You might have previously chanced upon Artefact if you’ve got your ear to the ground of the fertile, exciting DIY punk circuit in the UK. Equally, they might be brand new to you, but there’s no shame in that game. Release-wise, the four-piece have gone straight from a demo to a debut LP – a step-up that, ‘Votive Offering’, the long player in question, justifies in a half-hour blaze of elegant, alluring gothic punk grandeur.
Artefact assembled in the Welsh capital, Cardiff, around late 2014 and debuted in early 2015 with a seven-song demo cassette. Featuring Hannah Saunders on vocals, Matthew Green on guitar, Jon Mohajer on bass and Danny Parsons on drums, members’ musical CVs span indiepop (Joanna Gruesome), post-hardcore (Facel Vega), emo (Plaids), garage punk (Twisted) and slowcore (Mars To Stay). This collective experience has certainly informed Artefact, in terms of how they operate and conduct themselves, but it should equally be seen as a clean break, and a chance to indulge their tastes for postpunk, goth, deathrock and the darker side of the tracks in general.
Saunders – the only one of the quartet to be playing in a band for the first time – is a great and mercurial presence at the microphone, ramping up the drama and emotion running through ‘Votive Offering’. Her lyrics are suitably, poetically intriguing, heavy with alliteration and wordplay and spiked with literary and historical references. They meet their perfect match across these ten songs: rolling rhythms built from tom-heavy drums and punchy basslines, waves of ear-ringing chorus-pedal guitar, an ability to switch tempos from a brisk clip to a funereally slow march.
‘Votive Offering’ is boosted by a recording (at North Wales’ Foel Studios) which gives each sonic element the spotlight it deserves, while retaining Artefact’s serrated edge, and mastering by prolific punk platter polisher, Daniel Husayn of North London Bomb Factory. The striking sleeve art comes from inside the mind of Scott Young, an American artist who has also fashioned covers for bands including Gag and Strutter. And it’s being released by German punk label Adagio830 (Diät, Dark Blue, Ranx/Xerox, Rat Columns) as a result of label owner Robert Schulze stumbling on an Artefact live set while on tour, and falling in love.
Anyone whose tastes include foundation stones of goth such as Siouxsie & The Banshees or Bauhaus; The Mob, Part 1 and other names from the gloomier end of 1980s anarcho punk; or contemporary burners of the flame like Belgrado, Arctic Flowers or Anasazi… Artefact have made an album for you to fall in love with too.
(Noel Gardener / The Quietus)