Archive for August, 2016

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

1st August 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

Which artists come to mind when you think of Australian bands or artists? The ballbreaking hard rock of AC/DC? The proto-punk of The Saints? The various music careers of former Neighbours cast members? Maybe the garage-grunge pop of DZ Deathrays? Or Savage Garden, maybe? Personally, I’d rather not. Allow us to introduce Jack the Stripper. There can’t be many bands as brutal or heavy kicking around down under.

If the press release is to be believed, the band have cemented their reputation in Australia’s metal scene with their ‘fierce and innovative brand of chaotic hardcore, a relentless work ethic and an atypical, ferocious on-stage prowess. Considered by many to be a boundary-pushing, total sensory-inclusive, interactive extreme experience, and one of the most incredibly intense live shows on the circuit today’. On the evidence of this album, I’d actually believe the press release for once. This isn’t mere hyp, and ‘raw’ is the operative word here.

The song structures are taut, complex, and built around frequent changes of tempo, wild and unpredictable key changes, chord sequences that come from nowhere and a choppy, jarring, jolting sound: the guitar is used less for driving riffs and instead provides spine-twisting shudders of noise. Jarring, spasmodic, counter-rhythmic shards of noise define the band’s awkward, dissonant assault.

Unusually for a band whose songs are so thunderously abrasive, with the guitars stabbing and whining and scratching at angles to the stop/start bass judders and frenetic percussion, the frequencies are very much pitched toward the id-range creating a strangely muted sound where the music is concerned. It’s angry, claustrophobic and twitchy. Meanwhile, the vocals are pushed to the fore, again something that’s uncommon on an abbum like this – not that there are many albums like this – but an album that’s so overtly abrasive and mental in its tone. And yet it works., and if anything, accentuates the brutal nihilism that pervades Raw Nerve. Luke Frizon’s vocals really are something else. Gnarly barely begins to scratch the surface. While at times his style is conventionally metal-shouty, ad often shits into guttural, anguished nihilism incarnate, he’s capable of delivering demonic shrieks that sound as though they’re emanating from the very hottest pits of purgatory.

It all melts together in a bubbling cauldron of distilled magma to create an album that’s seriously fucking brutal, and seriously fucking good.

Jack the Stripper - Raw Nerve Cover

Room40 – RM463 – 26th August 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

‘The self-reflexive sequencing that tracks the sub-harmonic series in the opening blast of ‘Falling Forward’ positions the record as Chantler’s most explicitly melodic. These melodies however do not exist in a mono-dimensional vacuum, rather they co-exist in a meshed framework of dynamic timbral layers… The record’s abrupt cuts, deft variations of density and unexpected diversions are happily explored with headlong dives into ravishing texture and extended stretches of surface stasis. The music draws on a domestic reimagining of the traditions of studio based electronic music/musique concrete and 20th century minimalism and delivers this with brash revitalized energy.’ So explains the blurb which accompanies the release. Not being acquainted with Chantler’s extensive back-catalogue, I must assume that when it comes to being ‘explicitly melodic’, these things are indeed relative.

That isn’t to say that the material on Which Way to Leave? is a mess of atonal, non-melodic noise: far from it. However, this is not an album of dainty tunes, but a work which explores sound in terms of texture and tonality and the relationships between the two.

‘Falling Forward’ does indeed commence the album with a veritable sonic assault. The volume of the piece is a necessary element, in that the tonal richness comes from the relationship between sounds as they resonate against one another. But this is an album of contrasts. The minuscule bleeps of ‘Clearing’ and the ringing hum and dank atmospherics of ‘Fixation Pulse’ rise and fall and chop and change in volume and pitch unexpectedly. At times almost silent, low downtuned tones growl and bark monstrously, contrasting with delicate chimes and sparkling flickers of light like crystals. While the majority of the pieces are short, almost fragmentary, the ten-minute ‘First December’ builds a cumulative effect by sustaining a steady multitonal drone which envelops the listener. This rippling wall is heavy with texture and rent with extraneous incidental sounds.

It may not be explicitly melodic in conventional terms, but it is an album which is sonically engaging and eminently listenable.

 

John Chantler - Which Way to Leave

Immediata – IMM007 – 4th July 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

The Long Exhale is the second of two albums released simultaneously on Immediata, both featuring Anthony Pateras (as, indeed, do all of the Immediata releases, given that Immediata is Pateras’ project). Both superbly presented in a gatefold ‘Ecopak’ with hot-stamped lettering and released in editions of just 300, these are nice items, objets d’art no less.

They’re two very different albums: one energetic, vibrant, celebratory, spontaneous and intuitive, the other altogether more low-key, sparse and subdued in tone. As such, whereas the North of North album The Moment In and Of Itself was a bold, riotous affair, Pateras shows another side of his artistry on The Long Exhale, a collaboration with Anthony Burr. Described as ‘seven meditations for clarinets, pianos and electronics’, the album aims to ‘catalogue psychoacoustic experiments and Feldman-influenced acoustic excursions undertaken between 2014 and 2015.’

Like The Moment In and Of Itself, The Long Exhale is accompanied by an interview between the artists, with Pateras probing Burr about music and creativity. It’s an illuminating piece which provides some context for the album.

Pateras is on familiar terrain here, contributing sounds produced by piano and prepared piano, an instrument synonymous with John Cage and also adopted by Erik Griswold and evolved by Reinhold Friedl. Because of the nature of the instrument (it simply doesn’t produce sounds recognisable as emanating from a piano) and the fact Burr utilises an ARP 2600 (vintage analogue synth enthusiasts will no doubt be aware of the capabilities of this popular instrument, which was used to voice R2-D2 in Star Wars), the origins of individual sounds are obscured.

The long exhale is a breathing technique used in Yoga, and is also recognised as a method for curbing anxiety. This album is indeed calming, gentle, and unhurried and is certainly unlikely to provoke feelings of anxiety or excitement of the kind which would increase the heart rate. What it does provide is a gentle mental massage.

The first track, the ten-minute ‘Some Association That I Didn’t Know About’ is built around a wavering, sustained humming drone. Incidentals chime and hover. Fleeting moments emerge on ‘That Wasn’t the Idea at All’ where piano and clarinet notes are recognisable, but they’re warped, bending, while on ‘Doesn’t Show’, the prepared piano notes manifest as chimes like plucked strings – which in essence is what they likely are. The album’s overall tone is sombre, sparse and atmospheric. Hushed, meandering explorations drift and float through a fugue-like soundscape. And… breathe.

Long Exhale

Run United Music – RU18 – 3rd September 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

Gudrun Gut’s Vogelmixe is, as you may gather, a remix album. An album of traditional folk songs, recorded by contemporary artists and remixed by Gudrun Gut. Helpfully, there are two discs, the second containing unmixed versions with the traditional arrangements preserved, previously featured on the album Heimatleider aus Deutschland Berlin/Augsburg in 2015.

‘From the Top 100 to “Alternative”, most of today’s music has the emotional depth of your regular smartphone’, write Mark Terkessidis and Jochen Kühling in the liner notes. And so the inspiration behind the Heimatleider aus Deutschland was a longing for music with emotional impact and a sense of commonality, prompting a return to what they refer to as ‘“primordial” forms of singing, to folklore as an oral tradition.’ There’s a distinct logic in that. New music, however sincere, genuine or authentic is by its nature a product and is imbued with an inescapable sense of artifice. It’s always made with an eye – and ear – for public consumption, for distribution, regardless of mattes of commerciality. Traditional folk music is by its nature the music of the people. It was never borne out of a sense of commercial appeal, or even with a view to its own propagation. It has a life of its own, and that life is real life. These are songs of people, songs of the earth. There’s no way to plan or market this.

Many of the songs sound remarkably contemporary even in their original form, particularly the thrumming bass groove of ‘Marhba’, as performed by La Caravana du Maghrab. The range of styles represented provides a rare insight into German folk music unlikely to be known by non-natives. One element common to the majority of the songs is the emphasis on rhythm. Repetition and strong melodies are also a defining characteristic, with the bold harmony-led melody of bolero ‘La somber del ayer’ demonstrating a remarkable level of complexity which contradicts popular notions of folk songs being somehow primitive or simple.

On the one hand, Gudrun Gut’s remixes are pretty brutal in their treatment of the source material. Her approach is largely centred around heavy-duty electronic sounds which take the songs a long way from their original, traditional forms. You couldn’t exactly call them sensitive or subtle. In fact, the majority of the songs are unrecognisable on every level. Yet for all the superficial violence Gut commits to the songs, she does demonstrate a real connection with them, and conveys the passion and spirit which lies at their heart. Her dubby take on ‘ZaNeYen’ works well, the weirdy electronic bleeps sounding not out of place against the pulsating bass buzz and cavernously reverbed percussion. She really goes to town on ‘Marhba’, in places reducing the track to short, intense loops against an insistent, thumping dancefloor beat, while in contrast, ‘Toma de la ca’ emerges as a more sultry, sedate groove. She does treat Heide’s ‘Ein klienes Waldvögelein’ with a remarkably light touch, leaving the acoustic guitar and vocal performance fundamentally intact and augmenting them with subtle, glitchy beats kept low in the mix, soft synth washes and small sleepy incidentals, none of which is overdone.

Ultimately, it’s Gudrun Gut’s varied approach to the already diverse range of material which proves to be the strength of Vogelmixe. Moreover, the centrality of rhythm in the originals is retained and even emphasised in the mixes, and while the nature of those rhythms is much more contemporary, it again serves to convey the essence of the music, and the way in which the original artists rendered the songs with such life for which credit is very much due. And herein lies the difference between those traditional songs and the manufactured sounds which Terkessidis and Kühling find so objectionable: the latter are the sounds of the human spirit and soul, and have endured because of this. Moreover, however you tweak them, mash them and grind them up, mix and remix them, they will always contain these immutable constants which resonate through all time.

Gudrun Gut

Sub Rosa

Christopher Nosnibor

It’s not entirely clear, but it appears that Book of Air is a series of album releases with different collectives interpreting it differently, with VVOLK being the second collective after Fieldtone who released a Book of Air album in 2015. But perhaps given the nature of the project, identity is something which is of little to no consequence, names mere markers for marketing purposes. This is, after all, very much music where its origins and its makers are not only interchangeable and very much in the background but largely invisible – as is the music itself. This is a project about the listener, about perception, and about intangibles.

While I must confess that I’m unfamiliar with the concept of ‘bundled compositions’, I can readily grasp the concept of an album comprising four pieces performed by some eighteen improvisational players with musical roots in jazz and classical. Their collective objective is to investigate and interrogate improvisation in close relation to present time, asking the questions ‘what are the possibilities in playing music, when changes in the music pass unnoticed?’ and ‘how does our hearing and memory react to these slow changes?’ The album’s concept, then, is based around making music which is perceived less in the present time, ‘but rather occurs in our memory of the past’. As such, the album’s form pieces (spanning four sides of vinyl, and mastered as just two tracks of approximately twenty-five minutes apiece in duration on the CD) are built around slow notes and the compositions evolve at an evolutionary pace and are based around the gradual transition of the seasons, with the first track ‘Lente > Zomer’ giving way to ‘Herfst > Winter’.

Some time around the fifteen-minute mark during ‘Lente > Zomer’ I realise there are slow cymbal splashes washing over the gradual turning drone that forms the track’s foundation. Gradually, so gradually, the sound swells and grows in volume and resonance. Guitar notes flicker in the slow-turning sonic mass and imperceptibly, darkness turns to hint towards light. The two tracks segue together, with ‘Herfst > Winter’ beginning as a light, delicate undulation which draws out time itself as the notes interweave like starlight from distant galaxies making their way through space to be seen by human eyes millions of years later. The images of ice-capped mountains inside the album’s gatefold are appropriate: time move at a pace akin to that at which mountain ranges change. Such things are also relative: while the Himalayas continue to rise as the Indian tectonic plate continues to drift and buckle against the Eurasian, the Appalachians are slowly eroding. The analogy extends to the arrangements, which explore in painstaking detail the way sounds interact and reverberate against one another. And it all happens a truly glacial pace

‘Herfst > Winter’ tapers to a sparse dissonance around the sixteen-minute mark, simmering down to a hushed yet insistent throbbing tone, a frequency that nags at the nerves despite being soft-edged and gentle. The instrumentation is delicate and understated to the point that this is not an album one really listens to, but simply allows to wash over oneself and to form an almost subliminal listening experience.

Such sparse sound arrangements demand considerable restraint for so many musicians, and the collective result in many respects is one of subtraction. And yet, this is by no means a negative assessment. The music’s presence increases after the slow fade to silence.

VVOLK

We’ve never heard of Luxury Death, so when the news they’d signed with Punk Slime landed in our inbox we gave a collective shrug. But Luxury Death is such a great name we had to check it out. Ther debut single, ‘Radiator Face’ is a bit more middling indie than we’d usually go for, but we like to keep things varied and we’re more concerned with giving exposure to new and underexposed music than being sniffy about genres. ‘Radiator Face’ is an ace song. Fact. You can hear it here:

 

The Manchester duo have some tour dates coming up, too, as follows:

August 28 – London, UK – Through Being Cool Bank Holiday @ Lock Tavern
September 30 – London, UK – The Finsbury w/ Happyness
October 23 – Sheffield, UK – Bungalows & Bears w/ Happyness
October 25 – Manchester, UK – Sound Control w/ Twin Peaks & Happyness
October 27 – London, UK – Old Blue Last w/ Lowly

Luxury Death