A band exploring their sound, defenestrating their limits and having a blast doing so
Cameron Sinclair-Harris
11:40 29th October 2020

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Ever since the release of their 2014 debut Annabel Dream Reader, The Wytches have built a name for themselves as one of the UK’s best-loved and well-regarded underground bands. Their coven of loyal devotees have stuck with them through thick and thin; their recent four-year break in between albums two and three could certainly be put in the “thick” category, with a change in label and line-up and original drummer Gianni Honey leaving the band in 2019. So with that pressure mounting - as well as the unmistakable weight of the COVID-19 pandemic taking its toll on independent bands - it’s thoroughly remarkable how the Peterborough three-piece have crafted perhaps the most vital entry into their back catalogue yet in their third album Three Mile Ditch. 

Album opener and lead single ‘Cowboy’ bears the closest resemblance to the band’s earlier material - a chugging waltz, with a crescendo of grunge basslines and psychedelic guitar licks. If this gives the impression that they are just retreading old ground, the gnarly stomp of the title track firmly disproves the notion, whilst ‘Midnight Ride’ kills it off completely. An early album highlight, it provides a showcase for frontman Kristian Bell’s natural skills as a songwriter, blending an Elliott Smith-esque intro with an outro accentuated by Bad Seeds style piano flourishes. 

It becomes clear by ‘Fly Inside’ that Three Mile Ditch is the sound of The Wytches refining their sound beyond pigeon-holes and clear-cut definitions, as the time signature shifts and shapes itself intermittently and unpredictably. Labelling them as simply ‘noise-rock’, ‘surf-rock’ or ‘nu-grunge’ is a gross understatement, but with that said, it’s just as hard not to imagine this material erupting in the context of a live show. ‘A Love You’ll Never Know’ was born to be played live, albeit with the future of gigging so uncertain in these trying times, the mental image of the moshpit forming to the climactic chorus will have to do for now. 

The following two helpings ‘Meat Chuck’ and ‘Everyone’s Friend’ provide a platform to the band’s heavier side - the former with sprinkles of prog-rock adorning the meaty (pardon the pun) tones, whilst the latter’s reptilian riff culminates in an volatile refrain accentuated by Bell’s trademark howl.

Addressing the lyrical content on the album, there’s not a lot to write home about. However, criticising The Wytches on their lack of poetry feels like a moot point to make: their prior two albums clearly don’t have that intention, and neither does Three Mile Ditch. Despite this, ‘White Cliffs’ manages to marry a mournful and wistful lyric (“They don’t have my back/Just funny games turned sad”) with Bell’s yearning vocals on a track that wouldn’t sound out of place on the seminal Smashing Pumpkins LP Siamese Dream

When ‘Silver Trees’ gives us a breather with an acoustically-led lullaby, it allows the listener to take stock and digest this experience as we draw towards the end of the record. The track is a thing of beauty: Bell delivers an understated vocal, his guitar backed by a haunting yet comforting xylophone.

On Three Mile Ditch, The Wytches aren’t necessarily reinventing the wheel; instead they redefine the wheel to no longer need reinvention in order to stay fresh and enjoyable. It’s a testament to the sounds of a band exploring their sound, defenestrating their limits, and having a blast doing so. And as the feedback swells on album closer and infectious march ‘You Looked Happy To Me’, you’ve never felt more happy to be in the world of The Wytches. 

Three Mile Ditch arrives 30 October via Cable Code Records.

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Photo: Press