Archive for October, 2015

VON VON022 DVD

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

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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.

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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.

ChrisTenz_NTBF_Sleeve

Chris Tenz Online

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.