Manchester art-rock stalwarts The Speed of Sound (John Armstrong – Songwriting/Guitars/Vocals, Ann-Marie Crowley – Vocals/Guitars, Kevin Roache – Bass Guitar, John Broadhurst – Drums, Henry Armstrong – Keyboards) present the haunting “Charlotte” (12″ version) from their new double A-side single released via Big Stir Records. The eerie track brings to mind Lene Lovich, Siouxsie and the Banshees, the Manic Street Preachers, Pylon, the B-52s, and Throwing Muses, mixing ominous choral arrangements with spoken word, electronics, and primal elements.
The anxious menace within the album version of “Charlotte” is extended here with a ghostly, ephemeral neo-gothic dread: true terror is within the mind.
“The song is based on actual events from the 1850s; the first time we played ‘Charlotte’ live was in Elizabeth Gaskell’s house within the actual room where Charlotte Bronte hid behind a curtain to avoid meeting an unexpected visitor while she was staying in her fellow novelist’s home. That gig was just two weeks before Charlotte’s 200th birthday. It was easy to imagine her still there and hiding from us too. Anxiety is the natural state of the modern world, but it has been around much longer. The part of Charlotte on the introduction is performed by Janet Armstrong.”
The video, edited by Nikos Pavlov, beautifully illustrates this universal angst.
The song “Virtual Reality 123,” is a transportive journey to a world of dramatic beauty and desolation with its immersive aural atmospheric led by the haunting sonic companions of a grand piano and humming guitar feedback. This guided meditation through a parallel universe blurs the line in determining which reality is the simulation: the rough physical plane, or the euphoric and pristine digital dream.
“This is the full version of Virtual Reality – as originally conceived – parts 1, 2 and 3,” explains TSOS leading light John Armstrong. “It was simply too long to fit on the album in its entirety, so here it is in its unedited glory. We couldn’t get the piano into the recording studio, so we recorded that remotely and added it in.”
Watch the enchanting video for “Virtual Reality 123” below:
Formed in 1989 with a pre-history dating back to the day Andy Warhol died in 1987, The Speed of Sound lies deep below the ‘music industry radar’, allowing for the evolution of their own distinctive sound and live act. Their music is optimistic, but with lyrical bite, a punk-inspired DIY ethos and lust for experimentation rooted in psychedelia.
Throughout their 33-year history, The Speed Of Sound have always been idiosyncratic, counter-intuitive, and perpetually looking for something new. These two fresh extended pieces take advantage of space that is not afforded by the limitations of vinyl.
The band’s original Museum of Tomorrow album is also available on vinyl and CD from Big Stir Records and record stores.
Order the Double-A-side single, “Charlotte,” and “Virtual Reality 123,” here.
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