Archive for March, 2016

It’s sad that in 2016 there should be a need for a York Stand Up To Racism benefit gig. But, as one of the speakers noted, periods of austerity tend to bring division, and invariably, race-blame is one of the ways in which frustration at social deprivation and disparity manifests itself. And so, as war rages in the Middle East and we bear witness to the biggest mass displacement of people since WW2, there’s a disconcerting negativity toward asylum seekers, continually referred to in the media and beyond as ‘migrants’ (like it’s a dirty word, and somehow associated with vagrants), with a particular antagonism towards Muslims (as if all Muslims are extremists, and that’s before we consider Christian extremism, which has seemingly been acceptable since the Crusades).

But we’re all here – and yes, it’s a more than respectable turnout – for a mix of speakers and music-makers, disparate in style but united in the opposition to racism, to social division, to stigmatism, to segregation.

It is, necessarily, a mixed bag, and some of the speakers are more compelling than others: Pinar Aksu spoke lucidly of her experience of life in the UK since arriving as an 8-year-old asylum seeker from Turkey in 2001 and living in Glasgow, and Labour MP for York, Rachael Maskell was passionate and rousing during her succinct and well-paced speech. Some of the other speakers seemed less confident, less organised and less cogent, undermining the importance of their messages. But it would be wrong to criticise their contributions: this is about inclusivity. Not everyone can be a great public speaker, but that doesn’t diminish their societal contribution. If anything, tonight’s event highlights the way in which the current right-wing government, and the equally right-wing mainstream media are exerting their control by means of slick manipulation of the mainstream media channels. Tonight is not about spin, but the voices of real people, who have experienced the traumas of racism, of war, being heard.

Of the bands, Low Key Catastrophe and Orlando Ferguson proved to be the night’s real standouts: the former, on early, and making their debut appearance had an infectious energy that infused throughout the audience. Their brand of punky / post-punk tinged dub reggae has something of an anarcho vibe to it, and while the band as a whole are busy working out some chilled grooves overlayed with some tetchy, angular guitars, front man Jim Osman is a real live wire – a charismatic performer, he’s got the kind of passion you can’t fake and is and utterly compelling.

Low Key

Low Key Catastrophe

In contrast, Orlando Ferguson – duo John Tuffen and Ash Sagar – push hard on their avant-garde credentials and are all about the drone. Summ O))) without the power chords or distortion, ‘Earth 2’ reimagined without the gut-churning metal grind, their set, sculpted with duelling bass / guitar feedback and essentially nothing else is the droniest of drone. And it’s ace. There’s no overt political message here, but it’s clear that these guys are on the side of good.

Orlando Ferguson

Orlando Ferguson

The running order changed a few times, and things were running spectacularly late, which meant that after a long day at work after a 4am start, I wasn’t up for watching ZiZ (and I’m prey hardcore about staying it out to the end of a gig). Irked as I was at times by the apparent lack of organisation, and the conversation over performers (Nick Hall, offering his own brand of Folk Rock / Americana had a particularly tough battle against the endless babble), it was a landmark night that brought people together, and that’s what matters.

Hide & Seek Records – 18th March 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

I’ve been less than complimentary about Department M in the past. They’re a band I feel I ought to like, and, truth be told, really want to like. I very much get – and like – so many of their reference points and influences. I like their sound, overall, and in terms of the component parts. I kinda think their highly stylised image – specifically that of Owen Brinley – is cool, in a way. That doesn’t mean I don’t think the mac and headphones getup is a tad affected – it’s a chronic affectation, in fact, but there’s a sense that Brinley’s homage to the 80s is sincere and very closely studied in its affection.

But for all that, they’ve always felt somehow lacking, the music too controlled, the look too much of a contrivance, the sounds too preoccupied with recreating the vintage. Style, yes, but substance?

As is standard for department M (stylised with a lower case ‘d’ in the latest round of promo), Deep Control has a lot going in its favour, at least on paper, featuring as it does Owen Brinley (ex-Grammatics) and Tommy Davidson (Pulled Apart By Horses), while having been produced by long-term friend James Kenosha, who has a staggering resumé. Again, that’s a fact. It was also mastered by Tom Woodhead, formerly of Forward Russia, at Hippocratic studios, and it looks good. A decent album cover matters, and this works, although it is an unashamed reconstruction of many things 80s.

And I would love to froth at the mouth with enthusiasm for this release, or at least be forced to reconsider my stance. I actually wanted to be wrong, to declare the error of my previous perceptions of the band. But sadly, Deep Control only reinforces everything I find troublesome with department M.

But while their eponymous debut showed clear promise and a bit of edge, Deep Control is the sound of a band slipping into its comfort zone. The album’s tile and many of the tracks imply antagonism and frustration which simply don’t translate in the delivery.

It’s ironic, given the circumstances of the album’s creation. As the press release explains, ‘the lyrical undertow of the album is a discourse on coming to terms with disorders such as Anxiety and OCD whilst living in the sometimes harsh modern worlds of work and play in a Northern city. After years spent in the spin of these facets, there’s the essence of time escaping at speed – you can only sit back and watch the years whirl by.’ Again, I can relate: every landmark birthday I approach is prefaced by abject terror in the face of the ageing process, and I have a handle on stress, anxiety, panic. Despite all of this, Deep Control fails to speak to me.

The album as a whole simply lacks bite. It feels, and sounds, simply too insular to communicate any kind of message. And yet there’s no real sense of inner turmoil either.

The songs are wet, as is their delivery. There’s an eternal threat of breaking out, cutting loose, giving it some nuts, that remains unfulfilled. There’s a moment where the final bars of ‘Bad Formulae’ turn dark, and a shuddering cybergoth groove kicks in that suggests that – it being only the second track – things are going to take a turn for the intense on album number two.

But sadly, it never happens: the Depeche Mode (I very much doubt the band’s initials could be accidental) meets Howard Jones stylings lack any real meat, or sense of direction, and it transpired that Deep Control is tame in comparison to its predecessor.

‘Stress Class’ sounds like an outtake from Black Celebration, and there’s no doubt it’s better than the stuff they played before the start and during the break in the stress class I attended, but then I never dug Norah Jones or Coldplay.

Brinley’s vocals strive toward soul, but lack any guts or character – which pretty much sums up Deep Control as a product.

 

 

Department M - Deep

Department M Online

Reveal Records – 11th March 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

Vigils comprises a suite of 11 sparse piano-led compositions. As a unit of work, its pace is predominantly sedate; the strings are subtle, graceful, and the mood is thoughtful, reflective. This is very much Birkin’s objective here, and he describes the album as ‘a soundtrack to the idea of looking back at our present from somewhere in the future’. But Vigils is not an album that cries nostalgia. It does not evoke a sense of longing for a future past. But equally, nor does it soundtrack a sense of guilt or a desire to separate from the part. It evokes the passage of time, of retrospection, of ageing, but without resorting to Instagram filters. Vigils is about time, but doesn’t set out to evoke a specific time as such, and in doing so, transcends time.

In context, ‘Accretions’ is surprisingly spirited and uptempo – that isn’t to go so far as to say it’s pop, but the rippling chords and hooky repeated motifs are accentuated with big chords that imbue the piece with a boldness that romps along in a way which is overtly accessible.

‘Moonbathing’ introduces picked acoustic guitar and harmonious vocals while a violin weaves shades of pastoral folk, while the orchestral chamber music of ‘Atomhog’ is sweet, crisp, and uncluttered in its arrangement.

Birkin explains the concept behind the album its artwork by observing that “Significant human evolution is not fast and loud but slow and quiet. So slow that you almost don’t notice it happening. Except when you look back and see changes after they’ve happened…that’s when you see the giant leaps.” Based in Derbyshire, Birkin formulated the album secluded in his isolated residence in an old mill, itself an artefact from a bygone era repurposed for contemporary living.

And while we – that of course is me speaking on behalf of an assumed section of the population right now – often speak of the unbridled pace of change, in real terms it’s all relative. Mobile phone models and laptops may change faster than you can blink, but that’s only superficial change. Lifestyles, attitudes, the big things, change much more gradually, almost imperceptibly. And indeed, it’s during those imperceptible, gradual changes, that the leaps occur.

I daresay that no-one living in the Industrial Revolution felt as though they were living in a period which would come to mark a pivotal period in human history, just as those living in the inter-war or post-war years we likely too busy simply living to consider the present as a period. Similarly, growing up in the 80s never felt like the dawn of the digital age or late capitalism, and there’s very little obvious difference between pre- and post-millennial life as it goes. But in the present, the eighties feel like another life, the sixties and seventies like historical fictions.

Time is but a construct measured in lived experience, and subtly, subliminally, by implication and by simply side-stepping stylistic trappings of past, present or imagined future, Richard J. Birkin captures all of this in a beautiful, poised and soothing collection of work.

 

Richard-J-Birkin-Vigils

Richard J. Birkin Online

Instrumental post-rock 4-piece Tides from Nebula are set to release their new album Safehaven on 6th May. As well as announcing details on the album and European tour dates, the band have also revealed a new track ‘We Are The Mirror’ which you can listen to here:

 

TIDES FROM NEBULA live

6 may: DunkFestival, Zottegem, Belgium
7 may: We Are a Young Team, Metz, France
8 may: Sanctuary, Basingstoke, UK 
9 may: Boston Music Room, London, Uk 
10 may: Audio, Glasgow, UK
11 may: Firebug, Leicester, UK 
14 may: Heretic Club, Bordeaux, France
16 may: Le Saint Des Seins, Toulouse, France 
17 may: Sidecar, Barcelona, Spain
18 may: Le Molotov, Marseille, France
19 may: La Gravière, Geneva, Switzerland
20 may: Freakout Club, Bologna, Italy 
21 may: Lo-Fi Club, Milan, Italy
22 may: Rockhouse, Salzburg, Austria
24 may: Sedel, Luzern, Switzerland
26 may: Druckluft, Oberhausen, Germany 
28 may: Neushoorn, Leeuwarden, Netherlands
29 may: Badehaus Szimpla, Berlin, Germany
30 may: Cosmic Dawn, Jena, Germany

 

Tides from Nebula

Polyartists have always had a hard time: we exist in a culture obsessed with pigeonholing, of ascribing a single genre or a medium. Brion Gysin’s ultimate failing could be aligned to his unwillingness to commit to any one mode of creative output, and over 50 years on, creatives exploring multiple outlets seem to sink beneath the radar simply by virtue of their evasions of prescriptive categorisations like ‘musician’, ‘painter’, ‘writer’ or ‘sculptor’.

Casey Deming – born  in Owatonna, MN, USA, and resident of the Twin Cities (that’s also in Minnesota, and unrelated to any kind of Lord of the Rings-type fantasy world) – has spent a career straddling multiple outlets, ranging from collage to experimental music.

John Wisniewski recently pitched some questions to him about his work for Aural Aggravation.

JW: When did your career in music begin? Were you trained as a musician?

CD: I started making music about 10 years ago. I’ve never had any formal training. It started when I connected with the improv / experimental music scene in the Twin Cities after completing my undergrad degree at the University of MN. I began to collaborate with people involved with the Tuesday Series which was holding weekly concerts at cafe in my neighborhood. Primarily I was just doing small percussion stuff with whatever objects I had at hand. Later I bridged into bending circuits on tape players which was kind of hip at the time. Now I almost exclusively work with tape loops.

caseydemingcedarmarketing700

What inspires you to create new sounds?

Listening to everyday sounds. Sometimes simply taking a walk is enough to inspire me: church bells in the park, wind chimes on front porches, traffic. My baseboard heaters are making this great clicking sound as I write this. Both my visual and sound work are collage-based, there is so much content out there that I’d rather focus on selecting and organizing material as opposed to composing it.

Who are some composers who are influential to you?

Arvo Pärt, Henryk Górecki, Tim Hecker, Ben Frost (especially his album with Daníel Bjarnason), John Cage, John & Alice Coltrane, Miles Davis, Laurie Spiegel, Ekkehard Ehlers, C S Yeh, John Wiese, Ernst Reijseger, Harold Budd, Krzysztof Penderecki, Mica Levi, Angelo Badalamenti, Wendy Carlos, Giacinto Scelsi, Johnny Greenwood, Fennesz, La Monte Young, Fe-mail …

What is the response from the audience to your compositions?

Often curiosity. What am I hearing and why? It’s nice to elicit such responses, I find it kind of boring when musicians focus too much on portraying a certain aesthetic or identity. I try not to create work that’s veiled too much in my own ego. I think it’s important to challenge your audience, make them ask "is this music?".

Have you composed any film soundtracks?

Unfortunately no but it has often been alluded to in my work. The improv noise band I play in Squid Fist (with Bryce Beverlin II & Tim Glenn) has performed along with experimental 8mm & 16mm films but we have never purposely composed something for film. The tape collage project Visions of Christ (with John Jerry) lends itself more to scores because it’s not very interesting to watch us play. John and I have performed along with a light organ setup in the past and hope to employ more visual elements in the future like projecting found slides or pantone colors. Someone remarked that my CS release with Justin Meyers could stand in as an alternate soundtrack to Tarkovsky’s Stalker.

https://player.vimeo.com/video/5404328

Squid Fist Live at Organ Haus from brycebeverlinII on Vimeo.

Do you listen to alternative music or rock music all?

My tastes are pretty eclectic although not that obscure. I listened to a lot of classic rock growing up but have mostly left that behind, besides an occasional nostalgic trip with the Stones. Bob Dylan is maybe the most important musician in my life, rarely a day goes by without me spinning something of his. Most "rock" music that I prefer skews weird, however I hold a lot of old americana and soul in high regards. Early Staple Singes records are in heavy rotation. I’m currently obsessed with Gene Clark’s No Other and also love his records with Doug Dillard. A lot of Townes Van Zandt these days too. Besides Dylan there are some great Minnesota artists like Michael Yonkers and Spider John Koerner. In many ways I’m indebted to my good friends Clint Simonson (De Stijl Recs) and Chris Berry (Soft Abuse) for exposing me to so much gold over the years. Without them I would have not discovered Peter Jefferies, Ed Askew, Mad Nana, Michael Chapman, Bobby Charles, Charlie Tweddle, Black to Comm, King Darves, Mayo Thompson, Neil Michael Hagerty, and Steve Gunn. I was lucky enough to see Wolf Eyes play last night; they’ve always been inspirational to me. I dig their respective side projects as well: Henry Hazel Slaughter, Regression and Stare Case. They’re so wonderfully evocative of such greats like Throbbing Gristle, The Velvet Underground, and Suicide.

Which of the arts is most important in your creations?

They all play their key roles. I’m reading Leonard Shlain’s book Art & Physics: Parallel Visions in Space, Time & Light and it keeps giving me ideas for sound and visual projects. I probably expose myself the least to theatre and dance though they have both affected me profoundly in the past. Perhaps it’s a lack of exposure. I have definitely engaged with literature the most in my life and am forever blown away by people like John Berger, César Aira, Joan Didion, Susan Sontag, Denis Johnson, and Cormac McCarthy. I’m currently tackling Ta-Nehisi Coates’s memoirs and am loving them.

Will you be playing any live dates?

I recently completed a commission at the Cedar Cultural Center that was funded by the Jerome Foundation. It was a collaboration with John Jerry, Davu Seru, and Jonathan Kaiser for tape loops, percussion, and cello. Justin Meyers and I played a couple weeks ago and hope to make another recording together in the near future. I have another tape and synth project with John Marks and we self-released a CS a few months ago. I am trying to refocus my energies on visual work, getting ready to be part of a collage show at Chicago’s Lula Cafe in May and apply to grants in hopes of funding the purchase of a risograph printer. Jugging all these things has become an art form in itself.

Casey Deming Online

Room40 – RM474

Christopher Nosnibor

Sometimes, this reviewing business is personal. How can it not be? Surely no-one can get into music reviewing without being a mad rabid fan of music above all else. Sure, some may do it for the ligs, but in a non-paying market, first and foremost, it has to be for the love. Yes, I speak personally here. I’m certainly not in it for the money.

I’ve been a fan of Swans since I was in my teens in the early 90s, after being passed a recording of Children of God. It’s an album which will remain with me forever, for so many reasons, not least of all the juxtaposition of thunderous intensity and elegant beauty. I was quick to seek out – and spend my money on – their back catalogue, with Cop proving to be nothing short of pivotal in my musical education.

But as much as I developed a bewildered admiration for Michael Gira both as a lyricist and an artist in the broader sense, I also came, fairly quickly, to appreciate the guitar playing of Norman Westberg. His playing was stark, minimalist, brutal, and seeing him perform live in the current incarnation of the band only cemented my respect. I can’t think of a guitarist less concerned with heroics, who better appreciates the idiom that less is more. He’s nonchalant, cool, peeling off shuddering chords at infinite decibels and grinding out the same riff for what feels like an eternity requires discipline and appreciation of the bigger picture, but more than anything, it has impact.

MRI is not about grinding repetitive chord sequences and squalls of feedback, and as such, reveals another side of Westberg’s guitar playing. If anything, listening to MRI has only furthered my appreciation. Building droning ambience from oscillating feedback and eternally sustaining notes which hum and simmer, MRI is subtle, soft and understated.

In fact, MRI is very much a response and intentional counterpoint to the punishingly high-volume output he’s spent much of his career producing. As the press release explains, MRI is the result of Westberg’s encounters with the heavy medical scanning technology following his recognising diminished hearing. “I started to notice a loss of hearing in my right ear,” Westberg explains, “and decided that it was high time that I had it checked out by a professional. The audiologist confirmed the uneven hearing loss and recommended an MRI. The purpose of the MRI was to make sure that there was not something other than my own aural misadventures causing the uneven loss.” Described in the press blurb as ‘a coda to this experience’, and as ‘a collection of reductive rolling guitar pieces that are embedded strongly in the American Minimalism tradition’, MRI was recorded in 2012, and appears here remastered, post-produced and augmented by a brand new piece, ‘Lost Mine’, recorded in 2015 as an echo of the processes that led to the original recordings.

MRI doesn’t sound like a guitar album, but in many ways, that’s one of its great strengths. It’s testament to Norman Westberg’s unconventional approach to playing the instrument, and reasserts his significance. But, perhaps most importantly, it’s a wonderful and extremely soothing sonic experience.

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Norman Westberg – MRI at Room 40

Christopher Nosnibor

Mark E Smith has oft claimed that everyone rips off The Fall. Mark Wynn even has a song about it, which does precisely that, entitled, appropriately, ‘Rip off The Fall’. While Smith’s claims are unquestionably exaggerated, the band’s influence is undeniably vast, and far exceeds the reach of their commercial success. One band who are unashamed in their ripping off of The Fall is Leeds / York-based combo The Wharf Street Galaxy band. But then, they only rip off The Fall inasmuch as they belong to the lineage of Can, Kraftwerk and The Fall, with a hefty dose of Public Image’s angular post-punk underpinned by dense, dubby basslines. Originally released as a three-track cassette (what else?), this expanded reissue features a brace of demos and a rehearsal recording.

A particularly Wobble-esque bass run kicks off the first track, ‘No Puffins for YOU Lad’, which finds northern churl Dave Proctor spilling a semi-abstract narrative that lurches on myriad detours in an increasingly tense and intense style that calls to mind the ranty racket of tracks like The Fall’s ‘Neighbourhood of Infinity’ and the vibe of earlier works like Perverted by Language. Angular and challenging, this is s what it’s all about, and even in 2016, this kind of stuff sounds every bit as antagonistic and uncomfortable as it did 30 years go.

The wandering spaghetti Western vibe of ‘Sergio Leone Comes to Keighly’ is suitably surreal, but grounded by a gritty Yorkshire sensibility, which essentially defines the WSGB. ‘Organised Freedom is Compulsory’ forges a monotonous groove, a long drone sustaining for some eight minutes over murky drumming and a chanted lyrical refrain of ‘Freedom is compulsory’. (I’m reminded of both The Fall and Scumbag Philosopher, another band who both rip off The Fall and have supported them, as well as Bauhaus, by the way in which the guitar serves to provide texture against the bass, instead of any kind of melody).

Of the additional tracks here – a brace of demos and a rehearsal recording – ‘Selfie Stick’ is sonically dark and lyrically savage and marks it as one of the band’s standout tracks.

But The Wharf Street Galaxy Band aren’t really about standout tracks, and as this debut EP demonstrates, they’re all about nagging away, bludgeoning the listener into submission with a blend of ragged guitar, urgent bass and hectic drumming while the vocals hector and harass.

Needless to say, I totally dig their scene. You know what you’re going to get, so go listen or bugger off back to your mundane mainstream shit.

WSGB

The Wharf Street Galaxy Band Online

Crónica – Crónica 103 – February 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

Simon Whetham has a considerable history of taking sound recordings – often environmental sounds – and working them into something unrecognisable, by means of various sonic and software mutations. Against Nature emerged from an exploration of what Whetham describes as ‘errors and failures’, using ‘badly built microphones, over-burdened amplifiers, motors driven by sound impulses, misbehaving software and objects toppling’ as part of an organic process. The album is in many ways accidental in nature, the end product determined more by the material than the artist. It could be seen, in some respects, as a project of artistic self-erasure. This album may bear Simon Whetham’s name, but his function here is as a conduit, more of an editor than an author of the work.

Against Nature may only contain five tracks, but the tracks are both lengthy and intense. Screeding noise sustains interminably, piercing tones that aren’t drones but something altogether more serrated. Pink noise switches to white noise. Hums crackle, fizz and whizz and gradually build to immense, barrelling walls of noise that suck the listener into an immersion tank of sound. The quieter passages lull the listener’s senses, a gentle breeze and the occasional clanking of what sounds like a yak’s bell evoke almost pastoral images, before once again building sonorous, scraping tension that creeps and swells. Metallic clattering grinds like a cement mixer. Blasts of static and white noise tear through silence.

The five movements of Against Nature are not rhythmic in their formation, and are free of anything one might refer to strictly as percussion. Primarily, it’s a work of tonal exploration, as sounds bend and bow against one another, straining and generating sonic frictions, but beneath it all, there are natural – or unnatural – resonances, pulsations, which form their own subtle rhythms. And these resonate biologically, psychologically, rubbing with and against the brain-waves and gnawing away, prodding the nerve-endings and ultimately working their way under the skin.

 

Simon Whetham - Against

 

Simon Whetham Online

Out of context, it could be any extreme noise / power electronics / experimental / industrial crossover. Whistling high-end feedback, tortured, wailing drones, nagging, drilling analogue synth buzzes, pulsations, distortion and distant low-end rumbling provide the tonal span over which sounds of detonating shells, gunfire, panicked voices, and snippets of newscasts and other media are assembled. The piping sounds of Oriental flutes from India and Morocco are interwoven with stuttering electronica and wandering synths which cast dark, ominous shadows of unease.

In context – and ultimately, it’s all about the context – Gaza takes on a truly horrific dimension, a painful and harrowing documentary work. Gaza is in many respects a soundtrack: recorded during operation Protective Edge in July and August 2014, it is the soundtrack to violent and brutal war.

To read the statistics – the estimates of the numbers killed and wounded, the number of homes destroyed and the estimated costs of rebuilding in the wake of this intense period of battle is bewildering, numbing. Over 2,000 Gazans were killed and well over 10,000 wounded during the seven-week spell. More context: the Gaza Strip is 25 miles long, and between 3.7 to 7.5 miles wide, with a total area of 141 square miles. The city of Gaza is home to around 1.85 million Palestinians on some 362 square kilometres: by way of a comparison, Greater Manchester has a population of 2.7 million, in an area spanning493 square miles. The point is, really, that it becomes hard to compute, and ultimately impossible to imagine the reality of the situation, and what it must be like to live with such decimation. The Sky News images of ruins and rubble amidst clouds of dust and drifting sand may be horrific, but just as pictures of houses bombed in the blitz cannot convey the experience, so this type of footage feels distant, unreal, like a film set.

Pharoah Chromium (aka German-Palestinian musician and performer Ghazi Barakat, who took the name from a song of the band Chrome), I read, draws inspiration from diverse sources spanning free jazz, rituals from ancient past and near future, the dream syndicate, science fiction novels and neo-brutalistic architecture. But most importantly, this is an intensely personal work for Barakat, who writes that ‘having close family ties to the region, I felt it was necessary to politicize my work in order to avoid total disillusionment and estrangement from circumstances that, I feel, are a dead end for humanity. My focus on this one subject is not meant to diminish other conflicts and human-made catastrophes in the world. Although this one just happens to take place in the birthplace of monotheistic Judéo-Christianity, the cultural background of all western societies.’

As such, as intensely personal as it is, Gaza is also intensely political. But perhaps even more importantly, it’s an intensely human work. As Barakat explains, ‘Gaza is built around voices and field recordings that are used to express my subjective, emotional and personal involvement with this subject. The found source material is used to construct a chronology of the events… The sounds of the Korg MS 20 noise filter helped intensify the feeling of hysteria ensuing from violent confrontation during a state of war. An electric wind instrument provides the melodic components and the low frequencies that underline the narration on the second part of the piece.’

And this brings into sharp relief the reality of the experience. Listening to the album, you will jump and cower as gunfire and shells rain down. The sheer volume of the explosions and the shots is astounding, a hail of bullets becoming a blanket of eardrum-shattering noise. You find yourself sitting on the edge of your seat, nerves jangling, wondering if your house will still be standing in a moments’ time. There’s no way you can settle or so anything else: this isn’t background or entertainment. There’s no way in the world you could nod off or otherwise sleep through this. And then you realise, this is the reality of life in a war-zone. The idea of actually living in this environment, to an outsider, is beyond comprehension. It’s a sobering thought, to say the least.

Barakat’s commentary is again informative, and chilling: ‘The two sides of this record are about a place like no other on this planet, a city and its surrounding environs living under extraordinary conditions, hermetically sealed from all sides, only accessible through complex procedures and permits, making it is almost as difficult to get in as it is to get out. Like a cross between the Warsaw ghetto and Manhattan as a giant maximum security prison in John Carpenter’s Escape From New York. Every couple of years the Gaza Strip gets its share of bombardments, and since the summer of 2014, its infrastructure has been pulverized almost to the point of no return. The disproportionate use of force and the asymmetric use of military technology on those already living under siege has created a field laboratory for the military industrial complex with the civilian population as its guinea pig. […]’

The locked groove at the end of each side is the engine noise of an Israeli drone in operation, intended to give listeners the experience of the sound of day-to-day life in the Gaza Strip.

It’s a phenomenally powerful work, which brings home the devastating realities of war in a way that’s truly unique. And while I’ve referred to this as a document, effectively a work of sonic reportage, it is, of course, a work of art. On a technical level, its execution is superb. To all intents and purposes, it’s a cut-up, a collage, and the pieces as assembled seamlessly, and achieve maximum impact. And what impact. Gaza is perhaps the most harrowing album I’ve ever heard. This is art on the front lines and behind the lines. All of the doom and crushing metal releases pale to nothing beside this: Gaza really is the sound of hell on earth.

Gaza

 

http://bandcamp.com/EmbeddedPlayer/album=72821540/size=large/bgcol=ffffff/linkcol=0687f5/tracklist=false/artwork=small/transparent=true/

Pharoah Chromium – Gaza on Bandcamp

Pomperipossa Records – PRLP2 – 16th April 2016

James Wells

An act called drøne can surely only be about one thing, and yes, drøne (Mark Van Hoen, who’s renowned as a solo artist as well as for his work under the Locust moniker, and Mike Harding – no, not the folk singer / comedian known as the ‘Rochdale Cowboy’) are indeed masters of drone. Reversing into the Future contains two tracks, ‘This Strange Life’ I and II, although the digital version masters them as a single continuous track with a running time of some 42:45. Really, how much drone – or drøne – do you need?

Drone-heavy as it may be, ‘reversing into the future’ manages to hold the interest by exploring a wealth of different textures, creating a is a collage consisting of field recordings, short wave radio, and modular synth, assembled seamlessly to forge a journey of electrically-charged dissonance, drones and electronic melodies.

It would be an absurd act of pomposity and pretention to devote 500 words to the transportative effects of the music, just as it would be an exercise in needless intellectual onanism to effuse over the nuances of the way the various textures and tones resonate with and against one another to achieve various effects.

Reversing into the Future is an intriguing album, and one which will resonate in different ways with every listener. It’s dark, it’s ominous, but it’s also uplifting, graceful. For those who respond on a more technical or theoretical level, there are near infinite depths to explore.

Don’t be deceived: Reversing into the Future offers so much more than mere drone.

Drone

Drøne Online