Happy Friday, dear readers! Three years after leaving Crystal Castles and two since releasing her last single ‘Stillbirth’, this week saw the return of one Alice Glass. Was it worth the wait? Yes, yes it was. The new cut is one that sees her in a bit of a poppy sphere but one that’s still washed in dark lyrics. The Horrors also gave another glimpse into their upcoming new album ‘V’, with its epic closer (and when we say epic, we definitely mean epic).
Elsewhere, Daughter introduced us to their new soundtrack for the video game prequel/ sequel ‘Life Is Strange: Before The Storm’ with a dramatic yet thoughtful cut, and at the other end of the musical spectrum producer Iglooghost gave us a slice of totally bonkers, upbeat electro-fusion. Last but definitely not least, South Africans Diamond Thug returned to soar into the cosmos while also keeping their feet firmly planted on the ground.
Alice Glass – Without Love
When Crystal Castles first announced its acrimonious split from founding member and band figurehead Alice Glass, public opinion largely focused around the future of the abrasive noise outfit rather than the singer herself. Without their feral flag bearer, would Crystal Castles be anything more than one angry man with a sampler, trying desperately to relive the Skins-affiliated glory years? Alice, in all her mad-eyed, iconic brilliance, you sensed would be fine.
Of course, in reality, it was actually Ethan Kath (he of angry sampler fame) who wrote the bulk of CC’s wares (musically, at least). And so he roped in a new front woman and carried on merrily while Alice fell into the background. Until this point, in the three years since their split, Alice has only released one song.
Now, however, she’s back with second single ‘Without Love’ - and it’s a surprisingly self-lacerating offering from the former firebrand. “Am I worth it or am I worthless?/ And will I ever figure it out?”,” begins the singer in the kind of breathy, ethereal style that’s unrecognisable from ‘Alice Practice’, way back when. Written alongside HEALTH’s Jupiter Keyes, it’s musically like Crystal Castles pushed through an introspective Evanescence filter (make of that what you will), but it’s clearly in the lyrics that Alice has poured her focus.
Filled with images of suppression and discomfort (“Is it hidden beneath the surface?/ Sew my lips so it won’t come out… Can I suffer? I won’t make a sound”), it wouldn’t take a psychologist to link the track’s morbid musings to the singer’s previous statements on the depressive, “deeply miserable” break up of her former band. And, as a document of a dark time, it succeeds reasonably well. Whether Alice can come out the other side and begin again properly, however, still remains to be seen. (Lisa Wright)
The Horrors – Something To Remember Me By
The Horrors have always been danceable, whether it’s the bright, shiny synths of ‘Who Can Say’ or the grit of ‘Endless Blue’, the five-piece have always been able to make a crowd move. It’s not until now, though, that they’ve fully embraced groove. ‘Something To Remember Me By’, the closing track from the band’s upcoming fifth album ‘V’, settles into a rhythm early and doesn’t flinch for the next seven minutes.
Embracing the euphoric, propulsive synth-pop of New Order, Faris Badwan’s howl is replaced with a calm but probing whisper, one that proves to be equally affecting. The polar opposite to the band’s muddy, chaotic first single ‘Machine’, the new cut feels like the perfect album closer, and leaves the form and shape of what comes in between across ‘V’ an enticing prospect. A highlight of the band’s recent Latitude set, ‘Something To Remember Me By’ also looks to already be a highlight of their discography.
There’s a moment - exactly as the track hits the four-and-a-half-minute mark - the kind of moment to send blood coursing and incite an unstoppable sense of euphoria. Sending the track, and new album ‘V’, off into a simply wonderful finish, it’s maybe the best thing The Horrors have ever written. (Will Richards)
Daughter – Burn It Down
If you had to pick a band to soundtrack the prequel to the BAFTA Award-winning graphic adventure game ‘Life Is Strange’, then Daughter seem like a pretty good choice. They’ve always had a knack for handling some of the harshest of subject matters with sensitivity and beauty, and it’s that delicate balance that seems to fit perfectly with the mix of chaos and normality that surrounds the narrative of ‘Life Is Strange’.
Those connecting threads run even deeper considering that the prequel, ‘Before The Storm’, is set to tackle issues such as bullying, suicide and teenage pregnancy as well as friendship and love. Elena Tonra revealed that it was this realism that helped them say yes to the project: “We loved the story on first read as it centres around realistic female lead characters who are emotional, intelligent, sensitive and badass in equal measure”. But what’s even more striking about Daughter’s first taste of the soundtrack though, is that it doesn’t just attest to the difficulties in the protagonist’s life, but even gives a little nod to the core gameplay itself.
Across sweeping, dramatic strings, swirling guitar chords and snapping beats, on ‘Burn It Down’ Elena sings from the perspective of one of the characters, pondering setting fire to everything and musing on the idea of being a “good kid”. But having a voice is also an important factor here, Elena singing “always thought I had a way with words/ Never thought I could be speechless”. It’s a significant part of the chorus, and while it paints a picture of a character stripped of agency, it also hints at the concept of “backtalk”, which is set to either help or hinder main character Chloe throughout the game.
In that sense, ‘Burn It Down’ is pretty much the perfect way to introduce a video game soundtrack. It weaves an intriguing narrative, the final repetition of “burn it down” being truly intense. It straddles the line between the virtual universe it was born from and some incredibly real issues, making for dramatic, engaging listening. No doubt there’ll be a few people putting down the controller just to take this one in (Eugenie Johnson)
Iglooghost – Bug Thief
Two years ago, producer Iglooghost emerged on Flying Lotus’ Brainfeeder imprint as a teenager with his EP ‘Chinese Nü Year’. Across four tracks, he documented the time-travelling adventures of a gelatinous worm-shaped creature called Xiangjiao. Sound bizarre? Well, Iglooghost hasn’t toned down the levels of conceptual weirdness for their upcoming debut album. ‘Neō Wax Bloom’ is due out on 29th September, and promises to expand on his world by following the events surrounding two giant eyeballs crashing into the mysterious world of Mamu.
As Iglooghost puts it: “A life cycle of transforming creatures is thrown off balance, and the odd looking inhabitants of Mamu are forced to adapt to this calamity. These inhabitants include Yomi - a multicoloured pom-pom monk; Lummo - a wise blind witch training a band of melon coloured babies; and Uso - a sneaky bug thief hidden in a green cloak - as well as many others”. For a first taster of what to expect from the LP, he’s introducing us to ‘Bug Thief’ Uso. And yeah, it’s just as batshit crazy as you’d expect.
Though things kick off relatively calmly, ‘Bug Thief’ soon descends into a cacophony of swirling synths, stabbing beats and shimmering melodies that wrap around each other like a video game soundtrack from the 90s put through a hyperdub spin-cycle and given some acid for good measure. There’s flickers of FlyLo’s most genre-bending, quick-fire moments embedded within the reverberating chaos, but through a combination of hyperactive sounds and warped vocals, he creates something that’s all his own. If Uso the bug thief went about his business in such a raucous way then he’d be put in jail in a flash. Luckily the only thing Iglooghost is likely to steal here is your heart. And probably your brain too. (Eugenie Johnson)
Diamond Thug – Cosmic Dreamer
On their last track ‘Eclipse’, South Africans Diamond Thug introduced the world to their quest to find an authentic, honest sound. Until that point, the band had travelled from off-kilter electro-pop to psych-rock and just about everywhere you could think of in-between. You could say it was the product of a musical constellation coming together with a glistening sheen and more than a bit of sparkle.
According to the band, their latest offering ‘Cosmic Dreamer’ “speaks to the expedition of a traveler yearning to drift out of the space they occupy”. It sounds like they’re off on another adventure to break their own boundaries again. And yep, that’s pretty much what they do. It’s a track that draws together vocalist Chantel’s honeyed vocals with waves of intergalactic electronics. But while it mostly drifts off into the ether, transcending the boundaries of the stratosphere and flying off into another realm, it also keeps one foot firmly planted on Planet Earth. A driving guitar riff and blasts of drums just pushed a little into the background give the track an earthy edge that stops it becoming too flighty, giving it something tangible to hold on to even in the vast cosmos. The stars have truly aligned once again for Diamond Thug. (Eugenie Johnson)