Archive for July, 2016

15th July 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

Raging Speedhorn, with a name that was always guaranteed to see them eternally shunned by the mainstream and mass media (and a sound to match), seem to have been around forever. Emerging around the turn of the millennium in the tidal wave of nu-metal, they never really conformed to any genre stereotypes. Abrasive, aggressive and in-yer-face, the chances are they wouldn’t have been at the top of the list for one of the class of 2000 acts you’d have marked out as still being a going concern in 2016. And yet, here they are, one of those bands who won’t go away or die quietly. This is a good thing: after all, why should they? In fact, following their 2008 split and 2014 reformation, they’re as big and nasty and full of bile as ever, and after some heavy touring and some big festival appearances, including Sonosphere, Bloodstock and Damnation, they’re throwing down their first album in nine years. It’s also their first release to feature the first to feature original vocalist Frank Regan since 2005’s How the Great Have Fallen.

It’s got the backing of the fans: they funded it via PledgeMusic, and the band have justified their faith with an album that, however you look at it – or listen to it, which is what it’s designed for – absolutely slays. The density of the guitars is a defining element of the throbbing, chugging riffage which dominates the ten tracks. And the twin vocal assault is utterly ferocious.

If the cover art seems to suggest they’ve gone all mystical shit, well, you’d be half right: ‘Dogshit Blues’ and ‘Shit Outta Luck’ cover the excrement side of things, if not the mystical, and if the two lengthier workouts (‘Ten of Swords’ and ‘Unleash the Serpent’, both of which clock in well past the six-minute mark) hint at a more prog-influenced twist, it’s the kind of progressive metal in the vein of Neurosis, mingled with Sabbath-esque riffs filtered through the sludgy stylings of Melvins.

In the main, Lost Ritual is uptempo and sharply focused, with the snarling ‘Motorhead’ and pulverising ‘Dogshit Blues’ exploding with fury and ‘Comin’ Home’ a gnarly, brawling bastard of a song. It’s one hell of a comeback, and a purebred monster of an album.

 

 

Lost Ritual Artwork

Interstellar Records – INT039

Christopher Nosnibor

Perhaps it’s because I’m not a speaker of German that I find the language so fascinating. In particular, the way compound words create long strings of letters which evoke phlegm. The album’s title and the titles of the two tracks, ‘Ereignishorizont’ and ‘Zustandhorizont’ translate as ‘Event-Horizon’ and ‘State-Horizon’ respectively, according to the press release (penned by a fellow based in Berlin and whose translation I trust), and they stand as megalithic sonic sculptures, forged using sounds conjured from 300-year-old organs. Hose are church organs, of course – an instrument which has been a longstanding fascination for Stefan Fraunberger. He has devoted considerable time to travelling extensively through Transylvania and exploring abandoned churches in such of disused organs and capturing their sounds.

Transylvania contains a number of small villages, which have seen the majority of their population lost to migration following the fall of communism, leaving the fortress churches, built during the Ottoman Wars, abandoned, vacant and crumbling.

It’s perhaps because of these conditions that the organs which feature on this album’s two long-form tracks sound worn, rusted dilapidated forlorn. Conventionally, the organ yields a sound that is vast, bold, empowering, a sound which reaches to the skies and beyond, which fills the heart, the soul and the lungs, and which is rousing, and which is ultimately uplifting, spiritual.

But rather than the grand surges of sound commonly associated with church organs, Fraunberger’s compositions are delicate, gentle, long, reedy sighs which trill and quaver. Sad wheezes groan limply, a forlorn puff of a punctured bellows. The sounds cautiously teeter together, bend, hum and drone, ephemeral moments of accord and discord move seemingly at random. Gentle glides slide into cacophonous ruptures, key changes and chords disregarded.

The variety of tonalities and textures, atmospheres and moods is remarkable, and Fraunburger’s approach to transitions between these is ceaselessly inventive, with sudden changes bringing drama and more subtle shifts proving more calm and sedate. Impressively, the two pieces were recorded in single takes and are released here with no edits whatsoever, although the double vinyl release sees each track split into two pieces.

Given that the organ is, conventionally, a mighty and powerful instrument, to hear such dilapidated cases, puffing and droning creaking and fatigued, is strange and sad. The off-kilter and anticlimactic crescendos, the off-key climaxes and underpowered upsurges reveal a very different side of an instrument that carries undeniable connotations of a transcendental connection. And so what this album conveys, on many levels is a sense of diminishment, revealing as it does the fragility and ultimate humanity of the instruments. The organs recorded here are no more immortal, immutable or otherwise godly than anything else made by human hands, and as such, they’re prone to the same forces of nature and of ageing as anything else.

Fraunberger considers his work to be a form of ‘sonic archaeology,’ and it’s a fitting description. These recordings are based on instruments long forgotten, excavated after decades of decay. The moss and ivy grow as the timbers split and the tiles fall from the roofs. Nature always wins, and time is the only unstoppable force.

 

 

Stefan Fraunberger - Wurmloch

Room40 – RM469 – 20th May 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

The liner notes describe Memory Fragments as ‘a collection of compositions from sonic fragments recombines, thinned, edited, rejected, re-listened to, improvised, forgotten, filtered, slowed, remembered, reworked, erased, detuned, undone, layered, cut, compressed, trashed, moved, accelerated, pasted, composed, played and exported – undergoing a slowly evolving transience and sedimentation to arrive at this fairly constant state.’ In other words, it’s a collage of fragments which have been utterly fucked about with and manipulated so as to render them unrecognisable. The notes also draw attention to the fact that as integral to the ‘finished’ work (and one must question when a work is the result of such a convoluted succession of processes, to what extent it can ever be truly considered finished) the process is, the listener cannot, and will never hear the process, and the process is something which the artist will only recall through the filter of memory.

These are extremely spacious compositions. To begin, a single note resonates…. And then silence. The notes are some twenty seconds apart. The listener becomes attentive to the silence. Gradually, subtly, but so quietly, the sounds build. The build, the delay… are these notes backwards, or is there extraneous noise loitering in the silence, which then becomes shrinking semi-silence? You listen. You need to listen. And then, to pause for thought. It’s not music to get down to, but to contemplate. It requires focus.

Elongated notes expand as they’re dragged and stretched across time and space. Heavy sounds hang and linger. The track titles are evocative rather than literal, cumbersome but descriptive. Again, some refer to the process, while others carry allusions to how either the artist feels or the sensation. ‘Built on Folds and Braids’ builds a densely-layered wall of tonalities, fizzing and hissing static tears through an ominous low-end and arrhythmic globular beats. ‘Sparseness Gave Way to Infinite’ carries the closest approximation of a tune, but it’s slowed to the point that the output is little more than a protracted groan. The thick, burr-edged electronic sawing of ‘Broadsided by Sudden Swells’ is a dank, fear-inducing sonic experience, bleak and weighty.

But with the seed of awareness sown, it’s impossible not to hear these sounds without returning to the process, and I found myself contemplating the original fragments, the source materials. Specifically, I wanted to unpick the recordings, to examine the ‘original’ Warnecke had done to them. But thinking backwards through the process only provides so much food for thought: as noted in the liner notes, the released version only represents a moment in time, a point at which the artist has deemed the material satisfactory for release. But where could the sounds be taken in future? Is this a ‘definitive’ version? What would the result have been had the project been continued? Such questions are of course unanswerable, but provide fodder to chew on while Memory Fragments unravel from the speakers to form a sonic cloud that’s almost impossible not to get lost in.

 

Pierce Warnecke - Memory Fragments

 

Piere Warnecke Online

Having already guaranteed themselves a slot in the AA best albums of 2016 list, Mayflower Madame are offering up a video to accompany the track ‘Upside Down (the death loop)’. The psych/goth act enlisted Norwegian art collective Born For Burning to direct the video: "We wanted to make the impression that the video consists of two different found tapes. Inspired by the gloominess of the song we sought to make the images of the video disturbing and shot with a lo-fi camera. Some key ideas were trafficking and crime scene footage, partly inspired by the movie Lilya 4-ever by Lukas Moodysson."

Watch the video here:

Christopher Nosnibor

Punk never died, and while many of the old garde got fat and bloated and / or faded into obscurity and insignificance, many of the artists who defined that short yet incendiary period thatredefined music for all time are still going srong and are as essential as ever. Others simply have too many classic songs to let go, and are still performing them with the same energy of 40 years ago. I’m basing that on footage I’ve seen from back in the day, of course, having only been born in 1975. But that means that the music of the punk era has been an integral part of the backdrop to my entire life, and its fair to say that the music of the last 40 years would have been very different and infinitely poorer without the historical rupture that was punk.

Rebellion Festival – running August 4th – 7th at the Winter Gardens in Backpool – clebrates all things punk, and the 2016 lineup is a belter. With 300 band across seven stages, it’s a packed-ot bill, but The Buzzcocks, The Damned and Stiff Little Fingers are obvious draws, each being legendary in their own right.

But then, the history of punk is packed with bands renowned for a single clasic album or a clutch of killer singles, and Slaughter and the Dogs, The Dickies and Anti Nowhere League are all intgral to the bigger picture of what made punk in the late 70s and early 80s.

Jello Biafra is a legend in his own right, while The Ruts stand as one of the most innovative acts to have emerged from the first wave of punk, not only incorporatin elements of reggae in their sound butfully embracing the dub sound later in their career. They’re also as good a live act as you’re likely to see / hear, anyplace, anytime, and new single ‘ Psychic Attack’ shows they’ve lost none of their edge.

Chuck in classic acts like Chelsea, Angelic Upstarts, the band painted on more leather jacets than anyone on the planet has had hot dinners The Exploited, Jilted John, GBH, not to mention Dag Nasty, Vice Squad Subhumans, UK Subs, Goldblade, The Membranes, TV Smith of Advrts fame, and The Dwarves and you’ve got the makings of a raucous, riotous and incredibly fun weekend in prospect.

 

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Tickets and more here.

Every email and every press release which accompanies every CD – or at least every other email and every other press release – promises the arrival of a staggeing new talent, a band offering explosive riffs or massive anthems. It doesn’t take long to become immune to the hyperbole, and the spial downwards from enthusiams to despair is a rapid one when every any brings more music than an etitorial team of fifty could even contemplate let alone physically listen to.

So why do we do it? Because even when a press release makes generic promises about a band, sometimes they’re actually worth the effort.  The email says that ‘London rockers Saints Patience share their retro-electro anthem debut single ‘Break Of Dawn’ out July 8th’ and the truth is it’s hard to muster a shrug. Whaddaya know? It’s actually a decent tune and hints at a band with some serious potential.

Hear it here:

 

Ernest Jenning Record Co/Khannibalism – 15th July 2016

Edward S. Robinson

Fans of William S. Burroughs rejoice! An album containing new recordings of classic material gets to see the light of day, only fractionally short of 20 years after it was recorded.

If my proclamation appears tinged with sarcasm, it’s only slightly so. I am as enthused as any Burroughs enthusiast over the release of Let Me Hang You. How could I fail to be excited in the face of new audio work from the seminal author? On his death in August 1997, Burroughs left an immense gap beyond literature. Often imitated and even more often referenced and invoked, no-one else could really write like Burroughs. Despite his imploring other writers to adopt the cut-up method in the 1960s, Burroughs’ work remained distinctive because it was produced by Burroughs. To write like Burroughs required Burroughs’ mind, and if history has proven anything, it’s that Burroughs was unique a one-off.

Because this is Burroughs, an author whose biography subject to the same intense scrutiny as his major texts, the origin and evolution of this album is worth quoting from the official press release here:

‘Shortly before his death in 1997, William S. Burroughs was recorded reading some of the most shocking yet outrageously funny sections of Naked Lunch, his powerful fever dream of a novel.’

It’s perhaps not the place to comment here on the extent to which this feels exploitative or like an exercise in recycling, not least of all because Burroughs spent his career recycling material and it’s clear from the now legendary spoken word performances he gave in the 1980s when promoting his final trilogy that he was keenly aware of the enduring appeal of Naked Lunch, the book to which he essentially owed is subsequent career. As such, recordings of selected highlights from his career-defining (if not necessarily definitive) novel seem to provide a fitting sign-off, and its’s a shame we have all had to wait so long for them to surface.

The press release renders the account that producer Hal Willner (who has worked with Lou Reed and Marianne Faithfull, and perhaps more significantly, worked on Allen Ginsberg’s The Lion For Real and two previous Burroughs albums in the shape of Dead City Radio (1990) and Spare Ass Annie and Other Stories with The Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy (1996) and Burroughs’ manager James Grauerholz also recruited a team of world class musicians including Grammy winning guitarist Bill Frisell, pianist/keyboard player Wayne Horvitz and violist Eyvind Kang to add a touch of their experimental genius over the course of several sessions. Given his avant-garde credentials, Kang was, I would say, a particularly inspired choice.

The blurb continues: “Subsequently abandoned, these recordings collected dust on a musty shelf as forgotten as a piece of rancid ectoplasm on a peepshow floor. However, in 2015 Willner re-examined this unfinished masterpiece and sought additional help from King Khan, the eccentric Canadian punk/soul frontman that he and Lou Reed had befriended in 2010 following an incendiary performance by his The King Khan & BBQ Show at Sydney Opera House as part of a Lou Reed/Laurie Anderson curated festival. Willner sent Khan the recordings and asked him to add his gris gris to this already extremely perverted gumbo.

Khan in turn contacted vocalist/composer M Lamar (creator of the Negrogothic manifesto and the identical twin brother of transgender actress Laverne Cox) and Australian psych/punk act The Frowning Clouds for help with contributions that further heightened the unsettling mood of Burroughs’ narration.’”

Here we see new strands of the Burroughs legend in the making, and to what extent the recordings were subsequently adjusted is unclear (and indeed anyone’s guess. Perhaps in another 20 years’ time we’ll hear the ‘unmixed’ version, a Burroughs equivalent of Let it Be stripped of all of its Phil Spector intrusions). In many ways, the extent of any alteration made later matters little. After all, as the author himself said in an interview in 1974:

The past only exists in some record of it. There are no facts. We don’t know how much of history is completely fiction… There’s no record this conversation ever took place or what was said, except what is [recorded]. If the recordings were lost, or they got near a magnet and were wiped out, there would be no recordings whatever. So what are the actual facts? What was actually said here? There are no actual facts.

So, it’s 2016. There is nothing here now but the recordings. And, it must be acknowledged, these recordings are exceptional. The clarity is striking particularly against classic albums like Call Me Burroughs.

Anyone who has heard Burroughs reading before will know what I mean when I refer to that voice. Delicately picked strings drift in before that voice starts up. As ever, familiar yet alien, dry and detached. Given how late in the author’s life the recordings were made, and given how frail he became in his later years (although given that he survived decades of heroin addiction and a triple heart bypass in 1991), what’s most striking about these recordings is just how strong Burroughs sounds. Of course, frailty is relative, and Burroughs clearly had the constitution not of a proverbial ox, but something beyond human or even biological in origin. And so what’s perhaps most striking ‘They call me The Exterminator,’ he croaks as the album’s opening line. And it feels like some kind of homecoming.

Evaluating an album of this type is incredibly difficult, particularly on account of the level of personal investment so many Burroughs fans – myself included – have in is work. By this, I mean that everyone has their own version of Burroughs and their own personal appreciation of Burroughs and his work. Better just stick to the facts here.

The musical backing to ‘Manhattan Serenade’ (AJ’s Annual Party?) Purple-assed baboon… climbs up a woman…runs up and down the bar) evokes the Joujouka players and the exotic mysticism of Tangiers, where much of the manuscript that would ultimately become Naked Lunch was written. But this is intertwined with chimes and dissonant industrial drones. Burroughs’ ability to adopt high-pitched ‘shrieking posh woman’ voice is magnificently incongruous, and very funny indeed.

As much as he’s renowned as a satirist, Burroughs’ skills as an entertaining and extremely humourous spoken-word performer are often overlooked. On Let Me Hang You, Burroughs demonstrates a keen sense of delivery and timing.

‘This you gotta hear…’ is how the begins ‘This You Gotta Hear’, and proceeds to spin a yarn about a boy who follows his father’s instructions to ‘get a piece of ass’ literally. Because while the mosaic-nature of Naked Lunch and the cut-up method which would become his signature in the 60s and inform his subsequent work position Burroughs as one of the greatest innovators in narrative form of the 20th Century, he was also a master storyteller. ‘son, here’s $20… go get a good piece of ass.’ Against a skewed, barren country backdrop, Burroughs delivered a typical routine – brief, pithy, fantastical and darkly funny, and with a bone-dry delivery.

‘Disciplinary Procedure’, one of the album’s longest tracks, is a passage which represents the kind of horrors that Burroughs’ reputation was based, an expletive-filled scatological explosion, with the refrain ‘shit on the floor’ echoing out over one of the most overtly ‘rock’ backings I’ve heard Burroughs’ voice put to, sounding musically more like 80s John Giorno Band than Burroughs. For all that, it works well, and provides contrast, not least of all against the haunting experimentalism of ‘Lief the Unlucky’, on which Burroughs recounts the character’s misfortunes with ass-fuckings and Sani flush enemas galore.

‘AJ’s Annual Party’ stands, along with the Talking Asshole as one of Burroughs’ definitive and most notorious routines. Presented here as ‘Let Me Hang You’, it’s unquestionably one of the album’s high points. Discordant guitar scrapes and dissonant noise accompany a collage of endless hangings, jockstracks, spurting cocks and jissom. There are numerous other recordings of key passages from Naked Lunch, including those gathered on Disc One of the Best of Giorno Poetry Systems four-CD box set and the triple-CD audiobook of Naked Lunch, but this one arguably has the edge and could yet stand as a definitive recording.

There’s more skewed blues / country behind ‘Clem Snide’, and while it may not be the type of musical backdrop most commonly associated with Burroughs, it does work, and in truth the idea of Burroughs set to jazz or industrial tape loops has always seemed like a forced history. And so, in context… why not? Wouldn’t you?

 

Burroughs - Let Me Hang You

Makkum Records – MR18 – 11th June 2016

James Wells

Having existed in a number of variant forms since formation their formation over a decade ago, Kanipchen-Fit is currently Gloria (vocals), Empee Holwerda (guitar and vocals) and Frank Sloos (drums). Unfit For these Times Forever marks an evolution from their 2010 debut, not least of all because it features live drumming, which brings a very different dynamic to the sound.

But before we get to the sound, Unfit for These Times Forever is released on CD, DL and double 7”, and the physical formats come in a gatefold sleeve with a pop-up centre. It’s novel, and it’s also rather cool. The music’s pretty cool, too. Showcasing a dark post-punk infused indie rock sound. ‘How to Display a Flag’ is choppy, urgent, and is representative of the trio’s hefty sound with echoes of Husker Du and Gang of Four, combining ragged urgency and a funk edge. Holwerda’s guitar sounds like bass and guitar simultaneously.

Lyrical abstractions and oddness abounds, but these aspects are tempered by a personal and social sensibility. But then, Gloria’s background is in poetry and spoken word, and her background lies with New York performance collective Pussy Poets. ‘Residue’ finds Gloria unravelling her relationship with possessions that connect to people and the past in the context of peoples’ perceptions of others. ‘I wore my father’s jacket, it itched / I scratched, I got a rash / So I stopped wearing it,’ she recounts. There’s genius in the simplicity and the humanity of the words. Indeed, more than anything, what radiates from Unfit for These Times Forever is a sense of sincere humanity, and it’s paired with a quirky humour which isn’t only charming, but ensures the songs never move into the realm of po-faced politicking. Slanting guitars skew and jangle through the angular pop stylings of ‘Opening Ceremony’, and there’s even a hint of XTC and Pavement about closer ‘Unfit’, rounding off a record that balances unique and quirky with accessibility and depth. It has immediacy, but more than enough substance to give it durability. In other words, it’s got the lot, and is one of these rare beasts which functions – and succeeds – on every level.

Kanipchen-Fit  - Unfit

 

 

Kanipchen-Fit Online

Venn Records – 1st July 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

Offering an exhilarating blend of grunge and punk (what’s that then? Gunk? Punge?), Birmingham trio Youth Man have done well for themselves on the live circuit in the past couple of years (they seriously killed I at Live at Leeds in 2014, with Kaila Whyte (Guitar and vocals) proving she’s a strong performer and a force to be reckoned with. Now they look set to consolidate that graft with a new EP in the shape of five-tracker Wax, on which they’ve striven to capture the energy of their live shows. And they succeed, too. This EP serves up a raw, visceral noise, a calamitous racket of guitars played faster than fingers can change frets, jagged shards of choppy treble slamming against frantic basslines and crashing drums. It’s raw and passionate, and as much as this is a raised middle finger in musical form, it’s a record that screams urgency rather than apathy.

Whyte hollers and screams in a way that reminds us just how refreshing Hole and L7 were when they first emerged on the scene. The ‘production,’ such as it is, is in your face, uncompromising – just like the music itself. It’s not pretty, but it’s real.

Youth-Man-Wax-Venn-Records