Label Focus – Fuzzed Up & Astromoon Records

The psyche scene couldn’t be more buoyant with more and more excellent bands emerging all the time. This makes it all the more important that there are amazing record labels out there to make sure we get to hear them. Over the last few months, I’ve fallen head over heels for Dublin-based Fuzzed Up & Astromoon Records. Run by two top blokes called Ian McGlynn and Andy Marke the label has been releasing some of the finest psych music around.

I asked Ian how they came to choose the name for the label.

“Andy already had Fuzzed Up. He used the name for his club nights and radio show.

He felt I needed an identity in the name, so I thought hard, was listening to a lot of Electric Moon and hey presto…..Astromoon was born.

Glad nobody else picked it anywhere!”

As Ian mentioned, Andy runs a successful indie night in Dublin by the name Fuzzed Up. He also DJ’s a radio show with the same name on Dublin’s Near FM and Barrelhouse Radio. With Ian’s passion for vinyl and live music, they were always destined to team up and start a label. The ethos behind the label is about amplifying the psychedelic soul of the bands on their roster. Whilst Andy and Ian have their own unique tastes in music, psyche is what unites them and is the starting point for all their releases.

With that in mind let’s explore some of the bands that the label has brought to us so far.

Crome Yellow

Hailing from Waterford, 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. It’s a potent recipe for sure. The band released their No Friends or Mirrors album back in 2021 on Fuzzed Up & Astromoon and you can read my full breakdown of the album over here.

Tibetan Miracle Seeds

Tibetan Miracle Seeds is the recording project of Scottish musician, Jack McAfee (from Dundee). The music is inspired primarily by 1960’s Psych but also draws influence from a variety of traditional and indigenous music from around the world. The label put out his Inca Missiles album this year. It was one of the scenes’ most anticipated releases which thankfully exceeded expectations by a country mile.

Krypton Bulb

Dublin garage legends Krypton Bulb deliver 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.

Thee UFO

An enigma wrapped in a riddle, Dublin-based Thee UFO ply their trade in out-there motorik killer jams.

So far, they have featured on two Fuzzed Up & Astromoon releases which should give you an idea about how highly thought of they are.

Astral Magic

Astral Magic is a new solo project by ex-Dark Sun bass player Santtu also known as Dj Astro. During the covid-19 lockdown he had the idea to do something creative to kill the extra time and get seriously into home-recording. Santtu plays everything by himself, but some guests have been called in to help on drums, guitar etc. Musical styles vary from electronic/ambient/experimental to heavy space rock, kraut, psych rock, prog and even pop.

Soundwire

Soundwire are a psychedelic/ alternative / alt. noise band formed in 2011 by singer Simon Court and guitarist Peter Moore. Based in South Wales, they have previously collaborated with Tim Holmes (Death in Vegas), who produced and contributed to their first EP, as well as Thighpaulsandra (Spiritualized / Coil) who mixed and produced their self-titled debut album and is currently working on their follow-up LP.

Sun Mahshene

Sun Mahshene are Ireland’s premiere indie-psych rock band. Weaving a perfect storm of shoegaze guitars, memorable melodies, and insightful lyrics, this Dublin quintet is a must-see live experience. Releases to date include self-published EP, Drones That Don’t Kill. Followed by four critically acclaimed singles on Reckless Records IE. Fuzzed Up & Astromoon are set to release a vinyl collection of these tracks called Space Echoes: The Ep on transparent red vinyl. Release date is Friday September 30 so set those calendar reminders; these will fly!

This is certainly not an exhaustive list of all the acts on Fuzzed Up & Astromoon Records, but I hope it’s given you a taste of what they have on offer. Make sure you follow Fuzzed Up & Astromoon Records on Bandcamp to check out all these amazing acts and much more.

I’d just like to say a massive thank you to Ian and Andy for all the hard work they pour into the label. Here’s to many more years of sonic exploration!

You can follow Fuzzed Up & Astromoon Records on social media here…

The Stargazer Lilies – Vibes of Love

My favourite psychedelic gazers are back with a second teaser for their new album Cosmic Tidal Wave. The Stargazer Lilies return to spread the ‘Vibes of Love’. My mind was spinning after hearing the previous single, ‘Bending the Lines’, so I literally had to be scraped off the ceiling to write this.

‘Vibes of Love’ is classic Stargazer Lilies. It harks back to that otherworldly sound they created back on Occabot. It opens with that off-kilter synth sound against Kim Fields’ ethereal vocals. Then we take off to that corner of the galaxy where only they exist.

As always, it’s John Ceps’ guitars that create the mystic mist in which the song exists. It’s hard to comprehend that it’s four people making this mountainous wall of sound. I use that word deliberately. Every time I listen to The Stargazer Lilies their music takes me away to some alien mountain top, in a psychedelic, multi-coloured blizzard. It’s so rare that I’m transported so vividly in my head that I cherish my time listening to this band and I know you will too.

You can check out their self-shot and produced video below. It’s almost like they read my mind.

Head on over to Bandcamp to buy the single ‘Vibes of Love’ now or catch it on your favourite streaming platform.

The album is available to pre-order from The Stargazer Lilies Bandcamp page and Floravinyl Records now.

You can follow The Stargazer Lilies on social media here …

Mark Peters – Red Sunset Dream

Back in July, I posted my first impressions of the new track from Mark Peters, ‘Switch On The Sky’. It was a beautiful mantra to the sun sung by One Doves Dot Allison. I’ve now been living with the album it comes from for a couple of months now and I think it’s about time I tell you all about it.

The album opens on ‘Switch on the Sky’, a perfect introduction to the chilled Americana about to unfold. Please do go check out my earlier blog to find out my thoughts in more depth.

We then neatly segue into ‘Golden Cloud’. A gloriously airy instrumental in which it feels like you’re being basked in the golden rays of the morning sun. A gently picked banjo plays off against some stunning pedal steel.

On that subject, the album features the pedal steel playing of BJ Cole. On the subject of Cole agreeing to play on the album, Peters had this to say.

I became obsessed with finding tracks where pedal steel guitar was the main, if not the only instrument,” he explains. “People like Chuck Johnson, Buddy Emmons and Luke Schneider. I really enjoyed incorporating these instruments into my own tracks and just exploring the tones of them rather than trying to attempt authentic country playing. Having BJ play on the record crystallized the whole concept,” Mark explains. “I love his playing on things like ‘Silver Moon Over Sleeping Steeples’ by David Sylvian. He’s possibly the UK’s greatest living country musician.”

We emerge into ‘Silver River’ next. The track slowly reveals itself. The pedal steel flutters, like the sunlight dappling the water. It’s a peaceful meditation in musical form and, for me, demonstrates the imagination Peters possesses. Leveraging the sweeping tones of Coles playing by wrapping it layers of reverb is a genius move!

Things pick up pace next with ‘Dusty Road Ramble’. There’s a real swagger in the duelling guitars which will get your foot tapping. The title is a nod to the group originally put together by Hank Walters, the late father of country music in Liverpool. This, however, stretches that country motif to its limit pulling the song into another genre entirely. However, could I nail down what genre that is? Not sure I could. Again, a sign we are listening to a genius at work.

‘The Musical Box’ continues that genre-defying work by deftly weaving some electronica through the luscious guitars. It’s not long before the banjo reappears reminding us, that we are in American skies. Soaring over the desert roads below. I love how this album triggers images in your head, feelings and emotions that tie you to the US.

There’s something about the next track, ‘Tamaroa’ that sends my mind straight to Brian Wilson’s work on the lost Beach Boys album, Smile. Like Peters, he too was writing a love letter to the USA. It’s the almost pastoral feel of the music or is it the modular approach to the song’s construction perhaps. Whatever it is, it’s Wonderful and it’s definitely giving me Good Vibrations.

The title track is up next and from the off delivers a hallucinatory experience. It almost feels like you’re listening to two songs at the same time yet they are completely in simpatico, lifting and augmenting the other. It’s simply stunning.

The album closes out with the exultant tones of ‘Sundowning’. Emerging slowly from a dream state the song blooms from almost nothing into this celebratory chant. The feeling of joy in this song is quite overwhelming. It feels like coming home. Like remembering who you really are and what you need to do. It’s such a powerfully beautiful way to end this experience.

I say experience because in Red Sunset Dream Peters has created a place for the listener to disappear for a while. An album so deftly woven together that it feels like one continuous piece rather than songs put together in order. Many have attempted what Peters makes look so easy. But it’s rare that it is pulled off in such a way that grabs you by the heart and leads you, gently on a journey. A journey into the sky and over landscapes you never thought you’d ever see. This album has won my heart and, if you give it a chance, it will win yours too.

Red Sunset Dreams is available now on a variety of coloured vinyl options and CD from Mark Peters Bandcamp, Sonic Cathedral and Rough Trade.

Follow Mark Peters on social media here…

Photos courtesy of Robin Clewley.

Virgins – Signalling

Back in August last year Irelands Virgins burst into our consciousness with their epic debut single ‘Vows’. It was an instant hit with me, the perfect blend of dreamy rock and head on gaze. The band’s formed around main man Michael Smyth with David Sloan on guitar, James Foy on drums and Brendy McCann of Hand Models on bass. Since the release of ‘Vows’ the band have touring all over Ireland spreading the word.

Now they’re back with their new single ‘Signalling’. I asked Smyth how he would describe this release?

“The track is a mix of long ambient reverbs, fuzzy riffs that wouldn’t be out of place on any 90’s Sub Pop record and a haunting ethereal vocal that cries of an unsatiated wanton desire.”

I couldn’t wait to dive in. The track comes in slow and steady with atmospheric vocals and guitar. It soon explodes over the speakers really grabbing your attention. The songwriting is on point here. The vocal melody is never compromised only augmented and lifted by the killer riffs. There’s a glorious section of glide guitar about half way in that I look forward to each time I play the song. If, like me, you like your gaze to have structure, hooks and a great chorus then this track is for you. ‘Signalling’ is the perfect successor to ‘Vows’ and is going to win this band a legion of new fans. Check out the video for the single below.

There’s even more great news as the band have announced they’re releasing both these tracks as part of their upcoming Transmit A Little Heaven EP via Blowtorch Records. It’ll be released on October 14th and you can pre-order it now over on the Virgins Bandcamp page. It’s going to be available on a very limited pink vinyl release as well so don’t sleep on this one.

You can follow Virgins on social media here…

Floorshow – How Long

If you were tuned into my DKFM Shoegaze Radio show this week you would’ve heard a first play of the third single from Dublin based gazers Floorshow. I have been a massive fan of this band since they reached out to me back in April with their first tracks ‘Walls’ and my favourite, ‘Come Home’.  

Floorshow are Jessi Howell (vocals), Sean Day (guitar), Andrew Kelly (bass) and Sean McGinley (drums). I asked the band how they would describe their sound.

We draw musical inspiration from artists such as My Bloody Valentine, Slowdive, Drop Nineteens and American Shoegazers Ringo Deathstarr, as well as any new artists that we are currently listening to. Floorshow aim to pay homage to seminal artists of the shoegaze, dreampop and noise rock genres, while also adding and elaborating as best we can to create something new.

‘How Long’ is the sound of the band venturing into harsher more noisy territory, a sound they pull off with consummate ease. The track opens with Day’s harsh metallic guitar tones contrasting with Howells angelic tones. One thing that really jumped at me about this track is how in sync the bass and drums are. Oh, and the drums are massive sounding. Like Bonham loud! Kelly’s bass leaping around like in a fever dream in the closing section is a genius touch to close out the track.

I’m absolutely besotted with this band’s sound and I’m cannot wait until they get around to recording their debut album! Rest assured I’ll be here with a track-by-track breakdown when that happens. Until then, get on over to Bandcamp and check out ‘How Long’ now!

You can follow Floorshow on social media here…

Whiteout – Bite It

1995 was quite a year in music. Oasis were building their ‘Wonderwall’, the Manic’s Richey Edwards went missing, The Beatles returned with ‘Free As A Bird, The Smashing Pumpkins released their sprawling masterpiece Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness and a band from my home town released their debut album on the same label as The Stone Roses.

Whiteout had been a fixture on the Greenock music scene for years prior to this. Featuring a number of different line ups over the years they finally settled on Andrew Caldwell (Jones) on vocals, Eric Lindsay on guitar, Paul Carroll on bass and Stuart Smith on drums. This period of the band produced five amazing singles and, of course, their debut album, Bite It.

If you were around at the time your first introduction to the band may have been on Channel 4’s late night music and mayhem show, The Word. The band turned in a statement of intent performance of lead single ‘No Time’. This was down to all the hard work put in playing live up and down the country honing their skills ready for the spotlight. Including a co-headlining tour with a certain up and coming five-piece from Manchester.

‘Starrclub’ with its T-Rex swagger and jubilant chorus hooked us in to the bands sound even more. By the time ‘Detroit’ and ‘Jackie’s Racing’ came out we were ready for an album. Now, over 25 years later Bite It and Young Tribe Rule, previously a Japanese exclusive CD, are getting the vinyl reissue treatment they deserve.

This led me to dig out my old battered copy of Bite It to revisit those songs of my youth. I thought it would be fun to write about them as if they were just releasing the album today.

It also got me thinking about what the writing process for the album was like and what the bands main musical influences at the time were. Who better to tell us than Whiteout’s guitarist, Eric Lindsay.

“The album was recorded over a couple of years over three or four sessions in three different studios with three different engineers! The songs tended to be written by Andrew and Paul who would then bring them to rehearsal where we would arrange them together. Inspiration came in many forms but Jackie’s Racing , for example, was inspired by a newspaper headline about BBC legend Jackie Bird!!

“Paul was really the musical director of the band and had a vast knowledge (and record collection) of all shades. He tended to be in charge of the tour bus playlist!! We listened to a lot of what you would expect in the way of 60s and 70s psychedelic pop and rock, but also lots of jazz, soul, R&B and rap.”

So with that knowledge let’s stick the record on and give it a spin.

The album opens on the stuttering, stop start riff of ‘Thirty Eight’. A real party song if ever there was one. It’s a perfect way to start. Between Caldwell’s ebullient vocal delivery and Lindsay’s call and response guitar lines it kicks thing off at pace, setting the scene nicely.

The single ‘No Time’ is next with its uber optimistic lyric and energetic delivery this should’ve been a much bigger hit. Really pay attention to the melodic bass on this one. Carroll picking out a counter to Lindsay’s lead. It’s pop perfection. You can enjoy that classic performance from The Word here.

We get a slight change in pace for the acoustic led ‘We Should Stick Together’. The country style licks on show here giving a nod to the Faces whilst the melody, clearly Chilton inspired, providing a neat foil.

Side B starts with the latter-day ‘Maggie May’, ‘Jackie’s Racing’. It’s rare you hear an acoustic lead guitar line these days, never mind one this good. The lad’s harmony vocals are on point here and no wonder it was their highest performing single.

We head off into cosmic rock territory with ‘Shine on You’ next. The descending chords of the chorus are absolutely devastating. Especially after the drone-like bassline in the verses. Again, check out the fingerboard gymnastics Carroll is demonstrating. This track wouldn’t be out of place on Dr Byrds & Mr Hyde, from me that’s as high a compliment as it gets.

The side closes out with ‘No More Tears’, an epic ballad. Hewn from the same rock as Richards and Jagger it builds slowly to its anthemic refrain of “you’ve got to get someone in your life”. Smith’s sympathetic stick work is superb as is Lindsay’s guitar, in perpetual motion. Fret work rivalling anything his label mate John Squire produced.

The second disc moves on with the light and shade of the rockier ‘Altogether’. This song makes a great use of trading the lighter sound of the acoustic with the more bass heavy tones of the chugging electric guitar. Result being it’s incredibly catchy and a real earworm. Man, this band had hooks for weeks.

The sleazy drawl intro of ‘You Drag Me’ sounds like the guitar trying to have a drunken conversation in a dark and dingy night club. Again, it’s Smith’s steady rhythm that keeps this one on track with the band swaggering around their instruments in a quite heady way.

After all that we’re ready to chill out a bit. Thankfully the band agrees and they treat us to the ballad ‘Baby, Don’t Give Up On Me Yet’.  How are we this far into the album and the songwriting quality just keeps going up? Lindsay is on fire throughout with his deft lead being the counter to Caldwell’s vocal.

The closing side opens with the beautiful ‘You Left Me Seeing Stars’. The Chiltonesque guitars soar over Caldwell’s longing vocal. The bass providing a potent counter melody that cuts through in the instrumental breaks. This allows Lindsay the room to create a wall of guitars in the closing section that slowly fades from view.

‘Everyday’ does that amazing trick Whiteout do so well. The verses move along all languid and serpentine before the choruses explode. With the addition of a brass section courtesy of the NFL Horns this is a serious explosion of hooks and licks.

That leaves the final cut on the album to be ‘Untitled’. A string laden ballad that comes straight from the heart. Fans of Big Star will find a lot to love here. The complex verse structure and chord changes into the aaaahs that lead us into the next verse are sublime. This is the perfect way to round out this incredible collection of songs.

Unlike like a lot of their 90’s alumni, Whiteout’s debut album remains as vital and refreshing to listen to as it did back in 1995. There’s a timeless quality to the songwriting and performances in these grooves that will endear their sound to all the generations to come.

 Bite It and Young Tribe Rule are available now on vinyl from Demon Music Group and from your favourite record shops.

Follow Whiteout on social media here…

Tremours – Affectations EP

The pandemic has been an absolute disaster for the world, putting it lightly. Every now and then however a wee ray of light glints through and brings us a moment of joy. Such is the music of LA based musicians, Lauren Andino and Glenn Fryatt.

During 2020 Andino began posting snippets of guitar and Moog compositions from her rehearsal space online as a pandemic sound journal. Fryatt was rehearsing in the same building, heard her music and wondered if she wanted to add drums. The rest, they say, is history.

In August 2021 TREMOURS released ‘Downtown Demos’, a three-song EP of demo recordings which blew my mind. This trio of tracks really got the buzz going about the band. ‘Burn to Today’ especially piquing my interest.

Fast forward to today and the band have just released the Affectations EP on Little Cloud Records. I asked Lauren to tell me a bit about how writing and recording this EP differed from the Downtown Demos?

“The songs on this Affectations EP were written around the same time as the downtown demos, but the recording was different. We went into a real studio (Golden Beat) to track drums and vocals. I recorded the guitar and Moog parts at our rehearsal space though, same as before. And for these new tracks, James Aparicio mixed them at his studio in London.”

The EP opens on the title track. Andino’s breathy vocals are solid as a rock throughout, leading us, like a mantra, into her dream. Her guitar lines are like shards of glass ringing in the sunlight playing off the pulsing Moog backing. Fryatt’s drums are incredibly thoughtful, picking out the gaps nicely, building in complexity to a quite wonderful conclusion.

The band turn in their reimagining of my fellow Scot’s The Jesus and Mary Chain with ‘On The Wall’. It gets off to a pacy start with Fryatt’s drums calling the shots. Andino’s signature guitars come in picking out the melody. Every so often a wail of looming fuzzed out feedback comes into earshot threatening to envelope the whole song before disappearing again. It’s Andino’s hypnotic vocals that focus our attention and guide us through to the realisation at the end of the song, “I’m like the clock, On the wall”.

The EP closes on the pulsing Moog polyrhythms of ‘Port Children’. Quite different in texture to the previous tracks it’s a fitting close to the EP with its more muted tones. Leaning into the psychedelic scene with its raga drones and cyclical vocal pattern. The explosive coda elevates this song to my EP highlight and there couldn’t be a stronger finish to the EP than this. Leave em begging for more!

This duo has bloomed into something really quite special. Andino brings mind and soul to the music whilst Fryatt is the heart and pulse. One cannot exist without the other. The ambient soundscapes, the swells and waves of the guitar and Moog are brought into focus with the strict punctuation of the drums. Translating them into the tightly formed songs you hear on this EP. I can’t wait to hear what’s next.

The Affectations EP is available now from Tremours Bandcamp page. The band have a couple of Los Angeles live dates coming up, catch them if you can.

AUG 21 SUN Harvard & Stone @ 8:00pm Los Angeles, CA, United States

OCT 13 THU Zebulon @ 8:00pm Los Angeles, CA, United States

You can follow Tremours on social media here….

The Stargazer Lilies – Bending The Lines

US psychedelic gazers The Stargazer Lilies return with a new studio album three years after their outstanding 2019 release, Occabot. The album was recorded over the last few years in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania, Austin, TX and Central Florida. Cosmic Tidal Wave is due to be released on October 14th, here’s what the band say about the direction this new album goes in.

“Cosmic Tidal Wave is a classic shoegaze/psychedelic album but it also pushes out in many directions, incorporating elements of Bossa Nova, Trip Hop, Paisley Underground and even Experimental Orchestral Soundscapes. The album feels beachy and summery and a little less dark than previous TSL releases, while still remaining dangerous.”

Ahead of the release of the album the band have treated us to a new single called ‘Bending The Lines’. It’s a sumptuous slice of technicolour psychedelia. It swaggers along at a steady gait like a summer walk through a field of flowers. Warped synth and those trademark wailing guitars provide a stunning foil to Kim’s, as ever, beautiful vocals.

It’s a spellbinding introduction to an album that is sure to blow minds.

Cosmic Tidal Wave is going to be the first release on the bands own record label. Kim Field and John Cep of The Stargazer Lilies & Soundpool have teamed up with Thom Yanochko of Hypnagogia Entertainment to form Floravinyl Records, a new independent artist centric boutique record label. With this band at the helm, I can’t wait to see what records they release.

Head on over to Bandcamp to buy the single ‘Bending The Lines’ now or catch it on your favourite streaming platform.

The album will be available to pre order from The Stargazer Lilies Bandcamp page and Floravinyl Records from mid-August.

The band are heading out on tour in the US shortly. Here’s a list of the dates where you can catch them.

TOUR DATES

8/24 529 ATLANTA, GA

8/25 FLEETWOOD’S ASHEVILLE, NC

8/26 THE 5 SPOT NASHVILLE, TN

8/27 BLACK CIRCLE INDIANAPOLIS, IN

8/28 MAG BAR LOUISVILLE, KY

9/2 HOOCH & HIVE TAMPA, FL

9/3 BUMBLEFEST WEST PALM BEACH, FL

10/12 MARFA, TX TBA

10/13 EL PASO, TX TBA

10/14 PHOENIX, AZ TBA

10/15 LOS ANGELES, CA TBA

10/16 SAN FRANCISCO, CA TBA

10/17 FRESNO, CA TBA

10/18 PIONEERTOWN, CA TBA

10/19 TUCSON, AZ TBA

10/20 ALBUQUERQUE, NM TBA

10/21 NORMAN, OK TBA

10/22 DALLAS, TX TBA

10/23 AUSTIN, TX TBA

You can follow The Stargazer Lilies on social media here …

Dreamback – Awake

Back in May I covered the latest single from dream pop musician and producer Jamie Duddy aka Dreamback. ‘Sometimes’ was a dramatic change in direction from the woozy, laid-back sounds of his Asleep EP to a more direct indie pop song. I was really excited to check out his new EP in full, titled Awake. You can see he is carrying a theme through all his work. Here’s how Duddy describes how he conceived the ideas across both EP’s.

“ The ideas for Asleep and Awake were conceived together, the idea being that Asleep had more dreamy atmospheric sound and Awake a little bit more brighter and direct, ‘poppier’ sound which allowed me to explore influences from stuff like The Shins, Pavement and Rogue Wave”

The EP opens on the upbeat pop sounds of ‘Sometimes’, check out what I thought over here.

Next up is the track I premiered on my DKFM show in July, ‘Maybe She Will’. A call back in style to his earlier work. Its reverb drenched and lush instrumentation compliment his hushed and measured vocal. This is my EP highlight and one I’m sure will be featuring on a lot of summer playlists.

‘Jasmine Molly’, an ode to one of Duddy’s sisters, revisits that Primitives like sound with Duddy trading vocals with his partner Laura Beth. The jangliest guitars remind me of later Ultra Vivid Scene in places, in a spaced out, cosmic sounding way.

The pace comes down for the balladlike ‘Little Trees’. A beautiful, summery guitar jam over Laura Beth’s swoon some oohs and aahs. It’s a very relaxing number.

‘Willow’ reminds of very early Blur from their Leisure period. There something quintessentially English about this song. It might be Duddy’s enunciation or the melody of the song. It conjures up images of London in the summer heat.

The EP closes on the instrumental ’18.05’ his song to his other sister. This song shimmers like a still ponds surface on the brightest day. The heat of the sun is palpable as you let the song was over you. It’s a glorious way to sign off.

Again, Duddy has produced a cohesively written and produced set of songs that lift your spirits and make you smile. Each of his releases tell a story and he keeps impressing me with the consistency of quality across all the tracks.

The Awake EP will be released on July 28 over on the Dreamback Bandcamp page but you can pre-order now.

You can follow Dreamback on social media here ,,,,

Mark Peters – Switch On The Sky

After the recent reissue of Engineers early releases, I was over the moon to hear that Mark Peters was releasing a new album called Red Sunset Dreams on Sonic Cathedral. I absolutely loved his last solo outing, Innerland, so I was excited to hear what he had in store for us.

“Red Sunset Dreams’ is another album about an imaginary landscape. ‘Innerland’ was inspired by a move back to my hometown of Wigan and the memories it stirred up, but ‘Red Sunset Dreams’ looks out across the Atlantic, inspired by my lifelong obsession with country and Americana music.

I’ll be breaking Red Sunset Dreams down track by track nearer its September 16 release date so watch this space.

In the meantime, Peters is treating us to the first single from the album, its opening track, ‘Switch On The Sky’. For this one he is in illustrious company with One Doves Dot Allison featuring on lead vocals. He has this to say on Allison’s involvement.

“I regard Dot highly as an artist, but it’s her exploration of similar ideas on One Dove’s cover of ‘Jolene’ or BJ Cole playing on ‘Tomorrow Never Comes’ from her first solo album ‘Afterglow’ made me think she would be perfect”. “Our first conversation included the names Gene Clark, Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris, so it was clear that a collaboration would go well.”

The track opens on Allisons hushed tones picking out the verse lyrics with a percussive reverence. The chorus brings in technicolour flourishes with Allison’s vocal treated to a psychedelic filter. The coda of “Now is the time” is sung like a mantra to the early morning sun.

This is a great introduction to the album and I’m sure this will appear on a great many summer playlists. Check out the video for the song here.

You can pre order the new Mark Peters album Red Sunset Dreams now via the Sonic Cathedral Bandcamp page, Rough Trade or your favourite indie record shop.

Mark has recently put a brand new three-piece live band together and will be playing a series of shows following the release of ‘Red Sunset Dreams’. The following dates have just been announced:

September 16 – Bristol – Rough Trade Bristol

September 17 – London – Rough Trade East

September 18 – Nottingham – Rough Trade Nottingham

You can follow Mark Peters on social media here….

Photos courtesy of Robin Clewley.

The Churchill Garden – Always There

Here at Static Sounds Club, I’m no stranger to the music of The Churchill Garden, the transatlantic dreampop duo comprised of Andy Jossi and Krissy Vanderwoude. Their music is a regular on my turntable so I was really happy to hear that new single is being released. I was keen to find out what ‘Always There’ was about, here’s what the band had to say.

“This one will especially appeal to fans of The Chameleons, U2 and Lush. A sweet song about true friendship and the gratitude and reassurance that comes along with finding those loyal friends in life. Big love in the form of a song going out to those “one in a million” friends who are always there, unconditionally.”

For me this sounds just like the optimistic and positive vibe that drew me to the band in the first place.

The song drives along at pace, the lyrics sung with a percussive rhythm that hits the accents on the chiming guitars. On the subject of those guitars, they’re massive. Like stadium big. I see where they were driving at with the U2 reference. As with all the music Jossi makes that’s only one texture on display. The unique sonic recipe he has for his guitar mix always floors me.

Vanderwoude’s vocal is, as always, uplifting and deeply personal. You feel you are in conversation with her. Highly relatable lyrics like “The world could use a few more like you” firmly place you in the song. That is the measure of her sheer skill as a lyricist. Making the listener feel that it’s their song which takes them out of that passive experience. Making them actively feel.

This is yet another buoyant and uplifting track from two of the coolest people in the shoegaze and dream pop world.  

‘Always There’ is out now over on The Churchill Gardens Bandcamp page and all the usual streaming platforms.

You can follow The Churchill Garden on social media here…

Sheer – … And Then There Were Four

Back in 1990 Greenock born musician, Sheer Taft was signed to the world-famous Creation Records label. There he released the cult classic single ‘Cascades’. It was a song out of time, carving its own highly influential spot in Creation history. Fast forward to 2022, now based in Spain, Sheer returns with his first new album since Absolutely Sheer in 1992.

And Then There Were Four is quite different to that low fi, dub/house sound Sheer created back in the 90’s. He has enlisted the help of friends including Ed Chapman; a renowned English artist, members of Primal Scream as well as his good friend and band mate Robert McGovern from The Method One.

Sheer explains how the name of the album came about.

“In 2018 after a particularly messy session involving Pacharan, a Spanish version of Pernod, the name ‘and then there were four’ was bandied around as my fellow travellers fell by the wayside. It sounded like a Spaghetti western, and the idea was hatched.”

And it’s with that very tone we saddle up and head into the opening title track. It’s an expansive and immersive experience evoking the dusty ride of our hero across the dusty plains. It has it all. Spanish guitar, tubular bells, violins and a choir. It’s a real statement of intent and sets the scene nicely for the album as a whole. On how they captured this sound Sheer had this to say.

“We began recording in Artesonao studios in Malaga, myself and Ed Chapman. We were ably assisted by Rachel Hewitt on violin and we recorded a dozen or so tunes in a week. We recruited the services of Darrin Mooney and Martin Duffy of Primal Scream on drums and keys, both of whom just managed to avoid being locked down in Spain as the borders closed at the beginning of the pandemic. Andrew Innes assisted on additional guitars, celeste and bells…lots of bells. Robert McGovern came out to Malaga to play on a few tracks also. We had the voice of Justine Petty – Burrows a Canadian chanteuse to be a foil to my less than acrobatic voice.”

The pace slows for ‘Everybody’s Been Somebody’s Fool’. Sheers rich, deep voice adding gravitas and a world worn atmosphere to this southern fried ballad. There’s a gospel influence in Petty-Burrows backing vocal which lifts the track to another level. Couple that with the country licks from the guitars and the mournful violin complimenting the piano and you have a stone-cold classic.

The lilting instrumental ‘Gypsy River’ follows. I love how this song builds. The song periodically pauses. After each pause new elements join the throng. The violin echoing over the gently strummed and picked acoustic guitars being my personal highlight.

The sun comes out on the next instrumental, ‘After Midnight’. It’s a sunny, soulful trip. Fender Rhodes picks out the melody while a smooth guitar lays down a feelgood groove. This is windows down, cruising down the highway music.

The weather stays the same on ‘The Sun Is Ours’. An acoustic track led by Petty-Burrows gorgeous vocal. Reminiscent of a lost James Taylor or Tim Buckley track it cements a smile on your face. I wanted this one to go on for longer. Surely the sign of a great song.

‘Mezcal Dreams’ maintains the upbeat acoustic vibe with a glorious off kilter counter melody going on from what sounds like a theremin. As soon as this song broke out the ray gun noises in the last 45 seconds or so I flashed on The West Coast Pop Art Experimental Band for a moment. A band whose music I love. Which made me wonder what influences Sheer was drawing on when writing this album.

“The record was a return to my favourite music of my youth, soaking up Dylan, Scott Walker, Tim Buckley, Tim Rose, Tim Hardin and the soundtracks of Morricone, like an old compilation tape from 1986. Ed and I based the record on a screenplay being written by him and his brother Ivan Chapman, a tale of a loner, returning to old haunts with trepidation and an awareness of the inevitable dangers he had left behind.”

We revisit the title track and the main musical motifs of the album on ‘Four Ride Out’. Equally as epic but performed acoustically with a bongo backing. It certainly delivers the goods.

‘Enemigo De Todo’ follows with a grittier more direct attack. Translating as ‘Enemy of Everything’ it conjures up images of our lone gunman on the warpath. A fuzzed-out guitar adds a new texture to the sonic palate of the album. It really makes you sit up and take notice. There’s something of the Arthur Lee’s about this song. I could definitely hear this on a Love album.

The joyful ‘Alegria’ follows. This song is all dancing light through the trees, bouncing off the babbling stream in myriad colours. You can feel your spirit lift from the opening notes.

Sheer draws on his inner Dylan for ‘Chasing Down A Dream’. It’s poetic storytelling in the spirit of the great man himself. Couple that with a killer backing track and you have the recipe for an amazing song. I love how it transforms in the closing minute with that soaring guitar solo.

‘The Ghost’ is an eerie instrumental whose chorus pulses like a heartbeat before drifting back into the dream of the verses. Really pay close attention to all the guitars on this one. There’s some pretty acrobatic playing going on.

We hear the soulful tones of Petty-Burrows again on the wistful ‘Time’. There’s a yearning. A longing in the bones of this song. It sent me back to the beginning over and over to work out what it was. Why was this song affecting me so much? I still don’t fully understand why, maybe it’s the ever-evolving backing track, maybe it’s when Petty-Burrows sings “sometimes” at that key moment. I just don’t know. What I do know is that I bloody love this song and it’s my album stand out track.

‘Requiem for Pablo’ takes us back, once again, to the title track for a fresh spin on the epic musical motifs of this album. You can check it out for yourself here.

We close out the album on the mournful farewell of ‘(There Goes) A Friend Of Mine’. A beautiful vocal again from Petty-Burrows interspersed with spoken word vocals in the style of Johnny Cash. The song is impactful and is the perfect bookend to this album, this whole listening experience.

With ‘And Then There Were Four’ Sheer is stepping away from the sounds we know him for and delving into his musical memory. In the process he’s undoubtedly soaked up the influences of his Spanish surroundings to create something truly unique and special. There’s a tale being told throughout this cohesive and utterly immersive album. Sit down, put the needle on the record and let Sheer tell you all about it.

‘And Then There Were Four’ is out on August 5 2022. The album is available for pre order now from Glass Modern on Bandcamp. You can grab a digital copy or, if you’re quick, there’s a small number of copies left on dark blue vinyl.

Photos by Nick Povan

Label Focus – Sonic Cathedral

There are some labels which I don’t just like, I love them. Like, love them in a ….I need them to exist so I can too kinda way. The bands this label has put out over the years have become some of my absolute favourite go to records. Who am I talking about? Sonic Cathedral of course. It’s in the title innit!

Sonic Cathedral began life as a club night where Nathaniel Cramp would host shoegaze and other dreamy sounding acts to give them a forum. It cannot be under estimated the impact and importance of these nights to the UK shoegaze scene. Cramp was creating a space for the shoegaze sound when all around him had written it off as dead genre. In those early years Sonic Cathedral saw performances from the likes of The Radio Department, Engineers, Mark Peters, iLiKETRAiNS, Secret Machines, Neil Halstead, Spectrum, Maps, Chapterhouse, pretty much every member of Ride ultimately leading to the first show in 20 years from Slowdive.

It was in 2006 that Cramp decided to launch Sonic Cathedral as record label. Initially releasing a series of seven-inch singles from the likes of The Tamborines, Mark Gardner and School of Seven Bells. Since those early days the label has continued on as the standard bearer for the shoegaze scene in the UK and across the world. Let’s have a look at some of the acts who have had their music released by the label over the last few years.

Horsegirl

Cramp was quick to spot the potential in this band from Chicago. His keen ear could hear the 90’s aesthetic and gaze influence in their sound and quickly secured their first ever physical single release with ‘Ballroom Dance Scene’ and ‘Sea Life Sandwich Boy’. The band have since released their debut album on Matador records and are busy conquering the world. It all started here though with this pair of magical songs.

Echo Ladies

Hailing from Malmö in Sweden this trio of diehard shoegazers first met Cramp after a Slowdive show in London. This has led to Sonic Cathedral releasing a single, the self-titled EP and of course, their stunning debut album Pink Noise. If you haven’t heard them before they’re like a fuzzy, dreamy blend of Alvvays, The Cure and Stereolab. Pink Noise is an absolutely incredible debut album and has a really timeless sound.

Andy Bell

The Ride guitarist has stepped into the front of stage to release two critically acclaimed albums via Sonic Cathedral, The View From Halfway Down from 2020 and this years Flicker. Bell has carved his own sound with his take on modern pop psychedelia, folk and chiming sixties odysseys. If your only experience of his work is from his Ride back catalogue or his time in Oasis then you really need to check these albums out.

Molly

Austrian duo Molly took inspiration from the landscape around their home in the Tyrol in the far west of the country for their sound. Their mountainous and glacial debut album All That Ever Could Have Been is alpine in scale and texture. Each track expansive and immersive, an all-consuming listen and it’s no wonder Sonic Cathedral had to get this album out there.

Sennen

Sennen fuse the post rock sound with that early 90’s gaze aesthetic to produce a sound that is all their own. Sonic Cathedral reissued their classic debut album Widows in 2021. Remastered and including exclusive additional tracks it was a smash success. They couldn’t have a better home for this release than with Sonic Cathedral.

Pye Corner Audio

Former Mogwai collaborator and electronica specialist Martin Jenkins aka Pye Corner Audio is set to release his second album for Sonic Cathedral. After the runaway success of his Social Dissonance live recording of his set at the labels 15th Birthday party at the Social in London, Let’s Emerge is out on 15 July this year. This one is a less shadowy feeling album with Andy Bell featuring on half the tracks fleshing out the sound. His music never fails to excite so make sure you check him out.

Mildred Maude

Mildred Maude are improvisational geniuses. Able to take a groove and run and evolve it into a 30-minute set which hypnotises and beguiles you as a live band they can’t be beat. Sonic Cathedral managed to get them to bottle that energy and put it out on their sophomore album Sleepover. I caught these guys supporting bdrmm and I was transfixed. If you get the opportunity to see them live grab it! You won’t be disappointed.

bdrmm

Lastly, we have the labels runaway success. Hulls finest, bdrmm. Since releasing their debut album Bedroom they have gone from strength to strength. Gone from playing small venues to supporting the likes of Ride and Mogwai on some of the world’s biggest stages. This band have worked incredibly hard, honing their sound and stage show and it really shows. Their latest release ‘Port’ sold out in under 60 seconds on Bandcamp. That is testament to both the talent of the band and the support and nurturing environment fostered by Cramp at Sonic Cathedral.

This is certainly not an exhaustive list of all the acts on Sonic Cathedral but I do hope it has given you a taste of what they have on offer. Make sure you follow Sonic Cathedral on Bandcamp to check out all these amazing acts and much more. Let’s not forget the legendary Shoegazer t-shirts as well!

I’d just like to say a massive thank you to Nat for all the hard work he pours into Sonic Cathedral. Here’s to many more years to come of pioneering gaze and adventures in sound.

You can follow Sonic Cathedral on social media here ….

VIDEO PREMIERE – Fir Cone Children – Cereals and Confidence

If you’ve been following the blog for a while now, you’ll know how much I love Fir Cone Children. Alexander Donat’s passion project exudes positivity and optimism from every note played. I covered his last album Waterslide at 7am back in 2020 when it brightened my lockdown days no end. Back in December 2021 Donat launched his latest album It Chooses You featuring collaborations with my good pals Krissy Vanderwoude and Jackie Kasbohm.

It’s my pleasure to premiere the video to the latest single from that album, ‘Cereals and Confidence’. I asked Alex to tell us a bit about the song itself

“Like all FCC songs this one is about my daughters and how they grow up. After 1st grade I recognized how my first daughter’s self-confidence was taking a leap. The little girl that, in the first weeks, had tears in her eyes when entering the school building suddenly learned arithmetic, and – in no time – became an amazing reader that blew me and my family away.

It was almost as if every spoon of cereal she took in, helped her body grow and her ability to understand complex things. ‘Snowblack’ is the name of her mouse, a pet she dearly loves and cares for. It’s like a companion that additionally helps her in difficult times. Seeing her holding Snowblack, giving her a soft kiss on the head is heart-breaking.”

The song has an eighties, goth art house vibe. The bass could’ve been lifted straight from a Cure track. The lush synths lift and surround the vocals. I love how the song evolves as it progresses, right up to that buoyant, uplifting ending. I’ve listened to this song so many times now and I still can’t get my head around how he created the chorus. The drums alone are stunningly complex. It’s classic Fir Cone Children. Uplifting and life affirming lyrics framed in a killer track.

Before you enjoy the video, I asked Alex a bit about how it came about.

“During last year’s summer holidays, I knew I’d take the opportunity to shoot a video on the west coast of Denmark. The scenery was amazing, the weather perfect, not too cold, not too hot.

When my daughters weren’t too eager to go to the beach after a longer walk in the countryside, my wife asked me: “Wanna shoot the Fir Cone Children video today? Weather’s perfect!”

I went for “Cereals & Confidence” because it’s a song without guest vocals and it was the only one from the “It Chooses You” album where the topic fit to what we could and would shoot: sun, wind, joy, beach, the sea, vast green dunes, happiness. The mind is as wide as an ocean. It made sense, and I really enjoyed running around. The fun was real.”

Here it is, the video for ‘Cereals and Confidence’. Enjoy.

You can grab It Chooses You and all the other great Fir Cone Children albums over on the Blackjack Illuminist Records Bandcamp now.

You can follow Fir Cone Children on social media here,,,

Tren Go! Sound System – Suspended Islands OST

Having been fortunate enough to had a sneak peek at Assessment, the 2021 breath-taking release from Tren Go! Sound System & Ornamental I was buzzing to hear from the good folks at Dirty Filthy Records. Pedro Pestana, the man behind Tren Go! Sound System is poised to release his next record and this time it’s something totally different. Here’s what they have to say about this album.

“Suspended Islands OST. The soundtrack for Wura Moraes and Darya Efrat’s site-specific performance trajectory along Ria de Aveiro, known as the Venice of Portugal.

The audience would attend the small island performances on boats and their route would be accompanied by this contemplative music.

The estuary is the main source of inspiration for this soundtrack. The sweet and salty water’s apparent lack of waves doesn’t hide its own tidal rhythms. It’s a meeting place and we’re invited to visit.”

This does sound like a change from the frenetic energy and pace of Assessment. Let’s chill out and pull on the headphones for this one.

The record opens with the ambient tones of ‘Welcome Aboard!’. With the sound of the wind across the river the song opens and evolves through glimpses of vocal like wails and eerie sonic textures. Eventually the unmistakable tones of Pestana’s guitar appears through the mist and gives this song form and meaning. A soothing and relaxing opening leads us to track two, ‘The Swing of Things’.

We actually begin on a looped guitar riff phasing in and out hypnotically. Over this come more guitars, layering, building, weaving in and out of each other. This song absolutely conjures the mental image of a midnight boat ride. That initial loop is like the percussive sound of the tide against the hull and the glint of the moon on the water. It’s mesmerising stuff.

This takes us to my album highlight ‘The Long Run (Excerpt)’. There’s something unquestionably beautiful about this track. It just feels right. I’m not sure why but it just feels familiar, like an old friend, rediscovered. The stunning guitar has elements of South American folk music with the most restrained fuzz notes played with the utmost care. I could sit and listen to this ebb and flow into my ears for hours quite happily.

The experience completes itself with ‘The Long Run’ itself. An eighteen-minute exploration piece which builds on the tones and themes of the excerpt to craft a monumental aural journey. I would implore you to lie back and let the music carry you away. There’s so much to take in and enjoy along the way but it never overwhelms or vexes you. On the contrary. This is a warm and comforting embrace of a tune, one which the excerpt only alluded to.

Suspended Islands, in it’s four tracks, absolutely captures the feel of that estuary. It is a stunning example of an artist being able to paint pictures in your head with music. The ultimate goal of any soundtrack. It is so far removed from Pestana’s previous work but it’s obviously somewhere he feels totally at home. The comfort is palpable in this music. It literally pours from every note embracing and nurturing our soul. Don’t take my word for it. Cast off and drift on downriver yourself.

Suspended Islands OST is available now on opaque yellow vinyl via Dirty Filthy Records.

You can follow Tren Go! Sound System on social media here…

Soñder – Broken in Place

The last couple of years have been hard for us all and we’re starting to see the experiences of this tumultuous period coming through in the art of today. None more so than the music we are listening to. Such is the preface to the new album from Maryland based musician Sean F. Schultz aka Soñder.

Broken in Place is an album created to heal and to process the grief from the loss of his father. This is a pain and journey we will all face in our lives. One which we’ll all need help and support through.

The journey begins in the digitised intro to ‘SubUrban Sprawl’. Soon the drums and synths lift us into a majestic soundscape evoking a futuristic city. There’s a lovely section mid song where the track takes a quiet break making the build to the end all the more dramatic and ominous. Glorious start to the album.

‘Alarm #2’ is next. It’s a discombobulating, panic attack in musical form. It captures the anxious energy and then very cleverly flips the mood half way through a couple of times. It erupts into this purposeful, driving number before settling back into a nervous moment and back again. This one really keeps you on your toes.

The signposts are clear in the next track ‘Organ Donor’. The guitars are literally crying, screaming with the grief of loss. The song even samples the life support machines final bleeps. The pace doesn’t let up, as life doesn’t. We must process what we are hearing as you would the loss itself. Damn, this is clever songwriting.

Following this is ‘Monster Trucker’ it’s a groove driven piece with sumptuous layered guitars punctuated by glassy then creamy dark synth tones. The intensity of this music is overwhelming at times, as is grief. The cries of “is anyone out there, anyone” are utterly heart-breaking in the closing section.

The expressive guitar playing steps up a notch in ‘a Maze in’. they genuinely sound like the cries of anguish, of confusion. Shultz is pushing his playing to the extreme on this track. Guitars soar and dive around and over each other interspersed with a spoken word track.

‘1984’ arrive awash with the most impressive synth wall of sound so far. Sounding far more uplifting and cohesive than the previous tracks, almost like a moment of calm or lucidity has befallen Schultz and his optimism is shining through.

It’s with a heavy wink of the eye Shultz names ‘Black Notes Matter’. Thundering piano notes pound as the guitars and drums scrap it out. After a short peaceful interlude, the track kicks back in and escalates to frenetic workout. This occurs a couple more times. The quiet section only making the louder piece more potent, more powerful.

We head down to the ‘Underground’ next. Traversing this song in the regular rhythm of the carriage as it moves steadily, station to station. There’s a palpable sense of contemplation here. Almost like we are taking some time out to ponder our place in life. Sombre synth tones carry the bass notes while the guitars and drums add that metallic element to the soundtrack of this journey. It’s a really effective use of music to convey imagery to the listener.

‘Horror Bull’ has us back in that anxious mode. The descending bass adds a claustrophobia hitherto untapped on this album. This leaves the synths and guitars free reign to play with our panic and existential dread. It’s a heavy, unrelenting and unforgiving track. All the more effective that way. To me it signals the very nature of grief.

Next up is ‘Outer Lude 4.24’. This is an upwards facing song, like screaming to the heavens at night. Where the drums have dictated the pace throughout the album it’s the synths stepping into that role here. Could this be symbolic of the head taking control again from the emotional beat of the heart? I’ll let you decide.

We close out the album on a more chilled note with ‘S.O.B.’. It’s almost balladlike in contrast to the extremes of the preceding tracks. Whilst there is a kind of acceptance in the pace and more stripped back nature if this song there remains that undercurrent of anxiety. To me this says that grief isn’t a process you go through. It’s something that lives with us forever. Sometimes it’s there at the forefront of our minds, bringing us to our knees. Other days it’s there to remind us of the good times and to keep our loved ones close forever.

In Broken in Place Schultz has crafted a deeply thought-provoking album that challenges all our pre conceptions of loss and our reactions to it. It is immensely affecting and will reward repeat listening’s with more layers of meaning. More discoveries in its stunning mix of synths and guitars.

Broken in Place is available now on CD and digital via Bandcamp.

You can follow Soñder on social media here.

Dead Rituals – Sober

I’m a sucker for a hook and punchy guitar riffs. Which is why I was buzzing to get a mail from my pal Andrea Caccese of Italian band Dead Rituals. Last March I covered the release of a killer acoustic track from the band called ‘When The Lights Are Out’. They have just dropped their latest single ‘Sober’. Of the band Caccese had this to say.

“Dead Rituals is a band with a focus on creating music that blurs the lines between punk, dream-pop and shoegaze. The group’s music is often notable for its darker, angsty tones, but this new track dives into a brighter, uplifting vibe. “Sober” is no-frills, colourful and fun, embracing the band’s yearning to just get out there and play music.”

I couldn’t wait to dive in.

The track opens on delicately picked guitar and gently sung lyrics. It’s not long though until the song explodes with ricochet drums and powerful guitars. Then there’s the chorus.

Wow! It just takes off and soars! The backing vocals of Brita Penfold adding that extra something that just lifts the song even higher. ’Sober’ just screams hit! This track deserves to be charting all over the globe.

Check out the video here then head on over to Bandcamp and buy the song and while you’re there check out Dead Rituals back catalogue.

Follow Dead Rituals here…

Intentions // Get Well EP

El Paso Texas is a simmering hotbed of musical talent. I seem to be mentioning the town more and more in my blogs and radio shows. Hailing from the border town come two amazing shoegaze bands, joining forces to release a split EP.

First up we have Get Well. I’ll let them introduce themselves.

“Get Well are a four-piece band fronted by Julian Martinez. Julian’s themes of growing pains and heartbreak drive the songs that don’t sound familiar, but feel familiar.

This family filled band distinguishes genres of Midwest emo and Shoegaze to an organic blend of music.”

Secondly, we have the power quintet Intentions. Here’s what they have to say.

“Intentions combine slow, incoherent tones and warm embraces of reverb to artfully establish the link between heavy guitars and heart-breaking nostalgic themes. With the crashing undertones and gloomy melodies, Intentions builds a distinctive connection that pushes the envelope of Shoegaze and Slowcore.”

Ok guys I’m sold. Let’s dive in and see what this EP sounds like.

Get Well get us underway with the percussive gaze of ‘Death Floatz’. Drawing influence from the Relapse Records stable of bands like Nothing and Cloakroom this is reassuringly heavy. The blissed-out fuzz washing over the breathy vocals. The rifle crack drums and muted bass, it’s all that good stuff. We’re off to a great start.

‘Bleed With You’ draws more on The Jesus and Mary Chain as influence. That said, it’s a gloriously strident song. Triumphant in parts even. The song makes great use of dynamics to keep the listener on their toes. Without doubt my favourite of their two songs on show here.

They hand the baton to Intentions with their song ‘Home’. This band have a dreamier approach with the song opening over heavily modulated guitars and softly sung vocals. That calm is quickly punctured in the choruses with an onslaught of fuzz and distortion. I absolutely love how the song builds and builds in intensity.

Intensely is how their second number, ‘V’, opens. Sludgy and gloomed out chords ring out before receding and the gentle flow of the verse takes over. It’s only temporary though as the chorus brings the noise. This song is paced beautifully. Everything has its space and there’s absolute clarity in the mix. Even though this track clocks in at over six minutes, it just doesn’t seem long enough. I loved this track, definitely my favourite of the two.

These two bands really complement each other’s styles and if heavy gaze is your jam, then this EP will make you very happy indeed.

The Intentions // Get Well EP is out on June 3rd and is available over on Bandcamp.

You can follow Intentions on social media here.

You can follow Get Well on social media here.

The Rosie Varela Project – What Remains

You will undoubtedly know Rosie Varela from her outstanding band Eep. Now she has stepped into the spotlight with her solo album What Remains. A native of El Paso, Texas she has drawn on the musicality and creativity of her band mates and friends to help her realise her vison. Joining her are Ross Ingram, Sebastian Estrada, Serge Carrasco, and Lawrence Brown III from EEP with the addition of Aldo Portillo on guitar and keys.

About the process of creating the songs for What Remains Varela has this to say.

“These are songs that didn’t quite fit the shoegaze genre of EEP and in fact, they weren’t meant to be genre-specific at all. This is a fusion not just of musical influences, but of life experiences.

At its core, The Project is about simplicity – simple song structures that leave room for free studio experimentation and innovation.”

Knowing the calibre of this team’s song writing makes me eager to dive in, so let’s do that now.

We open on the gentle sway to and fro of ‘Louise’. The tender musical backing belying the dark subject matter of a sabotaged relationship. Straight away we are hearing a band at play. Living in the creative moment. The textures and sounds effects around this song are there because the creators understand that sound affects. Everything has a place and purpose.

We segue neatly into ‘Wound’, a heartfelt cry from an America on fire. The rise of the divisive right, the splintering of society, racial abuse, school shootings. This is a deeply affecting song. You can feel the helplessness in Varela’s delivery. The band do a wonderful job of giving that feeling room to express itself in the song. Of ‘Wound’ Varela says

“This is a song about someone who feels helpless, crying out for a miracle to change the fear, and hatred that the narrator is witnessing and experiencing within themselves as they spiral downwards emotionally. The last two lines offer hope as the narrator comes to grips with saving themselves by saying, “give me your hand, I think I can pull you out again.”

‘Night Sky’ blooms on the speakers next. Like a beautiful flower it slowly unfurls and shows us its gorgeous multi-coloured, multi textured form. There are songs you instantly connect with and for me ‘Night Sky’ is one of those songs. We’ve all gazed up at the starry sky in awe and pondered our place in the cosmos. This song perfectly captures that feeling. From the stunning call and response of the verses to the overlapping vocals in the latter sections of the track. We are transported.

Next is the deeply harrowing lyric of ‘What Remains’. This song, the intensely personal exorcism of the emotional damage from childhood sexual abuse, is profoundly moving. You cannot help but feel the hurt and despair of the child. That then turns to rage as you know you cannot help them. The song is quite a sparse arrangement allowing Varela’s vocal performance to deliver the emotional punch that floors you every time. Full credit to the band for their parts here, particularly Brown’s wonderfully beguiling drums.

The sound of the desert is all over ‘Leave Me Alone’. Like a lost Eagles or America track it brings to mind a woman walking out of the desert of a bad relationship into the sun. Again, this genius band take the simplest of structures and add in textures and lovely harmony singing to elevate it to something really quite beautiful.

‘Fault Line’ comes in like a Bond theme. Incredibly cinematic and boy does it get widescreen in scope. This track has a Beatles level recording story involving reverse tracking, learning to play the song backwards and of course, mellotron strings. The song is about being able to spot the red flags around toxic people (mainly men). It’s sung with a steely determination and you can sense this comes from lived experience. As the song heads into its final stretch, it explodes into bloom. Full on psychedelia follows with reverse guitars and Beatle-esque strings like Strawberry Fields Forever. These aren’t the sounds we’re used to hearing from Varela but she owns it. The creativity and sonic dexterity on display could only have come from her heart and head.

‘My Sunshine’ tries to fool us with its subdued, melodic intro. As the vocals kick in, we hit the accelerator and we’re off. There are some glorious musical flourishes on show here. From the various synth tones to the western influenced guitars. It all comes together beautifully to lift the song all the way to the conversation style outro. You just never know what’s coming next and that’s a major strength of this band.

There are so many points on the album where you can identify with the lyrics. None more so I’m sure, than on ‘Foolish Things’.

“He came to me. A wolf in wolf’s clothing. But I couldn’t see. I was naïve. And love makes you do. Foolish things”

Of the song Varela says

“’Foolish Things’ is about that destructive relationship, that crazy love that you can feel for someone that nearly destroys you. I experienced a relationship like that that devastated me to the point of a complete nervous breakdown and a failed attempt to end my life. The abrupt ending of the song reflects the moment in which I cracked.”

The song has a woozy, off kilter theme throughout putting you straight into the writer’s head space. This is a where superb songwriting meets an arranger who knows exactly how to extract the most emotion from each and every note.

The album closes out with the meditative ‘Surrender’. This improvised piece, set against a series of loops and bass, feels like the warm embrace of goodbye, for now.  Certainly not final but the closing of a chapter. It’s the perfect end to this album.

An album of songs this definitely is. You may enjoy dipping in and out to savour your favourite tracks however, if you will accept my counsel, this is an album made to be listened start to finish. It’s an experience and one that rewards repeat listens. Varela bares her soul to us, trusting the listener with her very heart. In doing so she allows us to join her and her band mates, collaborators and friends on a journey of self-discovery. I wonder what you’ll find.

What Remains is released via Hogar Records on 3rd June. You can grab a copy on 180g translucent red vinyl, CD and digital. Head over to Bandcamp or, if you’re in the UK you can grab a physical copy from Plastic Head Megastore.

Follow The Rosie Varela Project here…

Dreamback – Sometimes

UK-based producer/musician Jamie Duddy has been quite prolific of late. You’ll remember I covered his Asleep EP back in January. That was a woozy, dreamy trip of an EP leaning heavily into shoegaze and dreampop. Now he’s back with a new single and a whole new vibe too. I was really keen to hear the results so let’s dive in.

Immediately in the introduction to ‘Sometimes’ you know this is a different type of Dreamback song. Whilst retaining that dreamy drone behind the song the first thing that strikes you is, this is a pop hit! It’s sugary, and addictive and most importantly, it’s an ear worm. It’s also a true duet from start to finish with the vocals of Duddy’s wife, Laura Beth, adding her sparkle to the mix.

There was a feel of latter-day Primitives about the production I really liked. It’s a very summery track, buoyant and uplifting belying the darker subject matter of the song (liars and sunburn).

Make no mistake this is drastic change in direction for Dreamback, but one that has paid off in spades. If Duddy decides that this is the path he’ll be taking Dreamback in I’m sure the Top 40 beckons!

‘Sometimes’ will be out on Friday 20 May over on the Dreamback Bandcamp page.

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