ALBUM: VUKOVI – ‘Nula’

“What does the future hold for the female of the species?”

Welcome ‘user17359’. You will shortly be departing Trinity Lunar Port for Mars Sanctity Terminal, immersing yourself in VUKOVI‘s latest record for the duration. Since their formation twelve years ago, the genre-defying Scottish duo – comprised of vocalist Janine Shilstone and guitarist Hamish Reilly – have been in flux; roaming rabid wolves sinking their teeth into a constantly evolving sound all their own. From 2011’s It Looked So Good On Me… and 2012’s …But I Won’t Wear You Again EPs, to 2017’s self titled debut and 2020’s Fall Better LP, Janine and Hamish’s chemistry is infectious; a combination of “dark themes and dirty fucking riffs.” Now, VUKOVI are exiting the stratosphere and heading into deep space with sci-fi/horror NULA; a conceptual album set in a distant (yet unnervingly familiar) future. Inspired by sci-fi escapism like Katsuhiro Otomo’s Akira, NULA is a cyberpunk abomination; a sonically ambitious mutation of anthemic pop melodies.

Opening with the cinematic ‘DEPARTURE’ and moshpit inducing ‘TAINTED’, VUKOVI set the tone for NULA. “You’re a fucking monster…” Considered the property of nefarious capitalist corporation Sanctity, and exploited through inhumane experimentation for over twenty five years, the eponymous extra-terrestrial is an otherworldly reflection of Janine’s own survival; her subconscious trauma bleeding into her lyrics. Compulsive, creative and unapologetic: We’d like to wish you a safe and pleasant journey.

“You think I’m a god… Fuck that, fuck you too!” ‘LASSO’ condemns pop idol worship – and highlights the music industry’s hypocrisy, through filthy, fuzz-drenched riffs and insatiable pop-tinged vocals. ‘QUENCH’ delivers sexual liberation with moxie and nu metal groove. “I’m not in love, just wanna feel your touch!” Infused with synthetic noise, ‘SLO’ follows; an ethereal exploration of OCD: “You have a toxic reliance on it and in your eyes that condones reckless behaviour.” Yet, despite feeling broken and vulnerable, NULA (and indeed Janine) re-claims control on mid-album pop-punk-rager ‘I EXIST’, through blood, death and raucous riffs – courtesy of Hamish’s live wire intensity! “I’ve found you, motherfucker!” “I think about what’s happening in the world too much… The greed. The cruelty. There’s a lot of that on the record,” Janine explains. Depression… It’s a temporary feeling. Emotionally driven, VUKOVI stage-dive into anthemic chaos, stronger and feeling empowered: “Stand up / You’ve got to fight… / I know it’s tough / But it’s not enough to give up…”

“I AM NULA. AND I AM FREE.”

After brief respite during interlude ‘ATTENTION’, the disquiet duo’s distorted disorder continues on ‘SHADOW’, ‘HADES’ and ‘KILL IT’; three tracks propelled by an infectious combination of electronic instrumentation, heavy-as-fuck hooks, and raw emotion. “One taste of blood is not enough…” For NULA, revenge is poetic. Confronting abuse with justified angst – “Oh, I’ve waited, for retribution / I’ll watch you burn…” – ‘HURT’ is heavy metal catharsis, whilst ‘SAD’ is a somber realisation that you can never forget trauma. Just like Ripley in Ridley Scott’s Alien, NULA is a survivor realising her own strength and resilience. “I’ll never be whole but I’m a fighter / Kick me in the dirt but still like dust I’ll rise / I’m gonna be heard.” There is no closure, but that is okay. NULA represents female empowerment, and there is life after trauma.

So… “What does the future hold for the female of the species?” Janine pauses for a zeptosecond during closer ‘XX’ before declaring in her distinct Scottish drawl: “She is the answer to extinguishing this toxic masculine cesspool of a society. She deserves to live in a world without fearing for her life… She is the future of humanity… and it’s time to fuck the system!”

Ken Wynne
@Ken_Wynne

LIVE: Katie Malco – The Lexington, London 25.11.22

“I was going to wear a wedding dress, but I thought that would only be funny for about two minutes” joked Katie Malco to her sold out crowd at The Lexington last Friday night. Comparing her headline show to the nuptials she said she was unlikely to have, the Northampton songwriter delivered passionate renditions of her indie-folk anthems alongside interjections of wry humour – her denim jacket and its leather tassels proving to be a better choice of garment than a white dress anyway.

In contrast to the overcrowded bar downstairs full of World Cup fans, Malco’s audience were the perfect mix of “quiet and energetic” as she acknowledged towards the end of her set. It’s easy to be attentive when someone’s voice is so captivating – her clear vocals and poignant lyrics cutting through at all the right moments. Playing songs from her debut album, Failures, which she described as a mixture of “cock rock and sad ballads” – aka “salads” – Malco opened with the anthemic ‘Animals’, setting the bar high for the rest of her performance.

Despite having to “talk shop” about a few tech problems between songs, Malco and her band played together effortlessly and undeterred by their monitor issues. Usually accustomed to performing alone, the songwriter clearly enjoyed having the backing of a full band to enhance the impact of songs like ‘Let’s Go To War’, ‘September’, ‘TW’ and ‘Brooklyn’. Her “salads” were equally as impressive though, with gentler tracks ‘Night Avenger’ and the tender ‘Peckham’ proving to be real set highlights. She even provided an early festive treat with a solo rendition of ‘Be Good At Xmas’ too.

With a sold out London gig marking the end of her recent UK tour, Malco playfully asked “does this mean I’m a big deal now?” and after that set, we genuinely think she might be.

Follow Katie Malco on bandcamp, Spotify, Twitter, Facebook & Instagram

Photo Credit: Robin Hardman

Kate Crudgington
@KCBobCut

Track Of The Day: The Famous Daxx – ‘Treetops’

A deceptively light tune, ‘Treetops‘ by The Famous Daxx has layers you won’t notice at a glance. Inspired by fairy tales, the song has a playfulness in its music combined with heart-wrenching pain in the lyrics, which deconstruct the stories we take for granted as being light-hearted just because they are told to children.

‘Treetops’ is set long after the story of Hansel and Gretel’s abandonment by their father. It is sung from Gretel’s perspective as she laments the death of her brother at his own hand, after finally succumbing to the trauma of his childhood. The song makes a statement about masculinity and mental health, and its impact on men’s lives, whilst also being an exploration of how it feels to love someone struggling with their mental health and the conflicting, long lasting emotions that tragedy can trigger.

It’s a gentle song; the vocals are soft, and flow delicately over almost playful slide guitars. The sorrow in the words and the darkness of the subject matter overall is hidden by the air of lightness in the music, which itself acts as a challenge to our perception of stories. Much like the original tale, the sweetness of the sound masks the suffering at its core.

‘Treetops’ doesn’t have a happy ending. In the same breath that Gretel resolves to speak out, she fails to break the cycle – “This time I will speak my mind / I open my mouth but nothing comes out” – leaving her pain lingering in the air. The track is profound, but doesn’t pretend to have answers to the helplessness Gretel feels; it laments that all Gretel’s love ultimately couldn’t save her brother from his pain, and knows there isn’t an easy solution that can be condensed into a three minute song. But it leaves you with the undeniable conviction that it’s worth the work it will take to find one anyway.

‘Treetops’ is out now, ahead of The Famous Daxx’s upcoming debut EP TFD.

Kirstie Summers
@actuallykurt

Photo Credit: Hannah Mason

Track Of The Day: Human Interest – ‘Mixing Paint’

Having received wide-spread acclaim for their debut EP, Desire Paths, earlier this year, and wowing crowds at shows supporting legends like Self Esteem and Dave Rowntree, London duo Human Interest have now shared an infectious new single.

Reflecting on the darkest crevices of the mind with a fizzing post-punk energy, ‘Mixing Paint‘ oozes the band’s trademark gritty allure as the sweeping power of Tyler Damara Kelly’s vocals ripple alongside atmospheric bass hooks, building with driving beats into a fiercely immersive anthem. Another single (following the utterly addictive ‘Cool Cats’) cementing Human Interest as my favourite new band right now without a doubt.

Of the track, the band explain:

What started off as a string of 1AM ramblings on my Notes app became the processing of deeply personal experience which happened late 2021. The whole ethos of the song is about analysing the dark crevices of the mind and turning it into something light-hearted, almost bigger than yourself… We wanted it to sound like being in a smoky underground cabaret when all of a sudden the roof is torn off to reveal Armageddon.

Mari Lane
@marimindles

Photo Credit: Dougie Chalmers