Difficult not to read a sense of tongue-in-cheek optimism in that title – years of slogging away on the UK’s DIY circuit have made Witching Waves into the band they are today, and the results are wonderful.
From the first note to the last, ‘Persistence’ pummels your ears into submission. There’s a drive to Emma Wigham’s drumming that makes songs feel like they’re moving faster than they necessarily are; a sense of purpose that drags you along with it and commands you to keep up. When combined with the propulsive bass work of latest recruit, Estelle Adeyeri, it’s impossible not to be caught up in the sheer energy of it all.
Beyond the important element of the rhythm, however, the hack’n’slash brilliance of opener ‘Disintegration’ sets the tone for another triumphant LP (their third, following on from 2016’s ‘Crystal Café’). Wigham and fellow founder member Mark Jasper alternate lead vocals, shouting in unison for extra emphasis when the time is right, while chunky guitar chords add some thoroughly-welcome fuzz and volume to proceedings. It swiftly begins to feel heroic.
That’s not to say there’s no element of the downbeat to these songs – lyrically, at least. “I’ve been here before,” announces the opening line to ‘Hoax’, while earlier we’ve been dealt battle-weary hands like “One by one it comes undone / I’m breaking down” (‘Disintegration’) and “I can’t move on, I can’t go back” (‘Best Of Me’). But this feels relatable rather than isolated; defiant rather than defeated, and as if to hammer the point home, the pace doesn’t drop for a single second.
Recorded at Jasper’s London studio, Witching Waves claim one of the album sessions was recorded without any outside help because they ‘didn’t want to bother anyone’. A nice self-deprecatory tale of politeness, sure, but anyone who hears ‘Persistence’ will find this a puzzling statement. Their work rate alone (three albums in five years, plus a seemingly never-ending tour schedule) should tell you different, ditto their joyously noisy sound.
And what is that sound? Well… Sonic Youth, Pixes and The Vaselines are among the usual names to be wheeled out in comparison, but while nods to those bands are present and correct, it’s worth noting that Witching Waves don’t really sound like any of them. You could perhaps trace Jasper’s guitar crunch to The Thermals, if you really wanted, or their rough’n’ready’n’riotous vigour to fellow London DIY heads Sauna Youth, but these descriptions fall short. It’s post-punk informed by the clatter of garage rock and the dissonance of US indie, but ultimately it’s very much its own thing.
What’s more, their music crackles with life and vitality; this is a band that most assuredly wants to bother us all, and we should be grateful that they do. Basically, ‘Persistence’ pays off – and how.
Words: Will Fitzpatrick
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