The Student Playlist

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REVIEW: Hookworms – ‘Microshift’ (Domino)

Leeds psych-rock outfit Hookworms have long been known in the UK for their ferociously fuzzy sound built around the live setting before being lovingly turned into the studio sound which we know and love. Whether it be the noise-rock of 2014’s The Hum or the frantic psychedelic-garage rock of debut album Pearl Mystic, the four-piece have always shown their cards to us with an open and accessible racket.

That all changed when it came to the making of Microshift (the band’s third LP) when leader MJ’s Suburban Home studio in Kirkstall was flooded back on Boxing Day 2015 in the wake of Storm Eva – a devastating event referenced in the new album’s tracklisting. The studio was rebuilt thanks to a Kickstarter campaign (a testament to the loyal fan base the band have formed), but it still left the five-piece with a debate: do they start all over again and choose the easy options, or do they develop their sound? On Microshift, Hookworms decided to do the latter, and the results are as expansive as they are excellent.

Opening track ‘Negative Space’ is a wonderful burst of euphoric energy which borrows from the electronic sound of krautrock as much as it does the guitar side. With MJ’s howling and playful vocal being a wonderful addition to the building of electronics, keys, guitars and drums. The track creates a wall of sound which serves as a special moment in the band’s discography and the perfect bridge from where the band has been to where they intend to go.

Microshift removes the fuzz we are used to hearing when it comes to the Hookworms sound, revealing a beautiful inner layer where melodies and production are allowed to take centre-stage. That is never truer than on ‘Static Resistance’, the track surges around Neu!-like guitars, while the contrast between euphoric instrumentation and dark lyricism gives the record an added layer of depth.

Elsewhere, we see Hookworms do their best Flaming Lips impression on ‘The Soft Season’. Held keys and splattered clicks provide the background for soft off-tilt vocals. It’s a pleasing ballad which works because of expansive production ideas that MJ has become renowned for. Microshift also sees the band take their krautrock influences to new levels, with the epic ‘Ullswater’ and ‘Opener’ both surging past the seven-minute mark. The former is a douse of pointed pop which leans heavily onto the newer electronic side, while the latter is a shuffling and heart-warming tale of love.

Though the record may be titled Microshift, it actually offers Hookworms the opportunity to make a giant shift into the future. By combining the superb production and songwriting from previous records and adding a more polished and diverse noise, this looks like the album which will finally take the West Yorkshire outfit into the mainstream. (8/10) (John Tindale)

Listen to Microshift by Hookworms here via Spotify, and tell us what you think below!

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