Bones Shake

Junk
Abattoir Blues Records

Bones Shake are relatively new to the music scene in Manchester, having released their first batch of songs, Live in Dundee, in 2014. But they appear to be gaining interest from music venues all over town, which makes sense because their debut studio album, Junk, is not a record to listen to through cheap speakers. Their sound is far from pristine and is best described as a gritty, bass-heavy waltz. The drum beat and vocals fluctuate unpredictably which stops the simplicity of the three-piece band becoming too repetitive.

From the first listen, it becomes evident why the band is called Bones Shake. The relentless rhythm guitar is enough to scramble your brains. But for me the real highlight is the album’s rare but intoxicating guitar riffs. These serve to drag the band away from the genre of old school rock into a dark parody of the blues. Unfortunately, these riffs appear to be scarcer on Junk than their previous EPs, which devolved the sound into a more basic brand of rock. On the other hand, it is still early days for Bones Shake and their experimentation with vocals and tempo are starting to pay off, so their next album may be a chance to develop some of the classic guitar riffs they have demonstrated in the past.

Overall, Junk is comparable to The Big Come Up by The Black Keys in the sense that the influences are clear, but it’s not yet settled into a polished, marketable sound. Having said that, I have no doubt that Bones Shake would be truly ear-melting live.

Emma Nay

Red Eye Hi-Fi

Chips ‘N’ Gravy: A Love Story
Self-released

Red Eye Hi-Fi have been canvassing their sound system around Manchester and beyond since the turn of the decade. Their hedonistic club nights have seen many local MCs toasting over their bass heavy sounds and some of them make a reappearance on this record, etching their names into the Chips ‘N’ Gravy dubplate. This is the first official recording from the crew and manages to capture the mayhem of the club night whilst condensing their raucous mixes into shorter songs.

‘Sound Killer’ (ft. Dark Angel) gets your legs winding with a beat to shatter spines and ‘Hot Steppin’ (ft. Parly B & Kathika) will have you skanking like a Trustafarian at a full moon party. ‘Tempramental’ (ft. Skittles) builds in energy and complements Skittles’ rapid-fire style, breaking into a beat that would sound good whether coming out of King Tubby’s speakers or a mobile phone on the back of the bus, which is no mean feat.

Fox, Sangy, Chuckz – the calibre of MCs is matched bars for beats, with production that tips its pork pie hat to every conceivable style you’d hear at carnival. The exception is ‘Bodhran’ (ft. Deepo), which samples the Irish bodhran and has a more militaristic feel, though is all the better for it. The common thread is that these ten tracks will get you in the mood for a night out, even if you weren’t planning one. So be warned – Chips ‘N’ Gravy may cause rash decision making and leave you red-eyed.

Nathan McIlroy

Mmoths

Luneworks
Because Music

Dublin’s Jack Colleran, aka Mmoths (the first M is silent), has been quietly working on his debut proper for Because Music/OYAE after the release of two excellent instrumental EPs in 2012 and 2013. A concept record that’s the product of its creator being holed up in Los Angeles after a turbulent break up, Luneworks channels the hazy spirit of Kevin Shields through a filter of lush electronics and pulsating beats. Its lead single, ‘Deu’, ebbs and flows from Bonobo-style chill-out to Boards of Canada-inspired drones with quiet confidence.

At its peaks, Luneworks can be stellar, a crystalline, carefully considered record that avoids the pitfalls of over-complexity and cliché by detailing every element of the textures explored. Though it can sometimes slip into repetition, and a few of the vignettes that punctuate the album can feel somewhat underwhelming, the longer excursions into beat-driven ambience are genuinely interesting. I found myself returning to the suite that closes the album, ‘Naoka’ (Parts 1 and 2), multiple times and am yet to grow tired of its shimmering haze.

Mmoths may be relatively new in terms of his presence in the British electronic music scene, and he may struggle to find a place for his niche sound in an environment increasingly dominated by macho posturing, but as a standalone record, Luneworks is a grand statement, a self-assured debut with all the hallmarks of an artist with something big up his sleeve.

Kristofer Thomas

Louis Barabbas

Gentle Songs of Ceaseless Horror
Debt Records

I think I first heard (and fell for) Louis Barabbas when he played in Sheffield many years ago. Louis playing a bizarre, Tom Waitsian version of 'I Wanna Be Like You' is an image that stuck in my mind whenever I have seen him with The Bedlam Six or solo since.

Within The Bedlam Six ranks, Barabbas has carved himself an entertaining and sometimes terrifyingly theatrical persona - foot stomping, shouting and crooning to bring forth the beasts he sees below our feet. You can see why he is regularly compared to Waits or Cave. But, much like his counterparts, every time he wrote a dramatic song of Faustian wanderlust he would find himself with fragments of ideas that were much more understated and personal.

Taking everything he has learnt with Bedlam, this album is a highly matured venture. Not to say the others are immature, but on this set of songs these techniques are repeated and refined with a delicate touch - never too much of anything. And when he does dip his toe into a crooked tale, its delivery is tempered, controlled and softened. You can rest your head, but I wouldn’t trust those dreams.

Gentle Songs of Ceaseless Horror isn’t a move away from Barabbas’ immense theatrical style at all (just look at the title), but it certainly focuses it, boiling his dramatic and darkly romantic storytelling down to more subtle ballads.

Gordon Barker

Simmer

Paper Prisms
Dog Knights Productions

Since the release of their Yellow Streak EP and months of moulding and refining their own progressive sound, Simmer have emerged with their snowflake of an album, Paper Prisms. The band are reluctant to be pigeonholed into a genre, and rightly so. Although frequently described as ambient punk, the Cheshire trio now transcend this label through poetic guitar riffs and downplayed vocals.

The album is truly a product of its location, as influences from the Manchester’s music scene prevail at every turn. The meandering bass lines can be likened to those of The Stone Roses, while the raw vocals are a nod to their underground influences. This contrasts with the narratives about their remote hometown, Winsford, which run through the album. Their lyrics are semantically entwined with images of nature and emotion, whose marriage is conveyed equally by the verses and harmonies.

One of the most fascinating aspects of the album is how its understated vocals become one with melody. Julius Schiazza’s voice is more of a fourth instrument than a lyrical device. This harmonious blend of the vocal and the instrumental create a flowing sound that you can’t help but sway to, but the energetic drum beat keeps Simmer firmly grounded in the alternative rock scene.

The album is truly poetic and a mature leap from Simmer’s acclaimed earlier releases. With their first ever run of UK tour dates beginning in February, the band will be thrust into the limelight.

Emma Nay