Fresher than a steaming cup of coffee! This month's Spotlight selections are bound to get your perculator churning...
HANK - ‘Spit It’
Constructed out of a sheer will to create something different, HANK have been making an intricate racket from their Norwich base. Now, off the back of the release of their debut EP ‘Slopes’ and a sell-out show at Norwich Arts Centre, the band is looking ready to expand their horizons. 'Slopes' betrays the quiet of the rural countryside in which it was recorded, with producer Mikey Shaw overseeing 4 tracks of unabashed and experimental noise.
Fittingly, the first track that the band worked on together, 'Spit It' is also the EP's opener. It isn't rare for a band to wear its contemporaries on its sleeve in their early works, but the sheer scope of influences that HANK hints at here creates a sound that can already stand on its own. Grungy fuzz and indie-esque posturing combine with vocal inflections taken straight out of the Daryl Palumbo playbook. Math-Rock influences have been creeping into other genres for a while and it happens here to devastating effect. Their musicianship is clear but HANK don't overplay complexity, preferring to use it as a tool to drive their point home.
It is unsurprising that the band have been picking up some early praise for the EP from the likes of Outline Magazine, The Line of Best Fit and Math-Rock stalwart John Simm of Cleft. HANK intend to ride the momentum of 'Slopes', seeing out the year with plenty of gigs and preparation for work on their debut album. If you're around Bristol way, you can catch the band in their full, live and loud glory at Mother's Ruin on May 19th. If not, maybe you could settle for a watch of the video for 'Spit It'.
Elmz XIX – ‘Do Not Feed The Animals’
Crowned the champion of a national songwriting contest run by Def Jam at just 16 years old, it’s no surprise that rapper Elmz XIX has gone on to see his tracks played on BBC 6 Music and BBC Introducing; his hip-hop stylings crossing genre boundaries to encompass jazz, electronic and R’n’B inspirations.
An appeal upon listeners to release their inner animal, ‘Do Not Feed The Animals’ has a driving beat and dingy, heavy bassline that makes it near impossible not to let loose. The self-produced track showcases Elmz XIX’s accomplished flow and delivery; you can see why he’s already been branded a ‘wordsmith’ by BBC Introducing Nottinghamshire’s Dean Jackson.
Having performed at Rock City, Rough Trade and numerous local festivals, Elmz XIX has his sights set on performing in London in the near future, so watch this space.
Irene Skylakaki – ‘First Days Of Spring’
Originally hailing from Athens, Irene Skylakaki has been independently making her quiet noise for a number of years. With producer Danton Supple (Coldplay, Morrissey, Patti Smith) on board to help shape the sound of her third LP 'Matterless', Irene looks as though she could finally achieve the recognition that she deserves within the industry.
Irene's description of her sonic leanings, 'Depressing upbeat', is modestly accurate. This is at its most apparent in 'First Days Of Spring'. There is a beautiful simplicity to the track, from its barely processed drum machines to its cleaner than clean guitars. Unpretentious layered elements gradually make entry and exit, with the focus on the enhancement of the song as a whole, rather than each individual instrument - much to the song's benefit.
Irene has supported Daughter in the past, and there is definitely a hint of Elena Tonra to her songwriting, especially in the effortlessness to her delivery. Even her backing vocals float over the track, adding some intangible lift before tailing off, as if just passing through.
With the album completed and set for release, Irene already has her eyes on putting together her next EP. In the meantime, she has the small matter of promoting 'Matterless' - starting with playing the album launch at the Troubadour, London on 4th May.
Eyre Llew — ‘Atelo’
Eyre Llew very much have the look of a band building up a head of steam. Off the back of releasing their debut album 'Atelo' at the end of last year, the ambient rock trio have managed to cram in gigs and promotion galore, numerous festival announcements and the small matter of a South Korean tour in support of In The Endless Zanhyang We Are.
This impetus, along with Eyre Llew's polished sound, might fool some into thinking that they already have significant label backing. However, the band's full-length debut was quite the opposite and very much a DIY affair:
"Like many artists do these days we wrote, recorded, mixed and mastered our album ourselves as well as organising all the pre-orders, design and printing for the merch, physical distribution into stores around the UK, PR stuff, radio plugging, promotions for the launch show where we hired and sold out a 500 cap venue in our hometown, and all the rest that goes into releasing a record!"
Atelo's title track played a large part in shaping the sound of the album. Written in a couple of hours in the band's rehearsal space, the song came together quickly and hasn't required much development since. Even its original hook of, 'We're moving on up', has stayed firmly in place. This refrain is the perfect fit for the track's uplifting texture. The guitars soar, whilst the drums and vocal falsetto could come straight from Bon Iver's self-titled album. The song explodes to life in its final third, effortlessly finding another level before sailing back into a hushed, reverb soaked outro.
A busy year looks set to get even busier for the band. They're returning the favour to In The Endless Zanhyang We Are by taking them on tour across the UK in May, alongside plenty of festival slots and an Asian tour later in the year. Even after all this, Eyre Llew's trusty van, 'Van Diesel', will still have plenty of miles to cover. On their return from Asia, they are planning to see out the year with another full European tour. Then they might find time for a quick kip in their own beds. Maybe.
Shyer – ‘Compliments’
Drawing an impressive palette of comparisons to the likes of Veruca Salt, The Sundays and No Doubt, Cambridge band Shyer's sound is certainly proving to be a hit all round; last year they won a competition with a local recording facility which saw them head into the studio to get two tracks mixed and mastered.
Adopting an unconventional approach to songwriting, vocalist Maz sheds more light on this and how ‘Compliments’ came to life: “Zak, our guitarist, will write fully-fledged instrumental tracks and record demos of them. I will then listen to each track, figure out what it sounds like it should be about and work to get a melody and lyrics in place. It’s a two-part process that seems to work really well for us. When we’re happy with it, we record a second demo with the vocals and then take the track to rehearsal to refine it with the full band. When I first heard the instrumental version of ‘Compliments’, it was the jarring, infectious, quirky guitar riff that bridges the verse and chorus that pulled me in. That, combined with the strong rhythm section gave me an immediate ‘no-bullshit’ vibe, so I decided to write a somewhat ambiguous narrative around that to deliver a ‘nice try, but I’m not falling for it’ message.”
Their jangly, infectious indie pop tunes have so far received support from numerous local radio stations, including BBC Introducing in Cambridge who have been on board since the first demo dropped, and bagged airplay for our chosen track ‘Compliments’ on Tom Robinson’s national BBC Introducing show on BBC 6 Music in April.
With further singles in the pipeline, Shyer will be making time for some local gigs, live radio sessions and a couple of small festival slots they have lined up, but their main focus at present is writing new material for an EP they hope to record EP later this year. We look forward to hearing more!
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