Kaspar Hauser are a trio consisting of guitarist Josh Longton, bassist Anne Kastner, and drummer Andy Brown. Based on their recently released debut EP, John and Anne alternate lead vocal duties
Noisy! They deal in the dark corners of gothic-tinged, angular, noise-punk. Guitars bristle with menacing intent, bass rumbles low and the drums are a blur of clattering cymbals and heavy snare hits. They bring to mind contemporary acts like Flesh World, Vertical Slump or label-mates Witching Waves; whilst Josh’s half-spoken, aggrieved vocals, sneer with the attitude of Mark E. Smith and there’s something of Siouxie Sioux in Anne’s energetic yelp.
Despite being named after a notorious 18th century Bavarian youth who claimed to have spent his formative years imprisoned in total isolation, Kaspar Hauser are actually from Glasgow. Glasgow is the largest city in Scotland with a population of over 600,000, making it the third largest city in the UK. Glasgow started life as a small rural settlement on the River Clyde, but experienced rapid growth in the industrial revolution, becoming a pre-eminent centre for industries including, textiles, chemicals, engineering and in-particular ship-building. It reached it’s population peak in the 1930’s when over one million people lived in the city, before border changes and the relocation of people to new towns halved the amount of people under the city council’s jurisdiction. The 2010 PRS survey, placed Glasgow as the fourth most musical city in the UK, whilst a review of lyrics suggest it is the UK’s second most commonly referenced city, only behind London. Famous musical acts from the city include The Blue Nile, Orange Juice and Camera Obscura, whilst in recent years the likes of Honeyblood, Tuff Love and Alphabetical Order Orchestra have continued the city’s fine musical heritage.
We don’t have an exact formation date, but we’d suggest not very long ago. The band released their debut EP this month via Soft Power Records.
In many ways Kaspar Hauser are the sound of what punk could easily have become. They bristle with the discontent of the working classes, they take punk’s anger and move it into darker territory. Guitars buzz with a serrated energy, the drums are pounded with loose, primal energy, and the vocals are menacing to the point you’d be slightly scared to get too near the stage for fear of getting a nonchalant boot in the face. It’s not hard to imagine this being an early Joy Division recording, before Martin Hannett buffed some of the rough edges into a sophisticated sheen.
Kaspar Hauser’s two vocalists have very different tones, and delivery styles, but they’re united by a sense of malcontent, a feeling that the world isn’t always fair, and it isn’t always pretty. On the best track here, Pencil Doing, Josh rallies against the comfortable middle-class edge to the modern day left wing, firing pot-shots at the middle class Guardian reader, and telling them to, “connect to me on that, when you’ve been kicked and stamped.” They incorporate an old Carry-On at Your Convenience clip, “privileged class, you know what the girls call it pencil doings.” What exactly that means, well your guess is as good as ours, but there’s something undeniably fascinating about his lyrical musings, he seems to ask us to question ourselves, it’s easy to point out failings, but are we not all part of a system than encourages them? Are we not all pencil doings?
When Anne takes lead vocal, on Enigma and Dole Inside, the atmosphere is noticeably different. She add’s a different energy, while Josh has lackadaisical delivery style, Anne is more of an impassioned yelp. Her voice is heavily processed, bouncing menacingly around your ears with echoing energy; at times it becomes almost indistinguishable from the thrashing noise around her. Certainly the lyrics are almost indistinguishable, although Dole Inside does rather brilliantly reference, “the sickly stench of Judi Dench” and pictures the modern world as a place where, “everyone’s face has been replaced by Kim Kardashian.”
Thrillingly raw, Kasper Hauser are unashamedly un-pop, they make no attempt to compromise their sound. Their’s is a world of intense noise, of the rough edges of life, exposed for all to see. They’re not a band for a good time on a warm Spring day, but they are a band who challenge you as a listener, and once you’ve immersed yourself into this record, it’s charms and honesty are well worth your time.
The musical equivalent of barbed-wire, with their primitive rhythms and discomforting angular moods, Kaspar Hauser will have plenty running for the hills. Plenty more will be sucked into their oily melodies, and find themselves delightfully, undeniably, stuck.
Kaspar Hauser’s debut EP is out now on limited edition cassette via Soft Power Records. Kaspar Hauser play Glasgow on May 26th and June 4th, follow them on Facebook for details.