Album Review: Drahla – Useless Coordinates

Leeds three-piece band Drahla are made up of Luciel Brown (vocals, guitar) Rob Riggs (bass) and Mike Ainsley (drums). Since recording the excellent Third Article EP in 2017 the band has been fitting in writing and recording around playing live; which included a show for Robert Smith at his Meltdown on London’s Southbank. This is their debut full length LP; released on the Captured Tracks label.

Opening track ‘Gilded Cloud’ is an unsettling start with a slow menacing build from stabbed and hanging chords punctuated by military rat-a-tat drums. It feels like the warm up for an undefined battle and then half way through we are off with Luciel’s vocals doubled over call-and-response guitar and bass. ‘Serenity’ is anything but; noise-pop bursting out from behind a repeated riff that punctuates the song. It also hints at more to come from guest saxophonist Chris Duffin of XAM Duo. Chris also adds extra wail to the sub-two minute ‘Pyramid Estate’ which feels like someone is brutalizing the Zutons. ‘Stimulus for Living’ completes the first third of the album with haunting disaffected vocals over a driving rhythm.

‘React/Revolt’ is the album’s longest track and allows the sax to run amok offering up Ornette Coleman-like runs and trills. ‘Primitive Rhythm’ and ‘Serotonin Level’ put me in mind of the lo-fi nihilism of Scottish band Josef K. ‘Twelve Divisions of the Day’ is a non-stop hammer pounding that you think must be the fastest Drahla will play until the 180 BPM ‘Unwound’. The album closes with ‘Invisible Sex’ which seems like a languid stream after the raging torrent of last two tracks.

Useless Coordinates barely touches 30 minutes but it is as dense as fruit cake. I’ve read Luciel say that they are not trained musicians but trained or not it takes a great ear to not get sucked into the swamplands of cacophony. Few bands try and harness the angular, the spiky and the discordant and Drahla contain all the energy and focus it like physicists working with lasers and lightning.

Their songs are well constructed and the album is well produced allowing all the instruments to fly around one another without turning the sound to mush. The use of riff-repetition is offset with staccato sections which add drama and these are balanced by the almost casual indifference of the vocals which work so well and I was reminded of the sweet spot Gang of Four hit with their second album Sold Gold. Everything about this album is cohesive. It’s abstract and razor sharp like someone has made a Rothko painting out of knives and broken glass. It also conveys a feeling which I can only describe as cold warmth.

The album Useless Coordinates is released on 3 May and Drahla are on tour in May and June:

May 2nd – Broadcast, Glasgow
May 3rd – Brudenell Social Club, Leeds
May 7th – Yes, Manchester (w/ Sleep Eaters)
May 8th – Phase One, Liverpool (w/ Sleep Eaters)
May 9th – Hare And Hounds, Birmingham (w/ Sleep Eaters)
May 10th – Clwb Ifor Bach, Cardiff (w/ Sleep Eaters)
May 13th – The Cookie, Leicester (w/ Sleep Eaters)
May 15th – Studio 9294, London
May 16th – Green Door Store, Brighton (w/ Sleep Eaters)
May 17th – The Bullingdon, Oxford (w/ Sleep Eaters)
May 18th – The Boileroom, Guildford (w/ Sleep Eaters)
June 23rd – Loose Ends Festival, Amsterdam

Review by Paul F Cook


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