Archive | January 2013

soundCHECK 185 – January 31st 2013

If it were possible to slice open January with a thought-scalpel and leer at its gruesome innards, it would doubtless feature a huge tumour of pensive reflection. That’s what people do in January. Reflect. Before the year begins properly (I’m looking at you, February) people muse upon their place in the world, their hopes, their ambitions and what they’ve achieved. They make resolutions. They break resolutions. They make them again. It’s what January is all about.

Well, with January’s passing upon us, let us pause to consider the state of our digital lives. Because Likes and LOLs and tweets and trollism have become so commonplace that it’s easy to forget we have all been scooped up in the whirlwind of an era-defining digital revolution. A revolution that has given rise to a glut of new words (or ‘neologisms’ for the language geeks among you). Cast your mind back ten years. Back then, asking your dumbfounded boss to ‘search YouTube’ would have probably had them calling security with one hand while writing your P45 with the other. Imposing the same request on your girlfriend would be grounds for a dumping, unless she was particularly liberally-minded.

Yet these days it’s more remarkable if your day doesn’t feature a few fleeting moments staring into YouTube’s binary abyss. It’s a global obsession. Small wonder, then, that YouTube has become a focal point for many bands’ viral marketing activities. Of course, some marketing is weirder than others. And when it comes to incorrigible leftfieldism, you can normally count on synthed-up head-spinners The Dead Betas, who sound like boisterous toddlers successfully smashing a square into a circle-shaped hole.

The members of said band have weird names and everything. Like Aidan Sugaboi and Martron. The latter has taken the Batman vs Bane fight scene from Dark Knight Rises and re-imagined it in classic Adam West style. If you’re a Batman fan pining for nostalgia or have too much time on your hands, search YouTube for ‘Batman vs Bane (Adam West style)’.

In proper Dead Betas news, the Torrington-based five-piece have announced a full UK tour in the summer. It starts in Bideford, ends in Birmingham and takes in Plymouth, Bristol, London, Glasgow and Manchester in between. Joining them are former North Devoners Oh Captive ( Tickets are available to pre-order from They cost £4.

In less boisterous but equally beautiful news, newly conceived North Devon duo Projectionist have released themselves a short, seven track album. Spurred by their love of Bon Iver, Sigur Ros and Arcade Fire, the duo (David Huntley and Ben Payne) have created a warm, deeply pensive and emotionally redolent acoustic album that sounds like the flickering flames of a winter fire. ‘North Star’ in particular is a thing of merited beauty. Pour yourself a beaker of wine and take a listen. It’s an item of cosy solace for these depressing winter nights. Just aim your internet at

How the digital age spoils us.

CONTACT: In a local band? Get it off your chest by emailing jharper[at] or tweeting @testforpulse so I can write about you.

soundCHECK 184 – January 24th 2012

There’s nothing like the topic of genetic intervention to liven up the moral barometer. Well, what if DNA jiggery-pokery has been taking place right here in North Devon? Yep, right under your unsuspecting nose. Here is the case.

Pronghorn antelopes are good at running. If one were competing in the London Marathon, it would canter round in about 45 minutes. (That’s the same as pegging it from Barnstaple to Woolacombe and back in three quarters of an hour.) And forget about flustered celebrations and foil jackets at the finish line. Pronghorn antelopes can sustain speeds of 30mph for up to an hour. Our victorious pronghorn would simply collect its medal and keep running until it found some grass to eat. Clare Balding can jog on if she wants an interview. Literally.

Less speedy (but equally likeable) is the Philippine tarsier, which is about the size of a lorry driver’s fist. This little monkey-like chap has a voice so shrill that you need special equipment to hear it. Elaboration: the shrillest noise a human ear can detect (Graham Norton’s laugh?) has a frequency of about 20 kilohertz. The Philippine tarsier cries out in the 70-kHz range. It communicates in pure ultrasound.

With those special skills in mind, it’s impossible to deny the possibility North Devon’s musical brothers Ben and Joe Brewer are products of a genetic melange: part human, part pronghorn, part Philippine tarsier.

The younger of the fraternal duo, Joe Brewer, recently moved to Bristol. Before that he was well-known in North Devon’s musical circles as the bass player in blistering post-punkers Severe:Zero. But forget his bass hooks. It was his helium-high vocal range that raised most eyebrows. His soaring vocal harmonies with Severe:Zero’s frontman Luke Bond continue to defy logic and the limits of human anatomy. And you can hear evidence on his new solo track, ‘Self Help Puncher’: a riotous slice of snotty punk-rock with a hypodermic jab of pop sensibilities. It’s fun. Go listen to the human Philippine tarsier at

Then we have Ben Brewer, who regularly features at North Devon’s open mic nights under the guise of Benji One Lung, stealing hearts with acoustic renditions of his searing punk-rock. (Lowdown at  On 18th August he’s running from Barnstaple to Bristol – in one day. I’ll repeat that: he’s running from Barnstaple to Bristol in a day. That’s a journey of about 100 miles (four marathons). It’s an insanely bold challenge. One that defies logic and the limits of human anatomy. Ben is taking on the gruelling, leg-slaying event to raise £500 for Vision Aid Overseas. £5 helps to give someone sight. Go and support the human pronghorn antelope at

So there you have it. A nailed-on case for the practice of DNA splicing, right here in North Devon. Of course, there’s a small chance the brothers Brewer could just be talented, gritty and determined casualties of ill-fitting metaphor. But that seems too far-fetched.

CONTACT: Dish me up nuggets of local music news and I’ll write about you. Email jharper[at] or tweet @testforpulse.