'3rd album from Manc indie-rockers is a twin-guitared lockdown diary tunefest'
Produced by Simon ‘Ding’ Archer (PJ Harvey, The Pixies, The Fall) at 6db studios in Salford, the album title seems to refer to the lockdown period in one sense, a document of that time, but as frontman Tom Long elaborates: “It also harks back to pre-lockdown, when there was actually a possibility of some change on offer. Unfortunatelywe’re forbidden from talking about that. There were solutions to many of the problems we face now, but that dream was crushed, never to be spoken of again”. Manchester indie-rockers Easter have built a reputation as one of the city’s best-kept secrets. Spurred along by singer/songwriter/guitarist Tom Long with a rotating cast of Manc-underground shredders, they’re a formidable live act who’ve toured the UK repeatedly and provided support for post-rock behemoths Mono, avant-rockers Ranga and Mugstar but also poppier acts such as Canadian shoe-gazers Tallies.
However, for all of Manchester’s illustrious musical history, it’s hard to bring to mind a local act that they compare or aspire to. Instead Easter’s binoculars are fixed on the fuzzy indie-rock of Dinosaur Jr , Guided By Voices and Teenage Fanclub with added twin-guitar weaving recalling the articulate jams of Television, Chris Forsyth and even Wishbone Ash. Only in Tom’s vocals are there occasional hints of their surroundings with echoes of the Mozza and a few junctions away across the M62, Dave Gedge.
They’ve found admirers in Huw Stephens and Tom Ravenscroft at 6Music and garnered praise from Uncut, Record Collector and NYC’s The Big Takeover while building a loyal fanbase across the UK.
“A welcome throwback to the wry, self-lacerating alt.rock of the early 90s” Uncut
“Astonishing” Record Collector
“Lovely bit of noise” Tom Ravenscroft BBC 6 Music
“It devilishly combines a banged acoustic with spiky electric, like Bevis Frond covering A Catholic Education by Teenage Fanclub. If this is “Hell,” give us more!” Big Takeover
Easter are: Tom Long - Vocals/Guitar Gavin Clarke Guitar Paul Flieshman - Drums/Backing Vocals Graham Blyth – Bass
Following the release of her 2016 album On The Never, Never, Martin knew that she wanted to take a break from writing and recording music. She moved back to Liverpool, from London, and began an apprenticeship with world renowned flute maker Willy Simmons.
“I was now looking at an instrument I’d been playing all my life at a molecular level. The discipline and repetitiveness of learning a craft freed my mind from thinking about songs for a bit and made me focus instead on some of the toxic chemicals and blow torches used to make the flutes,” she says. “I’ve never been a particularly mindful person; I’m usually zipping from one thing to the next and this work had a pace of its own which I had to submit to. As well as making flutes, I was also repairing them, and this was the part I most enjoyed – the process of renewal. In a corny way, I experienced this renewal myself.”
Following this period, Martin felt inspired to make music again and began setting up her own home studio. “Around this time, I’d started to listen to Joanna Brouk and the I am the Center compilation of early New Age music on Numero Group. This music was nothing like my own but seemed to extend from the Harmonia records I love and exist outside of the album, gig, tour regime. It was so inspiring and freeing, and I tentatively began to experiment in the studio, with the textures of Brouk’s song ‘Maggi’s Flute’ in mind.”
Working closely with co-producer Iwan Morgan (Euros Childs, Cate Le Bon, Gruff Rhys, Georgia Ruth), the pair found themselves drawn to drum machines that wouldn’t stay in time, and a piano with a tuning mind of its own. “I rediscovered the sense of play which brought me into music in the first place,” says Martin. “The palette was infinite and without boundaries. Where my previous records had always operated within the instinct / lack of budget axis, I now had the possibility to sculpt sound, to remake, blend and remodel it for the first time.”
Living next to the main 86 bus route into Liverpool City Centre prompted the idea behind ‘Outside at Night’, of parallel lives on different journeys. ’Three Days’ mines a similar theme but focuses on the hidden lives we share with others, the shift workers paradox. “It asks, do we really know what happens to our closest people when they leave the house?” explains Martin.
Album opener ‘Prepared’ is a hymn to self-reliance but not to perfection, to working your own routes and abandoning the tape measure. In part it’s about looking back at ways you judged yourself in past encounters and not recognising yourself: “I turned away again, was I even there?”. Tied in counterpoint to this, closing track ‘Open Door’ works as a prism through which to view the album (copious drum machines, swelling synths). It’s also as an answer of sorts to Martin’s search - new possibilities rage from cascading melodic and atmospheric structures, reaching some kind of midway between Harmonia’s ‘Deluxe’ and the polyrhythms of Francis Bebey’s Psychedelic Sanza.
Across the record there are vocal and sonic contributions from co-producer Iwan Morgan. “Iwan maintains he’s not a musician but kept singing in the studio and eventually I managed to persuade him to put it on record,” says Martin. ’Living on the Wall’ is the clearest example of this, exuberant monster truck beats, insistent pianos and vocals delivered without irony, think Wrong Way Up era John Cale and Brian Eno meets YMOs ‘Firecracker’.
Collaborative sojourns to Marco Rea's The Barne studio in Clydebank and Mike Lindsay (Tunng, LUMP) in Margate allowed Martin to coax standout contributions from both, shaping the album as both artist and co-producer. The result is a unique fusion of folk, electronic, and experimental pop music that defies expectations and challenges the boundaries of contemporary music.
“In a twisting but circuitous way, Prepared is my composted scrapbook of the last couple of years. I was prepared to follow where the sounds took me, the sonic train left the station and led me on its merry way,” she says. “It’s not an album about flute repairing but it wouldn’t have happened without learning the discipline of preparedness, the small movement, the tweak and the renewal from Willy Simmons.”
About Laura J Martin
Laura J Martin has so far released three solo albums. Her latest, On The Never Never, was recorded in Nashville with members of Lambchop, Silver Jews and Jesus Lizard. A mercurial and bewitching live performer who interweaves layers of vocals, flute, mandolin and electronics; Laura and her band have toured regularly across the UK and Europe and supported acts such as PJ Harvey, Teenage Fanclub, Cate Le Bon and performed and collaborated extensively with Euros Childs. Consistently played and supported by BBC Radio 6 Music DJs such as Marc Riley, Cerys Matthews, Lauren Laverne, Gideon Coe and Stuart Maconie; Laura's most recent release was a collaborative project 'Wyndow' written with Lavinia Blackwall of Trembling Bells and released in 2021.
“An understated marvel” Uncut
“Beautiful and intelligent stuff” The Quietus
"An extremely unique sound, I love the combinations of textures she puts together" BBC Radio 6 Music, Lauren Laverne
Tracklisting: 1. Prepared 2. Counting Time 3. Living on the Wall (feat. Iwan Morgan) 4. A Better Story 5. Three Days 6. Outside at Night 7. The Dials 8. Magic Mornings (feat. Iwan Morgan) 9. Open Door
In addition to Hanoi Rocks, Finnish rock legend Sami Yaffa, is known from his work with Michael Monroe’s band, Demolition 23, Joan Jett and The Blackhearts and New York Dolls. Sami released his first solo album, The Innermost Journey To Your Outermost Mind, in autumn 2021. Praised by the music press worldwide, the album also won the Emma ( Finland’s version of Grammys) nomination for the rock album of the year. Yaffa's second solo album, the mysteriously named Satan's Helpers War Lazer Eyes and The Money Pig Circus, will be released on Friday, March 8 by Livewire/Cargo.
"My first solo album, The Innermost Journey To Your Outermost Mind, was so well received that I simply decided to make another one. The recordings have taken a couple of years and took place in Finland, Sweden and Spain. In addition to myself, I have my touring band playing on this one, which includes guitarist Linde Lindström and keyboardist Burton of the band HIM, and my childhood friend, drum and percussion maestro Janne Haavisto, who also played drums on the previous album as well. Those guys became my permanent band, and with this line-up we got down to business. The songs on the album reflect the chaotic world we live in, my own personal strange experiences, and the sordid true stories of the past," says Yaffa.
The producer of the album is Yaffa himself, together with Erno Laitinen, who was also was the engineer on the debut record. Yaffa also got several familiar guests to join the recordings.
"I got some of my good old pals with me again, whose musical talents I admire enormously. I got Michael Monroe, Nasty Suicide, Dregen, Steve Conte, and Rich Jones to kick arse on the album. Rich Jones is also responsible for the album's wonderful cover art. Making this album was just as great a joy to make, as the previous one. I hope it will carry on to the listeners as well," Yaffa continues.
Tracklisting: 1. Satan’s Helpers War Lazer Eyes & The Money Pig Circus 2. Silver Or Lead 3. Hurricane Hank 4. Death Squad 5. Down Home 6. Shitshow 7. Crashing Down 8. Chemical Life 9. Far Star 10. Faster Than Time
Heavee is a Queer Chicagoan DJ & producer with a long history in footwork. His 2022 'Audio Assault' EP on Hyperdub showcased synth-driven, melodic footwork, but ‘Unleash’ goes much further into audio world-building, with a fresh, spongy and citrus-y sound palette and rich, bright chord sequences.
It's minimal, airy, balancing light and dark, sometimes breezy and sometimes clinical. Heavee works simultaneously outside and inside the box, rebuilding footwork's framework and vibe to his own unique specification. Rhythmically, it's dance floor ready, using footwork's 160 template as a springboard for building new drum sounds to express these rhythms, and draws from R&B, rap, jazz and grime, with a sprinkling of bitter-sweet vintage Detroit techno.
‘Unleash’ takes footwork’s “eats all” approach to music and leads it in a fresh direction with a freedom of spirit. It's a strong addition to the footwork cannon and shows that experiments in dance music can be fun.
Tracklisting: Side A 1. StarSeeker 2. Unlock 3. SearchN 4 ft Babii 4. Bang Bang 5. Can U Feel It 6. Bounce Dat ft PayPal & DanTOG
Side B 7. Unleash 8. See the Sun 9. Whiplash 10. Sumthin Different 11. Heart Fragments 12. Work Me 13. Make it Work 14. Smoke Break ft Homesiick & Takuya Nakamura
“But into my miserable brain, always concerned with looking for noon at two o’clock" - Charles Baudelaire (1869)
The Foreign Department is the second album by Astrel K, the solo project helmed by Stockholm-based British ex-pat, Rhys Edwards. Those already familiar with Edwards’ work will likely know him for fronting the cultishly great Ulrika Spacek, and given he operates as the principal songwriter in both projects, much of the same hallmarks of his cathartic, elliptical songwriting are present in Astrel K. Nonetheless, The Foreign Department feels like a rubicon moment of sorts, and the album that Edwards has unconsciously been working towards his entire creative life.
As a title, The Foreign Department offers an instructive guide for the listener, framing a life-in-transition/artist-in-exile document that maps two impromptu moves in twelve months for its songwriter: the first from London in pursuit of a relationship, the second between homes in Stockholm as that decade long relationship then suddenly dissolved.
Indeed, diffusion, dissolution and reconstitution feel like appropriate touchstones for its recurring themes. Written amidst the flux of two states, at once isolated from home and then any established emotional anchor, the resulting eleven tracks came to represent a precognitive search for shifting identity and with it forming an unwittingly biographical record. It's commendable and somewhat telling that during this shake up, Edwards somehow landed upon his most realised and original work.
With a former life stripped away, there emerged an opportunity to reinvent a sense of self through art, now not just as a writer, but a composer also. Developing the confidence to arrange songs in ways he'd previously considered off-limits, while also taking cues from the opulent string and brass arrangements of records like Mercury Rev's Deserters' Songs and Death of A Ladies Man by Leonard Cohen, Edwards enlisted a range of performers to bring to life the mini-symphonies forming in his head. Perhaps it's inevitable that an album written while facing the consequences of being alone would eventually ossify around the process of bringing people together.
For all its troubled origins, The Foreign Department is a remarkably warm sounding collection. Edwards' lyrics are typically knotty and neurotic, dancing around the poetry of quarter-life anxiety, but the music itself is often joyous and even uplifting, the combination expressing that neat duality of melancholic euphoria.
Edwards sings variously of crises, "torrid pieces of art", of "houses on fire" and not "having the guts for it", yet these troubling sentiments are framed by seemingly incongruous swelling strings, chirping horns or motorik percussion, creating that sense of pushing forward or floating above, of wrapping your troubles in dreams, a salve for the moments when you get a bit too much for yourself.
Lead single, 'Darkness At Noon', likely captures this all best. Named for the French idiom "midi a quatorze heures", the maddening idea of attempting the impossible for the sake of some greater possibly pointless cause, it directly grapples with the opposing notions of wanting and not wanting, of being here and being there at the same time. The conflicting and impossible self. It’s something Edwards addresses in the song at perhaps his most open, opining, “I know I want to be seen, but I hate most of what comes out of me”. And yet here is, putting it all out in the open and on the line, the dialectics of his enlightenment up on show.
Tracklisting: 1. Heavy Is the Head 2. Darkness At Noon 3. By Depol 4. Brighter Spells 5. Firma 6. Birds In Vacant Lots 7. The Foreign Department 8. C Ya! 9. A Rudderless Ship 10. Daffodil 11. R U A Literal Child?