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The Joy Formidable - 'Austere'

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Fraser McAlpine | 13:28 UK time, Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Ah, January; let the purging begin.

We've spent all of December cluttering up the house and mind with all sorts of stuff - hidden carrier bags of presents, shopping lists, wrapping paper, cards, decorations, Matt Bloody Cardle - all or some of which are lovely in their own way, but after a while, they just build up into a big mess.

Time to have a bit of a sort-out, a bit of a recycle, a bit of a decks-clear. It'll feel a bit brutal at first, stripping back the layers of shiny, ribbony stuff and exposing the cold, clear surfaces beneath, ready for use. But it's also kind of exciting. What kind of fresh wonder will fill this space? What joy will it bring? What day do the recycling men come around?

This applies just as much to music as it does to houses and the mind. Sometimes you just need to clear everything out, put valuable stuff away, and start again.

This is the aural equivalent of taking a massive shovel to everything festive and Christmassy, and dumping the lot in a skip, ready to face the year ahead with a clean slate, a new diary (and a massive shovel).

(Here's the video. It's all white.)

It starts, innocuously enough, with a high, wordless squeal, which repeats and repeats in a manner which is both piercing and unforgiving, like a woodpecker putting up a wall of CD shelves. This is then held aloft by some pleasant-but-unremarkable bass and drums action, a clockwork guitar, and a dour, asymmetrical verse which is neither joyful nor formidable in any great measure - the kind of thing you hear a lot of these days (apart from that squeal, which is hard to ignore).

Then there's a buzzcut guitar, a warning of something big and scary on the way, and suddenly a wall of noise smashes through everything. That squeal is still there, the calm voice continues to intone, but it's all lost in the whoosh. And there are other things, new things hiding in there too: squeaks and wails, sledgehammers through windows, a piano, the metal hull of an aircraft carrier being used as a backscratcher by a giant with a mountainous stony spine.

From here on in, it's not so much a song, more a punishing sonic head-kick in the form of a huge racket. It's also a useful tool for dislodging any lingering festive detritus, making it fall from your ears in a snowy pile of dandruff.

Then all you need to do is brush the past from your shoulders, much like Jay-Z does with dirt, and you're good to go. It probably works all year round too. Let's see, shall we?

Five starsDownload: Out now

BBC Music page

(Fraser McAlpine)

Curiosity Killed The Kat says: "Ritzy is a force to be reckoned with, and for a petite lady she's good with the vocal screams and smashing of guitars on stage."

This Is The Big Beat says: "The guitar burst over the last 45 seconds of the song sends chills up my spine."


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