SINGLE REVIEW: Pepe Sylvia – ‘Wax’

'And yes, it’s beautiful, beautiful in an epic bringing tears to the eyes way'


As I write Pepe Sylvia’s new release was dropped quietly about 6 hours ago. At a time when many people might have been out or about to go out – in my case I was at Falsetival in Manchester at the Soup Kitchen (a place without any wifi or phone reception) so I was probably watching Calva Louise when the link to the track was posted. So I didn’t actually manage to see the announcement until I was on the station to get home. And that announcement by the way sort of came as a surprise. I mean, yeah, there’d been an announcement of an announcement (if that makes any sense) but no hint of a new track (beyond a vague mention of something coming in April some time ago).

The information that comes with the track link says that’s the lead track from an EP to be released next month (a whole EP, Pepe Sylvia, you spoil us, I will on tenterhooks until it arrives). And yes, I could wait until the EP comes out to review but life’s too short to wait a whole month before telling you about this song.

It took, if I am honest, some time for me to actually click the play button. I was anxious that being so blown away by the sheer beauty of ‘Hannibal’ that I might be disappointed. I’m not, it’s equally as good as ‘Hannibal’ although something of a different thing, and then again not different. And yes, it’s beautiful, beautiful in an epic bringing tears to the eyes way.

As an aside – if you have read any of my recent reviews you might recognise my use of the word beautiful to describe things. This is because I have a thing about beauty in music right now, it must be the (mental) place I’m in. And actually I see beauty in all sorts of music – for example The MC5’s ‘Rambling Rose’ is utterly beautiful in it’s loud barely (but oh so just right) together sort of way.

Anyway aside over, so back to ‘Wax’. It starts quietly, there’s guitar gently picked over some synth (A small update: and as I’m just noticed what sounds like the sound of children), and then these breathy male vocals come in. And then it builds to something briefly, the guitar crashes, there are these what I can only describe as weird warbling synth noises. And then it drops and there’s a female voice with a response. It builds again, there is guitar crashing in, there is some utterly lovely vocals and it fades on washes of synth with these strangely moving ‘birds under the sea’ noises. And those builds are epic. Look, I can’t for the life of me work work out what this song is about but it appears – and I may just be taking the easy option here – to be some sort of ‘there’s two sides to every relationship (breakdown)’ story. And quite why it’s called ‘Wax’ I have no idea at all.

It sounds like nothing I’ve heard before, but then again there are hints of lots of things I’ve heard before – folk, post-punk, bits of psych, 70s ballads from big AOR bands (oddly that’s what I get in places), those sort of loose 80’s Peel type bands with female vocalists, weird electronica – but these are all filtered through what I now call the ‘Pepe Sylvia’ thing. It’s loose but tight, it’s the way that sounds are put together, it’s the vocals.

But what it sounds like mainly is the sound of something hugely sad going on. There’s something in the arrangement and the vocals that just grab at your heart. Listening on repeat, as I have to do to review something, has left me feeling oddly desolate. But I just can’t hit stop, it’s compelling, it’s compulsive.

So if you haven’t seen or heard Pepe Sylvia before this is a brilliant introduction – listen to this (and then go and listen to ‘Hannibal’), you’ll be completely blown away, take my word for it.


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Frank is the website guy for Local Sound Focus. Takes a lot of photos and loves writing about new music.