Author: Newbootsnorthants

Step On: the week’s best new music tracks [May 8]

New Boots editor Phil Moore takes you through the best new music tracks this week. Fontaines D.C. ‘A Hero’s Death’“Life ain’t always empty”. They’re back so quick we’ve had little…

New Boots editor Phil Moore takes you through the best new music tracks this week.

Fontaines D.C. ‘A Hero’s Death’
“Life ain’t always empty”. They’re back so quick we’ve had little time to miss them, with the title track from the Dublin fivesome’s second album [due July 31]. Musically it’s a continuation of the themes of before. Vaguely threatening, scratchy, arty rock – with an intense guitars-battle-with-swoony-“bab-ba-ba”s crescendo come the denouement. Grian Chatten gives it some proper sermonising too. Elemental magic.

The Blinders ‘Lunatic [With A Loaded Gun]’
Another guitar band previewing their sophomore LP, the Manchester trio continue their socio-political cause with a righteous punk blast against modern-day tyrants. As an opening couplet goes, “There are children in cages/On Monday’s front pages” doesn’t take any prisoners. It’s considered rage rather than unhinged, as the album title – Fantasies Of A Stay At Home Psychopath – possibly reflects. The band are tighter than a gnat’s chuff, as always. Until they get to slay us all again from the stage this does the job very admirably.

Dylan Cartlidge ‘Yellow Brick Road’
Nods to Beastie Boys, Prince, Jamie T, Andre 3000? Yes it the North-East’s version of Ginger Snaps. Sunshine funk-pop with indie cred, the radio loves him and he’s surely got the world at his feet. The forthcoming debut album is going to be fly, you just know it.

Husky Loops ‘You Bore Me’
Clattering rhythms, bassline bombs, fuzz guitar, distorted vocals: the Italians-in-London have never sounded looser and heavier. Their debut album I Can’t Even Speak English from last year was a crisp alt-pop triumph, and whether this progression is representative of newer horizons is tough to know right now. I like it anyway. One of the more interesting bands around; moving guitar-pop away from base elements and using studio manipulation to demonstrate what’s possible.

Sonic Boom ‘Things Like This [A Little Deeper]’
Pete Kember returns to releasing music under his Sonic Boom moniker, which he dropped after Spacemen 3 in favour of Spectrum and Experimental Audio Research. The new album is All Things Being Equal [June 5], his first long-player in any description in over a decade. He’s been producing the likes of Panda Bear and MGMT in recent years, and the sound of this one is as bubbly and hypnotic as your mind’s eye would imagine. With live shows soon too [fingers crossed], it’s great to have him back.

The Scruff ‘Vultures’
The Bedford boys return to the front line. After a tricky year or so where it all went quiet, it’s very satisfying to hear them in such rude health. A scathing take on internet troll culture, it’s got a confident swagger in its step. Hell, it’s got “indie rock banger” stamped through it like some fine candy-stripped stick of rock. Some good time rock’n’roll is just what the doctor prescribed right now, so hats off to these guys for coming up with the goods.

Scarlet ‘Friends’
Singer Jessie Robinson is not one to sit on her laurels, and with a rejigged line-up her Liverpool band start 2020 with fresh impetus and this fuzz-rock plaything that’s practically oozing with perky alt-rock energy. Drums and bass are pretty much off the scale on this one, plus that lazer-guided melody means it leaps out at you like a Joe Exotic plaything. The video is worth checking out too, as they enlist their music mates [Hands Off Gretel! Salvation Jayne! etc] to mine along.

DARKSAVAGE ‘Feeling Blessed’
New Northampton rapper Jordan Potter. Not much info to be gleamed so far beyond the music. Nice production touches going on in the background. One to keep an eye on.

Stevie Jones and Mark Gill ‘Glow’
Taken from Eleventh Hour, a 2011 album by Northants singer-songwriter Stevie Jones and guitarist Mark Gill released originally for 24 hours only but now being made widely available on CD/DL. The seven track album was recorded live at Yellow Bean Studios in Leicester, and you get Stevie’s raw vocals and Mark’s acoustic guitar flourishes meeting to produce some minor-key fireworks. Perfect for fans of rootsy music by the likes of John Mayer, or Counting Crows.

The Comms ‘Transmission One’
Brand new garage-punk band from ShoeTown, this first release was recorded and mixed by Adam Gammage and mastered by Greg Coulson, so keeping it lots of NN talent in one place here. You get highly-stylised vocals by Liam Taylor, backed by some explosive and sharp guitar attack. Think Buzzcocks, think IDLES, think moshing on the front row and getting a stray boot to the head. Glorious beginnings are something to shout about.

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Album review: The Rogue State Circus

THE ROGUE STATE CIRCUSSongs From The Sea Of Storms[self-released] Northants’ Rogue State Circus have been defiantly avoiding genre categorisation since 2009. Their latest album Songs From The Sea Of Storms…

THE ROGUE STATE CIRCUS
Songs From The Sea Of Storms
[self-released]

Northants’ Rogue State Circus have been defiantly avoiding genre categorisation since 2009. Their latest album Songs From The Sea Of Storms is a delectable smorgasbord, incorporating 12 tracks of indie, power-pop, folk and Americana – and serves them up as a cohesive whole.

The retro keys that introduce opener ‘St Jude’s Blues’ give proceedings a distinctly 1960s feel, and combined with the country twang on the guitar provides a rather sinister tone. The type of song you’d expect to find in a Tarantino film, it’s a walk through the dark side of Americana. John Delaney’s vocals mirror the music’s ululation, and evolve from a gargling growl to falsetto high notes…and all in one line! The multi-layered sound is akin to an octopus’s tentacles that entwine and hold the listener captive. The pure pop perfection of ‘Sunday Driver’ follows, yet its buoyancy is tempered with a dark edge, something indefinable yet ever present. If ‘St Jude’s Blues’ didn’t win you over then ‘Sunday Driver’ will.

Still led by the indefatigable singer-songwriter Jon Delaney, Rogue State Circus have had an ever-changing line-up and perhaps this accounts for their kaleidoscopic output. However eclectic things become though there’s a common lyrical thread that stitches the album together. That’s best exemplified by the following two tracks, ‘London Bridge’ with it’s nod to ‘Waterloo Sunset’ and ‘Downhearted In The Uplands Of Love’ which, like Ray Davies at his most expressive, explores the minutiae of modern life. ‘I’ll Be Happy To Stay With You’ picks up it’s feet for a swirling neo-psychedelic sound before the wistful and whimsical ‘It’s All Over Town’ and it’s quintessentially English understated humour.

Adding some female vocals [courtesy of Karen Angela] gives ‘What Are You Waiting For?’ a nice warm texture and brings to mind that lazy summer’s day vibe of Division Bell-era Pink Floyd. In opposition the evocative and cinematic ‘Only A Matter Of Time’, with its soulful 80s vocals, seems tailor-made for a lonely walk through a neon-lit metropolis. The dramatic ‘Red Sky’ carries a lot of Irish folk inflections, and juxtaposes the power-pop of ‘La La Life’. An infectious backbeat and a joyful guitar line carries the song forward and, with Karen Angela again adding her vocal talents, reminds me of an effervescent Blondie.

The short and snappy ‘The Goodbye Note’ is another infectious tune that would have made a perfect album closer but, in a tension of opposites that defines Songs From The Sea Of Storms, that honour goes to the elongated ‘Great Expectations’. Clocking in at over six minutes it gives Rogue State Circus an opportunity to flex their musical muscles and build a substantial sonic structure. Peppered with Eastern flourishes it’s a song that fades to a rather ominous ending that promises more than it concludes.

Songs From The Sea Of Storms is the second album in a trilogy (tentatively titled Lunar Sea) that began with 2011’s Songs From The Sea Of Serenity. This latest opus is a worthy addition to the Rogue State Circus canon and is a tantalising taster for the third instalment…but hopefully they won’t make us wait another 9 years!

Peter Dennis

Songs From The Sea Of Storms is out now via Bandcamp, see below

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Step On: the week’s best new music tracks [May 1]

New Boots editor Phil Moore takes you through the best new music tracks this week. The Rolling Stones ‘Living In A Ghost Town’Their first original music in eight years, so…

New Boots editor Phil Moore takes you through the best new music tracks this week.

The Rolling Stones ‘Living In A Ghost Town’
Their first original music in eight years, so this is something of an ‘event’. “Life was so beautiful/Then we all got locked down” – you can see why they released it now. Some people don’t like it when the Stones throw their reggae bit into their songs, but you know: it’s fine. This song is presumably a knowing sonic/lyrical nod to the Specials. It’s not them at their freewheeling best [what is?], but it does lock into a nice groove, and Mick at least sounds on top form in that claustrophobic chorus. It’s nice to have them back.

Tom Grennan ‘Oh Please’
The second preview track from the Bedford man’s upcoming sophomore long-player. Its mini-symphonic soul sound aligned to a bluesy vocal is bound to illicit some Richard Ashcroft comparisons. Grennan has bags of personality though; his delivery always strong enough to get the blood pumping, and you always root for him. It’s both close enough to, music wise – and far away enough from – the DNA of Lighting Matches to satisfy everyone. Result!

Vistas ‘Summer’
The Scottish trio have been drip drip dripping singles for quite a while now; fortunately debut album Everything Changes In The End is out at the end of the month. This one is glorious wide-screen melancholy rock, which displays substantially more ambition that most of their alt-contemporaries. The guitars are set to ‘preening’, the production immaculate – and if cinematic indie is your thing then Vistas are your go-to guys for 2020. Looks like the summer’s been cancelled, though, so let’s hope their timing isn’t always so off.

Self Esteem ‘Favourite Problem [Alternative Version]’
A more homespun version of defiant alt-pop from Rebecca Lady Taylor and co. The original version on 2019’s Compliments Please album had more bells and whistles, but this take brings the gospel backing vocals to the foreground, courtesy of Sheffield-based choir Neighbourhood Voices. Ex-Slow Club member Taylor has talent and guile as large as the well of emotion that this version stirs. The ‘Cuddles Please’ EP is out today, offering similar reworkings of album tracks ‘The Best’ and ‘In Time’, alongside a cover of Alex Cameron’s ‘Miami Memory’. No cuddles at the moment sadly, but here’s a virtual high five anyway. [photo credit: Charlotte Patmore]

ghostofblu ‘Don’t Care’
Picking up fan across the globe with his dark digital trap/hardcore manoeuvres, your Yorkshire-via-Northampton man is assisted on the beats production for this by Sweden’s Istasha, and hell they make some beautifully twisted noise together. From new four-track EP ‘IV’, his intensity is paramount on all tracks. He’s reached the general quality level now where some vinyl needs to spring forth; his legion is many, and they need artefacts.

Naked Next Door ‘Halo’
MK indie rockers have been consistently excellent these past 12 months, putting out emotive bangers more often than I put out the bins. ‘Halo’ continues the tradition. This one has a rolling tension built within the chassis, even if it sparkle and shines enough to make you think of the big boys like The Killers or Kings Of Leon. Taken from forthcoming EP ‘Swerving Out Wide’, NND are the very definition of “Ones To Watch”.

SPQR ‘No Brain No Pain’
Liverpool always seems to be sprouting up some of the best new music. The latest is SPQR, an art-rock quartet who have released their third EP this week. Starting with previous singles ‘Nuthin Gud’ and ‘Just Sumfin’, the real humdinger is the elastic title track. The djembe-led percussive movements hit the sweet spot, the Pixies basslines mixing with the Talking Heads existential dread to produce something of real heft. They deserve to be successful, rich rock stars. Also: unbelievably exciting live show.

L30 Robinson ‘Text’
A quality samba rhythm kicks off another rap masterclass from NN’s mister lover man. His fifth[!] single already in 2020, it’s a mystery he’s not already a shooting star. A paean to forgetting relationships past and enjoying the present, ‘Text’ is as infectious as anything he’s previously done, and you will be dancing ’round your kitchen to this one. It’s the law.

Lucien Moon ‘Tainted’
Long-awaited new music from the artist formerly known as Jamie Benkert. Taking cues from the likes of Frank Ocean, Drake, The Weeknd, John Newman, etc., this is soulful cosmopolitan R&B from the NNiverse. Great voice, great image [shout out to the sexy video shot in The Market Tavern!], and plenty of tense atmospherics within the haunting piano and beats. Smashed it, lad!

Charlie Bridgen, LT Quickscope, Deadboi ‘Tactical Chunder’
Kettering area love-in! Three rappers/producers from that part of the world team up to make some dark-beats and a story about debauched nights out [remember them?]. Grime could always do with more tales of dark fruits and ID requests…and trips to toilet cubicles for the titular strategy. Immense and scary in equal measure. More of this craziness please, guys.

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New Music Friday: Duncan Bisatt

Release is the new album by Northampton singer-songwriter Duncan Bisatt. No vocals? New Boots went in search of answers… How did you get to this musical point?I’m a latecomer to…

Release is the new album by Northampton singer-songwriter Duncan Bisatt. No vocals? New Boots went in search of answers…

How did you get to this musical point?
I’m a latecomer to creating original music.  I’ve played guitar since I was a young teenager in the 1970s, and always enjoyed live music. I only started playing in bands in the 1990s when someone I knew was looking for a bass player for a new project and I thought, ‘What the hell, give it a go’.
After a couple of different versions of bands that rehearsed a lot but never did a lot of gigs I ended up joining Bushpigs in the late 1990s after someone handed me a Herald & Post advert.  At that time Bushpigs, as a band was probably 50% covers gigs and 50% writing and recording original material [the former paying for the latter]. We recorded a dozen or so original songs at The Lodge studio [mostly with Max Read on the desk], but then never did anything with them.
Bushpigs had evolved out of an earlier Northampton band called Marabar Caves and when that band reformed in 2019, I ended up picking up the bass role there as well, so I now have two bands and a solo career to manage.
After the creative side of Bushpigs faded I ended up forming acoustic pop-rock band The Rogue State Circus with Jon Delaney in 2009.  That band is still going, but I left in 2018.  I wrote a bit for that band in its early years, but Jon is always the main songwriter and vocalist.  To get the creative outlet, eventually, I decided to write and record my own album [Auto-Self-Destruct] which came out in 2015.  Then, of course, I really needed to gig the songs and so I started playing acoustic versions of them at open-mics and suitable festival gigs.

How would you describe your sound? Who are your main influences?
I struggle to describe my own sound: it’s difficult to be objective.  If I had to list influences they are generally songwriters rather than technical musos: people like Joe Jackson [I love his cynical edge] and Neil Finn.  I also like energetic and noisy stuff like The Who and Midnight Oil.  Behind it, however, is also a teenage love of 1970’s prog-rock.  I haven’t tended to write 20 minute songs, but sometimes a hint of some of that appears in arrangements on my albums.  The new album probably let that ‘excessive’ side out a bit.

What was the reaction like to your last album, 2018’s Reality and Abstraction?
Really good thanks. It is a more diverse set of songs than the first album, where I consciously tried to stick to a consistent pallet of sounds and songwriting.  R&A has songs that range from full-on rock with massive overdriven guitars to acoustic pieces and, almost, some folk music.  The cover art was fun to work on as well: it’s an extract from an abstract painting by local legend [drummer, artist, bike-nutter] Mark Halsey.  It makes a nice t-shirt, if anyone wants one.

New Album

Tell us everything about Release.
I came up with the idea before Christmas. Both of my earlier albums had some instrumental elements, and I had various pieces sat in the archive which I had written and recorded between 2012 and 2018.  I had started working on an ambient piece, which became ‘Danses de Travers’, and realised that I wanted a vehicle in which to get that and some of the other pieces released.
The original thought was that it would be really simple: finish ‘Danses de Travers’ and just pop it on an album with the rest and have it released by the end of January.  Then when I went into The Lodge [with Mark Cann] to mix it, it became clear that it would be worth revisiting the mixes of some of the other pieces. Mark was always going to do a massively better job on those than I had originally, and so a predicted half-day to mix one track turned into about two and a half days spread over a month and then, once other ‘stuff’ started to happen, the release got pushed back to April.
It’s a very diverse album, and I make no claims to a particular cohesiveness of genre.  There are rock instrumentals, ambient pieces of varying lengths and even a classical guitar solo (‘Sunset’).  With music now being mostly streamed, however, I think the pressure to deliver a cohesive album isn’t there so much.  Each piece can stand up on its own.

How does it feel producing an album without any vocals?
A bit easier!  I find lyric writing and singing the hardest part of what I do.  I regularly have the instrumental arrangement of a song finished while I’m still agonising over the words.  The track ‘Toc’ was supposed to be the second half of a mammoth two-part piece, not surprisingly called ‘Tic & Toc’.  The instrumental part of ‘Tic’ was really good but I had about four attempts at writing lyrics and then gave up because nothing seemed to fit.  So ‘Toc’ was left, and found its way out on my ‘Captains & Kings’ EP last year.  Now it’s remixed on ‘Release’.

What has been your favourite artistic moment of the past year?
The two highlights have to be Mano Music Festival in March 2019 and King of Hearts in December. I get the biggest musical kicks out of playing live, and being asked to travel to Marburg and play four sets over three nights was an unbelievable privilege. We were a little late getting to Marburg and I had the experience of getting off a bus and, twenty minutes later, walking onto a stage in front of, probably, a couple of hundred attentive Germans to play the biggest solo gig I’d ever done. I thought I did the whole “Guten abend Marburg” bit quite well, but Kenny later said that I couldn’t have looked more English if they had painted me red and put postcards in my mouth! Kings of Hearts was memorable because I had a bunch of other local musicians down the front who joined in singing ‘One Pound Town’ and even added their own improvised backing vocals.  Getting that sort of reaction from the younger guys was a real lift and something that I won’t forget.

Lockdown

How are you coping with the lockdown?
I try to keep telling myself that, in many ways, I am lucky in being able to deal with this situation reasonably well.  I have my own house with a garden, good neighbours and I’m still working [from home] and not worried about my job. I think it’s important to recognise that these are things a lot of people can’t take for granted. It’s tough being 160 miles from my immediate family and not being able to visit them, though. I really miss the live music and being able to get together with my bandmates in Bushpigs and Marabar Caves; we’ve lost a fair number of gigs.
I’ve been doing a bit of streaming of acoustic performances. I’m also working on a new single remotely with drums by Ben Gordelier [The Moons, Paul Weller), some guitar by Bill Westley [Marabar Caves] and keys and mix by Jon Martin.  It’s a different way of working and you have to relinquish control and run with whatever people send back.
We’re also likely to finally release some of the ‘lost’ Bushpigs recordings spanning 1994 to 2001. Having the time to do these things is the positive side of the current situation.

What was the last album you bought/streamed?
U2 Boy. I’ve also been buying local artists from Bandcamp.

The future

What is your burning desire to do in the future? Any plans?
To go for a long walk without having to worry if I’m breaching guidelines!  Also to see some of the local bands playing again and meet the guys. That new single should be ready within the next month, and I have a few other songs written and was planning to start recording them before the lockdown happened.  I made a decision not to get into the commitment of recording a whole new album, so it will be singles and EPs for the time being.  I’m keen to keep working with live drummers [and other musicians, if they are interested]. It would be nice to get a band together to play some of the songs in a way that’s nearer to their original arrangements rather than the solo acoustic versions.

Release is out now via the usual digital platforms

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Album review: Brigadoon

BRIGADOONItch Factor[self-released] Singer-songwriter/poet Barnaby Smith is a man with a story. Splitting his time between Northampton and rural Australia is not something many people can say. His debut album, composed…

BRIGADOON
Itch Factor
[self-released]

Singer-songwriter/poet Barnaby Smith is a man with a story. Splitting his time between Northampton and rural Australia is not something many people can say. His debut album, composed and recorded over a four year period, is Itch Factor, which can only be categorised as outsider folk/loner folk. It’s essence of experimentalism, DIY spirit, and tonal atmospherics was realised “in a rickety garden shed in the hills behind Mullumbimby” in New South Wales [a stones throw from the hippy enclave of Byron Bay, reference fans]. This “crudely constructed shack full of snakes, spiders, and lizards” had fed the impassioned work of a no doubt reclusive soul.

Should we care? Yes. This is a magical, rural, 3am record that can bring to mind the stark intimacy of Nick Drake, Tim Buckley, Bon Iver, Amen Dunes, Cass McCombs, or Daniel Johnston. There’s not much need to discuss songs individually, for they cover similar ground: ethereal voice, harmonies, acoustic guitar. A wistful and mysterious blanket covers the listener throughout, from the chiming and claustrophobic tones of ‘Of The North’ right through to bleak lo-fi ruminations on ‘All That Is Solar’. His cover of former Beta Band man Lone Pigeon song ‘Waterfall’ is important, clearly; indeed it is almost a template for the Brigadoon aesthetic. At 15 songs and almost an hour long Itch Factor is perhaps a little too all-encompassing for some. It would have been hard to self-edit the tracks; they all reflect a time and place in Smith’s artistic life.

This untamed and uncompromising work is the authentic voice of the soul in lockdown. We have much to learn, much to gain from basking in his rustic philosophising. There’s inspiration and hope within its’ wanderings. This might be one of the few times you have the wherewithal to delve into such a work as Brigadoon Itch Factor.

Phil Moore

Itch Factor is out now on CD/DL via Bandcamp, as well as the usual streaming platforms


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Album review: Shorty

SHORTYTHE BRIDGE OVER THE RIVER NENE[ShoeTown Records] Third album from the best connected man in Northampton, Chris White. Following on from the excellent The Northampton Underground is another 14 tracks…

SHORTY
THE BRIDGE OVER THE RIVER NENE
[ShoeTown Records]

Third album from the best connected man in Northampton, Chris White. Following on from the excellent The Northampton Underground is another 14 tracks of collaborative tunes, mostly recorded and mixed in an Abington garage.

If you don’t know, White trades in a sort of Jeff Lynne, Brian Wilson, Paul McCartney classicism laced with some ’90s tropes – there’s plenty of accoutrements of brass and bongos and the like to beef up the sound. Opening track ‘Beautiful Enough’ has a breezy Britpop feel, a lovely warm number that you could imagine sitting comfortably on a Boo Radleys album. ‘Cooking For One’, which follows, is a wah-wahed/phased delight, Stevie G adding some lovely guitar feels to elevate the mood. Jim Doherty and Lindsay Spence add their unique voices to the power-pop of ‘Friday Night’, whilst the trio of Danie Hollobach, Simmone McClean, and Shereen Ingram all help make ‘Hard To Hold On’ a soulful melancholic-pop winner.

The album continues to fire different rounds at you: White goes it alone on the psychy ‘Is It Real’, rootsy Celtic vibes flow from the Pat Fish-assisted ‘Keep It Simple’. On ‘Living In The Same House’ those Sgt Pepper touches are both pure self-indulgence and pure joy. Sophie Joiner elevates everything with some wonderful cello. The song is dapple of sunlight during these strange times.

This is the sort of album that radiates its love of music; the process of making music bringing people together. When ‘Love Me Or Hate Me’ reminds you of Pulp it feels fine – we’re all just singing from the same hymn sheet. Epic country-rock closer ‘You Fill The Air’ doesn’t even feature White – instead it is sung wonderfully by Steve Ward and Simonne McClean. And still White’s great songwriting skills come through loud and clear.

The Bridge Over The River Nene is a minor triumph. Fans of power-pop and Britpop will lap this up, as will fans of classic 60s-style songwriting. Heck, there’s enough going on here to please everyone at some point. It’s another clean sweep for the Northampton underground!

Phil Moore

The Bridge Over The River Nene is out now via the usual digital platforms

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New Music Friday: From Eden To Exile

From Eden to Exile release their ‘Age of Fire EP’ on May 1st [Attic Records]. Peter Dennis reviews, and also speaks to the Northampton band. It’s been quite a journey…

From Eden to Exile release their ‘Age of Fire EP’ on May 1st [Attic Records]. Peter Dennis reviews, and also speaks to the Northampton band.

It’s been quite a journey for From Eden to Exile since their inception in 2012. A solid debut EP [‘Soundtrack to Your Demise’] hit the streets in 2015, preceding 2017’s full length Modern Disdain. In between came a triumphant appearance at the UK’s premier metal fest, Bloodstock Open Air, in addition to some line-up changes. However they’ve finally hit on the right chemistry for their latest EP, ‘Age of Fire’, an explosive effort containing five Molotov cocktails.

Wasting little time on niceties opening salvo ‘Age of Fire’ arrives like a Panzer division sweeping across the Steppes. A twin-guitar attack delivering riffs in tandem combine with drums that fire with machine-gun rapidity to create a brutal, punishing affair. With no sign of redemption From Eden to Exile set about scrawling their sound on every available surface yet, for all the sonic fury, there’s a real groove, a hardcore swing, that underpins proceedings. When the guitar solos erupt they’re short and succinct, which only adds to the intensity, as the band effortlessly pull together different strands of extreme metal with blackened blast beats nestling betwixt grindcore breakdowns.

‘Face of Desolation’ eases up on the throttle slightly for a more measured affair that seems to spiral backwards as Tom Franklin’s guttural growl screams like a daemon sucked into the depths of hell. Joey Jaycock and Tom Kelland give their guitar lines a neo-classical feel, not dissimilar to that employed by Iron Maiden, and the riff heavy outro attacks the cranium like a series of hammer blows. The crushing ‘The Great Disconnect’ is a maze of technical riffs surrounded by a musical maelstrom. Imagine death metal legends Suffocation jamming with LA hardcore crew Rotting Out and you’d have something approaching the monolithic enormity of ‘The Great Disconnect’ which attaches itself to the listener like an anchor to a drowning man.

Sometimes metalcore can sound a bit muddy but producer Neil Hudson has done a great job in giving all the instruments room to breathe. However on ’Inhuman’ he has created a claustrophobic feel by encasing the vocals within walls of sound. A song that’s constantly evolving from it’s chuggy beginnings to an all-out thrasher and the short, sharp sonic shifts are rather dizzying and disorientating. Closer ‘Conspire’ is a contradictory tension of opposites as the guitars blind with a metallic sheen and are overlaid with a throat shredding roar and, as the track stomps like a 900lb gorilla, the acoustic mid-section, with its clean vocals, only acts as a foil to make the crescendo even more thunderous – which in turn makes the silence that follows all the more deafening.

The stark monochrome cover that houses Age of Fire is pretty indicative of the music contained within: leaving little room for indiscretion it’s a collection that demands your full attention. The lyricism, which speaks of a not-to-distant dystopian future, unites the record with an almost conceptual feel, and ensures the record hangs together as a cohesive whole. Stirling stuff.

It’s an exciting time for heavy music in ShoeTown, with Ashborn and Krysthla having released a career-defining albums and From Eden to Exile about to unleash their second EP ‘Age of Fire’. The three long years since their debut album have been a busy time for the band, and here vocalist Tom Franklin and bassist Joey Jaycock speak to New Boots to bring us up to date on all their shenanigans.

Can you give us a history of the band?
We started back in 2012 in Daventry, as a group of friends with a mutual love of heavy music. There have been a few people come and go throughout the years, but primarily we’re just mates who love playing metal music and it’s always been that way. We’ve got a broad range of influences, bands like Sylosis, Architects, Protest The Hero, After The Burial, and a ton more. The name was coined by a former vocalist, but there isn’t really a story behind it.

It’s been three years since your debut album and the new EP. Why so long?
Shortly after the album was released, our old vocalist [Matt Dyne] decided to leave the band. And then after we got Tom Franklin in as our new vocalist, our drummer Liam Turland then left to join our friends in Krysthla, to be immediately replaced by Jake Patrick. Add to that Mike Bell and Joey swapping guitar and bass positions, and there was a lot of groundwork to be done before we got our heads down and wrote some new music.

You’ve had some big career highlights; Bloodstock Festival springs to mind. Looking back can you think of one specific moment where everything fell into place?
Obviously Bloodstock was a huge one for us back in 2015. Entering the Metal 2 The Masses competition, we didn’t even think for a second we would pass through every round to become winners and get the chance to play Bloodstock. After this amazing experience, we feel it gave us an immense realisation of what we could actually achieve, so it gave us all a massive push to get our heads down and get even more creative. UK Tech Fest 2018 is one that we always look back on fondly, even though a few of us nearly got taken out by some major sunstroke!

Metal is an often maligned genre, but Northamptonshire has some pretty cool metal bands at the moment. What is it about the county at present that’s birthing these groups?
We’re not sure why, but we’re happy it’s thriving! There’s always a few Northants bands headed to Bloodstock via the Metal 2 The Masses competition, and it’s a great thing to see. I think it’s down to the camaraderie between the bands, and recording studios like Initiate Audio and Media becoming the central hub of new unsigned music from Northamptonshire.

From the cover to the music within it seems that you’ve taken a darker turn with ‘Age of Fire’. Is that fair comment? If so, why and what aesthetics were you drawing from?
It marks the beginning of a new chapter for the band and in many ways it is a fresh start. We have new faces on board and as a result, the music has evolved too. It’s definitely a fair comment to say that we’re trying to make things darker, and this trend will long continue.

Lyrically too ‘Age of Fire’ seems quite dark by drawing on dystopian themes. Why? The lyrics tend to link all the songs conceptually. Was that your intention?
The lyrics were originally written as one continuous story, then broken off into sections which became songs. Interestingly these stories and themes have become more and more relevant in the past year since we recorded. Although dark in nature, as is the genre typically, we hope people can use our music to see through any rough times as a positive distraction.

I wonder how new vocalist Tom Franklin altered the shape of the new EP.
Tom joined the band under a lot of pressure and with high expectations. He has absolutely delivered the goods with the recording of the new EP, and playing UK Tech Fest 2018 as his second show with us on very short notice. He gave it his all in the studio, crafted some excellent lyrics, and has taken an active role in the writing process every step of the way.

Like a game of musical chairs Joey and Mike swapped instruments. How did this change the chemistry in the group?
It’s as good as ever, really. Mike was looking for a new challenge and was getting into playing bass, Joey was coming up with more and more riffs and it just made sense to swap places and switch things up and it worked out well!

How do you feel now the EP is in the bag and ready to be released?
It’s an exciting time to be on the verge of getting ‘Age Of Fire’ out there finally. There’s always that element of listening back and being critical of our performances, but all we can do is put that energy into the writing process for whatever comes next and keep improving as a unit.

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Album review: The Venus Fly Trap/Alex Novak ‘Mercurial’

THE VENUS FLY TRAP/ALEX NOVAKMercurial[Glass Modern] As we take a breather under quarantine rule, reflection comes to the fore. And with impeccable timing here is a compilation of the work…

Alex NovakTHE VENUS FLY TRAP/ALEX NOVAK
Mercurial
[Glass Modern]

As we take a breather under quarantine rule, reflection comes to the fore. And with impeccable timing here is a compilation of the work of uber-Northampton creative Alex Novak. A man of many musical projects over four decades, but most closely associated with The Venus Fly Trap, which makes up the first half of this “best of”. The remaining content is appropriated from a vast array of Novak’s early bands and side projects. Right, let’s delve in.

The journey of VFT covers their formation in 1986 right through to the present day. Having settled on a line-up they saw French label support result in the twin 1988 singles of ‘Morphine’ and ‘Desolation Railway’, from parent album Mars. They are both to my mind “alternative 80s” classics – the former a dirty street-talking garage band snarl akin to The Jesus and Mary Chain [all primitive drum machine and gothic overtones], whilst the latter a meticulously constructed post-punk/krautrock/electronic wonder that slowly unfurls it’s exotic beauty over five uber-taught minutes.

1989’s dramatic reworking of Suicide’s ‘Rocket USA’ is more than just a cover. With The Jazz Butcher skronking away on saxophone to provide extra propulsion, the original’s thin palette is filled with a much larger sound; that demented drum-beat and a commanding vocal from Novak himself giving the thing a whole new lease of life. 1990s ‘Europa’ is the sort of classic alt-rock sound of the late ’80s that wasn’t really their thing, but a strong song means they pull it off regardless.

Into the 1990s and the electronic elements are pushed more to the fore, and ‘Achilles Heel’ is probably the best of these forays. High-energy, a memorable synth-line, and intonations from the main man – you’ve got yourself a New Order who kept the Joy Division aesthetic. Flirtations with industrial riffage [‘Moscow Menagerie’, ‘Pulp Sister’ ] fitted well, before the pared down duo of Novak and Andy Denton took the 21st Century version of the band into full-on proggy electronica territory [‘Metropolis’, ‘Vitesse’]

There is a lot to pour over in the second half, and there’s no real overlying theme. It’s more Novak either finding his feet, or straying from the VFT blueprint. There’s gems here though, without doubt. Religious Overdose are the hidden gem in the catalogue, and the three post-punk inclusions here are beamed in from another galaxy. Despite some weedy production the spirit and songs shine through; ‘In This Century’, a haunting 1982 B-side, very much a potential Closer offcut. The press raved about them but nothing much came of it, much like the follow-up The Tempest project. The 5 Against The House album was actually a reasonably commercial piece, it’s two singles both extraordinary statements on intent. ‘Lady Left This’ the sort of jittery punk-funk that became all the rage circa 2005, and ‘Montezuma’ the sort of cool-as-ice wiry goth-rock that has repetitive Morse code beeps that will either intice or infuriate.

The sole Attrition track ‘Feel The Backlash’ could be a knowing reference to the music papers power of the time, it’s Human League/Heaven 17 electronic starkness – easy to admire/harder to love – form revealing a gentler side to the famous Novak bark. Mercurical finishes with three side projects – tracks that ended up on various tapes, etc. rather than fully-fledged 12″ singles. ‘Definitive Item’ is close the the VFT template, but it’s the filthy-minded cinematic quoting ‘Vox Kunst’ from 1994 that is most intriguing, the sort of off-piste no-holds-barred experimental pop that is actually a great romp.

Perhaps it is time for a rethink as to where the band and the singer fits into the cosmic scheme of things. Alex Novak shows over Mercurial’s eighty minutes the ability to shape-shift through numerous styles of music, whilst simultaneously remaining true to his unique “dystopian sci-fi” vision that was forged during those early art-school days. The VFT may never have achieved [hometown contemporaries] Bauhaus-style levels of fame, but the music is frequently on a par, and certainly covers more ground. Simple twists of fate, etc. For anyone interested in post-punk and ’80s-style electronica this compilation rewards in spades, and is a great testament to what a little inspiration and a lot of hard graft and perseverance achieves.

Phil Moore

Mercurial is released on CD and DL on Friday May 8th, see the Bandcamp link below.


Q&A with Alex Novak

How easy was it to narrow your 40-year career into 20 tracks? What did a track have to do to make the grade? 
We pushed how much you could fit onto a CD to the limit; 80 minutes of music all in. I stuck pretty much to the singles/main tracks from the various bands. It’s a taster for people to then go on and delve further into the catalogue, and we’re in the process of re-issuing The Venus Fly Trap albums. Mars [the first album] was re-issued last year by Glass Modern. A bit of going full circle, as they had released Religious Overdose and Tempest material in the early to mid eighties. In the last few years most of my previous bands have had material compiled. Hopefully later this year we will be re-issuing VFT’s second and third albums Totem and Pandora’s Box via Glass too.

What period do you look back on most fondly? Your mid-’80s pomp of being in demand in Europe/playing Hammersmith Palais/appearing on all these LPs must have been a hoot.
There has been many VFT periods/eras as the line-up has changed many times, each bringing a new angle and experiences. This gives the band a different dynamic. Mars-era gigs in France, playing Paris, we played with The Mission in Deptford’s ‘Crypt’ [actually under a church!], and at Alice In Wonderland [clubnight of Dave Vanian of The Damned]. Early 90s Totem/Pandora’s Box-era saw first gigs in Germany and Belgium. On one tour we played in France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Hungary, Austria and then made our first trips to Czechslovakia, where we recorded a live album in Prague. By Luna Tide we recorded the album in Bonn, Germany. Many tours of Belgium and Germany, and our first visit to Poland.
We were working more in an electronic direction with Martin Bowes of Attrition as producer for 1997s Dark Amour, and played festivals in Warsaw and a castle in Bolkow with New Model Army. We played the Lumous Festival in Finland at midnight – with the sun still shining.
There was no “pomp” – the 1980s were a bit of a rollercoaster, having gone through Religious Overdose, Tempest, and Attrition, before settling with The Venus Fly Trap. It was a bit frustrating building something and then it falls apart. A lot more could have been achieved if we had capitalised on the interest. But I have managed to get VFT to keep going long enough so there is enough interest in releasing older material. Maybe all this will be re-assessed, listened to with fresh ears, put into context as a whole body of work.

In musical culture today there’s much nostalgia for the 1990s. Whats your memory of those times? Where they halycon days?
It is strange that VFT is considered an “80s band” – we produced two albums in the late-’80s and then four in the ’90s, and also toured more later. It is interesting, peoples perception. Certainly the early ’90s was a diverse period musically, there was loads of good alternative and indie music around. Plenty of gigs, venues, and magazines, and a definite return to decent live music, before it melded into more dance influences later in the decade. I certainly was trying  more electronic-orientated material in the mid-90s, via the projects Nova State Conspiracy [with Simon Coleby, the Marvel Comics illustrator], The Den [with Tim Perkins, who was Alan Moore’s musical collaborator], and Spore [with Micky Muddiman, the dance producer]. Maybe it was a portent as to what was going to happen with VFT…

Is it fair to say the current VFT line-up with Andy Denton has given you the best expression of your sound?
Myself and Andy have produced four albums – Dark Amour, Zenith, Nemesis, and Icon. It is probably VFT’s most consistent and productive period. As we have worked together I think our writing and production has improved, and this has made us into a compelling act. It’s a tight sound, but we’re more relaxed, giving the performances a bit more edge. To get where you are you have to try different things, it’s a process. I learnt to carry on regardless, rather than waste the work/time that has been done. Make do, mend and move on.

What is there left to do for VFT?
Plugging Mercurial! We had gigs in May to coincide with the release, but I have re-learnt that old phrase “always expect the unexpected”, or even a quote from War Of The Worlds – “the chances are a million to one, yet they come…”. So long as it doesn’t get all biblical, raining frogs etc. We shall be back doing gigs in September. We shall see everyone on the other side, be seeing you…

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Step On: the week’s best new music tracks [Apr 17]

New Boots editor Phil Moore takes you through ten of the best new music tracks this week. Izzie Gibbs ‘Snakey’If UK grime has one rapper a hairs’ breath away from…

New Boots editor Phil Moore takes you through ten of the best new music tracks this week.

Izzie Gibbs ‘Snakey’
If UK grime has one rapper a hairs’ breath away from blowing up right now, it’s probably ShoeTown’s Izzie, who stands loud and proud on new single ‘Snakey’. He had a 2019 full of bangers, but not the press/live presence to truly capitalise on the tunes [understandable, considering his near-death experience of late 2018]. This feisty tirade against the conspirators surrounding him [“Why you so snakey?”] is wildly good, his assassins delivery perfectly matched to K1’s heavy beats. “I’m still in the hood/Everything’s good/I’m a survivor” is as good as a mantra as one can have right now in this crazy world. 2020 has to be the year the rest of the world sits up and takes notice.

Leadley ‘Nightmare’
If you don’t know: the 24 year-old London/Northampton alt-pop singer built her following as a teenager vlogger, and these days is a mature-sounding songwriter. Given the crisp beats, strong melodic talent, and visual attention to detail it’s no surprise to see a loyal fanbase lap up all her rolling content. This is probably her best song to date, a highly confessional ode to liberating oneself from past troubles that really hits the spot. If you want escapist pleasures right now…this is perfect playlist material!

The Lovely Eggs ‘Still Second Rate’
Holy backflips, new album I Am Moron has hit #1 on both the UK vinyl charts and the independent album charts! The Lancashire duo run a nice line in self-deprecating psych-punk, having snowballed in popularity album-by-album since their 2006 inception. This kickdrum-led kraut-dirge is them to a tee, a lyric mulling over insecurities whilst staring out the bus window. “I speak to my people” is their saving grace; indeed, rock’n’roll is safe in these hands. Turn it up to maximum volume for maximum effect.

Dutty Moonshine Big Band ‘Fianca’
Oxford’s 14-piece big band fuse 1930s jazz/samba sounds with modern bass culture. Their unique formula has made them firm festival favourites in the UK and beyond. New single ‘Fianca’, which precedes sophomore album City Of Sin [May 29th], is a heady mix of primal drums, Middle-Eastern snake charmer flutes, blasting horns, and a singer who mixes up her potent delivery in Spanish and English. It’s a beautiful pile-up to put your “no parties” lockdown life in serious jeopardy. If you fancy a rave in the NN vicinity the band are scheduled to play Northampton’s Roadmender on October 16th.

Katie Malco ‘Brooklyn’
A song about that time Malco went to see a friend that moved to start a new life in NYC, and realised how utterly she missed her. An [almost] proggy five minute slow-burner that bursts into life in the final third, ‘Brooklyn’ pulls at the heartstrings in that special way that she always, time after time, manages. A ‘taking basic rock elements and making a rocket ship’ sort of thing, it’s another preview song from the long-awaited debut album Failures [out June 5th].

Mio Flux ft. Nailbreaker ‘Adam Sandler’
Jacob and George, now here’s a dreamteam that came out of nowhere. The London/Northampton/Rushden Venn diagram in full effect here. Mio [aka one half of Krankhead] keeps it simple with some doomy beats, the bed on to which Nailbreaker can slay his demons. “I feel like Adam Sandler circa 2003” is a very specific, very funny expression of self loathing. You’d still run a mile for him. Beers all round for these two when covid’s over.

Weirdoe ‘Daydream’
Hot on the heels of ‘Try Again’, another Harlz collaboration, Aaron Weir is the 26 year-old man behind those furious lines about rising up and taking on a world that doesn’t give a damn about you. “Been blocked out by these grey clouds/But somehow I see sunshine” he spits over some sweet piano chimes and skitting beats. He doesn’t release a bad track, ever. Northampton’s best kept secret? You might be right. 

Tragic ‘Pig’
“Kingsley front on a Saturday night/A light bump turned into a fight”. We’ve waxed lyrical quite a lot about this trio of ShoeTown teenagers, and for good reason. This is hardcore with nods to Slaves/Idles but also the early ’90s pop variety. They are “the real deal”, as someone who saw the live show recently whispered in my ear. If you’re gonna lose your shit this is the soundtrack you’d choose. Manic energy expended about the shittyness of humanity? Load up here.

Rolling Thunder ‘Scenic Route’
The third track on their debut EP ‘The Nightshop’, from the band who have been no slouches since exploding onto the scene a little over a year ago. This number is more of an Editors/Interpol moody bludgeoner, a nice foil to their usual fast-paced indie jangle. There’s not a bad number amongst the six on the EP; ‘Paul Hollywood’ the sort of anthemic singalong that bands like The Sherlocks and Blossoms make their stock-in-trade. It closes with ‘Break In…’, the killer 2019 single which made everyone fall in love in the first place. Essential stuff.

Flowertoy ‘Forgotten Path’
Milton Keynes sludge duo [Harry Quinn, Alfie Glass] team up with guest vocalist Ben Reed to produce a near seven-minute sonic ordeal. If you’re into doom/stoner/post-rock sounds then this will give you the movement in your underwear you’re looking for. With it’s indecipherable lyrics and depths-of-hell fuzzed riff it’s too experimental to convert you to the dark side if you’re not already there. The playing and production is spot on, and this one certainly makes a change from your usual indie and metal fare!

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Step On: the week’s best new music tracks [Apr 24]

New Boots editor Phil Moore takes you weekly through ten of the best new music tracks. Alfie Templeman ‘Happiness In Liquid Form’From rural Bedfordshire comes the 17 year-old bedroom-pop sensation….

New Boots editor Phil Moore takes you weekly through ten of the best new music tracks.

Alfie Templeman ‘Happiness In Liquid Form’
From rural Bedfordshire comes the 17 year-old bedroom-pop sensation. He clearly lives in a technicolour bubble; at least that’s the impression this song gives you. And right now that sounds like the best place to be. This puts those “lo-fi indie” tags to bed, as this widescreen, play-on-daytime radio wonky guitar-funk workout is going to produce some serious body-popping across the nation. Your at-home festival has itself a breakout star.

Happyness ‘Ouch [yup]’
The London duo are on the comeback trail, previewing tracks off their upcoming third LP. The 1990s alt-rock vibing guys are a joyous riot of brightly distorted guitar and artful lyrics about just about everything your furloughed brain could daydream about. That jittery guitar solo could be off of Generation Terrorists too, which is the icing on the cake.

Dream Wife ‘Hasta La Vista’
The London trio’s new single might be their best work yet. Hypnotic-pop that’s driven by singer Rakel Mjöll’s exquisite vocal, given plentiful space to soar and draw you in. Props to them also for making forthcoming sophomore album So When You Gonna… produced, engineered, and mixed by an all-female team. Action > Sentiment.

Superlove ‘Circles’
This Bristol fuzz-rock trio have touches of pop-punk and metal in them, and they also embrace all the trapping of modern electronica to add a new sheen to their well-crafted, expertly produced songs. This one’s a bit different – a Post Malone cover that takes the original and adds layers of dirty guitar filth on top to make it their own. The chorus is a weighty beast too. Work those neck muscles!

Empyre ‘Drive’
MTV Unplugged vibes from the [usually] hard rockers, with a nicely turned-in video filmed in Vintage Retreat‘s Retro Room. Their acoustic side allows them reinterpret, reimagine, rearrange their grungey tendencies into something more earthy, and it certainly highlights their vocal prowess. Alice In Chains fans will lap this up, as should everyone.

The Big Dirty ‘Dirty Rider’
“You’re just a love machine/I wanna ride you”. They’re back!! A couple of years on from when we last heard the sex rock doyens, and they sound louder, harder, and sexier than ever. Riffs by AC-DC, clothes designed by Joe Exotic – you’ll either love this care-free lot, or be dead inside. Your choice! There’s a nice UK-based resurgence at the moment for ‘real rock’, and these undesirables are rightly at the forefront. Become a dirty rider before society crumbles!

Andy Crofts and Le SuperHomard ‘Forevermore’
Le SuperHomard is Montepellier-based Christophe Vaillant, who specialises in lush ’60s-style orchestral-pop. Hopping into bed with The Moons/Weller man for this unique collaboration was a superb choice. Andy’s rich, melancholic tone perfectly suits the song’s romantic leanings. It will have you proposing marriage to your nearest and dearest before it’s even finished. If this is to resemble the sound of Andy’s solo career then I for one cannot wait for more.

Crawlspaces ‘Primrose’
Northants emo types have finally released their debut single, and it’s a strong beginning. ‘Pop-punk’ doesn’t feel enough of a definition to cover what’s going on here. It rises and falls like the best of them, with Sam Morrison’s voice giving it plenty of depth, whilst the lads bring the fireworks around him. The chorus is an absolute monster; untamable. An exciting future awaits.

Jay Orosz ‘Do It Better’
Another week, another Harlz production! Lot of vocoder used by this amorous Northampton rapper. As previously heard guesting on Weirdoe’s ‘Diana’ a few months back, its his time for the spotlight. A confident debut single, hopefully there’s more to come.

Props ‘Easy’
Wellingborough/London bedroom pop to finish off this week. The quiet bedroom beats of 2019 releases have been given the boot in favour of scratchy guitar verse and a dancefloor chorus. It as excellent as those previous numbers, endorphin-rush feel and all. It’s deserving of a much wider audience, so do check out all his wonky pop manoeuvres.

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