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Norman Records

Hookworms - Pearl Mystic

Our album of the week (1st March 2013) 26 people love me. Be the 27th...

Pearl Mystic by Hookworms
  • Vinyl LP £12.49 + download code + £2.70 shipping, based on your current cart
  • LP and download on Gringo (WAAT051LP)
  • Artist: Hookworms
  • Label: Gringo
  • Genres: Psychedelia / Space Rock
  • Available for you to buy, but we need to order it in first.
  • CD £8.79 + £0.00 shipping, based on your current cart
  • CD on Gringo (WAAT051CD)
  • Artist: Hookworms
  • Label: Gringo
  • Genres: Psychedelia / Space Rock
  • Available for you to buy, but we need to order it in first.
Disclaimer: all reviews are simply the personal opinions of our staff and customers. They are not the official opinion of Norman Records as a whole. More details here...OK?
(2 reviews) 9/10

Reviews

10/10 according to on Wed 27 Feb, 2013

Finally, it’s here! The record you’ve all been waiting for ever since that first EP/mini-album dropped on Sun Ark, Leeds’s very own Hookworms have their debut full-length LP ‘Pearl Mystic’ out on the ever-reliable Gringo. Recorded at his own Suburban Home studio by Hooklord MJ, the quintet have taken their time to craft an absolutely monumental debut album of crisp kraut grooves, wah-drenched guitars, sweet metronomic repeato bass licks, and Farfisa organ with MJ’s tape echo-drenched yelp sitting on top as the tracks swell and recede in a hypnotically grooving blur.

It’s pop music in a sense - certainly very accessible, with head-nodding rhythms and hooks which refuse to dislodge themselves from your mind after a couple of listens through a swirl of BJM-ish psychedelia run through with Spacemen 3’s trance-inducing focus and precision. However this does seem to be somewhat an album without a single, drifting between its lengthy songs with passages of churning drone and ambience from which the tracks emerge - it’s a complete listening experience, with the listener left in no doubt that it’s intended to be listened to as a whole rather than chopped into its component songs, which vary from anthemic call-and-response in ‘Form And Function’ to slow-drifting psych dreaminess in ‘In Our Time’ and ‘Since We Had Changed’, to the foot-stomping psych pulse of rocker ‘Preservation’ which alternates between tensely pulsating verses and an explosive chorus slathered in Headsy wah (oh, and there’s a cheeky ‘Coronation Street’ keyboard lick in the intro), before setting us down softly with the warmly affectionate but achingly sad musical farewell ‘What We Talk About’. To use a well-worn cliche, “it’s a musical journey”.

With krautrock and psychedelia being back on the ascendancy there’s been a bit of buzz around these lads in recent weeks, and it’s nice to feel like it’s happening to the people who deserve it for a change. Perhaps there’s a little bias here since living in Leeds I’ve pretty been following these lads from day one, but by anyone’s standards ‘Pearl Mystic' is an extraordinary piece of work, and sure to be remembered fondly for years to come. Of all these excellent young repeato indie combos doing the rounds right now - Cold Pumas, Mazes, Sauna Youth, Kogumaza, Mugstar, etc - this lot really do stand out as being something particularly special. If they were the Justice League, Hookworms would be The Flash.

7/10 according to on 31st December 2013

Am I the only person on earth right now who doesn't seem to think Hookworms are the best band ever? With the amount of hype for the band, and specifically Pearl Mystic, at the moment you'd expect the musical equivalent of the second coming. Well. I came to the album with high hopes - bit hard not too when well known websites are calling it "a record that embodies perfection", "best British psychedelic record since the 1990's" and all that jazz. It seems like the mere mention of Hookworms can make your average listener faint with excitement. It was always going to suffer from hype to a certain extent, but unfortunately, in my opinion, at least, this has a fairly bad case of it. It's not a record that's hard to get into, but neither is it a sing-along the first time you hear it sort of album. It strikes a good medium between depth and catchiness, which means if it's sort of thing, you'll probably like it straight away and then continue to like it more and more after every listen. It tried to give it a good chance, I really did, but it just didn't do to my ears what it seems to be doing to everyone else's. In fairness, there are some prime moments on this album. Preservation is a noisy, chaotic Krautrocker which has more than a bit of dreamy spacerock, shoegaze and even a little punk about it. There's also no doubting that when he goes for it, MJ (they prefer to be known only by initials) is a ballsy vocalist who gives some of the album’s less exciting moment the punch they need, but at it's best it rocks hard enough for fans of heavy psych, while remaining dreamy and spacey enough for fans of the more outright experimental side of psych. I get the feeling they'd be excellent live - their own, fairly unique brand of energetic, feisty krautrock should be fantastic on a stage, and when they get it right, it's great on record too, it's just that they don't seem to get it right enough of the time.

Soundclips

Press release

For a while now Leeds five-piece Hookworms have been terrorising headlining bands across northern England and beyond, not through histrionics or gimmick, but through sheer sonic velocity and emotive intent. Often bracketed among the latest wave of psychedelic rock currently appearing in pockets around the UK (as support slots with Wooden Shjips, Sun Araw and Peaking Lights attest), this tag is somewhat of a misnomer for a band whose use of repetition and reverb is not to open the third dimension or for some sort of flower-power escapism. Instead the reel feels cathartic, each fresh revolution of the loop a confrontation between the band and themes of depression, loss and anger - subjects close to the heart of the group’s vocalist MJ (“no enigma; we just don’t use our full names, we’ve no interest in being celebrities.”)

Pearl Mystic is an absolutely thunderous statement of intent for Hookworms  after a portentous couple of years of live shows and limited releases. A debut self-titled EP initially came out on cassette for Sun Araw’s Sun Ark label before being given a vinyl release on Faux Discx/Gringo Records. Both sold out. A split 7” with drone-soundscapists Kogumaza followed on Gringo in summer 2012, whilst their live shows continued to increase in intensity, with impressive festival appearances at Beacons, Liverpool PsychFest and Supersonic cementing their reputation treading the boards.  Live and on record, like Spaceman 3, they pointedly subvert the tripped out sound environments of psychedelia with a darkly malevolent punk menace; unlike J.Spaceman et al, there’s no chemical assistance, these concepts and feelings come with clarity, and hit all the harder for it. The LP’s themes focus on a deeply personal narrative surrounding a lost relationship and a battle with depression that at its worst brought about, as MJ, puts it “a half-hearted suicide attempt”.

Thus songs like ‘Away/Towards’ (a finer opening to an album you couldn’t hope to hear) possess a gargantuan build-and-release infectious energy that juxtaposes with a subtext of a bi-polar approach to coping with loss. ‘Preservation’, too, is in keeping with the group’s live shows, though deals with existentialism, whilst several Raymond Carver influences are scattered in and among the bold textures of sound. ‘In Our Time’ is perhaps the closest thing to escapism on the LP, about a hill MJ would cycle up near Otley in Yorkshire after the end of his relationship, because it possessed his favourite view in the world. ‘Since We Had Changed’ meanwhile is almost mantra-like in its constancy, new percussive elements joining those already on the record, whilst ‘What We Talk About’ returns full circle to the first track’s themes of depression, and emerges from mixed field recordings including a backwards taping of a Hare Krishna lecture played down the studio corridor.

The record was recorded and produced in MJ’s own Suburban Studios – where he’s worked on records for Mazes, Eagulls and Spectrals among others – and he admits he enjoyed the greater freedom he could allow himself on his own project. Years of acclaimed production work have given him a great understanding for blending together the abilities of both man and machine. “My vocal style, for instance, has been informed by the Roland Space Echo” he points out. “The delayed vocals originated as a comfort blanket for the low confidence I have in my voice, but I have since learnt to sing with the machine - I understand its limitations and breaking points.” Certainly the production is lush, erring on the lo-fi side but contrasting that with a sense that every element has been pored over and deeply considered. Indeed, the most impressive thing about Hookworms is that, through this torrent of emotion, through their wild motorik and their thick slabs of noise that threaten to spill over, there’s always the sense that they’re in control of it all, so committed are they to this catharsis that they refuse to throw any of it to chance. Hookworms: http://parasiticnematode.blogspot.com

 

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