I don’t feel able to start a review of Modern Woman without mentioning P.J. Harvey, especially the early works from “Dry” to “To Bring You My Love”, as it bears quite a lot of similarities musically, from loud/quiet tension to early Beefheart experimentation, it’s all there in spades, but it also has enough originality to make it unique to them, especially the freeform dark folk vocals from Sophie Harris, which range from All About Eve goth to Comus style pagan folk. I also feel it’s worth pointing out that the band name does tend to detract from the work provided by the men. David Denyer, Juan Brint Gutierrez and Adam Blackhurst are not just mere Sleeper bloke sidekicks, having the style and sound of a Warren Ellis or a John Parish, creating scratchy atmospherics to complement the tapestry being woven by Sophie’s voice, which swoops octaves and dives into guttural utterances, like Anna Calvi or Siouxsie Sioux.
Modern Woman were included on the End Of The Road festival 2020 streamed edition, and the organisers were so impressed by them that they approached them to sign to their new record label, and here is the result of that collaboration. After playing the 2021 festival proper, where they played a blinding set on the Garden Stage, they have released a 4 track EP. The tracks featured have a delicate ferocity and concern themselves mostly with dark folk tales. “Offerings” for example, is a voyeuristic, obsessive story of a lover demanding offerings of parts of her partner, underscored by angry interjections of rage and lust from the drums and droning atonal violins. “Juniper” is the retelling of a Brothers Grimm tale of infant death and cannibalism, with a strong and heady mix of insistent violin and rolling drums, not unlike Radiohead’s “Burn The Witch” in its creeping intent. “Daniel” is a delicate tale of a boy who rises from the dead after his body is floated down a stream. “The Eel” is the most experimental piece here with a repetitive groove and a honking saxophone solo, and a spoken word story of a troubled girl who would get drunk and swing over dark waters with a death wish desire.
The songs here are dark and full of gothic nightmares and foreboding, but they are shot through with a quicksilver sense of purpose, and are so well played and produced (not overly) that they are by no means depressing. Quite the oposite in fact, this EP rocks like a bastard and shrieks like a banshee. Musically it falls somewhere between P J Harvey and Nick Cave, but with strong visual references somewhere between Jan Svankmajer and Tim Burton. Happy Halloween!
Read Modern Woman’s track by track guide to the EP
The Dogs Fighting In My Dream EP is out now on End of The Road Records. Get it now on vinyl, digital download and streaming services here.
Catch Modern Woman on tour at the following shows:
15/10 – Margate – New In Town Fest
16/10 – Leeds – Live At Leeds
9/11 – London – Moth Club
13/11 – Glasgow – Stag & Dagger
Review by Andrew Wood