- Venus De Milo
Releasing – or, calling your release – an EP is more of a statement of intent than a reference to its format these days. As a phrase, “extended player” hardly fits in the modern mouth. Say it out loud and you barely mimic the cut-glass diction of the BBC as was. EPs are reminiscent of the single-heavy 60s or punk circuits, and when Mac DeMarco’s last full-length release stops short of the 24-minute mark (not a complaint), it’s arguable whether the EP still has room to exist independently between singles and albums.
On the other hand, we’re in the great interregnum, and music industry totems have been rotting where they fall for years now. Whether they’re actually issuing music on vinyl (with physical space at a premium), or a spray of demos on SoundCloud, perhaps now, more than any time in the last few decades, can a band release an EP without it being just old-fashioned pomposity. ETCHES are launching their EP Wall Of Sleep tonight, and they clearly have feet in camps both ancient and modern.
First support comes from VENUS DE MILO, who play well, coping with adversity in the form of a broken bass string, followed by Mancunian five-piece MOTHER. With one bandmate pulling sounds from what can only be described as a box of tricks, frontwoman Allie Bell performs with all the energy of a certain other pre-Raphaelite festival headliner, albeit to a sparsely-populated room, not that Mother seem fazed.
More than once, Etches’ singer Ross Nicholson apologises for the sound of his lurgy-stricken throat. If he’s this good with a cold, his voice must be incredible at the top of his game. At its lowest, it is a rich bass with the best of Johnny Cash in its rumblings, but equally capable of an incarcerated yowl or a sawdust croak within a single song. Such vocals are the riches in this band’s vault.
The other side of Etches’ coin shows a tendency to revel in some explicit 70s posturing, such as falsetto harmonies and unironically funk basslines. More power to them, but the odd patch of Supergrass is not quite enough to support the weaker older songs, though The Charm Offensive is a notable non-EP cut.
Though it’s unclear if Wall Of Sleep is played in full tonight (release isn’t until 6th November, and there’s no tracklisting online), new cuts such as Do Nothing and The Great Void stand out as melodic, purposeful songs with no unnecessary frills – the occasional skewed drum fill or burst of synth out of leftfield just keep the listener on their toes.
There’s a passing resemblance to Outfit in their sound, but without the detached, Renaissance aesthetic of Slowness and Performance. That might work in Etches’ favour, and if they continue the audible trends on their new release – strong songwriting with diverting moments of sonic oddness – then their extended play is well-deserved.