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TOUGH LOVE

The Reds, Pinks & Purples

Still Clouds At Noon

    Recorded as part of the same daydreaming puzzle as Unwishing Well, Still Clouds at Noon brings out the slowcore/sadcore elements that drift through The Reds, Pinks & Purples’ melancholy catalogue. Donaldson names '90s hometown San Francisco acts such as American Music Club and the more obscure Timco as pivotal to his guitar playing and development as a songwriter, both of which shine bright here. The slower tempo ballads on Still Clouds… often culminate in heavy fuzz drenched codas and showcase the more abstract poetic side of Donaldson’s lyricism. There’s an inherent pop-sensibility always at work though, with ear-worm melodies appearing over intoxicating circular riffs.

    Formerly a Bandcamp only digital release, this white vinyl version is remastered and adds two unreleased tracks, one featuring Mark Monnone from Australian pop-legends The Lucksmiths on bass. Edition of 500.

    TRACK LISTING

    1. All Night
    2. Happiness All Around
    3. Violent Pictures
    4. The Future's Just More Of The Same
    5. Walking-Away World
    6. Still Clouds At Noon
    7. Everything You Ever Loved
    8. Walk Through Any Wall
    9. The House They Went Past
    10. Writing Songs

    Ryan Davis And The Roadhouse Band

    Dancing On The Edge

      "At the frayed bottom-edge of Indiana – just a moderate bike ride north of Louisville, Kentucky – multi-instrumentalist, artist and songwriter Ryan Davis’’ Americana-noir soundwaves have been emanating for years in a myriad of forms. As driving force for the lauded State Champion, long-running member of Tropical Trash, administrator of the esoteric and excellent Cropped Out festival, and lone proprietor of the Sophomore Lounge label, Davis lays down his first proper ‘solo’ release with Dancing On The Edge, a rich, 2LP tapestry of tunes that absolutely glows over seven expansive cuts. It’s a pure collage of modernity and heritage.

      After a period of introspection spent re-immersing himself in his drawing & painting practice, as well as his newfound delvings into instrumental music, Davis’ sea change was imminent. “I wasn't sure I would ever make another record of ‘song’ songs,” he says, “but last year I started writing again and it eventually took the shape of the record at hand. I worked painstakingly hard on the material. It felt virtually impossible to complete for a bulk of the time I spent trying to enter into it, but the process pulled me out of a strange place. I was eventually able to live inside of the songs enough to understand the world within them – to ultimately help shape them into what I understood them to be.” Indeed, there’s a load of inspiration captured in the grooves with Ryan’s unfiltered, folk-traditioned approach to poetic twists-of-tongue meeting head on with sublime instrumentation.

      TRACK LISTING

      1. Free From The Guillotine (08:22)
      2. Learn 2 Re-Luv (06:03)
      3. Flashes Of Orange (09:56)
      4. Bluebirds In A Fight (07:07)
      5. Junk Drawer Heart (06:25)
      6. A Suitable Exit (09:20)
      7. Bluebirds Revisited (03:57)

      The Reds, Pinks And Purples

      Unwishing Well

        RIYL: The Field Mice, Blue Boy, The Clientele, Cindy.

        The cinema of the scenes as told from the heart and spirit of the omniscient narrator shines through the awe-inspiring oeuvre of Glenn Donaldson's canonical titan that is The Reds, Pinks & Purples. The storied and esoteric histories of every underserved underdog becomes immortalized in records and poignantly penned paeans that evoke the eras and underachievers that became synonymous with their own respective corresponding localized micro-movements. Donaldson channels that psychic spirit and journeyman earned wisdom to provide contemporary era rock operas that eulogize tales of infinitely influential rises and falls. Crystalizing the tragic self-celebrating kingdoms of fortunate failures, false heroes, music press deities of limitless deceit, hometown dive gods and humanity in the grips of all its romanticized wonder and woe — the latest sortie of the sensational and spectacular takes aim at the threads of hope and an untethered abandon into the intimacy and dualities of idolatry and isolation with Unwishing Well.

        Ever since its emergence from the harried late 2010s — The Reds, Pinks & Purples have become the absolute encapsulation of Donaldson's own proliferation and prestige. From a musical legacy that chronicles a long list of minor successes and major tragedies; Glenn distills the timelines of distinction from yesterday, today, tomorrow and whatever may be into a musical phenomenon that embodies something more than all of its analogous inspirations. Beyond the clamor about the retro cult pop artistic allusions and tropes that can be found in those spirit expanding kaleidoscope chord chimes; Donaldson takes you on a guided tour through the San Francisco underground movements that would have been, could have been or perhaps never were at all from the start. The Reds, Pinks & Purples’ coveted catalog inadvertently, consciously or unconsciously, offers an authorized and anonymous history of imperfect and ambitious debutantes, dilettantes, auteurs, et al. The lauded visionaries whose volition informed the big money touring stage headliners, but only enjoyed a fleeting jaunt through the glorious corporate clad carnival canopies from the touring circuit routes and tech funded festival tent tabernacles. Unwishing Well is a eulogy for the buzz bands that crashed, the wily one hit wizards, and omnipresent (and often uninspired) eternal aesthetes who work the lucrative outlets of licensing media markets.

        Glenn pulls no punches with the promiscuity of the pop machines and their exploited propped up brand ambassadors on the cutting "Your Worst Song is Your Greatest Hit" that tangles with the lumbering and inescapable creatives and careerist trajectories that trade in boardroom playbooks and verticals. Expressions and influencers break out into the collective commissaries of commerce exhibitionism on “Public Art”, to auditing the forums of fandom that pertain to developed affinities and the roads to rabid infatuation with the obsessive in earnest, “Learning to Love a Band”.

        And while the Glenn spins many yarns on the under-appreciated secret histories of DIY, Unwishing Well offers cathartic hymns of modern malaise. Sighing in lamentation of regressive trends, “What’s Going on with Ordinary People'' balks with concern over contemporary states of devolution, while “Faith in Daydreaming Youth” questions what vestiges of hope and valor can be found in the new vanguards of political bodies that govern the world’s sovereign daydream nations. The dustbins of dastardly discontinuity are imbued with desire and grief on the dramatist tragedy of “Dead Stars in Your Eyes”, to basking in the discarded ditches of the damned below in voids of obscurity on “Nothing Between the Lines at All”. The human addiction to languishing in anguish, misery and negativity tussles, tosses and turns on “We Only Hear the Bad Things People Say”, the penultimate ode to inherent human infallibility as Donaldson rides the audience out into the gilded sunset glow of “Goodbye Bobby”.

        The central set piece of Unwishing Well revolves around the title track that wrestles with wellness and wishes tempered by the sobering reality of ultra pragmatic skepticism. Donaldson shows the audience where the dream falls short, an indictment on the fickleness of wants and the life/work/art balances of making it all work. It's the group that never makes it, the idea that never gets off the ground, the recognition that never arrives, the raise that is never awarded, nor the promotion to the next ladder rung that remains laughably inaccessible. Glenn has the gift of bridging the divide between the hunger artist, their adoring cult public and the common threads that connect these local and global communities through the humanist cause of collective commiseration.

        As increasingly found in the continued adventures of The Reds, Pinks and Purples canon — Glenn circles the drain of surrendering to unabashed sentimentality in passions worthy of being showcased as the top headlining spot that your favorite revered then later reviled pop act never even had the chance to claim or ascend. Unwishing Well uplifts and uproots the undercurrents that carry the commonalities between the spectators and the spectacles. Donaldson pays homage in heart to everything and everyone that never got their due or to the lucky ones that made the grade, but paid an ultimate price. The cycle of these pop vignettes depict successes and failures in the same sentences, existing within the same stanzas, where the stories of making it and breaking it operate as events that live on different sides of the same coin. Unwishing Well is a reflection of us, the icons we adore, the Adonises we worship, the false prophets that proselytize the edicts from theses cults of personality, the fallouts, the third acts and the artistic fabrics that spool these sub-sects of artful dodgers into the stuff of legend.

        STAFF COMMENTS

        Barry says: There are obvious comparisons to be made here with the jangling, morose indie of the late 80's and 90's but the resulting sound on The Red Pinks & Purples' new album is both hugely modern, while breezily embracing the lo-fi jangle and airy melodicism of the era. 'Unwishing Well' is a perfect distillation of both Donaldson's established sound and the musical influences he absorbs, and results in an absorbing and emotional listen.

        TRACK LISTING

        1. What’s Going On With Ordinary People
        2. Learning To Love A Band
        3. Unwishing Well
        4. Faith In Daydreaming Youth
        5. Your Worst Song Is Your Greatest Hit
        6. Dead Stars In Your Eyes
        7. Nothing Between The Lines At All
        8. Public Art
        9. We Only Hear The Bad Things People Say
        10. Goodbye Bobby

        Astrel K

        The Foreign Department

          RIYL: Stereolab, High Llamas, Deserter’s Songs era Mercury Rev, Death of A Ladies Man.

          The Foreign Department is the second album by Astrel K, the solo project helmed by Stockholm-based British ex-pat, Rhys Edwards. Those already familiar with Edwards’ work will likely know him for fronting the cultishly great Ulrika Spacek, and given he operates as the principal songwriter in both projects, much of the same hallmarks of his cathartic, elliptical songwriting are present in Astrel K. Nonetheless, The Foreign Department feels like a rubicon moment of sorts, and the album that Edwards has unconsciously been working towards his entire creative life.

          As a title, The Foreign Department offers an instructive guide for the listener, framing a life-in-transition/artist-in-exile document that maps two impromptu moves in twelve months for its songwriter: the first from London in pursuit of a relationship, the second between homes in Stockholm as that decade long relationship then suddenly dissolved. Indeed, diffusion, dissolution and reconstitution feel like appropriate touchstones for its recurring themes. Written amidst the flux of two states, at once isolated from home and then any established emotional anchor, the resulting eleven tracks came to represent a precognitive search for shifting identity and with it forming an unwittingly biographical record. It's commendable and somewhat telling that during this shake up, Edwards somehow landed upon his most realised and original work.

          With a former life stripped away, there emerged an opportunity to reinvent a sense of self through art, now not just as a writer, but a composer also. Developing the confidence to arrange songs in ways he'd previously considered off-limits, while also taking cues from the opulent string and brass arrangements of records like Mercury Rev's Deserters' Songs and Death of A Ladies Man by Leonard Cohen, Edwards enlisted a range of performers to bring to life the mini-symphonies forming in his head. Perhaps it's inevitable that an album written while facing the consequences of being alone would eventually ossify around the process of bringing people together.

          For all its troubled origins, The Foreign Department is a remarkably warm sounding collection. Edwards' lyrics are typically knotty and neurotic, dancing around the poetry of quarter-life anxiety, but the music itself is often joyous and even uplifting, the combination expressing that neat duality of melancholic euphoria. Edwards sings variously of crises, "torrid pieces of art", of "houses on fire" and not "having the guts for it", yet these troubling sentiments are framed by seemingly incongruous swelling strings, chirping horns or motorik percussion, creating that sense of pushing forward or floating above, of wrapping your troubles in dreams, a salve for the moments when you get a bit too much for yourself.

          Lead single, 'Darkness At Noon', likely captures this all best. Named for the French idiom "midi a quatorze heures", the maddening idea of attempting the impossible for the sake of some greater possibly pointless cause, it directly grapples with the opposing notions of wanting and not wanting, of being here and being there at the same time. The conflicting and impossible self. It’s something Edwards addresses in the song at perhaps his most open, opining, “I know I want to be seen, but I hate most of what comes out of me”. And yet here is, putting it all out in the open and on the line, the dialectics of his enlightenment up on show.

          TRACK LISTING

          Heavy Is The Head
          Darkness At Noon
          By Depol
          Brighter Spells
          Firma
          Birds In Vacant Lots
          The Foreign Department
          C Ya!
          A Rudderless Ship
          Daffodil
          R U A Literal Child?

          William Doyle

          Springs Eternal

            Serving up art-pop for the anthropocene, Springs Eternal is the Mercury-nominated, critically acclaimed artist William Doyle’s most ambitious and most playful creation to date. Taking a panoramic view of the ecstasies and agonies of life in the 2020s, the record asks how we exist as fragile flesh and blood – our hearts beating and our minds racing – in an unprecedented, almost unimaginable time of runaway climate destruction and technological expansion.

            Springs Eternal presents a strange and thrilling cast of characters – from cowboys to castaways – who just might be Doyle, once or twice removed. “Most of the songs are in the first-person, but rather than being autobiographical, I was trying to imagine hyperreality versions of myself,” Doyle says. “What if decisions I made in my life had resulted in the self of each particular song? How many degrees of separation am I from those realities? It’s a frightening thought, and frightening thoughts often make for good songs.”

            Across 11 tracks, we hear from narrators teetering on the precipice of global disaster, heartbreak, addiction, indoctrination and mental illness, until they pass into the great unknown. The lyrics, by turns earnest and ironic, upfront and allegorical, are paired with infectious melodies and often outright swagger. Co-produced by indie superproducer Mike Lindsay (Tunng, LUMP) at his MESS studio in Margate, we hear the siren song of the sea washing around pulsating electronics and stirring instrumentation, featuring contributions from musicians Alexander Painter, Genevieve Dawson and Brian Eno.

            A recurring theme of water and flooding runs through the record, alluding simultaneously to the global climate crisis and the deluge of overwhelm these parallel-universe Williams are experiencing. “It wasn’t until we were mixing the record that I realised how many water references there are,” Doyle says. “I guess there’s a fluid border between our inner selves and the outside world that allows things to flood in, in unstoppable or perhaps irresistible ways.”

            Springs Eternal is the next chapter in the William Doyle sonic odyssey that began with his incarnation as East India Youth (Total Strife Forever, 2014; Culture of Volume, 2015) and developed under his own name, producing the critically acclaimed records Your Wilderness Revisited (2019) and Great Spans of Muddy Time (2021). Alongside his own output, Doyle recently produced Anna B Savage’s celebrated debut album A Common Turn (2021) and plays in Orlando Weeks’ band both live and on his upcoming record.

            TRACK LISTING

            Garden Of The Morning
            Now In Motion
            Relentless Melt
            Soft To The Touch
            Eternal Spring
            Cannot Unsee
            Castawayed
            Surrender Yourself
            A Short Illness
            A Long Life
            Because Of A Dream

            The Umbrellas

            Fairweather Friend

              RIYL: Orange Juice, Sarah Records, early Creation, Mary Chain, C86, Lush.

              The Umbrellas are four renegade romantics crafting irresistible indie pop hymns. The band’s self-titled 2021 debut album became a breakout moment, winning critical praise and sparking an international tour. Follow-up LP ‘Fairweather Friend’ goes a step further – absorbing the sonic attack of their live shows, it balances this with studio finesse, allowing the San Francisco four-piece to become the band they’ve always aspired to be.

              It's a record overflowing with highlights. The candyfloss melodies of introductory track ‘Three Cheers!’ are matched to an impactful percussive punch; ‘Say What You Mean’ finds The Umbrellas working with total confidence, letting the song ride out to its chiming conclusion, four voices working in precision. ‘When You Find Out’ offers rotating notes of guitar punctuated by a vocal that pushes past angst to accept a world full of hope. A lean 10 track affair, it grasps towards beatific pop while fuelled by a sense of risk, and the precision that comes from long months on the road.

              The Umbrellas coalesced around a group of musicians who would frequent legendary San Francisco record emporium Amoeba Music. Singer and guitarist Matt Ferrera links with bassist Nick Oka, while Keith Frerichs is the powerhouse drummer. A chance encounter with Morgan Stanley singing karaoke at a Fourth of July party cemented the line-up around an avowed thirst for melody. “All of us love really earnest pop songs,” Nick points out. “I guess we got to a point in our lives where we wanted to be genuine.”

              Playing shows at San Francisco’s vital DIY redoubt Hit Gallery, The Umbrellas would share line-ups with local heroes such as April Magazine and Cindy. Recording their debut album across a two-day spell at Matt’s parents’ house, the results won a devoted cult following. Yet the experience of touring bonded them tightly and allowed the volume to tick up a little higher, and higher, and higher. “I think we got tired of people saying, oh you’re so much louder than I thought you’d be!” laughs Matt. “Our early recordings are sweet and earnest… and we wanted it to be louder.”

              Kicking off sessions in November 2022, the band used an ad hoc space Matt created in his basement, working across a four-month period. Sessions were a little more relaxed in terms of timescale than their debut, but The Umbrellas were incredibly focussed on the project. “We gave ourselves more space for this album,” says Keith. “We wanted time to sit on the songs, and really work on them.”

              Allowing their live dynamic to bleed out on tape, The Umbrellas are at once more physical and yet also more controlled on their new album. Take opening track ‘Three Cheers!’ – the peppy, sun-soaked rush masks a barbed lyric, courtesy of Nick Oka. “It’s a pseudo-political song about power struggles that occur in a job situation, or a friend group. It’s an observational song.”

              ‘Toe The Line’ has an unkempt, rollicking sense of energy, the playful relationship analogy of the lyric pushed to the speed of light by Keith’s ultra-fast punk drumming. ‘When You Find Out’ meanwhile epitomises their unified, egalitarian way of making music – with The Umbrellas, each voice counts. “It sounds different from any song we’ve ever written together,” says Morgan. “It shows how much we’ve grown. Trust helps us to build the songs. It’s definitely a team effort.”

              It's also a record of ambition. ‘Say What You Mean’ stretches past the four-minute mark, the viola performance informed by Estonian minimalist composer Arvo Pärt. ‘Gone’ was the first song attempted for the new album, and the last they actually finished, endless re-writes transforming it into a manifesto of control and release. Taken as a whole ‘Fairweather Friend’ is a bold indie pop triumph, crafted with purpose and attention. Taking their time over each note, the four-piece have strengthened their songwriting, adding depth and assurance while unlocking their potential. Some bonds last a lifetime – The Umbrellas are ready to capture your heart.

              TRACK LISTING

              Three Cheers
              Goodbye
              Toe The Line
              Echoes
              Say What You Mean
              Games
              Gone
              When You Find Out
              Blue
              PM

              Empty Country

              Empty Country II

                RIYL: Silver Jews, Pixies, Husker Du, Wilco, Pavement, Superchunk, Modest Mouse.

                As the front person of celebrated indie band Cymbals Eat Guitars, guitarist and singer Joseph D’Agostino spent over a decade setting autobiographical, emotionally vivid lyrics against a backdrop of soaring and compositionally ambitious rock. After four critically acclaimed LPs that solidified D’Agostino’s reputation as a gifted songwriter, he chose to break from his long-term band and debut a new project: Empty Country. On 2020’s self-titled debut, D’Agostino’s storytelling lens shifted away from personal narrative and toward fiction; psychopaths, apparitions and deplorables populated a bleak and uncanny parallel version of American dystopia. Empty Country’s sprawling and sonically adventurous arrangements—filled out by collaborating musicians including Rachel and Zoë Browne (Field Mouse), Kyle Gillbride (Swearin’), Zena Kay (Angel Olsen), and former CEG drummer Charlotte Anne Dole—ranged from luminous jangle-pop to scorching emo-punk to narcotized Americana. Though the pandemic curtailed planned touring, a seven-piece iteration of the band played one packed Brooklyn show in May 2022, supported by Charles Bissell (The Wrens) and Field Mouse; Empty Country also backed Bissell on several classics from The Meadowlands. “It was a wonderful return to live music for all of us,” says D’Agostino. “So many folks reached out to me and told me how Empty Country offered them comfort during those first several months of being stuck inside. I’m happy that it came out and connected with some people and that I was able to establish this universe I could continue to build on.”

                Empty Country II, the project’s second full-length, is a thrilling expansion of that world. D’Agostino pushed himself to new places as a songwriter, crafting a collection of short stories set to music that grapple with the biggest questions now hanging over America—gun violence, the addiction epidemic, and generational hopelessness among them. In 2020, he’d moved from Philadelphia to small-town New England to be closer to family, and his new locale, coupled with the dread of lockdown, inspired him to return to the haunted world from the first LP. “It’s pretty jarring to leave a city—where you can safely assume you’re aligned with your neighbors on many political and social issues—for somewhere more rural and conservative,” says D’Agostino, noting the Trump flags and Blue Lives Matter hood wraps that dot his new dirt road residence. Across the new album’s nine tracks, D’Agostino introduces us to a bevy of characters: three generations of West Virginia clairvoyants, crushed by the weight of their secret knowledge; a group of drag queens and misfits in early ‘80s New York City; a pill mill doctor’s daughter who dabbles in necromancy; a convicted killer; a bullied kid injured and alone in the forest as night falls. Through the stories of these characters, Empty Country II delivers an engaging and deeply moving rumination on time, family, and the disintegration of America.

                Despite the stoicism of its storytelling, Empty Country II cuts the darkness with beauty, humor, and an earnest belief in the transcendent power of rock music. It was recorded over two weeks at Fidelitorium, the renowned studio in Kernersville, NC, belonging to R.E.M. producer Mitch Easter. Legendary recording engineer John Agnello, whose previous collaborations with Cymbals Eat Guitars resulted in their 2014 high-water mark, LOSE, brought his trademark clarity and nuance to the process, helping Empty Country II crackle with a vital energy that imbues these stories with genuine lifeforce. Dole returned on drums for the record, her virtuosic performances lending raw power and immediacy; her twin brother Patrick joined on bass, his decades of experience uplifting the songs with subtle melodicism and formidable technicality. The group's chemistry and deep personal history are palpable, allowing them to approach the record’s complex story with subtlety and dynamism. “Mitch has collected an astounding array of weird mics, amplifiers, and oddball orchestral instruments: organs, Buddhist temple bells, bar chimes, tubular bells,” enthuses D’Agostino about the studio. “FLA,” a gripping portrait of a queer tour boat pilot in the Florida Keys pining for their absent lover, was arranged from the ground so the group could incorporate Easter’s timpani. D’Agostino considers it a high point of his lengthy discography and lauds that song’s harmonica solo as “my favorite 30 seconds of music that I’ve ever been a part of.”

                Empty Country II also features some of D’Agostino’s most danceable songs—like “David,” a tribute to D’Agostino’s late friend David Berman. Featuring a lyrical tapestry of Silver Jews references and surreally beautiful images, head-nodding Philly soul grooves collapse into cosmic freeform jazz-inspired sections, ornamented with inventive hand percussion, marimba flourishes, and toe-tapping piano chords. “Recite a poem as the day vibrates,” D’Agostino sings. “I finally wrote this song for you / But I don’t know who I’d show it to.” It’s a paraphrase of W.S. Merwin’s famed short poem “Elegy”, written after the passing of his own mentor, John Berryman. On “Bootsie,” a runaway girl from West Virginia explores the crumbling, glorious 1980s New York City of Paris is Burning, finding community in a scene of drag queens who offer her a new way of thinking about what makes America—and rock music—great. Based on his own mother’s experiences at the height of the AIDS epidemic, the song has deep personal meaning to D’Agostino. “The men you thought were brave / are arrogant and depraved,” he sings against the damaged disco beats of the Dole siblings’ rhythm section. Inverting the chorus of the Talking Heads’ “Heaven,” the lyrics of “Bootsie” celebrate the underdogs and misfits: “Hell is the place where everything happens / The band’s playing all the songs ever written at once / Shape the chaos, make your little story / Baby, this life’s perfect purgatory.”

                Though Empty Country II is a record about the forces that drive Americans apart, it’s also imbued with empathic love and an understanding of what binds people to family and country—in spite of the darknesses we encounter. The concept of a Great American Rock Album might scan as outdated in 2023, but with this sprawling and uncompromising epic, D’Agostino and Empty Country shatter ambivalence and confront the horrors with a community-minded sense of cautious optimism. “We may be staring into an abyss,” says D’Agostino. “But we’re all staring together.”

                TRACK LISTING

                1. Pearl
                2. Erlking
                3. David
                4. Dustine
                5. Syd
                6. Bootsie
                7. FLA
                8. Lamb
                9. Cool S

                Index For Working Musik

                Indexe'e

                  RIYL: the Dead C, Birchville Cat Motel, Skullflower, heat exhaustion, feeling of confusion and self-recrimination et al. …aka A Bunker Intimation Vol. 1. And what have they built down there? A remodel in 40 minutes at half-time, the group temporarily slimmed and tuned to a different gait, a shifting of pulses, delay, moving air; the sound of the room and the body, of the body in the room; a room fogged as emphysemic lungs where indistinct translucent ooze lines its walls, possibly of paranormal origin, possibly of nocturnal transgression alone. The reality - as it ought - is occluded from view. Not necessarily the IFWM unit you might assume, but most certainly one of the many versions they've always been. And not so much a new beginning as an alternative diversion through the abyss. Indexe'e: aka Index For Working Musik. Onwards, inwards.

                  TRACK LISTING

                  1. Church Normal
                  2. Half Leib II
                  3. W1 Sprokla
                  4. Frucht Keller

                  Current Affairs

                  Off The Tongue

                    To call Current Affairs a Glasgow band may initially seem misdirection. Though Joan Sweeney (ex-Rose McDowall’s Band, Aggi Doom, The Royal We) is a lifer, Sebastian Ymai (Comidillo Tapes, Pissy, Anxiety) came from Chile via York, recently relocating to Berlin in 2021, and new member Gemma Fleet (The Wharves, Order of the Toad, Dancer) alongside Andrew Milk (Shopping, Pink Pound) were persuaded to leave London for the ‘second city’ after touring through with previous bands. However, Glasgow is the heart and hub of the band’s music, musical life and the place where Off the Tongue was solidified and produced.

                    Their current line up formed in 2020, but the four have been circling each other for years, touring and playing with their previous bands within the close UK network of DIY music. Stalwarts of their respective scenes they finally began working together through the creation of the Spitehouse collective – a project designed to promote Queer and female-fronted music through events mainly held at Transmission Gallery and Glasgow Autonomous Space, putting on many local and international acts (Sneaks, Sacred Paws, Still House Plants and Comfort amongst others). When an opening for a new bassist arrived, Gemma was the obvious compliment, the slogan of Spitehouse being the language of Current Affairs – “Everyone’s welcome, but don’t get it twisted.”

                    Following on from 2019’s singles collection, Object & Subject, the wait for their debut full-length may belie the urgency of its sound. Songs that were written in pieces over a long time and distance, but fully formed in the instant of the recording room across just a few days by producer Ross McGowan at Chime Studio. Current Affairs’ song-writing process has always been collaborative. Songs are developed responsively, with each of the band’s members sending/bringing elements or hooks to each other, but practices being the place where the songs flesh out, structure and are fully realised. These new songs feel a little brighter than their previous offerings, yet still hold true to their propulsive and caterwauling sound. Still embryonic in the most exciting way that that can be. Current Affairs’ music straddles new-wave pop and gothic post-punk in the way that you should expect a Glasgow-Berlin band to do so: with grit and panache.

                    Written from within the world of crumbling services, broken bonds and wounded spirits, Off the Tongue rolls off an ecstatic rage, filled with hope for you, them and everyone else. It’s a rallying cry away from hopelessness, forgiving your fears and laying them to waste. Their album holds a place for you to be angry and to be focussed. In lieu of having anything else, we’ve always got each other, and an uncertain future is open game for us too.

                    TRACK LISTING

                    1. No Fuss
                    2. Reactor
                    3. Right Time
                    4. Riled
                    5. Get Wrecked
                    6. Regardless
                    7. Cahoots
                    8. Casual Radicals
                    9. Big Limit
                    10. Her Own Private Multiverse

                    Autobahn

                    Ecstasy Of Ruin

                      Reports of their demise have been greatly exaggerated - the North has risen again. Close to five years since their last record, Leeds denizens AUTOBAHN re-enter the fray with the release of their third record, Ecstasy of Ruin via Tough Love. Half a decade is both a long time and no time at all: forever changes while some things remain eternal… So it goes that AUTOBAHN may have re-emerged with many of the hallmarks of their characteristic blend of industrial post-punk intact, but under the bonnet they’re a much leaner, more focused machine. AUTOBAHN 3.0.

                      If 2017’s The Moral Crossing was a record defined by its dramatic rhythm section, then it’s not insignificant that the 2023 incarnation of AUTOBAHN arrives shaved to a four piece and sans their previous drummer. The change necessitates an evolution. Live drums have given way to drum-machines and sample-based percussion, and with it see the band reconfigure their typically blackened aesthetic into a hardened take on Electronic Body Music. As with their previous record, it’s an entirely self-produced collection, recorded between two self-built studios on a range of analogue equipment, the ghosts of their industrial forefathers haunting the circuits. Indeed, some of Ecstasy of Ruin was made with pieces salvaged from Martin Hannett’s legendary studio. The mark of their presence is clear and AUTOBAHN certainly feel part of the long tradition of crepuscular music to emanate from Northern Britain, be that the transgressive activities of COUM Transmissions from Hull, Sheffield Steel City or the gothic history of their very own hometown. It’s a noble torch they carry.

                      Still, if Ecstasy of Ruin forms part of a rich lineage, it also speaks to right now. No album opens with a song titled ‘Post-History’ and closes with another called ‘Class War’ without some concession to the current condition and its place within it. Industrial music by its very nature is a physical concern, often placing the human body and its experience in the context of technology, reflecting the varying trevails of late capitalism. AUTOBAHN strive towards some kind of articulation of that conflict. The music is unrelentingly taut and terse, and the vocals of frontman Craig Johnson are invariably intense, though lyrically there are repeated allusions to beauty, empowerment and, ostensibly, hope. As such, the title of the album is an instructive one - there’s some kind of bliss in all this mess. AUTOBAHN don’t so much push against the pain as ride it out to its (il)logical ends. As Johnson implores on the title track, “focus on living, the pain wont be forgotten”. It’s a relatable sentiment. 

                      TRACK LISTING

                      1. Post-history
                      2. Silver
                      3. Acid Child
                      4. Fields Of Blood
                      5. Tension
                      6. Cylinder
                      7. Ecstasy Of Ruin
                      8. Breather
                      9. Vanity
                      10. Class War

                      Cindy

                      Why Not Now

                        RIYL: Sarah Records, Galaxie 500, Algebra Suicide, Mazzy Star, early Low.

                        “Everyone’s hoping that nobody sees/all our little efforts at dignity”

                        This last line of the title track from Cindy’s fourth LP Why Not Now? works as a slogan for Karina Gill's evolving musical vision. Her music is simple out of necessity and introverted in delivery, but the songs contain vivid worlds and are quietly ambitious. With this latest batch, Gill pulled the process of making Cindy music even more inward. “Some of these songs were first recorded as demos alone in my basement. I think that process set the tone for the record…Maybe it set up a kind of starkness,” she says.

                        Moving on from the fixed quartet that performed the first three albums, Gill worked alongside original keyboardist Aaron Diko to develop the songs and they enlisted players from the ever-blossoming SF pop scene to realise her minimalist vision -- members of Flowertown, Telephone Numbers, April Magazine, Famous Mammals, and Sad Eyed Beatniks to name a few. The collective sounds fill out the record perfectly with John Cale-esque viola on ‘August’, lo-fi fairground organs, and a tasteful full-band sound that crops up throughout. ‘A Trumpet on a Hillside’ is the most triumphant Cindy has ever sounded, all ascending chords and a wedding march melody tumbling out of an old synth. Still, some of the best moments are Gill alone, as on ‘Playboy’, just naked guitar and voice, and when the forlorn whistling solo kicks in, it feels like the loneliest star is imploding in a distant galaxy.

                        While the dream-pop tag is probably still relevant, this isn’t algorithm-fed genre ambience. Gill’s vocal/lyrical presence can be as gently momentous as Leonard Cohen or as intellectually potent as any ’79-’80 Rough Trade post-punk. “In writing a song”, Gill says, ”all the disparate parts of being me momentarily correspond, like car alarms and party music momentarily matching beats.” Cindy’s Why Not Now? is that muffled street symphony inside a passing daydream.

                        STAFF COMMENTS

                        Martin says: In possibly their most stark, minimalistic statement to date, Cindy present 'Why Not Now?'. Swimming with slow psychedelic guitar and haunting echoic vocals, it's both heartfelt and deep while not eschewing the keen sense of melody they've become known for.

                        TRACK LISTING

                        1. Why Not Now (02:33)
                        2. Standard Candle #3 (03:02)
                        3. Earthly Belonging (01:27)
                        4. August (02:48)
                        5. Wednesday (02:13)
                        6. A Trumpet On The Hillside (04:19)
                        7. The Price Is Right (02:54)
                        8. Playboy (03:26)
                        9. Et Surtout (01:55)
                        10. Standard Candle #4 (01:49)

                        Cindy

                        Cindy - 2023 Reissue

                          Cindy don't do many things loudly, but their seemingly sudden emergence a few years back was quite the jolt, their Free Advice LP doing for the current San Fran scene what the Big Supermarket record did for Melbourne a year or two back - ie a totemic outta-nowhere DIY statement of rare vision. As it turns out, though, it's not quite without precedent, since there was actually a self-released debut record from 2018, first pressed in tiny number and initially not moving much further than their immediate locale. A few years on and now trading for inflated prices on the second hand market, Tough Love are re-issuing in order to shine a little light on the band's first steps. These ten tracks display the ruminative formation of the minimal indiepop sound perfected on Free Advice, skeletons of the same ideas with a little less flesh on dem bones, nonetheless struck with a naive wonder, like you're afforded the opportunity to hear the band stumbling upon their own charms in real time. And that is 100% the appropriate word here - charm, a quality perfectly captured in that front cover, too. It's not possible to overstate how endearing this music is, so independent is it of outside influence and free of self-consciousness. Is this the birth of the new Paisley Underground? Or maybe something better... 

                          TRACK LISTING

                          1. Way Over Here (for Ellsworth Kelly RIP)
                          2. Book In Heaven
                          3. Love Triangle
                          4. Move To LA
                          5. Caller 103
                          6. Don't Try
                          7. Brighton Beach
                          8. Yours Alone
                          9. Animal Past (for Agnes Martin RIP)
                          10. Friday Night 

                          The Reds, Pinks And Purples

                          The Town That Cursed Your Name

                            RIYL: Sarah Records, Even As We Speak, The Field Mice, Blue Boy, The Clientele, early Belle & Sebastian.

                            It’s ok to play out of time.

                            Music toys with time. Or, maybe songs reflect back that time is always toying with us. The world of a song takes hold of us like an eternity to be lost in, with its repetitions and variations, but ultimately, as with everything else, it has a start and then ends. And there’s no place to lose time like San Francisco, where there are no seasons and all the seasons occur within one day; where the fog takes the space where your plans might have been; where there’s insane wealth all around and everyone you know and love is hanging on at the periphery and making art on any given Tuesday night. About Glenn Donaldson’s new record, The Town That Cursed Your Name, he says, “I realized as I was piecing it together that it's a song cycle about trying to live while also feeling called to make music”. It’s a double life when it works and a deeper doubleness to mirror the Gemini nature of songs themselves. The Town That Cursed Your Name contemplates this problem with wryness, generosity, and the micro- and macroscopic realness Donaldson is known and loved for.

                            Whereas the 2022 collection Summer at Land’s End was a softer, gauzier world, The Town That Cursed Your Name is heavier, with fuzzed lines running through. 'Leave It All Behind' starts out with an amorphous whine but quickly launches into something both supremely melodic and buzzing at the edges. 'Here Comes the Lunar Hand' is an impressionist geometry that seems to capture the album’s themes without telling you how. Lyrically, Donaldson embraces the earnestness of his heroes Paul Westerberg and Grant McLennan. Sonically, late '80s college rock is filtered through song-forward lo-fi acts like East River Pipe and House of Tomorrow-era Magnetic Fields. Like the images that accompany his releases – flowers and residential street scenes are pushed to the breaking point with colour – Donaldson’s songs are at the same time dazzling and lurid, beautiful and burdened, not unlike life as a musician around here.

                            In the liner notes, Donaldson dedicates the record “to everyone who ever tried to start a band in the Bay". There will be many knowing smiles at his title, 'It’s Too Late For An Early Grave'. But, this dedication captures something else about the particular strain of sincerity that laces the city water supply – the front man around here is on stage under those lights evincing the fervor not of the pop star but of the biggest fan.

                            - Karina Gill.

                            TRACK LISTING

                            1. Too Late For An Early Grave
                            2. Leave It All Behind
                            3. Life In The Void
                            4. Here Comes The Lunar Hand
                            5. Burning Sunflowers
                            6. Waiting On A Ghost To Haunt You
                            7. What Is A Friend?
                            8. Mistakes (Too Many To Name)
                            9. Almost Changed
                            10. The Town That Cursed Your Name
                            11. I Still Owe You Everything
                            12. Break Up The Band

                            Ulrika Spacek

                            Compact Trauma

                              RIYL: Mercury Rev, Sonic Youth, My Bloody Valentine, Radiohead, Deerhunter, Atlas Sound, Stereolab.

                              Close to five years on from their last transmission, Ulrika Spacek resurface from self-imposed exile with their third album, Compact Trauma, a collection of songs that function as a chance treatise of sorts for our current collective condition. With a title like that arriving at this point in time, it’s tempting to interpret the record solely in the context of the global events of the past few years, but the roots of these ten songs arc back much further in time, charged with their own personalised internal damage.

                              Mid 2018, approaching exhaustion and feeling increasingly fragile from the stresses of itinerant road life, the five-piece of Rhys Edwards, Rhys Williams, Joseph Stone, Syd Kemp and Callum Brown began work in earnest on the follow up to their second album, Modern English Decoration. Released less than a year earlier and having promoted it constantly in the months that followed, now might have represented a fine moment for the band to take a breath. Yet Ulrika Spacek were not familiar with the concept of slowing down, conditioned by a strong work ethnic and the demands of capricious touring cycles that necessitated more content and at speed. Moving too fast, it was difficult to avoid the hazards up ahead.

                              The band’s previous albums had both been recorded in KEN, a studio and rehearsal space in Homerton that also doubled as their shared home. As writing for album three began, KEN suddenly became another victim to the indiscriminate violence of gentrification, rendering the project both hub- and homeless. Writing and recording at KEN was then abruptly shifted to a professional studio in Hackney, only the second time they had worked in such conditions, and tensions and logistical difficulties soon became apparent. The enforced switch to an unfamiliar locale would have been discomforting enough, but when allied with the fractures already beginning to splinter through the band, made for an especially frazzled experience. Somehow, a record began to emerge piecemeal from the gloom, though it was one obviously infected with its circumstances.

                              Trauma, in its myriad forms, is often hard to qualify, even harder to rationalise. When something begins to go wrong, how do you gain perspective? What is a temporary roadblock, and what is unmitigated disaster? In its first phase of life, Compact Trauma was a document of a band striving to perfect an idea while the universe around them seemed to want to shut down. And then, at an impasse of sorts and with a record halfway complete, it suddenly did. If Ulrika Spacek were a band in need of the breaks applying, it was the force of a global pandemic that made it happen. As the world stood still, Compact Trauma was filed away, unfinished and unheard by the wider world, possibly to remain that way forever. And yet, there was to be a second act. If mutability is our tragedy, it's also our hope, clearer days slowly began to emerge as the bad slipped away. The wound, as the saying goes, is the place where the light enters you.

                              The prolonged break enforced by myriad lockdowns may have separated the group but it also afforded the five time to reflect on what had already been committed to tape.. As the lights came back on and the shutters up, they found themselves drawn back towards Compact Trauma. What they rediscovered was a record that seemed to preempt the shared grief of a global pandemic. Even if the specifics were different, the themes were uncannily similar. Addressing existential freak out, displacement, substance reliance and encroaching self-doubt, these highly personalised songs suddenly took on a wider significance, speaking in part to a bigger narrative.

                              Opening track, ‘The Sheer Drop’, begins with the line “Homerton is caving in”; ‘It Will Come Sometime’ describes a “liver like a lightbulb and swelling”; and Lounge Angst (an almost perfect description of those maddening lockdown days indoors) laments, ‘seems my friends grew up or left’. The fear and panic is palpable. The lyrics are matched to a soundtrack that oscillates between the febrile and the off-kilter, unconventional song structures and knotty arrangements either spinning the listener in unexpected directions or offering some kind of cathartic release. Take, as example, the aforementioned opener, ‘The Sheer Drop’. A wire-taut exercise in tension-and-release rendered in three parts, a whimsical synth opening giving way to characteristic chiming guitars before a nail biting coda sets its controls for the heart of the sun or the end of the world, whichever comes first. Either way, it’s a hell of a way to reintroduce yourself after a five year absence. ‘If The Wheels Are Coming Off, The Wheels Are Coming Off’ is equally instructive, a lacerating exposition of self-doubt that bursts into ecstatic release at its climax, demanding repeat listens, while ‘Stuck At The Door’ is an 11-minute Pacific North West-style epic that threatens, ‘the worst of it’s to come’. But it’s the title track that might be the true heartbeat of the record. Either addressing itself or some unknown assailant, it begins by demanding that they “take your hands and your head off the table”, while spiralling around a breathless riff fueled by an infectious anxious energy, before changing tact completely and shifting to a lullaby-like finale, concluding with the ominous thought, “compact trauma? Or full blown disaster? I'll be back in an hour (Or so i think)”. It’s a fitting encapsulation of a highly complex record. They could have left it alone, but in coming back to what they knew, Ulrika Spacek found their best work yet.


                              STAFF COMMENTS

                              Barry says: Six full years it's been since the brilliant 'Modern English Decoration' and 'Compact Trauma' very much sounds like an album that's been meticulously crafted throughout, despite the troubling circumstances surrounding it's genesis. Both resplendent with moments of clever production and beautifully realised performances, it's also swimming with the sort of fractured haze and lo-fi grit we've come to know and love. A perfect return.

                              TRACK LISTING

                              1. The Sheer Drop
                              2. Accidental Momentary Blur
                              3. It Will Come Sometime
                              4. Lounge Angst
                              5. Diskbänksrealism
                              6. Through France With Snow
                              7. If The Wheels Are Coming Off, The Wheels Are Coming Off
                              8. Compact Trauma
                              9. Stuck At The Door
                              10. No Design

                              Index For Working Musik

                              Dragging The Needlework For The Kids At Uphole

                                Unbeknownst to its members, Index For Working Musik was born on an evening in late 2019 amidst the discovery of a collection of faded b&w photocopies that had been marinating on the floor of a urine-alley in the Gothic Quarter of Barcelona. An assortment of sacred and profane imagery were crumpled amongst an essay on early Christian hermits, entitled Men Possessed by God, the meaning of which was enticingly vague. Received together, they planted the seeds for a new endeavour. Though Max Oscarnold and Nathalia Bruno were already engaged in a creative ping-pong of sorts, the results to this point had only totaled a 30 min long ½ inch tape containing one track and four interludes. They needed a page and they needed ink, and they needed a place and it needed energy. Suddenly by chance or divine intervention, their experimental venture had been given form and direction.

                                Back home in London’s cursed smog, they moved themselves and their 8-track studio into a basement in E8, where the project’s gravitational pull gained strength, quickly developing into an unexpected collective with the incorporation of drummer Bobby Voltaire, double bass player E. Smith and guitarist J. Loftus. As the world shifted around them and the Plague Years followed, it became increasingly clear that they were not going to leave that small basement room. The scarcity of light or outer world presence was less a limitation, instead the main tool at hand, allowing the recording to stretch for boundaryless days in architectural isolation, and forcing them to make straight forward free guitar music, adopting a ‘first thought, best thought’ approach.

                                The result of this period became a collection of music they were to name Dragging the Needlework for the Kids at Uphole, to be released via Tough Love on 17th February. 35 minutes of repeat phrased guitars, slow-clipped drums and dulcet vocals where the recurring landscape is the desert. Reel-to reel-loops of Afghan music compete with the found sound overlays of voices recorded at the queue of the pharmacy and drum machines borrowed from Spanish heroes, channelling both far-off climes and snippets from a closer reality. It’s a strange psychic brew, built of imagined mysticism and domestic realities, of fever dreams and days that stretched into weeks of months.

                                What was sparked by that discovery in the Gothic Quarter was actually a realisation that what they were looking for was with them all the while, buried as it was in piles of voice memos and recorded guitar feedback. Men Possessed By God they may be not: it was self-possession that was to guide their way in the end.

                                “Life, despite all its destructive changes, remains indestructibly powerful and joyful.”

                                TRACK LISTING

                                1. Wagner (04:54)
                                2. Railroad Bulls (02:54)
                                3. Athletes Of Exile (02:!4
                                4. Narco Myths (0:22)
                                5. Ambiguous Fauna (02:44)
                                6. Isis Beatles (03:52)
                                7. Palangana (03:09)
                                8. 1871 (02:41)
                                9. Chains (03:18)
                                10. Petit Committee (02:27)
                                11. Habanita (04:15)

                                Peel Dream Magazine

                                Pad

                                  With his third album as Peel Dream Magazine, Joseph Stevens beckons you toward a fabulist, zig-zag world entirely of his own design. On ‘Pad’, he eschews the fuzzy glories of his indie pop past – vibraphone trembles while chamber strings take center stage. The curtains lift to reveal banjo. Chimes. Farfisa. And as he lets out a moan atop the album’s title track, it becomes clear that this is no ordinary performance. A conceptual work about losing oneself when all they have is themself, ‘Pad’ gestures towards an exciting new future for Stevens’ pop moniker by reimagining its own very existence.

                                  The follow-up to 2020’s breakthrough album ‘Agitprop Alterna’, ‘Pad’ presents a major sonic evolution for the 34 year old songwriter, who moved to Los Angeles amid the cataclysm that same year. Seventies era drum machines and synthesizers remain here, but he’s traded his buzzing offset guitar for a nylon-string, opting for a gentle baroque pop sound steeped in Bossa, folk, and its own eerie mysticism. Alongside mid century touchstones like Burt Bacharach, Stevens draws on the cultishly-beloved tinkerings of late-1960s Beach Boys, offering a surreal melange of vintage organs and found percussion, as well as Harry Nilsson’s 1970 song tapestry ‘The Point!’.

                                  And similar to ‘The Point!’, ‘Pad’ is a conceptual work reflecting on isolation and identity. The album tells a bedtime story in which Stevens’ bandmates kick him out of Peel Dream Magazine – banished and now without purpose, he sets out on a journey to rejoin the band. Misadventures ensue, such as when he joins a cult on “Self Actualization Center”, featuring friend and oft collaborator Winter. But this is also music that’s purely pleasurable in its own context, as our protagonist explores the boundaries of easy-listening with discordant textures, and bleeps and bloops that tickle. Songs like “Pictionary” chime delicately with sinister intent, evoking a palette that is outright Mod. ‘Pad’ also recalls the space age bachelor stylings of Stereolab and The High Llamas, with an occult twist that borrows from Tropicalia legends Os Mutantes.

                                  There’s an unmoored frivolity to ‘Pad’, standing in stark contrast to the severe, droning motorik of Steven’s previous albums. Overwhelmed by the political upheaval of the day, he reimagines what Van Dyke Parks once referred to as musical counter-counterculturalism, blurring the line between blithe escapism and pointed subversion. “I felt like there was no other way for me to authentically react to what was happening than to make this record”. The album also draws on library music from the same era to similar effect, conjuring the likes of Basil Kirchin and Pierro Piccioni, as well as Stevens’ newfound arranging skills, honed composing advertisement scores as a day job.

                                  While ‘Pad’ sounds beautiful, there’s a certain darkness to it as well. Stevens is addressing our general ambivalence toward the future of everything we know, informed partly by his time in New York at the onset of the pandemic. On “Hiding Out”, he laments: Wander past the Vernon Mall, and up to Queensboro Bridge. Made to feel I’m two feet small, but that’s no way to live. Ultimately, Stevens is embracing a first-thought-best-thought approach, leaning into the fantastical elements of his own life story. ‘Pad’ is as archetypal as it is strange, blurring the very lines that it asks to be defined by. Art imitates life, but life imitates art too – and the results can sometimes be unpredictable.


                                  TRACK LISTING

                                  Not In The Band
                                  Pad
                                  Pictionary
                                  Wanting And Waiting
                                  Self-Actualisation Centre
                                  Walk Around The Block
                                  Hamlet
                                  Penelope’s Suitors
                                  Hiding Out
                                  Jennifer Hindsight
                                  Reiki
                                  La Sol
                                  Message The Manager
                                  Roll In The Hay
                                  Back In The Band

                                  William Doyle

                                  The Dream Derealised - 2022 Reissue

                                    It’s nearing a decade since William Doyle released his Mercury Music Prize nominated debut album, Total Strife Forever, as East India Youth in 2014. A year later, he had toured the world and was releasing his second album, Culture of Volume, but it would be another four years before Doyle returned with his third full album, and the first official release under his own name. The dizzyingly ambitious Your Wilderness Revisited arrived in 2019 and was followed last year by the artpop masterpiece, Great Spans of Muddy Time.

                                    In the years between leaving the old project behind and re-emerging under his own name, Doyle self-released a string of ambient-leaning albums, The Dream Derealised, Lightnesses Vol I & II and Near Future Residence, which are now to receive a first vinyl pressing via Tough Love as both a highly limited four LP box set, titled ‘Slowly Arranged: 2016-19’, and as separate albums.

                                    The Dream Derealised is a collection of nine abstract, lo-fi pieces that were recorded during the summer of 2016, when focusing on creating them helped guide Doyle through a “difficult period of anxiety, panic and a regular dissociative feeling called derealisation.” At the time, doing something creative in a quick and immediate fashion felt vital to Doyle, carrying him to a new place: “I’m releasing them now as a cathartic measure, and as a message for others who may be going through difficult times themselves. What I told myself at the time, what I can tell you now: You are not in danger. You are not going insane. You are not alone.”


                                    TRACK LISTING

                                    1. Seeing Spectral
                                    2. Everything Tilted
                                    3. Flexford Looping
                                    4. A Silence Of Vision
                                    5. Derealisation LKX
                                    6. I No Longer Knew What To Do
                                    7. Field Open Wide
                                    8. Don’t Get Carried Away
                                    9. All To Be Footnotes 

                                    William Doyle

                                    Lightnesses I & II - 2022 Reissue

                                      It’s nearing a decade since William Doyle released his Mercury Music Prize nominated debut album, Total Strife Forever, as East India Youth in 2014. A year later, he had toured the world and was releasing his second album, Culture of Volume, but it would be another four years before Doyle returned with his third full album, and the first official release under his own name. The dizzyingly ambitious Your Wilderness Revisited arrived in 2019 and was followed last year by the artpop masterpiece, Great Spans of Muddy Time.

                                      In the years between leaving the old project behind and re-emerging under his own name, Doyle self-released a string of ambient-leaning albums, The Dream Derealised, Lightnesses Vol I & II and Near Future Residence, which are now to receive a first vinyl pressing via Tough Love as both a highly limited four LP box set, titled ‘Slowly Arranged: 2016-19’, and as separate albums.

                                      Lightnesses Vol. I & II sees Doyle create what we might understand as true ambient music – that is, music intended for the background that wasn’t composed as such, but allowed to blossom out of the setting of some rules and parameters, played by sounds he created and then resampled. The deceptively simple, droning pieces are unlike anything Doyle has made before or since. “During their creation I’d often take photographs of the light coming in through the windows of the two houses I lived in during their creation. I’d post these on social media and they became quite popular parts of my output. This music was intended to accompany those visuals. The first volume’s photo is a double exposure of the sun shining in on my notebook and my hand, whereas the photo for the second volume was taken in Joshua Tree Park, California as I saw our tail lights illuminate one of the trees.”

                                      TRACK LISTING

                                      Disc 1)
                                      1. Aisles Of White
                                      2. Number Of Harmony,
                                      Disc 2)
                                      3. History Of Change
                                      4. Winter Of Fullness

                                      William Doyle

                                      Near Future Residence - 2022 Reissue

                                        It’s nearing a decade since William Doyle released his Mercury Music Prize nominated debut album, Total Strife Forever, as East India Youth in 2014. A year later, he had toured the world and was releasing his second album, Culture of Volume, but it would be another four years before Doyle returned with his third full album, and the first official release under his own name. The dizzyingly ambitious Your Wilderness Revisited arrived in 2019 and was followed last year by the artpop masterpiece, Great Spans of Muddy Time.

                                        In the years between leaving the old project behind and re-emerging under his own name, Doyle self-released a string of ambient-leaning albums, The Dream Derealised, Lightnesses Vol I & II and Near Future Residence, which are now to receive a first vinyl pressing via Tough Love as both a highly limited four LP box set, titled ‘Slowly Arranged: 2016-19’, and as separate albums.

                                        Near Future Residence is music for an imagined place based on real ideas; the soundtrack for an ecologically sustainable housing development somewhere in a not-too-distant future Britain. The eleven instrumental pieces here come from a place of optimism, imagining a future that is based on cooperation, community and ecological urbanism. It's music intended to sit in this imagined environment rather than impose upon it, similar in principle to the function of Kankyō Ongaku (Japanese environmental music). The ideas contained on Near Future Residence laid the groundwork for - and can be seen as a companion piece to - the album Your Wilderness Revisited, released to critical acclaim in 2019. Doyle explains how the pieces “were composed in entirely generative ways using samples of instruments, synthesisers and field recordings I've collected and developed throughout 2018. In generative composition, rules are set and parameters are chosen and then put into motion, the results constantly changing and surprising.”

                                        TRACK LISTING

                                        1. Flexford Forest Community Choir
                                        2. Cadence Gardens, 2026
                                        3. Sightings At Tangmere Close
                                        4. Music For The 3rd Floor Atrium
                                        5. Rose Building Improv Group
                                        6. Next Door’s Granular Band Practice
                                        7. Hocombe Astral Projection Society (Abridged)
                                        8. New European Optimism
                                        9. Derwenthorpe Rainwater Harvest
                                        10. Municipal Harmonics
                                        11. Near Future Residence

                                        Vacant Gardens

                                        Obscene

                                          Vacant Gardens is Glenn Donaldson (of The Reds, Pinks and Purples and a hundred others) and Jem Fanvu, collaborating on music and with the latter responsible for vocals and lyrics. The project began with the idea of combining heavy fuzz and slow-mo drum machine beats with Fanvu's gentle almost trad-folk style vocals. Almost all of Donaldson's otherworldly sounds are achieved through layers of guitar fuzz and copious delay, while Fanvu offers an ideal counterpoint, taking the listener on a celestial melancholy trip with her opaque poetry and melodies.

                                          So inspired were the duo by this blend of styles, they immediately recorded at least two albums of material, Under the Bloom and Obscene, released in quick succession in 2020 and 2021 in swiftly-disappearing micro editions on the secretive Tall Texan label. With those records close-to-impossible to find at an affordable price, Tough Love are now reissuing both LPs on May 20th, alongside a 7" containing two previously unheard songs recorded at the same time as the albums. The albums are pressed in editions of 500, and the 7" 300, and all on transparent vinyl.

                                          TRACK LISTING

                                          1. World Inside The Ocean
                                          2. Obscene
                                          3. Whorl
                                          4. Crimson Crush
                                          5. Three Herons
                                          6. Loose
                                          7. As Horses
                                          8. Untombed

                                          Vacant Gardens

                                          Field Of Vines / He Moves Through

                                            Vacant Gardens is Glenn Donaldson (of The Reds, Pinks and Purples and a hundred others) and Jem Fanvu, collaborating on music and with the latter responsible for vocals and lyrics. The project began with the idea of combining heavy fuzz and slow-mo drum machine beats with Fanvu's gentle almost trad-folk style vocals. Almost all of Donaldson's otherworldly sounds are achieved through layers of guitar fuzz and copious delay, while Fanvu offers an ideal counterpoint, taking the listener on a celestial melancholy trip with her opaque poetry and melodies.

                                            So inspired were the duo by this blend of styles, they immediately recorded at least two albums of material, Under the Bloom and Obscene, released in quick succession in 2020 and 2021 in swiftly-disappearing micro editions on the secretive Tall Texan label. With those records close-to-impossible to find at an affordable price, Tough Love are now reissuing both LPs on May 20th, alongside a 7" containing two previously unheard songs recorded at the same time as the albums. The albums are pressed in editions of 500, and the 7" 300, and all on transparent vinyl.

                                            White Flowers

                                            Are You

                                              RIYL: Beach House, Cocteau Twins, Cigarettes After Sex, Slowdive

                                              Isolated from any kind of music scene and enveloped by the cold Brutalism of Preston, White Flowers are a young, enigmatic band developing their own eccentricities away from the influence of big cities. New EP ‘Are You’ is a sonic and aesthetic collage drawing deeply from their environmental and social surroundings. The songs on the EP may at first seem delicate and beautiful, but closer listening reveals dark undertones and dry humour fuelled by the frustration of feeling trapped with no way out. Driven by this sense of claustrophobia, the duo have sought to create a form of escapism outside of their physical and geographical limitations.

                                              Recorded late 2021 between Preston and Bristol, ‘Are You’ weaves together a mixture of intuitive home recordings and refined studio production aided by producer Ali Chant (PJ Harvey, Portishead, Perfume Genius). The four songs on the EP are an intentional collection of contrasts and paradoxes - beauty and repulsion, calmness and mania, anxiety and stasis - all combined to form a balanced whole.

                                              Whilst influenced in part by the writings of the late Mark Fisher and his idea that we are haunted by futures that failed to happen, that what might have been may yet be the dream that saves us, White Flowers have also found inspiration in the Brutalist architecture that adorns their hometown - futuristic yet dated buildings that serve as an appropriate visual metaphor for Fisher’s theories. Bleakly imposing yet comfortingly familiar, the monochromatic starkness of these structures has fed into the imagery for the record, as well as the sounds found within. Not intending to wallow in cynicism, however, White Flowers’ art ultimately aims to provide a way out of these dystopian fever dreams and spiralling thoughts into a forward facing place.

                                              TRACK LISTING

                                              1. Are You
                                              2. Foreground
                                              3. This Is Not
                                              4. Singular

                                              The Stroppies

                                              Levity

                                                RIYL: Guided by Voices, Pavement, The Clean, XTC, Flying Nun

                                                The title of The Stroppies' newest LP, Levity, serves as a creative statement of intent and an acknowledgment of the dichotomy between the music they have made and the conditions in which they were produced. For a group that started over an initial idea to "create open ended music, quickly and haphazardly”, the logistical challenges of creating their second album in the midst of a pandemic, in a city that endured the longest lockdown in the world, created a need to redefine process.

                                                Levity, The Stroppies strongest creative statement to date, is the result of this new approach to creative process. Playful yet focused, but broader in scope and experimentation than previous efforts, the ten songs that comprise Levity continue the band's exploration of the pop song as both foil for experimentation and conduit for personal reflection.

                                                Whereas the group's debut LP Whoosh! demonstrated their ability to craft clean, concise jangle pop, Levity takes a different route by utilizing a darker pallet of sounds to create its impressionistic whole. Fuzz and distortion are employed to add weight to songs built on tape loops and Motorik drum patterns. Warbling synthesisers and modulated keys add new moods and dimensions to The Stroppies unique brand of pop classicism. Thematically, the band continues their exploration of the personal refracted through the lens of the absurd, though this time around the music feels a few shades darker, a somewhat inevitable consequence of the collective trauma of the past 24 months. The songs still hit with the immediacy that made their debut so engaging, but there’s a creeping cynicism and wistfulness that now permeates The Stroppies sound.

                                                While the narrative around the 'lockdown record' is increasingly commonplace, there are unavoidable realities involved in making creative decisions under such circumstances that can't be overlooked, especially for a band that thrives on collaboration. "The restrictions around COVID really informed the way we made the record', says Angus Lord, the band's co-founder and guitarist. "It meant that there was a lot less opportunity to meet and build ideas collaboratively, which is how we’ve worked in the past. Instead, ideas were developed in isolation, then shared digitally, developing slowly over correspondence and only bearing fruit when we were able to be in a room together. I think this had a big effect on the songwriting and execution.” This process even extended to the studio, where The Stroppies found a kindred spirit in John Lee of Phaedra Studios, who mixed the record in isolation, somehow managing to synthesise the band's pop sensibilities with their penchant for studio experimentation. Furthermore, the addition of new member Zoe Monk, known for playing in a diverse array of Melbourne acts (Eggy, Thibault, The Opals) contributed both synthesiser experimentation and rock solid rhythm guitar, a huge addition to the band's developing sound, an infectious combination of the off-kilter 90s US underground, British artpunk ala Wire and a more than generous love of classic Pop songwriting.

                                                Reflecting on the making of the record, bassist and co-vocalist Claudia Serfaty understands their shift in approach, noting that, “the world feels strange and in turn making pop music feels even stranger. A healthy dose of levity had to be employed in order to find meaning in the process.” In spite of this light hearted attitude, The Stroppies have managed to craft a record of weight and substance.Through Levity the Stroppies have, at least temporarily, found their feet amongst the chaos..

                                                TRACK LISTING

                                                1. The Perfect Crime (04:40)
                                                2. Smilers Strange Politely (02:49)
                                                3. Material Condition (05:24)
                                                4. Butchering The Punchline (02:07)
                                                5. Up To My Elbows (03:28)
                                                6. I’m In The Water (03:51)
                                                7. Tricks On Everything (02:33)
                                                8. Caveats (03:06)
                                                9. Figure Eights (02:57)
                                                10. The Bell (02:08)

                                                Star Party

                                                Meadow Flower

                                                  RIYL: Jesus and Mary Chain, Shop Assistants, Black Tambourine, Sarah Records, My Bloody Valentine. Star Party began in March 2020 as a Seattle living room project between Carolyn Brennan and Ian Corrigan (Gen Pop, Vexx) - both sharing a love of high energy rock n roll music. The idea to start a band percolated during trips to the high deserts of eastern Washington to pick sage and see the sun as a brief reprieve from the misty and grey Pacific Northwestern Spring. A few months later, Star Party released Demo 2020 on Feel It Records, featuring two originals and covers of The Shop Assistants' "Something to Do" and the classic "All I Really Wanna Do" (in the vein of Cher's version).

                                                  Over the course of 2021, Star Party wrote and recorded their debut LP, Meadow Flower, wherever and whenever they could. Employing like-minded Feel It label mate Caufield Schnug of Sweeping Promises (who also moonlights as one part of Melody Men Mastering) to mix and master the album, Meadow Flower follows a direct line from where Demo 2020 left off. Brennan's soft and clearly American vocals float over waves of feedback and drum machine racket like a delicate mist sitting just above a mountain lake. Melodies bob and weave inside an omnipresent static that fills in every nook and cranny of the recording. Drawing from a quiver of influences such as Black Tambourine, Confuse (JP), The Count Five, and of course The Shop Assistants (RIP Alex Taylor), Star Party's debut album seamlessly meshes together noise, melody, and harmony. 

                                                  TRACK LISTING

                                                  1. You And Me
                                                  2. Living A Lie
                                                  3. Push You Aside
                                                  4. Meadow Flowers
                                                  5. Shot Down
                                                  6. Veil Of Gauze
                                                  7. No Excuse
                                                  8. A Trip Home

                                                  David West

                                                  Jolly In The Bush

                                                    RIYL: Felt, The Wake, The Servants, Sarah Records, Rat Columns, The Reds, Pinks and Purples. Jolly In The Bush is David West's fourth eponymous record, following Drop Out Of Collage (2014), Peace Or Love(2016) and Cherry On Willow (2017).

                                                    David is an underground pop musician from Perth, Western Australia and has been in numerous interesting and more-or-less obscure acts over the decades - some include Rat Columns, Rank/Xerox, Total Control, Lace Curtain, Liberation, Burning Sensation and Scythe. His solo works allow him free reign to follow various classic and sideways pop rainbows to their illogical conclusions. On Jolly In The Bush, he is graced by the angelic presence of stellar musicians, such as Louis Hooper from Rat Columns, Bob Jones from Eaters/P.E, Mikey Young from Total Control/Green Child/Eddy Current Suppression Ring, and Richard Ingham from Taco Leg/Mink Mussel Creek.

                                                    Jolly In The Bush is a homage to shaggy indie dorks, sub-tropical singer-songwriters, robotic melancholia and the pre-Cold War 'grown and sexy' aisle at the Marina Safeway. The first side of the record sees DW straddle the indie rock horse, indulging in lyrical detours into historical fiction (‘1816’), naughty words (‘The Poet Of My Dreams’) and mumbling (‘Sleeping Head’). 'Sleeping Head' features a startlingly egotistical self-sampling of David and compatriot Bob Jones' atmospheric electronics project, Scythe, and their tune of the same name. Idea glut, or deficit? DW and his team challenge the seemingly pervasive professional competence rife in today's indie rock world. 'Keep indie rock shambolic' seems to be a theme close to his heart. However, a disturbingly serious side emerges in the middle of the record with two minimal, acoustically-minded numbers, 'Not That Lonely Yet' and 'Letters From Home'; light in feel, depressing in subject matter.

                                                    A pleasing but perhaps formulaic shift in atmosphere guides us into Side B. Keyboards are deployed, synthesizers twinkle, beats hit us at a steady, head-nodding pace. 'Prove Your Love' sentimentally shimmies in the light bouncing off the marina's placid waters, 'You Must Be My Friend' is a downtempo electronic paean to illusions lost. 'You Saved My Life' sees our weary traveler finding fleeting succor in jazzy changes and a stranger's touch. Lest it all get too much, 'So We Ran Away' dusts off the glam boots worn on the Cherry On Willow LP but takes them down to a sub-basement chintz floor for a prancing romp through romantic insanity. Please, join us and become Jolly In The Bush! 

                                                    TRACK LISTING

                                                    Poet Of My Dreams
                                                    6am Style
                                                    1816
                                                    Sleeping Head
                                                    Not That Lonely Yet
                                                    Letters From Home
                                                    Prove Your Love
                                                    You Must Be My Friend
                                                    You Saved My Life
                                                    So We Ran Away

                                                    The Reds, Pinks And Purples

                                                    Summer At Land's End

                                                      Summer at Land’s End is not an interlude or tangent for The Reds, Pinks & Purples but rather a perfect fourth movement following the albums Anxiety Art, You Might Be Happy Someday, and Uncommon Weather. As with these self-recorded records (the primary work of songwriter Glenn Donaldson), the songs on Summer at Land’s End were crafted slowly and then drawn together to make a unified statement. But here, and more than before, Summer at Land’s End combines Donaldson’s rueful pop sensibility with a parallel musical universe, one composed of pictures, dreams, and feelings without words. Even if the underlying theme of this collection is one of conflict or unhappiness, the vision of the music presents an escape to a new world, always fading in and out of sight.

                                                      For listeners who may not be familiar with Donaldson’s corner of San Francisco––the Richmond district––or the current wave of hazy, melodic DIY pop groups performing in the city, Summer at Land’s End pulls in images and scenes that feel like a collision of the mundane and the sublime of this present landscape. But settings such as these are the backdrop for personal narratives, expressed as a struggle with love, with companionship and the conflicts of home. With this record, The Reds, Pinks & Purples give less focus to the vanities of a subculture and more to the challenge of connecting with someone, to the ordinary goals of being human and finding harmony with others.

                                                      This deliberate saturation in drama and ambiance, along with some of Donaldson’s best songwriting to date, is what gives Summer at Land’s End its special class in the project’s discography. Of the album’s cinematic mood, Donaldson refers to films like Summer of ‘42 and the influence of the classic 4AD catalogue of the 1990s. This style informs much of Donaldson’s prior and current ventures of course (The Ivytree, Vacant Gardens, and a dozen projects in between) but now The Reds, Pinks & Purples have taken the mantle, embracing this instinct for instrumental or dreamier modes of pop songwriting. It’s a pleasure to experience Summer at Land’s End, as this record finds a thrilling balance between songs and sounds, instruments and voices, and the ironic twin poles of art and life.

                                                      TRACK LISTING

                                                      1. Don’t Come Home Too Soon (03:12)
                                                      2. Let’s Pretend We’re Not In Love (03:06)
                                                      3. New Light (02:53)
                                                      4. My Soul Unburdened (02:21)
                                                      5. Summer At Land’s End (07:02)
                                                      6. Pour The Light In (04:10)
                                                      7. All Night We Move (02:42)
                                                      8. Tell Me What’s Real (03:05)
                                                      9. Upside Down In An Empty Room (03:15)
                                                      10. Dahlias And Rain (02:37)
                                                      11. I’d Rather Not Go Your Way (01:56)

                                                      DINKED EDITION:
                                                      Side A
                                                      Don’t Come Home Too Soon (03:12)
                                                      Let’s Pretend We’re Not In Love (03:06)
                                                      New Light (02:53)
                                                      My Soul Unburdened (02:21)
                                                      Summer At Land’s End (07:02)
                                                      Side B
                                                      Pour The Light In (04:10)
                                                      All Night We Move (02:42)
                                                      Tell Me What’s Real (03:05)
                                                      Upside Down In An Empty Room (03:15)
                                                      Dahlias And Rain (02:37)
                                                      I’d Rather Not Go Your Way (01:56)
                                                      Side C (DINKED EXCLUSIVE)
                                                      Never Said I Was Sorry Then (02:34)
                                                      Hummingbirds (03:19)
                                                      Holiday Cheer (02:56)
                                                      Randy, If You Were Here (02:34)
                                                      Public Fountains (02:37)
                                                      Side D (DINKED EXCLUSIVE)
                                                      Outer Avenues (02:37)
                                                      Sea Wall (02:43)
                                                      Mountain Lake Park (05:10)
                                                      Conservatory Of Flowers (03:19)
                                                      Like A Ghost Warmed Over (02:48)
                                                      Midday Sun (04:05)

                                                      Cindy

                                                      Free Advice - 2021 Reissue

                                                        Tough Love have partnered with West Coast imprint Mt St Mtn for the release of Free Advice, the instant slowcore/dreampop classic by San Fran four piece, Cindy. The full album is available to stream/download now, while a highly limited transparent vinyl pressing will be released on 20th November. Limited to just 250 copies, this pressing follows the long sold-out edition of 100 released earlier in the year and which was previously only available in the US.

                                                        Free Advice offers a somber-yet-uplifting take on sobered dream pop. Imagine if Galaxie 500’s On Fire didn’t have a guitar solo or if The Trinity Session was stripped of its folk & blues roots; it’s just pure mood. Like sitting in a half-empty movie theater that’s playing Alphaville or Wild Strawberries and watching patron’s heads briefly illuminated from the screen; Free Advice (and all of the Cindy output) transfers you to these momentary worlds.

                                                        Cindy is Karina Gill on guitar/vocals, Aaron Diko on synth/keys, Simon Phillips on Drums/Percussion, and Jesse Jackson on Bass/Keys + Simon and Jesse on backing vocals. The songs on Free Advice are these moments in mood: Phillips & Jackson’s rhythms create the foundation, while Diko’s keys rise and fall. Gill’s guitar rattles, vocals brood, and lyrics create these narratives that depict observers, not necessarily wronged rather, cautious and investigative of the world around them. 

                                                        TRACK LISTING

                                                        1 Discount Lawyer
                                                        2. Falcon Heavy
                                                        3. Seeing Double
                                                        4. Wrong Answer
                                                        5. Song 23
                                                        6. Fixed Idea
                                                        7. A Song In French
                                                        8. CSI: Creeptown
                                                        9. April Magazine
                                                        10. Free Advice
                                                        11. Lost On Me

                                                        Cindy

                                                        1:2

                                                          Cindy is a band built around the singing and guitar playing of Karina Gill. She became a musician only recently, having sat on the sidelines while ex-partners and friends made their stabs at it. Gill describes a chance encounter with an abandoned Squire Strat left in the basement by a previous tenant, “mummified in electrical tape with the remnants of a burrito on the head stock”, that led her to begin carefully strumming her way through simple chords and making her own songs. After one interesting self-released LP, still finding their footing, the band made the masterful and buzzed-about Free Advice, which went from a limited cassette on local SF label Paisley Shirt to vinyl pressings on Tough Love (UK) and Mt St Mtn (USA).

                                                          Cindy’s third LP arrives in quick succession, the quietly devastating 1:2. Jesse Jackson on bass, Simon Phillips on drums and Aaron Diko on keyboards weave the perfectly thin web behind Gill’s slow Velvety strums and murmured melodies. The rhythm section brings the crude flow, while the keys add subtle and surreal counterpoint to the withering world Gill depicts in her lyrics.

                                                          “Just as a mood is made by everything taking part in a pattern of association, so the songs tie together seemingly disparate things by the logic of mood,” Gill tries to explain. This isn’t dream-pop sunshine bliss; half-closed black drapes hang on the window where the narrator stares into the middle distance. “Sometimes you say you’re feeling small/You plan all day for your own funeral”, she intones in Party Store.

                                                          Gill has a way of halting her phrasing that makes it feel like her thoughts are gently tumbling into the abyss. It’s this unsettling quality mixed with the hazy atmosphere that makes Cindy’s new LP 100% addicting and the perfect antidote to comfort listening.


                                                          STAFF COMMENTS

                                                          Barry says: The tenderly hushed vocals and lo-fi bedroom pop on offer here has echoes of a more melodic Moldy Peaches, but swims with a clever off-kilter writing style, lending less of a punky lo-fi haze and more of a whimsical, airy breeze to the pieces. It's really quite simple, and swimming in beauty.

                                                          TRACK LISTING

                                                          1. The Common Era (2:04)
                                                          2. My Friend (3:09)
                                                          3. Party Store (2:15)
                                                          4. Song 36 (2:51)
                                                          5. Lost Dog (3:55)
                                                          6. To Be True (3:55)
                                                          7. They Say What I Mean (3:43)
                                                          8. 1:2 (3:01)
                                                          9. Sincere Sound (3:12)
                                                          10. Deer In Japan (4:37)

                                                          White Flowers

                                                          Day By Day

                                                            RIYL: Beach House, Cocteau Twins, Cigarettes After Sex, Slowdive.

                                                            For songwriting duo Joey Cobb and Katie Drew of White Flowers, one of the most exciting young bands in the UK right now, it was only on leaving London to return to their native Preston that the dark-hued dreampop of their debut album, Day By Day, began to crystalize.

                                                            "There’s something uniquely bleak about the North,” says Joey, speaking from the abandoned textile mill that White Flowers call home, “but in that bleakness there’s a certain beauty.”

                                                            The pair had left Preston for London to study at art college, and it was there that they first began to explore the nascent psych scene bubbling under in the few remaining arts-orientated spaces in the east of the city. It soon inspired them to begin work on music of their own.

                                                            “We didn’t want to be a psych band,” explains Katie, "but discovering that music gave us both energy and focus. We’ve spent so many years developing these songs, because I think it was important we waited until White Flowers became its own defined thing."

                                                            The pair found that by using equipment they barely understood, they produced their most innovative work. Beginning on GarageBand, they crafted loops that turned into songs, and by the time they’d worked out how to use it, they’d graduated to a drum machine.

                                                            Now very much in control, and with a clear and determined focus, the pair began producing music that, whilst leaning into the North’s post-punk past, possessed a vision and depth informed by their own post-industrial Preston experiences. Creating all of their artwork, visuals and overall aesthetic, they began building a world that stretched beyond the music alone – in an unusual circular fashion, this auteurist-like approach became a way of translating their environment and experiences into a form of escapism from the very place that inspired them.

                                                            “We’ve always taken care to control every aspect of the White Flowers ‘world’, and because we’ve developed this over time, it feels to us like there’s a separate realm for White Flowers music to exist in,” observes Joey. “More than anything, the isolation that a place like Preston provides means that what we do is very much its own, separate thing”.

                                                            That ‘thing’ is the sound of the North at night; the unglamorous North, caught in the hinterlands that divide the main cities, a monochrome psychedelia formed in Preston and the imposing Lancashire hills that envelop them. As if always waiting there for them, in returning to their roots, White Flowers found themselves.

                                                            Nonetheless, it was shortly before leaving London that another creative breakthrough occurred. While performing a small show as a support act, a fan in the audience, impressed by the wall of noise that would frequently extend for minutes at the end of tracks, suggested they work with a like-minded friend. Within weeks, the pair were recording at the Manchester studio of Jez Williams, erstwhile member of Doves.

                                                            Williams and Manchester immediately made sense, and it’s that industrial gothic that White Flowers were able to tap into as they built the album during on-off sessions across two years – sometimes leaving the studio for a couple of months to work on ideas, other times crafting the minutiae of details across all-night studio sessions.

                                                            The access to flexible studio time was telling, and the band were able to develop an aesthetic that, whilst indebted to the various sounds that defined their youth, also leaned heavily into Kevin Shields’ droning wall of noise guitars, the palimpsestic hauntology of early Burial, and the ghost box sampleadelia of Boards of Canada.

                                                            “We like the more alien sounds” explains Joey, “where the focus is on creating atmosphere.” This is perhaps most obvious on the album title track, one of the more sonically enticing tracks on the record with its pulsing drone and Portishead-esque rhythm, or even ‘Night Drive’, a live favourite that the pair take pride in building into a monstrous wall of sound.

                                                            ‘Daylight’ pushes forward with a prettiness matched by Katie’s oblique, near-glossolalia vocal. “We don’t like it when things are clean or overproduced” explains Katie, “and there’s something interesting in the instinctive nature of the first thing you sing, because you don’t really know what you’re singing until it comes out and it makes sense.” That psychographic-style process to writing informs a collection of songs that are at once both intuitive and fully-formed.

                                                            The oldest song on the record, ‘Help Me Help Myself’, bears witness to this approach. Perhaps their most direct and perfect ‘pop’ song to date, it suggests these songs were always there within, just waiting to be divined. "We’d just started using drum machines and there’s something of a naïve quality to it,” explains Katie, though its naivety has now been augmented by Jez Williams’ impossibly diaphanous production.

                                                            The constant upheaval of, well, everything has fed directly into Day By Day. “The songs on the album were written from when we were teenagers up to our early 20s, so it’s come of age in this weird apocalyptic time,” says Katie.

                                                            “Everything’s surrounded by uncertainty” notes Joey, "but it isn’t all doom and gloom, there are positives, rules are out the window and you can do what you want. There’s some hope in there.”

                                                            STAFF COMMENTS

                                                            Darryl says: A gorgeously plaintive mix of post-rock quiet/loud instrumentation, shimmering walls of sound and tender, delicate vocal accompaniment. A rich and sumptuous swell of talented songwriting and emotional delivery.

                                                            TRACK LISTING

                                                            1. Intro - (02:25)
                                                            2. Night Drive - (04:57)
                                                            3. Daylight - (03:45)
                                                            4. Stars - (03:35)
                                                            5. Tried To Call - (04:26)
                                                            6. Help Me Help Myself - (04:43)
                                                            7. Day By Day - (06:07)
                                                            8. Different Time, Different Place - (04:16)
                                                            9. Portra - (04:03)
                                                            10. Nightfall - (03:23)

                                                            A message from an old friend earlier this year: “I heard an album yesterday and thought: I bet Laura likes this”. It wasn’t a record I knew, but one look at the record’s sleeve and I was pretty sure he’d be right - It looked like an album I’d love! (We’ve all bought an album ‘cos we love the artwork right?) He was talking about this, the third LP in as many years from San Francisco resident Glen Donaldson. Self recorded and self produced, this collection of 13 succinct, super melodic, understated pop songs has a lovely warm, hazy feel to it. With song titles like “A Kick In The Face (That’s Life)” and “I Hope I Never Fall In Love” you can guess there’s a heavy dose of melancholy in the songwriting, but the gorgeous guitar jangles that chime through the low-fi haze lift the spirit, like the sun breaking through the clouds on a summer's day. 

                                                            TRACK LISTING

                                                            Don’t Ever Pray In The Church On My Street (02:46)
                                                            I Hope I Never Fall In Love (02:56)
                                                            The Biggest Fan (02:47)
                                                            Uncommon Weather (01:54)
                                                            A Kick In The Face (that’s Life) (02:01)
                                                            I Wouldn’t Die For Anyone (02:35)
                                                            I’m Sorry About Your Life (02:05)
                                                            The Record Player And The Damage Done (02:22)
                                                            Pictures Of The World (03:11)
                                                            Life At Parties (02:52)
                                                            Sing Red Roses For Me (03:54)
                                                            The Songs You Used To Write (02:49)
                                                            Sympathetic (03:11)

                                                            William Doyle

                                                            Great Spans Of Muddy Time

                                                              It’s nearly a decade since William Doyle handed a CD-R demo to the Quietus co-founder John Doran at a gig, who loved it so much he set up a label to release Doyle’s debut EP (as East India Youth). Doyle’s debut album, Total Strife Forever, followed in 2014, as did a nomination for the Mercury Music Prize. A year later, he was signed to XL, touring the world and about to release his second album – all by the age of 25.

                                                              After self-releasing four ambient and instrumental albums, Doyle’s third full-length record – and the first under his own name – Your Wilderness Revisited arrived to ecstatic reviews in 2019: Line of Best Fit described it as “a dazzlingly beautiful triumph of intention” and Metro declared it an album not only of the year, but “of the century”. Just over a year later, as he turns 30, Doyle is back with Great Spans of Muddy Time.

                                                              Born from accident but driven forward by instinct, Great Spans’ was built from the remnants of a catastrophic hard-drive failure. With his work saved only to cassette tape, Doyle was forced to accept the recordings as they were – a sharp departure from his process on Your Wilderness Revisited, which took four long years to craft toward perfection. “Instead of feeling a loss that I could no longer craft these pieces into flawless ‘Works of Art’, I felt intensely liberated that they had been set free from my ceaseless tinkering,” Doyle says.

                                                              “The album this turned out to be – and that I’ve wanted to make for ages – is a kind of Englishman-gone-mad, scrambling around the verdancy of the country’s pastures looking for some sense,” says Doyle. “It has its seeds in Robert Wyatt, early Eno, Robyn Hitchcock, and Syd Barrett.” Doyle credits Bowie’s ever-influential Berlin trilogy, but also highlights a much less expected muse: Monty Don, presenter of the BBC programme Gardeners’ World, Doyle’s lockdown addiction.

                                                              “I became obsessed with Monty Don. I like his manner and there's something about him I relate to. He once described periods of depression in his life as consisting of ‘nothing but great spans of muddy time’. When I read that quote I knew it would be the title of this record,” Doyle says. “Something about the sludgy mulch of the album’s darker moments, and its feel of perpetual autumnal evening, seemed to fit so well with those words. I would also be lying if I said it didn’t chime with my mental health experiences as well.”

                                                              Great Spans of Muddy Time is a beautiful ode to the power of accident, instinct and intuition. The result, however, is far from an anomaly: this celebration of the imperfect album is one that required years of honed craft and dedicated focus to achieve. “For the first time in my career, the distance between what I hear and what the listener hears is paper-thin,” Doyle says. “Perhaps therein reveals a deeper truth that the perfectionist brain can often dissolve.”


                                                              STAFF COMMENTS

                                                              Barry says: There has been a significant stylistic change in Doyle's output since his early material as East India Youth, and every single note oozes with the intellectual construction and well placed melodic sensibilities that will ensure his place in the musical landscape for years to come. 'Great Spans...' is a wonderfully rich and fascinating journey, and one that rewards with each further listen.

                                                              TRACK LISTING

                                                              Side A
                                                              I Need To Keep You In My Life
                                                              And Everything Changed (But I Feel Alright) 
                                                              Somewhere Totally Else
                                                              Shadowtackling
                                                              Who Cares
                                                              Nothing At All

                                                              Side B
                                                              Rainfalls
                                                              New Uncertainties
                                                              St. Giles’ Hill
                                                              Semi-bionic
                                                              A Forgotten Film
                                                              Theme From Muddy Time
                                                              [a Sea Of Thoughts Behind It]

                                                              Badwan / Coxon

                                                              Promise Land / Boiling Point

                                                                A collaboration between Faris Badwan (The Horrors / Cat’s Eyes) & renowned guitarist John Coxon (Spring Heel Jack / Spiritualized / Treader), it is the first release of an ongoing collaborative series between Faris and other artists, details of which will be subsequently announced. Badwan & Coxon met some years ago when Faris was looking for producers to work with on his solo material and their working relationship evolved beyond the existing songs into something more improvisational and instinctive.

                                                                As Faris explains: The new songs we ended up working on were largely spontaneous and cut together from early takes with minimal overdubbing. The lyrics were improvised and the focus was placed more on creating atmosphere and keeping things fairly raw and expressive. I guess I found it rewarding particularly with the guitar playing because it was so intuitive and completely free from any expectations of how a song should be constructed. There are hooks and repetitive sections but fewer traditional structures. We tried to avoid doing any planning beforehand and focussed more on responding to what was happening in the moment. I guess the sessions were kind of a constant dialogue where we would each respond to the other's improvisation.

                                                                With Promise Land I began by improvising lyrics over a drone track John and I created. Some time later I came across “To Our Land” by Mahmoud Darwish, a Palestinian poet, and was struck by the similarities - there are a few lines that match really closely. Despite being half-palestinian myself this was a total accident and I know for sure I hadn’t seen Darwish’s piece before. With Boiling Point the lyrics are almost the ghost of a narrative rather than an explicit story. I’m interested in the subconscious and how the hidden parts of your brain express themselves when given the opportunity. Looking back it was almost more about creating the right conditions for the subconscious to come out.

                                                                Peel Dream Magazine

                                                                Moral Panics

                                                                  Vinyl pressing of their 8-track ‘Moral Panics’ EP, featuring 6 brand new tracks. This follows its digital and lathe cut only release in July.

                                                                  Featuring the original 6 unreleased tracks recorded during the sessions for their recently released second album Agitprop Alterna which was released in April of this year, two further exclusive tracks are added to their vinyl pressing. Talking about the EP, Joe Stevens, the main artistic force behind Peel Dream Magazine said: Moral Panics is an EP featuring unreleased songs from the Agitprop Alterna recording sessions over the course of 2018 and 2019. It's kind of like a sibling to that record as well as the Up and Up EP from 2019. The title comes from Stanley Cohen's Folk Devils and Moral Panics which talks about Mods in England during the 1960s. Cohen talks about how the English press and politicians benefited from vilifying that cultural phenomenon, and I wrote about it in the first track New Culture, as well as Permanent Moral Crisis off the LP. I'm really into everything Mod . . . I think it's something I come back to again and again. These songs definitely create their own vibe but they're still connected to Agitprop Alterna . . ." Peel Dream Magazine is the musical vehicle for NYC's Joe Stevens, who launched the band in 2018 with the critically acclaimed album Modern Meta Physic. The debut was a mysterious, liminal tribute to the hazy end of ‘90s dream-pop – a masterful mix of first-class songwriting precision and train-window sonic impressionism. Stevens played all the parts on Modern Meta Physic himself, blending live and sampled sounds into uniquely identifiable and abstractly psychedelic soundscapes.

                                                                  The album struck a perfect balance between DIY bedroom pop auteurism and studio wizaJoe Stevens, the rdry, and duly found its place on numerous “Best of 2018” lists. Where the creation of Modern Meta Physic was a solitary pursuit, Agitprop Alterna found Stevens channelling the collaborative spirit of the band’s ever-rotating live incarnation in the studio. He worked with close friend Kelly Winrich to develop new sounds for the project, creating musical snippets that Winrich would mix into the cohering whole. Live band members like vocalist Jo-Anne Hyun (later replaced by Isabella Mingione) and drummer Brian Alvarez would stop by and work their magic on the recordings, laying down parts with trademark exactitude. The resulting music revels in its realness: heavier, more dynamic, and truly the work of a band. 

                                                                  TRACK LISTING

                                                                  1. New Culture
                                                                  2. Verfremdungseffekt
                                                                  3. Dialectrics
                                                                  4. Through You
                                                                  5. Life At The Movies
                                                                  6. Geodesic Dome
                                                                  7. The Furthest Nearby Place
                                                                  8. Clean Water (DEMO)

                                                                  The Stroppies

                                                                  Look Alive!

                                                                    Originally starting as the DIY home recording project of Angus Lord and Claudia Serfaty, The Stroppies have now evolved into what some might call a “proper band”. Following on from their 2017 demo cassette and a sling of singles, 2019 saw the release of their debut LP Whoosh!, a studio-based affair that evolved The Stroppies sound, underpinned with a newly discovered melodic classicism. Look Alive!, their latest effort which was recorded only months after the bands return to Australia after their second European tour of 2019, represents a marriage of the two different styles of Stroppies recordings and rounds out an incredibly productive twelve months for the group. Look Alive! Is the sound of The Stroppies honing their craft under new and unfamiliar conditions.


                                                                    Written mainly on the road then finished and recorded at home with whatever was on hand with only three of the four members present, it is according to the band’s singer/guitarist Angus Lord, "an EP forged in circumstance. A sum total of fleeting vignettes on scraps of paper, voice memos and iPhone notepads all collated between soundchecks and long stretches in a tour van rolled pieced together over weekly jams. We didn't want to waste much time when we got home so we opted to record it ourselves". For a band who began with the initial idea to create what the band called “open-ended music, collaged quickly and pieced haphazardly together”, it is in some sense a return to their true self. If Whoosh! glimmered and sparkled with tight production and succinct pop songwriting, Look Alive! is a somewhat darker shade, employing a more diffuse, impressionistic sonic palette and a more obvious penchant for experimentation.


                                                                    Tracked by the band and long time friend/collaborator Alex Macfarlane (Twerps, The Stevens, Hobbies Galore) at home and then mixed and mastered direct off the tape at Phaedra studios in Coburg by John Lee, it’s also a somewhat collaborative project, drawing in influence and inspiration from myriad sources. Such means of production are evident in the resulting eight songs. The title track sees acoustic pianos duel with synthesizers over Pavement-esque guitar wig outs, whilst ‘The Aisles of the Supermarket’ employs tape loops to forge loose ambient foundations. Though these ideas may reflect the band’s noted “stream of consciousness creativity”, remarkably the songwriting remains as sharp as ever. Album opener ‘Burning Bright’ gallops forward with the propulsive energy of ‘77-era Talking Heads and is transported by a casually brilliant chorus delivered by shared vocalist Claudia Sefraty.


                                                                    Elsewhere, lead single ‘Holes In Everything’ presents the band at its pop best: "If I could disappear into the atmosphere, I would be around you all the time" sings Lord, before swiftly throwing shade on the sentiment in the chorus, "It's always frightening what I think". It's this penchant for push and pull of light and dark splashed against the backdrop of trepidation and humour that make The Stroppies records so endearing and open-ended. Though undeniably pop structure orientated, the bands propensity for re-inventing and re-appropriating their recording and writing process ensures that nothing starts to fossilize. Indeed, Look Alive! is that most intriguing of records precisely because it represents two ideas at the same time - the sound of a band in flux, but also the sound of a band becoming more sure footed as they walk their crooked line.

                                                                    TRACK LISTING

                                                                    1. Burning Bright
                                                                    2. Look Alive
                                                                    3. Sad Sorry Soul
                                                                    4. Roller Cloud
                                                                    5. Holes In Everything
                                                                    6. The Aisles Of The Supermarket
                                                                    7. Enter Or Exit
                                                                    8. Rigid Men And Conduct Codes

                                                                    Peel Dream Magazine

                                                                    Agitprop Alterna

                                                                      After 18 months of writing and playing live with a shifting cast of supporting members, Peel Dream Magazine is back with Agitprop Alterna, their new album which pushes the group’s dreamy, motorik-heavy sound to a deeply melodic and beautifully discordant place. Their 2nd LP pays homage to the fuzzy, mod-ish twee of acts like My Bloody Valentine and early Stereolab, but it's also indebted to stateside bands like Yo La Tengo and Rocketship that were cut from a similar cloth. It's part Chickfactor, part Space Age Bachelor Pad; a shambolic, drone-heavy brand of minimalism, filtered through a cross-section of classic indie pop.

                                                                      Peel Dream Magazine is the musical vehicle for NYC's Joe Stevens, who launched the band in 2018 with the critically acclaimed album Modern Meta Physic. The debut was a mysterious, liminal tribute to the hazy end of ‘90s dream-pop – a masterful mix of first-class songwriting precision and train-window sonic impressionism. Stevens played all the parts on Modern Meta Physic himself, blending live and sampled sounds into uniquely identifiable and abstractly psychedelic soundscapes. The album struck a perfect balance between DIY bedroom pop auteurism and studio wizardry, and duly found its place on numerous “Best of 2018” lists. Where the creation of Modern Meta Physic was a solitary pursuit, Agitprop Alterna found Stevens channelling the collaborative spirit of the band’s ever-rotating live incarnation in the studio. He worked with close friend Kelly Winrich to develop new sounds for the project, creating musical snippets that Winrich would mix into the cohering whole.

                                                                      Live band members like vocalist Jo-Anne Hyun (later replaced by Isabella Mingione) and drummer Brian Alvarez would stop by and work their magic on the recordings, laying down parts with trademark exactitude. The resulting music revels in its realness: heavier, more dynamic, and truly the work of a band. Each tune’s unique character fits carefully into a broader thematic whole examining personal freedom from manipulation and misinformation. First single “Pill” examines what Stevens calls the "inundation of performances of normalcy and fulfillment that fuel our desire to consume – self-medication for the pain of doubt, want and need.” “Emotional Devotion Creator” frames advertising (and the cynical, manufactured emotional response it elicits) with a critical eye, while “It’s My Body” is an “anthem against people who want to exert power over you and make you feel small…a reminder that you don’t owe anyone anything.

                                                                      Agitprop Alterna is ultimately defined by the tension of difference: between itself and its predecessor; Stevens’ and Hyun’s intertwined male-female vocals; the music’s languid dreaminess and concrete sonic immediacy. Deeply rooted in the Brechtian ideas of art as a tool to spur action, Agitprop Alterna deepens the connection between the existential and the interpretive first explored on Modern Meta Physic, giving the listener space to find their own meaning in shimmering guitars, fuzzed-out synths, and buzzing organ drones.

                                                                      TRACK LISTING

                                                                      1. Pill
                                                                      2. Emotional Devotion Creator
                                                                      3. It’s My Body
                                                                      4. Escalator Ism
                                                                      5. Brief Inner Mission
                                                                      6. NYC Illuminati
                                                                      7. Wood Paneling Pt. 2
                                                                      8. Too Dumb
                                                                      9. Burtolt Brecht Society
                                                                      10. Permanent Moral Crisis
                                                                      11. Do It
                                                                      12. Eyeballs
                                                                      13. Up And Up

                                                                      The Stroppies

                                                                      The Stroppies - Repress

                                                                        Starting out as a recording project between Angus Lord, Claudia Serfaty and Stephanie Hughes, the germ of what would eventually become the Stroppies was formed around a kitchen table in Melbourne's inner west early 2016. The initial idea was to create open ended music, collaged quickly and haphazardly together on a Tascam 4 track Portastudio that drew on stream of consciousness creativity and a DIY attitude a la Guided By Voices and The Great Unwashed. The desire to move beyond the pre programmed drum patterns available on their Casio Keyboard led to the addition of Rory Heane on drums and a more conventional band dynamic.

                                                                        In Late 2016, Alex Macfarlane recorded the band in their lounge room direct to 4 track, capturing 7 songs that would become their 2017 self titled cassette tape debut. The songs were bounced back and forth from tape machine to computer to tape machine to computer again. In keeping with the bands initial aesthetic, dubs were laid over a 4 month period incrementally on different devices as members had babies, explored intercontinental love affairs and set up homes together. Since the release of the tape, Adam Hewwit has joined the group on third guitar as they settle down into exploring the new band dynamic and focus on their next recording project. The Stroppies is composed of members of many Melbourne and UK bands (Claudia is originally from London) including Dick Diver, Primetime, Possible Humans, White Walls, Boomgates, The Stevens, See/Saw to name a few. They make modest, idiosyncratic pop songs that reward with repeated listening. 

                                                                        TRACK LISTING

                                                                        1 Gravity Is Stern
                                                                        2 Go Ahead
                                                                        3 No Joke
                                                                        4 Under Your Sweater
                                                                        5 Courtesy Calls
                                                                        6 Celebration Day
                                                                        7 All The Lines

                                                                        Toy

                                                                        Songs Of Consumption

                                                                          TOY, who released Happy In The Hollow, their fourth, and by far most acclaimed album to date, in January of this year on Tough Love Records, have announced details of Songs Of Consumption, an 8-song collection of unique interpretations of tracks which have inspired the band.

                                                                          The idea was originally birthed when the band recorded four covers for the bonus 7"s that came with the Dinked and Rough Trade versions of the last album. 3 of those songs feature here alongside 5 new recordings completed last month, which comprise tracks by Stooges, Amanda Lear, Nico, The Troggs, Serge Gainsborough, Soft Cell, John Barry and Pet Shop Boys/Elvis/Willy Nelson (depending on how you know the song).

                                                                          Talking about the album, TOY said:

                                                                          Songs of Consumption sonically is a continuation and development of the themes conceived on Happy In The Hollow and it will show people where we are going towards musically. The DIY approach was explored further utilising more of the electronic elements that we touched upon before. Drum machines, stripped down arrangements and rudimentary production give a primitive sound that we thought suited the choice of songs. Some of the songs have very big sounding production, so we wanted to experiment with them by going in a different direction.

                                                                          Music is consumed voraciously now whereas these songs came from a time when the song was of the most important thing and that's what was appreciated. Stripping them back to the essence of what they are was also something we wanted to explore. Also, we wanted to make a covers record with songs by people that influenced us in the past few years and it’s as much about the way they dealt with their ideas, and how they put themselves in uncomfortable situations in order to make something that in the end is simple. It’s a homage to the spirit of these people, that helped us to untangle ourselves from our inherent complicated nature and create a new space where we can exist.

                                                                          Additionally, having played a sold-out tour of the UK in February, including a mesmerising show at Village Underground in London, the band have announced a couple of very special shows at the end of the year.

                                                                          Playing under the banner of ‘Hollowed Out – A night of strange sighting and unhabitual ritual’ the shows will see them re-imagining songs from Happy In The Hollow. In London they will be joined by AV artist Sculpture, live performances from The Thelma Death Stare and Ducasse, DJ sets from Cherrystones and Sheet Noise and live visuals from Daisy Dickinson. In Manchester they will be joined by Mutabase and a DJ set from Sofie K.

                                                                          STAFF COMMENTS

                                                                          Barry says: It's nice to hear a selection of (superb) covers from Toy, expanding their sound into this diverse range of covers. Though the songs are not their own, it gives us an insigt into their influence, and honestly couldn't be any more their own. Swathes of guitar noise and succinct percussive throbs work their way behind Dougall's recognisable vocals, all accompanied with their ever present crystal-clear synths and melodic sensibilities. Lovely stuff.

                                                                          TRACK LISTING

                                                                          1. Down On The Street (The Stooges)
                                                                          2. Follow Me (Amanda Lear)
                                                                          3. Sixty Forty (Nico)
                                                                          4. Cousin Jane (The Troggs)
                                                                          5. Fun City (Soft Cell)
                                                                          6. Lemon Incest (Charlotte Gainsbourg & Serge Gainsbourg)
                                                                          7. Always On My Mind (B.J. Thomas)
                                                                          8. A Dolls House (John Barry)

                                                                          “There is something completely nonsense about it, especially when removed from any kind of context. For me it conjures up images of something absurd and transient - two things fundamental in the experience of listening to or making good pop music.” Whoosh may indeed be a silly word but it almost onomatopoeically captures the sound and essence of The Stroppies first proper debut album, one that breezes along with boundless energy, a refrained pop strut, infectious grooves and the sort of jangling guitar melodies that sound like a prime-era Flying Nun band. Between them, the Melbourne-based band - currently comprising of Gus Lord, Rory Heane, Claudia Serfaty and Adam Hewitt - have been in countless bands such as Boomgates, Twerps, Tyrannamen, Primetime, Blank Statements, The Blinds, White Walls, See Saw and Possible Humans.

                                                                          The band formed together around a kitchen table in 2016 with a heavy focus around the essence of collaboration and a DIY ethos. This led to an acclaimed cassette release of lounge room recordings, which was then pressed onto vinyl to more acclaim. The Stroppies next step was then taking their DIY approach to home recordings into the studio to make a transitional leap to what would become their proper studio debut. “Whoosh is our first concerted effort to make something with a bit more sonic depth,”says Claudia Serfaty (the bands other primary songwriter). It’s a record that possesses all the spunk and gusto of a young band hurtling forward yet also knowing when to take their foot off the accelerator.

                                                                          It’s an album that simultaneously feels young and fresh but wise beyond its years. “Whoosh is the most robust sounding release we have ever recorded,” Serfaty says. Combining taut post-punk rhythms, indie jangle, seamless melody and sugary pop, it’s a record that Lord says is influenced by: “All sorts of things - life, work, relationships, old cartoons and the last 60+ years of guitar-based pop music in some form or another. This includes everything from Bill Fay to the Clean to Stephen Malkmus.” We utilised whatever was on hand to pull sounds, including but not limited to vintage synths, rain sticks and an old door frame that we used for percussion.”

                                                                          TRACK LISTING

                                                                          1. Nothing At All
                                                                          2. Present Tense
                                                                          3. First Time Favourites
                                                                          4. My Style, My Substance
                                                                          5. Pen Name
                                                                          6. Cellophane Car
                                                                          7. Better Than Before
                                                                          8. The Spy
                                                                          9. Entropy
                                                                          10. Switched On 

                                                                          RIYL: The Horrors, Moon Duo, Wooden Shjips, Spiritualized, Brian Jonestown Massacre, Dungen, Goat, Clinic.

                                                                          Toy release their fourth album, and their first for new label Tough Love Records, and it is unquestionably their most direct and propulsive album to date.

                                                                          Recorded between their own home tape studios and mixed at Dan Carey’s Studio B in South London, the album was entirely produced and mixed by the band.

                                                                          "Happy In The Hollow is entirely uncompromising: an atmospheric capturing of a state of mind that touches on Post Punk, electronic dissonance, acid folk and Krautrock. Familiar qualities like metronomic rhythms, warping guitars, undulating synths and Tom’s gentle, reedy vocals are all in there, but so is a greater emphasis on melody, a wider scope, and a combining of the reassuring and the sinister that is as unnerving as it is captivating."

                                                                          The sound has without doubt expanded — and grown more confident — in part because this is the first album for which Toy has become a self-sufficient five-person unit doing everything for themselves.

                                                                          “Each song was a blank canvas,” says Maxim. “Producers inevitably develop their own patterns over time, right down to certain drum sounds. We were starting from scratch and it felt very creative as a result. It’s an album we feel deeply connected to”.

                                                                          TOY are: Tom Dougall (vocals / guitar), Dominic O’Dair (guitars), Maxim Barron (bass / vocals), Max Oscarnold (synths / modulations) & Charlie Salvidge (drums / vocals).


                                                                          STAFF COMMENTS

                                                                          Barry says: Toy on fine form here, in a somewhat more dreamy and progressive mood than on 2016's 'Clear Shot', with swirling guitars and cavernous reverb surrounding the psychedelic chord changes and echoing haunted vox. They've managed to craft something that is both immediate and deep, easy to engage with but develops the more you listen. A truly stunning work.

                                                                          TRACK LISTING

                                                                          1. Sequence One
                                                                          2. Mistake A Stranger
                                                                          3. Energy
                                                                          4. Last Warmth Of The Day
                                                                          5. The Willo
                                                                          6. Jolt Awake
                                                                          7. Mechanism
                                                                          8. Strangulation Day
                                                                          9. You Make Me Forget Myself
                                                                          10. Charlie’s House
                                                                          11. Move Through The Dark

                                                                          Ulrika Spacek

                                                                          Modern English Decoration

                                                                          The relatively short amount of time between their first and second albums is testament to the band’s self-contained creative environment and the productivity it encourages. There’s a tendency to label this degree of self-reliant creativity ‘DIY’ - and the band do certainly feel emboldened by that ethos - yet to consider Modern English Decoration solely in these terms is a disservice. Their craft is considered and purposeful, the means of its production reflecting the band’s overall vision rather than the value system of an often haphazard and accidental DIY culture. “We enjoy listening to music through the album format and want our records to reflect that”, says Rhys Edwards (guitars, vocals, synthesiser).

                                                                          Ulrika Spacek formed in Berlin in one night, when 14-year-long friends Rhys Edwards and Rhys Williams conceptualised ‘Ulrika Spacek’ and came up with The Album Paranoia as their debut album title. Moving back to London with the intention to record it, they were joined by Joseph Stone (guitars, organ, synths, violin), Ben White (bass) and Callum Brown (drums, percussion), ossifying into the five-piece they are now. The album was released soon after with little forewarning and was accompanied by a year long, near-monthly club night called Oysterland.

                                                                          Given the lyrics often favour abstraction and the vocals can be more impressionistic than declarative, the album title itself offers perhaps the most telling entry point to the record. In part, it’s a self-effacing play on an interior design cliché that references the meticulous creative processes the band adheres to. There’s also a nod towards the environment in which it was created – a Victorian house turned art gallery turned home studio

                                                                          Unsurprisingly given the context of its creation, Modern English Decoration might be considered a companion piece of sorts to The Album Paranoia.But there are crucial differences. Most notably, this isn’t the work of the Ulrika Spacek conceptualised by Edwards and Williams in Berlin – Modern English Decoration is the band as five rather than two people, and it shows. Those who have witnessed the intensity of their live show will instantly recognise the merits in this. The bass and drums provide a versatile anchor, at once soft, then aggressive, while the vocals drift woozily in and out, like druggy hindsight or skewed premonition. With three guitarists in the band guitars were always going to be central to the music, but what is less expected is the dynamic interplay between the trio that suggests a three-headed version of the Verlaine-Lloyd axis at the heart of Television. What’s more, the absence of reverb is integral, in part attributable to the ambience of the studio, but also a conscious decision in order to add focus. And focus is the abiding term: this is an album designed to be just so - a 45 minute commitment, a surrender.

                                                                          TRACK LISTING

                                                                          1. Mimi Pretend
                                                                          2. Silvertonic
                                                                          3. Dead Museum
                                                                          4. Ziggy
                                                                          5. Everything, All The Time
                                                                          6. Modern English Decoration
                                                                          7. Full Of Men
                                                                          8. Saw A Habit Forming
                                                                          9. Victorian Acid
                                                                          10. Protestant Work Slump

                                                                          Ulrika Spacek

                                                                          The Album Paranoia

                                                                            RIYL: Mercury Rev, Sonic Youth, My Bloody Valentine, Radiohead, Deerhunter, Atlas Sound.

                                                                            Ulrika Spacek is a British experimental rock band formed in Berlin by Rhys Edwards and Rhys Williams, relocated to Homerton, London. Work on debut album ‘The Album Paranoia’ began in the summer of 2014 in the band’s shared house KEN, and was finished there last month. In conjunction to the making of ‘The Album Paranoia’, the band has curated a number of nights under the name ‘Oysterland’ combining their first live performances with a series of exhibitions. The band's music has drawn various interpretations, a cross pollination of hypnotic fuzz, Verlain-Malkmus guitar idiosyncrasies and intertwining feelings of both angst and melancholia. 

                                                                            STAFF COMMENTS

                                                                            Mine says: Ulrika Spacek's debut album is an addictive roller coaster of blissful psychedelia, hypnotic melancholy and raucous, repetitive kraut rock. Heavy and droning in some places, dreamy and pensive in others, its atmospheric soundscape makes it an album to get lost in.

                                                                            TRACK LISTING

                                                                            1. I Don’t Know - 04:35
                                                                            2. Porcelain - 03:59
                                                                            3. Circa 1954 - 02:13
                                                                            4. Strawberry Glue - 03:32
                                                                            5. Beta Male - 06:20
                                                                            6. NK - 06:54
                                                                            7. Ultra Vivid - 04:14
                                                                            8. She’s A Cult - 04:22
                                                                            9. There’s A Little Passing Cloud In You - 06:53
                                                                            10. Airportism - 02:07

                                                                            Jethro Fox

                                                                            Blinding Light

                                                                              Jethro Fox is a Biblically named singer from a family of Atheists, and his celestial music is set to light up 2012. Brought up in Colchester, Essex and sharing a proud 6th Form College music teacher with Damon Albarn, Jethro moved to Liverpool to study and has since become a central character in a once again thriving music community. A multi-instrumentalist, he has played in most of the new bands in the area’s resurgent scene, which is centered on the Liverpool Institute of Performing Arts.

                                                                              Now playing under his own name, Jethro’s own music is urgent and life affirming in a manner that belies the rainy gray of Liverpool. Characterized by his already-distinctive golden harmonies, and the echo of school halls and cavernous churches, his music suggests a deep affinity with the classic symphonic pop of The Beach Boys, Roy Orbison and Grizzly Bear.

                                                                              A few months ago, Jethro posted his first track online, ‘Before’. Received to great acclaim (“One of the most exciting musicians on the planet”, John Kennedy, XFM”), Jethro was subsequently invited to record a Steve Lamacq Maida Vale Session for 6 Music: an almost unprecedented opportunity for an artist yet to release a record.

                                                                              That’s all set to change with the release of his debut single, ‘Blinding Light’, through Tough Love Records (Weird Dreams, Girls Names). Backed by ‘Lonely Sound’, it’s the perfect introduction into Jethro’s immaculately conceived world. "A staggering set of vocal chords...there’s not a great deal of ground that it fails to cover." This is Fake DIY. “Hotter than the surface of the sun…One of the most exciting musicians on the planet.” John Kennedy, XFM.

                                                                              Following feverish response for their two EPs and recent single ‘Holding Nails’, East London’s psych-pop four-piece Weird Dreams are set to release their brilliant debut album, Choreography, on Tough Love. Influenced by both the Beach Boys and the films of David Lynch, Weird Dreams draw equally on the intricate harmonies of the former and the latter’s penchant for twisted suburban ennui.

                                                                              “The way David Lynch pushes reality to a point where it feels uncomfortable, his obsession with 1950s culture, his stream of consciousness approach to working”, says frontman Doran Edwards. “Weird Dreams is a bittersweet pop band with twists.” On record, it translates to the highly melodic, self-produced Choreography, an album on which every track has the right to be considered single-worthy. Written in Doran’s studio flat overlooking the train tracks, the tunes may be sweet but the words often have a sting in their tail. “I love how idealistic and overly gushy ’50s doo wop and ’60s girl groups were, but I wanted to produce an even more dreamy-sounding version with lyrics that could be quite dark and resentful,” says Doran.

                                                                              True to that vision, tracks such as “Little Girl” and “Hurt So Bad” speak of unusual relationships, while album centerpiece “Suburban Coated Creatures” is a personal unraveling of difficult teenage years dealing with small town life. Initially built around the nucleus of Doran (guitar and vocals), Craig Bowers (drums), Weird Dreams formed when Doran and Craig met working in a vintage clothes shop, where talk frequently turned to ’50s pop, ’60s girl groups and – naturally – David Lynch movies. Releasing a joyous, cassette-only debut EP on an imprint of Craig’s aptly named Sleep All Day label, they recruited Hugo (bass), then adding James (guitar) for live duties and in time for second EP Hypnagogic Lullaby, a notably darker, harder-edged affair. And it’s with their debut album that these early forays have coalesced into a coherent, immersive whole.

                                                                              The band’s name – and much of its outlook – is taken from Doran’s propensity for real-life weird dreams. “Since I can remember I've always had incredibly vivid dreams, both good and bad,” says the frontman. “They've always felt like an important part of my life.”


                                                                              TRACK LISTING

                                                                              1. Vague Hotel
                                                                              2. Hurt So Bad
                                                                              3. Holding Nails
                                                                              4. Faceless
                                                                              5. Little Girl
                                                                              6. Suburban Coated Creatures
                                                                              7. 666.66
                                                                              8. River Of The Damned
                                                                              9. Velvet Morning
                                                                              10. Summer Black
                                                                              11. Michael
                                                                              12. Choreography

                                                                              William

                                                                              Self In Fiction

                                                                                The record starts with the pop-nous and angular guitar stylings of "Five Minute Wonder" and doesn't let up until the chaotic climax of "Zhero". Various influences are apparent but never entirely or obviously replicated, William creating a sound that is very much their own. Taking the lo-fi spirit of The Replacements and Pavement and pairing it up with the intensity of Rites Of Spring and The Van Pelt, William are an exciting and brave prospect. Guitar lines repeat and adapt, all kept in line by a rigid and melodic rhythm section. Tracks such as "Porco Dio vs Schweinehund" and "Thomowski" echo these songwriting sentiments perfectly, both containing memorable instrumental hooks to back up Gavin's impassioned vocals. "Self In Fiction" is one of the most consistent releases of this year, of any year, and is an album that deserves to find a home in the hearts of hipsters, indie-kids and punks alike.


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