Pilgrimages smeared with The Devil’s Blood
Dool marks a coming of age for frontwoman Ryanne Van Dorst, a singer/guitarist of notoriety in the Netherlands. In the early 00s, she played in popular punk bands the Riplets and Bad Candy, before going solo as Elle Bandita and moving away from youthful rebellion, into rockier waters. It’s a maturation that has only continued, reaching darker depths with the introduction of two former members of countrymen The Devil’s Blood.
“Most of us had been playing together for quite a few years in Elle Bandita,” explains Ryanne. “When a bass player was needed, Micha [Haring, drums] brought in his friend Job [van de Zande], whom he played with in TDB, and who was eager to join. The band grew in a whole different direction, and progressed at such a rapid pace that we decided to start over under a new name.”
The band took Ryanne’s brazen approach and began to meddle, deconstructing songs she’d written and crafting an experience fraught with sonic juxtaposition. “Most of the songs are already finished when we start playing them in the rehearsal room,” she explains. “This is where things start to get interesting; the other four bring their energies to the music. Things start to evolve and sound different.”
The songs on their debut Here Now, There Then are full of huge choruses – righteous, sun-kissed moments that somehow, without you noticing, meander down much darker, progressive paths, charting an emotional journey that flits between optimism and melancholy in a way that mirrors one’s own journey of existential discovery.
“Here Now, There Then is actually very closely related to our band name, which is Dutch for ‘wander’,” affirms Ryanne. “It’s a state of always looking for something new, never being satisfied, or having the feeling of belonging. Most of the songs are about some form of self-exploration, by any means possible.”
Initially the album’s cover – a stark image of a white horse splayed over a dark background – was meant to evoke such themes, but events took a symbolic turn. “We were on our way to photograph a black horse surrounded by a wild growth of plants, to symbolise rebirth,” remembers Ryanne. “When we arrived at the farm, it turned out a white horse had died that night. As it lay there in the dirt, it looked so peaceful, like a fairytale. Much can be said about coincidence, timing, luck or fate – I still don’t know what to make of it.”
It’s a powerful image evocative of the liberation in life, or death, explored on the record within, and the band hope to build on a successful appearance at last year’s Roadburn. “Playing Roadburn last year was very special,” she enthuses. “We were really surprised at how crowded the place was. Felt weird. Still does. We played a great show, and in the weeks after we got a substantial amount of offers from record labels. For now we just want to play shows and grow as a band. Making music itself is the goal anyway.”
LINEUP: Ryanne Van Dorst (guitars/vocals), Nick Polak (guitar), Reinier Vermeulen (guitar), Job van de Zande (bass), Micha Haring (drums)
SOUNDS LIKE: Anthemic stadium rock, deconstructed and dragged down dark, magical paths.
CURRENT RELEASE: Here Now, There Then (Prophecy Productions, 2017)
Drifting beyond the waking states
King Woman is the brainchild of Kristina Esfandiari, emerging out of San Francisco alongside sister project Miserable, after a stint with local shoegazers Whirr. “I wanted to keep my mind busy with a project of my own, so this was one of many I started around 2010,” explains Kristina, “but I didn’t release anything or solidify a name until 2013.” The name wasn’t so much chosen as bestowed: “It came to me. I just knew.”
Raised in a fundamentalist Christian environment, music was a vital escape. “I was very sheltered and wasn’t allowed to listen to ‘secular’ music, yet my dad listened to a lot of classic rock on his record player. He’s Iranian and played Persian music on his cassette deck as well. Always spinning Zeppelin, Cat Stevens, Neil Young, Moody Blues… I loved that stuff, it was really my only chance to listen to something other than shitty Christian music. I still love classic rock so much.”
With a title like Created In The Image Of Suffering, King Woman palpably accentuate the doom on their full-length debut, although the themes explored run a broader gamut of despair: “Extraterrestrials, unrequited love, psychedelic experiences, loss, religious abuse, sexual abuse, feeling lost… to name but a few, hah.” We wonder how much of their disorientatingly dreamlike sound is a conscious aim – and how well Kristina sleeps at night.
“As a band we don’t really try for anything,” she reasons. “We just have fun and write from the heart. Growing up, I didn’t sleep much and suffered from reoccurring night terrors. I’ve suffered from hypnagogia most of my life. Sleep paralysis is nothing new to me. I’ve been getting great sleep since moving to NYC, though; it hasn’t been happening to me at all out here. I’m also very interested in dream interpretation. I dream quite often.”
LINEUP: Kristina Esfandiari (vocals), Colin Gallagher (guitar), Peter Arensdorf (bass), Joey Raygoza (drums)
SOUNDS LIKE: A surrealistic Black Sabbath fronted by Mazzy Star’s Hope Sandoval
CURRENT RELEASE: Created In The Image Of Suffering (Relapse, 2017)
NYC noise duo find alchemy in anger
In an age when many bands use anger as a fashion accessory, there’s something exhilarating about hearing the real, 100% fucking furious deal. NYC duo Uniform are the sonic equivalent of a throbbing temple vein: their sound, a sustained barrage of pummelling industrial beats, coruscating mutoid thrash riffs and swivel-eyed verbal tirades redolent of Whitehouse’s William Bennett at his desperate best. In reality, Uniform are an affable pair, so where does that bleak intensity come from?
“We’re pretty easy-going, but we internalise a lot and this is our exorcism,” says vocalist Michael Berdan. “Although I’m terrified with the state of the world, what I’m trying to articulate has more to do with a general dissatisfaction towards elements of mundane, everyday life and how people cope with loss, absence of hope, and self-perceived failure.”
Their worldview may border on nihilistic, but the music on second album Wake In Fright offers great depth as well as despair. Songs like Habit and Lost In Fear exist in a (bitter) sweet spot between Big Black and Slayer, but with oppressive urban darkness lurking amid the grind of the guitar. It’s a compelling brew, disarming in its total lack of pretention.
“Ideally our music hits as hard as possible and creates a space that people can get lost in,” says guitarist/producer Ben Greenberg. “Suicide [the band] are a huge influence, and the early minimalists like Terry Riley and La Monte Young. Of course there’s a sizeable guitar rock element in there, too. We’re a rock band at heart.”
Uniform may be soundtracking civilisation’s collapse, but at least they’re trying to make as much noise as possible while hope’s heart still beats. “We’re simply trying to create music that we believe in,” says Michael. “As long as we can do that, we’ll be happy.”
LINEUP: Michael Berdan (vocals), Ben Greenberg (guitar/production)
SOUNDS LIKE: Grimy and grinding industrial metal delivered with maximum venom.
CURRENT RELEASE: Wake In Fright (Sacred Bones, 2017)