Track of The Week: Tiny Giant – Joely/How

A few months ago, a statement was issued on this site about the creative force behind Tiny Giant and that they are likely to be one of the most exciting acts to keep an eye on in 2016. That was solely based on two tracks on Soundcloud, with no prior release date, nor word of a forthcoming release, EP or album. Their forte is the melding of a mesmerising dream-pop haze à la Goldfrapp and a titanic progressive rock crunch; a near-unique pairing in a musical climate so vast and so adverse to standing out, that those tuned in, numbers growing daily, have awaited some form of release with bated breath. For those personnel, that wait has come to an end and if you are just joining us on the official maiden voyage of Tiny Giant, your timing couldn’t have been more impeccable.

Since the beginning of this year, the impression was given that Seeing Everything As Though It Is Real and Heavy Love may have been first for a public release, as the very first introductory tracks to this terrific musical partnership and as they have been now circulating Soundcloud for the best part of half a year. Come this month, that plan has changed as two brand new tracks have surfaced and continue to raise the bar for what is to come from the London duo. While Joely has been pushed as the headline act of the single, both sides Joely and How are equally important and enrapturing when it comes to distilling down the essence of Tiny Giant, and thus focus will be placed upon both of them.

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Where Seeing Everything… invoked that initial Goldfrapp comparison, Joely certainly completes it. Starting with what sounds like kick drums submerged under the ocean, a continual bright chord of synth keys raises the beat to the surface, igniting a glorious burst of synth, a near angelic level of vocals and if you listen carefully, a terrifyingly distorted wall of guitar that somehow slots perfectly in place into this seemingly innocent pop presentation. The burst is soon hushed to just the beat, the warm buzz of the keys and vocals, which although gentile and soothing, have a confidence worthy of the grandiose of the music backing it. Honestly, there is a grace to Chloe’s voice that not only exposes her own musical merits, but the merits of the compositions she brings to life. There are still traces of a trance-like state these verses can bring, but is not as potent as either of its predecessors were in doing so. Instead, that seems swapped for an overall feeling of bliss and rapture that the tone of the track brings together. As verses progress, additional cymbals and beats are added to the percussion and the guitar is allowed a full force bellow, highlighting the greater depth of their songwriting arsenal. No doubt, Joely is a beautifully composed, premier standard of pop music, more than worthy of radio rotation and again, brings attention to the incredible talents of Chloe Alper and Mat Collis. But it is perhaps flipside How, that elevates Tiny Giant from a mere airplay curiosity to a full-blown stereo juggernaut.

Ask yourself. Have you ever heard the vocal talents of any female artist front a post-rock style band, or track at a push? This isn’t of course a mutually exclusive event, but Chloe may be the very first I’ve encountered. Wailing guitars supersede the triumphant synth we saw beforehand, shifting the tone to a more melodic, but certifiably more melancholic one. Drums gather pace, the clattering of the snare injecting an urgency into the music the complete opposite to Joely’s sky-gazing demeanour while vocals take a siren’s approach to luring you into listening. The passage of Chloe’s notes held is utterly gorgeous, making that contrast between her and the drums crashing from behind a deeply satisfying experience. An underlay of those same notes sit below the verse as vocals weave their tale, drums refusing to let up which both adds a layer of the fantastical and the ominous in the build up to the chorus. The pay-off in which is something truly spectacular. An effects-loaded tremolo is nothing new in post-rock, but it’s the accompaniment of drums being pounded into the ground and the echoes of a serene female songstress that make the magnitude of this moment far greater than words can paint a picture of. As How progresses further, bass enters in an enormous fashion, giving the track an unexpected groove and swagger you could give a fan club and a jacket to, as well as meddling with the time signature a tad, something previously undisclosed from the duo’s output so far. It all lends itself to the track’s climax; a titanic thrashing of guitar, bass and drums, all with the refrain of ‘How do you do it?’ cried over the volume and density of the final sound attack.

There is a lot that goes on in the three and a half minutes of How to cover completely and absolutely, but to stand side by side with Joely, it makes this marvel of single that more compelling to onlookers. This demonstrates Tiny Giant’s agenda perfectly, granted in two distinct flavours, the ability to transition from a immaculately produced soul-charged pop single with atmospheric undertones, to a behemoth of guitar-fronted brute strength backed by beats that could pulverise your bones into dust. Perhaps the correct summation of their namesake really. I implore you. Keep Tiny Giant under careful watch. Their talent alone is worth its weight in gold, but with twists and turns rapidly emerging from the song library they are crafting, you need not another reason to believe why they are becoming one of the most exciting bands of 2016.

Joely/How is available now at all good respectable music retailers, as word on an upcoming full-length release or EP is still rather hush-hush. For now. All other songs, while not yet available, can be located on the Tiny Giant Soundcloud page for your listening pleasure. They are also tentatively playing live dates at the moment, but go book them so they get greater exposure and all that jazz.

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Track of The Week: Mask Of Bees – S-P.K.Y.

This may sound an unusual start to a post on a brand new emerging band, but I have a tale to begin with. I hope it’ll make sense eventually. So a few years ago, I attended a barbeque hosted by my best friend, and for some reason or other, I decided to come in a neon yellow t-shirt, the equivalent of wearing a hi-vis jacket in the middle of the bloody day. It glows all on its own, I’ve been told it hurts people’s eyes. But this shirt attracted the attention of a local bumblebee, right before industry pesticides started threatening their existence and what not and it landed on the shirt, presumably thinking I must have been a pretty flower. Instead of shooing it away, I let it sit there, understanding it was probably trying to pollinate my shirt, but it wasn’t doing me any harm. It sat there until it stopped moving, of which I wondered had it died and then did I try to move it off my shirt. Some gentle force eventually removed it. It hadn’t died. The dopey insect had merely fallen asleep and took flight once again. I’ve always had an affinity for the winged stripy balls of fluff since that day. A similar affection I share with a band named after a mask of them.

When it comes to bees in music, they haven’t made much of a name for themselves, or definitely remain an under-appreciated musical force in the grand scheme of things. Perhaps the most famous example is classical masterpiece The Flight of the Bumblebees, the grandiose, expanding brass section now an iconic piece of musical history and natural fit for narrating any overcoming of the odds, or war charge. Some other examples include the Bee Gees, notable Anthrax rarities album Attack Of The Killer B’s, Danish noise outfit Beehoover, Insideinfo’s frankly terrifying but kick-ass neurofunk destroyer Honeybee and timeless Beatles tune Let It… actually that one is cheating. But off the bat, it seems a struggle to name several musical triumphs involving the humble bee. Unless you just guess that there’s a band called The Bees, which you’d be right in thinking as they live on the Isle of Wight. See also Grumble Bee from Yorkshire. This is where a great surge in progressive rock prowess advances forth and Mask of Bees can not only change the state of bees in music, but far more importantly, steer the course of a brand new wave of UK rock bands.

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Their debut album Beta is seven tracks of turbulent, sax-injected hard rock constructs whose paths co-ordinate the chaotic with the transcendental in a manner that’ll quicken the pulse of the rabid Tool and Faith No More hordes. How it must translate to a live environment is a dizzying prospect in the best possible way, for their acute craftsmanship certainly knows how to wring impact out of their music. From the opening time-signature havoc caused by Talisent, onto the battle between calm and calamity of Tendering, shifting to spellbinding, melancholic ambient phases expressed by Peacel Sloot, and concluding with the bruising grooves and vocal centrepiece of Carpet Burn, Beta’s 29-minute duration jostles with so much energy and creativity, you could market it as an alternative fuel source. Touching on the subject of impact, while its presence is inescapable, the saxophone truly elevates Beta as a seminal exhibition of talent, despite its already stellar foundations. While its inclusion is slowly becoming more of a mainstay in modern rock and metal, you certainly feel the passion, intensity and emotion blossoming forth from every ounce of music the saxophone touches, just as the jazz greats intended. But whilst the saxophone jockeys for the limelight on numerous occasions, absolute focus and the true shining moment stands out on personal favourite S-P.K.Y.

The only real moment of tranquillity on this album can be found in the beginning of this track with the saxophone whispering sweet nothings, the gentlest of delay emanating from these softer notes. It strikes a chord somewhere between a jazz ballad and New Age music, a sound of purest beauty. From there, it starts to go a little haywire. Gradually getting louder and more aggressive, the guise of a solo saxophone interlude does lead in drums and melodic picking, adding a tint of ominousness to the mood. Vocals sound as though they emerge from a mist, soaked in reverb and later stronger delay but the croon is an irresistible comfort to an uncertain atmosphere and stands alone as one of the album’s finest points. Pressure does give way and the full force of their brutish yet technically impressive instrumental might explodes onto the scene, along with a full restoration of the vocals for the chorus, animating the most mellow tone on the album. The song carries on with another submersion of the vocals back into the mist, almost acting as gatekeeper for the louder dynamics, the interplay between that uncertain calm and the fiery intensity of the band, before concluding in a surprisingly cathartic breakdown at around the five minute mark.

It needs not to be said much more, but like any collective hive, it can only be as good as its collective workforce, and as Mask of Bees go as a workforce, they are among some of the most proficient and musically exciting workers you’ll hear all year.

 

 

I’d like to extend my thanks to Mask of Bees for granting me such early access to their album, this album was an absolute pleasure to listen to and to write about. Beta is out now on their Bandcamp page in a digital and physical capacity, for a very reasonable price so go get that. They perform live frequently also. It shouldn’t be long until they perform very near you soon.

Give them the round of applause they deserve right here:

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Track of The Week: The Upbeats – The Furies

I seldom get an opportunity to write about drum and bass at length, perhaps because DJ culture can be so fickle when it comes to tastes, flavours and preferences, and more likely down to how these articles are written, that focus draws upon producers and a stand out track of theirs, leaving the door open to do further investigation if you so wish. I tend to focus a lot more on the underground side of affairs too, but there’s always artists at the very top of their game who produce something so monumental that words have to be said about them.

The unstoppable New Zealand duo of The Upbeats will always hold a special place in my heart, not just for the fabrication of jaw-dropping bass sounds and gritty, authentic percussion, but without them, a major event in my life may not have unfolded. Although I’m not in a possession of a physical copy, two years ago I received my degree in Media Studies after a month’s worth of sleepless nights writing my dissertation. As motivation, there were primarily two groups I listened to get me through that hard period of my life: my second favourite band of all time Placebo, and the mighty Upbeats. Should Jeremy and Dylan get to read this, then I hope it’ll bring a smile to their faces that they sit in the acknowledgements as ‘an energising soundtrack for sanity’s sake.’ Cheers gents.

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The connection ties in a little further however, as this track, formerly untitled at least to me until a few days ago, The Furies almost dates back two years also from the first time I encountered it. What staggers me about The Upbeats and why their work ranks upon the highest echelons of drum and bass is because of how creative, unique and fearsome their production capabilities are. Big Skeleton, Undertaker, Beyond Reality all rank amongst my favourite DnB tunes because of how unforgettable they are and how unbelievable that electronic instruments and sound frequency manipulation can create such inconceivable, inhuman noise. The Furies sits as another in the sterling discography of two of the best in the game today.

From the get-go, the track screams urgency and intensity, ominous winds rapidly formulating around the bouncing synth gradually phasing inwards, volume building so as it does. But within 30 seconds, walls of bass blare, closing in your position while what can only be described as jittery, electric cackles alternate between them. The brevity of each gear switch in this build-up elevates the tension and sheer excitement to an exponential level and one such reason why this shines as another tremendous Upbeats floor destroyer. Drums begin to whip the mood into a frenzy, retaining the energy and bounce of the initial synth at the inset and distilling it into a volatile warhead at perilously unsteady velocity. And right at its apex, bass and synths pitching to breaking point and drums programmed to maximise impact, the projectile collides with the planet and the electrifying, pure kinetic detonation is phenomenal.Visceral in execution, the bass is akin to an interdimensional beast ripping the fabric of time and space a new asshole, pulverising any of a nervous disposition and elating those at fever pitch, all while the pounding of snares and kick pedals propels the resulting shockwave as far as it can reach. The mood shortly simmers after, revealing a second side to the bass as the synth changes to a simulation of the beast laughing at the devastation, and the drums gaining in intricacy but without losing any of its punch. Though layers are stripped away here, it serves as a perfect opportunity just to drink in the unparalleled production values of the most critical elements in The Furies. There’s room for a second warhead to come if survivors are ready for it, but it is no less incredible than the first encounter. At least you’ll be better prepared.

Time and time and time again, the duo from New Zealand continue to push beyond the realms of what is even conceivably possible in terms of constructing truly monstrous bass sounds and what ranks among the most realistic of drum production in their music. Though this release has been nearly two years in the making, it has been one of their most anticipated releases since decimating an unsuspecting audience at Let It Roll Festival and with the expertise, craftmanship and pure love and passion for the music, the results remain as spectacular and no doubt will continue to. An adrenalin rush at its very, very best.

 

The Furies is officially out today (Friday 11th March) on Drum and Bass Arena’s 2016 Compilation, which can be found here. The Upbeats are rumoured to be working on a new album, judging by the amount of unreleased material they are accruing, but have no current ETA nor a label it is being released by, but don’t be surprised if it falls into a late 2016 release window.

In the meantime, go give these guys a giant high five:

https://www.facebook.com/theupbeats/
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Track of The Week: Sophie’s Earthquake – Zero Distance

Human nature is an unusual and difficult thing to predict at the best of times. It sees the worst in humanity, being driven to inflict pain, misery and suffering upon one another or even to be as cruel as to end another’s life, for whatever goal or reason that consumes you. But it can also bring out the best in our species, to love, cherish and show compassion to another, to share an experience or a memory that leaves an everlasting impact on the recipients, that can last for the rest of your days.

I had already made the joke at Sophie’s Earthquake’ expense regarding a girl creating an earthquake that ultimately costs the lives of our fellow man. Only to have that theory shot down not long after, once the band contacted me themselves saying the name was actually derived from having the rehearsal space underneath the drummer’s house, whom wife is called Sophie. Least I seem to recall that’s where the name came from. The story’s all here anyway. But this goes hand in hand with what’s already been said about human kindness. After the original article focusing on their EP, they were incredibly generous enough to offer me an exclusive listen to an unmastered demo, taken from their forthcoming album, the demo now known as Fatima and Flood respectively. I had never been given such a moment of privilege in my entire life, and was truly humbled by this experience and will continue to be forever grateful for.

Four to five months later, Sophie’s Earthquake’s debut album was released on Christmas Eve just gone. Titled The Flood, it carries on their psychedelic- meets-grunge approach, but in the gap between their EP and the album, the band have truly blossomed and evolved their sound into some musically jaw-dropping compositions. Although Fatima and Flood were conjoined upon my first listen, they were separated for the album’s release but still retain that sense of awe and excitement I felt upon that twelve minute extravaganza of smoky ambience and blazing guitar work in full instrumental glory. Despite being released very late last year, for fans of music with a chasm-like depth of atmosphere and scale, you need to listen to this album.

My pick from The Flood, personally has to be Zero Distance. The Alice In Chains-style tone has morphed into a more ominous, urgent sounding presence, lying in the shadows. It certainly sounds far more abrasive and threatening than any moment of their previous work, likely down to the distortion on the guitar.  The beat of the war drum drum hasn’t changed however, but it didn’t need to. It was already a gratifying percussive force and complimented the swirling atmosphere beautifully. Here, against the tone of an oncoming storm, each thump of the skins is another footstep closer to something landscape-changing. Upon the beat becoming regular and that snare serving as warning shots, you can feel something electric building up further and further into time. Throughout you also get the warm rumblings of bass, providing an additional layer of groove or thickening the overall atmosphere, just when chaos seems around the corner. Echoes of a voice wailing in the distance lead in the blues-soaked vocal chords, that do undeniably have a resemblance to the late Layne Staley. While we given the impression the band were unsure at first whether to include vocals in the bulk of their songs, the decision and startling confidence behind the delivery speaks volumes.

Switching from sinister whispers, to a soulful, whiskey-coated croon, to a melancholic but empowered bellow to make you tremble where you stand, the vocal projection has been elevated to another level from past material. And transferring such passion into a darker, brooding progressive journey, only enhances the experience. The moving cries of lead guitar harmonise with groove of the bassline, giving one last moment of calm and stability in the sonic landscape, before the inevitable gear switch, triggered by the sudden emphasis on bass driving the tempo. It becomes a manner of waiting. Power chords are left to wail and ring into the night, while drums intensify and diminish just as quickly, teasing that pay-off. It is left down to an almighty yell, for all the instruments to unite in one hurricane-force gust and unleash the unstoppable psychedelic force they possess. In tone, the atmosphere sits more in a dark and stormy night than a haze-infused trip, so the moment doesn’t explode as such, but it doesn’t make the guitar soloing any more stellar and spectacular. Bass plays a crucial part in making this a real special moment, the prominent deep grinding away, adding more than a substantial yin to the guitar’s yang, while drums keep pounding hard and inject some subtle rhythmic nuances to the pace. Towards the final furlong, this truly is a moment of pure rapture and a moment to lose yourself within. One tremendous drum performance, the continual bass siege and one last blues-touched anti-war slogan, we come to a close.

Aside from being some of the absolute nicest gentlemen I’ve ever had the opportunity to reach out to, Sophie’s Earthquake are killer musicians and deserving of a higher pedestal to put their music on. The Flood is a fantastic debut album, taking what made them a fascinating prospect and fleshing it out above and beyond what was thought they were capable of. Far darker in mood and tone than could be anticipated, but full of intoxicatingly good musicianship and songs, that are enjoyably progressive but can keep you guessing too.

 

The Flood and their debut EP are only available to purchase on their Bandcamp page, for very reasonable prices might I add, while physical copies are currently in the planning stages. Their website is also under maintenance. as of the time of writing. Sophie’s Earthquake will no doubt also be touring shortly, so keep an eye on their social media.

Which you can do so by clicking this link here and giving them a great big thumbs up:

https://www.facebook.com/Sophies-Earthquake-833196446731760/?fref=ts

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Track of The Week: Does It Offend You, Yeah? – Eyes All Over Me

Let me take you back a few years, to the turbulent time of 2009-2010. I was at sixth-form, but arguably the most critically influential time in my life for music. My listening habits in these years I can safely say have contributed enormously to not just my tastes, but my personality and identity as a twenty-something male living in the United Kingdom.  I have always been a bit of an oddball, and in time, I have come to accept my quirks, my eccentricity and flaws and have learned to love myself as the person I have become. And I am proud of that person I have become, 90% of the time at least. I can safely say that there was a lot of albums, probably far too many to recall right now, that had an effect and an influence on what I grew to like musically, but without a shadow of a doubt, on what has become one of my all-time favourite albums, You Have No Idea What You’re Getting Yourself Into remains as important as it ever has to me. Sure, I was a little late to this party at first, but there’s something about their blend of electro-punk ferocity and rhythmic indie deliveries that still stays inspiring, ever since its inception in 2008. A true hybrid style if one could be deciphered into.

2011’s Don’t Say We Didn’t Warn You was a mellower affair granted, a more mature evolution if you will if being mentored by The Prodigy’s Liam Howlett has anything to do with it, but still contained some thumping anthems nestled within. I cannot thank them enough for making Wrestler, one of my eternal DJ set staples and dancefloor annihilators. But, after two years or so touring the album and travelling around the world in incredibly high profile support slots, they turned the project off at the switch to focus on other endeavours. DJ sets under the band alias happened during that hiatus but fans had always hungered for a full return one day. Fast forward to 27th July 2015, and prayers to various deities were answered. Sort of. A one-off show was announced for December and excitement clamoured around all corners of the globe for a ticket release. Myself and friends of mine, along with around 1,000 other lucky recipients are fortunate enough to be able to be in attendance for their Electric Ballroom show. But while they hype their show, something of an added bonus, is that unreleased tracks are making their way to the light of day also.

Bringing us here, to All Eyes Over Me, technically the second song after I See Lights On The Horizon, informally referred to as With A Heavy Heart Part 2. The reward for whomever was able to correctly identify the exact clips and order of the montage in I See Lights Over The Horizon. Whatever you may be expecting from the band if you know of their previous material, disregard that completely. The only vague comparison point is their hip-hop short Wondering featuring their collaboration with Trip, and even so is a complete far cry from anything they’ve ever released or produced. You can tell just from the very instance of quiet hi-hat against complete silence, this will be an entirely different experience far from the bombast we’ve grown akin to. Bursts of bass lead in a very ambient, chilled and minimal pseudo-trip-hop beat, shaken percussion coolly sitting behind it as if waiting for a story to be recited. But that spoken word never really materialises. Instead we get a high-pitched refrain of ‘Eyes all over me,’ altered and manipulated through the course of the track to provide an additional melody to the bare bones exhibit. Something has to be said of the synth ambience too. The brightness and breeze that flows through it, kinda makes feel it as powerful and emotionally investing as watching ascension or a resurrection. Sonically though, the tone seems darker, far more cloaked in shadow than the fire, intensity and occasional introspective we know of their entire back catalogue before it. This doesn’t mean that it’s exempt from some of their trademark quirks and sound effect interjections, as some do squeeze their way in there. I’d be very interested to know when this track was actually written, as it would answer a lot of questions I feel the track raises. Not everything should have to have context, but certainly intriguing.

Understandably, as people are finding out about this track, a lot of fans are disappointed by it, dare I say, offended by it. But they’re disappointed by it, because it’s not another We Are Rockstars or The Monkeys Are Coming. Unfortunately for those, we’re never getting another You Have No Idea… and could never get any more material at all if they make good on their word of disbanding in December. You could tell that from buying Don’t Say We Didn’t Warn You. We never could’ve had this track whatsoever if it wasn’t for the kind gesture of the competition winner, so big props to Drew Rogers for letting this track surface in the first place. What I appreciate about this track is how understated its beauty is, it does such a stellar job of invoking a reaction with minimal elements. For me, despite being a relaxing listen, there’s a sense of melancholy or soul-searching done in this track, and one that hasn’t been anywhere near as effective in any song they’ve written previously. Honestly, if I’d have written this, I’d be proud to have written it. Art. Art is the only thing more I can say. Judge for yourselves.

Eyes All Over Me, courtesy of the generous Drew Rogers and of course Does It Offend You, Yeah? can be downloaded for free from his Soundcloud. Does It Offend You, Yeah? supported by the superb Hounds and Them & Us play their final show at the Electric Ballroom on 12th December. There are still tickets available the last time I checked, so go get because it’s going to be incredible.

Go show them some love:

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Track of The Week: Autopsy Boys – Song For Deberra

Following my original article on Leeds electropunk outfit Autopsy Boys and my over excitement to share my words with them, they got in contact and they were impressed with my musings and tipped me off about the first preview of their forthcoming new album Return Of The Acid Casualty Auto Humans. So as you might expect, I was poised waiting, and a little over 24 hours later, here I am writing about that new song. Titled Song for Debbera, in tribute to B-movie legend and now music video curator, Debbie Rochon, is the beginning of a five-part narrative depicting a day of urban anarchy, in the style of the 80’s horror flicks they so cherish. The scene and the stage are set strongly, both the Queen of Scream introducing her illustrious career and the tale about to unfold, and the band start at pace with a subtly catchy guitar hook, whilst synth throbs like the Blob below. It’s really from this point onwards, you can really marvel at the lyricism at work, billowing with 80’s references that flow off the tongue like water bursting from a dam. There’s also not so much of a chorus of sorts,  but one particular moment that a well-informed crowd could harmonise with beautifully. Moments that recall a certain Mr. Gary Numan in his prime, then again, Tubeway Army were a punk band, just not in the strictest sense of the definition. As you expect, amplitude starts to ramp up and vocals cease to focus on instruments building tension, coinciding nicely with the on-screen imagery of a party dispersing from some sort of humanoid attack, as well as insane scientist back story in the process. Furious chords play out as synths turn haywire and drums keep that panic and hysteria constantly moving, culminating in the first person camera being thrown into the boot of a car. As an introduction to the work of Autopsy Boys, this could be no more perfect. As a fan, I can no doubt imagine that they already hunger for the next instalment, as well as more new music in tandem. On the basis of this first track alone, this Leeds four piece look set to continue and build upon the already stellar synthpunk slasher sound, and with visuals in tow, only confirm their status as one of the country’s most exciting under-the-radar bands around.

Song For Debbera is out now via all good music retailers, taken from their forthcoming new album expected sometime this year.

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