Label: AWAL Recordings Ltd.
Release Date: 29th May 2020
“Human contact has become, for all of us, a precious, limited commodity, but that wasn’t something the band could pre-empt when they set off to the studio in the Autumn of 2019.”
Last week the York four-piece ‘The Howl & The Hum’ dropped their bold and brooding debut album, Human Contact. The band pull in influences from just about everywhere. Lead singer Sam Griffiths is vocal about his folk and singer-songwriter inspirations, but the sound of the band considerably branches out to bigger synthetic sound under the production of Jolyon Thomas, who has worked with the likes of U2, Kendrick Lamar and Slaves.
The album’s title isn’t at a loss for a heavier meaning in the midst of a pandemic. Human contact has become, for all of us, a precious, limited commodity, but that wasn’t something the band could pre-empt when they set off to the studio in the Autumn of 2019. Human Contact finds a darker tone in the titular track, with the haunting lyrics warning of the dangers of digital obsession. Ironically, our digital attachments have allowed us to stay close to our loved ones whilst in isolation, but regardless, the value of contact hasn’t changed.
I’m reminded a little of Nothing But Thieves in the fluctuations between shadowy agony and vulnerability. The album jumps sporadically from ‘Murmur’, a darkly simmering song that lyrically distorts the image of the human body into automation, to ‘The Only Boy Racer Left On The Island’, nostalgic and entirely human in its story. Released in 2019 as a single, ‘The Only Boy’ is the most powerful track on the album; gathering speed and sentiment into a crescendo of drums. It’s about “a sort of sad peter pan”, the band note. The themes and tones of the whole album are messy and indistinct, though this surprisingly adds to the album’s charm rather than hinders it. These mid-album tracks are two of the strongest on the record.
There are moments where The Hum hit the nail on the head lyrically, and others where the meaning trails off loosely. ‘Smoke’ is a later track that doesn’t meet the strength of songwriting shown elsewhere. Despite this, the sound of the album is banded and collectively strong, emerging sturdily in its cumulation of influences.
The Howl & The Hum are due to pick up tour again in September, with a Leeds gig next February at the Brudenell Social Club. Let’s hope that by then, human contact will be a little less criminal.
Words by Kate Wassell.
5th June 2020.