Rachel Mason – Das Ram

Finally, a multi-media futureclown who sings alternative James Bond theme tunes for a steampunk + LSD induced age of mayhem!

Our harlequin for the evening, Rachel Mason has a new album entitled Das Ram and what a world of glistening delights awaits us within its lustrous realms…

On the opening song, ‘Roses’ it’s as if Kate Bush is singing The Lord Of The Rings songbook in a corridor in Metal Gear Solid. You really have the sense of stepping into another world; the lyrics are folky and evocatively olde worlde building. Rachel’s voice grips you from the moment. The music pulls you in another direction though, as sweeping the T-Dream swoops are destroyed by skittering drum beats, like arachnoid legs on an ice floe. A swooping ballad meets a relentless dance classic. Fucking hell, this is how you start an album.

‘Heart Explodes’ makes good that James Bond promise with a ton of torchy tension. Look, lets imagine The Associates singing Octopussy. While we’re tripping that trip, it’s worth saying that Rachel’s voice is very Billy MacKenzie-ish. Indulgent and brilliantly so, this is a voice wrapped up in its own mag-nif-icence. She takes a chorus and blows it skywards.

The sidewinder guitar of ‘Sandstorm’ escorts our existential Rachel. The drums clatter like a punk thrown the stairs.

‘Tigers In The Dark’s dubby production and shrieking electro burns like an oil rig fire while Rachel goes off the deep end. A fractured and opulent dreamscape of rippling verdancy.

‘Marry Me’ nervoid twitching, gives way to chugging machine bass. The song spins around a relentless chorus in which Rachel threatens to take you up the aisle. It’s a gorgeous slow build electro track perfect for any neon coloured thriller trailer at your local multiplex. And then an amazing slow fade out with its New Order Movement. All the things in your life that go wrong…

‘Queen Bee’ flaunts Roxy Music opulence over clockwork beats and a guitar from a Michael Mann movie.

‘Cancer’ hits with a phalanx force of drum beats. A disorientating panorama of sounds come at you from 360 degrees, while Rachel stands in the middle of the melee, ripping up a breathless chorus.

‘Heaven’ ends with the funkiest track on the album, everything locking together to resemble The B-52s covering Zombies’ ‘The Time Of The Season’. It’s the last song of the night and the walls of the club are made from velour.

The guitars are taut and wired for your secret pleasure. The synths are set to sunrise. Yet the moodiness of the music is in direct odds with the sheer electricity of Rachel’s vocals which are off the grid. Two albums for the price of one.

Not only is Rachel Mason a true artist but she is an essential one.



Total Victory – English Martyrs (2017)


King Penda, last pagan king of Britain leers over us and as he does, notions of identity and nationhood wither and die. Resplendent on the cover of Total Victory’s new album, English Martyrs, both Penda and band are a critical force working to destroy the myth of Englishness. In Dan Brookes they have the sharpest lyricist this ‘country’ has produced in a long, long time.

Total Victory are a guitar band where the music is sharp and the words are sharper. Those weaned on post-punk will enjoy what they have to offer, and Total Victory have a lot to offer. This, their new album, sees the band hitting creative heights that not only matches  but topples the standard bearers.

English Martyrs is Total Victory’s version Grotesque by The Fall in that the songs make up a portrait of the country. In contrast to that album, the pulp acid horror  is dialled down and replaced by an ever greater sense of social commentary and cutting observational humour. The other obvious comparison is Half Man Half Biscuit, but if England is the Titanic, while Nigel Blackwell’s mob are mocking the middle classes and their pretensions, Total Victory are in the crows nest.

The best comparison may be to the political / social caricatures of William Hogarth or James Gillray, who would offer political satire intercut with sharp humour and a glorious sense of the grotesque (there’s that word again). A Total Victory song has the same quality of looking through a window onto contemporary life.

You must go into the album knowing that on the one level this is great music, there is a whole other layer underneath. You must go into it ready to contemplate how the past, present and future of England are as one, how the population has been moulded to think and act by history; were we are and what we were.

‘Triangulation Point’ gets off and rolling with a riff that sounds like a train struggling up a hill. It’s tense and nervoid, so Total Victory are back. Lyrically, it appears to warn of the dangers of pandering to the lowest common denominator; especially when people don’t know what it is they want. Meanwhile, “In the 21st century nothing unites us like cup-a-soups and ill fitting Gore Tex…” observes Dan wryly, in a few short words sketching an entire cross section of the populace. It comes to an end with the grim moral of “They live for this so they can die for this”; a stark warning of the dangers of giving the vote to people who watch Mrs Browns Boys.

‘Gore Seer’ emerges from the squall like a forlorn tanker from a Mediterranean fog. Sad, yet resplendent and proud. Dan adds a jumble of words for the reader to fit together. What links ionised water and website subscriptions? The meaning of the song always seems to be out of reach. The chorus, such as it is, finally lands halfway: “Gore seer / philanderer / Rockefeller / It’s a good life… Gore seer / retired police / networks of names / copper bracelets”. The guitars are now duplo blocks of sound as Dan finally starts making sense and you’ll wish he hadn’t: “Dreams are just a waste of time”. He confuses us, then exposes us. Are we the gore seers? Like Ian Curtis on ‘Atrocity Exhibition’, the barrier between artist and listener is ruptured and the audience left questioning their complicity.

The slow winding ‘In The Home Counties’ punctures the misplaced pomposity of its target and attacks the cosy mind-set of stick dwellers. The target of the song is moving to the countryside, only for our narrator to warn them, in a sad, defeated voice: “when you get there you’ll be happy with a change in the weather”. Meanwhile the notion of finding beauty in nature is dismissed also: “The birds won’t know your name, and their sounds of joy are a natural function”. On top of which comes a warning about the locals mistrustful ways: “the words they use are edged with spite… and every interaction is a chore”. This song feels like a sequel to the amazing ‘Secession Day’ from National Service, another attack on small town life and smaller town mentality. Little Englanders abound, a topic explored in even greater depth in the next song…

‘Once in Every Century’ (submarine bass, keening guitar) juxtaposes modern hollow notions of cultural identity with imagery of the stone age settlements that all cultures originated. From the “wooden frames in the marshland, built in a circle against the headwind” we appear to be in an episode of Time Team, as Total Victory go digging in the North Trench, finding weapons made with  “bone handles and polished to sharp edges” as if finding the root of our misplaced national self-image. The chorus, if you can call it such a thing is anguished and rising:

Every culture started from nothing / And develops until it’s full of the hubris / That comes from revering itself / And it’s sick from the myth / It breaks down in a ditch and it forms into silt.

By the end we’re in the realm of JG Ballard style psycho-geography, “the hilltop corresponds with every single last moment in time” as all things come together and happen at once, our past informing our present and our futures, and our futures corresponding with our pasts. “Once in every century we get put up on display”: doomed to repeat the same mistakes, covered in mud. Listen to the gorgeously sad horn and the cornet at the doleful demise of the song, like a funeral ascending an escarpment.

‘Playing Golf With The Precariat’ with it’s fish hook guitars herald the heavier second half of the album, the downbeat nature of the previous two tracks giving way and from here until the final track Dan is spitting fire. This song seems to be aimed fairly squarely at out of touch politicians and their cringeworthy attempts to interact with normal people, like when they have to do things such as eat chips and talk to human children. “Dig foundations on a new leisure centre, I’ve been photographed with a spade” crows our main character, presumably a ruddy-faced blowhard from one of Gillray’s prints; outmoded and out of time . Then comes the blackest joke of the album  so far: “Later playing pool with a group of old people, they can’t do it by themselves”. He returns to the office to find letters of complaint and carries out some research by thumbing through “the new Alan Coren” which dispenses advice; “I can show them I’m just like them” he plansThey key line is “Your name counts for nothing if you have to say please” which sums up an entire swath of silver spooned Tories. Self-centred actions rule: “A man only needs himself… If you’re going to keep trusting you’re primed for a fall”. All of which leads us to the realisation that the people in charge are not equipped to be the people in charge. They wouldn’t even go to the poxy leisure centre anyway. In the background a member of the public speaks via the news. You can’t hear what she’s saying. Our character’s not listening.

On ‘Written Backwards’ Dan switches between addressing us, the audience, and the main character of the song. On top of which there is commentary in the form of overheard chatter, a favourite tool in Dan’s arsenal. It all starts innocuously enough in the shape of observation comedy: “Left the house keys on the bonnet as you drove off down the road”. Then it takes a turn into Tales Of The Unexpected territory with “The message scratched on the dashboard made no sense to the policeman, or the fire crew as they pulled you, from the window of the wreckage”. All of a sudden the jokes get grim and the screws are turned as Dan describes the scene is agonising detail “swept the glass up from the road, held back the crowds that gathered”. Later on, gawkers return with cameras. We peruse the papers: “Writer crashed into cathedral, husband shocked at sudden loss”. Things aren’t what they appear though, the rumour mill kicks in: “I didn’t see him at the funeral… if this gets out he’ll be crucified” we are told after a ‘Shadowplay’ style guitar solo. The final verse details a supernatural meeting and the resolution, which we won’t reveal. This is simply a stunning piece of writing that crosses many forms of the written media. They should teach this in schools.

‘Mistakes Upon Mistakes’ sees trouble-maker drums and the sound of a fire engine whizzing past a dole office. The bass, circulates like dirty bath water down the plug hole. It sees Total Victory taking on Half Man Half Biscuit. The following passage could easily come from any of Tranmere’s finest: “Gary piloted his Clio into a reservoir and has not been seen since, outdated instruments and an overexcited local sent the search party the wrong way”. Yet again they’re combining mordant humour about death and mixing it up with farce and parodying country dwellers. Just when you’re contemplating all of this, Dan delivers what may be the best line on the album: “The ghost of Nigel Blackwell haunts this room, even though he’s yet to pass”. Total Victory just did a gag about Half Man Half Biscuit – talk about a handing over of the flame! I think Dan must have received the quickening after writing that lyric.

It’s the turn of the look back bores on ‘The Public Weighbridge’, which concerns a driver (a container driver?) who works for Harper and Sons, “expert in haulage”. He doesn’t like change and the modern world, “what’s new is what we’re against, there must be an end to advance” he gripes. On top of which, he’s having a bad day: “rolled off the ferry and out of Europe, fallen asleep on the public weighbridge”. And of course, the shittiness of his life can only derive from the fact that the world is different to when he was young, nothing else. With a typical dewy-eyed view and the Hovis music playing in his head he muses “All ‘round here was only fields, along with the footprints of bombed out buildings” (fields of wheat?) pointing out the fallacy that in the olden days people could leave their doors open because they have nothing worth stealing. This is the kind of guy whose faults are all of someone else’s making and gets so desperate he resorts to begging for extra-terrestrial life. When they fail to materialise he drives off cursing “along the roadsides are sign of the progress and every one of them makes me sick”.

‘Gold Curtain’ hangs on a bass line that sounds like ‘Girl Like You’ on methadone, while a piano and acoustic guitar laments Albions’ end. The country creaks under the weight of the litany of faults that Total Victory have laid out over the course of the album. It’s all about mentalities and mind sets. Little Englanders are crushing England. England is expiring under the weight of the English Martyrs. And what does a gold curtain conjure images of? The prize at the end of a game show. It’s been 2,000 years since the Romans arrived and what do we have to show for it but Jim Bowen unveiling a speedboat bound for a Halifax drive way? Our last story is of a worker reaching the end at his workplace. “It’s bright though it’s late, so much you have to say. But you’ve learned in your way, the boys want you out”. Dan goes on to say “Edged in silk, woven with rose, patterned gold”, fragments of phrases that bring to mind last-minute leaving gifts, as a girl from the office rushes to Card Factory at 2 o’ clock on a Friday afternoon. Our character, like the country, is reaching terminal point.

A landscape of spectres dominates English Martyrs: the album is full of ghosts and spirits; literal and metaphorical. Shadows of the dead walk the land, false shadows of so-called former glories that refuse to fade. England is a land knee-deep in its relics. References to graves, burials, decay, marshland, bones and fields permeate; Ramsbottom’s Peel Tower features on the inside of the album. And on the front, old Penda himself, from the BBC’s Penda’s FenEnglish Martyrs is all about geography, psychology and history. There is no escape: trips to the countryside yield disappointment, trips in vehicles lead to death and despair. In the 21stcentury we are stuck with cup-a-soup and Gore-tex, if we follow ourselves back to where we started we end up standing in the trickling rain among the bones of our forebears.

Lyrically, the most important band around right now.


Follakzoid live at Soup Kitchen 18.05.2017

Follakzoid are the real deal.

Chile’s finest krautrock band rolled into Manchester as part of their tour and played a sold out Soup Kitchen last night.

The set starts with a simple repetitive bleeping of ants-in-your-pants electronics, to start the rhythm going in your head and cast aside the outside world. When the rhythm section finally kicks in you’re already nodding your head, you’re already in the zone. Follakzoid are slave to the groove. They have melded their motorik pulse beat to a dance ethos, and like, Radar Men From The Moon, have arrived at a point where psychedelic meets trance. This is the purest distillation of dance music. Noise distilled to its simplest essence, acquiring a raw brutality on the way. 10 minutes later and you’re drunk on the music, grinning inanely. You keep expecting the song to come to an end, for the fun to stop, but it keeps going, understanding that enjoyment should never be curtailed. When it does wind down you’re dumbstruck.

The drumming makes a massive difference. Most motoric drumming is clipped, subtle and smooth, ready for the autobahn. This is tribal and sweaty. Here is a drummer who powers through the song. He’s like the guy who would beat the rhythm in a Sunday afternoon movie when the hero has been sold into slavery and forced into the bottom of a galleon.

The bass is a huge rubbery twang, so visceral you can almost see the air moving in waves. It’s a lot like Peter Hook’s circa Closer.

This leaves space for the guitar, which adds decoration. Sometimes it’s the oddest reggae style scratches, other times impenetrable squalls of pedal abuse. Strange sharp noises resound.

Follakzoid played 3 songs in what could have been 50 minutes. It could have been a couple of days, maybe a week. Time became irrelevant. Who cares about time when you’re throwing shapes to the psychedelic equivalent of The Shamen?

Groove as pleasure.


Live – The Sundowners at Jimmy’s 29.04.2017

Here at colourhorizon we used to love the Roadhouse; Manchester’s famous dingey dive. So we were happy to go to Jimmy’s which is keeping the tradition alive. It’s a different venue but it’s in the same building; it’s underground, the floors are sticky and you can barely see the stage. It’s great.

We’re here to see The Sundowners, who sold out the venue amidst a buzz of anticipation. They whipped up a terrific set. Sure, they’re psych and they may initially sound a little similar to some of the other bands around but there are a few very important weapons in their arsenal which make them stand out from the competition.

Firstly, they’re tighter than battleship bulkheads, each member of the band contributing equal parts, but there’s no one swinging the lead here! Similarly, what is really commendable is that the songs are deliciously short. A dozen other band would happily crank out these songs for ten minutes a go. We mean this in the best way possible; but The Sundowners know when to stop! And make no mistake, these songs are hot and full of aggro; snapping little crocodiles. The rhythm section really purrs too, giving a forceful post-punk vibe to the sweaty dance-psych jams. All in all they’re somewhere between The Au Pairs and Lola Colt. Or not at all.

Then the final piece of the jigsaw is the double barrel attack of Niamh Rowe and Fiona Skelly’s vocals; warm and energising. Imagine Grace Slick and Patty Smith cruising the freeways. Plus they give The Sundowners a cheeky shot of The B-52s party-hard antics. You can keep your shoegaze mopers and your hipsters with their Noel Fielding wardrobes.

The Sundowners; they have a sack-load of what you want.

Your Bloodwork Came Back, It’s The Manimals

A good title goes a long way, especially when you’re cruising through the highways of same old-same old on bandcamp. Death metal bands with olde-English font text. Yeah yeah. Anything tagged ‘synthwave’ with a neon LA style cover. Yeah yeah. So when I saw a record called Your Bloodwork Came Back, It’s The Manimals, it made me smile enough to click.

Then I saw that band members had nicknames such as ‘The Bear’ and ‘The Dick’ and my enthusiasm waned again. Like when you were at school and some kid tried to introduce a new title for himself,  “yeah, whatever mate” you think, “tosser”.

So with mixed feeling I started playing the first track, ‘Cause Of Death’. I’m glad I did because it made me smile and made me roll my eyes in equal measure. They may tag themselves punk but they’re punky only in the same style as the kind of bands you’ll find on The Return Of The Living Dead soundtrack. They’re trashy and glammy and the guitar licks are probably accompanied by real licks down your neck. They remind us of The Cramps with the self-effacing wit of Wreckless Eric with a dash of classic 50s rock ‘n’ roll. As soon as Hayley Bowery starts singing you’re totally on board. Let’s make one thing clear, if the chorus below appeals to you, this band is for you:

You wanna be a superstar?
That cocaine heart won’t get you far
Another case of death by guitar
You gotta save your soul
It’s only rock ‘n’ roll
Woah-oh-oh, woah-oh-oh

By the end the entire band is singing along and everyone is having a boozy ol’ time.

‘Boys’ is waspy and as sharp as shark fins. Based around the gag of a girl rock ‘n’ roll singer singing “I wanna be the boy in a rock band” it’s the sound of a party you wanna be invited to.

‘Wild As You Wanna’ spews up with adrenaline guitars and riot inciting vocals. Then it all smears into one, like any good night out. Then, suitably, it all collapses, like falling into the bins and ending up under last nights pizza boxes.

Your bloodwork came back, it’s good news…



Heaven On Earth At The Halle 22.04.2017

Down at the Halle St Peters on Saturday, a deconsecrated church, afternoon mass was being held. Sermons with guitars and gospels with pedals. A congregation of spiritual brothers-in-arms in attendance and a selection of Manchester’s most heavenly bands. Colourhorizon is happy to produce the parish newsletter to report how a sunny days indoors offered enlightenment.

The first artist we saw was Hana (Hannah Nicholson), resplendent in pink. Putting the dream back in dreampop, backed by sporadic Vini Reilly-ish guitar, tender keys and even more sporadic drums, this is more of a showcase for ornate vocals. Most impressive is when she lets the high notes float and you know you’re watching a magnificent singer. One song was called ‘Jasmine’ which seems a perfect title for songs as delicate as this.

The Maitlands follow in the grand tradition of Mancunian pop that stretches back to the Buzzcocks and beyond. They’re bright, witty and fizzy. Playing an essentially best-of set list that showcased their recent Salford Democracy EP they rattled through their time with energy in abundance. It is easy to be won over by the simple charms of The Maitlands; their songs are uncomplicated and highlight the sheer thrill of a guitar riff, some smart words and enervating drumming. Moreover, frontman Carl always gets people laughing in-between the songs. Here he was musing about the heights of the previous band from the length of the mic cable and asking the thermostat to be turned down to 18 degrees. Due to some sound issues he was experimenting with two microphones, which won’t help the Mark E Smith comparisons, but in truth he’s closer to Alternative TV’s Mark Perry. The band later reported sound issues from stage but from the audience side is sounded sharp and crisp, with plenty of space for all the instruments. The cheeky cowbell number ‘A Few Choice Words’ continues to be a highlight.  It’s pretty impossible to dislike The Maitlands.

The Creature Comfort are full-bodied, full-blooded rock ‘n’ roll. It’s the kind of two guitar attack that is best associated with the pirate swagger of Johnny Thunders & The Heartbreakers but when frontman Ben takes to the stage the comparisons always veer towards Iggy Pop. Ben is a whirling maniac on stage; flailing and falling, crooning and careering, shrieking and shaking. He loves leaving the stage and at one point sits with down to sing to some children, thus influencing the next generation of stars. His band are tighter than two coats of paints and they ripped through a headshot of songs like controlled explosions. Creature Comfort need to be seen to be believed. Consider yourself cleansed on the altar of rock ‘n’ roll.

Headlining the afternoon mass were the mighty Hey Bulldog. I’ve seen the Hendrix fuelled Psych-Blues boogie outfit a few times now but here they were transcendent. A power trio for the new age, they tore through a breathtakingly fluid set, with sky-high guitar offset by a magnificently supple rhythm section. Playing a bigger room clearly suits Hey Bulldog well, with space for those dynamite riffs to ring. The highlight of the set was probably ‘Under My Spell’ in which guitar slinger Rob blasts a riff that is the equivalent of an 8 year olds’ drawing of a fire spewing drag racer.  With a set that seemed to pass by in seconds, the crowd was left stunned and begging for more.

You are all absolved. Another cucumber sandwich, vicar?





The Last Bee On Earth – Prologue EP

Mike Bee is a guitarist known for his firework displays with the Stratocaster, powering up such bands as The 66, The Phoenix Experiment and Purple Heart Parade. The time has come through for Mike to fly solo. Wearing the persona of The Last Bee On Earth, he finds a voice and matches it with a broad musical palette. He may be known for his guitar work but his debut solo EP runs an elegant gamut compassing psych, folk and electro. The songs are mellow and thoughtful, a little trippy, and distinctly shamanic.

This is a mystical piece highlighting The Last Bee’s ecological and spiritual concerns; a Prologue detailing the beginnings of The Last Bee’s journeys. A full album is expected later in the year, leading to the question of a whether it will resemble a full-blown Ziggy Stardust style concept album.

The cover sums up the conceit: a man halfway between the stars and the earth. A mind looking up, a body pulling down. Seeking escape and enlightenment with no safety net except a decaying world concealed by pastel clouds.

‘Mossed In Space’ is a psychedelic chill out piece, perfect for hazy festival afternoons. This a pellet down the gullet; stripping away our realities like melting plasticine so we can see the world as The Bee sees. ‘Mossed In Space’ is a palette cleanser, freeing us and leaving us susceptible, ready and primed. From a distortion storm a shining guitar emerges, grasping dramatic traction . A sky peaking melody dazzles. Then the whole thing settles into a Bunnymen-ish groove with a wordless chorus straight from Bowie’s Low. As a mood setter it’s far too short.

‘5AM’ is a rinky-dink segue of ambient sparkles and in itself a fine example of sun-rise synth.

The real star of Prologue is ‘World On Fire’, a sweeping ballad for a world consuming itself. The Last Bee knows that squabbling on an island is pointless when the planet is going under, and maps out an epic, lush song to catalogue the destruction. A song stamped with pure quality that marks the emergence of a high-grade solo artist. Mixing up a piano march, crisp drums, a crooning, cracked vocal performance and the strings…. the strings…


In ‘The Concept Of Alan Watts (432hz)’ The Last Bee has sampled one of the philosopher’s lecturers and supplied a musical garnish for the nourishing brain food.

Without meaning to render this review redundant, you’d best just listen to it:

The Last Bee is here. Heed his words.

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