EP Review: The Occupants – Hindsight

Occupants Hindsight EP signed

It’s not often these days that I’ll buy a physical CD. I don’t even have a CD player that works, just a CD drive on my computer. But in this case, CD was the only option. No vinyl, no digital download. I liked the two tracks that I’d already heard online, so I ordered the new Occupants CD.

Brothers Luke and Flynn Gower have teamed up with Leigh Davies to form The Occupants, an indie/electro/rock project that has arisen from the ashes of Cog and Sleep Parade.

Cog and Sleep Parade were major players in the Australian prog-rock scene, along with the likes of Karnivool, Butterfly Effect and Dead Letter Circus. The prog elements are still present with The Occupants, but there is more of an indie vibe than hard rock. Two tracks are over eight minutes long, and all the songs are epic, sprawling beauties. And Flynn Gower’s recognisably haunting high vocals still permeate the music.

The EP version of first track “Hindsight” is almost twice as long as the single version that was initially released. The song could easily be far shorter and still sound complete, but the way it cycles and builds, spaced out with brooding bridges – it all adds to the experience.

“Streets” is carried by fast percussion and noodling guitars. This track showcases exactly why Flynn Gower’s voice is so vital for the band. His vocals are the highlight of the track. They range from deep to almost-falsetto, laden with hooks and ear-worms.

“Wonderland” is more melancholic, built on a repeated mantra. The song features an eclectic range of instruments. Electric drums and synths make give a drum and bass feel at times, and a banjo solo leads into extended instrumental progressions.

To start with, début single “I’ve Been Thinking” could almost pass for an old Genesis song. Phil Collins is channeled through the drums and vocals, but without the dated 80’s feel. This doesn’t last throughout the whole song, but the ‘power-toms’ drumming and the chirpy keyboard features here and there.

Hindsight is sublime. I’ve been listening to it every day since it arrived in the mail. It’s not heavy or soft, just a delicate blend of melodies and riffs. There are so many layered subtle parts that new details begin to shine through with each listen, like the usage of horns and banjo. The vocals are the highlight for me, with Flynn’s voice being used as an extra instrument to dominate the high-end. They echo and soar, planting the melody firmly in my brain. Hindsight may only have four tracks, but it provides half an hour of brilliantly crafted music that leaves me wanting more.

Despite having already stated that I have no CD player, I think it was a good move buying this EP. There’s an element of exclusivity, not because I got a signed copy, but more because this EP shows so much promise. I feel like I’m let in on a secret, owning the first release from a band that clearly has bright futures ahead. Although Cog were a fairly notable band, they never got much attention here in New Zealand. I wonder if this new project will garner different results.

Joseph James

EP Review: Solemn Sun – §

Solemn Sun EP Cover

Don’t ask me how to pronounce this EP title (§). I don’t know if the symbol even makes a sound. It is clever though, two S’s arranged like the new band logo.

A new logo for a new sound. Solemn Sun have previously been known as Jim Lockey and the Solemn Sun. Jim hasn’t gone anywhere, it’s just that the band have chosen to undergo a full transformation.

Their two previous albums, Atlases (2010) and Death (2012) channeled a folk-punk vibe that would feature intricate acoustic guitar picking one minute and galloping punk beats the next. § is a departure, stylistically. Gone are the fiddly little break-downs, this is more of a distorted grungy affair.

Opening track “Josef” sends that message straight from the get-go. The drums sound thunderous with washy cymbals and the guitars undulate with intensity. The verses simmer violently to make the choruses sound comparatively more explosive. “Josef” delivers a punch with a message that something new is afoot.

“30:10” is quieter, but it still sounds full and moody. The time signature seems to segue between 4/4 and 6/8 to add an interesting poly rhythmic feel. “Children” and “Ruin” take the EP to its climax with more hard-hitting rock anthems.

Triumphant final track “I Saw” seems like a throwback to the band’s former sound. The drumming alternates between syncopated tribal sounding tom beats and 16th note hi-hat playing.This pulls the momentum back and allows the individual instruments to shine through in different sections. There is a lot of treble in this song, but it ends in plenty of unnecessary squealing feedback.

There are still recognisable nods to the past, and rightly so. The band has a back-catalogue to be proud of, and they can’t dismiss it completely. Although his name is no longer visible, Jim Lockey’s voice is still there to stir up memories. Just as Black Pacific always sounded like Pennywise 2.0 and OFF! sounds just like a fresher Black Flag, singers will always remind you of their most prominent band.

§ is a direct alt-rock assault. The band has adopted the grungy loud/quiet approach and coupled it with ambient post-rock. The songs sound driven because of the no-nonsense drums and bass churning out a steady throbbing beat. And although they are distorted, the layered guitars soar and complement each other well, whilst still retaining a chugging drive. The instruments are all unified to push the song forward.

Ringing in at just under 22 minutes, § provides a short but promising taste of things to come. The old adage goes “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, but I disagree. This is a case of when a band has reinvented themselves and it has paid off.

The EP is available for pay-what-you-want download and streaming on the Solemn Sun Bandcamp page.