London’s Es have been on the circuit for quite a while now. Es released their debut EP ‘Object Relations’ back in 2016 via La Vida Es Un Mus, and have now found a second home on Upset The Rhythm.
Featuring members of Beats To The Bar favourites The Worms and Katy And Nick, they are a sarcy futurist punk band. The Es setup is fairly unusual (bass, drums, synth and vocals) given their output. It’s more akin to an 80s synth pop band.
‘Less of Everything’, their debut album kicks into gear with what is probably the highlight of the record – lead single Chemical. The chugging phaser effected bass from Katy Cotterell, Flora Watter’s urgent melodic synth, Tamsin M. Leach’s tight Steve Shelley-esque drums, and Maria Cecilia Tedemalm’s charismatic vocals combine with a great sense of urgency. On “Chemical” they create a sneering grungey punk with a real swagger that recalls early Sonic Youth and Be Your Own Pet, but with a kind of futuristic goth aesthetic. Lyrically and musically it sets the manifesto for the album.
‘Foundation’ ups the pace a little. It’s driven by fuzzed up bass, the vocals massively chantable. It’s impressive, the racket they create. ‘Mystery’ is full on, with Cotterell’s eery sounding bass and Watter’s synth filling all available space. It’s frantic and fidgetty. At points it sounds like it’s close to tripping up over itself.
‘Sesame’ shows some great rhythmic shifts in the drums, and grooves more than probably anything else on the record. Whilst it mixes things up in this regard it still maintains the edgy and claustrophobic feel, as it is so densely packed with sound. There is little open space.
Leach’s drums are phenomenal on “Off The Rails”. The title fits aptly, the drums drive the song at 100mph, often feeling like they are about to skid off track. It’s a relentless piece of mutant punk, with a rollocking bassline, that verges on noise rock. Tedemalm sounds increasingly desperate throughout. The way the bass is played is really quite unique throughout “Less Of Everything”.
Whilst it pins down a rhythm it also leads for the most part, except for on ‘Severed’. Watter’s 80s synth takes precedence and oozes post punk cool. The phrasing in Tedemalm’s vocal performance really recalls Kim Gordon here too.
‘Unsavoury’ has an almost nauseating uneasiness, the bass seems to sit slightly off the drums. It’s weirdly intense yet straightforward and serves as the point at which it feels like the album could benefit from a change of approach, instrumentation, or more space, to give the listener some air.
‘Kingdom Come’ seems quite straightforward until you pay attention to the odd phrasing of Leach’s distorted drumbeat. This makes way for closer ‘Hidden Track’ which sees Es back in groove mode. The whole album feels constantly on edge. Weirdly, this echoes the world it is born into. The consistency of approach creates a dense atmosphere that can feel intense, almost suffocating, at times.
‘Less of Everything’ is a cohesive and largely enjoyable debut which leaves room for further explorations. It would be interesting to hear what Es can do if they approach writing from different angles.
You may enjoy this if you like: Sonic Youth, Be Your Own Pet, Sauna Youth, Ravioli Me Away
Pre-order a physical copy at upsettherhythm.co.uk and listen here: