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
@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
@KCBobCut

EP: Billie Flynn – ‘Hey Stranger’

I’ve taken a while to find the words for Billie Flynn’s debut EP Hey Stranger, a heartfelt meditation on grief. Each listen has highlighted something new and different, evoked more and more feelings; gorgeous, but increasingly hard to describe in words. It’s a thing of feeling. It feels like memories whispered on a cliff edge and the wind carrying parts of you away. It feels like the moments of stillness after the soil’s been turned. It’s incredibly honest and it  demonstrates Flynn’s infinite potential – her lyrics speaking truth to grief, while fitting comfortably into the cosy featherlight and luxuriously breathy cocoon of her voice box. 

The quality of production is consistently immersive – heady and cinematic, each song getting the best out of synths, pianos and Flynn’s unique tone. I’ve written about and adored previously released tracks already, but the latest ‘Forever Goodbye’ shows Billie’s artistry at a whole other level, it surpasses expectations. I held my breath as I listened. It’s about a loss which occurred during Billie’s teenage years and is utterly stunning in a very special, incisive and relatable way. Lyrics such as  “there’s a look in the eye of a friend when they mention your name, like they’re reminding me of pain, like I’d ever let it go” get to the core of what it is to live with loss in the presence of others. The trepidation, the repetition, the changing pace of the world outside as something privately sinks into your soul, and the never ending cycles. For an EP to so unambiguously be about the life changing power of loss without being in any way maudlin, is truly magical. 

There’s hope and transformation woven in  too. ‘The Good Girl’ beautifully explores the personal journeys our pain can inform as Flynn sings about shedding people-pleasing tendencies, pushing boundaries and growing into someone different. What does it mean to be authentic? What does it mean to reject expectations? What are those moments in life when we feel ourselves truly step into our own power? These are the questions ‘The Good Girl’ provokes. 

The emotional energy of Hey Stranger might not neatly blend with the sugar coated Christmas tunes we’re hearing blasted around us, but there’s no doubt that the moment for this EP is now. In a period where so much and so many are being grieved, this body of music is timely and refreshingly close to home.

Tutku Barbaros
@tutkubarbaros

EP: Sophie Kilburn – ‘My Room Made Public’

Sophie Kilburn is a London based, Derbyshire born singer-songwriter who merges a classic rock vibe with a modern alt-pop twist. My Room Made Public is her debut EP, featuring four tracks with an emphasis on digging deep to ask how much of our lives we should share with the world. 

Self-empowerment is a theme that runs throughout. Each track scratches the surface on different aspects we share and how we deal with the challenges life throws at us. For example, stirring opener ‘Movements’, with its driving guitar and percussive synth with shades of later Fleetwood Mac (“you’re the wildstar on my fan poster”) reflects on the acceptance that a relationship is over, whilst ‘I’m In love With My Therapist‘ – with its slow rock beat, and soulful refrain of “gotta get out of here” – explores the claustrophobia of self-analysis, using classic ’80s pop-rock sounds.

Although ‘Ruthless’ is a slightly more uptempo dance-pop track (although the lyrics deal with being unsure of oneself), the collection ends on a more reflective note with ‘Under The Heat’ – an emotionally open exploration of the social pressures of misogyny: “Under the heat, since I was young… My voice is strong enough to speak on its own.” That is the message of this EP as a whole; finding your voice and your place in the world, and having fun while you do it. And what is particularly clever is how it uses an old school classic sound to reflect modern pressures in this social media age, all delivered through Sophie’s exquisite, powerful vocals and poignant, emotional lyricism. It is both relatable and catchy, so let it be your therapy.


My Room Made Public is out now. Listen here.

Fi Ni Aicead
@gotnomoniker

Photo Credit: Percy Walker-Smith