Gefahrgeist // Interview

Gefahrgeist are a Scottish electronic duo comprised of musicians Fiona Liddell and Niall Rae. After the success of their sassy yet ethereal debut single ‘Graceless’, the pair return on January 29th with the chilling desolation of ‘Nukular’, a song sung from the perspective of the person pushing the nuclear button and exploring the ensuing devastation. This second, soul stirring offering sees them move closer to their debut EP and the prospect of the return of live performances further down the line. I caught up with them to ask them about their musical relationship, creative process and dreams and aspirations.

SP – What brought the pair of you (Fiona and Niall) together musically? And how did you meet in the first instance?

FL – Pre pandemic, we played in the same wedding band (The Apollos) for a number of years. When driving to gigs, Niall would often stick on a track he was working on. I’d offer to sing on it and get rejected outright! It was only when I sent him a demo of my ideas that he agreed.

NR – Fi doesn’t remember when we first met, but it was after a performance I did at university on piano in a band. Think I played one key the whole time since I was very hungover. Afterwards, Fiona came up and said I was brilliant…?

SP –  How does your band name, Gefahrgeist, relate to the music that you make? What are its origins?

NR – The name came from a book I read by Michael R. Fletcher called ‘Beyond Redemption’. ‘Gefahrgeist’ is used to describe a sociopath character, but honestly I just thought it sounded cool. It means ‘Danger Spirit’ in German!

FL – In terms of how it’s connected to the music, it’s sometimes quite ethereal sounding and other wordly, so I think a ghost name works well. It is hard to pronounce, though!

Gefahrgeist – ‘Nukular’ single artwork.

SP –  How does a typical writing session go for you?

NR – Fi does the lyrics and melody, and I do all the hard stuff. Often I’ll come to Fi with a track I’ve been fiddling with for a while and ask her to write and record lyrics and vocals for it.

FL – My part usually takes about a day whereas Niall is working on these tracks for months (sometimes years!) before they’re done.

NR – She’ll usually send something back that is nothing like what I had in my head and it’ll take me a few days before I realise that it’s way better than what I was thinking.

FL – We complement each other well like that, I think. When I write a song I’m usually just on piano. I give the chords and structure to Niall and suddenly it’s way better than I could have done on my own!

SP – Your song ‘Nukular’ is out on the 29th of January. The song is told from the perspective of someone pushing the button for a nuclear missile attack. What drew you (Fiona) to write on this subject?

FL – It was around the time when Trump was threatening to bomb the Middle East a while back. The thought was so terrifying to me, that ‘Nukular’ became a way for me to imagine how a figure like that who’s so self-involved and shallow would react to seeing the horror he’s created. He sees people as commodities and completely irrelevant to himself. ‘Nukular’ explores that idea and it’s quite a hard song to listen to if you tune into the lyrics! Niall’s production helps create the apocalyptic atmosphere I was after for this figure wandering through the wasteland.

SP – ‘Nukular’ features cello from The Jellyman’s Daughter’s Graham Coe. How important to you is collaboration with musicians out with the duo in your work?

FL – Wherever possible, we’ll always hire and collaborate with other musicians. None of us can do it all ourselves, and it’s great to work with people who can bring something different to the music. Niall’s got a burning hatred for MIDI instruments that could be live. We’re currently waiting for restrictions to ease enough to record a string quartet and a woodwind trio!

Gefahrgeist – ‘Graceless’ single artwork.

SP – Your music has a soulful, ethereal feeling. What artists inspire you and have any had a particular influence over your own style?

NR – For me, I grew up listening to old punk bands and then moved onto film and video game music which has definitely influenced my compositional style. We’ve been compared to artists like Zero 7 and Bonobo which is too flattering, to be honest.

FL – I grew up listening to female singer songwriters like Joni Mitchell, Melanie, Shawn Colvin etc. and they inspired me to write and perform my own songs from a young age. As I got older, my lyrics got less and less personal and more about bigger subjects and I think that marries Niall’s style quite nicely.

SP – Did the production process differ between your debut, ‘Graceless’, and ‘Nukular’?

NR – Honestly, the process was the same for both songs. Fi came to me with chords, lyrics and a solid outline and I added stuff absentmindedly until it eventually built up into what you hear.

FL – He never thinks anything is ever finished. I’m the one who steps in eventually and has to say ‘It’s not going to get any better, mate!’.

SP – Your release plans have had to change due to the current restrictions affecting live events. How has this affected your promotional activity and what have you learnt from the experience?

FL – Luckily, I was fairly well versed in social media beforehand. Online promo was a big learning curve, however! It’s nice to release this second single and build on the friends we made when we released ‘Graceless’. It feels much more relaxed to me. We’re still working out how the hell we’re going to perform this live, but we’ve got a few ideas! We’re hoping to have our first gig in the summer. Whether that’s online or not, we’ll see!

Gefahrgeist – ‘Graceless’ music video.

SP – How similarly do you think that your future live set-up will reflect the arrangements used in ‘Graceless’ and ‘Nukular’?

NR – I’m pretty sure I’d like it to be quite different. It’s impossible to recreate the track perfectly – there’s something stupid like 300 tracks in each of them. We’re aiming to perform the music as live as possible, so that’ll likely involve a large number of live musicians. I think I floated the idea of two drummers at one point? Jury’s still out.

FL – I just need to clone twelve of myself to do harmonies and we’ll be sorted!

SP – Do you have any major aims for the Gefahrgeist project in the long term?

FL – My big dream is to be able to write music and get paid enough to live. Shocking that that’s now considered a ‘big dream’, but that’s the industry! In the long term, we’d love to tour the UK and play a couple of festivals (when it’s all safe, obviously). We’re just focusing on the short term for now. We’re hoping to release a couple of EPs this year and start playing live soon as well.

‘Nukular’ by Gefahrgeist is out on 29th January. You can pre-save the track at THIS LINK

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– Sandy Power

Telemarkk – Reflection // Single Review

Telemarkk are a Southampton based duo, consisting of childhood friends Max Berg and Asad Siddiqui, who formed in 2019. The pair make dreamy electronic pop music, aiming to keep each release fresh with new ideas and stylistic traits. The pair describe their music as “a collection of various genres, plucking the best parts from each to create our unique sound”. On latest single ‘Reflection’, the band combine melancholic melodies with gripping bass lines.

Telemarkk – ‘Reflection’ single artwork.

Between lockdowns, Telemarkk immersed themselves in a world of atmospheric synth pop, dreamily layered arpeggiated tones and crisp, defined drums, drawing on influences including The 1975 and CHVRCHES. Using this sonic palette, the duo wrote and recorded ‘Reflection’, an exploration of the theme of patience, leading to a “point of realisation and ability to let go when reflecting on past experiences”.

The resultant track is highly palatable, using soft synth sounds and creating hooky melodies and groovy bass lines. The melody created in both synth and vocal parts is supported by arpeggiated synths, which add an extra, insatiable rhythmic element. As the chorus vocal urges “Break away from all the wrong feelings”, the song gets a further lift, bringing us up with its euphoric atmosphere.

Telemarkk – Asad Siddiqui and Max Berg.

The second verse makes use of a Hot Chip style bass line and echoing repeated lyrics, the texture of the track becoming ever more densely layered. The outro section of the song bounces various vocal element across the stereo spectrum, with a bass line reminiscent of the Mint Royale version of ‘Singin’ in the Rain’. The song has a brusque ending, the music suddenly stopping but echoing out in a heady reverb.

The song is short and sweet, keeping to the band’s pop sensibilities and covering everything they want to say in a concise manner. It’s a feel good number as welcome on your stereo as on a festival stage. Top work again from the pair.

‘Reflection’ is available to download and stream now.

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– Sandy Power

A. Maxwell – Tight // Single Review

Glasgow based A. Maxwell follows up his single ‘Dawn’ with new single ‘Tight’, a labour of love which has been years in the making. The singer-songwriter, whose heartfelt songs are bolstered by a powering full band, attempted to record the song over a number of years without ever really being happy with the results. On this successful attempt, the difference seems to be the partnership with producer Innes Little, who has allowed Maxwell a new confidence, in the first place just to give its recording a go but then ultimately getting the song to a point of readiness for release.

A. Maxwell – ‘Tight’ artwork.

The resultant recording uses dynamics and tasteful arrangement and mixing to convey Maxwell’s tale of being in a struggle. Maxwell aims to banish self-doubt in his words and music, and states that you must “… let others work with you to bring you to the surface and stay afloat.”  This noble message sits underneath a beautifully woven nest of sounds, which shine a light on both vulnerability and strength.

The song begins in the ether, with acoustic guitar, a reverb-soaked lead vocal and long reverberant electric guitar chords. The line “It tested me, you bested me” stands out as a pained response to Maxwell’s experiences. The introduction of tremolo guitar playing brings an increase in tension, mirroring the intensity of feeling in the lyrics, allowing the rhythm section to build its own intensity with the dynamic hits which follow.

A. Maxwell.

The chanted backing vocals are an indie pop staple which will no doubt carry far once employed in a live setting. Maxwell’s vocal continues to tell a heartfelt story, the elasticity of his vocal leaping crying out over the top of the guitars. A break down in the middle provides a necessary relief, and allows for a greater impact as the sonorous full band returns. An expressive electric guitar solo and fill littered kit part sees the song out in a fiery fashion, a final blowout for an epic journey for both Maxwell and the listener.

Maxwell continues to expand on his brand of earnest and moving songs. The time spent getting ‘Tight’ to the point of release has clearly paid off and it serves as a reminder to not rush creativity. The stage is set for Maxwell to turn these songs into live favourites. You do not get the feeling he is going away any time soon.

A. Maxwell – ‘Tight’ Official Music Video.

‘Tight’ is available to download and stream now.

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– Sandy Power

Whole Foods Kids – Sometimes My Arms Bend Back // EP Review

Whole Foods Kids follow up their debut EP ‘F*** It, We Vibe’, with the Twin Peaks inspired EP ‘Sometimes My Arms Bend Back’. The seven track collection of electronic and synth infused post punk tracks, does not so much borrow from the existing Twin Peaks canon to aid its musical gestation, but instead creates a soundworld that the duo, consisting of Rob Bazaral and Evan Sievars, felt would complement the world of Twin Peaks.

Whole Food Kids – ‘Sometimes My Arms Bend Back’ EP art by Jade Yoon.

Bazaral and Sievars record their music remotely, developing an angular bass led indie sound. The music is extremely rhythmic and is typified by a bass guitar both intensely rhythmic and innately melodic. Their sound harks back to progenitors like Orange Juice, Talking Heads, CAN and Gang of Four, as well as later echoes of a similarly jagged sound-world like Franz Ferdinand, Interpol and Bloc Party.

The so called “double EP” takes us on a journey from opener ‘Theatre of the Absurd’, which mixes a Twin Peaks sample with synthesisers and electronic drums, assembled by Bazaral and collaborator Ollie Turbitt, who coincidentally is the main mam behind label Dead Hound Records, moving us through an imaginary Twin Peaks soundtrack. Each track has a new facet, and each evolving from the last, all assuming a rather mysterious oddball identity, which matches up well with the strange goings on of the fictional town.

Whole Foods Kids in the studio.

‘Man of My Time’ explores the ego of a typical man of the age, fusing together 808 drums and trebly angular guitars, underpinned by an unnerving organ pedal note. ‘Degrees Down DeKalb’ takes an even more danceable avenue, sounding almost Klaxons or Editors like with its bass octaves and offbeat rhythm. The vocals are recorded in unison, creating a stark intensity, only amplified by a percussive breakdown with jarring delay effects.

There is a little respite going into the fourth number, the “almost” title track, ‘Arms Bent Back’, which has a little more space, with its combination of jaunty bassline, slap back delay guitar and more soothing layered backing vocals. As the vocal strains into the line “so am I everything I do not want to be”, the intensity builds with a incessant hand clap. As the arrangement assumes a thickness, the track fades out, letting us down gently from the headiness.

The impetus of single ‘…And Hot’ is established in opening sample “Damn good coffee! And hot!”, which instigates a fiery Bloc Party-esque thump, with a dancing bassline and break-neck paced drums, performed by Sean Theoclitus. The tracks burns out with a busy layering of sung and spoken vocals and a final percussive clatter. The track is also accompanied by the steamy music video below.

Whole Food Kids – ‘… And Hot’ Official Music Video.

‘My Coffee Tastes So Bitter’ is looser, with a lurching ska beat and a vibe of The Coral, The Specials or even early Gorillaz. The spooky feel to track is augmented by the various drone notes and warped synths used in conjunction with the lackadaisical offbeat guitar and steady drum pattern. The uneasy feeling of the track is typified in the sampled vocal, which incredulously yells “It’s disgusting, it’s degrading and it never stops!”

Final track ‘Roadhouse’ begins with a sample of Twin Peaks writer/director David Lynch discussing his daydreams, in which he finds creative inspiration. The song is a more mellow, indeed dreamier end to an, at times, frantically neurotic sounding EP. The bass guitar acts as rhythm, harmony and melody all in one, with a crooning vocal taking on the mantle of the latter as well. Inevitably, the sonic experimentation seeps into this one as well, with cut up instrumentation, synths and sound effects lending their qualities to an effusive conclusion.

The knife edge feeling to the EP can be explained in Bazaral’s channelling of pivotal character Laura Palmer throughout, as he explains, “[She’s] the universal figure for everyone who’s felt they’re leading a double life and has a hard time keeping it together”. If things weren’t so darned crazy though, would this epic journey into the universe of Twin Peaks be quite as interesting?

‘Sometimes My Arms Band Back’ is available as a digital download via Deadhound Records on Bandcamp.

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– Sandy Power

Almost Sex – Charmer // Single Review

Almost Sex are the product of a chance encounter, leading the duo consisting of Nick Louis and H.W. LaSota to engage in several months of remote collaboration and to an eventual fruitful meeting, resulting in the formation of their band. The band mix electronics with an indie pop style which is a smooth and relaxing listen, whilst they continue to experiment on what their sound will consist of live. ‘Charmer’ is their second single, and it swaps the acoustic guitar of their debut ‘Knockoff’ in favour of a largely electronic soundscape.

Almost Sex – ‘Charmer’ single artwork.

The song begins with a mellifluous electronic beat, much like Tycho, Boards of Canada or Ulrich Schnauss. Nick’s vocals complete the hazy picture in a creole style, in line with the vocal inflections of Alt-J’s Joe Newman. The soundscape expands further for the chorus section, with pads and keyboards filling out the space.

The dynamic falls back down for the verse, before building up to that chorus once more and then seamlessly moving into the bridge, which breaks the arrangement down thinner, consisting of minimal percussion and synth chords, and decorated by a repeating synth phrase. The chorus synths gradually build into the mix, leading into the outro section, which stars a repeating vocal line by Louis, backed by LaSota’s high harmony line and percussive electric guitar.

Almost Sex: Nick Louis and H.W. LaSota.

‘Charmer’ is a grooving, relaxing electronic pop record which should definitely fit somewhere on your driving playlist or for you pottering about your house. The song is catchy, particularly the outro vocal, but isn’t in any way aggressive in being so. Louis’ penchant for genre blending is clear to see in the various elements of the track and the combination of the male and female vocals is a pleasant one. Louis’ vocal also possesses a character which will set the duo apart from many in their field. This is a combination that is clearly working, and with an EP release awaiting in January, let’s hope the pair continue to prove this.

‘Chamrmer’ is available to download and stream now.

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– Sandy Power

Conor Heafey – None of That Matters // Single Review

Conor Heafey wasn’t deterred in the face of his first solo UK tour being swept aside in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. Instead, he has been busy in the studio working on new material, including this grooving new number, ‘None of That Matters’. The single, which also comes with a fantastic remix by Leeds based producer Treefingers, is testament to Heafey’s eclectic taste’s with hints of funk, soul, R&B, pop and indie. The song deftly captures the sense of anxiety which many of us have experienced over what has been an unprecedented year for the current generation. This sense of anxiety is not only addressed but put at ease a little, as Heafey reminds us that we are not alone in our struggle.

Conor Heafey – ‘None of That Matters’ single artwork.

The song drops straight into the groove at the start, decorated by an ornamented lead guitar line. The groove playing underneath the verse sounds almost stuck, hitting the same notes and locking the percussion, already adding to the sense that we need to escape from a situation.

The chorus frees us up, Heafey pointing out, “none of that matters as along as if I’ve got you by my side, I’ll be alright, none of that matters as along as if I’ve got you by my side, I’ll be just fine”, as the rhythm becomes much looser and funkier. Heafey continues with the repetition of “so I’ll just dance” ringing out as his spoken vocal responds with the varying phrases “that’s right”, “All Night” and finally “nice”, with a slight hint of the Fast Show jazz club sketch on the latter.

Conor Heafey.

The second verse continues the song, with its mixture of acoustic and electric guitars supporting Heafey’s vocal. The modern soul hook of the chorus joins quickly after the now shorter verse section, before a guitar solo, with hints of both funk and classic rock with its duelling leads and string bends. As the chorus hook returns, high end guitar is added to create an insatiable build coming into a final climax, out of which only a faint organ pedal survives.

The Treefingers remix adds electronic percussion to the songs mix, with a notable sub bass in the verse and chorus and a dirty fuzz bass on the “I’ll just dance” hook, which also follows into the guitar solo. There are also prominent reverbs and EQ filters on the vocals, giving more space and dynamic squeeze to the mix. The remix follows the structure of the song but chooses which elements of the original to highlight and alter, accentuating the power of the original groove.

Conor Heafey – None of That Matters Official Video.

‘None of That Matters’ is a bright and hazy response to a strange old year and shows the signs that Heafey will be back to what he does best once things get back to some normality in the coming months. The Black Isle born artist will no doubt hit the live scene again with his live band ‘The Lovely Boys’, who have supported the likes of Joesef, Boy Azooga and The Vignettes over the past couple of years. This song could be the ideal sing along on the dancefloor, in spite of its humble origins in Heafeys’s flat in the East End of Glasgow.

‘None of That Matters’ is available to download and stream now.

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– Sandy Power

Night Bus Revival – Tragic Magic // EP Review

Night Bus Revival is a one-man project making his bare bones, “dust covered” indie-folk whilst based in the Midlands. Debut EP ‘Tragic Magic’ is a five-track collection of organic, lo-fi recordings which charts the comic sadness of his falling into long lasting love and leaving his old life behind. The artist recorded the tracks spontaneously in his home in the Midlands, where he moved to from the city, finding himself in the comparative wilderness of the countryside. The artist describes the songs, “[They are] like time capsules…I’ve come to recognise that every creak, every background noise or off-tempo strike of a string is as important as each lyric.” This embracing of imperfections in the music, aptly mirrors the lyrical themes of the songs, which embrace human flaws.

Opening track ‘Nowhere’ is an acoustic exploration of misanthropy, the artist broadcasting his wish to disappear over a relaxingly strummed guitar, with light percussion, vocal harmony and even hints of cello and birdsong.

Night Bus Revival – ‘Tragic Magic’ EP cover.

 ‘Brand New Estate’ uses reverb and a minor key to engender a melancholy to match the theme of loneliness and the feeling of not belonging anywhere. It uses similar instrumentation to ‘Nowhere’, with guitar and a cello bassline making up the (lack of) bulk of the arrangement, as well as some eerie “oohs” in the backing vocal harmonies. NBR’s wavering falsetto is Bon Iver-esque in style, compounding the eeriness and fragility of the overall sound.

‘Untitled Christmas Song’ has a little more urgency, the acoustic guitar rhythm choppier than either of the opening two tracks. The instrumentation branches out further too, with dark bass synths and fuzzy guitars, as well as the most prominent, and syncopated, drum part of the EP, seeing the song out as NBR frets, “The devil’s waiting for me”.

Next follows ‘Socks (one-way ticket to glorious space death)’, which has a breezy rhythm, instigated by the acoustic guitar. The low cello bass part is counterbalanced by glockenspiel highlights and whimsical whistling answering the lead vocal. Lyrically the song discusses companionship, haring off into various anecdotes and observations.

Night Bus Revival promotional photograph.

Final track ‘2:47am on the hotel bathroom floor’, sounds a little more country or Americana in style, with its lilting electric guitar rhythm and Bon Iver style vocal. The song describes a moment of implosion; in fact you can faintly hear the artist pacing around a hotel bathroom in the middle of the night, using the reverb of a shower cubicle while layering harmonies. This is a powerful closer, with its almost spiritual or gospel type vocal ringing out and resonating with our emotions. The song fades out with a faint synth bassline and with the electronic drum pattern veering off in different directions.

This is a particularly relaxing listen and will appeal to fans of Phoebe Bridgers, Father John Misty and Bon Iver. This is intended as the first of a series of EPs, scheduled to be released over the course of 2021. The artist sums up his sound by saying “There’s definitely a place for beautifully produced, slick music, but I’m not the person to make it.” This lo-fi, DIY ethos is endearing and fits well with his song-writing to date. It will be interesting to see what approach he takes going into the various other outings planned for next year.

‘Tragic Magic’ is available to download and stream now.

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– Sandy Power

The Chronicles of Manimal and Samara – Love in the Time of Pestilence // Single Review

The Chronicles of Manimal and Samara return with their sixth single, the experimental metal composition ‘Love in the Time of Pestilence’. The London duo, formed in late 2019 and consisting of Daphne Ang and Andrea Papi, have released this string of singles over the course of 2020, with none more relevant to where we find ourselves this year than this latest effort. The track, alongside its music video, appeals to humanity in an emergency broadcast, alerting us to the fragility of our place on Earth and warning us of where we might be headed, whilst simultaneously paying tribute to the healthcare professionals who have risked their lives to save the lives of others.

TCOMAS – ‘Love in the Time of Pestilence’ Art by Lady Lazarus [daphneang.com]

Released on November 27th, the song utilises the familiar elements of spoken word, using poetry and historical quotations, as well as introducing distorted metal guitars to give the song an impact required by the subject matter. Composed and recorded during the initial wave of COVID-19 in Europe, the amplitude/waveform of the track mirrors the peaks and troughs of the effects of the pandemic. The timing of the release coincided with much of Europe heading into a second lockdown, the song using historical quotes to warn us not to repeat the mistakes of human history in the face of plagues.

The song begins with a lingering, wavering synth lead, being joined after a time by an overdriven guitar figure. Daphne Ang’s familiar tones join, closely followed by more guitars and tribal tom drums. As the lyrics lament, “A plague has brought our world to its knees and with it the complete erosion of human modes of existence”, the mixture of sound becomes ever denser and more complicated. The guitar tones here have a hint of Omar Rodriguez’s in his work with prog rock duo The Mars Volta, playing with an abrasive overdrive and being almost Hispanic in style. This comparison is perhaps backed up by the high frequency synth leads populating the mix, mirroring those used in The Mars Vota’s final album ‘Noctourniquet’.

The lyric “Of all that is known and certain to man, only death and decay will prevail” segues into a lurching three chord metal chord progression. The observation continues, “The greatest achievement of modern man is the construction of an interconnected world, but in this time of a global pandemic it is that very connection that will be the cause of our doom”, the guitar heightening its intensity with a palm muted riff.

The Chronicles of Manimal and Samara – Daphne Ang and Andrea Papi.

The music then moves into a thrash metal section, the pair screaming, “One world, one people, it’s in the air for you, it’s in the air for me”, before there is a lull in the intensity, with a lightly overdriven picked electric guitar and question and answer guitar leads. There is a further reduction in dynamics as Ang’s spoken word lyrics return on top of a Mogwai-esque circular guitar riff, “the world is beautiful but has a disease called mankind”.

The music begins to build up again, with guitar harmonies building over the riff and previous guitar phrases returning to accentuate these layers. The distorted chord progression returns, as the lyrics about interconnectivity make an ominous return. Ang asks, “will humanity rise or will we wallow in the hazy bliss of our ignorance?”, resting on the final observation, “Our weakness once concealed, in this light all is revealed”. The layers of overdriven guitar loop round as the music fades into a solemn darkness.

The single is paired up with a music video containing a montage of public domain artworks, archival photographs and footage which documents mankind’s experience of plagues and pandemics through history. This provides a stark backdrop for the duo’s music to resonate with their audience. The music itself journeys down a refreshing new avenue for the band with its heavy metal influence, its documentation and analysis of the coronavirus pandemic reflecting pertinently on another facet of the dilemmas of modern humanity.

TCOMAS – ‘Love in the Time’ of Pestilence’ Official Music Video.

‘Love in the Time of Pestilence’ is available to download and stream now.

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– Sandy Power

Morning Medicine – Just the Same // Single Review

Morning Medicine are an indie-folk duo from County Cork in South West Ireland, consisting of couple Sarah O’Mahony and Brian Casey. The pair, who run a recording studio and have produced other acts for a number of years, started this, their personal project, early in 2020. Their first single ‘Just the Same’, is intended to be part of an EP called ‘Everything You’ve Been Told You Need’, which will be released in January 2021 and include a cast of special guests and friends.

Morning Medicine – Just the Same Single Artwork.

Debut single ‘Just the Same’, comes in softly with a mixture of acoustic guitar, keys and synth pads. Then O’Mahony’s lilting vocal sits on top of these mellow but rhythmic elements. Into the second round of the verse, the acoustic guitar creates a more dynamic rhythm, before the introduction of electric guitar heralds the arrival of a broad chorus, featuring drum kit and luscious strings.

The lead vocal and strings follow the same descending trajectory in the chorus, painting a gorgeous wall of sound, reminiscent of Camera Obscura or even ‘You Held the World in Your Arms’ by Idlewild. The guitar, bass and drums punctuate theses dramatic vocal and string sweeps with decisive percussive hits, which ring out particularly nicely in the guitar.

Morning Medicine – Sarah O’Mahony and Brian Casey.

The drum kit and strings become part of the tapestry of the second verse, the drums now the foundation of the steady flowing beat, and the strings used sparingly and decoratively. The second chorus is extended on its second inclusion, taking up much of the rest of the song. Like its initial utterance, the second chorus uses sweeping melody and grand instrumentation to hit the listener powerfully.

The intensity of the arrangement dies down quickly after the last repetition of the chorus, with the vocal echoing out “Just the same”, supported by cymbals and light acoustic and electric guitar. The simplicity of structure in the song makes it highly palatable and always pushes forward rhythmically. This is a beautiful little song and it sets the band up nicely for their EP release in January. Keep tabs on their socials for updates on the EP.  

‘Just the Same’ is available to download and stream now.

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– Sandy Power

Before Stories – The Next Reason to Breathe // EP Review

Before Stories, North Eastern Scotland’s minimalist miserabilsts, have just released their new EP ‘The Next Reason to Breathe’ on Ripcord Records. Formed in 2015, the duo consisting of Jamie Reid and Colin Brennan set out to make art that says exactly what they want and then stop, abandoning traditional song forms in the process. This has been their staple ever since. This record, their fourth EP, has been released on Ripcord Records as a cassette or digital download. Through the record, the band attempt to make sense of a dramatically changing world, and this is reflected in the lyrics but also the entire creative process. The EP was recorded in their own houses with little interaction, aside from emailing ideas back and forward. The band say “It’s been a journey in accepting each other’s vision and having a lot less individual control over how the songs have been formed.”

Before Stories – The Next Reason to Breathe EP artwork.

‘Toe the Line’ opens the EP with a ride cymbal rhythm, closely followed by a bright tremolo harmonic riff on electric guitar and finally Reid’s distinctly irate vocals. The guitar riff that follows sound almost nu metal in its guttural repetition, coming close to the sound of Deftones or Linkin Park. Underneath this all is an insistent drum loop propelling the song forward.

‘Born Below the Tide’ is more post-punk in style, with its abrasive trebly guitar hook and Interpol-like bass riff. As the song progresses, Reid’s vocal gathers intensity growing into a climactic crescendo, before the guitar riff is abruptly cut off, and with it the song.

Third track ‘Hutl’ follows a similarly didactic style, the vocals lying over the top of a System of a Down type flange guitar riff. Reid looks at poverty, lamenting the situation “The future looks the same as the past and the present, sleep walking from one day to the next”. In response to the insanity of Black Friday, Reid quizzes “The meaning of poverty gets redefined every six to eight weeks, they’ll be fighting over TV screens every Black Friday, is this the brightest day that they’ll ever see?”

Before Stories at the Kelpies.

‘1 Like = 1 Prayer’ follows a groovier pattern, with grunge guitar tones employed over an energetic bassline. Graduates of the University of YouTube are lambasted in the lyric “… do your research they say, bending facts to suit their made-up mind, turning water into brine”. The hook of the lyric “Hive mind the glorious design, now it’s a f***ing cesspit” rings out in response to the downward spiral of Facebook comments sections and Tweets that ignore factual information that don’t fit with the keyboard warriors’ bigoted sense of self.

‘X99’ begines an almost Arcade Fire-esque four to the flour drum pattern, with a much more discordant guitar motif over the top. This is succeeded with a spacious reverb-soaked guitar and Reid’s trademark vocal railing against the ills he sees around him. There is lull in the musical intensity as a third guitar figure makes its way into focus, joined by a closer lead vocal. On the cue of the returning kick drum, the intensity rises once more, also ushering in a second vocal by Brennan on its second inclusion, caustically harking “the best thing about the end of the world is the end”, counterbalancing against an equally weary vocal by Reid.

Final track ‘Come to Pass’ brings the energy level down and initially consists just of electric guitar and voice. The lyrics dip into introspection “If I didn’t see it every day, I’m scared I would forget your face, like I forget about the purpose I had envisioned for this day, can’t seem to put a finger on any good that I have made”. As a grander, more tribal beat kicks in, the hypnotic search of the lyric “Can I be more than parasitical existence, does life come just to pass?” plays over a spiky rock section. As the original sparsity returns, marrying Reid’s melancholic lyrics with the simple, clean guitar phrases, the guitar, much like in ‘Born Below the Tide’ is the last remaining sound, and is abruptly cut off. This, the last vestige of Before Stories concise attempt at raging against the machine.

Before Stories at Monty’s Rock Bar in Dunfermline.

This final cut off is a fitting tribute to Before Stories’ mission statement, showing that they are here for the message of expression and no more. They remain committed to their ethics and their creative style. This integrity and originality has been recognised by Ripcord Records, who have picked up on the merits of the duo and released the EP as a cassette on top of its digital release. Will their be more stories to tell? It’s probable; in this fast changing world, we might need their voice.

‘The Next Reason to Breathe’ is available to buy from Ripcord Records’ Bandcamp.

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– Sandy Power