21 Dec 2017

EDITORIAL: Cal Cashin's 2017 Review

Seasons greetings readers! On a night like this, who should be here to guide you through a year of music, books or films than me, Cal Cashin? It's been a strange year for the world, but it's seemed just  a tad less bleak than 2016 did. No David Bowie left to do the dying, huh?

All the end of year reviews, you know the ones, have talked at length about the political situation this year, and went on to describe how the music released somehow made that all okay. I guess to an extent it must have, because Kendrick Lamar's DAMN. did feel like a bigger cultural event than the election, and Ed Sheeran's Glastonbury performance was more upsetting than any Brexit talk. But ultimately comparing the two is futile, and no amount of good music can outweigh the ensuing political shitstorm.

That said, no political shitstorm can take away the good music, good films, or good books, unless said political shitstorm chooses to burn them in the streets. Which feels likely. Anyhow, before what was supposed to be a concise intro to a post on The Arts turns into an essay about everything else. Here is what I loved in 2017.

19 Dec 2017

We review... King Krule's homecoming

Archy, the peoples South London boy is back in a big way. Rarely playing UK concerts, and often announcing them with no more than an instagram post on the morning of the show. To little surprise it has taken me 5 years to see the elusive musician, who has gone under a multitude of different aliases; Pimp The Shrimp, Edgar The Beatmaker, Zoo Kid, DJ JD Sports, Archy Marshall; and finally after years in awaiting I caught my break to see the innovator at a gig in his hometown of London at his two night sold out show at KOKO.

14 Dec 2017

Tune in, we're going live tonight

People of London, people of Southampton, people of everywhere else. I have the most grand of announcements for you to sink your teeth into. Ready to hear it? Ready to sink your teeth in deep?

Well, me (that is your editor, Cal Cashin) and Aimee (that is your deputy editor, who doesn't actually edit anything but writes a lot of the stuff you've read) are pleased to unveil the Vapour Trail radio hour. Coming to you via BlueJay radio,  we'll be playing tunes old and new, obscure and not so obscure, that you'll be able to have a jig to in your kitchen.

How do I listen? First, you can download the BlueJay app, sign up and search "vapourtrailblog" to find us. For best listening we recommend this. But also keep an eye on Twitter, or Facebook, where we'll tweet links to a webplayer. Expect pummelling techno from famous photographers, dark psychedelia from our hometown, and snotty garage rock tunes from the void of Middle America.

7pm, BlueJay, be there or be ⃣

5 Dec 2017

The 37 Best Songs of the Year

Hello friends, the albums of the year came out on Sunday. Vapour Trail has an illustrious history of really trying with albums of the year and not trying so much with songs. This year, we carry on in that vain.  Below is a list of the 37 songs we enjoyed the most this year. I'm gonna assume you've heard them all, but if not I think you should correct that.

3 Dec 2017


Hello friends, on top of the morning to you. It is I, Cal Cashin. I have been alive for the whole year, and whilst I was breathing, eating, and shitting, some music came out. Lots of the publications out there are releasing their end of year lists now. Some of them are good. Some of them are not. This is the best one and you should listen to every single album on it.

1 Dec 2017

Rising from the depths of London's underground comes... Headcut

Halloween has been and gone but nonetheless rising from the depths of London’s underground comes Headcut the moniker of Holly Mullineaux a London-based artist by the way of Portsmouth inspired by seventies goth and post-punk.

Introducing... Olden Yolk

Purveyors of psychedelic greatness, Trouble In Mind Records seemingly cannot do any wrong with their output. With releases from the likes of Mikal Cronin, Jacco Gardner, Doug Tuttle, Morgan Delt, Night Beats and countless others, the Chicago imprint have just announced that the excellent ‘Olden Yolk’ have joined their super-heavyweight roster.

28 Nov 2017

A meeting of the minds: Cal Cashin vs Raven

Hello, Cal Cashin here. Everybody knows the best TV programme of their youth was Raven. If your Year 2 playtime didn't consist of you recreating the Way Of The Warrior, what did it consist of? From his eternal catchphrase of "Let the Challenge Begin", to his raven's head staff, the Celtic bird spirit of Raven is the most iconic figure of all of our pasts.

I interviewed James Mackenzie, aka Raven himself, for a uni project that shan't ever see the light of day, so in order for my interview to see the light of day I thought to publish it here. Let the interview begin.

PREMIERE | The dreamy, lusty new Love Company Single

The Love Company are a London based hypnagogic pop group, forged by the singular vision of lead singer and guitarist Ryan Tennant. New single Heaven Is A Place I Call Your Arms arrives to you exclusively through Vapour Trail, a misty eyed love song as sexy as it is romantic, as raunchy as it is pretty.

13 Nov 2017

The new Peeping Drexels tune is on repeat in The Vapour Trail Office

Peeping Drexels are a South London group responsible for some of the coolest visual art and most effortless country garage tunes this side of the river. Their second cumming is The Goof, a higgledy piggledy rockabilly that teems with youthful energy and lyrics most sinister.

Teenage venom seeps through the pores of The Goofs angular groove, whilst words are barked like a rabid mutt that feels no shame in goofing. The sleazy malignancy that haunts their first record mangles with a rural country twang, making for one anthem for the disenfranchised youth.

22 Oct 2017

King Krule - The OOZ (album review)

Image result for king krule the ooz

2013’s 6 Feet Beneath the Moon is a minimalistic sonic depiction of the darkened streets of South London. The project is a less eroded version of the demo quality material previously performed under his Zoo Kid guise. Although presenting some innovative guitar work and interesting fusion with alternative R&B, ultimately the album came off as tediously mellow. In fact with the exception of the tracks A Lizard State and Easy Easy, the record plods along at the pace of a garden snail.

A New Place 2 Drown is King Krule’s venture into lo-fi hip hop. Released simply under the name “Archy Marshall” the synthetic instrumentation does more to compliment the groans and growls he spits over the beats creating the essence of a steamy hotboxed teenage bedroom.
It’s easy to dismiss Marshall as quite loathsome, the trite stereotypical stoner attitude he presents makes the eyes roll. Marshall turned down the opportunity to work with Kanye West recently simply stating he “couldn't be bothered”. This summarises the persona he presents and it often bleeds into his musical output.

20 Oct 2017

RIP Dead Pretties. They Were Good, Them

Before committing their true potential as one of South London's best live groups to a record that captured their ferocious energy, Dead Pretties have announced their split.
Photo: Holly Whittaker

19 Oct 2017

Greetings From Los Bitchos!

Admittedly I’m getting quite pretentious in my tastes as of late where I’m actively seeking out music from across the world spanning across the decades and Peruvian cumbia has been dominating a bit of my listening habits lately. To my joy, Los Bitchos currently residing in London have seemingly come out of nowhere and helped satisfy my cravings for new sounds.

18 Oct 2017

"Lacklustre, Lazy, Pseudo-Intellectual Garbage" - Our St Vincent Live Report

In 1984, Big Brother was always watching you. In 2017, in the same kind of omnipresent way, St. Vincent’s latest endeavour MASSEDUCTION has ensured her back end is plastered ubiquitously from every tube stop in London Town to the four corners of the internet. Luckily as a fan of Annie Clarke I’m unfazed by the MASSATURATION of her new found aesthetic.

Chilean psych you're after? Meet Vuelveteloca

Vuelveteloca are titans of the Chilean psych scene, heavyweights whose confidence and self assurance seeks through the pores of the dreamworld they create with their motorik psychedelic rhythms. In preparation for their fifth album Sonora, they present us with Cientologia & Altiplano; an eight minute song on which they combine searing Sabbathian riffs with motorik looping drums that rhythmically shroud everything they do in a kind of ever-momentous interzone, something that stretches out into the distance eternally.

[Enter Mystic Peach]

Firstly in case of any confusion and possible anxiety, Mystic Peach aren’t an anthropomorphic fruit practicing mysticism but instead a new psychedelic outfit who are the latest to emerge from the ever emerging Hampshire psychedelic scene along with their contemporaries such as Melt Dunes, Is Bliss, Drug Store Romeos, Barbudo and Dead Rabbits.

The Definitive Rank: Cal Cashin Orders The Fall Albums

"Good evening. We are The Fall and I am Roman Totale and these are my sidekicks. I will lead you on to new visions of proletariat posterity. This is a story." - Mark E Smith, live at the Rainbow in London, 1980.

Friends, peers, countrymen; the day is upon us. The day where, I Cal Cashin, your friend and savant ranks the 34 albums (including Slates, and Bingo Masters Break Out) of The mighty Fall. Not many bands have this many albums, and none have this many that are undeniably brilliant. From their scratchy early days, through their mid-80s pop renaissance and their surprisingly excellent latter period, no one can ever agree on what the band's best work is. Most people prompt for early 80s. Those people are right. However, discussion about just which albums are best never ceases to cease. To end all discussion, to have the final say, I present you the Definitive Rank.

16 Oct 2017

BIG BAD INTERVIEW: Madonnatron discuss Voodoo, Pregnancy and South London

Madonnatron are culpable for one of the year's best albums, their self titled debut. Their sound meets somewhere between the ethereal and dreamy, and the intimidating and terrifying, something which gives added kudos to their already incredible band name. However, the road to their debut wasn't plain sailing, and if you add that to the fact that their press release opens with a line like "by their own admission Madonnatron couldn't play their instruments when they formed", it's perhaps baffling that this album is such a brilliant thing.

I had a lengthy conversation with the group to find out just to what extent they channel the supernatural, and let them speak of the hardships that befell the making of their debut.

Incoming: Melt Dunes' Second Single is the Gnostic Nightmare You've Been Waiting For

You may well have heard of Melt Dunes if you keep up with Vapour Trail Blog. It’s fair to say we’re big fans of the outfit originally from Southampton and now based just down the road in Portsmouth who make some of the most cerebral sounding psychedelic-rock out there.

9 Oct 2017

Time to discover... The Birthday Party

If we're friends, or if you're a reader of this blog, or a good person with a good heart and an eye for a lyric, I'll assume that you're a fan of Nick Cave. The bard of the underworld, the Aussie wordsmith is certainly up there as one of the great lyricists, if not the greatest. No one can spin a narrative like Cave, no one can put together an eschewed bittersweet love song like the man, and very few people can channel animalistic depravity via the medium of the English language quite like he can.

At the moment, I'm in my usual state of being in a massive Nick Cave phase, but as opposed to the usual Bad Seeds binge what is catching my imagination is the work of his first proper band, The Birthday Party. Whilst they're far from an unearthed treasure, their music is a fair bit less accessible than the Bad Seeds' and whilst this means their music is of no less merit inherently, it can be heard for people who've discovered Nick Cave and fallen in love to bridge the gap. I know it certainly took me some time. So here, as unpatronising as can be, I'll talk you through a handful of essential Birthday Party releases.

Where do we start? Right here; The Birthday Party are an Australian entity which existed from 1978 to 1983; at their peak, they were the narcotic coalition of Nick Cave, wirey axe-man Rowland S. Howard (whom I wrote a lengthy piece on, the focal point being the film noire world of his two solo albums, which you can read here), rhythm guitarist Mick Harvey, drummer Phill Calvert, and their bassist, the moustache-bearing cowboy hat-wearing Tracy Pew, who may well be music's most intimidating man.

Their swampy sound was a druggy, furious catharsis, a demented release of so much energy that the band could not have existed more than a handful of years. Lyrics were grizzly, gristly, and showcased a deranged kind of sexuality, and were delivered in such a vicious manner that even Cave's live intensity now (or anytime over the last 30 years) is unrecognisably mellowed out from his Birthday Party peak. The rhythm section was brutal; Pew and Calvert created a sound that was more of a force of nature than a thunderstorm, and Howard guitars screamed in pain and wailed in agony atop it.

Iglooghost - NEŌ WAX BLOOM (album review)

“Flying Lotus kept sneaking through my garden and eating my garbage at exactly 2:32 AM every night, so I threatened him with a switchblade and he offered me a record deal right then and there on a parchment made of goatskin. I had to sign in the blood of a hooven beast which he actually had the nerve to make me find myself. After all the gruesome logistics were sorted out, I made this stupid ass album and now it’s coming out “ – Iglooghost in an interview with Passion of the Weiss 2017

It’s a Saturday night, the majority of London’s dance depraved self-righteous IDM fans are either stroking their chin surrounded by ecstasy pinging 20 somethings or trawling through YouTube looking for rare Boards of Canada demos. Not me however, I’m neither of these things, I’m asleep and I’m having the most bizarre dream. I’m loitering with friends in a neighbour’s garden when I’m startled by pounding gun shots... I look up to see my university librarian holding an air rifle. I hop over the fence to my own garden, at this point my friends have completely vanished. I slip down the alley at the side of my house towards the front garden. However I’m confronted by none other than Chelsea winger Eden Hazard holding a taser I immediately swivel and make my way back into my house and lock the door. The empty feeling which comes with true fear swarms my body completely as the armed man shatters the glass door frame. I reach for a yellow bottle of bleach with unscrew the lid and throw it towards his face, but somehow miss from point blank range. It’s at this moment somewhat of a cliché in dreams I wake up.

6 Sep 2017

LCD Soundsystem - American Dream (album review)

LCD Soundsystem may have disbanded in 2011, but it never, really, felt like they were away. The documentary Shut Up and Play The Hits, chronicling their last ever concert at Madison Square Garden, came out in 2012; a five-LP, three-hour-plus, meticulously mastered behemoth containing almost every moment of that same concert was released in early 2014. Then in Christmas of 2015, they released their comeback single Christmas Will Break Your Heart. Not long after, they announced a new album would come along soon.

And here it is; what’s most immediately interesting about it is that it doesn’t sound like a vaulted comeback effort, or the sound of a band cashing in on a sound that made them famous (and rich). There are no wheels spinning here. Instead, it sounds like a particularly emotionally fraught “what I did on my holiday”. This is the most introspective disc of their career, which says a lot about a band who burst onto the scene with a spoken word track detailing band leader James Murphy’s fear that he’s no longer ‘cool’, before listing his record collection. But this introspection works, partly because there’s no question of Murphy’s sincerity, and partly because it sees the band using their abilities to construct tight, punchy, dance-punk cathedrals like they’re a group of builders, to deliver an album of deep emotional scope. It’s not the kind of music that could aptly be described as fan-service (it’s too morose for that), but it does have running through it a sense of accountability to the people listening, a wise move given the (perhaps justified) controversy Murphy found when he chose to reform the band.

5 Sep 2017

HMLTD: Pop Music's Eureka Moment

Sometime while I was hiding from my Earthly troubles in the corner of an English Field at End of the Road this weekend, London six piece HMLTD released their fifth and sixth songs unto the world. Their radical restructuring of pop music, their unparalleled commitment to looking ridiculous, and their insatiable live performances make them the most unique new band in the world today. So fully formed after just three singles, it has to be said that just how big this band get is going to be down to how ready for them the world is, rather than how much they can develop.

Flyte - The Loved Ones (album review)

Three years ago, I was lucky enough to see Flyte support Bombay Bicycle Club, and I fell in love with their sound. Then it was all jittering, bouncy pop and as they released tracks like Please Eloise, I got more and more excited at the idea of their album. Since then, the four piece have been crafting a newer, perhaps more mature sound, and it's utterly gorgeous. The Loved Ones pulsates with beautiful melodies, swirling harmonies and thought-provoking lyrics.

Go Chi Minh - Lusty Taste for Noise (EP review)

Photo: Justin Drew

Go Chi Minh are a freakoid rock 'n' roll quartet from the outer reaches of South London, whose reptilian sleaze rock oozes with all the depravity and fucked-in-the-'ed hilarity you could ever ask for. Their new EP, A Lusty Taste For Noise strings you along for a wild ride, the band like a tour guide cackling madly to himself as you pass the monuments. Swampy garage rock guitars saunter, drum machines tick, synthesisers glitch, and vocals holler, mutter and ritualistically tut-tut.

22 Aug 2017

Introducing The Dolce Vita...

The Dolce Vita are a brand-new quintet hailing from East London comprising of members of Hunck, Yoofs and Death of Pop so if you’re sat there thinking ‘yeah, this band sound like they’re going to be really good,’ then SPOILER ALERT, you’re very much right. Congratulations.

The new outfit have just dropped their second single following Outside with Brand New Bathroom off of their debut EP out August 25th. Dolce Vita's newest offering is a joyous, reverb-soaked tsunami of stunning noise intertwining between fuzzed-out 60’s psychedelia and shoegaze.

'Brand New Bathroom' is out now on Major League Records via digital and most streaming services and will also be released on a limited run of cassettes. The band will be celebrating the release of the EP at The Waiting Room in London 24 August for the Be A Body folk.

20 Aug 2017

Toria Wooff - Drako (EP review)

Debut EP from Manchester based Toria Wooff is a collection of four ethereal ballads driven by whimsical vocals backed with twangling guitars. The EP’s instrumentation is relatively skeletal with Tori’s vocal melodies being simultaneously melancholic and infectious particularly on tracks James Edward and the title track Drako.

10 Aug 2017

925 TIL I DIE: Vapour Trail Meets GANG To Discuss Their Debut Long Player

GANG are an almighty trio from Brighton who've just released one of the best debut albums of 2017. 925 Til I Die is an odyssey, a slow, sludgy heavy rock odyssey that travels through angular grooves and torturous howls on its path to documenting what this here Earth will be like in 925 years time.

For this record, the individuals that power GANG became the Doppelgang, green life forms from an altered future; they preface the record's release with this.

“The Earth is a skull and you are the headlice, where will you go when the hair isn’t so nice? The year is 2942. 925 years since strange beings consolidated their grip on world power. Each Monday the people will gather to receive their weekly plant ration and to watch the content on the screens. The plant will keep each individual subdued and prevent any uprising. The content on the screens will keep their brains working to a sufficient level so as to prevent their minds descending into a vegetative state. During this ceremony, the masses will show appreciation to their supreme leader, the Chancellor, and the Home Secretary.”

Armed with a fierce DIY ethic, some evil guitars, and a huge imagination, GANG's album came out a couple of weeks ago on their own M8s Records label (more on that later).  Truly one of my favourite albums of recent times, I was chuffed to get the chance to chat with Eric Tormey (who sings and shreds in the band) about the record, the label, and the altered sphere they've carved out for themselves.

PREMIERE | The minty fresh dreamy debut single from London's TOOTHPASTE

A London based four piece, Toothpaste enter the equation with their debut single TV Years. A shimmering example of gorgeous dream pop, it's a hazy thoroughfare of meandering guitars, glowing, pulsating synths, and the misty voice of cosmic slacker Amol Prabhu.

TV Years saunters beautifully through it's ethereal five minute runtime, yearning lyrics float atop the glittering soundscapes whilst the drums drive the song on into spiritual bliss, like the marriage of Slowdive, Pavement, and NEU! A beautiful debut from a band to get excited about, they play The Lock Tavern tonight (and are giving out some pretty nifty merch, which I'd be insulting your intelligence by telling you what it is).

<iframe width="100%" height="166" scrolling="no" frameborder="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/331988089&amp;color=0066cc&amp;auto_play=true&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false"></iframe>

(I might add, we're having problems with the embed players at the minute, so hear it HERE, you won't regret)

6 Aug 2017

Introducing... FUSS, Liverpool's next big psychedelic export

Meet FUSS, a new-ish band that formed back in that crazy year of 2016 who make wonderful psychedelic-space rock meets shoegaze and hail from Liverpool - the home, of course, to that really famous band who are the greatest of all time.

2 Aug 2017

Madonnatron - Madonnatron (album review)

Madonnatron's debut album came out on Trashmouth last week, and although it's a record I've been living with a while, I'm still finding new aspects of their self titled album to fall in love with. A four piece from South London, Madonnatron are: Stefania, Charlie, Beth and Joanie. I'm not sure what they're like as individuals, but when these heads assemble in a certain formation and go into battle armed with guitars and the name 'Madonnatron', they're a ruthless, dangerous and bewitching prospect.

The vast majority of the singing is a beldam chorus, intwining harmonies and dis-harmonies from all corners of the band to create a terse, sinister and stark atmosphere. These vocals sound more like spells, longform hexes being repeated to summon demons, than they do song lyrics. Snippets like the depraved barking of "Sangue neuf! Sangue neuf!" do very little to dispel any rumours that Madonnatron are in fact Wiccan sorceresses that just so happen to have done an album.

1 Aug 2017

Ulrika Spacek - Modern English Decoration (album review)

London based Ulrika Spacek are making a dynamic move into the world of shoegaze. After releasing their debut The Album Paranoia in early 2016, they are back with an ultra-melodic and fuzzy affair of an album.

 The album begins with Mimi Pretend which sets the tone of the entire album, a ghosted and airy tune. The track slowly builds, enticing and building a listener with a simple guitar riff, to synthesisers and the intertwined magnetic fusion of drums, followed by the rich and imperfect vocals of Rhys Edwards. There is an evident influence of the likes of Sonic Youth due to the undertone of warming vocals against a soft melody.

Do Whatever: A Look At The North-East's Thriving DIY Scene

Photo creds: Nick Wesson, NARC magazine

At one time, the only musicians from the North East of England with any sort of national significance were Prefab Sprout and Dire Straits. Whilst the former’s 1988 album From Langley Park to Memphis was something of a hit (peaking at number 5 on the UK albums chart), it goes without saying that for a number of years, the region was pretty under-represented in the UK’s popular music scene.

31 Jul 2017

Lend your ears to the Goa Express' rambunctious new double A-side

They sear and they surge, they pulse and they throb, the lysergic licks of The Goa Express' new double A-side flash and erupt like a psychedelic thunderstorm lighting up a puce night sky. GOA is but a fleeting 100 seconds, yet the havoc it wreaks across your whole body as it forces its way through your bones is electrifying; more a full scale Exorcist-style possession than a listening experience. 

These roaring, fizzing guitars are met by a frantic organ that powers the songs through like the heartbeat of a man that has just run miles to escape an all consuming forest fire. On both GOA and Kiss Me, this organ rallies amidst a thoroughfare of guitars; the former, it's a non-stop gnostic vibration, and the latter it subsides for an angular groove that emerges from a LOOP-style Spacemen 3-type thundergroove.

Crow Cries: Just In Case You Needed Proof Goat Girl Are -The One-

The hype garnered by Goat Girl off the back of their first single Country Sleaze/Scum was nothing but well deserved; here we had a London band who seemingly had everything from there very first single. A singer with a voice that can cut through sheets of metal, guitar lines that recall The Fall and The Fat Whites in their sleazy fervour, and a rhythm section that's just about as good as it gets.

Belle and Sebastian Return

Belle and Sebastian Are Back, Like, Actually Back, As a Band You’d Want to Listen To
I love Belle and Sebastian dearly; let’s get this out of the way right now. I discovered them five years ago by pure chance, a sequence of events that was a perfect storm involving accidentally buying Stuart Murdoch’s autobiography, a poke around the back ends of YouTube, and some fatherly advice from an old ethics teacher. They’re a part of my life, and I will always check in with them. They’re family.

So, it pains me to say that their last few releases have been… Iffy. Girls In Peacetime Want To Dance, their 2015 album, was a mixed bag, and that’s me being generous. It was laced with bangers, but also some truly wonky moments and decisions, and some of the finer moments were left off the album and relegated to dusty b-sides (like Piggy in the Middle, or a Politician’s Silence). Murdoch’s stated aim of the album sounding like Eurovision was admirable but misguided. For every “Enter Sylvia Plath”, there was a “Today (This Army’s For Peace)”. The band were working with reserves of energy, but not enough to see them over the course of an hour, a punishing runtime for an album like this. And sadly still, even on the best tracks there was an element of emotional detachment. Even on their most “produced” albums, like Life Pursuit or Waitress, there was still an engagement with feelings, an empathy for people, a desire to tell stories. None of that here; piercing psychological insights were replaced with blanket statements that don’t really tell us much about anything.

26 Jul 2017

Arcade Fire - Everything Now (album review)

This album has absolutely no merit. Seriously. The lead single is good. A fluke. A fluke, god damn. But listen no further, for your own safety. For your own sanity. I listened to it all, so you don't have to. Like Jesus dying for all of our sins, I listened all the way through.

24 Jul 2017

Introducing Anna Tosh...

London's Anna Tosh is an artist who's had a career in many bands; Wildhood, Love Nor Money, Hey Gravity and Shotgun Venus to name a few; but 2017 sees her jet off in the direction that is entirely of her own creative vision. On her debut single Weightless, what we have is gritty, metronomic rock, her cutting voice atop a lightning tight musical backdrop makes for something that sounds constantly on edge during the verses, constantly creating a taut and uneasy atmosphere before the sugar sweet catharsis of the choruses offer a breather.

18 Jul 2017

Pop Crimes: Revisiting The Film Noir World Of Rowland S. Howard

"Rowland was Australia's most unique, gifted and uncompromising guitarist. He was also a good friend. He will be missed by many." - Nick Cave

The Birthday Party set the world alight between their formation at the end of the seventies and the mid-eighties. Here we had a band that had the raw, depraved toxicity of The Cramps, combined with the lethal onstage energetic output of The Stooges and the oblique gloom of Joy Division, but a band that did this without compromising their literary prowess. The Birthday Party's focal point was the central duo of one Nick Cave, singer, screecher, squawker, and Rowland S. Howard, a guitarist whose fractured, splintered playing was delivered with such venomous vigour that he was able to share the onstage limelight with Cave, something that miscellaneous Bad Seeds could not quite match up to (whether they tried to or not). 

17 Jul 2017

Raw Power: an interview with the almighty Bo Gritz

Bo Gritz are a noise-rock band like no other; a pummelling screech of industrial guitar noise, their sound is invasive and unignorable. Indeed, if you've caught them as the support for the likes of Ho99o9, HMLTD, Table Scraps and Taman Shud, you'll be fully aware they deliver so much noise with such an intensity that you simply can't help but be engulfed. Last week, I caught up with them for a quick chat.

14 Jul 2017

Another Li'l Mid-2017 Post: Our 16 favourite songs of 2017 so far...

I don't have the strength to write another introductory paragraph, but you know what this is. Read the title. You've seen them before. Unordered list of songs what are good. Read list. Listen songs. Go forth and prosper.

13 Jul 2017

2017: The Best Records Of This Here Year So Far

Salutations dear friends, the halfway point of this year means that our little blog is now three years old. A lot of things have happened since then, but with a world that - despite the rise of Corbyn's Labour Party - seems bleaker by the day, maybe it's best to focus on the strictly musical things. From the exciting crop of new bands emerging in the capital, to Nick Cave reaching the peak of his powers, and Europe seeming alive with the most exciting psych music we've heard in a while, there's lots to celebrate. Here is our - that is me, Cal, alongside other Vapour Trail writers' - favourite albums of the year so far. Due to the fact that I'm working a lot over Summer, I haven't had the time to do this earlier, or write out a fleshed out description for each album, but there's so much great records that you should go through 'em all one by one. Without further ado...

5 Jul 2017

Joshua Jones/Scarecrow Boat - Fresh Prince of Nowhere (Split EP review)

A collaboration between two Southampton artists, Fresh Prince of Nowhere is a split EP arriving hot off the press. Dreamt upon between tourmates Joshua Jones and Dominic James (of Soton emo troupe Scarecrow Boat), it's a mixture of Jones' own stream of consciousness spoken word (delivered in a thick Welsh accent) and the caustic, reflective acoustic songs of James, as well as the EP's best moment, which is the title track and a collaboration between the two.

30 Jun 2017

South London's Peeping Drexels release their depraved debut "Kiss Me In My Greasy Bed"

Peeping Drexels self describe as "sloppy beats and sleazy melodies from South-London scum", but don't let that lull you into thinking you've heard it all before, and that they're not worth your time. Well, you might have heard it all before, but they're definitely worth your time. Of that scene - you know, Goat Girl, Shame, Happy Meal, etc - they're the first band to truly sound anywhere near as skin crawlingly filthy as the Fat White Family or Meatraffle, whose creepy, crawly existence has seemingly inspired this frankly amazing wave of bands in and around South London (and generally beyond, but let's not let location get in the way of saying everything's from the 'South London Scene').

On their debut single Kiss Me In My Greasy Bed, the band's explicitly scuzzy lyrics rise to the top of the mix, simplistic and brutish in their sleaziness. But alongside the on the nose lyricism is a cacophony of noise, brought on by an ostentatious drum stomp and a punchy organ sound. Dissonance is key to the sound of Peeping Drexels, and meandering, messy guitars that slither around a tight rhythm section give them their sound, a noise you'd place somewhere between the southern rockabilly punk of the Gun Club and the obnoxious underground rock brutalism of the Butthole Surfers. It's easy to dismiss them as yet another South London Band That Sound Like The Fat Whites (after all, I did hear them for the first time this week at Brixton Windmill), but when they're this fucking good, who the fuck cares? Not me, and neither should you.

Ban Summers: The South Coast's Punstoppable Lo-Fi Troubadour

Hailing from Portsmouth, the South Coast's very own Shelbyville, is Ban Summers. Melodically rich lo-fi slacker pop, his first demo Truly Madly Sleeply arrived in the Vapour Trail inbox sometime between the last episode of Twin Peaks and the last episode of Naked Attraction.

Taking cues from (SANDY) Alex G and Kurt Vile, it's blissed out bedroom pop that enters the world at just the right time (June). Luscious guitar tones echo through a sun-kissed soundscape as Summers' lackadaisical voice lilts atop.

It's the first track from an upcoming artist who, contrary to Truly Madly Sleeply's lyrics is Something To Ride Home About. Hear it below...

Warts and All, Meet Your New Favourite Band: Weeping Icon

Meet quite possibly your new favourite band, the excellently named Weeping Icon; a noise punk outfit from Brooklyn, New York. Signed to their local independent, the forever great, Kanine Records and also Fire Talk Records, Weeping Icon have just dropped Warts the second single off of their debut EP Eyeball Under.

A visceral cacophony of searing punk, Warts is a thrilling 3 and a half minute onslaught of raucous, raw sonic brutality. It's a beautiful, rip-roaring, aural delight from the quartet.

You can get Warts right now via digital and you can also  pre-order the debut EP on vinyl over on the band's Bandcamp.

27 Jun 2017

King Gizzard and The Lizard Wizard - Murder of the Universe (album review)

From whenst Kronos birthed Zeus et al from his big, swollen, godly tummy, the Greek mythologies have continued to enthral Western literature consumers. For longer than the mind can conceive, tales of lust and love, self lust and self love, and forces more dark and powerful than the mind can imagine have been lapped up by people that have far longer attention spans than me.

On a similar timeline, although one that spans for decades rather than millennia, rock 'n' roll bands have tried to sculpt their own wildly imaginative narratives within the confines of the medium of the art. In truth, the long-haired, heavy purveyors of this quotient of rock has always thrived best when it attempts to forge mythology rather than work the conventions of pop song writing into full blooded firestorm of the rock thoroughfare. The titanic riffage of Black Sabbath's Master of Reality - obviously the greatest rock album of all time, if we're limiting the confines of what rock is to the fairly narrow genre confines the term describes now - has a much greater impact than almost any other record you could put on today, because it simply sounds like a relic of a world other than our own. Even the name of the album builds up an image in your mind's eye of something greater and more important than humanity. Master of Reality. Christ.

Whilst their number-one-in-the-charts heavy rock peers like Royal Blood and Foo Fighters resigned to banality, it really does feel as if mainstream heavy guitar music is lacking something that has the gargantuan impact of those early Sabbath, Zeppelin or, ummm, at a push, Maiden, records (as well as a great deal of prog. See: 666 by Aphrodite's Child), we must instead turn to the fringes for a refreshing take on music that snarls, kicks, and not only parallels but blows the epic (a word here used in the correct context) allegories of Homer and Hesiod clean out the water.

26 Jun 2017

And Ariel Pink Returns!

LA based singer, songwriter and insanely talented multi-instrumentalist Ariel Pink has finally made a return to the scene after his 2014 solo album Pom Pom; Pink  is set to release his new solo album “Dedicated to Bobby Jameson’’ in the latter parts of this year. Pink dropped his new track Another Weekend; and, oh my, what an epic return. His bubblegum pop style is continued with a funky and psychedelic bassline as well as his notorious woozy and hazy voice.  His voice echoes the obscure sounds of 1970s and 1980s, alongside evident traces of one of his fave bands The Cure. Pink has always been a favourite of mine, from his album Mature Themes, including his unbelievably wonderful track ‘only in my dreams’ which moves any listener to what seems to be an idyllic fairy land;  an extremely outlandish statement.  His last album ‘Pom Pom’ was again another example of his interpretation of Hypnagogic pop.  After popular success in the shoegaze scene, it is often cited to be hard to make a comeback, but “another weekend” is teasing his following, enticing and intriguing his clan. This mind numbingly maverick is coaxing us all back into to his wonderfully weird, eccentric cosmos.

22 Jun 2017

Strange Cages - The Cracks (EP review)

Strange Cages might be, in fact probably are, the best musical thing occurring in Brighton at the moment. A garage rock trio that hark back to the most savage end of sixties psych garage, their reptilian rock 'n' roll is Earth shatteringly good, a tour de force of snotty guitar music that shakes you right to the core. The Cracks EP is their best release to date, and does an extremely good job of capturing their scintillating live shows on record.

21 Jun 2017

Enter the woozy garage rock stylings of L.A. Witch

L.A. Witch are a three piece from the city of Los Angeles, but as I'm reliably informed by the press release, do not partake in any kind of witchcraft. Which is kinda disappointing. But they're a fantastic trio that have a woozy garage rock sound that'll instantly thrill fans of the BJM, Willie Nelson and PJ Harvey alike. Far from the gold paved streets of Hollywood, L.A. Witch's music festers in a much murkier realm, a darker, more twisted realm. Sounding more like something brewed in William Burroughs' basement than  the glam commodity fetishism L.A. has become a beacon for, the band's raucous garage sound pummels into the void, whilst getting up its momentum in an impassioned burst of rockabilly momentum with a tambourine stomp in tow.

Introducing... Gaygirl

A lot is made of the south-London scene at the moment, and whilst I agree that the likes of HMLTD, Shame, Goat Girl and co are very much worthy of such plaudits there are a few bands that are slipping under the radar who are just as worthy of your attention. One of these is Gaygirl, a post-punk meets shoegaze meets grunge quartet hailing from Brixton.

20 Jun 2017

Richard Dawson - Peasant (album review)

"This is about the future. If people think this album is about the past then I have absolutely failed."

(Richard Dawson interviewed in Loud and Quiet)
What a mess we're in aye? If only we could only retreat to the times of yore, "when it was all fields round here". One listen to Richard Dawson's breathtaking opus, 'Peasant', should vanquish all of this cosy but destructive nostalgia, smashing our rose smothered glasses with a single mighty blow. Yes, it is true that if you were in the lucky position of say... a nobleman, then chances are your life would have consisted of nothing but bountiful splendour. However, if you were in the far more likely scenario of say... being anything but that, then it's a whole other story entirely.

Kirin J Callinan - Bravado (album review)

Kirin J Callinan is a eccentric as they come as a lyricist and vocalist and the instrumental work on his sophomore record live up to the over the top persona that bleeds through all of his music. Bravado is a perfect concoction of cheesy 80s Pop, Euro dance, emotive American dad rock… Oh wait you don’t think that sounds good? Well it is.

16 Jun 2017

Lorde - Melodrama (album review)

What did Lorde’s debut Pure Heroine tell us about her? It told us she was one of the more introverted members of pop’s elite, it showed she has a fixation with minimal, crisp, raw R&B flavoured beats. It also showed us that as a lyricist Lorde is very thematic; although each track on that album did unfold with its own unique narrative, there was an underlying theme throughout it was about being a teenager and all reveries of that inevitably come attached to the naivety of a 17 year olds mind. Lorde’s sophomore effort holds on to the quintessential elements her music and amplifies them with help from better producers and a lyrical diversity.

As you can probably tell by the cover art,Melodrama is a break up album, but no need to for any tissues here. This album is about finding solace in independence. It’s gloriously triumphant as a whole - however it does throw in a few tearjerkers take like Liability, for instance - sounds like a modernised reincarnation of a track from David Bowie’s Hunky Dory or Lou Reed’s Transformer. Not only through the piano, but through Lorde’s singing style cramming vast amounts of information into each verse and then giving a heart melting chorus which will ooze through the cracks in a broken heart. This song is a lonely ballad about Lorde returning home only to be comforted by her own self “I do my best to meet her demands Play at romance, we slow dance In the living room, but all that a stranger would see Is one girl swaying alone Stroking her cheek”.

13 Jun 2017

The Horrors Return...

They’re back! The Horrors are back! Time for journos and scribblers everywhere to start digging out their tired old chiches and saying things like ‘shimmering’, ‘Southend’, ‘kaleidoscopic’, and ‘neo-psychedelic’ (*yuck*) again. Anyway, the band have released the first single, ‘Machine’, from their as yet untitled fifth album, that will follow on from their superb 2014 effort, ‘Luminous’. The track proves, thank heavens, that they’ve still got it.

10 Jun 2017

Black Lips - Satan's Graffiti or God's Art (album review)

In 2014, The Black Lips released what was critically described as a last gasp swipe for the mainstream, Underneath The Rainbow, a fairly solid yet ultimately characterless affair. In all honesty,  a Black Lips record in 2017 seemed like the last thing that would cause any kind of intrigue to me. Lo and behold though, what we have here in their 2017 effort Satan’s Graffiti or God’s Art is a conceptual, clever, but ultimately wild and uncontrollable record that is bafflingly good.

Chugging Gun Club fuckabouts like Lucid Nightmare might seem the most sonically appealing at first; this is classic Black Lips, why people fucking love them. But instead, no; the appeal of this record comes from the obnoxious amount of sonic ground they cover throughout.

9 Jun 2017

Into Beach House's World... Chariot

This dream pop band has released a new single called Chariot last month. The band which began in 2004, I see as being the catalyst what far shoegaze is all about today. Their previous albums Depression Cherry and Thank Your Lucky Stars were so dreamy and mystical, I didn’t believe they could get better. There is a common consensus, that dream pop and shoegaze is all a bit dim and depressing, but in fact this is the complete opposite (well most of it). This music leaves you stroking your hair and face and feeling a bit fragile (in a good way tho) - exactly what Beach House have achieved.  The lyrics of this track merge into one another, the soft and luxurious voice of Victoria Legrand hides under the surface, allowing the melodies of Alex Scally to seep through, transcending the listener. In a time of stress, Beach House is the perfect band to invite your ears to; they relax and calm your senses. If the quality of this track is mirrored within the upcoming album then ooo its gonna be good. It's the kinda tune which you would’ve slow danced to in an 80s disco, really.

Football is the only sport, Guinness is the only drink, John Cooper Clarke is the only poet

A gift to a nation out of darkened places in cheap streets where murder breeds and cars collide and colours clash. John Cooper Clarke stands to deliver Beasley Street. As he does with many of his poems, he blends satire with thought provoking statements with his unique touch and produces a timeless poem that stands relevant today, to his adoring crowd. When I grow old and sat with regrets, I don’t want one of them to be that I did not succeed in turning everyone I know into nearly a bigger advocate of Cooper Clarke than myself, and witnessing this live.

6 Jun 2017

Driving Blind: A Chat With Ride Ahead Of Their First Album in 21 Years

After a successful couple of years of reunion tours, the almighty shoegaze band from which this blog takes its name are gearing up to release their first album in over 20 years. The rather excellent Weather Diaries is a forward looking explosion of energy, a record that stands up to their best. On a sunny day in a pub in Shoreditch, where the speakers played deep cuts from Blur's much-worse comeback effort Magic Whip while I waited, I met with Andy Bell (guitar, vocals) and Steve Queralt (bass) to talk about everything from politics, producers and pictures.

1 Jun 2017

HUMAN PARASITES: A chat with depraved art-punks LICE

Bristol band LICE have been cropping up all over London recently, and for good reason. Their live shows brim with bloodthirsty, shamanic performances, whilst choppy, searing instrumentation sets them way above the Fall comparisons people make. Garnering fans across the city have taken them in as part of the emerging crop of amazing bands springing up over London, (Charlie from Shame said “of course LICE are part of the scene” when I interviewed them earlier this month for CLASH) they’re a band with so much potential to unleash great song after great song of obnoxious, misanthropic, ugly social commentary.

Catch up first by reading our review of their single, Human Parasite, right now. 

29 May 2017

Jlin - Black Origami (album review)

There’s a scene in Toy Story where Buzz and Woody are trapped in the Sid’s bedroom; he decapitates toys and switches their bodies creating Frankensteinien monstrosities who are introduced as terrifying, but in the end they play a key part in the protagainsts escape. The various snips and snags and jagged fluency of Jlin's sophomore Black Origami sounds like it is a collection of compositions created by these unlikely heroes. It’s a dark and completely shattered form of unique beauty.

24 May 2017

Pull My Strings: A Review of the Great Escape

Some cultural context for the Great Escape, a multi venue festival that takes place in Shoreditch-on-Sea every May, comes from well before the festival was first held - 1980 in fact. The Dead Kennedys' were invited to the Bay Area Music Awards, to pick up their 'best new wave band' accolade, but instead of performing California Uber Alles, as planned, they rocketed into the first 20 seconds of Cali... before Jello Biafra belligerently sneered "hold it! We've gotta prove we're adults now. We're not a punk rock band, we're a new wave band." The band dropped black ties onto their shirts with painted on letter esSes to make them a group adorned in huge dollar signs, and lurched into a freshly composed number called Pull My Strings. Contained within that song is all the context you need to understand what the Great Escape is like.

I swizzed a free ticket, and whilst I was aware of it's rep as an industry festival, I didn't know that it would be quite like it was; hours of queues, hours of queues in which men in burgundy hoodies discuss 'lucrative content' in shrill middle class voices, whilst men with bad haircuts discuss 'the most exciting next big thing' with the monotony and excitement of the google translate audio voice. Nearly everything has a sponsor; bands that sing "Patti Smith wouldn't put up with this shit!" mere moments after plugging VEVO.

Strong Island Recordings Announce Beach Ball - A Must See Summer Psych Out

Summer sees the inaugural Strong Islands Records Beach Ball, an event in aid of MacMillan that'll take place at Coastguard Studio in Southsea. It'll feature a lot of our favourites, DJs and a whole fucking record fair. Chase those (probably inevitable) post-election blues away with it.

16 May 2017

GFOTY - Month of Mayhem (track review)

In case you hadn’t seen PC Music have been releasing tracks daily this month, and GFOTY’s second track of the month is the best so far. Its driving abrasive synth beat sounds reminiscent of artists like Pharmakon and Death Grips. GFOTY’s performance on the song is perfection providing an ear worm chorus and a cheerleading final verse. The visuals which accompany Month of Mayhem are equally as perplexing showing GFOTY in a studio accompanied by someone in an unsettling wolf mask. The track ends with around 30 seconds of blissfully plucked harp music leaving very confused but overall very satisfied.

14 May 2017

A Tiny Draught of The Vile Stuff: The Stubborn Beauty of Richard Dawson

"My bedroom walls are papered with the stripes of Newcastle United
Between which I perceive the presence of a horse-headed figure
Holding aloft a flaming quiver of bramble silhouettes
He is the King of Children
Singing like a boiler: 'Tomorrow is on its way'"
- Richard Dawson 'The Vile Stuff'

What if... the water supply of the Simpsons retirement home was spiked with LSD, whilst what sounds like three different guitars battle out to play three different songs? And what if... the guitar amp was actually powered by rusted lines on deserted pylons, whose creaking structures are by now fully submerged? On the Newcastle artist Richard Dawon's outstanding 2014 album, Nothing Important, the impression is given that a fuse may overheat at any moment; great sparks erupting, leaving the plastic plug socket an oozing, molten mess.

Dawson's guitar is a turbulent creature, at times seeming to violently disavow the wishes of its player. It's an instrument prone to deviant fits of (mis)behaviour; sloppy sounding and rhythmically jumbled, like a crazed butcher hacking away at a carcass with a blunt blade. Meanwhile Dawson's voice alternates between a guttural gasp and shrill falsetto, sounding both regionally specific and wholly unfamiliar. Across three solo albums proper (The Magic Bridge, The Glass Trunk, Nothing Important), Richard has managed to carve out a position as England's most visionary singer-songwriter.

Harry Styles - Sign of the Times (album review)

The two biggest selling albums of 2017 in the UK so far are Ed Sheeran’s Divide and Human by Rag’n’Bone Man. These days it feels like there are two paths to commercial success either jump on a tropical house instrumental, with some Rihanna style dancehall vocals, or be an authentic everyman like the two previously mentioned. You can imagine Ed slopping from town to town busking to pay his bills. The ginger neo-minstrel is just so dedicated to his noble trade and he could never do anything but music and above all he’s a nice guy. A lovely guy. Very nice.

Matt Maltese: For After You've Stopped Worrying And Learned To Love The Bomb

Most the music I cover on here personally often comes from the darkest realms of human consciousness. Be it foam-mouthed garage rock, droning clusterfucks of psychedelia, or nuevo-shamanic dirge-pop, music that shakes the Earth at its very core. In fact, the amount of times I've published the word 'apocalyptic' this year must have hit three figures.

9 May 2017

Let's Talk Some Connan Mockasin

There are so many artists in this day and age which don’t get adequate publicity which they deserve. Discover Weekly on Spotify enlightened me to the ethereal Connan Mockasin, who has reignited the psychedelic pop scene.  He’s originally from New Zealand but moved to England in 2006; but with little success he moved back home.

Forget Consensus: The Best of 2017's Musical Margins

There's a lot of talk around about how divergent our tastes have become from one another. To a degree that's accurate, as you do now tend to see less large scale movements, all centred around a crazed infatuation with some new emerging sound - bar noticeable exceptions like Footwork. Yet in the wake of these scene based surges has risen an insidious new form of consensus culture, sharing no similarity with either large scale collective creativity, or some fractured utopia where we each individually venture into new and uncharted regions of sound. Instead, we lay witness to a poisonous rise in sites like Album of The Year, Metacritic or Rate Your Music. Outlets, which in theory, should expose people to a greater degree of music, but in actuality form a creative hierarchy, where the same set of consensus albums receive countless of plaudits, and many of the more interesting new forms fall through the cracks. One useful tool these sites have created, is the ability to see an album of the year list generated from an accumulation of all the other large music publications' end of year lists. It's useful in so much as proving just how indistinguishable these lists have become, making it more essential than ever for this foul trend to be bucked. Below are just a number of albums or projects, whose work deserves far greater coverage, ones who expose a great deal of consensus "greats" to be pale and uninspired.

RIP Jovis and the Bedwetters. Glam-pop outfit Show Boy come of age on their debut single...

Jovis and the Bedwetters are no more. The premier pop group of the South London scene have gone from a glam-stomping novelty to a serious pop-osition with their first track under new guise Show Boy. Debut track Young Gun sees them come of age, in a glammed up furore of Nile Rodgers guitars and caterwauled vocals. Hear it below.

7 May 2017

[Enter Queen Zee and the Sasstones]

As someone that goes through weeks of listening solely to tubthumping, filthy garage rock, even I can unhappily confirm the longheld criticism that it's a genre a bit too dominated by a certain brand of machismo. Whilst there has been no shortage in bands that feature musicians that aren't white, straight, and male, a look back on the genre's history reveals it to be a haven for angry young men (who, to be fair, historically have things to be angry at) and there'll always be a worry that garage will remain a breeding ground for masculine ideals. So with that in mind, enter Queen Zee and the Sasstones, our heroes for the evening.