EP: The Famous Daxx – ‘TFD’

Very few people have the courage to describe themselves as “famous,” but in the case of The Famous Daxx – the postmodern surf grunge project making waves in London’s independent scene – the descriptor is rather prescient. In truth, with the release of her debut EP, TFD, the word “famous” feels more like foreshadowing. Intuitive quality and instrumental prowess are spread all over the four tracks, and there is little doubt Daxx will be nothing short of famous very soon.

Beyond the technically impressive nature of what’s happening within the music, the songs also demonstrate Daxx’s profound understanding of narrative. With inspiration coming from the emotions of lockdown, as well as cult documentaries and fairytales, the release crafts a story that is equal parts relatable and mystical, as old-world sounds are presented through a modern lens.

The first track and the EP’s lead single ‘Treetops‘ starts things out with Daxx on what seems to be a quiet stroll in a pleasant orchard, but with careful listening it’s actually the story of a lost soul sliding through (and almost celebrating) the absurdity of life. But fear not, despite the forlorn nature of this jaunt, her ghosts are there to provide company through Shirelles-esque backing vocals as they coast on the breezy guitar strums and light-touch drums.

As Daxx finishes her stroll, she turns around to face her starting point and finds herself in the distance, or rather ‘On Your Horizon‘, but with the solemn power in this next song, there is no way she can’t be seen or heard. The guitar slides are long and edgy, whilst the changing beats predicate huge changes in emotion and, throughout the song, there is a consistent ascension in sound that releases in the form of an epic jam in the final moments.

After such a display, all that’s left is Daxx. She put herself out there. She made her feelings known. She thinks that she has to ‘Surrender‘, but she’s not done. She still has a fire in her that explodes out of amplifiers and drum heads with the kind of flooring energy that makes you hit rewind on the song and go through the beginning and middle again, just to hear the end.

‘Surrender’ ends with so much force, it wipes the slate clean and leaves nothing but ‘White‘ (perhaps a reference to purity, or even death). Daxx is more than fine with letting you decide for yourself – just lean back and enjoy the haunting and seductive nature of her vocals and guitar.

TFD, the debut EP from The Famous Daxx, is out now.

Harry Levin

EP: wormboys – ‘smalltime’

Infused with the intense vulnerability they are fast becoming known for, smalltime is the latest EP from wormboys. The Leeds-based four-piece have a distinct sound that mixes an eccentric mashup of genres into a unique experimental style. The EP is made up of three tracks – ‘something pretty’, ‘worm’ and ‘tree’.

something pretty’ kicks off with a solid rhythm; the throbbing bass riff and steady drum beat settle in before the screaming guitar leaps in over the top. Higher pitched vocals ring clear above the growling combination of drums and strings, whilst the vocals wail over the grungy, fuzzy music – a howling tribute to queer hedonism. The lyrics and instruments blend in a way that swirls and flows, evoking smoke and glowsticks and swaying movements that aren’t quite balanced, but aren’t quite ready to topple over either. The track draws you into the intoxicating moment it depicts, then spits you out at the other end wishing for it back.

The next track, ‘worm’, is softer; low strings twinkle gently over a subtler beat. The little tune is almost mournful as deeper vocals carry the lyrics, soft and low, drifting like mist. A second vocal – higher, this time – highlights the melody in a distant, ghostly cry whilst in the background there are crackles that almost sound as if there might be something wrong with your speaker. They ramp up as the song gathers energy into a raw, powerful wail of guitar. Upon a repeat listen, those early crackles are wonderfully foreboding. The combination of the soft vocals and the guitars sound like a trapped scream, as it needles into your head with its fierce sense of neurosis and paranoia. This is a great track for showing off the band’s experimental side, using homemade pedals to create a unique distortion on the strings – it is distinctly wormboys, blasting the honest emotion already at the core of their sound.

Finally, we reach ‘tree’, which chugs to a throbbing start that echoes the distorted crackle of the last track, then drifts into a fuller, rounder tune. It has brighter chords and a simple but catchy riff played over strings that dance around each other. Although it couldn’t be called cheerful, the opening bars are misleadingly bouncy. When the vocals kick in, they are pained, ripping through the false pep and thrusting the feeling into the song – if it didn’t fit so perfectly with the rest of the track, you might imagine the vocal line is unprepared. It sounds spontaneous, spilling out all the pain without plan or direction. The music drops away to let the outburst shine, leaving a sense of isolation in the verses until the instruments leap back in for chorus with a harder punch.

As a whole, smalltime combines three exciting tracks to create a fantastic platform to launch wormboys into the next stage of their career. The EP shows off a huge range of skill in just three short tracks, showing off both a mastery of popular styles as well as an undeniable talent for creating altogether new sounds. 

Kirstie Summers

EP: deep tan – ‘diamond horsetail’

Infectiously off-kilter, Hackney-based queer punk trio deep tan have re-emerged with their sophomore extended play, diamond horsetail; five minimalistic DIY tracks of uncompromising post post-punk. Following the shimmering psychedelic pop of 2019 singles ‘Air’ and ‘Shimmer’, and the haunting discordant hooks of their subversive debut EP – 2021’s creeping speedwellsdiamond horsetail propels deep tan’s otherworldly sound into the exosphere through dissonant guitar riffs, eccentric bass-lines, syncopated rhythm, and intimate vocals. Embracing the seductive allure of their swirling sound, guitarist/vocalist Wafah Dufour, bassist Celeste Guinness and drummer Lucy Rushton will hypnotise listeners into questioning their identity.

Hitting hard with opener ‘beginners’ krav maga’, deep tan explore angular arrangement on a track that is as aggressive as its own namesake; contact combat! Juxtaposed over an irresistible twangy groove, Wafah’s soft, dexterous, and often critical vocals remind us that learning self-defence will unfortunately not help most women feel safe walking alone at night (male violence is an epidemic) – “I stand outside / I bide my time / Wait for the mood to pass / Night-time checklist / Keys in a fist / In the dark can’t relax.”

Inserting itself into your brain, ‘device devotion’ follows as an ode to deep tan’s browser history; the trio share their fascination with (and critique of) internet subcultures – from lobster erotica to vore-porn subreddits – hooking you in with delicate vocal notes and erratic instrumentation. The presence of the world wide web also influences ‘gender expansion pack’, a mostly instrumental track utilising WikiHow hypnosis through subliminal messaging. Underlying spoken word is low-pitched to a subliminal frequency allowing deep tan to challenge cis-het men – “the demographic that buys most of our vinyl” – into exploring their gender.

Caught with his hands down his pants, Rudy Giuliani’s public image melts under deep tan’s sardonic black humour during the “diss track you never asked for” ‘rudy ya ya ya’ – “We’re seeking law advice / ‘Cause he’s a legal eagle supersized / A considerable adversary / Rudy ya ya ya / Giuli ya ya ya!” – before the cathartic title track disturbs with abrasive outbursts of ancient and justified rage.

Maintaining their intensity, deep tan crescendo into a cataclysm of obliterating melody and anthemic vitriol; channelling the chaos of The KLF, the defiant attitude of The Slits, and the gloomy new wave of Joy Division. And yet diamond horsetail isn’t constricted by influence. Every detail has been carefully considered in the creation of deep tan’s strangely addictive sound, further developing their identity through ceaseless DIY punk energy.

diamond horsetail is out now via Practise Music.

Ken Wynne

Photo Credit: Alex Matraxia

EP: BLAB – ‘Word Of Mouth’

The sound of what happens when you fully embrace your choices and lean into the raw power each moment, Southend-based musician Francis Murray aka BLAB has shared her debut EP, Word Of Mouth. Released via Cool Thing Records and formed of three previously released singles and a brand new track, BLAB combines direct lyrics with infectious riffs to push past personal and political frustrations, providing her listeners with sharply observed judgments on both.

Fuelled by her disdain for current political policies, opener ‘Eton Mess’ is a rumbling “anti-fascist anthem” that proudly sticks two fingers up to the establishment. It’s one of two tracks that see BLAB take aim at the crushing nature of conformity, with the restless ‘Insurance’ providing another dose of much needed eye-rolling at conventional ideas of power and success.

It’s on new “anti-love song” ‘If Only’ and astrology-inspired single ‘Gemini’ that BLAB is at her strongest – refreshingly vulnerable with her revelations, but still retaining her rebellious attitude. Lyrically, ‘If Only’ is littered with hetero-normative paraphernalia, culminating in the realisation that you can’t rely on someone else to be the foundation of your happiness. On ‘Gemini’, she filters the pain of unrequited love through an astrological lens, combining catchy riffs with her bittersweet lyrics to work through her mixed feelings.

On Word Of Mouth, BLAB cuts through barbed emotional moments, softens unsettling realisations and firmly communicates her anti-establishment, anti-ego message. “I’m not even really consciously trying to do anything,” BLAB comments about her EP, “I’m just doing what I want, writing what I love and talking about my life.” This approach to song-writing reaffirms the narratives of independence within her music, and we can’t wait to hear more of it in the near future.

Listen to Word Of Mouth below.

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Photo Credit: James Mannion

Kate Crudgington