Thursday, 11 September 2014

Slow Moving Targets / Chased By Badguys / Neolithic / SkyRush / Ilser - Demo Reviews - NARC Magazine, October Edition

[2014.09.11] Tom Hollingworth, for NARC Magazine.

Our singer at Slow Moving Targets uses a combination of nonchalance and primal assertion to relay his kitchen-sink observations in Dirty Knees, a bluesy seduction letter. Earthy sexuality is order of the day; from the song title and accompanying EP cover-image to the primitive use of pentatonic riffs and raucous singing. A tight, slim production is preferred and works particularly well with a percussive breakdown section involving hand-claps later in the track. The lead vocals go from a droll patter relaying description to wild cries of desperate profession, ditching diction when touched by the full-moon.

A sweetly naive keyboard part introduces Ghost by Chased By Badguys before an acoustic guitar overtakes the progression with the chords plucked to keep a pendulating beat. The forced vibrato of the lead singer’s vocals whines sharp against the gentle backing instrumentation, and although the attempt at conveying unrest and passion in his voice is noticeable, the effect is grating. A tape-recording sample is presented at a critical point in the song as a poignant document, but anything other than hiss is unplaceable to the listener, leaving the reason for it inclusion unclear. The instrumentation is tastefully arranged from the start, right through to when the narrator’s resultant loneliness is conveyed with the track concluding with nothing but synthesised strings repeating a refrain.

Life’s purpose seems somewhat tarnished to the folks from Neolithic with their twenty-four minute dissertation, Born To Suffer. At volume, this recording serves meditation on the weight of life, offering a sound consistent to the usual dimensions of the Drone genre. The instrumental parts, shifting tectonic plates with their might, have been well captured. When the vocal screaming erupts from the noise, it is well articulated above the booming. Lacking any major idiosyncrasies, the adjective Neolithic in the band-name perfectly describes the compositional level of development in Born To Suffer, where the rudimental possibilities of each instrument’s sound is sufficient to achieve their muscular purpose. This track chants anonymously alongside the congregation of its church.

Why Me? is a simultaneously excitable and anxious indie-pop song by SkyRush lyrically orbiting a protagonist’s vulnerability and resilience. The bass riffs cut through the electric-guitar and drum noise lushly, providing a central personality to an otherwise messy sound. Garry Benns sings his words with a brave conviction though a natural fragility accompanies each phrase. At the choruses, a sweet harmony tenderises the lyrical sentiment. An alternative ending to the arrangement would serve this song well, as the current rallentando-drum-fill-pow feels rather cheesy outside (and one might also argue inside) of a live situation.

Rachael Whittle’s wonderfully bending voice slowly twists through Ilser’s moody grunge-rock ode. Out of the creeping, Last Chance explodes in the choruses, thrusted by the bass-drum and power chords hitting nearly every down-beat. As the format dictates, a guitar solo breaks after the second chorus and mixes moments of brilliance with awkward stumbling. The words seemingly outlay a prayer to a saviour but serve a more threatening gesture as the song develops. Unfortunately, at climatic points, Whittle holds some sustained notes painfully out-of-tune and the clear production does not protect the singer’s fallibility here.

Though I am not the bee for this flower, Slow Moving Targets and Dirty Knees deserve the top spot in September’s Demo of the Month for their clarity of songwriting and its execution. They uphold the spirit revived by Sheffield’s favourite simians with rock ’n’ roll at their centre and a song mixing dry wit and documentation of a localised existence.

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