Now Hear This: Justine Jones on the best new shoegaze, black metal and avant-garde
I’ve been listening to a lot of new music recently, but it feels like a lot of that music has already been well-covered in the press, so I’m going to shamelessly self-plug here with some bands that I work with directly through my label Church Road Records.
It’s important to work with bands that I’m a fan of. It’s difficult for me to pretend to like something that I don’t. So when it came to this label I co-founded with my husband – and Employed To Serve bandmate – Sammy Urwin, it was particularly important that we believed in what we were pushing. I definitely always work best on things that I love.
There’s no set criteria, but I tend to look out for bands that work hard. That’s really important. If you’re a small label working with a small band, it can be difficult to accomplish something if the artists don’t really tour, or don’t really do social media, or don’t really care how they present themselves. It’s always important to look for those hard workers who share the same values as you.
The five below are some of those I’m most excited about as we head into autumn…
Slow Crush have got this really interesting new take on shoegaze and grunge, with so many wonderful influences. You can hear things like Slowdive and M83 in there, mixed in with ’80s elements. That post-punk/shoegaze [revival] is still having a moment, still on an upward trajectory: there’s the new Deafheaven record, the past two records from Ceremony have been very much in that vein, plus, you’ve got bands like Drab Majesty and Soft Kill killing it, too. I just think Slow Crush are a really exciting band within that, with the capacity to go really far and, over time, become one of the classic shoegaze outfits of their era.
I only really became aware of Timelost last year, when they got in contact with us to put out their new EP Gushing Interest, but I’ve not stopped listening to them since. They did an album called Don’t Remember Me For This in 2019, but these new songs are just so catchy. I remember listening to the first track or two, then finding myself constantly going back to listen again, and wondering why they weren’t so much bigger than they already are. That’s always a good sign.
As a group from Philadelphia, they came up around the hardcore scene, but Timelost is a different, newer band for them with more shoegaze influence mixed with a little ’90s emo. It feels like a lot of the shoegazey music I like comes from band members with experience in heavier genres, who translate that into their newer sound. Several members of Slow Crush have hardcore backgrounds, too.
I’d compare their current output to Weezer, their Philadelphia brethren NOTHING, or Teenage Wrist. It’s as if every song has a hook that helps build into them being such a fun band and I’ve not been able to stop listening to them non-stop for all of what little summer we’ve had.
They’re an avant-garde metal collective with tightly-guarded anonymity who dropped three-track debut album Dark Triad: Bitter Psalms To A Sordid Species back in May. They came to us with a heads-up that they were probably never going to play live, but they had put in a few years of work to building up this whole world around them, and writing and recording the album to make it as visceral as it is.
It feels like every element of what they do is just so well thought out, from the mystique to the deeper meaning behind their music. There are so many ideas and philosophies woven in that I struggle to get my head around it. But that’s something I really like as a music fan. You could go as far as reading up into the books that had influenced their writing. From the label perspective, it’s fun to be able to send something so different out into the world. The people involved are very well-read and almost studied for the album. There’s so much to unpack.
On top of that, the music is insane. It can go from EDM bass into black and death metal, like Ulcerate mixed with post-punk. Each track is different to the last as well. It’s hard to pick out one song for people to start off with, too, as they’re all 10-minutes-plus and you really need to listen through the whole album. I guess The Truth Of The Beast is a pretty good place to dive in, though – it’s quite digestible at a mere nine minutes, forty-seven seconds…
Respire are a screamo collective from Toronto, Canada who I would describe as residing very much in the Majority Rule/Svalbard sphere. Post-hardcore-post-rock-emo. Sort of like Svalbard with greater emo influence. It’s hard to do so, though, because they have so much going on, like string-sections. And I love how much effort they put into their artwork and social media presence. They’re a great band with memes!
I only really became aware of them maybe two years ago, and I’ve found myself listening to them virtually every week since. I’ve not managed to see them live yet, but I’ve been looking at a lot of their amazing videos on YouTube, and I can’t wait. They released an album called Black Line during the pandemic, but it feels like it could be just the beginning for them. They have so many great ideas to build on.
Noctule is a perfect example of the outpouring of creativity that came from of the pandemic. It’s a solo black metal project from Svalbard frontwoman Serena Cherry, where the lyrics are all influenced by the epic fantasy RPG Skyrim. It’s like she melded her two loves of black metal and video games into something really incredible. I’ve always been more into Nintendo, Pokémon and Final Fantasy than games like that, but the passion that’s gone into this project makes me feel like maybe I should give them a go. It feels like they’ve got that kind of deep mythology that’s a perfect fit for metal.
With the winter coming up it seems like a perfect album to listen to as you walk through the woods in the dark. It’s very soundscapey. I think it’s also got the capacity to be black metal that appeals to listeners who aren’t normally fans of that genre.
It seems like it’s almost effortless for Serena – we did the latest Svalbard record When I Die, Will I Get Better?, then this followed like five months later – but it is just really good, and a really enjoyable record to get to work on. Obviously I’m biased, but it was something that I marvelled at. I really hope that it’s music that gets performed live, too.
Employed To Serve’s album Conquering is released on September 17 via Spinefarm.
Justine Jones guides us through Conquering – one song at a time.
Watch the video for IDLES’ new single The Beachland Ballroom – the “most important song” on their upcoming album Crawler, according to vocalist Joe Talbot.