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WITCHING WAVES • Streams and Waterways (Orange Vinyl) • LP

WITCHING WAVES • Streams and Waterways (Orange Vinyl) • LP

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Specialist Subject, releasedate 01.12.2023

For an album that hits with an instant rush of fuzz-fuelled energy, the gestation time for Witching Waves’ Streams and Waterways has been somewhat more protracted. A blistering advancement of the knife-sharp hooks and urgently efficient post-punk structures that they’ve spent over a decade refining since their formation in 2011, the band’s fourth album – and second on Specialist Subject – emerges from a period of flux for the band’s chief songwriting partnership of Emma Wigham (drums/vocals) and Mark Jasper (guitar/vocals).
First came a move north to Yorkshire from their native London. “We had decorated a tiny, rented house in Mytholmroyd” Jasper explains. “We setup a practice room in the top of a mill nearby and tried to write music, which we did amid stress about money, and a fear of having made the wrong decision. We had left our jobs, friends and a nice but absolutely tiny flat in London behind, and moved to a small village in West Yorkshire.”
Although they found the location to be beautiful, the transition from city life to rural turned out to be an odd fit – too much so, it turned out. From this relatively short stay in West Yorkshire, however, came a more permanent change as the couple welcomed their first child Ivy into the family. Although, they’re hesitant to put too much of Streams and Waterways influence on the shoulders of their young daughter – she arrived a year and a half into the album’s conception – there’s no denying that its themes of loss, birth, and being part of this eternal, momentary life were brought into sharp focus following their new arrival.
“Streams and Waterways is about the struggle of looking at the clock, realising it’s actually going pretty damn fast and knowing that really you have no control over anything” Jasper confirms.
Perhaps that explains the way that opener The Valley doesn’t even introduce itself before careering into a full-throttled, three-minute scuzzy rager that would approach the descriptor anthemic had it not been kicked and scuffed along the way; it’s maybe why the wiry, ferocious Choice You Make feels like a charge into a storm despite the uncertainty of what you might find. It’s perhaps why even when Witching Waves allow themselves respite on the pared down Open A Hole, there’s a churning anxiety that lies below the acoustic guitar and harmonising vocals: in many ways musically and thematically Witching Waves are relinquishing the control that’s always been a fixture of their music – with all the thrilling and nervous fallout that comes from that.
Although the pair have since returned south (having relocated to Exeter), Streams and Waterways also serves as a document of their foray northwards. The surviving artefact from Jasper’s never-to-be-finished studio that he’d began to build in Yorkshire – following the ending of his London-based Sound Savers studio – the record is also the first to feature current bassist Will Fitzpatrick, who joined initially live on their support tour with Australian punks Camp Cope. Fitzpatrick – a key component of Liverpool’s DIY scene for two decades – quickly became a key part of the writing process.
Recording sessions were done during periods of lockdown that allowed congregation, Jasper recalling a still unborn Ivy kicking hard during an early mix playback of It’s A Shame’s layered noise rock assault. “The song was about my past, a much harder time. But my future was egging me on” he says.
It’s a neat summation of Streams and Waterways and its representation of the discomfort of life amidst the compulsion to ride on its journey regardless. It’s a record that finds Witching Waves looking into the future more than ever before, but still bristles with the rush of being in the moment – because ultimately, despite what may have happened or may yet come, the band’s strongest trait remains being able to keep you feeling in the present.

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