Manchester indie rock outfit The Speed Of Sound presents the double A-side single ‘Virtual Reality 123 / Charlotte 12″ Version’, released via Big Stir Records. Just like a classic 12” single, each track clocks in at over 6 minutes.
Hailing from Manchester, The Speed of Sound is made up of father and son John Armstrong (guitars and vocals) and Henry Armstrong (keyboards), Ann-Marie Crowley (vocals and guitar), Kevin Roache (bass guitar) and John Broadhurst (drums). In 2021, they released their critically acclaimed album ‘Museum Of Tomorrow’.
Formed in 1989 with a pre-history dating back to the day Andy Warhol died in 1987, The Speed of Sound lies deep below the ‘music industry radar’, allowing for the evolution of their own distinctive sound and live act. Their music is optimistic, but with lyrical bite, a punk-inspired DIY ethos and lust for experimentation rooted in psychedelia.
Throughout their 33-year history, The Speed Of Sound have always been idiosyncratic, counter-intuitive and perpetually looking for something new. These two fresh extended pieces take advantage of space that is not afforded when limited by the physical time constraints of vinyl. The result is effectively two new pieces that are epic in different and unexpected ways. Is this Progressive Pop? There is only one way to find out.
‘Virtual Reality 123’ is a dramatically beautiful, yet desolate soundscape, unfurling within the startlingly atmospheric pairing of grand piano and guitar feedback blended with the human voice. Joyous and steely resolute in its determination to create and inhabit a personal parallel universe, it constructs a separate realm for the purpose of keeping the work/life spheres completely separate. A possibility powered by enabling and running an ‘alternative-life’ programme alongside the daily grind, it steps from one to the other, closing the door between them. Replacing the drudgeries of the physical analogue personal life with a digital perfection, the virtual world becomes a refuge from actual existence and the place when life exists in a state of perpetual euphoria.
‘Charlotte 12” Version’ takes the already existing sense of anxious menace within the album version of this song, adding a ghostly and delicately layered ephemeral depth of neo-gothic proportions. Enhancing the dread within the runaway choruses, this performance leaves no need for flickering candles; true terror is within the mind.
“The song is based on actual events from the 1850’s; the first time we played Charlotte live was in Elizabeth Gaskell’s house within the actual room where Charlotte Bronte hid behind a curtain to avoid meeting an unexpected visitor while she was staying in her fellow novelist’s home,” explains John Armstrong.
“That gig was just two weeks before Charlotte’s 200th birthday. It was easy to imagine her still there and hiding from us too. Anxiety is the natural state of the modern world, but it has been around much longer. The part of Charlotte in the introduction is performed by Janet Armstrong.”
Virtual Reality 123 / Charlotte (12″ Version)’ is out now, available via Apple Music, Spotify and Bandcamp. Apart from this “virtual” digita release, the ‘Museum of Tomorrow’ album is also available on vinyl and CD from Big Stir Records and record stores.
John Armstrong – songwriting, guitars and vocals
Ann-Marie Crowley – vocals and guitars
Kevin Roache – bass guitar
John Broadhurst – drums
Henry Armstrong – keyboards
Engineer, mixing & mastering by Adam Crossley & Chris Guest
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