Author: Thomas Phelan

Writer and film-maker, and music lover.

Glaciers Noods Radio #2

That time’s come round again! Here’s the second slice of Glaciers, an hour of icy synths via Bristol’s Noods Radio ❄️ 👌

Bob Vylan ‘Dread’

‘Kill the kid that stole your neighbourhood, not the kid that stole your bike’ is stamped on the cover of last years single and EP teaser We Don’t Care (It Ain’t Safe), avoiding any ambiguity to the target of their attack. To the leeches of gentrification and the agents of community erosion: Bob Vylan sees you.

Bob Vylan have been busy since 2017s Vylanplaying Brixton Academy as part of Afropunk London 2018, releasing a plethora of material on their Soundcloud, and being banned by Soho’s The Crobar, the punk-grime hydra shows no sign of mercy. New EP Dread is eight nail bombs of blistering vitriol, furthering their hatred of bland conformity and the idle complicity of oppression.

Us boppers are introduced to the duo by what sounds like the laconic endorsement from the omniscient DJ in The Warriors, before an exorcism of gnawing demons take place on the trenchant thrasher ‘Down’. Bobby’s expert MC skills are on display in the toxic trip ‘Join Us’, foggy keys sting against gelid beats detailing the alienation that festers when chasing the expectations of a society which has rejected you. ‘What the fuck is going on!?’ Bobby screams on interlude ‘Storm In’, articulating a sentiment of half the western world in the age of MAGA, FLA and right-wing ascendancy, backed by percussive ferocity from drummer and partner in crime Bobb13 Vylan. Punk sludge oozes against Ministry vocals on the toxic ‘Run Up’, then metastasises into ‘Grime Made Me Do It’, a curse against the desperation that grows from the austerity Petri dish. Desperation turns to violence in the bleak ‘Die Slow’, then the final primal scream against the beige, slow, death creep of gentrification in the aforementioned ‘We Don’t Care (It Ain’t Safe)’, a savage and cutting diatribe of middle class vermin and its craft beer/coffee house necrosis.

The fire in Bob Vylan burns unabated, and is captured once again in an EP of searing volatility and socio-political bite. If Vylan was the aiming of the cross hairs, Dread is the pull of the trigger.

Spellling ‘Mazy Fly’

Something wicked this way comes. Album opener ‘Red’ is the sound of the carnival coming to town, distant revelry creeping up on you like a sudden, strange spell. The closer the funfair gets, the more dreamlike its lights, candy floss, and harlequin performers intoxicate you. Things aren’t all it seems, and you know surely you owe Mr. Dark something for this kaleidoscopic escape…

Spellling, being the brainchild of experimental artist and part-time teacher Tia Cabral, has become a leading force in the queer/femme/brown psychedelic scene of the Bay Area, replete with extravagant costumes and Parliament/Funkadelic theatrics, and culminating with 2017s critically acclaimed debut Pantheon of Me. Initially toying with the idea of a disco side project, she instead poured her creative intuitions into her sophomore effort Mazy Fly, a haunted record that wears her love of Off the Wall, her Juno-106 synthesizer, and the supernatural on it’s sleeve.

Cabral’s disco inclinations shine on ‘Under the Sun’. Klein & MBO italo-pop bounces with 808 beats and violins, while a stirring synth hovers above, like a melody from another song. What can at first appear disjointed soon become intriguing and part of Spellling’s unique sound, going from Giorgio Moroder to astral ascendancy, floating beyond the ether to the wish of the planet receiving the warmth of the sun. Her silky smooth vocals cast a spell on the electrifying ‘Golden Numbers’, a gorgeous soul piece with vocal harmonies in perfect arrangement, lifted into strange new heights with hollow electronics glitching and wriggling in the sonic sparsity.

Coldwave, Metamatic minimalism chills on the eerie ‘Haunted Water’, Gothic synths pulse like early Legendary Pink Dots, examining the spectral residue of slave ship trauma, and it’s parallels with the perilous journey faced by refugees crossing the waters. ‘Real Fun’ is a prog-opera, spindly wah guitar whispers of aliens looking for music, before exploding into a full on organ pomp and Wurlitzer solo. The Wurlitzer returns on the soaring ‘Afterlife’, a saxophone trickles into the track like syrup against Cabral’s R&B vocals, then swells into a celestial voyage, beaming you up aboard the dazzling mother-ship and whisking you away from your every day mundanity.

Was it all a dream? As album closer ‘Falling Asleep’ eases you back into reality, its drums crash like the rumbles of a locomotive, the carnival’s packed up and off to the next town. Mazy Fly is a thrilling and ethereal mirage of a record, gloriously heady and endlessly fascinating.

Rangers ‘Europe on TV’

In 1981s Heavy Metal, two alien space truckers too stoned to fly their space craft efficiently, extend their elongated noses and snort ridiculous amounts of space cocaine, becoming so blitzed they fly straight into some mad, electric stargate. Along their trip, you can imagine the ships antenna would pick up Europe on TV, a garbled signal of static ridden jingles, formerly sent out like the Voyager Golden Record.

Fusing together his two EP’s originally via As Above So Below Records , the titular 2009 cassette and Volvo Jungle Mist, Rangers man Joe Knight has presented a near two hour lo-fi, psychedelic behemoth. A dense collage of fuzzy guitar licks, unintelligible vocals, sci-fi whooshes and analogue scree, as daunting as Sandinista!, but taking no time to suck you in to its warped sonics.

Listening to each tracks contours and cosmic delineations over their respective near half hours are akin to a fucked up radio perpetually tuned in between channels, Dick Dale interfering with number stations before glam punk clashes with audio of dying Cosmonauts. These sketches and fragments of songs melt together in a bubbling goo, mangled teases of a disco tune or Italo-funk number amid the concrète.

Never for a moment does Knight’s abstractions meander. Underneath the psychedelic film is a keen ear for intoxicating rhythms, and pop sensibilities shine through the aural sludge. At the 9 minute mark on the title track, a gloriously proggy cut kicks in, mean bass and Moroder synths drive like a weird 80s cop show theme. 22 mins in a shiny euphoric keyboard strides anthemically, whereas 23 mins into ‘Volvo Jungle Mist’ treats us to a indie-jangle slacker tune, like a cut from the weirder end of The Brian Jonestown Massacre. Each excursion into Knight’s respective genre explorations always tease with its sound understanding and competency, but flee before out staying it’s welcome.

Europe on TV is a shape-shifting, amorphous blob of a record, utterly alien yet strangely familiar. This compilation still sounds like a wormhole to the edges of the universe as it did in 2009, and will continue to do so in the next thousand years, picked up by aliens along their hedonistic travels.

New Haunts ‘Worlds Left Behind’

The inanimate, the dead. Everything here lives‘ Alice Sheridan croons on album closer ‘Ice’. The sparks which fly off these contradictions fuel New Haunts’s debut LP Worlds Left Behind both aurally and lyrically, the antagonism between light and dark, beauty and horror.

Worlds Left Behind, mastered and mixed at Bristol’s Free House Studios, is nine tracks of dark-wave, Gothic synth-pop which balances serene atmospherics with nightmarish infernos. Opener ‘Ingrained’ is stunningly cinematic, an electrifying showcase of ethereal sonics and rousing drums with thick synth stabs surrounding Sheridan’s exquisite, goose-pimple vocals. ‘Hymns’ is a gorgeous acclamation to the spiritual binding agent music and art can be, with celestial production reminiscent of Kate Bush’s The Sensual World. Self-titled ‘New Haunts’ is a funeral march, Death in June organs chill the air and further Sheridan’s juxtapositions: ‘Everyone a stranger, anyone a friend.’

Aggression is never too far away, lulled into a false sense of security, you can be smacked sideways with a track like ‘Waves’, a cavernous slab of crunchy electronics and subterranean drums close in on you, a chaotic howl of the visceral oppression of the external world invading our inner beings. Pornography keys swell and drone on the icy ‘Left Me Cold’, whereas ‘Safe out Here’ sees Sheridan adopt a more conversational vocal delivery, frosty reverb punctuated by stuttering drum machines all amount to a thrilling disquiet.

In a scene which can be wrought with uninspired derivatives and by-numbers goth, New Haunts has delivered a debut album demonstrating just how stirring and affecting the dark-wave genre can be, while also producing a piece of work utterly her own. Worlds Left Behind is a powerful artistic statement on the universal and eternal conflicts of life, that profound sadness and the giddy heights of joy are forever fighting each other.

Girl Pusher ‘911’

Blood, sweat, and clown grease paint frequently mulch Gabby Giuliano’s grimacing face towards the end of their punishing sets. Offering violence as catharsis, Girl Pusher provides sanctuary from a world growing uglier day by day, holding the agents of misogyny and prejudice to bloody account amid split lips, static screams, and digital venom.

Hollywood cyber punk duo continue their electronic cacophony via DEFACE records with 911, six corrosive tracks of fuzzing assaults that disorientate as much as excite. Opener ‘Where the Fuck is My Ambulance’ creeps in with 911 sirens over audio from the ‘Marcy tapes’ (previously sampled by My Life With the Thrill Kill Kult and The Orb) detailing a runaway hippie’s want for platonic love, before burbling guttural synths and pummeling beats leave you picking your teeth from the floor. A lyrical diatribe of ‘long snakes in tall grass’, less written and more spewed up like bile, raw and abrasive condemnations of indignity at the hands of male entitlement. ‘Reformed Hellraiser’ is a haunting trip into masochism, Jarrod Hine’s drums spasm and stutter against Giuliano’s glitched, whispered confessions of self-perpetuating pain. Pulsing bass synths throb aggressively on ‘Red Was the Color of the Candle’ an acidic paean to utilising one’s burning anger for empowerment, ‘Gentle Marcy’ returning halfway through creating a vulnerable interplay with the intimidating rage. Things speed up on ‘Runaway’, an EBM punk thrasher showcasing Hine’s drumming prowess, before the abrasive ‘Did U Think of Me Last Night’ oozes in with analogue toxicity, a visceral slop of dissonant percussion and bowel churning aural hellscapes. You can scarcely believe that only ten minutes have passed by when finale ‘Out of Breath’ hits you, a fizzing, boiling, stream of consciousness attacking the ‘fucking creatures’ that prey on insecurities, Giuliano ending with the sentiment ‘You deserve starvation, overdose, and best of all, DEATH!!!’

We’re all wounded and scarred by a hostile society, seemingly set to implode before it affords us a modicum of compassion or acceptance. In a messy, divided world, Girl Pusher have created an EP which has exorcised the trauma of Trump’s America, reaches a hand out and offers solidarity, validating your anger and confusion. 911 is a visceral, primal confrontation of a sick society, brutal yet liberating.

audiobooks ‘Now! (in a minute)’

Britain is in a strange place right now, and there’s no lacking in a unique weirdness to mine and plunder. Now! (in a minute) is a glorious conduit of the surrealism and eccentricity which lies unassuming in the heart of our collective everyday routine and ‘normality’.

Electronic duo and aptly named audiobooks was conceived almost without trying. Meeting at a party, Goldsmiths art student Evangeline Ling and in-demand mixer David Wrench (working with FKA Twigs, Frank Ocean, and David Byrne) were already creating sparks before his new studio was even wired in, Ling announcing her arrival the morning after they met with a simple text. Armed with Ling’s sketches and story ideas, and Wrench’s array of analogue synthesisers, a frenzied pace of work followed, taking little more then an hour to complete a track.

audiobooks’s laconic approach to writing and recording has yielded a debut album that’s bristling with new ideas and covers a range of colours and flavours, cohesively held together by Ling’s mordant reportings. Ling’s storytelling acumen is brilliantly demonstrated on the tracks ‘Grandma Jimmy’ and ‘Call of Duty Free’, two tales of hilarious disquiet behind the facade of middle class pretense, backed by dub bass on the former and disorientating modular squeals and skwarks on the latter. ‘Hot Salt’ leaps out of the speakers, a shimmering pop number with expert fat synths and sitar-like licks, and a healthy nod to The Human League. Manic energy is tapped into on ‘Dance Your Life Away’, Ling’s vocals whipped into a screaming frenzy and Michael Jackson hiccups and yelps, the unhinge returning on ‘Dealing With Hoarders’ complete with proggy fuzz like Edgar Winter’s Frankenstein (whom Wrench bears an uncanny resemblance to). Stirring closer ‘Pebbles’ (first heard on their Gothenburg EP) is a truly affecting stirrer, 80s Tangerine Dream swallows you in walls of electronic sheen, surrounding Ling’s commanding vocals.

Spontaneous, urgent, and effortless, Now! (in a minute) is a truly original piece of work, dripping with wit, ingenuity, and one of the finest marriages of pop and story telling.

Heads on Sticks 2018

The amount of fantastic music that made 2018 makes creating a playlist an arduous task. Originally totaling 50+ songs, the painful, gut-wrenching process of elimination to just 25 songs demonstrated just how many tracks there were I loved. This is no objective best of, but a purely subjective collation of the songs that sound tracked my year.

Honourable mentions include the power pop indie of Flasher, MAGA frat boys eaten alive by Pleasure Venom, vomit in your turn ups and piss stinking tales of broken Britain by Hotel Lux, Jarada tearing your face off with their brand of blistering Israeli hardcore, the haunted candle lit flickers of dungeon synth mage Old Tower, and the great return of industrial juggernaut Ministry, with AmeriKKKant being their best record since Animositisomina.

Here’s to the heroes of 2018, and here’s the songs which wooed me, wowed me, moved me, and smashed me in the face like a sledgehammer. Merry Christmas! 🎄