Nothing Can Stop Nicky Palermo And Co.

It’s been a whole four years since the beloved ear-shattering guitar quartet from Philadelphia last came to our shores. Priding themselves as being one of the first bands in the US to do a full nationwide tour since the pandemic hit two years ago, they’ve finally been able blast out hit after hit from their latest record The Great Dismal with sold-out shows across the world. Whilst the lineup has fluctuated over the last 10 years or so, leader Dominic Palermo couldn’t have a better group of people to join him on the road, with Christina Michelle (Gouge Away) on bass and Benny Meed (Dead Swans) on drums. Ahead of their Brighton show at Green Door Store, I was lucky enough to speak to Nicky and lead guitarist Doyle Martin of Cloakroom about their return to the UK and the context behind that sample on ‘Say Less’.

Your first EP Downward Years To Come came out 10 years ago, how does it feel looking back on it?

Nicky: That’s a long time to remember! But yeah, we did that record with Kyle Johnson. So the lineup was a lot different. We didn’t really quite comprehend what we were doing, not that we do now either. But yeah, it felt young. Things felt more like a band, as recording Sons and Lovers still felt like the demo that got put together by us. Downward kinda felt the same, except that, got put on vinyl. It was also kind of the first time that I felt like we were starting to see what our sound might be. As far as like, where we’re at now it’s like a whole different planet!

(At this point in the interview, Doyle asks my girlfriend for a ‘tiny cigarette’ which we call rollies in the UK. I watch as he constructs it together and doesn’t even need to lick the paper to fold it.)

On The Great Dismal it felt like you took a more ‘cinematic’ approach to songwriting. Would you say that’s a fair statement to make?

Nicky: I mentioned Sound Of Metal in a previous interview, but I also watched a lot of movies by Yorgos Lanthimos and Akira Kurosawa during quarantine, so it coincided with us demoing the album. I think I watched a movie or two a day during that first year so yeah, I watched good shit, some bullshit, I downloaded the Criterion app at one point, which was cool because I would never usually have the time to sit down and appreciate shit like that. So yeah, it was definitely an art-filled time when we wrote the record.

I wanted to know more about why you chose that sample of a woman talking about shopping at a mall as a form of exercise for the song Say Less, what’s the context there?

Nicky: That song is about people speaking to you too much. Like whether it’s just on some like, punishing shit. Or if it’s like, someone just trying to like, talk your ear off. Or if it’s like some coke head shit, like, it’s kind of like a mixture of all that. So the video that we use is like, it’s like this pretty unused video of this lady that’s like, looks like she’s on a bunch of amphetamines at the mall. And she talks about working out at the mall through shopping. So it was it seemed like a good my friend sent it to us when we were in the studio and I just was like, “I’m gonna sample this”.

Doyle: Not a lot of views on it either before we used it!

You recently posted some photos of yourself with Full Of Hell, what can we look forward to hearing from both of you?

Nicky: They’re very close friends of mine, but aside from a live stream set and being on a few bills we’ve kept what we have planned for Roadburn Festival pretty quiet. So hopefully one day we’ll get to record something together unless it’s a complete disaster of course. It’s just gonna be me and Doyle but even then it’s always hard trying to get everyone to rehearse together. We’ll see how it goes.

Despite all the bad luck you’ve had over the years, do you feel like there are people out there that get the wrong impression about you? Do you still get accused of being a ‘tough guy’ band?

Doyle: I mean, we are a tough guy band dude, hahaha.

Nicky: It’s awful, we still get that from certain people online and in person. I think it’s just people don’t know how to handle someone that’s as open and honest as we are and things like that. And, you know, we don’t really follow the same guidelines and rules that everyone does. So like, we kind of alienate ourselves in that way. And the easiest way to misinterpret someone that’s put themselves in a different spot is the kind of like give them something that they don’t understand whether it’s like a being called a bully or like, whatever it is, that’s how they deal with not being able to understand that we just want to do things the way we do things.

What do you love most about touring the UK?

Nicky: Mostly just getting to see our friends that we don’t get to see face to face very often. We don’t have the same lifelong connections in mainland Europe so we consider y’all to be our real friends. Ben who’s filling in on drums is someone I’ve known for over 10 years, for example. We had fucking breakfast at his parents’ house in Worthing this morning with beans mushrooms and eggs, shit ruled. No matter how many times I come over here you guys still sound funny to me, I can’t get enough of it! I also just love being in Brighton in general, it’s for sure one of my favorite places to visit.

Photo by Cam Smith

I know it’s probably a question you get sick of hearing about but is Horror Show done for good?

Nicky: Short answer, no. I don’t have the energy for it and the people that were involved with that like I owe them a fair bit of respect to just like not bother with it anymore. Every once in a while we would hit a show or something like that and I didn’t feel like it was disrespectful to Joshua who passed away or anything but… I’ve had the thought of like recording again, maybe a third final little EP but it just seems doesn’t seem right. Plus, the people that are coming back around, bringing their old band back and trying to do it again like they just end up embarrassing themselves most of the time and I don’t want to accidentally do that to myself. I’ve managed to make it this long without like not completely embarrassing myself.

Right, so my follow-up question to that is…will there be any more Death Of Lovers material in the future?

Nicky: I’ll probably do something again, like that. The thing with that was, I think that there’s a medium which existed for why I did that band was because, at the time, the lineup was a little bit more fluid as far as writing and stuff. But now that like, it’s back to like a band again new people. And there’s absolutely room for change. I think that like I can probably appease what I want to get out of Death Of Lovers with Nothing. In some sense, I would expect big changes because I’m not going to make the same record again. Maybe that’s when I’ll embarrass myself along for the ride!

Finally, when can we expect a new record from Nothing?

Nicky: I don’t think we can release records at the same pace that we did before the pandemic, but also it feels like there’s way less pressure now to do so. The Great Dismal felt like an amazing way to end being in this band for a decade, almost like closing the final chapter of a book. I got what I wanted out of an album during a fucked up time and now I’m hitting up shows with these guys and it’s sick.

Doyle: I think next year we might start writing again but for now we’re just chilling. I mean, when I joined the band you guys already had a bunch of demos ready to go.

Nicky: Yeah I want to feel less pressure on my shoulders, we’ll start up again when the time feels right. It will be good to write a record with Doyle and do it that way.

Doyle: Are you gonna tell people I did that? That I housed Nicky’s pint?

Nothing will play the Sunday of Outbreak Festival in Manchester on 26th June. Get tickets here.

Night Carriage – Plinth Album Review

Ochrus Records – 2021

A debut release in two parts, this is the debut album from Paul Chave under Night Carriage moniker as well as the first release on the newly formed Lincoln based Ochrus Records. Chave having previously worked with the likes of Grassic, Bat Flattery and Original Pilot Project. This album was written, produced and recorded entirely by Chave and its a testament to each of those elements.

The sound is raw and untempered, but that only adds to the grinding drive that each track brings. With riffs that reminisce in the feeling 90’s grunge Smashing Pumpkins on the likes of “Keds” that will have you head-banging from the opening moment. Being the only instrumental on the album it delivers in providing enough energy and prowess that you just know that in a live setting these songs are going to be shaking the walls of any venue. This sound is also felt on “Whiz (New Manifesto)” as the sound glitches in to action until just harsh, bursting riffs and snarling vocals kick in to drive the track fully into motion.

Although the melodies on opener “Janus” may at first seem unconventional, you soon realise how quickly they get stuck in your head. Lo-fi riffs and alternative vocals that dance about the soundscape and left-field turns leave you truly encapsulated until you’re humming it as you try to sleep. An ever expanding song that is ready to explode out of itself.

Title track “Plinth” moves the album into more of synthesised sound as various layers of pads and synthesisers swirl over each other as Chave’s buried vocals try and emerge through the mix. As the lines of “It’s hard” become more and more present you feel as if you’re swirling about through Chave’s psyche as these ideas of holding accountability become more and more present in his mind.

Closing the album “Bear Trap” is perhaps the most intimate sound on this collection of songs. Opening with a melancholy riff that is backed by dark imagery as Chave ponders “I thought my coffin would be white, instead it’s charcoal scarred from the inferno inside”. The track then brings in the grinding riffs and searing lead lines that evoke some of the heights of Nothing’s most recent album The Great Dismal.

One thing that you hear when listening to this album is a lot of potential from the Night Carriage project. There are some aspects of the sound that still need to be refined and defined but still you can hear the raw ideas that Chave is instigating. The sound play and textures within are true to the nature in which they were written and the lyrics are raw and honest. Chave has planted the seeds for this project, now let’s see what can be grown from this promising beginning.

30 Best Albums Of The Year 2020

The one thing that has kept all us going this year is the amount of incredible music that has continued to flow out of every part of the musical spectrum. There’s been some truly incredible releases over the past twelve months, and we are forever grateful for every artist that has released music to keep us going through these truly wild times. With that said, we’ve narrowed down what we believe is the absolute best of the best of this year, it was no easy task, but to us this is the music that truly stood above the rest.

30. Armand Hammer – Shrines

Surely album cover of the year. This, their fourth album, reflects the angst and anger felt by many. Somehow they still come out sounding quite positive.

— Barry Tucker

29. Tony Bontana – Di-Splay

Witnessing an artist at their dawn is never always easy. However since Bontana’s existence in the musical world, his debut album only capitalises on his extremely concise and evocative musicianship. Di-Splay shows Bontana coming into his own, the album includes a great deal of features that highlights the extreme amount of talent that Bontana is amongst and works with. Godspeed to Tony.

— David Tucker

28. Hachiku – I’ll Probably Be Asleep

Anika Ostendorf releases her long awaited debut album, and her sound has never been fresher. Combining elements of dream-pop, shoegaze and indie rock, Ostendorf has created an album that’s as assured in its delivery as it is as catchy in its grooves. Recorded mostly by just Ostendorf herself “in whatever bedroom she was currently inhabiting” according to her Bandcamp bio, but this only adds to the raw and emotive sound she captures on this album. It’s the almost ultimate lockdown album, touching on themes of becoming grounded and accepting where your life is in the moment, except it was written over the course of the last two years. Perhaps Ostendorf knows more than we do? Either way one thing we know is that we have spent hours getting lost in the swaying sounds of this fantastic debut.

— James Pearson

27. Quelle Chris & Chris Keys – Innocent Country 2

Back for their second collaboration since 2015’s Innocent Country. It’s full of mellow tunes delivered in Quelle’s laid back style. Quelle says the theme of the album is peace. Not a bad shout.

— Barry Tucker

26. Lianne La Havas – Lianne La Havas

Full of soul, love and a huge helping of natural talent, Lianne La Havas’ latest album is rightly self titled. This album is La Havas through and through. Incredible vocal performances, woozy and dreamy songwriting and an abundance of confidence. Featuring one the most intoxicating riffs in the form of “Can’t Fight” that we named as one of the best songs of the year. And a truly mesmerising cover of Radiohead’s “Weird Fishes” that’ll leave you in utter awe at just how much new depth La Havas brings to this track, just listen to that vocal rise towards the end of the song.

Read our original review here.

— James Pearson

25. Caribou – Suddenly

Dan Snaith returns with a more lowkey follow up to 2014’s Our Love, but his extreme craftsmanship and attention to detail remains prominent throughout. Manipulating sounds at his will, to create some of the most heartbreaking whilst simultaneously dance hall worthy beats yet. Acting as a retrospective on his relationship with others and his self, the majestry of this album lies within its ability to be raw whilst being full of joy all at the same time. “Never Come Back” is the perfect example of this, as Snaith looks back at the fallout of a breakup, backed by a highly intoxicating groove. Read here why we named it one of the best songs of the year.

— James Pearson

24. Ulla – Tumbling Towards A Wall

To witness an album so effectively dissolve music to its natural organic roots has never been so beautiful to witness. Sound moves in organic movement, tonal sounds trickle and slide through polyrhythmic trajectories. Ulla Straus composes each of the tracks with a keen eye for satisfaction. Sounds sustain before crumbling and swinging forming clusters. Listening to this album is the pure definition of chaotic beauty. Understanding a collective movement of all parts forming a complete whole.

— David Tucker

23. Perfume Genius – Set My Heart On Fire Immediately

Mike Hadreas follows up 2017’s No Shape with an album that shifts and twists through various styles of pop, shoegaze, country and industrial rock. Yet in each field of sound Hadreas has never sounded as confident as on this album. The one thing that binds all these varying sounds and moods together is Hadreas phenomenal vocal performance. He consistently pushes himself to see how intimate and simultaneously vibrant as he can get. There’s also room for one of the best alternative pop songs of this year in the form of “On The Floor” that has such a fantastic groove, melody and chorus that it’ll have you on the floor, either from dancing too much to it or reading deep into the lyrics.

Read our original review here.

— James Pearson

22. Off The Meds – Off The Meds

On their debut album, Off The Meds define their sound with a huge collection of absolute bangers. From start to finish the album contains addictive rhythms and lyrics that will keep you driven and motivated. The creativity of the sound being put into each of the tracks is so refreshing whilst making the tracks so much more enjoyable. Dance music at its finest!

— David Tucker

21. Bdrmm – Bedroom

It’s easy these days for any band with a reverb pedal and overdriven guitars to be classed as “somewhat shoegaze”. However there’s a feeling that needs to be captured when creating this music, and on debut album Bedroom, bdrmm define this mood to a T. Searing soundscapes, hard hitting riffs and lyrics that speak on themes of self-acceptance, anxiety and the disparity of youth. Their influences are clear, but the delivery matches that of many of the shoegaze greats.

Read our original review here.

— James Pearson

20. Katy J Pearson – Return

One of the most assured and confident debut albums released this year from Bristol based country, folk, indie singer-songwriter Katy J Pearson. There’s not a moment on this album that feels wasted or half-arsed as Pearson delivers one heartfelt ballad after another. There’s also a some truly captivating songwriting and storytelling layered within each song, just look at opener “Tonight”. But there’s also some fantastically groovy pop bangers within, such as “Take Back The Radio”, which we named as one of the best songs of the year. Pearson has finally declared herself as a modern country queen and we hope her reign is long and joyous.

Read our original review here.

— James Pearson

19. King Krule – Man Alive!

Archie Marshall’s bleak and blissful songwriting continues to be ever enchanting on third album Man Alive!. On The OOZ Marshall created a world for the listener to inhabit, but this time around he’s taken a look at the world around him, pondering questions of what the hell is going on? Through jazzy instrumentation and hazy soundscapes Marshall returns with perhaps his most succinct project to date, refining his sound to its purest elements. There’s also deep amounts of raw emotion laid bare on this album, from the isolation inspired “(Don’t Let The Dragon) Draag On” to the dreary ballad of “Perfecto Miserable”, Marshall is at his most vulnerable. Through all the despair and depression that’s infused within this album there’s also an underlying sense of hope, that things might just get better if we try. The blissful serenity sign off on closer “Please Complete Thee” is an embodiment of just that.

Read our original review here.

— James Pearson

18. Ana Roxanne – Because Of A Flower

Ana Roxanne has an incredible ability to transport you to a plain of absolute tranquility through her deeply meditative and evoking ambient music. As she intertwines elements of nature within her songs she allows you to reconnect with the world around you, realising its true beauty. Even just the simple mellotron arpeggio of “- – -” can take you back to memories and places you thought had long been forgotten. Read here why we named it one of the best songs of the year. The cover may be just a simple white sleeve, but within there’s so much more colour and vibrancy that can only be truly appreciated when you dive deep into the sounds.

Read our original review here.

— James Pearson

17. Pink Siifu and Fly Anakin – Flysiifu’s

Pink Siifu released NEGRO this year, a very angry and noisy album. In contrast, this collab sounds fresh and relaxed, and with its huge number of amazing contributors (Madlib and liv.e to name two), reflects much of their musical heritage, but is firmly a modern hiphop classic.

— Barry Tucker

16. I Break Horses – Warnings

A truly magical journey of dream-pop, carried by Maria Lindën’s dreamy vocals. Built out of Lindën re-imaging the soundtracks to classic films she was watching, Warnings is one of those hidden gems that just makes you stop when you first hear it. Infusing elements of 80’s pop and alternative electronic music, this album is as colourful as it is expansive. It’s easy to get lost in the many layered soundscapes that Lindën beautifully crafts, just look at opener “Turn”. Just over 9 minutes long and yet over that course it consistently moves and travels within itself, taking you along with it on a cloud of pure bliss.

Read our original review here.

— James Pearson

15. Clipping. – Visions Of Bodies Being Burned

The more brutal and bloody follow up to 2019’s There Existed An Addiction To Blood sees Daveed Diggs and co. create a true horror movie within an album. The flow and rhythm of Diggs’ deeply descriptive and potent storytelling is largely unrivalled. The production of this album is also a feat within itself, fusing elements of hip-hop, industrial metal and noise rock to make a sound that is as harsh as it is captivating, drawing you in with every listen. “Say The Name” is a perfect example of this as the ending descends into all out twisted chaos. Sequels always have the immense task of becoming bigger than the original, and Visions Of Bodies Being Burned does just that, with an unchallenged cool. There’s also an incredible amount of perfectly placed and effective features from the likes of Cam & China, Ho99o9 and Sickness.

— James Pearson

14. Adrianne Lenker – Songs And Instrumentals

After Big Thief’s tour at the start of the year was cut short, Adrianne Lenker returned back to Massachusetts, rented a small cabin and said she would give herself a break from working. The exact opposite of that happened and the result of Lenker’s itching desire to write is Songs And Instrumentals. Recorded entirely through its entire process on analogue equipment, this album is intimacy defined to its core. The glistening guitars and floating melodies of “Anything” is enough to make anyone believe that they can find love. Lenker is at one with nature on this album and through the natural recording techniques and bird sounds placed throughout she perfectly captures that feeling of getting back to simplicity.

Read our original review here.

— James Pearson

13. Sault – Untitled (Black Is)

What a year for SAULT! Releasing their 3rd and 4th albums of soul with jazz, hiphop and Afrobeat tweaks. Inflo and Cleo Sol (whose solo album is also very good) have made tunes that in these difficult times, need to be heard.

— Barry Tucker

12. Charli XCX – How I’m Feeling Now

Charli XCX continues her incredible run of powerful future pop albums with her latest How I’m Feeling Now, an album written and created entirely during lockdown. It’s not only a showcase of Charli’s incredible songwriting talent, but her never diminishing work ethic. Packed full of bangers and dance-floor anthems that capture the desire we all have to simply be around people again. Opener “Pink Diamond” is an ode to the club and that feeling of joy from being within a big crowd where the only feeling that is going round is just pure joy. Produced in part by Dylan Brady, one half of hyper-pop masterminds 100 gecs, this album also features some clear cut production, almost feeling as if you’re inside a vacuum as every sound is pulled front and centre. The ultimate lockdown album shows just what can be done within the limitations of home.

— James Pearson

11. HMLTD – West Of Eden

The ethos of HMLTD is to never create two songs that sound the same, and boy is this album packed full of variety. From spaghetti western ballads, to post punk ragers to the text to speech Japanese glitch pop “Why?”, this album has it all. But just because the style changes that doesn’t mean the quality does. Each song is full of so much bravado that it’s enticing to try and guess where they will be going next. This album certainly packs a punch, just listen to the bass line of “LOADED”, whilst also being heartfelt and full of earnest on the 80’s pop ballad anthem “Mikey’s Song”. Read here why we named it one of the best songs of the year. A commentary on the disparity of modern civilisation, whilst also offering hope that we can start anew, this is certainly a capsule of modern life distilled into a downright joyously crafted album.

— James Pearson

10. Freddie Gibbs & The Alchemist – Alfredo

The latest outing from Gibbs shows him team up with long time master producer Alchemist. Gibbs is an absolute professional when it comes to story telling. The way that messages and narratives are put together are a mix between humorous and sobering. This album yet again defines Gibbs as one of the most important artists of out generation. Alchemist provides the perfect landscape for an 80s film that Gibbs narrates.

— David Tucker

9. Nothing – The Great Dismal

There might not be a better representation of the bleakness that many of us have felt this year than The Great Dismal. Cathartic and devastating is the sound that encompasses the Philly band’s fourth studio album. Inspired by the images that emerged of a black hole, the band paints truly disturbing scenes both with their lyricism and sonic explosions. Touching on themes of isolation, extinction and human behaviour, the band have soundtracked, almost unknowingly the mood and collective feeling of this year. This album feels like it’s constantly trying to burst out of it’s soundscapes whilst simultaneously sucking you in to a great void of nothing. They have taken their already devastating sound and expanded it out into new and vibrant directions.

Read our original review here.

— James Pearson

8. Rina Sawayama – Sawayama

The debut from Rina Sawayama is truly enticing, showcasing her ability to blend and fuse genre’s and sounds through her extremely powerful vocal performances. Just look at the Marxist anthem of “XS” as the power pop verse’s crash into the chorus with the overdrive infused descending metal guitar lines. There’s also perhaps one of the best vocal performances of the year on opener “Dynasty” as Sawayama matches the swirling lead guitar line note for note, leaving you truly awestruck. Throughout its runtime this album never slows down, consistently offering new and exciting ideas that showcases how much of a natural talent Sawayama has. It’s like a festival where Sawayama is fronting every band. As far as debut’s go they don’t get much better than this. We’ll be keenly watching to see what Sawayama comes up with next.

Read our original review here.

— James Pearson

7. IDLES – Ultra Mono

Devastatingly brutal is the sound of IDLES third album Ultra Mono. This is the band at their most refined and potent. They narrow their sonic output out to be it’s most powerful and don’t leave any room for interpretation on their political stances. From the anti-war opener “War” with its spitfire like drum solo to the behemoth bass swells of “Reigns”, IDLES have concurred the studio to create their most black and white sounding album yet, or mono if you will. But even more hard hitting than the instrumentation is lead singer Joe Talbot’s growling vocal delivery. There’s anger, fury within his voice, but it’s all driven by love. Continuing to call out the small minded government that runs this country whilst simultaneously trying to unify everyone that listens to his words. Ultra Mono is a culmination of everything IDLES have become and holds its place as one of the most explosive punk albums released this year.

Read our original review here.

— James Pearson

6. Mary Lattimore – Silver Ladders

The greatest aspect of Silver Ladders is Mary Lattimore’s talent for evoking memories and telling deep and flowing stories with only the pluck of her harp strings. The intricacy of the movements that Lattimore intertwines into each song takes you into a deep space of acceptance and unity with the world. These songs are perfect for a cozy night inside or a late night walk through lamplit streets. Produced by Slowdive’s Neil Halstead, there’s also aspects of shoegaze sewn throughout, which can be heard through the cascading guitars on “Til A Mermaid Drags You Under”. Further evolving Lattimore’s sound to become so full of life and subtle beauty that you feel each note gliding over you, taking you further out into the blissful cosmos she creates.

Read our original review here.

— James Pearson

5. King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard – K.G.

Birth. Death. Taxes. King Gizzard releasing new music. These are the constants of life as we said in our review of K.G., the 16th (!!) studio album in ten years from the genre defying band of magicians King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard. And if you’re looking for a place to start in their comprehensive catalogue then there might not be a better place to start than this album. Defining and refining the eccentric elements of the bands sound to an ever changing and yet continuously flowing tracklist, the self title of the album is truly deserved. Just listen to the transition from the woozy folk ballad of “Honey” to the Black Sabbath infused closer “The Hungry Wolf Of Fate”. Also featuring the bands take on a “90’s Turkish house banger” in the form of the groovy “Intrasport”. Adding to all that, this album was recorded remotely with the members being in various lockdown’s, they really are an ever chugging well oiled machine.

— James Pearson

4. Tame Impala – The Slow Rush

Kevin Parker has done it again. Arriving 5 years after the heartbreak fuelled and synthesiser driven Currents, The Slow Rush sees Parker take a look back at his life and where he’s going next. Although over the years Tame Impala’s sound has gone through many phases, one thing that has remained consistent is Parker’s incredible attention to detail for creating sonic landscapes and his studio wizardry. The sound might not be as clean as Currents, but there’s still so many layers and flowing melodies to each song that you could spend a day just trying to unpack one. Parker also embraces a more disco-centric sound on “Breathe Deeper” and “Lost In Yesterday”, whilst still keeping that flair of psychedelia about them. But almost by accident Parker soundtracked a pandemic with opener “One More Year” as the vocals swirl and chant “One more year” around the soundscape. Four albums in and Parker still has that signature flair of excellence that is ever present.

— James Pearson

3. L.A. Priest – Gene

It is rare that an album is so self aware of its existence within the first four words. “Shit is fiery fire” is just about the best way to sum up Gene. The sophomore album further establishes La Priest as one of the funkiest, electrifying and downright great songwriters of the contemporary alternative scene. Each track is flooded with an abundance of beautiful noise that makes every song all the more vivid and meaningful. Instruments fizz and bubble like the pot of a magical wizard. I’m not religious, but this is one priests sermon i’ve been attending every Sunday.

Read our original review here.

— David Tucker

2. Phoebe Bridgers – Punisher

The amount of beauty and sadness that Phoebe Bridgers packs into her sophomore album is unmeasurable. The stories told and their heartbreaking delivery from Bridgers help establish her as one of modern musics greatest storytellers. This is the perfect headphones in the dark album. Sonically this album also pushes Bridgers sound design to its most enticing, there’s not a moment that doesn’t make you think, how did they do that? Just listen to “Garden Song”‘ and its crunching, almost watered down guitar riff try and push out of the mix as it chugs along. And of course it wouldn’t be a Phoebe Bridgers album without a soundtrack to the apocalypse. The incredible movement from guitar ballad to all out cathartic fanfare on “I Know The End” is a true testament to not only Bridgers’ incredible song writing talent but also as a retrospective on the modern day. Read here why we named it the best song of the year.

Read our original review here.

— James Pearson

1. Sorry – 925

This album has been the soundtrack to our year. Highly anticipated before its release and upon its delivery there was nothing to disappoint. This album simply gets better with every listen. Packed full of banger after banger, this is a culmination of the bands rise of the last few year as well as their incredibly intricate and subtly fierce songwriting. Casual listeners may just hear these as average “indie” songs, but there’s so much more to them than that. A certain mystique and spark of magic lies within every song, it’s hard to describe. Whether it be the almost deadpan delivery of Asha Lorenz and Louis O’Bryen’s vocal delivery, or the incredibly haunting and often uneasy soundscapes that the band creates underneath a seemingly upbeat sound. “As The Sun Sets” is a perfect example of this, read here why we named it as the second best song of the year. The title 925 is a reference to Silver 925, but for us this album is pure gold.

Read our original review here.

— James Pearson

GIVEUP discusses their new EP, Shoegaze and why Oasis will never be good

GIVEUP is the solo project of Ashwin Bhandari, a prominent figure in most modern indie/ alternative/ punk/ emo/ metal/ any other genre, you’ve more than likely seen them crowd surfing at a hardcore show at some point in the last 10 years or so, or calling out some narrow minded commentator in the NME comments section. Based up and down the country, London, Brighton, Oxford, depending on where they happen to be that day. If you know Ashwin you may consider them outspoken, but dive into their music and the intimate stories strung in between chugging chords tell a different story. Speaking on many issues of mental health, self acceptance and trying to find a place in this world, their music is raw, and yet full of vibrancy. They’ve returned now with the latest project under the GIVEUP name, moving into the realms of noise rock and experimental electronic music. It’s an EP full of candid recordings that allows the music within to shift and change, leading you into new and ever expanding sonic landscapes with each turn. We sat down with Ashwin to learn about how their new sound came to life, what this means for the future of GIVEUP and why Oasis aren’t Shoegaze and will always be shit.

So this EP was created over the last 8 months or so over various lockdowns, has this time allowed you to get back into writing music?

So with both my bands, Night Swimming and Red Terror, we were supposed to be doing stuff this year and they both subsequently got cancelled because of Covid. One of which we were supposed to play a show with our friends in NEWMOON, who are a Belgian shoegaze band and then the first lockdown got announced about 2 days before then and there was just no way of fitting it in before lockdown came into effect. So I went back to my parents for a bit with my brother, and he has a Fender Jazzmaster that he just straight up doesn’t really use, and an amplifier with loads of effects pedals. And in April people were doing more improvised livestreams than they perhaps are now. So I just did this noise rock set in a balaclava for about 25 – 30 minutes and uploaded it Youtube and then took the best parts of that improved set and turned it into separate tracks. I then moved back to London with my partner and I was struggling to write music on my own because of trying to keep within the noise restrictions around here, it’s a bit harder to record stuff. But basically Ruminations is just that noise rock set cut into different tracks. And then a Slowdive cover that I did ages ago, which I decided to just whack on there for the sake of keeping it a bit longer. I’ve always been quite influence by Jesu, Have A Nice Life, Planning For Burial and Sunn O))), all those kind of drone goth type of bands. And I always imagined if I was going to do noise rock sets then i’d rather use the balaclava with that over my sad acoustic songs because theres something about wearing that, that has empowered me in a weird way. I know that people don’t really take me seriously and I do a lot of stupid shit. But having that and amplifying having that presence of feeling cooler than I actually am is nice. I am really self conscious about self promoting, but this time I decided that because it’s a noise rock EP and does go into bits of different genres i’ve just been spamming various different subreddits and it’s actually worked! Everyday i’ve been checking the Bandcamp stats and they’ve very slowly gone up, which has never really happened before because usually i’d slap music on there, maybe some friends might listen to it and then that’s it. But this i’ve tried to make a conscious effort to be like “No, you’re in lockdown, you’re not going anywhere, you can listen to my EP whether you like it or not” haha.

I’m really excited about what we’ve got coming with my bands, the next Red Terror release is just going to be a two track, which is also the first material i’ve recorded with that band. There’s some vocals that still need to be re-done, so those songs are essentially in limbo. They are basically fully recorded but I think we’ll wait until next year. And with Night Swimming we have a full song recorded but it’s a case of when we should put it out. Because it’s a really good song, but we worried that if it’s released now then no-one will give a shit and it’ll just get lost because we don’t have anything to follow it up with.

So doing stuff with this project is a nice way of keeping myself actively doing stuff. And seeing friends do it is really nice as well. It’s also a case of trying to keep your work consistent. In January of this year Night Swimming got offered to play a set with this fairly big American post-hardcore band, but the other band members couldn’t do it. So I decided to do a GIVEUP solo set and it was really odd because it was a free show but it was a packed out room. And with almost putting no effort in i’d played to the biggest crowd i had so far. Which was frustrating to realise how easy this is if you stop worrying about it. But it did also give me false hope for the rest of the year, being like “Oh if i can just play to complete strangers and then people come up afterwards and say that was good” then maybe I can give this more of an effort. I just assume no one gives a shit about the solo stuff, no matter how many times I try to push it. But I’ve been doing that for 4 or 5 years now and I just wanna make sure that i’m not just playing the same three or four chords over and over again. There’s a lot of songs on there that I wrote when I was nineteen or twenty which I cringe back on now, but I still play them live because I don’t have a massive repertoire of stuff.

As you said the EP has a more noise rock feel to it, moving away from the more acoustic side of your previous work. The element that keeps them consistent though is the lo-fi recording quality of them, why do you gravitate towards that style of recording?

It’s just more interesting. Not to sound like a complete pretentious asshole, but I am really into noise music, field recordings and ambient music, there’s something almost charming with lo-fi and I don’t feel with the sort of music I want to do i’d ever want something to be overly produced. At least with this project, with Night Swimming we’ve actively gone out of our way to up the production values and make everything more pristine. When the first Night Swimming EP came out people where calling it lo-fi and I was a bit upset by that because I was like “No, we’ve paid for recording studio time, this isn’t demo quality”. It was recorded originally with this producer who mainly does math-rock and post-rock recording, so doing a shoegaze band was already a bit of a weird thing for him. We’d paid about £150 for it and to also do mastering as well, but he came back to us saying “I’m going to be honest with you guys, this is demo quality, can you not put my name on the credits?”. So we had to pay someone else to mix and master it, which when we released sounded really good, but unfortunately it got tarnished with the lo-fi tag and I really didn’t want that haha.

In my other projects I actively go out of my way to not have the lo-fi sound, but I like the accessibility of just being able to record stuff on you iPhone and then bang it into Gargeband and just mess around with the EQ settings. I would like to learn how to use Ableton one day, I’d like to not just use a Focusrite, i’m aware i’m every single cliché when it comes to lo-fi recordings. I’ve recorded in bathrooms or under bridges in public, all sorts of different places to capture the atmosphere that I want for whatever I’m doing. I like doing that because there’s only so many presets, there’s only so many times you can use the telephone voice. But i’ve never tried to do the same thing over and over again, i’ve like having concistency in some ways, but i’ll always try and add something new. Ruminations was basically a bunch of songs that had been sitting on my laptop for a while that I didn’t really know how to put down in a cohesive way. I was originally thinking that I could just put the entire noise rock set as one really long track but then suddenly realised that no-one is going to listen to that. So i might as well keep it as individual tracks, which means even if people just click on the Slowdive cover that’s fine by me. One day I would like to be able to record with an actual tape recorder or an 8 track. So essentially I want to get even more lo-fi if I can but I need to get the right equipment for it, there’s only so many times you can record on your iPhone and make it sound lo-fi. If you get a newer model, the microphone will be slightly higher quality each time, so you’re actually losing that lo-fi level. Which is why I used to intentionally do it on an iPhone 4, the shittier the mircophone the better the lo-fi for me anyway.

There was an interview I watched with King Gizzard where they said that on their newest album they still record some elements with an iPhone to get that signature distortion.

Oh shit no way! Yea getting the peaks in there.

So after splitting the set up into the different tracks, did you then find songs that fit a specific meaning that you were trying to put behind them? Or was it just more of a — approach?

I gave the illusion that it was more technical than it actually was. The first two tracks are the same riff slowed down and then sped up, and then messing around with whatever was in tune with each sound. But that riff is something I wrote about three or four years ago and I could never make it work into anything for the other projects, mainly because I don’t write guitar parts for those bands which is fair enough really. Then I thought it would make a good set opener, which is where I used it. Then “Ruminations” and “La Petit Mois” were just a case of moving the capo slightly further up the guitar and hoping that I didn’t play a bum note when I was doing the finger picking. Funnily enough I had someone say to me the other day that those actually sound like they have structure, but in reality I had no clue what I was doing. Hopefully it sounded consistent enough to boil down into two tracks. The idea was to have really slow atmospheric pads that would build up into this giant wall of noise. The use of the whammy bar came into it as much as possible because I don’t get to use that very much in Night Swimming as, understandably, our guitarist isn’t really a fan of it. Essentially just detuning your guitar when you could get that effect from various pedals. But because it’s the sound I was going for I tried to incorporate it as much as I could whilst keeping in time.

So after extracting the sound into Garageband I just split it all into different projects. The full track idea was there for while but it does change a fair bit so unless I had some cool interlude parts to fit in between, which as it stood was just me changing the position of the capo. Being a noise rock set on a livestream I just assumed people would duck in and out for 10 seconds and just be like “Ah, Ashwin’s got a balaclava on their head, cool”. So it’s a weird experiment and i’m really happy with how it turned out. As you will probably notice there’s only drums on two of the tracks because I just couldn’t get it to work for other tracks. For “…” I didn’t feel it was heavy enough without drums so I just used the keyboard tapping for that one, which can be a bit of a pain because you only have so many drums sounds to work with. I have a mate who helps with the production of this project sometimes and I spoke to him asking if he thought that the guitars worked well enough on their own and he was quite adamant that they worked like that. A lot of drone music is just guitar anyway so I thought it would be a bit more interesting than just playing the same two notes for a few minutes. I feel those two songs, “…” and “Fucking Knackered” almost take you on a journey of some sort because you’re following along with it.

Yeah I definitely got that when listening as those two go into a bit more electronic sounds

I would one day like to just do a straight up power electronics project, which is where the balaclava comes from. I’ve seen a lot of noise artists who use something like that to create that sense of anonymity on stage, even if you know who they are. I have two Korg Micro devices, a duel and a reverb, small almost Fisher Price level instruments. And they’re cool but i’m not sure how i’d do an entire set with those if it wasn’t just completely improvised. But i’d like to be able to have it one day where I can have parts programmed so that there are consistent songs compared to “lets watch the little freak in a balaclava play around with a stylus for half an hour whilst vaguely shouting things”.

So going from this EP do you think you’d want to move into more “sonically diverse” territory”?

I’m quite happy with the sound I have now, with it only just coming out and being quite fresh, I haven’t really thought too much ahead about what i’m now in the future. There was a band I went to go see at the Windmill in Brixton and unannounced was this guy who had a candelabra at the back and his back to the audience whilst playing guitar. And I was just like “that is exactly what I want to do with GIVEUP” but I want people to actually come to see me. However I felt that was a really effective way of showcasing the music to an audience that wouldn’t have usually listened. To have a consistent live show and create an atmosphere that isn’t just sat in your room listening to this outsider depressing music would be nice. I think i’d just like to expand on what I’m already doing with that and maybe add in some harsh noise, some programmed drums. I haven’t really thought that far ahead though to be honest.

So far this is the most amount of reception i’ve had from people. I find it incredibly hard self promoting and I need to get over that hurdle. With a band all your members are doing it so it’s a shared effort of embarrassment. There was a meme that came out a few days after I posted my EP that described my situation almost word for word and I really don’t know if someone made this about me or not. But then I realised that this is pretty common for lockdown music. I know other people self promote but they seem to naturally get other people to listen to whatever they and I get that sense of jealousy. I will say this though for people self promoting, the least likely way for someone to listen to your music is if you add someone on Facebook for the sole purpose of sending them a link or the worst one i’ve seen was this band who once made this group chat on Instagram of about 80 people to get people to listen to them and watch their video which immediately turned me away from them. I don’t want to say however that sponsored posts are the devil, because I have actually gotten into some good music through that whether or not that’s intentional. But there is definitely a trend of 4 white guys saying “Hey we’re a pop-punk band and this our new single about quarantine!”. Then again it’s almost a new way of advertising music because you have bands like Cigarettes After Sex that almost accidentally got big because of Youtube algorithms. So there’s a certain mystique behind wondering if you did sponsored music and it did somehow go viral. It’s that what if that makes you feel a bit less embarrassed about self promoting. I think if I knew that everyone felt the same way about it then I would feel less conscious about it, but what I struggle with is seeing other people naturally getting people to listen to their music or sharing. But from that I don’t know whether they are plugging people left right and centre with a link. There’s also no guarantee with that either that they will actually listen to your track, so you just have to take their word for it. This Arthur meme comes to mind. I’m completely guilty of doing the same though, and it’s not that I don’t want to support my friends but it’s usually just at a bad time that somebody’s sent me something.

Nowadays i’m trying to go out of my way and give feedback. Then it’s a back and forth of you’re promoting your art to me so you can listen to mine and give each other feedback. What was the original question haha? But yeah that sound I do want to expand on, I might even get my friend Matt to do some drumming for me because he’s done a lot of programming and production, helping a lot with that side of things.

Would you ever turn the project into more than just you then? Or do you like the idea that it’s just your music?

I like the idea that I can just turn up anywhere and just annoy the fuck out of people for 20 minutes with a guitar. I think it would take a lot more planning, but also I would not want to become a band dictator in some way. If I was to incorporate more people then i’d let them take their own takes on things as long as it was in time or in tune. I don’t know how i’d feel about a full band as I wouldn’t want to turn into Car Seat Headrest where it’s technically a band but it’s Will Toledo that kinda thing, where the front-person is the centre of that. I feel a bit odd about those kinds of things as other people are contributing just as hard, with going on tour and sacrificing as much so they should get as much credit as they’re due. But I think I need to write a lot more material to warrant having a full band. I’m quite good friends with James Clayton who’s in Crywank and they had a period 4 or 5 years ago where they tried turn their 2 piece into a full sounding, plugged in electric band. Some people really liked it but they said they hated it which is understandable as their music is purely based around trying to push the limits of an acoustic guitar. So just because you have a full band doesn’t necessarily mean you create a fuller sound. I missed the tour but some friends told me that when Elvis Depressedly played the UK about 3 or 4 years ago they had a full band and the songs didn’t sound anywhere near as decent quality as the recordings which was almost hampered by having a full band. Which is a shame because those songs feel they should be great with a full band, but maybe I shouldn’t judge everything off of that.

So being on your own gives you more freedom to just be like “I’m doing this style now and that’s it”

Yeah I like just going places and being like “I’ve got a bag of tricks up my sleeve” haha.

With you adding the Slowdive cover to the end of the EP I wanted to ask, what does Slowdive mean to you?

Big big humongous question. So I got into Slowdive kind of late, but my friendship with the bassist in Night Swimming, Aiden started at uni and mainly revolved around us getting really high and listening to Slowdive. I had an introduction to shoegaze around 2013 from the emo and punk bands that all crossed over into that a bit, and then I got into the “real” shoegaze bands like My Bloody Valentine, Ride and Swervedriver. I do think though that now there are more shoegaze bands doing more interesting stuff and I tend to veer towards punk bands doing shoegaze because I feel there’s a level of intensity you get rather than just being a MBV ripoff. Before I even saw Slowdive live I saw Minor Victories which is the Supergroup of Rachel Goswell, one of the members of Editors, somebody from Mogwai which was incredible. Then I saw Slowdive play this really really small venue in Glasgow called The Art School, which has burnt down like twice now unfortunately. And then in Oxford and Field Day basically the day after, and then in Brighton and they are always incredible live. They bring quite a mixed generation of people to their shows which is really cool as people who saw them in the 90’s can still appreciate their music. That self-titled album they did three years ago is incredible. And I think now they’re weirdly getting the recognition they should have had in the 90’s, because they got completely overshadowed and shafted by Brit-pop. If you haven’t seen it already there’s a Souvlaki documentary that Pitchfork did on Youtube.

Yeah i’ve been meaning to watch that!

Really really good. I’m not sure about whats going on with them lately. I think as well they’re really in touch with modern shoegaze and who they get as support. Some older bands you see are almost just living off their legacy and any reunion albums they do are just bonus. I don’t wanna say too much and i’m sure they’re sweethearts but MBV and Jesus and The Mary Chain seem like they’re making the main amount of their income being able to do live shows off of the legacy they had 20 – 30 years ago, but I don’t feel like Slowdive are doing that at all. It seems like they’re evolving, even if it’s not the biggest shift ever, it’s more expansive and i’m genuinely really interested to see what they do next. Whereas other bands in that scene I might go see live, but i’m not hankering for a new record.

I saw on Instagram they’re supposed to be recording a new album.

Yeah they’re demoing stuff out which is cool. Another thing I will say about Slowdive is that there’s a level of innocence and angst to their music because they were teenagers when they wrote their first two records. And now as parents and people in their 40’s/ 50’s they still retain this sense of melancholy and despair but it’s done from the perspective of age, they’re not still pretending to be teenagers. Even the music they wrote as young adults, it never comes across as cringy, it’s very timeless and still translates very well. With Souvlaki being written about Neil and Rachel breaking up, it’s amazing how they were able to still be in a band and 30 years later they’re still able to sing those songs and there’s no awkwardness, which I think is really charming in a way.

To put it as the kids say, they’ve “kept it real” as such. And it’s probably helped that there’s this huge nostalgia trip that everybody’s on at the moment to get back into the 90’s culture.

Yeah definitely and they have that level of accessibility as well. I bought my dad a copy of Loveless by MBV for Christmas one year and I think he listened to it once and never played it again. And I was like “But you like U2 and the edge was inspired by them?” but he just said “Nah, it’s too heavy”. Definitely should have just gone with a Slowdive record instead. There’s also a nice thing about having their music as background music, or for intense long journeys. If you’re looking to introduce someone to shoegaze but don’t really know where to start then Slowdive is a nice as it almost transcends different genres. Some people try and call them Dream-pop but I think there’s a very clear difference between the two, Beach House do not sound the same as Nothing.

Hahaha absolutely

You can’t really compare the two, like dream-pop is more in the mainstream with people like Lana Del Rey and M83 and there’s a lot of crossover stuff with that. Whereas I feel with shoegaze there’s still a level of undergroundness with it, even if bands like The 1975 or Pale Waves have shoegaze songs it doesn’t mean that they’re a shoegaze band. But it’s still cool as it brings people into that atmosphere as it’s the scene that celebrates itself.

What’s interesting to me is that the name ‘shoegaze’ was meant to be an insult, when someone was reviewing Slowdive they said “they were just looking at their shoes and pedals the whole time”. But they accidentally made a whole genre. I think that type of music will live on as it’s still being churned out in a way that’s interesting and people take influence from that. Whereas Oasis, Blur and Pulp and all the Britpop era are all nostalgia in a way, but there aren’t really bands now doing that sound. And I think it should be left, from the people that have this fixation with the 90’s and not being able to move past it is just mutually unhelpful and the people from that era are getting older now, there’s only so much of a time capsule that you can have from that. Weirdly enough I don’t have a problem enough with people doing that from the 80’s as that’s aged enough to the point that things that sounded new then now do sound vintage. Whereas stuff from the 90’s still sounds shit and it sounded shit then. I don’t have a problem with 90’s nostalgia as long as people who review aren’t basing their whole opinion on whether it sounds like those bands from the 90’s. It’s like when every guitar rock band gets compared to Nirvana, it’s just quite lazy. So many press releases will say “90’s revival or takes cues from the 90’s” which is almost feeling like if you say 90’s enough it will stick and people won’t listen to the music at all. Just going off the nostalgia and trying to recreate that feeling you had of “oh when I listened to this life was good” but you have to address things critically, rather than just pigeon holing stuff because it sounds similar to whatever your dad listened to when he grew up.

Yeah the amount of people that are trying to live off of Liam Gallagher’s continuing legacy is crazy

I will say this though, I watched that Supersonic Highway documentary as it was on last Christmas and it is a really well made documentary if you want to understand how big of a cultural phenomenon Oasis were. Purely based on that fact I would recommend people watch that, anything else with Oasis can get in the bin. No matter how many times people force it on me or tell me “But their early stuff sounds a bit shoegazy”.

I’ve seen that and as well with Nirvana, I’ve heard people reference them as Shoegaze but with it’s just like, well where do you draw the line?

It seems to be if vaguely someone uses a reverb or a flanger or anything with layers to it then it gets put under the label. But there’s more to it than that. I’m one of these people whose says that Shoegaze is a very specific thing and you can’t just liberally slap it on there, because it’s not consistent otherwise. You can’t just have one or two tracks, you need to go the whole mile with it.

Have you thought about any more livestreams or when shows eventually return, what are your plans for that sort of thing?

Right now I haven’t got any plans for livestreams but that could change depending on what I feel like at the time. What I’m trying to focus on is getting that Red Terror and Night Swimming music out in some capacity and then try and figure out what we do next, if and when shows go back. By which we mean when there’s a vaccine, rather than the socially distant shows. I understand why venues and bands are doing it, but especially as I’m shielding it’s just not something I can do. And it’s not viable for some people, I think it would be just better to wait. You know we’ve come a long way with the vaccine and it does feel like things might go back to a semblance of normality in a few months time, I can’t tell really. I’m doing a few social media and planning bits for Washed Out Festival in Brighton for next year and we don’t even know whether that’s going to happen or not. It’s in September so fingers crossed. I’m really excited about what we’ve got coming, the next Red Terror release is just going to be a two track, which is also the first material i’ve recorded with that band. There’s some vocals that still need to be re-done, so those songs are essentially in limbo. They are basically fully recorded but I think we’ll wait until next year.

We want also to expand both bands audiences, mostly so far it’s been just in the south so i’m hoping we’ll get some decent turnouts once we can get back. I’m not pretending that we’re not going to have shows where we have 5 – 10 people attending again. But i’m fine with that and for me it’s just as long as you’re doing something creative then it doesn’t really matter how many people listen or if you can make money from it. It’s the fact that you’re putting something out there. I still have to keep telling myself that though and I still check the views and streams on my music each day and if they haven’t gone up I overthink it a lot. And I need to stop asking for validation from people for that, I need to find it in myself to be like “I’ve recorded this, it sounds cool, if people like it or not then that’s up to them”.

Livestreams could be cool as I could always do the same as the new EP again and chop it up again, but that mainly worked by chance. But if there is another then i’d put a lot more thought into it and have a proper set up. Having more vocal samples in it or something like that. My favourite part about that is trying to find something from the most obscure bits of media and then get people to go out of their way to try and find that, that journey of discovery is really interesting to me. I saw this harsh noise project in Brighton and I took loads of drugs before and the guy had all these visuals from various different horror films. But because I was fucked I couldn’t tell whether they were snuff films he’d got from the internet or real films, and the fact it was that convincing made me go out of my way to try and find it. Which I eventually did and it turns out they’re from Martyrs and Irréversible which got me into all the pretentious horrible French cinema films, which then lead me down a rabbit hole that you can’t escape because if you’ve watched one you want to watch them all. Because of those samples and the visuals it made me go and find that art which i’m really grateful for now because i’m really into it now. So i’d like to have something like that in my set, which is a cool way of expanding your art into more avenues.

Ruminations is out now and available to stream and purchase here.

Nothing – The Great Dismal Album Review

Relapse Records – 2020

This year as it stands has certainly offered more than most were expecting, constant turmoil and an almost never ending sense of dread. But through all the despair and need for reprieve has come music that captures the time and feeling of the moment. One of the latest supplements to that need comes in the form of Nothing’s The Great Dismal. The follow up to 2018’s Dance On The Blacktop sees the band take on themes of isolation, existentialism and extinction. With the result being perhaps Nothing’s most expansive and yet simultaneously closely worked album to date.

The sound of this album closely follows the themes buried in the lyrics, with this being one of Nothing’s most sonically diverse albums yet. The heavy hitting cathartic sounds are spliced all over this album. “Say Less” takes their heavy and explosive sounds to new boundaries. The huge overdriven guitars drop in over every chorus, punching you from either side. All whilst the wailing guitar leads seer and slide over the dreamy and huge sonic soundscape; almost siren like as if to signal the “Noisy world” that lead singer Dominic Palermo is singing about. The huge walls of sound continue through on “April Ha Ha” and explode furiously on “Famine Asylum” as the mammoth like guitars roar with a powerful intent. These huge walls of sound that are created perfectly capture that feeling of isolation and overbearing that many of us have been feeling this year, as we watch the world burn and tear itself apart from home we can feel these huge bursts of worry take over us.

There’s also a certain subtlety to Nothing’s sound on this album as well. Opener “A Fabricated Life” is 6 minutes of pure shoegaze downplayed bliss. Reminiscing in that slow burning, spacious sound that can be found all over Slowdive’s Pygmalion. The steady addition of ambient synthesisers and harp plucks, coming from Mary Lattimore who recently released her shoegaze induced album Silver Ladders, swirl and culminate to luscious harmonies that almost give a false sense of hope to an album based around the feeling of lost hope; once again much like the way this year has played out. This fine-drawn sound returns in parts and places throughout the rest of the album, acting more as leading passages or turning points. The lead in from “In Blueberry Memories” to “Blue Mecca” has that similar sounding bending ethereal landscape that was found on bdrmm’s “The Silence” from their debut album bedroom. But as with a lot of things Nothing do they take it to the next level, the blistering guitars and driving drums create a huge sense of despair as Palermo describes the nightmarish scene of being eaten by a “Leviathan”.

These disturbing images populate the lyrics throughout The Great Dismal. “Send the bombs, We’ve had enough of us, Face the facts, Existence hurts existence” declares Palermo on “Famine Asylum”. Declaring that the human race is doomed to continually endanger itself almost in a cyclical fashion. Sometimes these images can be hidden through vague lyricism but when unpicked paint a bleak, rather dismal picture of the human condition. “Sleep, Awake, Infinite, Mistake, Dreams, In orange, Tormenting, Farewells”. A short summary of the derelict motion of life that can often at times feel as if its just moving to never reach anywhere. Over the chugging riffs, melancholic arpeggios and marching drums the sound of “Ask The Rust” feels bittersweet. There are moments that feel uplifting and motivating, just to be interrupted by huge explosions of distortion and menacing guitar lines. Just when you thought all was going well, the horror still finds its way in.

There might not be a better representation of the bleakness that many of us have felt this year than The Great Dismal. Nothing have taken their already dystopian sound and expanded and refined it to soundtrack the current dystopia that we are all living in. Through the use of huge soundscapes and deceptively upbeat riffs that crash into some of the harshest sounds Nothing have ever created they have, more intricately than would first seem, captured the emotion of a dire time in human existence.