Gaffa Bandana, a comparatively new heavy noise rock duo from the U.K., pack musical dynamite on their invigorating new album Fraught in Waves, which is available now. The project features guitarist/ vocalist Gill Dread (otherwise of Bruxa Maria) and drummer/ visual artist Jennie Howell (whose background includes SO3EK, Sleeping Creatures, and Gorse).
The simmering music feels menacing, with brute force inflected by rabid dynamics that make the whole journey volatile. There’s ample feedback in the sound, which makes the songs seem drenched in some kind of jarringly electrified muck, as though Gaffa Bandana are performing from within an overheated swamp. Across the album, the often at least somewhat mellow rhythms seem hugely formidable yet decidedly off-kilter, providing somewhat of an exhilaratingly deranged stoner rock vibe.
Gaffa Bandana sound like they’re exploring extreme mental strain, with ragged energy in their sonic excursions that’s on par with sudden blasts of wind to the face. Their tempos generally seem to sit on the slower side, amplifying the music’s compellingly emotive qualities as every disjointed hit lands with jarring intensity.
It’s definitely not quite anthemic in any kind of conclusively cathartic sense, but it’s not entirely downtrodden either. Instead, the music feels a bit defiantly celebratory, like a feeling of grimy reverie while staggering across half-lit and dusty streets. The haze in the sound from the feedback alongside the rather beefy guitar tones (there doesn’t seem to be a bass on the record) fill out the experience, like a subtly psychedelic — and somewhat cough-inducing — fog slowly filling an alleyway. The unnerving music comes across as pummeling yet emotionally raw, making the songs feel especially unsettling.
There’s somewhat of an open-ended sense of possibility within Fraught in Waves thanks to repeatedly somewhat repetitious riffing, but this horizon doesn’t feel particularly bright, because the songs are unmistakably grim. It’s more like a constantly present shadow with some strange and unfamiliar beast lurking within, as suggested by the consistently grating energy within the generally confrontational tunes. The rhythmically uneasy music feels free-wheeling enough that the menace might be a figment of your imagination, but it could go either way. Rather than a kind of meditative certainty, the repetitious vibes across Fraught in Waves feel more ominous.
“Breakage,” the album’s opening track, partly runs on a menacingly slow tempo with percussive guitar blasts awash with feedback. Meanwhile, follow-up track “Charm Offensive” features spiked intensity, with brisker, churning malaise and confrontationally revving riffs. Thanks to the rhythmic instability, there’s somewhat of an ache in the lumbering tunes, which pointedly adds to their weight.
As the album rolls on, “Paralysis of Will,” which clocks in at over seven minutes, hinges on grandiosely heavy riffs that seem to rear up and crash into a haze of feedback, and particularly fierce rhythms mark the rest of the journey. Fraught in Waves sports quite a fist-pumping vibe — Gaffa Bandana are exhilarating to listen to.
After an earlier release from the band, Fraught in Waves is available via Human Worth, a U.K. label which donates portions of proceeds to charity.