REVIEW ROUND-UP: The Nightmares, La Fonda, Bitch Hawk

Artwork for The Nightmares’ ‘Séance’ - a close-up of a face saturated in black and red

The Nightmares


As easy and lazy as the comparisons and contrasts are to make, there’s no doubt The Nightmares’ debut full-length will be pitted against Creeper. That’s pretty much the norm for any act looking to tap into a gothic sound inside any alternative framework, something which isn’t unfounded but can come across a little reductive. After all, other than the gothic leanings (and Will Gould’s guest appearance), Sèance strives to be a lot different. Take Creeper as the base, replace its punk leanings with more austere post-punk and darkwave, dial down the Hollywood ambitions significantly, and you’re more or less there.

Now, that might sound a bit—for lack of a better term—unbalanced, as if more is taken out than being added back in. That isn’t untrue, but especially moving on from their earlier EPs, The Nightmares feel fairly comfortable in this mould. Opener It Follows is pretty much the representative sample of what to expect, from the thick cloud of synth-buzz, to the coldness and slate-grey production, to a vocal performance from Adam Parslow that’s not exceptionally expressive but fits the mood if nothing else. There’s even more of the gothic miasma to the swaying Cursed or the piano-ballad Let The Light In, albeit affixed to defined pop impulses. Thus, there’s less of a soul-blackening abyss at its core, and more an embrace of melodrama that’s been where much of the crossover mileage has come from for years.

But that’s where the issue predominantly lies too. For that sort of thing to work, there really needs to be a theatricality that The Nightmares don’t have. There’s a disparate nature to how rigid and stentorian the sound can be, paired with big, sweeping declarations that can land a bit lopsidedly. They come closest to getting it right on Evermore, where the shimmering, twinkling synths make some good early swings before the saxophone comes in and smashes the rest of the wall down entirely. It’s the best song on the album by no small margin, because it feels exactly like what The Nightmares should be aiming for. And they do do some good stuff here regardless, particularly when Eleanor Coburn offers her vocal contributions and the silkier texture is pretty appealing.

Overall though, Sèance works better in elements and individual parts than it does as a whole. There’s fertile ground for something strong to blossom from, but it’ll take a method of assembling said parts more cleanly to get there. Right now, there’s an odd liminality that The Nightmares are floating in, unable to find some significant convergance between goth and pop that works in their favour. That’s a shame, but it also requires them to push a little further than they might otherwise do, if only to meet the expectations they’re clearly setting up for themselves. Still, the flashes of promise aren’t nothing, and the implications of something cool down the line—no matter how scant—make it worth keeping at least some tabs on The Nightmares moving on.

For fans of: Interpol, Bleak Soul, Salem

‘Séance’ by The Nightmares is released on 7th April on Venn Records.

Artwork for La Fonda’s ‘We Are Infinite’ - a cartoon image of a city block with La Fonda sitting on a cloud above it

La Fonda

We Are Infinite

Within the realms of immaculately earnest, DIY indie-rock, La Fonda have what it takes to make it, even just from a first glance. It’s more a sensation that bands like them give off at this point; the understated delivery and organic presentation is a given, usually accompanied by writing swelling with detail and humanity. Sure enough, We Are Infinite is in no short supply of any other that, and with Mike Davis’ production offering a similar earthiness as his work with fellow scene fast-risers Great Grandpa and Pool Kids, La Fonda may just be able to count themselves among that company.

So yes, they’re inextricably tied to that current wave of indie-rock and will likely field the same acclaim from the same sources, but they do avoid being just another carbon copy of the template. It’s the more lucid aspects of their music that do the most there, where they’ll frequently tap into shoegaze and dream-pop to augment a gauzy, wide-open-space brand of indie. More impressively, they’re not limited to the usual palettes of sound there at all. Where a song like Poison adopts a more ‘standard’ brand of blurred-over atmosphere, Salt Lake City is almost bedroom-pop in its supple bass and ever-so-slightly caged percussion, and Gravitate even flirts with a western clop in its quicker drums and willowy streams of trumpet.

Above all though, the indie-rock side stands tallest, and not without merit either. La Fonda are clearly well-versed in wringing out the emotional honesty and fortitude that this approach practically demands, as Valerie and Veronica Topacio cling to their sisterhood and an escapism from the xenophobia, capitalism and gentrification (to name but a few) that’s rife in Seattle around them. It’s accentuated by the very humble performance that both sisters give, as well as sound which, like on Living In The Amazon and the title track, leave them a lot of room to bring that forth. It’s such a compelling sound overall, probably more so than the indie-rock base they’re building off can be without fully pushing aside its fundamentals.

Thus, it’ll come as no surprise at all when the ball starts rolling and La Fonda land upon similar successes as their contemporaries. We Are Infinite has that effectively locked in place, between its style, songwriting approach and snug fit within the scene as a whole. It is a notably strong inclusion among a sound often hamstrung by how ephemeral it can be; La Fonda seem to have nailed down a way to avoid that, and having that pay dividends will be duly deserved. For anyone deeply involved in the indie scene: get ready to hear a lot about La Fonda very soon.

For fans of: Great Grandpa, The Beths, Real Estate

‘We Are Infinite’ by La Fonda is released on 7th April.

Artwork for Bitch Hawk’s ‘ABC Of Rock’ - stylised birds in angular poses screaming at each other

Bitch Hawk

ABC Of Rock

The artwork of Bitch Hawk’s ABC Of Rockdepicts a bunch of birds contorted into jagged angles and screaming bloody murder at each other, which basically aligns with the experience of listening to it. As was all the rage among Scandinavian bands for a time, Bitch Hawk mash together the most abrasive elements of punk and hardcore with a black-metal finish and a frenzied encroaching on jazz, basically to isolate a vein-popping discord to make their own. Here, it’s been condensed down to just five tracks, and still finds ample space to run rampant and force itself any any open space available.

Though that’s pretty much what bands like this are all about, at the end of the day. There’s precious little opportunity for respite across this EP, something which its own overstuffing of itself makes hit with so much brute force. Just take the opening title track, as a sub-three minute gauntlet of sound and fury with an untethered pace and vocal performance that sears its mark all the deeper. Meanwhile, Passing Out anchors itself in recognisably thrashy waters, while Scanner’s journey through genre happens across the midpoints of black-metal intensity, sludge heft and hardcore knifework. In other words, it’s a world away from the commercial pop that Bitch Hawk’s personnel find themselves ingratiated in behind the scenes, but you can’t help but feel like that’s part of the point.

ABC Of Rock puts its hostility on full display; the anti-crossover work, if you like. There are no concessions made or corners cut, even when it could maybe benefit from some extra coats of paint (like how the drums sound closer to bashed cardboard boxes on more than one occasion). On one hand, it makes for an EP whose unrepentant bludgeoning defines it more than the actual music, but again, Bitch Hawk almost certainly have that in mind. There’s definitely an inkling of some Refused-esque counter-cultural step taken, while also embracing wildman rock music to its fullest. Even though it’s not an EP with immediate replay value, it’s also hard to argue that this isn’t successful, at least in part.

It’s unquestionably niche, that much needs to be said. Even among your Turbonegros or Kvelertaks you could bucket Bitch Hawk in with, the even more prominent rawness and lack of polish puts them maybe a bit further at arm’s length. But the thrills are still plentiful, insomuch as a swift, succinct pummelling is sure to get the adrenaline rushing. On those terms, Bitch Hawk dole out exactly what’s needed of them, and with the energy to ensure they make the most of it.

For fans of: Refused, Every Time I Die, The Dillinger Escape Plan

‘ABC Of Rock’ by Bitch Hawk is released on 7th April on Adrian Recordings.

Words by Luke Nuttall

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