Category Archive: Music Reviews
Harsh isolation, dystopian dreamscapes, semi-connected catharsis caught up in electronic precision.
That’s the evolving sound of Blancmange 2.0; collections of stripped down half hooks, building in escalating elaborations, repeated in sheets of thin ice and cool water. This is Neil Arthur from 2016’s Unfurnished Rooms, through to 2017’s Fader and Near Future, through this year’s Blancmange album Wonderlust.
Riot tinged pop and protest promotion… But I feel safer than I should be feeling.
(…and just what it means to want to be ‘somewhere else’)
A show reviewed last year at Rescue Rooms, Nottingham was the first time I really encountered Blancmange. I’d had an awareness, an occasional knowledge of the odd track or accolade, but that show was my main introduction.
Right after the show, once the lights got turned up, I tried grabbing a couple of words. It was last night of tour and then wasn’t the time but I was assured I could grab a word sometime.
You could hunt around looking for fat to trim off but you’d be hard pushed to find much to cut. Personality Cult’s new debut LP is a lean hard wired helping of short, sharp, sweet tracks packed with thin wry-lipped smiles and breezy snot nosed punk.
Enter a drone on delay, drag out the scratches and build, call in a smooth set of chiming guitars and slam with a drum weighted howl. Hollow Thieves opens Bad Llama’s new EP with a clean polished anger and grandeur.
Polka dot dresses swirl through the mind in tail finned gas swilling automobiles. Iced beers drip in sunshine, drive in movie screens show black and white flicks over slicked back black hair and blonde lipstick curls. This is cherry coke sweet. Polished like high chrome in saccharine shades.
A full blood moon’s hanging thick over Rockies. Earlier on I saw dinosaur steps and bones, pressed into layers of once-flat beach sand that turned into mud that turned into rock that turned to upended slabs that jut out of the sides of sharp mountains. What was flat nearly upright. What was beach now a cliff. And everything round me got here out of chaos.
Now I’m sat between ridges and ranges and chaos is here in the house… It’s been in my ears and it’s been in car stereos and it’s given long journeys brief fever. Slumb Party’s ‘Happy Now’ is breakneck in pace and in place of a thrill is a pupil dilation from trying to make sense of each track; these things pass quicker than oncoming cars at a speed that I don’t want to print.
I was midway through a write up of their 2017 releases when a new track came landed and knocked them away. Last year saw Victories let ‘Wiccan’ and ‘Mandy Machine’ loose on raw ears, now it’s ‘Fork in the Road’s turn to tear up. The first two are singles I dug out of Spotify. The latter a live video so far streaming only. Their catalogue backs up to 2010.
For a fact off the bat; Each release gets tighter, gets more taught and tougher. In scope and conviction, songcraft, execution. It’s a clear pitched trajectory and timeline and motion.
It’s bigger here, faster. SUV bumpers ride up to my hips, steaks come in slabs as bloated as fists and talk runs at rates that I can’t penetrate. Wide open spaces with every bit packed up and built on and everyone got to get first. Southern Rock dominates each bar I find, bloated like those steaks but with half less to chew on.
Exit to Mexico Beach. Highway 98 so long, straight and one-laned a road that it’s easy to drift down its high-pine lined stretch. Got told it’s a shifted down, stripped down beach front, without the rude lights and the half builts and built up. Air smelt a little cleaner there.
From white sand that drops steep into warm green sea water I caught earshot of whoops and applause. I dried off to move to the source.