Archive for April, 2016

OKTAF – OKTAF #12 – 27th May 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

Marsen Jules has long been established as a unique sculptor of sound, redefining ‘sound poetry’ while working within the territory foreshadowed by the likes of Brian Eno and Steve Reich. Shadows in Time marks a huge leap, not so much sonically, but conceptually, as a project, which touches on matters of marketing, consumerism, issues of art and artefact, and the role of the recipient in the artist/audience equation. Shadows in Time is, ostensibly, an ambient work. But ambient carries connotations of background sound, of a given environment. It suggests mood music, but also something that isn’t a focal point as of and in itself.

The soft, supple sounds of Shadows in Time are mood music, in that to immerse yourself in the recording is to create an environment which slows the heart rate and unwinds the mind. But Shadows in Time is more than a mere ambient work. It’s a concept album, the concept of which is only partly about the audio you will hear.

If every individual hears music slightly differently, experiences music on a personal level, coloured by their own senses and experiences, then the fact Shadows in Time exists in some 300 different forms effectively means the already infinite listening experiences are increased to an absolute point.

This review is based on the experience of just one person – me – listening to the CD version. A single track, 49:29 in duration. It begins cinematically, a shimmering expanse of organ-like tones gently sweeping and gliding. The long notes ripple and roll, emanating tranquillity and calm. It also exudes a sense of scale, in a galactic sense. Or perhaps that’s just my mind uncoiling, my tension dissipating. I find myself wondering about the infinite potentials, and what the other versions may sound like. What multiple versions may sound like played simultaneously. Or all of the versions. The vastness is almost beyond comprehension. And from thee calm emerges a sense of infinity. It feels good.

Sit back and enjoy the experience – in whatever form it takes.

Marsen Jules - Shadows

Marsen Jules Online

Staubgold – Staubgold 141 –20th May 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

Vivien Goldman knows people. She’s written about so many in her capacity as a widely-published journalist, and she’s worked with a fair few, too, and as such, Resolutionary is a fascinating document of her collaborations, recorded during a particularly fertile period between 1979 and 1982. The roll-call of musicians featured on the eight tracks here is staggering: John Lydon, Keith Levene and Bruce Smith (PiL) Robert Wyatt, Steve Beresford and David Toop, and Vicky Aspinall (The Raincoats), and Neneh Cherry, amongst others, all feature here.

In many ways, Resolutionary is an odds-and-sods effort, a curio, a retrospective exhibition which focuses on the individual artist’s career more than its context, and which represents what was essentially a brief period in Goldman’s career, which has since been devoted to the documentation of music-making, rather than the actual making of music. But Goldman’s musical legacy is noteworthy, however scant. Her brief time with The Flying Lizards remains a career-defining spell, despite the fact that she wasn’t the one who provided the vocals on their biggest hit, ‘Money’. But in many ways, that’s a positive. No-one wants to be pegged as a one-hit wonder, their life spent in the shadow of that singular moment, and more importantly, Resolutionary serves to realign history, to an extent.

It’s an interesting aside to note that Public Image’s ‘This is Not a Love Song’ was inspired, in title at least, by The Flying Lizards track ‘Her Story’, which features here. Indeed, the two Flying Lizards tracks, ‘Her Story’ and ‘The Window’ (both of which feature Goldman on vocals, the latter of which was also composed by her) represent the detached, minimal pop they’re famed for. Big, strolling basslines are again the defining feature of these off-kilter noodles. Although readily available on The Flying Lizards’ eponymous debut, revisiting them in the context of Goldman’s output rather than that of the band offers an alternative context.

The dubtastic quirky kitchen-sink pop of solo cuts ‘Launderette’ and its attendant B-sides, released on the ‘Dirty Washing’ 12”, are worth the money alone. ‘Private Army’ is a colossal six-and-a-half spaced-out dub-based beast, the percussion and sax spiralling into a vortex of reverb. ‘P.A’ Dub’ – the dub version of ‘Private Army’ does dub out the vocals.

The Chantage tracks are the most accessible, with a lighter tone and style, with the pop reggae of ‘Same Thing twice’ proving a buoyant standout. But then, the Gallic theatricality of ‘It’s Only Money’ is equally beguiling and showcases Goldman’s range.

The interview with Vivien, recorded in 1981 and released on a cassette compilation is interesting, articulate, energetic, and insightful, although the audio quality is less than brilliant, and one does have to strain at times to decipher what’s being said. Still, as a historical document, its appearance on the disc is more than justified. The extensive liner notes, too, are pretty good, and overall, this is a quality package.




Vivien Goldman Online

Sub Rosa – SR406 – 5th May 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

There’s no escaping the band’s name. It’s striking, to say the least. Simply calling a band ‘phallus’ would be something, the connotations numerous and not all positive. Putting it out there is a strong challenge to the (potential) audience’s sensibilities, and is as likely to deter many listeners in itself. There may be puerile implications, and an element of silly shock, but what does this say about culture and society? Human history, even prehistory, is in many respects, the history of the phallus: the Romans were obsessed by the power of the phallus, rendering it a totem. Freud was famously fixated, and 60s and 70s feminism marked the opening of a discourse concerning phallocentric society, as they strove to rebalance things. While the phallus in this context is more metaphorical than literal, what matter is the fact that discourse is far from over.

While ‘cunt’ may represent the last bastion of hardcore swearing, and carries the most weight in terms of the offense it can impart, ‘it’s the hard dick that offends most’, as Philip Best spits on the Whitehouse track ‘Language Recovery’. Why is that? What is our society so hung up on the erection? Despite the enduring power of the phallus in society through the ages, art and popular culture is more given to celebrating the female form. And from classical antiquity (I’m thinking Michelangelo’s ‘David’, for example) to modern art (take Lucien Freud’s nude male portraits by way of an example here), male genitalia is understated if it’s to be accepted. It’s simply unimaginable that David, an image of the ‘perfect’ male form, could brandish a raging horn. Soft is art: hard is porn. The phallus may be all-powerful but it’s not acceptable on display, it’s ugly, repulsive, threatening, frightening, says society.

So what does this say about Ultraphallus? To take a blunt and literal view, individually and collectively, the band is cock. But not just any old cock. It’s more cock than that. It’s not only a throbbing erection, a pulsating meat truncheon, but amplified to the power of ten. Ultra… it has such a powerfully maximalist suggestion. This band isn’t just the simple encapsulation of the phallus, but thrusts into the public domain the phallus on a scale comparable to the Cerne Abas giant. Is it more confrontational and in your face than Throbbing Gristle? It’s a close call.

Appropriately, the music on The Art Of Spectres is overtly masculine: hard, heavy, rhythmic. It’s hard, uncompromising.

Ultraphallus are Phil Maggi (vocals, samples, electronics, trumpet, percussion); Xavier Dubois (guitars); Ivan Del Castillo (bass); Julien Bockiau (drums). A bunch of giant cocks. And they make challenging music, which pulls an eclectic range of styles together to forge something immense, dark and compelling. The press release notes that Ultraphallus defines their sound with some accents from styles including Western Music, Death metal, Doom-Rock, Avantgarde Psychedelia and Electronic Soundtracks, as a tribute to Rock Culture. But there’s a whole lot more besides lurking in the murky sonic depths of the seven tracks here.

Seven tracks were recorded in four days at Drop Out Studios, South London, with Tim Cedar (Part Chimp leader, Hey Colossus, ex-Penthouse…). The band say that the tracks are inspired by The Residents, Marc Bolan, Mark Frechette and Zabriskie Point, Swans, Autechre, David Bowie, Eva Ionesco, Polanski’s movie The Tenant and Death-Metal. In this respect, the title is germane, as the album finds the band exploring the spectres of their precursors and their peers. They loom large.

Opening track, ‘The Blood Sequence’ combines the grit of black metal with the squalling white noise of power electronics, delivered with the panache of Bauhaus and the theatrical gothic detail of Roz Williams era Christian Death. They really hit their stride with the second track, the seven-minute ‘’Madrigal Lane’ at the heart of which lies a throbbing bass and relentless builds hypnotically, reaching a frenzied climax of crashing cymbals while Maggi Hollers maniacally in a tsunami of reverb.

‘Let Him be Alistair’ finds Maggi hollering like a drunk impersonating Tom Waits over the skittering sonic backdrop, a slow grinding rhythm section churning out a grainy, Neurosis-like dirge. ‘Whitewasher’ is even slower and heavier: again, the percussion dominates, the lyrics are coarsely shouted, thick, and burning with anguish, evoking the spirit of Godflesh and ‘Greed’ era Swans to punishing and painful effect as the song batters the listener into submission over the course of seven-plus crushing, doom-laden minutes. If the tone mellows and the oppression lifts during the last two tracks, the hypnotic percussion and repetitive nature of the riffs prove every bit as powerful as the final track, ‘Sinister Exaggerator’ builds to a spiralling psychedelic shoegaze swirl.

Despite all of the myriad comparisons and parallels, The Art Of Spectres goes a long way from being any simple homage to the annals of rock and metal, because for all of the references, Ultraphallus don’t really sound like anything or anyone else.



Ultraphallus Online

Norwegian band Mayflower Madame have released their debut album ‘Observed in a Dream’ via their own label Night Cult Records in Europe and Custom Made Music in North America.

To celebrate the release of the album, the band have shared the video for ‘Self-Seer’. A track partly inspired by the art of their fellow countryman Edvard Munch, ‘Self-seer’ is a dark and feverish tale about obsession, escapism and longing. Watch the video here:

Christopher Nosnibor

Temple of Boom is the epitome of the underground venue. Not in geographical terms, but in that it puts on way cool gigs you have to be in the know to find out about. And you have to find the place. Even on my third visit, I found myself wondering if I was in the right place, as I wandered barren streets lined by warehouse units and esoteric businesses with reinforced steel roller covers festooned with graffiti over their doors and windows, and had to double-check the so-inconspicuous-as-to-be-almost-secret entrance. And stuff happens when it happens. 8pm start means there’ll be someone behind the bar. The first band may be on at 9, perhaps half past or whenever. But that’s the thing with the underground. It’s not mainstream, it’s not out there in the public domain, and you have to seek it out and invest some effort to reap the rewards. Arrows of Love are a band who justify any such efforts.

I’ve seen Arrows of Love on three previous occasions. And I can’t get enough of them. From the moment I heard the dirty, low-slung bass thud of ‘Honey’ I was hooked. And as a live act, they’re something else. Their shows are wildly unpredictable, cathartic celebrations of beautiful chaos during which anything could happen, and often does. So very predictable, they aren’t. They’re as likely to set the place on fire as to crash and burn. And that is every reason why they’re the ultimate rock ‘n’ roll band going right now. They really do exist on the edge.

The Franceens (predictably) kick ass when they finally take to the stage shortly after 10pm. Their energetic, choppy, punky indie is infectious in its own right, but live is where they really kill it. Guitarist / singer Dan Oliver Gott races into the crowd on a number of occasions, exuberant, larger than life. They’ve got songs, and hooks, too. Delivering high–octane rock action from beginning to end, it really is hard to fault ‘em.


The Franceens

Scrawny leather jacket wearing skanks Ming City Rockers look like a rock band. By which I mean, if you were to gather together every stereotype of the last 40 years and distil it into a single act, it would be Ming City Rockers. The singer sports wildly backcombed hair and looks like he’s stepped out of a Chris Morris sketch, while the lead guitarist looks like she’s wandered in from an 80s fancy dress party where she’s gone as Strawberry Switchblade, but in Ian MacCulloch’s coat. If they were half as good as they think they are, they’d be awesome. Revelling in rock ‘n’ roll cliché only works with a heavy dose of irony, and if you’ve got some really strong songs. The red-lipsticked bassist has nice teeth though.

Ming City Rockers

Ming City Rockers


Arrows of Love are close to unveiling their second Bob Weston mastered long player, Product, mooted as being quite a progression from the squalling grunge racket of their debut, Everything’s Fucked. On the evidence of ‘Toad’, which they’ve recently put up for streaming, they’re venturing into even murkier, noisier, more angular, territory. They’re also showcasing a (relatively) new lineup: in replacing drummer Mike Frank and singer / guitarist Lyndsey Critchley, Craig Doporto and Alex Brown have got a major task in prospect. I did briefly meet them before they played, and like the rest of the band, they’re lovely people. It turns out they’re also bloody good on stage and possess the energy and charisma that’s so essential to the band’s style.

Arrows 1

Arrows of Love

It’s gone midnight when they take to the stage, and Nima Teranchi is rocking the Jaz Coleman look with untamed dark hair and utilitarian boiler suit (which makes a dazzling contrast with bassist Nuha’s electric blue locks and rather more slinky stagewear). He’s not low on intensity when in front of the mic, either, and the second they strike the first chord, everything about the band crackles with manic energy, and exude an ineffable magnetism. They’re beyond – and above – mere ‘cool’. Yes, they put on a show, but it’s not merely performance: there’s something almost transcendental about an Arrows of Love show, with five people completely immersed in the music and the moment.

Arrows 3

Arrows of Love

I soon realise that while trains between Leeds and York are good, there’s nothing between 00:45 and 02:15, and with a 6am start looming, I’m going to have to bail early. But then ‘early’ is relative…

Arrows 2

Arrows of Love

I manage to squeeze four songs before having to peg it, and while I’m itching to know what they’re going to do next, I’ve already seen enough to get a handle on the fact they’re on blistering form, and seriously loud. They’re already bigger outside their homeland, and may yet to really crack the Leeds scene and the north more generally, but shows like this can’t fail to build their reputation, and it’s hard to believe that Product won’t see them explode. If ever a band deserved global cult status, Arrows of Love do.

Featuring members of Joanna Gruesome, Thin Privilege and Black International, Glasgow purveyors of no-wave noise are unleashing their debut album via Good Grief records on a pay-what-you-want basis. Which means you can get it for free, but obviously,  chipping in a few quid is a good way to show appreciation  and to help bands to keep making music. This one’s definitely worth it. Watch the vid below, and check the album out via the link below that.



Damn Teeth

Cronica – CRONICA 111

James Wells

The sixteenth album from @C, like its predecessor Ab Ovo, began as a soundtrack for puppet theatre play Agapornis, inspired by the life and works of Anais Nin, and as such, has nothing to do with the kind of Three-Body Problem Elton John has. It also isn’t a soundtrack album per se: the soundtrack was rewritten after the play’s premiere, and as such, Three-Body Problem is a satellite work which evolved from the original concept.

So, what is the problem around the three bodies? It transpires there are in fact two distinct but related problems: the first descends directly from the production of the play itself, which is centred around two main characters, played by puppets, and a third character with several spoken lines, played by an actor. The challenge of representing the characters in sound was core to the development of the album, the actor being replaced by musicians.

And then there was the process of developing the album itself, from the initial soundtrack, through the album, to a third, ongoing process, of creating video pieces to accompany the album’s tracks. As such, the problem is concerned with both physical bodies and with body of work.

The nine pieces are sparse, static crackles, hisses and fizzing sounds spin in co-ordinates around dank, gloopy bass rumbles. Creating a spooky kind of ambience, it’s darkly atmospheric, ominous and unsettling. Toward the end, trumpet squawks and honks add additional texture and discord, and introduce further contrast to the squeaks and scrapes which flitter and twitter. The final track marks a change of direction, drifting toward the horizon on a wash of delicately strummed harp chords which ultimately evaporates in a wash of noise, far removed from the original starting point.

It’s this gradual, subtle progression that proves to be the album’s ultimate success, because it’s a work that confounds the expectations it sets. Intriguing and quietly compelling, the problem is solved.

TRANSCENDENCE 115 from Lia on Vimeo.


Three Body

Norwegian avantgarde rock/metal band Virus have announced details on their 4th album Memento Collider which is their first release for Karisma Records. You can check out new track ‘Steamer’ below.

Christopher Nosnibor

Are Three Trapped Tigers really a £10 band? Are they a band who can justify playing 300-400 capacity venues on a UK tour with some 15 dates? The people of York clearly don’t think so, and it’s telling that the majority of those who’ve turned out purchased discount tickets from the main support, Stereoscope. And yes, they’re the primary reason I’m here, too.

And so it is that being on just 15 minutes after doors, Soma Crew, playing as a three-piece, perform to an almost empty room. As a venue space, Fibbers is good. But when it’s quiet, it’s a vast, cavernous barn of a place. It’s also a huge space to fill, sonically. The twin guitars melt together in a mass of infinite reverb, and the metronomic drums – an integral part of their sound – are all in place, but something, more than the bassist, is missing. It’s not until toward the end of the set when Simon turns to his amp and whacks it up by 30% that it all comes together. Yes, their swirling, FX-laden psychedelic shoegaze dronescapes need to be heard at volume to achieve the optimal effect. The music needs to form a big, fuzzy sonic blanket, a sound large enough to get lost in. and when they achieve that, as they did at the end, they’re ace. Still, you can hardly blame the band for the sound out front when they’ve barely been given a soundcheck.


Soma Crew

Also denied a detailed soundcheck, Stereoscope have less kit and so manage to achieve a fuller sound. Playing in near darkness, the trio pump out a set of slow-burning electronic behemoths. The live drumming would have benefited from being up in the mix for maximum punch on his outing, but even so, it brings an essential dynamic to the band’s industrial-edged mechanised sound. Front man Andy Johnson gives some amusing and self-deprecating patter between songs, but his lyrics are as dark as the grinding basslines Tim Wright churns out from his laptop, and as the stage itself. Announcing the last song as a cheery number about depression, he contorts his spindly frame into agonised postures and he pleads to stop the world.



So, why did the two support acts only have 20 minutes to soundcheck between them? Well, the headliners needing two hours to prepare for a set just over an hour in duration, in short. Ok, so it is their show. So where are their fans? To be clear, I didn’t turn out to gripe about the headliners. True, I did catch them live as a support act some years ago and was largely unimpressed. I wasn’t able to find my write-up of that show, but listening to their stuff on-line in the run-up to tonight gave me an indication of why I might not have been loving their work. But I was still willing to give them another go, and wondered if live they were more palatable.

And lo, the first track of the set made me think I’d perhaps been too harsh. With some strong, energetic and extremely dynamic drumming driving a relentless succession of twists and turns, but marked by some solid riffage, it suggested a powerful statement of intent and that maybe the lengthy soundcheck was justified – after all, the sound was incredible: the clarity! The crispness! But then the wanking began.

I’m by no means antagonistic toward musicianship. But as much as good musicianship requires technical ability, it equally demands the performer has a sense of listenability. Is it really music when the compositions are and endless succession of noodly snippets, disjointed and disconnected, the sole purpose of which seem to be to show the players’ technical prowess? I’ve long maintained that being a good musician does not necessarily correspond with being a good songwriter, and thee London trio reinforce this with every bar. Musicianship should at some point translate to the creation of music, beyond a showcase of technical ability.

And then there’s the presentation. With bearded hipsters Matt Calvert and Tom Robertson standing behind a bank of synths and looking rather self-satisfied (the former flailing at a guitar and paying less attention to his keyboard and laptop), I can’t help but be reminded of the line in hipster-bashing anthem ‘Being a Dickhead is Cool’ by Reuben Dangoor: ‘I play synth / we all play synths’. Granted, the drummer doesn’t play synth, and I can’t tell if he’s wearing loafers with no socks, but he’s a bearded hipster too.


Three Trapped Tigers

Watching these guys rapidly disappear up their own anuses, my issues are twofold, and do extend beyond grousing about trendy tossbags making music for trendy tossbags: there really is nothing to get a handle on here. There’s no emotional heft, there’s no sense of trajectory or evolution to the songs. It isn’t that I demand emotional depth from every band: that would be unreasonable. Variety is the spice of life, and fun is important. Only this isn’t fun. They don’t conjure a mood, because no one section last long enough to conjure anything other than dizziness. Three Trapped Tigers communicate nothing, beyond a sense of their own self-importance, which hinges exclusively on the fact they can play their instruments extremely well. And I’m not going to deny that they can, because to do so would be patently absurd. But how do you connect with that, what is there to relate to?

The second is the sense of superiority: if you don’t get this and love it, you’re just not smart enough, maaan. But people respond to tunes, and they respond to art that speaks to them in some way. Three Trapped Tigers don’t speak on any level, and seem to think they’re above tunes. They’re wrong, and being a dickhead is not cool.