‘Ulrika Spacek – Modern English Decoration’ Album Review

Every year there’s always a handful of albums that pop out of nowhere and end up being some of the year’s best. Hidden gems that rise through the ranks and give the world hope that we won’t be subjected to the plethora of banal indie landfill for the rest of our lives.

One album that fits this hidden gem bill is The Album Paranoia by London psych-rockers Ulrika Spacek. Released early last year, this wonderfully brilliant debut experimented heavily with krautrock and shoegaze. This has resulted in Ulrika Spacek quickly becoming one of the UK’s most intriguing bands and they have even had Slowdive singing their praises.

Now just over a year since the release of The Album Paranoia, Ulrika have returned with Modern English Decoration. Recorded, produced and mixed entirely in their shared house in East London, does this album live up to last year’s efforts and can it help propel Ulrika into the deserved spotlight?

From the off, Ulrika’s leanings to krautrock are ever present. Mimi Pretend is a steady and melodic krautrock jam that wouldn’t have gone amiss on TOY’s debut record, whilst Silvertonic ensnares you with its mesmerising outro. Elsewhere on the LP, the title track Modern English Decoration is incredibly woozy and feels like you’re tripping out after too much cough syrup. Full of Men is one of the album’s most interesting tracks, with its subtle build and satisfying pay-off.

Dead Museum arrives with a swaggering fuzz filled introduction and eventually transforms into a thick and sludgy colossus. Everything, All The Time is similar with its wicked and evil guitar lines. Resulting in a fuzz laden onslaught towards the track’s climax, Everything, All The Time is easily one of Ulrika’s best tracks to date.

Saw a Habit Forming‘s vocals warble like a track off of King Gizzard & The Lizard’s album Quarters, as they melt into a bed of guitar pedals and effects. Ending on stark and piecing metallic guitar strokes, Saw a Habit Forming bleeds into Victorian Acid. With a menacing bass and twisted vocals, Victorian Acid plays out like My Bloody Valentine thrown into a blender with a bunch of screws and bolts.

Unfortunately, there are moments where Ulrika fall short. The rather forgettable Ziggy gets lost amongst the rest of tracklisting and, by the time Protestant Work Slump rolls round, it already feels somewhat familiar.

Whilst not as immediate as their debut, Modern English Decoration is a brilliant next step for Ulrika. Though it may seem like they are covering tried and tested territory at times, Modern English Decoration is an intricate, sharp and utterly rewarding listen. Honing their sound and paying homage to their clear list of influences, Ulrika Spacek are on their way to greatness.

7/10

Liam Egan

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Childhood Announce New Album ‘Universal High’, Also Share Single

Childhood have announced that their sophomore record Universal High will be released on July 21st via Marathon Artists. Releasing almost three years after their debut Lacuna, Universal High was written by frontman Ben Romans-Hopcraft and produced by Ben Allen (Gnarls Barley, Dirty Projectors and Animal Collective) in Atlanta.

The first track from the album, Californian Light, was also shared with the album announcement and can be found below – alongside the album’s tracklisting and pre-order.

 

Universal High

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  1. A.M.D.
  2. Californian Light
  3. Cameo
  4. Too Old for My Tears
  5. Melody Says
  6. Universal High
  7. Understanding
  8. Don’t Have Me Back
  9. Nothing Ever Seems Right
  10. Monitor

Pre-order: Physical, iTunes

Liam Egan

Pumarosa Live Review – Manchester, Soup Kitchen 19/04/2017

Over the years, we’ve seen our fair share of indie bands succumbing to the cliché cycle of intense hype, endless tours and ultimately an average debut album. This archetype leads to inevitable fatigue and, before we know it, the destined ‘saviours’ of guitar music are gone and now work in your local Asda.

One band who haven’t conformed to this stereotypical nature of today’s indie psyche is Pumarosa. From their sprawling 7 minute saxophone harnessed debut Priestess, to their limited live dates and material, Pumarosa have seized control of their own path and it has resulted in them becoming one of the UK’s most intriguing and sonically interesting guitar bands.

Their debut record The Witch is set for a May 19th release and, in turn, Pumarosa embarked on a short tour in showcase of said album. With the already popular tracks Honey and Dragonfly in their arsenal, would their upcoming material match up with what fans have come to expect from them? And, more importantly, will Pumarosa be able to summon the magic that they first conjured up when they arrived in 2015?

As each individual member made their way onto the stage, the London outfit filled the room with a illuminated krautrock rhythm. Transforming into Dragonfly, Pumarosa’s musical prowess outstretched and infected every corner of the room. Culminating with a all-consuming wall of sound, Pumarosa were here to make a statement.

Cecile and Honey followed, with the former exploding with a brooding saxophone solo from Tomoya Suzuki during it’s climax. However, it’s Lion’s Den that takes the limelight early on in the set. One of band’s unreleased tracks off of their album, Lion’s Den sees Pumarosa at their darkest. Starting with haunting piano keys and ghostly vocals, this eerie track becomes draped in chilling guitars that begin to wail and moan. All this darkness and gloom results in a finale that has the sonic vigor of a doomgaze band.

As for other new music, The Witch sees frontwoman Isabel Munoz-Newsome hanging like a puppet on a string as she looks on to the crowd glassy-eyed. This is then juxtaposed later on in the set when she is prowling around the stage with passion similar to that of Jenny Beth of Savages. An intoxicating leader, Munoz-Newsome’s zeal grips the crowd and refuses to let go.

Elsewhere, other offerings from The Witch range from Warpaint-esque spacey atmospheres to an anthemic set closer that is guided by a wonky feverish beat. However, it’s Priestess that truly owns the night. Cascading into a flurry of tropical beats, akin to that of Jagwar Ma, this tribal ritual has an almost Madchester feel to it. Spell-binding, spiritual and stunning, Priestess still sounds as fresh as it did 2 years ago and maybe even better.

To put it bluntly, Pumarosa are a special band. Uncompromising and bursting with ideas and creativity, tonight showed that Pumarosa have crafted a wonderful debut. Masterful in their live execution, this album release will surely spark their immediate rise and there is nobody who deserves it more.

Liam Egan

The Drums Announce UK Tour

With their upcoming fourth album ‘Abysmal Thoughts’ set for release later this year, The Drums have recently announced that they will be playing a string of UK live dates in October.

Starting in Bristol, the album tour will also see The Drums stopping off in Manchester, Glasgow and London.

The Drums also released the music video for their latest single Blood Under My Belt.

Dates and tickets link below

2nd October – Thelka, Bristol
4th October – Academy 2, Manchester
5th October – Art School, Glasgow
7th October – O2 Shepherds Bush Empire, London

http://www.seetickets.com/tour/the-drums

Liam Egan

Line-up Announced For Strange Waves II

After the success of last year’s Strange Waves Festival, Strange Days and Now Wave have announced that a second iteration of the festival will be taking place on September 2nd 2017 at the O2 Ritz in Manchester.

With this announcement comes the first set of names confirmed for the festival, which includes Parquet Courts, Rolling Blackout Coastal Fever, Ultimate Painting, Omni, Beach Fossils, Nap Eyes and Laurel – with more to be announced.

Early bird tickets are priced at £17 and go on sale at 10am on Friday (7th April).

http://www.seetickets.com/event/strange-waves-ii/o2-ritz/1086477

Last year’s line-up consisted of King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard, The Wytches, The Big Moon, Methyl Ethel, The Parrots, Shame and Charlotte Cannon (You can also read our coverage of it here).

 

 

Liam Egan

Lost Under Heaven Interview

“What I wanna do on a songwriting level is really try and encapsulate something of the timeless human experience. So the themes of the new songs are relevant to the world right now, but are also relevant to the past of human history.”

It’s the beginning of February and I find myself in the flat of Ellery Roberts and Ebony Hoorn of Lost Under Heaven. The walls of their home feature various forms of art and photography, which lends to the creativity that is projecting off of the pair. However, despite this aura of artistry, there’s a sense dysphoria in the world. President Trump has just been inaugurated and millions of people worldwide have joined the Women’s March in response, becoming the largest worldwide protest in history.

Lost Under Heaven, or LUH for short, find themselves a part of this protest. Tweeting ‘Not sure how I feel after this week..’ a few days before we meet, we discuss how recent events are sculpting their new music.”There’s always been people like Trump, there’s always been people like Brexit. It’s just at this moment, it has reached a critical mass” says Ellery. “In the past couple of weeks when I’ve been doing the vocals for the new tracks, I’ve been looking at news stories and I’ve had this real sense of not wanting to make gloomy music but really powerful music” he continues. “I never really got into Radiohead because it’s this very post-modern sort of angst. I appreciate their music, I think they’re incredibly talented, but on that level it always gave me a sense of hopelessness rather than overcoming. So that’s definitely something I’ve tried to reinforce in the new music.”

Last year, Ellery and Ebony released their debut record Spiritual Songs for Lovers to Sing. An album that echoes the mindset of young lost souls trying to navigate through the mundane sea of modernity, Spiritual Songs for Lovers to Sing is a beautiful and inspiring reflection of the world in which we all currently inhabit. Acting as Roberts’ first project since his departure from WU LYF in 2012, he is already looking back in retrospect at this record. “It’s not an issue, but the thing of the first record was that it was a transition record for me. I guess I wrote the majority of the tracks on my own, with the sense of making an Ellery Roberts record. But I didn’t really have the desire to do that, to actually make a solo record. Then having Ebony around during the process, with her singing more and more, I was like ‘okay, I’m going to make this into something else.’ I feel like Unites was the first song I wrote where it felt like LUH. We’ve now got like 12 new tracks that we’ve been finishing off in the past month and I feel like in a way that they are the first proper LUH album because this is actually what it is now.”

Spiritual Songs for Lovers to Sing is an album that is crammed full of different musical ideas and concepts. A collage of Ellery’s psyche during the album’s fruition, it managed to cause problems for LUH’s live show. “That was the state of mind I was in at the time and I was just pursuing every idea. It was an interesting exercise, but it resulted in an album that was impossible to do live because every song was different. Every song had different instruments and, other than having a backing track, you’d need a 15 piece band to recreate it properly.”

This has resulted in the next LUH project taking a slightly different approach. “When writing the new songs, we starting writing them with the idea not to overcomplicate them.” says Ebony. Ellery goes on to say that this requires “stripping it all back and being like, ‘okay, how can we make it the most dynamic effect of things with just three people.’ This time round, I’ve just written the songs purely on guitar and piano. So all these new songs we’ve got, they are demoed to that level of guitar, piano and vocal. I wanted to do that, to put them in a neutral place.”

This third person that LUH are referring to is Oliver Cooper, who has been providing the synths during their live shows. However in recent months, Cooper has started to have a more involved role within the band. “It’s nice working with Ollie” says Ellery. “It’s like he’s becoming a permanent member of the band, rather than just being brought in to play the songs.”

Back on the conversation of new music, we continue to discuss the benefits of LUH’s new songwriting approach. “Going back to just writing from beginning to finish on a guitar or piano means that I have to consider the whole track. I feel like there is a lot of contemporary music that is so focused on a ‘nice’ sound, that it gets a bit boring after a minute. All the ideas are in the first minute and a half, then it doesn’t really go anywhere. And I think that comes from working on computers so much because you’re so compartmentalised. Your focus is just in that area then that area.”

Lost Under Heaven is more than just a musical outlet for Ebony and Ellery. Lost Under Heaven is an idea, an ideology. So whilst the music does take the forefront, LUH are constantly working on the various manifestations in which their message blossoms. Ebony, who recently graduated from the Gerrit Rietveld Academie in Amsterdam after studying audio visual, begins to muse over this. “It’s like trying to get a message across without just using one medium. I think we live in times where everything crosses over and it’s really interesting. There are so many opportunities to just DIY, with incredibly cheap ways of doing it.” Ellery continues the train of thought. “Since the release of the album, it’s all been about the music. Which is cool and is necessary, but it did mean that all the other things – which to us are just as important and interesting – were sort of pushed to the side of the frame. Whereas now, with all the new stuff, we’re actually doing all these things. Particularly with the audio visual kinda element.”

A thread that seems to carry through all of Ellery’s work so far is this sense of community. Beginning with WU LYF and their cult status, the most recent example is the Congregation of Young Dissent night that Ebony and Ellery both organised. A self-promoted event, Congregation of Young Dissent took place at The White Hotel in Salford at the end of last year. Here, a mass of people who found solace within Lost Under Heaven gathered and it resulted in possibly LUH’s best show to date. Is this something that they want to build on? “We’re just trying to work out how to make it the most genuine I guess” ponders Ellery. “I feel like the sense of community is used in marketing everywhere. Even from these recent army posters where it’s like ‘This Is Belonging’. I feel like in this world of alienation, trying to create this genuine sense of community is really important.” Ebony elaborates, “we’re reaching a moment where people are realising that they have to break out of their echo-chamber and their self-contained bubbles.”

Towards the end of 2016, Ellery and Ebony decided to move back to Ellery’s native Manchester. Leaving behind the picturesque sites of Amsterdam for the perceptual grey of Mancunia, how has this transition been? “Since moving back to Manchester, for me, it’s been sort of refreshing on a certain level” says Ellery. “In Amsterdam, we had our little community of friends that was really around [Ebony’s] art school. But I particularly was very isolated, like I only sort of saw Ebony and her group of friends that she already had – then I had my studio area. But I basically spent a lot of my time on my own, not really interacting with people in the wider community. Whereas being back in Manchester, maybe because of the familiarity, I have a greater sense of being able to make something happen.”

Back in August last year, Lost Under Heaven tweeted the following – ‘so tired of reading LUH is a “challenging listen”:challenging?perhaps only to the luke warm piss of indie culture ‘. Ellery begins to clarify what he meant by this. “When we were making the record, the mentality was like ‘This is exactly what the world needs right now’. Which I guess is probably what every person making a record says. We were listening to Amnesia Scanner and a lot of these progressive electronic artists. We were thinking of fusing this with more classic rock songwriting. I don’t really know what is considered ‘relevant culture’ but I keep seeing these things that were maybe interesting and relevant in 2007. That was ten years ago, but people are still churning it out. So we were trying to do something new. So seeing the reaction, for me, was surprising. I just thought people were further ahead in their reference points and their ideas.”

Ellery goes on to explain how their image in the music press was also impeding on what they were trying to achieve. “We were getting frustrated for a while because we kept seeing these things that were presenting me and Ebony as this very twee and indie romance. And sure you can pull that out of it because we are together and happy, but it was just that we made a record which was dealing with a lot of things other than us being in a relationship. It felt like it was trying to dilute what we were doing.”

Chatter then turned to which current acts and genres that LUH themselves are finding intriguing. “I have a lot of respect for Elias Bender Rønnenfelt [of Ice Age and Marching Church] because he’s one of the more interesting songwriters of our generation. I also feel like the progressive electronica world is making sonically interesting work” says Ellery after a moment of deliberation. Ebony then chooses sludgy hardcore NYC trio Show Me The Body, “They’ve been very politically and community engaging.” “I also think the same for Princess Nokia because of the way she’s self-releasing, independent and is just doing it. She’s out there and is actually creating interesting and connecting music. Then obviously there’s Kendrick Lamar” says Ebony. After a moment of silence, Ellery adds “There’s a bunch of MCs making interesting stuff, I think Denzel Curry is really good.”

As our conversation came to it’s natural close, we began to discuss what Lost Under Heaven means to LUH. ” For me at least, Lost Under Heaven is about exploring the duality, looking towards unity” says Ellery. “Unity being this notion of heaven and the world we’re living in being of opposition of duality. Even with me and Ebony working together on it, seeing how the male and female energies react and counterbalance each other. It’s an opportunity or a vehicle in which we can explore, experiment and develop as human beings. The work that we create is sort of the documentation of them experiments. Patti Smith talks about keepers of the flame. That throughout culture and human history there’s been artists that light this fire of human spirit and pass it down through generation and generation. So in that sense, you’re doing a custodian of human spirit. You’re enforcing and looking out for something that hopefully inspires people to do the same. I think that’s the most beautiful thing that comes out of what we do…”

Liam Egan

Baby Strange Share New Single ‘Motormind’, Also Announce New EP

Glaswegian punks, and favourites of Nothing Left Unsaid, Baby Strange have shared a new single off of their upcoming EP Extended Play. The trio’s first material since the release of their fierce 2016 debut record Want It Need It, Motormind is rush of lo-fi punk that picks off exactly where they left off.

Extended Play is set for a July release and can be pre-ordered on 10″ vinyl below.

Also check out our interview with Baby Strange.

Extended Play

extended_play_cirlce_true_black-3

1. Motormind
2. No Coin To Play
3. Bring Me Down
4. Play Me
5. Young Team
6.  Mess

Pre-order: Store

Liam Egan