EP Review: The Family Rain

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Artist:  The Family Rain

Title:  Hunger Sauce EP

Record Label: Mountbatten Recordings/Kobalt

Release Date: 28th July 2014

Rating: 8.0/10

It would appear The Family Rain aren’t applying for the positon of the next Guns ‘N Roses. There’s a mere 5 months between releasing the trio’s debut LP, ‘Under The Volcano’ and their next slice of playful rock ‘n’ roll – ‘Hunger Sauce EP’. Frontman Will Walter simply summarised the latest splurge of inspiration as a lust to be creative and not to muck about when it comes to dispensing with some new prime cuts. “We had very little time to write last year so it was good to get back to it and bang out some fresh material. We have been recording with our friend Tom Dalgety (Royal Blood, Band of Skull and The Maccabees), he has a small setup just down our road so it’s been perfect, the new stuff is sounding beefy as hell and we can’t wait to get it out!” 

The Family Rain and ‘Hunger Sauce’s urgency is imminent once the rattling ‘You Should Be Glad You’ve Got A Man’ kick-starts the new EP. Drum machine beats signal the opening moments and then without much fanfare, you’re headlong into an accelerated, rough ‘n’ ready ode to a less than functional relationship. Timothy Walter’s drumming is the main driving factor, ensuring that a sense of pace is always pushing the redline. Brother Will regales us with a love turned awkward and sour and the fact this unnamed vamp should be pleased someone will put up with their unpredictable behaviour. “You should be glad you’ve got a man/who keep’s coming back to you” and “And it’s another complaint/but it’s hard to complain when we fight everyday” typify a turbulent relationship fraying at the ends. ‘We Are In Love’ continues the themes of the heart but again with a twist. The band of brothers take up the guise of a voyeuristic bunch, announcing “we are in love/you just don’t know it yet” as if stalking their prey from afar. All decked out in night vision goggles and camping out in the bushes that’s where you’ll find the Walter brothers as they’re attempting to woo another siren albeit with the temptress having not a clue the three piece are swooning over her. Sonically, ‘We Are In Love’ takes up an almost hip-hop aesthetic with a razor sharp, repetitive riff rebounding off a rigid beat and rubbery bassline. If ‘Under The Volcano’ harnessed the power The Family Rain’s blue rock schtick, ‘Hunger Sauce’ sees the band burrowing deep into a mezze of alternative musical flavours. 

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Despite having an aural reference point from across the Atlantic The Family Rain have an Englishness about them that can’t be escaped. ‘Tarantula’ is the conjoined twin of ‘Hey Jude’ and Oasis’ ‘All Around The World’. This is the band flexing their jaunty muscles and a chorus/middle eight that recounts the uplifting moments from both the Liverpudlians and Gallagher brothers in equal measure. These combined elements provide a jovial edge and a tongue-in-cheek sassiness that invoke further British greats Blur and The Kinks at their most Blighty. ‘Punchbowl’ sidesteps any further connotations with the British Isles for another burst of fuzzy rock ‘n’ roll that’s buoyed by a flurry of ricocheting drum licks and Ollie Walter’s serrated fretwork, angling itself somewhere between ‘Under The Volcano’s visceral edge and ‘Hunger Sauce’s new found sonic wonderland.

Evidently, The Family Rain have a ravenous desire when it comes to cooking up new, mouth-watering morsels and if this is just the ‘(Hunger) Sauce’, imagine the next gastronomic delight to whet our appetite. 

EP Review: Nothing But Thieves

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Artist:  Nothing But Thieves
Title:  Graveyard Whistling
Record Label: RCA Victor
Release Date: 21st July 2014
Rating: 8.0/10
 
Although Nothing But Thieves’ inception dates back to 2011, it seems they’ve appeared from nowhere. Pffft! As if shrouded in smoke, the Southend quintet have landed on Zane Lowe’s radar, been courted on Radio 1 daytime, rubbing shoulders with the likes of Miley Cyrus, Rihanna and whatever anaemic, facsimile dance music is being touted that week and then comes the comparisons, likenesses to Radiohead and the late-great Jeff Buckley are in constant rotation. Such hyperbole can pull at the stitches of a band but there’s no way Nothing But Thieves are coming apart at the seams, all the attention and soundbites are justified and accurate; this five piece are a special outfit.
 
Being garnered with praise is one thing but can NBT make it count where it matters, on record? The answer is a resounding, yes! Due out on RCA Victor – home of David Bowie, Pharrell Williams and Swim Deep – the collective’s debut EP, ‘Graveyard Whistling’ is a four track mini opus of yearning, operating vocals, ethereal rushes of textured guitars and the type of expansive, yet modest wares that Coldplay used to produce, long before the “mutual uncoupling” and children named after fruit. Intimacy is key to the group’s primary outing and this is created by Conor’s (vocalist) tender operatic tones which are embellished by soaring, undulating waves of guitar provided by fellow band mates, Joe and Dom. The EP’s self-titled opening track solidifies this notion with its delicate vocal wafts accompanied by tumbling clouds of guitar. ‘Emergency’ continues this thread but with added anthemic muscle and syncopated handclaps. It’s too easy to focus on the skyscraping guitar swoons or Conor’s dulcet pipes but underneath all the understated theatrics there are multiple textures waiting to be discovered.
 
Any preconceptions that NBT are a unit waiting in the shadows for Chris Martin and Co to slip up are blown away by the riotous ‘Itch’. These Southend lads are already broadening their palette; gone are the heart wrenching operatics and in their place, jittering, insect chirping beats that roll into a healthy eruption of arena sized indie but without the soullessness. Even Conor knows it “I just wanna feel something real!” hollers the band’s mouthpiece with an intense croon. ‘Itch’ excels itself with its use of quiet/loud dynamics that hint at the group tinkering with electronics; we’re a long way off NBT producing a ‘Kid A’ but this tracks nod towards experimentalism is encouraging.

‘Last Orders’ caps off ‘Graveyard Whistling’ acting as the calm after ‘Itch’s storm or so it would seem. NBT plop us straight into the scenes of a drunken night out and the harsher side of what revelry can bring. Delivered with a beautiful tone but recounting macabre visions Conor whimpers “A fight broke out/someone took objection to my face with a bottle/I thought I was dreaming but some girls are screaming/and my face is streaming blood as well” is the tip of the iceberg of a night on the town turned sour. Sonically, NBT drop down to a mournful hue which works as an atmospheric backdrop to the horrific images painted by Conor’s innocent recollection.
 
They’ve stolen our hearts and it’s only a matter of time before they come for yours too – they are Nothing But Thieves after all.


Live Review: The Prodigy @ Sonisphere 2014

Artist: The Prodigy

Venue: Sonisphere Festival, Knebworth, UK

Rating: 8.5/10

Date: 4th July 2014

Cast your eyes across Sonisphere 2014’s line up and its business as usual…or at least it would seem. Rock and metal reign supreme with the likes of Iron Maiden and Metallica topping the bill. Additionally metal stalwarts Slayer, Anthrax and Mastodon nestle up nicely to Limp Bizkit, Deftones and HIM. But what is this? Do we see a clutch of musical imposters on the festival’s riff heavy roster – Frank Turner?! A punk-folk poet! Chas and Dave…what the fuck?! And taking up the third summit filling spot…The Prodigy. Are the staunchly set in their ways metal masses casting their net to wider musical reaches? Some may contest that the Essex rock-ravers have no place at a “rock festival” – they’re a dance act aren’t? However, some recognise that The Prodigy headlining Sonisphere makes perfect sense, this is a collective that have fused together the most anti-social fragments of music to create a sonic-battering ram  that’s mosh worthy as it is ‘glow-sticks at the ready, let’s get our bosh on’! Punk, rave, metal, drum & bass, dubstep and God knows what else, they’ve all touched the trio’s petri dish and what morphs from this curious concoction of disparate items is uniquely The Prodigy and most importantly, it’s music to piss people off – isn’t that exactly what rock/metal should be?

Just as day is turning into night, The Prodigy turn Knebworth into a post-apocalyptic warehouse rave, albeit in a field near Stevenage. Smoke bellows as the audio anarchists appear while screens that flank the Apollo Stage, glitch and fuzz as if projecting malfunctioning transmissions from the final embers of the human race. The scene is set for Braintree’s finest to fry our eyes and expand our minds. The visceral scree of ‘Breathe’ announces The Prodigy to Sonisphere and it would appear, the Essex lads have their work cut out initially. Large chunks of the audience are divided, there’s the believers: losing their shit,  the inquisitive: bobbing their heads and wondering if it’s ok to enjoy the band’s bass heavy but guitar spewing dance-rock and then there’s the ‘arm-folders’ the “true” metal fans who aren’t budging one jot – “this isn’t metal and we’re not going to enjoy it”. WWPSM had to wonder if the guy in front of us - we’ll call him Mister Machine Fucking Head, thanks to his lovely t-shirt – was a statue because no matter how much The Prodigy ramped up the beats and the frazzled riffs, he moved precisely nowhere. Still, the non-advocates loss is our gain, after nicely limbering up Sonisphere with ‘Breathe’ the riotous threesome smashed through a vast cannon of hedonistic, cuts of dance-rock mayhem. What’s telling with tonight’s headlining slot and with The Prodigy is how they are constantly evolving, numerous tracks get reworked, introducing dubstep nuances or extended freakouts of floor quaking beats and jagged guitar slashes. ‘Voodoo People’ and ‘Poison’ receive these re-imaginations whilst ‘Omen’ remains largely in the shape of its recorded persona, it garners the loudest cheer and most enthusiastic response of the night – next to ‘Firestarter’ of course. 

Towards the end of June, head-honcho and musical Svengali, Liam Howlett spoke to NME about the group’s imminent new album and the prospect of playing new jams during their allotted summer festival slots. Howlett professed the new cuts would be “violent sounding” and that “at these big shows people don’t want to hear fucking new stuff”. Well, Mr Howlett you tell porkie pies because those “violent sounding” nuggets appeared in the guise of brand spanking new tracks ‘Jetfighter’ and ‘Rock Weiler’ both of which live up to their vicious billing and whet our appetites for what the future holds concerning a much anticipated new LP.

After being pummelled for nearly an hour and a half, the slightly tentative masses are moving as one, either instigating circle pits or wafting glowsticks like its rave year zero. Apart from Mister Machine Fucking Head – he’s rooted to the spot. A three song encore rushes the band’s headlining set to a close; a frenetic ‘Take Me To The Hospital’, the old-skool rave from back in the day ‘Hyperspeed (G-Force Part 2)’ has Sonisphere reaching for the sky and then, the metal-tinged monster of ‘Their Law’ wraps up The Prodigy’s assault on a Knebworth. It would be fitting that ‘Their Law’ is the Essex boy’s parting shot, originally penned in reaction to the Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994, which criminalised raves and rave culture, the venomous howl of “fuck ‘em and their law” thrusts a middle finger in the direction of anyone doubting The Prodigy would work at Sonisphere. You’ll be hard placed finding a heavier, more aggressive and innovative act over the course of the weekend – “fuck ‘em and their law” indeed.

Photography by Naomi Abbs

Live Photos: Band of Skulls @ Sonisphere 2014

Band of Skulls @ Sonisphere 2014, Knebworth, UK, 4th July 2014

Photography by Naomi Abbs

Album Review: Honeyblood

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Artist:  Honeyblood

Title:  Honeyblood

Record Label: FatCat Records

Release Date: 14th July 2014

Rating: 8.5/10

"Another fucking bruise/this one looks just like a rose" trills Stina Tweedddale on closing track ‘Braidburn Valley’ and with these beautiful yet macabre words, we understand the ethos of Honeyblood and the duo’s confessional self-titled debut LP. Much like the pair’s sweetly brutal name, the band’s first album combines an adolescent swing of emotions with raw, fuzzy indie rock. 

Instead of being in the eye of the teenage storm, Honeyblood’s sonic appeal is that of a butterfly emerging from its chrysalis but a naive innocence still resonates with a burning, tongue-in-cheek ire. ‘Super Rat’ positions the band calmly recounting the story of a low down dirty scoundrel “I will hate you forever/ I will hate you forever/scumbag/sleaze/slim ball/grease/you really do disgust me” all delivered with a grin but with a knife situated somewhere between the unnamed suitors shoulder blades. The gulf between teenagedom and young adulthood rings true on ‘All Dragged Up’ where Shona McVicar’s rapid drumming and Tweedddale’s fuzzy guitars paint the picture of someone clinging onto their old childish ways. “Why won’t you grow up/ why won’t you grow up/do we have to drag you up?” We’ve all got that pal who lives that eternal student life - this is about them. Fading friendship and drifting apart also factors during ‘Honeyblood’s lifespan, throughout the fast paced scratchiness of ‘Killer Bangs’ the Scottish twosome reflect reluctantly but defiantly about having to move on with one’s life “I don’t want to have to go on without you/but I have to” a short-sharp summary of how certain people are present in your life for fleeting moments but not permanent fixtures. Transition and the clarity of embarking on a new chapter becomes a main theme on ‘Honeyblood’ but instead of remorsefully reflecting on the past, there’s a feeling of catharsis with a confident nod towards the future.

A prerequisite for a two piece is to make as much noise with the sum of your parts but with Honeyblood, the noisiness is toned down to ensure melody and other textures are allowed to shine through. On previous recordings the Glaswegian’s projected themselves as coarse pop minstrels but on their debut those rough edges have been smoothed over ever so slightly, applying a sugary layer on top of the raw amalgamation of guitars and drums. 

It would be trite to claim ‘Honeyblood’ as a coming of age LP but in saying that, a notion of shedding childish idiosyncrasies is blood coursing through the album’s veins. Bitterly sweet and honestly autobiographical Honeyblood have distilled the emotional transition to adulthood with the jab of a smiling knife. 

Blissfields 2014 In Photos

Photography by Naomi Abbs

The Blissfields Experience

Over time the ‘festival experience’ has been lost somewhat. Now attending a summer bash has become a rite of passage akin to your first boozy trip to Malia with the boys or indeed, girls. What should be several days absorbing music, art and saying goodbye to the wider world for a weekend, translates into being shitfaced neck deep in mud whilst ignoring the multitude of amazing bands/acts/crafts ready for you to get your teeth into.

Blissfields on the other hand is an entirely different beast, this is a festival enjoying its 14th year and it’s in fine fettle thanks to a wonderful array of musicians to saviour, activities for all the family and a stunning setting that invokes journeying through the rabbit hole to a candy coated dream world. Predominately it’s a music festival but the wealth of artistic detractions are a stunning jewel to Blissfields’ crown – if you wish to try your hand at leather craft, fancy having a go at being a blacksmith or simply tie dying yourself a kaleidoscopic t-shirt as a momento of your time at the Winchester event, these are the tip of the crafty iceberg. With the myriad of gorgeous food to indulge your inner foodie, a quick game of pitch ‘n’ putt and of course the sumptuous spa area, suffice to say, Blissfields is a one of a kind festival and one that has more to offer than just getting drunk as a skunk. 

Whilst exploring Blissfields we fed our musical bellies as well as feasting on a vast array of delicious grub – We Were Promised So Much is first and foremost a music blog but by Christ we like to eat! The first offering on the festival’s diverse mezze board that we had the pleasure to wrapped our ears around was London whippersnappers, Jungle Doctors and considering this year’s fancy dress theme was ‘Walk on the Wild Side’ our primary choice of band comes with a coincidental vibe. Taking to the site’s The Hustle Den, the young five piece prowl the stage as if they’re headlining the whole shindig, there’s a confidence that exudes from the quintet that makes them a bright star for the future. Boasting an indie-rock sound that’s not a million miles away from Swim Deep, Peace and the slightest hint of Two Door Cinema Club, these boys definitely cast a spell over the amassed throng on a drizzly day in Hampshire. 

Apparently at Blissfields it never rains, which would be a lie as on Saturday the heavens opened and indeed, the waterproofs and wellies had to be adorned to protect us from the elements once we graced the Wild Stage. Just the remedy to this precipitation is Ry X and his soothing static lullabies. With a voice of velvet and guitar tones which waft and caress the air, it’s no surprise that the clouds cease their downpour and that giant orb in the sky makes an appearance to soundtrack X’s idyllic fuzz. X, or Ry Cuming to his pals, has to be one of the most humble and genuine souls to grace the planet as his gratitude and modest demeanour warmed the cockles of our hearts as the sun started to beat on our necks.

With a changeable weather pattern, it’s with a curious irony that Bipolar Sunshine follows Ry X. Adio Marchant’s sweet and sour soundtracks the dark clouds subsiding until rays of glowing light drench Blissfields for the first time on what was a gloomy Saturday. Backed by three musicians, Marchant’s performance slowly gathered pace until the triple helping of ‘Where Did The Love Go?’, ‘Rivers’ and ‘Love More Worry Less’ get the crowd off their feet and their hands in the air. Blissfields and Bipolar Sunshine are a match made in Hampshire and the closing manifesto of ‘Love More Worry Less’ fits today’s festival like a glove. 

Back in The Hustle Den, Southampton’s Laurel delivered an icy cool set forged by the swooning sound of a cellist, Portishead beats and glacial synths. Despite the starlet’s aural frostiness, Laurel radiates an infectious warmth that has large quarters of the audience hollering her name and immediately posting performance snaps onto Twitter or so claims a devoted Laurel fanatic. Straddling the line between girl-next-door and sensual provocateur, Laurel moulded Blissfields in her hand like putty.

Back to The Wild Stage and Blissfields is freewheeling to an ecstatic finale, transporting us from Winchester to the glitzy yet grubby sidewalks of New York, Hercules and Love Affair light the blue touch paper for a dance fuelled disco party with Andy Butler’s rubbery take on house music garnering feverous responses from the melee down the front. As Butler pulls the strings from behind his vast array of sonic gadgets, two singers take centre stage and command Blissfields like a pair of disco-cheerleaders. It’s a joyous sub-headlining set and one fitting for a festival that carries the name Blissfields. Tonight we all had a Love Affair with Hercules!

After HLA’s hip shaking transatlantic disco, it’s time for the audio collagists, 2manydjs to bind together the weird and the wonderful from their burgeoning record collection. With the crowd nicely limbered up, the Belgian’s headlining spot crowns of Blissfields with the brothers Dewaele merging a plethora of crowd pleasers. Granted watching two grown men – who bear a resemblance to Columbo and Inspector Gadget thanks to their rain-macs - toil over a bank of musical toys isn’t the most engrossing, nevertheless witnessing the cat and mouse of crowdsurfers versus security is hilarious, it seems just as a party goer is bound to be plucked from the undulating sea of hands they’re thrust back into the crowd to bobble like flotsam and jetsam.

From the likes of Disclosure’s ‘White Noise’, the band’s adopted theme tune ‘Peter Gunn’ to The Human League’s ‘Don’t You Want Me Baby’ and the closing one-two of ‘Girls and Boys’ by Blur and Supergrass’ anthem to eternal youth ‘Alright’, the overall feeling is that David and Stephen have pilfered our favourite anthems, cut them up, stuck them back together again and supercharged them with a ribcage rattling assortment of beats. 2manydjs wrap up Blissfields Wild Stage and it’s left to Mel and Paul Bliss to thank all those that have made this such a fantastic event, from the punters, to the artists and all those behind the scenes, the Winchester shindig all of sudden morphs into less a festival and more of a huge party with a shedload of new friends.

We scamper off to the Hidden Hedge and immerse ourselves in the frenetic, chaos of Area 51 to keep the party going…that’s where our tail ends of 2014…same time next year? Bet your leopard print loincloth we’ll be back!

Photography by Naomi Abbs

Blissfields 2014 – The Acts You Don’t Want To Miss

Since its meagre inception back in 2001, Blissfields has slowly evolved from “friends having a great party in a field” to a two day festival that’s “lots of new found friends having an incredible party in a field”. 2001 saw Blissfields crop up on the festival radar, cobbled together by a bunch of fairy lights, a sound system hired the morning of the shindig and roaring bonfire. Leap forward into 2014, the Winchester knees up is a multi-staged festival drawing in talent from all over the global. 2manydjs, Sleigh Bells, Tune Yards, Wolf Alice and many more factor this year amongst a whole host of DJs. Blissfields carries a theme for each annual outing and 2014 is no different; you’re invited to “walk on the wild side”. Prepare yourself to go native at Blissfields 2014.

Here’s our choice of acts that’ll make Blissfields 2014 another year to savour…

Sleigh Bells

Sugary sweet and visceral in equal measure, Sleigh Bells are sonic terrorists sent on a mission to meld together abrasive hardcore punk shredding and hip hop production so that you can lose your shit and dance like a loon. Alexis Krauss and Derek Miller invoke the aural bedlam of a punk band hijacking a troop of cheerleaders. Krauss is the gooey centre to the pair’s arsenal, saccharine to the taste with the moves of a girl band member raised on Black Flag whereas Miller is the engine room, the brutal outer core that hammers out blistering fretwork to juxtapose Krauss’ syrupy tones. This is all wrapped up in a shiny package of r ‘n’ b beats and chirps making for a multi-faceted, 3-D experience. Blissfields, you’re in for a treat.

2manydjs

The original mash up kings, 2manydjs have the pleasure in bringing Blissfields 2014 to an energised digital-flecked close. Primed and ready to dispense with their copy ‘n’ paste electronica, the brothers Dewaele have an entire sonic encyclopaedia to draw from; be prepared to have your ears treated to a dizzying array of veritable tasty morsels. Be it Iggy Pop, Destiny’s Child, Missy Elliot, Salt ‘n’ Pepa or some random TV jingle from back in the day, 2manydjs are the aural equivalent to MacGyver – give them the bare bones of music and they’ll get any dancefloor or in the case, a field in Winchester, bouncing like its New Years Eve 1999.  

Hercules and Love Affair

Festivals are meant to be big parties aren’t they? That communal experience of losing yourself in a field whilst being absorbed by the best music washing over you like a sonic tidal wave. Positioned neatly underneath main stage headliners, 2manydjs, are NYC dance-merchants, Hercules and Love Affair. Suffice to say, those party vibes will be ramped into overdrive once The Big Apple residents get their hometown disco pumping. New York for years has been synonymous with The Strokes and garage-rock but HLA represent a glamourous side of the five boroughs, albeit with cigarette burns on its cocktail dress.  Protagonist and head honcho, Andy Butler helms the band and drafts in a choice band of musical visionaries to bring HLA’s rubbery New York disco to life. Glitzy and oh-so fabulous, dust of those disco pants, Hercules and Love Affair are coming to town.

Wolf Alice

Boundaries are something that Wolf Alice are blissfully unaware of. The London troop’s aural goods are a tricky deal to summarise, this is a band who can mesmerize an audience with a pin-drop silence but then detonate with a cavalcade of roaring grunge-pop roughness. Ambient but oh-so noisy, Wolf Alice are riding the crest of a wave thanks to the plaudits garnered from their ‘Blush’ and ‘Creature Songs’ EPs merged with the band’s empathic live shows. Happily disobeying convention, Wolf Alice are one of the UK’s most treasured new bands – you’d be a fool to miss them at Blissfields this year. 

Years and Years

Years and Years’ synth led dance pop showcases the trio’s knack of melding boinging basslines and effervescent synths which in turn provoke comparisons to geeky-dance collective Hot Chip. Elsewhere, Years and Years craft a sound that drips with contemporary R ‘n’ B and saunters with a nonchalant groove. The London three piece set the airwaves a flutter with the bedroom electronica of ‘Real’, a track that caresses your ears with a euphoric, anthemic quality and one that’s set to get your feet moving all night long.

Chloe Howl

Who says pop music has to sound stale and uninspired? “Fuck those naysayers” that’s what ballsy teenager Chloe Howl would say (or something to that degree). Cut from similar cloth to Lily Allen and Kate Nash, Howl strikes an androgynous figure with a pop aesthetic that siphons off the best ingredients for electronica and drum ‘n’ bass. ‘Rumour’ is a surging melee of fluid synth lines and rapid fire beats that will certainly get this year’s Winchester party bouncing. Equally, with the squealing ‘No Strings’ we see the starlet flash her fangs with “No more crawling in your bed/fuck your no strings/I hope you have twins” proving she’s not someone to trifle with.  Instantly poppy with a venomous streak, that’s Chloe Howl! Don’t miss her over the weekend.

Bipolar Sunshine

This year’s Blissfields Festival is a melting pot of musical titbits, there’s 2manydjs’ aural collages, Sleigh Bells acerbic punk-rock-cum-cheerleader pop and then, there’s Bipolar Sunshine or Adio Marchant, a man who draws from Kanye West as much as he does Arctic Monkeys. A musical architect who loves to mine the furrows of Kendrick Lamar whilst positioning one ear towards The Smiths. With these contrasting but complimentary touch-points comes the young Mancunian’s vast appeal. Marchant is an uplifting prospect whilst having the ability to burrow right into your heart and soul. “Love more and worry less” Marchant declares on the track of the same name, that’s a good manifesto to have and one that rings true with Blissfield’s goodtime vibes. 

For more information on Blissfields

http://www.blissfields.co.uk/

https://www.facebook.com/Blissfields

https://twitter.com/blissfields

https://www.youtube.com/user/blissfields

http://instagram.com/blissfields

Album Review: Phantogram

Artist:  Phantogram

Title:  Voices

Record Label: Island Records

Release Date: 30th June 2014

Rating: 7.0/10

Phantogram are a two piece from New York and this split personality observation echoes further than the sum of their parts. Made up by Sarah Barthel (vocals, keyboard) and Josh Carter (vocals, guitar), sonically and lyrically the pair take up two different camps and this is evident on sophomore LP, ‘Voices’. Aurally, the production is crispy and almost R ‘n’ B like, large chunks of the album are precise and wrapped around robust processed beats. As the ying to the musical yang, Barthel’s vocals are elusive, chilling and carry, at times, bleak undertones. Phantogram have a tendency to serve themselves up raw and with this ‘Voices’ beholds are a generous helping of catharsis. ‘Celebrating Nothing’ sonically finds the pair sweeping into a shoegaze zone where fuzz is king and a celestial hue whirls around a persistent buzzing stomp. The track’s backdrop is reassuringly optimistic but lyrically Barthel appears desolate, maybe even broken. “Give me a reason to stay alive/I have a feeling we’re gonna die” and “All the time I waste on celebrating nothing” encapsulates Phantogram teetering on the edge of the abyss.

‘Voices’ has a preoccupation with failure, dejection and remorse but these harsh themes are obscured by the band’s aural inventiveness. Not that Barthel and Carter should bury their sentiments deep amongst the din but the Trojan horse effect illustrates a deft knack in uniting uplifting instrumentation with wordplay that’s the polar opposite. 

Ultimately the NYC-ers waft with a fuzzy aesthetic but on ‘The Day You Died’, the duo opt for a more direct approach, Barthel’s vocals aren’t cloaked in reverb and riffs are present instead of walls of ethereal whirring. Equally, Phantogram’s lust to innovate and experiment is an enticing prospect, ‘I Don’t Blame You’ is a menagerie of different textures invoking a national anthem inspired by John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’ being played at a deep space carnival. ‘My Only Friend’ rounds off ‘Voices’ by seguing a bleak void of nothingness into hummingbird-esque rhythms. This is where the album’s notions towards dejection and desolation come to a head “you’ve lost your battle” and “you’re all I have/my only friend” sear through the now, imposing a mechanical rattle.

Emotive and stripped bare, Phantogram are straddling the line between synthetic and organic whilst offering up an album that is nothing short of confessional. 

Live Review: Kasabian

Artist: Kasabian

Venue: Victoria Park, Les-tah, UK

Rating: 7.0/10

Date: 21st June 2014

Homecoming gigs, big or small are a huge deal. If you’re that band playing the Dog and Duck every Christmas or the local boys done good filling a stadium in your backyard to hordes of thousands, being embraced by your people, in your town, must be immense. This weekend, Leicester lads Kasabian fulfilled that dream, after 10 years since the release of their self-titled debut, they’re back where it all began, in the heart of Leicester playing to an amassed throng of 50,000 revellers. Victoria Park is where the four piece situated the party and suffice to say, it had all the hallmarks of right royal knees up although despite all the hubbub of the returning princes who are to become kings and despite the large scale event, there was something missing. The sense of celebration was thick in the air but the triumphant, career defining performance only glimmered when it should have shone. You could see in the faces of Serge Pizzorno, Tom Meighan, Chris Edwards and Ian Matthews the sense of being overwhelmed, but the band’s normal cocksure strut seemed hampered. Akin to that yearning sensation of always wanting to drive a Ferrari but not knowing what to do once you finally get the keys, Kasabian appeared tentative for large chunks of their self-congratulatory homecoming.

The diluted feeling of performance is deep seated; Kasabian’s support bill appeared cobbled together at the last minute with Rudimental, Zane Lowe and Beardyman performing DJs sets, turning the green expanse into a colossal student’s union. The only band to speak of, Jagwar Ma hummed with a forgettable din. Interspersed throughout the music, the Leicester contingent morphed from good natured party goers to feral sub humans. If it wasn’t for the excessive piss throwing, the anonymous white powder being snorted from housekeys, the close-call fisticuffs or actually watching someone pee their pants waiting for the toilet, some of the crowd took the shine off what was supposed to be a momentous occasion. Like being hurled into ‘What Happens In Leicester’ – this was not a gig in essence, more a debauched substance abuse session in a park, with a support act of Kasabian. We’re no proods, we’ve been round the festival block more times than you’d care, we’ve seen some shit…actual shit but Victoria Park took it to a different level.  

Attempting to erase lewd scenes of human behaviour from our minds, Kasabian ploughed through a set that pilfered from their crowd pleasing back catalogued. Newbie ‘Bumblebeee’ kicked off proceedings nicely but the seething monster it should have been seemed to have its shackles too tight. ‘Underdog’ and ‘Fast Fuse’ where greeted like new national anthems and ‘Eez-eh’ was being chanted long before the Leicester boys dispensed with it mid-set. There’s no doubting sonically the quartet have the arsenal to slay 50,000 people but it’s the stage presence that didn’t mirror that aural gold. Yes Meighan struck his messiah poses more times that Jesus would allow, and yes Pizzorno strutted around the stage like a wiry prize fighter but the crowd engagement fell flat. There’s only so many times you can bark ‘Les-tah, Victoria Park’ or prompting fans to thrust their hands up to the sky before you need to re-read the rock ‘n’ roll cliché rulebook.  

Main set closer ‘Fire’ ignited a field wide most pit while expertly lighting the blue touch paper for three set encore of ‘Switchblade Smiles’, ‘Vlad The Impaler’ and ‘L.S.F’  with the latter seguing Fatboy Slim’s ‘Praise You’. If the main part of the band’s home turf show was them finding their feet, the encore roared with an astute confidence and one that’ll serve them well when the band close of Glastonbury this coming weekend. If Kasabian can carry on this momentum from their encore to Glastonbury, they’ll solidify themselves in the festival’s rich history and blow Metallica and Arcade Fire off the Pyramid Stage.

In customary fashion, the four piece took a bow and splattered the heaving, inebriated throng with dozens of superlatives and then they were gone. As if preaching to the converted Kasabian have earned the keys to the city.

Photography by Naomi Abbs

EP Review: Ghost of the Avalanche

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At times we’re a chameleon to our environment and to our subject matter, so in the case of Ghost of the Avalanches’ latest EP, ‘Body Snatchers’, we’re not going to ramble on in some kind of flabby monologue about how great it is, no we’re going to cut to the chase and rattle out this review in 312 words. 

Noisy-punk two piece, GOTA have forged a four track EP that clocks in at just under five minutes with the longest track being an epic two minutes, seventeen seconds. In comparison to the rest of ‘Body Snatchers’, ‘Prescribe This’ is the twosome’s Bohemian Rhapsody! The Bristol based duo certainly don’t mess around when it comes to going straight for the jugular as each moment of their new body of work accelerates with an ADHD burst of urgency.

‘Body Snatchers’ reverberates with the sound of Nick Wiltone’s fuzzed up bass and Miles Per-Hour’s powerful drumming. Then there’s Wiltone’s tuneful vocal that morphs into a visceral bark, best illustrated on the EP’s title track; a sheer blast of punk fury which has the vocalist hollering the song’s moniker like a punk rock banshee. There’s a rawness to ‘Body Snatchers’ that translates through the scuzzy walls of bass and explosive beats – but the subject matter is equally as harsh with social paranoia, mental illness, vacuous partying and mindless violence making up GOTA’s own take on social awareness. It’s on ‘Monkey Knife Fight’ where you can envisage the streets of Booze Britain tearing lumps out of one another. ‘Prescribe This’ hints at the mental illness previously mentioned – “you know/we’ve all got our problems/and does it show/no-one can solve them”.

Short, sharp and ear threateningly loud – prepared to be abducted, the ‘Body Snatchers’ are coming for you. 

For more information on Ghost Of The Avalanche - 

www.ghostoftheavalanche.bandcamp.com

https://www.facebook.com/GhostOfTheAvalanche

https://twitter.com/ghostoftheav

Ghost Of The Avalanche release ‘Body Snatchers EP’ world-wide on limited edition, ‘snot green’ 7” vinyl through GREBO RECORDS and digital download (all major digital retailers) through CASSEBLANK RECORDS on Friday 20th of June 2014.

 Vinyl pre-order available here (pre-orders available now).

Hot New Track: Alt-J – Hunger Of The Pine

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Alt-J tracks aren’t conceived from jams or working stuff out in soundchecks, no, they are engineered, built with precision and delivered with the poise of man machines but without the horrible repercussions of being mechanical.

Working as a taster of what to expect from their sophomore LP, ‘This Is All Yours’ – ‘Hunger Of The Pine’ is where the now three piece – bassist Gwil Sainsbury left earlier this year – have introduced a liquid-like aesthetic to their wares. Whereas before debut album, ‘An Awesome Wave’, was taut and wound like a spring, ‘Hunger Of The Pine’ drifts with a fluid, interchangeable motif of electronic waves. There’s heartbeat pulses, crispy cracks of static and bizarrely a sample of Miley Cyrus chanting “I’m a female rebel” from her own ditty, ‘4x4’. Thom Green’s rigid drumming doesn’t factor here until the track’s spaciousness has fully bedded in and by this point it’s evident Alt-J are striding confidently into their second tenure.

Vocalist Joe Newman still possess that unique baritone falsetto that gives the trio another unique edge and the perfect vehicle to translate the track’s lyrical nuances of longing and pining for that departed person. Putting it simply, ‘Hunger Of The Pine’ is a nod towards missing someone “Sleeplessly embracing/yawn yearns into me/plenty more tears in the sea”.

Akin to when Foals announced their return with the sublime ‘Spanish Sahara’, ‘Hunger Of The Pine’ illustrates Alt-J’s lust to progress and to experiment whilst still maintaining ‘An Awesome Wave’s rich appeal. The sonic scientists may have had a change in personnel but there’s no sign of second album nerves here.

'Hunger Of The Pine' from the upcoming album 'This Is All Yours' and available as an instant download with all iTunes pre-orders: smarturl.it/TIAYitunes

Also available to pre-order on Double Vinyl: smarturl.it/TIAYvinyl

Hot New Track: Gallows – Chains

Cinematic and grand are two things that Gallows have never shied away from. On their second LP, ‘Grey Britain’, the Watford punks embarked on merging visceral punk barbs with harrowing orchestral flourishes to forge a record bound together by a filmic aesthetic. ‘Chains’ is the quartet’s caustic return to the fray and with it, Gallows offer up a bile induced slow whir of angle grinder guitars, rock fall drumming and Wade MacNeil’s formidable bark. The track’s grandiose leanings can be heard in the opening notes of tensions with Dios Mio’s vocalist Helena Coan’s dulcet tones swirling with mesmerising quality before Gallows lurch into a drawn out scree of acerbic hardcore punk. 

Not one’s to subtly point the finger, ‘Chains’ is Gallows holding up a mirror to our current generation’s vacuous misgivings which has MacNeil howling “Sham Youth! Sham Love! Sham Revolution! Sham Rock ‘n’ Roll!” as if to exorcize the demons of modernity.

In Gallows we trust…

Chains’ is released 30th June on 7” Vinyl and Digital Download. Also includes another new track ‘Wristslitter’.

Pre-order 7” Vinyl: http://smarturl.it/chainsphysical 
Pre-order Digital: http://smarturl.it/chainsitunes

Album Review: Klaxons

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Artist:  Klaxons

Title:  Love Frequency

Record Label: Akashic Records

Release Date: 16th June 2014

Rating: 8.0/10

Who would have thought it, Klaxons in 2014 making a third record? Those heady days of ‘new rave’ are a distant memory, filed nicely next to ‘grindie’ – where grime and indie became very short bedfellows and ‘smetal’ the amazing unification of smooth jazz and metal…ok, the last one is a porky-pie. Seven years ago it was all about mashing up genres and if your band had penchant for synths back then, you’d be new rave without question. Klaxons were the torchbearers for this short lived genre and to be quite frank, the sole occupants in this musical pigeonhole. This niche served the three-piece well, with their debut LP, ‘Myths of the Near Future’ scoring the Mercury Prize in 2007. Despite widespread adulation towards the dance-collective, Klaxons had the faintest whiff of parody about them – longevity didn’t seem likely.

Three years rolled by without much new music to speak of but after decamping with knob-twiddler Ross Robinson, a man normally linked with nu-metal buffoons, Limp Bizkit and Korn, the London revellers produced their sophomore LP, ‘Surfing The Void’ which was largely embraced by fans and critics alike. However, the band’s momentum stalled and Klaxons disappeared into the k-hole they once emerged from. Until now. After another three year gestation period, we have ‘Love Frequency’ to…err…rave about. The two album’s that preceded their latest release were heavily constructed around abrasive walls of sound, caustic vocals and an almost aggressive take on rave, akin to the punks taking over the party and transforming it into a borderline riot.  Those acerbic edges have been rounded off to unveil a contemporary dance sound, one that has a kinship with hedonistic, arms-in-the-air 4am dancefloor moments instead of sweaty moshpits.

The cynics amongst us could easily sneer at the choice of first single, the Gorgon City produced ‘There Is No Other Time’ and in fact you’d be right to. We’ve been here before haven’t we, ‘returning band buddies up with hotter than hot dance act to carve out a comeback single’. Sonically, the track’s slant on chart friendly house music could smack of a desperate attempt to establish a foothold back near a musical summit that Klaxons once occupied. The trio find themselves teetering on a knife edge, there is the possibility they could plummet into washed up obscurity or land softly into a new realm of indie-dance greatness. In the context of ‘Love Frequency’, ‘There Is No Other Time’ is perfectly placed, just after the drilling noise of opening gambit ‘A New Reality’ that announces the ravers return like a hymn straight from the good book of dancefloor slayers. Signalling the band’s past and their future in this opening brace, ‘A New Reality’ is an exhilarating shedding of skin for Klaxons while ‘There Is No Other Time’ evolves in the guise of a composed, Top 40 threatening piece of Balearic inspired pop.

Optimism and hedonism reign supreme on the trio’s latest outing – lyrically it’s hard not to be absorbed by ‘Love Frequency’s positivity. In an aural match to the lyrical vitamin D, all those barmy nights indulging in dance music’s decadence has meant Klaxons are the masters of crescendo, in the same way a DJ builds up and then drops to create the feeling of euphoria, Klaxons’ third LP has more peaks and trough moments than a plane encountering turbulence. ‘Invisible Forces’ is where these two well suited entities combine to give ‘Love Frequency’ its burst of overwhelming sonic endorphins. ‘Rhythm of Life’ keeps the good vibes bubbling on a high heat but with an elongated build up forged by ricocheting beats and falsetto vocals. Executing restraint and poise is where ‘Atom to Atom’ excels, Klaxons keep the track on a tight leash with sparkling synths and heartbeat thumps providing a mainstay. All areas of control and discipline are then jettisoned once the track plunges into a huge splurge of cyber-electronic noise as if Klaxons have torn the fabric of time between Blade Runner and Tron. ‘Love Frequency’ realises Klaxons’ position as a pop group albeit one with its fingers in many audio pies. 

It’s refreshing in a time of continual apathy, a global financial slump that doesn’t seem to have ever gone away and political unrest, a band can craft an album such as ‘Love Frequency’. A complete antithesis of modern life. Klaxons’ third tenure is a compelling renaissance – one of escapism wrapped around the debauched thrash of the dancefloor.  

Album Review: Kasabian

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Artist:  Kasabian

Title:  48:13

Record Label: Columbia Records

Release Date: 9th June 2014

Rating: 8.0/10

What an enigma Kasabian are. They are the lairy boys from Leicester with the Oasis swagger and boisterous football terrace-like chants that masquerade as songs. A band to lose your shit to while hurling a pint of lager in the air whilst grabbing your best mate by the scruff on the neck like your team has won the Premier League. That’s the public persona, the ‘geezers from the east midlands’ stepping into the long faded shadow of the Gallagher brothers. But is that all true? Are Kasabian really a group of beer boys firing out songs to soundtrack the latest FIFA video game instalment and that’s it? Scratch the surface and since day one, amongst the rowdy foot stompers you’ll uncover a melee of electronics, unique psychedelic textures and a vulnerable side to the Leicester boys, one that’s not synonymous with getting boozed up and going wild. Across their now five album tenure, Kasabian have subtly been positioning themselves as the act to be adored by the footie fan as much as the leftfield muso that likes their music twisted, electrified and spontaneous. Like if Thom Yorke and the crew from Oxford weren’t as bookish – Kasabian have proved, in a stealth like manner, they can push the sonic envelope without jeopardising their arena status. And so comes, the fifth chapter in the legacy of Kasabian, ’48:13’, named after its running order. 

Entering the four piece’s latest record is akin to when Morpheus offers up the red or blue pill to Neo in the first Matrix film “you take the blue pill, the story ends. You wake in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill, you stay in wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes”. We took the red pill…

The first plunge into wonderland or ’48:13’ as its commonly known – is to the cinematic drone of ‘(shiva)’ the album’s instrumental opening credits that effortlessly erupt into the Muse-esque jackbooted stomp of ‘Bumblebeee’. Suffice to say, those big draw shows at Glastonbury and their homecoming at Leicester’s Victoria Park must have been on the band’s mind as they spawned this colossal beast. A classic in the waiting, there’s nothing subtle about the way ’48:13’ demands your attention, it begins with such a delayed detention you feel you’re having to play catch up as Serge Pizzorno’s gigantic riff threatens to rip the fabric of time. Kasabian have never been ones to shy away from dancefloor influences and this is where ‘Bumblebeee’ excels, what with its perfectly executed drops, designed to send festival crowds berserk. In the lead up to the release of their fifth record, Pizzorno and fellow partner in crime, Tom Meighan have stated ’48:13’ is ‘future rock ‘n’ roll’ and they’ve taken influence from the likes of The Prodigy, Rage Against The Machine, The Chemical Brothers, 60’s psyche-rock and hip-hop. Quite the concoction of aural components but the vast majority are what gives ‘Bumbleee’ its immediate, attention grabbing poise can be found in that roll call of touch points. 

Now you’re hooked by ‘Bumbleee’s pummelling, hedonistic melee, there’s no turning back, further down the rabbit hole we go! However, don’t be expecting another serrated riff-attack, ’48:13’ slowly evolves into where Kasabian allow their digital influence to bubble to the surface. Whereas before electronics took on a supporting role within past album’s, synths over power guitars to give the quartet’s fifth outing a machine driven nucleus. ‘Treat’ acts like the gateway into Pizzorno and Meighan’s android world - if you can imagine ‘Switchblade Smiles’ from fourth LP ‘Velociraptor!’ turned inside out and the jagged riffs left on the studio floor with post rave synth sirens in their place. Swagger isn’t far away with Pizzorno casually stating “Everybody knows I work it/work it like a treat” until midway through, the pace slows into a comedown without the crushing sadness led by downplayed Balearic style piano motif and pulsing digital burbles. It’s as if Kasabian have remixed themselves. Following tracks ‘Glass’ and ‘Explodes’ follow a similar sonic blueprint, with occurrences teetering heavily on synthetic sounds. The former exposes the band’s social consciousness, wrapped around DJ Shadow style beats and dark-womping electronics. Guest rapper, Suli Breaks wants to know why we’ve become so apathetic, “when did we stop chanting/when did we stop marching?” whilst also referencing the perpetual hamster wheel our lives have become. The latter’s tense oscillating electronic fritz is the perfect backdrop for Meighan’s frustrated words – “on and on it goes till my head explodes”.

Kasabian’s mirror holding to society crops up as a continual stream of awareness, ‘Stevie’ can be seen as a call to arms to your average Joe, to the downtrodden forgotten man. “Ordinary people/ordinary lives/it’s more than just existence/I see the fire in your eyes” plus “it’s no joke/I want to see your eyes wide” rally the troops with the urge to evolve, to challenge things, to inspire, to change. This may all sound very cheesy but it’s hard not to get caught up in the track’s rousing preaching. Lead single ‘eez-eh’ – that’s ‘Easy’ for non-Leicester folk – locates Kasabian’s inner Hot Chip combined with the Shaman (Eezer Goode anyone? No? Oh ask your parents!) despite the track’s lolloping beat and indie disco banger like tendencies, there’s a paranoia that seeps out via “every day is brutal/being watched by Google” that carries the slight whiff of naffness, like a monologue from your bonkers mate down the pub who claims big brother is watching us from our cereal boxes. Despites the lyrical clunkiness ‘eez-eh’ is another missive to be placed in the Kasabian cannon marked ‘crowd pleasers’.

Popping out of the rabbit hole with a bump and the feeling you’ve been abused by the Terminator and Wall-E, ’48:13’ ushers to a close with the lonesome swoon of ‘s.p.s’ – a track that Pizzorno concocted to reflect on his kinship with brother from another mother Meighan. It’s a tender moment on an album that can be intense and claustrophobic and one that caps off the band’s latest effort in a heartfelt and sincere guise.

’48:13’ is an album with an organic shell but a circuit board driven core – the Leicester lads said they had created ‘future rock ‘n’ roll’, which isn’t entirely true. Instead what they have done is indulge their experimental side, torn down any sonic barriers to make a brave album that’s as compelling as it is bonkers and as it is flawed as it is perfect. Red pill or blue pill…?