Grace Ives sat cross-legged, hunched over her Roland MC-505 with mic in hand, as featured in many of her promotional pics, is exactly the recording process one imagines when listening to 2nd. Bedroom beats, diary confessionals, everyday musings, Ives’s second release is a breezy, lo-fi hang-out where songs could just as easily stem from the toys and trinkets which adorn her apartment, as detailed on the cover.
A 12 track album clocking in at 22 minutes, 2nd is an exercise in pared down pop, each vignette effortlessly entertained before darting off feverishly, a collection of sketches much like The Residents’s Commercial Album. Despite it’s fleeting length, there’s a rich spectrum of flavours and guises which showcase Ives’s many dimensions, but never at the compromise of her laconic punch.
Crisp, sparkling pop fizzes on ‘Wow’, a buoyant contrary to the themes of neglecting oneself for the love of another, while Ive’s mission to make you dance is realised on ‘Icing on the Cake’, the satisfying snap of the hi-hat grooves along with programmed bass, culminating in a glorious arrangement of R&B vocals. Wistful energy propels ‘Anything’, cavernous voices wail around skitterish beats, before seguing in to the disconcerting ‘Something in the Water’, cartoon drums and brittle keys soundtrack the frantic splashing of ‘something red and yellow getting in your mouth’. Things take a slightly dreamier turn on ‘Butterfly’, a song of transcendence coloured with lazer synths and exquisite demonstrations of Ives’s singing ability, electronic flickers and flutters taking the lyric ”I’m just a sucker for love” off into the ether.
”Everything about me is very laid back, my music is just supposed to be fun, danceable.” Avoiding the apathy which can sometimes plague her contemporaries, Grace Ives has contributed a bright and effervescent take on the lo-fi scene, grappling universal themes of love, regret, and anxiety with an infectious, vivacious, enthusiasm.
2019 is a year of many milestones for The Cure. It’s the big mans sixtieth, 40th anniversary of their debut album Three Imaginary Boys and 30 years since their smoggy masterpiece Disintegration, a winning headliner slot at Glastonbury Festival and whispers of a new album has got me dunking my head in their rich and extensive back catalogue.
Here it all is, from the sunny singalong of ‘Friday I’m in Love’, to the Gothic dread of ‘Pornography’, via ‘The Walk’ synth-pop and drugged up, strung out psychedelia of ‘Wailing Wall’. Every album track, B-side, soundtrack oddity, strange Depeche Mode cover, all lovingly collated and presented in comprehensive and chronological order.
To see E B U live is to step into a universe of synthetic simulacrum, where the sensory tactility of the human experience is broken down and reinterpreted with lights and liquid electronics, fronted by the mechanic theatrics of the clockwork lover from Fellini’s Casanova. All the computer wants is to know what goosebumps feel like….
E B U, the moniker of Bristol’s Ella Paine, has fast become a key artist in the city’s vibrant music roster, offering an utterly distinct and striking voice in the crowded electronic scene. Describing her sound as ‘swamp pop’, E B U’s debut album Hinge is an invitation to spend a moment in an ersatz womb, Paul Lansky sonics float like follicles past garbled chatter, a thrilling exploration of the machinations of imagination.
Lead single ‘Falling’ is a tale of infatuation turned inside out. Paine’s vocals warp and squeal like Karin Dreijer mixed with the signal intrusion of the Max Headroom incident, dripping synths rippling in the analogue soup while a skewed pop sensibility wriggles to the surface. Echoes of Laurie Anderson’s ‘O Superman’ imbue ‘Light Show’, a delicate sparsity enveloping the playful voices warning of lights and their puckish mischievousness, before ending with Kid A aural ascendancy.
The buoyant, digital beauty of ‘By & By’ foams and fizzes with Fairlight CMI sounding waltz amid reverberating string plucks and rumbles, while subtle menace rears its head on interludes ‘Arcade’ and ‘Plague’, brief moments of discord for your corrupted data/memory. Album closer ‘Holy Guardian’ reaches ecclesiastical heights, organs swirl against glitchy palpitations and vocoder flutters against the awe of E B U’s uncanny alter.
Hinge is a fascinating and utterly original contribution to electronic music, made with keyboards and software yet as natural as electricity, a masterful work of soothing disquiet.
Was a pleasure to introduce Bristol’s 1020 Radio to Glaciers’s mutated brother! The full gamut of synthpunk, avant-weird jams, garbled voices and fizzy spit in an hour of electronic radiation courtesy of everyone’s favourite Head on a Stick! Catch the alien signal intrusion same time next month, on Thursday 9th! 👌 👽
Andromeda awaits the savagery of the sea creature Cetus. Chained to a rock, the waves splash at her feet and the demons maw has widened with blood thirst, if you were to see the full uncropped painting of Gustave Doré’s 1869 piece Andromeda Chained to a Rock, which adorns the cover of Windswept and Cursed.
Witch Root is a dungeon synth side-project from Manchester electronic-occultist Primitive Knot, retaining his arcane rituals and old world mysticism, but absorbing the narrative arcs of acts like Netherlands mage Old Tower. Avoiding the genres pitfalls (no PC loops to be heard here), Witch Root has presented a debut LP that feels unearthed, an organic soundtrack to the days of plague, runes, and the Danse Macarbe.
The primal, natural awe of a thunderstorm haunts the title track on album opener, cryptic drums and whispery mellotrons take refuge from the open heavens, building to a gripping melodic mood piece. Analogue synths pulse and swell against the cawing of crows on ‘Gallows Kiss’, doomy keys droning unforgivably. The weathered mellotron returns amid the crackle of campfire on ‘Cruel Whip and Tender Heart’d’, expert lo-fi production brings an ‘aged’ quality to the track, like a conceptual interlude off a black metal album. ‘Hillfort Ghosts’ is all muffle and murk, tapering off at the end with the pure haunt of febrile wind and electronic throbs. The door is pulled of its hinges, the gale merciless in its ferocity on ‘Bedded and Beheaded’, the steady pound of the executioner beats alone amid the storm, before beating with urgency on the jubilant ‘May Day’, an elation that lifts you from the preceding dread and ending with the simple delight of a running stream.
Was the condemned granted a last reprieve, or did he lose his head and reach nirvana? Such is the evocative power and narrative skill of this album, you find yourself asking questions to whatever concocted legend conceived in your head. Windswept and Cursed is an honest and sincere conjuring of the sodden ghosts and relics which haunt old Europe.
The long march of progress hasn’t yielded the fruits we were promised. At the dawn of automated labour, the digital revolution, and the universe of information at our disposal, you’re still a wage slave working overtime with a tie round your neck like a noose, in a world mired with environmental degradation, political demagoguery, and the creeping commodification of the last remaining remnants of the human experience. As the rapacious demands of the free-market trash the planet and swallow you whole, you search desperately for an answer, then in comes a strange new theory: P.S.R.S. (Procreation Simulation Reproduction Stimulation). Be done with facing the failures of humanity and your subjection to it, plug in to a world of virtual reality hedonism, satisfy your perversions and desires, and inadvertently participate in the curbing of population growth. It might just work.
The preachers of this reverse Ludovico Technique are VR SEX, an L.A synthpunk trio comprising former members of Drab Majesty and Heroin, all clad in Westworld/Personal Jesus cowboy and shades leather. Born from a consensus of mass consumerism and slavish devotion to technology comes their debut EP HORSEPLAY, four tracks of melodic power-pop which shines from the heart underneath abrasive deathrock.
Paranoia and impending doom is declared on EP opener ‘LANDMINE’, crisp punchy drums beat down like the doomsday clock, indie jangly guitar permeate with discordant fat synth lines, singer Noel Skum crooning menacingly like Andrew Eldritch. ‘EVERYTHING’S FINE’ features a sublime and almost sunny pop hook beneath its noxious veneer, throbbing synth basses straight from New Order’s Technique, before pivoting to the artificial rock of ‘A SHOT AT LOVE’, complete with a howling synthesizer solo, Pere Ubu fighting with Pixies. Fetid turns to funky with closer ‘The Watchers’, teasing the dark with analogue synth-pop light, programmed drum fills binding Skum’s cop radio ridden vocals.
Technocratic nightmares and social media erosion of the physical has been channeled into a punchy, cyberpunk gem of an EP, honoring their industrial heritage while not falling for the genres clichés. With a full length LP out in May, VR SEX look set to be the contemporary soundtrack to our neoliberal miasma.
From the smouldering embers of spooky garage rock project The Hex Dispensers comes Eerie Family, a gloom pop outfit that creeps upon you like John Carpenter’s The Fog upon the good people of Antonio Bay…
Trading punk assault for shadowy darkwave, Taylor duo Alex Cuervo and Alyse Mervosh presents a debut LP of thrilling Gothic pop, caustic tales of exploding suns, the entity at the foot of your bed, and greeting the beckoning finger of death with a grin.
Eerie Family kicks off with the maddeningly infectious ‘Everybody Disappear’, an organ stomper with Link Wray guitar and rib-cage xylophones backing the ice cool dual vocals, describing with relish a sudden empty world. Mervosh’s skittish drums flutter against smoggy keys on the cavernous ‘Dead Stars Still Shine on Us Tonight, before taking a turn for the morose with ‘I Am Tarantula’, echoes of The Cure’s ‘Lullaby’ backed with the steady beat of The Shangri-La’s, hollow bass and keys create an atmosphere both dark yet strangely comforting. The quiet terror of crushing, brutal routines we dream of escaping is channeled on the doomy ‘Bloodless’, and icy finale ‘After Some Deliberation They Concluded’ ends the record with a funeral waltz, an examination of mortality voiced by the Capuchin corpses of Palermo against Pornography viola like synth drones.
‘You only need enough friends, to carry your casket when you’re dead’. Despite the mordant front, Eerie Family reveals itself to be a stirring, and at times romantic, statement, never afraid to allow the light of a good tune or sentiment lie among the dread. Always seductive and evocative, Eerie Family is a dynamic chiller which moves you, excites you, but never drains you.
‘DBOY write rock and roll, because rock and roll is what matters’, states point 9 of Dboy’s 13 point programme to end sonic austerity, via the Dboy Department of International Affaires. Revolution is in the air, social upheaval looms, and the insurrection against creative stagnation and prejudice of any kind will be waged by scouts sporting yellow neckerchiefs and leather gimp masks. It’s what Marx would have wanted, right?
Dboy is more than a three piece garage rock band from Ontario (or is it Moscow?), but a movement managed by President of the Order of DBOY Scouts Kirill Kutchokokov, espousing the virtues of Dboy love and the inner artistic potential that hides in us all. Currently on the ‘campaign trail’ off the back of their debut album/promulgation Prove Your Love – Live! in Belem, The International Performance and Recreation Council of Russia, in association with Dine Alone Records, presents us proles with Dboy for President, a three track garage rock manifesto heralding the new declaration of rock and roll unity.
Title track ‘Dboy for President’ is a wild and rattling punk thrasher, Raw Power volatility with a touch of Turbonegro glam. Kutchokokov screams the Dboy doctrine through a guitar amp, converting the sceptics with three chord swagger and Dead Boys aggression. The turbo charged ‘Scouts Rule’ swings you round the room for a mere 32 seconds, an electrifying affirmation of the incorruptible brotherhood that is the ODSO (Official Dboy Scouts Order). Dboy for President ends with ‘Communique: A Campaign Born of Denim and Flesh’, a rallying call proselytising the word of Dboy and it’s mission to smash ’emotional cronyism’ and forge a collectivised, rock and roll utopia, to the roaring applaud of the party faithful.
Opressors, posers, fakes, and musical kulaks beware… the revolution has arrived, and Dboy is here and now. Let Dboy into your life, you have nothing to lose except the chains of sonic austerity! DBOY для президента!!!
Become an official member of the DBOY scout order here!
Music right now is colourful, biting, stirring, and so cutting edge you feel lucky to be in the middle of it all. A significant part of this progressive wave, both musically and politically, are the amazing women seizing music away from the tired hands of the male, pale and stale, and smashing the patriarchal rock clichés with vigour.
There’s such an ocean of brilliant women creating reactionary and pioneering music, how does one do that justice by a mere 25 song playlist? This is simply the tip of the iceberg, and the artists that have sound tracked my last few years, an entirely subjective collation, for whatever my opinion is worth.
Here we have a gamut of all manner of musical awe: The icy soundscapes of Void Vision, Pleasure Venom taking a tiki torch to MAGA SS red caps, the digital venom hurled at male entitlement by Girl Pusher, the cavernous mysticism of Iona Fortune, and the kaleidoscopic alien visitation that is Spellling. I hope you enjoy as much as I did!
International Women’s Day is more than just a day, and your solidarity should consist of more than compiling a playlist. Support your local female artists, let’s ensure our venues and musical spaces are safe and free for everyone, and let’s be vigilant at removing the social hurdles and obstructions that stifle great art.
There’s still a way to go, in society, in the music scene and industry, and perhaps even IWD itself. My good friend, singer and musician Amber Watson, has this to say:
‘On the one hand I want to feel excited about IWD and celebrate my womanhood. But honestly I do that every day. It’s the parts of IWD which dosen’t see consistency throughout the year that troubles me the most, and therefore make me view the day as somewhat pointless. Promoters, bookers, venues, labels, radio managers and presenters… etc etc etc… they all hold responsibility to ensure more women are being placed on their line up, in their workforce or hosting their shows etc. Holding an annual day to say “oh look we’re on the band wagon too” isn’t enough to make change. The issues will never be fixed if we leave it to a yearly celebration and conversation. The music industry deserves diversity; creativity flourishes when you have more views and ideas added to the bucket, and shit well we all wanna hear new epic music right? Unfortunately I am not seeing huge movements in the stats across the board, and the industry is constantly disheartening to me. So IWD makes me cringe a little, yes, let’s celebrate, but how about in 2019 we ALL continue to keep that motion swinging and work towards equality like certain organisations and groups are persistent with. Don’t be a hypocrite, be a fully fledged, 24/7 ally, and reap the benefits through some fit as fuck tunes and shows.’
Head over to Noods Radio and discover all the women/female identifying residents and DJ’s being celebrated on their ‘Women of Noods’ feature series.
Check out Loud Women, a not-for-profit initiative dedicated to showcasing women artists and pushing women music journalists, with an option to submit your own editorial contributions too!
Bristol Women in Music is currently ‘under construction’ at the time of writing, but has a growing reputation of raising awareness of the issues faced by women when navigating the music industry. Also organises women focused DJ lessons!
Audiofemme is a NYC femme and non-binary run music and culture blog. Give it a follow!
Bristol’s Exchange is hosting the International Women’s Day Extravaganza, a jamboree across two days, full of live acts, drag kings and queens, and DJs til the early hours. Also screening the documentary So, Which Band is Your Boyfriend In? on the Saturday. Get a bundle ticket for £10, with proceeds going to Mind, to raise awareness of the mental health support for Women and those in the LGBTQ community.
If you miss the Saturday screening of So, Which Band is Your Boyfriend In?, here’s a list of all further screenings.
The Zion Community Art Space in Bedminster Down, Bristol, is hosting the International Women’s Day Gig Night, a roster of female acts with proceeds going to the breast feeding support group ‘Babes@Zion’. Includes Mexican food!
Give artist/singer and radio expert Amber Watson a follow. Not only did she kindly contribute to this post, but is also a talented reviewer at Tap the Feed. I had the great privilege of seeing her sing live, and her 5 minutes was the sincere highlight of the entire set.
Check out singer Annie Nash, a new and upcoming artist returning to the Bristol music scene after a hiatus. Follow her Instagram to keep updated on forthcoming releases!