Take to the Skies – Hairband and Pip Blom E.P.s

Hairband – Hairband E.P. (Monorail Music)
Pip Blom – Paycheck E.P. (Nice Swan Records)

I’ve written a fair bit about my albums of 2018 (writes Andy Wood). To be honest I haven’t really paid much attention to singles and E.P.’s of late but these two vinyl releases in late 2018 got me really excited about the format again. For the simple reason that they are absolutely excellent. The Extended Play record is a great tool for allowing the musicians to stretch out their ideas without committing to an album though on the evidence of both these records both acts should have the potential for great Long Players in their armoury given time.

I have social media to (sort of) thank for introducing me to Hairband. Rowan Wright was a member of the wonderful Blood Indians who released an E.P. and a gorgeous single ‘Lioness’ and played some splendid gigs before disintegrating. While Joanne Forbes, the other half of the original duo, is now a member of the excellent The Van T’s, Rowan resurfaced in 2017 with Hairband. Having heard a rough track online I was intrigued and booked them to open for Brix and The Extricated that autumn. Live, they were thrilling and the songs shone through despite some onstage nerves. To say that I was excited to hear that they were to be releasing an E.P. via Monorail Music would have been a massive understatement.

Released as a 5 song 12” E.P. it is a beautiful package in itself. The 5 songs are very strong and assured and it’s a record that I keep coming back to again and again.

Opening song ‘Bee’ starts with some buzzing and a snaking bassline and artful drumming. The song seems to loop in on itself creating a confusion of sounds with the gorgeous vocals meshing with each other to create a splendid dizzying feeling. ‘Bubble Sword’ is a sugar rush to the head with its panicky rhythms and soaring melodies.

‘Flying’ employs a slow build-up and an initially tentative feel evoking a sensation of a a journey into the unknown both musically and lyrically: ‘Every time I leave the ground / I wonder will it be the last time? / So I say goodbye to the feeling of my feet / With the earth beneath / And take to the skies.’ It’s a gentler song than the first two, really sweet and contemplative before soaring to the end. ‘White Teeth’ is utterly gorgeous with its insistent niggling guitars and melancholic rhythms. It feels almost desolate at points, particularly after the euphoric end to ‘Flying’ but is also rich sounding and beautiful. ‘Sassy Moon’ sounds equally complex and stark, the interplay between the instruments and vocals is something very special and wraps you up in its nocturnal, eerie world.

The 5 songs on this E.P. are so perfectly formed and realized, there’s a real sense of unity of purpose, a synergy between the musicians involved and a warmth and real sense of wonder, joy and beauty. I simply adore this superb record from the gorgeous packaging to the last notes of the final song.

I know pretty much zilch about Pip Blom other than the 4 song Paycheck E.P. released in late 2018 is another of my favourite releases of 2018. Pip Blom appears to be Dutch, sings in English and has self-released some stuff previously.

‘The Shed’ begins almost lazily with an insistent, repeated guitar line, drums and a laconic vocal opening with the intriguing line ‘Found my name in the graveyard’. It’s pretty cool, insinuating its way into your brain before hitting you between the eyes with a wall of sound. It’s all pretty exciting stuff.

‘Come Home’ is again initially very sparse, a vocal over discordant guitar before it picks up pace when the rhythm section kicks in. it keeps adding in little layers and new elements building up in intensity. It’s a dry, witty aside to a lover: ‘Say my name if you think that it’s over / I’ve lost track of what you think / I don’t mind I think it’ quite amusing / We both know you’re not that type.’ ‘Pussycat’ is a more up tempo song, a glam-trash number that is pretty satisfying and great fun.

The final song, ‘Hours’ is the first song that I heard by Pip Blom on 6Music. A persistent guitar motif and an edgy vocal start things off before the drums punch in. It sounds almost panicky with its stark recollection of time passing too fast. I was hooked on the initial airing and have been ever since. Paycheck is another superb release, 4 songs on 10” vinyl and another cool sleeve.

It’s pretty special at a time when physical E.P.’s are getting less common and singles are mainly reduced to a promotional track that both Hairband and Pip Blom have released such fantastic physical releases. Gorgeous to look at and hold, sublime to listen to. All hail the E.P. All hail Hairband and Pip Blom. I definitely want to – no, need to hear more by them in 2019.