Oliver Cobbin reviews the latest singles in ‘New Releases Round-Up’ featuring; ‘Astral Project’, ‘The Chase’, ‘Those Howlin’ Sounds’ and ‘Viyellas’.
Hello again! Yes, I admit it’s been quite some time since our last encounter and who knows how long it’ll be until our next, but stop worrying about that and just read on instead…
ASTRAL PROJECT – ATHENA:
First up on this edition of ‘New Releases Round-Up’ is ‘Athena’, the debut single by Manc five-piece ‘Astral Project’. The song kicks things off with a slightly dissonant, fucked fuzzed-up riff, that sounds like it’s been transported from 1967 to 1997 and then updated for 2017. It’s both dreamy and biting, which is matched by Abbi Parcell’s vocals – ethereal for the verses and sneery for the chorus. The rhythm is a driving force throughout, being supplied by bassist Emma Rosson and drummer Jack Biggs, whose constant & propulsive interplay is akin to those famous krautrockers ‘Can’ and ‘Neu!’. All of this providing a nice template for the shimmering synth parts of one Sophie Erasmus – cool name!
They may categorise the song as a 1960s throwback, but I would describe ‘Athena’ as being just as indebted to the UK shoegaze scene of the 1990s, as it is to the psychedelic haze of 1967 and beyond. I’m not completely in love with the song but I enjoy it enough not to be bored by it. The floating guitar parts of Scott Woodcock are the highlight for me and I would recommend ‘Athena’ to any fan of UK shoegaze, dream-pop and so on. If you like your lullaby melodies set against a fuzzy background, then this is the song for you.
VIYELLAS – WHAT I SAW:
Second on ‘New Releases Round-Up’ is ‘Viyellas’, with their latest offering ‘What I Saw’. They were a featured act some months back at our ‘Nightfish!’ event and this critic was impressed with…what I saw. The local indie quartet were a tight live act, despite being under 20 years old, and proved themselves against the more ‘seasoned’ bands of the night. They’d just released ‘Song 22’ as a demo and whilst it showcased their knack for a catchy melody, it was still a rather rudimentary recording for the band. ‘What I Saw’ is being billed as their debut single and it’s nice to see the vast improvement in production. The crisp sound of the guitars in the introduction are complemented nicely by some light cymbal splashes and bass grooves, courtesy of Joe Newton and Kian Irwin respectively. Stripping back to these two core rhythmic elements lets Josh Hart’s smooth vocals take centre stage, before being joined by Will Lomas on guitar for the chorus. The build-up to this section promises a little more than is delivered though, with the chorus melody being a little wishy-washy for my liking. The tune is catchy enough, but sounds too much like a 2004 throwback, leaving little impression on this listener. I want a bit more grit from the lads, which I know they’re capable of, and I’m surprised this breezy ditty was their choice for a debut single.
I’m also picky when it comes to lyrics and unfortunately ‘What I Saw’ isn’t doing it for me in the lyrical department either. Some predictable phrases and a half-hearted cry about ‘men in suits making millions’ results in the words just passing me by, rather than being a focal point in themselves. To alleviate those two gripes though, is a middle section that sees a bit more power from ‘Viyellas’, as well as some impressive drum rolls to welcome in the final chorus. It’s by no means a bad song and I’m sure it’ll please their fan-base, but it just comes across as a bit tame and safe in my opinion.
THE CHASE – THE PIT OF POVERTY:
The next song on ‘New Releases Round-Up’ is ‘The Pit of Poverty’, the latest single by ‘The Chase’. A rollicking guitar riff, courtesy of frontman Tyler Heaney, starts off the song and sets the tone for the next 3 minutes and 41 seconds. He is soon joined by brother Dion on the drums, providing a hi-hat-infused beat that many-a-famous-drummer would be proud of. Is that a subtle use of cowbell I hear too? Johnny Marr’s influence is heard on the next riff, which is both circular and melodic. ‘The Chase’ are ticking all the right boxes at the moment for an indie classic. The Brothers Heaney are joined by bassist Luke Childs, who lays down a groovy bassline, whilst James Cahill provides a subtle keyboard backing that is an ever-constant, yet unobtrusive, presence. With an average age of 18.5 (consulted the calculator for that one), ‘The Chase’ could be pigeon-holed into the ‘young & fresh rockers’ category, but that would be too easy and almost lazy. ‘The Pit of Poverty’ sounds like a song that is well beyond their years, with Tyler’s voice sounding mature and direct, rather than naïve and pubescent. A falsetto break in the chorus and a fairly low-register middle-8 displays the extent to which he can use his voice, unique in tone and timbre.
Well-produced and executed, ‘The Pit of Poverty’ is sure to entice anyone bemoaning the lack of good indie rock these days. An accompanying music video is also available, which, despite some bad miming, acts as a good bit of promotion for their recently released EP, ‘Odyssey’. The DIY-esque video sees the lads performing in an abandoned warehouse, complete with their most loyal fan-base – the mannequins. It’s simple and doesn’t try to be flashier than needs-be. Instead it shows their youthful exuberance and aesthetic. Bring on the next song I say!
THEM HOWLIN’ SOUNDS – TWENTY FIVE:
Last but not least on ‘New Releases Round-Up’ is ‘Those Howlin’ Sounds’ and their debut single, ‘Twenty Five’. Adele tributes can be tricky, but these lads pull it of really well, sounding original and almost nothing like the woman herself…weird that. Noisy and boisterous, the local 4-piece manage to produce a raucous, rock n’ roll number that the likes of Iggy Pop and Lou Reed would be proud of. Alex Strongman possesses a snarling voice that ups the level of vitriol just that little bit more. His guitar skills are doubled by Luke White and between the two of them, they manage to achieve some serious fuzziness. The bass is dirty and distorted, for which we have Adam Crooks to thank, whilst the pounding drums of Kayne Clark are something to behold.
‘Twenty Five’ is a short, sharp, burst of noise rock and doesn’t pretend to be anything else but that. ‘Those Howlin’ Sounds’ are performing at our ‘Fuzzbox’ event next month, in support of ‘Nervous Twitch’. Judging by the screeching monster that is ‘Twenty Five’, they should fit the bill perfectly.
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