Archive for February, 2016

Ici d’ailleurs – IDA111

Christopher Nosnibor

That some hail Semtex as one of the most influential drum & bass albums of its time is entirely understandable – perhaps more so with two decades to reflect on its groundbreaking achievements. 20 years on, it sounds staggeringly intense.

The album is appropriately named: an aural explosion, it still sounds like nothing else. That they don’t make ‘em like they used to may be true, but then, they never made ‘em like this, ever.

There’s a primitive quality to the recordings, in that the tracks are all drenched in a thick sonic smog. But while the dense layering of the sound adds to its appeal, and its enigma, as you lean closer to strain for the hidden details, the nuance, the very soul of the songs, there’s also a sense that the unusual production conveys intense, ear-splitting, tinnitus-inducing volume. This is one of the album’s major assets, and in many ways, it’s perhaps as well, in that it gives some vindication to Matt Elliott’s devotion to a most basic but equally uncompromising approach to the album’s realisation: as the bio notes, Semtex was mixed ‘with headphones way too loud’, which resulted in the artist suffering permanent hearing loss at around 3 khz.

In some respects, it’s a product of its creation: after all, necessity is the mother of invention, and the material was recorded in a squat which Elliott shared with Matt Jones from Crescent, on a-4 track recorder borrowed from Dave Pearce from Flying Saucer Attack. It’s the sound of long hours spent obsessively channelling creativity, and wrestling with the conundrum presented by a vast concept and ambition countered by limited kit and technology.

The press release is on the money when it reminds us that ‘the result is brutal and uncompromising, and features a mix of noisy ripped up guitars and hectic drum machines’, and that ‘Semtex is the antithesis of electronic dancefloor music . It’s head music, and it’s headfuck music. It juxtaposes dreamy soundscapes with violent sonic assaults, and operates on so many levels, conscious and otherwise.

The original album featured six tracks. This staggeringly comprehensive reissue features a bonus disc containing a further eight, and there’s a download code for additional material giving a total of 29 tracks and some three hours of music, including the 28-minute ‘A Silent Longing’ and 34-minute behemoth ‘Voyager’.

‘Sleep’ starts the album with a squalling dissonant noise that’s sharp and shardy enough to keep even the most chronic narcoleptic awake, assaulting the senses with a nightmarish wall of sound that’s very much geared toward the higher frequencies. Even when pulling back on the aggression, as on ‘Still Life’ and the dreamy drift of ‘Next of Kin’, the tracks are driven by a barrage of percussion, mangled, gnarly and hyped-up industrial-strength beats. The cavernous crawl of ‘Once When I Was An Indian’ marks a change of pace and amps up the atmospherics as it detonates outwards into space in slow motion.

The wealth of bonus material displays manifold different facets of TEF: from the looping motifs of ‘Alarm Song’, which, even with its crunching beats, is more overtly accessible, to the ambient abstractions of ‘Shard’, there’s a lot to explore and digest.

Broadly speaking, the idea of an anniversarial reissue smacks heavily of industry and nostalgia, but this release conforms to neither. It’s certainly not a cheap cash-in with a bunch of b-sides and outtakes to bolster the package. What it is, is a retrospective of sorts, which encourages and facilitates a fresh appraisal of the work in a new context. And it needs to be heard.

Third Eye

The Third Eye Foundation Online

Advertisements

Christopher Nosnibor

Ok, so despite there having been a fair few shows – and shows I was interested in – having been booked in what is, for York, a new gig space, this is my first time in The Crescent. And less than ten minutes’ walk from the train station, it’s a good space, in terms of size and capacity, with a well-proportioned stage, and a well-stocked bar. These things are important, and with a decent selection of bottled beers on offer, I went for a Jennings Snecklifter at £3.30 – a great beer for a cold night. It’s still early doors, but by the time I arrived, the place was packed with sixth formers and students. Or maybe I’m getting really fucking old.

Still, any band that can combine the garage firepower of The Strokes with the harmonies of The Beach Boys and the guitar solos of Dinosaur Jr and wrap it all up with a dash of Pavement and bring it to a new generation of music fans are ok in my book. Bull are that band, and on a good night they’re awesome. Last-minute stand-ins for the first scheduled act, turns out it is a good night, with a lively set that makes for a killer start to the night.

Broken Skulls almost threaten to derail things. They’re not bad by any stretch. But they are the musical embodiment of an identity crisis. The drum ‘n’ guitar duo can certainly play. Drummer Dan Sawyer is solid, and so is the guitar work, courtesy of brother Dan, although the guitar needs to be louder. Much louder. Leaping from chiming, weaving textured segments quite naturally, the songs themselves work. But it’s the chasm between what the band thinks it sounds like and what it actually sounds like that’s a sticking point. They think Black Keys. They think post rock rock. They think ‘kind of punk rock, kind of not’. But Dan has a U.S. heavy blues / hard rock, gritty, straining, vocal style that just doesn’t sit comfortably. Still, it’s not as awkward as the between-song chat, but still, it is early days and there’s definite potential on display here.

DSCF2990

Broken Skulls

Avalanche Party have even more potential. They seem to have their act nailed, and the material too. They know how to amp things up. Attitude, man, attitude. And pace: frantic pace. They’ve got both in spades. They’ve also got some cunty mates, unfortunately. I’ve got no gripes with moshing, but kids in bovver boots and braces, jeans rolled above the top of 12-hole DMs with suedehead crops rucking the fuck out of one another for sport, I’m not so sure about. ‘I think our behaviour was rather frowned upon’ I heard one of them say to his mate while dabbing a bleeding nose in the bogs after the set. I wasn’t sure if they’d actually paid much attention to what was going on on stage, sadly. It’s a shame, because the energy of the set and the quality of the material was top-flight. YTheir brand of driving indie rock may not be remotely revolutionary, and the guitarist may be sporting the most preposterous man-bun, but when it’s done this well, you can let such niggles pass. Doing brash with panache, Avalanche Party have the potential to be the next Arctic Monkeys, but not while their dozen or so tosser mates are in tow.

Avalanche

Avalanche Party

There aren’t many bands who can replicate the initial impact of the first time you see them. Sure, they’re good, but that first euphoric bang… Nah. …And the Hangnails are that rare band that does it every time. And more. With new material sounding absolutely belting, and established favourites like ‘Everybody’s Luck’ and ‘Fear of Fear’ (played with only five guitar strings) cranked out with blistering power, there really is everything to love about Hangnails. The songs – simple but effective, vibrant indie alt rock with a raw garage aesthetic – are great. But it’s all in the execution. They work hard, and crank it up to the max. Martyn Fillingham’s split-signal guitar given them a really full sound, but it’s the way it plays against Steven Reid’s insane drumming that really sets …And The Hangnails apart. He’s got more power than the national grid, and he’s fucking tight, too.

Hangnails

…And the Hangnails

To see four bands of such a calibre for a fiver seems like more than just a good deal, and it’s one hell of an avert for both the promoter, Please Please You, and the York scene as a whole. Given time, and a lighting rig that matches the sound and does the acts and the stage justice, The Crescent has the potential to be York’s long-awaited answer to The Brudnell.

Returning after quite some time away, The Gaa Gaas have unveiled a promo video for their single ‘Close Your Eyes’, released 29th February. It’s a welcome return, and they’re threatening some live dates very soon, too.

Watch the video here.

 

PBP

Christopher Nosnibor

If the band’s name sounds a little odd in a quirky, absurd dada sort of a way, then it’s due in part to the translation. Initially formed as a post-punk band working under the name Dystopia, the bandmembers’ discovery of acts like the Strokes, Arctic Monkeys, Radiohead, Interpol, The Smiths, and Jon Spencer Blues Explosion prompted a radical change of direction and a new name, which, I’m reliably informed (i.e. from the press release, not Google) translates as ‘shrimp whiskers’ in Italian. Ok, so it still doesn’t make much sense, but it’s certainly different.

The same is true of the Italian trio’s second long-player, pitched as ‘a concept album, a fantasy tale that explores environmental issues and animal rights.’ I respect and even admire that. These are big issues, and they’re more than merely political issues. Yet pop culture as a whole seems strangely removed from real culture. It’s very much a measure of the first-world late capitalist society that ‘culture’ can be a separate entity unto itself, and concerned with entertainment and personal emotions instead of things that matter, like, say, the state of the planet or the dominance of global corporations.

Not that much of this is apparent in their wild and often experimental alternative rock, which jolts and jars, lurches, scratches and scrapes. They don’t ape any of the aforementioned influences in any obvious way, and instead head out on a very long limb to create something that slaps the listener round the face with its otherness and a real sense of urgency. Nagging basslines and angular guitars explode in frenzied discord against drums that fire spasmodic rhythms in every direction.

A chunky, elastic bass guitar line worthy of Gang of Four underpins guitars that twitch and jerk every which way on ‘Mountaintop’, and the funk-tinged ‘Breakdown’ makes you want to dance and makes you feel tense at the same time. There are occasional moments of hippy-trippy psychedelia (‘Goodbye Zero’, for example), and jangle-centric indie (‘Something is Growing’), but despite gleaning snippets of lyrics about elephants and breaking the government, this doesn’t feel like an excessively preachy work, and it’s certainly not about gooey, wide-eyed idealism.

It is, however, wildly eclectic, and there’s some superlative drumming, not least of all on the explosive ‘Waterquake’ which combines harmonious melody with immense percussive firepower.

How much of the concept or the message you get is likely to vary, but there’s no missing the universal and utterly exhilarating delivery.

Moustache Prawn

https://www.youtube.com/embed/YORVelOf6Y4?list=PLTd0ejrxraFwNp7GWzSncgMUA_0XuFHlo

Moustache Prawn Online

Christopher Nosnibor

 

Fizzy Blood are either crazy, or they’ve got some serious chops. No, I’m not talking about having a single launch event on a Thursday night in a tiny venue next door to the O2 Academy on the same night Twenty One Pilots to a sell-out crowd; I’m talking about having Post War Glamour Girls as a support band, which is the reason I’m here. Not that Party Hardly are bad; they knock out some decent post-punk-tinged indie rock tunes, with some sinewy guitars, a few tidy minor chord sequences and a handful of grungey choruses, all driven along by a chunky bass sound. But no-one’s really here for them.

Post War Glamour Girls are a law unto themselves. Any other band who released a superlative second album in the last six months would be plugging the shit out of it at every opportunity, and touring it into the ground. But not this perverse bunch. They’re using the slot to premiere an entire set’s worth of new and unreleased material, and anything could happen.

Offstage, they’re as unassuming as you like. Onstage, they’re something special, with a chemistry that’s rare. James Anthony Smith is twitchy and tense, and keeps his coat on: it illustrates the point that he’s not stopping, with a 30-minute set lined up, and that’s yer lot, son. They look as cool as fuck, Smith’s tan shoes notwithstanding, and they sound even better.

DSCF2905

Post War Glamour Girls

Opening track ‘Guiding Light’ builds a heavy psychedelic drone in the vein of Black Angels, albeit crossed with The Fall, not least of all on account of Smith’s drawling vocals. At this point, my notes get a bit sketchy – but there’s a track called ‘Organ Donor’, which is ace. James Thorpe-James dominates the stage as he wields his guitar dangerously, while Alice Scott stays rooted to the spot while churning out relentlessly stonking basslines. Even though there are moments of the set where they seem a little uncoordinated, Post War Glamour Girls still piss on 95% of the bands you’re likely to see live, and the early indications are that album number three will be the best one yet.

PWGG

Post War Glamour Girls

Given the uphill struggle they’ve set themselves, Fizzy Blood do good. They may have a chubby front man with bad tats and a greasy quiff, an overtly narcissistic string bean of a guitarist, and a gnome-like bassist who pulls the worst guppy-faces I’ve seen in a long time, but they’ve got some songs and a real energy that makes them a worthwhile live act. Elements of grunge and stoner rock ride high in the mix and they crank out the riffs, sometimes with as many as three guitars hammering it out, there’s as much whiff of Pulled Apart by Horses as their in Nirvana to their guitar-driven set, and it’s fair to say they sound considerably better than they look.

DSCF2952

Fizzy Blood

The single they’re launching tonight, ‘Sweat and Sulphur’, is definitely a highlight during a powerhouse set that justifies the respectable turnout: it seems not everyone was here just for Post War Glamour Girls, and that Fizzy Blood have – deservedly – started building themselves a following in their own right. It would be nice to see this release kicking off some real momentum.

DSCF2942

Fizzy Blood

 

 

 

 

Rock is Hell / UNrecords – RIP 66 / unrec11 – February 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

 

Maja Osojnik is an angry woman. A woman on the edge. A woman with inner strength. After 14 band albums, her first solo outing is a highly charged work, heavy with stark emotions and raw catharsis.

‘Tell me, what do you want me to be?’ she asks in an opium monotone on ‘Tell Me’. Slowly, her offers become more desperate and pained, her multiple voices speaking simultaneously before she slams it all down on the table, unable to maintain her decorum any further: ‘Ill become… all the images you want / so you can walk on me / sleep in me / so you can throw all your shit on me / Tell me, what the fuck do you want me to be?’ It’s chilling in its directness, its apparent lack of artistic distance.

‘Let Them Grow’ is one of those albums that hits like a punch to the solar plexus. It’s impossible not to laud the artist for her openness, her ability to convey so many painful emotions – but at the same time, it’s deeply uncomfortable. Listen, people who use terms like ‘TMI’ are, in the main, uncomfortable because they don’t like to face brutal truths, particularly those belonging to other people. On ‘Let Them Grow’, Osojnick pays no regard to these emotionally closed or stunted types and simply lays it all out there, telling it like it is, spilling her guts because she has no other choice. This isn’t simply music, this is pure art and the very definition of catharsis. Let Them Grow is a work of exorcism, of expulsion.

If you hadn’t already figured, this is a challenging work. ‘Condition’ is a full-tilt rant against a backdrop which amalgamates industrial noise and tribal beats. ‘Stick it up your ass… Come out, you rotten cocksucker, here’s your fucking POP SONG’ she hollers bitterly. And she fucking means it: this isn’t mere petulance, but a middle finger to an establishment and a wider world that’s failed and ultimately fucked up- and which doesn’t value the arts and doesn’t recognise the value of art. It’s a shame, because this is art.

It’s not just the music: I received the CD in its gatefold card sleeve enveloped within a four-leaf pamphlet type wrapper, accompanied by a sticker and five postcards of the artist beautifully shot by Rania Moslam in a range of striking poses. The whole package was in turn wrapped in a parchment paper bag. It’s about the artefact, the attention to detail, the building of suspense and expectation while gaining access to the disc itself, which, in turn, does not disappoint. This is not merely an album. It’s a grand gesture.

From the most subtle, delicate pieces, led by softly-fingered piano, she slowly drags out every sinew of anguish, draws on every drop of pain and presents real emotion. Emotion that can’t be faked.

Brooding instrumental passages offer moments of respite, but then there are sections of growling industrial noise, dark and sinister, grinding and crushing, which are nothing short of devastating. Taut, tense and from the heart, Let Them Grow sees Maja Osojnick present an album that is unparalleled in its sincerity and astounding in its emotional and musical power.

Maja Osojnik

Maja Osojnik Online

Silver Snakes – Saboteur

Posted: 21 February 2016 in Albums
Tags: , , , ,

12th February 2016

They come straight on with all guns blazing on this one. A repetitive, driving riff, amped up to eleven dominates the album’s first track, ‘Electricity’. It may be corny an cliché to say it grabs the listener by the throat and gives an instant hook, but the bottom line is that it’s entirely. As a music reviewer who received anywhere up to 50 albums and Eps a week for review, I know as well as anyone the importance of making an impact in the first minute or two. We live in a world that’s time-precious and time-pressured, of instant gratification and low patience thresholds. If whatever you’re pitching don’t grab the attention immediately, then fuggeddaboutit. ‘Saboteur’ is a riffcentric album that blasts off with the claws out, sinks ‘em in deep, and digs right in.

Full-on as it is, it’s got range and dynamics, and they don’t resort to formulaic verse/chorus/loud/ quiet structures by way of a default. Although, then they do tale the more conventional path they end up with ‘Raindance’, a full-on grunger reminiscent of Nirvana and lesser known T&G acts like Tar, and it’s belting – arguably, the most obvious single choice from an album that’s dominated by raging, overdriven guitars and angst-laden vocals, ripped with rage.

They stalk stealthily through the breakdowns and bring it all back with tumultuous overdriven attack. ‘Dresden; hit s a slower, more stoner-rock vibe, with some heavy-duty tom-driven-drumming propelling a slow, grinding riff into oblivion over the course of an expansive nine-minute sprawl. It’s one of three longer tracks (as in over seven minutes), through which they explore more prog territories, but without losing any momentum.

There are elements of Soundgarden and Korn are at play here, not to mention Nine Inch Nails (as exemplified by the full-tilt ‘Charmer’, but it would be wrong to tag them as 90s revivalists. Regardless of decade, the driving guitar riff and thunderous drumming is always king, and the song that conveys sincere emotion and delivers a tangible punch to the gut is god. Silver Snakes are both kings and gods, on the strength of this album.

They come straight on with all guns blazing on this one. A repetitive, driving riff, amped up to eleven dominates the album’s first track, ‘Electricity’. It may be corny an cliché to say it grabs the listener by the throat and gives an instant hook, but the bottom line is that it’s entirely. As a music reviewer who received anywhere up to 50 albums and Eps a week for review, I know as well as anyone the importance of making an impact in the first minute or two. We live in a world that’s time-precious and time-pressured, of instant gratification and low patience thresholds. If whatever you’re pitching don’t grab the attention immediately, then fuggeddaboutit. ‘Saboteur’ is a riffcentric album that blasts off with the claws out, sinks ‘em in deep, and digs right in.

Full-on as it is, it’s got range and dynamics, and they don’t resort to formulaic verse/chorus/loud/ quiet structures by way of a default. Although, then they do tale the more conventional path they end up with ‘Raindance’, a full-on grunger reminiscent of Nirvana and lesser known T&G acts like Tar, and it’s belting – arguably, the most obvious single choice from an album that’s dominated by raging, overdriven guitars and angst-laden vocals, ripped with rage.

They stalk stealthily through the breakdowns and bring it all back with tumultuous overdriven attack. ‘Dresden; hit s a slower, more stoner-rock vibe, with some heavy-duty tom-driven-drumming propelling a slow, grinding riff into oblivion over the course of an expansive nine-minute sprawl. It’s one of three longer tracks (as in over seven minutes), through which they explore more prog territories, but without losing any momentum.

There are elements of Soundgarden and Korn art play here, but it would be wrong to tag them as 90s revivalists. Regardless of decade, the driving guitar riff and thunderous drumming is always king, and the song that conveys sincere emotion and delivers a tangible punch to the gut is god. Silver Snakes are both kings and gods, on the strength of this album.

 

Silver Snakes

 

Silver Snakes Online