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

And if you feel like giving me a thumbs up at all for this post, you can give me a like, a follow of subscribe to the blog, if you want to of course:

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

 

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Sophie’s Earthquake

For some reason or other, hurricanes are allowed to have perfectly acceptable names to identify them. Does it seem less threatening? Hardly, if Hurricane Katrina has anything to go by. It only seems to be hurricanes that we focus on really, but maybe there’s time for a change of sorts. Say for example, landslides or earthquakes. We can take a landslide somewhere in the world and call it Jennifer. Because I decided Jennifer was a suitable name for a landslide. Joking aside for a moment, natural disasters are serious matters and have cost hundreds of thousands of people their lives, so for what reason does saying an earthquake belongs to a girl by the name of Sophie? Well judging by the sheer potential of a three track EP and sounding an awful lot like if Alice In Chains became a stoner band, you’d want to personify the power behind your earthquake. Stemming from jam sessions between three musicians from Germany, whose appreciations lie in grunge and psychedelic, the base of their songwriting ability lies in the sledgehammer of distorted guitar, with, or without vocals which can drift off into a spellbinding haze backed by prominent drums, very much the definition of an incantation. Final song La Ira De Los Tres very much focuses on an acoustic build up for three minutes that soothes into a plane beyond our physical one, before the electric guitar takes over for the remaining six minutes for a slugfest of riffs and pure exhibitionism that captivates for every minute that goes by. For an EP from 2013, Sophie’s Earthquake sound remarkably polished, no doubt as a result of the five years spent honing and experimenting with different guitar effects and sounds in that time. The gear switch between psychedelic release and a grungy, guitar free-for-all, and the quality of both sides of their sound, very few bands around have replicated and likely never will. Maybe this earthquake belonging to a girl emphasises the free spirit and the shades of devastation that can happen, which when married become a potent musical formula for success.

Sophie’s Earthquake’s EP is available on a digital pay what you want basis on their Bandcamp page, or there are vinyl copies of the EP also available too on Adansonia Records’ webstore. The album Zero Distance is expected to be out around December this year, so keep an eye on this one. Please give what you can if you have enjoyed this band, they are currently in the process of recording, and that process is expensive so every little helps.

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

P.S. I asked the band later on where the name came from, turns out they used to practice in the drummer’s basement, whom his wife was called… Sophie. Their story is better than mine.