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Album Review: Tree House – Into the Ocean EP

By on Monday, 25th September 2017 at 12:00 pm

TreeHouse Into the Ocean coverWe at TGTF have never written before about London-based electronic musician Will Fortna, but if you’re a particularly astute reader, you might have spied a photo of him here. Multi-instrumentalist Fortna travelled to America last year for SXSW 2016, as touring bass player for alt-pop singer/songwriter Oscar. Our own Editor Mary captured Oscar and Fortna in action that year at the Huw Stephens and PRS for Music Showcase.

Earlier this month, Will Fortna released a new EP of his own original music, titled ‘Into the Ocean’, under the moniker Tree House. The Tree House project began several years ago, when Fortna was living in Brooklyn and teaching himself to compose and play music in a windowless loft. Now living in London and finishing a course of study in American History and Ethnomusicology, Fortna has expanded his compositional style to encompass a wide range of musical influences, most notably American minimalist composers Steve Reich and Philip Glass. Fortna does the singing and much of instrument playing himself, but the EP does feature a few colleagues from his live band, including Alfie Long on bass, Izaak Binet on keyboards, Joel Burton on drums, and Tom Wells on electric guitar.

Opening track ‘Nonsense’ introduces the EP with an immediate smooth jazz feel, centered around a simple, repeated keyboard motif. Fortna’s vocals are equally smooth, his slightly breathy timbre finding just enough traction to keep his lyrics from being lost in the instrumental underlay. “There’s times we get caught up in top down love / and there’s times reality seems so far gone,” he sings, seemingly from a distance, as if the words might have been an afterthought to the musical composition.

Several of the compositions on ‘Into the Ocean’ naturally invoke the ideas of water and swimming, including the EP’s first single ‘Water Fountain’. More slick and polished, this track also takes a slightly darker tone, as Fortna invites us to “take a deeper step into the tide.” He shows here that he isn’t afraid to let a musical idea evolve organically, taking the first instrumental bridge into delicate, Eastern harmonies before kicking back into the shuffling beat of the verse, then into a warmer, mellower second interlude.

The sunny, laid-back sound of ‘Warm Blue Feeling’ is a nice mid-album change of pace, with a gently swaying rhythm and Afrobeat-style guitars. Fortna’s lyrics are a bit less cerebral here as well, as he spends an idle moment enjoying “the sound of crickets dancing all around” and “the warm blue feeling of letting go.”

Early Tree House composition ‘Classical Symphony’ showcases Fortna’s emphasis on rhythm and uncomplicated instrumental textures. The simplified instrumental arrangement puts more focus both on his singing voice and on his lyrics, which are a bit ironic here as he declares, “I never had the patience for classical symphony.” Final and eponymous track ‘Into the Ocean’, by contrast, demonstrates Fortna’s gained expertise in counterpoint and instrumental arranging. The string introduction is mildly reminiscent of Steve Reich’s ‘Different Trains’, and the initially disconnected percussion grows into a steadier back beat as the song progresses. Fortna’s vocals excel here, particularly in the echoing and open-ended final refrain.

Decidedly intellectual in approach and eclectic in its influences, ‘Into the Ocean’ is a strong initial effort from Will Fortna. His ongoing musical studies and genuine interest in a wide variety of musical styles are sure to shape his future endeavours, as well as refining his technical and compositional skills. In the meantime, the songs presented here are a pleasurable and intriguing first listen.


Tree House’s debut EP ‘Into the Ocean’ is available now from Brighton indie label Memorials of Distinction. You can stream or purchase the EP on Bandcamp right through here.


Album Review: Swet Shop Boys – Sufi La EP

By on Tuesday, 6th June 2017 at 12:00 pm

Swet Shop Boys Sufi La album coverThe Swet Shop Boys are transatlantic rappers Riz MC and Heems (ex-Das Racist) and producer Redinho. One part Queens, one part London, Indian-American and British Pakistani, you get my point. In Swet Shop Boys, you have a nice melting pot of influences and cultural heritage in a unique package: artists not afraid to be both political, yet funny in their approach.

Some obligatory background information for you: their debut album ‘Cashmere’, released in 2016, was a breath of much-needed fresh air by approaching a difficult topic. We are living during an exceptional time in our history, where the charged political climate in the West means a different cultural background such as being an Asian Muslim can come with additional baggage. This powerful subject, paired with the sharp vocal delivery of Riz MC, Heem’s laid-back flow, and experimental production from Redinho, makes for a sound that both stands alone and stands for something.


With six all new tracks, latest EP offering is ‘Sufi La’ – the word ‘Sufi’ translates as a Muslim mystic – and yes, it’s good in case you where wondering. ‘Sufi La’ offers a slightly less dissident voice than previous record ‘Cashmere’, instead giving us more of the party, or the partaaaaaay, depending on how you like to get down. Opening track ‘Anthem’ starts with an infectious beat reminiscent of a ‘90s hip-hop party track, but with a slightly more contemporary twist. The track also delivers some seriously witty lyrics; Riz Ahmed may be single-handedly bringing back the word ‘yatty’ (old school London slang for girls) when he proclaims that his ‘Yatty is Paki Onassis’, and goes on to call himself ‘Paki Chan’. The focus on race is still a central theme that hovers around these songs, but this focus doesn’t stray too far from sharp, comedic play on words. Moving on to ‘Thas My Girl’, another up-tempo banger with tongue-in-cheek lyrics: “You know it’s real when you stop watching porn hub”. The contrast in Heems and Riz’s accents can take a moment for the listener to absorb together on the same track, but it’s also this meeting of styles and vocal delivery that makes their sound unique and enables the two to play lyrical back and forth with each other.

‘Birding’ is a charming little number that pays tribute to the Mughal past time of bird watching, while title track ‘Sufi La’ provides a languid, hypnotic vocal looped intro that is soon met with fast drums that conjure up images of the Sufi whirling dervishes of Turkey. The beat pairs well with a vocal delivery from Riz MC that is reminiscent of a UK drum ’n’ bass MC riding the beat. With a similar relentlessly fast tempo hyping up the listener, Riz’s roots in London MC culture to subtly merge into the tune. Final track ‘Need Moor’, seemingly a play on the Muslim North Africans who settled in Spain, has an infectious chorus and plays around with the theme of wanting more, more of everything. It sweeps along at mid-tempo rhythm, carried by some beautiful sitar sounds. In ‘Zombie’, we have a traditional Indian folk-tinged sound paired with almost whispered lyrics addressing the feeling of belonging that has become lost for many in their own country since the UK’s Brexit vote and Trump taking up residence in the White House, “You see the results of the vote though / so where we gonna go bro?” The question hangs in the air, as if waiting for an answer. “If you black or brown, Babylon coming for your head” are the heated words Heems sleepily spits.

‘Sufi La’ offers a strong awareness and commentary of identity, paired with humor and progressive, multicultured sounds. Songs are short and end abruptly, with the longest track clocking in at just over 3 minutes long. But they hang in the air long after they have been played, as do the laughs.


The ‘Sufi La’ EP from Swet Shop Boys is out now via Customs. A limited edition white vinyl of the EP are available now from the band’s official Web site.


(SXSW 2017 flavoured!) Album Review: Sam Gellaitry – Escapism III EP

By on Tuesday, 11th April 2017 at 12:00 pm

Sam Gellaitry Escapism III EP album coverIf you haven’t yet heard of Scottish electronic producer Sam Gellaitry, you’d best be getting educated now. The prodigy from Stirling, who started making music at the tender age of 12 no less, appeared in a blizzard of appearances at SXSW 2017 last month, giving audiences in Austin a treat for the ears while letting them watch the master at work. I was lucky to see him open the 4AD showcase on the outdoor stage at the Mohawk on Friday night, but it wasn’t anywhere near enough time for me to enjoy his live artistry fully. Luckily for you and me, just last Friday he dropped the final part of an EP trilogy, ‘Escapism III’, so even if you haven’t had a chance to see him perform live, you can relish his songs in the privacy of your own home. And at less than 20 minutes in total length, you ought to give this collection a chance.

The first two tracks on the EP were revealed as early tasters, and it’s easy to see why. ‘The tropical aspect of ‘Jungle Waters’ comes from the vaguely tribal drum beats and plucks of a guitar. However, it’s Gellaitry’s virtual conducting of an emotionally rich string section, its swelling and falling, that are truly the star of the song. ‘Ceremony’ is more hip, more what most people would expect from a 21st century electronic producer. The breakneck speed of its rhythm and the elements added in only get broken up by the almost hymn-like synth chords that he uses to slow down the proceedings from time to time. The whimsical notes of a flute flit around like a butterfly, one that can’t land or stay for very long because the object of its affection is moving far too quickly.


Standout ‘Midnight Racer’ follows with more appropriately futuristic effects. There’s a lot going on here, but it’s never too much for a track that clocks in at less than 4 minutes. Glittery synth arpeggios gently lead you into the belly of the beast: a high-energy, yet blissed out track with harp strums and descending musical ‘bombs’. ‘Ever After’ closes the EP, slowing and smoothing things down but in Gellaitry’s way, with staccatoing jazzy and r&b notes bouncing off the background before we have to leave his world.

The most unusual moment on ‘Escapism III’ is ‘Acres’, a song that Gellaitry himself has confirmed contains no synths. Wait a minute, come again? No synths on an electronic music track? Let me explain. It wouldn’t be wrong calling Gellaitry a classical composer, that is, an alternative one who happens to use electronics means to arrive at an end. Angelic vocals, lush string orchestration and stark piano chords come together with what sounds like a mournful but reined in bagpipe line. The only clue that this could be possibly classed as dance is the light hand of an electronic drum beat. What is it that makes Sam Gellaitry a unique prospect and increases his potential for future success? His artistic technique can be approached intellectually by electronic heads like me, but anyone who has an appreciation for beautiful music can also be drawn into the soundscapes he creates and easily. ‘Escapism III’ is electronic music as cerebral as you want it to be.


The ‘Escapism III’ EP by Sam Gellaitry is available now from Beggars imprint XL Recordings. I suspect that this Scottish wunderkind will be wowing us with new music sooner than later, so bookmark this link to what should be a growing archive of coverage on the electronic musician and producer.


Album Review: HAWK – She Knows EP

By on Monday, 27th March 2017 at 12:00 pm

The Cranberries, starring frontwoman Dolores O’Riordan, were a fairly successful Irish band during their peak, even though their protest song ‘Zombie’ undeniably accounted for the majority of their success. However, that was the mid-Nineties and since then, the burgeoning breed of female fronted alt-rock bands have continued to sprout, bringing their edgy guitar music and thoughtful lyrics to the forefront.

HAWK are one within this category that somehow seem to differ slightly in their direction, although it seems hard to believe when you see pictures of a four-piece rock band fronted by a small female with a blonde crop cut. The London-based alt-rock outfit have just released their third EP ‘She Knows’ via Veta Records. The EP presents a darker tonality in comparison to their earlier work, yet still maintains the beauty and grace that disguises their confrontational lyrical themes addressing bigotry and discrimination witnessed in every day living.

‘She Knows’ includes 5 equally expressive songs, each with its own personality, glued together by dreamlike soundscapes. The EP opener and aptly titled ‘Intro’ drops us right in the centre of HAWK’s power. Deep pulsating drones, lightly layered with ethereal vocal samples and haunting violins gradually build before an immense wall of sound crashes down onto us following the frail strum of guitar chords. ‘Intro’ seamlsessly bleeds into track two, ‘Take It Away’, which conveys similar message to that of Alice in Wonderland. The lyrics to the chorus “I need to sleep in the dark, before you take it away” suggests a feeling of paranoia, but with an added aspect of fear indicated by the heavily crunchy guitar chords.


As the EP pushes on into tracks 3 and 4 ‘Static’ and ‘Mirror Maze’, we experience a new burst of life from HAWK. The drums become more driven, the guitars drop into the background and support the top line, and Hough’s vocal approach becomes a lot more melodic, opening up her range and developing her projection. ‘Static’, for example, is based on two melodic phrases, one on each guitar and vocals that repeats and develops as the song progresses. Without any clear indication to the change in sections, the listener is kept intrigued as the guitar and voice share these melodies, creating an enticing blend of the two. ‘Mirror Maze’ takes a much more direct approach in that every aspect of the music has a clearly defined part that excellently accompanies each other perfectly, yet are equally as strong in isolation.

EP closer ‘Ghost’ is an excellent example of the power behind Julie Hough’s voice. Matthew Harris’ guitar parts also take somewhat of a lead role, hinting at the subsequent vocal melody, which only enters intentionally after the 1-minute mark. Hough’s vocal phrases throughout the verse are light and short. However, it isn’t the melody that engages the most, it’s the climax point in ‘Ghost’ each time the chorus breaks that pulls you in. Each time, we are hit with a wall of sound similar to that experienced in ‘Intro’, except with a much more progressive guitar riff, and a more solid, steady groove. Hough’s celestial yet visceral vocals pierce through the wall of sound with the perfect amount of vibrato and attitude that send shivers down your spine. Just one note over the top of the whole band acts perfectly as the cement of the sound whilst equally sharing the role of a top line with the guitar.

Within this short surreal journey of just 5 songs, HAWK provide an excellent blend of dark, melodic rock with elements of dream pop. They create a sound so heavy and visceral, yet simultaneously so light and enchanting that makes you feel like you’re walking on clouds while watching the apocalypse unravel underfoot.


HAWK’s new EP ‘She Knows’ is out now on Veta Records. Catch them during their short Irish tour, which you can find the dates for here.


Album Review: Hannah Lou Clark – The Heart and All Its Sin EP

By on Wednesday, 22nd March 2017 at 12:00 pm

Though she can’t be considered a relative newcomer (she put out her first EP back in 2014), Hannah Lou Clark is still in the process of building a name for herself. Now on her third EP, ‘The Heart And All Its Sin’, she’s taking things to the next level and presenting herself open and bare, something which can only aide her ascent. Pretty much dissecting various aspects of mostly the darker side of love, Hannah does it spectacularly with her own relation to these feelings rather than a fictional storytelling.

‘Matilda’ describes the support that relationships often require, especially around decision-making. She pleads “give me strength, help me out” during the introductory verse, while the crunching guitar fills the space around it, adding to the vulnerability of the statement. It’s when the chorus strikes that the track gains power and leads into bargaining statements of “I’ll be your lover, I’ll be your friend”, as if to buy a guarantee for the help needed. As mentioned previously, the music reinforces the emotional weight behind what Clark is trying to convey, and it does so brilliantly, the chorus crashing in as if to back up the bargaining.

While the opener may go into the vulnerable side, following track ‘Don’t Sweat It’ takes things to a more desire-filled place. Perhaps backing this up most is the pre-chorus line “champagne takes the edge off me, I cling to you like a baby”, where inhibitions are forgotten thanks to a bubbly pal, like we’ve all needed it. The music has a groove that insinuates the looseness that comes with such activities: drums roll around the musical space while the guitars are still sharp, representing the deep-set desires.


Going from the carnal to the delicate, ‘We’re Rich’ is billed as a “love song…pure and simple”, and that couldn’t be more of an accurate description. In case the title didn’t give enough away, it centres around the idea that fulfillment in life comes from the relationships and bonds we form, rather than the materialistic possessions that is built into our psyche by society. The track has it all: sparse guitars and a string accompaniment. Pretty deep stuff, and if it doesn’t pull at your heartstrings, then shame on you. ‘Grief Underneath’ takes all the above and turns it all into a secret you know you shouldn’t keep, which the ultimately tugs at your conscience. Portraying it with pounding drums and pretty much the same guitar sound as throughout, the complexities lie in the lyrics instead, where the psychosis that comes from betraying your morals takes precedence over common sense.

So finally, what happens when all of the above sins of love come together? You get ‘Torment Love’, where the sins take the love you’ve formed inside, making the whole a destructive burden. Letting the weight of the words once again do the talking while the guitar accompanies them with a solemn repetitive nature, phrases such as “let it wash me clean, bleach my soul, bleach my heart” bring the true nature of the EP’s theme to a head.

As with most singer/songwriter efforts, the real talent of the release lies in its words. Here, Hannah Lou Clark with much complexity, yet in a strangely relatable way, tells the dark side of love through her own words and experiences. The minimal musical arrangements – your basic guitar, bass and drums – do their duty as a background canvas for the words rather than as a distraction. A strong release from one of the better-sounding up-and-coming singer/songwriters.


‘The Heart And All Its Sin’, Hannah Lou Clark’s third EP, is out on Friday, the 24th of March, on Quatre Femmes Records/PIAS. To read more of TGTF’s past coverage on Clark, follow this link.


Album Review: The Coral – Holy Mountain Picnic Massacre Blues EP

By on Thursday, 19th January 2017 at 12:00 pm

The Coral HMPMB EP coverMerseyside guitar rockers The Coral made their indelible first impression on the UK music scene in 2002 with a self-titled debut album that garnered the then-six-piece band a Mercury Prize nomination. Following that promising lead, the band recorded six more LPs over the course of the noughties before taking a five-year hiatus starting in 2010. During their off-time, band members focused on individual solo projects, and a previously recorded album, ‘The Curse of Love’, was released in late 2014.

In November 2015, The Coral announced a comeback, heralding the release of a new album, ‘Distance Inbetween’, which was released in March 2016. ‘Distance Inbetween’ was met with critical praise from reviewers at NME and The Independent, among others, and the band evidently felt the need to strike again while the iron was hot. They followed ‘Distance Inbetween’ with an EP release at the tail end of 2016, in the form of ‘Holy Mountain Picnic Massacre Blues’.

The LP is a reimagining of ‘Distance Inbetween’, at least in parts. Of the tracks on the new EP, only ‘Holy Revelation’ and ‘Connector’ are taken from the full album. ‘Holy Revelation (Andy Votel’s ‘Holy Mountain Picnic Massacre Blues’ De-Mix)’ more than doubles the original track’s duration at over 8 minutes’ running time. It takes a fairly standard guitar rock track, which was quite catchy in its original form, and makes it into a psychedelic sonic exploration of the foundational rhythms and melodies. Surprisingly, it never feels self-indulgent. Instead, the band seem to be making themselves comfortable here, as if The Coral are stretching their legs and kicking off their shoes, allowing themselves some space to grow, and in the process adding depth and texture to their sound.

‘Connector’, the shadowy album opener from ‘Distance Inbetween’, is recreated here in a woozy and hallucinogenic synth dressing. The bass and the beat are both more aggressive in this Voyagers’ remix, and frontman James Skelly’s vocals are moved farther back in the mix to accommodate the dark dance-pop vibe. The EP features one brand new track, the verbosely subtitled ‘After the Rain (Post WW3 Return of the Super Turv Mix)’, which received airplay from Steve Lamacq at BBC 6 Music ahead of the EP release. Edgy and sinuous with a deep bass groove, its harshly synthetic instrumental bridge contrasts jarringly with frontman Skelly’s smooth, dark vocal melody.


‘Unforgiven’, previously released as the b-side track to The Coral’s ‘Chasing the Tail of a Dream’ single from January of last year, is more acoustic sounding and less kaleidoscopic in color, but nonetheless psychedelic in its way. Its vocal and instrumental harmonies are weirdly wandering, but also warm and hazy around the edges, which allows the EP to close on a distinctly lighter and mellower note than where it began.

‘Holy Mountain Picnic Massacre Blues’ is probably best thought of as an accompaniment to ‘Distance Inbetween’. Stylistically, it’s a bit all over the shop on its own, but in comparison to the tracks on the full LP, these songs make a little more sense. Taken in conjunction with the definitive precision and back-to-basics mentality of ‘Distance Inbetween’, ‘Holy Mountain Picnic Massacre Blues’ displays The Coral’s outside-the-box approach to music-making and their willingness to evolve their sound, even as their career stretches past the 20-year mark.


The Coral’s full-length album ‘Distance Inbetween’ and their latest EP ‘Holy Mountain Picnic Massacre Blues’ are both out now on Ignition Records. For more on the Merseyside band on TGTF, follow this link.


About Us

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 is edited by Mary Chang, who is based in Washington, DC. She is joined by writers in England, America and Ireland. It began as a UK music blog by Phil Singer in 2005.

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