Archive for October, 2016

Uniform are old friends Ben Greenberg (ex-The Men, Hubble, and the producer/engineer responsible for much of the Sacred Bones catalog) and Michael Berdan (ex Drunkdriver, York Factory Complaint) and formed in New York City in 2013.

To coincide with the 28th October release of their Ghosthouse EP (which has scored Aural Aggravation’s vote), they’ve unveiled their cover of Black Sabbath’s ‘Symptom of the Universe’.

Get your lugs round it here…

Christopher Nosnibor

It’s an interesting demographic spread in the Fulford Arms tonight, almost evenly split between middle-agers and young alt types. This will make perfect sense to anyone who’s already heard Hands Off Gretel: founded and fronted by 19-year old Lauren Tate, they’re the sound of youthful angst, raw and brimming with rage and entirely relatable to their peers. Their sound also bears more than a passing resemblance to early Hole, and in Lauren, there’s the wild energy of late 80s / early 90s Courtney Love that’s instantly recognisable to those who remember that far back. I’m conflicted: downcast at being reminded so starkly that I’m now in the middle-age camp, elated that I was there the first time around and also that there are young bands with this much passion and this much gut making music that’s real and fearless.

Humble Scoundrel kick things off and while they’re also young, they’re also seriously good. They’re fronted by a guy who looks kinda nerdy in his specs, but said front man is renowned Leeds band poster / flyer / t-shirt etc. artist Tommings, and they’re no flappy weaklings: the plaid-shirted power trio kick out a decent brand of rocking indie with some strong harmonies and some elastic 90s alt/rock basslines whacked through a BigMuff and cranked up to gut-churning levels to give them something special. The lead vocals are poppy, but countered by some crunching guitars. Somewhere around the mid-point, they drop a ‘quiet track. It’s built around a gothy Celtic guitar line over some thumping martial drumming, and it brings some well-placed variation in a strong set, and the between-song banter is genuinely amusing.

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Humble Scoundrel

It’s been just shy of a year since I last saw Seep Away play, and they’ve come on no end in the intervening months. Tighter, louder, more in-yer-face, it’s their increased confidence that really makes the difference, and this – and a triangle – is what drives their full-throttle bass-driven grindpunkthrash racket. Jay Sillence raves and lurches around like a man possessed, while the musical proponents of the band – Max Watt (guitar, backing growls), Dani Barge (bass) and Dom Smith (drums) – give it their all. I’m always drawn to bands who pour in every last ounce of energy into a performance, largely because it’s indicative of their passion and commitment, and to see a band who sound great but are clearly coasting just doesn’t provide the same excitement. That Dom’s on the brink of exhaustion by the last track, but powers through at a hundred miles an hour tells pretty much all you need to know about the frenetic force of their live assault. Carnage of the best kind.

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Seep Away

There’s a crush for the front at the little low-staged venue for Hands Off Gretel, and it’sno surprise: while their aural assault is quite something, they’re a live band you need to see as well as hear. Lauren – dressed in hot-pants and ripped tights, a tiara nestled in her long dreadlocks and ‘BURN’ scrawled onto her chest in makeup – is high-kicking and hollering hard from the start as they tear through a set which showcases the majority of their incendiary Burn the Beauty Queen album.

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Hands Off Gretel

Every track is a highlight (although I’m personally pleased to hear ‘Bad Egg’), and while Lauren is obviously the focal point and an immense presence on stage – not to mention a singer of immense power, with a terrifying, full-throated holler, and to describer her as a compelling performer would be an understatement – it wouldn’t work if they didn’t operate as such a cohesive unit. Hands Off Gretel are a band, an a strong one, who really work the quiet/loud dynamic, and when they break out into the chorus riffs, they really give it.

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Hands Off Gretel

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Hands Off Gretel

By the end of the set, the stage is awash with beer – on account of numerous spillages and the fact Lauren has a tendency to cool herself by pouring it over herself – and perspiration. Lauren’s makeup is smeared, and after a racketous rendition of ‘Oh Shit’, they don’t bother to leave the stage before encoring with a killer one-two of ‘Eating Simon’ and ‘My Size’. When it comes to blistering intensity, Hands Off Gretel have got it nailed, and judging by tonight’s turnout, there’s a real thirst for their brand of angst-laden rage.

Their latest album, Reliquary For a Dreamed Of World has already received a big thumbs up from Aural Aggravation. To coincide with the release, the band, known for their mind-melting visuals, celebrate video nasties in their brand new official video for ‘Milk Of Amnesia’.

Here’s what Adam Richardson had to say about it… “The video for ‘Milk of Amnesia’ is a visual banquet to serve the song…. it is a psych rock anthem with black metal delivery and aesthetic – wildly different to any other song on the album… so we have used appropriately toned low-budget horror film clips as well as the intense psychedelia of drug drenched visions to act as an accompanying bludgeon to what is the shortest song we have ever recorded (under 4mins)”.

Brace yourselvs and watch / listen below:

Much as we love all things angular and abrasive, noisy and nasty here at Aural Aggravation, we equally have a vast apprecition of lightness and melody. And so, we’re elated to bring you a video exclusive in the form of the debut single from Amber Warren.

 

‘Cobwebs’ is a charming, reflective, delicate and and truly lovely song, brimming with wistful melancholy. It’s accompanied by a beautifully-shot video directed by Patrick Mateer.

You can watch it here:

 

Christopher Nosnibor

Six years ago, I saw Eagulls, alongside Cold Ones, supporting Cerebral Ballzy at A Nation of Shopkeepers in Leeds. Cold Ones were pretty awful but Eagulls were, to be blunt, utterly fucking gash, and I vowed never to see of hear them again if I could possibly help it. It’s a vow I’ve kept until now: there was no way I was going to pass up on Protomartyr playing practically on my doorstep as part of a co-headlining tour.

We’d been advised to get don early doors (7:30) as York (and now Leeds) perennials Fawn Spots were scheduled to play at 7:45 ahead of a 10:30 finish. In the event, I arrived at 7:35 to find a guy with a guitar, miniature keyboard and massive rack of pedals set up in front of the stage in the process of building a layered, loop-based sound that straddled post-rock, post-punk and shoegaze, with some tendencies toward whappy time signatures and general fiddling. It’s really rather good, and on the strength of this brief outing, 99 Watts from Darlington warrants further exploration.

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99 Watts

Fawn Spots are a band I’ve spent a long time exploring, and they’ve evolved so much over the course of their career. Having stated out as a snotty two-piece reliant more on attitude than ability, their debut album, released on Fire Records was testament to their blossoming into a thrashy post-punk powerhouse. Now free of the label and into their next phase, tonight’s set showcases material from in-progress album number two. It’s a new sound again, amalgamating elements of mid-80s Cure, Echo and the Bunnymen and Julian Cope. Early in the set, Oliver’s guitar playing sounds like Marty McFly at the prom, but fortunately, it’s just one broken and one out of turn string rather than a disappearing hand to blame. A switch of guitar later, he’s back to form, and while the songs are yet to bed in fully, it’s clear the next album will be a blinder.

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Fawn Spots

All of Protomartyr’s albums to date have been belters, and the reception they get shows just what an ardent fan base they’ve built with them. The kids – and they are kids – down the front are flopping and flapping uncoordinately, fringes drooping. And they know every single bloody word. It must be gratifying to see, though you’d never gauge it from the faces on the stage: three IT guys in jeans and t-shirts, fronted by their frustrated manager, a guy in his mid-to-late 30s and still in the beaten suit he wore to the office, churn out the tunes with passive expressions. If Mark E. Smith had been into US blues rock and discordant post-punk, The Fall would have sounded like this. While the deceptively detailed guitar parts are big on texture, the powerhouse drumming really drives the energy levels up, in contrast with Joe Casey’s downtrodden baritone grumblings. Repetition and dissonance are integral aspects of their angular sound, and it’s the fact they’re overtly uncool which makes them ultimately and ineffably cool.

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Protomartyr

Eagulls are bloody loud and crank out a dense wall of sound from behind a thick smog, silhouetted by stark lighting. Gone is the shambolic amateurism and apparent lack of identity of six years ago: the bands on stage are slick, confident, and it’s a straight fact that they sound fucking incredible. Immediately, The Cure and A Flock of (S)eagulls come to mind my way of reference points, and everything in their performance is immaculate. I feel like I’m experiencing first hand, at last, the spirit of gigging in 1985 (being born in 1975, I was simply too late to witness bands like The Cure and The Sisters of Mercy in their heyday.

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Eagulls

So why am I not absolutely feeling this, one hundred per cent, to my very marrow? Because it’s not 1985, it’s 2016. While everything about Eagulls is exactly right, it’s only a replica, a reproduction, out of time. It’s convincing, but it’s a carefully-studied fake. I’m not actually questioning their sincerity or integrity here, but their authenticity. Three songs in, and the rush of seeing such an accomplished performance has full hold: by seven songs, it’s becoming apparent that for all the style – and Eagulls have all the style when it comes to presentation – the content isn’t quite on the same level. It’s the same issue as I have with Department M: it’s meticulously observed, perfectly executed but lacking in soul and conviction.

Still, they do put on a show, and are deservedly well-received. But Protomartyr were always going to be the band of the night, and without doubt, they were.

Tavern Eightieth (TVEI) – 31st October 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

Don’t read too much into the Hallowe’en release date for this solo offering from Matt Christensen, who is more usually found lending his voice to Chicago genre-straddling guitar-based act Zelienople. There are no guitars to be found here, or vocals, and despite the album title’s connotations of the predatory, the sinister and the dangerous, this is no haunting horrorshow or ultra-dark ambient work coughed up from the bowels of the earth, although the five tracks on Prowl are certainly strong on atmospherics.

The title track sets the mood, a murky groove softly bounces along, the insistent beats largely submerged by a thick, opaque subaquatic sonic murk which strangely deadens the sound and creates a sensation that’s almost physical rather than simply auditory. When the rhythms are completely absent, as on ‘Mountains of Fire (Remix)’, Christensen glides effortlessly into what one may reasonably call ‘pure’ ambience: the forms are vague, intangible, with no discernible sense of structure as the soft and slowly-drifting washes of sound shift and turn gradually.

‘Spending It’ is perhaps the most haunting track on the album, crackles and pops – somewhere between the click and clatter of worn vinyl and the cracks and snaps of burning wood – form the distant rhythmic undercurrents which echo through the warping tones before being carried away into silence on a long, low wind-like drone. In contrast, ‘Junk Test’ is altogether more buoyant, bubbling beats flit beneath rippling Tangerine Dream synth motifs.

Everything is kept low-key, the sounds dissolving into one another and in a slow but continual evolution. It’s a radical departure from Christensen’s work with Zelienople, but, as one may expect, it’s an album that demonstrates a keen awareness of the dynamics of texture and tone. In the context of Prowl, these elements are explored in their most delicate and subtle forms, and in its field, it’s an accomplished and enjoyable work.

 

Matt Christensen – Prowl

Thor & Friends’ eponymous debut recently received the Aural Aggravation seal of approval, and now the mighty percusionist Thor Harris and his cohorts have unveiled their first video. You can watch it here: