EP Review: Crashtactics – The Hawk Is Out

Review from Ben Forrester

As an avid follower of Manchester’s DIY scene, I was very keen to hear the first fruits of labour from Crashtactics, due to its founding members being prevalent within the North West’s alt-rock community. Guitarist Alex is the head of super good noisy rock label Superstar Destroyer Records and drummer Sion use to play in New Hips, one of the cities most brilliantly odd-ball math outfits. The duo have played on some pretty tasty line ups since their formation in 2015, bringing their teched out brand of math-rock across the city, and now they’re finally ready to present their debut EP ‘The Hawk Is Out‘.

On listening to this four track EP, it’s clear to hear the amount of effort that has gone into its creation. Every track has been maliciously crafted, featuring complex, sprawling structures that encompass an array of genres and their emotive qualities, from spaced out psych tendencies to pumped up metal inspired break downs. What is so apparent here is the attention to detail the band have put in and each track is full of these beautiful little flourishes that propel these compositions into new realms of sonic splendour.

Opening track ‘Williams‘ immediately straps you in, as a wonked out guitar and drum groove cuts in straight away, complete with a fuzzed up synth bass line to up its urgency. More synthed out sounds and effect drenched guitars saunter around these three key instruments, never disrupting the main melodic focus, subtly enhancing this ever building sense of intensity. This soon descends into this purely euphoric closing section, driven by uplifting yet chunky guitar chugs and a splash heavy drum beat that could well be one of the most uplifting beat downs you’ll hear this year.

The rest of this EP follows suit, with each track packed to the rafters with ideas and dynamic shifts to keep you on your toes. Compositionally speaking, there is very much this idea of starting in one place and ending up on a completely different planet by the end. But due to this very logical sense of songwriting, it never feels too indulgent and the band move ideas with style and grace. But of course, there’s plenty of madness on it. ‘Thayhil‘ is a definite highlight as it jumps from balls out shredding to this mega cosmic jazz meets shoegaze section before it goes into this descending, chaotic rocked out ending complete with wah-wah pedals and everything!

It has to be said that the production is super sharp and really helps bring some of the more instant riffs to the forefront whilst also bringing out the tightness of the playing, especially in drummer Sion who impressively flickers between jazz-like fills to super tight tech-metal beats in the blink of an eye. As mentioned previously, it’s the little touches that really makes this record blossom and I love tracks like ‘FDP‘ which incorporate vocals as an extra layer of snarl to the already frantic wall of riffs and soaring, delay-heavy noodling.

The Hawk Is Out‘ is a very promising debut indeed. What strikes me the most about it is how much confidence it carries and Crashtactics take no prisoners in presenting a record that is overflowing with grandiose thoughts and feelings. I don’t think you necessarily have to know its creators to know that this is a record made by nerds for nerds and I mean that in the most complimentary way; this is the best kind of organised chaos and you Math heads are gonna love it!

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Interview: JOHN return with raucous new single and announce debut LP!

Let’s face it folks, it’s great to stick two fingers up and say – we told you so. In the case of JOHNthe powerhouse two-man boyband from down South, we bloody well told you so – again and again… and again!

In a bit of thrilling news, JOHN have just announced they’ve got a new LP on the go! With the release of new single ‘Ghost Printer’ and the announcement of their debut LP ‘GOD SPEED IN THE NATIONAL LIMIT’, we thought we’d get in touch with our pals and find out what’s been happening this past year. Take it away, John(s):

BCFB: Hey John(s), we’ve known each other quite a while now haven’t we? We hear you’ve got some good news to announce?
JOHN:
Indeed, right from the very beginning I believe, back when we were youthful and fresh faced. That’s long gone now I must confess. We also mustn’t forget the first time we met in person in Manchester, when you missed our Carefully Planned Festival set to watch a comedian; I hope they were very funny whoever they were! Anyway, that’s probably not very interesting for a reader, so yes… We have good news, we have an album recorded that will come out this year, along with the imminent release of the very first track from it.

What’s the story behind the LP – who’ve you been working with and when can we expect it?
It’s a record of the journey of the last year or so, a collection of songs that nod to various experiences, and these experiences or observations then become warped and fictionalised through the songwriting process. We decided to go into the studio with Wayne Adams of Death Pedals/Big Lad (Formerly Shitwife) fame at Bear Bites Horse in East London, simply because we thought that he would know what to do with our racket and how best to capture it. Having chatted to him at numerous shows prior to the recording, we both agreed that he is just such a big/varied music fan that he wouldn’t let us do it badly. Regarding the release, exact dates are always prone to moving around – as I’m sure you understand – but we’re gunning for early Autumn.

Bear Bites Horse has been the recent home of a shed load of rad bands, eh? How was it putting the record together there?
It was certainly another reason for choosing the studio, we’ve listened and loved those records, and have even had the opportunity to play with quite a few of those bands (USA Nails/Death Pedals/Yards/Casual Nun amongst others), which made us all the more excited to see how our ‘thing’ would filter through Wayne’s ears and hands. It’s safe to say we weren’t disappointed. He also made some slight but very clever suggestions for a number of tracks, including an audible cameo on the lead track ‘Ghost Printer’; a sprinkling of synth behind the guitars and it works a dream.

Fancy telling us a bit more about the brutal lead single ‘Ghost Printer’?
As with most of the lyrics, they come from the most mundane situations of experience. This particular song presents a miniature fiction of an individual who blames his lack of success on a ghost who haunts his words. I guess it’s semi-autobiographical in the sense that I was writing a lot of applications at the time and questioning my own abilities as a human being. I’m particularly interested in how both written and spoken language can fail us all at points; it’s certainly not as flawless as we are brought up to believe – just look in the newspapers at the moment.

The last we heard from you physically was little over a year ago – What’s been happening in Camp JOHN since?
Yes, I suppose the last release was ‘Cultural Trip’ for a Record Store Day Compilation in 2016 via Alcopop Records. Since then, Johnny’s got married and has established himself a daytime tv celebrity on the BBC through his furniture restoration skills, and I’ve got accepted onto a Masters programme – so there’s been lots of interesting stuff going on. On a more musical note, we knuckled down and continued writing. As many musicians say, it was great to play the songs a lot live to consolidate the material, to etch them into muscle memory before recording. When we did eventually get into the studio in January, we didn’t actually have a particularly concrete idea of the outcome, but through the process it became obvious that we should be honest to the sum of that time spent writing, and I think you can see this in the way the songs run together despite all their unique spasms and idiocies.

For those poor unfortunates not in the know, what can be expected from ‘GOD SPEED IN THE NATIONAL LIMIT’?
I feel we can confidently promise half an hour’s escape from the irritating, repetitive sensationalism that we tend to be experiencing on a daily basis. We’ve certainly thoroughly enjoyed making something that hits you immediately with its force but also gives you a second uppercut of substance. Of course, we bloody love playing live and I feel GOD SPEED gives a pretty good attempt at trying to capture that; although it’s not a valid excuse to not come to a show!

Lastly – I hear you’re working on moving about later this year. Where we can expect to find your double act in a live setting?
We’ve got some great shows lined up and it feels very good to be asked around the country to play these little chunks of imagination to people. Next on the list is a trio of allday festivals in Bristol, London, Birmingham, which we’d of course (impartially) recommend to anyone. Then we’re looking to nail down a fitting celebration to push the GOD SPEED out into the world after Summer. You’ll all be very welcome.

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Live Review: Oh Sees at Manchester Academy 14 June 2017

The rumours are true – Oh Sees (formerly Thee Oh Sees) may just be the greatest band on earth.

Arriving at the Academy in Manchester about 20 minutes before show time, I was a bit surprised to see Oh Sees already getting stuck in, finishing off what sounded like a riff-tastic version of The Sonics classic ‘Have Love, Will Travel’ (which I’m guessing in hindsight was ‘Tidal Wave’). A slap on the wrist for missing the support (which I must admit, your honour, is a rarity). It begs the question though – how long had they been playing up to that point? As I soon came to realise throughout the mind-melting near two hours that followed, Oh Sees give off the impression that they could play forever and ever. Set times be damned, just stick them on something resembling a stage and they’ll pick up and play!

There’s a lot to love about Oh Sees, but that no fucking about, getting on with it attitude is certainly up there. No backdrop or nothing, just four dudes pushed toward the front of the stage, going ballistic for just shy of two hours. Flavour country.

Head honcho John Dwyer was, of course, leading the charge, rocking his standard Dennis The Menace outfit, complete with his invisible geetar high up his chest. Without saying a whole lot, there’s something about Dwyer that’s just instantly likeable and his is a most welcome stage presence. He’s backed up tonight by an ear-shredding rhythm section, with newcomer Paul Quattrone teaming up with Dan Rincon to form the gnarliest of drumming tag teams up on stage, looking tremendous when playing the same part in unison.

Regular big hitter ‘The Dream’ comes in early on and sounds just as chaotic and wig splitting as on record. At breakneck speed, the quartet get the audience going out of their minds, with no rest given as they shoot straight into new single ‘The Static God’. The relentless new single is taken from their impending new LP ‘Orc’, out August 25th on Castle Face Records, and is a big fat slice of scuzzy, glittering chaos. They ease back on the throttle somewhat for a breather toward the end, before thundering ahead at 100mph for the closing stretch.

With the release of The Static God and under a new moniker, Oh Sees described themselves as “Less ‘Thee’, but more of everything else”, but they jump back in the time machine for the final number of the night by bringing out former sticks man Mike Shoun. Setting up a third kit alongside the other two, it’s not long before six arms are wildly smashing out a heart-swelling rendition of ‘Contraption/Soul Desert’ from the band’s 2011 LP ‘Carrion Crawler/The Dream’.

An unreal performance, seemingly never ending and coming in at what I imagine was just shy of 20 minutes but felt like 5. Dwyer turned his back here and there to twiddle and tweak knobs like a mad scientist whilst the drumming circle locked into a hypnotising groove. A daft amount of tempo changes and ups and downs sent the captivated, hypnotised audience on an absolute thrill ride as the song careened on and on.

Greatest band on earth? Manchester certainly thought so. Come back soon, yeah?

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What’s On Michael Portillo’s iPod: Alpha Male Tea Party

Here at Birthday Cake For Breakfast, we like to get to the heart of what an artist is all about. We feel the music they listen to is just as important as the music they make. With that in mind, we’re delighted to have the wonderful Alpha Male Tea Party collectively talk us through five releases that shaped their upcoming LP!

Number 1: Everything Everything’s album Get To Heaven (2015)

Probably collectively our favourite band, we were absolutely tanning this record while writing ‘Health’. Funny really; we’re a relatively heavy band but these days don’t really listen to lots of guitar heavy music anymore. EE are just one those bands that are super inspiring with the way they use timbre, space and melody to craft their music. The album is one of those properly great listens where sonically it goes all over the place, each track has it’s own really distinctive soundscape and space but they still manage to convey a sense of cohesion and very much a sense of identity throughout. Proper banger of a record.”

Number 2: Billy Joel’s album The Stranger (1977)

We listen to this album on tour all the time. It’s well good. Billy knows how to write a whopping pop song and ‘Moving Out’ has got one of the coolest riffs of all time in it. He also really knows how to get off his chops and flip a piano over on Russian television. A true hero.”

Number 3: Three Trapped Tigers’ album Silent Earthling (2016)

It took them 5 years to make this album and you can tell because the breadth and scope of it is nothing short of majestic. ‘Route One or Die’ was definitely one of our favourite records but this came along and smashed that out of the water. The energy of this band is amazing, propelled by old super chops Adam Betts on the drums. The way they seamlessly fuse guitar sounds with electronics it utterly glorious.” 

Number 4: David Bowie’s album Blackstar (2016)

This album came out pretty much bang in the middle of the writing process of ‘Health’. I think the influence is more about atmosphere than it is about songs. It’s a really fucking weird album; tons of really dark introspective moments and obviously everything that was happening in Bowie’s life while writing it shaped the album hugely. Being an instrumental band such as we are, it’s a little bit harder to convey emotions in the same way you can with lyrics but the instrumental elements on this record are very, very cool and very inspiring to us. The title track is probably the best example of how he stitched a load of weird creeping atmosphere into the record.

Number 5: Body Hound’s EP Rhombus Now (2014)

“I couldn’t really finish this list without mentioning one of our contemporaries since the scene we’re in is so incestuous. It pains me to say it (because they are pals and you don’t say nice things about your pals) but this EP was a massive eye opener for us or at least, certainly for me. In a world where you’re constantly informed by media pundits and journalists that everything has been done with guitar music, a band like Body Hound remind you that that statement is just lazy bullshit. Effortlessly groovy and sonically one of the most interesting out there, they force you to rethink what you can do with a guitar; a band that can make something utterly disgusting sound very, very nice. We’re also thrilled to have them playing our album launch on June 23rd.

‘Health’ is out June 23rd on Big Scary Monsters! Pre order here!

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Album Review: USA Nails – Shame Spiral

Review from Ben Forrester

USA Nails? As in a shop where you get yer nails done, yeah? NAH MATE! USA Nails are four good looking boys that make super gnarly noise-rock delivered with a punk snarl and filthy psyched out tendencies. They do not fuck about, mate. Their third LP ‘Shame Spiral‘ was written and recorded hot off the heals of their incredible second LP, ‘No Pleasure‘, which was full to the brim with noise-punk bangers. There’s been a couple of low key releases since then which have expertly continued their ferocious voyage into scuzz-rock, which leads to this new record becoming a very anticipated release indeed.

Shame Spiral keeps up the speed as it tears through 25 minutes of pummelling drums, screeching guitars, rumbling bass tones and seething vocals. Having said that, this record does focus a little less on frantic noise and more on the mind melting, psych-like undertones of their previous materials. Take opener ‘What Is the Price?‘ for example; it’s on the edge of an explosion but doesn’t quite get there. Instead it keeps you on your toes as it hypnotises you with a regimented rhythm section that could go off at any second. It’s this approach that actually gives USA Nails an element of danger to their sound, as you’re not quite sure where they’re going to go next. The answer is usually a burnt down flat on Kick Yer Head In Street just off Gross-Ville town center.

Elsewhere, the band give us straight up fist pumping punk like ‘Interchangeable Sister‘ and ‘The Robots‘, which mainly show off the sheer stamina of drummer Matt who’s bull-in-a-china-shop approach is utterly exhilarating throughout. Each member plays such an integral part to this band’s ruthless sound. There’s the inventively gnarly guitar sounds of guitarist Gareth, which keep you on yer toes from track to track, always an inch away from a brutal stabbing. Then you’ve the hypnotic bass tones of Dan, who follows Matt in making a controlled riot of sound, fuzzily solidifying the sheer punch of the percussion. And of course, wrapping it all up is the dry witted intensity of vocalist Steve, who flickers in-between sarcastic and menacing as he discusses everything from the importance of music in a physical format (‘Does Format Matter?) to the physical defects of getting old (‘I Give In) and pretty much everything else. There is no filter here, you are firmly inside this man’s head and it’s disturbing but hilarious.

Shame Spiral is another stupendously thrilling ride. It’s tighter, faster and more hypnotic. It sees the quartet locking into grooves as well as letting rip for some body relieving results. Ultimately, it cements USA Nails as an unstoppable force and the chemistry that these four players share together is undeniable. For those that don’t know. GET TO KNOW.

Read all about the inspirations behind Shame Spiral

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5 Things to love about…Supersonic Festival

Preview from Marcus Clarke

Festivals seem to be stagnating in the face of an ever-shifting industry landscape, taking safe bets on line-ups laced with nostalgia trips rather than taking big leaps into the unknown. Supersonic exists largely outside this bubble, and for the past 10 years it has been bringing some of the best experimental and forward thinking musical experiences to Birmingham. The festival also does well to carry on the tradition of heavy envelope pushing sounds, after all it was these parts of the midlands that brought us so many great metal pioneers (the festival just so happens to boast a Black Metal life drawing class, a screening of the new Melvins film and a talk on Napalm Death’s contribution to DIY culture).

But it’s all about thinking outside the box, and so Supersonic’s line-up contains a diversity which will have any music lover with a keen ear and an adventurous mind drooling in excitement.

Here at BCFB we’ve selected our top 5 acts to catch this weekend at Supersonic. Take a look and get yourself a ticket!

Destiny Frasqueri is one of raps most inspiring and irreverent rebels, galvanizing the strength of sisterhood through her broad Hip-Hop sound. Her debut mixtape ‘1992’ is due for a deluxe re-release this year, and includes such anthems as ‘Tomboy’ and ‘Kitana’. She isn’t shy of her punk roots, having collaborated with the likes of fellow New Yorkers Show Me The Body (and one might also expect to see her rock the occasional Slipknot hoodie). Princess Nokia is a millennial horn blower leading the charge for a positive inter-sectional musical revolution and she is definitely not one to sleep on.

Is that a bass sax you’ve got strapped to your sen? Or are you just pleased to see me? Reed-wielding badman Colin Stetson has played with the likes of Arcade Fire, BADBADNOTGOOD and Bon Iver. His unparalleled circular breathing technique and use of contact mics to add extra harmonics through vibrations in his throat have made him the go to jazzer to create extra-special something. His performances are as much physical as they are musical, he is certainly a sight to see.
Myself and Andy (Editor of BCFB) were lucky enough to catch these guys in Manchester this week, and they were nothing short of out of this world. Yasuko Onuki and Ichirou Agata have been trailblazing across the universe for the past 25 years with their super-fast grindcore-esqe positive vibrations, leaving listeners feeling like they’ve been sucked into a 16-bit cartridge dosed up on E-numbers. Lasers, yelps, bass chugs and screaming guitars whip up a wild and overly stimulating performance. You’d be a chump to miss these champs.

Putting the ‘super’ into Supersonic is this ‘supergroup’. The underground star hookup of Kevin Martin (The Bug) and Justin Broadrick (Godflesh, Napalm Death) have intertwined once before in the form of industrial noise-hop group Techno Animal. Now they are finally reunited for their special performance of new project Zonal. With artists like Death Grips, Moor Mother and Ho99o9 bringing experimental and noisy hip-hop back into fashion, what better time than now for some of its stalwarts to return to the fold.

Zu’s 2009 release ‘Carboniferous’ is perhaps one of the best noise-rock albums of the noughties. Their sound can only be described as a squad of elephants attempting set up a kitchen blender. This is definitely one for all the math-rock, noise-rock, jazzy crossover geeks. Splendid maddening stuff.

Supersonic Festival kicks off on June 16th and runs through to June 18th! Tickets can still be purchased here!

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What’s On Michael Portillo’s iPod: USA Nails

Here at Birthday Cake For Breakfast, we like to get to the heart of what an artist is all about. We feel the music they listen to is just as important as the music they make. With that in mind, we’re delighted to have USA Nails discuss five releases that shaped their upcoming LP!

Number 1: The Slits’ album Cut (1979)

Gareth (guitar): “Wall to wall bangers. No macho punk bullshit, just amazingly weird beautifully crafted belters. Way ahead of its time obviously and chock full of hooks and finger-pointers. It’s ugly and elegant, which is kind of what I strive for too I guess. I was listening to this a lot when we recorded Shame Spiral and failed really badly in trying to rip off Viv Albertine’s parts, which I guess is a good thing in retrospect.”

Number 2: Arab on Radar’s album Soak The Saddle (2000)

Matt (drums): “Arguably one of the most vile, monotonous, twisted and gloriously abrasive albums of all time. I’ve been hooked from the moment an old friend thrust a copy in my face and said watching them play live was like “witnessing a live murder on stage”. 10 years later and I still return to this album regularly like some sort of pleasurable torture or audio bondage perhaps? Probably not, but it has helped to teach me the age old value of ‘less is more’, which as far as USA Nails is concerned, is almost our mantra. We’ve definitely made a conscious effort to strip back any overindulgent flare and dial up intensity instead. Rest in pieces Arab On Radar.”

Number 3: Wire’s album Chairs Missing (1978)

Steven (vocals/guitar): “Wire’s Chairs Missing was a big influence on my guitar parts for this album. I tried to play less parts in each song, or more repetitive things. The song that stands out for me on that album is ‘Mercy’, it has so many dynamics, it always sounds new and exciting to me even though I’ve heard it thousands of times.”

Number 4: Shipping News’ album One Less Heartless To Fear (2010)

Dan (bass): “I found myself going to this album as a reference for Shame Spiral. It sounds great and has a warmth to it. It sounds like a banging demo. The bass has a simplicity to it which I love. Stand out track ‘(Morays Or) Demon’.”

Number 5: Objekt’s album Flatland (2014)

Gareth: This record is super brutal and atmospheric and for the most part really abstract. I find it helpful to listen to stuff like this, as it challenges the musical conventions that I’m often guilty of taking as given. Although our record doesn’t sound anything like Flatland, reflecting on the innovation and creativity on this record, really helped in deconstructing my approach to writing and playing. Not that I’m claiming our album is in anyway as interesting or original as this. But just imagine how boring it would have been otherwise. Maybe you’ll think it’s boring anyway, in which case – sorry.”

‘Shame Spiral’ is out June 16th on Hominid Sounds (UK) and Bigoût Records (France)!

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