Archive for October, 2015

The Silence Set – Teeth Out

Posted: 31 October 2015 in Albums

Mini50 Records – 6th November 2015

Christopher Nosnibor

I’m by no means the first to declaim that we’re now in the post-everything era. It can’t simply be that everything has been done, and done to exhaustion, although it’s beginning to feel very much like this is the case. That this is a sentiment which dominates our times may well be a significant factor in the ever-expanding nostalgia trade. Culturally, we’re done with kitsch and the current batch of hipsters, many of whom weren’t even out of shorts when the hipster thing exploded the best part of a decade ago now represent the post-irony generation.

The Silence Set is a collaboration with a certain pedigree: consisting of Gothenburg based musicians and composers Dag Rosenqvist (formerly Jasper TX and also known for his From the Mouth of the Sun project with Aaron Martin), and Johan G Winther, who made a name for himself with angular math rock outfit Scraps of Tape and his previous solo effort as Tsukimono.

With Teeth Out, The Silence Set achieve three things: in the most contemporary of fashion, they raw on myriad elements to forge an amalgamative sound that one may best describe as post-folk. It also so happens the songwriting is divine, conjuring ethereal dreamscapes that drape unpretentious acoustic arrangements in layers of misty synths, and in doing so create something new – something that hasn’t been done before, not quite like this. They may call to mind the likes of The Album Leaf, Efterklang, Mice Parade, Múm and Sufjan Stevens, but The Silence Set are indeed, a beautiful and unique snowflake in the blizzard of noise that s the media, the Internet, the word. Thirdly, they effectively imbue their delicate songs with a sincere emotional depth that simply cannot be fabricated or forced, and in doing so, they’ve created a work that’s timeless.

The vocal treatment on ‘Mirrored In’ is disorienting and penetrating, a soft piano ballad transformed into a weirdly dislocated piece that is the sonic evocation of the uncanny, as chimes and extraneous noises interfere with the obvious and accessible flow.

‘Deliverance’ somehow transitions from an easygoing banjo-based folk song to a tidal wave of noise and chimes that tears at the air and reshapes the atmosphere. ‘Needles’ is a simple, atmospheric piano piece, but once again ambient sounds and interferences alter the texture and the feel of things, reminding us that life is not perfect, there are no perfect moments any more, only near-perfect moments with disturbances. A best slowly builds in the distance, and synths and brass swell to an uplifting crescendo, while leading the track further from post-folk towards expansive electronica.

It’s the ability of The Silence Set to make these transitions, and so move between forms in such a fluid fashion, that makes Teeth Out such an engaging work. It’s a magnificent album, that isn’t any one thing beyond its own undefined boundaries. This is music. Great music, that strokes the soul and both soothes and stimulates the senses.

Silence Set - Teeth Out

The Silence Set – Teeth Out On-Line

Black Meringue – 24th October 2015

James Wells

I’m not one to sit on the fence, but despite having listened to this a fair few times – singly and on a loop – I can’t decide if this is an example of gutsy, gritty electro-rock crossover with some genuine nuts, or it it’s some of the biggest bilge I’ve heard in ages. Holohan is cool, for sure. So it comes down to this: is he cool because he doesn’t give a fuck, or is it all a hipsterish affectation, a genre mashup that evinces the sound of a head disappearing up the owner’s sphincter? That he describes himself as ‘a Dylan fanatic with a drum machine’ doesn’t really help swing things either way.

Much as I’m struggling to decide, I’m not sure how much I care: ‘New Wave’ is built on a solid groove that melds electronica to a pumping 90s industrial-inspired beat with some grainy overtones, while Holohan sneers and snarls what I take to be a distain for fashion in a tone that says fuck you , and you, and you. And he does it all in two and a half minutes, and with a big swagger. Hell yeah. That’s rock ‘n’ roll alright.

niall-james-holohan-artist-photo-1

Niall James Holohan Online

Neurot Recordings – 23rd October 2015

Christopher Nosnibor

Over a thunderous beat that’s tribal in tone but industrial disco in tempo, the first chord sounds out like the blast of a foghorn. And so begins the latest offering from Corrections House. Scott Kelly’s supergroup side-project, which sees him working in collaboration with Sanford Parker (Minsk), Bruce Lamont (Yakuza), Seward Fairbury and Eyehategod’s Mike IX Williams which debuted with 2013’s Last City Zero marks a significant departure from Neurosis – and each of the other members’ main projects, for that matter.

If Last City Zero was about amalgamating the parts and throwing in an industrial twist and a dash of experimentalism, Know How To Carry A Whip goes all out on the industrial front, with the result being something that’s mechanised, brutal and exploding with rage.

It’s a squalling mess of serrated metallic guitars grinding over pulverising industrial beats which clatter and clang relentlessly. Guitars are set to stun while thunderous percussion reminiscent of early Test Department thrown in a blender with RevCo’s Beers, Steers & Queers provides a dense and oppressive sonic backdrop. The postapocalyptic doom trudge of ‘Superglued Tooth’ is dark and sludgy: a spoken (shouted) word narrative that depicts dark and disturbing scenes as it trawls through the guts of hell amidst whirring machinery and guitar annihilation. It’s more Controlled Bleeding than it is Nine Inch Nails.

The sonic density corresponds with the emotional intensity, the metallic guitars melded tight against the mechanised skeleton of the rhythm section. In fact, it’s the thumping, overdriven beats that dominate the mix, the overloading sound accentuating the abrasive tone that defies the album. The lyrics aren’t always easy to pick out but the violently nihilistic sentiments are unmistakable.

In context, ‘Visions Divide’ a dark folk shanty of sorts, seems incongruous, but it by no means provides the respite an acoustic track may otherwise offer.

‘Hall of Cost’ is a brutal beast that comes on like KMFDM meets Ministry at their most savage, while the industrial goth of ‘When Push Comes to Shank’ drags the listener into a dark corner and kicks the living shit out of their psyche, while the doom-laden scrape of ‘Burn the Witness’ is a towering monument to pain and anguish.

Know How to Carry A Whip is a furious nihilistic assault. It’s ugly, painful, remorseless. Just the way it should be. It’s the soundtrack to existence, fucked-up, punishing, hate-filled, sleepless. The burn of self-loathing and bloody revenge. Harsh and unforgiving, an album that crackles with electric energy, it shows that Corrections House don’t only know how to carry a whip, but that they now how to crack it, too.

correctionshousewhip

Corrections House Online

A Place to Bury Strangers make the kind of noise we like: sharp, trebly, abrasive. Their latest album, Transfixiation offers no nod to commercialism, and we dig that.

Ahead of another European jaunt in support of said album, they’re releasing a video for opener ‘Supermaster’. Does it sound like The Jesus and Mary Chain on drugs? Absolutely.

Thunder on the Left are new to us, but ‘Sick’, lead track from their new EP The Art Of Letting Go is a belter. It’s got feedback, chunky guitars and attitude. And it’s accompanied by a video that takes a poke at our pig-porking PM. It gets our vote!

Swans – The Gate

Posted: 24 October 2015 in Albums

Young God Records – YG2015 – 1st October 2015

Christopher Nosnibor

Before my copy even arrived, this limited, hand-numbered website-only fundraiser CD for the next Swans studio album – the last in their current incarnation had sold out. So why review it? Because. In case you’re in doubt, this is no press lig. This isn’t a special favour. It’s a piece I feel compelled to write.

Swans are a band whose ‘post-reformation’ works have divided fans more than critics, yet have seen their fan-base expand in a way they never saw during the entirety of their initial 15-year incarnation.

The Gate is a two-disc effort that captures Swans on their last tour, and as such, combines tracks from To Be Kind in post-release evolution, and the genesis and early development of material that will likely appear on their upcoming final album, wrapped up with some basic demos for said album. As such, it’s a pause for reflection, while also a preliminary insight into what’s to come; it certainly doesn’t feel like some kind of stop-gap filler. Then, of course, there’s the fact that they have – or, specifically Michael Gira has – gone to great lengths to produce a work of not only exceptional audio quality, but which is housed in the now-customary hand-made and decorated sleeves, signed and individually numbered. Fundraiser it may be, but quick, casual cash-in, it is most certainly not.

Disc one contains three tracks and has a running time of some 76 minutes. The 29-minute rendition of ‘Frankie M’ – as yet unreleased in studio from – in itself encapsulates the Swans live experience in 2014. The builds aren’t simply long and deliberate, but redefine the meaning of both, while the crescendos are beyond immense. Empires rise and fall in less time than it takes for Gira’s vocals to begin, and when they do, the hypnotic repetition and repeated ebb and flow is the song’s key motif. It isn’t until the 24-minute mark that it really explodes. Gira’s liner notes suggest the studio version will be ‘unrecognizable’: it’s going to have to be one hell of a transformation to top the megalithic wall-of-noise climax they’ve created and captured here.

Gira writes that he was pleased to put ‘A Little God in My Hands’ to bed after the band’s extensive tour in support of To Be Kind: the version here builds on the groove the album and drags it out for the best part of a quarter of an hour, with explosive, convulsive blasts of noise that would have probably shaken the foundations pf the venue. As for the 33-minute take on ‘Apost/Cloud of Unforming’, the first occasion on which the band canned the regular ending to ‘The Apostate’ and evolved the improvised ‘Cloud of Unknowing’… wow.

‘Just a Little Boy’ opens disc two, a stark, hypnotic droning affair which bears only a passing resemblance to the studio version, and the embryonic ‘Cloud of Forgetting’ is spectacularly immersive. The centrepiece is undoubtedly the 28-minute ‘Bring the Sun / Black Eyed Man’, which builds early to an almost unbearable crescendo and maintains it for what feels like an eternity. A recording will never capture the full impact of the multisensory, transcendental experience that is a Swans live performance, but in a simple assessment of the audio, The Gate provides one of the strongest live documents of Swans you’re likely to hear (and I say that as someone who adores Public Castration is a Good Idea, but equally realises that what that album captures in terms of sheer brutality, something of the sonic impact is strangely and sadly lost).

The five demo recordings are very different. On the Young God website write-up of the album, Gira describes the recordings as ‘crude’, and indeed, featuring just Gira with his guitar, they’re but fragments, sketches of ideas hammered out, picked and strummed, and only two or three minutes in length.

In many ways, it’s hard to envision how these sparse snippets will evolve into the monumental beasts that go beyond the notion of mere music, made not by human hands but by the very forces of nature. But Gira’s extensive notes are illuminating, with numerous references to ‘groove’ (two of the demos carry the working titles New Rhythm Thing’ and ‘Red Rhythm Thing’) and he writes of his intention to evolve the material with his fellow band-members.

It’s intriguing, of course, to be presented with these pieces before their development, rather than after: most bands will only release demos – often partially evolved studio versions – of songs once they’ve been released, giving fans an orchestrated and somewhat contrived impression that they’re revealing a facet of their working methods, but for Swans, it’s all out there, raw, unplanned, while evidencing from just what small acorns the their mighty oaks which spread to a truly cosmic scale grow.

The end may be nigh for Swans in their current form, but The Gate reminds us much they’ve given during the last few years, and promises a more than fitting finale to this phase of the band’s career.

Swans - The Gate

Polo + Actor + Ola Szmidt

Posted: 23 October 2015 in Live

The Basement, York, 17th October 2015

Christopher Nosnibor (Text)

Sam Himsworth (Images)

So I turn up a song or two into Ola Szmidt’s set and am immediately impressed. Accompanied by a bearded bassist, her delicate songs bring a new dimension to the well-established loop-layering style. With acoustic guitar, harmonies and subtle rhythms these are ambitious songs delivered with poise, the understated performance placing the spotlight on the material over the duo on stage.

Actor are the reason I’m here. Having launched themselves with a compelling performance at the Brudenell as part of Live at Leeds in May, the trio have been making waves with debut single ‘Feline’.

The Cure meets Kate Bush poptones of ‘Uppercut’ opens the set, and after kicking out one of their strongest songs second (sadly its title escapes me), I wonder if they’ve shot their load prematurely. But no: new single ‘Baby Cries’ is another slice of evocative, drifting post-punk dream pop defined by crystalline guitars and a rolling rhythm. Louisa is pristine, but her dialogue with the audience? She seems, unusually, stilted, and doesn’t quite build the connection in the way she’s very much able to. ‘Swim’ has been revamped, slowed down, and feels a shade lifeless, although largely it suffers from Chris’ guitar being too low in the mix – and perched at the extreme right of the stage and toward the back, it seems his contribution is somehow diminished, or as if he’s trying to step further back into the shadows to allow all of the focus to be placed on Louisa. It’s fairly clear that this is how they’re being marketed, and fair play: however, as compelling a front woman Louisa is, I can’t help but feel it does the other band members, who rarely even feature in the band photos, something of a disservice.

 

Actor

Actor

Polo are very much about the synths: dark, reverby synth pop is their thing, and they do it well. It’s a slick, sleek, dark but shiny, obsidian sound. It’s an extremely marketable package, not least due to Kat Mchugh who’s utterly faultless. They’re a band out of time, but their anachronism is very now. The wooden click of drum sticks before the last song seemed incongruous with their sleek synthesized sound. Think perhaps a bit Maps, a bit Cults, but stripped back think and stark. Think Warpaint. Think Portishead without the nostalgia-evoking surface noise or noir sensibility. You could – and might hope to – see them on Jools Holland. For all that, or perhaps because of it, I struggled to relate. Perhaps again it was end of tour fatigue, the venue, or just the night.

Polo

Polo

For all that, all three acts have unquestionably got the songs and the presence to go far, and while tonight may not have been the best showcase, they all very much deserve to.