Welcome to Bliss/Aquamarine - alternative, underground and indie music.

SINGLE REVIEWS

THE SPEED OF SOUND I'm Real 7"/download (BE Records Manchester)
The Speed of Sound have a long history in the UK underground. Formed in 1989 under the name The Blood Oranges, they were immersed in cassette culture and appeared on tapes as diverse as the indie pop compilation You Can't Be Loved Forever #2 released by Philip Ball of The Rileys and Feverfew to accompany his fanzine, and a compilation from the more experimental/eclectic Hypertonia World Enterprises label run by Jan R Bruun. The Speed of Sound have retained their firmly independent ethos under their current guise, stating that they "exist in spite of the Music Industry, rather than because of it, and speak from outside its grasping tentacles". Their latest release is in aid of The Pankhurst Trust, celebrating 100 years since UK women gained the vote, and raising awareness of issues that still have the potential to impact upon women today. I'm Real is told from the perspective of a woman who has ended up in an unhealthy relationship leaving her stifled and controlled, while I Don't Want Your Attentions addresses workplace sexual harassment. The single is limited to 250 hand-numbered copies, with a label design that cleverly combines the mod target with the purple, green and white of the Suffragette sash. I'm Real is spiky 1980s indie pop with a clanging guitar sound and an uncompromising punk attitude. I Don't Want Your Attentions also draws from the punkier end of 1980s indie pop, balancing strong melody with forceful noise; the piece is however just as much informed by hard-edged 1960s mod and also includes an intricate rock guitar solo, showing that this band have no intention of buying into restrictive rules about genre boundaries. Available at thespeedofsound.bandcamp.com as of 10th September 2018. More info on the Pankhurst Trust at www.pankhursttrust.org

THE CHEMISTRY SET Firefly 7" (Fruits de Mer)
NICK NICELY All Along the Watchtower 7" (Fruits de Mer)
ELFIN BOW & GARY LLOYD Who Knows Where the Time Goes 7" (Fruits de Mer)
TOUCH We Feel Fine 7" (Fruits de Mer)

Four new 7" singles out this December from Fruits de Mer Records. The Chemistry Set celebrate their 30th anniversary with two brand new songs exclusive to this single. Firefly is a great slice of noisy psych-pop in which a laid-back, swirling melody with Middle Eastern tinges is juxtaposed with squalling fuzz guitars. Sail Away is a soaring psych track based around jangly strummed 12-string, slide guitar, tablas and atmospheric drones, giving way to a searing guitar solo.
nick nicely completely reinvents Bob Dylan's All Along the Watchtower as an innovative slice of modern psychedelia which takes in atmospheric electronica, fiery guitar soloing and soulful vocals. This is paired with the experimental psych-pop track Doors of Perception, setting a strong tune to a heady mix of dreamlike atmospherics, rhythmic thrums and mindbending guitar work.
Elfin Bow, alias Elizabeth Anne Jones, is joined here by composer and producer Gary Lloyd and the Scottish Session Orchestra which comprises musicians from the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, the Royal Scottish National Orchestra, and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra. The lead track on this single is a beautifully atmospheric orchestrated version of the Sandy Denny classic Who Knows Where the Time Goes, the lush cinematic strings a perfect match for Elizabeth's soaring vocals. The Wisdom is a very lovely folk-pop song ornamented with a luxurious string and brass arrangement. This is my first introduction to Elfin Bow and I'm definitely keen to hear more.
The original idea for Fruits de Mer was for it to be a 7" reissue label; this intention never went to plan at the time, but 10 years later the label has now released a single with three late 1960s tracks by Touch, two from their 1969 album on Deram, and the debut appearance on vinyl for a song intended for a 1968 single which was never released at the time. Touch made an intense hybrid of psych and prog which was pretty groundbreaking. We Feel Fine incorporates dramatic impassioned vocals, proggy twists and turns, and fiercely intense guitar soloing. Down at Circe's Place is a multifaceted piece that starts off like a meeting of vintage action movie theme music and experimental psychedelia, with an insistent piano riff accompanied by parping brass, busy percussion and wild psych guitar work. It then morphs into gentle ethereal psychedelia, before introducing scorching psych-prog guitars, choral vocals, harpsichord-like keyboard and manic drumming, this final section building up so much pressure that it practically explodes at the end. We Finally Met Today subverts the kind of rock 'n' roll typical of the era with dizzying prog convolutions, intense jazz inclinations and heavy psychedelia.
An impressive clutch of singles, all highly recommended. Available as of 31st December 2018 from www.fruitsdemerrecords.com

VLIMMER XI & XII CDs/Cassettes/Download (Blackjack Illuminist)
Alexander Leonard Donat is a prolific musician involved with a number of bands; Fir Cone Children and WHOLE have been reviewed in these pages before, and now there is this new release from his solo project Vlimmer. The two EPs come as a pair, each one highlighting a different side of the Vlimmer sound. They are released as part of an ongoing 18-part series, and are packaged in the now-familiar Blackjack Illuminist in-house style with homemade packaging incorporating real photographs, this time with an atmospheric nature-based approach. XI opens with Wärme, which despite its title of 'Warmth' evokes a gloomy gothic atmosphere with its chilly ambience and harsh industrial rhythms. Leben has a more positive sound which brings together airy shoegaze with early 80s synthpop influences. Licht is gothic pop wrapped in an ethereal swirl, combining a shoegaze wall-of-noise with ambient elements. Lösung takes the effervescent synth rhythms of mainstream 80s electropop and adds goth and shoegaze elements for a blast of icy air. Regen is a beautifully atmospheric darkwave piece with a sense of optimism shining through the melancholy. XII was devised as a more aggressive counterpoint to the airy XI, the warmth, light and life of XI juxtaposed with XII's tracks dealing with bleak and destructive concepts. There are a couple of tracks on XII that sound paradoxically positive to these ears, the uptempo synthpop of Farblosigkeit, and Asphaltdecke which offsets an insistent electronic chug with a dreampop whirl, incorporating airy choralesque backing vocals, but elsewhere on the EP, the fierce noise and unsettling atmospheres come through in full force. Krakenkombat is sharp, belligerent noise-rock with goth, shoegaze, electro and metal elements, its chainsaw guitar attack and relentless electronic throb employed for maximum heavy effect. Zerschmetterung is a heavy shoegaze noise onslaught, woozy yet biting. Atemnot sets fractured, pained songwriting to a chilling, nightmarish ambient soundscape. An inventive pair of EPs that seamlessly combine a variety of genres into a cohesive and evocative whole. Visit blackjackilluministrecords.bandcamp.com

WEIMAR John Doe/Curse the Songs CD (Marlene's Hat) / Download (German Shepherd)
Debut single from Manchester 4-piece Weimar, who include The Speed of Sound's John Armstrong on bass, alongside Aidan Cross (vocals, rhythm guitar), Johann Kloos (lead guitar) and Anthony Edwards (drums). The single is produced by Simon 'Ding' Archer (The Fall, Pixies, etc) and is released as a digital download by German Shepherd Records and CD on the band's own label Marlene's Hat Records. The two tracks here are spiky, angular art rock; John Doe is an effective mix of choppy punky sounds, slightly psychedelic retro rock, and tinges of dark cabaret, while Curse the Songs begins with a bleak post-punk feel before gradually building up into an intense slice of jittery, rattly experimental rock with forceful punky yelps and roars, fierce slicing guitar noise, and a chorus that's as catchy as it is raucous. Great to know that Weimar are currently working on an album. Find out more at weimarbanduk.com

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