It took a global pandemic but the free market zealots finally paused the capitalist hamster-wheel (after much equivocation and an obscene death toll). Long inured by a lifetime of merciless labour extraction, a percentage of the overworked and underpaid were granted the simple, Marxist ideal of free time. This freedom to allow personal development away from the neoliberal grind could be both liberating and terrifying. Alone with your thoughts and little else, deep rumination and introspective wanderings can take place, reaching profound epiphany or painful reconciling with wounds that lie buried and unresolved.
“Self-reflection, projection, nostalgia…”. The lyrical themes of INDIGOS, as stated on their Bandcamp, feel inexorably linked to this reflective pivot that hangs in the air. Like the mysterious duality of night and day adorning their latest cover, the Bristol-based heavy pop trio have crafted an exquisite blend of psychedelic shoegaze and slacker grunge that uncannily scores the contemporary contemplation and its trepidation. Sharing a love for 90s alternative rock like Smashing Pumpkins and Pixies, INDIGOS, along with kindred spirits Wych Elm, anchor their lethargic fuzz with a keen ear for subtle but infectious pop hooks. After winning support slots with Cherry Glazerr and rotation on 6 Music, INDIGOS finally drop their debut EP via AC30 Records and co-production help from IDLES guitarist Lee Kiernan.
Sophia Barnes’ mean bass opens INDIGOS on the explosive ‘Silhouette of You’, pitch-perfect loud/quiet dynamics straight out of Doolittle ending with a strung-out thrash that’s both heady and electric. Guitarist Jack Croft’s swirling jangle expertly percolates around Barnes’ spooky vocals on the eerie ‘I’m Healed’, before the stirring ‘Animalistic’ displays an anthemic rigour to their tripped-out post-punk. Finale ‘Out of Body’ is simply stunning, a gorgeous meander through a hazy daydream of ethereal effects washes and Barnes’ cooly delicate vocals before an awesome guitar attack that recalls the breathtaking solos from Siamese Dream.
Thrillingly ethereal without ever becoming lost in its sonic expanse, INDIGOS is four tracks of impeccable psych-rock that veers between light and dark with ease, channelling the ambiguity of our collective uncertainty with exceptional insight.
Listening to anyone of Horrid Red’s releases across their decade long existence strikes you with a rarity in music: a clash of disparate styles that don’t mesh yet is to the band’s strength. This confliction of tangles and knots, of psychedelic washes, synth-pop, Neue Deutsche Welle clangour, and indie jangle scraping together with some friction is a unique and consistent trait of the Horrid Red mood.
An offshoot of the more raucous Teenage Panzerkorps, Edmund Xavier and German frontman Bunker Wolf (Glenn Donaldson and Karsten Scholl respectively) enlisted the help of Burial Hex‘s Clay Ruby and together have been creating a post-punk sound that’s rich, decadent, and deeply exotic. Their latest LP Radiant Life is another cerebral beast, 12 tracks that are both hardy yet introspective.
An electric balancing act of dreamy textures and weighty industrial heft permeates throughout the record. The urgent ‘Omitted Prophets’ is an infectious and rousing mix of acoustic strumming with twisting keys and strings that lift with its buoyant ear for pop hooks. This sense of drama arises frequently, especially on the first track ‘Brazen Altars’ with its deep piano melody and driving bass, and the delicate psych splashes on ‘Fountains of Clouds’ have a touch of Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me romance.
The moments of brooding bite are just as exciting. The smouldering ‘Still Suffering’ has echoes of Nick Cave’s Tender Prey, cavernous chants and a beguiling mesh of Eastern Asian scales with bluesy twang all evoke a dusky, ethereal stir. Hazy wanders of reverb and muffled drum machines envelop and fog like Martin Dupont on the title track, exemplifying Xavier’s creative guitar technique, while the tight ‘Divine Names’ sees Wolf adopt a growling, demonic snarl in its chorus atop an otherwise sunny and upbeat pop number. It shouldn’t work, yet feels wholly necessary when listening for the first or 100th time.
The creative fire that fuels Horrid Red still burns white hot even after a decade. Radiant Life is another glorious addition to a heady body of work which manages to excavate meditative soothe within violent discord.
Silence isn’t silent at all. Bludgeoned by the unceasing demands of our collective labour, we obediently race through life in our useless displays of ‘productivity’ desensetised to the complex aural oceans of activity bubbling away outside our puny societal constructs. Stop for a moment and you’ll hear the piercing visceral hiss of subterranean nature reminding you of its indomitable awe against man’s temporary insignificance.
The sensory ether has been explored by Sign Libra since her debut E.P. Closer to the Equator. Inspired by BBC nature programmes on the rainforest, Latvian artist and producer Agata Melnikova soundtracked the organic microcosm of the jungle with a wide-eyed wonder of liquid arrangements and airy synths. Now aiming for the stars, Melnikova has sought humanity’s fascination with the Moon’s ‘lunar maria’ as thematic guidance for her first proper album Sea to Sea.
The spiritual and mythological relationship with the heavens course throughout the record. Each track named after one of the many volcanic plains historically mistaken for ‘seas’, Melnikova uses each sea name as a foundation to direct the flavour of each track. ‘Sea of Fecundity’ suitably opens the album, a rich and euphoric stir of vocal choirs and woodwind presets, Melnikova establishes the record with an unashamed harmony of celestial reach and cheesy instrumentation. Glossy kitsch develops further with keyboard sax and big club piano, all delivered with a knowing spirit of puckish fun. It’s a song which appeals to the heart over tiresome pretensions of ‘cool’, the rest of the album following suit.
The dense interplay between percussive rhythms and Eastern Asian melodies create a beguiling balance of electronica and organic sonics similar to Japan’s Tin Drum, Melnikova adding some throat singing to add an extra layer of exotic. ‘Sea of Nectar’ features Melnikova’s treated vocals dart and flutter like Grimes across sculpted ravines of Fairlight CMI sounding production, straight out of the more buoyant cuts off Kate Bush’s The Sensual World. The chilly vibe of ‘Sea of Serenity’ provides a welcome break from the jubilant character of the album, Silent Shout style wanders of echoing whispers and nimble bass hooks that ripple in its Scandinavian tundra. Ending as it began, the final track ‘Sea of Knowledge’ is a Hi-NRG banger of majesty, a joyous jolt of giddy dance with a smattering of kitschy Prince Rama pomp.
Fluid, amorphous, and ever-changing, Sign Libra have presented a piece of work that shifts its form into enticing and unexpected patterns and creations. Sincerely igniting some ethereal electricity without tumbling into New Age po-faced nonsense, Sea to Sea is an honest and exuberant signal to an energy we could all perhaps tap into if only we stopped and paid attention.