“If this is the best of all possible worlds, what are the others?”
– Voltaire, Candide
It was always going to take something truly magical to awaken me from my writer’s hibernation. With every passing month, it’s felt harder and harder to find the right words. I bought a desk in an attempt to commit myself, but the desk soon became littered with half-finished articles and a sense of frustration. I kept making excuses and finding new distractions…. and I think for a while, I might have even fallen a little bit out of love with music. That seems like such a strange and horrible thing to admit now, because in truth, it took just a few seconds of ‘Candide’ by Parade, to know that this was THE song to make everything right again.
A beautifully imagined debut by one of Manchester’s most promising new artists; ‘Candide’ is seemingly seeped in an old fashioned romanticism, a celebration of regret, despair and longing. Every moment is tenderly crafted by an artist determined to find hope in the darkest of places. Produced in the now mythological SWAYS Bunker.. or for the unenlightened, the spiritual home to some of Manchester’s greatest modern outfits (MONEY, Kult Country, Bernard & Edith and PINS) it seems like the stars might be aligning for Parade to break beyond the confines of the crumbling white walls that stand defiantly opposite Strangeways prison in Salford.
Having been a member of the confrontational and enigmatic post-rock outfit, Hartheim; a band which ended in the most tragic of circumstances with the untimely passing of guitarist Gaz Devreede, one could have almost forgiven Parade’s Nic Townley if he had disappeared off the radar completely. But this is a fascinatingly personal vision, full of hunger, desire and a dream-like innocence that clings lovingly onto every piano chord. With a vocal tone reminiscent of the unashamedly emotional quiver of Jeff Buckley, Townley has a remarkable ability to draw the listener into his world, and keep you there. Sun Kil Moon’s Mark Kozelek invited Townley to sing on stage with him during last year’s RNCM show; an unreal moment for an unknown artist, but one taken confidently. Candide is one of the most heartbreakingly perfect pieces of work I’ve heard in forever.
What’s not to love about Manchester’s Hartheim? Their bold sonic assault blends fiery passion with a fine-tuned aesthetic. Their music videos are arresting and brave. There’s a primal quality to their tunes, the best of which have the ability to make the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end.
Welcome To Hartheim is brooding and convicted, a reverent force of nature occupying musical territory somewhere between Joy Division and early Puressence. Arpegiatted guitars chime, gritty vocals loop like a mantra. It’s tense and compelling – a joyride through some dark, exotic wonderland. Honed by Sways mainstay Martin Hurley, the steely production makes for an addictive listen. It forces you to want more – to play the track over and over until you’ve had your fix. The climatic ending is pure catharsis – an exhilarating experience you wouldn’t want to miss.
It’s fair to say that in the ensuing months since I first introduced Hartheim, the Manchester band have started to generate the kind of buzz needed to seperate themselves from the pack. Debut offering Yellow was certainly an ambitious statement; that dark bellowing vocal still leaves me in a state of rapture after all this time, with it’s climactic ending worthy of a bigger stage.
Having since taken a handful of live shows, each outing seems to further cement them as a band to keep an eye on. Against an immersive visual backdrop, the brutal nature of Hartheim’s set is fully exposed; front-man Mike Emerson’s performance is at times hypnotic, channelling an almost uncomfortable emotion. There’s an element of theatricality and danger to be found here too, and they’ll need to be careful it doesn’t overshadow the music. That being said, this is a band willing to challenge both themselves and the audience.
In Welcome to Hartheim they have created a sound that echoes the work of Esben and the Witch, an unsettling narrative played against brooding guitars, before descending into a cavernous emptiness. When you tear apart the aesthetic exterior, Hartheim are aiming straight for the heart.
As an opening statement, the intent of Manchester collective Hartheim is laid bare in brutally ambitious debut offering Yellow.
It’s not often a piece of music delivers the kind of tension or unnerving beauty found here… but then its pretty clear that Hartheim are not your typical band. Lyrically brave; the track details the consequences of living with disease and addiction, vocals murmur and howl above a swirling industrial backdrop. At nearly 7 minutes long, this is a substantial and atmospheric journey we are being taken on. Recorded in the infamous SWAYS Records Bunker with producer Martin Hurley, it never panders to those in need of a quick fix, preferring to build slowly towards an epic conclusion.
A new year, a new Manchester already blooming in the little sunlight it receives.