2 August 2014
Waheela - HX Pop
It is always something of a pleasure to have a new Waheela record to listen to, sort of like the special drink mixed by your mate at a party which is going to send your night on a sideward’s direction towards being oblivion. This is the Newcastle upon Tyne's noise quartet's fifth release (sixth if you include the remix track) and their first since 'Amber' (cleverly linked here). However, this release is something different from the Waheela boys; this release is coming via Cruel Nature Records (link to the Cruel Nature Records Bandcamp page here). It is a label which specialises in limited edition cassette releases, as well as digital releases. But more interesting than that, Waheela have a release which has more than one constant track. This is a four track release, three new tracks and a live recording from Leeds in 2013. Before I ever start on the tracks, I have to say that I love the cover. As I tend to associate blossom trees with Japanese culture and I know that Japanese noise artist have influence some of the band, it feels like a perfect cover for this release, with the white lines across it suggesting the noise that is to come (ok, I am reading too much into it - I’m just like that). So without any further pause, let’s see what has been unleashed onto the world.
"TEAMS" is the first track here and what is refreshingly different about this song is that it starts with all guns blazing; it is as if you have been dropped in the middle of one of their songs, without the patient, slow, methodical and drone build (which I love, but this is a great change as well). But don't worry there before you think they have turned all pop, because with Porter drumming like a beast does not mean the drone/noise moments are assigned to the past - far from it, they have just been remoulded. There is a beautiful wall of feedback, menacing screams from Adam, a powerful bass rumble from Andrew and the riffs keep falling from Mike's and Coding's fingers like water from the sky. It is easily the most accessible I have heard Waheela, but it is also the most dangerous I have heard them as well. In a given sense of assessable - it is not going to make a fan of sugar pop burn their Katy Perry albums, but it is so pleasing on the ears at the same time and that is where the danger is; there is no safety zone here, under the covers there is a sea of noise that is breath taking in places. Also, when has a pop song been ten minutes long and sound like a war zone? They are in attack mode from the start, it is not for those who want to listen to easy music and as I have stated before it is a refreshing challenge. The ending which slowly fades into the sea and radio static is also a master stroke.
"Hoffman" is the next track which emerges from the noise, but it might not be the Waheela that people are used to. With a sound reminiscent of Earth, Swans and Angel of Light, Waheela are exploring a new territory on this song. The atmosphere is much more strained and foreboding, there is a sensation that as laid back as the music starts out that beneath the calm waters is a dark force that has no forgiveness, morals or compassion. It is a restrained and awesome drone that starts to fade around the eight minute mark into another brilliant wall of static and subverted amplifier sound in a backwards loop system. Once again the noise merges into their next number much like the end of "TEAMS" and beginning of "Hoffman". This is a really interest and thought provoking facade of Waheela that I hope they explore in a different way on later releases, but after the perilous still waters of "Hoffman, what follows next can only be describes as the beast unleashed. "What Makes It Red" is a primal release of savagery. The band have held your suspense with "Hoffman" and after being quite for the most part of it, Adam is back to unload an apocalyptic sermon onto the world. The band is equally as important, dragging everyone along by the scruff of their necks. This maybe the shortest song on the release, but it is still just shy of ten minutes. With that brutal energy going on for the best percentage of the song, I'm really surprised the band did not drop to the ground, their reserves of power spent and sprits drained.
After the studio work, ending the album is "Left Bank, Leeds, 10/10/13". This is a live recording from the Octernal festival in Leeds, it was recorded at the Left Bank which is a church (or it was a church - I am a bit shady on details at this point). The brilliant thing about this recording is that all that wonderful feedback, reverb and noise is amplified by the natural acoustics of the venue. Whatever your religious leaning is, you cannot deny that some churches are naturally built for sound and this is evident on this recording. When the band get into their groove, the waves of reverb are naturally feedback by the venue and they complement each other to deliver a sound that would makes the gods and collective deities piss their pants. You can also hear snippets of the audience talking in the recording as well, this is drowned out in the early stages of the song. I am sure that those who bore witness to this sermon were as truly impressed as I have been by the recording.
On my last review of 'Amber', I did ask two things - I wished there was more than one track per release and I wondered what they would do next. Well, they have done a release with more than one track so that is the first question answered. What they have also done here is they have focused their attack and how they approach a recording. Having to work in the limitations of the tape format has actually made the spotlight of their usual brand of noise shift slightly; it has added a few more claws to their hand, added a spiky claw on the beast and aimed it at the jugular of the world. I love that the release also has a live recording at the end of it as it shows them in full flight. This experience can soon be enjoyed at the release party on 8 August 2014 at the Head of Steam in Newcastle upon Tyne, UK; with support coming from Voe, Jimmy Floyd Hasslebaind and Callan. Once this is released it will also be a digital release as well as the limited tape run. This band have made an incredible important release, it is also a fantastic improvement on what has came before (which each of their releases have been). But this also brings up one of the previous question I had with 'Amber' - Where do they go from here? I am sure whatever they release; it will be interesting to say the least.
9 out of ten - Almost perfect....Almost
Top track - Hoffman
You can visit the Waheela Facebook page here; it has links to their Soundcloud and Tumbir pages as well
You can go to the Cruel Nature Records Bandcamp page and order the album here
Here is a link to the Waheela Bandcamp page, nothing is up yet on the album but all their other releases are on there
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