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(SXSW 2015 flavoured!) Bands to Watch #337: Dry the River

 
By on Tuesday, 3rd February 2015 at 12:00 pm
 

London alt-rock quartet Dry the River released their latest album of new material ‘Alarms in the Heart’ on the 25th of August last year via Transgressive Records. Recorded in Iceland, the album is Dry the River’s second full-length LP, following their 2012 debut ‘Shallow Bed’, which was released in both a full studio format and the acoustic version reviewed by our own Martin. Last summer, we here at TGTF featured a complete stream of ‘Alarms in the Heart’ as well as the video documentary of its recording process.

Dry the River combines the heavy guitars and drums of typical alt-rock with a folk-oriented focus on lyricism, vocal harmonisation and expanded instrumentation. Lead singer Peter Liddle alternates seamlessly between a fluttering falsetto and a grittier full-voiced timbre, his voice matching equally well with the lighter acoustic moments and the broadly expansive instrumental crescendos. Band members Liddle (guitar, lead vocals), Matthew Taylor (guitar, keyboards, vocals), Scott Miller (bass, percussion, vocals) and Jon Warren (drums, percussion) were until recently joined by violinist Will Harvey, who left the band just after ‘Alarms in the Heart’ was completed. Harvey’s absence surely poses an interesting challenge for the band, as his bowed string underpinnings were key to the folk quality of their sound, particularly on older songs like ‘Bible Belt’.

[youtube]http://youtu.be/J4EoNZQ0reI[/youtube]

The newer material on ‘Alarms in the Heart’ does lean more heavily toward rock than folk, with stronger emphasis on pounding drums and power chords, but the emotional, often Romantic quality of the lyrics is still present, along with the vocal harmonies and the exquisite dynamic variation in the instrumental arrangements. Early singles ‘Gethsemane’ and ‘Everlasting Light’ were released last summer ahead of the album proper. Both are centered around darkly brooding lyrics, but where ‘Gethsemane’ is slow and melancholic (“it started with the moon that turned an inexpensive room into St. Peter’s / there’s a parabolic story but it’s boring and it ends how you’d expect”), the sharply concise ‘Everlasting Light’ feels a bit more like a true radio single with its wailing guitar riff and repeated chorus, “I had my reasons at the time / I had my reasons at the time / something in the state of mind / oh, everlasting light”.

[youtube]http://youtu.be/C4XynrxpDI8[/youtube]

The album’s current single ‘Rollerskate’ starts off with a slightly brighter sound, but its chorus quickly descends into a dark angst, culminating in the spine-tingling coda of Liddle’s repeated “I couldn’t want you more than this”. The song’s accompanying video feels singularly appropriate for Dry the River’s upcoming tour plans, as it features up close looks at the band members backstage, onstage and mingling post-show with their fans.

[youtube]http://youtu.be/2tg-yGZkcKA[/youtube]

Dry the River will embark on a set of English tour dates in mid-February before heading across the pond for a few warm up shows ahead of their scheduled appearance at SXSW 2015 in March. A full listing of upcoming tour dates can be found on the band’s official Web site.

 

(SXSW 2015 flavoured!) Bands to Watch #336: Bad Breeding

 
By on Monday, 2nd February 2015 at 12:00 pm
 

Stevenage is hardly a sleepy town, but it can’t be classed as a buzzing hub of musical creativity either. In fact, when you arrive there, the lasting impression is that there are an awful lot of underpasses and it feels like you may end up being involved in a scene out of Harry Brown, where Ben Drew “kicks your fackin’ ‘ead in”.

So it’s no surprise that Bad Breeding have burst free of this bite-size chunk of not-so-quaint suburban London and started making one hell of a racket. Their music hits you with an assault on all senses: seriously, you can smell the sweat, these guys are lively. Since Gallows faded into irrelevance, when Frank Carter decided to neuter himself and start singing about love and throwing knives in his dressing room, Britain hasn’t had a band flying the flag for old school punk values. We’ve seen pretenders from America like Trash Talk who have brought their own brand of chaos to our venues and festivals, but Bad Breeding are one of our own and deserve some recognition.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qFQZlYVefxo[/youtube]

They’re the kind of band you’d want at your house party… Well, if it wasn’t your house. Their music is refined chaos and their first singles ‘Burn This Flag’ and ‘Age of Nothing’ are testament to the aural attack their music offers, blending the best elements of modern hardcore with enough reverb to make your bowels shudder and void themselves. The foursome sound like what they are, a group of angry young men bursting out, in remarkably the same way Gallows did almost a decade ago with Carter leading the ferocious charge.

SXSW fell in love with Gallows once and there’s no excuse as to why Bad Breeding can’t descend on Austin and do the exact same thing. It’s music to rip your shirt off, mosh around and punch someone in the face to, pure unadulterated testosterone in the form of 3-minute bursts of fire. This is Britain’s angriest band, bursting at the seams with rage and foaming at the mouth ready to nut you at SXSW. You in?

 

Bands to Watch #335: Beaty Heart

 
By on Friday, 30th January 2015 at 12:00 pm
 

Note: Beaty Heart were announced in November as part of the lineup for SXSW 2015. TGTF has recently been informed that the band will unfortunately not be making the trip to Austin this year.

South London trio Beaty Heart is one of an increasing number of bands whose music defies strict genre classification. Their loosely-defined pop sound has gravitates alternately toward world music and folk, and as you might guess from their name, Beaty Heart puts a heavy emphasis on rhythm and percussion. In fact, band members Josh Mitchell, Charlie Rotberg and James Moruzzi are all multi-instrumentalists, and their collective sonic repertoire includes electronic sampling, eclectic percussion and unusual instruments like the mbira, which I first encountered in listening to fellow folk-pop band Stornoway.

Beaty Heart released an early EP ‘Slush Puppy/Cola’ in 2011, but it was their debut LP ‘Mixed Blessings’, released in May 2014 on Nusic Sounds/Caroline International, that garnered them a wider range of attention. ‘Mixed Blessings’ opens with a brightly tropical theme on a sequence of three strong tracks, ‘Banana Bread’, ‘Kanute’s Comin’ Round’ and the trippy ‘Seafood’. The band members also identify themselves as visual artists, and as such they direct their own music videos, including the somewhat dizzying video for ‘Banana Bread’, below.

[youtube]http://youtu.be/uiqpoDa9sXI[/youtube]

After ‘Seafood’, the album begins to evolve into a darker, more downtempo sound with the first of two short instrumental interludes, ‘Opal Shred’, which is balanced later in the tracklisting with its counterpart, ‘Opal Loop’. ‘Kinder’ has a distorted, almost discordant echo, while the chill vibe of ‘Muti’ features chant-like backing vocals and light, sparkling keyboard melodies.

The first single from the album, ‘Lekka Freakout’, appears late in the tracklisting, providing a welcome moment of upbeat pop among the more experimental songs. Returning to the upbeat tribal dance sound, the track includes a cheeky and charming circle of lyrics: “he doesn’t play too well because he has no thumbs, but he sings in time when he hears those drums / he doesn’t sing too well, because he has no lungs, but if he really tries, he hears everyone.”

[youtube]http://youtu.be/Y3Yyt98uQi4[/youtube]

After the release of ‘Mixed Blessings’, Beaty Heart spent the end of 2014 playing in America and Europe with Jungle, as well as joining Kishi Bashi for a tour of the UK and Europe. The band’s next move is unclear since the cancellation of their scheduled SXSW 2015 appearance, but while you wait for news on Beaty Heart, you can check out their live video from the 2012 In The Woods Festival, just below.

[youtube]http://youtu.be/eEfiq2YIa8s[/youtube]

 

(SXSW 2015 flavoured!) Bands to Watch #334: The Pop Group

 
By on Thursday, 29th January 2015 at 12:00 pm
 

At TGTF we pride ourselves in specialising in new music, so this addition to our SXSW 2015 coverage is a little left-field. The Pop Group debuted in 1979 and return this year with new material after an incredible 35-year hiatus.

The album is heralded by the release of its title track, ‘Citizen Zombie’, as a single. The song initially sounds like an unlistenable mess of noise, but careful attention reveals its layers; there’s a decent groove hidden in there, a lounge-jazz interlude, and its main hook is a particularly persistent earworm. There’s occasionally even some proper lyrics (“like a bad, bad robot spinning out of control”), which reveal a darkly humourous streak pushing through all the chaos.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KrfhR5gIyBc[/youtube]

Ostensibly a post-punk outfit, The Pop Group were inspired by the commercial tail of punk to pursue a more eclectic sound. As contemporaries of The Clash, there’s a definite similarity in the two bands’ sounds – the white-boy funk, the ska influence, the half-spoken, heavily-accented vocals – but The Pop Group are a far more experimental and challenging listen. Perhaps that’s why they don’t share the bigger band’s legendary status of course, but then again there’s always those who prefer to cheer the underdog. The Pop Group are for them. And they’re all still alive, which helps.

As if to prove there’s nothing new under the sun, a quick trip through their back catalogue reveals a sound that at times wouldn’t be out of place being played by a bunch of teenagers from, say, Bristol. ‘Mad Truth’ has Carib-jangle rhythm guitar and a cleanly-plucked, reverbed lead line part that countless indie bands are deploying right now to good effect. But no contemporary band can match the granddads’ irreverent attitude or ability to make you feel very uncomfortable indeed.

They’re embarking on a modest U.S. tour before rocking up at SXSW. Quite how those shows will be received is anyone’s guess. A bunch of grumpy, grey-haired English blokes making a right old racket is surely not what the increasingly touristy SXSW punters have in mind when they buy their tickets. But one thing’s for sure: it’s bound to be very memorable indeed.

 

(SXSW 2015 flavoured!) Bands to Watch #333: Vision Fortune

 
By on Wednesday, 28th January 2015 at 12:00 pm
 

I approached Vision Fortune with a sense of trepidation rather than excitement. Any band which decides to shroud its song titles in a series of Roman numerals, either by trying to be too avant-garde and arty for me, are obviously far too clever for a simple mind like myself to comprehend. Throughout the 3 and a bit hours I spent listening to these guys, I was left feeling like I really didn’t understand what was going on – lots of head scratching, bouts of melancholy – generally just feeling like whatever concept these guys are going for has gone completely over my head. It wasn’t pleasant to say the least.

I’m normally a big fan of anything prog/industrial. But throughout my time listening to the London band, I was just left a bit baffled. For example, during ‘XVII’ I felt like I was beamed up by some kind of creepy Roswell-esque / X-Files-style aliens. When I first dived in with this group, I was immediately thinking, these guys sound like a beefed up version of Tall Ships. However, when they move away from the Roman numerals on tracks like ‘Black Ocean Glow’, they do manage to create a rather pleasant soundscape, plodding through a desert in a stoner rock fashion.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0yGaVV1mhv8[/youtube]

They’re nothing like what I’ve ever encountered recently, with their sound flipping wildly between the understated picking rhythms and thudding, whining tunes that sound more and more like a swarm of bees every time you hear it. Often it seems as if for vast swathes of tracks, the band have just left a tape in the machine and let it get stuck on a specific section for a good 2 minutes, as it jerks and squirms in the machine. You know that sound? Surely if I’m old enough to remember tapes, you all can too?

As a live outfit prospect, I’m intrigued to see how this will all work and I can see Vision Fortune somehow being a very popular draw at SXSW. I mean, music with seldom any obvious lyrics has worked incredibly well in the case of Public Service Broadcasting, whilst the mystery factor was enough to push 2014 breakout duo Jungle into the wider public’s eyeline. You only need to do things a little differently to get noticed and at SXSW I sense this is the kind of act which will draw lines snaking out of the venue, with the entire crowd formed up of industry trendsetters in their lens-less glasses, lumberjack shirts and nipple-length ginger beards. Hipster fodder they may be, but with such a distinctive sound Vision Fortune are difficult to ignore, despite the fact I’m now trying to.

Vision Fortune’s debut album ‘Country Music’ is out now on ATP Recordings; a trailer for the off-kilter LP is below. The band will be heading out on a UK tour in March, just prior to their scheduled appearance at SXSW 2015.

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J2T32MaZ4rg[/youtube]

 

(SXSW 2015 flavoured!) Bands to Watch #332: Howie Lee

 
By on Monday, 26th January 2015 at 12:00 pm
 

The deadmau5 vs. Paris Hilton feud and equipment aside, electronic dance music (EDM) could easily be argued as globally the most level playing field of all current musical genres. All EDM artists, no matter how many of there you are in your group, if you’re male or female or where you’re from, you’ve got one goal: get as many people out there to dance to your music, whether it be on a sweaty dancefloor, down the street while they have you in their headphones, or in the privacy of their own bedrooms while listening to you on speakers.

Moreover, except for maybe the artists with swelled heads and swelled egos, the request for and the process of creating remixes is considered a sign of respect. Up-and-coming EDM producer and DJ Howie Lee might call Beijing home, but after he got a call in 2012 from none other than Snoop Lion (the Rastafarian formerly known as the rapper Snoop Dogg) to do a remix of his new reggae track ‘La La La’, the size of Lee’s world and consciousness grew, and the “future music of downtown Beijing” as Lee calls his style is and will be all the better for it.

Having been heavily influenced by the UK bass music scene, Lee left Beijing for school, working on and graduating with a master’s degree in Sound Arts from the London College of Communication. He used his time there to further experiment with the type of bass music sounds that brought him to blighty in the first place, recording the shuffles and frantic beats of ‘Borderless Shadows’ in what SmartShanghai deemed as #2 on their list of best mainland China albums “a sublime rhythmic mix on the headier side of intelligent bass music” that Lee created for his qualifications.

Now back in China, Lee has no doubt taken what he learnt in London and the new ideas he brought back to come up with some truly inventive music in the last quarter of 2014. His most recent release, December 2014’s ‘Swallow’ EP released on Shanghai’s arty SVBKVLT label, is a three-pack of rhythmic goodness. You can barely take a breath listening to first two tracks ‘Garret Jungle’ and ‘Flea’; one can only assume from the song titles and the title of the release that the general idea was to follow the frenetic motion of these creatures. If I’m correct, this is done really well, and the idea that anyone would be able to recreate these tracks live under the microscope at SXSW 2015 is a challenge, but one I am sure Lee is keen to take on when he appears in Austin in March.

 
 
 

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There Goes The Fear is where we tell you about the latest music, gigs, and tours we love and think you should too.

We love music that has its heart on its sleeve, tells a story, swims around our head all day or makes us dance like no-one's watching.

TGTF was edited by Mary Chang, based in Washington, DC.

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