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Lights Out


Artist: a-tota-so
RRP: £13.99
Release Date: 11 March 2022

BUTTONpUSHER releases Lights Out, the second album by Midlands-based Math-Rockers a-tota-so (Marty Oner on guitar; Jamie Catermole on drums; and Chris Marsh on Bass) formed in 2016 by members of Alright the Captain, and Cheap Jazz. This time the former instrumentalists have invited vocalist friends from the UK and Ireland to put a fresh spin on the music by individually writing and singing their own vocals on one of each of the eight tracks. The guest vocalists consist of Jake O’Driscoll (God Alone), Damien Sayell (The St Pierre Snake Invasion), Aisling Whiting (Sang Froid), Kieran Hayes (We Come in Pieces), Brian Scally (Ganglions), Ellie Godwin (No Violet), Jack Gordon (Irk), Ashley Tubb (Sugar Horse) – and the additional musicians Josh Gesner (Polymath), and Keys Realf Greville Heygate on violins and cello. The album was recorded by Phil Booth at JT Soar Studios, and mixed and mastered by Richard Collins at Snug Recording Co. Cover artwork is by Simon Curd. As with many albums written during the Covid period, the theme explored is depression, anxiety and our outlook at the current state of the world. Lights Out is available for Download...

Track List: 'Choke' (featuring Jake O’Driscoll), 'Far Enough' (featuring Damien Sayell), 'I Am' (featuring Aisling Whiting), 'Squirrel Bait' (featuring Kieran Hayes), 'Footprints on the Ceiling' (featuring Brian Scally), 'Spicy Nights' (featuring Jack Gordon), 'Sad Lamps' (featuring Ellie Godwin), and 'When the Waves Come' (featuring Ashley Tubb).

Shouted/screamed counterpoint vocals accompany a nice rumbling guitar riff and trebly melody in the opener. There is light and shade, and a nice hook into the chorus. The follow-up has a galloping drum beat and is a little more commercial in that the vocals are clean and catchy. 'I Am' is more of a moderate Folk song, which is quaint and enjoyable… until it becomes dull, despite a nice guitar melody and off-beat drums. It gains more momentum, before stripping right back again and ending as it started. 'Squirrel Bait' is an enjoyable stop/start riff and shouted vocals which in the main parts is close to a punk song. The Math Rock genre spans styles, with quieter, dreamlike moments and more aggressive bridging sections. 'Footprints on the Ceiling' has an acoustic opening, and you just wait for the inevitable slamming through of the band – in this case with the drums and melody-driven guitar. This is certainly the most invigorating and well-constructed of the bunch, with several aspects which come together to make the whole. 'Spicy Nights' is more straight down the line Math Rock, with short and sharp music signatures but an overall theme and earnest vocals. It’s like an opus of good, bad and ugly features, but meanders a little too much for my liking. 'Sad Lamps' goes for melancholy, even during the brief meaty guitar parts, but becomes more conventional in its mood as it reaches a conclusion. Last but not least is 'When the Waves Come'. This is dominated in the early verses by the extreme shouted vocals, which turn clean for the chorus and whispered for a short instrumental break. This one also has meat on the bones, and knows how to come off the pedal and slam it back on for the best effect.

This genre of Math Rock is fairly new to me. It has elements of Prog incorporated but with a sharper, heavier and therefore more entertaining edge. Some of these I found particularly compelling – such as 'Footprints on the Ceiling', and 'When the Waves Come' – and the others, whilst enjoyable, failed to capture my imagination. Nevertheless, all-in-all this is a solid release.


Ty Power

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