Easter new album, Meander Lines – effortless Americana

EasterManchester’s Easter create an Americana Alt Rock sound that effortlessly emanates from the speakers. Meander Lines is their brilliant new album.

The free-improv tendencies of drummer Andrew Cheetham and the twin-guitar effect of Gavin Clarke weaving intricately over Tom Long’s, while Rich Clarke’s driven bass playing gives the songs energy and immediacy. All play out perfectly with Tom Long’s chilled vocal delivery.

Meander Lines is full of strong, catchy songs that have a tendency to stick in your head. Delivered in a remarkably gentle, less frantic but still very powerful sound. Think Dinosaur Jr, Neil Young, Television and The Dream Syndicate.

Since recording their debut album, Innocence Man, singer/guitarist Tom Long spent 2 years on the road as multi-instrumentalist with LoneLady, promoting her second album for Warp, while drummer Andrew Cheetham has been in high demand, touring with Kiran Leonard, Jane Weaver and a host of improv projects. In this interim the band shared ‘How You Spend Yr Time’ online and it was quickly picked by Huw Stephens at BBC Radio 1, yet initial sessions for the follow up were abandoned. After an intense period of writing, re-writing and whittling down a huge batch of material, the band regrouped last year for 2 days of live recording at Eve Studios, Stockport with producer Karl Sveinsson (Gnod/Vanishing) and finished the record at Queen’s Ark in Manchester’s Levenshulme district.

The title sheds light on a difficult process, as Long reflects: ‘it’s an architectural term, when city planners design paths for people to walk, meander lines are the routes they often end up taking instead – shortcuts, cutting across spaces etc. These songs had a long gestation, which became this heavy transition period for me personally and for the band as well, and this seemed to be the perfect metaphor: the strands in your life and in your head that are constantly at work; they get tangled, they unravel, they break in unexpected ways. It also fits the arc of most of our songs, they tend to be heading in a certain direction… then they veer off’.

See Easter Live:
The Victoria, Dalston in London on Thursday 19 April
The Peer Hat in Manchester on Friday 18 May

Easter release ‘Meander Lines’ on 30 March 2018 on Super Smash Hit Records.

Offerings by Typhoon – the first great album of 2018

Offerings by TyphoonIn these days of instant downloads, individual tracks and a call for shallow, instantly forgettable and meaningless pop songs, the first great album release of 2018 sits very uncomfortably among the previous statements.

Offerings is the fourth studio album from indie / alt rock band Typhoon from Portland, Oregon.

Typhoon fall somewhere between indie rock and alt folk, if I had to try and categorise their music. There are elements of Arcade Fire in their heaviest and more intense moment.  Folk acoustic and traditional rock instrumentation and arrangements, married with the beautiful duel vocals on songs like Empiricist are mesmerising and truly wonderful.

Offerings follows a central figure, allegedly a fictional man who is losing his memory, and in turn, his sense of self.  Singer / songwriter Kyle Morton may well be the latest in a long and distinguished line of tortured souls.

From the very first listen, I was drawn into the album.  This is not background music.  Offerings is deep and richly layered content.  Beautifully crafted, it is without doubt best enjoyed as a complete album.  Following the story from start to end; and in doing so, this is indeed a concept album.

“I’ve always been preoccupied with memory, losing memory, and trying to recapture memory. I wanted to explore the questions: What does a person become if they don’t know where they came from? What is the essential quality of the person if you strip away all memory?”

In losing a certain level of control, Kyle Morton was motivated in part by his situation, as well as drawing inspiration from literature, art, and the films of David Lynch  and Christopher Nolan’s Memento, he was immersed in during the writing of this record.

Offerings is divided into four movements (Floodplains, Flood, Reckoning, and Afterparty) to represent the mental phases the main character goes through where he first realizes that something is wrong, then struggles through the chaos of his situation, and finally moves into acceptance before succumbing to his dreadful fate.

Rorschach looks at the age of information and collapse of meaning. While on Empiricist, Morten explains:  there’s a regression to the womb where the character is back in his bed at home, talking about his range of motion shrinking. This first movement ends with ‘Algernon’ [taken from one of Morton’s favourite short stories, Flowers for Algernon, by Daniel Keyes], where he’s constantly awakening and in an interrogation with a woman-who the listener should know is his wife, but he doesn’t.”

Offerings is a truly great album.

Typhoon UK Live Dates:

27/02 – THE LEXINGTON – LONDON, UK (2nd date added)
28/02 – THE DEAF INSTITUTE – MANCHESTER, UK
01/03 – BROADCAST – GLASGOW, UK
02/03 – THE LEXINGTON – LONDON, UK (SOLD OUT)

Offerings by Typhoon is released via Roll Call Records on 12th January on vinyl, CD and MP3 formats. The limited edition Blood-Red vinyl (1,000) have already sold out.

Stuart Turner & the Flat Earth Society – Scowl album review

Scowl by Stuart Turner & the Flat Earth Society (STFES).Scowl is a book for small children by Steve Smallman about an owl called Scowl. Scowl was only happy when he was grumpy, perched upon his grumpy branch, screaming ‘Flap off!’ at the other woodland creatures, who tried in vain to cheer him up.

Scowl is also the fifth album by Medway‘s very own Stuart Turner & the Flat Earth Society (STFES).

The album cover adorns stern Victorian wetplate images of each band member, courtesy of the talented and esteemed photographer Rikard Osterlund, that make Peaky Blinders look like The Nolans.

Scowl introduces a much harder, more alt rock than folk edge to the effervescent, ever-changing sound of STFES.  The harder gritted sound may have been sparked by Stuart Turner dropping the acoustic guitar for a Gretsch or the departure of multi folk instrumentalist Rob Shepherd, who left the band part-way through recording the album.

But STFES has always been a vehicle for other members to bring songs to the table, and this policy gives the band the ability to change direction or sound as a matter of course, rather than a progression or out of any fad or passing style.  A good example of this is the uptempo indie pop overtones of Stoic.  A wonderful pop song driven by the unmistakable guitar sound of Bob Collins.

The other stand out track for me is Nothing.  The song grew out of an original idea by Shepherd, and is a slow burner that builds into something very special.  A song about lost control, lost innocence and lost life. This should remain in the STFES live set for many years to come.

Turner’s distinctive growling blues vocal style is perfectly matched with Rachel Lowrie on tracks When, Crash and Solitary.  While David Read of The Claim provides guest vocals on Helen – a song that is surprisingly not a cover version as it couldn’t sound more like The Claim if it tried!

The evolution of the STFES “sound” is completely natural.  Water, with its banjo-picking, alt folk acoustic-driven sound reminds me more of previous albums, but sits perfectly well among the 9 great songs that together, make Scowl a great album.  For me, the best STFES album so far.

Scowl by Stuart Turner & the Flat Earth Society (STFES) will be released on 10th November on Vacilando 68 records.

Between Joy Division & The Horrors… Autobahn – The Moral Crossing

Autobahn - The Moral CrossingSomewhere on an A road equidistant between the contemporary gothic pop of The Horrors and the intensity and mood of Joy Division there is a band driving on a journey of love.

There are elements of Tubeway Army, too.  The gothic pop of UK Decay, Bauhaus and Danse Society; and the caged angst and noise of The Birthday Party.  At the wheel is a five-piece band from Leeds called Autobahn.

Their second album, The Moral Crossing, released this month and portrays a band in love with post-industrial Northern landscapes and awash with a post-punk sound of intense power and darkness.

Frontman Craig Johnson says:

“Actually, as a band, we’re more optimists,” explains Johnson. “I don’t find talking about this stuff ‘dark’, but it’s stuff people don’t usually want to talk about—execution, rising from the dead, depression, feeling utterly lost and unsure where to go. To understand the moral crossing, to go one way or the other, and how it can change your life. For me, saying this stuff out loud gives the feeling that there’s a future.”

The album is available on Tough Love Records as a CD, a red vinyl pressing for indie stores, 100 red vinyl pressing with a poster available exclusively through Bandcamp / Tough Love Records and, finally, a 100 grey vinyl pressing only available for their hometown through Leeds record stores.

Following the praise awarded to their debut album, The Moral Crossing sees lead singer and principal songwriter Craig Johnson, guitarists Michael Pedel and Gavin Cobb, bassist Daniel Sleight and drummer Liam Hilton deciding to build their own studio space – on their own terms, all on their own.

“The first album hinted at emotion and feeling, but this record encapsulates that from the offset. The melancholic aspect of our music is often offset by an aggressive dissonance, but to me there’s also a romantic side to what we do, which isn’t always clear because of the 100mph drive of the band. That’s what we are exploring with this new album.” – Craig Johnson

They found a former double-glazing firm, under a disused bridge, in Holbeck (Leeds’ red light district), and despite having no experience of such a job, they undertook this feat. It took a year from ripping out the existing contents to finishing the album – which was then mixed in New York by Ben Greenberg, known for his work with the Sacred Bones label.

On top, Johnson taught himself how to make a record after the studio was built. “I was down there nearly every night,” Johnson recalls. “It was pretty horrible at times, but worth the pain to have control over everything. We’ve had the chance to create the sound we want, at times it’s more melancholic, and romantic.”

Autobahn
Autobahn

Autobahn – The Moral Crossing Track listing:

  1. Prologue
  2. Obituary
  3. Future
  4. The Moral Crossing
  5. Torment
  6. Low/High
  7. Execution/Rise
  8. Creation
  9. Fallen
  10. Vessel

Autobahn UK Dates: 

4-November: O2 – Oxford
5-November: Brudenell Social Club – Leeds
8-November: Louisiana – Bristol
9-November: The Lexington – London
10-November: The Joker – Brighton
11-November: Heartbreakers – Southampton
16-November: The Cookie – Leicester
17-November: Record Junkee – Sheffield
18-November: Undegun – Wrexham
22-November: Broadcast – Glasgow
23-November: Sneaky Pete – Edinburgh
24-November: Ku Bar – Stockton-on-Tees
25-November: The White Hotel – Manchester

Tonota 80 – Killer Sands and Beating Hearts – debut album

Tonota 80 - Killer Sands and Beating Hearts debut album
Tonota 80 – Killer Sands and Beating Hearts – debut album

Tonota 80 have a mature sound for a three-piece.  Think a Husker Du steam train hurtling toward the sound barrier.  Carrying with it hints of sweet tasting Green Day bubblegum punk-pop, undercurrents of 1960’s harmonies, and a nod to something much heavier like the twin lead guitar-driven rock of Thin Lizzy.

The name Tonota 80 is taken comes from A Whirlpool of Stars, a pulp sci-fi novel written in the 1970’s by British science fiction writer, Kenneth Bulmer, written under the pseudonym of Tully Zetford.  Apparently a Tonota 80 can vaporise a man from no less than 600 metres away…. which is nice!

Tonota 80 are Richard Pronger (bass and backing vocals), David Bloomfield (guitar and vocals) and John Edwards (drums and vocals).  David and Richard first met in a music shop in their home town of  Maidstone, many years ago. Shortly after, Richard recorded a demo tape in his bedroom for David and John’s band (The Andy Pandys) which also featured Stuart Ellis on bass guitar – now with Medway and Cliffe’s finest export,  The Claim.

As the years passed, they went their separate ways. Richard taught guitar and bass and has continually dabbled in the recording process, nurturing his immense musical talent in a band called Hedgegrow Technologies.  While David and John spent many years in The Strookas, a three-piece band inspired by the blistering guitar work of Husker Du, Radio Birdman, Dinosaur Jr. and Swervedriver.

‘Out of the blue, through our partners contacting each other on Facebook’, Richard recalls, ‘David and I got back in touch. I was remastering some old recordings.’

Fast forward two years and Tonota 80 are set to release their debut album, following the acclaimed EP ‘Jonesing for Chips’ which was championed by among others, BBC 6 Music’s Steve Lamacq.

‘I think the time was right for the three of us to get together’ David reflects. ‘We have all experienced such a lot of differing musical influences during the time we have been apart that the sounds we made when we got back together were really exciting and different to anything we had done before.’

‘Recording has been a breath of fresh air’ recalls John. ‘Richard has a portastudio, and had a small room where we somehow managed to build a massive sound. Luckily, this meant it was cheaper than booking a recording studio and so we were never having to work against the clock and rush things. This has resulted in a collection of songs that are musically more experimental, thought through, analysed and, quite frankly, brilliant.’

Killer Sands and Beating Hearts‘, the debut album by Tonota 80 features 12 storming tracks covering varying subject matter such as love, politics, domestic abuse, Sylvia Sims, social media, being out of control, war and pizza.

You can buy this blistering harmony-driven slice of indie guitar noise by contacting Tonota 80 direct via email tonota80band@gmail.com.