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Review: Garnets – Towns EP

12 Aug

Garnets Towns

It seems to be that, for whatever reason, when we come to write about Garnets, it is usually a few months (at least) after we originally intended to. So it is that here we are in August, talking about their debut studio EP, Towns, which came out in May. As is always the case with Garnets though, the quality of the music is so high that frankly it doesn’t matter when you get to them, just as long as you do.

We begin with previous single “Fruit”. Five minutes of fragile beauty, with Sam J Delves’ ethereal vocal floating like a feather on the breeze over delicate piano strokes and hushed electronic murmurings. Made from the finest and thinnest porcelain, were you to try and hold it, it would shatter in your hands. The simple toy-box-sounding piano outro is sublime, so effortless and evocative it feels like a flash of colour in a monochrome world.

“Mother and the Daughter” too blends muted piano with haunting, minimalist melodies that brush over the beatless rhythm like snow being blown across the arctic plains. Here the vocals take greater prominence, giving the track an ever-so-slightly more traditional pop song feel, but still they float and swirl within the misty music.

“Arches” on the other hand is a couple of minutes of barely-there-fragility. Sporadic keys dwell amongst almost imperceptible sounds of static, or ocean waves and the occasional sound of doors opening and closing. This is juxtaposed with the altogether more explosive finale of the title track.

Of each of the four tracks “Towns” feels the most like a pop song. The vocals act as much more of a focal point, an anchor for the melody which is then raised as the ship sets sail for more vibrant waters. These waters are of very real, very energetic guitar riffs which swell and crash against the rocky shores of drums and cymbals. It is entirely unlike anything else on the EP, splashing life and realism into an otherwise mystical world of aural fantasy and splendour.

That is Garnets though, able to blend the most delicate of sounds with the most raw. On Towns they give us wistful, elegant beauty, both intimate and expansive, but they also allow us a moment to rock out and get our juices going. Almost as if they want to stir our body as well as our mind.

’Towns’ is out now and available either digitally or on limited edition CD from the Garnets bandcamp site.

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‘U’ is for Us Baby Bear Bones

24 Jul

Us Baby Bear Bones

You don’t need us to tell you (but we will anyway) that these days, with the continued expansion of online streaming services and social media added to the traditional methods of yore, ways in which we can discover new music are legion. Gone are the days of relying on the music press to give away a free tape or CD alongside rave reviews of bands you’d hitherto never heard of; or listening to the likes of John Peel, or Steve Lamacq and Jo Whiley, to hear samples of new and exciting bands. Nope, nowadays you can just jump online and people are there, ready and waiting to give you as much music as you can handle of any style or genre.

Being a blog, we don’t even have to go looking for new music anymore if we’d prefer not to as people just send us mail after mail asking that we take a listen and perhaps feature their track, album, video, EP etc. So it is all the more special when we do discover something organically, especially when it is completely by chance and really rather amazing. Which is exactly how we first heard Us Baby Bear Bones, by chance in a pub in Norwich and they blew us away.

Doing some research after the gig we wondered how we had not heard of this Brighton trio before as they have not been without blog support, but so it was as we trundled into the Birdcage pub on a Friday evening primarily to support a local label and promoter, Barefeet Records, who was putting on the show, with no clue of what to expect.

What we got was an evening of high quality banter and even higher quality music. Cool synths and electronica wash over compulsive beats, Puff and Daisy’s intertwining vocals and harmonies are ice sculptures atop a sonic glacier bathed in shadow. Yes, for while the tracks are beautiful and can be soothing on the ear, they are swathed in darkness as well. The well of the macabre has been visited and drawn from, as is especially evidenced by the amazing new and somewhat gruesome video for “Sun”.

Performing live they are somehow able to add more to a sound that is already multi facetted and has more layers than Mr Skinny in winter. Not that they believe in making life easy for themselves. Being multi-instrumentalists with such a range of sounds in their music means there can be a lot to do on stage, particularly for poor Luke who appears to be a blur as he moves from guitar to his electronic beats and glockenspiel. At least Daisy (bass synth, casio, omnichord and samples) and Puff (vocals, loops, drums and clarinet) get to stand in largely the same place.

Us Baby Bear Bones Shadow

It is this setting though that allows them to expand still further and tracks like “Swamp” and “You” (the studio versions of which sound gorgeous) seem to swell and fill the surroundings. The demure vocal stylings take on a new edge and energy without ever losing the beauty of the song. The secret appears to be that in amongst the layers of sound, the spiralling electronic and rhythms, the world of ice and the creeping shadows, damn fine pop songs are to be found. They are emotional and evocative as well as being catchy and very easy on the ear. It’s hard to choose a standout but “You” in particular is swirly like a galaxy, magnificent and seemingly infinite, growling and bursting with each note and vocal. It is simply stunning.

If there is a moral to this tale, and we are not sure there is, it is that music isn’t just on the internet and that taking a chance on a live show now and then can pay dividends. More importantly it is that Us Baby Bear Bones is undeniably quite a special young act at work and one which we should be hearing much more of in the coming months and years. For now though we are delighted to induct them into the hallowed halls of Alphabet Bands and look forward to hearing more from them in the future.

Us Baby Bear Bones’ debut EP, What Starts With A U Ends With An I, is out now and available in a number of packages from their Bandcamp page.

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‘F’ is for Fractures

27 Mar


It’s fascinating when you think about it, how we react to a song is very much dependant on the circumstances under which it is heard for the first time, or the mood we are in, in some cases it could be our internal chemical balance, enhanced or otherwise, that makes you think something is amazing. Similarly, the way music can affect you, the change it can impact upon your mood and even your outlook on a situation never ceases to amaze us. In particular, it’s the way music has of seeping into your soul and triggering emotion and memories, you develop associations that last forever and that can be sparked quickly and completely.

So it was with the music of Australian Mark Zito, or Fractures as he is now known as. Specifically his latest work, a swooshing, otherworldly cover of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” which instantly hit the spot in our brain reserved for ‘ahhhh shit, this is awesome’ moments. As we’ve mentioned before, “Space Oddity” has a very special and important place in our music loving heart, so to hear it remixed in such a unique and beautiful way tickled us way more than pink. It has a suitably retro, 70’s sci-fi flick feel to it while still retaining enough Bowie-ness within this near complete re-working to be instantly recognisable. It’s probably one of the best remixes we’ve heard (and it’s available to download for free as well).

We shouldn’t be surprised though as Fractures is a project of distinguished quality. Dreamy electro soundscapes are complemented with soft, soulful falsetto vocals that, on “Twisted” in particular, ring out with a richness that would stop a rhino’s heart. Elsewhere, on “Embers” for example, they near whisper along delicately before building into big and evocative crescendos of atmospheric folksiness. It sounds like an odd mix but by God it works.

The sounds are patient, controlled but not angular; they melt and float into one another as with the likes of London Grammar and evoke dark atmospherics like Paper Crows. It’s not just the gloriousness of this electronic instrumentation that has us so excited either; it is the combination, the perfect symbiotic combination, with the dusk-like lyrics and vocals. Like Radiohead and even Kindness to a degree, Fractures blends light and dark, retro and futuristic, indie and electro and he does so to a dazzling degree.

Depending on your mood when you listen, his music could balm an enraged soul or stir a lethargic one to action; it could warm a frozen heart or cause ice tears to run down your face. Whichever emotion it sparks, whichever feeling or memory comes cascading to the forefront of your mind, you will be left in no doubt that this is music of genuine quality and deserved of repeated listens and undivided attention.

Fractures is currently prepping his debut EP to be released mid-2013.

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‘G’ is for Garnets

20 Mar


Those of you who have followed this blog for a while may well recall an interview that we did with The Guardian for their Blog Jam series. In it we identified Leeds based noodlers, Garnets as our soon-to-be-inducted ‘G’ band.

That was in May last year. A lot has changed since then, but our desire to feature Garnets as an Alphabet Band never abated so we are delighted that, after the best part of a year, we are finally welcoming them to the family.

When we say a lot has changed, we mean for Garnets. They first came to our attention when our friends over at Rarity In form featured their beautiful, intricate and atmospheric track, “Dance Of The Chloroplasts”. We were captivated by the minimalist and haunting melodies, the sparseness and use of wide open spaces as well as pin-prick precise electronic sounds.

We soon engaged the band in conversation by email but while we spoke on and off for the remainder of the year, publically they dropped off the radar. Newly relocated to London from Leeds and making music once again, we grabbed a cuppa with Sam and Ed recently and the first thing we wanted to know was, where have they been?

”We graduated” says Sam. It’s a short answer but one that actually explains an awful lot. The band as was in Leeds has largely relocated to disparate corners of the country and that has made getting together quite difficult. The band as it was hasn’t got together and rehearsed for some time but Sam himself has shipped all his recording equipment down to London and is currently ”making up for lost time”. The band hasn’t broken up but, as Ed explains, if they waited for everyone to be available at the same time, they could end up waiting forever. ”It’s been pretty much impossible with everyone in different places”, he admits. ”If we hadn’t started doing stuff just as a two piece, there’s no telling how long it would have been before we started recording stuff again”.

Sam has not stopped writing mind you and the band recently released “Fruit”, a super chilled piece of looped electronica with a graceful, music box piano outro as their debut, you can actually buy this, single. While Sam is keen to stress that they are seeing how it goes, there are a few more tracks waiting in the wings to be released, maybe an EP in the not too distant future as well. Good news for those amongst us who were lamenting their apparent disappearance.

Having previously recorded with the wider band, tracks are now written and produced in Sam’s home studio, aka his bedroom. “I don’t have much to go with really, equipment wise”, he admits. ”One good microphone and whatever I have to hand really”, which is quite impressive when you consider the fragility and intricacy of the tunes they are producing. Not that having more or better kit would make a difference, ”I like limitations, I think it adds a lot” says Sam and Ed agrees, ”I think it forces you to work harder on the intricacies”, he says. ”I think if you’ve got too much you become lazy”. ”It doesn’t have any character” adds Sam.

Their influences are not quite as surprising, Sigor Rós and James Blake for example, though Sam is also a big Springsteen fan, which doesn’t come through quite as strongly in their sound but may well translate to live performances. Perhaps jeans and white t-shirts could be the band uniform. Joking aside, live is not really on their mind at the moment, the focus is on writing and recording and what happens next. It feels like they are almost starting from scratch, they say. There is, says Ed, a bit of a launch pad with their previous releases and the fanbase they had already built up but with the wider band spread out around the country it is Sam and Ed who are taking it forward and what happens next is very much dependant on how they and the others feel.

One thing is clear though, it is great to have them back recording and releasing music again, and with more tracks on the way they should be able to take off from that launch pad and hit new heights. It may have taken us nearly a year to welcome them to the Alphabet Bands family, but it was certainly worth the wait.

Stalk Garnets: Facebook / Twitter / Tumblr / YouTube

‘V’ is for The Vestals

22 Feb

The Vestals

In ancient Roman religion, the Vestals or Vestal Virgins, were priestesses, goddesses whose College of the Vestals was regarded as fundamental to the security and success of Rome. The Vestals were freed of the usual social obligations in order to devote themselves to the study and correct observance of state rituals that were off-limits to the male colleges of priests.

We may not be in ancient Rome but the world has once again been blessed with the presence of The Vestals, albeit in the form of a five-piece indie-pop combo from South Wales. Once again though, they appear to have been freed of the usual social obligations of ceding to the constant demand for information and facts, devoting themselves instead to the music and letting that speak for the band.

So steadfast are they in this belief that singer Adam (no surname, ” you don’t need to know that, you just need to hear the songs” he says) will not yield, even during a face to face interview. ” We are not like, deliberately mysterious, but we just like to let the music do the talking” he reiterates when we sit down following a storming set at the Norwich Arts Centre. The band has been on tour with Pure Love and Turbogeist and, though you would presume they’d attract a very different kind of audience, their blend of energetic indie-pop has been going down a storm with Adam a young Morrissey/Brett Anderson hybrid at the front of the stage.

Even during a live performance they divulge no secrets to the crowd, performing in half light that makes it difficult to determine what they look like. It is the promo shot at the top of this article, with blurred faces, in real life. Aside from Adam, who will man the merch stand after the set, the band is able to walk by unnoticed. ”We are just comfortable playing with those kind of lights. We think they look nice. I don’t think it’s that important to see us; just the songs. The songs you can hear. It’s just the way we like it”.

What we do know is that the guys have been together since at least 2011 when they originally released “Perfect Pain” online, but they ”took it down after a week because it was moving a bit too fast for us”. Having come together originally just to record that song they have reworked it for release on 7” through Killing Moon Records as a double A-side with the equally wonderful “Seventeen”. We know too that the guys have been in bands before and, after a few shows last year, mostly around Wales, this is their first tour as The Vestals.

Live they perform with a controlled energy, you can’t quite tell if some of their rocking out moments have been coordinated or if they are occurring naturally but there is no question over the quality of their music. They specialise in a blend of melancholic yet rocking pop music, all infectious hooks and jump-along choruses that should be blasting out of bedrooms the length and breadth of the country.

That surely is in their future, a future they say they are happy to let come to them. “We spent last year recording a lot of music, so there is a lot of material ready to go” Adam tell us. ”We just take each step as it comes really so we are really excited for this single and then I am sure we will release more songs and play more shows, that’s the plan”. Which of course just adds to the mystery and intrigue. We don’t need to know about the future, just enjoy the music we have at the present, let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Whatever the future holds, there certainly seems to be big things ahead for the band. Time will tell if they go down in legend like their ancient Roman namesakes.

The “Perfect Pain”/”Seventeen” AA side single is out now via Killing Moon Records and is available both digitally and on 7” vinyl.

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