Released 18 May 2015 via Crystalline Recordings
There has always been something distinct about the Manchester music scene. A brooding, sneering menace, embracing failure and betrayal as the clouds of guilt gather and the rain of despair begins. And through the dawn, on the wings of the apocalypse storm, comes the chop-chop-chop sound of rotors, as the Air Cavalry flies out of the Sun to reap a bloody harvest on a bitter dawn.
Procession is the second album by prog punk doom rock merchants Air Cav. The record rides in on a soundscape of urban desolation. The instrumental opening number Blazing Like a Sun sounds like an outtake from Joy Division’s Closer, as shimmering soundscape of de-tuned synths with Oisin Scarlett’s elegant bass quoting Peter Hook, the drums of Allan Gaskin imploding to the mix to build a hypnotic, relentless groove.
Ghastly, ghostly viola from Sophie Parkes-Nield channelling John Cale underpins guitarist Chris Parkes-Nield‘s shrill, disturbed arpeggios, paying homage to a psychedelic cartoon version of Johnny Marr.
The band has focused this remarkable musical heritage through a lens of modem influences. They tell Kemptation:
“In terms of influences, as ever, there’s a mixture: there’s a shared love of psych and shoegaze. Bands like Spiritualized, The Brian Jonestown Massacre, The Warlocks, Daniel Land and the Modern Painters.”
The album rattles on with Naked Flame, a catchy punk-thrash encapsulating the ambivalence inherent in the relationship between the city and its musicians, singing: “Is this really my home town?/ Cause they’re fighting in the streets/ Is this my chance to leave?/ And later in Kill Your Darlings/ The city lingers on my clothes, the city is a cage.”
Co-lyricist Sophie Parkes-Nield, a talented writer and journalist, explains what drives her and creative partner Chris to write such dark lyrics about a city that they seem one step removed from, isolated from the atrocity exhibition: “This album is very much about being in a city, of a city, but not feeling part of it, that it’s a sprawling mass that you love but feel like you can never conquer.”
There is humour in this band too for this is no po-faced glum fest. The largely instrumental Red Light White Light, quirky and perky, quotes early ’60s surf rock bands while Parkes’ violin sounds uncannily like a cheesy tenor sax.
There is beauty amongst the muck and filth, too. The glorious Evenstar rides in on wave after wave of joyous affirmation: “I’ll always be there…/ like a light from your Evenstar”.
But even in the midst of triumph there is sadness, a sense that arrival is no real culmination of the journey. Sophie again: “So that’s the ‘procession’ idea: you wait with anticipation to feel part of something, it arrives, leaves and then you’re left by yourself.”
This is a tight, punchy, delight of an album with a classic, doom-ridden production sound. And there was no celebrity producer applying fake grit to this record; self-produced, it was recorded in Air Cav’s rehearsal studio, Zoo Station Studios in Stockport and the Kings Arms in Salford, meaning what you get is pure Manc grime and gloom threaded through, as ever, with the darkest humour.
This is a fine recording by a band that deserves a wider listening. It provides a new slant on a genre that was in danger of being left behind and is entirely unpretentious and full of spit and vinegar. Play it loud and play it now because later it will rain. If it’s not raining already, then later it will rain.
Artist: Air Cav
The second album by Manc prog punk doom rock merchants Air Cav rides in on a soundscape of urban desolation.