Although writing for and fronting punk duo Ghoul Kids gave Taylor Barnes a great place from which to speak on any number of topics and narratives, it wasn’t until he suffered the unexpected departure of a close friend that he decided that a different musical platform would better serve his creative needs. That new sound, a blend of drifting shoegazery, vintage surf and rock urges, gothic vocalisations and a dark, psychedelic pop, was in some ways the antithesis of the path he had up until then been pursuing but it also still pulsed with an alternative, underground and cultish resonance.
The Room in the Wood have a strange knack of wrapping influences up in other influences like sonic Russian dolls that upon opening lead you back down a sort of retro time travelling, sonic worm-hole. Mars (Wont Save Us), the lead track from their latest four track offering, of instance, is a prime example. Initially its a 2000’s era dark, alternative indie groover, open that up and you get the more discerning end of some 90’s underground alt-rock echo, inside that is a vibe of 80’s post-punkery, which reveals 70’s psychedelia and finally a core of 60’s garage band boisterousness. That’s a long thread to tug at but it does reveal that whilst fad and fashion may change on the surface, the really cool sounds endure from one musical generation to another. They just get a little make over to match the times.
I love music that doesn’t fit into standard genres, that is hard to pigeon-hole and which has a totally unique artistic fingerprint on it. Teach Myself Again is just such a song. Essentially a spoken word stream of consciousness that blends gentle philosophies with wonderfully soul-searching metaphysical meanderings all pitched over eastern vibes and ambient beats. On paper you may think that you have heard something similar and indeed you may have but Jimmy B still finds new astral pathways to walk with this intoxicatingly psychedelic mysticism.
Anyone who states that “ brown notes, off-beats and noise are my friends” is always going to be someone who will capture my attention. After all in a world of conformity and polish it is those sort of things that make music stand out from the background mediocrity and line-toeing. Maniacs From The 4th Dimension is a tricky beast, it lulls you into a false sense of security. Considering what the aforementioned phrase might seem to allude to, what madness and left-field thinking it might suggest, Till We Meet Again heads off down some pretty conventional musical routes. But by the time you stop and take stock of things a minute or so in you realise that the simple acoustic guitar lines and straight four -four beats have actually cocooned themselves in some pretty “out there” sonic trappings. Psychedelic grooves are laid down, squalling guitars paint Paisley patterns in the air, rumbling baselines add rock muscle and the whole rocks with a retro infused intensity. It sort of sneaks up on you. And as a calling card or way to announce your intentions, it is perfect.
Say what you like about Ty Segall but he’s nothing if not prolific. His heart is also very much in the right place as he proves by fitting the release of this single into his already hectic schedule, a song about his loyal canine friend and done so to raise money to re-home stray dogs.
Following three months of extensive European tour dates, London-based international acid rockers SWEDISH DEATH CANDY are pleased to reveal brand new single ‘A Date With Caligula’ ahead of their forthcoming London appearance at The Lexington on 9th November to finish their EU tour in style.
In a world where people seem to feel entitled to all of the answers, where ironically the demand for knowledge has left us with a society who are less informed but more confident in their ignorance, it is nice to know that there are people who still revel in the mysteries of life. I don’t need to know how electricity works to enjoy a cup of tea and I don’t need to subscribe to a religion to know right from wrong, why not just follow your own path and try not to piss too many people off. Which is pretty much what Buddha said, I think.
Similarly when it comes to making music Moderate Rebels aim for an easy life too. “Less chords and words; simple and complicated; direct and vague. We have our mottos.” They sound like a band after my own heart. Faith and Science is a wonderfully swirling yet direct and hypnotic slice of modern psychedelia, one built around a tribal stomp, relentless guitars, crashing pianos and mercurial vocal chants and in many ways it is perfect in its blunt mantric simplicity. It doesn’t pay to over think things.
This may be their first album for eight years but as soon as Bothering Me’s boisterous Hollywood Brats style musical swagger starts emanating from the speakers, it seems like they have never been away. How quickly we fall back into line, them delivering acid-laced raucous garage rock and us lapping up every second of it.
Now based in Düsseldorf, vocalist Leighton Koizumi has gathered around him a veritable who’s who of European psychedelia, fuzz and garage rock players including Rob Louwers on drums, Oliver Pilsner on bass and Marcello Salis and Bernadette on guitar. And if the line up might have been refreshed, the sonic identity of the band is still reassuringly single-minded. Guitars are sludgy, fuzzed out and pushed to the edge, drums are wonderfully tribal, basses pulse relentlessly, pianos are hammered to within an inch of their lives and in the eye of the storm Koizumi partakes in a shamanic ritual to conjure the spirits of long dead bikers and beatniks, hippies and surfers, drop-outs and freaks.
Songs such as Easy Action strut and swagger with cocky confidence, Heart of Darkness is a strange swirl of gothic-folk-pop and One Foot in the Grave is a solid gold slice of highly charged Bolan-esque rock. For all their raw approach, jagged angles, dark hearted rock vibes and warped psychedelic leanings, they never lose sight of the hook and the melody. Bone crunching and visceral this may be but you never lose the urge to dance, yell, jump about and spill your beer as a libation to the Gods of Rock’n’Roll. The more you spill on their behalf the stronger they become which probably makes The Morlocks nothing short of high priests.
Wanna join a cult?
Scientists have always predicted lots of cool technological advances, from jet packs to flying cars, from sentient artificial intelligence to time travel. And whilst we are still waiting for the first three of those to become the every day luxuries they promised, the last of that list has been available for a long time. You don’t believe me. Just go and look at your record collection! Every time you put a record on…yes, I still call them records, get over it…not only do those sounds remind you of the time and place where they were created, they can also act as backward glancing sign-posts or future musical predictions and they also probably remind you of that point in your life when you first encountered the music.
Strangely Alright are sonic time-travellers. They paint paisley patterned pictures that shimmer with the 60’s mercurial blend of darkness and innocence, they mesh psychedelia and pop melodies together, they run rock muscle through the most danceable of tunes, they are the perfect blend of past and present. Their reference points, early Floyd’s whimsey, The Kinks deftness, later Beatles experimentalism, Bolan-esque strut, perhaps King Crimson’s more groovesome output as well as later retro-revivalists such as Redd Kross and Jellyfish, might suggest that they spend their time glancing back to past glories. But as I have said before, they also sound like a band making music for today. Pastiche and comfort zones is not what is going on here and whilst you can probably make a fair guess at the contents of their record collections Stuff is every bit as adventurous as the music made by those they tip their hats to.
Whilst the band seem to either only put out the good stuff or just have an uncanny ability to write songs which feel like single material, The Information Game, for me at least, sits at the heart of the e.p., a brilliant blend of Aladdin Sane cool and modern alt-alt-alt rock (rock that is at least three steps removed from the posing indie kids with the their complicated hair and their skinny jeans). All the songs found here are robust enough to make their own way in the world on their own. Whatcha Gonna Do is a teasing taste of what we might have got if Marc hadn’t let Gloria drive the mini that fateful day, Building Bridges is totally infectious from the word go and the title track is the sound of the past and the future having a party in the present.
Strangely Alright doesn’t do things by halves and Stuff is as solid a collection of songs as you are going to hear any time soon, the fact that they are building, blending, inventing and destroying any number of genres along the way is just the icing on the cake. Okay, not time travel in the truest sense but it will do until actual time travel comes along.
Anyone who is a fan of the garage, psychedelic, retro and freaky end of the rock oeuvre will be familiar with Lana Loveland. Being Organist with The Fuzztones as well as being a member of the Music Machine and fronting her own band Loveland has made her a household name, at least in the more discerning musical dwellings. After a brief hiatus…it’s a girl!…she is back with a vinyl single which goes by the name of Strange Charms.
And given her illustrious CV it is everything you would want it to be. It blends acid rock’s fuzzed out guitars with hazy psychedelic pop, 60’s underground vibes with a modern alt-rock zeitgeist, it not so much plunders the past for interesting sounds as re-packages them for a new audience. Web of Sound is even more mercurial sitting somewhere between a long lost Jefferson Airplane single and a Hammer House of Horror sound track and you never even see the join.
The art, of course, is to refuse to trade in past glories but to build those ideas into something new and for all its retro hat tipping, this release is perfectly timed. With pop music dead in the water and rock music too busy checking itself in the mirror people are increasingly looking back for less cynical, less industry driven music. What Lana Loveland offers is something that is both old and new, then and now. It’s time travel I tell you, sonic time travel…and Strange Charms is your ticket.
It would be very easy to label Superseed as a 90’s grunge inspired outfit, but that would be lazy on my part, in the same way that not every modish indie band should be written up and written off as trying to be Oasis or every acoustic solo player wants to be Bob Dylan. Yes, you can make a few fairly educated guesses as to what will be in their collective record collections but there is so much more going on here and it is the peripheral details and odd meanderings away from that core sound that set these guys apart from their Pearl Jam worshipping, Nirvana deifying rivals.
Take a song like Messenger, Sabbath-esque lead vocals, gang harmonies, intense garage rock salvos and razor wire riffs…not a pair of long shorts or a plaid shirt in sight. But I will admit that the album does share a love of the core sonic vibe, one that conjures violence and speed, muscularity and melody, that coloured the Pacific North West’s most infamous scene, but thankfully it is an album that is happy to take a sonic road trip through any number of other points of rock history.
The Face That Followed You Back Home is a classic rock stomp updated for a new audience but not at the expense of the old school patched denim brigade’s love and No One’s Getting Out of Here Alive mixes modern rock muscle with sixties psychedelic pop vibrancy. Grungeadelia anyone? I didn’t see that coming but I’m so glad it did. Heavy Times is a wonderful funky blues beast, all strange staccato dynamics and sky-scrapping vocals and Static is just a timeless slice of intricate yet infectious rock.
It’s a cracker of an album, one that tips its hat to so many great eras and scenes, yet which lingers only long enough to take what it needs rather than getting wrapped up in nostalgia and pastiche. The result is an album which is very much of the here and now but which is happy to show the road it travelled to get here.
London based alternative/indie rock trio Desert Mountain Tribe released their second album, ‘Om Parvat Mystery’, in June.
Co-produced by the band with James Aparicio, it was recorded in London and the Faroe Islands.
The band play a handful of UK shows in September as they continue to promote the new album, prior to heading off to mainland Europe where they will spend much of October on tour.
07.09.18 LONDON Thousand Island (Garage) bit.ly/2wJ0H81
08.09.18 LEEDS Belgrave Music Hall bit.ly/2oDjr4v
14.09.18 LEICESTER The Cookie bit.ly/2MN2OSf
21.09.18 NOTTINGHAM The Chapel bit.ly/2Q0kIzb
22.09.18 MANCHESTER Eagle Inn bit.ly/2wI1mpl
Some music is purposefully very general, aiming for mass markets and trying its damnedest to appeal to the widest demographic possible. Other music speaks more specifically, of where it comes from, reflects the people and places which birthed it and has a more heightened appeal to a small but more fanatical audience. Even if you weren’t aware of the Cornish heart that beats within the band, musically you would probably come to the conclusion that The Saving of Cadan is born out of an ancient and dramatic landscape, certainly somewhere loosely within the Celtic fringes.
Which brings us to the next obstacle. See the word Celtic and many people will immediately conjure sonic images of sweeping folk music and Clannad-esque cliches and whilst there are some deft and delicate passages within the music, these are topped and tailed by everything from psychedelia, freak-rock, world music, even hip-hop and trippy electronica. But like folk music, this is story telling writ large, with a central narrative straight out of folklore connecting the various songs.
And it is a mammoth project, even on CD the 21 tracks required two discs, pick it up on vinyl and you get five sides of music! But because of that it has plenty of room to explore, not just the story, which is told in both English and Cornish, though just as often reduced to emotive voice as instrument soundscapes, and most certainly musically.
Arloedhes An Lydn is a slow burning piece that evolves from strange alt-folk to feedback drenched rock to saxophone driven crescendos and finally grunge intensity and if they can do that on one track, imagine the dynamics they are able to employ over the albums entirety. Song of The Lady is early rock and roll colliding with a musical theatre rant, Tonight is a wonderful lucid dream and Worlds Apart a crazed garage rock groover. I could go on…I won’t, there is nothing to be gained by me trying to describe the scope and imagination of this album any further. Best you just go and buy the record and if I haven’t wetted your appetite by now to the idea that something awesomely unique or perhaps uniquely awesome takes place between this album’s covers then I fear that we can no longer be friends.
Looking forward to see where you are going is all very well and good, sometimes though it is fun to look back and remind yourself where you have come from. If you can do that without necessarily revisiting the exact same sonic ground, that perhaps visits the spaces between the footsteps of the original journey then that is even better. Love Maker retraces the journey that took blues music into the realms of modern rock and whilst it is certainly familiar in its sonic style, somehow it also bring something new to the table.
It embraces the free form chaos of the 60’s cosmic country, blues jammers and the same decades dystopian Doorsian vibes, the groove and drive of 70’s heavy rockers, has the weight and grunt of later grungers and the windswept aspects of the desert rock scene. In fact as it plays with the dynamic of the loud/quiet and the fast/slow template, it wanders through a lot of interesting territory.
But if you really wanted to nail things down, this is the sound of being comatose on a Persian rug wrapped in a drug fug in the basement of a Ladbroke Grove squat in about 1966. The sounds are warm and exotic, psychedelic, trippy and full of otherness, they rub shoulders with the acid laced sound of West Coast acts such as Jefferson Airplane and wash over you like the musky smoke from a hookah pipe.
It certainly rocks, it laces itself with sonic intricacies and hooky riffs, it stomps hypnotically and occasionally races ahead of its own though patterns before raining itself back in. Love Maker might seem like a thing of the past but perhaps in the cyclical nature of music it is just ahead of its time. Either way you are going to need a slow spliff to explore its wonderful looseness and acid soaked heart. Warning: Do try this at home.
Earlier this summer, The Joy Formidable announced that they would be returning with yet another huge step forward, in the shape of new album “AAARTH”. Propelled by their restlessness and curiosity, the band continue to sit at the forefront of inventive and aggressive guitar music, taking what can be done with the instrument to new levels with each album. Still commanding festival mainstages around the world, and following a rapturous response to their sold-out UK live return at this year’s Robert Smith-curated Meltdown Festival, the band are now unveiling a video for their latest single “The Wrong Side”.
Bassist and vocalist Rhydian Davies comments on the visuals; “This is our second collaboration with [Boston-based creative studio] TRLLM. We love their imagination and, like all our favourite artists, they’re not afraid to make it weird. They had the background to the song, how lyrically it’s pieced like a collage from memories and snippets of time, and they used that, along with the album artwork to create this experimental, multi-coloured dream sequence that we think captures the essence beautifully.”
“AAARTH” is released on September 28th via Hassle Records on CD, download and LP, as well as an extremely limited boxset, Indie retail exclusive vinyl, and Rough Trade exclusive vinyl, which will be supported by in-stores at Nottingham, Bristol and London East.
Pre-order the album HERE
“The Wrong Side” follows recent single “Dance of the Lotus” and is a lurching, hulking giant of a track that aligns and progresses all of the band’s best qualities – a crushing, intense rhythm, remarkably inventive, snaking guitar work, and a soaring vocal melody – pushing things forward on an album that becomes more anticipated with each new single release. Lead singer and guitarist Ritzy Bryan explains; “With life not always being that kind, you can either go down a really dark hole or you can smear yourself with colour and reverie and try to forget. That’s what we did with AAARTH; we threw ourselves into this beautiful vivacious collage of experimentation, real meets unreal, and stopped giving a fuck about things that didn’t matter, and started caring more about the things that are worth your time.”
The Joy Formidable bring their unique, evolving and progressive live show to an already- sold-out show at The Lexington in London, followed by main stage appearances at Reading & Leeds Festivals, before they depart for the US and Canada – by personal invitation from Dave Grohl – as support to Foo Fighters.
Orions Belte have released a final preview ahead of their debut album ‘Mint’ which is out via Jansen on August 17th. The single Joe Frazier’ begins bluesy but fuses dreamy-indie vocals to soundtrack the surreal video, created by Steph Hope.
Louder (Team Rock) described the video as “all jerkily-drawn scenes of urban dread and psychedelic angst”. The last single to be shared before the album, it shows another side to the diverse record that in their latest issue Mojo gave 4/5 stars and said “it’s spiralling effects, playful compositions, nuanced arrangements and dependable grooves are wrought with feeling”.
Their previous single ‘Atlantic Surfing’ was a different sound altogether, Brooklyn Vegan described it as “a psychedelic, krautrock-ish jam“. Their first single ‘Le Mans’ has had heavy Spotify playlisting support, most recently being added to the best of ‘Modern Psychedelia’ alongside the likes of Khruangbin, Foxygen, and Unknown Mortal Orchestra.
The real charm of Olivia Awbrey’s music is the multi-tasking that goes on. It is enough that she deftly hops genres – alt-rock, psychedelia and punked up folk all going into the mix as well is shouty gang vocals, pop infectiousness, indie cool and college rock wonkiness – but lyrically she is typically mercurial too. Don’t Be Alarmed mixes wit, wisdom and whimsy taking in everything from political machinations, climate change, social commentary, particularly the creeping gentrification of her Portland base, not to mention bacon…all in just over five minutes. That’s quite a full itinerary.
Long associated with a more folk sound, this single is the perfect stepping stone between those more considered sonics of the past and what next year’s sophomore album promises to be all about. Over the next few months she will be playing both the Pacific North-West and a run of shows in Colorado before heading to the UK in September.
|June 16th||Steamboat Stringband Jamboree||Olympia, WA|
|June 22nd||Turn! Turn! Turn!||Portland, OR|
|June 30th||House Show||Fort Collins, CO|
|July 1st||Paths of Heart||Fort Collins, CO|
|July 6th||Full Cycle Bike Shop||Boulder, CO|
|July 7th||Venue TBA||Denver, CO|
|July 11th||Firkin Tavern||Portland, OR|
|July 21st||HiFi Music Hall||Eugene, OR|
|August 12th||SAGE Music Festival||Corvallis, OR|
|September 6th||The Green Note||London, UK|
|September 7th||TBA||Derby, UK|
|September 8th||TBA||Bolton, UK|
|September 9th||The Exchange||Bristol, UK|
|September 12th||St. Pancras Old Church||London, UK|
|September 13th||TBA||Brighton, UK|
|September 14th||The Lamb||Devizes, UK|
If the scope and style of music were expressed as a Venn Diagram, then at a point where funk, punk and psychedelia meet, you might not find many bands filling that intersection but it is definitely where The Hot Knives fit into the scheme of things. They weave crucial elements of all three genres neatly through the three songs that make up this e.p., punk’s attitude, drive and belligerent energy, psychedelic’s otherworldliness and dense swirling patterns and funks swagger and dance infused essence, and the whole lot blends together is a paisley patterned, drug-fug, hypno-frenzy.
It’s The Stooges playing with soul music, The Byrds exploring heavy metal, James Brown on an acid trip, it’s mutant rock, bruised blues, its all of that and more. The Hot Knives also embrace something missing from most modern bands…mystique, even down to the song titles, Sfincioni Dreams, Dank Zappa and Alhambra, Baby seem drawn from a world part mythology, part dark underbelly of modern society and the music matches these strange juxtapositions too. Guitars squall and squeal, drums beat avalanches of sound and basses brood and batter and then the whole lot is warped and blasted into space in a shower of freak out coolness.
It’s hard to really pin down Hot Knives in an easy soundbite, but then again you should be able to say that about all great music. Let’s just say that it is a collision of genres and eras, the past, present and future, the profound and the profane, of this world and the next and leave it at that.
Desert Mountain Tribe landed in the public consciousness with a splash a couple of years ago as their debut album Either That or The Moon received critical plaudits and public acclaim from all who came into contact with its psych-rock charms. On the strength of lead single, Wide Eyes, it looks like they will have the same effect when its successor, Om Parvat Mystery lands in the summer.
Wide eyes is built of the same threads of alt-rock poise, shoegaze intensity and psychedelic haze that they made their trademark on that first album, a blend of Doorsian dystopia and the psychedelic infusions of Echo and The Bunnymen, with heavier guitar swathes and more driven grooves. I guess this is what the kids today would call alt-rock but alt-rock is named for its parallel stance to the classic sounds, and this is full of classic sounds, classic but not cliched.
Whilst their fellow rock bands are either pursuing a new rock path with their skinny jeans and their fashionable hair or sticking to the rules of a foot on the monitor, patched denim jacket golden age, Desert Mountain Tribe take a cleverer and more discerning root. They travel the back roads of rock history picking up 60’s drop out vibes, 70’s underground moves and 80’s post-punk revivalism, 90’s grunge weight and more modern rebranding that has lead to a nostalgia infused Bohemia. But they do all of this whilst moving forward and that is why they stand apart form the pack and are so vital to the modern music scene.
Whilst other artists try to create the future, attempt to build new genres, force musical styles together in an attempt to stay ahead of the curve, Joel Sarakula knows that there is a better way. He carefully sifts through the past, gathers his favourite sounds and uses those building blocks to create music which both nods to the past and carries some of its musical ideals into a new sunrise and present it to a new audience but without resorting to the nostalgia ticket. This is music of the here and now, but for once it is honest enough to wear its musical heart on its velvet jacketed sleeves.
In Trouble is a sumptuous collection of sounds, revelling in funky grooves, soulful vocals, gently flexed R&B muscle and a psychedelic pop coating. It tips its natty fedora to a glorious pop heritage whilst striding confidently into a hazy, paisley patterned future. Music is cyclical, we all know that and such stridently groovesome music has never really gone out of fashion, not once you get beyond the fabrications and corporate facades of the modern music business. Some may see this as a retro laced musical exercise, and that is fair enough, but having accepted that music is cyclical and fashions always come back around I prefer to see Joel as way ahead of the curve rather than still riding the last wave.
It might seem incongruous to a Brit like me that a musician would give up Austin, Texas and relocate to Sheffield, England, even if they did do it via New York. Swapping the home of cosmic country and outsider musicality for a city whose past glories relate more to a small but important swathe of post-punk keyboard adventurers and more recently indie-rock with a much more mainstream appeal, doesn’t seem like the obvious move. Maybe that’s the point and then again, who am I to tell someone where to live and work and to be honest the troubadour and transatlantic nature of this back story is in many ways reflected in Ash Gray’s music.
Chicken Wire gathers together a number of threads and musical themes and whilst tracks such as the brilliant opener The Other Man and the infectious boogie-groove of When The Devil Comes Home speaks to his Texas roots, more understated songs such as Josephine Clark feel much more part of the old world folk canon. It is sumptuously delivered with just a hint of Simon and Garfunkel, which that New York stepping stone may have added into the mix.
And whilst the more obvious and upbeat numbers prove that Gray is a dab hand with a riff and a hook, it is the more cinematic and hazy beauty of Firefly and the title track itself which are the real charm for me, that cosmic country vibe crashing into west coast psychedelia.
This is an album that could only have been made by someone who has travelled, both geographically and musically, it draws lines between the Austin blues bars of today and New York coffee shops of the 60’s, basement folk clubs of his adopted home, the British-Americana wave of the last ten years and the alt-country scene that inspired it. That said, travelling, listening and learning is only half the story and it takes a skilful and deft musician to turn it into an album this great.
Not only is hERON a long distance collaboration between musicians in Seattle and San Antonio, it is a collaboration between musical worlds, between eras and genres as well. At the core of these lovely, languid largely instrumentals is a trip-hop beat, a solid groove that they use to hang any number of musical oddments on. You could draw lines on an imaginary four dimensional map which help explain the album, lines which connect the small clubs of Bristol, England in the 90s with the urban street music from the previous decade that inspired them, you could also use them to connect 70’s alternative soul experiments with 60s European chamber pop, avant-garde soundtracks with American West Coast psychedelia.
You could carry on joining dots that represent eras and styles and then many more connecting places and thoughts, music and stories that have no business being connected. Stare at the pattern of the lines for a long time, and then shut your eyes. The stars dancing behind your eyelids is the music that makes up this mercurial album. Flipout employs some smooth jazz motifs, It’s Too Late seems to wander across the vastness of space in search of a home, Chillmode seems to be a strange collision of east and west whilst Melt Away has the resonant guitars and inherent menace of a Lynchian soundtrack.
It is a great album, it covers so much ground over its twelve tracks and if you think that instrumentals are the stuff of background music, think again. It isn’t that the music is imposing, anything but, it is that the music is beguiling, otherworldly and mercurial that it will have you tying to unpick it, explore it and try to see how it all fits together. Any music which engages the lister in such a way has to be a good thing, right?
I always look forward to music coming from Phil Wilson and The Raft and the fact that their work rate is so vibrant means that you never have too long to wait for such musical treats. And why do I look forward to them so much? Well, it is that balance of familiarity and forward thinking, a musical echo of a host of 80’s post-punk adventurers, who were in turn mining a sixties jangle pop heyday but done so in a way that feels like we are striding forward rather than looking back. Maybe it has something to do with the cyclical nature of music, it certainly has a lot to do with the craftsmanship on which the songs are built. I suspect the answer is a bit of both.
If movements such as the west coast Paisley Underground and New Zealand’s Dunedin Sound channelled bands such as Love and The Byrds, as did our own movers and shakers, The Bunnymen and The Soft Boys, then The Raft are merely carrying the same torch through into a new era, and why not, music such as this deserves its longevity. The Raft respect the past, but they don’t want to be stuck there and so their blend of haze and harmony, gentle psychedelia and poppy accessibility, whilst reminding you to give your old Dream Syndicate albums a spin more often, is instead a brave step forward into a new potential pop horizon.
Aren’t we tired of the production line, vacuous, landfill commercial dance-pop that has become successful through marketing dollars and the laziness of the modern pop picker rather than through any artistic merits? So do something about it! Start backing music which marks you out as an individual, music which makes you smile, which delivers hope as well as homage, which feels like it is going somewhere, is leading a renaissance, is willing to play its own game. If any of that seems like something you want to support then bands such as The Raft are you first port of call.
There was a time when music such as the cavernous and reverb laden sounds that Tombstones In Their Eyes made didn’t come on download, CD or even in the form of a live band. Instead it came in pill form, on blotter paper, in tabs, creating imagined music that hotwired straight into the back of the brain, a revelatory experience but a solitary one also. This double A side is the sound of a band doing its best to capture the insanity and dark haze of just such a bad acid trip and it is at once scary and beautiful, and primordial and sophisticated.
It plays with Doorsian psychedelia, desert blues stoner vibes, echoing doom and heaviness, and the same arched sub-metal sounds that defined the glorious collection of songs which made up the Fear e.p. earlier this year. And whilst Take Me Home is a weighty slice of cosmic rock and roll, Shutting Down seems, within these sonically muscular demarcations, to somehow find room for everything to breathe effectively. The result is that the latter feels more in keeping with the psyched out indie of the likes of Echo and The Bunnymen whilst the former is as solid and claustrophobic a piece of work as anything in the Spacemen 3 or The Jesus and Mary Chain canon.
It is the sound of the band continuing their dark crusade to create music which sounds like the after growl of the big bang, the collision of planets, the collapse of mountains and the sound of the history of the industrial revolution all scored as music. Nothing wrong with thinking on a grand scale I guess.
Some time ago, out on a dark, lonely highway, an illicit meeting between the then members of My Bloody Valentine and Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster met to discuss the matter of who would inherit the throne. They came up with the idea of uniting their two houses, Shoegaze and Neo-psychedelia and the chosen heir was the, now of age, Dead Vibrations. Okay, that’s almost certainly not true, maybe I have been watching too much Game of Thrones but it does tell you a lot about the musical balance of the band.
On the one hand they play with sullen, shoegazing washes and walls of deconstructed noise, on the other they have the ability to hit the full on rock button and reign down shards of dark and jagged guitars. They hide the songs structures and indeed much of the vocal delivery under swaths of pulsing bass, dramatic beats and meandering, white-hot riffs. The result is a wandering, hypnotic noise-opera, aptly called Swirl, which comes packaged with an even longer, more languid and sleazy piece called Sleeping in Silvergarden, which as we all know is a city in Dorne. See, I knew I was on to something!