EP: King Hannah – ‘Tell Me Your Mind And I’ll Tell You Mine’

More than three years ago, I saw King Hannah for the first time. Way down on the bill, in a support slot at what, I later found out, was only their third ever gig. Mesmerised, I wrote a live review that termed them “real music for grown-ups”. Fast forward to just a couple of months ago, and they’d signed to the Berlin indie stalwart, City Slang (home of Anna Von Hauswolff, Arcade Fire, Lambchop, and more). That same day, they dropped their first video for the re-issued ‘Crème Brûlée’ and now comes their debut physical release, a six-track EP with a natty special coloured vinyl edition that comes in cream. Along with another video for second single ‘Meal Deal’, the EP’s release finds the band, whose music centres around lead singer Hannah Merrick and guitarist Craig Whittle, in form that’s as stunning as their live set from the days of Summer 2017.

Longer than some albums, calling Tell Me Your Mind And I’ll Tell You Mine an EP is a reflection of King Hannah’s capacity for understatement, with its two singles both more than six minutes, and understandably dominating the record. ‘Crème Brûlée’ is still the standout, for me, despite the band’s insistence that the song really is simply about how much Hannah likes the titular dessert.  It seems likely to have been the song that most prompted the band’s comparisons to Mazzy Star, but there’s also a wry, detached sense of longing in the vocals’ laconic Nico-drawl. Much like the dessert itself, the song’s exterior shell is a thin covering over something far deeper – in this case, Hannah’s lyrics sit on top amongst its opening, but once they drop a little over halfway in, the layers of instrumentation spill out, led by a crooning, carousing, alt.country guitar line courtesy of Craig.  

Either side of ‘Creme Brûlée’ are two tracks that demonstrate opposing sides of King Hannah’s take on the genre. The upbeat ‘Bill Tench’ finds Hannah musing on a possible future life in Paris, but veers more towards mature US alt.rock. There’s a sense of road journeys, with the feel of a car passing distant landscapes, in the taut lines of lead guitar, the acoustic giving pace, and the bass sketching out melodic rhythms. Perhaps the neatest trick of all is the way in which Hannah’s lingering, longing vocals make words rhyme, even when they have no business doing so. 

Penultimate track, ‘The Sea Has Stretch Marks’, is a much sadder, slower number, with more lilting guitars and a semi-spoken section from which the EP takes its title. That being said, there’s a picture painted here too, with the song’s flow of guitars into and out of  electronic reverb mimicking the waves of the sea in its title.

‘Meal Deal’, at some seven and a half minutes, is the more epic of the two singles, combining observational story-telling in its Courtney Barnett-esque lyrics with a sound that’s more reminiscent of The Handsome Family. Underpinned by low-slung bass, and led by twangy acoustic and electric guitar, it’s a song in three parts – which may give some explanation to the ‘sandwich, snack and a drink’ combo referenced by its title. Starting as a light-hearted tale of moving houses and spiders in the bath that need a feed, its meandering style comes to a more dramatic mid-point, at which Hannah’s vocals become doubled and echoey. “I can’t keep a secret”, she intones, as the guitar sounds grow more ominous, before an instrumental two minutes rounds out the track.  

The remaining songs showcase the band’s ability to create atmosphere – opener ‘And Then Out of Nowhere It Rained’ commences the EP, with its sounds of rain and gently strummed guitar that build to something more broodingly oppressive, whilst Hannah’s voice rolls around the track. Closer ‘Reprise (Moving Day)’ embodies the post-rock tendencies that King Hannah flirt with throughout the EP, with a swirl of garbled recorded voice, thudding percussion and a deep bassy electronic sound, followed by a largely instrumental opening two minutes.  It shifts style after that to a single strummed guitar and Hannah repeating the lines “Moving Day will come a little closer / I got some moving for you” before a feedback whine closes things out.  

There was always something real about King Hannah. In the video for ‘Meal Deal’, Merrick stares at herself in the mirror, backstage at Liverpool’s Playhouse Theatre, looking every inch the alt.rock star in the making, like the hybrid offspring of Patti Smith and PJ Harvey. And, with a lead guitarist as gifted as Craig Whittle, steeped in the kind of musicianship that comes from growing up listening to Jackson Browne and Neil Young, she has the perfect foil. Already capable of producing the kind of songs that it takes most acts years to craft, King Hannah might just be about to tell the world what’s on their mind.

Tell Me Your Mind And I’ll Tell You Mine is out now via City Slang Records. And make sure you catch King Hannah taking over our Instagram this Wednesday, 25th November from 6pm!

John McGovern
@etinsuburbiaego

Photo Credit: Lucy Mclachlan

EP: Elsa Hewitt – ‘Ghostcats’

Whatever your mood, electronic artist & producer Elsa Hewitt has a tune to defuse or accompany it. What she achieves through improvisation, many would struggle to create with the most calculated intentions; and her dizzying blend of looped synths & vocals on new EP Ghostcats beautifully showcases her intuitive talent.

Described by Hewitt as an “opener” for her next release Lupa (due later this year), Ghostcats is a collection of minimal electronic compositions that have a soothing, almost translucent quality to them. Filled with celestial looping vocal harmonies, the ambient ‘Godly’ opens the EP, followed by the equally ethereal ‘Massive Charade’. It meanders in to brief but beautiful tracks ‘Wave State’ and ‘Mounting Up’. On each of her tracks, Hewitt’s breathy vocals and spacious synthesizers merge together to create a soothing, fuzzy atmosphere reminiscent of a lucid dream.

There’s a pleasantly jarring quality to tracks ‘Still’, ‘Kevlar’ and ‘Easy’, whilst ‘Raspberry’ is sweet and breezy. On ‘Velvet Scrunchy’, it feels like Hewitt is toying with the soft accessory the track is named after; gently opening and closing her palm around the garment. The twinkling sound of ‘Rebird’ close the EP, which from its opening loop has been a soothing sonic head rush.

A much needed distraction in these strange times, Elsa Hewitt’s Ghostcats is a blissful electronic offering, designed to leave you reassuringly lightheaded.

 

Buy your limited edition Ghostcats cassette via Bandcamp here.

Kate Crudgington
@KCBobCut

EP: Death Valley Girls – ‘Breakthrough’

Los Angeles five-piece Death Valley Girls have made their name in evoking a certain kind of late ’60s/early ’70s rock and roll – the point where the raw power of The Stooges and the MC5 meets the horror glam of The New York Dolls and The Cramps, with a hefty dose of the era’s psych flavour laid on-top. 

But one of the lesser known outfits of the period – or certainly, where this writer is concerned – is Atomic Rooster, an offshoot of The Crazy World of Arthur Brown, whose track ‘Breakthrough’ is being covered here. And even though that would normally be on-trend for DVG, the song actually found them via a cover by ’70s Nigerian rockers The Funkees. If that wasn’t circuitous enough, the single’s PR also cites the band’s contact with Damien Echols as another inspiration for the EP of the same name – specifically the development of his powers as a magician, master meditator and expert on astral projection, whilst serving eighteen years on death row, when wrongfully convicted as part of the West Memphis Three.

That complexity aside, the track is a rip-snorter. Initially built around a full minute of pulsing organ chord and riff-tastic guitars, the song really kicks into gear with lead singer Bonnie Bloomgarden’s vocals, echoey and ethereal, but powerful with it. Its chorus verges on stadium anthemic, with the phrase “I gotta make a breakthrough!” on repeat, before the word “NOW!” brings in its middle eight organ reprise and funky guitar licks. 

At a full five minutes and twenty-six seconds, this is no latter-day to-the-point banger, but the kind of old-style garage rawk experience that you can really live in, with a rhythm section that starts simple but builds in intensity towards its crescendo close. Its foot-stomping is most reminiscent of fellow psych-revivalists GOAT – perhaps unsurprising given that both bands have come to their sound via Afro-rock – although here it’s served with a quintessential US growl and underscored by a mix of Cali trippiness and Southern fried fretwork.

The reference to Echols’ experience is made pretty clear by the song’s lyrics, with their reference to breaking out of the prisons, both visible and invisible, in which we find ourselves.

The EP’s other side is another cover, albeit from a very different source. Having gigged briefly with the late alt-indie great Daniel Johnston, DVG have covered his ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll / EGA’ from the 1994 album Fun by way of a tribute. 

Clearly, for the group, there’s an emotional resonance to both tracks and it’s no coincidence, perhaps, that the EP’s release comes at a time when individuals are looking for sweet relief at a difficult time. The Johnston song, with its refrain of “That rock n roll / It saved my soul”, coupled with the EP’s title track, is a clear indicator of where Death Valley Girls currently find themselves – looking back to the past, for some guidance of where to go next. A little bit of retro-rock might just be what we all need to break through.

 

Breakthrough is out today via Suicide Squeeze Records. Order here. Or listen on Spotify.

John McGovern
@etinsuburbiaego

Photo Credit: Abby Banks

EP: Julia-Sophie – ‘Y?’

Describing herself as finally finding her hullabaloo within the storm, new electronic artist Julia-Sophie jumped onto the scene supporting GIHE faves Sink Ya Teeth. Last week she released her debut EP, Y?, and we cannot stop listening to it.

This record draws you in from the outset. Lead track ‘Breathe’ envelopes you with its sound as the pulsating title lyric repeats, leaving it reverberating around your head after only the second listen. At points, especially on ‘x0x’, I feel that I can hear the influences of Gazelle Twin, where I am sat watching this music performed in a darkened auditorium with a light show that electrifies the stage as the music electrifies your ears.

Of the record Julia-Sophie explains “I came to point in my life when I realised that I had been coasting through life and in these songs, rather than carrying on floating I chose to rip myself open and see what would come out the other side.”

Y? is a sublime four track record of emotionally intelligent electrifying electronica. Music which builds and layers, over and over, resulting in an almost painfully blissful experience. I’m completely addicted and have not enjoyed an EP this much in a long while – Julia-Sophie is clearly an artist who has a solid understanding of producing, removing boundaries and letting music speak for itself. I cannot, and do not want to stop listening. 

Listen to Julia-Sophie’s EP Y? here. Follow Julia-Sophie on Instagram for more updates.