Billy Nomates: “CACTI” album review – surviving it all with weird organs and upright pianos


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A dark cloud hangs over Nomates’ new CACTI as her introspective thoughts seep out onto a lurid colour of distaste and melancholic swagger.

A character once-manifested Billy Nomates (real name Tor Maries) has been delivering moody material since her self-titled debut in 2020. While her first took swings at our lives’ social expectations, her follow-up is far wrapped up in its own internal argument – and once again, an assured deliverance is at the heart of it. A stark engraving of brutually honest lyrisicm whips us around in the face as she denotes suicidal tendencies in Blue Bones (deathwish) to dismissal wishy-washy of self-help through healing rituals in Balance is Gone. Her name, denoting to the loneliness of her trade, reflects in the music too. Everything is self-made, self-produced, with only a few accompanists aiding in with a bassline or a cymbal splash here or there. Tor even performs alone on tour, the hollowed recording tracks making the point of an outlandishly-DIY tour, a true soapbox musician in some form or another; I slip away and say that I’ve arrived / But everything is happening without me. And now I hear the experts in the room / sayings things will all be over soon.

Much to the dismay of post-punkists, CACTI is universally pop. That may be categorically true, yes. But from the woozy bass lines in Spite dispersed into the pulsating 80s synths seen in apathy is wild, to Tor’s post-punk societal awareness through its candid and purposeful narratives, it is every bit Baxter Dury – as it is Kate Bush. Trading blows from punk-annihilist to pop-maestro is never an easy feat and CACTI is no different.

Of course, the direct discussion in CACTI is surviving it all. Sometimes it takes a lot to acknowledge that that very thing that is keeping your head above water simply gets up and leaves the room. Without another word. The electronic plug-ins make this one a far more subdued deliverance compared to her debut – which for a better word, was someone who was losing it. A damaging catalogue of spoken-word Sleaford Mods punk, 2020’s Billy Nomates seems a lost chapter of finding your way again. CACTI – despite the prickly reception – is an acknowledgement. We can’t have anything nice, there’s just your instinct. OK, alright. Like this in saboteur forcefield, Billy has stopped fidgeting on the sofa and brought herself to the floor.

When everything you know’s not real / it’s turned you outside out. In blackout signal, with its reverb drums and morse-code trips of keyboard, shows off the true artistry of CACTI. On the surface, there seems to be a lot going on instrumentally. But really, it seems hollow almost. That is, until the cursive snarls from Tor brings another compulsive record to a close. A deeply-curated Thought Wall, CACTI is a stamp-mark to the future of post-punk as much as it is a salute to the outlandish prog-80s.

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