‘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.
Rarely are solo and side projects as indispensable as an artist’s main acts output, but Laslo Antal’s Diesein debut LP is a glorious entry in an impeccable run of dazzling, synthwave mood-pop.
Belgrade born Antal formed Sixth June with Lidija Andonov way back in 2007, and were the progenitors of the so called ‘minimal synth’ movement, alongside Xeno & Oaklander, Daybed, and Veronica Vasicka’s Minimal Wave label/reissue project. Kindred spirits they all may be, the lush and rich production behind Sixth June was contrary to their ‘coldwave’ tag, their first album Everytime being a dramatic and nostalgic journey with unashamed pop sensibilities, married with Antal’s unique cinematic video style, all painting a romantic picture of a Berlin you had always imagined. Two EP’s followed, and in 2016 Antal teamed up with Sally Dige Jørgensen for their one and only Cult Club record, introducing mean bass work and Antal’s backing baritone vocals.
Songs about Sally expands upon the pallet of sounds first hinted at on Sixth June’s ‘Night Before’ from last year’s Virgo Rising. Gorgeous sax work shimmers over the first two tracks ‘You’ and ‘Make me Feel’, irresistibly complimenting the funky basslines reminiscent of Play with Lies. ‘Tell me’ recalls that special Sixth June urgency, effortless pop which builds into a satisfying crescendo, awash with synthetic strings that are so exciting you jump out of your skin. ‘7777’ takes a step away from the organic, all analogue arpeggios and an infectious sequenced drum beat, before album closer ‘Make me Weak’ ends with gothic guitar licks and cavernous ghostly vocals coalescing to a moody finale which would make Martin Gore proud.
Melancholic but never cold, nostalgic but never ‘retro’, Songs about Sally is an authentic and earnest demonstration of how pop can inhabit our most sentimental inner spaces, and form the soundtracks of our lives.
Happy Meal Ltd. HuMiLiaTeD. Her Majesty’s Latent Torpedo Disasters. Eschewing easy categorisation in their very name, HMLTD apparently stands for all and none of the above.
Turning heads for the last three years with their glam/punk/EDM/honest to god pop explosion, and tales of raucous shows complete with angels handing out lipstick amid the pungency of burning hair in their efforts for a truly multi-sensory live experience, their kaleidoscopic plume breathed much needed life to the notion of the ‘rock band’, an archetype in crisis struggling with creative stagnation and political irrelevancy.
Like Kraftwerk or Devo, this is a band underpinned with an ethos, fully realised right from their debut single, ‘Stained’. Dismantling gender boundaries as gleefully as they do with genre, their initial output presented a vision of masculinity free from its rigid demands for conformity. Accusations of ‘queer appropriation’ have arisen, with the band insisting on their act being an expression of their unadulterated identities, and an encouragement for society to do likewise.
Hate Music Last Time Delete signals an appetite to enter the mainstream and turn it inside out. Signing to big label Sony Music, and attracting the attention of Justin Tranter (collaborator of Britney Spears and Justin Bieber no less), their brand of sonic hedonism is given a deliciously sleek commercial appeal, adding further subversion to a band that sang of Mother Teresa ‘being stained’.
HMLTD EP wastes no time in its radio friendly affirmation with its first track, ‘Pictures of You’. A sultry smooth electro-pop banger, exploring narcissism and sexuality in the internet age, is confidently allowed to strut uninterrupted with their standard genre U-turns, all delivered with a Dave Gahan croon. Things heat up with the giddy euphoria of ‘Proxy Love’, club land bounce donks its way to baroque synth-pop, a paean to self-love peppered with cheesy string stabs. ‘Mannequin’ seamlessly follows, continuing their pre-occupations with identity and the body, and feeling like a spiritual successor to Roxy Music’s ‘In Every Dream Home a Heartache’, before screeching to a halt with the dizzying stomp of ‘Apple of My Eye’.
The disparate cataclysm that was their first three singles have been refined and distilled into a satisfying cohesion, without compromising on their provocative blitz, and with their confident embrace of a new commercial direction, songs of masturbation and camera rolls are deceptively at home amid the Radio 1 pop climate. Jello Biafra instructed to not fight the media, but become it, and HMLTD EP looks set to mould pop in its own image, and it will look like their Jenkin van Zyl videos. Pretty good for a band yet to release an album.