Drowned In Manchester is dead! Long live Drowned In Manchester. Sadly other commitments have meant that this column shall be taken over by a new columnist after this final edition. After 18 months or so bleating on, it is probably best for a new set of eyes and ears to give their view on the city; thanks to anyone who has read or picked up anything of worth from this and the ten previous incoherent rantings. It's been a hoot. Here, for your pleasure, are just some of the artists/releases who've pricked my ears over 2012 thus far...
Queer’d Science Girls Gone Wild (EP/Idlechrist)
You can pretty much hear the pain afflicting all three members of Queer’d Science here as they clench their teeth 'til their gums sear red and floor it through four tracks that roll with a predatory blood thirst. ‘Punish You’ does just as it title demands, vocals howling as though whipped up and stretched on the rack of drummer Del’s Kid Million-esque percussive firestorm; ‘Ay Chihuuahua!’ and ‘WTFRU’ allow blocks of industrial sound to force their way between the drums and the shrieks of vocalist Vendy; the title track piles on the punishment with added sense that they might almost want you to, dance!? One of the most thrillingly physical sounding releases this year - in Manchester or anywhere else.
Embers 'Tunnel Vision/Sins Unknown' (7-inch/self-released)
Four-piece Embers recall an urgency that seems to have been lost in many of Britain’s more straight-up guitar wielding rock bands, harking to the not too distant past when groups like Hope Of The States and the Cooper Temple Clauses laced their riffs with a sense of end-of-days vitriol. More anthemic than either of those two bands, Embers' debut is aggressively sincere, and rumbles with the turbulence of our times.
Ghosting Season The Very Last Of The Saints (LP/Last Night On Earth)
Their move across the Pennines last year didn’t result in a splurge of live sets around Manchester, but it did produce an album, Gavin Miller and Tom Ragsdale’s first after changing from their worriedaboutsatan moniker. A heady brew of amorphous drones and hushed sonic cuts, the pair then shape this constantly modulating set of elements across lush techno gridlines, making the ten tracks here ear food as well as nutrition for the torso.
Silver Behemoth/Rib (MP3/self-released)
You can understand why so many musicians flock to a lo-fi aesthetic; the hiss of its imperfections recall nostalgia, it gives the music it cloaks a feel of history, a weightiness. It is an aesthetic often misused, but in Silver’s case – the moniker of solo artist Molly MacLeod – it’s employed to full devastating emotional impact. It gives ‘Behemoth’ a ethereality to its looped guitar guttural, whilst it battles to keep a rich vocal breaking through on ‘Rib’, both tracks exuding beauty in their components struggle.
Doctrines _Ze_ (EP/Alcopop!)
Anyone who picked up Cymbals Eat Guitars second LP on Memphis last year might recall the twilight drug trip that tumbled out in the lyrics of front man Joe D’Agostino’s words, his words spluttered out as a stream of conscious as he sought to describe the quickly enveloping scene in front of him. There’s little of the far-outness sense of wonderment in Doctrines vocalist Jamie Birkett’s lyrics; his themes come from grittier depths, surrounded and forced to confront life's realities. Yet the bursts of syntax are similar in delivery, and behind him his band mates shoot off down a myriad of directions from punk to post-hardcore, joining the dots with playful intricacy.
Champion Lover 'Zoltars Revenge/Ellen Degenerate' (MP3/self-released)
Champion Lover are among the latest in what’s been a steadily trickling stream of psych-influenced bands existing in the murky suburbs of Manchester for a while now. ‘Zoltars Revenge’ juts around with a dub-sensibility to its skulking basslines and almost mantra-like vocal; ‘Ellen Degenerate’ meanwhile flecks along at a more frenetic tempo, synthesized sounds burbling around a kosmische rhythm, squalled vocals ghosting in and out of view.
Tombed Visions Stushevatsyah: Shards Of The Sky (LP/self-released)
The great thing about what Tombed Visions does here with ambient music is the relative distance he takes in his jumps between atmospheres. In the scheme of things the shifts remain minimal, but ambient is a genre that thrives on the miniature nuances that help gradually evolve its sonic environment into a new configuration. Stushevatsay starts off all crackles and rustling field recordings, before opening up; when it reaches ‘Coma Residue’ it unfurls with this glorious natural sounding earthiness that recalls Gas, before falling to barely a breath on ‘Midnight, A Mistress’. It would be easy for these shifts to be too unconnected given the clear mood differentiation from track to track; yet its managed well, its contrast of sounds to its advantage.
Daniel Land & The Modern Painters The Space Between Us (LP/Club AC30)
In what sadly looks to be the swansong for Daniel Land under this guise - the creative catalyst for the project now living in London - The Space Between Us still digs it roots in late 80s/early 90s shoegaze, yet comes out of its shell more. No longer is Land's voice so submerged under swathes of guitar, while even the instrumental melodies themselves come out clearer and more confident than on predecessor Love Songs For A Generation. His departure down south should certainly be seen as a loss of one of the city’s most underrated songwriters.
Kult Country Tides (MP3/self-released)
Sways Records-associated Kult Country were arguably at their most melodic this on Tides. We’re still talking in ridiculously early terms surrounding the band’s time together; they debuted live in the spring and were supporting Wooden Shjips by July. That support suggests the psych-rock element of the group, and certainly that pervades across their live sets; Tides though differs in its wholly more tranquil emotive drones, its wash of emotion taking precedence over relentless cycle of the psychedelic reel.
Die Hexen Valhalla (MP3/self-released)
Like Embers, Die Hexen made her debut at a Drowned In Manchester show and instantly caught the eye with a hypnotic visual performance that saw her perform with her eyes covered by a blind fold. In truth you could pick from a number of tracks on the pop-noir artist’s Soundcloud page, all brooding with a cautious crawl into icy unknowns, tense minimalist passages giving way to towering abrasion. ‘Valhalla’ is the newest though, and it's a track that feels at one both intimate and deeply cavernous.
A Carefully Planned Festival #2 – Various Venues, October 20th/21st
Now in its second year, A Carefully Planned Festival has really stepped up its game in terms of line-up, size and pretty much everything else. With a line-up whose profile fits in nicely with the sort of acts covered on this and the other regional columns, ACP is likely to achieve what all good urban multi-venue crawls should do: a voyage of discovery. With over 100 live acts at six venues there’s quite the amount to work through, whilst additional pop-ups like a spoken word event and art exhibition ensuring a further diversity to proceedings. Saturday tips from me are headlining math-rockers Brontide and the brilliant droning abrasion of Weird Era – for my money one of the very best live acts in Manchester. Elsewhere there’s Claw The Thin Ice’s transatlantic-tinged rock, whilst the mighty Bilge Pump travel from Leeds to bludgeon us all with their Dischord stylings. Sunday is even better; there’s the anarchy of Shapes, the brilliant minimalism of Liverpool’s Ex Easter Island Head and, last but certainly not least, the long overdue return to this city, of Oxford’s This Town Needs Guns. All ticket info further details can he found here.
Orbit – Various Venues, November 4th
It was a brilliant experience to be a part of this year’s Sounds From The Other City; what a shame that – as it stands – it looks like it’ll be the last one anyone gets a chance to be involved with for a while. However, the organisers behind it certainly haven’t been idle, and this November have unveiled ‘Orbit: A Show In 7 Parts’. The idea is simple, its punters embarking on a tour around various venues in Salford, with the nature of the set times meaning that everyone travels from one venue to the next together. SFTOC regulars will know of venues like Islington Mill and St. Phillip’s Church, whilst acts playing include Planningtorock, Ed Schrader’s Music Beat, Yola Fatoush and perennial column favourites Gnod. More details here.
Further recommended dates…
- 23rd October Metz @ Kraak
- 26th October Hookworms @ Trof Fallowfield
- 29th October Efterklang @ Bridgewater Hall
- 2nd November Kult Country @ Islington Mill
- 3rd November Polica @ Sound Control
- 6th November Arbouretum @ Kraak
- 12th November Exitmusic @ The Castle
- 16th November Destroyer @ Sound Control
- 18th November Gravenhurst @ Night & Day
- 26th November The Soft Moon @ Ruby Lounge
- 30th November Luke Abbott/Ghosting Season @ Kraak
I'm all Manchestered out, if you want to know what I'm going to talk about instead (the rise of professional wrestling in the early-to-mid Nineties perhaps) then do follow me at @essjaycats.