10 February 2015

Emerging #1 - King Gizzard & The Lizard Wizard, Public Access TV, Ex Hex, Claudia Kane

When I originally started this blog, the rules were clear - NO CURRENT BANDS ALLOWED. This wasn't supposed to be a blog highlighting hip and happening new acts, but rather the failures and also-rans of yesteryear. If you've got a theme, however broad and loose, it makes sense to stick to it rather than confuse the issue.

And anyway, who would want to be seen dead here, among all the flop artists? Surely getting a mention on "Left and to the Back" is akin to getting a permanent marker mention on the Wall of Doom rather a brassy star next to your name on the Hall of Fame? And should the tastes of someone who so frequently highlights failures be trusted? These questions troubled me at night (a bit). 

But as I'm sure you can probably gather, I've had a change of heart and done an about-turn on the original policy, and once a month I'll be talking about a handful of new-ish acts who have tickled my fancy recently. They don't have to be unsigned, newly formed, or even necessarily without a fairly significant history - the title "emerging" has been chosen deliberately to underline the fact that they just haven't crossed the finish line into the mainstream yet, and have only recently been noticed by me (please, no comments of "But this single was released weeks/ months ago!" I'm not trying to rival Pitchfork here). So without any further ado…

Ludicrously named neo-psychedelic Australians King Gizzard & the Wizard Lizard have been a somewhat divisive presence in the music press of late, thrilling and irritating critics in equal measure. For every writer who feels that their sharp, scuzzy, garagey bursts of psych mixed with krautrock are abnormally cheering, there are others who find that their sound topples over the line into downright silly pastiche.

Luckily, I have no issues with playful pastiche myself, and the lo-fi back catalogue of the band has cheered me up enormously over the last couple of months. Current album "I'm In Your Mind Fuzz" sounds as if it's been recorded on a budget the music department of most cash-strapped British secondary schools would feel rather stingy, yet weathers the roughness to deliver an enormous kick.  The opening salvo of tracks also reveals a band with numerous insistent grooves under their belts, with addictive motorik beats ploughing under the chaotic, effects-laden melodies.

Even their early garage album from 2012 "12 Bar Bruise" is endearingly daffy, showcasing demented punk moments like "Muckracker", although without a doubt their strengths are more apparent in their most recent works.

New York's Public Access TV are much more likely contenders for proper, mainstream success, having already been tipped for greatness by the NME and numerous other online sources. "They're the new Strokes!" says everyone, everywhere. That's strange, because the single "In The Mirror" sounds rather more like Supergrass at their most buoyant and bouncy to me, but I suspect comparisons to unfashionable Britpop artists are more likely to be treated with suspicion.

No matter, though - "In The Mirror" is a fine release, achieving the near-impossible feat of making a cold, overcast February day in London feel like the first signs of Spring. This is fresh and urgent sounding alternative pop, and if they have further singles up their sleeves which rival the swagger of this one, anything could happen, even (or perhaps especially) in these doom-laden, introspective times.

Washington's Ex Hex, on the other hand, here display a rare combination of minimalist garagey glam rock licks meeting a raw punk sound. "Don't Wanna Lose" showcases how effective that combination can be - there's a simmering, measured aggression here that sustains their basic ideas long past their obvious fade-out time. In it, they treat simple boneheaded mid-seventies ideas with the same stripped approach of early Wire, and it's a rare enough sound to be interesting, if slightly worrying.

"So Hot So Cold", on the other hand, shows what they're like with power pop in their veins, and is perhaps even better for it.

London's Claudia Kane has only recently signed to Sony, doesn't seem to have a Wikipedia page yet, and has less of an online presence than most of the acts "Left and to the Back" normally features.  Hopefully the major label "bigwigs" are trying to break her by slowly arousing everyone's curiosity rather than just disinterestedly going through the motions (because God knows we've seen the results of that problem on this blog enough times over the years).

Debut single "Residents of Darkness" appears on the surface to be the kind of anthemic electronic pop that's dogged the mainstream for rather too long, but slowly reveals its unique charms. This is the best of eighties New Pop and noir pop colliding with the present, sounding shadowy, intricate, subtle and seductive. With the right push and the right material, Claudia - who already seems like a brilliantly moody pop star in the video - stands a chance of far greater things.

And finally… Rose Elinor Dougall has been going for far too long now to fairly qualify even for this section of the blog, but her latest Soundcloud offering "Take Yourself With You", a pean to the pitfalls of hipster traveller behaviour, is the usual thing of considered beauty. Investigate immediately. 


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Harmonyattack said...

Been watching this artist and agree with you. She has just released a new song 'Darling is not my name' and that is also edgy and up there.

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