24:02 min • Self Released • August 15, 2014
Little Bastard reviews
I haven’t written anything for a while. Whilst I’ve loved some of the music that has been released in the last few months, nothing has really inspired me to put pen to paper (or in this case, finger to keyboard). Then one of my favourite electronic EP’s from last year got a follow up and, after taking a few weeks to digest it, I realised I’d stumbled upon something quite brilliant, something that compelled me to write again.
Last year, Swansea based artist Stokeley released his first EP, entitled Pictures From The Sky, and I tipped him as being one to watch. At the beginning of this year, when I interviewed Stokeley, he hinted that his next release, due out this year, would be more personal and conceptual than its predecessor. In the interim we had a short concept EP, an unofficial score to a film of 1950s housewives on acid called Acid Housewife (a lovely, moody slice of electronica that is also available on his bandcamp) and now we have his 2nd full length EP, Father, which picks up where the ambientronica of Pictures left off, and gives us lush soundscapes studded with youthful melancholy.
Opener ‘In Their Eyes’ can be summed up by the line,
This is for the people who’ve died,
With that word ringing in their ears –
and this sticks with you long after listening to the EP. It’s certainly the perfect opener for an EP, and where the instrumentation lusciously builds and bubbles, only to drop and expose that lyric, it’s obvious the emphasis Stokeley wants to attribute to it. It’s a song that exudes immense loneliness, despite its sentiment of solidarity and oneness with people that have died as a result of bigotry. This is followed by ‘Blood Work’, a sombre and melancholy account of having an STD test, something that is a necessary evil of modern life, but is ultimately a stressful and depressing experience for anyone romantic enough to get caught up in a moment but then self deprecating enough to think that one moment will change your entire life – and not in a good way. Having sat in GUM clinic waiting rooms, an experience I always dread and put off as long as possible, the sombre feeling created by this song emulates exactly how this experience has always made me feel. The regret, the loneliness, the uncertainty. It’s beautifully executed, and gave me goosebumps on first listen.
The floating chill of ‘Despondent’, with its solitary, disembodied vocal – repeating
I never know what you want me to do –
– takes the listener of a journey of their own making. Rather than this being about Stokeley and his story, the genius of leaving it completely instrumental bar that one sentence is that the listener experiences their own emotion, the only emotional hint given to you via the disembodied, almost heart breaking vocal. Whilst the rest of the EP is his story, his commentary, ‘Despondent’ feels almost interactive in the way it invites your own story and commentary. And it’s both uncomfortable and relaxing to experience my own story in music form. My own isolation, my despondency, my depression, and how it affects the rest of my life… I could have written my entire review about my experience of listening to this one song, the emotions it took me through and the memories it dragged kicking and screaming out of me, but the rest of the EP is so damned good that wouldn’t be fair.
The track that follows ‘Despondent’, ‘Idle’, is my hands-down favourite here. Given a less oppressive production, the beautiful melody and Stokeley’s subtle Welsh accent coming through on the line
These idle hands, play things for the devil –
makes this the refrain that has been stuck in my head. We all need things to occupy our idle hands… whether that be art, music, work or even love, and the itch that comes with complacency and stagnation can be almost crippling. Stokeley feels that itch, and that boredom, and it pours out of the song’s every beat.
The closer to end all closers, the Trent Reznor inspired ‘Sin’ dealing with religion and sexuality, starts as a vocal piano ballad that explodes into and industrial thump, and the way the instrumentation bubbles and fizzles before the explosion is mesmerising. It talks of a vengeful God, disobeying children, and the line
Kill for me – die for peace –
is powerfully haunting. The shift in musical style, though not wholly out of place, does feel like it comes out of nowhere, especially with how well the first 4 tracks blend, but I wouldn’t want it to have been excluded from the track listing. No one can do industrial pain like Reznor… well, except now maybe Stokeley.
Father affects me in a way that I find hard to express. In a time when young men (especially young men who are experiencing sexual confusion) have an unbelievably high suicide rate, and a time where as many countries seem to be narrowing their minds as seem to be opening them to the every changing spectrums of sexuality, this EP feels like a bolt of lightning. Well, maybe less lightning, and more the calm before the storm. Since Thom Yorke, very few male artists writing ambient music have talked about the isolation and loneliness felt by many young men, or done so in such an articulate way that it almost suffocates you. From the opening ‘In Their Eyes’ to the closing ‘Sin’, we are taken through the mind of a young man that isn’t so much living as, well…breathing. All anger is muted, there are no back street guitars and fuck you attitudes, and the near perfect production on its own stopped me in my tracks on several occasions. Listening to the EP as a whole, in one go, is a powerful experience. Rather than being the spearhead of change, this EP is the silent scream in your head that soundtracks your day to day life… especially as a gay man who doesn’t want to conform. It’s my soundtrack, in some ways, and I think it could be yours too. If Stokeley has this subtle grasp of his concept so early in his career, there’s no telling what he could do with a full album and a few years in the industry, and no telling what a full length album could do to me emotionally.
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