It’s been a while since I’ve had a release preview from Gawjuss in my hot sweaty hands – not literally of course, it’s a stream but I’m guessing you know what I mean – so I was excited to hear it and, of course, review it.
Gawjuss have what I like to call an inventive DIY approach to their music; the feel isn’t polished to an immaculate sheen. There’s a sonic texture, there is a looseness that is a joy. I call it Alt-Rock Pathetique. Or alternatively we might call it Alt-Art Rock; there’s that arch feeling on display.
A small aside: Alt-Rock Pathetique is my own personal term. It comes from the genre of Punk called Punk Pathetique back in the day. There were bands who took the format and feel of Punk but made it ‘not rock’ at all; all the crashing drums and thrashing drums were taken out. So it is with Gawjuss – it’s Alt-Rock in format – quiet loud, out there guitar solo, hints of things you might recognise as being Alt-Rock riff wise – but it’s not in any way mosh your arse off rock. This is not a critical term at all.
‘Sleepwalker’ starts with a glorious slightly twisted vocal that’s just not a rock vocal at all, a raw strummed guitar, a loping rhythm; that’s the quiet. Then a strident guitar sound – that’s the loud. Are you getting this now? There’s wonderful warped guitar breaks. There is somewhere in there a dash of blues. And through it all runs that vocal; taking a tone that is one part early Bowie and one part DIY music of the 80s. It makes me go all wobbly.
It’s like nothing you’ve heard before but at the same time reminds you of lots of things far, far too numerous to list. It’s highly original, inventive and clever, as well as being fun. ‘Sleepwalker’ is way up there on my list of fav releases I’ve reviewed this year.
This release is like a glinting light in the darkness, a burst of joy in the bleakness of the world. It’s just too lovely for words. It’s a song I just want to hug. I both want to keep it as a private song that I hold as special and nobody else knows about, and tell the world that it’s fabulous. It does that to you.
Where that band name came from, explained, Kieran says ‘I saw the graffiti ‘Nikki iz Gawjuss ‘09’ under a bridge in Durham. It reminded me of all those band names spelt wrong like DIIV, Wavves, etc and I put it in my notes immediately”
In recent years Kieran Wade Clarke (AKA Gawjuss) has released a steady stream of singles and EPs as a way to capture something, release it and move on, constantly exploring. It’s always been quite laid back, however, things have changed in the past year; Kieran is pushing forward to more certainty, putting a band together and adding production support, while still retaining a raw approach to themes and topics covered. For all intents and purposes, this is the beginning of Gawjuss.
With the addition of James Douglas Wilkinson (bass) and Blue (drums), Gawjuss feel more than a one-person exploration. Despite Kieran recording the majority of the songs alone, James supported with arrangements and Blue programmed the drums. The artwork was provided by Kieran’s sister, Devon Clarke.
Kieran has teamed with super-producer Alex Greaves (BDRMM, Working Men’s Club, Maximo Park, LICE) who also contributed bass and organ to the track, to create a lulling lament of restlessness and uncertainty. With the line “At night I just go to bed, and when I wake up I’m just somewhere else” underpinning the sense of unease, it builds slowly, with Kieran’s yearning vocals leading the line, then crashes into a descending chorus hook before opening into a ragged, Neil Young-like guitar solo – packing a lot into two and a half minutes.
“I wrote this song while I had insomnia, it’s a love letter to sleep. Like a reset button when you get lost in the noise of your own head”