[insert:Flying Over Sunny Liston: Poems by Gary Short [University Of Nevada Press, 1996] p.33 Wo Voka p.29 Gentle]
The world is changed. SARS-CoV-2, bringer of death and desolation. Tours cancelled, records scrapped, studios abandoned. All is still. Out of the mire and the murk, three shadows appear [backlit]. Could it be? The release of acclaimed debut album Start Clanging Cymbals [insert:“Hard to classify and even harder not to love”-Uncut/“Ambition and self assured daring”-MOJO/[soundtrack FIFA/SIMS video-games] took Willian J. Stokes and twins Ellie Mason and Imogen Mason across Europe and the UK, from Edinburgh’s Corn Exchange to Amsterdam’s Paradiso, drawing fans like iron filings to a magnet as they went. Voka Gentle; the unique trio of three producers, three singers and three songwriters, concluded their live crusade with a show at London’s Brixton Academy, opening for the legendary Flaming Lips in celebration of their seminal opus The Soft Bulletin.
Before long, though, the demon viral horde struck. Voka Gentle prepared to lie low in London and wait for the storm to blow over before taking their immersive audio-visual live performance back on the road. It was then that a chance phone call with Sam Grant, producer and guitarist with neo-metal battalion Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs, coaxed them blinking into the sunshine and up to Newcastle’s Blank studios. Here, in just two weeks, they found themselves recording nothing less than a second full-length studio album. Bloodied by the anxieties of the age, energised yet agitated, they looked into its eyes and christened it WRITHING!.
Now Voka Gentle return, battering down the drawbridge with a brand new album of songs and a panoply of musician-fans hoisting their banner. Motorik beats meet tender experimental soundscapes and the voices of twisted church congregations. Chopped rhythms contend with metal-esque drumming while fingerpicked guitars converse with throbbing synth bass, all coming together in an orb-like singularity. Having made an enthusiastic fan of Wayne Coyne back in Brixton, the majestic zorb-surfer himself was eager to lend his talents to the record, delivering a majestic vocal performance on first single ‘Necrofauna/The Garden Of Eden.’
With an appetite whetted during the making of Start Clanging Cymbals by the guest appearances of legendary American comedian Rich Hall [insert:Moe Szyslak] and prodigious British jazz trumpeter Freddy Gavita, Voka appear to thrive on collaboration. Coyne was by no means the only guest invited to help construct the world of WRITHING!: cult Bristolian musician Oliver Wilde and London vocalist BELLS also make appearances on the album, as well as designer-innovator Benton Ching, whose own invention the Miasma Field Modulator was used to take air pollution recordings in the centre of London and convert them into sound. ‘The natural world, as it always does in our music, played a key role in this album,’ explain the band. ‘The first album had the pastoral- recordings of birds and grass and waves. This record is about a concern for the natural world. Things that are in danger or things that are causing that danger. There are recordings of bees, of ice cracking, of traffic. It’s an album about this moment. About feeling out of control.’
Not long after mixing of the album concluded, Voka were invited to record a full-length live session at Peter Gabriel’s legendary Real World Studios in cutting-edge 360 degree immersive sound, their first live performance with a brand new set of songs and an oasis in the apocalyptic Covid desert, littered with rusting tour buses and the skeletons of booking agents. It is now time for Voka Gentle, quite possibly the UK’s best kept musical secret, to appear from the mist beyond once again. They are ghosts, multi-coloured spectres come to haunt the strictures that tell us what music is supposed to be. They challenge with tenderness and whisper with distortion. They come to perform for you the gift that is WRITHING! and then, like a three-headed creature of the night, melt away into shadow.