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Music Reviews: Russian Linesman, Hashtagobi, Stacey McMullen and more

3 August 17 words: LeftLion

Get your lugholes round this lot...

Russian Linesman
The Eysenck Suite – Parts I & II
EP (Loki Recordings)

In 2012, Russian Linesman released Icelandic Skies; a meditative and elegiac paean to time spent on the Nordic island. And then nothing. Now, five years later, the electronic music maker is back with the first two of four EPs based on Eysenck’s theory of personality. The first, Melancholic, combines found sounds (voices, possibly some wildlife) with widescreen shimmering synths, woozy bleeps, and jittery percussive flecks that elevate each track just enough to stop them being dragged down by their moodiness. Olympiapark is a blissful dreamscape; I Thought You Were a Legend Until You Apologised tosses and turns steadily, changing moods and textures over its four-and-a-bit minutes; eleven-minute Odin! closes the EP with triumphant horns. Despite its often moody atmosphere, the seven tracks on Part I see Russian Linesman in reflective mode. By contrast, the set of songs on the second EP, Choleric, are a much more anxious-sounding affair. Pia Trivialise is tense, its buzzing synth lines humming like a swarm of bees; The Divided Self has a warbling bassline that’s woken up with a headache; and Munich Story lifts the mood ever so slightly, with a nervy dancefloor beat as machines sulk with menace in the background. A modern day composer, taking fragments of sound and manipulating varied electronic sounds to create wistful mood pieces, Russian Linesman has crafted a subtle-yet-affected listen that really draws the listener in. With recent support from 6 Music, hopefully this series of EPs will mean the enigmatic producer won’t be disappearing from view again anytime soon. Paul Klotschkow

Bloody Head
Failed Experiments in Kindness
Album (Narcissist Hypnotist Records)

The follow-up release to last year’s July 16 cassette sees the band dig further into the murky mire of growling riffs that sound like a rottweiler with a hangover, played at mind-mangling volume. Opener Black Slugs is an alternative-universe Sabbath, where they got blitzed on horse tranquillisers instead of mountains of Colombia’s finest. From then on in, Failed Experiments in Kindness is a masterclass in dirty, punky riffs played with a hardcore heaviness; Dave’s vocals roaring with a stunted fury and urgency as if he necks a bottle of bleach before each take. This isn’t just heads-down riffage and shouting – although that’s no bad thing – there’s a weirdness at play here that holds the whole thing together; Death Trip Baby’s squealing breakdown or the disorientating The Prizes of Incest, for example. An album by some of Nottingham’s finest noise merchants that will leave you feeling bruised and battered. Paul Klotschkow

Brad Dear
The Only Road I Know
EP (Self-released)

After attending the EP launch of The Only Road I Know back in March, I was curious to see how this artist’s live performance compared to the recorded version. Writing using a heavy narrative, many of his songs double up as a form of storytelling. The once-solo artist has teamed up with a band to give him a fuller sound, with a more expansive feel to his tracks, thanks to the addition of drums, guitar, percussion and my personal favourite, the violin, which adds a good twang to most of his tunes. The five songs here – Only Road I Know, Special Brew, Billy Brown, Far Away and I’m Still Here – make this collection kind of messy, ramshackle and fun, but with an intensity to it. Mixing a heavy, acoustic-focused musical backing with gruff vocals, the EP verges on a folk sound without completely giving into it. Elizabeth O’Riordan

Dystopian Future Movies
Album (Oak Island Records)

As a metal fan who grew up in the eighties on the relatively uncomplicated riffing of Iron Maiden, the loudQUIETloud revolution of the nineties alt-rock scene blew my tiny mind. It turned out there was a lot more to metal than foot-on-monitor galloping riffs after all. Who knew? Post-metal subsequently took the form even further than the Pixies ever did by fusing metal with some of the timbre and textures of shoegazing, which is more or less what Dystopian Future Movies offer up here in their debut album. You’ll find plenty of shifts in volume, as well as some outstanding drumming by Bill Fisher, but what really marks this record as something special are the haunting melodies and ethereal, floating vocals of singer and guitarist Caroline Cawley. Vaguely reminiscent of a punchier Warpaint, play this record in a darkened room and let the music carry you away downstream. Tim Sorrell

Gentle Heart of a Freak
Album (Self-released)

After listening to this EP for the second time in a row, I ended up wondering whether songs can be both upbeat and melancholy in equal measure. Either way, I’d been sent into a complete trance with the sad, sweet and completely spacey quality of the tracks and a strange combination of a muted Elliott Smith, Vampire Weekend and Vance Joy came to mind; a trio I never thought could be mixed together. Each song holds a completely different feel. Paired with a female vocalist and use of trumpet, Flöat’s first ever release, Gentle Heart of a Freak, is both intriguing and smooth in its use of sounds and instruments. Personal favourites include Vapidity, Post Denial and Fear Worn Friend but the whole EP is perfect to listen to when you’re right in the mood to be absorbed by music. Elizabeth O’Riordan

A Day in the Mind of a University Student
Album (Self-released)

A Day in the Mind of a University Student is a day in the life of self-proclaimed “computer science nerd” Hastagobi. The young student rapper gives us a glimpse into the trials and tribulations of what it’s like to be a tax dodger in 2017: struggling to drag yourself to your 9am lecture, being skint – “Should have bought a Just Eat pizza instead of a Dominos” – hating clubs, girl problems and grim hangovers. It comes to a head on Pagliacci.exe; a moment of doubt, regret and depressive thoughts, before Graveyard sees our protagonist gathering his thoughts and pulling himself together. He squeezes a lot into fifty minutes, with hyperactive production underpinning each track – the aural equivalent of having a hundred tabs open in your browser at once – all held together by Hashtagobi’s rapid-fire delivery that’s sprinkled throughout with humorous insight and observations. Paul Klotschkow

Take Me Away
EP (Self-released)

Like a cuppa with your nanna, or a gravy dinner on a rainy day, some of life’s greatest pleasures are the simplest. Issaka’s cracked that code with Take Me Away: one woman, one guitar, the occasional drizzle of percussion and an earthy finish. The singer displays her dramatic vocal range with clarity, and delivers an acrobatic performance not so dissimilar from Corinne Bailey-Rae and them sapphire-faded jeans. I wasn’t sold on the sea sounds on Holiday; while they definitely set the scene, they’re a little out of place when taking the rest of the album into consideration, and seem to stop abruptly after the introduction. But it’s a small hiccup from an otherwise solid offering. Take Me Away is an ode to taking life as it comes, embracing the ups and downs and making the best of what you have. This EP is a collection of lullabies for modern life. Top dollar. Lucy Manning

Joseph Knight
EP (Self-released)

Rediscover has a vibe that mirrors its name. Telling the story of someone trying to figure out life, the EP is vulnerable in the greatest way, with well put-together music and lyrics full of raw emotions as exemplified in the confessions “I care too much” and “It’s ok to hurt.” The sound is mainly acoustic with some very gentle indie-pop elements involved, alongside a classic mix of guitar and soft drums, creating an overall experience of being a little sad, yet still hopeful. The four tracks on this EP all manage to be both gentle-sounding and catchy, with memorable choruses and soothing verses. Minutes is a particular standout moment, full of great harmonies with special guest Lowrie. Perfect for a rainy day, or that moment when you’re sat in the car dramatically looking out the window; Joseph Knight is worth a listen. Elizabeth O’Riordan

Stacey McMullen
I Wait
EP (I’m Not From London / Wire & Wool Records)

Being released during the week of the general election was unintentional, but played well for Stacey. Although not overtly political in his music, anyone who follows him on social media, or attended his launch at Nottingham Contemporary, can’t fail to see that he’s a flag-waving socialist. The title track starts out with flamenco-esque guitars and evolves into Morrisey-riddled contradictory lyrics like “Loving you was self-hate.” It’s obviously a piece of personal introspection, but with an eerie edge. Lines in the Sand describes a post-nuclear society – “Where can you go when the bomb falls?” – but with lots more twiddly guitars. It’s hard to pigeonhole Stacey’s sound: Baby Girl consists of more straightforward blues, I Know is once again led by a Spanish guitar, and his vocal style varies between crooning and rapping. A strong debut and hints at plenty more to come from one of the city’s hardest working musicians. Jared Wilson

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