DSL OFFICIAL

Tek Charge

Tek Charge sees the return of Sheffield-based grime producer DSL OFFICIAL after a year away. The release consists of just two tracks, but is enough to show that the producer’s abilities haven’t dulled during his absence, but instead have rather improved.

DSL’s previous release, Flipside, was composed of four tracks and well-received within the circles that heard it, but none of them bore the same kind of complexities that the two tracks of this release do.

On hearing the titular track, it’s quickly clear that the intention of it is to hit hard and deliver the impressive energy grime is known for. But beneath this immediate response there are layers to the instrumental that are subtle as well as loud, which makes it a clever listen due to the controlled developments, changes and shifts that occur inside it’s running time of four minutes and forty-four seconds.

Despite being a very different track, the same can also be said for ‘Combos’, which is immersed in the grimy style of production that is inspired by old-school beat ‘em ups. Even with what sounds like a straightforward formula on paper, this instrumental is far from it, especially during its last two minutes, where a more melodic side grows within, adding an unexpected balance to what is the darker half of the release.

The only thing Tek Charge is missing is more tracks, as after two strong offerings there is a desire to hear more, but nonetheless it’s a more than adequate reminder that DSL is a talent that refuses to go unnoticed.

Akeem Balogun

Mint Field

Pasar de las Luces

One of the biggest lies people will tell you is that ‘dreams don’t have a plot’.

Never mind that discomfort you perceive from non-linear narratives. Just immerse yourself in a dream’s narrative and it will make sense in the end. This comes to mind with Pasar de las Luces (Passing of the Lights), the debut album by Mint Field, a dream pop band from Tijuana, Mexico. Intelligible shoegaze and krautrock-infused dream pop intertwine in an album that exists both in our harsh reality and a lulling fantasy realm.

The celestial mood permeates every track, keeping a relaxed pace that quenches listeners yearning for a lucid dream pop flavour. Even when a sauntering traipse becomes a stride, like on ‘Quiero Otoño De Nuevo’, the ambience is tranquil. 

This is far from easy listening, mind you. ‘Cambios Del Pasar’ goes for a stream of consciousness approach when the sparse vocals arrive. There’s also enough distorted passages to keep you from lowering your guard. It is indeed a dream state that can be moody, but never contains jarring changes that take you out of an overall peaceful trip.

‘Club De Chicas’ is the pinnacle of Pasar de las Luces. Like jolting out of bed after an anxiety dream, there’s a feeling of comfort after the stress has ebbed away. In a way, that’s the general mood from the dreamy music of Mint Field  ̶  something changed for better.

Sam J. Valdés López

Hookworms

Microshift

Have you ever driven late at night through a tunnel, windows slightly open? Between the thumping gusts of wind pushing through the window, there’s a hum created between the tyres, the asphalt and the tunnel’s acoustics. It can be unnerving, but at the same time mesmerising. 

The music of Leeds band Hookworms always felt like that. Bright fluorescent lights howling, droning cascades and explosive sounds that terrify and soothe. Microshift exudes an oppressive atmosphere in every track, but as any Hookworms connoisseur will tell you, there’s a bright layer of hope in the lowest layers of their music. Even if depression is still steering the wheel, shimmering lights flash in the dark vehicle.

Microshift never meanders, with an unforgiving pace that allows pop sensibilities and psychedelia to live in a symbiotic relationship. ‘Opener’ and ‘Negative Space’ come from this union, blessed with being hook-laden while still giving you a satisfying soundscape. ‘Each Time We Pass’ is almost a ballad, with a rich atmosphere that never wallows in depression, just acknowledges it. ‘Ullswater’ manages to blend Hookworms’ primordial sound with Neu! and Jean-Michel Jarre.

Mind you, if you dig Hookworms better when they’re abstract, ‘Boxing Day’ and ‘Reunion’ are the treacherous patch of black ice on a low-lit pop highway, one that lays a new path for the band to travel. With Microshift, Hookworms left that hazy autobahn that led to purple hills and orange skies, finally finding themselves out of the tunnel and heading into vast, unknown horizons. 

Sam J. Valdés López

Ophelia

Blackbox Memories

Showcasing the talents of singer-songwriter duo Samuel Taylor and Rebecca Van Cleave, Ophelia’s debut album Blackbox Memories pushes genre boundaries, offering a new and refreshing sound. The record is intriguing chiefly due to its attempts to borrow sounds from two distinct eras, representing both modern and classic light rock, further emphasised by Taylor and Van Cleave’s hypnotising voices.

Each offering on the 13-track record displays the duo’s welcoming sound. Starting with the upbeat ‘Let Love Ride In’, it develops like a work of art, exploring a range of genres, moods, tempos and themes. Both Taylor and Van Cleave’s voices add to the mesmerising atmospheres created on each track. From serene tracks like ‘The Artist’ to catchier numbers like ‘Fading’, Blackbox Memories has something for everyone.

The title track has a welcoming country twang to it – a theme throughout – while others represent the folk scene. ‘Whip of the Wheel’ moves into classic light rock territory, with its simple yet pacy beat and conventional band setup.

These tracks do justice to the vocally powerful pair, with each song possessing its own character, as well as highlighting the musical proficiency of this talented duo.
Produced by Greg Haver, mixed by Clint Murphy and mastered by Ryan Smith, the musicianship behind the album can clearly be heard through the great sound quality and delicate mixing of the tracks, as well as the strength of the compositions themselves. This is an all-star line-up of talented musicians.

Alex Burns

The Orielles

Silver Dollar Moment

I've seen The Orielles perform a few times and one of the most striking things about them is their youth, often playing in venues where they'd be too young to attend the gig themselves. Their nascency is, however, striking in its absence from Silver Dollar Moment, a polished and mature debut album that follows the usual procession of CDR, cassette and 7" releases.

The breadth of influence on display and the success with which it’s employed are particularly impressive. Within 12 tracks of what you'd otherwise loosely call indie-pop, you can hear shades of post-punk, disco, funk, psych, surf rock, garage rock and prog, and none of it feels forced or out of place. OK, prog might be a stretch, but 'Henry's Pocket' features a flute, so I'm sticking with it.

Most of the tracks are finely-tuned individual pop songs, but 'The Sound of Liminal Spaces' is the track that captures the sense of spontaneity that’s been my favourite part of their live performances. It's a free-wheeling funky psych jam of bass, guitar, synth and bongos that expands the mood of the previous ballad into a totally different realm. Unfortunately, as the shortest track of the album, it's a wasted opportunity that ends up as little more than an interlude. 

While compromises like that are inevitable when any band makes a conventional studio album, The Orielles have put the studio to good use to expand their sound with additional instrumentation, in particular synthesiser, beyond their traditional guitar, bass and drums set up.

Michael Hobson

People Here

Outlast The Earth

People Here may only be in their infancy as a band, but the members individually are no strangers to Sheffield’s music scene or the world of recording. Having all experienced some success in previous ventures across the genre spectrum, it’s no surprise that their first EP as a collective is a hit.

The band describe themselves as 'ghost pop/post-ghost punk', which, although not a term I’ve come across before, makes sense. The reverb-heavy, haunting vocals of Claire Williams can definitely be described as ghostly and the supernatural themes in her lyrics match closely. Though there’s an accessibility to all three tracks which warrants the 'pop' tag, there are still elements of garage punk which give more of an underground feel to the record.

Whilst maintaining coherency, each of the three tracks has something different to offer. Opener ‘Eat’ is a personal favourite, feeling laidback yet bursting with energy, whereas track two, ‘Half Woman Half Witch’, has more of a melancholic tone. The final song, ‘Life To Lists’, features harmonies reminiscent of Stealing Sheep and Daughter, but People Here bring their own flavour to the soft vocals which have become popular this decade by combining them with breaks of heavier guitar. 

Outlast The Earth is available to download now on a pay-as-you-feel basis. Although People Here have only played a handful of gigs so far, I’m crossing my fingers that we’ll see a lot more of them this year.

Tasha Franek

S>>D

Co Intel Pro

Sheffield electro masters Central Processing Unit show no sign of slowing down in 2018, with a double album from Sean Dorris that could accompany many cult sci-fi films.

This is Dorris’s first physical release under the S>>D guise and it's a clear signal of the label's intention to entrench itself as a major force from here onwards. Deep analogue bass, stark melodies and 808 beats work well together, with caustic, indistinguishable and haunting samples added for cinematic effect.

The album feels like it was conjured up after a John Carpenter and Stranger Things box set binge, with ‘Cell Intruder’ sounding like an updated version of the theme to The Thing. Even the titles sound like films from the 80s, with 'Devil’s Tower', 'Fragment of Fear' and 'Kill Screen' all adding to the concept. Unlike many past CPU releases, this one is aimed less at the dancefloor and more at the home listener, especially through headphones in the dark. The science fiction influences are strongly intertwined with hip hop elements and the album has a genuine start and finish.

Unlike so many electronic LPs, which often feel like a collection of tracks that just happen to be together, with Co Intel Pro it appears that the Belfast producer had a clear notion of a single piece of work. It all comes together nicely and, just like your typical Carpenter movie soundtrack, it's filled with brooding tension and uncomfortable movements interspersed with that classic CPU rolling 808 sound.

Andy Tattersall