Dimsŵn Highlights

DimSwn 2015Musical highlights from 11th April’s one day Dimsŵn festival; this is the little sister of the Sŵn three/four day festival held in Cardiff in October, (this year confirmed to be in November due to event clashes in the City).  Last year, Sŵn held it’s first all-dayer, and by all accounts it was a success, leading to a second batch of bands heading to Cardiff this Saturday, I thought I’d head down and give it the once over.

Things kicked off early afternoon and carried on into the small hours with club nights and DJ sets taking over, as usual there was a mix of bands from home and away and with a variety of genres to chose from.  From 3pm in Undertone a trio of punk bands kept me coming back inbetween some tasty craft ales.

Twisted in particular were impressive. I missed them recently when they played at the DIY Cardiff gig with Caves so it was great to get another chance to check them out.  Livi’s off kilter semi-spoken bark also somehow manages to carry a tune and they nail the short sharp but fun side of punk brilliantly, they seemed tense at the start but soon eased into the set.  Another higlight for me was WaLL, a more abrasive, scuzzy alt-rock feel here and plenty of fuck-you attitude, it really didn’t seem to matter if they had an audience or not, however their front man did apologise to me after he trod on my foot during one of his flailing adventures off stage, so I feel it may have been mostly for the show.  Bloody Knees were entertaining, bit poppy for me but worked the crowd well, plenty of stage presence from their frontman and Shinies also stood out; dreamy indie rock and a tight performance.

The one day version of Sŵn is harder to do if, like myself, you are not with a group of friends, the gaps between sets were 45 minutes meaning you couldn’t stay in one place for long as the venues all cleared out at the end of each performance and I found myself watching bands I wasn’t keen on whilst waiting for other venues to get set up. Lesson learned for me I think, but overall it was a solid event.



Review: Alright, Self Titled EP

Review: Alright, Self titled EP

Alright EP
Poppy, female-fronted indie punks Alright hail from Charlotte, NC (USA) and feature members of Late Bloomer and It Looks Sad.  Truthfully it was the Late Bloomer connection that drew me in in the first place but this self-titled EP (released on 24th March via Negative Fun) is a really sweet release with light fuzz on the guitars, simple yet catchy melodies and a light, breezy feel.

The more straightforwardly poppy Mixed Signals opens the EP, bouncy, with a punk edge, it’s fun, catchy and easy to sing along with.  Cold Feet is fuzzier and slightly reminiscent of (the recently defunct) Bleeding Rainbow in that it has a more indie/shoegaze feel and unfussy production.

Watercolors is my top pick, it has a cracking melody and doesn’t rush to get going, but when it does it transports you. This track has a moody tone compared to the others and the instrumental section midway wrings goosebumps which continue with the vocal refrain at the close.  The mood is successfully lightened again with Pollen & Allergies for the end of the record, making you want to re-spin it straight away.

This isn’t groundbreaking stuff but I’m hooked;  the sweet, simple honesty of the tracks combined with great vocals and melodies is perfectly balanced.


Review: Maths – The Fires Courting The Sea

Maths EP Cover Image
It’s been 4 years since we’ve heard from Maths and this return sees them in great form with a solid release; new EP The Fires Courting The Sea is 6 tracks in just 11 minutes, a fast trip through their brand of screamo/hardcore. It may pass quickly but the journey is a satisfying one – tuneful tracks with great vocal interplay, stop/start rhythms and off kilter riffage.

Tracks like Last Night Silhouette sound like the start of an Envy epic, yet at 1 minute 56 it leaves you wanting more – they pack alot into these short tunes; changes of rhythm and tempo, fiddly riffage and a variety of vocal styles keep things interesting and leave plenty to discover on repeated play-throughs.

The EP is released on 12” vinyl (limited edition grey / black / white marble) and digital formats through Tangled Talk Records on 23rd March.


Review: Taman Shud Album

Taman Shud – Viper Smoke Album Review

Taman ShudThe London based purveyors of dark rock have created an addictive record in Viper Smoke;  fittingly, online research on the band tends to just throw up pages on the unsolved Taman Shud case from the 40s, which would no doubt appeal to the band’s dark sensibilities.

The four piece have an interest in the occult and this carries through to the sound on the album with the moody yet tuneful rock mixed with psychedelic drones and unintelligible lyrics punctuating the murky washes of organ and twin bass.  The feel is not otherworldly as such but certainly from the darker side of our world, somewhere infinitely more exotic than wherever we happen to be.

The record creates its own space, especially through headphones, an all encompassing spacey zone; the production – epic yet almost claustrophobic at the same time, the distorted vocals, twin bass and gothic atmosphere, create a place you don’t want to step out of, a space away from the banal and mundane, something all the best records manage.

This is a record that should be listened to in one sitting however there are a few tunes you tend to remember:  the superb The Hex Inverted with its pounding bass and drums combo wrapped in distortion and intense vocals is a highlight, as is the punkier I Tego Arkana Dei and Crime Cycle (previously heard on the split with Fat White Family) has a spooky, odd rumbling in the background that makes you think someone is talking behind you.  Fantastic.

Find the album on Bandcamp.


Review: Super Luxury Album

Super Luxury – Ten Solid Years Of Applause

digipak4Panel-DW.aiI don’t often say this, but Super Luxury’s debut album benefits from cleaner prduction, OK it’s not slick, but it is at least cleaner than their 2013 EP Mystery Thriller Teen Drama. The Leeds 5 piece have a warm and fuzzy noise rock undertone (with the odd blast of discord) topped by meaty classic rock riffage and shouty vocals – trust me it works. The production here really brings out the riffs but still lets you hear the tunes, and they do pen some corkers; take Constant Delicious where a hooky riff and hypnotic rhythm make for a catchy tune with classic rock undertones, it’s super catchy.

The record takes a little while to get going on the first listen, with opener 25 Meters’ harsh distorted wash of noise laden with squeals of feedback feeling oddly like a long intro, even at 4 minutes; but then when a foot stomping riff comes in you get a hint of what is to come later and the promise is good.

Ian Mckaye Made So Much Money Out Of Fugazi He Lives In A Solid Gold House… is one of the highlights, starting a run of excellent tunes for the middle section of the record.  This is where it feels like the album starts to pick up steam and everything begins to pull together. The best tunes include Golden Climbing and Milk Sauce. The former is initially marked by intense squealing before calming into a dreamy/sludgy but tuneful track. The latter produces a great menacing rock and roll feel with some serious downtuning and off kilter, distorted shouting.  Salem Tears is another worth mentioning, again, hypnotic drums which seem to force you to move and a simple vocal line, (this time dual shouts layer up) is easy to join in with.

There is some great stuff on this record, it seems to sum up the diversity of British rock at the moment; so many different styles and influences blending to create poweful yet melodic tunes you can rock out to.



Review: Caravels/Octaves Split EP

Octaves Caravels Split EPReleased via Topshelf/Bridge 9 Records on 27th January, this looks to the be last release from Caravels as they have just announced they are to split; it’s a shame as I haven’t checked them out before and I like what I’ve heard from them here. The two tracks they put forward are beautiful dreamy post-hardcore; shouted vocals (reminiscent of mewithoutYou) over soaring, crystal clear guitars; the tracks have a sadness to them but at the same time the earnest feel is counteracted by the organic and dream-like structures and production, this is goosebump territory.

Octaves are as always punchy, intense and backed by some great technical riffage – compared to their Bridge 9 debut back last year these tracks feel more enthusiastic, embued with a renewed energy, and (cleaner production aside) reminding me more of their fantastic debut album Greener Pastures. The opening moments of Tom Petty Cash build exquisitely to a beautiful riff before the drums pound out their takeover and the vocals power in; great start. The track itself plays out with an almost prog-rock structure; little interludes and heavier sections woven together, along with changes of key and pace. Can’t get enough of it.  AM Traffic Control is darker with soaring guitars, more discordant and with a fantastic sax (?) freaking out in one section, this track is layered with powerful riffs creating an intense wall of sound.

With quality tracks from both bands this is an EP I haven’t been able to stop listening to since the stream came my way, it’s also a solid starting point for Octaves if you haven’t previously checked them out.  I’ll be picking up a copy come payday.


Looking Forward – Upcoming In 2015

I love the optimism of a fresh new year and there are already some great releases to look forward to in the first quarter of 2015.

Octaves Caravels Split EP
Octaves /Caravels – Split EP

Not long to wait for this first one,  a split from Octaves and Caravels which has an expected release date of 20/01/15 through Bridge 9/Topshelf; one for the post-hardcore mob. Check out the Octaves track Tom Petty Cash, taken from the EP below.



Swell-drug-church-520x520Drug Church – Swell EP
An expected release of 10/02/15 for this excellent new five track record from one of my favourite bands of 2013. The EP continues on where the album finished – husky vocals, playful lyrics, great melodies, heavy hit drums and rich well-rounded guitars. Opener But Does It Work? is a corker, closely followed by Ghost Dad, but again, the whole record is a great package of memorable and addictive tunes with no duds.


Pelican The Cliff
Pelican – The Cliff EP

Released on 23rd February, this is essentially a remix EP, reimagining The Cliff, a track from their 2013 release Forever Becoming. I’m not normally a fan of remixes but this one has piqued my interest with the addition of vocals and names like Justin Broadrick and Aaron Harris attached. The EP includes one new track too.

Also upcoming are new releases from MINE who have a new EP to be released but no date for this one yet and the debut full-length from Svalbard, both of which already have me salivating.


Records Of The Year 2014

Records of the year 2014
It’s almost the end of the year again, time to share with you some of the records I’ve enjoyed in 2014. I’ve tried to keep it short and sweet, only including those records that I still have on regular rotation; I could also have included albums I enjoyed reviewing – Dikembe’s Mediumship, Hoax Hunters’ Comfort and Safety and numerous others, but I’d be here all next year putting that list together, so I give you my top (random number of) albums with a few bonus EPs and singles to check out – enjoy.

RainGoodtime Boys – Rain
The first full length from this UK hardcore band realised the potential of their previous EPs and singles and expanded their sound, refining the raw heady hardcore into something melodic, well rounded but still with plenty of bite. The album manages to be instant and easy to listen to but doesn’t scrimp on the meaty riffage. Easily makes my best of the year list.


acid fast cover imageAcid Fast – Rabid Moon
Released early in 2014 this was an immediate addition to my best of the year list and didn’t get forgotten in the shuffle. The lasting appeal of the album comes from a core of excellent melodies and a backing of solidly hooky bass lines and sing along vocals rounding things out. There is a strong 90s influence, which is reminiscent of bands like Jawbreaker, Superchunk and, to a certain extent, The Breeders, making the album sound like it was released an age ago and has just been discovered in a dusty attic somewhere; never a bad thing in my opinion.


Late Bloomer Cover ImageLate Bloomer –  Things Change
Knowing nothing about this band and having no expectations, apart from liking the great cover art, I put this record on, and was instantly drawn in.  North Carolina trio Late Bloomer make me reminisce – bringing back memories of albums I loved in the 90s by Dinosaur Jr. and Galaxie 500 amongst others.  Things Change successfully melds the fuzz and distortion of a classic indie/shoegaze outfit with the melodies, riffs and vocals you’d expect to find in catchy indie-rock.  However, it must be said, that the joy of the record comes not from the nostalgic feelings created, but the way the band have brought these sounds bang up to date, by mixing in many other things; from warm gruff punkish vocals, to new wave emo and hardcore, there is nothing they’re not afraid to blend in but it’s all constructed in a sympathetic way making many of the tunes here instantly likeable.


Cayetana coverCayetana – Nervous Like Me
I’ve made no secret on this blog that all girl Philly trio Cayetana became one of my new favourite bands as soon as I heard their Demo back in January 2013, so it’s probably no surprise that their debut full length album features high in this list.  In the simplest terms, Cayetana write songs that make me feel glad to be alive and I’ve come back to this album over and over again since its release  and it never fails to lift my sprits with its raw edged but instantly likeable melodies.

SolidsSolids – Blame Confusion
This Emo duo from Montreal use plenty of fuzz and rock pretty hard on their debut full length; they’re one of those bands that leaves you wondering how two people can make so much noise. Their sound recalls 90s indie-rock and perfectly straddles the line between shoegaze and punk, but they also lace each tune with a hooky, melodic edge which makes for an addictive album overall – it’s certainly had me coming back for more.


Pariso Svalbard splitPariso Svalbard Split LP
It’s not a huge surprise to see these two great bands coming together to make a split album – they’ve toured together many times  and musically its clear they are on a similar wavelength, but even for a split record, Pariso and Svalbard have produced a truly collaborative effort here – going one step futher than most and writing and performing two of the tracks as one band; like a gnarly supergroup of sorts.  All three vocalists from the two bands play a part and there is a healthy amount of the heavy duty power you’d expect from these two, with meaty riffage a feature of course, but there are also some nice lighter touches throughout balancing the sound well.


Flesh World cover imageFlesh World – MLP
I read many great reviews for this record this year and quickly found out that all were well deserved – this is a fantastic album.  Post-punk with memorable melodies, wrapped in warm fuzz; it’s dark and moody but also catchy and infectious and I haven’t been able to stop listening to it throughout 2014 and no doubt through the year to come.



Hag Face, Rag Face Cover ImageHag Face – Rag Face
All girl Canadian punk band Hag Face released this great record in April – it’s only $2 on Bandcamp so no excuses. I’ve been totally won over by their raw edged charm – melodies hide under blown out riffs, feedback squeals and screams.  I love the angsty energy, fantastic vocals and rock and roll rhythms – it all hooks you in so easily, making this a totally addictive record.


Bleeding Rainbow Interrupt Album Cover
Bleeding Rainbow – Interrupt
Classy shoegaze from this Philadelphia mob; hooky, melodic and memorable tunes pepper an album with no filler. This band has been around for ages (previously under the Reading Rainbow moniker) but only just made it on to my radar, for shame.


The Good Wife Cover Image
The Good Wife –  Love Songs

This is available for free via Bandcamp in an unmastered format as unfortunately The Good Wife is no more.  Apparently the band split up shortly after recording this album but even in its unfinished form it holds some monstrous tracks and serves as a reminder of how great this Brit noise-rock band were.


Svin album coverSvin – S/T
Another great record from the Danish avant-garde instrumentalists. This one feels more robust due to some meaty riffage and heavier duty drumming than I’ve heard from them recently.  Less of an emphasis on melody gives the record a more hypnotic, psychadelic feel, with a hint of the industrial in the drum patterns.  They haven’t lost their delicate touch however, the minimal track Alt is heartbreakingly beautiful.


Brain F#
Brain F# – Empty Set
Fast, bratty punk from Carolina with great vocals; this is fun and catchy stuff you can dance to. Not entirely sure it has the staying power of a classic album but it’s been a blast to listen to this year – sometimes all you want to do is rock out.



 Generacion Suicida Todo Termina
Generacion Suicida – Todo Termina
Hardcore punk from Los Angeles with Spanish lyrics. This is an addictive record, the tunes are super catchy and the riffs get you moving. It reminds me of that fantasic Neon Piss album from a couple of years ago – punchy, snappy tunes with heart and melody. So good.

Up River - UndertowUp River – Undertow
The first thing you notice about this new record from Brighton post-hardcore four piece Up River is the excellent production, it brings out every nuance, making for a crunchy and raw sound but it also makes the record sound huge rather than minimal – it’s spot on.  Honestly I wasn’t sure what to expect from the cover art, but as soon as you put the album on you are hit with the rich guitars pumping out hooky riffage and emotive yet controlled vocal screams – this is hardcore done very well and it makes you remember what you love about it.

Iceage album coverIceage – Plowing Into the Field of Love
This new third album from Iceage sees a change of style for the band – the scuzzy punk seems to have taken a back seat to more indie experimentalism, with a darker, inward looking mood taking over.  While it feels like a band throwing open the doors musically to new avenues and stepping outside their comfort zone to bend those ideas into something different, there has been a backlash of bile from existing fans, accusing the new album of being being a Nick Cave clone.  I’m not in agreement with this pointless name calling and would recommend the record.  It is a change of direction, yes, but the melodies are very much Iceage, the vocal delivery and lyrics are not much altered and above all this is a collection of great tunes that deserve to be heard.


EPs and Singles
Broncho – It’s On 7″
Hysterics – Can’t I Live EP
Beach Slang – Who Would Ever Want Anything So Broken?
Everyone Goes To Space – Demo
Gag – Locker Room 7″
Primetime – S/T EP
Rakta – S/T 7″


Roundup: Fanzines

Fanzines – a roundup of recent releases

Degenerate mag cover issue 15
Degenerate/Etrenegade Mag #15

Degenerate has gone through a rethink brand-wise and is now officially a mag according to it’s creator Sam Lefebvre, so perhaps this means I’m doing it a disservice covering it here under the heading fanzines?  However, apart from the new mag status this issue still feels and looks like Degenerate; a mix of reviews and interviews, a lovely layout including some colour and pages stapled in here and there all bring texture and make it look like a work of art.  Of course the writing is still top class; part stream of consciousness, part critical essay, dreamlike yet coherent and focused, giving you an insight into the emotional impact of the music which is something that’s often missing from critical writing.  This issue features an excellent interview with Pig DNA too.


Asfar issue 38A Short Fanzine About Rocking #38 (final print issue)
What a shame, this always enthusiastic print fanzine has come to an end, now to be online only it seems.  This issue contains the usual ASFAR columns, interviews and reviews and is surprisingly missing any gushy end of the road pieces – Nick’s editorial piece is to the point and doesn’t get sentimental. Coverage ranges from metal to punk and emo and it’s a collaborative affair – a number of writers and photographers contribute with a healthy focus on the UK scene.
Nick promises to continue the fanzine via Tumblr, but as yet no new content has been posted – lets hope its not the end.


Punk  In My Soup Zine Cover
Punk In My Soup – #1
This pocket-sized fanzine is reviews only which suits me just fine as the reviews section is always where I head first when reading a mag. As the title suggests the focus is punk,  quite a few of the releases I’ve seen reviewed elsewhere but the style here is what keeps you reading; chatty but descriptive and with some solid observations. Points are well made and there is an obvious feeling of enthusiasm that shines through. The layout is pretty basic, blue print on yellow paper but be warned, the  ink unfortunately rubs off all over your hands. An enjoyable read which will hopefully lead to more issues.



Iceage – Plowing Into The Field Of Love Review

Iceage – Plowing Into The Field Of Love Album Review

Iceage album coverThis new third album from Iceage sees a change of style for the band – the scuzzy punk seems to have taken a back seat to more indie experimentalism, with a darker, inward looking mood taking over.  While it feels like a band throwing open the doors musically to new avenues and stepping outside their comfort zone to bend those ideas into something different, there has been a backlash of bile from existing fans, accusing the new album of being being a Nick Cave clone.  I’m not in agreement with this pointless name calling and would recommend the record.  It is a change of direction, yes, but the melodies are very much Iceage, the vocal delivery and lyrics are not much altered and above all this is a collection of great tunes that deserve to be heard.

To my mind this is the sound of a band still experimenting, here they have reigned in their reckless side and used that exhuberant experimentalism to create something chaotically ordered, teetering on the edge but firmly rooted enough to never fall over. Complex structures and discordant riffs sit comfortably alongside perfect country slide guitar and gently sexy brass or keys.

Each track is different – they haven’t done away with the punk completely but it is now just a layer in the sound on this record, in fact at times this album reminds me very much of their Escho label mates Lower and their recently released record Seek Warmer Climes.  Iceage have a greater aptitude for melody and hooks however; instillng each track with a vibrant glow – thrilling the listener with a range of feelings – the instant nature of the melodies roots them in your musical memory but the fleeting, dreamlike quality is nicely at odds with the catchy tunes, like smoke, transient yet leaving its mark.