In late October 2016, ‘Walking Dead’ was trending on social media. Oblivious that Halloween was imminent and a television horror show was receiving global and virtual attention, I was instantly reminded of the 2002 song of the same title by the classic Mancunian band, Puressence. I did want not to indulge in finding out on why this certain television show was trending. Instead, I decided to revisit the music of Puressence—a neglected group renowned for their cityscape music that carried the melancholic sounds played by guitars, strings etc. and were emotionally led by distinctive electrifying-soulful vocals. Dwelling on the dark romanticized themes of loss and hope, Puressence were robbed from gaining a well-deserved recognition in British popular culture (and music industry). They persevered however and stayed true to their identities and roots. In return, Puressence earned a loyal fan base.
After the band split in 2013, the lead singer James Mudriczki teamed up with Steven Kelly (guitars/programming) and John Patterson (drummer/multi-instrumentalist) and formed Nihilists—a term meaning ‘unbeliever’, that suggests a philosophical edge in the band’s music. This brings a reminder of the French philosopher Jean Baudrillard and his thoughts on nihilism by suggesting that ‘there is no hope for meaning…this is a good thing: meaning is mortal’ (p. 164). This is a familiar story that only Mudriczki’s followers will understand as his new music still carry the themes of meaningless loss and hope—as demonstrated in the debut double A side single ‘Wallspace’ and ‘Over is so Over’:
Puressence fans may be partially surprised that when they hear this track, the music production carries the vocality of Mudriczki to another level. The track draws in Depeche Mode-esque sounds along with hints of Northern and Nordic experimental/electronic music. The mood, somehow reminds me of postindustrial cityscapes of Manchester and Berlin, capturing scenes of averted fear, loss, hope, and resistance in erasing the evocation of emotions. The gradual introduction begins with a piercing guitar feedback that is over layered with distant, distorted and guttural voices. These sounds are immediately joined with heavy beats and staggered entry synths that turn into assorted layers of hooks.
Not one but many voices of Mudriczki begin to emphasize the main hook in the verse: ‘I’m living in a wallspace’. Every vocal layer is technically manipulated that results in a distorted, and intimate experience for the listener. The different vocal identities of Mudriczki all carry a semi-monotone feel that displays unemotional darkness. The chorus allures a musical conversation with himself by allowing the hypnotic ‘I’ to respond with unified chants. The galore of synth hooks, embellished guitar melodies (played by The Verve’s Nick McCabe) and polyrhythmic beats enhances the musical disorientation that signifies Mudriczki’s entrapment in ‘Wallspace’.
Later in the song, the musical direction alters when the break drops to a slow speed. Here, the deep and anxious driven bass line supports Mudriczki’s meditative drowned out words of ‘wallspace…’. Followed by an energetic break, Mudriczki quickly teases the listener with his stylistic trademarks of tremolo and emotional vocals. This short-lived liberation of his authentic voice suddenly evaporates when the chorus and his troubled vocal identities return. ‘Wallspace’ offers a fresh and inviting take on experimental/electronic music that is supported with themes of darkness and entrapment.
Over is so Over
The second A side single welcomes the return of the traditional Mancunian-musical sounds of Mudriczki. The minimal entry of the chorus FX guitar, programmed (and later live) drums, synths and Mudriczki’s vocals are progressively supported with a lament string arrangement and are embellished with the sounds of symphonic guitars and a hypnotic descending bass groove. In a way, this track differentiates musically from ‘Wallspace’ but yet at the same time, the lyrical features remain. What you’ll hear now is the classic Mudriczki’s vocals, sharing his intimacy with the listener, especially when he despairingly surrenders on the line ‘give me a reason to lift my head again’—etching the endurance of trapped darkness and loss. This continuation of the dark romanticized themes are united with both traditional and fresh musical sounds of Manchester’s cityscape: the almost no frills production of the internal colloquial guitar arrangement that are gently blended with weeping strings, a dominating bass line and off beat drumming. The duration of the song is quite lengthy, with its strophic form droning for over seven minutes. This hints that Mudriczki’s introspective thoughts do not signify the feeling of giving up even though the title ‘over is so over’ may suggest otherwise. The matter is actually left unresolved, hinting that there’s more to come from Nihilists. Welcome back James Mudriczki.
The Double A Side Single was released on 4th November, 2016. You can order a copy from here:
For information on Nihilists:
© Shara Rambarran