Posts Tagged ‘crystal cafe’

Witching Waves at Stereo Embers

These being the days they are, where every man woman child and mother in the indie world are clambering onto a bandwagon laden with carelessly spangled neo-lysergic tropes of every dredged-up variety, its understandable that one could hear the band name ‘Witching Waves’ and be immediately beset by mis-impression, ie assume them to be some sort of, I dunno, wiccan psych or whatever the hell. With great concision of purpose Crystal Cafe, at least as much if not more forcefully as did their 2014 debut Fear of Falling Down, answer any such presumptuous errancy with three simple words: Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.

A mercilessly basic trio – Emma Wigham, Mark Jasper, Ed Shellard – punching their way out of London, theirs are not the type waves that roll in pacific and pretty but more the pounding crashing kind. Now you might want to think – and I nearly wrote these words without qualification – that WW have seemingly jumped out of a Nuggets (UK-style) garage and landed in the second decade of the new millennium but, accurate as that may be in some respects – the drive, the unconcern for studio trickery or effects of any kind, just their overall ‘tude – it too lazily overlooks the raging modernity at the heart of this album. Sure, there’s some amp-scarring buzz, there’s some frayed and righteous fuzz, more than a little tumble and roar, and I’ve little doubt the band themselves would mind being thus categorized, but the fact is Crystal Cafe is steeped in 21st C. seethe.

“Seeing Double,” kicking at the pricks of its own youthful frustrations, unsettled, anxious, emerges from a pinched-nerve wince of feedback to tear its anxieties to shreds amidst a kind of guitar-led charge of the dark brigade, its innate paranoia met with a petulant unflinchingness and I think we can call that a draw. “Pitiless,” while attacking (or so it appears) the zombified slicksters that now roam our streets in heartless droves, gentrifying everything that falls under their gaze, does so with a savagely melodic charm, its hook relentless like power pop gone feral, still tightly coiled and all but abrasive in all the right places. Needless to say it’s not a love song. Nor, big surprise, is “The Threat,” which at times suggests to your swooning correspondent a touch of that Opposite Sex album from a few years back (see also the quirkier poppier “Make It Up” and opener “Twister”), boasting that same kind of breathlessly hurtling-forward rhythm and zestful, pop-tinged incorrigibility though here, of course, we’re redder of claw and fiercer of heart. Nor is “Receiver,” another buzz-sawing rama-lama stab at dissecting that universal twenty-something stew of doubt and yearning, ennui and isolation, choosing as its weapons of expression the fusillade rhythm of the Undertones (at their rawest earliest) and the snarled energy of the Stooges.

In short, what I’m sorta saying here, folks – and not to put too fine an edge on it – is that this is punk rock crucially hooked inside the careening corpus of a rock’n’roll sensibility. Jasper’s riffage is healthy, the customary structures are in place – these are all very well-built songs – Shellard’s bass is most often a rumbling menace in its own pocket, but regardless the venom inside the vulnerability is unmistakable. When Emma’s on the mic her tone tends to fall between ‘composure kept’ and a pissed-off panache, sounding certain of herself in an uncertain world, or to put it another way, more Damned Damned Girls than Dum Dum Girls (“Pitiless” even reminds in its racing finish ofArctic Flowers), while Mark’s vocal takes hew toward a sense of desperation, there’s an impatient persuasion straining inside his voice as it crackles with the absurdities of life and a simmering disbelief that said absurdity isn’t obvious to everyone with a couple of brain cells to rub together. So, yeah, don’t get psyched out over their band name. This is, I repeat, punk rock, not by design but because it can’t help but be. Anger (or hurt, or alienation, or…) is an energy, and Crystal Cafe brims with it.



Witching Waves at Finest Kiss

Full of buzzing noisy guitars that trace their lineage back through a jagged line connected byth’ Faith Healers, Pixies and Wire, Witching Waves second album Crystal Cafe is sure to of interest for folks who like noise rock with gashes of melody and ambient interludes. The band have professed a love of Sleater-Kinney, Dischord Records and Beat Happening and there is certainly a DIY aesthetic to their music. It’s raw sounding but their talent shines and rounds a lot of the rougher edges. Opener Twister features a swirling riff and Emma Wigham singing. Seeing Double switches to Mark Jasper singing /shouting. Back and forth it goes at a herky-jerky pace with a couple instrumental interludes that give you some time take stock and reflect right in the middle of the maelstrom.

If Kurt Cobain were still alive I could see him championing Witching Waves either by sporting a WW t-shirt or mentioning them in passing during an interview. As it is, they’ll have to rely on a few blogs and the digital underground to pass the word on about how great this is.

Crystal Cafe is out on HHBTM in the US and Soft Power in the UK.


Witching Waves at Dagger

This U.K. trio’s 2014 debut, Fear of  Falling Down completely passed me by, but this one, a domestic release on HHBTM, surely didn’t. Along with bands like Joanna Gruesome and Veronica Falls they’d seem to have some cacophonous brethren in their homeland and I also hear bits of Sonic Youth, The Vaselines and Shop Assistants to name a few elder statesmen (mostly S.Y.). In other words Emma, Mark and Ed might be young but they know their history and cuts like “Twister,” “Red Light Loop” and “Make It Up” show a band that blast on their foot pedals when they want to and show a little restraint whne thee time’s right (sometimes in the same song….especially “Make It Up” …his vocal even remind me a lot of Thurston Moore). Keep listening and make sure ntot to miss ace cuts like “The Threat” and the record-ending “Flowers.’ Not sure if they’ve made it to our shores in the past but 2016 is shaping up to be a great year gig-wise and if these guys make it over then it’ll make the year even better.


Witching Waves at Vinyl District

Witching Waves is a London-based three-piece with clear ties to post-punk, the guitar textures of Sonic Youth and the rawer side of the ‘90s indie rock spectrum, a blend nicely enhanced by trio leanness and a tendency to bear down and get raucous. Crystal Cafeis their second LP, and while it’s erroneous to portray its eleven tracks as breaking fresh ground, when they click the result is likely to please ears favorable to the recipe. It’s out now on vinyl and compact disc via Soft Power Records in the UK and the Happy Happy Birthday To Me label in the USA.

Comprised of drummer-vocalist Emma Wigham, guitarist-vocalist Mark Jasper, and bassist Ed Shellard, Witching Waves has been on the scene for a few years now, debuting in late 2013 with a self-titled tape on Suplex Cassettes. Its four songs brandish judiciously applied mixed-gender harmonies, a considerable level of guitar abrasion, and knowledge of such post-punk cornerstones as Wire. The above detailed structural and tonal cops from the catalog of Sonic Youth are certainly extant, but they don’t dominate the proceedings.

Their “Concrete” b/w “Chain of Command” cassette single, issued by Soft Power in 2014, retained the rawness and slightly diminished the SY similarities as the din’s overall gist suggested a particularly post-punkish route through the indie landscape of the early ‘90s. The two-song “Outline” mini-CD emerged the same year, its title cut playing with pop melody a tad more overtly.

The group’s first full-length and vinyl debut Fear of Falling Down was released late in ’14, expanding upon their template and smoothing out the rough edges only a smidge. At just over half an hour, it’s a quick spurt, but it displayed improved songwriting amongst increased range, “Counterpoint” deepening their attention to catchiness as the post-punk qualities reclined in the back seat, at least momentarily.

Some might be thinking 32 minutes borders on the sparse, but the succinctness is actually quite appropriate for this sorta thing; underneath the racket and spurts of angularity is tuneful rocking making a stronger impression through brevity and wrapping up with the standout from their first tape. Possessing an equally brief running-time, their latest boasts finer songs and sharper delivery as Witching Waves improve on the strides of Fear of Falling Down.

Crystal Cafe’s opener “Twister” exudes heightened confidence, navigating its dynamic shifts more deftly and simply flowing better than their previous work. While the intermittent needling guitar lines and emphasis on the tom drum reinforce the punk in the equation, there’s a growing comfort with pop-rock that’s well accentuated by Wigham’s voice.

Witching Waves haven’t put the kibosh on their Sonic Youth influence however, with a brief passage reminiscent of the band arising to lend “Twister” balance. It ably segues into the potent riff and rant (with infusions of harmony) of “Seeing Double,” trace elements of SY lingering to augment a more than vaguely Pixie-like whole.

As on its predecessor, Jasper recorded and mixed Crystal Cafe in his Sound Savers studio, acquitting himself well in the role with a few shrewd touches; I’m especially fond of the cymbal reverberations in “Seeing Double”’s instrumental portion, with obvious credit due to Wigham behind the kit. And this extends to all three participants, Witching Waves’ trio status leaving little room for slacking or clams.

The gruff thump of “Pitiless” keeps all the components in check as the brief cyclical instrumental piece “Red Light Loop” adds welcome breadth to the canvas. It leads directly into “Make It Up,” which situates itself as a Sonic Youth/Breeders hybrid, with guitar timbre recalling Goo and vocal sass landing in the ballpark of Last Splash.

Odd considering the combination, but it features Crystal Cafe’s lightest moments as it subtly points to a possible decrease in feedback/distortion in the group’s thrust moving forward, though these attributes remain indispensible to the dark-hued instrumental “Anemone.” If again triggering visions of SY, it reaches back to the days the NYC act hovered around the fringes of the Industrial scene.

Although “Anemone” underscores Witching Waves as being substantially more than a mere ’90’s rehash, the pop-clamor of “The Threat” unequivocally derives from the decade; in their favor, it doesn’t borrow too heavily from any one source. But the least immediately taggable track on the album is “Red Light,” a sturdy hunk of machine-like pop motion with a noisy finale, the proposition foreshadowed by “Red Light Loop.”

If “Red Light” is the most resistant to explicit influence, “Receiver” presents a hefty throttle of amp scuzz, battered skins, bass thunder, and a committed outpouring from Jasper at the microphone; the dots might not be hard to connect, but they stand up well to scrutiny, as does the web of guitar ambiance shaping up the instrumental “Inoa.” Finale “Flowers” merges pop aptitude with their ability as a cohesive unit and also provides space for individual aspects throughout, specifically Wigham’s vocal parts and Shellard’s bass.

Bluntly, listeners with a disinterest in the genres and bands cited as essential to Witching Waves’ sound probably aren’t in a position to be thrilled by this record’s contents, though something tells me those folks quit reading this missive long before this sentence arrived. Of course, finishing this review is no guarantee of appreciation for this LP’s wares either, but the possibility is significantly greater. Crystal Cafe realizes much of the group’s initial potential and sees them poised for further growth.



Witching Waves at London in Stereo

The follow-up to Witching Waves’ 2014 debutFear Of Falling Down sees the London three-piece navigate towards a more focused vision. On Crystal Cafe, the trio’s heightened confidence is manifested in myriad ways: whileFear Of Falling Down‘s breezy chaos was as successful as it was haphazardly created (the band themselves admit that the making the first album was like a “crazy idea, concept, like a dare or something”), their second LP is a markedly more accomplished and considered take on the noise-pop aesthetic.

That’s not to say that Crystal Cafe forgoes the band’s propensity for unembellished discord; thankfully, everything here remains wonderfully unrefined. Their tendency to veer from typical vehemence to comparably meek introspection on the occasional instrumental and closing track ‘Flowers’ adds nuance and variety.

Emma and Mark’s dual vocals juxtapose brilliantly – from calm composure to pissed-off petulance – and there are some real, enduring guitar-pop songs here; their aptitude for combining melody with belligerence being the most triumphant facet.

It would be too easy to denounce a band like Witching Waves as copyists of a sound that’s been done to death, but their ability to create abrasive, no-nonsense pop is instantly likeable, and as unchallenging as it is, there can never be enough good pop records in the world.


Eureka California / Witching Waves at Too Much Rock

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Eureka California / Witching Waves at Scared to Dance

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Witching Waves at Pop! Stereo

Witching Waves’ Crystal Café is a restless record of noisy guitars, sugary sweet vocals and driving rhythms.  Sounding something like the Pixies/Breeders with a bit of riot grrl, Lush and Sonic Youth thrown in for good measure Britain’s Witching Waves create a raucous distorted wall of edginess with just enough pop sensibility to make it all memorable.  Not overly produced or even overly played, Crystal Café churns through songs in a torrent of frenzied riffs, shouts, melodies and broken drum heads.  It’s all a bit rough and tarnished around the edges but that’s what makes Witching Waves so darn good and fun to jump around to.

Crystal Café is probably the most American record I’ve heard a British band produce since Urusei Yatsura did things like this in the 90’s.  And while there are bits and bobs that sound British in their tendencies, most of the songs lend credence to the thought that Witching Waves were raised on 90’s indie rock from the States.  Irregardless of origin, the eleven songs that make up Crystal Café are all brilliant and there’s so little wrong with this indie rock gem it’s not even worth mentioning.   From the jumpiness of the guitars to the boy girl vocal trade-offs and even the subdued basslines prodding the songs along Witching Waves have stumbled on to some songwriting gold here and it all comes together to make for one heck of a thirty minute ride.  Raw, unrefined and fun Crystal Café is a modern indie rock classic and one of the best records of 2016 thus far.


Witching Waves at MPMBL

Es geht mit Sicherheit auch eine Nummer kleiner: Gerade hat sich die halbe Wissenschaftswelt wie Bolle darüber gefreut, dass man endlich die Existenz der Einsteinschen Gravitationswellen nachweisen konnte, etwas bescheidener freut sich, wer die Hexenwellen aus London für sich entdeckt: Das Londoner Trio, bestehend aus Emma Wigham (Gesang, Drums), Mark Jasper (Gitarre) und Ed Shellard (Bass), ist vor zwei Jahren auf dem Radar der Talentsucher aufgetaucht und mit dem aktuellen, zweiten Album könnte sich der Bekanntheitsgrad der drei noch um einiges vergrößern. Erstklassiger Schrammelpop wird auf “Crystal Cafe” zum Besten gegeben, eingängig und dennoch ausreichend schräg, um nicht gleich jedermanns Sache zu werden. Ganz groß wird dabei auch der Noise geschrieben, Stücke wie “Red Light” und “Receiver” schmirgeln sich ganz wunderbar in den Gehörgang, an anderer Stelle glaubt man als Vorbilder die Pixies (“Make It Up”) oder The Cure (“Flowers”) zu erkennen. In jedem Falle fünfunddreißig abwechslungsreiche Minuten, die Lust auf mehr und vor allem auf live machen.


Witching Waves at Visions

“Flowers”, die erste Auskopplung des zweiten Albums “Crystal Cafe” des Postpunk-Trios Witching Waves, ist schon eine kluge Finte. Der pluckernde, höhenlastige Basslauf und das monoton-düstere Drumming würde nämlich perfekt zum sonoren, bassigen Bariton eines Ian Curtis oder dem Weltschmerz von The Cure passen. Auf Albumlänge zeigt sich allerdings, dass die Band aus London eher im noisigen Indierock zu Hause ist. Der dezent leidende, aber stets hochmelodische Doppelgesang von Emma Wigham und Mark Jasper schwebt über Querschläger-Gitarrenpop, garagigen Riffs und einem treibenden Postpunk-Rhythmusfundament – eine Mischung, mit der sich Witching Waves im Plattenschrank sowohl neben 90er-Dreampop als auch Noise- und Garage Rock verdammt gut machen.