One of the most exciting aspects of music in the UK is the underground network of what can be generically labelled as “loud sad” bands. Touring on shoe string budgets, releasing splits and EPs for no money at all, playing shows to rooms of just tens of people, these bands nevertheless make music with a commitment and passion unrivalled by any other UK music scene. Their shows have a sense of exclusivity through the love the attendees have for these unknown bands, but a far more palpable sense of inclusivity in just how friendly and welcoming they are. There’s something genuinely beautiful and powerfully cathartic about thirty people gathering in a sweaty room to listen to sad songs, frequently about loneliness and insecurity, together, in such an inclusive and secure environment.
Exclusivity and inclusivity, loneliness and togetherness, introspection and social reflection: Norwich-based Algae Bloom, who are by no means the biggest or most prolific band in this scene, but are by all means my favourite, perfectly bridge these binaries through their personal, lonely music, completed with their obvious social-consciousness and care for others.
Their debut EP, I Am Still Scared Of Living, easily the best of this year, embraces the harshness and scrappiness of DIY emo and screamo, but with a unique attention to beauty. Just a two-piece band – a guitarist-vocalist, and a drummer (who plays standing up) – their songs have a sparse sound, but with a certain richness aided by the close-harmonies of guitarist Matt’s open-tuned playing. Even as instrumentals these songs would be emotive to listen to, with the drums and guitar attentively playing off each other, never settling into repetitive or simple riffs, always moving through intricate, twinkly melodies and melancholic chord progressions. But with the addition of Matt’s screamed vocals these tracks are taken to another level of emotional poignancy and cathartic energy. Despite their complete uniqueness amongst emo and screamo bands their sound is thoroughly natural and never pretentious: with each of the seven tracks averaging a couple of minutes, these tracks are upfront, honest, and beautifully written in every respect.
The most admirable thing about Algae Bloom beyond their music is their passionate desire to make music a safe space for those who feel unwelcome or unhappy by using their platform as a band, online and on tour, to speak out against racism, sexism, transphobia, and all the other general nastiness that all too frequently finds its way into music. It’s refreshing to have a band who recognise that the importance of art isn’t just the message or feeling it conveys, but the responsibility of the platform which that art gives you.
With their debut full-length album being recorded at JT Soar in Nottingham at the moment, and being released later this month, there isn’t a better time to get into Algae Bloom.
If you like them try: My Head In Clouds, Healing Powers, Cop Graveyard, Touché Amoré