Archive for May, 2016

Lado ABC – Lado A/18 – 21st March 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

It’s all about the retro vibe. And it’s all about messing with the listener’s brain. Described as ‘an attempt at finding the perfect balance between beautiful and unbearable music,’ the Polish duo’s latest effort, Żony w pracy (trans. Wives at Work) Bringing a carnival of analogue synths to the party in a celebration of the machines of the East (Korg) and the West (Moog). Unfortunately, Żony w pracy often fails to find the balance it seeks, and ends up sounding more like a deranged duel than the homage it’s intended as.

Beneath a throbbing bass track, the time signatures of the percussion on the albums first track, ‘Brasilia’, are ever-changing, slipping the groove with to disorientating results. The track bubbles along nicely, mellow, jazzy easy-listening synth muzak until it sinks underwater into a muffles murk. So far, so middling analogue experimentalism, the likes of which has been done countless times before. It’s fun, it’s clever, but it’s awkward and twisty and difficult to really get into the groove.

But then things go crazy on ‘Torreador Janusz’, a frenzy of synths stab and loop and warp deliriously, descending into a riot of bleeps and squiggles flying in all directions. Wibbly, wobbly and whimsical, it’s smart and techy. But like so much music that’s smart and techy, regardless of genre – from jazz through avant-garde and experimental to post-rock, tech metal and prog rock – the mastery of instruments and a penchant for messing about with convention and form amounts to so much showing off. Yes, you can play – but how about some tunes? Still, XLMP manage to stay on the right side of the precipice that is unlistenable smug muso wank with just enough attention – or concession – to listenability.

‘Kosmos, Teil 1’ is perhaps the album’s most linear piece, a soaring, surging rush of synths in space that hints at Krautrock leanings. There are undeniably rather hipsterish overtones to it all, but it’s well executed and there is a sense that there’s an element of knowingness and self-aware humour at play here: Piotr Zabrodzki and Macio Moretti state that Żony w pracy is an homage to the real working wives, Anna and Zofia, and write, ‘Żony w pracy apart from being an homage to the homages, also, or even above all, ask one question of the “fundamental” sort – “How are you gonna play that live?”.

I’m not going to make any public judgement based on their latest promotional shot, and will keep my attention on the album itself and so, I will say this: guys – maybe you should listen to your wives. Żony w pracy has an indisputable novelty value, and does offer moments of fun, but how enduring its appeal is, well, that’s something that seems less certain.

 

XLMP

 

LXMP on Bandcamp

Kranky will be releasing the alluring debut full length, Precious Systems, from New Orleans trio MJ Guider (led by Melissa Guion) on July 15th.

An ambitious ambient-based record which gazes out in to subterranean pop and sunset electronics, Precious Systems contains great emotional and sonic depth and is sure to make a lasting impression on devotees of subtle grandeur.

Surreal, inspired and intriguing, the washes of bass and selective, expertly employed mixing techniques of Guion are what defines this first foray in to the album format, having previously impressed with the Green Plastic extended play cassette in early 2014 on the Constellation Tatsu label. These are songs that exist in a wholly contained sound environment, minimal yet lush, spare yet saturated, and most importantly, entirely compelling.

Stream ‘Lit Negative’ here:

EPSON MFP image

17th May 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

The ever-awesome Sly & the Family Drone return with another puntastically-labelled slab of awkward noise. Sticking to their staunchly DIY ethos (although, and I mean it as no criticism when I say that this may well be a choice but their options are likely to be limited), this latest effort is released on translucent green C33 cassette in a limited edition of 50, and digitally.

Apart from being a killer live band, their offbeat humour, not least of all as manifested in the referential titles have always been an integral part of their appeal (at least to me): 95 Minutes Over England documented their first tour, and all three of the recorded sets lasted longer than Suicide’s notorious show, and the band are willing participants in the ensuing percussion-led riots.

Understanding Appetite in any context of chronology is rather difficult, given that it originally appeared as a digital-only release a few months before their colossal full-length album proper, Unnecessary Woe. It’s not so much a companion piece but a contemporaneous standalone counterpart. But the main thing is that it contains a whole lot of dark noise.

While each of their other releases features at least one long-form sprawler, Appetite For Tax Deduction is an unusually concise work, with none of the four tracks crossing the ten-minute mark. Still, the first track, ‘Favour for a Favour’, is a dank, rumbling semi-ambient piece. Heavy, shuddering low-end sounds and growling vibrations sound like subterranean earthworks. It bleeds into ‘Wine into Water’. A mangling mesh of distortion and a continuous bottom-end drone that tears the air provides the gut-churning backdrop to extraneous electronic noise, shrieks of feedback and indecipherable, distorted to fuck vocals. It’s pretty sinister stuff, and its claustrophobic intensity is a world away from the cathartic and communal live performances.

With a title worthy of That Fucking Tank, ‘Simply Red Stripe’ is a classic example of the Sly humour. Its nine-minute sonic assault is built around an insistent, low-end throbbing, dense and immersive. Tonal shifts trick the ears into thinking there are fleeting moments of melody submerged in the hum, only for it to become apparent that it’s little more than a rising wail of feedback and the fizz of melting electrodes. It’s by far the most rhythmic track of the set, and, with nods to Suicide, Throbbing Gristle and Whitehouse, it’s magnificently uneasy listening.

‘Your Mum’s a Provincial Rock Club’ features what appear to be horse’s hooves – the only overt percussion to feature on Appetite – beneath a cement-mixer mess of collages sound, booming bass blasts and fractured tweets and flutters of treble spiralling in a vortex of echo and infinite delay, building and building until the sound coalesces into a vast tidal wae of white noise that ultimately swallows itself.

 

Sly and the Family Drone - Appetite

Taken from the new EP “Rainmaking”, out May 27th via Denizen Recordings, ‘Crook’ was largely inspired by a strange situation that Andrew (the drummer) found himself in a few years ago, where he and his parents saw an assumed criminal being chased by police officers in central London.

According to Andy, the guy mocked him directly as he ran by for not having the courage to step in, which I found deeply funny – to literally be in the act of fleeing from the police, but still make time to critique other people’s moral fibre is quite an achievement. So, with that as a starting point, we started writing with the intention of exploring cowardice, fight or flight instinct, mob psychology; things like that. What came out was probably more of a self-evaluation than anything else.

Stream it here:

 

Field Studies

Someone Good – RMSG014 – 18th March 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

Lawrence English, sound sculptor and the man behind the Room40 label and subdivision Someone Good, has a god ear and a keen sense of what makes for interesting and unusual listening. The liner notes to Mi Wo centre around English’s recollection of his discovery of Ytamo while touring Japan in the early to mid 00s. Specifically, he writes of how the first time he saw her perform, he was completely enthralled by the unusual and soothing music Ytamo conjured.

Listening to Mi Wo, it’s immediately apparent what he found to captivating. There’s an otherworldly quality to the music, and the sounds emerge and fade into one another as if created by some invisible force.

Ytamo’s style is built on diversity and eclecticism, while simultaneously, it’s about understatement and subtlety. The methods by which she draws together seemingly disparate elements transcends not only the boundaries of genre, but also culture and time. Despite its overt modernity, there are motifs and atmospheres which hint at traditionally-rooted music with ancient origins.

Laid back jazz vibes filter through and gradually evaporate in the sparse digital washes of ‘Autopoiesis’, and jaunty bleeps and whistles flicker lightly through trilling easy listening tones and mellow, bumping beats. The familiar blurs into the unfamiliar, with unexpected resonances. Subtly powerful, Mi Wo is a work of musical alchemy.

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Ytamo on Soundcloud

Inter-Dimensional Recordings – 1st June 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

The greatest pressure for any emerging artist must surely to be to get product out onto the market: something to satisfy new fans and entice prospective fans. The urge to splurge material, whether ready or not, in order to strike while the iron is hot is more than most can resist. Nathassia is indeed a rare artist, and, it would seem, something of a perfectionist. Recording as Nathassia Devine, she had a 13-track debut album recorded, packaged, and in circulation to the press, finding favourable reviews (including one from me). That was 2014. The album was shelved. It’s now 2016, and a lot has happened. Having decided to pull back and regroup, restyling herself as Nathassia, she’s spent the intervening time reshaping her sound and building an enviable audience at home and internationally. Finally, she’s satisfied, and the end product is Light of the World. And yes, it was worth the wait.

Cut back to 10 tracks, only four songs from the original album remain. Having honed her songs with the assistance of Bruce Elliott-Smith, Light of the World finds Nathassia exploring cross-cultural music evermore broadly and evermore confidently. Half Dutch, half Indian and residing in London, Light of the World is very much a 21st century hybrid of these very different cultural backgrounds. It’s an electronic album, but not one that confirms to any one strain or style, leaping hither and thither and picking, magpie-like, from a host of musical strands.

Nathassia’s striking appearance is the perfect visual representation of her sound, and embodies her mixed roots, as East meets West in a perfect amalgamation. But this is no mere marketing schtick: she is very much a self-made package, and one which has immense market appeal both visually and sonically.

Contrast and juxtaposition lie at the heart of Light of the World, but rather than treat this yin and yang as conflicting elements, she embraces them and draws them together to intriguing effect. The sultry ‘Egypt’s Queen’ finds Nathassia rolling her r’s and accentuating the eastern influences of her music. Single cut ‘Turning Headz’ is more hard-edged and showcases a driving, drum ‘n’ bass orientated sound, something which wasn’t present on the original album, and similarly, ‘Parasite’ is driven by a grating bass and insistent, industrial-edged drumming. Melding insistent beats with snarling techno, it’s dark in hue, and paired with Nathassia’s keeningly exotic vocal delivery that’s tinged with a hint of venom, it’s a powerful piece.

Elsewhere, the title track spins out an expansive, cosmic vibe, highlighting the diversity of the material on Light of the World. It certainly isn’t an album that works to a formula, and stands as a truly multidimensional piece. It helps, of course, that the range is matched by the quality of the material.

Light of the World is an album which not only reveals Nathassia to be a fascinating, chameleon-like songsmith and performer, but a distinctive and even unique voice.

 

light-of-the-world-album-artwork

Nathassia Online