Album review: Hookworms – Microshift

Returning with their third studio album, amidst a back catalogue of live releases, cassette EP’s and singles come the Leeds/Halifax five-piece set, Hookworms. With an experimental and sometimes ethereal sound, the band can be hard to label – but does that detract from third album, Microshift?

Noise rock, drone rock, space rock, neo-psychedelia; call them what you will, but Hookworms have created something truly special with this album.

As “Negative Space” takes its opening form to open up the album, we’re greeted with glitches, pops and loops usually heard amidst the computerised chaos of Aphex Twin’s work (particularly his most recent Syro), which could comfortably have been an influence here.

Having room to breathe in a seven-minute run time however does the track a lot of good. The glitches and beeps are temporarily relegated to the sonic haze in the rear of the track whilst a psychedelic pop riff takes shape amidst the distortion until the glitches and hum take the fore at the end of the track, before seamlessly leading into second track, “Static Resistance”.

At nearly half the running length, the track could well have been integrated into the first song to create an odyssey length track – but “Static Resistance” is very much its own song. The track is more focussed, leaning towards an almost Grateful Dead vibe melodically while still retaining the same fuzzy noise tones in the rear of the track. It’s crying out for a ‘radio edit’ to clean up the gapless link and get it ready for radio.

Later in the album comes “Each Time We Pass”, another radio-ready track (maybe with a little top and tail to take it closer to a four, not five, minute run time). With a pulsing bass, falsetto vocals and twists in melody from glittery synth to fuzzy guitar chords, it’s enough to keep you fully engaged, and stick in your mind.

Through a bubbling, dream-like sequence that feels like the non-threatening relative to the desolate intro to Pink Floyd’s “Wish You Were Here”, comes “The Soft Season”. With lilting, floating vocals, a tempo akin to travelling underwater (helped by the aforementioned bubbling noises) the track descends through its crescendo of tones and sparkling samples to a minimalist trench of vocals drenched in reverb.

It finally comes to rest on a sonar-like pulse before leading, gaplessly again, into “Opener”, which at over eight and a half minutes, comfortably takes the title of longest track on the album. A track of this length starts to look towards monikers of prog-rock, in the realms of bands like Pink Floyd, and with the complexity of the track, the title is well earned.

The album isn’t without it’s weaker moments. “Ullswater” feels every second of its seven minutes and eight second running time; taking a rockier route with far less of the static distortion found across the album, but it starts to feel like a self-indulgent indy-synth moment. The talent and engineering behind the track is still very much apparent but does little to make it more appealing.“Boxing Day” and “Reunion” are in much the same vein – there’s nothing overtly wrong with the tracks themselves, but they are both very different, and very jarring when the rest of the album seems to be so painstakingly designed to keep to a particular musical aesthetic. The end of the album is tailed off by “Shortcomings” – a track coming dangerously close to being worthy of its namesake. Taking a rather sudden journey into more indy territory, the band anchor themselves amidst their signature psychedelic noise and fuzz despite the perhaps too-simple drums and overproduced vocals.

With tracks like these, the band have fallen just short of something fully fantastic. Everything on the album is, at its worst, still great. But with a few too many jolts and shocks in an otherwise stunning concept of an album, it just about holds it back from near-perfection. Why not come down to your nearest Richer Sounds and take Microshift for a spin in our demo room and see if you agree?





Author: Steve, Southgate store