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The SQ Showcase: December ’13

Posted on Monday, 16 December by

The SQ Showcase - December

Need a break from the hectic Christmas rush? Still no idea what to get the parents? Forget about it all with the last SQ Showcase of the year.

Hopefully, there were some sounds that you’ll keep coming back to. Or better yet, you’ve decided to see some of them live because supporting your local bands is what keeps these guys going.

So for the last time this year, here are ten south-coast sounds.

Orchards – When You Smile

Orchards are one of those bands that have come to reside in Brighton and we can only be thankful that they’ve brought their progressive sound to the south coast. Their self-titled debut EP which was released earlier this year has bubbling undertones of 90s grunge and echoes of Mars Volta. But they glisten most vividly when they rid the sludgy guitars for more ethereal tones. Compared to the EP’s opener, new track ‘When You Smile’ is much more considered. Glimmering post-rock guitars lull your head into a daze setting you up for Catherine’s vocals, which aren’t too dissimilar to that of Beth Cannon (of Written In Waters) – powerfully poignant without having to shout every line. If you like to dream, dream with this track in your ears.

Platyπ – For Real

Alistair Hill, the brains behind Platypi (or Platyπ) tends to dabble his hands in more syncopated blends of hip-hop beats – ‘Red Balloons’ is particularly tasty. And while his latest track ‘For Real’ doesn’t shun those tendencies completely (the beats are still tight and snappy), there appears to be more effort to let the timbre of his layers radiate more freely. What you’re left with is a track that wears a very apparent 80s vibe and with plenty of space to show it off too. Some of Alistair’s previous track could be accused of being too cluttered. ‘For Real’ really isn’t but still emits the funky groove that makes his tracks such a lovely listen. Got to love that diffused bassline.

Spit Shake Sisters – Forever A Martyr Of Love

Spit Shake Sisters perch beside the army of Brighton garage bands who crash around the coast with their brackish attitude. But unlike Demob Happy or Tigercub, the four-piece wield a more psychedelic 60s axe as opposed to the sludgy, grungy one of their peers – fans of Ty Segall will find something they like here. Their recent AA single ‘Overdope/Modern Drugs Make Aliens’ saw them direct their ferocity with dexterity and care as melodies simmered under the overarching scuzz. And recent demo ‘Forever A Martyr Of Love’ follows suit. Instead of a relentless assault, it’s like a well-coordinated airstrike but in place of radar-guided missiles they’re firing rudimentary rockets that often explode before they reach their target. But that’s part of the appeal…until some producer gets his dirty mitts on it.

The Watermelons – Shooting Star

Even though we’re past the indie zenith of The Strokes and The Libertines, indie rock/pop still dominates many people’s listening habits. And there’s definitely an echo of early Mystery Jets here. The Watermelons know how to write an infectious pop song that latches onto you with its tight hooks and buoyant rhythm. The chorus implores you to sing along. My favourite is still the Vaccines-esque ‘Who Do I Listen To’; it perfectly reflects the optimism of early summer. But ‘Shooting Star’ is their latest single and though it doesn’t have the same vitality, it’s still pleasantly bouncy – you’re singing along now, aren’t you? These guys probably have multiple radio hits in them.

Eagles For Hands – Blushed

Sick of the usual dross dossed out for some dingy dance-floor because people are too lazy to work how to move to something more complex? Eagles For Hands A.K.A. Laurie James Ross feels your pain and soothes it with the dexterity of a cultured craftsman. On his latest EP Lisbon, you have tracks like ‘Peaks’ that carries a trendy 80s vibe dressed in a plethora of layers that would lift any dance-floor. But it’s ‘Blushed’ that lingers in your memory the longest; meandering drones float across the complex beats that could actually alienate some listeners. But persevere and you’ll be rewarded with a track that mutates into a monster that sucker-punches your ears because you weren’t expecting the sudden timbre change.

GAPS – I Know It’s You

GAPS are back again with their elusive soundscapes. They featured a few months back with ‘Belong’ where they illustrated how to paint chilling tones without being macabre. But with ‘I Know It’s You’, the tone is more brooding and the textures are intimately sensual. Electronic music is sometimes accused of being too cluttered and clumsy. But Rachel and Ed have a thoughtful appreciation for space – as their band name might suggest. Instead of cramming the track with dense instrumentation, they ensure each layer doesn’t overpower the others allowing them to radiate in their own organic manner. And then there’s Rachel’s echoic vocals that drift between the sparse beats intricately knitting it all together. We can’t wait for an EP.

Royal Blood – Out Of The Black

You may already have heard of Brighton’s rock-duo because they’ve been shortlisted for BBC’s Sound of 2014. With Mike Keer on bass/vocals and Ben Thatcher on drums, it’s utterly surprising how much energy and dynamism they can muster. Mike’s blistering riffs will endear many but for me, it’s all about Ben’s punchy drums that could wind you for minutes after a track has finished. So many bands have been trying to revive British rock music but Royal Blood stand the best of actually achieving it. ‘Out Of The Black’ is ferociously loud and you’ll know instantly whether or not this is your cup of tea. Hopefully they win BBC’s award because 11 has been feeling awfully neglected recently.

Ambassadeurs – Ardour

Ambassadeurs A.K.A. Mark Dobson is yet another example where I can fathom why he hasn’t received more coverage. He has an abundance of excellent tunes that traverse across a multitude of genres often featuring snippets of his own field recordings, so I suggest you explore his SoundCloud page like a doey-eyed child lost in the woods. Despite comparisons to artists from Gold Panda to Rustie, Ambassadeurs recent Alone In The Light EP is a wonderful reflection of Mark’s taste for dubbed-out trip-hop served with a dash of electronica. Opening track ‘Ardour’ is a well-measure concoction of washy textures punctuated by sharp beats and ambient drones – the perfect track for gazing into a winter’s sky at night.

Laplace – Murmurs

You may remember September’s star pick Phantom Shilla; if you heard the track, you definitely will. The architect behind it, Danny Corker, is embarking on another sonic tributary under a new pseudonym Laplace. His penchant for gloomy-hued atmosphere is still apparent but while Phantom Shilla was dense and heavily layered, Laplace is more intricately designed. ‘Murmurs’ carries the ambience of shadowy apparitions floating through vacuous temples. Each sound has plenty of space to echo into leaving you with an eerily long amount of time to contemplate it all and the ghostly vocals only emphasise the haunting tones further. It’s a thoughtfully arranged track that suits the recent foggy conditions. Don’t be too careful though, it’s a wonderfully chilled track to be lost in.

Star Submission

Lion Bark – Longhorns

A few months ago, four guys from Brighton helped people prolong the dying embers of summer with ‘Two Prongs’ – a harmonious dream that helps you drift along with optimism. If you ignore Guy Bangham’s expressive croon, you’d be forgiven for thinking Tennis wrote this when they were on their nautical adventure to nowhere. Despite only having two tracks on record, the band’s progress is the result of two years work and it shows – they have a knack for crafting infectiously polished pop songs. But ‘Longhorns’ doesn’t emit the same radiant glow that makes ‘Two Prongs’ so likable. Instead, you’re left with something more introspective and akin to To Kill A King. If ‘Two Prongs’ represents the sanguine warmth of midsummer, ‘Longhorns’ is the brooding stillness of a fire-lit night.

The SQ Showcase is our attempt to provide a platform for some of the best unsigned talent in Sussex. We’ve received tens of thousands of plays since launching this flagship feature in late 2011 and this year, we’re aiming for even bigger and better things.

To get involved, submit your tracks here, or send a message on Facebook with a bio.

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Matt Yau

Matt Yau

Showcase Critic at SQ Magazine
Freelance music journalist with a reputation in Sussex for uncovering new music. Has led SQ Magazine's 'Showcase' since 2013. Obsessive thinker, habitual music listener and timid photographer.
Matt Yau

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