I’ve made no secret of the fact I love shoegaze music. What I love even more is when I hear someone take that genre I love so much and push and stretch it into new and exciting shapes. In the UK we’re lucky to have Matt Catling aka Under The Sun. Regular visitors to Static Sounds Club will know I covered Matts last release Ocean Breeze where I discovered its meditative beauty. Now he returns with a new EP called Robot World. Here’s what he has to say about his new release.
“Following from my last release “Ocean Breeze” I’m back with “Robot World.” This time mastered by Andrew Rose (Whimsical, Tears Run Rings & Monster Movie). The title track “Robot World” brings the dark atmospheric of post punk vocals with the political climate over the last three years alongside the filters of electronic beats like Trip Hop and the wall of shoegaze guitars into the surface with robotic spoken words.”
Sounds intriguing, let’s check it out!
The EP opens on the slow burn of the title track. The guitar work is subtle, dynamic and fluid. Nimbly filling the space around his hushed vocal delivery. The drums add an element of electronica which should clash but this works. Catlings ear for experimentation is finely tuned and you know he’s a safe pair of hands. This is densely textured shoegaze with a psychedelic edge teamed up with a dystopian political message at its core. The promo video illustrates this beautifully whilst demonstrating Catlings optimism too. No spoilers…
‘Abstract Art’ was originally released in demo form back in 2021. Now we are treated to a fully realised version. The guitars now headier and in your face whilst the vocals have a distant, yet vital role in the mix. The wall of beautiful noise is overwhelming and all-consuming and fans of the genre are going to eat this up.
Catling amps things up with ‘Submission’. I think this is his most experimental piece to date. This is extreme volume. Like a hurricane of guitars in your head. If you close your eyes and crank the volume in your headphones this becomes almost hypnotic and meditative. The guitars sound like they are being played with chainsaws at points. This is wholly intoxicating and I’m happy to go under.
The EP closes on sedately paced ‘Sunrise’. This song oozes warmth and comfort. The guitars are gentler than anything we’ve heard thus far. They ebb and flow, peeling back to reveal a hidden vocal every so often before swallowing it in their waves of distortion. It’s a psychedelic daydream and one you can get lost in.
Once again Under The Sun has produced a stunning release. It never fails to astonish me how shoegaze can morph and bend into something new but still recognisably shoegaze. Catling pulls this off with consummate ease on Robot World and has set the bar high for sonic experimenters everywhere.
Psychedelic dream weavers Thought Bubble are back with a new album. Weaving is the follow up to their 2022 release Nowhere and this time is being released through the ever-amazing Woodford Halse label. Thought Bubble, as you’ll remember, are keyboardist Chris Cordwell and percussionist Nick Raybould. They create a colourful soundscape based around luscious synth patterns and varied percussive instruments.
On Nowhere the band were processing the aftermath of Raybould’s lifesaving heart surgery. I asked the band what informed the recording of this set of songs.
“Some of these tracks were recorded during a very testing two-year period, where, despite living in fairly close proximity to each other in the Shropshire hills, we were separated by that original Covid-19 wave. And then, when one of us was diagnosed with something more serious, we had to resort to isolation for even longer.”
“This is another album created mainly via remote recording, from our own home studios. That’s when some of the darker and eccentric weaving patterns on these tracks presented themselves. Anyway, that’s more than enough explanation. The listener and their imagination should perhaps interpret these tracks beyond the starting point we have provided here.”
Its time to lie back, put the headphones on and let Thought Bubble take us away.
The album opens on the feedback squalls of ‘Plasma Playpen’. This cosmic shuffle takes us on a paranoid trip to the outermost corners of our imaginations. Like that episode of the X-Files that had nothing to do with aliens but some weird happening or other. It’s a great opener and sets us up nicely.
What do sounds do? ‘Sounds Affect’ is the answer and Thought Bubble are making their point well here. There’s a flavour of eastern promise and desert journeys at dusk. Raybould’s percussion and drumming driving us along on our way. Synth strings sweep us off our feet and excite our senses. This is a prime example of why I love this band. They vividly conjure images in your mind, and so readily too.
Flipping the story, in comes ‘Sloping’ an ambling giant with a mile wide stride. Cordwell is firmly in charge here and uses his synths to paint a sonic canvas so wide and deep it totally consumes you as a listener. Drums adding their punctuation to the story in a really sympathetic way. It really speaks to the unwritten communication these two guys have.
We head off into our dreams next with ‘Sound Asleep’, but it’s a restless slumber for us. That nervous twitch that’s part of the DNA of Thought Bubbles music captures our attention. The piano dances around us prodding and poking our senses. Making sure we’re still paying attention. Really clever stuff is this!!
‘200 Teeth’ harks back to Nowhere in its structure and tone. Guest guitarist Shaun Baily from ambient electronica outfit MonkeyTrial makes his triumphant return. He brings another texture to the album, a freedom that is the natural reflection of the boys locked tight tone.
Another collaborator paints his psychedelic flourishes on ‘Pondlife’. Sonic explorer Shankara Andy Bole brings his deft touches to the party and man, this track soars. It feels like a spaced-out raga or cosmic Bedouin band. Amongst all this there’s this almost p-funk bassline going on. How this all works together I don’t understand but it just does.
‘Adjust Your Soul’ introduces the golden tones of actress Julia Binns. This feels like an eighties style ballad but skewed through that anxious Thought Bubble lens. When the band pause to allow space to hear Binns voice for a moment its like they pull back the musical curtain, just for a second or two. It’s only momentary as we’re soon back into their many textured world.
The album closes on the two-part epic that is ‘Indelible’. The opening half has this call and response synth part that carries that trademark nervous energy. It’s a slow driven intro which makes the second half so impactful when it arrives. Drums and Bass in perfect sympatico, picking up the pace and morphing this track into something cosmically uplifting.
Thought Bubble are a one of those unique bands. You know it’s them after only hearing a few seconds of a track. Not many bands can claim that. Each album has transported me off in my imagination and had me smiling ear to ear and Weaving is no exception. I keep having to remind myself that this is only two guys! The broad sound stage they create is so impressive as it gives us so much to explore as listeners. If this is your introduction to the world of Thought Bubble then I envy you. You have the journey of a lifetime ahead of you.
Weaving will be released by Woodford Halse on 1stJune 2023 on cassette and digitally via their Bandcamp page.
You can follow Though Bubble on social media here……
Minneapolis shoegazers Lumari are building on the promise of their early singles with debut album En Phase. The band are brothers Dave and Dan West, Robert Caple and Margo Pearson. They’ve been working closely with renowned producer/engineer Eric Olsen to refine and hone their sound. When asked to describe themselves the band have this to say.
“Our music is intense yet atmospheric; visceral yet ethereal. The songs are full of emotion, telling stories that resonate with listeners on a deep level. We’re quickly becoming a popular band in the Minneapolis and shoegaze music scenes, garnering critical acclaim from all corners of the internet world.”
The album opens on the lilting sound of ‘Starlit’. The dreamy guitars are the perfect foil for Pearson’s beautiful voice. The drums could easily be keeping a fairly straightforward beat however we’re treated to a fine display from someone who really knows their kit. As an opening track this does a great job introducing us to who Lumari are and what they have in store for us.
‘In Waves’ follows beckoned in on ghostly guitar wails. Verses have a lot of space with vocals and bass doing the early work. There’s nice contrast between the light of the synth flourishes and guitar strums versus the dark tones in Pearson’s moody delivery. This is a superb song given wings with a really dynamic production.
The ghostly guitars return for the intro to ‘Slow Kill’ but then things take an unexpected turn. Instead of the shoegaze song we are expecting the band gift us a jaunty, jangle pop number with distinct C86 nods. We skip through the verses but it’s in the chorus that they pull a switcharoo on us and things get slightly more gazey. The instrumental break as we head in to the final minute is exceptional. Great track.
A lonely synth begins ‘Wake Up’ next but its not long until the band arrive all at once. Again, the drums dance a merry dance, pure ear candy. The guitars chime throughout lending this song a brighter sheen than its predecessors, a nice production choice. It’s subtle things like that that keep you on your toes as a listener.
‘Doors and Corners’ comes crashing in next, the harmony between bass and the vocals really packing a punch. It’s no surprise to me that the band chose this catchy number to feature on a split seven inch with Sex Park. It has that immediacy that you need in a lead single making this my album stand out track.
Taking the tempo down next is the atmospheric ‘Carina’. This one feels like a cool breeze on a warm day. The band skew their gaze sound in a more indie rock direction creating this really unusual effect. The song feels like a more straightforward ballad whilst maintaining the edgy sound that gaze affords.
‘Neon Mirror’ channels ‘How Soon is Now’ and morphs that into a soaring anthem. I can imagine that when played live this track will send the mosh pit crazy. The moment the chorus kicks in is so impactful it leaves you breathless.
The album closes out on ‘Cloud Control’. Crystalline guitars guide us into the swoon some verses. This one is a slow burner. As we go along, we get hints of the maelstrom of sound heading our way. The final two minutes of the song are ecstatic. Guitars climb to the heavens as Pearson’s lofty vocals lead the way. This is how you finish an album. Just exceptional.
En Phase is out now and available from the Lumari Bandcamp page digitally and on clear Coke Bottle Green vinyl! If you want the wax, I’d recommend being quick as it’s limited to 100 copies!
Drifting in to my consciousness this week came the debut album from Polish gazers Strangers In My House. This enigmatic four piece from Kraków have released three singles and an EP since forming in 2019. Leave It Undefined is their first long player and looks to develop on that dreamy, shoegaze sound to something all their own. Strangers In My House are Jakub Kurek (Guitar), Jakub Zając (Guitar), Magdalena Radecka (Vocals), Bartosz Pałka (Drums) and Agnieszka Ryczek (Bass).
I asked the band how the album tracks differ to what they’ve released to date.
“Our new album is definitely stronger in sound, contains more contrasts and has a slightly psychedelic vibe. One of the songs on the album is a re(recorded and improved song from 2019 called “Words”, from which our band’s adventure began.”
So on to adventures new and the opening track, ‘Sweet Relief’. A pulsing guitar and driving drums welcome us to the album. That psychedelic vibe is immediately evident and lends the song a gloriously spacious atmosphere. The vocals seem more in focus or sharper in the mix than what I’ve heard previously. This song is a statement of intent and sets the bar high for the rest of the album.
We move into the reworked ‘Words’ next. My god, this song really kicks in hard now. Where the original floated along on dreamy tones this time guitars are dialled up to eleven. The vocals are superb. Delivered with power and an assured confidence. This feels like a whole new song. Amazing!
Last year’s single ‘Clouds’ is next reworked for the album release. It’s signature chiming guitar motif carrying and lifting the melody working as a foil to Radecka’s beguiling vocal delivery. I particularly love the middle eight break down, it includes some really lovely guitar textures.
There’s an utterly exceptional intro to ‘Undefined’ next. The band erupting into action over the acrobatic vocals and sympathetic harmonies. The ethereal atmosphere in this song is skilfully maintained through the minimal guitar parts and choral harmonies. You can tell why the band picked this as their title track and centre point for the whole album.
The guitars really amp up the fuzz in ‘Rush Controlled’ letting us see another side to their song writing. This song really moves, everything has such a dynamic attack from the drums double timing the ride cymbal to the feedback flourishes in the verses. I can imagine that this will give rise to many a moshpit when played live.
‘Silver Nights’ brings a psychedelic edge back to proceedings. I particularly love the vocal effects here lending a ghostly counter to Ryczeks ever stunning delivery. The lead guitar works as a musical response to the lyrics. I found myself thinking of Siouxsie Sioux during this number, high praise indeed.
‘Destination Point’ is what I’d call a real “Wow track”. The drums are incredible here, absolutely dominating the sound stage with their skipping counter rhythm. The verses are a joyous skip through a sunny day before the bells chime and ground us back to reality. This is some really clever song construction not to mention the skilful production choices. This is my album stand out track.
The album closes out with ‘Roads to Nowhere’. The pulsing guitar being the engine propelling this song along. There’s a nice use of light and shade, loud and quiet to keep your ears happy. This is one song that you just need to surrender to. Let it wash over you, surrender your senses and let it reveal is multi-layered majesty.
With Leave It Undefined, Strangers In My House have created a instant favourite for me. The songs, whilst being immediate and easy to love, are carefully layered to reward repeat listens. I must also call out the vocals on this album. Remember the name Magdalena Radecka as I believe she will be spoken about in the same breath as Rachel Goswell, Miki Berenyi and Bilinda Butcher in years to come. Just a powerhouse of a performance in every song.
Dublin based KEELEY return with a new single ahead of their long-awaited debut album. It was this time last year I was discussing the Brave Warrior EP on these very pages. That was a collection of four songs dedicated to the memory of murdered German tourist Inga-Maria Hauser. Keeley Moss, singer, guitarist and songwriter for the band, has been publishing ‘The Keeley Chronicles’ blog, dedicated to this harrowing and mystifying case for over five years now and it has informed all her songwriting.
This opening salvo from the album continues that narrative. Moss has this to say on the single.
“‘Seeing Everything’ is an immersive journey in every sense. Sonically and lyrically it’s a melancholy maze, a hazy mirage where ghosts of the past are gathered. With its tangled jungle of chiming guitars mirroring the inextricable complexities of Inga’s story, ‘Seeing Everything’ probes the dark heart of this unique and harrowing unsolved case with a visionary zeal.”
Given the dark and upsetting subject matter ‘Seeing Everything’ is anything but. It’s an ebullient and life affirming slice of dreampop. I’m particularly taken by the guitar textures. The chiming lead motif, the fuzzy rhythm, the twelve-string jangle all blur into an atmospheric whirl.
The video is a labour of love production featuring authentic footage from 1988, the year the journey in the song took place. Edited by Moss herself it adds an emotional gut punch which caught me unawares. You can check out the video here.
Almost three years to the day since husband-and-wife duo The Know, released their sparkling debut they’re back with the aptly titled EP2. I was bowled over by wearetheknow upon its release. It’s blend of that shoegaze aesthetic with the Phil Spector wall of sound production made it pure ear candy.
I asked one half of The Know, Jennifer Farmer Knowles, to give us a flavour of what to expect with EP2.
“EP2 is lyrically full of relatable snapshots of love, loss, isolation, uncertainty, sadness and connection. Completed during the pandemic and in a time of intense isolation, the EP was produced by us both and mostly recorded in our home studio in a short span of time.”
The EP opens on the gentle and lulling ‘NCJC’. Farmer Knowles angelic voice against some spacious synth pads provide an atmospheric and soothing welcome. There’s something other worldly about the production of this track, with electronica bleeping and recorded phone voice eerily drifting in and out of the mix.
The peace is shattered by the boisterous intro to the sprawling epic that is ‘Used to Be’. A song dealing with the pressure placed on everyone’s relationships during lockdown. The production is big to match the engaging lyrical content on display. The vocals this time more powerful, more direct. Most certainly to be a foil for the bombastic guitars and percussion. I can’t get enough of this song, it’s emotional core hits home every listen.
The track neatly bookends with the intro to ‘Me’. This song also dealing with love in lockdown but this time a romance blossoms. Often the bass is just seen as an instrument that keeps time with the drums. Here its celebrated, the bass drives the whole song. The dreamy soundscape is built on its melodic foundation.
We follow this with the aptly named ‘You’ a song of love lost and regret. This one has a widescreen appeal that I’m sure will endear it to many TV producers. I can hear this soundtracking many a show in the future. The piano motif over the chorus is bright and so catchy. It adds the emotional musical hook that really lifts the vocal delivery.
The EP closes with ‘Just Say It’. This track sounds like an amped up Stars number. Again, the production is lush and detailed. So much to entertain your ear this will stand many repeated listens. At its core is the heartfelt vocal performance from Farmer Knowles. Just listen to how she lets loose when singing “Just fucking say it. I’d rather hear it and know you’re wrong”. What a great song to finish this listening experience.
With EP2 The Know have once again cemented their place as creators of detailed, nuanced and catchy dream pop. The lyrical content is just so damn relatable and when paired with the extraordinary production that Daniel Knowles is renowned for, you have something truly unique and special.
EP2 is out now on pink vinyl from The Know website or from their Bandcamp. The vinyl is limited top 143 copies only so if you want a copy, I’d recommend being quick.
The Men have been creating riotous proto punk for over 15 years now. They return with their ninth album and first for Fuzz Club Records. New York City channels the energy and raw power of The Stooges and MC5 morphing into the hard hitting, scuzzy rock ‘n’ roll you would expect from this band.
The band took these songs into the studio and recorded each cut live to tape to capture the raw energy of the performances. Here’s how they describe the album.
“New York City’ is a record that doesn’t stop moving for a second, packed full of the kind of energy you can only really capture in a live setting. These songs became the blood of the band as the band could only exist for and of these songs. There was no place else to hang their hats. Without making this record, the group would not exist, so there really wasn’t another option. NYC is fluid. It means a lot of different things to all kinds of people. We present the record in that spirit.”
We come barrelling out the gate with the breathless ‘Hard Livin’’. If ever a song sounded like it should be performed on stage in CBGBs then this is it!! Guitars at eleven, vocals maxing out the meter and drums sound massive! This is a statement of intent!
We segue neatly into ‘Peace of Mind’ without missing a beat. Whilst this track rocks as hard as the last song the chorus here has an undeniable hook that you can’t help but nod along to.
‘Echo’ is a darker sound, Guitar’s chug along but it isn’t until the false stop mid song that our first soaring solo erupts from the speakers. There’s an authentic sixties garage rock approach to this song that tickles this Nuggets loving author.
‘God Bless The USA’ seems to tackle the myriad issues that country faces. “There’s a fire burning in the USA” sings Nick Chiericozzi. The band rattle along at a blistering pace The Ramones would be hard pressed to maintain.
After that intro to the album the pace drops on the doomy ‘Eye’. The opening lyric sounds like its being screamed from Chiericozzi’s boots. Drums slow and steady guide us through the dirty back alleys of the city at night. Things take a psychedelic turn in the chorus with a washed-out warbling effect being added to the vocals. And the guitar solo!! Wow! This is my album stand out track!
“Eternal Recurrence” next whilst maintain the edgy guitars ventures into power pop with its luscious backing vocals and a melodic vocal delivery which is committed to throughout the song. This band aren’t just a one trick pony and aren’t afraid to flex their creative muscles.
The Sabbath like intro to ‘Round the Corner’ morphs into a stomping sludge fest. Filling every corner with classic rock moments it’s a welcome respite from the pace of this album.
It’s only momentary though as we move back to full speed for ‘Through the Night’. It has this weird kinda spoken word part that really threw me at first but repeated listens have shown me that, man, it works.
‘Anyway I Found You’ has all the swagger of a Heartbreakers number. It’s alt country rock vibe amplified by the slide guitar and dual vocals. This is a neat reminder of this bands range.
The album concludes with the expansive ‘River Flows’. This is probably the most organic track on the album. Swampy groove driven guitars, the rawest of vocal deliveries and a rhythm section nailed to the beat make this a joy to experience. A sure footed close to a great album.
New York City is a great, balls to the wall, rock ‘n’ roll album. It was an inspired move to capture these songs live in one take. You can tell this band is at their best in this setting. It’s testament to their years of experience that it comes off so natural.
It’s two years since the fifth album from Southampton based noise makers Superdrone. This three-piece thrilled us with their widescreen soundscapes and cinematic approach to songwriting. Moving into album six the band have taken the brave decision to release a 22-track double album. I asked the band about this decision and what we should expect from the album.
“This album has taken 18 months to record and these 22 songs were taken from over 100 demo ideas to ensure that the quality was rhodium standard. The sound design is in surround full HD audio. Headphones on. Hit play and drift away.”
Sounds right up my street, lets dive in.
We open with the title track. A psychedelic float in outer space. Digitized vocals emerge through a digital soundscape. We ain’t in Kansas anymore. It’s clear that Superdrone are eschewing their shoegaze roots and heading into pastures new.
‘Augmented Strings’ next has a touch of the Lemon Jelly about it. I could hear this playing at Café Del Mar at sunset. The chilled break beat carries the washed-out synth and syrupy sweet guitar along on a gentle wave.
With a neat bit of word play we’re into ‘Glass of Heart’. Fans of Beachy Head will love this track. Taking a straight up pop track and warping the strings and vocals adding this eerie, smoky texture to the whole song. It maintains that chillout vibe we enjoyed on the previous track.
The drums are the star on ‘Renegade’ next. This one reminds me of Seal or Neneh Cherry with its unusual time signature and eighties vibe. The soaring chorus with its warbling synths is just lush and you look forward to it each time.
We take the pace down on ‘Under the Dark Sky’. This is a grand track with all the feels. It takes the stadium sized power of Elbow and paints a psychedelic canvas with it. It’s spellbinding stuff.
We move into EDM next with ‘Onenia’. Programmed beats and vocoder vocals lead us through this pulsing and at times operatic ballad. The band have truly developed their pop sensibilities and really ran with it. As we progress through the album you can hear just how much effort has gone into this evolution, reinvention even of who Superdrone are.
More word-play next with ‘Incomplete Sympathy’ now dabbling in that trip hop sound that Bristol made so famous. I’m sure I can hear a Massive Attack sample in here which would make sense. If you’re a fan of Lamb or Portishead then you will love this one.
It’s back to psychedelic pop next with the lovely little song parcel that is ‘Loneliness’. I love the loose feel this one has. It just wraps you up in a sonic hug. Without a doubt my album highlight.
‘Too Far’ returns to trip hop and is reminiscent of a lost track by Lamb. Vocals on this one are beautiful. A lilting female voice, cuts through the psychedelic swirl elevating this to another level.
‘Home’ on the other hand is like something from the Blade Runner soundtrack. Bold and futuristic it’s a striking example of how this band have moved on. Digital bleeps and synth pads wash over the listener while the vocoder does its thing. Really enjoyed this track!
That old movie vibe is present in ‘Gnossienne No1’ next. A cover of the famous Erik Satie composition it’s warped and faded, as if played on an old gramophone. Piano is augmented synth and xylophone. It’s a most eerie and unusual intermission.
The band returns on ‘Plain Sight’. Pounding drums and chugging guitars drive this poppy wee number. There’s a Viva La Vida melody at play that adds an element of grandeur here. Tempered though by the psychedelic swirl of the vocals. This is a band not afraid to look to the Top 40 for influence.
‘Into the Ether’ emerges as if from a slumber. The dreamlike ambience it creates is magical. It sparkles through the speakers. Hushed vocals and chiming xylophone play over triggered samples and a steady rhythm section. Most soothing.
‘Overtonia’ channels the Chemical Bros and Kula Shaker into a tantric cyber jam. It’s a slow burner and blossoms over its run time before folding in on itself for the chilled outro.
‘California’ kicks off like a Luther Vandross number from the eighties. It’s smooth pop jazz sounds all the way until the chorus vocoder vocals reminds us who we’re listening to.
‘Bathed in Light’ is aptly named. It’s super bright tones and shimmering sounds really do evoke that title.
‘Clear Castles in the Sky’ samples a Radiohead riff from Kid A and builds a psychedelic maelstrom around it. There are these really lovely discordant moments that tickle my ear no end. I love how they just seem to fit under the pop of the songs lead melody.
That motif continues into the moody ballad that is ‘All You Need’. In one of this album’s sparser arrangements, sparse being a relative term here, the off-kilter moments are really impactful.
‘Discovery’ lifts us from our reverie with another sonic hug. The warm and uplifting vocals for me are only surpassed by the all too short instrumental break. Crackin track.
‘In the Fire’ feels like a continuation of ‘Discovery’. Like an aperitif as we head for the end of this album. The measured and patient drums play a blinder here. Picking out their own way through the song keeping us on our toes.
‘Someday’ brings together all the musical themes of the album into a dynamic explosion of sound. Again, wait until you here the drum solos before the big outro section. Exceptional stuff.
The album comes to a close with the suitably monikered ‘26’. Twenty-six minutes of ambient sounds and musical interludes is a bold choice as a closing number. It really is a soothing listen and rounds things off in a most interesting way.
The band promised that this would be something totally different. Those who listened to their last album and this would be surprised to hear they were the same band. A double album is a big ask for a listener and largely Superdrone have pulled it off with Stereoized. This set of songs has set them off on a new trajectory. Gone is the post rock / shoegaze sound replaced with an electronic trip pop groove. There’s a new more sedate EDM been created here and I’m really excited to hear where this takes Superdrone next.
Scotland has a strong connection to that almost gothic, darker sound that bands like Cocteau Twins and the Mary Chain pioneered. Carrying on that tradition are a duo from the Scottish Borders south of Edinburgh. Sun Shines Cold fuse elements of post-rock, shoegaze, post-punk, psyche and 80’s goth. Multi instrumentalists Brian Jordan and Colan Miles influences include Slowdive, The Cure, Ride, Mogwai, Spacemen 3, Spiritualized, and Interpol. With that list of big hitters I was keen to find out about their debut album Echoes of a Former Life. Miles had this to say.
“Echoes of a former life is an album about past and present situations, relationships, places, lifestyles and ultimately with the final track growing older and watching people you care about fade. Our aim was to create an emotive but uplifting sound but with a dark edge that hopefully resonates with our listeners. The album cover is a disused railway tunnel in our home town that we hung about in as youths.”
Sounds like we may need torches as we’re heading somewhere dark.
The album opens on the instrumental “Before”. Stark and subdued drums emerge from the fog of droning feedback. A glacial guitar riff picks out the gaps and fills them with eerie swells and chimes. The band setting up their sonic palette giving us a flavour of what’s to come.
“Tried So Hard” really nails that late 80’s gothic sound. It’s sedate pace leaving lots of cavernous space for this song to grow in. Whilst there’s no denying the sombre tone it never feels morose or self-indulgent. The bass carves a path right through the track which the synths and guitars weave around. This provides a neat foil to the lighter tones on the next song.
‘Floods’ opens in the higher register with chiming guitar leading us into the song. Pause here to pay attention to the drums. It’s so refreshing to hear a drummer really explore their kit to add something unique to a track. For me this song is all about the chorus. It flips this song on its head and is both uplifting and optimistic making it my album stand out track.
Things get sparse on ‘Thoughts’. Sparse but still powerful and gripping. This song is a masterclass in how to wrestle the maximum amount of emotion out of the fewest notes and chords. Drums, again, on point making themselves the driver and ensuring this song has clear direction and purpose. It’s a great track and rounds our Side A nicely.
Over on the flipside things kick off with the single from February this year ‘There Came A Rain’. The haunting vocals are only made more eerie by the ghostly guitars and synths. The lyrics speak of a life ending but I think its more about the end of one part of your life. One that’s been particularly difficult. “Pull me down no more breath. Face the end and rise again”. That hidden optimism really endears this album to me even more.
‘Falling’ also maintains that optimism in the face of a failed relationship. Just listen to the ebb and flow of the chorus, the chiming guitars in the outro. Sun Shines Cold really utilise dynamics to the fullest to take you on a journey through these songs. Back on the chorus, the words seem to fall out the speakers like a waterfall. The descending chords are really impactful.
The opening to ‘Gone’ really ups that ghostly vibe. The guitar chords actually sound haunted. The album reaches its darkest moment here. The song conjures images in your mind of a forest at midnight and its many terrors hidden in the shadows. No respite is offered to us. The song leaves us alone in the twilight searching for the moon. This is so affecting here as its stands alone on the album as punctuation point, a pause before our final song.
‘Sundowning’ is nothing short of epic. An instrumental that leans into the post rock genre to deliver a crescendo that brings us home. This is going to sound massive when performed live. The guitars build in intensity and layer up with the bass and drums to provide an explosive ending that deserves to be heard at maximum volume! Turn it up!
In Echoes of a Former Life Sun Shines Cold have created a work of gothic grandeur, a dark companion to take you to places you’re too scared to go alone. However. Throughout the album, in amongst the sombre tones there’s a real underlying optimistic thread. Even though the subject matter can be dark or emotional, in each song there’s a wee spark of hope. That’s the strength of Sun Shines Cold and the reason this album is going to find them so many more fans.
Hogar Records from El Paso in Texas have quickly established themselves as a label with an ear for quality music. Recent releases from EEP, The Rosie Varela Project and Ross Ingram are testament to that. You can imagine my joy to hear of a new signing to the label. Acid Wave are a dream pop band consisting of drummer/vocalist/songwriter Audrey Villalobos, keyboardist/vocalist Jet Gil-Robert, guitarist/vocalist Eva Vasquez, bassist/vocalist Isanette Olivarez, and drummer/vocalist Mary Moreck. Formed in 2018 the band have been making a name for themselves with their dynamic live performances and are now set to release their new album heart2heart. I asked Villalobos how this album contrasts with the bands previous work.
“I wanted to go for a different tone with this album. It acts as a love letter so I wanted there to be more emotion in the songs.
I just felt so much love and I wanted to put that into songs for my partner, but heart2heart isn’t just a love story; instead, it interweaves all the growing pains of learning to love yourself too.”
Sounds like we’re in for an emotional ride. I can’t wait to dive in.
The album opens on the luscious tones of ‘New to Me’. The band are easing us in gently with a short but sweet introduction to their sound. The refrain of “You make me smile, I don’t want to lose this” is beautifully delivered and hooks us in.
Next up is the more pacy ‘Everything and Nothing’. There’s a great exchange here between the guitars and keyboards, almost like a call and response. It’s when this song moves into the chorus that we get a taste of what Acid Wave can do with a hook. You too will be smiling ear to ear by the end of this song.
‘Summer Moon’ is a more stripped back track until that chorus wraps us in its arms. This song is a real dichotomy. The lonely almost distant verses blossom into this warm and joyous refrain that just elevate this track into something special.
The drums get a work out on ‘Peach Girl’. This track is so unusual and intriguing. Everything follows the one melody line in the chorus which really shouldn’t work, but here it does. In fact I’d say it’s what makes this song. The drums however are next level, carving out a marching yet skipping rhythm. This would be an amazing song to hear live!
We take a short breather with ‘Lullaby Interlude’. Utterly beguiling and comforting it’s a massive hug of a song. The higher register guitars on this I particularly loved, reminding me of some of Orange Juice ‘s more romantic numbers. High praise indeed and well earned.
No sooner has it begun then it fades out and we’re into ‘Blushing’. It’s becoming more and more apparent as we get into the album the importance this band place on their hooks. This chorus is exquisite. The drum break leading into this reverb washed moment of utter clarity, where this song pulls into absolute focus. It’s so visceral and moving.
As if to say “hold my beer” in comes ‘Make Me Drown”. This song just soars into the chorus, like flying through clouds. The verse is beautifully punctuated with the drums off kilter rhythm pulling right on to the beat for the change. The guitars here range from dark and brooding undertones to porcelain bright chimes and it’s just so effective. The Death Cab like keyboards only further endears this song to me making it my album highlight.
‘My Favourite’ is a light and airy love song. The verses punctuated this time by the bass line, playing off the guitar lick. It’s a neat trick and really effective so that when that chorus appears, it’s all the more effective. The band play about with the dynamics with this track dipping in and out keeping the listener on their toes.
It’s that use of dynamics that comes to play next on ‘Basement of My Brain’. We start really minimal before slowly bringing the band in gradually so as not to overwhelm the song. It would’ve been so easy for them to make this another gossamer light chorus but in a show of quite savvy restraint they don’t. Instead, they allow the vocal to remain solo, single tracked. Much like our own inner monologue. It’s testament to the quality of the vocal that this not only works but actually it makes the entire song.
The album closes out on the chiming chords of ‘Sulli B’. If a song ever sounded like a farewell, it’s this one. Its slow tempo allows room for the emotion in the vocal to shine through. When Vasquez sings “Can’t seem to find the tears, I wish I could cry” you absolutely believe it. This connection is what will send you back to the beginning to listen again, it’s the perfect end to this album.
In heart2heart, Acid Wave have created a moment in time that’s all theirs. We’re welcomed into it and in that moment, we dream. We dream of love lost and hearts on fire under an infinite starlit sky. That is a remarkable feat and one that is going to win this band a devoted following.
You can grab a copy of heart2heart from May 5 2023. It’s available on CD, vinyl and download from Acid Wave Bandcamp page.
Callière is a name I was very familiar with. After collaborating with my friends in The Churchill Garden and Echodrone’s Jackie Kasbohm things had gone a bit quiet. I needn’t have worried as Andrew Rose has returned with a full-length album no less! This time he is stepping away from the collaborations of the past and giving us a truly solo album called Freefall Into Heaven. To find out more about the project I asked Andrew to tell us a little bit about himself.
“Callière is a musical project I began as a teenager back in 1984, an umbrella name for solo and collaborative work that became somewhat side-lined when I joined the BBC as a radio sound engineer and studio manager in 1990 – just in time for the shoegaze revolution and my chance to meet and work alongside many of the great UK bands of the initial flowering of shoegaze – Slowdive, Ride, Chapterhouse, Lush, The Telescopes and loads more – many acquaintances that have been renewed in recent years.”
“Having bought a guitar from 93MMFTS’s Nick Noble a few years ago and been gifted the Vox amp used by Christian Savill for Slowdive’s first reunion gigs, I finally returned to serious songwriting and recording at the end of 2021, inspired by the Beatles Let It Be documentary to just pick the guitar up and get on with it…”
With that pedigree and influence I can’t wait to dive in.
The album opens with the short and sweet ‘Milton Cross’. An ode to the radio announcer who’s voice ushers us in over some of the tones and textures we will hear later on the album.
This leads into the pounding intro to lead single ‘Hollow’. It’s a battle, a push and pull between the light of the chorus and the darkness in the verses. There’s a real sense of tension in those verses which just explodes into the chorus where we soar heavenward. The feeling of joy is palpable and you can’t help but be swept up in this songs uplifting second half. If you are anything like me this song will soon become an obsession.
The aptly named title track follows and you do feel like you are falling into this song. The gentile, lyrical lilt Rose employs is both soothing and utterly engaging. The soundtrack to this song is both glacial and heavenly. The synth parts in particular are really affecting, cutting through the mix like icicles in the snow. It’s a beautiful ballad in the key of bliss major.
Next up is ‘Reminiscence’, opening on some quite warm ambient guitar tones. These are contrasted against the steel like chime of the synth pads. Rose this time creates an almost woodland feel with his choice of percussion. Sounding like a mix of drums and wood blocks playing an other worldly waltz. It really makes this song stand out and, as a listener, you sit up and really pay attention.
We’re shook from our reverie nest though. Rose goes proto punk on us with the spiky delivery of ‘Foreign Land’. Whilst we feel we are now listening to a different artist altogether Rose makes a very clever move. Halfway in he reminds us this is Callière with an instrumental break using some dreamy tones before returning to the pacy final verse.
The tempo comes way down on ‘The Artist Sits Alone’. His Gallic surroundings seep into every corner of this song. Close your eyes and you see this being performed in the dark below a mirror ball. The glittery light embodied in every note of that sumptuous guitar line.
We are treated to a spacious instrumental next named for the band itself. ‘Callière’ features a gently strummed acoustic guitar playing flamenco style chords over an ambient backing of tonal synth and heavily reverbed guitars. This feels like floating and falling at the same time. Utterly beguiling.
This segues neatly into more traditional rock stylings of ‘Another Sunset’. Again, Rose employs a steady ambient drone as backing here but this time his vocal is very much front and centre. Voice and drums lead the melody of this song foiled by the wash of synths and strings. It’s a really effective device and makes this sound like a futuristic English folk song for an intergalactic audience.
The voice of Milton Cross returns for ‘Radio City’. A final tone poem that bookends the original songs of this album in fine fashion.
To close the album Rose has an extra special treat for us. I’ll let him explain.
“One song sits slightly apart from the rest: the final song, ‘To See You Smile’, is a cover of a song recorded by Even As We Speak for their 1993 Sarah Records album, ‘Feral Pop Frenzy’. Here it begins as a string-quartet-accompanied duet between the original EAWS singer, Mary Wyer and myself that gradually builds in speed and volume, with new harmonies from Mary, until exploding into a second half of increasingly incoherent shoegaze guitar noise, incorporating fx-distorted guitar solos from the 1993 original, and resolving – A Day in The Life-like – into simple hanging guitar reverb tones. (I’m pleased to say this was recorded with the full approval of Even As We Speak and the song’s original writer and guitarist, Matt Love.)”
It really is quite an extraordinary track and a wonderful way to close out the album. The interplay between Rose and Wyer is perfect, their voices harmonising effortlessly. That grand cacophony of an outro sending us off in fine fashion.
Freefall Into Heaven is a stunning journey of an album. With Rose nodding at his myriad influences throughout, never mimicking, always reinventing and sculpting those tones into the patchwork thread of Callière. This is especially evident on the closing cover version as he stretches those collaborative muscles that he knows so well. This is an album you will return to time and again, each time finding something new, a texture or sound you missed last listen. That to me is the sign of a future classic.
Back in 2019 I was absolutely floored by the debut album from Newcastle-upon-Tyne based musician John Edgar. He had made his name with bands such as Okay Champ, EAT FAST and Nately’s Whore Kid Sister. The Dawdler was something totally different. Keith in Ballachulish was a bold and uncompromising album of quite stunning fragility and nuance. It scooped my album of the year in 2019 and remains a firm favourite to this day.
Since then, John has released The Pursed Modern EP and Signs of Growth EP. Both maintaining that high quality of songwriting and production.
It absolutely made my day when I heard a new EP of songs was finished. The Tracing Spirals EP is imminent and I’ve been given a sneak peek. Before we dive into the songs, I asked John to give us a bit of an intro to the EP.
“Recorded and produced entirely at home and alone, this EP is about disability, immobility, sleep, and nostalgia. An honest sketch of my restricted life. Worsening disability and dysarthria (speech and vocal cord deterioration) has brought about my decision to make as much music as I can while I can. A home-made, DIY approach means I can work when I’m able to and not worry about meeting other people’s expectations or demands.”
“I made this EP with sleep in mind. I sleep a lot and spend loads of time in bed listening to ‘sleepy’ music. I wanted these tunes to be a worthy sleep companion for any fellow slumber fiends out there. I’m reluctant to use the ‘lullaby’ word, but I just did.”
“All the vocals are quadruple tracked and whispered at the volume of a snoring mouse. The guitars are fingerpicked and thumbed as gently as I could possibly manage. The synths are all snippets of my demos slowed down, stretched, and layered. Intimacy, warmth, loneliness, nostalgia, quiet, sleep, immobility, disintegration, weed. These were the main bubbles on my EP spidergram.”
“All the vocals are quadruple tracked and whispered at the volume of a snoring mouse. The guitars are fingerpicked and thumbed as gently as I could possibly manage. The synths are all snippets of my demos slowed down, stretched, and layered. Intimacy, warmth, loneliness, nostalgia, quiet, sleep, immobility, disintegration, weed. These were the main bubbles on my EP spidergram.”
The EP opens on the simply stunning ‘Never Go Far’. Slowly plucked guitar couches his warm and comforting vocal. The song’s open and honest lyric cuts straight to your heart. “Don’t be scared I’ll Never Go Far. I’m always scared so I Never Go Far”. It paints a vivid picture of Edgars life that is immediately identifiable. He grabs your empathy and shares his with you. On his Keith in Ballachulish album there’s a song called ‘Sylvie’ which has been my favourite song of his since I first heard it. It shares that empathic quality. I now have a new favourite song.
‘Way Back Home’ has a more sombre ambience. The guitar pulsing like a beating heart as Edgar’s voice weaves around the mix. As the song goes on those synths he mentioned slowly emerge and grow until they consume the closing notes. Once again, the lyrics are really powerful. The moment the words move from “I saw the whole thing burn to the ground” to “Can’t find my way back home” is just epic.
The sound of reverse synth lines leads us into ‘Break’. This song truly has that lullaby feel. The stop start in the chorus is a great but subtle use of gentle dynamics to elevate this track to another level. Like a lot of Edgars songs this one is over before you know it but that too is so clever. His songs never out stay their welcome leaving you wanting hear them again. Immediately.
The EP closes on ‘High in the Bathroom’. This one sparkles like the sun on still water. The synth pads are like porcelain and the harmonised vocal lines exultant. It’s a beautiful little sound study and the perfect way to round off this collection of songs and send us off to our dreams.
As he has so many times before, Edgar crystalizes his vision with pinpoint precision. This EP is a love song to slumber. To the magical idyls of our imaginations. As always, our narrator’s heart is not just on his sleeve. It infiltrates and penetrates every moment. Like a silent companion it holds our hand until we slip off into our own dreams.
I was overjoyed to hear that Olympia, Washington based post wave / shoegaze quartet Waves Crashing are back. They have just released their new EP called The Viewing. The band consist of Josh Calisti (guitar, vocals), Bryce Albright (drums) and Joshua Charette (bass). I covered their previous EP High / Lowwhich you can read over here.
I absolutely loved their previous work so I was keen to ask what this EP sounded like.
“With their latest release, the 4-track EP, The Viewing, we hear the band diving sonically deeper than ever before to bring some of their most well-crafted and beautiful songs to the surface. The feature single “Life on Display” has been very well received with continued radio support from KEXP Seattle, DKFM Los Angeles and WXNA Nashville. With this release, all is on display for the world to hear for themselves.”
That all sounds very promising. Let’s dive in and see what the band have been up to.
The EP opens with the pacy ‘Automatic’. Fans of DIIV will find a lot to love here. There’s a tight energy in the verses which opens up on the choruses. There’s a nice drop out section mid song with some spoken word samples before the song erupts again.
That’s followed by lead single ‘Life on Display’. It reminds me of a shoegaze ‘Lovesong’ by The Cure. It’s so atmospheric, guitars soaring whilst the vocals keep the song under control. It’s the bass driving this song. Its purposeful and punchy delivery working hand in hand with the drums to really breathe urgency into it.
‘Voices’ is next, switching up the tempo with a chilled-out intro which blooms into this chorus Billy Corgan would kill for. That switch in dynamics is so skilfully executed, making a really satisfying listen. For me the fuzz tone on the guitar in that chorus is the star here. It’s massive! At the risk of saying the same thing in two blogs, proper widescreen music.
Those hushed opening tones continue into ‘High Horse’. It’s a glorious take on that Philly sound I love so much. Again, the bass steps up, this time to carry a bit of the melody through the verses. It really helps make this song leap out the speakers at you. It’s a short and sharp number which leads us into a Bandcamp exclusive track.
‘Outro’ is a moody instrumental which evokes the feel of small-town America. Much like the soundtrack for Twin Peaks did. It has that eerie, other worldly quality that really endears it to my ears. It’s absolutely beautiful and the perfect way to round out this EP.
The band described the songs on The Viewing EP as “well crafted”. For me that’s an understatement. Everything from the songwriting, production, dynamic choices, sequencing and arrangements are all next level. This has become one of my regular listens, especially in the evening for some reason, and one I’m sure will seep into your consciousness and take over.
The Viewing EP is available now over on the Waves Crashing Bandcamp page. You’ll find it on download, CD and an exclusive vinyl release featuring this EP and on the flip side their previous EP High / Low. It comes on numbered limited edition transparent coke bottle green 180g vinyl.
You can follow Waves Crashing on social media here…
I received a welcome message from my good pal Michael Smyth (Virgins / Old Crow Promotions) to tell me about a new EP from a band he’s promoting. What do you know, it’s Coleraine based power gazers WOHN, who, observant readers will remember, I covered last year. Well, they’re back with their Fire Smoke Ashes EP and I couldn’t be more excited to be premiering it on Static Sounds Club.
The band, featuring John Wisener (Singer. Guitar), Matthew McVicker (Lead Guitar), Dylan Norton (Drums) and Reece Gordon (Bass) take influence from the jagged beauty of the surroundings in their Northern Ireland home. Here’s how Michael describes their sound.
“This juxtaposition of elements runs throughout their debut EP, often pairing flannel-soaked distortion against jangle indie pop or a gently strummed progression against a wall of gazey fuzz. It’s this witches brew that gives Wohn their own voice and scream, making them one of Northern Irelands most exciting up and coming bands.”
I couldn’t agree more! There’s something about this band that caught my ear right away.
That started when I heard opening track ‘No Shelter’. This track heads in a post punk direction with its angular guitar attack against almost spoken word vocals in the verses. The chorus simply takes off heavenwards. Soaring guitars lift Wisener’s powerful vocal delivery. His emotive screams in the closing section really make you sit up and take notice.
‘Honey Bubba’ is a different kettle of fish altogether. It blends the Celtic syncopation between bass and drums of a band like Big Country with the propulsive dynamic of Nirvana. It’s a strange mix of styles which on paper shouldn’t work, but it does, my god it does. Norton’s drums are incredible and tie this song together, the constant thread. This allows the guitars to work their magic, often spinning on a dime to morph into the next section.
We close out the EP with the hazy, lazy title track. This song conjures up that post party, smoky atmosphere. The suns first rays creeping through the curtains as you replay the previous night in your head. It’s a wonderfully emotive track, never rushing, everything taking its time and finding a place in the mix. Guitars swing from sparse strumming to blasting out the fuzz. Drums rolling, constantly driving the song forward. Bass dancing, picking up the dusty end. It’s a perfect closing track and wraps up this EP nicely.
This EP has been a wonderful surprise. WOHN showcase the extent of their ambition across these three songs. From a wall of fuzzy sound to the delicately picked sounds of the title track the band adopt a chameleon approach to their music. They are wise enough to know that the music serves the song and deliver on this each time.
You can grab a copy of the EP over on Bandcamp now.
Dirty Filthy Records have done it again. Yet another astounding release this time all the way from Córdoba Argentina. Les Nadie (Nobody) are a desert heavy-psych duo with Juan Codne on guitars and vocals and Rodri Deladerova on drums. They’re building on the legacy of bands like Los Natas, Dragonauta or Los Antiguos to create something new. The dynamics they employ move their sound from blistering stoner doom rock to the shimmering tones of shoegaze.
Destierro y Siembra or Exile and Planting was released digitally last year to rave reviews. To give you a measure of the excitement around the album it’s now receiving its vinyl debut with two bonus tracks. Even more impressively there are four record labels coming together to ensure this album gets a worldwide release.
The album kicks of the with slow and steady majesty of ‘Grito el indio’. Things chug along nicely until that final minute when the song erupts and blooms into this soaring flight through hellfire, complete with demonic laughing. What a start.
‘Zhonda’ picks the pace up with hammer blow riffs and spacey vocals. This track is wonderfully dynamic, dropping out the big licks for the sung passages only to return at full volume and intensity in the instrumental sections. It’s hard to believe this is just two guys.
We enter the desert wasteland for ‘En Tu Destierro’ or ‘In Your Exile’. The barren heat and despair are palpable in this performance. The vocals cry in anguish and the drums echo the stumbling steps of our exile. The guitar is particularly expressive, picking out light and dark to great effect.
The demonic entity returns to haunt us in ‘Helleden’. This is something totally new. We swing from this gorgeous rolling riff to the lightest and most gentile of vocal lines. For a song called ‘The Hell’ things are remarkably chilled and laid back. I’m not sure I’ve heard this approach to songwriting before. It so refreshing and unexpected that it really made me sit up and take notice.
The big licks return in full effect for ‘Babas Dallah’. When this goes off, man it goes OFF! It might be the contrast to the previous track but this one blew my mind! There is live video to accompany this one which captures the band playing in the sweltering heat. You can check it out here.
The call and response dynamic between vocals and guitar return on ‘Del Pombero’. Codne demonstrates an enormous lung capacity with a held note that stretches on and on. We enter space rock territory with intergalactic tones entering the fray making this my album stand out track.
‘Venenauta’ is a short musical interlude. A tone poem or mood piece. It’s an eerie one that cleanses our palate.
We’re back with the ten storey riffs with ’Mal Viaje’. This is heavy stuff, like Black Sabbath heavy. The band play with a real purpose here. Locked in sync, drums and guitar don’t so much do battle but lead each other through, supporting each other all the way. I might be mistaken but there may be some Janes Addiction influence here too.
The album closes out on the other worldly ‘Hellkam’. It’s spaced out sonics driving the grove of the guitars and the drums ever amazing rhythms. Pay close attention to how the band seamlessly shift the tempo up and down without once falling out of time with each other. This is impressive stuff and the perfect way to finish the album.
Les Nadie have turned me into a fan for life with this collection of songs. The hype is not just lived up to but exceeded in my ears. I keep coming back to, this is just two guys. How on earth do they sculpt these infinite and complex sonic worlds between them. It’s a mystery but a mystery I’m happy to leave unaddressed. When a band creates magic such as this, it’s best to close your eyes and just let them take you away.
Is it really three years since I last took to the keyboard to extoll my love of Australian gazers trillion? This five-piece outfit blew my mind with their Move to You EP back in 2020. You can read that blog in full here. They return to us, triumphant, in 2023 with an album, no less, called So Soon Now. So, who are trillion?
Well, trillion are from Sydney, Australia and consist of Steve Hartley (guitar/ vocals), Darren Barnes (bass/ programming) Sarah Quirk (guitar/ vocals) Rohan Mackenzie (guitar) Sean Vella (drums) and Megan Liu (guitar/ vocals). Their sound is classic heavy shoegaze drawing on influences like My Bloody Valentine, Blonde Redhead, Ringo Deathstarr, Peel Dream Magazine, Deafcult and Flyying Colours.
The band have the following to say about the new album.
“So Soon Now brings together driving basslines and blistering drums, layering these with hazy vocals and multi-textured fuzz to create crashing caverns of sound and subtle yet sonic sweeps of light and dark. We recorded So Soon Now over about 6 months across several studios, helping us nail the sound we wanted and deliver a total of 10 tracks, each of which displays different characteristics of our love for sonic mayhem.”
Sonic mayhem you say? Sounds right up my street!
The album opens on the title track and right away we are swathed in gorgeous textures of fuzz guitar. Those complimenting male female vocals picking out the melody from way down, deep down in the mix while the guitars explode all over them. This is an amazing choice as an opener and has me excited for what’s next.
What’s next is the dreamy ‘Lo-Fi Days’. The soporific melody is really quite intoxicating. Whilst not holding back on the fuzz the band somehow make this sound like an out and out ballad. I love how it comes back in after the false stop. That totally caught me off guard and made me smile. Don’t you love it when a song surprises you.
‘Atomic Sunshine’ follows, led by a groovy, baggy bassline. It’s a sparser mix in places than previous tracks letting us hear another side to the band. The dynamic change in mood as the band steps back for a moment and then come back in all at once is so impactful. Vocals too are more up front and centre here letting us soak up the textures of their interplay.
The single ‘Cherry Blossom’ follows with its bombastic, psychedelic tightly locked groove. A song about the judgement that comes with living life to the fullest. Vocals here reminding me of Jefferson Airplane at their height. Guitars warping and bending around each note adding to that other worldly, trippy vibe. That breakdown mid song is the definition of heavy gaze for me. It’s not hard to see why the video for this track has been has been getting a lot of love.
Changing the mood completely is the lighter than air fuzz pop of ‘Kusanagi’. From what I can glean online it’s a legendary Japanese sword of ancient myth. I could be wrong so don’t quote me on that. What you can quote me on is that this song is the business. It’s fuzzed out intro fooling us into thinking we are about to hear more super heavy gaze. The song kicks in for real on the vocals lifting us up and flying skywards. The vocals are next level on this track and I can see this serving really well as a single.
This is followed by my album highlight, a woozy, fuzzy behemoth called ‘Falling Down’. The guitars on this are absolute dynamite I just love that heady impenetrable fog of a sound they make. When that heavy fuzz guitar kicks in on the chorus it takes your breath away. This is a band who have done their MBV homework. The influences here drawn from B-sides and EP tracks. I really appreciate the effort as this is simply stunning. The fact that there is no bass or drums on this only makes it more amazing that it’s able to hit so hard.
‘Take it Slow’ brings the band back in melodic form. Really zone in to the drums on this one. They are practically dancing. It adds another new dimension to this bands repertoire. The guitar riff is so hooky as are the punchy vocals throughout. They float over the top of this glorious wash of rhythmic joy. Check out the cool video here.
As if taking a cue from the previous song, ‘Close Your Eyes’ takes it slow and steady. Whilst that steady wall of chaotic fuzz hangs in the air behind it there’s some cool stuff happening. A delicious guitar melody is ringing out whilst that Jefferson Airplane style vocal interplay returns. Overall, this is a hypnotic tune, you can’t quite believe its over when those last distorted notes ring out.
‘The Silent Sea’ has that epic power ballad swagger about it. That is if it wasn’t absolutely buzzing and reverberating with crushing fuzz. That transforms it to something else, something we haven’t heard from trillion as yet. This feels new and exciting. The vocals sound colder and more distant than usual and when the lead guitar arrives, it’s enormous sounding. Towering over the rest of the track. That almost reggae section in the middle had me scratching my head but my god, it works. There was a lot of risks taken on this song and they all pay off in spades.
The album reaches its climax with ‘Sometimes It’s Alright’. A gorgeous tone poem of reverse guitar parts, layered and mixed in a most pleasing way. A lovely way to close out the album.
With So Soon Now trillion have sculpted a love letter to the bands who came before them without ever straying into pastiche. The creativity on show is breath-taking throughout and in places breaks new ground. That kind of songwriting is what keeps the gaze scene vibrant and alive. It’s what make trillion absolutely crucial listening.
Every time I hear that the Fuzzed Up & Astromoon Records label has a new release my excitement levels go through the roof. Doubly so when that release is the new single from Dublin’s hottest new act, Krypton Bulb.
This band delivers high octane, gutsy rock ‘n’ roll. They have developed a reputation for incendiary live performances which led to Fuzzed Up & Astromoon releasing a double A-side lathe cut 7” single. That single, ‘Let Me Tell Ya / Come On Over’ remains a firm favourite of mine to this day.
They return this week to launch their brand-new single ‘Jackie’s Man’ with a live show in the beautiful surroundings of The Sound House venue on Dublin’s Eden Quay. The single will be released digitally by the band with a 7″ vinyl release coming out on Fuzzed Up & Astromoon Records.
The track has that dirty garage energy that we all love so much however there’s a real glam swagger in the pounding drums. As always there’s a hook that doesn’t let up making this another sure fire hit for the band.
The release is accompanied by a brilliant video created by long term collaborator Michael White which you can check out here.
As performers go, Krypton Bulb have pretty quickly developed a reputation for unpredictable chaos on stage making them a must-see live act. If you like what you’ve heard and you want to head along, the show is on Saturday 25 February at the Sound House. Tickets are €10 and can be bought from Eventbrite here.
Support comes from lo-fi psych-garage-punks Thee U.F.O whose latest album release ‘Ponderous Fug’ has been a regular spin here in the clubhouse since its release. They will be showcasing new material from their upcoming follow up album!
The 7” lathe cut single of ‘Jackie’s Man’ goes on sale Friday 24 February from Fuzzed Up & Astromoon Records Bandcamp Page. If you want a copy, I’d recommend being ready at 8am GMT hovering over that buy button. This is going to fly!
I’ve been a fan of Leeds dark gaze band Last Tourist since the release of their 2020 single “Public Service / Are We Just Algorithms?” In my review, which you can read here, I mentioned their influences were bands like Joy Division, Interpol, Suicide, Diiv and The Jesus & Mary Chain. I also made mention that their sound was a heady concoction. That heady concoction has been brewing and their self-titled debut album is the result.
Since that singles release the bands, line up has evolved somewhat. Last Tourist feature John Wellby (guitar, vocals), Nick Noble (guitar, vocals), Adam Simpson (synth and programming), and Jason Booth (bass guitar, bass synth), with the album also featuring guest appearances from Whimsical’s Krissy Vanderwoude (vocals) and Slowdive’s Simon Scott (drums).
My excitement levels are piqued so let’s dive in.
The album opens on the soaring ‘Riding Seas’. The pulsing bass, like the song’s heartbeat, gives life to the glorious wash of guitars and synths. The band set their stall out early on, this is going to be quite a ride.
I’m into familiar territory next with the single ‘Public Service. When I covered this song previously, I said “Public Service” is a darkly glorious synthwave meets shoegaze blend. Shimmering synths fight with 10-foot-tall guitars for your attention. Powerful bass lines, entwined with moody vocals and rhythmic danceable drums complete this heady concoction.” I stand by that. What a track.
It’s another single next. ‘Cave in the Hills’. I liken the experience of listening to this song like watching a polaroid develop. The bare bones of the song are there at the start and as it develops more and more detail emerges until it presents itself in glorious technicolour.
‘Lust’ is a different proposition altogether. It arrives fully formed and assaults your senses. Darkly brooding chords play over sweeping synths and intricate drums. It’s sensory overload from the get go and you just lose yourself, surrendering to the experience. I particularly love the guitars on this one, always on the edge of feedback, just in control and no more. My kinda playing.
The pace drops for the melancholia swathed ‘Falling Into (Drone)’. The descending chords lock us into a sombre frame of mind. The opening section of the song would’ve sat happily on Disintegration by The Cure. Is there a higher compliment? It feels like we’re on a journey and like all journeys the end comes all too soon.
Next up we have the instant classic ‘Black Raven’. This song combines the pop sensibilities of Phil Spector with the soundscapes of Slowdive and Ride. The chorus has more hooks than a fisherman’s tackle box. When Wellby sings “Can’t resist always lost in my head” I defy you not to sing along.
My album highlight follows in ‘Fake Lust’. There’s something about the woozy guitar and measured vocal that really speaks to me. The intro is nothing short of epic with the band leaping in together. The chorus has some parallels with Joy Division however I will qualify that. Whilst I can hear that Ian Curtis influence, this is all Last Tourist. The elation in the chorus sets it apart, above and beyond to my ears.
There’s a short mood piece next in ‘Interval’. A tone poem to cleanse the palate as we head into ‘Lemon Twist’.
Vocals emerge through an incredibly dense and textured soundscape. With a knowing wink to The Mary Chain we are implored to “Kiss Kiss Lemon Twist”. What really impresses me about the production on this album is the space given to each instrument. Make no mistake there is a lot going on, but there’s a real clarity to every bass not and snare crack. Each guitar and synth note has its spot on the soundstage. This song absolutely exemplifies that.
We receive some soul nourishment next with the uplifting ‘Spiritual Cove’. If the brothers Reid ever dropped the wall of noise, they’d do well to cover this track. Wellby’s laid back drawl drapes itself all over the swathes of beauty conjured by the guitars and synths. The ever-increasing intensity of the fuzzed guitar adding a new and welcome texture. This is one beautiful song.
The album closes out on ‘Slow Moving Traffic’ another mood piece that blends synth swells creating a farewell to the listener. A really satisfying closer.
Last Tourist have laboured long and hard on this debut album. That is apparent in the quality of the tracks laid before us. More than that though. There is a soul on display here, a beating heart that reaches out from every song to bring you close. To share its story with you, share an embrace and then release you to the world. Better for having listened, experienced.
Matt Catling returns in his Under the Sun moniker with another slice of truly unique experimental shoegaze. We were all blown away by his 2022 album Dream which came out on Shore Dive Records, a sure fire indicator of quality for me. Ocean Breeze is a collection of three tracks where Catling gets to fire our imaginations and excite us with where he’s going next musically.
So, what was like recording this single as compared to the experience of recording Dream. Catling had this to say.
“Ocean Breeze took four months to make and was mastered by Slowdive’s Simon Scott for which I’m extremely happy. Mostly it was improved writing whilst doing the vocals for the first time. As for instruments, I used Jazzmaster/Jaguar guitars and for the track Soft Focus I used the Catalinbread soft focus pedal.”
That said let’s dive in.
Ocean Breeze opens with the title track. It’s an experimental piece with an atmospheric soundscape being formed by the wash of guitars. On top there is a repeating synth sting, almost like an alarm pulsing away whilst a distorted, stretched and warped spoken word piece echoes. This is so effective. It’s like the words are being kept hidden, just out our reach but tantalisingly close.
‘Whirlwind’ features a glorious wall of reverse guitar pushed to breaking point through a wall of fuzz. Whilst this isn’t a new track it has been given new depth and energy with the injection of dreamy vocals and trippy guitar layers. This is such a soothing piece. Almost hypnotising.
We close the single on my favourite song, ‘Soft Focus’. It has elements that would sit well on a Lovesliescrushing album. That distant vocal, the buried drums, the steady and insistent attack of the guitars. The second half gains a new clarity with bass tone picking out the songs structure and lifting it deeper into your consciousness.
If you like your shoegaze on the ambient side with heaps of character and inventiveness then Under The Sun have you covered. Ocean Breeze is a beautiful collection of tone poems, experimental gaze and is guaranteed to warm your winter evenings.
Ocean Breeze is out now via Shore Dive Records, on digital formats and a now sold-out limited-edition CD.
You can follow Under The Sun on social media here…
It only feels right that my first blog of 2023 is a release from my one of my all-time favourite labels Sonic Cathedral. Back in 2019 they introduced us to Innsbruck based Austrian duo MOLLY. Lars Andersson and Phillip Dornauer created a stunning debut in All That Ever Could Have Been. That album soundtracked a large part of 2019 for me and remains a turntable favourite to this day. Now they have returned with their sophomore release, Picturesque. This time around the band is focusing their sound across six tracks. The great news for the listener is that some of these tracks are sprawling epics to get swept away by. As a fan of post rock that fills me with excitement.
Andersson, when asked about the themes he wrote about on the album had this to say.
“Every time I go to a museum and I’m about to pass through the era of Romanticism I stop in awe,” says Lars of the enduring appeal of the 18th century artistic movement. “Whatever it is – stories, paintings, music – it triggers something deep within me, something profoundly human. It really hits a nerve, and it utterly immerses me to a point where I can’t move.”
“The album replicates this feeling; a gloriously over-the-top blend of Slowdive and Sigur Rós, mixed with the single-mindedness of Daniel Johnston and the noisiness of Nirvana, it’s as bold and beautiful and every bit as ornate as the art that inspired it.”
So, with those words ringing in our ears let’s drop the needle and get in amongst it.
The album opens strong with soaring ballad ‘Ballerina’. Immediately I’m struck by the production. It’s multi layered, dreamy swells and heavenly vocals all the way. This is the perfect introduction to the album. When the song explodes into its static laced outro with Andersson’s falsetto feathering the peripheries of the soundstage you really sit up and take notice.
Breathless we head into track two. With ‘Metamorphosis’ we start to appreciate the scale of the bands vision for this album. What we are presented with is, essentially, a 12-minute musical suite in three distinct movements. “Picturesque, how you breathe your last breath” trills Andersson over, what sounds like, an angelic choir. This opening vocal movement is measured and sure-footed guiding us carefully towards part two. An instrumental, ambient wash forms the second movement as the song ushers the listener through a metamorphosis of our own. It’s the closing movement which gets me. Every single time it leaves me, jaw opened staring at the speakers. It gathers all the musical themes explored on the track and sends them soaring heavenwards.
The first single from the album ‘The Golden Age’ comes pulsing out the ether yet. Utilising a really unusual, almost military like drum motif it immediately stands out from the previous two tracks. There’s an other-worldliness pervading the very DNA of this song. From the wash of guitars to the frenetic spoken word vocals there’s something that carries you off to distant corners of your imagination. As always Molly are masters of the crescendo building and building the waves, momentum gathering and releasing leaving the song and the listener spent. See what I mean here.
‘Sunday Kid’ takes the pace down a notch with a more bucolic, nostalgic tone. Less a ballad and more a lullaby the soothing effect of the song is palpable. For such a simple song there are still layers of sounds at play. It’s a real skill to make such complexity so sound so straightforward on the surface. The effected vocal and organ work beautifully in combination to drive that feeling of calm and peace.
Refreshed we move into ‘So To Speak’ on an exquisite vocal intro. Andersson himself drew Sigur Ros comparisons in his description of the album. There is certainly something in his voice reminiscent of Jonsi but to say it’s that and nothing else is doing him a massive disservice. There’s a deeper timbre at play lending his voice a greater range of expression and emotion to my ear. That range is showcased throughout ‘So To Speak’. From the potent intro to the, ultimately abrupt, closing this song is a wonderful microcosm of all things Molly.
The album closes out with ‘The Lot’. I mentioned in my intro that this album contained sprawling epics. There’s no better way to introduce this incredible piece to you. It opens dark and brooding, drums pulsing in the background as guitars slowly swell into a fuzzed-out reverie. We are cloaked in this darkness for at least half the song before we emerge into this glorious, soaring moment. That falls away all too soon as we finish our musical journey on a minimalist almost exhausted guitar piece. And then, it’s over.
With PicturesqueMolly have taken the soundscapes from All That Ever Could Have Been and refined, honed and evolved to a level that belies this groups tender years. The album oozes a confidence and ease of performance that lets you know that you are in safe hands. That for the next hour or so you can relax and let Molly take you on a journey into their magical world. It’s a journey I went willingly on and will go again. The production of this album hides lots of neat surprises for a vigilant listener meaning Picturesque will yield new and deeper pleasures on every listen. That, for me, is the mark of a future classic.