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 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.


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.




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.



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.


Christopher Nosnibor

While art and politics usually exist in entirely different spheres, it’s nigh on impossible to consider Futurism independently of politics, in particular its connections with fascism. Spawned in Italy in the early 20th Century, with a fixation on youth, speed, cars and technology – in other words, the future – Futurism, while manifesting across virtually all media, was preoccupied with modernity and, equally, violence, war and misogyny. Published in 1909, it was Marinetti’s ‘Futurist Manifesto’ which effectively launched the movement, and boldly stated, ‘We will glorify war —the world’s only hygiene —militarism, patriotism, the destructive gesture of freedom-bringers, beautiful ideas worth dying for, and scorn for woman.’

The difficulties Futurism presents are widely acknowledged. Described by The New Yorker as ‘what has long been the most neglected canonical movement in modern art—because it is also the most embarrassing. An avant-garde so clownish, in its grandiose posturing, and so sinister, in its political embrace of Italian Fascism’. Indeed, Marinetti was one of the founding members of the Italian Fascist Party, and sought to make Futurism the official art of the fascist regime of Mussolini, whom Marinetti supported.

It perhaps requires little qualification, therefore, that the weight of history and context renders this a challenging work from a critical perspective. How does one even begin to approach something like this in terms of inescapable context? Or should we attempt to somehow sidestep context and focus purely on the art? What some may consider a more ‘naïve’ reading of Futurism as a style, distinct from its political connotations is surely now possible, given that we live in a world in which the relationships between sign and signifies have been little short of annihilated. Youths who have never even heard of The Rolling Stones, let alone listened to any of their music don ’40 Licks’ T-shirts because they like the design which hangs in a local high street store, likewise mainstream chart fans sport Ramones and Motorhead shirts: to many, Top Shop’s ‘Slayer’ T-Shirt bearing the SS Waffen emblem was just another ‘logo’. Commonplace as it may be, separating context and connotations may prove dangerous. It’s impossible to learn from history if the facts are erased, subsumed as just another marketable product. As such, Futurism should necessarily be approached with due caution.

Recorded in 2009 to commemorate the centenary of the publication of the Manifesto, you may be forgiven for thinking this work is a celebration. However, Thomas Köner is no Futurist apologist. His project is concerned with interrogating Futurism, and extrapolates the connection between the future the Futurists idealised and craved, in the context of the present, the postindustrial world in which humanity is battling for survival against the technology it’s created, and a sleek superhighway transporting information and every other aspect of life at speed has given way to a fragmented virtual space in which neither mainstream or underground have any real sense of time, space or place.

Marinetti’s manifesto also proposed the pursuit of the most avant-garde of objectives, namely to ‘destroy the museums, the libraries, every type of academy’ – in itself, an exciting, revolutionary notion, albeit one which is seemingly closer to realisation under the auspices of capitalist government than anarchic overthrow or any other form of dismantlement of ‘the establishment’. And it is within this terrain that melting images, soundtracked by dark rumbling ambience and sinister fragments of oration that Köner revisits the historical visions of the future, now little but faded artefacts of the past. How wrong they were. How wrong things are now.

The future has most definitely arrived, and one could even contend that in many respects, it’s been and gone. And yet the current social and political climate suggests a continued obsession with accelerated progress at all cost – speed, youth, (misguided) patriotism. Social divisions and racism are rife as Islam has become synonymous with the face of evil. War is presented as justified in the name of preservation and safety.

In her essay ‘Futurist War Noises: Coping with the Sounds of the First World War’ Selena Daly writes ‘it is widely acknowledged that “noise was Futurism’s contribution to music”’, and Köner’s exploration of that futuristic noise incorporates the use of the prepared piano, once emblematic of avant-gardism, now just another commonplace but ultimately tired and well-established tool which has become synonymous with comfortable, ‘conventional’ experimental practices. And if the likely results are known, the ends result predictable or otherwise forecast, is it still experimental?

Nevertheless, Köner’s soundtrack does most definitely contain noise. Dark, sinister noise, built from fragments and samples from myriad sources, to disquieting effect. In Köner’s (re)presentation and critique, acceleration has reached an imperceptible and infinite pace, and in the audio, the dizzying, disorientating sensation that speed instils is conveyed an agonised, Matrix-like slow-motion, in which the entire score to this disturbing, dislocated film has been slowed to an excruciating 4BPM.

Credit is due to Köner for tackling the ugliness and the sheer horror of the future the Futurists celebrated. The Futurist Manifesto is a difficult and disturbing work, and truly a work of Art.

Koner - Futurist


Thomas Köner Online

Von Archive Releases Online

Takashi Hattori – Moon

Posted: 19 October 2015 in Albums

Noble – NBL-215 – 13th November 2015

Christopher Nosnibor

There’s world music and there’s world music. It seems fitting that the title of Osaka-based composer Takashi Hattori’s debut should suggest music from beyond the inhabited human world, and draws on elements spanning the globe, and, seemingly, far beyond.

It begins with Asian dub colliding with something approximating electronic bagpipes and thumping industrial techno beats. Frenzied orchestral strikes spin in all directions over wildly complex and ever-shifting time signatures. It’s often bewildering, and you can’t help but wonder ‘what the hell is this guy on? Moreover, what does the inside of his head look like?’ It’s the sonic equivalent of a seizure, flashes of mental energy and synapses firing every which way all at once. There’s no question Hattori operates on a different wavelength from pretty much anyone else on the planet.

Magnificently atmospheric passages are rent by sharp blasts of treble, brain-bending motifs looping into eternity and layered one upon the other and strange doodles filter through winds of phase and whistling analogue trills and free jazz whirls in a sonic vortex. 

It takes a rare talent to make something as wide-ranging in its stylistic elements actually work. Arguably not since Captain Beefheart has there been something quite as wildly inventive, or as brain-fryingly multiplicitous in its simultaneous trajectories. A Trout Mask Replica for the 21st century? Maybe: Hattori clearly couldn’t care less about commercialism or accessibility, and is less concerned with writing ‘songs’ as exploding every convention of genre, structure and linearity. Not so much an album, as an aural quasar in full force.

Takashi Hattori - Moon

Takashi Hattori – Moon Online at Noble

Chris Tenz – Nails Through Bird Feet

Posted: 18 October 2015 in Albums

Slowwank – 13th November 2015

Christopher Nosnibor

Chris Tenz is a man who is haunted by memories of a difficult and unusual past. Born in Canada and now resident in London, he was raised apart from society in the confines of a religious cult. His departure from the community resulted in his rejection and excommunication. Adrift in a very different (although no less strange) world, it was through music he grappled with the complexities of life and the complex mechanisms of living with a mind filled with questioning and doubt.

Nails Through Bird Feet is more than simply a collection of songs: five years in the making, it’s the product of an intensely personal journey, an exploration of the artist’s mind, his world and his circumstances. That the album is dedicated to two friends who also broke free of the religion – one of whom disappeared, never to be found, the other whom committed suicide – only adds to the depth of the introspection that this album encapsulates.

If the album’s title and that of the opening track, ‘Cunty’, suggests something heavily abrasive, even thrashy or grindy in nature, then the delicate, whispy folk of said opening track confounds any such expectations. A gently picked acoustic guitar hangs in a mist of delicate, amorphous sound to provide an ethereal backdrop to the vocals which sound desperately lost and aching with mourning and regret.

‘Nails Through Bird Feet’ comes in three parts, the first two segued together, so quiet as to barely make its presence felt within the grooves of the vinyl. The hushed, almost whispered singing feels almost apologetic, scared of its own sound and cautious of its own presence.

The slow, quavering sibilance of ‘Bethnal Green Cellar’ creates a soft, damp and vaguely claustrophobic sensation. It’s hard to really conjure a visual image of the space which inspired the composition: these are not visual songs, there’s nothing representational about them. That isn’t to say they’re strictly abstract, either. Through the compositions – or perhaps more accurately, the medium of sound – Tenz evokes sensations, fleeting thoughts which emerge from the shadows before disappearing once more.

‘And Elbows’ intimates a growing sense of self; the guitar and voice are both louder and stronger sounding – but the muffled sound of a sniff or laboured breath which initially provides a strange alternative percussion eventually builds to so much interference, a disruption to the flow that ultimately derails the song and swallow it up. Again, we find ourselves standing in darkness, haunted by not the song itself, but the hint of what the song may have been had it not been taken from us. It’s in this darkness, the protracted silences, the near-silences where there merest low-level hum we as listeners begin to find those echoes of doubt. Was the song as we heard it? Do our minds fill in the blanks to create a ‘complete’ song from the echoed fragments scratched in the air? Was the song itself real or only imaginary?

The challenge to any artist is to realise the work envisioned in the mind. It’s a further challenge, and one often beyond the artist’s control, to see that the receivers of the work interpret it as intended or otherwise connect with the work’s meaning. It’s in these moments of silence that Tenz communicates and conveys the most. The sensation of waking from a half-remembered dream, bereft and between worlds drifts from every corner of the album.

Although isolation, separation and a sense of unbelonging on so many levels are core both to the album’s creation and its themes, Tenz was able to work with a wide range of artists during the process of its completion.

‘Nails Through Bird Feet III’ emerges to take form, a haunting falsetto rising through a rising crescendo of cymbal-crashing drums and strings that swoop and glide. It sounds far from euphoric, but it does feel like a release.


The bonus tracks contained on the accompanying 7” single reveal further facets of Tenz’s capabilities as the near-invisible creator. The gentle, almost whimsical acoustic folk of ‘Pisco’ calls to mind early Devendra Banhart, but it’s ultimately consumed by a swell of brooding strings and eddying currents of undifferentiated sound before ending abruptly. ‘Glimpses (Doubt)’ meanwhile, somehow delineates post-punk tension to a spectral form, an outtake from 17 Seconds captured as a half-memory, sketched.

Nails Through Bird Feet is sketchy, tenuous, almost impossible to take a firm grasp of. Its contents and form are illusive, evasive, barely tangible and certainly not defined or concrete in any way. Tenz makes no definitive statements and instead leaves everything hanging and half-hidden for the listener to untangle as best they can. There are more questions than answers, but it’s in engaging with these questions that the album, truly begins, not only for the listener, but for the creator.


Chris Tenz Online