wears the trousers magazine

sounding off: october 2009 (ii)
October 19, 2009, 9:14 am
Filed under: album, review | Tags: , , , ,

In part two of this month’s roundup, we take a look at new albums from folk star Bella Hardy, metal newcomers Invasion and, belatedly, “shriekbeat” group Kasms.

* * *


Bella Hardy
In The Shadow Of Mountains ••••

Daughter of the Peak District, Bella Hardy returns with In The Shadow Of Mountains, the follow up to her acclaimed 2007 debut Night Visiting. A mixture of traditional and self-penned material, Hardy’s fiddle and voice are joined by the concertina of Chris Sherburn, the harp of Corinna Hewat and the guitar of Anna Massie to create an accomplished dues-paid mix. Despite decamping to Edinburgh via York and Newcastle, picking up songs, experience and a growing reputation along the way, much of Hardy’s material draws on the terrain of her youth. From the misty valley sides of the upbeat Celtic influences of ‘Mary Mean’ through to the foot-and-mouth cattle pyres of ‘Smoke & Ashes’, it’s an unsentimental but romantic evocation of a landscape. The haunting sensuality of ‘Broadlee Bank’ highlights the stripped back beauty of her playing, while ‘Sylvie Sovay’ is almost Lennon and McCartney in its small-life-writ-large storytelling, startlingly accomplished for an artist who, in folk scene terms, is relatively tender in years.

Other highlights include a beautifully touching version of ‘Ten Thousand Miles’, the gentle simplicity of its harp and guitar accompaniment proving that underplaying a standard robs it of little in the way of relevance. A Ralph Vaughan Williams popularised, a cappella village carol, ‘All In The Morning’, originally collected in Castleton near Hardy’s childhood stomping ground, is beautifully rendered by all three vocal parts. The vernacular bass anchors the two female voices, who interplay and soar without ever losing their measure. Closing with the hopeful uplift of ‘Trawlerman’s Wife’, this is an accomplished work with flashes of magic that help you understand why those in the tradition from which Hardy has grown are tipping her so highly.

Martyn Clayton
UK release date: 31/08/09; www.myspace.com/bellahardy


The Master Alchemist ••••
This Is Music

Metal has always been a predominantly male-centric province, evoking fairly accurate visions of men with long hair and impressive collections of jet-black T shirts. London-based trio Invasion manage to subvert this hallowed genre while simultaneously reviving some of its classic conventions, resulting in a refreshingly compelling debut album. Lead vocalist Chan Brown tears through The Master Alchemist‘s supercharged arrangements with high-decibel prowess, sounding like Skunk Anansie’s Skin at a gospel choir covering Iron Maiden. Their frenetic, atmospheric structures come from Marek Stevens’s surprisingly frugal three-stringed guitar, amped up to the nines with thick, heavy distortion, while Zel Kaute drives everything to demon speed with thundering, doom-laden percussion.

Overseen by Simian Mobile Disco’s Jas Shaw, The Master Alchemist was recorded in just four days, a lightning flash of a period which reflects the analogue-driven, “mostly first takes” approach the band had sworn allegiance to. The shared love of fantasy that brought the band together has developed into the themes that now take centre stage in their sound (the title should give it away really), so expect to hear all the old-school metal imagery of magic, dragons and wizards given an innovative airing. While Invasion’s music is tight and fantastically ferocious in itself, it’s great to hear these strong sounds being helmed by a female lead with such distinctive command.

Charlotte Richardson Andrews
UK release date: 19/10/09; www.myspace.com/invasion


Spayed •••½

Fronted by flame-haired vocalist Rachel Mary Callaghan, this UK four-piece boast members from a number of previously successful bands, including Gemma Fleet from grunge-pop outfit Wolfie on bass and Rory Bratwell from the short lived but much hyped Test Icicles on drums. It’s not often that a debut has such a grounded, cohesive sound, but Spayed rips through speakers with a disarmingly authentic confidence, their volatile energy expertly captured using reel-to-reel recording techniques, and rides a winning streak of no-wave post-punk with aplomb.

Comparisons with Siouxsie Sioux are frequently bandied around, and while these provide a good jumping off point for Spayed’s jaunty, dexterous arrangements, Callaghan’s tight, reverb-drenched vocals miss all of Siouxsie’s arch, clipped glory, bounding instead between the acrobatic yells and growls of Kathleen Hanna during her most uncompromising Bikini Kill moments. Recent double A-side single ‘Absent Without Leave’ b/w ‘Murmur’ captures their self-coined “shriekbeat” sound nicely, capping a refreshingly executed debut from an engaging new band.

Charlotte Richardson Andrews
UK release date: 11/05/09; www.myspace.com/kasms


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[…] Shilpa Ray & Her Happy Hookers – A Fish Hook An Open Eye [4.5/5] 89 Kasms – Spayed [3.5/5] 88 Wetdog – Frauhaus! [4.5/5] 87 Rose Melberg – Homemade Ship [4/5] 86 Pens – Hey Friend, […]

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