Witching Waves are the noise-pop trio of drummer Emma Wigham, guitarist Mark Jasper and bass player Ed Shellard. Emma and Mark share vocal duties, whilst Mark also handled production on their upcoming record.
On the most basic level Witching Waves are a classically DIY noisy trio, persistent hypnotic drum beats, rumbling bass lines and angular, sludgy guitar riffs that just beg to be turned up a bit too loud for your own good. There’s a touch of Ikara Colt or Sauna Youth art-pop, plenty of the more tuneful end of hardcore mined by Fugazi or At The Drive In, and enough Sonic Youth feedback-drenched, noisy thrills for anyone’s taste.
Witching Waves are based out of London. The first major settlement in London can be traced back to the Roman’s in 43AD, although it’s only estimated to have lasted for eighteen years until it was stormed by Queen Boudica and her Iceni tribe, who burnt it to the ground. A second incarnation was more successful and around forty years later London became the capital of Roman Britain. London has an estimated 72 billionaires, more than any other city in the world, although with 27% of people in the city living in poverty, perhaps somebody should look at that! Famous London musicians include some bloke called David Bowie, a small unknown band called The Kinks, and international superstar hitmaker Dido Florian Cloud de Bounevialle O’Malley Armstrong.
Witching Waves first release came with the aptly named First Tape which appeared at the end of 2013. Following further cassette only releases, their debut album, Fear Of Falling Down, was then released via Soft Power Records at the back end of 2014. The bands second album, Crystal Cafe, is out this week with Soft Power again taking the UK release, and the excellent Happy Happy Birthday To Me releasing it in the US.
The sheer energy of this record brings back memories of sweaty clubs in the early noughties; of sticky dance floors, of singers who scream in your face, of drummers who hit the snare drum as it’s their worst enemies face, of guitarists who just want to make as much racket as they possibly can, and never stop making it. These are songs that slap you round the face with a scuzz-laden guitar-riff, a yelped vocal harmony and a bone-shaking bass line and they don’t let up until you’re broken and crying into your £5 pint of Carlsberg because your ears hurt and you’re not sure if you can remember where you live anymore.
What’s even better that is after that initial thrill has worn off there’s actually some depth here, it’s not just sweet, beautiful endless noise, it’s actual music, and music with some thought and message behind it. Twister might just sound like a menacing wall of distortion and snare-drums but it’s actually about gentrification, town planning and urban sprawl. The Threat is the bands view on the changing nature of their residence in Hackney; watching new tower blocks go up as the struggling long term residents are, “fighting against this endless threat every day.” If it’s sounding like they’re only interested in urban development, they also do a neat line in self-deprecation, see Receiver, a track about the danger and vanity of wanting to ingest culture for culture’s sake and treating art as a tick box exercise.
As well as the lyrical depth Crystal Cafe is also a record that does dabble into musical progress. It’s a record that was clearly created with a slight fear of repeating old tricks, and the band have worked hard to ensure that this record is a step-up from their debut. It’s a more cohesive record, sounding less like an assortment of songs and more like a singular entity. The production too, whilst not wanting to dampen their natural ramshackle tendency is subtly playful, some tracks a stripped back, with minimal guitar over-dubbing and fairly dry vocal production, whilst elsewhere there’s layer upon layer of distorted noise, double tracked vocals, tape effects; it’s clear effort has gone in to make the most of each song and to find each track’s own ideal sonic pallet. Probably the biggest, and best departure is in closing track Flowers, the intensity elsewhere is slightly ramped down, and courtesy of a rumbling bass line and constant solid snare hit the whole thing is subtly danceable with slight nods to the early works of Liars, that the band themselves describe it as not really sounding like a Witching Waves song is a sign of their ability to adapt, and perhaps points at even better things to come in the future.
There’s perhaps a couple too many instrumental breaks, and sometimes it feels like it’s a record striving a little too hard to achieve something beyond just being a really enjoyable power-pop record. That said, the ambition will serve them well on future recordings, and the occasional self-indulgent aside doesn’t dampen the joy of the noisy thrills elsewhere.