A year ago, almost to the day, I posted a review on Strong Island for Horseflies first album These Halls Are Haunted Now. It was pretty impressive that Horseflies had formed, played some gigs, built a following and released a full-length EP within the space of a year and I was curious to see where they went next. The last year of waiting has been difficult at times, but I’m pleased to say that the next album is due for release on the 9th February and it’s incredible.
Admittedly, I’d been lucky enough to hear small snippets of rough recordings, plus I’d caught some of the songs live and I thought I had a bit of a handle on the album, but I was wrong, oh so wrong. The album is a good size at 12 tracks and is a long and winding journey through a melting pot of all sorts of genres and influences. At points it’s raucously loud and angsty, at others it presents beautiful instrumental bars that sweep you off your feet. It’s accomplished and very obviously made with much heart, love and attention. Credit to the band, also Southsea Sound who have been lovingly mastering the album for some time. It’s a wonderful exhibit to show for Portsmouth music scene.
The album opens with Waxwound, a quiet, pacey entrance, which builds and explodes into something more sinister then dies right back into subtle sublimity. It’s a tantalising opening and without much pause it bursts into Video Nasty, a brilliant tune backed with the background whirrings of tuning in TVs and empty noise which is really effective with the calculated breaks in music. There’s a lot of twisting and turning in this song, a lot of uncomfortability, which manifests towards the end and culminates in an awesome cycle that breaks suddenly.
Modern Mind is the first surprise on here for me. The song is beautiful, and we can see how the band are starting to reach out and experiment after finding their feet in These Halls Are Haunted Now. Music holds as much power as vocals and acts as it’s own language to convey the meaning. The way it rises and falls in volume is evocative of waves, and of breathing.
This sets the tone of the album on a different path, but the path is winding. The Slow Choke is a gentle nursing of sound. Guitars remnant of bands like Depeche Mode, but without losing that aspect of aggravation that I love in Horseflies. Sea Control however, slips off that aggravation like a silken robe gliding over skin before it falls to the floor and you feel the cool wash of the ocean. It’s so very tangible and the move into Soft Focus is effortless. Soft indeed and serene, the gentle murmurings and flicking pages in the background lending to the evocative nature of early mornings.
But then the sinister turn. Make It Look Like An Accident cutting in with a throbbing base tone, are the clouds darkening? Is there something dangerous in these waters? Jill Kester sees a return to the more upbeat sounds of songs like Decaydream, but more balanced and more complex. The fade out is lovely and Nailhouse is another great offering of a song. A fantastic lashing out, a composure tested, an ending like all has ended.
Statues, the awakening, the opening of eyes in a white room. The sound of a piano playing from the other room. The humble realisation that you’re still alive. The opening of Vampire Shift a delightful shift back to that 80s sounding guitar, soaring high over the drums and bass that hold it from flying away. A gathering of other sounds, before pulling back to Joe “It’s so lonely, on the Vampire Shift”, words mumbling quietly under the sound of the music. The final song, The Sound OF Two Eyes Opening, has an interesting start, with Joe sounding a little like Mark Lanegan or Nick Cave, storytellers, before bursting back into that familiar shout. The song quickly builds into a crescendo then peeling back into “It’s all right, it’s ok”, and it is.
Listening to this album is like watching plants grow, the way they feel for the right direction, the sturdy tree to support their weight, the larger patches of light for their leaves to uncurl. This album demonstrates a band who know what they’re doing. They started with an idea and now they’re exploring all the crevices of that idea, all the separate sounds that make up their own. What’s special about them is their ability to do it gently and really test out the tiny fragments of style. Personally, I think this album is a winner and one that shows a mature and passionate art that’s grown from the humble seed of These Halls Are Haunted Now. If you got that album, get this one. If you didn’t then you’ll want both. Horseflies are continually impressive.
Now starts the wait for the third album. I just can’t help but be greedy.
They’ve got a number of dates coming up around the country in support of their new album, for more info on them check out their bandcamp page https://horseflies.bandcamp.com/ although the most important date you need to know is this Saturday 2nd when they’ll be playing The Fat Fox at 10.15pm.
Icebreaker Festival is this weekend on Friday 2nd and Saturday 3rd February. 152 acts over 13 stages in 7 venues, not bad for the price of £15 for the weekend. Plus, it’s independent music week. So, this is a call. A summoning of anyone who loves music to get yourself down and have an amazing time supporting a fantastic and much needed local event that supports musicians, not yet signed, but with everything to play for.
This is a great review. They are probably the most enigmatic and original band around at the moment, transcending the tag of local Lads made good and showing glimpses of genuine originality and talent, amidst the swirl of cloak and dagger smoke and mystery. You can never put your finger on Horseflies, they, like their pestilential namesake are restless, ever moving, too fast for the hand and the eye to catch fully. Another masterpiece in a fast pupating world.