Archive for August, 2016

Guide to Saints – SNT016

Christopher Nosnibor

The opposite of contrast. Absolute sameness. White on White, as a concept in visual terms, suggests invisibility. A white object in a white room, or a white brushstroke on a white background is ultimately camouflaged. However Dulux may sell it, white is an absolute. How does this translate to a sonic palette? An Infinity Room (AIR) is the vehicle – or durational sound project, if you will, of Australian artist and composer Julian Day. White on White collects three pieces

‘Intercessions’ takes the form of a continuous mid-range drone. It has a duration of 45 minutes. Three quarters of an hour. Listen to the tone… marvel at how it remains the same. Or does it? Just as the mind struggles to process images passed by the eyes when starring at a vast expanse of nothing – of white on white, or the imperceptible changes in colour as paint dries – so the messages from the ear become subject to the introduction of aural mirages when presented with a single, unchanging sound, or a sound which changes so gradually as to effect unchangingness. The pitch does, indeed, change, and additional layers are gradually phased in to bring new depths and dimensions, as skipping back and forth along the track at random renders clearly apparent. But being so, so gradual and so, so slight and subtle, the changes are imperceptible in real-time. The album’s shortest track at a mere seven minutes, ‘Rhetoric’ is also the most overtly rhythmic, the intertwining piped notes interweaving to render a dainty melody. But it’s more about the interplay between the notes and the way they interact in the air and in the ear than about making musical entertainment.

‘Void’, here in an edited form and with a running time cut down to twenty-seven minutes pulses gently for is duration a single note, throbbing for an eternity eventually graduates to a widescreen wavering drone, the texture and tone of which slowly changes, but again, slowly, so slowly.

White on White is an album which is likely to test the patience, and equally, the mental equilibrium. Focus on it too closely, it becomes tedious and frustrating. Focus on it too little, and it’s hard to appreciate its infinitely subtle progressions. Find that interzone and you’re in a place where its presentation of nuance upon nuance makes sense. Don’t force it, embrace it.

https://player.vimeo.com/video/102786092

 

Infiniy Room - White on White

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Wrong Way Records – 16th September 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

Described as ‘full to the brim with blood, sweat and tears and intertwined intricacies of the history of the known world’, Byzantium is the debut album from Welsh trio Lights That Change. The title itself brings with it immediate suggestions of ancient history and classical antiquary, while the band’s name is a fair representation of their shimmering, lustrous sound. These are not songs concerned with the everyday or the contemporary, but with timeless themes. Laced with an abundance references and invocations of classical deities and elements and intangibles woven into the lyrical fabric, the songs transcend the lives of mere mortals, conjuring ancient mysticism and long-lost myths and legends. 

It’s an album that doesn’t readily fit into any direct lineage: it’s certainly not in the folk style, traditional or contemporary, and nor is it strictly shoegaze or dreampop, but draws on aspects of them all. The execution is exquisite. The delicate arrangements and washes of reverb which surround Mandy Clare’s magical vocals imbue the album’s opening song, ‘Again’ with an air of mysticism. The guitars remain at a respectful distance, interweaving detailed latticeworks of texture.

‘Dea’ (on which OMD’s Mal Homes, who lends his drum programming skills to the album receives a co-writing credit) is fragile and sparse, with the layers of vocal harmony hinting not only at Slowdive but also Ultraviolet-era All About Eve. There are very few acts which could pen a song which calls to Greek goddess Athena and also quotes from the Latin hymn ‘Dies Irae’ without sounding affected or pretentious: this is intelligent, artful songwriting, evocative and contemplative.

If ‘Voices’ offers a more robust sound, driven by a strolling bass and rolling rhythm, it’s still characterised by fractal guitars that flicker and turn. Elsewhere ‘Golden City’ tells of fallen empires and builds drama and majesty over a Curesque bassline, while ‘Union (For Louise)’ is a perfect dreamy pop song which radiates a sense of joy.

Balancing delicacy and depth, Byzantium is an album not shackled by earth or time, floating in the stratosphere.

 

Lights That Change - Byzantium

SOFA551 – 22nd July 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

This two-track album by a collective who suggest they ‘might be your favourite new experimental psych-impro-folk band’ is housed in a spectacularly nondescript cover. Nondescript, yet also bizarre: a pair of cabins, on wheels as though for towing, at a garage in the middle of nowhere. Rugged mountains lie in the back. What does it mean? What is it saying? The absence of any people or any sense of movement is also a factor in what makes this image so striking in its plainness. There’s a sterility about it.

This is carried through into the title of both the album and the tracks. ‘The Animal Enters and Traverses the Light’ has an air of clinicality. The sounds themselves are more of nature, yet somehow in keeping: the jangling chimes and gently thrumming rhythms would sit comfortably on the soundtrack of a nature documentary. However, as the track progresses, picked guitar strings begin to build in volume and urgency, achieving a sustained multitonal throb by the twenty-four minute track’s mid-point which gradually gives way to deliberate low-end drone, beneath which crackling burrs rattle a twitchy percussion. The musicality of a strummed acoustic guitar, however irregular and however dissonant the chords, sounds almost incongruous against the rumble which slowly fades. The shifts are gradual but definite.

‘The Human Volunteers Were Kept in Isolation’ begins subtly, a single hum, before picked guitar notes and harmonics creep in by stealth. Gentle acoustic washes glide over supple, delicate percussion.  It’s pensive and understated, and creates an atmosphere that’s hard to define, and a sound more focused on texture and tone than rigid structures. There is melody, but it’s subtle, and there is movement, but it’s not necessarily overtly linear. But to return to the question posed earlier, what does it mean?  More interesting than the cover art is the fact that this superficially conventional line-up of two guitars, bass and drums, creates such unconventional music. But this is the work of David Stackenäs, Kim Myhr, Joe Williamson and Tony Buck of the widely-acclaimed The Necks. It was never going to be straightforward. And does there have to be an extrinsic meaning? Sometimes, the exploration of sound is enough.

Circadia – Advances and Delays

Too Pure Singles Club – 30th September 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

I’ve been saying that Post War Glamour Girls are one of the best bands to have emerged from anywhere ever since I first clapped ears on their debut single, and never once have they disappointed since, thus justifying my opinion. Actually, it’s not an opinion, it’s a fact. And here they are on a split 7” in the mega-cool Too Pure Singles Club series on a Leeds showcase edition shared with Menace Beach. The occasion? The 45th anniversary of legendary Leeds record store, Jumbo Records. I’ve spent a fair few quid in there over the years, and the fact they’re still trading is a testament to the fact it’s as great an independent music outlet as you’ll find.

The two tracks couldn’t be more different: Menace Beach’s ‘Hex Breaker’ is a hazy, fuzzed-out lo-fi drifter, a mid-tempo slow-burner that sounds like it was recorded on a condenser mic. With laid-back vocal and hefty, plodding riff, it’s something of a departure from their conventional feedback-drenched motoric slacker indie. That said, it’s still a brilliantly loose performance and boasts an effortless melody that’s breezy and accessible. File alongside your early Pavement EPs if you do that ‘by style’ thing. If, like me, you file your vinyl alphabetically, you might struggle with this.

Despite what the title might suggest, the PWGG offering on the other side, ‘Welfare by Prozac’ is anything but sedated, a characteristically tense and angular burst of post-punk that’s over and done with in a fraction over three minutes. It packs so much in, too: a nagging, jangling rhythm guitar is cut by a howling angular lead. A stonking bassline and thumping tom-led drum track meld together to provide the backdrop to the contrasting vocals: Alice’s nonchalant monotone is the perfect counterpoint to James’ wired hectoring, calling to mind the best of Brix era Fall and then adding a twisted pop sensibility.

This is a perfect example of why 7” singles are cool, and why not only records, but the split single endure. A split MP3 release just doesn’t cut it.

 

PWGG Menace Beach Split

Supernatural Cat – 16th September 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

Christ, what is this? 15 seconds in and already I can feel my brain bending and shaking as it struggles to compute all that’s going on. A pile of CDs slide off the shelf overhead and narrowly miss my face. Ok, so my office is a tip, a collapsed cascade of books and CDs that resembles an attempt to recreate the vibe of Francis Bacon’s studio and JG Ballard’s writing room, but this is pretty much unprecedented. Disc avalanches are usually provoked by my trying to extract one from one precarious pile or another. But then, GoRgO is pretty unprecedented (although I suspect slightly less so for seasoned fans of the band).

The press release describes GoRgO, the latest album from Lin (bass), Lan (bass) and Lon (drums) aka MoRkObOt as a work of ‘low-end noise rock origami’. And is it ever? You wouldn’t put this explosive racket in the drum ‘n’ bass section of any record shop (assuming, for a moment, that record shops still existed in the broader society), but breaking it down to its component parts, that’s exactly what it is. And with one drummer and two bassists, it’s drum with a whole lotta bass. Bass that sounds like guitar. Bass that sounds like the grinding of rock on rock. Bass that sounds like lorries in collision. Bass that sounds like machine-gun fire. Bass that will fuck with your innards and your equilibrium. Bass that sounds like the gnarliest metal riffs. Bass that sounds like the emptying of bowels after eight pints and a vindaloo. Bass that sounds like nothing on earth.

But no, while it’s all about the bass, there is treble. I mean, no treble would be utterly ridiculous. Imagine what that would actually sound like! The range of frequencies MoRkObOt wring from all that bass is astounding. And it’s not just noise: this is highly technical and innovative. Yes, it’ hits like a tornado and is absolutely dizzying, but there’s a lot to hear and a lot to appreciate. There are flickers of melody, groove and a lot of dynamics. There’s a lot to hear and a lot to take in.

The drumming’s pretty impressive, too.

morkobot-gorgo

Playdate Records – PDCD008 – 26th August 2016

James Wells

By The Waterhole is the musical vehicle of Eva Pfitzenmaier. And yes, you’ve guessed it: two is her second album under this moniker, and continues her exploration of loop-based improvisational music and poetry.

Instrumentally, two is comparatively sparse for the most part, and centres primarily around soft, natural or acoustic sounds. But she’s not averse to digital technology or synths, and sparse does not mean lacking in texture or variety, and Pfitzenmaier uses the instruments at her disposal to striking effect. Piano and xylophone pair with insistent rhythms and looping, piping, breathy backing vocals. But then again, as on ‘Rolling’, she unleashes some quite animalistic howls and shrieks as a bubbling bass builds; elsewhere, hectic tribal beats thump against many-layered vocals.

With its eerie sonic accompaniment, the spoken-word piece ‘I Fall’ conjures a sense of dislocation as she repeats the contrary refrain ‘I fall because I try so hard not to.’ Naïve rhymes like ‘I want to scratch my knees and be stung by bees’ acquire a dark slant when she lists other desires to self-damage and the words are juxtaposed with bulbous beats and wonky piano. Two is certainly a mixed set, ranging from the delicately melodic to the awkward, disjointed and uncanny, but it’s never for a moment anything less than engaging.

by-the-waterhole-two

Veals & Geeks Records – 017 / Les Disques en Rotin Reunis – LDRR#056– 16th August 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

Oh yes. Now this is something. How have I not been listening to these guys for all the years they’ve been in existence? A three-way collision between Arnaud Maguet, Vincent Epplay and Fred Bigot, they promise ‘a majestic blend of Krautrock, Thomas Pynchon, Pataphysics, a rhythm box, abuse and Persephone. On Drei Dre Drei, they deliver all of this and a whole lot more.

‘Prima Belladonna’ raises the curtain with a grand, swirling flourish, a galactically vast slow-turning cyclone of sound. From it emerges the album’s first motoric masterpiece in the form of the relentless thump of ‘Disappear in Amerika’. With a drum machine sound lifted straight outta 1978 and a drawling vocal, it’s like Kraftwerk fronted by Mark E Smith covering Cabaret Voltaire’s ‘Nag Nag Nag’ – only even better and more audacious in its locked-down groove and swirling synth drones. And it gets better still: there’s a Dr Mix and the Remix vibe about the dubby ‘New Diamond day’, as whipcracking synthetic snare drum sounds reverberate in a sea of echo in the company of woozy drones and a slow, swampy, spaced-out bass.

The minimalist robotic groove builds a piston-pumping pace on ‘Je Plaure une Lotte’, the dalek-like vocal bringing another element of dislocation to the already disjointed party. The album’s second extended motoric workout, ‘Bongo Bongo Bongo’ is a magnificent counterpart to ‘Disappear in Amerika’, being another Fallesque behemoth that grinds a more overly electro, bass-led groove for well over eight minutes. A trilling organ pipes around the top end while the vocals, rhythmic and repetitive, blur in a wash of reverb. The effect is hypnotic.

While building on well-established forms, Drei Drei Drei revels in anarchic experimentalism, incorporating cut-up sound collages and pan-cultural infusions throughout, giving it a unique flavour. Balancing weirdness and surreal avant-gardism and a mischievous sense of humour with a keen sense of rhythm and groove, it’s intelligently assembled. But best of all, you can get down to it. CAN you dig it? Neu bet!

Bader Motor - Drei Drei Drei