Artists at a glance
DISCO IN SOCHI
TEMPLES OF YOUTH
AMATEUR THEATRE GROUP – Itch
With its soft guitars, muted horns and gentle vocals, Itch is the understated opener to our Fresh Faves, and also topped the poll this week. At 6 minutes, it definitely takes its time, but somehow the gradual build, overall prettiness, and that more delicate coda mean it’s no chore.
Amateur Theatre Group is the name chosen by Londoner Andrew James Murphy to “release music written across a decade previous but never completed”, along with contributions from Andrew’s longtime friends and collaborators, Davy and Iain Berryman.
Itch is taken from Ep1, the follow-up to the album Races 2001 – 2021, and will be available on Bandcamp from Friday, 18 March.
CEPHOS POWDERS – Clap Song
Cephos Powders is an experimental band from Brighton, and Clap Song is, mercifully, inspired by Steve Reich’s Clapping Music and not, y’know… never mind. With its writhing guitars, shouty vocals, retro keys, incessant drums, and yes, clapping, I really think they’ve got the art rock thing nailed, and would imagine this will go down an absolute treat live. That may be a while coming, however, as this appears to be the only track they’ve released thus far, so well done on making the Faves just like that!
The band’s name was so unusual that I had to check, and it turns out Cephos powder was sold as a remedy for headaches, colds, neuralgia and rheumatism until the mid-70s, with Cephos taken from the Greek word for head. That’s probably more than I can tell you about the band, but credited on this track is Ronan OB on vocals and bass, Ben F on drums, Ed W on guitars and Will C on keyboards, who presumably all met at a support group for people who don’t have full surnames. You can download Clap Song from Bandcamp now.
DISCO IN SOCHI – Die Neu
Disco In Sochi impressed our moderating team last week with — to my ears the equally good — Diva, which made the Listening Post, but not quite the Faves. I wouldn’t read too much into that, some weeks can be tough! Fortunately, Die Neu earned a solid place in our top 10 this week. It’s bursting with energy, and has plenty going on, grabs your interest at the start and holds onto it — this really is a track that never stands still.
Disco In Sochi is a collective based in Liverpool made up of writer, player and singer Alex Allen, and producer Rory Ballantyne. Both of their tracks are available on Bandcamp now.
FRANK BIRTWISTLE – The Prize
Frank Birtwistle’s guitar pieces always catch my ear, The Prize is no exception, and I am delighted it made our Faves this week. I find Frank’s virtuoso playing on this captivating, and while 2 minutes and 17 seconds is definitely succinct, it feels complete and satisfying.
Frank Birtwistle is from Sheffield, and says his solo guitar originals are inspired by life, love and nature, including some by his favourite places. I think that’s it — they become like a sonic painting in your mind, and take you away to somewhere better. You can buy The Prize from Bandcamp now, along with the rest of Frank’s work.
JILL LOREAN – Black Dog
Just as you should never judge a book by its cover, nor should you judge a song by its title, and this is very much the case with Black Dog by Jill Lorean. If you were expecting Another Song About Depression, then not so fast! I would have summed it up as “without the darkness you cannot appreciate the light”, but quite how that is delivered is another matter, and the blurb posted on Soundcloud explains it brilliantly (which saves me the trouble, thanks!):
“A lucid dream-like adventure where a godlike figure attempts to grant all of a person’s wishes by carving them all kinds of exciting things out of the clouds. But a sad dog keeps appearing so the deity swallows the sky not understanding that the person wanted to confront the whole spectrum of their emotions, including the sad dog chasing them around.”
All that becomes perfectly clear when you actually listen: melodically it’s almost storybook simple at first — a violin saws away at those clouds, and there’s something call-and-response about the guitars that punctuate each line, but then it really gets going, and you end up in quite a different place to where you started. I was surprised to see that it’s well over 6 minutes — it wastes no time, so it doesn’t feel anywhere near that long.
Jill Lorean is Jill O’Sullivan (Sparrow And The Workshop), Andy Monaghan (Frightened Rabbit) and drummer Peter Kelly. They first caught my attention with their astonishing track Mothers, which appeared on Listening Post 434. Both that and this are really fascinating, and catch you somewhat unaware. Black Dog will be part of the album This Rock, to be released on April 1, and can be pre-ordered on Bandcamp now. This track, along with Mothers and two others are already available for download. The band will play The Hug And Pint in Glasgow on May 28, and I can’t help but feel we’ll be hearing a lot more of them in the not-too-distant.
LYENA – Boys Toys
Just as titles can be misleading, labels can be funny old things too. Lyena self-identify as a “post-punk three piece from London”, which had me wondering what it means to be a post-punk band nowadays, because post-punk, like punk before it, is really a way rather than a genre. To follow the way I think you need energy, inventiveness, engaging lyrics, a healthy dollop of attitude, and a keen sense of fun, no matter how grim the subject matter. Boys Toys delivers all that, and doesn’t outstay its welcome either —another defining punk attribute.
With airplay on BBC Radio 1’s Future Artists, plenty of blog love, and ranking very highly on our Listening Post this week, it seems to be going well for Lyena, which features Omar Mckay on guitar and vocals, David Costello on bass, and Jake Willis on drums and vocals. Catch them at The George Tavern, Stepney Green on March 25, and The Fiddler on April 15, and stream Boys Toys now on Spotify, Apple Music, etc.
MAAIKE SIEGERIST – So You Think
So You Think put a real smile on my face this week. I can’t describe it any better than Maaike Siegerist herself, who says it’s “a laid-back jazz track featuring some serious piano chops, swinging upright bass, and a chihuahua”, and I must say the chihuahua is a brilliant touch.
Written with her friend Becci Wallace, So You Think is their “response to society’s expectations of women. To stay young and beautiful. To leave the technical stuff to the guys. As you may have guessed, we don’t think so!” Really, no doubt on that one, but I love how it’s delivered with a wry smile.
Maaike Siegerist has appeared on our Fresh Faves and the BBC Introducing Mixtape quite a few times already, is from Bristol, but was born in Schiedam, near Rotterdam, and moved to the UK to study music after attending an inspirational songwriting retreat in Scotland. So You Think is available on Bandcamp now.
OLA SZMIDT – Yôngquân
Abstract, ethereal, sometimes weightless, sometimes almost impenetrably dense, it’s hard to find words that do justice to Ola Szmidt’s music. Sometimes I’m not sure it even is music exactly, more like a breath, an emotion, or the wind in the trees. On Yôngquân, Ola’s layered vocals soar above reversed and looped sounds, with electronic clicks and glitches forming what could be considered the rhythm section — it really is like nothing else. Recorded a few weeks ago in Warsaw, Ola released this for International Women’s Day last week.
Ola is a former FOTN moderator, and has appeared on the Fresh Faves many times over the last few years; she’s previously won the Steve Reid InNOVAtion Award, been mentored by Four Tet, and has her work funded by the PRS Foundation. You can buy this track and many more on her Bandcamp page now.
SUNNBRELLA – Fever Dream
I was especially taken by Fever Dream this week. I’m a sucker for a bit of dream pop, although done wrong it can turn into a bit of an audio smudge, as can shoegaze, which may also describe this track, but Sunnbrella (who prefers “beat-driven melancholy”) keeps the pace and interest levels right up. Featherlight vocals, synths and swirly noises glide above a lively backing. Put together, all this sounds to me like pure sunshine (that Reviewer Of The Year award is in the bag!).
As far as I can tell Sunnbrella is the sole work of “Prague-born, London-based” David Zbirka, who is augmented by a band when playing live, but details are scant, so I may be wrong about that. Stream Fever Dream on all the usual platforms now.
TEMPLES OF YOUTH – Susan Gets Confused
Temples Of Youth is duo Jo Carson and Paul Gumma from Winchester — they’ve been around a while, and first appeared on our Fresh Faves in Batch 204 (July 2016), when they were reviewed by an idiot.
I’ve always thought they were good, but it’s interesting to hear bands grow over the years. Susan Gets Confused (inspired by Katherine Hepburn, apparently), sounds really confident and planted – like it knows its place – and to my ears is perfectly formed. It gets right in there, does what it needs to do, and gets out again. Jo’s vocals are rich and velvety, the guitars are sharp, and the drums lively, without anything ever overwhelming.
Susan Gets Confused is available on Bandcamp and Spotify now.
PS from TR: If you’ve submitted a track that hasn’t been picked for the Listening Post, our team has definitely listened to it and there’s no need to send it again: feel free to send us an even stronger track another week. The same goes if you were picked for the Listening Post but didn’t feature in our Fresh Faves.
But if we’ve recently featured you in our Fresh Faves – or on my BBC Introducing Mixtape – please wait three months before sending us another track, so we have space to help other deserving artists… For more info see Robinson Has A Good Old Moan.