Saturday 16 March 2013

Coma Wall/Undersmile - Wood & Wire - Review

Coma Wall / Undersmile ‘Wood & Wire’

Coma Wall/Undersmile - Wood & Wire


Coma Wall

A1. Summer
A2. You Are My Death
A3. Cutter’s Choice


B1. Soil
B2. Killer Bob
B3. Hives

Coma Wall/Undersmile Band Members

Taz Corona-Brown, Hel Sterne, Olly Corona-Brown and Tom McKibbin.

Having previously been affiliated with the Future Noise label, Oxford's rising Undersmile - purveyors of sludge/doom tinged with various influences from the early 90s alternative rock scene - have now teamed up with Shaman Recordings to unleash their new 12", 'Wood & Wire', a split release with their 'unplugged' alter ego Coma Wall. It's an intriguing concept for a record, with both band and label taking a bold step in the undertaking of this project. But, as the more switched on are aware, it's the boldest steps which are the hardest to ignore. Due to the nature of the record, Side A is quieter and more calming, whereas Side B is loud and unsettling. Fortunately, it's a healthy balance between the two extremes.

Side A represents Coma Wall's first time on record, but they have already gained some notoriety in their own right, playing at last year's Desertfest as well as gigging with Earth's Dylan Carlson (albeit then under the name of 'Undersmile Unplugged'). With an acoustic-based, doom folk sound augmented by occasional banjo passages, Coma Wall's music bears a resemblance to Earth's more recent material, certainly in its evocative atmosphere of dark Americana, if not in its instrumentation. But the truly haunting - and subtly unnerving - harmonised vocals of Taz Corona-Brown and Hel Sterne render these three songs beyond accurate comparison with any other artist; their combined voices are wonderfully ethereal and, particularly on 'You Are My Death', successfully conjure the very real sensation one might have of a cold breeze whilst traversing rural American landscapes of a late evening.

Side B finds us the quartet in more familiar territory as Undersmile. Now very much plugged back in, the band's sound is a compelling mixture of various sounds, ranging from a much dirtier, grittier form of the blues influences which flavoured the Coma Wall material, to the most hypnotic, feedback-drenched drone and sludge-based riffage, via a crushing, drum-heavy mix which at times brings to mind vintage Swans, with its sheer, violent attack. Vocally, Undersmile's two kinderwhore frontwomen still exhibit their distinctive duel vocals, but they now sound more visceral and really quite unsettling, sounding somewhere close to Kat Bjelland fronting Alice In Chains. This is especially apparent on the terrifying closer 'Hives', which opens with an awesomely hideous cacophony of voices, and bubbles along ominously for several minutes, before suddenly exploding in a slow and dark final movement of guitar and drum noise.

'Wood & Wire' is an extraordinary release, which essentially exhibits two sides of the same coin. The material is very strong on both the A and the B side, and listeners previously familiar with Undersmile's grungier, sludgier side will find the Coma Wall songs especially revelatory. One has to wonder what the future holds for this flexible foursome, and whether one project will take priority over the other, but it has to be said that on this evidence, both are more than worthy of success in their own right. Gripping stuff.

Written by Matt Ford

Great review by Matt for a great musical talent that is Undersmile showing their amazing alter ego. We are big fans of this record at Sludgelord. It proves once again Undersmile are one of the best bands the UK has to offer at the moment.

You can buy Wood & Fire from Shaman Recordings here.

Check The Band(s) from the links below.


Coma Wall