A LOOK AT WHAT’S OUT THERE
Dominic Valvona’s Reviews Roundup

Photo Credit: Daisy Glaze/Vincent Perini

Wovenhand ‘Silver Sash’
(Glitterhouse Records) 4th February 2022

An esoteric landscape of Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee, Blood Meridian and the Egyptian Book Of The Dead awaits on the first album in nearly six years from the mystic David Eugene Edwards Westerns scripture imbued Wovenhand vehicle.

The former 16 Horsepower front man collaborates with Chuck French of the American hardcore band Planes Mistaken For Stars on a wildly driven, occasionally pummeling Biblical and occult raid on Western and Native American symbolism and allegory. Apache, Comanche and ‘Sicangu’ (one of the album’s track title) war dance jangling, rattled and marching percussion gear up against gnarling, doom-laden textures of heavy rock, the industrial, dark wave and the Gothic both on and off the reservation.

Edwards and his foil channel a troubling, even traumatic dark vision of a bloody West; a geography full of metaphysical holy mountains, sacred sites and timbered temples. Silver Sash squalls and creeps between NIN’s collaborations with Bowie and the Swans and Crime And The City Solution and The Mission as rattlesnakes hiss, eagles soar and the distant tribal drums beat out danger. All the while Edwards part quasi-prophet, part descriptive author style lyrics emphasis the supernatural, the holy and some romantic displays of anguish.

An atmospheric grind and hauntingly fierce album that burns scorch marks across an already scarred land, Silver Sash carries weight and mystique on nine songs of esoteric Western hammered invocations. 

Ilmiliekki Quartet ‘S-T’
(We Jazz) 11th February 2022

Anything but a lifeless frozen tundra when it comes to contemporary jazz, Finland’s We Jazz (clue is in the name) label platform has been prolific and instrumental in promoting a rich abundance of the Scandinavian region’s talent – three titles no less making our recent ‘choice albums of 2021’ lists.

One such Helsinki stalwart, honing their impressive skills for two decades, is the assured Ilmiliekki Quartet. Their new self-titled album is an understated, lightly touched suffusion of jazz-blues and soul with a whiff of the Savoy and 60s period Blue Note labels output. Although saying that the action can rise to a tumultuous crescendo, a climatic splash of the waters. But for the most part the intensity is simmered in a sizzle of cymbal and snare resonance, quietly stretched, elegant double bass bobs, gentle spotted piano and nuzzled drifting trumpet.

Each member of this special quartet gets to flex their compositional skills, with trumpeter Verneri Pohjola orchestrating the veiled, ghostly-touched ‘Follow The Damn Bread Crumbs’; pianist Tuomo Prättälä dreaming up the early Miles bluesy reflective ‘Sgr A*’ and huffed trumpeted ‘Kaleidoscopesque’; the bassist Antti Lötjönen conjures up the cushioning bounced and dusted rebirth of cool NYC boardwalk evoked ‘Three Queens’; and drummer Olavi Louhivuori serves up the nocturnal serenaded, factory streamed and wind rustled ‘Night Song’. The album’s only cover, ‘Aila’ by the Finnish pop group Karina, keeps within the considered perimeters, stirring between a haze and controlled climatic maelstrom.   

The quartet’s overall sound is one of elegance and purposeful development, experiment; a rich channeling of sophisticated jazz from both sides of the pond.

Ziad Rahbani ‘Houdou Nisbi’
(Wewantsounds) 25th February 2022

As the agit-pop artwork cover that has been faithfully reproduced from this cult Middle Eastern treasure’s original cassette/CD release in 1991 shows, the almost surreal climate that existed in Beirut and the South Lebanon at the time it was recorded in the mid-80s, is in constraints with the lighter escapist fantastical fusions of the country’s iconic polymath Ziad Rahbani. Against a backdrop of hard-fought civil war, Ziad was leading everyone into the discothèque and their bedrooms.

A high-heeled local dressed to the nines steps out of a casually placed machine gun diorama; just another statement on the day-to-day horrors that threatened the entire region towards all-out war. The iconic Arabian crate-digger’s favourite, Houdou Nisbi, which is finally being released on vinyl by the Wewantsounds reissue specialists, translates as “relatively calm”: the oft-used TV anchor’s ironic expression in the face of a tumultuous raging conflict. Two thirds of the way into a two-decade spanning civil war, far too complex to detail here, the Lebanon was at the epicentre of war between opposing religious militant groups; sucking in Israel, Syria and a myriad of client states as peacekeepers. During one of the worst atrocities of that war – the infamous Sabra and Shatila massacres – the Lebanese star went to work in his By-Pass studio to make an album of smooth, MOR romantic balladry, funk, soul, jazz and, what sounds like, both Nino Ferrer and Gainsbourg Franco-Arabian troubadour like pop. Both softened and sexy, there’s even, at a stretch I’d admit, a touch of Leonard Cohen 80s slow dances and Odyssey-style disco.

A towering cultural figure in the Middle East at large, as a musician, composer, producer, playwright and activist, Ziad’s fate was mapped out from birth. His feted musician father Assi Rahbani was part of the famous Rahbani Brothers, whilst his mother, Fairuz, was a legendary singer – a number of her most prized albums were actually produced by Ziad in the 80s. With those genes it’s almost a given that he would go on to accomplish so much.

Heavily influenced, as you will hear, by Western music and with a first-rate band of performers (Tewfic Farroukh on sax, Paul Dawani on guitar and Emile Boustani on percussion) on side, Ziad created a sentimental as much as a salacious mood of lilted swoons, maladies and sleep sophisticated groovy dancefloor moves. It all starts with the smooched and tingled piano, floated flute and whistled heart-to-heart ‘Bala Wala Chi’, and moves onto the more mysterious, brassy resonating Arabian title-track. Another piano dalliance – of which Ziad was a maestro – beckons on the dreamy funk-jazz fantasy ‘Nafs Al Sheghlat’, followed by one of those sexier deeply-voiced with bending, melting coquettish female accompaniments, and with a early 80s Sakamoto like production-job, ‘Yalla Kichou Barra’.  

A female presence of both lofted, airy allurement and exotic oozing can be heard throughout, alongside the main man, who hinges between almost baritone and more yearning croons: even the whispering.

There’s one cover picked out in the notes, a louche French-esque version of smooth-operators, The Crusaders’ (one name that I would have thought had very negative connotations in the Lebanon) modern soul classic ‘Soul Shadow’. Under the Arabesque ‘Routh Khabbir’ translation Ziad keeps relatively close to the original.

Touches of 70s NYC Broadway, Michael Legrand showtime, Brazilian Tropicana, club lounge Arabia and 80s sentimental Japanese balladry seem to subtly flow on a heart-string tucked fusion that seems to transcend the chaos and death all around. A calmer soundtrack to all the violence and confusion of that moment, Houdou Nisbi would have you thinking everything was hunky dory; as a “relatively clam” escape it works a treat.

Daisy Glaze ‘S-T’
(The Sound Of Sinners) 25th February 2022

What do you get when the one-time drone spaceman Sonic Boom sets out the production controls for a panoramic envisioned Western soundtrack? Well, you get a cinematic free ride across a well-travelled vibrato and tremolo twanged resonating landscape of Tex-Mex border dotted chapels, rebellious skulking outlaw county hideouts and lamentable lover’s rendezvous.

Yes, Boom facilitates the dreamy and sulking Western fantasies of the musical partnership that is Daisy Glaze (named I take it, after the Big Star song); a boy/girl union between Louis Epstein and Alix Brown, a duo that extends to a five-piece outside the studio. 

Arriving from congruous but slightly different musical byroads, the duo meet at the same knowing dangerous lovelorn junction that Lee Hazelwood and Nancy Sinatra etched their entwined names; a match that the duo describes as more “blues than pink”, on a soundtrack in which the established echoes of Jack Nitzsche’s strings and Morricone’s spaghetti Western scores cross with The Mekons Sacri Cuori, Ritz Ortolani and noughties Domino Records. Within that indie-country and often supernatural spooked Western scope the duo corrals a wide panning shot of influences to produce a songbook based on the “sinister side of prismatic love”.

From the bell tolls of a shotgun wedding to melted desert mirage apparitions, the Daisy Glaze imprint mixes up decades (traversing the 50s, 60s, 80s, 90s and present) whilst moving from swells of indie to reverent electric organ suffused country-gospel. Although the big sound of ‘Statues Of Villains’ did remind me of both Stereo Total, the Dark Horses and Arabian sand dunes. Almost Gothic in parts, like the Bad Seeds or Crime And The City Solution at a séance during the Day of the Dead, there’s wobbled vibrations of Elvis Presly’s ghost and the dearly departed ready to shake a boney skeleton hip and leg.

Sonic Boom’s touch gives the whole thing an echoed and reverberating spell, and helps to send this ‘psych-outlaw’ partnership in an indie-rock direction. Daisy Glaze pick up all the right vibes and run with them, moseying and cooing sweet everything’s on a recognisable but bleak modern set. 

Al Doum and The Faryds ‘Freaky People’
(Black Sweat Records) 18th February 2022

More acid-washed Harmonious Bosch than Hieronymus, the spiritual unifying force that is the ever-changing Al Doum and The Faryds collective turn the garden of earthly delights into a celebration of Mother Nature’s freaks.

At this particular time and space the rambunctious Milan group are a ten-piece ensemble, once more pushing their recent Freaky People free-for-all. A self-confessed paradox of the raucous and seriously considered, the “chaotic and respectful”, “calm and furious”, they’ve managed to invoke both Egypt 80 and Albert Ayler; The Flaming Lips and Vis A Vis; and an astral travelling Lonnie Liston Smith and Les Freres Smith on a bustling Kuti protestation come gospel paean party.

In practice this means spiritual jazz like choruses of soulful wellness mixed with bust downtown Lagos shuffles, suffused horns, fluty flights, celestial chimes, Afro-rock and hints of a psychedelic India. An organised simmered outpouring of energy in honour of Earth’s green goddess, Freaky People’s rainbow alliance sucks in a hand-clapping Janelle Monáe, the afflatus African homages of Idris Ackamoor and Philip Cohran with the modernising improve eclectic peregrinations of The Cosmic Range and soul revue backbeat of Kasalèfkut Hulu to drum up a dancing and tumbled healing balm of optimism.

Orange Crate Art ‘Contemporary Guitar Music’
The Quietist ‘Hidden’
(Both on Somewherecold Records) 18th February 2022

Transducing, transfusing the electric guitar so that this fuzzed-up and flange effected instrument nearly loses itself in the varied states that the Orange Crate Art’s driver Tobias Bernsand sends it, the Contemporary Guitar Music title doesn’t come close to describing the seven musical journeys found within.

Billed as a collection of spontaneous in the moment songs, this latest album from the Malmo explorer traverses a cosmic myriad of trip-hop, post-rock, kosmische, krautrock, psychedelia, dream-pop, indie and baggy dance music; created I’d imagine in some kind of drug-induced haze, with the signature apparatus mind-bended, wailed, contoured and vibrated into a dream factory of the hypnotic, dubby and melting.

Chronicling Bernsand’s creative head space (though this one-man studio enterprise extends to a four-piece when appearing live) in the summer of 2021, there’s a lovely ether oscillating opener entitled ‘Stud Phases’ that reminded me of a dream-wave Land Observations or Broken Shoulder soaked caught in a sort of quasi-electronic dance music cycle. The next track, ‘Wendy Underway’, moves the action towards a trance drifted communion of soft tickling jazz, George Harrison’s Moog mood music, the Van Allen Belt and The Soupdragons: a psychedelic mushroom of translucent cloud gazing if ever I heard one.

A Lydon free PiL has space dust sprinkled on Jah Wobble’s dub bass pulsations on the magical ‘Self-Similarity Fractals’, whilst it could be Weatherall turning on the effects on the velocity building ‘Energetic Superbubble Of Synthetic Telepathy’. Things only get better from here on in, with the epic krautrock peregrination and cosmic courier special ‘Young Spine’, which in equal measures evokes a quasi Klaus Dinger drum beat (not the motorik, but the other kind he specialised in) and echoes of The Untied Knot, Embryo and Higamos Hagamos on its stellar journey – perhaps’ the album’s highlight for me. Just as epic, if probing towards the subterranean is the camel caravan motioned psych bad turn ‘Two Ponies Make No Pint’. A Massive Attack ‘Protection’ style broody bassline is absorbed into a dark patchwork of the HiFi Klub, Andy Haas, Seefeel, Olivia Tremor Control and speaker bouncing arppegiator circling rotations. If you’re aware of the background, the mythology, then you will know that most of the OCA’s material has never been released – that last track being a case in point, a radical ‘remix’ of an unreleased song from four years ago. After a couple of previous attempts and false starts, Bernsand has finally assembled a collection for the highly prolific experimental label Somewherecold (releasing at least four albums a month on average). And it’s an astral belter, a cosmic dream and post-rocking beauty worthy of our attention. 

In short, another worthy release on the North American label of note this month is the collated epic ambient album from The Quietist – curiously both albums share mushroom themed cover art. A congruous expanded collection of slow-burning peregrinations from across Phillip Ward’s catalogue, plus three new tracks especially written for this album, Hidden charts the developments of this composer, from his initial apprenticeship writing music in the late 90s on a Playstation 1 (of all things) to a Cubase SE upgrade.

There’s some really incredible moving ambient, low electronic dramas and soundtracks amongst these almost pure suites. Touches of Eno, Popol Vuh, Tangerine Dream, Jean Michal Jarre can be detected in both the long form beautified sweeps and blooms and more mysterious mood boards. A great way to lose oneself for an hour or two.

Seigo Aoyama ‘Prelude For The Spring’
(Audiobulb Records) 2nd February 2022

Evoking the tail end of Autumn as nature comes alive in the “prelude” to Spring, the Tokyo-based musician/composer/sound designer Seigo Aoyama magic’s up a minor ambient and neo-classical triumph on his new album of seasonal suites.

The dewy-grass and misty veils of a still dampened landscape are still present as wispy vapours, but the blossom buds are now starting to sprout on a sophisticated soundtrack of ambient like haikus.

To set the mood Aoyama includes a richly lyrical, poetic descriptive introduction of gentle Eastern breezes, a climbing luminous silver moon and various other evocative scenes. But the prelude begins with the resonated thrum of an orchestra tunning up and goes on to feature fourth world echoes of Jon Hassell’s nuzzled trumpet before settling into a Zen garden retreat of delicate wind chimes, softly rung bells and serene contemplative synthesized sine-waves.

The piano, albeit subtle with every note and short run deeply and methodically thought out, has a starring role on this cloud-gazing dreamy nature trail.: Touches of Kabuki theatre, delicate Sakamoto, the classical, Eno and Tim Story come to mind when the ivory and its inner workings are poured and elsewhere singularly struck. 

The odd light piece of choral-like voices, the odd line of dialogue and field-recorded tramples through both nature and a Tokyo environment can be heard as life is breathed into this Spring passage of rites and communion. Aoyama proves a capable, adroit, patient composer on what is a moving, calm and deeply felt descriptive soundtrack. One of the best ambient releases I’ve heard this year without a doubt.

T.E. Yates ‘Strange Weather EP’

As recent packages delivered to the Monolith Cocktail HQ go, the eye-catching bundle of music and artwork sent by the Bristol-based creative polymath T.E. Yates is hard to beat. An almost complete physical biography/discography of the artist’s various projects, some of which are award-winning, Yates sent me a number of his Poe-esque and surreal pencil-graphite and charcoal hybrid prints (A Bat And A Raven and Bedlam Six Microphone Faces); some postcard-sized artwork promotions of his short Evil Cat animation, shown at the Edgar Allan Poe film festival; and of course, his pastoral art nouveau illustrated debut album (on vinyl) Silver Coins And White Feathers, and most recent EP, Strange Weather.

And so, just for revision sake that’s the illustrator, animator, artist, singer-songwriter and musician strings to an impressive bow logged. All of which could be directly because of or despite a myriad of neurodivergent issues; outlined to a touch of Americana David Byrne, Warren Zevon and Roy Orbison on the warmly radiating electric-piano shuffled EP opener of dappled-lit plaint ‘Condition’. Laid out in an almost relieved candid fashion, Yates turns the sadness of alienated school days into a gauzy triumph of realisation; coming to terms with what he sees as “both a blessing and a curse”. The very fiber of Yates work and personality, this “condition” (“not a sickness”) leitmotif extends to a ‘creative partnership’ with fellow neurodivergents in a specially made video for the track (through Biggerhouse Films). 

It also may account for the EP’s eclectic tastes, which wonder, meander through light jazz, echoes of mariachi or Tex-Mex border Americana, ragtime, radiohall, folk, 70s and 80s MOR pop, whimsical 60s and of course country.  Aided on all these dalliances by a very reputable ensemble that includes a chorus of voices and harmonies, and a wide-range of just as eclectic instruments – from Yates’ musical saw to Mikey Kenny’s elbowed fiddle work hoedowns and the presence of C.J. Hillman’s steel pedal guitar wanes -, Yates tells it like it is; both demystifying, and yet I think aching for understanding, the fairytale completeness of romance to the accompaniment of a country fiddled barn dance.

Overlooked, ignored in company on the soft galloping folksy ‘Fierce Horses’; despondent with a dreamy sadness about the greed and avarice in the ‘Palace Of Your Master’; and quaintly rolling along on the unrequited Nick Lowe with tinges of mid 70s Kinks ‘Mystery Window’, Yates unburdens the weight on his shoulders and shows a full gamut of emotions on a most peaceable, disarming EP. There’s nothing strange about this weather, just first-rate songwriting and musicianship from an artist who might just have a unique take on the climate and world around him.     

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Hi, my name is Dominic Valvona and I’m the Founder of the music/culture blog monolithcocktail.com For the last ten years I’ve featured and supported music, musicians and labels we love across genres from around the world that we think you’ll want to know about. No content on the site is paid for or sponsored and we only feature artists we have genuine respect for /love. If you enjoy our reviews (and we often write long, thoughtful ones), found a new artist you admire or if we have featured you or artists you represent and would like to buy us a coffee at https://ko-fi.com/monolithcocktail to say cheers for spreading the word, then that would be much appreciated.

Brian ‘Bordello’ Shea’s Idiosyncratic Reviews Roundup

The cult leader of the infamous lo fi gods, The BordellosBrian ‘Bordello’ Shea has released countless recordings over the decades with his family band of hapless unfortunates, and is the owner of a most self-deprecating sound-off style blog. His last album Atlantic Crossing, a long overdue released collaboration with 20th Century Tokyo Princess’s Ted Clark, was released last year. A new album entitled Cardboard Box Beatle will be released in February by Metal Postcard Records.

Each month we supply him with a mixed bag of new and upcoming releases to see what sticks.

SINGLES/TRACKS.

Super Hit ‘Believe’
(Metal Postcard Records) 18th January 2022

I have no idea why this reminds me of Christmas but it does. Not that it matters what it reminds me of but all that matters is that this is a wonderfully whooshed beautiful version of the Cher classic. I really like it. Could be what Mercury Rev might sound like if they were down and outs and had too much cheap sherry and slept in a launderette with only memories of old top 40 hits for company. This really is quite a beautiful little number; I’m now excited at the thought of an album. 

Mermaid Avenue ‘Prisoner’

I like this single. It reminds me of the Rolling Stones when they wanted to be Gram Parsons; it has all the reaching for the sky trying to shake hands with God quality: The kind of song Primal Scream have attempted many times but not quite got there. It’s not as good as Cliff Richard’s version of Jesus but to be fair not much is. Yes indeed, a rather lovely scraping the stars from the sky track.

Tony Valentino ‘Barracuda’
(Big Stir Records) 4th February 2022

Tony Valentino from the 60s garage band legends The Standells has rerecorded the bands’ famous ‘Barracuda’ and issued it as a single on Big Stir Records. And a fine single it is as well. As you expect, it’s full of 60s garage rock goodness with psychedelic guitars, 60s garage rock organ, and is a total blast of fun and freedom that puts younger artists to shame: reminding us that music can indeed be fun and ‘cambunkishush’, a word I have just made up. But why the hell not? It is the perfect word to describe this fun filled action packed piece of rock ‘n’ roll.

Ghosts Of Torrez ‘The Wailing/ The Legend of Billy The Whale’
11th February 2022

This is rather beautiful; it is like floating on a cloud made up of memories from a time when you wanted nothing but a kiss from the girl/boy you once loved’s lips; a slow-moving nostalgic stroll down the riverbank of dreams. Yes, indeed this is a rather lovely candy floss track of a single and should be swooned over now.

ALBUMS/EPs…

Armstrong ‘Happy Graffiti’
(Country Mile)

The long-awaited album by Julian Pitt aka Armstrong is upon us, and as you expect from a man who has melody oozing, yes, oozing from his pores, it is a tuneful delight. As I have mentioned many times in past reviews, Julian is one of the finest songwriters in the United Kingdom at the moment and has been for many years: one of music’s best kept secrets in fact.

Happy Graffiti is his third album proper not counting comps and reissues, and anyone with the good taste to have his other two excellent albums will not be disappointed. Songs of love, hope and heartbreak are dispatched with some aplomb; Bacharach and David, Jim Webb, Roddy Frame, David Gates eat your breaking hearts out! These are songs that should be drifting from radio 2: ‘Eyes Wide Open’ a song of pure heart-breaking beauty, and ‘In A Memory’ a piano ballad that has me thinking of the sweetness of the Zombies mighty opus Odyssey And Oracle.

These are songs that are wrapped in a comfort blanket of familiarity, even if you’ve never heard them before; ‘This One’ being stuck in my head even after just one listen, and Happy Graffiti is full of these tuneful blighters: ‘Rock Star Rock Star’ and even the piano instrumental ‘Days turn Into Months’ is melody ridden. 

So, Happy Graffiti is an album of melodious delight, an album to soundtrack the days and months as winter turns to Spring and hope and loss merge into beautiful memories.

Sky Diving Penguins ‘S-T’

The Sky Diving Penguins album is one joyous pop thrill; an album that takes its Beatles, Nirvana, Zombies influences and makes an album that could have been released anytime over the last 50 years. Timeless is the word I’m looking for. Melodies float and quiver, at times reminding me of the Rentals or Fountains Of Wayne.

Sure, this is not the most original and ground-breaking albums that will be released this year and there will be hundreds if not thousands released that tread the same ground that wander the same Weary path, but I doubt I will hear as many as good and enjoyable as this. So, recommended to all you power poppers and lovers of sixties influenced pop, and anyone who’s god is George Harrison, should indeed investigate.

The Conspiracy ‘Sword Of Damocles’
(Metal Postcard Records) 14th January 2022

Do you remember the days when guitar music was the be all and end all in your life? I do, but then I’m of that age when all parts of your body start to lose its appeal, but your memories stand firm and wrap themselves in a mist of melodies coveted by nostalgia, which one dips and makes themselves open to the grace of growing old. And this five track EP has the same magical effect: Guitar songs that are well written and played and wrap themselves in a time when guitar songs could change your world or even just make it a more enjoyable place to exist or even live sometimes. An EP to cherish and hold close to your aching old heart.

Pulco ‘Crustacean Theory’
14th February 2022

If experimental art pop is your thing, you could do a hell of a lot worse than treating yourself to the new Pulco album; an album where poetry, discordant synth, occasional Fall like guitar and bass riffs collide with The Shaggs brilliance to upturn an already upturned apple cart, to set fire to an already burning building. This is the sound of a man stretching his art to new and extreme levels of bewitchery; a man arguing with himself knowing both sides of the argument being right: knowing that this album is an off-the-cuff work of pop poetry that will not break through the stagnant stench of so called alternative music scene.

For Pulco is a one off and people really do not appreciate one offs: they scare people you see. This is an album of real life, of dreams of nightmares of walking through a picturesque country landscape to see trees full of hanging Swans  dripping with a deathly decaying beauty, which again is a perfect metaphor for this wonderful eccentric work of aural art.

ALBUM REVIEW/Dominic Valvona

Provincials ‘Heaven Protect Us’
(Itchen Recordings) 4th February 2022

We’ve had the doomsday Dark Ages album now it’s time to seek succour from the heavens as the Provincials take us into yet another anxious-riddled year of pandemic eclipsed misery. The latest album plea is suffused with ethereal romanticism and bitter distain: they can hardly hide their anger at the current Tory shit show – though Christ knows exactly where a better, more sympathetic and competent alternative will spring from (hello Lib Dems who at least seem to be bloodying Boris’s nose in recent by-elections) – on the vitriolic scowl ‘You’ll Evaporate’.

Once more lifted out of what could have been an abrasive barrage of insults and wounded pride by Polly Perry’s soaring and aching diaphanous voice and the accentuated musical accompaniment of all-rounder Seb Hunter (who also join’s his partner in harmonic duet, and even gets to sing lead on the touching if pained emotional pulling folksy tinted ‘Kiss Of Life’) and drummer/piano-player Steve Gibson – brought in again to expand the range and horizons. 

Always better when following a more ambiguous line then when bashing out the disgust, the Provincials traverse the themes of a crumbling society with songs of personal grief and lovelorn plaint. They do this exquisite balance of the sinewy and often beautiful by sending the late 60s Fillmore East (Cold Blood and Jefferson Airplane) and Zappa into a oscillating spin with the handclapped ferocious ‘Planetary Stand-Off’, or by channeling The Sundays, Throwing Muses and All About Eve (even a touch of Sleeper) on such lush, vapour-gauzy fare as the drifting ‘Cold Fusioneers’ and grungy soulful ‘Feels Like Falling’. And still within that scope there’s Iberian acoustic guitar flairs and Wire like tensions, glimpses of Up era R.E.M., shoegaze, country, the outback and of course folk: as remodelled for our fragmented, dislocated times. 

Synthesised, acoustic and electric sparks of inspired torrid musicianship sound the alarms on another lush songbook. Every strung-out and intense widening of the band’s folk roots hangs on to a melody; never losing sight of a tuneful delivery even in the most grinding and bleakest of times.  

ALBUM REVIEW/GRAHAM DOMAIN

Silverbacks ‘Archive Material’
21st January 2022

Silverbacks are a band to watch – they incorporate abrasive wiry guitar noodling, jerky and percussive rhythms and solid basslines underpinning the vocals of Daniel O’Kelly sounding at times, like a cross between Mark E Smith and Bob Geldof! The overall sound sits somewhere between Gang of Four, Red Noise and Wire. All the right parts are present – energy, excitement, wry lyrics, pulsating rhythms, sudden bursts of noise, detours to odd sound worlds, but somehow the album feels dark, claustrophobic and unsettling! It’s not somewhere you would want to linger long, like a run-down housing estate where violence is only a glare away!

Occasionally, the claustrophobia and fear are suddenly left behind as the sun emerges from behind the clouds bringing warmth and colour to the world – these are the times where the vocals of Emma Hanlon shine bringing a much-needed diversity and contrast and perhaps an element of Laetitia Sadier wistfulness to proceedings. Overall, a good album but perhaps lacking melody. Definitely a band to keep an eye on as I am sure their best is yet to come.

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