In the mid 90’s, a humble little electronic trio from Glasgow named Bis began to make a name for themselves as one of the UK’s most distinct acts in the country’s alternative scene, and this led way to quite the flux of attention which eventually got them contributing to soundtracks like that of The Powerpuff Girls – a childhood favourite of ours – and even a spot on the prestigious Top Of The Pops.
Unfortunately, they weren’t able to quite reach the heights that they were pegged for, and they would split in the early 2000’s, but towards the end of the decade, they would reform, and have been on the go ever since within the Scottish underground, and have formed a new lease of life in that time.
It’s been a busy past couple of years for the group, and entering 2019, they are back with a brand new record titled Slight Disconnects, and the results are just as awesome as we expected them to be.
The entire album is stacked with tune after absolute tune, each of them with this pulsing new wave vibe that grabs you and has you addicted from there on out. They never fail in delivering these juicy melodies that are just so engaging, dotted with hooks that glue to the brain, with just some of the best examples including Sound Of A Heartbreak, Dracula and the exuberant There Is No Point.
But you can’t have such zippy dance numbers without great performers at the helm, and all three members work at their highest level here. Most strikingly is Manda, whose sharp, distinct harmonies are so bright and peppy, with a real youthful quality behind her voice. Steven and John’s combined warmer, deeper vocals also click, the general production – from the perky guitars and synths to the pumping beats – is top notch, and the tunes feature some entertaining, often clever lyrics that hold our attention.
Slight Disconnects doesn’t feel like the product of a band desperate trying to cling on to past glory, instead being one that is a fresh, fun and raving good time, not only creating a feverish buzz that will rub off on both veteran fans and newcomers, but shows that Bis have only excelled with age and their talents are at a higher standard than ever before. Surely, it’s not too late to achieve mainstream success again, right?
***AVAILABLE ON FRIDAY 15TH FEBRUARY***
It was 3 years ago that we were presented with the opportunity to check out Dublin indie folk rockers Empire Circus, and we absolutely fell in love with them, but we didn’t hear much of them since then. That is until now, as the guys have re-emerged to release their sophomore album, Ti.
The sound they produce is thoroughly rich and crisp, and has the listener just totally engrossed within a tingling atmosphere. It has a grand, cinematic vibe to it, and at the forefront are these warm and very sincere harmonies, and they are a major contributing factor towards the luxurious melodies that are further boosted by the excellent guitars, smooth bass chords and sleek drumming, and the occasional usage of pianos provides an extra coat of paint to the songs.
Bloodlines, Salt and We March Into The Night feature hooking choruses, pieces like One Snapshot are a little more straightforward yet still make a mark, and tunes such as Strangers, Under The Same Stars and A Promise Of Nothing pull in with captivating writing, but the cream of the crop has to be the closing number High Above This Grey There’s Blue, which is a masterpiece where all elements are employed to perfection, and it is honestly worth the buying price alone.
The quartet have absolutely outdone themselves here, creating one of the most brilliant, awe-inspiring records that we have had the pleasure of experiencing in the longest time, being as close to flawless as it gets from start to finish – already an early candidate for the best of 2019 – and cementing Empire Circus as perhaps the best underground musical act in all of Ireland; our favourite anyway, no doubt about that.
To coincide with the 10th anniversary of them playing together, Dawn and Murray of Twin Heart have surprised us with a new EP titled Mechanical Heart, featuring a blend of the old and the new.
In terms of fresh additions, we have the gentle title track which has a simple but nice drum beat, the harmony is lovely and the lyrics, while straightforward, quickly stick in the head. We also have their latest single This Place Is Not My Own, which is our favourite to come from them in a while, featuring fantastic writing, a stand out chorus and what has to be one of Dawn’s finest vocal performances ever.
But on top of those, they also give us alternative renditions of 3 classic Mechanical Smile songs – Arrows, Kaleidoscope and Leap Of Faith – all presented excellently in a more stripped manner with the sound focused towards the emo-based direction that encompasses Twin Heart.
A much welcome addition to the stacked library that the Baxters have cranked out over the last decade, and hopefully this is truly not the end…
BURY THE TRAITOR – Ascend To Clarity
Since the Derby metalcore outfit Bury The Traitor made their grand return in 2017, they’ve been developing a buzz around them, in the meantime compiling together a brand new EP – Ascend To Clarity. It’s been a whole year since they put the finishing touches on the record, and on the eve of it’s release, folk better get ready because this is going to blow your socks off.
Embers kicks it off slow and steady, setting the scene before they drop into the heaviness with the incredible Season To Burn, highlighted by immense verses and a strong chorus, and from there it’s walloping thrills right up until the end, with other landmarks including the catchy A.S.I.F and Lion Vs Wolf.
The songs, in addition to being so tightly produced, have this thumping intensity propelling them that keeps the listener totally consumed and urging them to bang their head along. The great lyrics are also a key feature that add yet another notch to the already bountiful handiwork.
Oli is an outstanding vocalist with a real brawn behind his voice, and he’s complimented perfectly by Martyn Sheridan, who keeps himself busy working the kinetic riffs alongside Scott, while Martyn Emmett on bass and James at the drums churn out booming rhythms.
Bury The Traitor, as well as their followers for that matter, have been waiting on putting out Ascend To Clarity for ages, and we think it’s going to be worth it, because this EP is an insanely good one that excels on pretty much every level, and will go down as a major highlight within the British metal scene in 2019.
***AVAILABLE ON THURSDAY 14TH FEBRUARY***
SEMAPHORE – Leave With The Season
Hailing from Brooklyn, the quartet of Semaphore have been grinding on the city’s underground scene for a number of years now, and our first introduction to the group comes via their next forthcoming EP – Leave With The Season – and they grabbed us quickly.
On the surface, the guys label themselves as post-shoegaze, but their sound is not as simple as that, because there are clearly essences of rock, pop and indie meshed in there, so what we ultimately get is music that is diverse and can’t be necessarily pigeonholed.
As for the tracks themselves, they are pretty freaking sweet. Lead single Unreliable is the undisputed highlight, not only being catchy as all hell but also featuring really strong lyrics relating to the negative aspects of a romantic relationship in the modern age which we are sure many can connect with.
The rest of the tunes live up to that same high standard, driven by great performances from all the band; Siddhu leading the charge with bold and emotionally flushing vocals, Jay shining with superb guitar work alongside the former, and punchy rhythms being cranked out from Niko and Emmett.
Tightly put together and loaded with a tonne of depth, Semaphore’s latest effort is a cracker and proves them to be one of the finest up and coming acts to emerge from the Big Apple.
***AVAILABLE ON FRIDAY 22ND FEBRUARY***
BLAIR CORON – ON THE NATURE OF THINGS
We appreciate musicians who can deliver something different that breaks way from the usual mold, and Blair Coron fits that description. We actually first came across him back in 2016 when we got a hold of his first album DO RE, but now he’s returned into our sights with his latest release, On The Nature Of Things.
Within minutes, you’re fixated and locked in for the journey, and over the course of an hour, Blair presents a compilation of pieces that are nothing short of stunning, as he forms these intriguing soundscapes with a rich scope, sometimes soft and delicate, other times leaning in a more brimming, ethereal direction but always engrossing throughout.
Many instruments are put to use, most often beautifully gentle piano keys, but sometimes there can be the likes of raw acoustics, warm strings and even harmonies added into the mix.
It makes for nice easy listening, whether it’s before bed or on a long bus or train ride, it is a good distraction to ease the mind, and that’s something we can’t say about a lot of albums that we review, so if this is your cup of tea, then this record from a mature and talented artist will satisfy, being on the whole a pleasantly lucid, atmosphere experience.
Regret punk. If those two words resonate with you, then you’re in for a treat, courtesy of London quartet Burnt Tapes and their upcoming debut album, Never Better.
Their self-proclaimed brand isn’t just a cheap gimmick, it’s a perfect representation of the themes that they revel in, including loss and insecurities, and the negative effects of these experiences, which the guys capture to a tee through the captivating writing prevailing throughout.
The performances also bring these ordeals to life, courtesy of a triad of vocals rife with rough emotion; Phil leading the charge in stellar form in that area, aided nicely by Tone and Panos who also supply some slick guitar work and bass tones respectively, and Jordan completes the tunes with sturdy drum beats.
Add in a solid diversity between the tracks and you get a strong effort from a band who are clearly evolving and improving their artistry with each release.
***AVAILABLE ON FRIDAY 22ND FEBRUARY***
2018 was the year that we were exposed to the beauty of the Norwegian metal scene, with bands such as Kosmik Boogie Tribe, Leonov and Juicer grabbing our attention, and our latest discovery, Dangerface, ranks as one of the most welcome yet, having given their new record – Get Loud – a spin.
From the word go, they unleash into a string of insanely heavy, off-the-wall tracks that spark this overwhelming, high-octane energy that is so sweet, and they keep that sensation on a constant drive without much of a hitch.
The vocals are wickedly forceful, the riffs are pretty damn rousing, the bass tones have an extra crunch to them that is oh so good, and the drumming has a roaring power behind it.
It’s fitting that their content is about finding positive escapes from negativity, because this album can be described as one itself. Just stick in the headphones, hit the play button and you’ll find yourself on one hell of a chaotic, yet cathartic ride.
Australian hard rock band Resurgence haven’t been together long, but in no time at all they have garnered quite a decent reputation in their home country as promising stars within the Aussie underground, and if you get the opportunity to listen to their debut album – Voices – you’ll find out exactly why.
It has to be said, given their short run so far, they’ve already clicked so well with a firm chemistry between them as they perform at an equal level, giving us a tasty combo of hearty vocals, rocking riffs, bulky bass chords and stout drumming.
They have little bother generating a sense of excitement, with more or less every track donning a large scale, and that size is only reinforced by the staggering energy which encompasses each of the hook-laden numbers.
Whatever this record lacks in immediate originality, it makes up for with the rest of the great qualities that defines it. With a punchy verve driving it and plenty of variety on offer, Voices is just a pure blast. Here’s hoping Resurgence make something of themselves, because they definitely don’t deserve to slip under the radar.
Matthew O’Connor from Bristol has long been a musician, having trained as a classic pianist and also composing content that has been featured on national TV in both the UK and Europe.
But over the last couple of years, he has been established himself as a capable electronic artist with his solo project, Phonseca, which has earned him a positive reputation in the press and plenty of airplay to show for that, and now he prepares to release his first full-length effort under this banner – Between A Dream.
Matthew provides a blend of smooth, tranquil pieces that flow at a slow and steady pace, giving you the time to sit back, take it all in and immerse yourself within the enticing atmosphere being flourished.
The production is very pure, and the instrumentations that utilise the likes of piano keys, warm strings and subtle bass chords benefit from that.
Celestial vocal chimes are featured in a few places and they add to the ambience nicely, and Matthew also enlists the help of Kristina Sheppard to sing on a few songs, who does a terrific job with stunning, sublime harmonies. Honestly, the pair should collaborate more in the future, they make a great team.
All in all, a professionally assembled and beautifully executed album from a man with genuine talent that cannot afford to go amiss.
***AVAILABLE ON FRIDAY 15TH FEBRUARY***
*SMALL MUSIC SCENE SOCIAL FEEDS*