One thing you won’t be able to avoid on Bambara’s Stray is death. It’s everywhere and inescapable, abstract and personified. Death, however, won’t be the first thing that strikes you about the group’s fourth album. That instead will be its pulverising soundscape; by turns, vast, atmospheric, cool, broiling and at times – as on stand out tracks like “Sing Me To The Street” and “Serafina” – simply overwhelming.
The album began when the band locked themselves in their windowless Brooklyn basement to write. Despite the success of their preceding full length, Shadow On Everything, Decisions were made early on to experiment with new instrumentation and song structures, even if the resulting compositions would force the band to adapt their storied live set, known for its tenacity and technical prowess. Throughout the songwriting process, the band pulled from their deep well of creative references, drawing on the likes of Leonard Cohen, Ennio Morricone, Sade, classic French noir L’Ascenseur Pour L’Echafraud, as well as Southern Gothic stalwarts Flannery O’Connor and Harry Crews.
Once the building blocks were set in place, they met with producer Drew Vandenberg, who mixed Shadow On Everything, in Athens, GA to record the foundation of Stray. After recruiting friends Adam Markiewicz (The Dreebs) on violin, Sean Smith (Klavenauts) on trumpet and a crucial blend of backing vocals by Drew Citron (Public Practice) and Anina Ivry-Block (Palberta) Bambara convened in a remote cabin in rural Georgia, where Reid laid down his vocals.
The finished product represents both the band's most experimental and accessible work to date. The addition of Citron and Ivory-Block’s vocals create a hauntingly beautiful contrast to Bateh’s baritone on tracks like “Sing Me to the Street”, “Death Croons” and “Stay Cruel," while the Dick Dale inspired guitar riffs on “Serafina” and "Heat Lightning" and the call-and-response choruses throughout the album showcase Bambara’s ability to write songs that immediately demand repeat listens.
While the music itself is evocative and propulsive, a fever dream all of its own, the lyrical content pushes the record even further into its own darkly thrilling realm. If the songs on Shadow On Everything were like chapters in a novel, then this time they’re short stories. Short stories connected by death and its effect on the characters in contact with it.
But it would be wrong to characterize Stray as simply the sound of the graveyard. Light frequently streams through and, whether refracted through the love and longing found on songs like “Made for Me” or the fantastical nihilism on display in tracks like the anthemic “Serafina,” reveals this album to be the monumental step forward that it is. Here Bambara sound like they’ve locked into what they were always destined to achieve, and the effect is nothing short of electrifying.
From Oakland, California, ÖTZI pierces the heart with their dark and passionate style of post-punk. Known for their blistering stage show and intricate songwriting, Ötzi first tore through the punk and post-punk underground with their 2017 debut LP, Ghosts. As rock authority Revolver magazine states, “with a traditional post-punk sound encased in aggression and dark-ness, Ötzi have perfected a modernized but timeless take on the genre.”
For their sophomore album, Ötzi joins Artoffact Records to release Storm, a powerful and dynamic work that channels all the emotions of drastic transformation. Immediately apparent on Storm is the interweaving of brooding vocal melodies with inspired chants, and the rich interplay of hypnotic guitar sounds with volcanic bass lines set to a propulsive beat. Singer and bassist Akiko Sampson’s soaring vocal clarity often takes a sharp dive into the gutteral, “as if they’re being piped in straight from the depths of hell,” as previously described by Bandcamp Daily. Singer and drummer Gina Marie responds with calls and chants, commanding the listener to stay focused as her syncopated punk style drives an infectious rhythm. Guitarist K. Dylan Edrich blankets the groundwork set by Akiko and Gina with airy chimes that segue into aggressive riffs. With the addition of the lush synth lines composed by Sampson, bright saxophone by latest member Winter Zora, and violin by Edrich, the album flows from the luxuriant and pensive self-reflection of “Moths” to a celebration of supportive love in “Hold Still”, to the hard-hitting resolve of “Ballad of Oiwa” and “Tunnels,” expressing in each track all of the joys and pains of cathartic self-renewal.
Hinting at influences that include the eerie howls of Siouxsie and the Banshees and the urgent beats of Xmal Deutch-land, Ötzi’s music also retains a solid foundation stemming from the band members’ punk roots, informed as much by Crass, Romeo Void and Rites of Spring as they are by The Cure and Bauhaus. Since their formation in 2014, Ötzi has toured many parts of the world, billing with with varied post-punk, punk and indie luminaries including the Chameleons, Deerhoof, Modern English, She Past Away, Zounds, Screaming Dead and The Iconoclast. The have played at A Murder of Crows Festival 2019, Return to the Batcave Festival 2018, and Out From the Shadows Festival 2017, and have an upcoming appearance at SXSW in 2020.