Personnel: Kristian Bell (vocals, guitar, organ, percussion); Gianni Honey (drums, percussion); Daniel Rumsey (background vocals).
Recording information: The Chapel Studios, Lincolnshire; Toe Rag Studios, London.
U.K. garage trio the Wytches follow up their ramshackle debut with All Your Happy Life, a second dark dosage of sprawling lo-fi rock, this time co-produced by Jim Sclavunos, Luke Oldfield, and the band itself. Propelled by singer/guitarist Kristian Bell's choked and ragged bellows, the Wytches' doomy racket is at times off-putting, with the mighty "Ghost House" and "Crest of Death" exploring the deeper end of their nihilistic psych-indebted grooves. Other times, like on lead single "C-Side," Bell trades his guttural wails for a hoarse croon that escalates into feisty Luke Haines-esque territory on the song's hooky chorus. Citing influences from Elliott Smith to Leo Tolstoy and heavy metal, the Brighton-based group isn't quite primed for fun, but there is an underlying attitude that keeps All Your Happy Life from being too much of a bummer. There are even playful moments like the weirdly swinging false fadeout on "Dumb-Fill," which descends into piercing feedback squalls only to slowly reintroduce the bouncy rhythm track for a quirky encore. While the overall fidelity hasn't improved much, the Wytches' sense of song structure is distinctly more complex, with strange minor-key riffs that frequently shift and surprise in their noir-ish way. Bassist Daniel Rumsey and drummer Gianni Honey support Bell's desperate constructions with plenty of thunder and locomotion, making a sound that is big in a trashy if not expansive kind of way. The album is a challenging listen but there's plenty of craft here, making it an improvement upon their debut. ~ Timothy Monger