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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Album Review: Pissed Jeans – Why Love Now

Review from Marcus Clarke

Review from Marcus Clarke

I frown upon the idea of using a press release as a starting point for an album review – but since when am I going to let some jumped up two-bit music critic tell me what to do eh? In the first paragraph of Sub Pop’s blurb for ‘Why Love Now’ (the fifth album from the Pennsylvanian punk-rock four-piece Pissed Jeans), the band are described as a “male-fronted quartet”, immediately drawing my attention to the fact that the term ‘female-fronted’ is so often used to lamely summarize acts with women holding it down on the mic. So here’s a mind prod for you, I posit that Pissed Jeans are a feminist band. You just can’t argue with that (I mean you could try but if you’re gonna @me combat me!) Their whole shtick is about openly discussing the traps and pitfalls of being a man in the 21st century. Of course, this is expected from a punk-rock band as pertinent to our times as Pissed Jeans, but the main theme of this album in particular appears to be very specific to the subject of masculinity, more so than in their previous material. Advertently deconstructing their own masculine identities makes them contributors to feminist oral literature, the experience of being a man – carving out the grotesque parameters of manhood with razor sharp sardonic wit, laying waste to male pride, exposing boneheads for flaccid willies. Why Love Now ejaculates the zeitgeist right onto the table.

Even the riffs on this album have found their sound drenched in a bit of 80’s sleaze, as the band come the closest to sounding like AC/DC and Motorhead yet. But unlike their amp-wrecking forefathers, their matters are in order to reflect their wrongs rather than to glorify their privileges (compare ‘I’m A Man’ to Black Flag’s morally reprehensible ‘Slip It In’ and you get the picture). Though Pissed Jeans work isn’t to have an overbearing moralising purpose, it’s simply to say “This shit is ugly, why are we still doing this?

Why Love Now is brought into the world literally kicking and screaming, as the grinding angst ridden growl-fest of ‘Waiting On My Horrible Warning’ wails of fear for what might be happening to your body on the inside, the creeping realisation of mortality as the world exhales you out into your thirties. This is far from the usual punk opener and there’s even acknowledgement of that, as the now (I’m imaging) red boiling face of Matt Korvette roars “everyday I used to play punk but now i’m just singing the blues”. In taking this entrance it cuts deeper than any d-beat could, even the choice of bleeping out a “fuck” adds to the bubbling pain. It feels too easy to call it a work of genius so early on, but if I can’t call a spade a trowel then I’m done with this here business.

The Bar Is Low’ is a swaggering pop anthem about the impenetrable haar of mediocrity, a society in which men who are rapists (Bill Cosby, Donald Trump), racists (Nigel Farage, Donald Trump), and essentially lacking in any intelligence whatsoever (Boris Johnson, Donald Trump) can still be at the top. It’s an idea that permeates through everything, to paraphrase Korvette in a recent interview with Sub Pop, “as a woman how far are you willing to go to choose a presidential candidate if it means giving up your rights as a woman?” Have we gone so far down this miserable road that this is all we can ask for? The phenomenal women’s protests around the world last month may mark a turning point, but I see this kind of sup-par attitude everywhere. From people’s aspirations for a socially equitable future, to expectations on dating sites. How many times have you read “I’m interested in anyone who isn’t an arse-hole”? The bar is indeed down the proverbial fucking toilet, and James Cameron sure as hell ain’t gonna pick it up.

J.G. Ballard meets Charlie Brooker as ‘Ignorecam’ presents the notion of deriving sexual pleasure from being ignored by a woman on the other end of a sex-cam, a grueling twist on 21st century loneliness and hyper-social perversion, while ‘Cold Whip Cream’ goes deep, and may be (if I’m not mistaken) the first punk song about pegging “…so speak up and have no shame, ‘cause you’ve got the pressures of being straight… you’re wondering what it’s like on the other end, but you’re worried she won’t bend”. Masculinity holds on by the thinnest of grey pubes in this brutally open tour of contemporary sexuality, rammed with more innuendos than you could fit in your en… *ahem*… Don’t worry though, Matthew says relax, as a “universe waits behind that door”.

Love Without Emotion’ is a stranger amongst the crowd. Dressed in uncanny 80’s nostalgia via Bradley Fry’s chorus effected guitars and the Billy Idolized hook, giving us what we wanted like Stranger Things and San Junipero did last year. But similarly to the latter, the question stands: is it real or just an empty box picked from the shelf? Aesthetic over something deeper? Love without emotion? A recurring theme of Pissed Jeans is the inability to engage emotionally and have the purity of an honest connection with other people, breaking through that glass door of cynicism and misanthropy. And it’s the belief that this is an essentialized trait of maleness which is the cause of both catastrophic suicide rates amongst men, as well as horrifying domestic violence and femicide statistics. Sorry, I got a bit serious for a second there, but it’s a reality I wouldn’t be able to confront without the art of Pissed Jeans, which brings me to the highlight of the album…

In a 2014 interview with The Fanzine, Lindsay Hunter – author of ‘Ugly Girls’, cited Pissed Jeans’ ‘False Jesii Part 2’ as a major influence for her critically acclaimed novel. Since then she has become good friends with the band and was asked to write some material for Why Love Now. The result is a stunning and vivid audio tirade of unapologetically lustful and cartoonish sexual declarations, cut with the trenchantly crude wit of Redd Fox and boot stamped with the boldness of a Rudy Ray Moore – had he been raised in a trailer park that is. “Me, I’m your boss/ make me a coffee and dip your undies in it, ‘cause I like me coffee with a nip of cream”. Hunter’s harassing character appears as a hyper-real entity, with an inflated sense of male sexual superiority and privilege, but I’m sure if you had a root around your office you’d find at least a dozen of these wankers. The primal rhythms stir up ferocious amounts of libidinal energy, a perfect accompaniment to the spoken word track, compressed within an inch of it’s life – putting it at risk of an immediate restraining order.

It’s worth mentioning the success of the production work from the legendary Lydia Lunch and Arthur Rizk, who manage to make Pissed Jeans distinguished brand of rock spike through the extremities of heavy hardcore and noise. Apparently Lunch threatened to “bend” the band “over the bathtub”, whatever that means? Seems to have worked wonders in producing such a gut-wrenchingly psychotic punk expulsion though.

Rizk’s influence is most clear in the metal moments of ‘It’s Your Knees’ with it’s exquisite downtuned power riff. A song about unnecessary male commentary on why one would want to fuck a girl (It’s all in the knees apparently). ‘Worldwide Marine Asset Financial Analyst’ sounds as absurd as it reads, tearing through with a tornado guitar solo and clocking in at just 1 minute 27 seconds, while ‘Have You Ever Been Furniture’ bemoans the pain of having low-self esteem.

Why Love Now oozes and throbs with sexual confusion and disappointment. It reeks of cum, sweat and aspirin but carries the intellect of a well read poet who views life’s shit stains to be as rich and as colourful as rainbows. When I can relate to a band as much as I do with Pissed Jeans, it’s like the world suddenly clicks into place and my understanding of my body can flow freely like the blood in my veins. It’s a harmonious state drawn from a chaotic mess. The feeling is often so direct that it tickles me and I find myself laughing, as if I have become intoxicated. Even when listening to the music alone it’s like I’ve found a best friend to share my existential pain with. It’s therapy is what it is.

Much like a successful sitcom about dysfunctionality – over the course of the past decade, Pissed Jeans’ whole output has been consistent and reliable while growing in strength. Somewhat like Bukowski and his attachment to so called “low culture”, Pissed Jeans deliver hardcore truths and scream about the shock of the mundane; all transcribed with the overhanging stench of beer burps popped through gritted teeth, looming like a morning fog loitering above the top lip. Their play is on the farcical nature of humanity, stripped nude on stage, coying and crapping itself with the dumbest of smiles. You wanted to know “how low can punk get?” well, Pissed Jeans said ‘Let me take you down there. Bring a pair of wellies’.

Listen to a few choice cuts from ‘Why Love Now’ and a host of other 2K17 BNGRZ in our Now Playing playlist!

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The Best Of 2016: Marcus Clarke

marc

In 2015, we reached out to a host of our comrades who had been involved with Birthday Cake For Breakfast somehow during the previous 12 months, getting their take on the best releases of the year. For 2016, we’ve looked closer to home – those who’ve contributed to the site itself and been influential in such a prosperous 12 months!
In the lead up to 2017, Birthday Cake For Breakfast will feature Top 5’s from our contributors. Take it away, Marcus…

5: Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool (XL Recordings)

Just as Brexit means Brexit, Radiohead means Radiohead, as the band returned this year to give us exactly what we wanted (which, incidentally is the opposite of what we’ll probably get from Brexit). I might be the only person who actually enjoyed 2011’s ‘The King Of Limbs‘, but this latest album takes the approach of pleasing every kind of Radiohead fan. Much like a Wes Anderson film, it’s a formulaic masterpiece. Jonny Greenwood’s cinematic string arrangements bring the band to new levels of the sublime. Well executed mardy sonic poetry.”

4: Show Me The Body Body War

For starters this band use a bloody banjo instead of a guitar, though it’s rammed through a butt tonne of distortion mind – sounds quite outrageous. Rock and Hip-Hop have had a troubled relationship over the years (Danny Brown blames Fred Durst), but with enough nuance a sweet spot can be achieved. Dope Body did it, Run The Jewels play with it at times but Show Me The Body charge full speed ahead with their unique brand of groove laden noise-punk. Like Girl Band managed to pull off last year, this album sounds like nothing else around at the moment. That’s one of the many reasons why I find it so exciting to lose my shit to.”

3: Run The Jewels – Run The Jewels 3 (Mass Appeal Records)

Thank fuck Mike and Jamie dropped this shit early on Christmas Eve, otherwise I wouldn’t be talking to you about it now. The third installment of the self-titled trilogy from rap’s middle-aged rebel-rousers does not disappoint. It sees the pair going for gold, killing their masters and basically just proving they’re the shit. Featuring some of their most radical lyrics and supreme production yet (‘Everybody Stay Calm’ manages to work as a throwback to Gang Starr’s ‘Mass Appeal’ while simultaneously dropping us into a dystopian future/present). Dope beats, super-charged lyrics and a surprise appearance from your favourite Chicano-Americano emcee makes this record a sweet bonus to a healthy year in music.”

2: BADBADNOTGOOD – IV (Innovative Leisure Records)

Most people I know discovered this Canadian quartet through their collaboration with rapper Ghostface Killah, but (like the hipster I am) i’m inclined to tell you i’ve been following this talented bunch for a good while. It’s really fulfilling to see how far they’ve come and how far they’ve brought Jazz to the forefront of popular music (see also Kendrick Lamar and Kamasi Washington). I mean, it wasn’t that long ago when the only Jazz popstar we could fathom to talk about was Jamie Cullum (…eww). Through their love of Hip-Hop and (more importantly) records that Hip-Hoppers love to sample, they’ve delivered the most beautiful record of 2016. For me this is like Jazz Fantasia, wonderfully colourful and epic in its ambition, playfulness and instrumentation. It’s got me picking up the bass guitar again as well as being my most played record. Put quite simply: it’s stunning.”

1: Death Grips – Bottomless Pit (Harvest Records)

Now Death Grips are here at the number one spot because… well, I’m not gonna lie… They’re here because they’re my favourite band. I bum Death Grips big time, that’s no secret, but like I said about Radiohead, they’ve delivered an album that pleases every kind of Death Grips fan. I’ve been with them from the beginning, experiencing all of their wildly diverse incarnations, but what they manage to achieve on ‘Bottomless Pit’ is give you a definitive picture of what Death Grips is about – and that’s just pure unbridled energy (I saw them live this year for the third time and it was rahhwwww). It’s as poppy as it is fucking mental, there are as many sweet hooks as there are blast beats, it’s the sound of my brain on the daily – perfect chaos. Essentially Death Grips are The Prodigy for millennials (but don’t tell anyone that), more power to them!”

Listen to the sounds of 2016 for Birthday Cake For Breakfast in our jam-packed Spotify playlist!

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Album Review: Mums – Land Of Giants

Review from Marcus Clarke

Review from Marcus Clarke

Bigger is Better, Size Does Matter, Turn It Up To 11; these were all familiar idioms of late 20th century postmodern excess and gluttony. Give us everything you’ve got and more; the 12 piece reggae band, the supersized deluxe meal with bacon, cheese and chipotle (chips and dips included), the Renault Espace fully equipped with rear enforced ball-bags, half a dozen cup-holders and a fully adjustable mini-disc shelf available in 50 shades of zebra print. An introductory mouthful of convoluted words that have no intrinsic meaning, simply for the shock and awe. It’s all tassels on the titties, marketing in free fall.

Nobody wanted austerity, but here we are banging mammoth tusks on clod, racking up a prevolutionary cacophony not heard since the ground shook with volcanic eruptions and such. Stripped down and back in the cave is where we find this mammalian band of reprobates. In the Land Of Giants is where they dwell, a time when percussive thunder and riffs ruled the earth. To cut the crap, all we wanted was value for money, bang for our buck, and hence we got bands like DFA1979, Metz and God Damn giving us their big sound in a small package. That idea, a sonic TARDIS if you will, has become a tradition, and one of its most bombastic followers happens to be a three-piece rock band from Widnes called Mums. Who else lid?

Appearing sans bass guitar, Mums is comprised of Jack Evans, guitar/vocals; Roanne Wood, guitar/vocals; and Lewis O’Neil on drums. The band have been roaming the planet for a few years now, after a few releases and names changes (f/k/a Aeroplane Flies High and then Mothers) we finally have their first proper full-length to indulge in. And by ‘eck, it’s it a proper belter!

All three members push the boundaries of how loud they can play their instruments, which makes for a rather unique sounding record indeed. As the melodic vocals surge for air beneath the waves of distortion and avalanching drums, it’s when Mums hit their downtime that we really appreciate the inherent warmth of their music. It’s not all tooth and claw, it’s more like the heat of the sun bursting through the atmosphere. It’s a vitalic excitement of molecules, real life vibrations. You can hear the speakers rattling and shuddering towards the point of complete collapse. It goes beyond what so many of their peers dare to do with heavy music because this sounds raw and unruly, ignorant and yet experimental. A prehistoric beast that cannot be contained.

In a series of ten cataclysms, Mums construct an awesome wall of noise that is just as pretty as it is violent. Evans’s vocal melodies dance with his and Wood’s guitar lines like lava oozing and spewing from below. In tracks like ‘Rosies Noisey’ it can seem utterly chaotic, but it always funnels itself into a catchy refrain (“You’ll find a way! Find your way home!”). ‘Teamin’ seems like the band are reaching breaking point with its lackadaisical guitar chimes teetering on the edge of atonality. It’s both slacker and stoner starring in their own buddy movie, dragging and coughing up trouble and shenanigans.

Can of Worms’ is perhaps my favourite on here, showcasing Mum’s classic use of dynamics and switching of tempos, creating an absurdist fairground ride that reaches dizzying heights with nauseating levels of feedback. It’s a track that will make you laugh and smile simply because it is a pure representation of a band having fun and getting away with madness.

Mums are one of only two bands i’ve seen to have blown out the front skin of a kick drum (basic GSCE physics tells us that’s quite a feat), so it’s no surprise that the awesome raw power of Lewis O’Neil’s swaggering gallop in ‘COPS’ is what charges us heroically towards the back end of the album. You’d think by now the sheer volume of this record would have physically worn me down, but it’s the spindly off-colour harmonic tones, the kind of ammo that Slint glock out on (albeit 40 decibels higher), that enable me to push on. There’s beauty in their decay.

Finishing up with lead single ‘In A Museum’, which again staggers with their typical lazy natured groove, with an attitude of audacity and an “oooing” a chorus – a molten lullaby dribbling out between the hairy thighs of Weezer and Biffy Clyro. This is heavy pop in need of a shave, but it’ll round-house kick that razor straight out your hand before you can say “Son I really think you could do with a trim, then you might be able to get a proper job in an office or something where they pay you enough so that one day you can afford to put us in a decent care home” …or something like that.

Bands like Mums, bands that are loud as fuck and tour a lot, always struggle to get their live sound captured correctly in the studio. It is to their benefit then that Mums have adopted a minimal production approach on Land Of Giants. Less is certainly more in this case. To the untrained ear this could be what a great live album actually sounds like. It’s the truest representation we could ask of Mums and it’s a job well done! It is the sound of naivety exchanging flirtatious looks with cockyness. It’s arousing, exciting and exhausting, but it’s totally worth falling in love with.

Land Of Giants is out October 21st through Superstar Destroyer RecordsPre-order here!

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Album Review: Cattle – Nature’s Champion

Review from Marcus Clarke

Review from Marcus Clarke

Leeds. Oh Leeds. Make no mistake, I have a particular fondness for Leeds. I spent the best part of eight years there absorbing myself into every crevice of its wonderfully pluralistic music scene. Initially drawn in by the indie conquest of ¡Forward, Russia! I found myself immediately caught up in the whirlwind ascension of Pulled Apart By Horses and Dinosaur Pile-Up, the noise-hungry monopoly of Brew records and eventually made my exit just as the the psych revolution was kicking off with Hookworms and the like. These movements form a peculiar narrative and have spawned infinite (albeit sometimes stunted) tales of sonic adventure along the way.

Cattle are a peculiar band borne of that peculiar story. A hybrid of the dirgey noise-rock you’d expect to hear chugging its way through subterranean LS6, mixed with the relentless four to the floor grooves you were more likely to have come across in early 00’s New York City. In fact if you’re going to place Cattle on the Leeds music spectrum they’d fit snuggly in between Bilge Pump and Hookworms. It’s their distinctive brand of psychedelic dance-infused chaos that I find intriguing as much as I find it liberating.

In any other city a band like this would otherwise be dubbed a ‘super-group’, but cross-pollination has natural tendencies in Leeds. Hence Cattle is/was made up of members who also play/played in Super Luxury, Groak, Dull Aches, Magnapinna, Clenstch and Zozo. After a few years playing around with different line-ups, Cattle find themselves somewhat settled with Chris Robinson (harrowing ethereal vocals and theremin wizardry), Tom Goodall (The almighty Zeus, God of thunder, channeled through bass tone) and finally Steve Myles and Jambo Simpson (dual percussive joy terrorists). Former drummer Ant Bedford (of Magnapinna) is present throughout this recording (in place of newest recruit Jambo) for what is their seismic debut album: ‘Nature’s Champion’.

First track ‘Tanking The Piss’ (most likely a nod to fellow Yorkshire riffers That Fucking Tank – not taking the piss mind) is a steadfast statement of intent, carrying the clunk and cawing into the morning like a nightmare that’s dribbled its way out of your mouth and onto the pillow. This is quickly followed up with ‘Caring’; a track built upon the sort of mid-90’s grooves we’ve heard from Hip-Hop inspired alt-rock bands (the good – not bad, mind) ultimately culminating in a powerful crescendo. ‘Acrylic’’s superb hypnotically catchy opening riff and lyrics – seemingly about starting but never finishing anything, give way to the gnarliest of breakdowns. The dual-drums of the Myles/Bedford alliance competently providing the sliding tectonics for Robinson’s haunted psychedelic vocalisms.

The underlying tone of Nature’s Champion is fairly dark, as the cloaked lyrics cover subjects of fear and paranoia: “A noise like choking / Holding back the fear… A short sharp sound / The smoothing process” That last line in particular “the smoothing process” (from ‘Fears and Hesitations’), is a suitable summation of what Cattle does with rhythm as a counterpoint to their “short sharp sound”. The two methods juxtaposed create the cloven hooved composite, a two headed beast confidently dancing out it’s bitter frustrations and anguish. In a way I find it most apt for the times we’re living in now, where fear dominates our landscape and hinders meaningful and enjoyable communication free of anxiety. I would certainly rather dance out my fears to the soundtrack of Cattle in a room full of like-minded noise addicts than be sat alone on the internet, seeking out the next dirty bomb of outrage to charge my blood.

Found In A Tract Of Land’ is about the fear of being accused of something you didn’t do and is possessed with more unnerving jolts, twists and turns than season one of Making A Murderer. The dense delay and feedback is greatly disorientating, as the angered vocals sweep through the mix.

Somewhere, across the unfathomable stretches of our quantum matrix, there is a parallel universe. The year is 1995 and Rage Against The Machine are trapped in a stinking hot L.A. apartment, arguing over the creative process of their as-yet-untitled sophomore album. As they break for lunch, Morello’s uncanny avatar notices a bag of psilocybin mushrooms left on the side (perhaps a gift from an anonymous cheeky time-travelling Yorkshire git). He proceeds to consume the whole bag. The rest, as they say, is history – albeit a document of history that is subsequently rejected by their record label and shelved for all eternity. Back in our universe, and as Cattle spin their primordial but compelling grooves in the steaming belly of CHUNK, a strange signal is picked up via their theremin. It’s the raging ghost in the machine, an otherworldly artefact from another dimension, a fractured rear-view mirror directing them towards an uncertain future. Familiarity battling improvised noise.

In penultimate track ‘Red, Again’ obnoxious riffs continue that battle against agonising cries, before final track ‘Moon Crawl’ comes as a perfect bookend. A swinging backbeat and sweltering sax (courtesy of Karl D’Silva) create some of the most harmonious moments on the record, but again they’re meticulously carving out a groove for the fear to be channeled into:

And your life in the corner / And the fear is spreading / And you’re lonely / You lonely little prick / You’ve done this to yourself / And the fear is spreading / What you’ve done to yourself / Is isolated yourself / You’ve pushed them away / You’ve pushed them away / You’re lonely…

Hearing this number played live and seeing herds of people breaking free from their rusty iron cages to sway enigmatically to the music does much to create a contradiction in expression between the audience and players themselves. It is not clear whether this phenomenon is a result of muddied communication or resolutely furthers connectivity and unity through the loss of meaning. Whatever the answer may be this peculiar phenomenon is encapsulated in the final refrain:

And the lights in the air / And the noise on the ground / It destroys and confuses

On Nature’s Champion, Cattle irrigate modern fear into lush and rich deltas of crystalline ecstasy. To drink from their water is to absorb pain and metabolise it for positive purposes. To crawl in their moonlight is to throw shapes to shade. It makes for a thrilling exorcism and one hell of a band. Let’s hope Nature’s Champion isn’t the only pitstop on Cattle’s peculiar journey.

Nature’s Champion is released November 15th 2016. Pre-order the record here!

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“If there’s not enough bands around that you want to listen to, then start something that you want to do.” An interview with Pijn

(Photo Credit: Justina Lukošiūtė for Eindhoven Rockcity)

(Photo Credit: Justina Lukošiūtė for Eindhoven Rockcity) – Interview from Marcus Clarke

The tried and tested method for DIY punk bands is the K.I.S.S. approach (Keep It Simple Stupid!). It’s all about making things easier for yourself. It’s an economic ethos formed out of necessity. However, that ethos can quickly become a rigid principle of musical austerity, and in all honesty can get a bit boring after a while (I swear to God, if I have to make myself eat another Ristorante pizza…) Sticking with the easy is a sure fire way of being prolific (or in my case – eating a lot of pizza), but sometimes you have to make things difficult for yourself in order to really get creative.

Speaking personally as a writer, coming up with interview questions is a notoriously difficult practice, and today I am certainly out of practice (this being my first band interview in over a year). Nevertheless, the Manchester weather seems to have provided an appropriate atmosphere for an interview with a post-metal band like this.

Pijn are a relatively new band on the map and thus far have remained shrouded in mystery, despite appearing on the bill next to some big names in the game like Three Trapped Tigers and Pelican. Tucked away safely from the biblical torrent of water within the confines of the Dulcimer in Chorlton, I find myself sat with guitarist Joe Clayton and drummer/keyboardist Nick, pleasantly discussing origin stories, The Mars Volta, the art of collaboration and post-metal Christmas songs. We start though with possibly the most difficult question, one that surely everyone is dying to know the answer to…

BCFB: So tell me, how do you pronounce your band name?
Joe: Aha! It’s pronounced “pine”. Not “pigeon” or “peen”. It’s a dutch translation of the word ‘ache’. I keep trying to push for peen over pigeon. Why the fuck did we choose a word that no one seems to be able to say?

BCFB: How did the band come about?
Joe: Well I filled in for Nick’s old band – Esoteric Youth, we did some mega euro tour together. That band kind of finished and because I wasn’t an actual member, it was like I got no say. Just before [Nick] went away was when we started doing Won.
Nick: It started as a joke band…
Joe: Yeah, we’d just get together and play songs that sound like Torche. We did that and it was so stupid, it happened so quickly.

BCFB: How many gigs did you do?
Joe: Well we didn’t play any gigs!
Nick: We wrote and recorded one EP in a few hours and that was it. That was the first time I played drums since in 18 months. So it went really well, we stopped making it a joke and made it this.
Joe: [Nick] went away travelling and then it was at the tail end of last year, we were kind of like wanting to do something because my old band had finished as well and we released a Christmas single…
Nick: Oh yeah we wrote a Christmas song! Ha!
Joe: We we’re so happy with it!

BCFB: Was it a sort of post-metal Christmas song?
Joe: Yeah! Ahahaha!
Nick: It was like Journey, so many claps.
Joe: We never got round to finishing it because we couldn’t write lyrics that were quite…
[In unison]: …Christmassy enough!
Joe: Umm, yeah… Then we went on a really long car journey and listened to The Mars Volta and decided we wanted to be a proper band.
Nick: It was the whole of ‘Frances The Mute’ basically. We just blasted that out really loud and by the end of it we were like “Let’s be a real band” and that’s that!

BCFB: So do you two act as the main writers for Pijn?
Nick: We’ve drafted in a lot of auxiliary musicians but I guess it is still kind of me and Joe taking ourselves too seriously ha! We want to get other people writing things in but at the moment nobody has yet, but hopefully that’ll change.
Joe: I think it’s hard, before we’ve done anything, to just put out sort of an open invitation: “Yeah! Come and write some stuff!” and then it just turns into such a mammoth task. We’ve already got 10 people playing on something that we’re working on – an EP – and that’s just incredibly difficult to manage in itself! Everyone is scattered all over the country as well, which doesn’t help.

BCFB: I’ve heard a couple of mysterious previews you’ve put online, is that stuff from this (as yet) unreleased EP?
Joe: Yeah, I think because it’s been such a long process we recorded our bits in March, and then in bringing other people to contribute to it’s just been really, really slow. So [the previews are] mostly just to try and keep us sane ahead of the shows just to try and make something to put out there. Just bits of stuff we’re working on.
Nick: It’s a blessing and a curse that it began as essentially what was going to be a demo to put out and let people hear… we ended up being really pleased with it and thinking “oh well, we’ll add string sections to this and saxophone and we’ll get female vocalists and people from Brighton and London and all around the country!”, so it’s become almost too much to handle.
Joe: The more that’s been added to it the slower it’s been able to move. We’re just tipping where we’re almost finished, we’ve just got one last thing to get done and then it’ll be like we can breathe again.
Nick: Maybe get a small children’s choir next time?

BCFB: Who are some of the musical guests you’ve got on there?
Nick: James Mainwaring [Roller Trio, Django Django] – he’s playing saxophone all over it.
Joe: We’ve got a friend of ours who who used to play cellos in orchestras. Now she’s got a bit more time she was like “Yeah I wanna get back into making music!” and I was like yeah! That’s the saddest instrument, let’s get that in! Next week we’ve got a guy playing lap steel guitar who kind of just messaged us out of the blue. He just sent us a demo and we were like woa! We’ll have this. This girl called Claire Northey who plays violin, she plays gigs quite a lot around Manchester. We had a section of text written that’s on [our] shirt and we turned it into a sample for the shows. And then because we were trying to think of ways to be more pretentious, we got our French friend to spend weeks translating it word for word and got another French friend to do a reading of it.

BCFB: When is this due for release?
Joe: We were aiming for around about now [June] but I think it’ll be…
Nick: Maybe around late August?
Joe: Something like that…
Nick: It’ll be a self-released thing. Although we’ve had a couple of labels say they’d want to do something. To do that for our first release, it would be a bit too self-indulgent [for them].
Joe: [We] just kind of want to get going, even though we’ve had quite a few cool shows and stuff I don’t really feel like we’ve got it locked together yet and having something tangible like a release that people can listen to will make it feel more official.
Nick: Make it feel more real.

BCFB: You’ve just done a string of shows in Europe, how was that?
Nick: It was good! Again, another case of us biting off more than we could chew early on just for the hell of it.
Joe: It was ace, we got to go out with Group Of Man, who are friends from old bands; they were so much fun! We had done two proper shows in the UK and then were immediately thrown in with a new band and got to go to another country.
Nick: We have been quite lucky, the first show with Three Trapped Tigers, very lucky to get that. I guess the promoter took a fairly big gamble considering we had no music – and still have no music! A lot of good will.

Pijn at Gullivers supporting Heads. (Photo Credit: Ed Sprake)

Pijn at Gullivers supporting Heads. (Photo Credit: Ed Sprake)

BCFB: How did that show go down?
Nick: Great! Although a little daunting to be playing before Three Trapped Tigers who can run circles around anybody.
Joe: First show with a backstage area, thinking this isn’t the way you’re supposed to do it! You’re supposed to start off in a mate’s lounge or something.

BCFB: Has it been a conscious decision to go in ambitiously from the beginning with this band?
Nick: I think i’d rather try to do too much and fail.
Joe: It just keeps it interesting. I had some horrible realisation about how many years I had been playing in bands. I was kind of just going round in circles. We just wanted to…
Nick: Push our luck?
Joe: Yeah, see if it pays off.

BCFB: I totally agree, i’ve got a lot of friends that have hit 30 or above and they’re just sick of doing the same circuits all the time.
Joe: It wasn’t a particularly conscious thing where we didn’t want to do that, it was more that we wanted to try… see what we could do.

BCFB: To push yourself?
Joe: Yeah definitely.
Nick: It was two weeks before our first show and we still hadn’t played with a bassist [Luke Rees of Doctrines fame handles live bass duties], it was literally just me and Joe.
Joe: [Having the live shows] brought out the best in us, that pressure to get it right.

BCFB: You mentioned Torche before as one of your influences, any others in there?
Joe: Well, Torche was more for Won and it was way too upbeat for where I guess I felt in terms of wanting to write music. I find it really hard to write unless i’m super-invested in it and have a really clear direction. So we obviously listened to the Mars Volta – so that’s the weird progressive approach to songs. I’m big into Russian Circles and Cult Of Luna and Isis [the band, not the Islamic fundamentalist group… obviously], Mogwai… Everyone dropped new albums just around the time [we started making music]. It was certainly a talking point, like what are all these bands doing? That song that sounded like Foals on the new Explosions In The Sky album, it’s just like ‘Woa! What are they doing? This is weird’. And then a week later i’m like: this is so good! Alright, ok, everyone’s doing something slightly off-kilter.
Nick: I think it’s good that there’s an abundance of instrumental bands, particularly English instrumental bands who are absolutely killing it! And if we can do even 10% of what they’re doing i’ll be happy. There’s a lot of smaller English bands that we’ve played with – Earth Moves are great, sort of like post-black metal. It’s always depressing to watch Body Hound… ahaha… like we’ll never be this good!

BCFB: I was going to say, what’s it like being a heavy band in Manchester? Do you think there is an actual heavy scene or community here?
Joe: I don’t know, there definitely was a little while ago. My housemate used to run Church Of Fuck [record label]. Around the time when that was going there was a real vibe around bands, and it was mostly all the same people, there was just something about it. …It was when Oliver put on Fuck Fest that I thought there was a great heavy scene, it just seems to have diminished a bit. There’s a lot of heavy bands but not in the sort of dark/hardcore way that we were all involved in before.
Nick: Similarly, as much as we are wanting to write heavy music, we want to write much softer music as well. We wouldn’t want to just be playing with hardcore bands. It’d be nice to play with punk bands or ambient acts.
Joe: Just trying to make it interesting for us. Kind of get the feeling that if there’s not enough bands around that you want to listen to then start something that you want to do.

BCFB: What’s your next move?
Joe: Well getting the EP finished. In the next few weeks, that’s going to be the main priority. We’ve got a bunch of shows coming up, a weekender with Earth Moves at the end of July. Just to try and play a lot.

Pijn on tour with Earth moves

Pijn on tour with Earth moves

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Album Review: Cleft – Wrong

'Wrong' - The final record from Cleft (Artwork by Jessica Wild)

‘Wrong’ – The final record from Cleft (Artwork by Jessica Wild) – Album Review from Marcus Clarke

Nobody likes writing musical obituaries but it seems this year that far too many have been written. Besides the emotional drudgery, often they’re overly gushing with superlatives and fail at providing a nuanced insight into the complex lives and careers of some of history’s most complicated characters. But what if you had the chance to write your own obituary? To craft your own lament, curate your own funeral and lay down your last impressions on earth? Death is just as integral to the process of being prolific as conception or breathing, so the act of controlling death is a masterful art in itself. To quote Hubert Koundé in La HaineHow you fall doesn’t matter. It’s how you land!

So here we are again, live-streaming the death of yet another great musical act. Two-piece instrumental self-proclaimed turbo-proggers Cleft (aka John Simm and Dan Beesley) are one of the most beloved bands in the UK DIY scene. Unfortunately they’ve decided to call it a day, but being the lovely human beings that they are, they’re giving us one last album in the form of ‘Wrong’, which turns out to be the perfect sequel to their inaugural LP Bosh!
(That Elephant on the cover has done a lot of partying!)

The task of setting out to record Wrong in four different recording studios may have seemed totally mad, even a little hazardous to some, but it reminded me of the momentum carried by bands like Minutemen, who possessed a cohesive, unrelenting turbo-drive like Cleft. For a band with so few members that are so locked into each others grooves, a task like this becomes an adventure of love no matter how steep the uphill journey may seem. For Cleft, the struggle has paid off massively, resulting in not only a great sounding chunky record, but one that captures their distinct character and in fact goes even further to add new colours to their palette.

Opening track and lead single ‘Frankenstein’ sets the thunderous tone fans were pining for as it chugs out a spectacular singable riff, which Cleft are oh so very good at. On track two, the brilliantly titled ‘D.O.N.G. 808’, we hear a chorus that’s full of euphoria, which surely stems from their conquering in the live field – specifically, those small independent festival fields. Without wishing to fall into the cliche of “band matures on second album”, in places it really does show. Some of these melodies and song structures sound like maybe they could come from some of the more ambitious or let’s say ‘careerist’ bands that play arenas, but at other times it sounds like they really haven’t grown up at all. They’ve found that line between child-like audacity and collective arena euphoria, which in a sense is just genuine fun rather than a cynical tool up.

Take for example ‘Face Plant’, a typical Cleft style turbo-jam; John’s thrashing drums maintain their succinct technicality while Dan’s pitch stacked guitars go off on one. It’s the kind of material that makes you want to bounce off the walls and join in the fun with them. You can even hear the two screaming in the background as John hurdles into a percussive frenzy. It’s an extremely enticing invitation.

Short jam ‘Lemmy’ knocks with a groove that sounds like it could be sampled for a Hip-Hop track, reminding me of The Meters or something Jack White might want to lay down on one of his guest spots. It further proves that Cleft are anything but a two note band. There are influences of funk, prog, metal and even pop on here.

Bees, Beads, Beas’ is the darkest track yet since Frankenstein, dropping to a mean faced breakdown while ‘Me, Sugar’ folds into a total stonker of a riff. But it’s live jam ‘Alan’ that’s possibly one of the most attention grabbing numbers at the halfway point of the album. A beautiful refrain from the riff antics, a blissful opiate for any lethargy one may contract from the brutal assault of relentless Cleft’s energy. It’s the brief break you need before the brilliant prog-epic that is ‘Onan’s Boulder.’ At this point the album seems to hit a sombre tone, but thankfully title track ‘Wrong’ provides something like a shower of happy tears to drench you in. It’s the most beautiful track Cleft have ever written and it reminds me that even though it’s short, not a second of that brief musical moment was wasted. It’s triumphant enough to make you want to ride a dolphin down a rainbow slide with Manga eyes while sicking up skittles and farting out hot dogs and being cheered on… or something.

The third and final live jam ‘David’ takes us into the last quarter, followed by ‘Desperate Elvis’, the twin sister of Frankenstein, featuring sprinkles of piano. It’s up to album closer ‘Dohmlette’ to bring back that balance of clean euphoric melodies, heavy riffing, and (surprisingly) a talkbox outro that leaves their ghostly stamp forever imprinted onto your mind. You wouldn’t have wanted it to end it any other way.

The mastery of Cleft is in writing truly memorable riffs that invade your very being and take you on an exploration through innocence and freedom. You do feel like a child running about in your room, jumping on top of stuff, sniffing things you shouldn’t be sniffing and yelling things very loudly, all while trying to work out how the the world works and reacts to your creative experiments. It’s the soundtrack to the joys of ignorance and the inventiveness found at the heart companionship. Wrong is an earnest document of Cleft’s last few breaths on earth. It doesn’t give up without a fight, but more than that, it leaves us with some of their best work to date, which while I’m thankful, makes me all the more sad that we won’t be able to see those ideas blossom any further. How you land is indeed important, but when you fall like Cleft you can’t help but turn it into a song dance before hitting the floor. And there ain’t nothing wrong with that!

RIP Cleft – Pre-Order the new album ‘Wrong’ by clicking the image!

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