For rock realness – pick Partisan. In an age when so many bands seem desperate to modify or ‘modernise’ their sound, to synchronise with technology or shape to fit the ‘tastes’ of their times – to get to grips with a group committed to a sound they enjoy making is certainly affirming, says Louder Than War’s Emily Oldfield...
Manchester-based three-piece Partisan are one such group. Originally formed back in 2013, now consisting of Stuart Armstrong on vocals and guitar, Dan Albon on bass and drummer Leo Stanfield, Partisan are as true to their cause as the name implies: participatory, punchy rock tunes.
They have received previous accolades including the likes of ‘Best Unsigned Band’ from XFM – but since then they have released new music through MediaCity-based label Gas Records/ Ostereo: including tracks ‘Oxygen’ and an interesting, evocative cover of Sam Smith’s ‘Writings on the Wall’.
From original, self-styled material to ambitious covers, this highlights the gutsiness of the band’s approach – lying very much in their credit. Their sound shows no sign of shying away either, thanks to skilful guitar force and confident, crafted vocals which allow for a brilliant blend between rhythm and rising voice.
‘Oxygen’ builds as a track with brilliant accumulation, aided by evocative vocals ‘Is there enough for me/is there enough for you/is there enough for two’ then contemplating on the scenario of shared unity and survival: ‘is there enough to breathe.’ The song billows on with a bold approach to considering themes of sight and feeling – linking it again back to breathing with a prominent vocal and sashaying guitar. Recorded and mixed by Christophe at Oxygene Studios and GAS Music, the sound is satisfying, yet stirring.
It’s not long before the drumbeat and harmonics heat up too, with good gutsy pulses of guitar in there, giving gravitas to the conclusive line: ‘let me be the one to keep you breathing’. Urgent, emotive rock tunes delivered with deftness.
The same skill for artful culmination of mood and majesty in the rock rhythm is highlighted in a rather different tune– a cover of Sam Smith’s ‘Writings on the Wall’. The track turns audience attention on with succulent slices of a strings, the opening line ‘I’ve been here before’ then the guitar gears in, giving a more pronounced punch at this stage of the song than the original. The vocals have a different, varied texture too – the breath audible, almost pained and thus percussive. Emotion is added to the track in a way which doesn’t feel strained, aided to by guitar and the drums which confidently crescendo across the verses, reaching a thundering high into the chorus.
For that is something Partisan do so well – they don’t turn away from giving the audience an enjoyable, raw-rock edge. Their interpretation of tracks like ‘Writings on the Wall’ may not be for everyone: for example as the chorus reaches a height through harmonies rather than Sam Smith’s high pitch (and thus may seem unusual for some) but I think this works.
See for yourself, as both Partisan tracks now also have videos, released on Gas Media. You can also catch them live in June at Verve Bar, Leeds on 8th June and Gullivers, Manchester on 15th June with Red Light Effect (tickets available on the door and also through Skiddle). They are also performing at Manchester’s SONDER Festival in September.
Photography: with thanks to Samantha Guess Photography
Words by Emily Oldfield