Monday, 30 December 2013

Best of 2013 - Hookworks' Pearl Mystic

One of our Leeds correspondents, @stevenswift, on his home town favourites, Hookworms. 


Pearl Mystic  - Hookworms

My album of the year by some distance . Even in an exceptional 12 months that’s left  me daunted by the sheer quantity and quality of LPs to get through and process Pearl Mystic  has stood out as the collection that most bravely challenged and invented.

A disclaimer first. I’m from Leeds and Hookworms are a Leeds band. They are also the fulcrum of a thriving local music scene that has finally put this historically under achieving city on the music map. They have members in other ascending bands (Cowtown, Menace Beach) and have broken out of their back yard with live shows that have wagged tongues from Liverpool to New York to Brighton.

None of this could have happened without Pearl Mystic. Comprising six epic soundscapes and stitched together by three sonic interludes it’s an album that defies the dreaded shuffle. Listened to at random it loses the carefully crafted subtlety that bleeds between the tracks. There is a structure to the LP which squares the circle – an opaque journey that  touches on the themes of frustration, personal responsibility and  loss – big issues dressed in sprawling, hypnotic arrangements.

The album opener Away/Towards is typical – echo-drenched vocals, detonating drums, pulsing bass and a near nine-minute frag that ends in a Hawkwind daze. The spatial desolation of  In Our Time reminds me of second album Suicide  - whilst the album’s centrepiece – Since We Had Changed – refuses to emerge from its pulsing cocoon serving only to amplify the disorientation of Preservation’s incoming drums. 
The production is joyously drum-heavy against a transcendental wash of keyboard effects and guitars, the voice frequently emerging from the mix to take the songs to that next level.  Form And Function starts with a church organ, call and response vocals and ends -  like their live shows – in a dissonant cacophony and  fuzz.

This debut  is, it seems, set to be followed quite soon by a successor. The competing dynamics of Hookworms mean that this is unlikely to be a consolidation. Pearl Mystic is a precisely configured yet passionate statement from a band with frightening potential. No other LP has touched so many bases. Album of the year from a Leeds band? Well I never. 

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