Not As Bad As It Seems is the third album by Soft Walls. It was recorded to tape on a trusty 8-track recorder. The guitar-based, drum machine-backed songs trawl through rock, punk, raga, and lo-fi ballads. Thematically it mixes self-critical lyrics with self-help positivity. Apparently, everything is "cranked".
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Maybe it’s because I’ve been hanging around the Leeds DIY scene for too long but something about lo-fi cassettes feels incredibly homely. Soft Walls, who has probably been hanging around the Brighton DIY scene for too long, manages to hone in on just that feeling with Not as Bad as It Seems.
The tape kicks off with ‘Mispercetion’, which comes across as a bit Deerhunter via Spacemen 3. A steady drum beat, a simple guitar melody, and Indian raga inspired keyboard drones. For what is essentially a one-man band, Soft Walls comes across as surprisingly lively (even amidst all that lo-fi scuzz). That is largely down to the drums which despite coming out of a machine, when rendered through a dodgy 8 track, can easily pass as someone churning out a bit of motorik.
Beyond being built of familiar musical touchstones, it’s that lo-fi production that I’m finding myself drawn too. The way a voice sounds record by a cheap mic, the fuzzy edges on anything, the lack of snap in the drums. And to be honest, I don’t know that Not as Bad as It Seems would work with “better” production values. Something about how the sounds bleed into each other just suits these songs. And it certainly wouldn’t help on tracks like ‘As Thin As a Thread’ which starts with some proper harsh noise, or ‘Late Dreamer’, an interlude of rather soft ambience.
Lo-fi is much maligned, especially as its sound can be faked. But here, Soft Walls proves there's still a place for it.
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