Album Club #32: Szun Waves, Pale Waves, High On Fire, TVAM, All Them Witches and more

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Pale Waves

As Liverpool chases off the far right again, Getintothis has a think about at why people should look to music and culture for inspiration and, in doing so, we recommend some new albums for you.

This weekend saw the latest attempt by the far right to stage a march through Liverpool.

This is not the first time such a thing has happened, it is in fact the third time in recent years that these meatheads have tried do whatever it is that they want to do when they march (we really don’t know what they are doing it for. Blue passports? New 50p pieces? On the off chance that somebody is going to see them and think ‘well they look like just the sort of fellows I should be spending my Saturday afternoons with. Pass me that swastika placard would you?’)

But Liverpool is not the sort of city to take this kind of thing lightly. Each time the fascists try to march here, Liverpool turns out in force to stop and humiliate them. A couple of marches ago, the English Defence League tried their hand, doing their feeble best to kick up some sort of media storm and saying their march would go ahead despite any and all protest, even going so far as to announce that ‘only bullets can stop us’.

When they came, they were met with a crowd of protesters at Lime Street station, where the police confined them to the lost luggage office ‘for their own safety’. The protesters threw bananas at the fascists until they were escorted to a train and taken back home, giving rise the one of the best hashtags yet seen – #OnlyBananasCanStopUs.

Undeterred, the far right were back shortly after this, looking to recover some credibility after being defeated by fruit. This time the anti fascists blocked their march and forced them to run back to the safety of their trains. One protester, who could no doubt see how the day would pan out, had the foresight to bring the Benny Hill theme tune along with him and the wit play it at full volume to accompany the far right scurrying off to safety. Not much credibility clawed back that day then.

This weekend, they tried something different. Instead of Lime Street, they chose to meet at Moorfields station, as if that was ever going to make any difference. Again, the good people of this city responded accordingly and the marchers were unable to leave the cover of the station before again being forced to beat a hasty retreat.

Of course people have the right to make peaceful protest, but this extends to both the demonstrators and the counter-demonstrators. Liverpool has again responded in a way that makes us swell with pride and it delivered a message in no uncertain terms that fascists are not welcome here. Let’s hope that this time they finally understand this and stay away from our city.

Of course, they may decide to take their vile views, hatred and bigotry to other cities, in which case we hope those cities respond with some of the vigour that Liverpool seems able to call on whenever it is needed.

There has been one image of the fascists recently that has troubled us. The image was of a member of a far right organisation standing by a war cenotaph, wearing a poppy and giving a Nazi salute. Just who does this idiot think the people he is attempting to honour with his poppy were fighting against? Who does he think actually killed them?  This is a sad situation, where patriotism is confused with xenophobia and where loving your own country is equated to hating other people’s.

If the people whose names are carved onto the cenotaph could see him Sieg Heil – ing, what does he think their reaction would be?  I can think of no more insulting a gesture to be performed here.  We should honour our fallen, not perform Nazi salutes from their memorials.

Dragging this narrative onto music for a moment, we remember once telling a football loving friend about going to a music festival. His immediate question was not concerned with mud, toilets or weather, his first thought about all this was to wonder how you could get fans from all over the country together in a field without it all kicking off. Relating this back to football for him, we asked him to imagine what would happen if we all supported the same team. He didn’t get it.

But music has long been a beneficial recipient of multicultural crossover, indeed it is impossible to imagine any modern music that does not benefit from this. Whether it is rock, disco, dance music or indie music that floats your own boat, the influence of black culture, gay culture and scores of other outside influences have birthed and shaped both the music and the culture that surrounds it.

And, as is so often the case, the world at large could do a lot worse than look at how music and its attendant culture works and take note.

And on that thought, let us turn our attention to the very finest of this month’s new music releases.

All Them Witches: ATW

New West

All Them Witches are this writer’s new obsession. We only discovered them late last year with the superlative Sleeping Through the War and ever since we’ve been playing catch up with their six year career.

That was until the Nashville heads dropped their fifth studio album ATW last month. And it drops like a grand piano – heavy, loud and clattering all over the place.

The tone is set from the get-go with Fishbelly 86 Onions living up to it’s batshit crazy title – all rollicking vocals, warlord guitar soloing and percussion rolls John Bonham would be proud of.

Indeed, drummer Robby Staebler weighs in heavily all over ATW for it’s a distinctly heavier, meatier album than its predecessor. Not necessarily in terms of riffs (there were loads of them before, and there’s loads of them once again) – but in mood.

This is a supremely brutal listen. Not just in terms of sonic pounding, take the repetitive stomp of HJTC a track which, like a Terminator, refuses to relent.

Similarly, closer (and finest track) Rob’s Dream is a languid bath of Led Zep Houses of the Holy era rock mysticism gliding amid Charles Michael Parks, Jr‘s wounded stoner vocals – it’s a positively drug-induced trip trudging it’s way to the frenzied finale – a masterclass in colossal noise.

However, what makes ATW such an ecstatic listen is in it’s subtlety; Diamond is a grinding malevolent slither which barely gets out of second gear, Harvest Feast straddles bountiful blues and windswept post-rock and in between there’s a multitude of production tricks which reveal the depth of a marvellous album over time.

But, yeah, those riffs – there’s simply no escaping them – see Workhorse‘s wild slide guitar,  or 1st vs. 2nd which free-forms into a Sabbath style jam. This is a band at the peak of their powers – and, fuck, do they pack a punch. Peter Guy

Eric Bachmann – No Recover

Merge Records

Eric Bachmann returns with his follow-up from the brilliant self-titled album released in 2016. The Archers Of Loaf and Crooked Fingers frontman has stripped back things here and whilst it’s more impenetrable than its predecessor, No Recover provides an array of fabulous moments once you find its sweet spot.

The first half is somewhat meandering through the scope of Bachmann’s slower Crooked Fingers numbers, however it’s the back half of No Recover which is the big winner.

The title track is the album’s centrepiece, with Bachmann signing “No recover/ain’t it good to feel the sun on your skin” parting with that junk-yard troubadour twang. It’s lovely in a watching-the-sun-rise sort of way. Wild Azalea and Dead and Gone finish the album off impressively, with Bachmann further demonstrating an uncanny ability to leave his best tracks until last (see the last two tracks on Eric Bachmann for further proof).

Whilst No Recover is Bachmann’s most straightforward album to date, it doesn’t mean it’s his most accessible. It does take some time to reveal itself and sink into your pores and with that in mind, I just hope Bachmann’s listeners give it the time that it deserves. Simon Kirk

High On Fire – Electric Messiah

Entertainment One Music

What a year it’s been for Matt Pike. First Sleep unleash a beast that is The Sciences, then High On Fire release Electric Messiah – an album that makes all the senses in your brain go crazy.

Since their partnership with producer, Kurt Ballou (Converge), High On Fire have gone from a stock standard sludgy thrash metal act, to this bile disgorging primal force pissing unbridled inventiveness.

2012 De Vermis Mysteriis was a reset of sorts, while 2015’s Luminiferous refined the inner-workings of its predecessor and with it, many suggested Pike himself was the new Lemmy (never, but still…). That notion won’t abate with Electric Messiah, High On Fire’s latest opus, rounding off this Berlin trilogy, if you will.

As for highlights. How’s about we start from the opening riffs of Spewn from the Earth to the closing biker dirge that is Drowning Dog? In-between, Electric Messiah is unrelenting and there are not enough column inches to elaborate. It’s riffs to the sky (thank you, Matt Pike). It’s slam dancing circle-pit mad (thank you, Des Kensal). It’s tongue out and shake your head uncontrollably near the jukebox in some fleapit boozer (thank you, Kurt Ballou).

Electric Messiah is the best bits of crust punk. It’s the best bits of hardcore. It’s the best bits of metal. It’s the best bits of stoner. It’s the best bits of sludge. And it’s the best bits of doom. Matt Pike is no Lemmy. Matt Pike is, indeed, Matt Pike and that’s just fine. Simon Kirk

Gareth Sager & The Hungry Ghosts: Juicy Rivers

Gareth Sager has form. He was one of the founding members of The Pop Group as well as being involved in Rip Rig & Panic with Neneh Cherry as well as countless other solo projects and collaborations.

The Pop Group disbanded in 1980, although have since re-formed for tours and a few album releases. Never an easy listen, that band, but they were always compelling. Albums such as We Are All Prostitutes and Y were shouty political rages at just about anything. But underlying all the screams and discordant guitars was a kind of funk base that has been a recurring theme though much of Sager’s work ever since.

This disc is no different. The opener Disco Sofa has that kind of Nick Cave/Birthday Party feel about it, crashing about on the surface, but underpinned by a solid foundation that keeps it ticking along and preventing it from descending into chaos.

Indeed that was, perhaps, the way of The Pop Group. Seemingly shambolic, but it never got out of control. A bit like the science of a mosh pit. Those involved all know what they’re doing and they adhere to the unwritten rules; it looks like mayhem, but everyone comes out alive in the end.

Here too, we have a similar mayhem, but it’s much more controlled. Maybe Sager’s mellowing in his later years. There is still that trademark funk feel, but the whole thing seems to be much more measured.

Bar Stool Warriors is possibly the most Pop Group-esque song on the album, but rather than being an anti-Thatcher rant, as was much of his earlier work, it’s a rage about pub bores and not being able to get a word in edgeways.

Sager’s music will never be filed in the Easy Listening category in Rough Trade, but in a ranking of his own back catalogue this is about as close as it gets. And that’s fine by us. We’d happily have him round for dinner. Peter Goodbody

King Champion Sounds: For A Lark

Excelsior Records

King Champion Sounds are an Anglo/Dutch band who were formed by Ajay Saggar in 2013. Saggar himself is quite the character: somehow ending up as the live engineer at Amsterdam’s legendary Paradiso venue after stints in Peel faves Dandelion Adventure in the early 90s and as a well known promoter in his native Lancashire, this well connected chap was good mates with the much-missed Mark E Smith and guests on previous albums have included J Mascis (Dinosaur Jr.), Mike Watt (The Stooges / Minutemen) and Scottish folk troubadour Alasdair Roberts.

Fittingly given these disparate influences, it should come as no surprise that  For A Lark (taken from a poem by Ivor Cutler) is a spellbinding album that demonstrates King Champion Sounds’ ability to create ten songs that take in elements of psychedelic krautrock, dub, free jazz, free folk, and electronica. And that’s just in in one solo.
On opener Clouds of Money, they somehow sound like Teardrop Explodes jamming with Goat while What Amanda Meant is like Jean Claude Vanier soundtracking a Hawkwind appearance at Stonehenge sometime in the late 70s.

Given his Lancashire roots, perhaps it was pre-ordained that bits of the aforementioned Fall, but also early Happy Mondays and New Fast Automatic Daffodils, come to mind but then Saggar brings his melodica party and you’re suddenly listening to King Tubby producing Can or The Clash in their vibing off dub days. And that’s before I’ve mentioned the brass section.

Freewheeling and free-spirited but somehow tied to the moorings of a very decent record collection, For A Lark is an outstanding record that takes flight with the best of them.  Jamie Bowman

Miles Hunt: The Custodian

The origins of this album came from a conversation that Hunt had about his career and how the ‘owners’ of his songs were now his audience, rather than him.

He was now just The Custodian, making sure that these songs, that have soundtracked people’s lives, were being treated and performed with respect. So a concept was born. This 30-track double album is literally the tale of one man’s musical life, performed with just his vocals and an acoustic guitar.

So, from the first song he ever wrote, aged 13, to the latest, now aged 52, this contains reworkings of at least one track from every album that he has ever released, either solo or with his various bands, in order of release.

Even though the songs are so stripped back, this only accentuates the sheer base quality of the originals. The Wonder Stuff period in particular is in parts so different from the recorded versions. Hunt does without the fiddles and crunchy guitars, whilst losing nothing of the tunes, reimagining the comedic childlike nonsense of The Size Of A Cow and completely losing the bombast of On The Ropes by turning it into a much bleaker creature, to name but two.

The ‘one man and guitar’ motif never tires or becomes predictable as the source material is so varied, from the thrashy blasts of his mid 90’s band Vent 414, to his later work with long-time violinist partner Erica Nockalls, this really is one joyous legacy.

It’s hard to see why more musicians don’t do this lookback at their own personal journey, but very few would be able to do it as successfully as this album does, with such heart, passion and obvious love for the songs. Steven Doherty

Murkage Dave: Murkage Dave Changed My Life

NONE

After successfully paving his own lane in the industry and turning heads over the past 12 months with a handful of single releases and features, Murkage Dave has finally released his debut studio album titled Murkage Dave Changed My Life. Best known for his central role in aiding the growth of the Manchester night life scene with his club night Murkage, its now time for him to take the spotlight himself.

It’s been a long time coming and the reception to the album has been unbelievable.  And its easy to understand why. The 14 track album boasts features from some of the scenes freshest talent, Jaykae and Manga Saint Hilare, as well as production from Skepta, Star Slinger, Hologram Lo, Narx and Massappeals.

Lyrically, the overarching theme of the album is melancholy brutal honesty. Its refreshingly socially aware and strikes as more of a conversation than an easy background listen and that’s the wonderful thing about it. Each track explores modern day issues, reflects on British culture and narrates relatable stories about everyday life. After collaborating with Mike Skinner for a number of years on their club night Tonga across London, influences of Skinner’s writing style can be heard in the conversationalist almost spoken word tone of the album.

Musically, gospel and soul influences can be heard through the soulful vocals of Murkage Dave atop nostalgic and old school garage beats influenced by his time growing up listening to pirate radio stations, as well as his time spent DJing. With subtle nods to UK grime and RnB, the album is a stellar example of why the British black music scene is ripe at the minute, but also an exemplary, distinctive and unique debut album from Murkage DaveOlivia Douglas

Pale Waves: My Mind Makes Noises

Dirty Hit

Pretend you have hidden under a rock for the last 18 months and you are only just discovering the Manchester-born, bubble-gum-goth, 4-piece and their melodically punchy debut album, you would be forgiven for thinking you’d stumbled across an unheard bunch of tracks from an era in the early 80s when lashings of Kohl eyeliner, several cans of hairspray and a billowing-black-shirt-dress-over-leather-pants was the general apparel, for men and women alike.

Except for two major giveaways – the slick production that is usually associated with emo-synth-pop behemoths, and indie label cousins, The 1975, as well as a plethora of Millennial terminology.

Cue 14 tracks of pure emotional teenage dilemmas, encapsulated perfectly by glossy synth-pop guitar riffs, disguised by beautiful upbeat melodies and angelic, yet resolute, vocals of Heather Baron-Gracie.

From the teasingly uplifting first bars of the opening track, Eighteen, in which two young lovers discover the joy of teenage love (which feels like ‘seeing colour for the first time’); through Noises, possibly one of the albums stand out tracks, addressing issues about severe low self-esteem, genuinely reflecting the voice of a generation that has grown up in a society where every event is photographed, every outfit is analysed, every wrong move judged.

Landing upon their second single (and first big hit), Television Romance, in which Heather repeals unwanted attention from a well-known anonymous other *cough* Oscar ‘Lulu’ Pollock *cough* followed by a firm roll of the eyes when the attentions continue regardless of there being no romantic connection (‘oh baby won’t you stop it, you and I haven’t got it’).

This keeps up all the way through to the grittily heartfelt album closer, the only acoustic track on the album, dedicated to Heather’s grandad Karl, in which Heather quite literally wonders ‘what it’s like to die’. An appropriately tender yet morose ending to an album that succinctly deals with the promises and pitfalls of teenage life, beginning and endings of intense romances and the first experiences of death.

Dirty Hit, the aforementioned cult indie label, who have already nurtured a handful of bands to definitive stardom, winning decidedly honourable awards and filling stadiums worldwide, definitely have another unashamedly electropop power rocket on their hands. Amy Faith

Emma Ruth Rundle – On Dark Horses

Sargent House

After her 2016 album, Marked For Death, Emma Ruth Rundle has been on some run, touring constantly on the back of these eight dark beguiling songs. During this period, Rundle has managed to get in the studio and conjure up more magic, this time with the mesmerising On Dark Horses.

Like Marked For Death, On Dark Horses’ quality is inexorable. Not one weak moment finds its way to tape here and the more time given to these tracks, the more they flourish.

The production differs from MFD, which – initially – is a little puzzling. But as these songs slither through your sub-conscience, things begin to make sense. The sound is less visceral, more tender. Like waves gently lapping up to shore. The production from Kevin Ratterman provides the required sonic bedding for these songs.

It’s hard to single out an individual track here, such as the quality from front to back during On Dark Horses. From the opening droning grunge of Fever Dream, to the ethereal Darkhorse and Apathy on the Indiana Border, these tracks brim with upper echelon song-writing. Then there’s the final You Don’t Need to Cry Anymore, which flawlessly caps off this emotional journey.

With On Dark Horses, it’s hard to articulate its magnitude. Listening to this album, along with its predecessor, Emma Ruth Rundle creates an atmosphere that makes her listeners feel safe. Like we’re all fighting against the darkness together and somehow it will be okay. She is hands down one of the most exciting artists around today.

 

Szun Waves: New Hymn To Freedom

The Leaf Label

Much like fellow UK independents Rocket Recordings, Heavenly Recordings and Full Time Hobby – you can always depend upon Yorkshire based, The Leaf Label to throw up one sure-fire belter each year.

For 2018, New Hymn To Freedom is that record.

Formed amid London’s improv jazz scene, the trio of saxophonist Jack Wyllie, synth experimentalist Luke Abbott (readers will be familiar with Abbott‘s frequent trips to Liverpool) and drummer Laurence Pike have concocted a six part suite of blossoming ambience which is both subtle and rather explosive.

Tracks frequently begin around minimal drum textures or barely there electronic sequences, gradually unwinding like metal coils falling down a staircase amid deeper layers of sax and glistening synthesizers – the latter taking on extraterrestrial life forms of their own seemingly ready to pollinate your speakers. All bubbles of light and drone.

It’s rarely, if ever, an easy listen – moods shift from the mournful 12 minute title track which is akin to Miles Davis fronting a downbeat Goat to the restless beat-fest of opener Constellation. It’d work wonders as a film score – and we’d urge you to watch the Sam Wiehl directed Moon Runes video – complete with collapsing in upon itself worlds. It’s fitting imagery, for a record which is cosmic and quite unlike any other.  Peter Guy

Throw Down Bones: Two

Fuzz Club

It’s difficult to pin these two down on the web or social media. For sure, there is a Facebook page and an artist page on the website of their record label, Fuzz Club. But actually trying to find much background is tricky. There was once a band called Piatcions, of which this pair were members, along with a drummer, Dario, who left them and the band disintegrated in 2013.

So we’re left with Davide Galli and Francesco Vanni to form a (then) new project called Throw Down Bones. They first came to our attention at Psych Fest in Liverpool in 2015 when they played a blinder in The Blade Factory and tracks from their eponymous first album. The Getintothis reviewer at the time didn’t agree, but acknowledged “Plenty of people … observed enthusiastically, we can only assume due to the late growing hour and the enjoyment of tasty beverages”. Well, I’ll confess to a few tasty beverages that night, but I also thought Saturator was a mammoth of a track and it had the room absolutely on board with what they were doing. All driven by a thumping but earworm-y bass hook.

The band was experimenting with 6 and 7 minute tunes – there was precious little in the way of vocals, save for texture. It didn’t have the power of, say, Mogwai or heaven forbid, God Speed! You Black Emperor, but it was arresting stuff. The band calls it a fusion of dance and psych and we’ll accept that. It’s a different market place for them.

So this morning, album number two drops on my doormat. We can joke about the title and how it’s not an exactly inspired choice. “Ha! Second album”. “What shall we call it? Any ideas?”

But, in fact it seems to make perfect sense. The laconic nature of this band is a thing to admire. They don’t shout on social media. They just get on and tour, write a few tunes and see whether anyone bites.

Two carries on where the album number one left off. It’s less psych and more dance and there may not be the ‘thump’ of the previous release. The songs are a bit shorter, too. But there’s still the layering and texturing going on that these two are so good at doing.

To be fair, it’s probably better consumed live. If not, then the volume needs to be cranked up pretty high to get the Throw Down Bones effect in your living room.

Someone should get an Airdrawndagger era Sasha to remix these guys. It’d be epic. Or just get them sitting down together and natter. That would be epic too.  Peter Goodbody

Treetop Flyers: Treetop Flyers

Loose Music

Is there a jazz rock revival going on right now? There certainly is in our city of Liverpool. The badlands of L Town are awash with collections of cork-screw-haired kids melding all manner of synths and brass; Samurai Kip and Blurred Sun Band are two of particular, ahem, note, you should be paying attention to.

I mention this as Treetop Flyers were a band who we’d always previously associated with brushed Autumnal Americana yet their eponymous third studio album ditches their tendency for melancholic folk and amps up the coffee house soul – and it’s all the better for it.

Sweet honeyed vocals courtesy of Reid Morrison provides the easy-steady backbone but elsewhere there’s choppy guitars, breezy percussion, modulated synths trading with swelling Hammond organs all set to a brisk jazzy pace which is decidedly easy on the ear.

When they do slow it down on the waltzing piano and trumpeting ballad Needle its to beautiful effect. But for the most part, Treetop Flyers is a joyful, exquisite listen which takes on a newfound glory with centre-piece, the eight minute fuzz-drenched Art of Deception which reimagines Steely Dan jamming with My Morning Jacket. Tremendous.  Peter Guy

TVAM:  Psychic Data

So, here we are, listening to what for me is a familiar sound. Growing up in the early eighties in what at the time was a grim but beautiful city of Liverpool. I would find sanctuary among the many little clubs and music venues. In these places I would submit to the dance floor and forget about the bomb, the mass unemployment and the desolate existence of my reality and fall constantly in love with whatever indie gem was booming through the pa.

But, what has this got to do with TVAM? In this album are memories of those wonderful bleak days. Mixing the obvious 80’s indie (yes, you’d call it shoegaze) vibe of bands such as the Ultra Vivid Scene, The Charlottes and many more, with elements of mid 00’s bands of the likes of Black Moth Super Rainbow and Tobacco. TVAM brings these sounds into a near perfect album. Yes, a few of these songs are from his single, but reimagined in the album, combining into a maelstrom of sounds that delight this listener.

There are some pure joy at moments on this album. The song Bitplain for me is a stand out classic. It throbs and jars at a pace that is so satisfying merging into for me the albums hook of a track “these are not your memories” which will, I’m sure to be a classic song for the future generation. If you can, go see TVAM live and listen to this album. It’ll be the best thing you do this year.  Guy Nolan

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