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Some of you might have noticed – though most probably haven’t – that Drowned In Manchester hasn’t been around much the past few months. A series of events, grim and not so grim, have sadly led to a shocking lack of discipline when it’s come to submitting this column, and so from here on in the reins are to be passed over to a new incumbent. That short goodbye swiftly out the way, the only possibly manner in which I could sign would be to give you a run down on ten of the very best artists that have come through since the last column went live in Spring…
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 till their gums sear red and floor it through four tracks that roll with a predatory blood thirst. ‘Punish You’ does just that, vocals howling as though whipped up and stretched on the rack of drummer Del’s Kid Millions-esque percussive firestorm; ‘Ay Chihuuahua!’ and ‘WTFRU’ allow blocks of industrial sound to force their way between drums and the howls of vocalist Vendy; the title track piling on the punishment with the sense that they almost want you to, dance!? One of the most thrillingly physical releases this year, in Manchester or anywhere else for that matter.
Embers - 'Tunnel Vision/Sins Unknown' (7”/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, 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 rumbles unashamedly and with aggressive sincerity upon 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 of gravitas. It is an aesthetic often misused, but in Silver’s case – the moniker of solo artist Molly MacLeod –it’s used to full devastating emotional impact, giving ‘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 almost 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 comes from grittier depths, surrounded and forced to confront realities. Yet the bursts of syntax are similar, 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 are 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 atmosphere. 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 atmosphere into a new shape. Stushevatsay starts off all crackles and rustling field recordings, opens up; when it reaches ‘Coma Residue’ is 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 clear given the definite change in atmosphere from track to track, yet its managed well, making for a smooth journey.
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 so submerged under swathes of guitar, while even the instrumental melodies themselves come out clearer and 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 is a track that feels at one both intimate and deeply cavernous.
Orbit – Various Venues, November 4th
It was a brilliant experience to a part of this year’s Sounds From The Other City; what a shame that it – 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, taking its punters on a tour around various venues in Salford, with 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
You can still follow me on Twitter if you so wish at @essjaycats. Thanks for reading over the past eighteen months or so.