mike davies april 2013

A graduate of Birmingham Conservatoire, ERICA NOCKALLS is much more than just the fiddle player in The Wonder Stuff. Aside from also being the musical and personal partner of Miles Hunt, with whom she’s made several albums and regularly tours, she’s also an in demand session player, having worked as part of the touring band for both Fink and The Proclaimers as well as playing on the last Ting Tings album.


Now, frustrated that nobody was making new music that she liked, trading as EN she’s releasing her own self-penned solo album, Imminent Room (IRL) featuring guest contributions from, among others Wayne Hussey, Jeff Walker from Carcass and, of course, Hunt. Rummaging the tracks, you inevitably find yourself looking to identify the sort of music she does like listening to. If that’s reflected in her own work, then the collection likely includes albums by Kate Bush/Tori Amos, Lene Lovich, Carina Round and, quite possibly Hole-era Courtney Love with Erica’s own music encompassing percussive beats (most effectively on Cut Them Out) , electronica, operatic swoops, classical, programmed rock, intimate acoustic dark folk fragility and, notably on Walker collaboration Neon Crucifix, swathes of noisy distorted guitars. Distortion also scours the sonic swirls and treated vocals of Manikin and the slurry that is I Am Me This Is Now’s collaboration with Hussey and Mark Gemini Thwaite (where perhaps a touch if I Am The Walrus seeps through), but, as throughout the album, it’s also evident that she’s not averse to strong melodies or skewed pop sensibilities.

Elsewhere Killer, Darling is a hypnotic pulsing drone, Goodbye Spider a sparse, spooked but pretty acoustic ballad, One More Forest a catchy, summery tumble with a circling drum pattern, the title track itself an instrumental showcase for her classical violin training while, a scathing swipe at those who are always going to do it, the krautrock tinted, staccato purred Day One, One Day sounds like it’s going to be particular live highlight when she gets a band on the road. Meanwhile, open the door and make yourself at home.

Following last month’s Follow Baby single, PEACE release their much anticipated In Love (Sony) debut album. Previous releases Delicious, Wraith and California Daze are also included, but that still leaves six new recordings, heading up with Higher Than The Sun, their euphoric soundtrack to any possible summer we may experience with ringing guitars, harmonies and soaring anthemic melodies tinted by a splash of 60s psychedelia. Designed to lift festival crowds, it’s a little Stones Roses and one of the album’s two poppiest numbers. The other’s the bunk school to be with the girl I love teen romanticism of Lovesick, a number that makes no attempt to hide its Friday I’m In Love inspiration.


While the other new tracks don’t have the same just add water instant appeal, none of them make you work to love them. If the echoey sung Britpop funk of Waste of Pain seems familiar, it’s probably because it’s a reincarnation of Blur’s There’s No Other Way with just enough of a new identity to avoid legal karma, and Toxic is a fizzing guitar swagger rush with a bittersweet ripple through the centre and a guitar break like those little sherbert bombs that explode on your tongue.

As well as the 80s, The Beatles are also an obvious influence: given a minimalist noodling guitar backdrop before it takes on an anthemic swell, Float Forever recalls elements of both A Day In The Life and Golden Slumbers. Which leaves Sugarstone which, as it rises to a wall of sound wash and fade on the back of a simple steady drum pattern nods to shoegaze reverie while doing a decent Oasis anthem impression.

Harry Koisser brings a similar quirk to his lyrics as he does to his lightly strangled vocals, that make you want to hear more. Which, of course, you can if you get the deluxe edition (which, being a column dedicated to Birmingham music and artists, we didn’t get provided with) that includes four extra tracks, Drain, Bloodshake (off the Delicious EP), Scumbag and, certainly worth paying the extra for, the twangy surf rock Step A Li’ Closer. Enamoured of and celebrating their musical influences from the past, it’s not pushing any envelopes but it does deliver its love letters with a first class stamp.

dumb sleeve

Following the demise of much touted Birmingham group The Carpels in February, guitarist Tom Minchin and singer Dylan Williams have recruited rhythm section Jacob Mcque and Adam Pyzer to form DUMB . They make their One Beat Records debut with Dive, an energetic slice of guitar fuzz indie with circling melody, rowdy chorus hook and a brief sonic lull around the 1 minute mark for some staccato rhythm and chiming chords before plunging back into the noise. An impressive debut, it’ll be interesting to see how they shape up.

isolated atoms

Following the January release ofGive Me What I Want’s marriage of Slade and The Stereophonics, Dudley’sISOLATED ATOMSmake a quick return with new download single Hold On. Sprinkled with the magic dust of producer Gavin Monaghan, ringing guitars and Grant Ashman’s throaty impassioned vocal, it’s a soaring slice of classic mainstream anthemic rock that was meant to be heard in stadiums and, having already been featured on the recent Classic Rock magazine cover mount, seems set to propel the band into the spotlight they justly deserve.

roots-and-branches.com 2014