Bitch Falcon – ‘Staring At Clocks’

By Andy Joice

There are few places where the music scene is thriving as well as in Ireland. With the likes of Fontaines D.C. and The Murder Capital leading the way, a new generation of bands are pushing the limits of genres. One band that’s especially smashing through such boundaries is Dublin three-piece Bitch Falcon, a band who first came to our attention via The Pickup. Formed in 2014 by frontwoman Lizzie Fitzpatrick, they’re a band that’re almost impossible to label, with a sound that’s as distinctive as it is memorable. Having spent the last six years dripfeeding singles and touring with the likes of Pussy Riot, Black Peaks and the aforementioned Fontaines D.C., it’s only right their aptly named debut album ‘Staring At Clocks’ is here.

Opening with ‘I’m Ready Now’, it’s just a taste of what they’re able to do. Thick rhythms are the base layer of much of the album so it’s no surprise that Barry O’Sullivan’s driving bass is the main building block, with a hearty melody that seems to rumble into the netherworld. This allows Fitzpatrick to add not only the subtle yet ever-present hook, but also the seasoning of wails and screeches that seem impossible to come from a stringed instrument. And yet, the most impressive aspect is her voice, with the ability to go from a lower range to a higher, sustained note within the blink of an eye.

‘Turned To Gold’ is another example of how perfect the intricate balance between an almost excessive use of dissonance and an underutilisation of it can be. As in many cases throughout ‘Staring At Clocks’, it adds an eerie atmosphere that layers sweetly. The band themselves refer to their sound as “dream grunge”, and it’s a pretty apt categorisation, with the rhythm sections adding a grit that could’ve come out the 90s, andthe  guitar work and vocals adding that ethereal essence. They would both work individually, but paired together, it’s like Velcro. No one knows how it works, but it does.

The title track opens with Fitzpatrick’s deft six string playing, before being met by a galloping bass that seems impossibly quick. Nigel Kenny’s drumming is particularly earcatching, with much of the work being held on the cymbals throughout the verses, as if keeping time with that over the kick. Dreamy at points, thrashing at others, it’s a track worthy of giving its name to the LP – the perfect track to draw in new listeners.

First single from the album ‘Damp Breath’ is the closest Bitch Falcon come to straight up grunge, and probably their most radio friendly, too (this is in no way an insult). In a world where stations like Radio 6 are prepared to push for a heavier sound, radio friendly has a looser term and this would fit in perfectly. Its rolling drumbeat and intricate guitar work are proof that if they wanted to step away from their more expansive sound to something neater and, frankly more mainstream, they could step into that world with ease and utterly smash it.

Themes of anxiety, depression and doubt are rife throughout the record, but none so more obvious than ‘Gaslight’, which touches on a combination of all three to various degrees. With Fitzpatrick’s haunting vocals and thunderous work from Kenny, it’s a near claustrophobic experience that’s dialled back just at the right time, cushioned by Fitzpatrick’s backing vocals of long, choral wails that creates to an unnerving operatic nature.

Closing track ‘Harvester’ opens with a more measured build, with limited distortion and played at a less than breakneck speed. A true slow burner, it builds anticipation by repeating its hooks before descending into a loop of feedback, distortion and synthy residue. Encapsulating an aspect of everything that’s come before it, it’s the ideal way to close the record, leaving both a sweet taste in the mouth and imprinting itself on the forefront of your mind. Couple it with swell of feedback and screeching distortion that opens ‘I’m Ready Now’ and the album can be stuck on repeat for weeks without ever breaking.

Given the band’s love and reputation for touring, there were always potential question marks as to whether they could deliver that sound as clearly in the studio as on the stage and, undeniably, they’ve done just that. ‘Staring At Clocks’ captures the essence of the band in a single 40-minute album, packing in all the ambient and ethereal elements into one bitesize chunk. It’s a sound that’s almost impossible to imitate and would stand head and shoulders above anyone else who tried. Bitch Falcon is a name that’s difficult to forget. This album is just as memorable.

ANDY JOICE

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