When you’re hunting around the edges for very new music you come across a lot of utter crap. That’s the price we pay for setting ourselves up as your filtering service. Please don’t think that we come across bands this awesome every time we look, we don’t, it takes an eye-wateringly long time to wade through the myriad of bullshit pretenders before we stumble upon diamonds cut this way. And this is truly one of those diamond finds. You’re going to love them. Your friends are going to love them. NME is going to slap them all over their radar pages and in a few months time they’ll be adorning front covers. BBC Radio One will quickly follow BBC 6Music’s adoption by adding them to the likes of Zane Lowe and Huw Stephens’ playlists. They’re utterly fucking awesome. Really. This truly is one of those exceptional finds. But as we said, this is very new music. They’ve some way to go yet, but this is a band penning some great music right now and from the songs we’ve heard to date we think they’re on a good path. A very good path.
To begin with we should cut out those faux house producers of the same name, that adorned The Hype Machine listings over the last year or so; this band is not them. This is a new four-piece band from North Yorkshire, also called IO, making smart, sophisticated, elemental indie music, on the kinds of playing fields from which you normally find Blessing Force‘s scouts. Comparisons to Trophy Wife will obviously bounce around, with the well-arranged, tidy indie pop that’s on offer here, but we believe there’s more to this lot than the popular Oxford lads. They maintain a similar shimmer on their guitars and a flavour of that same tropical taste to their beats, but they’re making music that feels like it’s stepping up to the next level. It’s Blessing Force reborn with all the lessons of past mistakes learned and the flab trimmed in all the right places. You can add the likes of Yaaks, Zulu Winter, or even the new Friendly Fires, better known as Discopolis, to the frame of reference here, but just you wait until you hear the middle section of their tune, This Place. It’s a fucking heart-stopper.
We’ll get to that masterful tune in a minute, but the best place to start off an introduction is to point you in the direction of No Life. For a band capable of storming it up like that Halle Berry character in the X-Men films, this track actually feels like the calm before hand. This steadying, confident pace is something they have total control over through every song on offer. It starts as something that could easily be dismissed as a dated fade of Fenech Soler‘s dead-end eletro-pop style, but their swagger soon gets going, with less reliance on synths and more focus on delicately-placed guitars. Oliver Webb’s vocals carry it, which is all the more remarkable, as he was actually the final missing piece, added to the band after all the other band members were on board. Occasionally he matches the melancholy, storytelling sadness found in America‘s ‘A Horse With No Name‘, but this is still contemporary stuff, with robots replacing the horses, as they speak of a man failing to carve out his own way in life. Like a lot of special music it speaks to the ‘Everyman’.
This Place moves through the gears in the same crescendos you once heard with Foals and Friendly Fires, again starting out as a stripped-down affair, baring the songs nakedness as instruments are played in separation, but things soon wind up together. The bass is brought in front and centre and the added punch is a master-stroke. It promotes the songs to a heavier fighting weight. The guitars star once again, but there’s never one dominant over-reliance on any particular instrument or sound. Where Delphic occasionally drowned in synths, IO flick them on like a club that saves it’s big green laser for the peak of the night. Where Foals, particularly on their first album, played their guitar notes independently of each other like an over-used poker move, IO use the same effect in waves that wash in and out, allowing for a smoother finish, rather than the spiked, angular abrasiveness of so many Foals-pretenders.
The band started by floating around a couple of demos back in the middle of 2010, but that only resulted in the odd blog post and some local radio plays. Still, the following months earned them occasional support slots which cropped up in the York gig scene, including shared stages with the likes of The Jezabels, CSS and Is Tropical, allowing them to slowly build a presence. We got in touch with the band last week and it seems they’ve recently had the chance to record three new tracks, which is how they earned today’s Recommender appearance. All are available as a free download on their Soundcloud account. It’s with these that we believe the real attention should start being attracted. They plan to support Club Smith at The Basement in York on February 11th and they play with The Glitches at the Electricity Showrooms in East London on February 22nd, so there’s your next chance to check them out in person. In a world now dominated by pop and all things synthetic, it’s impossible to say which band or exactly which turning point will spark the re-invention of the guitar, but history tells us that it will happen eventually, just look at how Nirvana managed to wash away the 80s with four (very loud) chords. We’re not suggesting this band will prove a turning point for indie, we’d never be that confident, and on a basic level they’re simply combining parts of guitar bands from the recent past, albeit to very good effect. They’ve confirmed to us that they’re in the process of writing yet more material, so we will soon see just how high the boys are aiming. Personally, we think they’re pointing skywards. (MB)