‘925’, the trudging and doomy debut record from best pal duo Asha Lorenz and Louis O’Bryen comes scalding hot, and with an apology in their name that is far from necessary.
From tormenting in middle school to touring the country, the friendship of Asha Lorenz and Louis O’Bryen has been a tumultuous one. United eventually by their shared love of guitar music and the latter’s long locks, which Lorenz eventually admitted were cool, the pair formed doozy odd-pop collective Sorry, who’s scrawling debut, ‘925’, threatens to uproot avant-rock’s established norms with a pick-axe. With age the pair found themselves drifting away from the bluster of rock music and towards making beats, and after meeting drummer Lincoln Barrett, bassist Campbell Baum and, lately, keys player Marco Pini, eventually found a way of melding the two together into the band’s now signature woozy scrawl.
No stranger to a patchwork arrangement, the band’s first Domino releases involved visual mixtapes of home recordings which offered a window into the collective's DIY spirit and eccentric musical vision. Though three years later the band have finally adhered to more traditional mechanisms, their official debut, ‘925’, bears all the characteristics of those hungry, wandering minds unhinged from pre-established structures. Disorienting and apocalyptic, the record is woven with old favourites (‘Starstruck’), re-imaginings of earlier mixtape concepts (‘Snakes’) and a ‘refix’ of live staple ‘Lies’. Shrouded in gloom and straddling the lines between the subterranean punk of the past and the electronic funkhaus of the future, ‘925’ exists in a dark realm of its own and threatens to shake up the face of modern alt-rock indefinitely.
Right Round The Clock, seeped effortlessly in the kind of sleazy 90’s skuz that the band has become synonymous with, is a poignant and promiscuous opener. With its honey-coated guitars and slinky canto’s, the track appears to tell a juvenile tale of murky late-night fornications, but an unlikely re-contextualisation of the seminal hook from Tears For Fears’ Mad World transforms the song into an intricate amalgamation of the old and the new. “I'm feeling kinda crazy,” Lorenz croons in her signature apathetic drawl, “I'm feeling kinda mad, the dreams in which we're famous are the best I've ever had.” Though such songs have perfected the melding of old-school grooves with up-market odd-pop conventions, not all of ‘925’s track-list embraces such cohesion, and it is perhaps in these moments of unmitigated conflict that the record is most successful.
In Unison, for example, is at once idyllic and hellish, with disconcerting minor riffs snagging against hostile vocals in a soundscape at times so devilishly diabolic that you begin to wonder how it could have possibly been purposeful. A warped, sludgy meld of diametric styles and disorderly synths, the track laughs bitterly in the faces of those who dare to trust its title; erratic lurching between styles and moods preventing the listener from ever becoming truly comfortable, suspending them in a constant state of unease and anticipation that dissipates only when the song’s final minor chord rattles into quietude. Though Perfect, as the name suggests, feels distinctly more palatable – its satiny guitar-lines and balanced down-beats fitting it closer to the glutinous art-school ensembles of black midi, Shame and HMLTD – the song is equally diametric. Whilst a sprightly bass-line swells in the periphery, a sullen-toned O’Bryen ponders, “oh devil, where have you gone?”, soaking the song in an inescapable sense of existential pathos, and transforming the upbeat ditty into a broker between the heavenly and the hellish.
Tragicomic meditations on the lives of washed-up rock stars, fan-favourites Rock ‘n’ Roll Star and Starstruck lurk primarily in the record’s darker, smuttier margins. Between gravelly guitar work and bleary-eyed sax blurts, the tracks weave murky stories of sex, drugs and mid-20’s bedlam, creating a sense of drifting in and out of a restless consciousness. Intricate details, as subtle as they are inventive, provide a kind of punctuation to this mania and prevent the songs from melding into an amorphous mass. Asha’s “Ugh!” punctuations on Starstruck, for example, snap the track’s stumbling chorus back into place just as it threatens to collapse in on itself; the guttural sound somehow far more stirring than the kind of drum-fill or guitar regression that most rock bands would deploy in its place. These kinds of details give the record a hand-crafted and artisanal sensibility, reaching back to the band’s humble bedroom beginnings rather than the rule-book for timeworn, contemporary punk.
A smutty sax number that manages to drip with sultry delight but yet somehow never feel corny, Rock ‘n’ Roll Star similarly addresses the darker side to idolatry. Combining sultry 60’s lounge with Sorry's signature mardy guitar work, the track reduces the male rock-icon to a greasy, sleazy counterfeit whose chintzy lies penetrate the song’s every layer. In a coy nod to the record’s title, as well as it’s staunchy cover-art, a plated pendant upon a woman’s bare chest, the nameless cavalier mewls “you're pure silver, 925.” But like the rock-star, ‘925’ is a cheap imitation and the weight of silver sterling – the precious metal’s cheap-cut alloy.
Shrouded in gloom and straddling the lines between the subterranean punk of the past and the electronic funkhaus of the future, ‘925’ exists in a dark realm of its own and threatens to shake up the face of modern alt-rock indefinitely.
In jangly odd-pop ballads Rosie and Heather however, these unnerving, side-street narratives are offset by an unexpected optimism. Track six Rosie, for example, with its fusing of silky saxophone cuts and Pixies-esque power-chord progressions, flirts shamelessly with more traditional indie sensibilities. A dreamy ode to an enigmatic female persona, the hit swaps Sorry’s renowned doomy minor-chords for sugary piano flues and the result is a song worlds away from the thrashing, distortion-heavy sonicscapes of In Unison and Rock ‘n’ Roll Star. With a woozy, half-drunk swoon of a chorus, Heather is another moment on ‘925’ that feels almost pretty. Lulled along by a silky blues undertow, Lorenz’ and O’Bryen’s voices flirt in glorious tandem, pondering the fruits of a young and uncertain fling. Such tracks provide a momentary parting of the sulken clouds that obscure much of the record, as well as manifesting a milder edge to the abrasive London foursome.
It was two and a half years ago now that the band released their first mixtape and in a scrupulous ode to their youth, old-cuts Snakes and Lies proliferate the debut record in reimagined forms. The first is a magnetic glitch-pop anthem that, in a coy metaphor, compares love and its inescapable feelings of apprehension to a simpering snake. Alongside Asha’s sickly, snivelling croon, trap hi-hats and stylistic glitches lend the track its suitably serpentine feel, winding round and round before collapsing in a heap of sprawling minor-chords. From forgotten ‘Wished’ b-side to the debut record’s critical closer, the corroded lullaby Lies is also given a shiny make-over, and challenged with the tricky job of concluding a record that doesn’t offer many answers, but at the same time is overflowing with ideas. Brimming with ‘90s noise and twenty-first century irreverence, such feelings of conflict permeate the track itself, and whilst the re-fixed version sands down some of these abrasive edges, the track still inhabits the dimly lit corners and empty spaces of the record.
Ode To Boy is a step further, landing somewhere between Sigur Ros and Aphex Twin in its fractured, minimalist production. Another mixtape re-imagination, the track hails to Sorry’s gluttonous YouTube-era musical upbringing where rock, hip-hop, noise, grime and folk all sat side-by-side and without confusion. It's only on the mid-point blues effort As the Sun Sets that this heterogeneous recipe seems to fall a little short. Whilst the track blends similar ingredients of jaunty ad-libs and dulcet male-on-female harmonies, it seems to dissolve into a kind of misty drear. O’Bryen’s gruff tenor is instead pushed brashly to the front on the hedonistic and harmonic Wolf, giving it a sulky masculine edge and dissipating such opportunities for dreariness. Gloriously genre-bending; the track’s psychedelic, trip-hop intersection pays closer homage to the confrontational thrash-rap of Ho99o9 or Death Grips than the glam-rock stylings of HMLTD to which the band are often tied.
It's on the nihilistic, odd-pop ballad More, however, that the band find their sonic sweet spot. In a song about life’s excesses, Sorry don’t hold back; wielding thrashing, distortion-heavy guitar runs and hissing snares to create a nightmarescape that revels in its own disjointedness. A gluttonous soundtrack to modern, menial consumerism; a honey-tongued Lorenz begs, “I want more and more and more,” and the song obliges by descending into a gaudy, gothic final breakdown that exemplifies everything the record does gloriously well. At once assaulting society, the self and the ears, the track is a stirring feat both independently and as a part of the ‘925’ collective, and deserves its amassing of almost a quarter-of-a-million streams since its single release in late January.
Still sounding like it was strained through a 90’s computer, the North London outfit sacrificed none of their youthful DIY essence
Intelligent and visceral, ‘925’ and its hedonistic tales of sex, drugs and twenty-something turmoil, makes for an enthralling, albeit mopey, debut. Narrated by the dulcet lulls of Lorenz and O’Bryen, who without the record would be a formless mess, 2017 mixtape re-imaginations and trippy newfangled experiments are brought together in the band’s most cohesive arrangement to date. But stylised upon a backdrop of downer-pop riffs and agitating electronics, and still sounding like it was strained through a 90’s computer, the North London outfit sacrifice none of their youthful DIY essence. Home-brewed, miscellaneous and eerily captivating, if ‘925’ is anything to go by then the future of Sorry is dire, but in the best possible way.