First appearing on our radar at the very beginning of 2016, Gnarkats initial recordings were rough around the edges but showed glimpses of inventiveness and talent. The Belfast four-piece’s progress since then shines through on new EP ‘Waves Collide’, released back in December.
Getting things underway, with little hesitation, is ‘Running from You’, the EP’s lead single. The track makes the band’s intentions clear from the beginning. Like any self-professed alt rock band, guitars are at the forefront but there’s much more here. ‘Running from You’ is intercut with big riffs, an ‘ooo’ pre-chorus and a surprising and persistent eighth beat piano in the chorus. Indeed, for all its alt rock crowing, the track’s chorus is the high-point, Caolan McCauley’s vocals commingling with the pulsating rhythm to produce an enthusiastic hook. Second track ‘Can You Feel It’ follows in a similar vein, introducing some more fuzzy riffing and guitar interplay in the track’s bridge.
It is no surprise that the EP, recorded at Milbank studios was produced by Michael Mormecha. His influence or indeed guiding hand can be felt throughout. ‘Waves Collide’ consistently throws new sounds and ideas into the mix and it’s on the final two tracks (Running from You’s radio edit aside) were the shackles come off.
Third track ‘Waves Collide’ is ambitious and progressive, with a variety of movements and set-pieces. Delayed guitars move into heavy choruses of “waves collide together” but the shackles truly come off when the track moves into its second half. Sounding more post-rock with reverb all over the guitar and vocals, McCauley sings a repeated strain of “your eyes” while Stuart Robinson’s drums build to the track’s heaviest moments. It’s a monstrous ending and would mark a superb conclusion but for ‘Sorry’.
Final track ‘Sorry’ opens with a palm muted guitar groove on a bed of atmospherics. The previous tracks largely give the impression of a band ready to bust out some energetic rock like a guitarist with a foot hovering above his distortion pedal or a drummer ready to unleash. But ‘Sorry’ is a different beast. It’s a real slow-burner of a track, its themes of regret and yearning punctuated by a dramatic refrain and the voice of James Stewart in It’s A Wonderful Life, an unexpected but fitting moment. There is of course time for a glitchy guitar riff or two in the mix as well.
In ‘Waves Collide’ Gnarkats have released a strong record. The more conventional rock moments combine with hints of invention and a penchant for bigger, theatrical events. The whole sound is polished and well produced, allowing the heavy moments to hit hard and the quieter moments to linger. The EP’s all encompassing exploration of alt rock suggests there’s plenty more left in the tank for these four.