Archive for April, 2016

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.

https://player.vimeo.com/video/161043546

TRANSCENDENCE 115 from Lia on Vimeo.

 

Three Body

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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.

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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.

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Stereoscope

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.

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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.

 

End Of Mirrors is the forthcoming full length from Oakland-based dark punk conjurors Alaric. Set for global release on May 6th on CD, vinyl, and digitally via Neurot Recordings, and on cassette via Sentient Ruin Laboratories.  The record, captured and mixed by Skot Brown at Kempton House Studios, provides an emotional and deeply physical journey through inky, blackened sonic murk, devoid of all hope. Oppressive, gloomy, and epically grandiose, each of the seven psalms comprising End Of Mirrors is at once beautiful and unsettling, and as a precursor to its release, you can now hear the track ‘Mirrors’ here:

Ritual Productions – 6th May 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

PYR is the third album by sludgelords Ghold, and the press release promises an album ‘towering with a sonic thickness, frantic dizzying energy and shattering immediacy, penetrated by despondent howls and an uncompromising slice of remorselessness’. Christ. So it’s heavy, then?

You could say that. It begins with a slow throb, a low, deep bass tone that borders on ambience and lurks on the peripheries of awareness. Off course, you know it’s going to come in heavy at some point, but the suspense… The release is glorious. A throbbing beast of a riff ploughs in, the bass dominant, the occasional vocals barely audible in the landslide of sludge. After the 11-minute monolithic beast that is the first track, ‘Collusion with Traitors’, ‘Blud’ piledrives in with a squalling frenzy that’s more Fudge Tunnel than Sunn O))) and clocks in at an uncharacteristically concise five minutes.

‘CCXX’ brings more weight and overloading riffs with crushing bass to the fore, but it’s the 21-minute ‘Despert Thrang’ which dominates the album in every way. It’s practically an album in its own right. Again, it’d all about the build, about the pacing. Gradually, a tempest rises from not a whisper but a downturned, growl. Blasts of percussion and powerchords blast in, haltingly, threatening to break but holding back until finally, the levee breaks and the riff powers forth. What else is there to do buy clench your fists, mouth ‘fuck yes’ and get down? It’s got some serious heft, and evolves over the course of its epic span, finally culminating in a blitzkrieg of noise.

While this is very much an album made for vinyl – of the kind that you want to play rather than stick on your wall as some kind of hip-kid statement, the CD does offer a bonus cut in the shape of ;’Something of Her Old Fire’, a gnarly bass-driven grind that trudges its way mercilessly to a final climax.

For all the big distortion and emphasis on the bottom end, not to mention the relentless churn that defines the album, there is texture, and in terms of tempo changes and dynamic, PYR has considerable range. And yes, it’s devastatingly heavy.

 

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Ghold Online

Field Records – 17th April 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

Karhide is Tim Waterfield, whose biography notes that he’s been programming beats for as long as DJ Shadow, but where Josh Davis came from a background of hip hop culture and breakbeats, Tim’s electronic upbringing in the East Midlands was through the industrial-strength beats of Godflesh and Frontline Assembly.

Formerly of ‘Big Black-but-one-louder’ Nottingham duo Ann Arbor, he throws all his past experience onto a choppy, grindy, angular racket on this two-track single release.

It’s a squalling treble-orientated racket with infinite twists and turns, a gnarly hybrid of Shellac and Truman’s Water and Jacob’s Mouse and Oils Seed |Rate and Arsenal, driven by the piston-pumping relentless thump of drum machine rhythms in the vein of Big Black. It’s abrasive, harsh and sinewy. And yes, it’s awesome.

 

Karhide

Ici d’ailleurs… IDA102 4th March 2016

James Wells

Taking only half of a well-known phrase by way of a title, The Calm Before carries an implicit connotation of incompleteness, something unfinished, abridged. While there’s nothing remotely sketchy or half-formed about the six tracks on this album, their sparse, spare and elegant folk qualities do subscribe to a certain degree of minimalism.

As Third Eye Foundation, Elliott singlehandedly redefined the parameters of drum ‘n’ bass, while his solo work is broadly categorised as dark folk. The Calm Before isn’t really so dark, and doesn’t have the same sombrenesss of, say, Drinking Songs.

The simple acoustic instrumental piece, ‘A Beginning’, which appropriately introduces the album, has a lilting, lullaby quality, which drifts into the 14-minute title track. Elliott croons gently, quietly, calmly, the melody ascends and descends. Its simplicity is its strength, and the mood is at once uplifting and wistful.

‘I Only Wanted to Give You Everything’ finds Elliott in a darker place, a delicately picked guitar line reminiscent of early Leonard Cohen providing the backdrop to his Thom Yorke-like mumblings, before shuffling beats creep in and gradually swell while widescreen strings swoop in and build to a crescendo of abject rejection as he repeats ‘but you don’t love me…’ over and over.

There’s a downtempo Latin flavour to ‘Wings & Crown’, which demonstrates almost rockist tendencies, before the final track, ‘The Allegory of the Cave’ offers some light at the end of the tunnel as soft ambient notes drift over distant beats and piano and acoustic guitar skip lightly towards hope.

https://player.vimeo.com/video/153519419

Matt Elliott – The Calm Before (teaser) from Ici D’Ailleurs… on Vimeo.

Matt Elliott - Calm Before

http://www.thirdeyefoundation.com/