Free and legal MP3: Ciel

Melodic splendor, w/ squonky noise

“Pretty Face” – Ciel

Launching without an introduction, “Pretty Face” brings us promptly into the compelling world of vocalist/guitarist Michelle Hindriks, a Netherlands native, transplanted to Brighton. Her lightly accented English and pellucid tone combine with irresistible potency, all the more so when we reach a chorus that ravishes with its melodic sweep and splendor. The subtle double-tracking of the lead vocals here adds to the poignant beauty.

At the same time, tune your ear further down into the mix and track if you can what Jorge Bela Jimenez’s guitar is doing, which is quietly and intermittently going crazy in a “don’t mind me” kind of way. You won’t hear it at first unless you listen for it. By the chorus’s third iteration (2:05), Jiminez is becoming less restrained, setting up the all-out assault that breaks free at 2:43, and carries us through a memorably squonky coda.

Lyrically the song veers into unexpected territory. By Hindriks’ account, she was inspired by a number of documentaries she found herself watching under lockdown about a variety of cults, and one particular story about a man who lost his wife to a cult–how he knows she’s still out there, but forever separated from him. While it’s not a direct experience many of us (thank goodness) can relate to, it can stand as a metaphor for living with the grief of heartache and separation.

Ciel has put out two EPs to date, most recently Monument, in April 2020. “Pretty Face,” released last month, is the second single the band has released since then. Check out the full discography on Bandcamp.

Free and legal MP3: Wow & Flutter (endearing, squonky rocker)

Pleasantly crunchy and semi-dissonant, “Scars” opens with a yin-yang-y guitar riff—three parts ringing and harmonic-laced, one part fuzzy and purposeful, as if the band were still deciding what kind of song this was going to be even after they already started recording.

Wow and Flutter

“Scars” – Wow & Flutter

Pleasantly crunchy and semi-dissonant, “Scars” opens with a yin-yang-y guitar riff—three parts ringing and harmonic-laced, one part fuzzy and purposeful, as if the band were still deciding what kind of song this was going to be even after they already started recording. What they ended up with is a deft blend of the opening riff’s two attributes, as a drony, unresolved sensibility courses through a brisk guitar rocker otherwise mixing the offhanded brio of an Exile On Main Street outtake with the squonky quirkiness of the Pixies. Translation: it’s curiously engaging, and it rocks.

And because I haven’t gotten on my “value of experience” soapbox in quite a while, I’ll take this opportunity to point out that Cord Amato has been in front of a band called Wow & Flutter, in one incarnation or another, since 1998. But here we are living through a musical day and age that seems to be about the opposite of letting musicians breath and grow and (dare I suggest it) learn their craft over an extended period of time. No, we’re much too focused here online on being sure to find everything first, and really fast, and then on to the next, even first-er and faster thing.

Tiring it is. I’m really happy to hear musicians who sound like they’ve been around a little while. Wow & Flutter, a trio at this point, will release its seventh album, Equilibrio!, next week on Mt. Fuji Records. MP3 via Mt. Fuji.