Bristol

Spit ‘n’ Static! 1020 Radio #3

Bristol’s 1020 Radio was exposed to the alien signal intrusion once again, another hour of synthpunk, stinging acid rain from London, aussie sludge punk and dead channel fuzz. ‘Catch the wave’ same time next month! 👽 👌

Lynks Afrikka ‘Str8 Acting’

So why should anyone be ‘straight acting’? Scroll through Grindr and every third profile will be seeking ‘Masc4Masc’, as if repressed anger and cargo shorts are appealing to anybody.

The simultaneous message of embracing ones queerness yet fetishising heteronormativity is a contradiction mused by Bristol’s Elliot Brett, producer and ‘father’ of electro-punk/drag/grenade Lynks Afrikka. Armed with a healthy dose of disregard for genre or even format (their first release being a ‘fragrance for the mind’), The Church of Lynks Afrikka has been converting with their outrageous and provocative live shows, a subversive force even within the queer community.

Moving away from the downbeat industrial pop of last years ‘Don’t Take It Personal’ second single ‘Str8 Acting’ is an off-kilter, Patrick Cowley NRG, club donk banger, nightmarish yet fun all at once. Big fat synths bounce and boing like an MDMA come-up, the potent stench of sweat and Joop! hangs in the air while the chatter of drunk students outside the Lizard Lounge thrusts you into the dankest and perhaps most boring corners of perfunctory Bristol night-life.

Drawing from the influences of the LGBTQ+ scene while being mischievous and daring enough to poke fun at it’s foibles, Str8 Acting is another gleeful tearing down of the stagnant homogeneity that dominates club culture. All hail Lynks Afrikka!!!

Harrga ‘Héroïques Animaux de la Misère’

Europe’s most fortified border lies in North Africa. Separating the contested autonomous city Melilla from Morocco, the Spanish imposed border fence, with it’s motion sensors and watchtowers, has, along with the Calais Jungle, come to symbolise the human catastrophe and moral failure that is the migration crisis. When the fair comes to town every September, unaccompanied minors try to stow away in the disassembled attractions, hoping to escape in the cover of night. They call it ‘making risky’.

Harrga (meaning ‘a burn’ in the Darija tongue) comprises of Bristol sound artists Miguel Prado and Dali De Saint Paul from Nzʉmbe and EP/64 respectively. Initially conceived as a project free of any particular political agenda, the drama unfolding across the Mediterranean grew too great to ignore, and the need to pay tribute to ‘those who burn the borders’ and face hostility from the west which build walls and turn backs.

Héroïques Animaux de la Misère, the third release from cryptic sonic provocateurs Avon Terror Corps, takes a meditative yet visceral approach to the refugee plight with uncompromising soundscapes and collages, hearkening to the experimental roots of British industrial like Nurse With Wound or Throbbing Gristle. The cacophonous wail of human desperation that opens the album on ‘Melilla’ seizes your jugular, declaring it’s moral and political position with the forced witness of the claustrophobic horror of border repression. The volatility bleeds into second track ‘Artaud’, drums of war and metallic shards of dissonance scrape and grate against De Saint Paul’s vocal bile, reaching Anneliese Michel levels of inhuman seethe.

Sonic violence is interrupted with moments of eerie harmony. ‘Phone Recording’ is an impressive showcase of De Saint Paul’s commanding and powerful vocals, with Prado’s hypnotic keys giving an air of incantation, whereas ‘War’ briefly detours into the more cavernous and murky end of Autechre, merciless beats drill with pounding ferocity.

In a world growing coarser and pitiless, Harrga tell us with furious compassion that human life, liberty, and opportunity does indeed have value, and must be fought for. Héroïques Animaux de la Misère is a searing and defiant statement of solidarity and utmost humanity.

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.

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.

wych elm ‘School Shooter/Bag of Worms’

‘From the muddy banks of Bristol’, wych elm’s tales of .88 revolvers in wardrobes and sludged brains creep on you like the swamp thing under the Gaol Ferry Bridge…

A lo-fi slacker quartet fronted by Caitlin Elliman, wych elm are an authentic portal to everything great about the early 90s, their self-styled dream-punk sounding like the theme to some midnight MTV Oddities cartoon.  Last years debut EP, issued by Bristol’s Quit Yr Job records, feature two tracks of darkly sublime melodic indie, with hooks so infectious yet unassuming, little parasites which force you to hit repeat again and again. It’s a welcome invasion.

‘School Shooter’ is a lethargic grungy daydream, fuzzy guitars rips in and out of the laconic menace, and a succinct exploration into society’s stubborn perpetuation of alienation, all delivered with Elliman’s dripping cynicism. Things segue nicely into ‘Bag of Worms’, Pumpkinsesque jangly riffs float, but never meander, atop distorted drawls, perfectly complimenting the cool vocals describing abuse and it’s resulting demons.

Announcing a hiatus of sorts at their Simple Things 2018 appearance, here’s hoping the swamp thing doesn’t lie dormant for too long.