SV Presents: Knifeplay • smut • HUMID
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Knifeplay is a band that eludes definition, existing somewhere between the nihilistic detachment of shoegaze and the emotional honesty of folk songwriting. They’ve made a slow and careful shift from being the solo bedroom recording project of songwriter, Tj Strohmer, to a collaborative, production-focused studio-recorded band. Through their ever-expanding genre palette, range of fidelities, and a long list of collaborators runs a unique mood that ties everything together.
Informed by his experiences living in Philadelphia and their contrast with his rural southern Maryland upbringing, Strohmer’s sometimes straightforward, sometimes dreamlike lyrics feature scenes of darkness from many different aspects of life. He deals with themes of death, drugs, heartbreak, abuse, and self-destruction, all expressed through an androgynous vocal style, which, combined with the band’s lush, often dense orchestral instrumentation gives a beautiful lightness to the heavy subject matter.
Knifeplay has earned a dedicated cult following since their 2017 debut with their home-recorded Eps, acclaimed debut album Pearlty (2019), a lengthy B-Sides Compilation (2020), and an EP Hurt Someone (2021 Born Losers Records). The latter of which was a part of their 2021 studio work with acclaimed Philadelphia engineer/mixer/producer Jeff Zeigler.
Uniting crunchy guitars with swirling synths, Smut embrace a liminality and experimentation that pushes the boundaries of pop music. The Chicago-based five-piece blend melody and moodiness to yield to a droney and percussive pop. As of late their influences stem from shoegaze, 90s hip hop, and trip-hop. Bell Cenower’s biting bass lines creep below the surface, while Aidan O’Connor’s drums carry the rhythm with fiery precision. Andrew Min’s & Sam Ruschman’s distorted guitar melodies lift the band to explosive heights. Hovering over her bandmates’ wall of sound, Tay Roebuck’s caustically sung meditations on grief, guilt, and growing into oneself make us nostalgic for shoegaze bands past.
Smut have conquered national tours with acts like Nothing, Swirlies, and Bully. Previously working as an actor, Roebuck’s performance is uninhibited, reflective of the stage presence of Blur’s Damon Albarn. During moments of extended instrumental sludge, Roebuck will step off to the side to take in the expansive whirlwind her bandmates have created.
On their EP Power Fantasy we find Smut in a state of transition. Opening track ‘Fan Age’ begins in a dreamscape of guitar chords as Roebuck sings of climbing the backs of giants. About a minute and a half in, Smut has their feet firmly planted as ‘Fan Age’ transforms into an infectious, self-assured anthem– “I don’t feel bad, I hold no guilt.” The EP’s title track finds Roebuck assuming the role of the underdog, hyping herself up to save the world, only to realize that no one person can save everyone. The band’s trip-hop influences show their teeth in the slow building strong closer ‘Perfect Dark’, inspired by the N64 game of the same name. Power Fantasy demonstrates a new direction for the indie outfit, one characterized by continued self-reflection and sonic renewal.
HUMID returns with their first full length album titled “One Dimensional Hell”. A sprawling Shoegaze album of alternative dirge and ethereal daze. Coming forth is a collection of songs reflecting on life’s most chaotic moments and desires. Written and recorded in less than a year. HUMID’s latest effort shares a louder and harsher endeavor than before. Utilizing bright distorted guitars and hushed vocals brings the sound of HUMID’s latest album full circle in its natural form.