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HOOKWORMS

Microshift is the Leeds band's first new work in over 3 years and marks a seismic shift in their sound, dynamic, songwriting and production, whilst still bearing all the ferocious energy, intricate musicianship and bruised but beautiful song-craft of the previous releases which have quietly made them one of the UK's most revered young bands.

This is the band's third studio album technically but arguably the first in which the studio has been central to its creation. Pearl Mystic and second LP, The Hum were heavily informed by the band's live sound, Microshift on the other hand came to life in the studio, formed out of loops, modular synthesizer sequences, drum machines, homemade samples etc. which were jammed around and layered until the songs began to emerge. The band have also opened their writing to include collaborations with artists such as Richard Formby (on Opener), Christopher Duffin (on Boxing Day) and Alice Merida Richards (on Each Time We Pass).

Radiant, immersive and teeming with light, but still heavy and forceful - the music on Microshift acts as a very deliberate counter to some of the difficult topics the album's lyrics address. Death, disease, heartbreak, body image and even natural disaster are all present here but the overall effect these songs achieve is euphoric catharsis.

The album was written and recorded in full following a complete rebuild of the band’s Suburban Home Studio after the River Aire floods in Leeds in the winter of 2015 which devastated the studio. The band had an incredible response to a GoFundMe campaign and the subsequent help of volunteers over several months to rebuild the studio from nothing is a huge part of the band’s continued existence. Striving through the toughness, it is perhaps no surprise that the record is one of both defiance and darkness. “All of our records are to an extent about mental health,” comments MJ. “Largely this is an album about loss but also about maturing, accepting your flaws and the transience of intimacy”.

Hookworms are MJ, MB, JW, JN & EO.


STAFF COMMENTS

Darryl says: A brilliantly dynamic mix of psychedelic guitars, determined vocal swathes and soaring cosmic synth swells. As fascinating and direct an outing as The Hum, but refined through a good few years of working on their sound. Superb.

TRACK LISTING

Negative Space
Static Resistance
Ullswater
The Soft Season
Opener
Each Time We Pass
Boxing Day
Reunion
Shortcomings

'The Hum' comes eighteen months after the band’s debut album Pearl Mystic – a record that steadily went on to become one of 2013′s most impactful breakout statements. Even more ferocious and uncompromising than its predecessor and yet more melodic and focused than the band have ever recorded, The Hum further cements the band’s status as a vital force in British independent music.

'The Hum' takes the blueprint of 'Pearl Mystic' – proto-punk, garage rock, Washington DC hardcore, 80’s British spacerock – and further stamps it with the band’s seal. Leaner, meaner and more propulsive thanks to the muscular playing of new drummer JN, the record boasts both the most straight-up punk song the band have written to date in eviscerating opener ‘The Impasse’ (“we wanted it to sound like Suicide if they had a full band”, explains MJ) and moments of patient, widescreen beauty only hinted at previously.

“We were writing Pearl Mystic to an audience in the same way your diary has an audience”, says guitarist SS. “It’s written to one but if no one ever reads it that’s not a big deal. This time round though we knew we had a really clear audience, so The Hum is really about different freedoms and constraints – with Pearl Mystic the possibilities were almost too vast, this time around we had a much clearer idea of what the record should be like and that became freeing because we didn’t need to worry about its direction so much.”

That word “free” is a good way to approach The Hum, a record that could only be made by a band in total command of their personality. “It’s like that bit on Fugazi’s Instrument documentary where Brendan Canty says that a jam they’ve got sounds ‘good, but not Fugazi’ ”, says MJ – “we sound more like Hookworms rather than anyone else on this record.”

STAFF COMMENTS

Martin says: Hookworms formed around a love of DC hardcore and an appreciation for the psychedelic things in life, blending these influences to mutually beneficial effect, marrying the colour and exoticism of psych-rock to the directness and energy of punk, robbing the former of a tendency to pretention and the latter of a tendency to being formulaic. Following 'Pearl Mystic' was never going to be an easy task, but our cross-Pennine cousins have been more than equal to the challenge; with 'The Hum' they have added depth, variety and texture to their power, without losing an atom of potency. There are drone-wash interludes for sure (“iv”,”v’, “vi”), there is buoyant, riotous pop (“Tokyo Radio”), but all the while, lurking predator-like behind the edgy dreaming and MB’s patient, repetitive bass, vocalist MJ’s demons are waiting to explode screaming into life, careering the vehicle vehemently, euphorically upward.

TRACK LISTING

1. The Impasse
2. On Leaving
3. Iv
4. Radio Tokyo
5. Beginners
6. V
7. Off Screen
8. Vi
9. Retreat

For a while now Leeds five-piece Hookworms have been terrorising headlining bands across northern England and beyond, not through histrionics or gimmick, but through sheer sonic velocity and emotive intent. Often bracketed among the latest wave of psychedelic rock currently appearing in pockets around the UK (as support slots with Wooden Shjips, Sun Araw and Peaking Lights attest), this tag is somewhat of a misnomer for a band whose use of repetition and reverb is not to open the third dimension or for some sort of flower-power escapism. Instead the reel feels cathartic, each fresh revolution of the loop a confrontation between the band and themes of depression, loss and anger - subjects close to the heart of the group’s vocalist MJ (“no enigma; we just don’t use our full names, we’ve no interest in being celebrities.”)

‘Pearl Mystic’ was recorded and produced in MJ’s own Suburban Studios – where he’s worked on records for Mazes, Eagulls and Spectrals among others – and he admits he enjoyed the greater freedom he could allow himself on his own project. The album is an absolutely thunderous statement of intent for Hookworms (MJ – vox/keys/analogues; JW – guitarist, SS – guitarist; MB – bass; JN – drums) after a portentous couple of years of live shows and limited releases (a debut self-titled EP on Sun Araw’s Sun Ark label, a 7” Gringo Records all sold out quickly). Whilst their live shows continued to increase in intensity, with impressive festival appearances at Beacons, Liverpool PsychFest and Supersonic cementing their reputation treading the boards. Live and on record, like Spaceman 3, they pointedly subvert the tripped out sound environments of psychedelia with a darkly malevolent punk menace; unlike J.Spaceman et al, there’s no chemical assistance, these concepts and feelings come with clarity, and hit all the harder for it.

Indeed, the most impressive thing about Hookworms is that, through this torrent of emotion, through their wild motorik and their thick slabs of noise that threaten to spill over, there’s always the sense that they’re in control of it all, so committed are they to this catharsis that they refuse to throw any of it to chance. And so they shouldn’t, because even at this early stage we think Pearl Mystic will be one of the albums of 2013.

STAFF COMMENTS

Darryl says: Having built up a large following with their famously intense live sets, supporting and indeed blowing off stage many of the psych glitterati, Hookworms, a five-piece from Leeds who prefer to be known by initials only, bring us their debut full-length. Throughout the album’s nine tracks the ferocity of their live gigs has been superbly replicated with a self-production that keeps the sound just on the right side of raw. The album kicks into life with singer MJ’s rousing echo-blitzed scream of “Come On” on album opener “Away / Towards”, and the band respond with a sonic velocity that’ll have your nasal hairs quivering. What follows highlights the dark malevolent menace at the heart of ‘Pearl Mystic’: distorted wah-wah guitars clash with huge swirling organ noise and barely intelligible echo-swamped vocals, all propelled along by a wicked motorik groove. Akin to Spacemen 3 or Loop in their pomp, this is one of the best UK psych / space rock albums in years.

TRACK LISTING

1. Away / Towards
2. Form & Function
3. I
4. In Our Time
5. Since We Have Changed
6. Preservation
7. Ii
8. What We Talk About
9. Iii


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