.

Now Dalzell has us he drops some monster beats. The intro to closing track ‘Raptor’ is reminiscent of the Chemical Bros. or The Prodigy. Make no mistake, he means business. Acid squelches and break beats do battle with a killer guitar riff. This track is enormous and what a way to sign off.

What you have in the var.EP is the best parts of trip hop and drum ‘n’ bass blended with the soundscapes of shoegaze. Call it Post Gaze if you will. That’s how Metrosideros describe their sound and I couldn’t agree more.

The var.EP is available now via ShoreDive Records on Bandcamp or via Metrosideros own Bandcamp page.

The Stargazer Lilies – Purple Sunshine

Some bands create their own worlds. Caverns of sound where you wander aimlessly for hours in ecstatic joy, happy to be lost in their company. The Stargazer Lilies are that band for me. Their last full-length release Occabot redefined how I view dreampop with its multi-dimensional approach to song writing.

After releasing a recording of their stunning live performance at the Sherman Theatre in the bands home state of Pennsylvania, they return with a new single ‘Purple Sunshine’.

This track continues the heady, psychedelic vibe of tracks like ‘Magenta Sunrise’ and ‘Living Work of Art’. Whilst Jon Cep’s swirling guitars and the phased drums are leading us on this trip, Kim Field is singing the sweetest sixties baroque pop song. It makes me think of bands like The Association and The Turtles. It’s that juxtaposition that lends this track the magic to transport you away.

I can only hope that this is a taste of things to come and a new Stargazer Lilies album isn’t far away.

‘Purple Sunshine’ is available to buy now from Bandcamp. Keep a close eye on the band’s website for news of further releases.

Geography Of The Moon – Fake Flowers Never Die

This is a long overdue blog. I have been listening to this album almost daily since it flew into my orbit and I have been slowly formulating my plans to write a blog about it. Well no more waiting, here it is!

Fake Flowers Never Die is the sophomore album from Glasgow based duo Geography of the Moon. Formed in London, UK, in 2016, Geography Of The Moon is a collaboration between singer/pianist Virginia Bones and multi-instrumentalist /producer Andrea AKA Santa Pazienza. After touring for several years, they moved back to Glasgow where Andrea’s family is originally from. Largely influenced by bands from the 80s and the 90s, somewhere between psych rock, post punk, new wave and indie rock, they create their own brand of mashed up styles: Psychwave.

The album opens on the dark and brooding ‘Muse Prayer’. This is our first indication of how special this album is. Virginia’s lyrics flow like honey dripping from the flower while Andrea’s guitar sympathetically picks out a simple but powerful backing. The addition of strings makes this a strong opener and hooks the listener immediately.

Lifting the mood ‘1984’ picks the pace up with Virginia railing against suburban boredom against an urgent and insistent drumbeat. The claustrophobia and anxiety are palpable, “Every day your mind will find, all the ways to bring you down” jumps out at me among other lyrical gems.

Next up is my album highlight. The bands unique sound comes equally from Andrea’s blend of instrumentation and gloriously off kilter guitar against the sheer poetry of Virginias vocal delivery. ‘Deadbeat Poet’ displays both of these points at their absolute finest. I don’t know if it’s the simplicity of the song that appeals to me, it’s essentially two chords, or if its the reverb washed guitar against that programmed drumbeat. There’s a kinship to the band DEHD in this track. See what you think.

‘Ikaria’ is the band longing for the sun on their skin. Living in Scotland can have that effect on you. There is a nice trade off between the lustful, yearning of the verses and the on the nose, matter of fact delivery of the chorus. There’s a lot to identify with here.

‘Moonlight Tan’ entices us to “get together, there is a light on”. Andrea plays a blinder here building an ever more urgent backing for Virginia to weave her tapestry of words on. I love how the two guitar parts and drums play off each other on this track.

A theme continues to develop on ‘Fleeing Lights’. Illumination and avoidance of the darkness is picked up again in this song. The lyrics sound like they are about someone being gaslighted with a backing inspired by Joy Division.

‘3 Years 2 Days’ throws us a curveball with its 80’s synth groove. This is a stunning song and almost pipped ‘Deadbeat Poet’ for my album highlight. I love the space given to the vocals and the massive sound when the song really kicks in.

Andrea is channelling his inner Arthur Lee on ‘Insomnia’. The rhythm sounds like the intro to ‘My Little Red Book’ but warped into something else, something more. Virginia takes the opportunity to play about with her delivery. Much more playful and syncopated which really suits the song.

The album closer, ‘Wolves’ is a lament on our inner demons. The atmospheric guitars mimic a howling wolf at one point which for me is just brilliant. The minimalistic approach to this track just cements its impact and drives home the feeling of anxiety and longing for a way out.

Geography Of The Moon have crafted a cohesive collection of songs that scream out ‘this is who we are’. Everything is left in the grooves for you to bear witness to, no punches are pulled. This kind of lyrical honesty is the hallmark of a great lyricist and there is no doubt in my mind that Virginia Bones is an outstanding writer and poet. The musicianship on show is staggering, it’s hypnotic, jarring, thrilling and soothing all at the same time. That’s no mean feat. Andrea has been so thoughtful with his arrangements. All the songs have room to breathe and to be what they all need to be individually. That is the mark of a great musician.

Come the end of year I am positive we will be seeing this album riding high in a lot of end of year lists.

Fake Flowers Never Die is out now on TeenFreaks Music on vinyl and download on Bandcamp and in your favourite indie record shops.