It’s that time again for our release rundown for the week, reviewing some brand new records ready for your aural consumption. As always, we gently remind you that these releases are available to buy on the artist’s web stores as well as online at your favourite record shop (and now back in store! Woo!) Pick up if you can.
The brainchild of Midlands based musician James Brown, Mutes is a project that has moved through many sonic shapes over the years, from lo-fi acoustics to noisy rock mode. ‘Dreams of Being Cornered’ is the third album from Mutes and as ever is a multi-coloured ride of alt rock goodness.
Following the scene setting, acoustically driven intro of ‘Roots’ Ruin’, we are soon swept off into ‘Identifier’, a glorious slice of late 90’s indie pop that builds in a harmonious swell of vocal harmonies and intertwining guitar lines. We then slide into ‘Modern Waste’ which is where the more drawn out and sprawling dynamics enter. It’s from this point that we are tossed between a set of sprightly indie rock songs and beautifully crafted soundscapes.
Mutes have never been ones to box themselves into a genre and this certainly keeps that up, but there’s something in the way this record is structured that feels so absorbing. One minute we’re bopping about to the garage rock fuzz of ‘Sainted’, the next we’re being consumed by the bewildering ambience of ‘Westernesque’. I like the varied blend of musical reference points and I find myself being reminded of all the weird moments of the late 90’s/early 00’s rock scene that I miss dearly. This is clearly an album crafted with care to feel like a forward moving listening experience, confidently leading through sharp dynamic shifts.
After spending some time trying to figure out who Mutes sound like, I came to the conclusion that this is clearly a band inspired by many different moments within musical history that they mould into something fresh. ‘Sole Reflection’ confirms these notions on a beautifully hazy closer, mostly flickering around gazing electronics before ascending into a space rock odyssey. It’s the perfect way to end an album that plays by its own rules. What is appealing with ‘Dreams of Being Cornered’ is how it marries the eclectic with the cohesive, backing up bold rock tunes with engaging sonic twists. Dreamy indeed.
Old pals Matt Reynolds and Will Gould met up for a bit of harmless fun in a practice room a little while ago and ended up starting a new band. Salem is a homage to the bands that Matt and Will grew up with, with their debut self-titled EP putting smiles on this little emo mush last Halloween. With plans still on hold for Will’s day job fronting goth-rock heroes Creeper, you bet that the duo have been back in the studio working on a follow up release.
What struck me the most about the first EP was how huge it sounded. For a mess about side project, that at one point wasn’t going to see the light of day, that first record felt like a statement of intent. ‘Salem II‘ does the exact same thing (if not even bigger), featuring five new tracks that speed through high octane punk rock, packed with rock solid performances and festival ready hooks.
‘William, It Was Really Something’ hits you over the head with a Buzzcocks-esque lead melody before jumping into a huge, raised fists chorus. Will’s voice is such a force to be reckoned with, going from vulnerable whispers to mountain calling shrieks at the drop of a hat. Again, this is a record that doesn’t mess about, with songs that demand your attention, – ‘Keep The Thorns’ is a hands in the air emo-rock moment whilst ‘Draculads’ is a total white knuckle ride, bursting with a classic Brit-punk energy before jumping into a smouldering breakdown of 50’s doo-wop.
I must admit, I did find it hard not to link ‘Salem II’ to the evolution of Creeper on first listen, with the ambition of this project already very apparent. With Will being the voice of Creeper, it can be hard to separate the two, but on repeated listens it’s so clear to hear the light-hearted, fun-filled spirit of Salem really kick in. I think it’s a testament to the members of this band as songwriters that they don’t know how to not write massive punk bangers. ‘Salem II’ is a right old knees up that provides another mighty blast of punk rock joy.
I do enjoy the fact that there’s a bunch of young new bands coming through at the moment, taking nods from the more obtuse, progressive sides of alternative music and becoming huge in the process. From the post rock theatrics of Black Country, New Road to the math-y quirkiness of Black Midi, it’s a good time to be in a weird band. Enter Squid. The Brighton formed outfit have been making considerable waves over the past few years with a string of well received singles and a much talked about live show. Their debut EP ‘Town Centre’ was a proper mixed bag that spiked our interest here at BCFB straight away. It made me think that if they got round to making an album, it was going to be quite the trip…
Needless to say, ‘Bright Green Field’ is far out. It’s a complete explosion of sound, often flipping twiddly math grooves and post punk hooks on their heads into cosmic kraut workouts, bending minds at every opportunity. After the chopped up soundscape intro of ‘Resolution square, ‘G.S.K.’ sets you up for what you’re about to consume. A hypnotic bass/drum groove kicks in before then ducking out to intro drummer Ollie’s eccentric vocals. It’s not long before we break back into the groove, this time joined by treated brass tabs and wonked out guitars. It’s a total attack on the senses, which is what propels this album, although you know you’re going to get sonically battered around the chops, you’re not quite sure how.
‘Narrator’ and ‘Paddling’ are prime examples of delivering danceable, neck jamming grooves that don’t sit still, the former disappearing into the avant-garde abyss, the latter leading into an almost ‘In Rainbows’ style build of theatrics.
I found it interesting that Squid released three of the longest songs off the record as singles, but when you hear ‘Bright Green Field’ they actually feel like the most instant moments on the album. Tracks like ‘Boy Racers’ and ‘Documentary Filmmaker’ go even deeper into Squid’s experiments, still providing sharp guitar lines and infectious vocal hooks (‘SNOWY IN FEBRUARY’ being my current earworm), but often falling down a rabbit hole with everything from synth drone passages to prog jazz wig outs.
‘Bright Green Field’ is an album that will likely need to be bedded into. On first listen I found myself needing a lie down to process what I just heard. Once this record grips you, it’s hard not to be engulfed by Squid’s surreal world. I kind of feel like if Foals took a shitload of class A’s and listened to Prog, this is what ‘Antidotes’ might have come out like. Detailed, groovy and as mad as a box of frogs, this is another intensely exciting debut from the U.K.’s ever forward thinking alternative scene.
It’s been just shy of a year since we last heard from Northern producer worriedaboutstatan in full length mode, which is oddly quite a gap considering that last May’s ‘Time Lapse’ was his second of the year. But rest assured, Bradford based musician Gavin Miller has kept the flame burning bright since, releasing a bunch of split singles and compilations as well as running his own label, even finding the time to record a bunch of at home live sessions. Never one to take a break, worriedaboutsatan is back with album number eight, ‘Providence’, this time teaming up with the ever brilliant Box Records.
Having found myself very much taken with the ambient/electronica scene as of late, I always look forward to hearing new material from WAS. Since stripping back to a solo project in late 2019, we’ve definitely been getting a stronger post-rock inspired feel from Gavin’s material, letting delay heavy guitars often lead the way. The guitars are very much present here, especially on gorgeous closer ‘Just to Feel Something’, but they feel more textured than before, mixing with soft synth pads to let the ambient tones of the project really shine through.
Lo-fi techno beats centre the rhythmical heartbeat of the record, from the pulsating ride of ‘Stórar Franskar‘ to the spiralling synth sway of ‘Stop Calling my Phone’. As ever, this is an amalgamation of sounds, tones and vibes, brilliantly blended together to create a very meditative and focused set.
There are always subtle nuances with each new worriedaboutsatan album and what I like about ‘Providence‘ is its gentle flow that gradually builds as the album progresses. For some reason I have the phrase ‘it’s not about the destination, it’s the journey’ in my head when I hear this album. I think it’s because on recent WAS tracks it can be about getting to that crescendo, whereas I find a lot of the tracks here work harder on building up an atmosphere with something for you to live inside presently. It can be dark and moody then extremely uplifting and light, but it’s how Gavin navigates through these expressions with such grace and poise that lends for an ultimately warming and immersive listening experience.