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.

The Love Family – New Single & Album for the (un)Beaten Generation

The Love Family - Traces [drone attack] Remix by Terry Lane
The Love Family – Traces [drone attack] Remix by Terry Lane
The Love Family
Traces [drone attack]
Remixed by Terry Lane
Available as a digital single via Grip Records on 24th March, 2017

THROW OPEN THE WINDOWS. DEATH TO TIMID POP!

Watching fads, scenes and sub-genres come and go, The Love Family have quietly gone about their business producing hard hitting slabs of power chord-driven post punk flavoured alt rock from deepest Medway through the past two decades.

With a forthcoming album and epic 13 minute remix of the lead track to boot, original members Gary Robertson and Paul Ireland have been spending time locked away in Kent’s  Squarehead Studio with producer Rob Wilkes and finding the unhinged freedom of not having to consider performing new songs live, a godsend.

“Allowing yourself the freedom to use multi-tracking and overdubs to produce a more perfect representation of what is in your head, rather than consider how we are going to perform songs live as a three-piece without any backing tapes, has been such a release,” said Gary Robertson.

Paul Ireland added: “That allowed us to work more as a group, rather than concentrate on our own instruments”.

The new album is simply called ‘Tracks’, consisting of an intro and outro version of new song, ‘Traces’ collate with the group’s 10 favourite tracks since their debut album ‘Out of Reach’ in 2013; and to celebrate their new found freedom to explore all possibilities, they asked Terry Lane to rework the lead single in whatever style he wished.  His re-imagining of the track is as far removed from the original as it is breath-taking in its behemoth drone monster-like production.

Unconventionally, the Traces [drone attack] remix weighs in at over 13 minutes.  The remix uses instrumentation from the original version while genetically engineering a hip hop beat to a slowly building, ever increasing wall of sound until it is unleashed like a wild pulsating sonic beast that gradually unravels before your ears, rolling forward into a space echoing experimental noise.

Traces [drone attack] will be released on 24th March as a digital download.  While the original versions of ‘Traces’ will be available on The Love Family’s second album, ‘Tracks’, which is scheduled for release on 12th May. Both will be available to buy from iTunes and Amazon and available to stream on Spotify.

For more information visit the official Love Family Facebook page.

The Love Family – When Time Meant Nothing EP

The Love Family - When Time Meant Nothing EP

The Love Family release a new EP, When Time Meant Nothing, with all four songs about growing up in the Medway Towns in the 1980’s.

When Time Meant Nothing‘ – the lead track from The Love Family EP of the same name, delivers a no nonsense antithesis of prog rock – no thrills, wanky solo or pretentious showmanship.

The songs are produced stripped of over exuberance or false tones of excitement.  One vocal, two guitars, bass and drums. This works with, rather than against, the vocal delivery and intensity of the music. It was recorded in Newington at Squarehead Studios with Rob Wilkes.

The music drives a steady, constant speed against the alt rock hard-shoulder, with its post-punk spirit driven by solid, hard, powerful drone-like guitars, effortlessly powering the song like a tugboat against the effervescent commercial tide of X Factor-esque fizzy pop dirge.

The Love Family – When Time Meant Nothing EP tracklist:
When Time Meant Nothing
Escape
Missing Out Friday
Your Blood

The Love Family – When Time Meant Nothing EP is available as a limited CD & digital download.  Follow The Love Family on social media via  Facebook and Twitter.