Futures Are Changing, But Their Futures Are Still Black

The following account is of factual events that took place on the 27th October 2016, between the hours of 7 and 10pm. No details of this account have ever been made public. Until now.

I’m early. I’m not often early for a lot of things. In fact, I’m so early I have to wander up and down the street and take refuge in one of the cheapest London pubs I’ve ever set inside, waiting for to validate my invitation. But a little after 8pm, a gentleman sporting the Black Futures insignia arrives outside Wandsworth Town station, I weave the password into my conversation with him and he presents me with a blindfold, and told to await transport to the secret location. Of what I know of Black Futures media, their imagery resembles some kind of VHS propaganda reel, but nothing that was to resemble the theatricality of what was about to happen.

Once enough attendees had gathered, the chauffeur asked us to enter the transport and put on our blindfolds. In the brief journey towards the venue, around about 5-10 minutes in length, there was music playing under the guise of Black Futures Radio; short instrumental MIDI renditions of songs, interspersed between stingers and amusing interjections from its monotonous host. I seem to remember the best one about ‘having a funny feeling in my nether regions,’ or something similar at least. Little were we to know at that time, that what was unconsciously infiltrating our ear drums was a mere taster of the sonic assault to come. While the radio provided some light relief and entertainment, it didn’t stop the feeling of foreboding, being driven around on London streets, in a vehicle full of strangers, to a location you knew nothing about.

At the location, I just about made the shadow of gates opening before the path, and driving down to what looked like an abandoned film set of sorts. Outside, flanked by personnel in hazmat suits taking photographs of every attendee, heavies in suits instructed us to place our phones in envelopes or we would be refused entry. Happy to oblige, I did so without first telling my other half that I wouldn’t be able to be contacted for an unspecified amount of time. You can imagine how that went, especially after telling her the last thing that happened was that I was just given a blindfold. Anyway, we were directed left into a room, filled with more hazmat personnel and two giant dispensers filled with ‘social lubricants’. The drinks could only be dispensed by ringing a bell, or honking a horn, dependent on which you wanted. The folk in the suits and googles remained silent throughout, pulling glasses from underneath which they kindly filled and only once pouring half a litre of gin, to top up the more popular of the two dispensers. Yikes. The room itself had little in the way of furnishings with two sofas, in a room filled about thirty odd people, but was filled with very curious paintings, photographs and instruments around. It seemed elaborate, like a lot of thought had been put into the decoration of this venue, deliberately like some kind of scientific experiment and we were the test subjects.

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After a period of time for guests to mingle with one another, the room opposite in the hallway is unlocked, and we are welcomed inside a studio, outputting a frequency that feels like its properties could brainwash onlookers if exposed to in the right circumstances. Maybe that was the idea. But beyond the mixing desk and monitors, lay drums, microphones, a keyboard and a guitar, and a curious wall in the background which had a screen display inside what resembled a large sewage pipe opening. The door is then closed, the frequency is shut off and with the onlookers and myself all making ourselves as comfortable as possible, the producers known only to the world as SPACE and VIBES slowly emerge from the darkness and start the show.

With their first song, distorted, crunchy guitar opening up proceedings and thunderous booms of bass, before erupting into an apocalyptic big-beat bombshell that would bring a tear to Liam Howlett’s eye. The scathing refrain of ‘ten minutes to the end of the world,’ is unnervingly relevant, given the earth-shattering size of the music that surrounds it, and the visual element of strobe lighting in the performance really enforced the urgency and magnitude of their two-pronged attack. After three and a half minutes of electrifying energy, the storm subsides and you could be mistaken for thinking for more of the same is on the way. But this is where things begin to change, instead revealing a whole new dimension of influences that made for a truly mesmerising listen. Straight into now brand new single Karma Ya Dig!?, waves of reverb and delay wash over both sets of vocals and synths, unveiling a strangely soothing psychedelic ambience that certainly caught me by surprise. These two gentlemen’s vocals also harmonise so well together, that the phrase ‘I’ll see you on the other side,’ has lingered ever-presently in my subconscious since this day. A pseudo-industrial stomp gets us underway with a near punk-like sneer taking vocal duties, marching us towards a titanic guitar riff that wouldn’t go amiss in Britpop’s heyday and an overall vibe that feels reminiscent of The Chemical Brothers, albeit slowed to a pace you can headbang to. It certainly affirms that the big beat era of dance music circa 1990 onwards, has had a profound effect on this material. As if today’s electronic music producers and a punk band recorded together in a garage. It’s gritty, intense and energetic but without sounding lo-fi or unpolished. Astronomically far from it.

I must admit, that while their eight song set was nothing short of inspiring, it moved in a blur. I recall one track that had a dancehall style beat, some later present indie rock style influences and one track that which reminded me firmly of Does It Offend You, Yeah?, which in their own whirlwind of genre-smashing, is nothing but a compliment. They are an absolute sum of the parts of the people that work as the unit. SPACE, an in-demand punk and hardcore producer, with a reputation in the desert rock community to boot, and VIBES, a multi-talented instrumentalist and electronic music producer, that works with an abundance of live acts in and around London. Their union has formed something undeniably unique, and witnessing the translation of their chemistry together in the flesh with such a striking and impactful live performance, and the interactivity before the performance even took place, has made me fall in love with these gentlemen and get overexcited over what was to come. It truly was a privilege to be invited along and be part of this undoubtedly intriguing and involving movement.

The opportunity to see it for yourselves, lies on the 5th October at Bloc in Hackney, 8:30pm start. Prepare for an immersive dance experience unlike any you’ve ever encountered. If you want a further testimonial, I left that night with new friends, whom I realised I shared a closer connection to, than just being attendees to this exclusive performance. And I’m often a painfully awkward individual. If that isn’t something that asserts the power or the spiritual significance of the Black Futures experience, then I don’t know what will.

Join the Existential Expedition Club right here:

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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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Secret Tsunami Club – Episode #13

So folks, it has been six months since I last endeavoured in radio, but at long last, I bring you the next instalment of the Secret Tsunami Club and the first podcast as an independently produced project. Quality may not be the best right now, but it can and will only improve over time. Hopefully it is of a standard you can enjoy.


Tracklist:

Black Vulpine – Twisted Knife
The Vibraphonic Orkestra – A Vibraphonic Introduction
The Impalers – Metro Azul
Geistfight – True Warriors
Release The Bats – Hornets In A Matchbox
Death Valley Sleepers – Your Face In The Skies
Seasloth – Marshmallon
Ten Tombs – Honestly
Ketch Hatbour Wolves – Queen City Believes You
In Case Of Fire – Do What I Say
Vektrill – I’ll Never Die
Elephantis – Stronghold
Octopede – The Gush
The Gentle Art Of Cooking People – King Tukan II
Cavern – Ithican
Atomis – Maelstrom
Bullet Height – Hold Together
Kurt Dirt – Pleasure Machine
Iltoro – High Fly
sØ؆ – ÐΔRKES† HØUR
Glass Cobra – Up
Furious Freaks – No Indeed
Youth Code – Doghead
Dirk Geiger – 24 Hours Without Interruption

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Iron Jawed Guru

 

I don’t know how often boxing or boxing terminology crosses over into music, or at least has a hand in naming bands, but it seems kinda few and far between. To my knowledge anyway. Perhaps most famously an example being the outstanding Glassjaw, whose output helped define the landscape for post-hardcore and its endless ilk today. I’m sure there’s half a dozen bands or so that are called Southpaw too, one of which I know are pretty good. Any more for any more? I got the Prize Fighter Inferno, The Boxer Rebellion and Title Fight (well, can be applied to boxing), but I think that’s all I came up with after some serious thought. I’ve never heard of an iron jawed guru though, unless that refers specifically to one of the greatest of all time, like a Floyd Mayweather or a Muhammed Ali or something. Part of me wishes it was something to do with having a mechanically reconstructed deity, but that’s my imagination going walkabouts. Onto the topic at hand though, Iron Jawed Guru is actually the namesake of a West Virginia based instrumental hard rock duo, whose primary objective is to conceive the most electrifying musical stampedes imaginable, solely based on just a guitar and drums. Last year saw the birth of the Caldera EP, a six-song sledgehammer that introduced those who tuned in to a cavalcade of white-hot riffs and a gallant drum performance, with enough speed and force to blast your stomach out through your spinal column. Their first full-length album Mata Hari continues that trend, remaining as unrelenting, never taking its foot off the accelerator for a second. While only seven songs in length, the rapid fire bursts of stellar hard rock action are an absolutely storming affair, with undeniably the most fun reaching the album’s climax Vesuvius. It seems they left the longest track until last to illustrate the best of their impressive toolset. Vesuvius opens like walking calmly into a saloon, seeing through the viewpoint of vigilante justice, sizing up every antagonist in the vicinity while keeping hands close to guns. The guitar and drums are an excitingly tense interplay, keeping a fine balance of riffs and groove in an almost Western blues-inspired tone, if such a thing exists. Confidence and charisma simply oozes out of their musicianship, two men possessed and intent on making all hell break loose and having the balls to butt heads with the Devil as he emerges. But much like the volcano itself, the pressure builds up too much and it begins to trickle over with the pace increase, before spurting white hot magma in every conceivable direction. If this was that Western saloon shoot out, justice by the bullet load would be unfolding as the lone gunslinger lets the occupants taste three inches of lead, from each furious guitar lick and snare bash. And there’s a lot of them in the space of the final minute. All in all, it’s a terrific thrill ride that showcases the talents of two incredible musicians, who are aiming for that lucrative title fight and have all the credentials and necessary ability to be a dominant force, and hoist that belt high above their heads.

Mata Hari is out now on Grimoire Records, which can be obtained on a digital and physical capacity from their Bandcamp page, and I highly recommend doing so. Otherwise, Caldera can be bought from their own Bandcamp page and also well worth your investment. You can find their music in most respectable music retailers too if you wish to do so that way.

Go buy them the equivalent of a social media drink:

https://www.facebook.com/IJGrock/?fref=ts

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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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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.

Roadkill Soda

For the record, I have absolutely no idea what Roadkill Soda what tastes like. It’s probably more so a job best left for apocalyptic sci-fi writers or Bethesda, developers of the Fallout video game franchise honestly. But if I had to put money on it, I’d wager it doesn’t taste like a psychedelic hard rock outfit from Bucharest, Romania. Luckily for them, they don’t sound like the carcass of a roadside mammal being forced into a smoothie too. Their music has a real grit, like two tonnes of sand-scattered asphalt level grit, but because they are able to stray into fuzzy guitar experimentalism that the 60’s popularised, their combined musical vehicle rides as smooth as the surface it drives on. Fitting then that their first studio album Oven Sun recollects the sunshine-emblazoned stretches of road, that a top down motor built for speed and a carefully masterminded mixtape were made for. Towards the album’s close is Upside Down, which sounds not to dissimilar in nature to pushing the plunger on dynamite in a canyon: dangerous and staggeringly loud, but ultimately satisfying and incredibly thrilling to witness all the same. The cavalcade of riffs and grooves that these gentlemen are capable of, not just in the period of a song, but in the timescale of a studio long-player, is undoubtedly their greatest strength and it is only set to expand and evolve into their sophomore release, out earlier this year. There’s a lot to enjoy here, a well-blended mix of hard rock hammer blows, softened by a relaxing approach to their craft that makes it all the more appropriate for the last sunsets of summer. Roadkill Soda? Sure, I’ll take two if it tastes this good.

Oven Sun is available from their Bandcamp page for a respectable price, and follow up Yo No Hablo Ingles is available from select music retailers.

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