By now, the hangover of 2018 should have long subsided, and 2019 should now begin to be as familiar to everyone as much as your work colleagues, classmates, or friends you go clubbing with, are. We’ve conversed, debated and voiced our collective opinions on what the best of the best of 2018 was, and ahead, we look into the eyes of 2019 longingly, yearning for continued musical excellence as this decade draws to a climax. So bearing that in mind, the site has put together 20 bands and artists bearing a variety of new musical fruit in 2019, that you should absolutely sample, and hopefully savour and find immense pleasure from.
In popular cultural semiotics, the phrase ‘ the C-word,’ we all widely acknowledge refers to the often belligerent horrors of cancer. A word that strikes fear, dread and distress into the hearts of those directly and indirectly affected. The disease is now so commonplace, it is impossible to go through your lifetime without knowing someone who has been affected by it. Thankfully, due to the wonders of modern medical science, cancer is now no longer a death sentence, and more and more people everyday can say they are a survivor. Musicians especially seem to be having more and more luck winning their respective fights. Iain Gorrie, of Bristol emo brigade Our Nameless Boy, is among those battling back from life-threatening progression of the disease. Diagnosed with testicular cancer in 2015, and starting a lengthy chemotherapy cycle, alongside surgical procedures, Iain finally reached a stage where he felt well enough and strong enough to begin writing new music in earnest, the quartet announcing a new EP in Spring of this year, after several away. Titled ‘Tomorrow I’ll Be Scared Again,’ it plays not only into the ongoing worry of not knowing if you could wake up, but into the personal anxieties and adversities of the wider world we live in too. The single All It Is announced from the EP, serves as an intense aural and visual narrative of Iain’s recovery from his chemotherapy.
His vocals, sounding weary and with a degree of frailty, tell of how his treatment has caused a series of diversions in his life and how unwell it made him feel, whilst urgent, melodic alternate picking lay behind his tale’s opening. Short after we’re treated to a brief tease of drums and guitar in unison, those four snare pounds and fiery strums, lighting the fuse of anticipation towards its chorus, but not before all instruments make an entrance and tighten the pressure up that much more. A pause for breath proceeds what doesn’t come across as quite an explosion, but more an emphatic expulsion of energy, strings and skins colliding together, to add prominence to the show of positivity that Iain can conquer his cancer. With production stripped down to its barest bones, the chorus feels that much more heartfelt and encouraging for those still watching a loved one persevere in their own respective battle. Rapid snare taps keep pace and intensity in a high gear with the melodic picking returning to soundtrack the story, the tribulations of chemotherapy initially being somewhat lonesome, but allowing him to return to be the person he once was. This verse neatly ties into the track’s greatest display of strength; a bridge of unclean, near-screamed vocals backed by the punch of snares, and the occasional slam of chords, the rawness, and unbridled emotion of this moment acting as a switch, the pivotal event in Iain’s fight back and his wellbeing close to normal again. The time-lapse and series of photos past afterwards, synced to the music in the video only add to the gravitas of this bridge, with his hair returning in its duration, and watching a young boy grow up in a matter of seconds, a poignant device for anyone with lasting memories of their friends, or children. Our Nameless Boy have transformed a harrowing situation into a memorable message of strong inner resolve, and optimism in a time where hope can so quickly dwindle. Minimalist, melodic at the right times, and a masterstroke of art in a sonic and screen-based space, this Bristol quartet deserve a hero’s welcome back to the UK music scene.
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As the world begins to stir, gently putting the gears back into production, and steadily adjusting weary eyes to the bright new horizon of 2019 (I mean, it probably won’t be that different, other than some cases of lingering hangovers, apparent nationwide incense about a vegan sausage roll, and more than likely international condemnation of whatever Donald Trump does next), we at least have a period longer to contemplate how good a year of music 2018 really did provide us with. However the longer it took to mull over how a good year of music it was, the more frustrating it became to whittle down and distil the ten best. It’s very safe to say EVERY album about to be mentioned was in contention for a top ten position. Tantrums happened and tears were nearly shed. An iron resolve and persistence eventually paid off, and in the settling dust, lay the final ten chosen to represent the best of 2018. Just one of them became the victor and declared ‘the undisputed favourite.’ Continue reading
I’ll be among the first to admit that 2017 is now a fading memory in long and short terms of immediate recollection. After all, we’ve reached a quarter of the year in already and only now do I find myself reflecting on and scrutinising the year past, since coming to terms with my current situation. Of which I feel is moving in a more positive direction. That said, while my own personal presence took a negative slant in the seventeenth year of the new millennium, musically, there was such a creative surge of magnificence which resulted in many, many excellent albums being released. Also one such reason for this list being delayed as it is. So, with ever-so-slightly wistful eyes, The Soundshark casts its spotlight on my ten favourite albums released in 2017, and for your listening indulgence:
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.
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.
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This has been a moment years in the making. A moment arguably in the making since the 31st October 2013. The date when Dye The Flux released their first EP ‘SHARK!’ to a room of 50+ people at the University of Surrey. A moment so vivid it shall no doubt live on in my memories. But this is not about living in memories, Dye The Flux have always been all about looking forward, hence why since the release of their terrific debut EP, they were already laying the groundwork for the next release. A release that experienced multiple complications before it reached this point. While quickly reaching the upper echelons of Guildford’s incomparably diverse live scene, an unfortunate wrist injury to their bassist, backing vocalist, and founding member Ieuan Horgan took them out of performing, and almost performing together again. Tasked with either his replacement or calling it a day, the boys instead went in separate directions, waiting out a year’s gruelling rehabilitation, of which a complete recovery was eventually made.
Finally returning to the stage with new material in hand, two years since their last appearance, and with a new drummer in tow, Dye The Flux’s live return was an emotional one, built on frustration, anger but sheer joy in persevering in the face of adversity. Yet it seemed as soon as they were return to the stage, they seemed to disappear off of it just as rapidly. To continue writing for could’ve been labelled their fabled sophomore EP. Admittedly, there has always been the tenacity and work ethic of this talented four piece that has never stopped them doing what they’ve loved. So despite a second drummer departure and months of songwriting and production with acclaimed producer Jason Wilson, we arrive here a little under four years later, at the first glimpse of their second EP ‘FOX’ and the welcome sound of four warriors, who only know to fight or die and have returned to tell their tale.
As has become their calling card, sizeable, urgent chords lead us in alongside punchy percussion, instantly pulling you into a fast-paced fistfight that’s as captivating as it is ferocious. Bright, clean vocals put the madness of society and the human condition to rights, delivered with a confidence and a smirk that is endlessly pleasing amongst the raucousness of the riffs bombarded at you. Perhaps an indirect nod to the notion of insanity, but the refrain of ‘Lunacy,’ frequent throughout, partnered with both the wah-infused hammer-ons and rapid snare bashes is such a powerful hook, you’ll be humming it for weeks. Whether it can be called a chorus or not, stripping it back to a single guitar, rolling off riffs near-effortlessly, while vocals harmonise, backed by drum rolls that sound like cannon fire, serves as just as powerful a hook, steadily increasing tension as it does so. And the intensity only shifts from gear to gear. Chords gather pace, interspersed between quick, fiery licks, and you can physically feel the danger level heightening with every note change. The tipping point is reached at the solo; a passage of double-time picking, with the second guitar throwing authoritative blows to the face and snares and cymbals issuing a countdown to chaos. Bass soon matches the speed of the fast picking, a feat technically impressive in its own right, and after tremendous restraint, the thrashing beast that has threatened and been teased for the course of the song is finally unchained. It really serves as an excellent metaphor for lunacy in motion, the loss of inhibition and the inevitable loss of control we could find ourselves in, inside and outside of a live environment. This is only agitated by the new found snarl in the vocals, a pummeling of aggressive chords and guitar gallops, and drums keeping the adrenaline pumping, while showcasing a far greater technical prowess than we’ve seen before. And we end on the note of four musically skilled gentlemen looking far more feisty than we saw three minutes ago.
It’s truly difficult to pin down an exact comparison point for sound, former Surrey stalwarts Reuben being the closest reaching example, yet passing instances of Deftones, Incubus and even Biffy Clyro, glimmer and fade just as quickly in Lunacy alone. But any claims that they embody any of those bands, does not do them any justice. What music they have created over the last four or so years shares a certain hardcore sensibility with any of those bands for sure, but their sound is ultimately theirs and theirs alone. Lunacy is cathartic and at times, nerve-shredding, but one of the most thrilling three-minute bursts of music I’ve undoubtedly heard this year. All it shows that Dye The Flux are hungrier, harder-working and as passionate as ever, and as a band constantly looking forward, and with the breadth of talent they possess, we can see that the best is certainly yet to come.
Lunacy is taken from their second EP ‘FOX’ which has yet to be released, but you will find it available once it is, on their Bandcamp page. You can purchase Lunacy on Spotify and iTunes in the mean time. Live dates are also yet to be announced. Right now, you can listen to their previous EP ‘SHARK!’ on their Soundcloud, and can only get your own physical copy from them in person. You could probably get a digital copy from them too if you asked them nicely, but I’ll leave that up to you. Buy a shirt whilst you’re on their Bandcamp anyway.
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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?