By: Geoff Topley
Released on July 21, 2016 via Bandcamp
Making the music is the fun part about being a musician. Once you have created your masterpiece, there’s a plethora of activity to do to get your music out there to the masses. If you’ve got the might of a record company behind you, or indeed a decent PR team, then this is less of an issue. But to those artists basing themselves in bedrooms, perhaps with a family to support, the time and effort to construct or co-ordinate a wondrous press release can be problematic. So Belfast’s Singers From Berlin basically tell us that they “maybe sound something like Mogwai meets Massive Attack, only shitter than that”. That’s as much as I have to go on to base a review of their debut e.p. Minor Hooks.
It’s just as well that I once found myself in a similar position to John O’Neill, all I wanted to do was make the music and fire it out there, even finding a certain mystique with not revealing much about myself. (Though now I see that you need to give a little supporting detail to accompany your wonderful musical creation.) With the other teasing nugget of “electro post-rock” arresting my attention, as well as coming from my homeland, Singers From Berlin got a cursory sound check and I liked what I heard so here we go.
Opener ‘Doghead’ features suffocating beats in the vein of Massive Attack circa Protection. Sinister warped bass and incessant guitars flicker to provide an uneasy soundtrack for scenes of dark alleyways and urban ill will. The loops are repetitive, but the track swells and adds enough additional instrumentation to maintain interest. There are more definite hints to Bristol’s finest with ‘Burnt Tongues’, swirling ambient keys fuse with twinkling guitar lines but the bass veers dangerously close to wrong note territory to these ears. The circular guitar loop adds a melancholic hue to the musical pallet of sounds that I suspect have been created using home studio equipment. If this is the case, then Singers From Berlin pull off the expert trick of not masking that fact but also not producing something that sounds like it wasn’t recorded in a ‘proper’ recording studio. Either road, the e.p. does have fine production.
With the blueprint sound firmly established, final track ‘A Wrinkle in the Skin’ shuffles along with more electro clipped percussive ticks, long ringing guitar sounds and speaker busting bass. The music is for the most part, dark, trying to drag you into an abyss of mournful souls. There are occasional shards of light breaking through with the simple little guitar melodies that flicker and fade to give the track some much needed dynamic. After four minutes, the track switches up a notch with layered guitars and extra volume. It’s at this point that I would kick in the distortion and get the cymbals crashing, so kudos for the restraint in letting the track finish with a few solitary picked guitar notes.
For those acts owing homage to other post rock bands, leaders of the pack Explosions in the Sky have recently upped the ante by allowing electronic sounds to permeate their sound. So when an e.p. like this comes along, you inevitably end up comparing the music, which probably isn’t fair. Taking Minor Hooks at face value and considering the creator of the e.p. does a pretty good line in self-deprecation, it’s not a bad wee trio of tunes.