Major Denial – Duchess of Sufferings / CRASH Presents

Duchess of Sufferings is the first full length release from Greek progressive power metallers Major Denial. The album is inspired by the Clive Barker novel Coldheart Canyon, about an ageing and abandoned movie star, who falls under the spell of the titular duchess and her promises of immortality.

Salt the Snail – Spanish Announce Table / CRASH Presents

Widnes punk trio Salt the Snail’s second single Spanish Announce Table is landing on the 1st February on Society of Losers Records.

Hi, Charity / Hi, Charity | CRASH Presents

Liverpool’s answer to The 1975? Liverpool based Hi, Charity released their eponymous debut EP on January 3rd, and have found their sound with an infectiously catchy brand of pop rock.

Kerri Watt with support from NARN / Maguire’s, Liverpool | 4th of November

On the 4th of November we went to Maguire’s Pizza Bar to see singer songwriter Kerri Watt, with support from Liverpool based NARN. On an evening hosted by Love Music Promotions, both artists performed stripped back acoustic sets without their backing bands, which, along with the dingy back room of Maguire’s and small turnout on the night, made for an intimate atmosphere.

First up was country pop artist NARN, who opened the show on keyboard for the first few tracks, (a live first for her) before switching to the acoustic guitar and loop pedal combo which has been getting her solo shows some attention. It was clear from the first track that NARN is a talented vocalist, (somewhat reminding me of country artist Rachel Brooke) and, given she studies at the Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts, the fact she is a multi-instrumentalist to boot was unsurprising! On the night though the sound of the keys in these first songs was a bit lacklustre, and they weren’t her strongest tracks. A cover of George Ezra’s Budapest was the first offering on guitar, which suited NARN’s vocal style surprisingly well and made excellent percussive use of the loop pedal.

The clear standout track of her set was the finale Momma’s Broken Heart, which shed the pop elements for a much darker sound, closer to “traditional” country, and with the lyrics telling a story of madness, lost love and keeping up appearances. The use of the loop pedal in a live setting is always tricky, but NARN pulls it off effortlessly. Overall, NARN still seems to be finding her style, but her youth and obvious talent suggest she could be one to watch.

Kerri Watt took to the stage next, with support from a friend who acted as percussionist, backing guitarist and vocalist, photographer and leafleter at various points in the night. She Said, a track dedicated to her mother, was an early highlight for it’s soulful vocals, and the infectious verse progression with a chromatic slide on the guitar. Like NARN, Watt switched between keys and guitar, with her companion playing varying accompanying instruments. Song of my Soul from her upcoming debut album, due next year, was an ode to her northern homeland of Scotland with Watt on keys, featuring emotive vocals and lyrics from a perpetual wanderer dreaming of home.

Towards the end of the set there was a bit of audience participation, the crowd joining in on percussion with a cover of Sam Cooke’s Good Times Roll. (Which worked out surprisingly well, partly because the crowd was mostly made up of music students!) Then NARN joined Watt on stage for a beautiful rendition of Carole King’s You got a Friend, a track they had only rehearsed once during sound check, but which nevertheless was a highlight of the night. There was no shortage of vocal talent on display, and when performing together Kerri and NARN’s harmonies were flawless.

Kerri finished her set with Long Way Home, which made waves upon it’s release in 2015 due to the music videos raw story of homophobia. Watt finished her set with encore track Maybe after the sound guy joined in with the crowd’s pleas for one more. (So she had no option, really!)

Overall, there was no shortage of particularly vocal talent on display on Saturday. While I must admit to not being completely sold on the more radio oriented studio sound of either artist, it was good to catch both in a stripped back acoustic setting where their vocal talents (And Narn’s loop pedal) were able to come to the fore, and it would great to see some album tracks in that style on future releases, rather than a consciously “commercial” sound.

Goat – Fuzzed in Europe

The second live album from Swedish experimental psych rockers Goat is out on Friday. Crash
managed to get hold of a copy for an early review, and we weren’t disappointed.

The loosely knit and anonymous group are known for their eclectic fusion of psychedelic rock with world
music, afro-beat and funk, among others, as well as their use of tribal regalia and masks in
shows and interviews. Fuzzed in Europe is as good a representation of the enigmatic collectives
ritualistic and improvisational live shows as you’re ever likely to hear. Recorded over the course
of Goat’s 2016 European tour, the tracklist contains tracks from all three of their studio albums,
along with live staple The Sun the Moon (unreleased, except on their previous live album) and
the unusual addition of 2015 single Time for Fun.

The album opens with a wail of guitar feedback before launching into an extended version of
Talk to God from 2014’s Commune, recognizable from the off for it’s intricate lead riff, even
before the unmistakable ritual chants of the 2 female vocalists enter the sonic fray. Goat’s music
thrives in the live setting, and that energy shines through on the album. Follow up track, the
whimsical Time for Fun, however, is probably the weak link on the album overall, and an odd
track choice for what is quite a short album. (Although it is still a decent tune, and an
improvement on the uncharacteristic, drum machine rhythm of the studio version.)

I Sing in Silence, from the most recent offering Requiem, (2016) loses the flute from the
studio in favour of a three minute fuzz laden dual guitar solo, over an infectious rhythm section
showing off the collectives world and afrobeat influences. Gathering of Ancient Tribes is
faithful to the Commune versions pure psychedelia, with heavy use of wah and a more
combative edge to the vocalists chanted mantras, while the driving bassline and drumming of
penultimate track The Sun the Moon makes for an almost punk sound. (The latter also being
the only track to clock in at under 5 minutes!)

An uptempo rendition of World Music’s Run to Your Mama is the closer for the album, with a 7
minute improvised guitar solo culminating in another staple of Goat’s live shows, the acapella
war cry of “boy you better run to your mama now”, followed by a wall of fuzz and wailing to end
the set. The opening riff from Talk to God repeats to fade out the album, keeping with Goat’s
long held tradition of making their releases come full circle.

 

Overall, a great live album which captures the riotous atmosphere of Goat’s shows near flawlessly.

 

 

Track Listing:

1. Talk to God
2. Time for Fun
3. I Sing in Silence
4. Gathering of Ancient Tribes
5. The Sun the Moon
6. Run to your Mama

 

The album is coming out on 27th of October. Available for pre-order on Goat bandcamp page.

 

Wildwood Kin / The Magnet, Liverpool | October 21st 2017

I braved the wrath of storm Brian and ventured to The Magnet on Saturday, to see if three piece pop folk trio Wildwood Kin lived up to the hype surrounding their major label debut.

First up was last minute support act, singer/songwriter Mark Pountney, who opened with Sorrow Killers, a classically folk sounding ode to whiskey. Pountney was a decent opener, with a powerful voice and some lovely little flourishes in the guitar work, but he did have a tendency to slip into the formulaic with both lyrical content and the progressions in his songs. A standout track was Don’t let me Go, with its percussive guitar style and soul inspired vocals showing off Pountneys talents.  Last track Gotta Get a Boogie on was a more upbeat closer, and certainly charmed the crowd.  Overall, he had some shining moments of soulful vocals and guitar playing, (Plus the ominous whistling section in With God on my Side!) but barring these he could have been any number of local singer/songwriters.

Now for the headline act. Wildwood Kin have clearly got a bit of a buzz around them with the release of their debut album Turning Tides (with Sony), and they managed to pull in a decent crowd for their set, while rumours abounded that the BBC were also in the audience for this one.

Props are due to the sound guy at Magnet for overseeing a perfect sound on the night, with Wildwood Kin haunting harmonies and tribal drumming sounding mesmerising on their stronger tracks. Their sound is reminiscent of a female Fleet Foxes, and would be a perfect fit for fantasy scenes of epic landscapes. Overall, they played a good set, including the whole tracklist of Turning Tides, covers of Stereophonics and Crosby, Stills and Nash and some older EP tracks, all with a sound a little more stripped back than the new album.

Wildwood Kin have embraced their reputation for having a “pleasantly awkward” stage presence, which belies the professionalism of the music, and the length of time for which they have been performing together. This led to some endearing moments on the night, like bouzouki player Emillie’s seeming inability to drink water while the crowd was watching. This led to an exchange with suited audience member “Kevin”, who, after a lengthy discussion, bought the band a round of gin and tonics, which were gratefully received. The band then led the audience in three cheers for Kevin, a definite highpoint of his evening which he may or may not remember.

One of the highlights of the set was Salt of the Earth, the title track of their 2015 debut EP, which was a more uptempo, traditional sounding folk tune stripped of some of the more commercial undertones of the new album, but still with those ethereal harmonies right at the forefront. The cover of Helplessly Hopeful by Crosby Stills and Nash was another standout, and a brilliant choice for the band to cover, suiting their style to the ground. The band leaving the stage for their encore almost crossed the line from pleasantly to painfully awkward, but all was forgiven by the end of closer The Valley.

Overall, while the more commercial overtones of Wildwood Kin are not entirely to my taste, you can’t judge a band too harshly for wanting to get their music out there, and they delivered a great set on the night. Nobody can dispute that the vocals are absolutely enthralling, and sound as good, if not better, live as they do in the studio. Expect to be hearing a lot more of them soon.

 

Setlist:

Warrior Daughter

Circumstance

The Author

Run

Hold on

Turning Tides

Helplessly Hopeful (Crosby Stills & Nash)

Happy Birthday Clara,

Steady my Heart

Dove

Dakota (Stereophonics)

???

Salt of the Earth

On and On

Taking a hold

Encore:

The Valley

Loner Noise presents: FreakScene All Dayer

I went to the Freak Scene All Dayer at the Invisible Wind Factory Substation last Saturday for an 7 hour extravaganza of tinnitus inducing experimental weirdness, featuring near enough the entire roster of acts from local indie label Loner Noise.

Much smaller than the main Wind Factory venue, the dark and dingy basement room, stage almost level with the crowd, was a fitting setting for a roster including so many DIY and outsider bands. (Although the venue suffered with some issues with sound, and the nuance of some of the more textured bands of the night was lost a little bit in the mix.)

There was a great diversity amongst the musical styles on offer from artist to artist, (and song to song!) but the Loner Noise roster are unified by their invariably punk aesthetic, and the outsider status of their music. Throughout the night the crowd were offered slabs of noise, garage, psychedelic, hardcore, post-rock, and just all round genre hopping madness.

Overall, there was a real feeling of the eponymous freak scene coalescing among the assembled bands, helped along by the atmosphere of mutual aid between the Loner Noise guys, with labelmates more than happy to egg on the (surprisingly thin, but devoted) crowds for each other, and a few cameos in each others sets along the way.

Bleach Sweets were first up, and set the tone for the day, a two piece noise-punk oddity which brought to mind Country Teasers. Their feedback drenched offerings were interspersed with some really strong riffing, and the contrast between the two members was an interesting one, with the drummers inane mid set banter and vocal style, next to the frontman’s more serious demeanour. Honourable mention to the apparently White Stripes inspired track I know we are going to be fucked to death, which lived up to its name, with every alternative line being a borderline grindcore abomination which could raise Seth Putnam from the grave.

Salt the Snail from Widnes were definitely one of the highlights of the day for the sheer raucousness of their set. The vocalist eschewed the stage to spend most of his time amongst the assembled crowd, while the setlist was chosen on the night by firing marked ping pong balls into the crowd, with track titles like Spanish Announce Table and new single Coffee among the  no frills hardcore tracks on offer. StS also used this once in a lifetime opportunity to unveil their unique branded merchandise, including a Salt the Snail onion, Salt the Snail salt, and a box of cheese and onion rolls which the crowd promptly devoured before they launched into the next track. (“We thought about the vegetarians too!”) Don’t let this make you think Salt the Snail are a gimmick band though, they played a solid punk set from start to finish and with an overpowering and infectious stage presence to boot!

Leeds based Garage Rock trio Black Pudding took the stage next, with Salt the Snail surely a difficult act to follow, but they brought in tow the first offerings of the night with a semblance of “conventional” songwriting. Their moody stage presence was a stark contrast to the first two acts, and catchy, fuzz laden riffing and a strong rhythm section (with a whiff of Thee Oh Seas) had heads banging around the Substation.

Pocket Apocalypse, the first and only four piece on the bill, took to the stage with a tighter and more layered sound than earlier acts, and probably felt the brunt of the venues less than perfect sound. That said, the post-rockers delivered an impressive set, with the frequent use of odd time signatures and vocalist Nick Jones emotive style making their sound Tool-esque. The newly written instrumental track towards the end of their set was a standout.

Next up was solo artist Kapil Seshasayee. Kapil is difficult to categorize even compared to the other artists on the bill. Frantic drum machine backing tracks provide the backdrop to his inventive guitar playing and vocal style, along with his innovative use of the waterphone, a niche instrument usually confined to horror movie soundtracks. Common comparisons to Scott Walker seem apt upon seeing Kapil’s live show, with the waterphone and droning guitars, adding an eerie vibe like that of Walker’s work with Sunn O))). The vocal style really grew on me as his set went on, with the music as a whole evoking an almost religious or spiritual feeling. Unfortunately on the night the aquaphone didn’t resonate too well for him, but he was still one of the more attention grabbing acts I’ve seen for a while.

Welsh Gravves were next up to bring their infectious grooves to the Substation floor. A band with an eye for hooks and catchy melodies, while still retaining a doom laden heaviness rumbling underneath. Tracks off their new EP “Rattle” went down a hit with the crowd, and the crowd was bouncing right through their set.

SPQR took the stage next, the penultimate offering from the freak scene, and definitely a highlight on the day. Oddball Art Rock, with the rhythm section of Bex Denton and Jack Sanders providing the jarring backdrop for frontman Peter Harrison’s blunt and eccentric vocal delivery. Suffer from their upcoming EP, The House that Doubt Built is a tour de force, with great contrast between the stop-start, edgy rhythm of the verses and the soaring, anthemic chorus. These guys are definitely one to watch!

Now it was time for the headliners, Elevant. Later than billed, and with Edward having spent the rest of the gig either working the doors, or hyping the crowd for his labelmates. Still, their set was more than worth the wait, and right from the opening of “Normal Life,” the small crowd were totally hooked. The set also included Somewhere Safe and single Acral Affection from the Normal Life EP, along with crowd favourite Hide it Away. The pure energy coming from Lodge, Shand and Edward shows that there is good reason they are the most prominent of their freak scene accomplices. Their headline slot is in no way down to Edwards organiser status. As Elevant’s set came to a close there was a crowd invasion of the stage, the battering of the instruments by drunken fans a perfect end to a brilliant day of outsider music from the freak scene.

Jesus and Mary Chain & Sugarmen / O2 Academy, Liveprool

On Thursday 21st September I caught Jesus and Mary Chain at the O2 Academy Liverpool, supported by local band The Sugarmen.

The gig had been subject to an unfortunate venue change from The Olympia , but the O2 does the job passably with a decent sound, and more importantly cheap beer!

First up were the Sugarmen, who’s set mixing driving punk with more indie tracks went down well to a smallish crowd consisting largely of hometown faithful, along with the adventurous few JAMC fans who ventured in before the headline act. The dual guitars and vocals seemed to blend into each other in the mix, with bassist Shields frantic and melodic basslines standing out and driving the sound. Much of the set was drawn from the upcoming album Local Freaks, to be released on the 6th of October. A standout track was Golden One from Local Freaks, with it’s excellent slowed down segment mixing pure psychedelic guitar work with a chunky and driving bass riff. Sugarmen’s higher tempo, catchy punk offerings are a strange contrast perhaps with the haunted shoegaze fuzz of  Jesus and Mary Chain, although the shared influences are clearly there, and they are very well received by the assembled crowd.

There was a diverse crowd in attendance, and the venue filled out after the relatively small showing for the (unphased) Sugarmen. Jesus and Mary Chain brought in plenty of younger fans, dotted amongst the middle aged nostalgia seekers who made up the core demographic of their crowd. Their set was a mixture of classics from their 80’s and 90’s era albums and tracks from the new album Damage and Joy. The band opened with new track Amputation which, by the Reid brothers standards is strangely upbeat and clean sounding. The entire band other than vocalist Jim Reid are obscured by a thick wall of dry ice, and the dim lighting obscured things further. The set moves quickly into a sound more easily identifiable with JAMC, with classic offerings like Just Like Honey and Darklands from the early albums making appearances, to the joy of the lifelong fans in the audience.  One of the standout tracks of the set was the 60’s style Jangle Pop offering Always Sad off the new album, with haunting guest vocals provided by Bernadette Denning.

Ultimately however, while the set was well received by the fans of the band, Jesus and Mary Chain lacked the presence you would expect from a band with their reputation. Jim Reid shuffled on his microphone stand, while the rest of the band remained behind plumes of smoke; Which would be fine, if it was purely an aesthetic decision, but it seemed in this case to be hiding a band who were, to an extent, going through the motions to please fans in rose tinted glasses.

Of course, this is always to be expected when a band does a reunion 20 years after their initial run, and my cynicism won’t mean much to all those present who clearly loved the set. So, overall, a decent show from Jesus and Mary chain, and a band I’m glad to tick off the list, but they didn’t quite manage to win me over as a new convert.

In Elevant we trust

Crash met with Michael Edward, frontman of eclectic Liverpool 3-piece Elevant, for our first band profile. Made up of Michael, (guitar, lead vocals) Hannah Lodge (bass, backing vocals) and Tom Shand, (drums, backing vocals). Elevant’s sound is difficult to categorize. They manoeuver with effortless ease the fault lines between psych rock, hard rock, (post-)punk, and prog, even throwing elements of goth and metal into the mix. But there’s a clear sense that Michael, for his part, no longer wants to feed into an excessive labelling of their sound.

“(We’re) just a rock band, you know? It’s pretty eclectic, we hit the drums, play loud guitars.”

Michaels often oppressive and Kafkaesque lyrics meld perfectly with the ominous, brooding riffs and fuzz drenched guitars and together they plumb the depths of primal depravity.

Elevant burst onto the Liverpool music scene in 2014, and since then they have been positively prolific, self releasing 3 albums Elevant, Dreamface and There is a Tide, single Hide it Away and the 2017 EP Normal Life on their label Loner Noise. There has been a clear progression in their sound from the self titled debut through to their latest EP, which Michael attributes to a larger involvement from the whole band in the songwriting process. Elevant’s songwriting process, Michael tells us, has evolved over the last couple of releases to involve more input from the full band as a “process of quality control,” and he attributes the development in their sound to this change in how the band come up with songs: “When Hannah joined the band and started writing, it all got a better sense of melody!”

On top of their 4 releases in 4 years, Elevant maintain a busy touring schedule, with a recent highlight in April playing and (in Michael’s case) organising the inaugural Wrong Festival, billed as Liverpool’s “festival for the freak scene,” and described by The Quietus as a “titanic success!” Michael tells us that the freak scene slogan comes from the Dinosaur Jr track of the same name. Asked about the Liverpool scene more broadly, he seems hopeful that outsider music is on the ascendant in the city:

“Wrong Festival probably helped, because.. Y’know, you’ve got The Quietus reviewing that, and basically declaring that there is like this weirder, sort of, harder edged rock music happening in Liverpool. It’s been a kind of massive struggle to be from Liverpool and make this kind of music. Particularly because like.. No one who’s looking for this goes here. BBC Introducing Merseyside don’t do anything with a fuzz pedal”

But as Michael says, “maybe that’s changing.” And Elevant themselves are well placed to be at the very forefront of that change.

Their latest release, 2017 EP Normal Life showcases a band comfortable with their sound, whilst still genre hopping and incorporating innovative ideas into their songs. In Michaels words, “Normal life, looking back on it now, is a bit of a transition. An excursion into not being quite as heavy.” Normal Life captures the listener’s attention right from Lodge’s disjointed, primal bassline on opener and single Acral Affection, to the freak out guitars and yells of “I will lead a normal life” in the title track and album closer.

Elevant, lyrically and musically lay bare some of the darkest and most atavistic parts of the human psyche. Michael’s lyrics on the the EP have a welcome but subtle thread of political and social commentary, although he seemed surprised to hear it mentioned:

“So much horrendous political and social bollocks is going on that I really struggle to remember any specific thing I was angry about at the time. It’s just kind of like a constant..numbing.”

These subtle but clear political threads through the EP echo the seeping of political turmoil into every facet of normal life. Michael himself, while seemingly pleased to talk about the origin of his lyrics, is scathing of bands who try to force their views:

“We don’t really try and ram it down people’s throats.”

In particular, the track Somewhere Safe, which Michael tells us was inspired by the increasing “anti immigrant rhetoric around Brexit,” tells the story of a refugee and his surviving family attempting to escape war and seek asylum. One of the standout tracks of their catalog to date, it would be easy to imagine the bombastic stadium chorus played on a festival main stage in pouring rain!

While their recorded output to date has gone from strength to strength, it’s still clear from first listen that Elevant are a band meant to be experienced live, and, by all accounts, they deliver. Despite this, there is an unusual lack of live videos available online. (“Yeah! It’s really weird!” exclaims Michael.) Elevant are getting a reputation for the quality of their live performances, with reviewers constantly commending their stage presence, crowd engagement and their majestic sound, holistic and far more than the sum of its parts. You would be easily forgiven in places for forgetting that there are only three of them on the stage!

So, what does the future hold for Elevant? Michael tells us that the trio are currently working on new material in rehearsals, and they will surely be a staple in years to come of the Wrong Festival and the wider Liverpool “freak scene” emerging, with Loner Noise and Elevant as its focal point. While their self released catalog and punk aesthetic give them a well deserved reputation as a DIY band, Michael doesn’t rule out a future deal with a more established label, “if the conditions are right.” He laments the fact that, in the current musical climate, the only way you’re likely to tour the world is on a major label or with “venture capitalist backing.” Here Michael aptly quotes drummer Shand:

“Getting a band up and running is like flying a plane. Taking off and getting to altitude takes loads of fuel, but, when you’re up there, you can just glide.”

To all readers of Crash, make sure you catch these guys while they’re still taking off!

Elevant will be playing The Freak Scene all day festival at Liverpool’s Invisible Wind Factory on Saturday 14th October, alongside the rest of the Loner Noise roster. Make sure you catch Elevant in their ascendance! You can also check out their latest single Acral Affection, off the EP Normal Life, here:

 

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