Back in October 2017 I went to see Yassassin at the Waiting Room in Stoke Newington, London. However, all I really remember from that night was the aural and visual detonation set off by the support band, Girls in Synthesis. John and Jim on guitar and bass were set up in front of the stage facing each other and this formed a triangle with Nicole on drums. The guitar lines were angst made flesh and the feedback screamed like a toddler meltdown, the bass warped the room as wells as rearranged the internal organs of the audience. Only the forcefulness of the drums offered terra firma and stopped space and time from being ripped apart. The triangle would occasionally shatter as John seemed to be fighting an invisible force which caused paroxysms and regular drops to the floor and, on several occasions, his Dervish zeal nearly took out members of the audience (myself included) who missed a bass-head battering by mere millimetres. It’s one of most exhilarating gigs I’ve seen in recent years like taking electrically charged amphetamines.
You’d believe there was subliminal messaging buried in the noise that night as, since then, I’ve bought everything they have released with their strong fanzine/DIY work ethic: ‘The Suburban Hell EP’ (and the dub version), ‘The Mound/Disappear + t-shirt’, ‘We Might Not Make Tomorrow EP’, ‘Fan The Flames EP’ (editions 1, 2 and 3 including poetry and lyrics which offer insights into the band’s philosophy), ‘Pre/Post: A Collection 2016-2018’, ‘Arterial Movements’ 7”. And now we arrive at Now Here’s An Echo From Your Future (NHAEFYF) which is thirty-one of the most intense minutes you’ll probably spend with an album this year.
The momentum on NHAEFYF is immense and the opening three tracks ‘Arterial Movements’, ‘Pressure’ and ‘The Images Agree’ rip the plaster off any sense of comfort you might be feeling. The bass weaves high and low with the twang of a bridge suspension cable and the guitar judders between combustible riffs and dentist drill feedback and the bedrock, keeping everything together, is the drums which sometimes follow the bass accents and at other times are pure Motown-on-steroids. Only ‘Human Frailty’ and ‘Set Up To Fail’ are not full-tilt, but still provide an auditory queasiness from jackhammer chords, Stanley Bad’s excoriating violin and the cavernous atmosphere inherent in the mix. And over of the pyroclastic playing sits vocals that hold nothing back. They cajole, shout and scream with voices often overlapping. Sometimes they will be right in your ear, challenging you, and at other times there are powerful chants (‘They’re Not Listening’, ‘The Images Agree’) or added echo and reverb which mean the voices meld with the instruments to create another layer of sound.
GiS are agitators and always provide lyrics sheets with their releases. Their anger is also an energy (as they know from John Lydon*) and they don’t want people to sleepwalk through life, they want to challenge the status quo as much as have us challenge ourselves. They reflect the malaise of modern life back at us so we can challenge our own belief systems. Songs tackle everything from fake news, media manipulation to the mental health crisis and state of current politics. I suspect that if NHAEFYF had come out twenty years ago it would have been on the Crass label and, for me, GiS chimed with many bands that I thank for having challenged my idea of music over the years: Rudimentary Peni, The Birthday Party, early Killing Joke and Crass and more recent acts like Sleaford Mods, DITZ and Italia 90. It’s impressive that having been recorded in multiple locations (Rockit Studios, Hull, Gun Factory and John’s S.I.C.K. Studio in London) that the sound is so consistently good but the band have done a great job mixing this along with some fine engineering from long-time collaborator Max Walker and the mastering skills of Brett Shaw at 123 Studios, Peckham.
Now Here’s An Echo From Your Future is a visceral, white-knuckle ride and Girls in Synthesis smash so many things together that you’d be forgiven for thinking they are trying to find their own Higgs boson particle. They are a band that not only understand the sonic possibilities of what they can do but also love to stress-test their sound to see how far they can take it before it breaks. As agitators GiS do create “a state of anxiety or nervous excitement” as well as “…arousing public concern about an issue and pressing for action on it” they agitate the brain cells as well as the very DNA of the listener and this release is compelling and strong enough to not only become one of the must have albums of 2020 but for years to come. As they say in ‘They’re Not Listening’
“Ambiguity breeds contempt, while reality breeds the hate, that’s needed to supply them with the eye, to find who they can manipulate”
Review by Paul F Cook
* You can also read the excellent Joyzine interview Ioan Humphreys conducted with GiS here