Another split release that is available on tape; this time it is from Kerchow Records and features Arklight & Sheep Bella Tine. A little bit about both bands - Arklight first, as they are the first band on the tape. Arklight are comprised of Danny Kolm, Gregory Kolm and Max Kostaras and they hail from New York City. According to their Facebook they class themselves as Noisy and are influenced by Nick Cave, Beat Happening, Sonic Youth and others. Sheep Bella Tine are made up of Zach & Wica, they hail from Cookeville, Tennessee and they are very minimalist with their information. Now this is the second time I have reviewed something that includes Sheep Bella Tine, as they were part of the 'Sweet Sounds Record Spring Sampler 2016' (review link here) and they were out there, one of the bands that require more than one track to make sense. Now this is a ten track EP, four from Arklight and six from Sheep Bella Tine - let's find out how the tracks have turned out....
Arklight beginning this split release with "Big Ideas", it is a distortion harsh guitar number that gives off vibes of Smashing Pumpkins, Three Fish, Sonic Youth and Stone Temple Pilots; it is firmly in the old alternative rock heart land with a minimalist drum kit being used, lo-fi recording techniques and an intense feeling to the tune. "Club Record" continues that lo-fi feeling that started on "Big Ideas", with a stop/start verse section and a solo that drifts through a lot of the song. The vibe in places is almost western and then rock & roll driver until it goes back to the droning verses. It is not as welcoming as "Big Ideas" and it may take a few goes to sink in, but there is potential in the mix and it has a strange vibe that I tend to like in my music. The third song of this from Arklight is "Loyal Order of the Noose", this one has that dark undercurrent that I associate with Nick Cave and his various incarnations. It has attitude with a swagger that would part a straight path to a bar, where a bottle of whiskey would be awaiting with no funds required - just a gem of a song, lo-fi and crazy. Their final track is called "Young Lovers" combines the feeling of "Club Record" & "Loyal Order of the Noose" with a stop/start feeling to parts of the song and then another dose of attitude to others. The two distinct parts of the song are like night and day, mixing well and ending this section for this listener with a sense of interest and intrigue.
Sheep Bella Tine start with the short introduction track "Prominence" which sounds as if drums and strings are being warmed up, preparing to be unleashed upon the world. This comes in the song "Of Hybrid Figures" and the differences in styles could not be more akin than that of night and day with the actually spin of the earth. This song is a thoughtful, slow and droning piece of music that builds the atmosphere piece by piece, taking its time to craft each step as it builds up in intensity and aggression; all the time keeping the same sort of pace that could be played all day long. "The Tragic Farces" follows on and this is an intense, aggressive thirty-two second attack in comparison, akin to a storm suddenly hitting and the shutters of the house coming loose in the wind; very short and probably could have been expanded upon, but still a good short, sharp, shock of a song. "Of Katchina Dolls" reminds me of bands such as Godspeed You! Black Emperor & Mogwai, it has an intense and beautiful droning quality it to music and some quality sections of Post Rock that would put better known bands to shame. The start of the song is a fade in and it makes you think you are coming in halfway through a song, but the rest is just quality from beginning to end. "The Self Portrait" is the penultimate song from Sheep Bella Tine and it is the first to add words to the music, with a minimalist punk feeling to the music and an aggression that strains the actually style of the band. It sounds as if it is going to break at any point and it just manages to keep it all together; very reminiscent of early Pixies on this one. But like all things, an ending has to come to proceedings and in this case it comes in the form of the song "Of Nadie". This lo-fi recording takes the energy level down slightly after three pretty aggressive songs, sounding like a dream/holiday tune is being played just down the hall and you are hearing the song that will be awaiting you in your sleep. It is a good ending, very relaxing and thoughtful.
On this release, both bands sound fantastic and present completely different aspects of the lo-fi/independent spectrum in America. Arklight has a punk/no-wave vibe that does not rely on distortion peddles and hitting the right angle to have the attitude and this performance makes me want to hear a bit more of their work. Sheep Bella Tine have presented more in this release than on the track on the Sweet Sounds Records Sampler - but to be honest it is sometimes a little hard to gage a true reflection of a band on one song, here they showed that minimalist post rock is something beautiful, aggressive and can be something really special. Comparing the bands is really harsh, both bring something different to the table and to say one is better than the other would do both a dis-service; so I will say both are fantastic and this release can only raise the profile of both acts.
4.5 out of five - This is really good, well worth checking out
Top track from Arklight - Loyal Order of the Noose
Top track from Sheep Bella Tine - Of Katchina Dolls
You can purchase Arklight/Sheep Bella Tine on the Kerchow Records Bandcamp Page here
You can follow the activities of Arklight on Facebook here
You can follow the activities of Sheep Bella Tine on Facebook here
At the time of writing, Arklight/Sheep Bella Tine split release was not available on streaming sites.