Tag: album review

Album review: Joe Go Beat

JOE GO BEATAlea Iacta Est[self-released] State-of-the-nation albums are by their very nature hit and miss affairs. Attempts to encapsulate the modern turmoils of the UK usually come off pretty fragmentary….

JOE GO BEAT
Alea Iacta Est
[self-released]

State-of-the-nation albums are by their very nature hit and miss affairs. Attempts to encapsulate the modern turmoils of the UK usually come off pretty fragmentary. But with slowthai sort of doing one last year maybe it’s something Northamptonians feel drawn to; something in the Nene water that Joe Go Beat has been busy supping on too.

Anyroad, Joe Martin has done a 35 minute, lockdown written/recorded solo album that’s not quite full of his usual piss and vinegar in GoGo Loco [and previously The Mobbs], but none-the-less is certainly not the ramblings of a contented individual. Here he utilises some of his previous central influences – The Who, Dr. Feelgood, Billy Childish, The Black Keys – to create an often more restrained version of his usual primitive rock’n’roll displays. Whether mining garage rock, pub rock or something more rootsy, it’s these familiar tropes on which he hangs his delicate barbs at Brexit-loving little England.

Opener ‘Dirty Old Rag’ does little to disguise its target – The Sun newspaper and their ilk. “Dirty old rag/The vomit splash/The xenophobe voice/Filling heads with trash/Dirty old rag/Solely to blame/For every evil/For all our pain”. There’s little room for wiggle in deciphering that message. And it comes attached to rhythm’n’booze barnstormer – the old tactic of getting them dancing and taking it all in subliminally…or something.

“Sold a lie by the tuneless clown”. There’s no let-up on songs two and three, ‘Albion Town’ and the title track. He takes aim with both barrels at David Cameron’s Brexit vote, the public discourse that followed, and where it has all ultimately lead us. If there’s a more prescient lyric around at the moment than “Scrolling up and down on your media feed/Until your inquisitive fingers bleed” this writer has yet to hear it [incidentally if you want the lyrics they are all there to read on Bandcamp].

‘Ipso Facto’ righteously growls along like an update of The Sonics garage punk classic ‘Psycho’, berating how within British narratives it is often the empty vessels that make the most noise [hello Katie, hello Piers]. The firmly tongue-in-cheek exhortations of ‘Jingo Man’, meanwhile, tells of a man who “Will save us all/From the terrors of foreign rule”. Joe’s interest in British wartime culture provides the title of ‘Stand By Your Beds’. An acerbic takedown of small-minded English people, the songs levity is suddenly absent in the pay-off: “Look out at the stars/You stupid blind fools/We are specs of dust/On the universe’s walls”.

Sometimes it can overwhelm with so much bile to ingest; ‘The Hope & The Glory’ is a smashing Berry/Dylan-esque rocker, but it’s like being bashed over the head with one too many concepts. But that’s not really an issue; you don’t come to this album for love songs. The whole album can be neatly summarised as one man’s bafflement at the post-Brexit landscape. The chorus of ‘Walking Backwards’ is thus: “I thought we’d left behind/The blue, white, red and pompous kind/But it seems we’re walking back/Walking backwards [clap clap]”. And that’s quite heartbreaking when you think about it. Final song ‘T.T.F.N.’ is a wave goodbye to the European Union [“Tut ta for now my old friend/Let’s hope we meet again”].

This album is perhaps a cathartic outpouring of resistance to our Brexit betters, a plea for other ways. Either that or he’s just a bloody Remoaner! This album is a sorrowful collection, full of regret and with little evidence offered to stay positive. Yet it remains an enjoyable ride for the spirit with which each note is played, and the intelligence coursing through every hard-written line. You only improve your future by reflecting on your past mistakes, after all.

Phil Moore

Alea Iacta Est is out now via the usual digital platforms


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Album review: hazeyjane

HAZEYJANEAnima Rising[Tu-Kay Records] Three years in the making, this is the sophomore album from the Kettering-area musical collective fronted by singer-songwriter Chris Brown. Recorded and produced by Ash Tu-kay, Anima…

HAZEYJANE
Anima Rising
[Tu-Kay Records]


Three years in the making, this is the sophomore album from the Kettering-area musical collective fronted by singer-songwriter Chris Brown. Recorded and produced by Ash Tu-kay, Anima Rising presents ambient folk moodpieces that touch on mythical subjects in highly poetic form.

The title is a Jungian concept, denoting a rising of feminine energy. It’s used by Joni Mitchell on ‘Don’t Interrupt the Sorrow’, which, as a key touchstone artist for hazeyjane, is probably where it came from. ‘Inside Out’, the opener, is a lovely mix of Mitchell’s mid-70s experimentation, and the similarly inclined explorer of inner space, John Martyn. It’s a beautiful, mature song; multiple voices weaving the story, a prominent and hypnotic bassline, and attacks by a string quartet occasionally penetrating the stoned vibes.

The album proceeds in similar fashion, ‘Trade Winds’ being a Floydian meditation on uncertainty [“the cracks between wrong and right may never seal”]. Brown’s rich voice delivering an unmistakable message of fear and regret. The title track brings piano solemnity into the mix, and it’s not unwelcome.

‘Haunting Hands’ delves a little into prog, a lengthy instrumental opening passage before the reverberating guitar and voice of Brown brings it back to earth. ‘Gwendolyn’ brings acoustic guitar to the fore, whilst ‘Alraune’ ruminates on unholy love.

The back end of the album ties everything up nicely. ‘Lost’ is fronted by Corinne Lucy and her luxurious tones; an old folk voice from a forgotten time re-emerging with new tales to tell. Closer ‘Hush, Little Sister’ has a strong emotional pull; it says as much in its spaces as it does through its’ crashing waves of guitar and percussion.

Alongside fellow traveller Kenneth J Nash the hazeyjane troupe bring spiritual, otherworldly vibes to the NN music scene, and we are deeply indebted to them for conjuring such spaces. Anima Rising is a rich and beguiling piece of work: an intoxicating, immersive experience which brings much reward on repeat listening.

Phil Moore

Anima Rising is out now on streaming platforms, and CD direct from the band

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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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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: 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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Album review: Jordan Mackampa

JORDAN MACKAMPA Foreigner [AWAL] The debut album from University Of Northampton graduate/former ShoeTown resident Jordan Mackampa is finally here. Having begun playing shows around teyn circa 2014 it is heartwarming…

JORDAN MACKAMPA
Foreigner
[AWAL]

The debut album from University Of Northampton graduate/former ShoeTown resident Jordan Mackampa is finally here. Having begun playing shows around teyn circa 2014 it is heartwarming to see him reach this current level of success. The album title is a nod to his geographical journey creating a certain Otherness in him: born in the Democratic Republic Of Congo, his family moved to London, and then onto Coventry. As an adult he then enrolled for music at the Northampton uni, before finally relocating to the music biz central hub of London. 

His soulful-pop songwriting, enlivened by that wide gospel vocal that is his trademark, has been evident throughout his musical career, from the early acoustic bedroom pop recordings right through to most recent single, the R&B stomp of ‘Magic’. That song begins the album in fine fettle. His mother’s love of the great soul singers like Marvin Gaye, Bill Withers and Curtis Mayfield is transparent here, and he effortlessly joins the historical soul throng with a crystal clear number that does not need to reinvent the wheel. His pure pleasure in the love thing carries his message front and centre.

‘Love at First Sight’ immediately drops the mood down a notch, his joy at having “found myself an angel” an evocation of the memory of the energy of those first forays in a relationship. It’s a nice song that has drawn admirable comparisons to Michael Kiwanuka, and that is no bad thing. ‘Tight’ has him an awestruck balladeer, a woven jazz-folk song that shows off his yearning lilt beautifully. Indeed this projection of yearning is perhaps his greatest gift: his emotional honesty is such that one can often feel like he’s actually singing in the room with you, rather than via some ones and zeros travelling through a cable.

Foreigner is full of catchy melodies and heartfelt lyrics; none more so than on his questioning single ‘What Am I’. A state-of-the-world ’70s Motown-y number that expresses a certain helplessness. “I watched the news this morning/Another town has fallen/The people still are fightin’/Their stories told in pictures”. It’s an anti-war song, but with a message that truly resonates in this Isolation Nation times. Another single is ‘Parachutes’, where Mackampa gently sounds like a seeker of spiritual truth within human relationships. This one, atypcially, has him regretting getting involved, his usual ‘love is all’ message taking a bit of a knock.

After a interlude conversation with his mother about his childhood development, the second half of the album begins with the title track. It’s bare bones beginning is almost Nick Drake-esque, with some delicate finger-picked guitar and solemn string quartet parts. The “I learnt the language/But I felt disconnected” musings reflecting his former unease with his place in the world. ‘Care for Your Mother’ has a Bill Withers/Al Green laidback feel; ‘Eventide’ a more contemporary minor-chord malaise. ‘Under’ is a snappy dancefloor banger that may not seen his natural territory, but let’s not forget he has a oak-strong voice that pretty much works in any context! The album closes with ‘Warning Signs’ [not the King Purple track!], and it’s an dusty, noir-indie lament that recalls Richard Hawley. In other words, stunning.

This album is such a triumph, all held together through its peaks and troughs by that indefatigable voice of Jordan’s that draws you into his [mostly] insular world. Obviously lots of people will put it on to get laid, and you can’t give much of a higher compliment than that. 

Phil Moore

Foreigner is out now via the usual digital platforms, or score a nice vinyl version from here or elsewhere

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Album review: Kev Minney ‘Modern Stories’

KEV MINNEY Modern Stories [self-released] Northampton born-and-raised Brighton resident Minney is back with his second long-player, following the rather excellent 2017 work Stories Of The Sky. New Boots is pleased…

KEV MINNEY
Modern Stories
[self-released]

Northampton born-and-raised Brighton resident Minney is back with his second long-player, following the rather excellent 2017 work Stories Of The Sky. New Boots is pleased to report this album is even better than that ruminating debut. Ten numbers that come straight from the heart, every track here is full of affection, with no affectations to distract him from his purpose.

Minney’s guitar finger-picking style is rhythmic enough to become hypnotic over the timespan of each song. The string flourishes that pop up regularly on Modern Stories are often sudden and striking, bringing to mind the work of Nick Drake arranger Robert Kirby. Minney’s whispered vocal style is perhaps a reflection of his quiet and shy persona, but they are custom-built for the songs he writes.

His often powerful lyrics can throw you out of your daily step; e.g. “wouldn’t it be wonderful if angels helped us cry?” as heard on opener ‘Magic’. There’s a few themes that come across here [besides love!] – technology, addiction and climate change being obvious examples. It’s hard to pick out specific songs and go into depth about their showy musical range, for this is a folk album that is about the “feel”. The only number on here that shouts “radio play” is ‘God Is An Algorithm’, with its easy to remember, elevated chorus. But whilst some may worry that’s a weakness, it more than likely just shows you the confidence level we’re working with here. These songs speak for themselves; and the musicians allow them room to breathe. His musical and life partner Steph Brown adds touches of piano and backing vocal here and there, adding more layers to build the sound – especially effective on the dynamic loud and quiet passages of ‘A Way Out’. Their duet on ‘Natural Disaster’ is a highlight; their vocal interplay the result of many an hour spent harmonising.

Modern Stories is that classic ‘slow-burner’ album which reveals itself more each time. I can’t imagine someone in a rush giving it time to impart its many qualities, and with its minimalist design maybe it will sit quietly untouched in some reviewers drawers. Which is criminal. Minney should be whispered about in the same influential circles as your John Grants and Bon Ivers and Fleet Foxes are. He’s Northampton’s best-kept secret, but we can help change that. Listen in below, and tell your friends. Gifts like this are there to be shared.

Phil Moore

Modern Stories is out now via the usual digital platforms, and on CD from his shows.

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Album review; Ashborn

ASHBORN Awakening [self-released] A band of four Polish émigrés now residing in Northampton, Ashborn have achieved much in their two year history. Highlights include winning Metal 2 The Masses which…

ASHBORN
Awakening [self-released]

A band of four Polish émigrés now residing in Northampton, Ashborn have achieved much in their two year history. Highlights include winning Metal 2 The Masses which culminated in an appearance at 2018s Blooodstock Open Air, and performing at Northampton’s own HopFest. What they’ve achieved in under 24 months shouldn’t be a surprise when you consider that band members have appeared in metal heavyweights Ghost, Grin and also DieRevers. It’s a pedigree Ashborn have brought to their debut album and ensures that Awakening is a full-on, no holds barred, metal assault.

Opening with ‘Mute’, an almost ambient piano introduction that’s textured with shades of Bach and Mozart, it’s an instrumental of ethereal beauty, poetry without words, that lulls the listener into a false sense of security. In an intelligent use of light and shade ‘Mute’ contrasts with the next track ‘Monsters’ that tumbles over the listener like a landslide. Ashborn race out the blocks with pedal pressed firmly to the metal, as drummer Marcin K fires his drums with piston-like precision and vocalist Marcin D delivers his words with a mixture of the clean and guttural. A riff-heavy affair ‘Monsters’ is akin to a five minute musical pummelling, with little respite. Again the use of sonic dynamics is put to good use on ‘Crushed Ant’, a track which bassist Peter bookends with two solos which makes the contuse music sandwiched between even more weighty. It’s a punchy song that’s given a modern hardcore feel by the lack of guitar noodling.

To record Awakening the band spent two weeks holed up at Initiate Audio and Media with Neil Hudson at the helm, and his expansive production finds the band attacking the listener from all angles. On ‘If The Walls Could Speak’ the guitars fire from different speakers creating the feeling of being under fire. Like Pantera at their most brutal it’s a song that seems to breathe as the guitar ululates in a groove metal way. The aptly titled ‘Light That Creates Darkness’ was the albums lead single. Lyrically it details the subject of nuclear Armageddon, and it’s a theme that’s mirrored in the music as the riffs erupt like mushroom clouds then fan out like radiation – the soundtrack to global apocalypse.

The album is kept interesting by tempo changes which pepper the record and also by changes of pace, most notably on the mean and moody ‘Awakening From The Death’. Like an anchor tied to a drowning man it swirls around a whirlpool while the song is punctuated with haunting interludes. The artillery barrage ‘This Is Slowly Killing Us’ picks up the pace again, and shells the listener for five minutes and with an air guitar inciting solo curtailing the song it’s all very whiplash inducing. This warlike theme continues on closer ‘We Are Going To Die’. A musical maelstrom in which drums fire relentlessly, guitars squeal as if shocked by electricity and tortured vocals float atop. It fairly races along and musically captures that brief moment in time just before a head-on car crash when there’s no chance of aversion.

Two bonus tracks appear on the end of the album and in truth they wouldn’t be out of place if they were shoehorned in anywhere on Awakening. Both of these songs appeared on the bands Demo CD with ‘Every Word’ being a more measured affair and has a metalcore feel very much in the vein of Hatebreed and Merauder. With Mietek’s guitar ringing like sirens ‘When Darkness Comes’ brings the disc to a suitably cataclysmic conclusion.

As a genre metal is much maligned and often overlooked. However along with Krysthla’s Worldwide Negative Ashborn’s debut album proves the subculture is alive and kicking and in Awakening [alongside Worldwide Negative] I’d argue they’ve not only produced one of this year’s best metal records unleashed in ShoeTown but one of the county’s best albums released this year regardless of category.

Peter Dennis

Awakening is out this Friday. Order here

Cover photo by Artur Tarczewski

 

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Album review: Nina Harries

NINA HARRIES Nina Harries [self-released] If you have not already had the good fortune to be acquainted with Nina Harries, let New Boots introduce you. Nina is a British double…

NINA HARRIES
Nina Harries [self-released]

If you have not already had the good fortune to be acquainted with Nina Harries, let New Boots introduce you. Nina is a British double bassist and vocalist hailing from Northampton. She comes from a family of musicians, she trained in western classical music for four years at the Royal College of Music under double bass professor Enno Senft of the London Sinfonietta. In the last two years of her degree at the RCM she began to work as a soloist and band bassist for several acts from the London band scene, namely The Burning Glass, John Fairhurst Trio, Barbarella’s Bang Bang, Symphonica Feat DJ Switch and the London Electronic Orchestra.

At this point Nina also began to discover a love for solo performance, and began to experiment with performing a mix of original and cover songs using only double bass and voice. She fits nicely under the ‘dark folk’ genre, but also brings with her some flavours of rock, trip-hop and EDM. She has a fantastic range – massive respect for hitting those real low notes – and her vocals appear different on every track, whilst still managing to maintain her own ‘Nina style’.

Each perfectly-formed song on Nina Harries has new, fresh influences, when compared to the previous track. You can never be sure where she will go next. The album was recorded with producer and engineer Peter Miles at his studio Middle Farm Studios in Devon, and has an overall feel of the later albums by Nico or more modern styles like music by This Is The Kit.

The album starts with a slow build and absorbs you in with ‘Heavy Doubt’, which does what it says on the tin, perfectly reflecting the feeling of doubt in the mind, but even if this is not your thing do not rest here. There are two stand-out tracks on the album, and the second track ‘Lose Yourself’ is definitely one of them. With its faster-paced rhythm and the way she bends the opening notes on the bass is reminiscent of Mick Karn from Japan. Accompanied with Nina rapping in unison, she is absolutely nailing the experience of being a woman in a male dominated musical genre. It is an immediate ‘add to play list’ moment.

Track three ‘Icarus’ has an eastern vibe and once again has a slow build; at 8 minutes 34 seconds it is the longest track on the album, but is well worth the investment of time. At this point in the album she could have gone anywhere, and she certainly doesn’t disappoint. This track captivated me, in the same way The Doors captivated me with The End. It is truly mesmerising, sit back, relax and enjoy. ‘Will; I’m Not’ is a collaboration with the album producer Peter Miles, and sticking to the view that the bass and vocals can do anything and go anywhere, Nina moves into the zone of EDM dance music. Re-enforcing the fact that she has the skills to do what ever she wants, in whatever genre she sees fit.

On ‘O’Lothsome Day’ and ‘Pendle Hill’ her vocals have a slight ASMR quality as the album moves back to her dark folk and gothic rock roots. The second stand-out track is ‘One Hard Task’, an alternative rock track which hooks you in immediately and sounds so perfectly formed. Along with ‘Lose Yourself’ they are the “check out Nina Harries” songs from this album. The final track ‘Int;;Ext;;Int;;Ext;; / Butterfly’ is a beautiful conclusion to the album moving back to the EDM-style and includes the piano, bass and of course the superb ethereal vocals of Nina.

I think it is fair to say that you cannot and should not underestimate this lady, you cannot take her for granted. This album will move you through a rainbow of sounds and is deeply captivating. But just like the butterfly, do not attempt to try to pin her down: she will sit with you, but she cannot be boxed. She is on a mission to explore all the realms available to her musical craft, and to create new ones. She is certainly one to pay attention to.

Lisa Eversden

Nina Harries is out September 13th [order vinyl and CD here]. The album launch show is the same day at Hoxton Hall.

https://www.ninaharries.com

[cover photo by Joe Brown]

 

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Album review: Krysthla

KRYSTHLA Worldwide Negative [PHD] Formed in 2013 Wellingborough’s Krysthla have been carving out their own niche in the realm of extreme metal. Their first album A War of Souls dropped…

KRYSTHLA
Worldwide Negative [PHD]

Formed in 2013 Wellingborough’s Krysthla have been carving out their own niche in the realm of extreme metal. Their first album A War of Souls dropped in 2015 and was followed in 2017 by the critically acclaimed Peace in Our Time. Their third full length Worldwide Negative comes hot on the heels of a triumphant main stage appearance at this years Bloodstock Open Air festival, and this record is the sound of a band confidently reaching maturity and standing on the verge of world domination.

By way of an introduction opening salvo ‘Negative’ is the perfect calling card. Beginning with a brief, cascading guitar motif that gently reels in the listener, it creates a moment of serenity that means when Krysthla arrive as a band they hit with the force of a hurricane: a blast beat that’s overlaid with a tortured scream breaks the still, and heralds a musical maelstrom. The guitar motif recurs throughout as Liam Turland’s powerhouse drumming dictates the pace and gives proceedings a groove metal feel as the group constantly shift gears and effortlessly switch tempos. The incendury ‘Negative’ would make a great set opener for Krysthla’s live show, and it seems destined to ignite mosh pits wherever they play. Next track ‘Reawaken’ is bookended between two punishing riffs, and the mid section evidences an intelligent use of light and shade as clean vocals juxtapose the more guttural – while the intricate guitar lines highlight the hammer blow riffs.

‘Grief is New Love’ has a real industrial, surgical feel, kinda like Fear Factory on amphetamine, the drums fire like pistons while the guitars capture the cold, brittle atmospherics of black metal. Next cut, and lead single, ‘Zero Sum Game’ continues in a similar vein, relentless without being repetitious. Krysthla have a modus operandi similar to Killing Joke, but whereas the Joke use the same riff as a battering ram Krysthla have more in their arsenal and attack your senses from different angles. Guitarist Neil Hudson also produced Worldwide Negative and his wizardry unobtrusively brings different instrumentation to the fore at various junctures, and subtly repositions the listeners perspective. Despite the band drawing on different strands of extreme metal this album has a unified feel. That’s partly due to the production, but primarily it’s the introspective lyrics that deal with alienation and the impact of our actions on ourselves and the planet. Linking all the songs thematically gives Worldwide Negative the feel of a concept album, and ensures it hangs together as a cohesive whole.

‘White Castles’ is like facing an artillery barrage as vocalist Adi Mayes tackles his lyrics with hardcore fury and sings with indignation. However the band aren’t all about pure bludgeon, as some nice guitar work provides brief respite; the band lulling us into a false sense of security before we’re attacked sonically once more. On ‘Psalm of Heartlessness’ the band have created a song that simply sounds huge and towers over the listener – threatening with a monolithic enormity. Penultimate track ‘Aurea Mediocritas’ swirls in a musical tempest with sinister guitar flourishes that suggests we’ve arrived at a dystopian future. Befitting of an album closer ‘The Gift’ is truly epic and neatly pulls all the bands influences together. It begins by thrashing like Metallica’s ‘Battery’, before undergoing a transmogrification and then sinking like Immortal’s ‘Beyond the North Waves’ which ensures the album ends of a rather ominous tone.

Artists often speak of the ‘difficult third album’ but obviously Krysthla haven’t had that problem. By refining their sound and playing to their strengths they’ve produced an album in Worldwide Negative that could propel them into metals top tier.

Peter Dennis

Worldwide Negative is out on Friday. Pre-order here

Feature Photo credit: Amplified Gig Photography

 
 
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