I thought you’d never ask.
Laurel Halo’s Quarantine
Horseback’s Half Blood
Cold Summer’s Wake
Richard Skelton’s Verse of Birds
Circle of Ouroboros’ The Lost Entrance of the Just
Laurel Halo’s Quarantine is a deeply melodic, resonant, queasy trawl through the kind of fractured hypnagoguery that Grimes or Julia Holter trade in. Kind of a tricksy Tujiko Noriko. Wobbly dub basslines shuffle under cut-up chorales of hooks and anchors. The production is incredibly detailed but, for all the hyperactivity, immersive and weirdly comforting. The cover painting shows a group of pretty manga schoolgirls cutting each to bloody shreds with katanas and laughing with happiness at the fun and sweetness of it all. Pretty much in line with the music, then.
More at http://soundcloud.com/laurelhalo
Horseback’s Half Blood is an immense, blackened throb of a record. By this point, calling them a black metal band or a post-black-doom-whatever act makes about as much sense as tagging them Mogwai’s elder, grimmer, Kraut-rocking brethren. Half Blood is built on huge, cycling riffs. They remind me of the immense timelocked train in China Miéville’s Iron Council. Closing song ‘Hallucigenia III: The Emerald Tablet’ is a Farfisa drenched pulse of psychedelic drones that sets us up nicely for the mighty BONG!
Samples at their Bandcamp location – http://horseback.bandcamp.com/releases
Bong play it like it says on Mana-Yood-Sushai’s tin. Two long tracks that unravel like a stoned (imagine that!) version of Acid Mothers Temple in one of their gentler, more tripped out moments. Music to sink into lucid dreams to.
And the inevitable Bandcamp link: http://bong.bandcamp.com/album/mana-yood-sushai
DIIV’s Oshin is the kind of name and album title bands from Brooklyn resort to when they realise that Dive and ‘Ocean’ are, conceptually, a teeny bit played out by this point. It’s a pleasant listen – 13 taut, reverb-heavy tunes harking back to classic Bunnymen and (more recently) Interpol. At worst, it makes me want to dig out the first Interpol album (though my affection for Turn On The Bright Lights never quite got over the appearance of Untitled* soundtracking a key emotional moment for Joey – Joey, of all people – on a late episode of Friends). The best bits are the instrumentals. The singing seems a bit unnecessary, to be honest. Also, to someone from Liverpool, calling your band DIIV is asking for a teeny bit of trouble, la.
Cold Summer describe themselves as a “post hardcore / rock band from wakefield”. They sent me a link to their current release on Bandcamp, a five song e.p. called Wake (http://coldsummer.bandcamp.com/album/wake). I can’t honestly say I loved it but the best tracks (‘Waiting’, ‘A for Arson’) have the kind of thunderously timeless riffing that positively shrieks classic NWOBHM. And, seriously, there’s nothing wrong with that. The singer’s at his best trying to get in touch with his inner Geddy Lee but the backing vocals are, however, some of the most horrible I’ve ever heard. And the ‘hardcore’ singing really needs to left to the likes of Pink Eyes. Anyways, Waiting’ is a pretty storming rock song by anyone’s standards, the e.p.’s a free download and it makes a nice change from the generic blues/AOR tat I normally get sent (hint: more than happy to listen to anything a little left field).
Lastly, Richard Skelton’s Verse of Birds arrived last month. Two CDs worth of new compositions referencing (but not in a slavishly programmatic way) the West coast of Ireland and the Northumberland landscapes resonating deeply within Skelton’s imagination. The music here is more layered and intricate than the more recent releases of his I’ve heard. Bowed steel strings hover at the edge of feedback (though never quite tumbling over), guitars clang like dulcimers. Wind and sea blow through wires that seem ever on the point of transmuting into tangled marran and shoreline scrub. All the same, it’s airy, uplifting music that demands (and repays) repeated close listening.
Listen to samples and buy it directly from the artist here.
Metal oddity of the month? Circle of Ouroboros’ outsider take on black metal, The Lost Entrance of the Just. Metal in the sense of the Cure of Carnage Visors covering Leonard Cohen in the style of Black Sabbath could be considered metal.
*Best song for arriving in Tokyo on a Shinkansen ever.
**The one where Joey kisses Rachel. Yes, I watched Friends when I was young. Don’t judge me. I was callow and uncool and desperately wanted to sit in a groovy coffee shop with my beautiful friends. But I was ever Gunther. Without Gunther’s hyper-kinetic sense of cool***
***Sorry. I haven’t the faintest idea what ‘hyper-kinetic sense of cool’ even means. Open to suggestions.