Review / Sugar Horse – The Great Shame EP

For anyone who’s had a job that necessitated rail travel, your attitude to mass public transport is likely to be mixed. Beyond this, a lot about a country’s history and ideology can be read through its attitude to public railways; how well-funded and maintained they are, who gets to run them – and of course, who gets the money.

Sugar Horse tread a line between alt. rock and post-punk, with a heavily experimental vibe. Their latest offering is an extended, EP-length single, which flits between the two styles, but also comfortably accommodates juddering noise, periods of silence and ambience, to make an unpredictable, eerie track.

The Great Shame is dramatically more difficult than their previous entries, heavier and much darker. There’s quite a bit of a goth vibe in the wailing about rubble and shame, as clips from a documentary cover the sense of hopelessness in London’s Angel Tube Station before it was closed and renovated in 1992.

Sugar Horse are public about their inspiration by documentary makers such as Adam Curtis, and even without the video there’s a lot of Curtis’s grainy, cutting tone to the music. It’s a long series of hammer blows, anchored by the return to the noisy head which makes up the bulk of the track. Sonically there are plenty of rhythmic changes to keep things interesting, and they all contribute to the bleak tone, which, by the end of the proceedings, is spectacularly bleak.

A lot of creative types in the UK – for whom this release is undoubtedly aimed – are having a bit of a miserable time at the moment, faced with a slow recovery to playing live shows further marred by a significantly more difficult road to playing in Europe on their return. Of course, who among us doesn’t have a complicated relationship with their home country – but this track, which speaks of an underbelly of an older England marred by repetition, hopelessness and drudgery, will spark sympathy to anyone who’s lived through tem years of austerity, with no end in sight.

A difficult but satisfyingly cathartic release. The video is recommended for the full audiovisual experience, and to add extra weight to the crushing loneliness of the piece. Claustrophobic, miserable and leftfield, there’s clearly more at work with Sugar Horse than their more conventional material.

The Great Shame is out now and can be ordered here.

Words: Tom Coles

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