Britain’s Next Wave

England’s reputation as a crossroads of musical styles and ideas is personified by the fact that listeners on this small island have always greeted new sounds, be they wildly experimental or founded in classic technique, with open ears. Nothing is considered out of pocket, as long as the quality is there, creating one of the most vibrant music scenes in the world. On a given night in London town, a staggering presence of musical talent can be felt, legends and up-and-comers from across the globe perform in a seemingly endless odyssey of gigs, cached across the city in clubs that have seen eras in music’s history begin, end and be reborn again. SOMA takes a look at some of the names that are currently making noise in the UK scene:

With an immediately recognizable, yet characteristically diverse sound, S.C.U.M. adds another layer to the current vibe coming from Britain’s thriving scene. Thomas Cohen, lead singer of the South East London based group, draws an interesting line somewhere between Johnny Cash and Thom Yorke with his hypnotic, drawn out delivery over bass line heavy, grunge tinted instrumentals, laid down by fellow bandmates Bradley Baker, Samuel Kilcoyne, Huw Webb and Melissa Rigby. Recent releases include a series of creatively executed video projects titled “Signal 1 Warsaw,” “Signal 2 Berlin” and “Signal 3 Paris.” Each video features new music from the band accompanied by brilliantly edited footage of S.C.U.M. performing, cut with a variety of visually stimulating subject matter. The overall sound is dramatic, and in a time when the number of new bands on the scene can be a little difficult to wrap one’s mind around, S.C.U.M. does a stand up job of putting their fascinating interpretations at the forefront of their collective persona. No official full length releases have surfaced from the group as of yet, but definitely keep a look out, as it can be certain that whatever comes next will maintain the distinct qualities that have earned them the following that the band currently enjoys.

Esben and the Witch
As the world has come to expect from UK bands, Esben and the Witch have stepped into a very interesting space with their music. Based out of Brighton, UK, the band’s name is a reference to a gloomy Danish fairy tale about the youngest of a farmer’s 12 sons (Google it up, it’s a really cool story). The cerebral sounds they produce definitely do their part in maintaining the aesthetic. Rachel Davies’s sparing vocals guide listeners across some truly spectacular compositions that do a great deal in giving an idea of the sound that Esben and the Witch are cultivating, but little in terms of defining genre. While not completely out of this world, there are certainly some experimental moments. Fellow bandmates Daniel Copeman and Thomas Fisher lay down some wild guitar, keyboard and electronic work, with Davies playing percussion as well. The overall sound is a little reserved, heavy but not in an overpowering sense. Really interesting stuff comes across; the beat gets lost in a fog of reverb and intonations, resurfacing to catch the vocals. A self recorded, self produced EP titled 33 stand as the band’s sole release to date, a healthy collection of work for a young band that promises to grow into its sound with poise.

Remember the wild punk vocalists that used to give their male counterparts a run for their money when it came to going bananas onstage and in the booth? Kicking through the speakers in fine punk style, Comanechi’s Akiko Matsuura slams away at her drum kit, screaming into a mounted microphone, picking up where X Ray Spex’s Poly Styrene left off, maintaining the gutter chic vibe that embodies the East London district the band calls home. Co-founding member and guitarist of the two person outfit, Simon Petrovitch, hammers out chord structures at lightning speed, keeping pace with Matsuura’s frenzied drumming. The groups first full length effort, titled Crime of Love released last year on UK based Merok Records, featuring 12 full tracks, oh, and a hidden song (throwback!), track 69 to be exact. It’s called “Revenge of my Pussy.” Hell yeah. It’s been way too long since a band like this has hit the scene, unadulterated, unconcerned primal rock for the masses.

Reminding the industry that the British music scene is far from a one-dimensional battle of the bands is South London rapper Giggs. Hailing from Peckham, Giggs has distinctive style that separates him from many of the other British rappers on the scene at the moment. While many of his counterparts appear heavily influenced by the myriad of sub genres that the island has spawned, Giggs seems most interested in the type of rap that gets heads nodding in Atlanta, Paris, New York, Tokyo and of course, his native London as well, where rappers from the states are regularly greeted by packed venues of dedicated fans. Far from the traditional mold of a “conscious” rapper, Giggs definitely keeps the content serious and impactful nonetheless, speaking frankly to his listeners. “Don’t Go There,” a single released early this year featuring Georgia’s B.o.B. hits hard—Giggs gives the track his treatment, laying slow, low toned, deliberate flows between Bobby Ray’s hook. His recently released album, Let Em Ave It, promises to solidify Giggs’s standing as the frontrunner of UK rap.

– Omar Almufti

photography by Olivia Beasley

Stylist Harris Elliott
Makeup Kenneth Soh at Soho
Hair Ben Talbot, Ruth Warrior at One Makeup
Assistants Tim Bowditch, Sam Hofman, Dominic Hawgood
and Tom Hull