Marcus Pike

The state of modern indie is certainly rather interesting nowadays. Although there have been past evaluations on when the last great era of modern indie was, ergo, when bands and artists last made an impact on the charts, where the genre stands in 2017, critically has never been better. Does having the adoration of critics and the music press outweigh greater commercial success? Maybe that’s a question to ask the Mercury Prize committee. While that is a debate for another time, the rise of a new wave of incredibly talented singer-songwriters have arguably become the heartbeat of indie, in this undeniably eclectic decade of music. Up-and-coming bands in the indie-rock vein are on their own battlefront, still rightfully rumbling the live music scenes across the world, and their time will come again. After all, it only seems that musical trends become cyclical, especially as this decade has progressed. As it stands right now, troubadours of a myriad of backgrounds and influences are among the most well-respected of artists, just trying to make music their entire lifestyle. And their emotional honesty, dedication and raw potential undeniably resonates with tastemakers, spheres of influence and those with a willing, listening ear, no matter how they choose to express their craft. Marcus Pike, a one-man indie-folk workhorse from the east end of London, citing the powerful vocal capacities of Bon Iver and Jeff Buckley, the melodic melancholia of Radiohead and the sublime minimalism of The xx as his inspirations, is another joining that order and hopefully soon to be more widely doted upon with his exquisite compositions.

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Since his small beginnings, he has amassed over 150 live shows on the London circuit and released his debut EP Grand Piano, featuring the phenomenal gut-punch blues of The Flower And The Fox, earlier in February this year. Now with his as-of-yet to be titled sophomore EP lingering on the horizon, and with the mention of experimentation into the electronic realm, we look to his latest release Ark, as a promising glimmer of things to come. Seconds in, after a near microscopic level of acoustic build-up, we are gifted with Marcus’ heart-heavy, but soulful projection, carrying an extraordinary downbeat atmosphere that only thought possible with man-made instruments. Of course, with his acoustic companion in hand, and the deliberately slow pacing, a perfect balance of soothing and sadness is struck, making his recollection of a love lost and being unlucky in love all the more poignant. Both these elements in isolation cast a spell on the listener, the darkened ambience and pure vulnerability of Marcus’ narrative utterly mesmerising to behold, and that half of Ark elapses in such a sensational, yet sorrowful surrender exhibits the very best of what this young man is capable of. The second half is brought to life by a live band, the chill of soft reverb transforming guitar from acoustic to electric, and gentle percussion giving an added weight and movement to the pace already in progress. This new dimension of atmosphere will feel very familiar in post-rock circles, it lurks within the same haunting, moving chords that can trigger pleasure, placidity and pain in every stroke and heightens this dramatic shift as such. A set of female vocals join in unison with Marcus’ as the last refrain grants the duo freedom to drift away, and Ark gradually does, a subtle choral introduction playing out in the background and those emotive guitar chords escaping from their structure, as everything fades to silence. Lord knows where those four minutes disappear to, but it is among one of the most absorbing pieces of indie I’ve ever encountered. While it can be labeled as romantic, Marcus Pike imbues his soul to the darkness, conjuring a spellbindingly beautiful ambience and sense of sombre with little more than his voice and a guitar, and the impact and resolve of that delivery, clamours for recognition far beyond the London live scene. Inspirations accounted for, there feels much, much more exciting and diverse to come from this fantastic young solo artist.

 

While Marcus’ sophomore release is yet to have a certified release date, you can purchase Ark, and his previous EP Grand Piano from his Bandcamp page, as well as all other respectable music retailers. As a stalwart of the circuit, you’ll no doubt be able to find Marcus at a London show, at a time to suit you, so keep an eye out for when you can catch him live on his social media.

Speaking of social media, here are a few places where you can tell him, you love him:

http://www.facebook.com/marcuspikemusic
http://www.twitter.com/marcuspikemusic

And if you wish to tell me that you love me too, then consider leaving me a like, a follow, or by subscribing to the site (totally free by the by), by clicking the link that appears somewhere on this page:

http://www.facebook.com/IAmTheSoundshark
http://www.twitter.com/The_Soundshark

Randay

Without wanting to cast bull-china shop aspersions off the bat, dealing with emotional abuse is more often than not, a difficult ordeal for those affected, but it’s a far more common place subject matter in music than most realise. Arguably the most famous song on the premise, Gloria Gaynor’s I Will Survive, a classic, near four minute disco romp, detailing the breakdown of an abusive relationship an unknown female character found herself in before finding the strength within herself to leave the perpetrator, is considered timeless as no doubt its chorus will be forever etched on the walls of the musical Pantheon. Its optimistic tones and grandeur made this such an uplifting listen, that in some respects, it could be considered easy to forget the subject matter entirely. Just as famous an example, widely acknowledged to be one of the most misinterpreted songs ever, is The Police’s Every Breath You Take, a portrayal of a stalker-type obsessive whom claims ownership over their past lover, never allowing them to move on. The calm, soothing demeanour of its music, along with the misconstrued lyrics of Sting’s impassioned croon has oft been taken as to be a love song for decades, before being publicly debunked by the Police frontman himself. In that respect, thank goodness for pop artists of the new millennium, such as Ke$ha, whose titanic but transparent ballad Praying released this year, brought to life the torment and nightmares faced under her captive producer, after arduous legal proceedings and years in the media spotlight for this reason alone. While currently building a loyal following of his own, Montreal pop sensation Randay is taking the same page from his contemporaries and making the message loud and clear, as well as highlighting another tale of emotional abuse in the process.

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Putting aside the lyrical content for just a moment, Manipulation serves as an impeccably produced electronic pop number that teases crossovers into the EDM and electronic house forays, all to give his sultry charm room to soar. Repeatedly plucked guitar chords, with a very marginal overdub of synth open up the song, give it a cooling ambience, a calm mood and a steady tempo, as we then phase shift into the song’s main body. Enter a realm of pounding bass pulse, dampened hand claps and understated but beautifully layered synth harmonies that bulk out an otherwise minimalist atmosphere, that all lend themselves to Randay’s honeyed tone marvellously. There’s a small touch of hi-hat added to the mix as the verse progresses and a slight delay on the vocals, on which the echo sounds particularly effective against the beat, utilising the less-is-more approach well on a primarily vocal-heavy song. However it is at the chorus where Manipulation is at its strongest. Where once Randay had a lot of vocal processing on previous tracks, stripping the first chorus down to almost entirely vocals, bar delay and some minor ambient synth, has really given his voice a chance to shine on its own merits and it makes the chorus and its hook all the more memorable for it. Quickly building up the drop underneath the vocals, slyly introducing an acoustic guitar amongst the claps and keys, brings a short rush of excitement as you feel a gear shift about to transpire. But while the music doesn’t quite burst with the bombast you would expect from a modern dancefloor filler, the subdued nature of the drop actually fits really well with the overall tone of the song, whilst still having a beat and a bassline for even the most casual of club goers to move to. Throughout, there are little tweaks, production effects and instrumental additions so subtle, you’ll barely notice them at first, that make the song feel all the more complete, and there are more moments along the way where Randay’s vocal talents are isolated but ultimately accentuated as a result of intentional songwriting. Manipulation’s climax brings that memorable chorus hook against the beats, and Randay delivers it with such authority and empowerment, perhaps channeling an inner Gloria of his own, that you begin to realise the potential star power once the music retracts and his voice is left once more on its own, besides the thumping of bass and a melancholic but deeply fulfilling piano chime to close.

Sadly, I was informed that shortly after this song was written, Randay found himself on the receiving end of his own words, and I do extend my sincerest best wishes to him, and hope that he has found peace and closure from such terrible circumstances. But let that take nothing away from what he is capable of vocally, and his ear for piecing together pop music with a punch. Randay has all the tools necessary to become a breakout star and the blossoming process is well under way with the advent of Manipulation; a smartly produced, electronic dancefloor curiosity. with equal parts passion to attitude and a rightful claim for a spotlight to call his own.

Randay is soon to release a brand new track in the coming weeks, having just entered the studio to record vocals for Manipulation’s follow-up. A second album is also due to be announced at some stage in the near future. For everything else currently out including his first album Renaissance and recent remixes of Manipulation, you can find them all at most respectable music retailers.

Can’t get enough of him? Then here’s some social media links to follow for you:

http://www.facebook.com/OfficialRanday
http://www.twitter.com/Elektro_Randay

And if you can’t get enough of what I do either, then you can give me a like, a follow or subscribe to the site using the link below, always appreciated:

http://www.facebook.com/IAmTheSoundshark
http://www.twitter.com/The_Soundshark

And one more thing, if you do feel you are in a place where you feel like there is no escape or nobody to talk to, and you can’t channel your inner Gloria Gaynor, then I urge you to call whomever your local crime line, victim support or mental health charity is. Be brave. The Soundshark has faith in you. You can do it. You can get through this.

Chris Kelly & Nicole Gibson

Normally, any piece highlighting new and emerging musical talents on this site begins with a tale, an anecdote or even a little music history, eventually tying the two subject matters together in a philosophical or whimsical manner. Such may not ring so true this time round. Instead, this begins with honesty. Truth is, this site has been out of sync, almost out of touch, with the pulse of brand new, underground, independent, and unsigned music for some time now, that what little reputation has been building has dissipated from existence. To put it simply, and to quote Jesse Lacey of Brand New – life is a test, and I get that much, so much so that all motivation and production of content stood frozen solid in time. Whether it would ever thaw again, remained a worry for the best portion of four months. But something that kept the tiniest of embers ablaze, was the genuine warmth of kindness. Despite absolute silence, PR companies and musicians alike continued to reach out to the site. I rarely contact artists or their correspondents preemptively, so to have a one-way overflowing direction of content without ever asking for it, goes beyond words and has kept the gears in a functional state in lieu of their dormancy. The ember truly came to life however once Nicole Gibson of the titular Montreal duo came into contact. Her authenticity and heartfelt words, with regard to what this site has accomplished so far, were a moving read and most certainly a reflection on her songwriting partnership with Chris Kelly. Hell, they’ve just been nominated for Best Adult Alternative Song by the Hollywood Songwriting Contest if that’s any indicator.

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The pair have an incredible work rate, releasing weekly covers of recent music chart entries on YouTube, but their own songwriting endeavours, of which their debut EP is due for release in the coming months, captures their chemistry, versatility and sheer talent better than someone else’s words can. Their most recent single, Ghost of You shows the upbeat, poppier side of their capabilities, both Chris and Nicole’s contrasting, reverb-touched vocals, in a realm of grumbling bass, understated percussion and airy electronics, delivered so refreshingly, and with a hook so catchy, you wonder how it is yet to crack the airwaves. Arguably however, it is Out of The Dark’s moodier, minimalist soundscape that has a far greater impact and establishes exactly why the pair have a songwriting nomination in tow. Immediately, Nicole’s dulcet tone welcomes you in, as does the slight melancholy of piano keys and programmed but subdued kicks and snares. There is a marginal breeze of ambience ever-present also, but it all culminates in a formidable emotive vehicle, for the lyrical premise of never giving up hope. The tale is not complex, but it doesn’t need to be. They are simply the right words for the greatest effect. Their voices unite for the chorus, emanating true passion and belief in their message, with Chris’ solo bellow between each line sounding almost pained, but powerful nonetheless. Piano also gently builds behind them, furthering the big, emotional right hook of a chorus; it’s ultimately a subtle touch but again contributes massively to tone and overall delivery. Chris takes the lead for the second verse, showing his softer, soulful voice, with the now more prominent piano accompanying him, right up to a second chorus where after we are treated to a wailing guitar bridge, adding an extra ambient dimension without being intrusive. The song closes on its chorus, yet there is a refrain with only vocals and piano just before, that may rank among the most tear-jerking 15 seconds you’re likely to hear all year. No doubt Chris Kelly & Nicole Gibson have a prosperous career ahead of them both, with their attention to detail transforming the insignificant into the extraordinary. But it is their authenticity and emotional resonance in their music, that will make them stars. To borrow a quote from the duo:

‘In order to never quit, you have to see hope, and in order to see hope, you have to never quit.’

Thank you, Chris. Thank you, Nicole. It’s taken some time, but it feels like the site can come out of its own dark. And this masterpiece has been instrumental in guiding it through.

Chris Kelly & Nicole Gibson have a fabulous YouTube channel which houses all of their various covers so you can see how wonderful they are as musicians. They’ve also just launched their own website, in case there is any other content your heart desires you wish to view. As already mentioned, their debut EP is due for release really soon. Keep your eyes peeled.

In the mean time, give them a like or a follow on their social media right here:

http://www.facebook.com/kellyandgibson
http://www.twitter.com/KellyandGibson

And if you feel like doing the same for myself, then you can do so by giving me a like, a follow, or by subscribing to the site using the button below, and we can give each other a virtual hug:

http://www.facebook.com/IAmTheSoundshark
http://www.twitter.com/The_Soundshark

20 Bands And Artists You Should Listen To In 2017

It seems very few people utter a breath about 2016 any more. Probably for good reason, it seemed very much like a culling of revered figures and idols of popular culture, let alone a universal gasp of disbelief at what idiocy we may have unleashed on the world. 2017 isn’t really fairing any marginally better in that department, by a hair strand at best. But whisper it: The music is fantastic. If you want to invest in it of course. Admittedly, this list was compiled at the inset of 2017, but as the halfway stage of this year rapidly approaches, it still holds as an all-star ensemble of killer bands you may have overlooked, some yet to release their brand new material and some you may never have heard of. It seems like a solid enough foundation for this article to still exist, while maintaining some resemblance of relevance. That, and you may be reading this, looking for some new music to listen over the summer. Let’s get started, shall we?

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The Soundshark Artist of the Year 2016 – Mr.Kitty

While this is the very first of the end of year posts for this site and officially the first time anything like this has been on the site before, it gives me great pleasure and happiness to write a piece, giving a greater emphasis on an artist that has been a constant for this year. Limitations are boring and if locking a piece like this solely to any artist’s accomplishments in one year, it doesn’t grant the necessary freedom to write something engaging enough. So take this as a love letter to the one artist or group of artists whose music has been cherished through thick and thin this year, and would like to dedicate this year’s piece to self-proclaimed ‘suicidal synth-pop’ artist Forrest Avery LeMaire a.k.a. Mr.Kitty.

If you want to talk about 2016 for Mr.Kitty, then it hasn’t been as active as past years. Despite playing numerous shows over in the States, we were expecting what was to be Mr.Kitty’s sixth album in as many years to be released in October, making him certifiably in the conversation as one of synth-pop’s hardest working artists around. Sadly but understandably, the album was put on hold until next year as health concerns became a priority into the latter half of the year. But that does not speak for the quality of the music that Mr.Kitty has produced over his six-year plus lifespan as a recording artist. Far from it.

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Credit: Doug Schwarz Photography

Channeling the mechanical heart of classic 80’s electronica and the drum machines of the great original goth movement, into chilling dreamscapes and darkened dancefloors, narrated by the oft distorted and reverb-drenched lullabies and shrieks of Forrest; the output of Mr.Kitty is an emotional outpouring of a vulnerable soul against an array of unforgettable analogue synth dialects. His first four albums form part of a quadrilogy of works known as the Dark Youth collection, spanning both light and darkness which broadcasts and touches upon many subject matters in that time frame, moving and macabre. It also serves as the perfect window or measuring post to show how much Mr.Kitty has grown and matured as an artist. But every release is its own separate universe, with its own atmosphere and a complete anthology of melodic masterpieces.

Arguably the greatest of his works is Dark Youth’s final installment Time, which although is one of the darker albums of that collection, is uncompromising in its vision, truly emanating the rawest feelings of every song, no matter how black its subject matter. How so many of these songs contain the musings of a mind much darker than you can imagine, but are entangled in some of the most memorable synth-pop written this decade is a true wonder and testament to Mr.Kitty’s abilities as a songwriter, let alone a fascinating juxtaposition. Although we have had snippets of a new album this year, how Forrest has tirelessly spun such outstanding retro-contemporary electronic webs together year after year is commendable. Each one is more enchanting and enrapturing than the next, and there is absolutely no hesitation in saying that everything that Mr.Kitty has created is consistently among the best music heard all year.

So if Mr.Kitty does get to read this, thank you so much for your music, with love and kind regards,

The Soundshark

Five Essential Mr.Kitty tracks:





The vast majority of everything Mr.Kitty has ever produced can be found on his Bandcamp page, and if it can’t be found there, then it can be found on his Soundcloud page instead. Though unconfirmed, a 2017 release window is pencilled in for A.I., to be Mr.Kitty’s next album of which this site will take great interest in. You can shop here if you are in need of any t-shirts or the likes in the near future.

And finally, you can find all news and the means to give him a virtual hug right here:

http://www.facebook.com/mrkittydm
http://www.twitter.com/mrkittydm

And if you wish to give me a virtual hug at all for whatever reason, then you can do so at these social media channels, or by subscribing to the site using the link below:

http://www.facebook.com/IAmTheSoundshark
http://www.twitter.com/The_Soundshark

Rusted Doors

In our darkest hours, when we feel we have little left to turn to, music has become a light in which we can take our solace in, and a source of hope when our knees bear heavy the burden of what humanity has in store for us. Without diverting too far from the subject in question, these are troubled times we live in, no matter what walk of life you’re from. The world feels on the brink of a new political and economic Ice Age, and whatever transpires in the months to come, global census on the matter seems right to be worried that the timer to doomsday is quickly counting down. The Mayans would be only five years out with their prediction, should it come down to that. The Middle East, with Iran (or the Islamic Republic of Iran) fixed in the centre, has never really been known for its musical endeavours, at least sparsely in the Western world and if you were to speak of rock music, a positive response may need to be heard behind closed doors. And one such positive response can be heard behind closed doors, of a certain rusted variety. Despite being near the epicentre of turmoil troubling the region, Tehran’s Rusted Doors (formerly Rusted Doors of Heaven) base their music not on the surrounding conflict claiming so many lives, but on a different, more human conflict that can be just as fatal. The conflict inside the body. Physically and emotionally. This conceptual basis lends itself to some of the most incredibly evocative and stirring instrumental compositions post rock has spawned in recent years.

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Their album Tale of a Departure scores the story of a character simply known as ‘Nobody’ and chronicles his struggle with depression and illness before succumbing to death, leaving his spirit to observe the suffering and sorrow of his loved ones left behind, unable to protect them. There’s no two ways about it; this is a bleak, haunting depiction of a scarily real scenario that happens every single day, which makes what music accompanies it that much more absorbing and affecting. Something else that makes Rusted Doors’ music that much more fascinating a listen, is their cultural interpretation of a widely renowned genre of rock and its most notable instance, is in their most recent single Huntington. Named after the titular disease that degrades the brain’s cells, it is an unraveling of nine and a half minutes of melancholy, simmering to a boil through the means of funk-driven bass, soft reverb-kissed strums and skins bashed in such a manner that pace and tone matches neither celebration nor ceremony. Around two minutes in, an aggressive fuzz swamps the guitar tone and the drums begin to make headway, bass kicks leading the charge to where you feel the journey will take flight. But quick as speed picks up and volume skyrockets, it’s silenced just as fast. A wave of ambience hushes the beat to a simpler meter, while what previous warmth the music was building is subjected to a sudden chill and into more ethereal territory. The guitar slowly starts to bring abrasion back to the forefront and the drums creep back to tribal levels of complexity in this new found realm of frost. But as duration stretches to seven minutes, fragile tension is finally broken and a flood of emotion explodes forth, sorrowful in its timbre but startling in its execution. All phases of this song illustrate what a roller coaster fighting illness can be to your very last breath and the effect on those closest to you, right up until the final note. It gives perspective to how others cope with this situation. Rusted Doors chose to write a song about it. You may go for a walk or a quiet drive to help you reflect or distance yourself. But whatever life’s challenges throw your way, music will be always be a tool to give people reassurance, comfort and hope in those moments where there seems to be none, and Rusted Doors are a prime example in both a world similar and dissimilar from our own.

 

The album Tales From A Departure and Huntington can be found on Rusted Doors’ Bandcamp page on a very kind pay-what-you-want basis, although please give generously if you feel this is tremendous music as much as I do. The band is hoping to play live more into the New Year and looking into potential festival appearances if possible, but your best source to find out for certain is on their social media.

If you have enjoyed what you have heard of this talented group of musicians, please let them know via the following channels:

http://www.facebook.com/rusteddoors
http://rusteddoors.com/
https://www.instagram.com/rusted_doors/

And if you have enjoyed what you have read here, then you’re more than welcome to let me know if you so wish via a like, a follow or by subscribing to the site by clicking the link below:

http://www.facebook.com/IAmTheSoundshark
http://www.twitter.com/The_Soundshark

 

The Schoenberg Automaton

All through out the mainstream, backstage, behind curtains and face-to-face, musicians take risks for their art. Risk is something at the very fabric of our being, a primal fear or instinct that can separate us from doing something good, and doing something great. Musicians are far too familiar with this concept. Some of the most famous and infamous moments in music history were all made on taking a risk. Bob Dylan’s switch to electric guitar attracted the ire of the folk community, but it did nothing to dent his legacy as most of the most acclaimed songwriters in music history. Iggy Pop, despite being great friends, rejecting David Bowie’s production of Raw Power in favour of his own and becoming one of the great rock albums of all time. In a reversal of fortune, Capitol Records wanted more airplay from Megadeth in 1999 and the band released the critically divisive and experimental album titled Risk, often considered to be the band’s worst work and could have even ended their careers. So where do The Schoenberg Automaton fit onto this scale of risk? Well, artists and musicians are often known to relocate to places where they feel their creativity can best thrive. But how many of them move to the other side of the planet? Relocating from Australia, one of the global hotspots for deathcore right now, the band opted to take their monstrous tech-death juggernaut and establish themselves in Canada, a land known in underground circles for its outstanding death metal exports. No matter what walk of life you come from, a career and life decision that gigantic is gutsy. And that’s a word that sums up The Schoenberg Automaton’s output perfectly. Gutsy, driven and unflinching in the pursuit of your passion.

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Second studio album Apus certainly seems to have benefited from the change of scenery, as the maturity and confidence has certainly grown in the years of development between Apus and debut album Vela. But it continues the same plotline from the end of Vela, exploring philosophical and science fiction themes as the ground concepts of the band’s storytelling and lyrical content. That story is woven into the fabric of an expansive death metal powerhouse with a dizzying amount of shifts in tempos and time signatures, performed with the heaviness and ferocity of a butcher in open-heart surgery. The universe that The Schoenberg Automaton have crafted is one of surprising atmosphere given the carnage they themselves create, but an enthralling one as Apus progresses and from the outset, it is opening track Swarm that is the greatest footnote to this revelation. Though Year Zero paints the scene, the first few chords of Swarm set up a metal rampage for the ages, drums below generating energy with swift beatings and fills to transfer into a frenzied full frontal assault. Double kicks rain down furiously, while the punishing, distorted blades of guitar rev up the engine, strum by unrelenting strum and deep, petrifying growls set the tone and the journey’s course. As statements of intent go, it certainly leaves very little to imagination as a tremendous display of fortitude and showmanship. Melodic wails spill from the guitar following a guttural, primal howl just as drums enter a sugar rush of tempo clashes and meter shifts, peeling the veil off just a mere fraction of the band’s technical ability. A brief, bone-shattering breakdown even gets squeezed into the action. But a lot of the chaos is dictated by guitars and drums going mano a mano, matching pace and intricacy by every individual note and beat running parallel one another, spawning harmonies and melodies to stir heightened emotions in their listeners. Much as the sight or experience of a swarm should feel. A delicate symphonic undertone is subtly introduced into the final minute, amongst the full effect of the metal barrage that is only in its first full-length track, which grows in grandiose as Swarm closes out, making the transition into what is to follow all the more satisfying. Though a balancing act of extremes could be said of Apus, given the unbridled aggression of chords and the complex, but emotive layering of their guitar work, a hyperactive level of drum technique and the frankly terrifying growls that tell the tale, it does nothing to detract from the spectacle of one of the most courageous and fascinating metal bands around today. An album worthy of both Canada and Australia’s death metal lineage.

Apus is out now at all respectable music retailers now in physical and digital formats. The band’s previous two releases Vela and their self-titled EP, are available on their Bandcamp for a reasonable fee as well as T-shirts and the likes via their webstore. They are actively touring, having just finished their first headline tour of the UK, but if you wanna see them at a venue near you, hit them up. You won’t regret it. They’ve just releases a brand new video for Vengeance too which you can find here.

Go tell them how much you enjoy what they do via social media right here:

http://www.facebook.com/TheSchoenbergAutomaton
http://www.twitter.com/TSAMetal

And if you want to tell me how much you enjoy these words, entirely at your discretion, then you can do so via a like, a follow or a subscription to the site down below, so you never miss a post, then you can do so here:

http://www.facebook.com/IAmTheSoundshark
http://www.twitter.com/The_Soundshark

 

Useless Cities

Feel free to correct me if I’m wrong on this one, but it seems as if British indie has stumbled into a bit of a rut of late. Since arguably the last golden era of indie bands this country has produced, which by my estimates was around the mid-00’s, the amount of them has shrunk considerably since the turn of the decade. Some bands no doubt were able to consistently duplicate their success upon each album release, most notably the Arctic Monkeys, before they decided to turn American, and more recently Foals who seemingly been able to evolve critically from strength to strength. There are several bands hanging in there and have been for several years, like your Ashes, your Fratellis, your Cribs, your Subways for example, many bands whose glory days seem long gone but persistently release music to a loyal, adoring fan base, who continue to turn out to shows and keep motivation and spirits high to look forward to the future. Sadly, as the nature of technology and commercial success in the industry shifts so frequently, there are several bands who’ve become causalities in the musical landslide, as sustaining a career stretches further and further out of reach for those previously thrust in the spotlight and airwaves. These are dark days for British guitar music for sure, but under the surface, what you could classify as an underground resistance is currently producing some of the best indie you’ll have encountered in years. Useless Cities, hailing from the nation’s capital, are among that resistance with an ache in their hearts expressed exquisitely through a mournful touch of the piano and a melancholic pounding of the guitar.

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Though their emotions are not exclusively wired to wallow in sorrow, there is an ethereal and transcendent nature to Useless Cities’ music that melancholy brings the best out of. Their Stay EP though only three tracks long, is a wave of sonically cold but breathtaking musical splendour, combining unforgettable melodies seeped in calm composure, with an unexpected fury that riles their initial breeze into a hurricane of heartbreak. No track illustrates this exclamation point better than Follow. While Stay is a gorgeous piano-driven stroll through arctic plains and To Be Ruined, a far more spirited tumble through dreams that take a turbulent turn, it’s Follow that finely balances the band’s strengths perfectly. Delay-drenched guitar leads Follow in, with the booming of a near-tribal tom pattern from the drums, and the lightest touch of low end entering not long after, painting the scene for solemn reflection. Vocals wander in, listing things to do to an unspecified character, with his settled bellow against the melody of the guitar a strangely hypnotising presence throughout the song’s course. A bright shimmer of keys layer atop the instruments, sending a chill down the spine of the listener but adding light to this arguably greying atmosphere. This brings in the cymbals and snare of the drums, gradually shifting the tone into the subtlest of build-ups, masked well by the vocals and instruments while the grace and beauty of the piano becomes more prominent as the song progresses. Then in the song’s twilight, the guitar bursts into life with an eye-opening intensity and drums are beaten hard into submission, serving as a backdrop for the male and female chanting in harmony and the piano trying to restore a sense of tranquillity to this sudden gale of musical force. And the piano gets its wish, closing out Follow in the manner it began, a series of notes against the echo of the guitar, jerking the strings of your heart as the final note fades into the distance. What Useless Cities offer more so than a collection of songs, is an aural palette to paint your own stories from the emotionally stirring compositions they lay before you. How it affects you is left to your own semiotics, but know that they are exploring rarely traversed ground in indie and their own bittersweet twist on the sound we’ve known to grow and love, ranks among the best and most unique bands the indie scene has to offer.

 

 

Useless Cities’ Stay EP is out now at all respectable music retailers. Any more information you wish to know about them can be located on the band’s website. The band are also playing frequent live dates in and around the capital right now so keep your eyes peeled for a date near you, or bring them to your doorstep and book them for your own show.

Go give them your nicest words:

http://www.facebook.com/Uselesscities
http://www.twitter.com/UselessCities

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Litterbug

It seems like somewhat of a mystery to me for reasons I can’t get to grips with, but I’m not really much of a fan of the 70’s when it comes to that discussion of the best decade for music. This all boils down to opinion and personal preference of course, so personally speaking, there will never really be a definitive answer, unless you feel compelled to survey the population of Earth that can comprehend musical eras and have functioning hearing. Make no mistake, the 70’s birthed some important music, such as Black Sabbath’s Master of Reality, sited as one of the heaviest albums of all-time and most likely responsible for pioneering the ‘doom metal sound.’ But you know what was the most important music that the 70’s was able to birth? Punk. It served as a counterpart to the state of mind and a form of practice through fashion and action, but given how vital its tendencies and ideologies were, especially now, rife in the age of self-publication and self-production, the music and its spirit live on through countless bands and artists. Aspiring and established alike. The faces change over time, and its sound distorted, twisted, disfigured and transformed in endless shapes and evolutions, so when you encounter a gang playing punk as it once was, as raw, uncompromising and unapologetically honest as its roots implied, the outcome is as invigorating as you’d hope it would be.

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For the best part of over a decade, Blackpool’s Litterbug have kept the very essence of punk alive by keeping a lo-fi, bare bones approach to writing triumphant bursts of social critique and defiance that could’ve been ripped straight out of the punk revolution at its apex. It is the embodiment of three gentlemen with a message, getting together and thrashing out music that you can feel the passion and heart of in every chord and every word. This isn’t one-dimensional punk either. Instances of the surfing 60’s guitar movement can be felt here, as well as a healthy injection of grunge, most evident by their roaring cover of Pixies’ Planet of Sound. Their most recent long-player Artistic Harassment, an album from front-to-end that flies faster than bullet velocity, punches as hard as a water cannon to the chest but remains as exhilarating as a shuttle ascending into the stratosphere, poses a monumentally difficult task to highlight a standalone track of a stellar punk blueprint. If pressed enough though, I’d settle for Codeine. While there are many, many irresistible hooks best illustrated through ditties I Will Not Explain, You Don’t Want What I Don’t Want and Bash My Brain, the slower-paced, sub-two minute showcase of attitude in Codeine brings out what Litterbug do best. From the outset, guitar performs as a handsaw over a gas-guzzling, chain-bladed one, but that methodical practice serves well with the scuzzy tone, chords almost morphing into riffs from the speed switch. The vocal delivery is undeniably snotty, without being obnoxiously so and serves as one of the album’s most perfect analogies of telling life and society where to shove its predicaments and insecurities. Think Sex Pistols meeting the Buzzcocks on Fistral Beach and you’re pretty damn close. The soft grumble of bass does surface to the forefront throughout and fleshes out the texture of the sound and that illusion of recording on eight-track in your garage, as old-school and pure as music production can get. A pseudo-guitar solo even gets a brief see-in in the short duration of the track, perhaps giving a quick nod to Chuck Berry and the rock and roll greats in the process. But just as you feel the engine revving up, the ignition is gradually turned back off and you can’t help but crave more. You can’t realistically experience the full capacity of Litterbug’s arsenal based on a minute and 49 seconds worth of material, however repeated listens do make for excellent profile building. These three gentlemen make music that is as full-blooded and unrepentant as punk and its pioneers were heralded for, and each collection of songs they commit to record is another kick-ass footnote on why punk never died, it merely went on vacation.

Litterbug’s latest album Artistic Harassment can be found on their Reverb Nation page with the vast majority of that album, generously available as free downloads. A handful of other tracks are also available as free downloads too, including that aforementioned Planet of Sound cover. Otherwise, physical and full digital copies of their other albums are incredibly scarce, besides copies of their 2005 and 2009 re-release of the acclaimed Speaking Through The Gaps which can be found on most respectable music retailers.

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Randolph & Mortimer

History has gone to show it is infamous for remembering and celebrating the individuals and the cults of personality that have walked among us at one time or another. I’m sure that you really don’t need me to go above and beyond to name a few here, you could all name a handful of people off the bat. Their influence and importance of course relies entirely on you as a person, which is perhaps why I’d say it’s unfair to suggest that one person is of far greater importance than another. It’s all subjective. On the other hand, history has shown that it can be just as good celebrating couples and pairs. You may be a little harder pressed to name some off the bat, but I can give you a few of varying life paths. Bonnie and Clyde, Torville and Dean, Brad and Angelina, Elvis and Costello, Jack and Jill… You get the idea. The point is they’re all remembered for something, no matter their significance to you as a person. You’re aware of them regardless. At first glance of the pairing of Randolph and Mortimer, you could assume they operate as a construction firm, (like Gibbs and Dandy if you hail from the UK) or the surnames of serial killers, or war criminals. The truth kind of combines the two in some capacity. Dependent on how you label bankers and politicians.

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The name actually derives from the film Trading Places, where two stock brokers, going by the names of Randolph and Mortimer switch places with two gentlemen in less fortunate social and financial circumstances, as an experiment to experience life on the other side. Which in today’s political climate we seem to be calling for a lot, to the governments and fat cats who more likely have never struggled in everyday social and financial situations. It certainly makes that name far more poignant. The Sheffield three-piece (yes, despite going under the moniker of a duo) practice a manifesto of condemnation and repulsion, punctuated by a series of electronically driven, industrial rallying movements. Powered by the analogue synths and percussive might of the 80’s, it only makes sense that visuals match the sonics, with wireframe silhouettes and what resembles Thatcherite Britain providing the backdrop for the ire unfolding. Most recent single Citizens isn’t so much a feast for the disenchanted, more a capitalist brainwashing broadcast if such an occurrence were to play out. Brought to a marching pace by booming snare hits and dampened synth arpeggios, the beat very much tribalistic in tempo and timbre, the checklist for what constitutes a valid member of society is rolled out, as well as quasi-motivational slogans in how to do so. A heavily distorted voice calls out in the distance, reaching indecipherable levels but certainly adds a touch of unease and morality to this otherwise calming instructional narrative. Later, a ferocious sawtooth synth wave cuts through the rhythm, near stopping it in its tracks, while a brighter counterpart, still as abrasive as its bass-heavy contemporary, layers atop before bringing the beat back and ushering in a new breed of arpeggios to meld with the originals. In the end, all of the individual synth lines piece together and play out increasingly chaotic percussion, to one last eerie inquisitive dialogue against a wall of noise. This is best experienced as an audio-visual sensation to truly get the best feel for the message Randolph and Mortimer wish to convey, but the music itself is just as an exciting head-trip in its own right. Though the political agenda is unmistakeable, these guys are producing stellar industrial in the veins of the old blood and will most likely not remain an underground sensation for much longer. History has every right to remember the constructs of these gentlemen.

 

 

Citizens has yet to see a release date, but no doubt will have a digital release at some stage in the near future. In the mean time, their $ocial £utures €P and single Enjoy More are available from their Bandcamp page, in addition to other singles and numerous remixes of theirs that can be found on most respectable music retailers.They are also playing the Saturday line-up on the main stage of Resistanz Festival 2016, but look out for a gig near you soon.

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