By Various Artists
Leeds-based independent record label Dance To The Radio turns five this year, and to celebrate they're releasing a compilation featuring acts who appeared on the first Dance To The Radio Release (namely The Sunshine Underground and I Like Trains) alongside some of the newer acts on Dance To The Radio's roster.
'Still Occupied Though You Forget' can be divided pretty neatly between indie-rock bands, and acts who merge electro and pop, to different proportions. However, there is some crossover between these two genres, in the form of songs by Oberhofer and Honour Before Glory.
Served up with a satisfying crunch, 'AWY FRM U' by Oberhofer boasts an ingenious guitar line that darts back and forth across itself, describing a quick, catchy shape. It could have gone so terribly wrong, as Oberhofer take this indie-centric base and graft on some bleating electro, but they pull a shrewd move by dishing out the electro add-ons to the exact same rhythm as that darting guitar line. It's rare for an indie-rock song with electro flourishes, to not feel gimmicky, but 'AWY FRM U' manages to pull it off, as does Honour Before Glory's 'Lions,' although this song takes a more down-tempo approach. With a seriously weighty bass undercurrent dragging at his every word, frontman Whiskas (of ˇForward, Russia! fame) intones his lyrics gravelly, with a full supporting cast of wailing backing vocalists to boot. But, it's the chorus where 'Lions' becomes really special, splicing in some electro and twisting this limp gloom-fest into a funked-up indie-disco floor filler. A compilation highlight.
Bear Hands take a more conventional route, treating us to the indie-rock staple of spiny guitars and jerky beats, with 'High Society.' Seizing your attention with an opening drum roll, Bear Hands then bundle the listener into a song of angular instruments and abrasive vocals. The shrieky riffs and frontman Dylan Rau battle to see who can end their respective notes in the most sudden, sharpest way possible. Nothing about this song flows (even the chorus jigs awkwardly along) but the snappy underlying beat and those sudden, slanted hooks, make this an enjoyable stab of angular indie-rock.
'Lament' and 'Hold You Breath' inch towards the poppier end of the indie-rock spectrum. The former, by Club Smith, is a minty-fresh burst of pop sensibilities, with a soaring arc of a chorus and, crucially, a frontman who can keep up with 'Lament's most anthemic riffs. Just Handshakes (We're British)'s effort is more eclectic, mashing together alt-pop, angular indie rhythms and a smattering of electro. The way frontwoman Clara's vocals ping-pong off 'Hold Your Breath's shunting, bass-drenched rhythms, will have you gritting your teeth, but when Just Handshakes (We're British) fill in some of that white space with crunching guitars during the chorus, this becomes a much easier listen. Rather annoying verses, with choruses that make up for it. Just.
And, moving steadily closer to pop, are contributions by Rose Elinor Dougall, (The) Tony Castles, and Blood Oranges.
A lesser voice than Rose Elinor Dougall's might be lost amongst the crash and clatter of 'Third Attempt (Version,)' but her crystal clear vocals cut through to spearhead this lively pop track. This isn't the most emotionally engaging song Rose has ever written, but her ringing voice makes it impossible not to hang on her every word. (The) Tony Castles crank the pop factor up another notch with the playful patter of 'Adequate Sheen,' which features a fun and frivolous chorus, but, the title of poppiest track goes to the sassy 'This Is Not About Kat (Convincing Everyone),' which is quite possibly the most fun you'll ever have listening to a song about someone being told "let's just be friends." Chock full of jigging rhythms, this song is guaranteed to slap a big silly grin on your face and get your feet tapping away.
Bear in Heaven and Paul Thomas Saunders both use electro to mesmerising effect on their contributions. The lank vocals of 'Ultimate Satisfaction' by Bear In Heaven are backed up by the looped lunge and recoil of the scuzzy backing beat. Even when they bring in additional instruments, 'Ultimate Satisfaction' continues to erode a steady path into your brain. A rag-tag collection of additional sound effects are worked in here and there, preventing 'comfortable, easy listening' from spilling over into just plain boring. A steady, ceaseless tide of industrial-tinged, black-hearted electro. Paul Thomas Saunders takes this atmospheric electro to extremes, with the gorgeously breathy echo-fest of heartstring-tugger 'The Death of a Sports Personality.' The dreamy lilt of the chorus is guaranteed to send a shiver down your spine, with a hint of pop that means this wafting track is far catchier than the first listen suggests.
'Still Occupied Though You Forget' gets more experimental, with Three Trapped Tigers and a remix of The Sunshine Underground's 'We've Always Been Your Friends.' Three Trapped Tigers take us on a journey across juddering musical terrain, where instrumental rock meets strange electronic effects. Once again, Dance To The Radio have found a band whose electronic flourishes feel like a natural part of their music, and not some bandwagon-jumping gimmick. The drum work is another strong point, as Three Trapped Tigers reel off drum-spasms that always mesh perfectly with the rest of the song, despite their apparent randomness. There's a touch of spazzore to proceedings, in the twisted introduction, and in the closing few moments where '11' gains more of a crunch and a swagger, exiting on a definite high. This is hunkering, arty rock with an attention-grabbing spazzcore edge.
The compilation comes to a close with the 'Alt. Version' of The Sunshine Underground's recent download single 'We've Always Been Your Friends.' More sedate and less rave-friendly than the original, this remix relegates the electro bells and whistles to the background, creating a spacey, blissed-out atmosphere, whilst an acoustic guitar twangs away in the foreground. The electro and the acoustic elements sit awkwardly together but, for some inexplicable reason, it works. Perhaps it's Craig Wellington's voice, which lifts effortlessly above the song's two contrasting styles, or the slightly surreal atmosphere, but this is an odd, quirky end to a comprehensive line-up of local talent.
'Still Occupied Though You Forget' is a great way to discover your next favourite, local indie-themed band, with The Sunshine Underground, Honour Before Glory, Club Smith and Blood Oranges contributions being particularly worth a listen.
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