Posts Tagged ‘DIY’

Sauna Youth – “No Personal Space”

The recent album from Sauna Youth is a welcomed blast of bracing bile that chewed up wage gaps, gig economies, personal space issues and cultural collapse through constant distraction. The band’s ode to a bubble one’s own to have and to hold, “No Personal Space,” is a match-lit highlight of the album and thy give the track a DIY video treatment through lo-budget means, even leaving in the technical difficulties that arose.

The band notes that, “This was filmed in 5 minutes in the Peckham Arch practice space that we wrote the album in and whose electrical interference from the train tracks above features throughout this song. We used an iPhone 5, two iPhone 6s’ and an iPhone 7 using their inferior front cameras and it was edited in the free software Hitfilm Express in a couple of hours. It’s about constriction and liberation and having no personal space.” If you haven’t picked up the LP from Upset The Rhythm, now might be a good time!

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Sauna Youth

Sauna Youth have a handle on the brittle bite of punk that’s long served their country’s history. Their previous LP balanced a crucial clutch of frantic, diesel-paced guitar explosions with caustic hooks. There’s also a thread of art punk that often finds spoken word elements propping up in their work, pushing them out of the standard DIY tenure track. On their third LP they maintain their trajectory, melting away some of the hooks through sheer velocity, but never once letting up on their dedication to the raised hackle wild swing of punk’s fiercest proponents. While there’s not a single as potent as “Transistors” here, the whole package rubs the soul just as raw as anything they’ve brought forth in their catalog.

The album opens with the sucker-punch pounce of “Percentages” and it’s a good indication of the kind of bile and bent aluminum aesthetics the band is pushing to the front on Deaths. The bile in question finds them venting frustration out of multiple channels – the economic impact of sustainable arts and gig economies, political realities that outlive our dumbest estimation, and the daily distractions that threaten to kill our creative core. While the band channels all this into an intense half hour of cranium crunch, the venting of frustrations comes off cathartic more than angry. It’s destructive in the way demolition should be, but they’re smiling while they swing the hammer.

The band still leaves room for a spoken word piece here, which I appreciate, though it does derail the momentum of the album. The choice to forgo streamlined listening for their own indulgences and strange sources of joy seems to be the core of what makes Sauna Youth click. Like a pill that gets stuck in the throat, they’re still hitting the body to full effect, even if the ride’s sometimes uncomfortable. Deaths slots in nicely alongside the rest of this year’s stellar Upset The Rhythm roster, another disjointed slap to the face that’s sorely needed.



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Doe – “Heated”

UK trio Doe follow on their 2016 album, Some Things Last Longer Than You, with a sophomore record for Glasgow’s Big Scary Monsters (on Topshelf in the US). The album embraces themes of getting older, finding freedom in maturity and solace in death. While the subject matter is heavy, there’s still plenty of room for hooks. The first track, “Heated,” dredges up visions of ’90s crunch pop from Veruca Salt and they’re picking at a lot of the same alt bones that drove last year’s standout from Charley Bliss. The band aren’t content to be backed into a genre corner, though. The track pushes and pulls between quiet, grinning contempt and explosive fuzz riffs that push for the kind of catharsis that fits their aim of growing up without letting the anchor of youth weigh you down or tie you up. Gonna want to hear some more of this record, but this is a nice opening shot and a step up from their DIY past.

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Our Girl – “In My Head”

UK indie trio Our Girl have had some excellent run up singles in advance of their debut, Stranger Today. They pair their latest cut, “In My Head,” a dark, rumbling burner slashed by moody guitars, with a surreal cut n’ paste video that drops the second Michel Gondry reference of the day. The band cites The Science of Sleep as an inspiration and it’s easy to see how the collage work pulls from his melancholy love story. The track is a sobering tale of miscommunication with a cooldown hook and a frothing scratch of feedback that threatens menace from behind the somber vocals. The band’s record arrives next month and this video serves as a pretty strong argument in favor of putting in on the ol’ wishlist.

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Sauna Youth – “Percentages”

UK DIY outfit Sauna Youth are headed back to record store shelves this fall with their latest LP Deaths. The first cut finds the band in bracing, raised hackles punk position – blaring air raid siren riffs undercut with breathless rhythm work. The track feels as if it might burst into flame at any moment. In under a minute twenty-five the band boils the blood and gets listener’s ready to careen into just about anything in their paths. Their last LP, 2015’s Distractions was sorely (almost criminally) overlooked on this side of the Atlantic, so let’s try not to make the same mistake this time around. The record lands on September 7th.



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Corey Cunningham on Tom Diabo – Dark Star

Corey Cunningham is one of those artists who has popped up on RSTB so often it seems silly he’s just now finding his way to Hidden Gems. With great releases from Terry Malts and Business of Dreams packed in his catalog he’s making a mark on 2018 with the sophomore release from Smokescreens, a collaboration with Chris Rosi of Plateaus. The through line in all of Cunningham’s work has been an effervescent brand of pop that bubbles to the surface over and over again. As such, I wondered what records he’d been harboring in his sphere of influences. Corey’s picked one more hidden than most in this series, the 1988 small press LP from Tom Diabo.

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Vital Idles

Glasgow’s Vital Idles sketch out the bare bones of post-punk on their debut for Upset The Rhythm, but even without a hefty whallop in their collective pockets, the band remains utterly captivating. In the grand tradition of Young Marble Giants or Tallulah Gosh the group makes the most of the basics, imbuing their songs with a driving heart that chews on jangles until they fray like unkempt guitar strings. True purveyors of the aesthetics over expertise approach, Vital Idles have bundled their urgency and wiry worry into an art school folio that pulls straight from the last waves of cool fleeing the class of ’79. It’s a package that’s built to crash but holding tight. That fragile edge gives the band, for lack of a better term, a vitality and its absolutely infectious.

Eschewing many of their modern contemporaries’ reliance on rhythm as the driving force behind post-punk preferences, the Idles pin their charms on the junk shop shapes of their jangles and the asymmetrical bite of Jessica Higgins’ vocals. While there are some fine hooks holed up on the album, its Higgins that elevates Left Hand from practice space sketches to something with a whole lot more mettle. The recordings crackle life. The songs never feel worked over – practiced, sure, but almost certainly fresh in the band’s repertoire when they hit the tape. In the end, that’s the best quality of post-punk. Rubber legged bass is fun but exhausting in quantity, hangovers of dub tend to dissipate, but the hook that snags the hardest is that feeling that it could all fall apart at any moment. Vital Idles embody that fragility, bearing the scars of past scrapes on their knees like badges, signaling all the likeminded souls that they’re versed and ready for another go.

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Vital Idles – “Solid States”

Glasgow DIY-ers Vital Idles give a warm up to their upcoming album with the stark, bristly “Solid States.” The band have nailed the less is more punk aesthetic that drove classics from Young Marble Giants and The Slits and they bring that vibe out in full force here. There’s a detached quality to the song, ably reflected in the accompanying video of the band looking sullen at best and bored for the majority of the clip. The song is calm at first blush, but revels in a kind of below the surface restlessness that’s crackling with static electricity – bone dry but ready to bite when you least expect it. Looking forward to more from these folks.



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Dog Chocolate – “Tesco Flag”

OK I’ll be the first to admit I’ve often balked at UK noise-poppers Dog Chocolate based on that name alone. It’s abhorrent, but not wholly off base on the sound of a band that’s enticing yet corrosive in nature. The band’s latest single, “Tesco Flag,” is scotch taped to a clanking rhythm that gives way to nauseous waves of synth overload, rusted through guitar tones and vocal chaos. Propulsive, disjointed and ripped to shreds by the last note, the song boasts plenty to love. The band pairs this amphetamine noise-dive with a bonkers video of the band dressed as nits tearing it up in the woods (though I suppose those trees are meant to be hair, eh). Either way it’s a corker of a song and gives me pause on my years of write-off on the band based on superficial means.


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Spinning Coin

For all their plaudits abroad Glasgow’s Spinning Coin aren’t wrestling for review space Stateside. The crux of that probably has to do with my theory of America’s threshold for UK bands at any given time. I suppose the press feels we’ve already filled the tank on 2017, but that’s no reason to let this one languish. The album comes via a powerful pair of post-punk signifiers – released on The Pastels’ Geographic Music imprint and produced by Orange Juice’s Edwyn Collins. For what it’s worth, this sounds altogether like an album cherry-picked by The Pastels. It shares their penchant for jangled charms and an alternating emphasis on barbed hooks and lush surroundings.

That alternation is the key to Permo‘s strengths and, at times its unevenness. The band shares a pair of songwriters who each have a strength they choose to flex on any given track. Sean Armstrong tends to take his songs to those lush vistas, fully reclining in the bleary-eyed nostalgia of Sarah Records and the softer side of Creation. His counterpart, Jack Mellin tends to bring the ragged edge to Spinning Coin’s work, often making tracks that are fun but barely standing on their feet (which is not necessarily a bad thing in my opinion). The whiplash between gives the record plenty of variety, but can make it feel like two different bands. I’d think moving forward, they’d be wise to find a smoother way to bounce off of one another, but that kind of symbiosis takes time.

What comes about is a record that’s got a real grip on the past and more than half a handle on how to recontextualize the nostalgia. They hit the nail hard sometimes, namely the ragged glory of “Magdalene” or the frothing elation of “Raining on Hope Street”, but its clear there’s more in the coffers to come. This hits me in a lot of my personal obsessions, and I’m definitely going to keep an eye on where Spinning Coin winds up. For now, some playlists just got stocked up around here.


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