The alert amongst you will remember that guitar mangling Bristol based ‘nu gazey’ noise rockers Spectres featured not once but twice in our “Top Tips For 2013” lists – that is, both in the one compiled by Louder Than War’s editorial team AND the one Shell Zenner did for us. They’ve just released a new video which you can watch below, along with a belated review of the excellent EP they released earlier in the year.
Hunger originally came out back in March but time constraints meant that it didn’t get the review it deserved back then. The EP demonstrated to me, someone who’s been following the guys from their early days, that the band had continued on the “rapidly improving” trajectory I commented on when I saw them play Simple Things almost a year ago and that had resulted in them moving on from having “ones to watch” status & achieving “told yer so” status. There’s definitely something to be said for only checking in with a band once a year in terms of gauging how much they’ve progressed, although generally speaking I wouldn’t recommend you adopt such a policy towards bands you love.
Anyway, my word, what a progression Hunger showed – perfectly manifesting at the time how much Spectres have upped their game in what was around 9 months since I’d last heard them. Whereas once upon the time the knee jerk response when reviewing Spectres was to summon up the name of a certain other experimental guitar based art rock band (one which formed over 30 years ago in New York & only recently broke up when one of their number …. oh sod it, you must know who I’m talking about by now). ANYWAY, Spectres showed in Hunger that they’ve progressed to the point where any such comparisons would not only be lazy journalism but would also be a huge misrepresentation of how far the band have come in the last year or so. They’d be the very height of “lame” indeed. Spectres now, in a nutshell, have their own sound – something many bands reach for but few, genuinely, achieve. They sound like Spectres. And there’s a confidence & maturity to their sound which suggests that they know where they’ve gotten too!
With a sound heavily based on guitars the EP escalates in class as it progresses, each track “seeing” the preceding track & “raising” it a notch higher in the “excellence” stakes. Their Tumblr states bluntly that Spectres “noise make noise make noise make noise” which frankly isn’t half the story. Indeed, to a large extent I’d say it’s disingenuous too. You need more adjectives in fact (aka describey words) for it not to be so, and you need to be oblivious to bands in “traditionally noisy” veins as your Powerviolence bands say & your Swans circa ’87 say. It’s as far from “Durrrrrrrrrhhh, Hit It, Fucking Hit It” noise as you can get really, and it works as well at low volume. It’s a refined, calculated, intelligent & intentional noise, one which isn’t so much meant to cause pain or damage but rather the opposite, to please & nurture.
So what other describey words can I use about Spectres brand of noise? Ummmm, well, off the top of my head how about “tempestuous”, “squally” & “splintery” noise. “Feedbacky” (natch) along with “Effects Pedally” (of course). It’s also though a vital (vitally?), beautiful (beautifully?) noise. And ye know what? WELL Fuck me if it isn’t a catchy as hell noise too.
Something Spectres do as well as any young band at the moment is demonstrated perfectly by this EP – they tame feedback, distortion & effects & use it to their own end. They’ve near as dammit perfected this skill now (if one can ever truly be said to have done so) which means they’ve time to focus on the songs which I think is why this EP demonstrates the assurance & confidence that means they can ratchet down the ‘in your face-ness’ of their music just enough so that the listener becomes aware not just of noise but also of shimmering jewels of songs hiding within; songs, I’ll be damned, with hooks & stuff! Because of the ramped up strength of the songs they raise their heads above the “trademark Spectres broiling mass of sound” thing & stone the crows if you won’t be humming the tunes to yourself hours later.
Tunes balanced against freakishly brilliant noise. What more could anyone want?
I have a feeling that if enough folks hear this it’ll be considered one of the most perfect records of 2013 although sadly (apart from Drowned In Sound who 9 out 10’d in it’s face) it seems to have slipped under most’s radars. It’s proof positive of the point of view that the EP is the most ideal package for music. It’s Spectres raising the bar for themselves & inevitably inviting the question whereto for now for them? Or wherefore to now for them maybe?
The new video, that’s where for to now for now for to them for now anyway! The track, Threshing Machine, is the last one on the EP & it’s 6 minutes of everything I said above, featuring a raising of tempo slash noise with mini breakdowns until it ends up just imploding into itself. It’s great. Check it out then go buy the EP from the links below.