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Sugar Horse
The Live Long After Tom Coles , September 3rd, 2021 08:45

The Bristol band's debut record is a weird and jagged record for weird and jagged times, finds Tom Coles

Sometimes it's easy to write about loud, difficult music; there's a receptive audience of people hungry for something just a few clicks heavier than last week's gold standard, and it's very easy to google synonyms for "very heavy." It's harder with a band like Sugar Horse, who shift dispositions fluidly, taking elements of extreme aggression alongside floaty post-metal, remaining engaging whilst staying uncommitted to any set of tones or emotions.

Their debut album, The Live Long After, engages with elements of metal, post-punk and noise swirls, as well as some little flecks of sludge and hardcore. But genres often hint at intended moods or emotions, and the record is apart from that, flitting between soft and graceful and jagged and unpleasant without the mindset to arrive at a particular tonal conclusion. The overall effect is constantly jarring, and more than a little discombobulating; there are times when this is completely exhausting, and times where they play into the gooey textures just long enough to make things - well, quite nice, which is disconcerting in its own way.

The effect is generally engaging, a clash of driving rock songs and ethereal numbers. But instead of feeling like a mess, the record is tense, uncomfortable with itself, and with a constant sense that the whole thing is close to collapse at any time. These tensions also manifest in the track titles; 'Shouting "Judas" at Bob Dylan' and 'Dadcore World Cup' are slyly ironic, whilst others are concerned with darker subjects - meditations on the endless void, or Japanese doomsday movements. In the same breath they have Things To Say and defer discussing them directly. Here, the detached irony avoids mawkishness; who listens to a big angry doomsday cult record and does so with an entirely straight face?

An odd side effect of these tensions is that The Live Long After doesn’t seem overly fussed about being a record in itself, having an unpredictable, scattered structure. Of course it’ll be chopped up for various Spotify playlists anyway - but the string of ideas does make sense in a linear fashion. This seems appropriate for such times, bombarded as we are by information and the cascading emotions of fear and dread and joy - a weird and jagged record for weird and jagged times.

Ultimately, this is a curious affair, and it feels odd that it works. But work it does - if you'll let it.