In an age where the alternative scene as a whole is become increasingly saturated, it seems like it’s become routine for many mediocre acts to promote themselves with increasingly brazen and obnoxious stunts. However, on the other end of the spectrum, it seems like the bands who refuse to play the fraudulent and exhausting game of excessive self promotion are the ones who harbour the most ingenuity, brilliance and innovation. One such act are Bristol’s Sugar Horse.
Despite branding themselves as a “decidedly average band that play monotonous rock”, their debut EP Druj is concrete evidence that the truth couldn’t be farther removed. Opener ‘The Crime Song’ stands a poignant statement of intent from the trio, with it’s introductory ominous ambience suddenly plunging the listener into a caustic sea of carbonated shoegaze. As the track ebbs and flows between periods of uneasy sombre reflection, gentle vocals and monumental gazing heft, it feels akin to that of drowning, with the listener trying in vein to stay afloat despite being dragged down into the irresistibly compelling depths of acidic shoegaze.
Such a sentiment can be applied to the record as a whole, with the aptly titled ‘Your Degree Is Worthless And Your Parents Aren't Proud Of You’ continuously building on the contrast between haunting lulls and metallic, staggering and reverberating structures. However, as the track progresses we see a unity of these contrasts, with the mergence bringing an almost serene and tranquil ambience into the spotlight. There’s cold comfort and electric tension within these tracks, with such strain being released within the incredible ‘I Liked You Better Before You Went To Art School’. A gradual swell of atmospheric and contemporary ideals accumulate and release majestically as the track expands into an eutrophic post-metal landscape, with the once gentle and disciplined vocals breaking into distorted screams of emotion.
Despite the record touching upon themes of atmospheric subtle elation and pensive ambience, the closer and respective title track showcases the sheer primordial heft that Sugar Horse are capable of providing. Clocking in at almost eight and a half minutes, the track is a continuous bludgeoning of live wired reverb and monumental density that’s punctured by periods of apprehensive stillness. It’s as immersive as it’s respective peers within the record, but rather that promoting stimulating curiosity, it’s a prolonged exercise in conjuring an atmosphere of dystopian doom.
Druj perfectly showcases Sugar Horse’s ability to conjure ghostly yet pacifying ambience through contrasts and juxtaposition without the need for grandiose statements or a needlessly excessive musical palette. Whilst they may be respectively new to this scene, the talent and innovation within this release is parallel of an act that their absolute peak. While many within the south west are already associated with Sugar Horse, going from a debut such as this, it’s only going to be a short period of time before the entire national contemporary scene is praising their name.
Druj is released 22nd February via Invisible Llama Music