Album Write-Ups

E B U ‘Hinge’

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.

Witch Root ‘Windswept and Cursed’

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.

VR SEX ‘HORSEPLAY’

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.

Eerie Family ‘Eerie Family’

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 ‘Dboy for President’

‘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!

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.