2019

ShitKid ‘[DETENTION]’

You’d be forgiven for thinking that the sleeve for [DETENTION] was some poster for a new St. Trinian’s movie, but perhaps that’s the point? Chewing gum, all in school uniform, with guitarist Arvid Sjöö sporting a Rick Nielsen cap, this is a cover which wears it’s love for pop-punk, emo, and flipping off your teacher on it’s sleeve.

ShitKid, being the alias of Swedish musician Åsa Söderqvist, has shifted from her lo-fi eccentrism as heard on 2017 debut Fish, and with the help of partner in crime Lina Ericsson, has delivered a scuzzy sophomore rock record of teen angst, endless summers, school crushes and alienation. Revisiting the bands of her youth like Sum 41 and Green Day, Söderqvist has set out to make an album strictly for ‘the kids’, and what do parents know anyway?!

Opener and title track oozes bratty, snotty irreverence, lighting trash cans and slipping laxatives into your teachers drink without a trace of ‘fucks given’, thick bass thuds with the classroom clock drudgery, before a ‘no regrets’ garage rock blast that seizes your inner delinquent. The grunge punch of ‘SuMmEr BrEaK’ vibrates with effortless cool, a paean to teen infatuation which burns for two and a half glorious minutes, with a chorus so insanely hooky your arm reaches for the repeat button like a sudden bout of alien hand syndrome.

Söderqvist’s affection for Weezer style power pop shines on ‘summer ’18’, 90s alt-rock riffs hit hard joyously, while an expert interplay between slacker indie and hardcore grapple together on ‘Grown-ups are KIDS’. Album finale ‘Lost in a Dreamworld’ is the cumulative and definitive statement on wasted youth, a rousing anthem for every future artist, thinker and musician who was too busy dreaming to care for the football they just missed, or the test paper vying for your attention with all its utter insignificance. Stirring production allows the song to grow and build, before drifting off with an electrifying solo and Siamese Dream majesty.

ShitKid’s immersion in their own nostalgia has yielded songs which celebrate and commiserate the universal experience of adolescence. [DETENTION] is an enthused and fiery kick of a record, which reignites the youthful rebel which society tries to extinguish.

Grace Ives ‘2nd’

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.

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!

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.