Who, or what, are Sugar Horse? Let's start from the basics - they're from Bristol. If you've been following the blog carefully over the last few years, you'll know that has meaning as it situates them in the middle of a musical scene that has dabbled in math, post, indie rock, and shoegaze over the last decade or so. But if you expect Sugar Horse to exhibit the same kind of scintillating, bright timbres that so often typify bands from that area of the world (or of their label, Small Pond Receords), you'll be sorely mistaken. In fact, if you come to expect anything from Sugar Horse, they're probably going to surprise you.
You see, over the past few years, this collective (for lack of a better, less pretentious word) has collaborated with artists as disparate as Idles, Heriot, Black Peaks, Pupil Slicer, and Conjuror, among others. All roughly from various scenes in the UK but all of very different levels of aggression, blended with Sugar Horse's propensity to go from dreamy shoegaze and into doom metal territory. This turned Waterloo Teeth, the EP on which these collaborations happened, into one of the more interesting acts of musical collaboration we've had the pleasure of covering and premiering.
Therefore, when it came time to cover the band's upcoming release (Truth Or Consequences, New Mexico which releases on November 3rd and is a meditation on all the note A has to offer. Yes, really), running a The Anatomy Of post seemed like a natural move. What makes these people tick? What unholy metronomes measure time in their internal gigs? What, or who, festers in their earliest memories? In short, what the fuck does a band like Sugar Horse like? The answer, as you might expect, is almost as varied as their previous release.
Read on below and make sure to also pop over to their Bandcamp page to eagerly await the fast approaching release of their new EP. Let's go!
The Cure - The Figurehead
We’re very much a band of four quarters musically. We all like quite different stuff and I think that makes the music more interesting. The clash of the conflicting worlds tends to imbed a bit of friction in the sounds we make as a group and I feel like that friction should be nourished as much as possible, as it keeps everyone on their toes.
Saying that….and this seems like the best place to start….a common musical thread through all of our frayed little tapestries, is The Cure. We’re all big fans. Pornography in particular is a centrepiece of what we’re trying to do musically. That kind of wailing, relentless dirge is a kind of heavy that only this album really delivers. The Figurehead in particular is just so relentlessly venomous. It just kind of screeches away, doing the same thing, monotonously grinding you down, then that big harmonic shift when Robert sings “I can never say no…” is like an enormous weight being lifted….only to be dropped back onto you. For me, it’s heavier than any Black Metal or Doom record. It’s a proper grave inscription of a record and an instruction manual on how to make your listener completely uncomfortable, while still remaining within the limits of a 4/4 pop song.
My Bloody Valentine - Come In Alone
It’s super cliched at this point in 2023 to wax lyrical about how magical, original and other worldly Loveless by My Bloody Valentine is and with that in mind I won’t bore the pants off you, dear reader, saying the same old stuff about the guitars in "To Here Knows When", or the vocals in "Sometimes". Instead, let’s talk about a bit of an under appreciated track on the album, "Come In Alone". This and "Only Shallow" are probably the two points on Loveless that get within touching distance of being HEAVY. "Only Shallow" through noise and discordance alone, but "Come In Alone" approaches it from a more melodic and thunderously slow direction.
This is a move that I feel My Bloody Valentine don’t use nearly enough. The slower tempo turns Kevin Shields’ fuzzed out, glide guitar into a kind of colossal noise wave. Fiery enough to melt steel beams and larger than most of the New York skyline. We’ve nicked this a few times over the years and it never gets old. It also allows us to get a bit more melodic, with song structures that more traditional without compromising on the noise and generally weight we try to garner with our sound.
The Chariot - Evan Perks
The Chariot are probably known by most readers as being incomparably chaotic in a live scenario. Their shows, as famously documented in quite a few of their music videos, contained the kind of stage acrobatics, cathartic self flagellation and wanton disregard for playing their own songs in any way correctly that have to be seen to be actually believed. No doubt, this band were a force live. Underneath that whirlwind however lies some of the most inventive and ecstatic heavy music ever committed to binary code. I find when most folks talk about musical inventiveness and music being “progressive” they simply mean the folks playing can play really fast. That’s not what I mean here. I mean something a lot more difficult to both refine and define. I mean the bare simplicity of a musical idea and pushing that idea into a kind of realm that hasn’t necessarily been explored before.
This kind of inventiveness is made exponentially more difficult, the simpler you go….and The Chariot revel in simplicity. Whether that be the “Let’s do a Spaghetti Western bit” on 2012’s One Wing, using simply a small church choir to end The Fiancee, or in this particular example looping one full band hit of one chord over and over and over again for 2minutes to make a song. While we may not have nicked specific musical ideas from The Chariot (we definitely have), the main inspirational point here comes from the utter fearlessness and staggering originality of the music itself. It’s completely unapologetic and totally needs to be….because it’s very rarely anything short of perfect. LONG LIVE
Jarret Kobek - I Hate The Internet
Ooooo he’s picked a book….what a pretentious prick. Yep. You’re right.
Now…I should probably stop being so general about influences and focus on what we are currently putting out. It’s called Truth Or Consequences, New Mexico and that title is taken out of this book.Within it’s pages, a character is forced to prematurely give up her dreams of artistic fulfilment in the big city and return to her childhood hometown and look after her mother, who has become sick. That town is called Truth Or Consequences and resides in the state of New Mexico, as tediously/humorously (depending on your outlook) repeated throughout the book. The town’s unusual name was decided on by a radio call-in vote in 1950. A strange story and pr
etty in keeping with the methodology we tend to use to initially name songs.The song’s lyrics came from this name and it touches on some of the book’s themes. Primarily, the near religious magic of creating art. That intangible, unequaled feeling of making something entirely new out of absolutely nothing at all. Calling this process sacred would be very much understating the case from my point of view. That sacrosanct nature is too often ruined by the constant modern need for profit and expansion. Milking every last bit of money out of something until it’s a ruined husk of its former glory. Art and its creation is worth more than some government sanctioned IOUs and it must, at all costs, be kept from the hands of those who seek to suck it dry.
Sleep - Dopesmoker
As will be apparent when looking at the sheer length of Truth Or Consequences, New Mexico, it is somewhat of a longform piece. It is all based around a single note, A. A drone if you’d be that way inclined. Drones have always been very important in our music and I think of us more like a kind of rhythmic drone band than anything else really. There’s a certain ambiguity from hovering on one note. It leaves the listener to make up their own mind as to the intended mood of the song. For example, there are pieces of TOC,NM that could be viewed as utterly miserable or strangely euphoric depending entirely on the eye (or ear) of the beholder.
Sleep’s Dopesmoker takes both drone and sheer length to their meditative and at times farcical extremes. Taking the very simple idea of sustaining every last molecule of music for as long as is deemed possible, then adding a couple more bars on for good measure. That sustain, coupled with the oddly phrased, vaguely Eastern melodic lines, leave the listener entirely in charge of what they take away from the music itself. Essentially, if you don’t like Dopesmoker it’s entirely your own fault.
DROP OUT OF LIFE WITH BONG IN HAND
Drive Like Jehu - Luau
While we’re on the subject of unbridled length and more specifically repetition, Drive Like Jehu’s Luau is probably the biggest influence on this release in particular. The whole middle section of the song is our simplified take on something this band may do in some kind of James Hetfield fronted parallel universe. Sticking to one singular insistent rhythm for an extended period, with slight rhythmic changes is actually harder to work out than you’d think. Primarily because you still want to keep the thing interesting as a piece - and I mean this in the loosest sense of the term - of Pop Music. Myself and Jake (Baritone Guitar) also doff our caps and cook up our own chaotic tribute to John Reis’ godlike ending guitar solo on here. If you’re into completely inimitable guitar playing, look no further than literally any Drive Like Jehu song.
Mogwai - Like Herod
Lastly and very definitely not least, Mogwai’s Like Herod.
I could pick pretty much any Mogwai tune here I s’pose, but this one fits the bill for TOC,NM in particular. The apocalypse whispers of the opening bassline, the whisper quiet harmonics of the quiet refrain and finally the pay off of what is probably the heaviest riff written by a non-metal band ever. A section of music destined to define crowds worldwide and test the very limits of every PA system it comes into contact with. As an added bonus, this live version recorded for the John Peel show on the BBC features some of the coolest guitar feedback noises you’ll ever hear….the fact said feedback also lasts for a good 10minutes is obviously a well deserved bonus.