Christmas came early around these parts yesterday as Syd Howells unexpectedly dropped a brand-new EP, the brilliantly titled Doll Drums. According to Howells, the EP consists of ‘three gloomy tracks which appeared while working on my next album (This Septic Isle). There is no home for them there. They packed their bags and fled here.” Tidy.
Opener ‘Fear of Feeling (Anything at all)’ has a gentle electronic throb with slight echoes of John Carpenter. It has a gloom and a sense of dread that is equally balanced by Howells’ deadpan delivery. The track finishes with one of the finest lines I’ve heard in recent times – “The cupboard is as empty as a Nazi’s cranium”. Great stuff.
‘Threnody to the Uncredited Actors Snuffed in Action Movies’ has Howells at his most minimal with a track full of percussion (bongos?), squealing electronica and sparse lyrics describing movie deaths.
Final track ‘North London Tropical Storm’ opens with the great line “If the Covids don’t get us, the Brexit will. But I don’t want to die on either hill”. Another track delivered by Howells in his demented sub – ‘Criswell’ way. Electronica, minimal beats and cracks of lighting punctuate the 3.06 of sardonic, tongue in cheek word play. ‘North London Tropical Storm’ is deliciously playful, but also stands as a clever (and serious) warning for Britain’s future.
This is Howell’s first release since the We Declare War on Beige EP (with Steveless) and his last solo LP Mr Daniel Pemic, and is a really encouraging intro to what his next LP This Septic Isle may contain. As with all of Howell’s sonic output over the years, it’s suitably idiosyncratic and delightfully unhinged. Howells is both incredibly creative and musically diverse, whilst also being perversely anti trend. Take a few minutes and have a listen. You could be Syd Howell’s latest fan. I guarantee you won’t be disappointed or bored. It’s just great stuff.
Doll Drums EP is available now via Bandcamp
Follow Syd Howells on Twitter
Review by Ioan Humphreys