Archive for October, 2015

Kowloon Walled City – Grievances

Posted: 18 October 2015 in Albums

Neurot Recordings (CD) Gilead (LP) – 9th October 2015

Christopher Nosnibor

For those who gravitate toward releases on Neurot Records for that Neurosis type sound, Kowloon Walled City’s latest offering won’t disappoint.

For the most part, the instrumentation is slow, deliberate, expansive. At times, it almost grids to a halt between each beat, the low, snarling bass grind. It would be wrong to describe Grievances as being leisurely in its pace, but there’s a certain air about the performance that intimates a band who are in no hurry to reach the end of the songs, or to pander to any convention that suggests metal should be fast. Instant gratification? Forget it. They’ve worked hard to forge this album, and now you, the listener, need to work hard to take the most from it.

As such, Grievances finds KWC making optimal use of the space between each instrument, and between each chord, each note. I’m not referring simply to the separation in the way it’s been recorded, produced and mixed, although the production really does accentuate the spatial and tonal qualities of the music. The vocals, however, are more reminiscent of Unsane’s Chris Spencer than of Scott Kelly, partly on account of the fuzz of distortion that frays the edges of Scott Evans’s visceral howl. In combination, the effect is powerful. When they do pick up the pace, as on the thunderous ‘The Grift’, it’s nothing short of devastating.

Grievances is the sound of a world after everything’s collapsed: it’s the sound of rust and decay. Grievances is the soundtrack to an existence eked from what remains on parched, barren wastelands – it’s not post-metal, but post-everything. Yet for all the rage and anger which flows through it, Grievances is an album of reflection. These are dark, powerhouse dirges that tear through the recollections that still aggravate and anguish.

With just seven tracks, it may on the face of it seem a short album, but seven tracks of this sheer magnitude is enough: Kowloon Walled City wring every last drop of rage from their tortured, ravaged souls.

Grievances is an undeniably harrowing, bleak experience. Yet it’s also an album of aching beauty as well as staggering force.

Kowloon Walled City

Kowloon Walled City – Grievances Online

When we promise music that’s as far from the mainstream as you can get, we mean it. The Communion trade is the nastiest, dirtiest, most abrasively snarling metal racket going. Their videos are hardly Disney, either.

‘Hymen Balaclava’ provides a taster for their upcoming split CD with Helmsplitter, released 6th November on the Horror Pain Gore Death label. This should all give a fair indication of what to expect.

Note: you may need to sign in to verify your age on this NSFW vid. But trust us, it’s worth it.


After many years of toil and wicked refinement, Dragged Into Sunlight and Gnaw Their Tongues can share the first track from their nihilistic collaborative triumph, N.V., which will see release through Prosthetic Records on November 13th. As the opener to this most bleak of records, ‘Visceral Repulsion’ serves well in warning listeners of the evil contents that can be found elsewhere on the album, with a hostile grinding introduction strewn with joyless samples and morbid shrieks that detonates into an industrialized and highly methodical dissection of extreme metal. Listen below – and brace yourself.

From their deviant and soon to be released second LP, Corrections House reveal the track ‘Superglued Tooth’. Combining oppressive vocal bile with sadist electronics, the track smudges emergency measures of dystopian melody across distinctly punchy machine-drums in a manner that verges on deranged, bristling with kinetic energy and harking to the most outrageous aspects of the members’ collective discography. Stream it below.

Christopher Nosnibor

When it comes to writing about music, I often do so as a fan first and foremost, and this is particularly true of The Sisters of Mercy, a band I’ve seen more times than I can count, and whose comparatively slight body of work accounts for a disproportionate segment of my record collection. But I do appreciate that The Sisters of Mercy probably shouldn’t exist in 2015. It’s now a full quarter century since their last album, and their sporadic tours are often met with a mixed reception. The press don’t go near (although in fairness, the press aren’t invited or welcome). They may have some of the most dedicated fans you’re likely to meet, but those selfsame fans are often amongst the band’s harshest critics, and the last 25 years have seen forums packed with debate over how Eldritch’s voice is shot, how the reworkings of old classics are inferior, how the new material doesn’t hold up against the old, how whatever lineup is touring lacks this, that, or the other. But of course, it’s because of those fans that they do still exist in 2015, and several of the shows on this five-date UK tour were sold out in advance.

Some of the ever-critical fans may have questioned the choice of support: on the face of it, Sabbath-inspired riffers Black Moth aren’t a very ‘Sisters’ band. But The Sisters of Mercy have a long tradition of playing with incongruous acts, both in their early years as a support themselves, and latterly as headliners. With Black Moth, well, it’s probably a Leeds thing: Eldritch has never lost sight of the band’s roots in the city. Moreover, Black Moth are an outstanding live act, and at tonight’s homecoming show, they own the stage. New guitarist Federica has slotted in nicely, and the barrage of riffs hits with full force. Harriet’s performance – both in terms of vocals and presentation – is hard to fault, making for a strong set.

Black MothBlack Moth

A looping electro track – none other than ‘Shut the Fuck Up’ from the Sisters / Not Sisters ambient techno album ‘Go Figure’ by SSV – prefaces the emergence of three shadows on stage amidst a dense smog and blinding white, pink and blue lights, to a jubilant cheer. Jesus loves the Sisters, and so does Leeds. They open in vintage style with ‘First and Last and Always’. It’s a rousing start, and it’s immediately apparent there’s an energy not seen in a long time. ‘Ribbons’ is swiftly dispatched and the customary ‘Doctor Jeep / Detonation Boulevard’ medley gets a good thrashing. If ‘Crash and Burn’ suggests business as usual, then business is good, and fact ‘Body Electric’ gets an airing, immediately followed by ‘Alice’, means things step up a gear remarkably early.

Eldritch doesn’t so much struggle with the high notes as avoid them completely, but those who decry the loss of his vocal range fail to take into account the fact he never really could sing especially well in the first place, at least not in technical terms. I’d suggest he’s simply learned it’s a lesser aural affront to go low or otherwise sing within a ‘safe’ range than hit duff notes all over the place (and let’s face it, the countless bootlegs of the band’s ‘classic’ era circa 83-85 attest to myriad howlers, not to mention missed cues, drop-outs and general ropiness on behalf of not only the front man but the band as a whole). In fact, tonight found him in fine voice, that resonant baritone rumbling out from the fog while you wonder if he’s lurking toward the back of the stage or actually having a crafty fag somewhere in the wings (I suspect both happened at various points during the set).

DSCF1853The Sisters of Mercy

‘Summer’ was always one of the strongest of the unreleased songs and tonight its lean, wiry and taut in execution. Meanwhile, ‘Arms’ feels more developed, and the band sound more confident playing it than on previous outings. In fact, while Ben and Chris respectively pose and bounce around and Eldritch prowls the stage, they seem not only to be on top form, but to be enjoying themselves.

The surprises and rarities invariably provide the highlights of any Sisters show, and ‘No Time to Cry’ and ‘Blood Money’ played back to back – and done justice – is definitely cause for excitement. A boisterous take on Larry Willis’ ‘I’m a Police Car’ provides the customary cuckoo cover, but it’s the pairing of ‘Valentine’ and an instrumental guitar-led rendition of ‘Jihad’ (‘I have nothing more to say on the matter,’ Eldritch says before leaving Ben and Chris to it.

DSCF1863The Sisters of Mercy

“You’re gonna hate this”, Andrew forewarns us before a synthesized piano tinkles the intro to ‘1959’. And then… they play ‘1959’. Reworked as a slow-building power ballad. Yet for all that, quietly contained yet quavering emotion of the studio version, is retained in the vocal delivery – before a big guitar break even Jim Steinman would consider audacious, and Eldritch cracks a smile as he revels in the glorious absurdity of it all.

Where do you go after an encore containing ‘Temple of Love’ and ‘This Corrosion’? Home? Not the Sisters, who return for a second encore consisting of the most muscular take on ‘Lucretia, My Reflection’ I’ve witnessed in all the years I’ve seen them, ahead of and an all-guns-blazing version of ‘Vision Thing’ and a stormingly ferocious ‘More’ to finish.

Instead of rushing from the stage, they hang around, hugging and waving, with even the nurse to the Doktor coming to the front to receive the ovation. It’s overtly rock, and on any other night you’d be forgiven for thinking it was just another ironic gesture, a parodic posture derived from the cliché canon the Sisters so love to plunder. But while such camaraderie simply isn’t in the Sisters’ repertoire, it looks and feels absolutely genuine, Eldritch cracking yet another grin. And rightly so: having turned in one of the best performances in some 20 years, he’s got a lot to smile about.


Workin’ Man Noise Unit – Play Loud

Posted: 12 October 2015 in Albums

Workin’ Man Noise Unit – Play Loud

Riot Season – ReposeLP049 – November 2015

Christopher Nosnibor

There’s no question that it’s easier than ever for a band to get their music out and on a platform where it has the potential to be heard around the globe. But with so much music out there, it’s perhaps harder than ever to get that music actually heard. How realistic is it to actually tap into that potential global audience? Being good, even mind-blowingly awesome simply isn’t enough. Ironically, then, as (major) labels implode, collapsing in confusion over the state of ‘the industry’ one could argue that bands need labels more than ever. But the real point here is that the big money – or even any money – simply isn’t there for any act who isn’t in the upper echelons. Small wonder that even seemingly ‘successful’ bands nowadays have day jobs. For example, Pissed Jeans might be signed to Sub Po, but judging by their lyrics, they’re hardly raking it in as progenitors of visceral grunge.

So, when it comes to the less successful bands… and I say this without wishing to denigrate the achievements of this act but…. well, I suspect the members of WMNU have day jobs, or otherwise got sacked from them for turning up late and hungover, not least of all judging by their self-effacing bio, in which they state ‘Our crummy band is called WORKIN’ MAN NOISE UNIT. Apostrophe, no G. (Yeah, all the good names were taken, OK.) From Reading, UK. We are drums, noise, bass, guitar, vocals, sound, energy, bad jokes, the smell of stale beer on sticky floors. Break out a cold one or two, hit a few chords, see how it sounds. Live, tonight, not sold out.’

Over the last five years, they’ve been busy ‘playing countless gigs, releasing limited run tapes/singles and making a nuisance of themselves on postage stamp sized stages around the country’. They’ve won a few fans and friends along the way, and Play Loud should, if there’s any justice, score them a few more.

Play Loud is rough ‘n’ ready, unpretentious. It’s the kind of riotous racket that hollers ‘release from long hours spent in shit office job’ or ‘hacked off with dealing with customers and need space to vent’. It’s hard-hitting, grimy, feedback-filled rock, rugged, sweaty and unglamourous. You could never describe it as being overproduced, but that’s a virtue: it’s all about capturing the energy and the immediacy of a band giving it a hundred per cent. It’s grungy, lo-fi, and whether it’s the sound or white or blue collar rage, the end result is a beige ring of perspiration around the somewhat worn Asda shirt collar.

This, of course, is the true essence of rock ‘n’ roll: fuck work, play it loud.


Ahead of the release of their debut album Byzantium via UK-Canadian label Raphalite Records, Lights That Change offer a taster in the shape of the ethereal ‘Voices’.

Hailing from North Wales and headed by producer Marc Joy, Lights That Change feature Mandy Clare on vocals, John Bryan on bass and Marc Joy on guitars. Like this single, the LP will feature guest vocals by Rebecca Palin (Golden Fable) and drums by Malcolm Holmes (Orchestral Maneuvers In The Dark).

Watch ‘Voices’ below.

San Francisco’s Kowloon Walled City stream the title track from their new album, Grievances. Stream it below.

The album is out now and available via the Neurot Recordings store.

Thomas Ragsdale – Bait

Posted: 9 October 2015 in Albums

Thomas Ragsdale – Bait

This is it Forever – TIIF022

Christopher Nosnibor

Thomas Ragsdale may be better known as one half of worriedaboutsatan and Ghosting Season – two acts with the same lineup, but subtly different emphases. The solo projects of Thomas and collaborator in sound, Gavin Miller, seemingly prize apart the elementary faces of the two projects to forge sounds that are distinct and individual, while retaining a certain recognisability. Moreover, their independent works do not feel to be in any way a diminishment of their collective output.

For the most part, Bait – a film score to an indie thriller – is quiet, ponderous, reflective in mood and tone, as slowly turning mist-like synths entwine like a science documentary’s visual representation of a helix of DNA. Distant piano notes gently prod and roll, melancholy, evoking a yearning for the post-rock peak of a decade past, but also hinting at neoclassical filtered through a gauze of contemporary avant-gardism and the dichotomous relationship between digital and analogue.

At times, the music feels tentative, so quiet as to be barely present. Of course, in a filmic context this makes perfect sense. But as a standalone album release? In an age of noise – it’s impossible to walk down the street without being bombarded by a million conversations, or so sit on a train without a babble of mobile phone conversations and the bleed of earphones and the sound of someone watching a film on their tablet – such near silence feels daring. It’s almost as though Ragsdale is standing, surrounded by synths and laptops, turning the volume low and reveling in the dead air while challenging the world to shut the fuck up, just for a moment, and hear these notes as they blow in the wind. To take note of the subtle reverb, that faint crackle of distortion, that rumble of low-end noise like a storm eight miles away.

Bait is by no means an album that grabs you by the throat and shakes you about in order to demand your attention: quite the opposite, in fact. And it’s because of this quiet confidence in its capacity to conjure mood and exist in a truly ambient capacity that Ragsdale triumphs. You’ve read the review bait: now take the hook.

Thomas Ragsdale – Bait Online

Thomas Ragsdale - Bait

Erik Griswold – Pain Avoidance Machine

Room40 – RM468 – 21st August 2015

Christopher Nosnibor

American-born, Australian-based composer Erik Griswold has spent the last two decades exploring the potentials of the prepared piano. Pain Avoidance Machine, composed against the backdrop of what he described as ‘the negativity of the Australian political discourse, the narcissistic excess of social media, and facing a long summer of migraine-inducing heat’ is the soundtrack to Griswold’s unique approach to self-prescribed therapy. The album’s 15 tracks are meditations and aural medications of sorts, in which the instrument itself – he prepared piano – is the ‘pain avoidance machine’ of the title through which Griswold grappled and dealt with the situations bearing down on him.

These compositions don’t sound like any other prepared piano works I’ve heard, and differ on a number of levels. The pieces are highly structured and are built around solid rhythms that sound more like drum machines and click tracks than any organic percussion. Similarly, the clipped notes, in their chiming cadences, resemble electric piano and synths. The result is an album that sounds for the most part like stripped-back, minimal instrumental electro-pop.

That isn’t so say it’s lightweight or in any sense disposable: the dolorously percussive ‘Over’ is slow, ponderous, haunting, while the interloping repetition of a single, simple motif forms the basis of the hypnotic ‘Pendulum Shift’. ‘Hover’ finds Griswold conjure sludgy, doomy bass notes, and the urgent boogie of ‘The Rumble Seat’ crackles with electricity.

The textures and tones are very much points of interest and play a major part in any appreciation of the album; the way the notes interact with one another, the resonances, the hums and buzzes belie their origins and transport the listener into a different kind of space. But it’s the melodies and remarkable tunefulness of Pain Avoidance Machine which gives it a much broader appeal and lifts it out of the category of works that are interesting experimentally, prompting chin-stroking and theoretical discourse, but offer little to the more casual listener.

Erik Griswold Online