“Is it real? Is it real?” asks Luciel Brown throughout this potent follow up to the thrilling debut “Fictional Decision” by Leeds-based trio Drahla – PopLib’s essential song of 2016.
The song is due for release in April on the Too Pure label’s singles club. Coruscating bass sets a platform for a typically cool and mysterious sing-speak stream-of-consciousness artful wordiness.
The song builds through dense layers of sonic energy as guitars buzz and menace before pulling back, introducing saxophone – some of the best wild skronking saxophone since The Stooges “1970” from their “Funhouse” album in fact – and then re-calibrating the volume for climactic ending.
It all adds up to a powerful statement and the fulfilling experience of a song merging elements of post-punk with art pop and noise rock and leaving some mystery and intrigue in its trail of beautifully dissonant noise.
The only band I can think of who may have been within striking distance of what Drahla are doing right now was Sonic Youth at the absolute apex of their dark abrasive melodic cool, around the time of their 1987 album “Sister”.
I love the random acts of discovery that come via Bandcamp and people doing the simple act of sharing a link to something new. Sometimes what you hear invades your brain so quickly and completely that resistance is futile and you click ‘buy’and pay more than the asking price just because it is that good. Like Drahla and “Fictional Decision”:
It’s a simple idea. Bass, drums, voice and that quiet/loud dynamic we are familiar with from Pixies songs. Part spoken/ part sung/ part chanted words and phrases that are strange, mysterious, threatening (and also as artfully abstract as cut-up Broadcast song lyrics), are a familiar concept to minds perverted by years of the free-form imagination of Mark E Smith in The Fall.
But on this song by Leeds based trio Drahla these components – familiar concepts from post-punk and noise rock – are assembled and delivered in a way that allows them to take on new life and provide an an electric shock.
Maybe it’s the way that when the guitar comes in LOUD it’s just a blazing storm of dissonance and beautiful abstract fury. Maybe it’s the way that bassist/ guitarist and vocalist Luciel Brown maintains an air of indifference to the setting in which her incantations are delivered. Classic tension and release.
Either way, I’ve played this a dozen times tonight and all I can conclude is that I’ll be playing it another dozen times tomorrow… and after that as well.
Postscript: There’s a wonderful lo-fi synthpop/ artpop split release with Swords from a year ago which has two songs from Drahla. “Stereo Maze” gave me flashbacks to an old Amos & Sara cassette tape from a long time ago. The post-punk art-pop spirit is clearly strong in this band.
And then there is this enigmatic “teaser” for something I’d love to hear more from:
Young Hellions songs appear like ghosts sporadically, when you least expect them, and most need them. Here’s the splendidly fuzzed up, woozy new “Fractures And Cacophony” for your listening pleasure.
It’s a fine distillation of the most compelling elements of heavy shoegaze, gothic synth-pop and melodic grunge, weaving melodic pop hooks – and another great song title/ chorus phrase – through the sonic mass of abrasive and swooping guitar interplay.
Young Hellions is Auckland musician Maeve Munro (Bengal Lights, Cat Venom) currently based in Leeds, UK. If you’ve missed the back-catalogue check the first single “Best Witchcraft is Geometry” and the self-titled 4 song EP it was subsequently included on.
According to Muzai Records “Fractures and Cacophony” was to be released on 22 July. I’ll update this post with a link to any purchase options once they appear. Hopefully it will also be available via Muzai Records’ bandcamp page.
Crumbs is a punk/ lo-fi/ post-punk band from Leeds UK, consisting of Ruth, Gem, Jamie and Stuart. That’s all there is to know. That’s all we need to know. “On Tiptoes” is the 2nd song on a 5 song release called simply “demos”
The five songs are all somewhat rudimentary constructions built around rumbling basslines and crunchy guitar, sounding like live practice room recordings, as you might expect with that “demos’ title.
Despite the superficial rough-around-the-edges nature of the songs each is satisfyingly different from the other and all pack an undeniable DIY pop-craft charm, with rattling-good post-punk structure and momentum.
“On Tiptoes” is built on a big pushy Steve Hanley-ish bassline but this isn’t The Fall. The song is reflective and melancholy, with Ruth or Gem singing “hope this message reaches you” – and instructing or admonishing “mind your manners, when it matters, always be kind, never ever undermine” in a voice that sounds more like its channeling deep regret and sadness – or perhaps cynicism – than anger.
It’s all very mysterious, and all the better for that. In a world of overcooked, glaringly obvious pop, a bit of mystery and anti-style no-shine grit is a wonderful thing to lose yourself in for a bit.