Archive | July 2014

soundCHECK 260 – July 31st 2014

Loud noises! Rotational airplay! Obsequious DJs and sensationalised fandom!

If you have tuned in to onomatopoeically-named Kerrang! Radio recently, you could be forgiven for assuming that the UK rock scene is in fine fettle. Oh yes. But beneath the glossy lacquer of bonhomie and thundering guitars is a woody grain that suggests a different story. Not a nice story either.

Nope. Because it seems the narrative here is one of staid songwriting, manufactured emotion and frontmen determined to affect puzzling estimations at an American accent while reciting wet-the-bed lyrics of love unrequited. Or loneliness. Or being misunderstood. Well boo-hoo mister fashionable tattoos. I’ll tell you what’s hard to understand: why the synthetic UK rock bands that aspire to be the darlings of daytime radio have congealed into one colourless ball of homogenised vapidity. Creativity has been exchanged for US-facing deference to the zeitgeist. One-size-fits-all. Consequently I can tolerate Kerrang! Radio for about twenty minutes before becoming intoxicated with the desire to excrete my own ears.

Here with an edifying attempt to inject some ideas into wholesale-friendly UK rock are leather-clad North Devoners The Fallen State, who have released a taster of their new EP in the form of new track Burn It To The Ground. And lo! Listening to it doesn’t feel like you’re doing the aural equivalent of smashing your head against a brick wall.

Burn It To The Ground has vigour. Buckets full of it. Hook these boys up to generators and the world’s energy problems would disappear overnight. The guitar arrangement of Jon Price and Dan Oke sounds like they wilfully covered the nozzle of the creativity-hosepipe before squirting a slimy backlog of Technicolor idea juice all over their band mates. Expect sharp riffs, fidgeting rhythms and rich production.

The result is a song that’s strident yet unpretentious. Indulgent yet imaginative. (Like chain-eating truffles while penning a short story about a Rwandan hill goat that grants wishes if you sing to it in a Geordie accent.) Okay, The Fallen State may not be quite ready to rescue UK rock from being sucked into a black hole of blandarama, but they are fiercely talented. And their songwriting is more imaginative than 50% of the Kerrang! Radio stock by a multiple of about six million.

Watch the video for Burn It To The Ground, taken from new EP II, at northdevonjournal.co.uk/entertainmentvideos.

CONTACT: New band? Made a song? Got a gig? Share your local music news and I’ll give you sweets. Maybe. jharper[at]northdevonjournal.co.uk | @testforpulse

soundCHECK 258 – July 24th 2014

What is art?

Your quasi-ironic penchant for ordering a Happy Meal every time you go to McDonald’s – is that art? Your friend’s pouting selfie face: ‘trying-to-look-sassy-but-clearly-crying-out-for-social-reinforcement-of-my-existence’ – is that art?

Is noise art?

Here with an emphatic answer to the latter are Spectres, who have forged a creative bond with Goldsmiths art student and boundary-smashing visual tinkerer Sophie Hoyle (www.sophiehoyle.com). Their combined aim is to stun both cochlea and iris at an upcoming gig in Bristol. You’re invited.

For those at the back, Spectres are a brooding four-piece who formed in North Devon after the demise of LOAD.CLICK.SHOOT! and Fen Tigers circa late-2009. A year of nascent and raw local gigs lifted the curtain on the band’s creative intentions: whirring guitars, bludgeoning rhythms and eldritch vocals fuelled by a taste for Sonic Youth and The Jesus And Mary Chain. But it wasn’t until they relocated to Bristol in 2011 that Spectres began to find their sound.

Flash forward to today and the Devonian noise-merchants are draped across the vanguard of Bristol’s guitar scene. A band who extract melodic beauty from kaleidoscope walls of dissonant feedback; a band who lurk in the darkest corners of shoegaze yet manage to sound almost celebratory; a band who in equal parts startle and sparkle. Aural testimony awaits on Spotify in the form of two EPs and a single.

But it’s live where Spectres thrill. Their violent hum cloaks you and numbs you and blots out the day. Swirling guitars and that feisty rhythm section snarl at bone-rattling volume; Joe Hatt’s hushed vocal delivery all the more harrowing for tiptoeing on the teeth of the beast before being swallowed by walls of droning guitars. Spectres: the only thing louder is your tears.

Sounds good? Is good. And for their next gig Spectres will be joined by the aforementioned Sophie Hoyle, who has created a series of images that will be projected behind Spectres in synch with their set. The show takes place, rather fittingly, in an art gallery in the centre of Bristol on Saturday (26th July). Doors at Centrespace Gallery open at 7pm and entry is free.

Oh and the other good news? Spectres have been selected to play Liverpool International Festival of Psychedelia (or Liverpool Psych Fest if you’re feeling colloquial) – joining a line-up that includes giants of new-gaze, pop-noir and post-rock like The Besnard Lakes, Suuns, Mazes, TRAAMS and The Early Years.

Noise is art. Art is noise. Spectres be doing alright. For updates point your intermajiggles at twitter.com/wearespectres.

CONTACT: Tell me your local music news and give me a reason to get out of bed: jharper[at]northdevonjournal.co.uk | @testforpulse