EP Review: Modern Woman – Dogs Fighting In My Dream
Online music editor Tom Bosher reviews the debut EP of post-punk band Modern Woman.
After seeing Modern Woman support Tiña at Rough Trade in Bristol, I knew I not only had to buy their shirt, but also follow every single music release they made. Conveniently, not even a week after seeing them, they’ve dropped their debut EP with End Of The Road Records (in association with the festival). So, what’s the deal with the dog eating dog band?
What became very clear whilst watching them perform live, was the band’s insistence on sonic experimentation and contrast. They sound steely yet soft. They sound gritty and fine. They sound different. What I’ve found most exciting about bands like black midi and Squid is the blending of genres, mixing musical ingredients to produce a whole new recipe of sound. Modern Woman are doing just that. With harsh sounding guitars set against lively and diverse drums, the poetic lyricism from lead singer Sophie Harris threads this project for a truly unique fit and finish. Harris explains “It was important to me to keep the tenderness and lyricism of folk music but blend this with heavier and weirder experimental elements.” 
Opening track and debut single ‘Offerings‘ offers us stuttering percussion flittering between a menacing bass line that unleashes into a tom-filled tripping smash of drums from Adam Blackhurst between verses. A crescendo of violins later joins the fray as this track really feels like a war anthem, wreaking havoc against itself between the calm and the storm. We get some real guitar shredding toward the end, perfectly countered by Harris who repeats the ethereal haunting phrase “my neighbour my lover”.
Instrumentation can cut sharp as glass, with Harris’ vocals able to both whet the searing edge, and hauntingly soften it.
Followed up by their second released single ‘Juniper‘ provides a total change of tone as a bouncing bass line carries us into a groove infested track. Harris’ vocals sway back and forth throughout, as contrapuntal drums twin with her to make a really astonishing track. Midway through the song, organs facilitate a musical reprieve, only making us appreciate the returning bass line even more as we’re hooked back in with one dry bending guitar ping. Harris’ vocals continue to soar over the violins throughout the remainder of the track for a hard hitting jabbing orchestral finale that resonates with black midi’s ‘John L’.
‘Daniel’ is the first unreleased track, and is the slowest of the four. However, lack of speed is recompensed in poignancy, as Harris’ lyricism paints a visceral scene of watery ghostliness. This song makes your hairs stand on end, only for you to realise it’s someone lightly blowing on your neck and whispering strange mutterings. You’re caught between feeling airy and drowned, this song hits a spot of tender tonality that demonstrates the capability of Harris’ ability in writing and delivery paired with an expertly crafted soundscape.
After the hiatus of softness, we are plunged back into intrepid instrumentation with the final track ‘The Eel‘. The most spoken rather than sung of the four tracks, Harris is reminiscent of Sinead O Brien in register, depicting a surreal, slimy and slippery tale that culminates in a saxophone cacophony. If I were to criticise anything off the EP it would be the way this track manifests structurally and instrumentally, with slightly off-kilter guitar as well as the final sax phrase, which whilst providing a daring ultimatum for the project, comes off somewhat garish and trying rather than a convalescence of instability such as is demonstrated by songs of Black Country, New Road.
I am stunned by how confident this band have come off in their first release, and even more so by their performance live. These songs feel mythical, almost ancient in tone, as though reincarnating past atmospheres, figures and zones through sound that sounds fresh as dewdrops. If BBC’s Merlin was to be remade by HBO, these guys would undoubtedly find their way onto the soundtrack.
Modern Woman are one to watch, as I’m sure their sound will continue to evolve and intensify, with a melting pot of musicality, influence, talent and honestly, just cool factor, that will undoubtedly provide for future excellence.