PEEPHOLES are Katia Barrett and Nick Carlisle - a synth /drums duo defining their unique sound with both discipline and disorder. Barrett and Carlisle originally from Bahrain and Northern Ireland respectively met in Brighton in 2006 after bonding over a Chinese violin and the quietest of music. They quickly turned the volume up and hit on their winning strategy of soaring, stammering synth lines, primal drumming and low-slung vocals.
Treading a tightrope between underground punk and dance music, Peepholes write cloaked anthems as likely to open celestial gates with keys of repetition as to soundtrack a Dark Age future. Their music is otherworldly, aching with wild beats, echoing with cavernous atmospheres.
UTR056 | CD / LP | 9 tracks, 48 mins | Buy
After a series of well-received mini-albums, EPs and some earth-shaking live performances, Peepholes have finally finished their debut album proper for Upset The Rhythm entitled 'The Overspill'.
The album continues on from last record 'Caligula' with its rejection of traditional song form, allowing each track to follow its own fluid course, to hunt down its essential cadence. The initial material for the album was improvised and recorded over two days earlier this year at London DIY hub Power Lunches. This was then followed by a lengthy six month edit whereby additional vocals, synth and percussion were introduced or reworked, pulling the album into a coherent and impressive whole.
With 'The Overspill', Peepholes have finally realised a long ambition of theirs; trusting many first take vocals, following hunches, concentrating on the flow. You can hear that on opener "Ah Ah Ah" with its insistent motorik feel and pleading vocal of masked sounds. Carlisle's synth stalks Barrett's blurred voice into a formless coda of tumbling toms whilst some nihilistic Fairlight pipes join the pursuit, only to resurface later on Fourth World melodic rush "Keychain".
'The Overspill' is less noisy than its predecessor 'Caligula', finding Peepholes replace their Monotron blitzkrieg of old with an indistinct language of wordlessness and unsettling melodics. Although there are moments of light as with the tender treatment given to "Lion", this album feels dark, not so much in an over-prescribed depressive way, more along the lines of gleefully destructive, heavy with a celebratory, upbeat focus. "Pinnacles" rolls out in confident fashion, slowly but surely drawing us into a stark landscape of devolving rhythms.
"We Don't Like Anyone" is resolutely an anthem of displacement augmented by steel drums, handclaps and jubilant snare thunders. It's this unexpected embrace of the pop hook that informs title track 'The Overspill' too, letting the whooped vocals and queasy keyboard lines play over the disconcerting back-drones, allowing a greater punch to be packed.
"Conversation" perhaps best encapsulates this idea of matching up the melodic with the everyday malaise and relentlessness. This short song of swaggering, burnished synth tones, faded claps and echoed ambience is joyously confined by Barrett's almost mantra-like commitment to the song's only lyric "hustler, gaylord, his law, conversation". Reaching a repeated perfection, "Conversation" salutes the disconnect, urges at the leap of faith.
It's fitting that final track "Living In Qatar" exceeds in leaking out from the edges of the "we go out every night, we try out every car" pop realm into a vast somber void of tracing synthesizers, exclamations and hallucinations. The last ten minutes of the song forego gods, deny the human and escape storytelling and this is what Peepholes have done with this album.
The cover artwork for 'The Overspill' is by Barrett's friend Ksenia Pedan and depicts a blurred face coming out of the darkness. What better image could there be for this album? With 'The Overspill', Peepholes have not only escaped the story, they've escaped the narrator, leaving something beautiful yet profoundly ambiguous in its absence. Now it's up to us to decide whether we should trust our own instincts.
UTR048 | 12" | 6 tracks, 31 mins | Buy
'Caligula' takes as its namesake the Roman Emperor most notorious for excessive cruelty and sexual deviance; becoming a byword for insane extravagance. Recorded over two days in sub-zero temperatures last winter at the Lambeth Women's Project in Brixton, we can only wonder at how this particular muse made himself apparent. 'Caligula' was recorded by Sherry Ostapovitch, known previously for her work with Throbbing Gristle, Trash Kit and Maria and the Mirrors. She continued to work with the band over several months, whilst Kat and Nick worked on takes, overdubs and vocals. So recorded quickly yet produced slowly, the record took shape by alchemical process.
The title track that opens the record, fades in with swelling chimes and jangling bells, before churning bass frequencies gurgle forth laying the road for the primitive drum slaps and stammering synth melody. Not many bands would start off a record with a near eight minute epic but Peepholes embrace evolution in their sound and like to let things develop. They build from sparse beginnings to sprawling, deafening tones, scrambling noise and vocal theatrics before pulling the table cloth from underneath everything and starting over.
'Step One' is a good example of Peepholes in energetic pop-throb mode, with Kat's vocal masked in modulation amongst the swarming keyboard patterns. Kat's insistent bursts of hi-hat draw the song through unexpected terrain. Similarly 'I Go Basic' is upbeat in its pursuit of the song, rolling with the drums, allowing the tumbling synth to find a rare triumphant zone, the whole track unfurling like an awakening.
'Tunnels' is majestic in its pace, adopting the slow tempo of another realm, whilst backwards cymbals and drum machine pops and claps mark out the beat. "We're always looking for a way out" sings Kat full of paranoia, over a beast of synth melody that stalks its prey with skill. 'Tunnels' breaks through into ascendant bliss at several points with its bubbling arpeggiator, lending a heaven-like euphoria to the dial tones and pulsing drones.
'Caligula' ends as it begins with another 7 minute damaged epic, this time titled 'Picture The World In Signs'. Decidedly more motorik than the other tracks, 'Picture The World In Signs' finds relish in its unrelenting groove, allowing Kat to pitch plunge her vocal amongst the folds of psychedelic keyboard warmth. Like a resurgent memory, halfway through, the song recalls another direction, drowning in static waves, crushed drums and weird electronic parallels. The track reaches another plain, a new level higher than before, an evolving consciousness which is so true of Peepholes in general and this new record especially.
Peepholes' ability to capture the drama and depth of emotion is profound, their songs swim with 'fight vs flight' pulse-quickening urgency and their instinct to forego everyday song structures continues to lead them to ever steeper ladders.
'SPLIT' W / a.P.A.t.T.
UTR014 | 12" | 14 tracks, 40 mins | Buy
Peepholes share this 12" circle of vinyl with a.P.A.t.T., courtesy of Upset The Rhythm's 'Split' series. The Peepholes side of the release entitled 'Kingdom' features six new tracks, leading on from their recent EP 'Lair' on Hungry For Power.
'Airforce Trainer' is all swirling keyboard clusters, reverberating vocals and tribal drum batterings. Kat's catchy vocal lines are echoed by Nick on the pulsating 'Alpine Song', which has a wonderful wobbly descending synth melody giving way to a lonesome coda full of icy feelings of displacement.
Perhaps the most triumphant moment of the album sees Peepholes wield a mighty seven-minute track called 'Carnivore' that, in it's breadth, welcomes bubbling synth noise and exploding cymbals to fry the song within an inch of its life. The other two stand out tracks 'Sleep In The Shower' and 'Pulling Cars' both tap into a similar punk energy, sounding sincere and anthemic, drawing electronics to the fore alongside Kat's perfect hollers.