Iceboy Violet - The Vanity Project
"The Vanity Project" is the latest album from electronic rap artist Iceboy Violet. The release has been a culmination of four years of unparalleled experiences within the burgeoning club scene of Manchester with friends and The White Hotel firmly in the centre.
The release brings together the whole community of the experimental club scene across the North West featuring artists who themselves are breaking through the sludge of 'popular music' with Space Afrika, Emily Glass, Jennifer Walton, Slikback & Nick Leon, Mun Sing, Blackhaine, Daemon & Orlandor, Exploited Body & aya, under her LOFT alias.
The mystique of the highly celebrated Iceboy Violet and the other artists connected to this release have raised this to a level of AOTY with only the single "VANITY" being heard before today. Combining hip-hop, experimental, avant-garde, noise, grime and dub in a concoction that screams for a sold out TWH showcase. Shows from the artists have been well received with an experience that will leave you with more questions than answers, what did I witness, what is really going on in Manchester and simply ...?
The 20 minute album opens up with the track 'Urban Amblence' which has Space Afrika's touch, the hypnotic industrious rhythms with Violet's multi tracked panned vocals spraying from all angles leaves you aghast. The re-industrialisation of Manchester can be seen in no better way that right here. "Are U Connected" has dreamy synths that lull you into that false sense of security before the grime bass riffs rip you apart, a clear sign of Emily Glass' addition to the track. Lead single 'VANITY' is an international track that could cover the world in it's naive blinding scepticism on life right now, bringing in classic grime instrumentalism but off-kilter production and Violet's arresting shrieks of "VANITY VANITY VANITY, beauty is pain."
The second half of this album takes a turn with 'ANTISKEPTIK' bringing the distorted grime/dubs sounds at its core and 'LILLITH' featuring big names such as Blackhaine and Mun Sing along with Daemon, Orlandor. As whenever you hear the voice of Tom Heyes (Blackhaine) you feel the intensity of his artistic process and this track solidifies that in a different way, Violet has made it less scary and more like a cutting edge hip-hop track. As for next track 'DEATHDRIVE' that runs over and rips your eyes out. An incredible vocal display from Exploited Body and pulsating theatrical industrious noise make this the stand out track on the release for me, such intensity that it makes you consider Death Grips however Stiff Pap is probably closer to the truth. Closing the album is 'ATONE/BLANKFACE' which includes aya's alias LOFT. This tracks brings you back down to Earth after being viscerally attacked by the previous songs, the creeping percussion and oscillated/octaved vocals feel like you are on a knife edge, "I feel so weak, I scream".
The vocals and instrumentals from Violet are a constant throughout the release and showcase the versatility of them and their musical prowess. After 4 years and so many features on others music I'm astounded by the brilliance of what has been created and formatted including the artwork created by artist and jewellery designer Lou Webb, other artwork by Ana Radtsenko and video by Laila Majid.
This release shows the power of Iceboy Violet and also the massive capabilities of the stratospheric experimental music scene in Manchester, I feel like this album could open the doors to giving Manchester some sort of true identity back.
YAANG - White Socks Yellow
YAANG have been on quite the journey through 2021, they started off as an electronic duo and ended the year with 3 members now playing stringed instruments. After remixes from PVA and being featured on compilations from Slow Dance to M1 they have been really getting some notice from up and down the country and WSY in the first single of the new formatted band.
The track opens up with the snap of a can opening, the guitarist Ollie told me that he took 12 cans in the studio to get this opener and it was only on the last can he finally did it, "I thought I'd have to go buy more fucking beer".
White Socks Yellow is an incredible portal into the skewed, idiosyncratic humour of the group, "I'm pissed, I lost my phone last night" rings out the vocals of the mustachioed man Davey Moore, who fronts the band. The new instrumental elements of the band feel like they are straight from some odd ball soviet post-punk outfit that should be called something like Bratislava 88 - or summat to that end - but ever encroaching are the sharp yet lo-fi percussion and samples coming from Davey. The new addition to the group -Ben White- on bass adds a driving force that was very digital before this single and he is a fantastic addition to the group which now fall into categories like new wave/dance pop/alternative rock.
Simply the phrase "I've Pissed My Pants" gets me going and when we saw them headline The Old Abbey Taphouse for Do Your Best you could it split the room with half cheering with empathetic glee and the other half in disgust at the songs main topic. I personally think it's hilarious, we've all been there haven't we?
Adding to this track is the production and mastering by big hitters Death From Above 1979 who the band have worked with for the past few years on the mastering side of their work. WYS may fit easier with that obvious choice now moving forward with shredding guitar to add to the mix of digital and lofi sounds the band want to harness alongside the dance tracks of old.
Very excited to see what this year hold for YAANG but if this single is anything o go by then it will be cracking!
Young Devils - S/T EP
Brand new group Young Devils are a duo made of Manchester legends Adam Leavy (Masterchef Semi-Finalist, Black Leaf) and Richard Von-Long (Slimelord, Tungeron, Sabbath Tattoo).
Both have a long steeped history in the Manchester metal scenes dating back to the mid 2000's from many different projects under different names and released by many labels.
Young Devils sees the two meet when they may not be such 'young devils' anymore, however the music they make has matured and a new love for the banjo from Adam has given this release a wholly unexpected edge.
The album as a whole is a sonic journey through sludgy country metal, that's the only way it can be described. From fuzz laden drone guitar to blues riffs, country style banjo, melancholic throat singing, full bodied shrieked vocals and beautiful melodies, this release is well thought out and mature.
The opening track 'Forked Tongue: Sermon One' feels like the theme song to a southern states American drama on the BBC or even a BTS film from Breaking Bad, as cliché the Banjo is, it works perfectly and creates such an atmosphere, something brave to see from the pair.
Chermansog - Cherry Tree Carol
Chermansog aka Hadden Grainger is well known for his intense noise music, shown no better than the collaborative album released between Chermansog and industrial artist Adrian Steele. This new release takes a new twist by including more of the Do Your Best family including Theo Eze (POSA, NGA GRAYT), Samantha Harris (POSA, Wilderness Records) and Ella Skinner (SCUM, Die Die Kill, Islington Mill).
Together they have created a blissfully atmospheric folk song that transcends other songs that have come from Hadden. This track feels like it is floats above our bodies like large ship carrying precious cargo, moving so fast but from our view it is slow and gracious. The atmospheric strings and electronics are subtle throughout but create a tense driving force throughout.
The heavily layered vocals from Hadden, Theo and Sam give a real feel of the Young Gods roster which houses groups like Angels of Light which bring together the light and dark of minimal folk music. The deep notes reached on this track with the angelic sounds make this such an emotional track, not something you'd expect for a Christmas day release but something that made my day that much better.
And the organ at the close is crazy!
divinium - thTHiSi
"There will be no sunshine on thTHiSi day".
divinium are a power death metal band that seemingly are formed of one mysterious member called Thomas. All that can be said is that from the drone to glitches and then black metal breakdowns this track is fucking crazy from start to end, or at least the first 90 seconds. Then the remaining two minutes are a Tool style minimal industrial melange that calm you before the returning onslaught and tirade of the chugs and impending doom.
This track was originally recorded in 2020 for a compilation KOVID 6.6.6. released by K.V.N.T. KOLEKTIV. The black metal/harsh noise label are based in the UK but they sadly won't disclose where but this compilation is incredible, spanning from black noise, harsh punk, power electronics, garage and everything in between.
divinium are based in Manchester so I'd love to hear and see more from them!
GowlerMusic - Noise
Who knows who GowlerMusic is but they seem to have been consistently putting out non-music for all the burgeoning artists to use in their digital reaches.
In this release Noise, the artists has created 127 sample tracks for you to use for free in whatever way you choose however I decided to listen to all the samples in order and the reality is that this 'collection of sounds' comes out as an intense and wonderful experimental/harsh noise/glitchy/musik concrete strange thing that had me hooked from start to finish.
The artist GowlerMusic has created this sort of pack for every need you digital musicians will ever need from abstract pop loops, movie dialogue and guitar samples. I don't really know what is going on but this is all very cool.
Nishla Smith - Friends With Monsters
Nishla Smith landed in Manchester from Australia with an absolute thump, garnering a massive audience and following throughout the jazz circles of the city. The artist very quickly was funded by Manchester Collective, Opera North and Manchester Jazz Festival and founder herself surrounded by some of the cities best improvisors including Richard Jones, Johnny Hunter, Joshua Cavanagh-Brierley and Aaron Wood.
This, her debut album, feels as though a statement of intent for the artist and a continuation of the fantastic story of the contemporary jazz scene within Manchester.
"Friends With Monsters" is a warm and sumptuous display of jazz capabilities with beautiful melodies from the trumpet taking me to 'Sketches of Spain' and Art Tatum style piano lines that take me through a hazy sun light journey. Smith's soft touch vocals compliment the tonal elements of the instruments with such ease that this album becomes a soundtrack to your Sunday with ease.
The intelligence and capability of this artist is huge and by the backing she has already had from institutions around the country you can tell that her future will be bright.
Smith is also part of the theatre group Ulita and closely connected with the Underbanks Studio where fellow Ulita member Luca holds her studio. This is also where Heather Chambers was based before her move to Vietnam, Heather designed the zine that goes along with this release. The theatrical element of this album can seen in best focus in the video for 'Up' above us which features all of backing band and the power of Ulita as a theatre group.
You can buy 'Friends With Monsters' on vinyl or CD with accompanying zine and I would highly suggest getting it for your collection!
Speaking In Tongues - Breathing
Speaking In Tongues are a new post-punk/shoegaze outfit spread across the green abyss that is the Pennines between Manchester and Leeds.
Their gig ready two track release 'Breathing' is an atypical alternative indie release that will propel the band the the heights with both tracks on the release being radio ready and without doubt having a huge audience.
Opening track 'Breathing' is a standard track with some great vocal tracks until it drops out half way through, after your sullen moment of thinking it's all over they come back in and shred your face off with a Kevin Shields riff that closes the powerful show. Second track 'Speaking In Tongues' is much more of a lead single with it's super short run time and consistent hammering chords, this does feel like indie music for the coming years.
Already with gigs coming up in Manchester supporting Pyncher and The Smiles I hope to see much more from the this group spread across the north's best two cities.
The Smiles - Freak EP
The Smiles seem as though they could be in their sophomore year but at my grand age of 25 I think maybe anyone younger than 21 looks young to me these days.
However this group, regardless of age have created something I believe to be truly wonderful and rare.
Put together Suicide, early Velvet Underground demos, Belle and Sebastian with a flavour of The Lemon Twigs and Foxygen and you have The Smiles. Their sound is of beautifully naive indie pop that is so wonderfully simple yet with melodic wonderment throughout each of the 4 tracks they showcase on this 'Freak EP'.
Opening track 'Some People (A Flying Saucer, 1953)' is the perfect opener to this release with a bright guitar lead that is really close to early Velvet Underground tracks like 'What Goes On' with subtle dark vocals throughout. 'It Must Have Been A Dream' is where we hear the closer comparisons to Foxygen with the over dubbed slidey keys and the multi tracked vocals with samples thrown all over the place. Closing track 'Petra' is where we see a real Suicide influence with syncopated digital drums with a sultry Alan Vega style vocal washed over it before heading into bubbly high key guitar clattering like early Los Campesinos.
This feels like a perfect summer EP that might have been missed being released at the end of the year in the gloomy, rainy city. I wholeheartedly look forward to what comes from this young group as they have made a massive fan out of me!!!!
Max Hammond - Headfuck
Max Hammond has been on the up since getting out of his bedroom and getting a full gigging band along with him and has since been experimenting away from the bedroom sound of his previous releases.
This latest track 'Headfuck' is exactly what it says on the tin. Overall the track is a little heavy in its production and overdubbing with general wobbly jazz keys throughout that don't really fit with the off-kilter guitar based weirdo we know from Max.
When stripped back this track is great as Max is undoubtedly a fantastic musician, the chorus brings back that Dean Ween crackly vocals that made Max stand out early on. His guitar playing is crystallised and hot off the press in this track and it should be seen more throughout, sack off the 'chill' vibes and get that guitar cranked throughout because it rips, I want more please, maybe just a chorus fizzled guitar album from start to finish, challenge yourself and 'stop being a headfuck.'
Machine Woman - Thank You Slipknot
Machine Woman has had a long and winding story from the heights of Islington Mill to now being an artist in Berlin. However this release 'Thank You Slipknot', originally released in 2015 by tape label Sacred tapes has been reissued for the first time ever and it the best time for it.
Back in the early teenies the work done at Islington Mill was sadly not cool however it has become essential and now a part of our routines in 2022 with the format of cassettes coming back stronger than ever. This album was as we said released on cassette back then with original artwork created by John Powell-Jones an it highlights the extraordinary experiments that were allowed to happen within the safe artistic space that is Islington Mill.
The album is an experimental, avant-garde look at the absurd with a central dance note to it. It feels as though dance tracks have been formulated and abstracted with experimental means and harsh noise elements making it both intense and danceable. Heavy beats and what I can only describe as factory floor pop take over the last two tracks that both sound like you are listening to an assembly line of teddy bears being attacked.
All in a day's work eh...
Mutabaruka, I Rainy & Slmbad - Catch, Loot, Steal (Club Mix)
This 10 minute track has taken 9 years to come to fruition and has been released by Rainy City Music who have been creating blissful one off records in Manchester since 1996.
This record has been written by Irfan Rainy and Simbad and features legendary Jamaican dub poet Mutabaruka. The track is a perfect example of 90's acid house being brought into the modern day with smooth percussion that thumbs you home all the way through the track. The syphoning digital elements bobble softly against the insightful vocals provided by Mutabaruka which tell the real hardship of the African continent from his eyes.
This track is both a staple of Manchester music over the past 20 years but also of how hard it can be to get real music out there to good people and that sometimes it is truly worth the wait!