Archive for October, 2016

New Heavy Sounds – 30th September 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

This dubiously-monikered stoner doom foursome have come a long way since their self-released cassette debut crawled from deepest, darkest Wrexham: containing just one thirty-minute track, Nachthexen was a behemoth alright, but while it hinted at the juxtaposition of throbbing riffs and soaring, choral vocals that has become their trademark, it gave no indication of just how much, and how quickly, they would hone and refine their megalithic sound.

Noeth Ac Anoeth was truly a beast of an album, which saw them shifting further from the standard doom tropes to forge a more unique sound, and, following less than a year later, Y Proffwyd Dwyll shows a further evolutionary leap that’s s colossal as the riffs they grind out. For their latest outing, they’ve gone pop. Well, ok, no they haven’t, but the songs are notable not for their immensity, but their concision. The fact the album contains six tracks gives an indication of their newfound brevity, with not a single track extending beyond the ten-minute mark.

The melodies are strong and there are distinct and remarkably memorable choruses here. Jessica Ball’s vocals are the band’s trump card, the key aspects which not only separates MWWB from their peers and every other doom / stoner band around, but renders them essentially unique. No guttural snarling here: her vocal style is wonderfully tuneful, soaring, ethereal, and despite the churning guitar backdrop, MWWB stand comparison with acts like Curve, Cranes, and the shuddering, horrific beauty of Chelsea Wolfe.

The heavily chorused guitar on the intro to ‘Testudo’ is pure Cure, but naturally paves the way for some crushing, low-BPM riffology. Even so, the way that they work tonal and textural variations and the overall dynamics within the song structures and across the album as a whole is impressive.

Closer ‘Cithuula’ is the most straight-ahead heavy rocker, a crawling Sabbathesque beast of a tune. A blitzkrieg of space synths not only add texture and depth, but alter the overall feel of the album. This is no straightforward doom album. In fact, it’s not a straightforward album, period: it’s a genre-bending effort and an album of real depth that stands proudly on its own. It’s also really, really good.

 

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Sacred Bones – 28th October 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

They don’t make 12” EPs like they used to. While I was never big on the idea of packing a piece of wax out with remixes or an extended mix alongside the single version on a throwaway B-side, at its best, the format offered the punter an additional track over a 7” and larger artwork. But they haven’t really made records like that since the mid 90s or thereabouts.

Uniform’s Ghosthouse is a 12” in the style of the 12” EPs of old. And it’s a fucking belter, if you like dark, pulsating, intense noise. Early Godflesh make a reasonable comparison when it comes to this NYC duo’s uncompromising guitar and drum-machine assault, but the dingy punk din of Head of David and 90s noisemakers Headcleaner are also fair reference points.

The intense throb of the title track calls to mind Suicide with its primitive metronomic thudding beat and grating bass loop, but with a screaming lo-fi metal edge. Shards of feedback pierce the murk.

‘Waiting Period’ sounds like it’s coming from a long way away. Not so much lo-fi as no-fi, the production is more concerned with actually getting the track down on tape than making it pretty. the sound levels waver all over and the drums bounce around in a riot of reverb, while the guitars buzz in bursts of treble and the gnarled vocals… well, it’s anyone’s guess really, but the end result is something that sounds like a hardcore Dr Mix and the Remix – messy, but in a good way.

The final track, ‘Symptom of the Universe’ stamps the Unifrm sound on the Sabbath track, and amalgamates the grinding industrial metal fury of Ministry with the freneticism of Dead Kennedys – which, put another way, means it sounds a fair bit like Lard. With hollered vocals reverberating over a descending minor chord sequence and a guitar sound that’s pure overload, it hits optimal chuggage instantly. It’s crisp, sharp-edged and dangerous, and culminates in a full-on sonic supernova of mangled noise.

 

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Hallowground – HG1607 – 28th October 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

Danny Hyde is probably best known for his work producing and remixing Nine Inch Nails and Coil, Depeche Mode and Psychic TV, amongst others, although he also remixed Adamski’s ‘Killer’ and has co-produced Pop Will Eat Itself. A varied career, and no mistake, but one which has always leaned toward the darker side of the musical spectrum. He’s also operated a handful of his own musical projects, and Electric Sewer Age is his outlet for creating ‘contemplative mood inducing’ music, as he phrases it on his website. Bad White Corpuscle is the second album under the Electric Sewer Age banner, and is being re-released on vinyl and as a download (with different cover art) after being discreetly released by Italian label Old Europa Café on CD only in 2014. Its predecessor, Moon’s Milk in Finale Phase featured the late Peter Christopherson of Coil, and perhaps not entirely surprisingly, it’s being hailed as a continuation of his work with Coil or even as evoking the spirit of a ‘lost Coil album’. But regardless of associations, Bad White Corpuscle is a strong – and extremely dark – album which stands on its own merit.

The cover art is, however you look at it, pretty grim, in a ‘what the hell is that?’ sort of a way, and the music it houses is equally sinister and inhuman. Chthonic voices whisper and growl blindly in the darkness. Occasionally spiralling out into gravity-free galactic drift, with twinkling synths providing minuscule points of light on ‘Corpuscular Corpuscles’. The ‘Amber Corpuscle’ turns slowly in suspension, insect flickers echo before the ‘Rising Corpuscle’ brings forth booming bass frequencies and nagging, rippling. I find I’m beginning to feel quite spaced out and nauseous: no, I’m not hungover: the frequencies are low, and the sound possesses an uncomfortable, gut-rumbling density which resonates mentally and physically. The experience is sinister and vaguely terrifying.

There’s no escaping the album’s theme as rendered explicit through the track titles. What is Hyde’s obsession with blood? Specifically, the notion of a ‘bad white corpuscle’? The white blood cell is the cell of the immune system: what can be bad about a blood cell which defends the body from invaders? I’m drawn to the idea of the mutant and he virus, perhaps the deficient white corpuscle which fails to fulfil its duty as sentry, or otherwise the virus in disguise, the bad guy dressed as a good guy or the mutating virus which sustains itself while sapping the host undetected. I’m speculating, of course, while the dark sounds drag me down… down.

The soundscapes are simultaneously vast and microcosmic, evoking cellular shapes from a microscopic perspective; traversing the corpuscles, the listener becomes the cosmonaut of inner space. The mangled digital vocals on the alien synthpop incantations of the title track float, disembodied through an analogue circuitscape of liquid metal.

The vinyl-only track, ‘Redocine (Death of the Corpuscle)’ does mark something of a departure with the introduction of more readily identifiable moments of melody – countered by extraneous noise and echoed, distorted robotix voices – propelled by some powerful, stop/start beats and building a deep, dislocated groove. Beneath the shine, the synaptic explosions and dark rumbling vibrations are symptomatic of cellular collapse.

Bad White Corpuscle mines a deep, dark sonic seam, and does so with a real feeling for unsettling sonic terrains. There’s certainly no inoculation against the effects of this album.

 

Electric Sewer Age

Christopher Nosnibor

It makes sense for a band renowned for their killer live shows to release a live album, but it takes a band with a certain amount of guts to make that album a project that’s part of a festival’s proceedings, and to go for the live album by way of their third full-length. Post War Glamour Girls have got guts, alright, and Live at St Austin’s was recorded as the ‘watch a band record a live album’ Sunday night session at the end of this year’s Long Division festival in Wakefield.

They open with a very curious hybrid of ‘Sestra’ and ‘Brat’, which respectively stood as bookends to their debut, Pink Fur. In parts completely unrecognisable in relation to either of the originals, it’s a more sedate and altogether less fiery reworking. James Smith shows remarkable restraint, his rowdy raving replaced by a crooning style, which sits alongside some soulful harmonies, the likes of which haven’t been heard from the band previously. Structurally, it’s also completely different… and comes to an abrupt and ungainly halt that sounds like the tape being chewed. Well, it is live, after all. Anything can happen and you only get one take.

‘That’s probably it for music,’ James quips. ‘I’ll now be doing my stand-up set’. Granted, there’s a lot more music and no stand-up, but you wouldn’t put anything past this band. So premiering a new track from their upcoming third album by way of a second track is pretty much par for the course. There’s something of an early- to mid-eighties guitar pop feel to ‘Polyanna Cowgirl’ (commercial pop was seemingly a fair few shades darker then), and it boasts a bold and hooky chorus.

If making their first album a greatest hits / best of set seems like the obvious a to go, you know that’s precisely what you’re not going to get, and second album Feeling Strange (released less than six months before this performance) is largely shunted to one side in favour of their debut, new material, and a handful of covers – which, naturally, are off the beaten track and are drawn in from far out on the left-field (and their version of Elvis Costello’s ‘Shipbuilding’ is as moving as it is unexpected… not that it should be expected for a band who’ve previously covered Robert Palmer).

The vinyl, which presents an abridged version of the occasion to present a different aspect of the set-list (in an alternative sequence) omits the spiky, goth-tinged rendition of ‘Stolen Flowers Rust’ and two of the tracks culled from their second album, presumably on account of space. ‘Cannonball Villages’ (not on the vinyl) is one of the standouts of Feeling Strange and builds an immense, dark, brooding twisting epic journey. As Smith growls the refrain ‘I knew the moment I laid my eyes on you / that I would do anything to get my hands on you,’ it sounds as much like a threat as an expression of desire. Closer ‘Count Your Blessings’ – a bleak choice of a set-ender, if the truth be told – is also omitted from the vinyl, and the fact that such a great rendition can be relegated to the download is testament to the depth of their material – and of course, their unswerving perversity in selecting unreleased tracks and covers over others. Single cuts like ‘Jazz Funerals’, ‘Southpaw Stance’ and ‘Felonius Punk’ don’t get a look in

The slowed-down version of ‘Black Dolphin’ and the dreamy version of ‘Gustave’, on which Alice takes lead vocal duties, offer very different perspectives on established songs, and the piano motif which runs through the Curesque take on ‘Red Terror’, with its crazy reverb action, again places the familiar in an unfamiliar context. The addition of organ and keys to a number of tracks also adds a new dimension to the sound.

Live at St Austin’s works precisely because of its imperfections and its – superficially, at least – perverse set-list. As a live album, it captures the immediacy of a band who thrive on live performances, and at the same time, are all about taking risks and showcasing new material. Go to a PWGG gig and you’ll see a band testing themselves and the audience with new material. This makes the inclusion of debut single ‘Spitting Pearls’ all the more surprising and welcome. They’ve probably played it about twice since its release: it’s a personal favourite, and they more than do it justice here, Smith finally unleashing his full-throated Tom Waits holler. It’s fucking brilliant, and met, briefly, with a stunned silence.

Live at St Austin’s is an honest live album: it’s not that the sound is rough, because it isn’t: but in places, the instruments aren’t perfectly balanced and there are some dud notes and off-key harmonies. And that’s precisely why it’s so good: it sounds like you could actually be there, it’s not dressed up and overdubbed and polished to studio quality. It’s very much a document of the band that Post War Glamour Girls are, a snapshot of a band who are continually evolving, forever restless, always trying out new arrangements and new material. And yes, they’re the kind of band who place art over commerce, who really are bursting with creativity and are making music for the right reasons. And they truly are one of a kind.

 

Post War Glamour Girls - Live At St Austin's Cover

VoxxoV Records – VXVCD011 – 19th September 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

The purpose, primarily, behind Aural Aggravation, was to give coverage to niche music produced by lesser-known artists and little labels. The idea was also to publish reviews geared toward a more long-form format, favouring more journalistic analyses than the soundbite snippets which dominate the mainstream music press (such as it exists now) and many of the more popular websites. Ultimately, of course, the ambition was to run a site which gave myself, as founder / editor and main contributor, free reign, to write about what I liked in a way I liked. It wasn’t so much the cliché that if other people liked it, it’s a bonus: I figure that if I like it, there’s an audience for it somewhere.

Vindication of this approach hasn’t just been in the traffic we’ve received – Aural Aggro will never achieve world-domination but after a year in existence, it’s built a steady and respectable readership – but in the labels and artists who’ve sought us out to submit releases for review because they like what we do. It’s mighty gratifying, and has led to the discovery of some fantastic acts and labels, too.

And so it was that microlabel VoxxoV found us and put their eleventh album, Noise Level by French artist Gaëtan Gromer our way. It’s about drone, noise and ambient music, and that’s what we dig here – amongst other things.

Noise Level is an album to get lost in, but also an album to listen to. The detail is what matters. For what seems like an eternity, so little happens/ but of course, a little is a world away from nothing. Then, amidst the elongated drones, small sounds, water-like drips and ripples disturb the tranquil surface. Barely audible, indecipherable vocal snippets and samples crackle through the airwaves. Notes bubble, drift and turn, wafting formlessly, invisible yet present, the subtlest ebb and flow forms an other-worldly soundscape. Burs of sharp static interfere with the flow, but fail to break out of the shadows. Gradually, so gradually, the notes turn and mutate, pulsate and undulate. Scratches of treble scour away and roughen the edges. Insectoid skitters flicker and clamour as circuitry bleeps, sonar calls and responses. Long, drawling notes sigh in resigned anguish on ‘Le Bibliotheque de Babel’.

The warmth hinted at by the soft-edged swells of sounds on the album’s final track, the ten-minute ‘Always Coming Home’ are countered by grazing guitar drones and clattering, arrhythmic percussive ruptures. Over time, it builds in volume and intensity, the guitar coming to the fore as the album’s only recognisable instrument, a bruising, dense mass of sound bringing the album to a powerful close. With this, Gromer is done, and goes whistling on his way.

 

Gaëtan Gromer – Noise Level

Ritual Productions – 28th October 2016

11Paranoias do heavy psychedelic with the emphasis very much on the heavy. Their fourth album, Reliquary For A Dreamed Of World is a downtuned, ultra-low frequency, mega low-tempo doom sludge trudge through the darkest places of psychedelia. The crushing riff that lands halfway through ‘Peripheral Metamorphosis,’ the album’s first track, registers around the same sonic zone as Swans’ ‘Cop’. There’s an eternity between each pulverizing drum smash, which lands with the force of a planetary collision, and the power-chords are heavier than is conceivable for mere instruments to make: this is music that’s nothing short of galactic in its enormity and weight. It’s the sound of dark matter combusting.

Five minutes into the 15-minute mammoth that is ‘Destroying Eyes’, a whip-crack treble-topped snare snaps through the dense murk of noise to propel a vocal track, layered in delay and reverb to plough a New-Wave inspired furrow before it all explodes, unexpectedly, in a blistering wig-out centres around a driving goth-tinged groove.

After the hypnotic ‘Avallaunius’ chills the intensity – at least for the first three minutes or so, at which point it brings the noise – ‘Mutus Liber’ brings it low and slow and goes for the crushingly heavy in a big way, the mangled vocals all but lost in the tsunami of immense power chords. ‘Meditation on the Void’ is the darkly hypnotic workout the title suggests, whipping up a cyclone of psychedelia which threatens to collapse in on itself. After the slowly spiralling ‘Phantom Pyramid’, the brevity of the final track, ‘Milk of Amnesia’ is unexpected. In fact, a squalling barrage of feedback a snarling, ripping bass from which emerges something that for all the world resembles a distorted segment of Fields of the Nephilim’s cover of Roxy Music’s ‘In Every Dream Home a Heartache’, it’s unexpected in pretty much every way imaginable.

Conjuring mental spaces and a hallucinogenic, mirage-filled alternative reality, Reliquary For A Dreamed Of World conjures a world that’s s much a nightmare as a dream. It’s a powerful album which, while heavy – and oftentimes, monumentally so – displays a remarkable knack for a deep groove. It’s an album that will bend your brain, while crushing it by sheer force at the same time.

 

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Monument Builders is the new album from loscil, the ambient/electronic project of prolific composer Scott Morgan. It was primarily created on sample-based instruments in Morgan’s century- old Vancouver home. Like that aged space, this music is also rough-hewn, with rickety samples of boiling kettles and resonant moving air. Recordings from a vintage micro-cassette recorder contribute distortion, rattles and textures that serve as both percussion and abstract aural colour.

Ahead of the album’s release on 11th November via Kranky, you can hear the title track here:

The Hum is the first ever solo album by Marc Heal and his first full-length release since the year 2000. He has been a presence in electronic music since the late 1980s when his band Westwon toured with Gary Numan and recorded with Colin Thurston.

His next band, Cubanate, then achieved success in the industrial scene in the 1990s with four acclaimed albums. Hits such as ‘Oxyacetylene’ and ‘Bodyburn’ crossed over to metal and mainstream audiences, with the former achieving Single of the Week in both Kerrang! and Melody Maker. The band later signed to the Chicago based label Wax Trax!

in its final years, while also gaining worldwide exposure when Sony used four of their songs as the lead tracks on the best-selling Gran Turismo console game. ‘Body Burn’ was also featured in The Sopranos and the Mortal Kombat movie. They toured with The Sisters of Mercy, Gary Numan, Front 242, Front Line Assembly, Fear Factory, Sheep On Drugs, PIG and more. Marc also worked with Jean-Luc Demeyer of Front 242, the duo making two albums as C-TEC.

Marc appeared to remain creatively silent for many years after the demise of Cubanate, but was in fact running Fortress Studios in London and working in television and advertising, writing documentaries for the BBC and Sky.

Pefacing the release of The Hum on 11 November 2016 through Armalyte Industries, Marc presents ‘Adult Fiction’. Watch the video here:

Fabrique Records – FAB058- 21st October 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

On looking at Christopher Chaplin’s latest album cover, I’m reminded of Peter Hammill’s The Future Now. He may have a full beard, but Chaplin looks every bit as odd and wild as Hammill on his first post-Van der Graaf solo record. The strangely suggestive joints of meat which adorn the back cover only heighten the sense of the bizarre.

The comparisons to Hammill’s album end on the exterior, though: Je Suis Le Ténébreux (while ‘ténébreux’ has numerous translations, including ‘dark’, it’s I am the Enigma, in this context) contains four extended tracks, on which Hans-Joachim Roedelius and Christine Roedelius recite segments of text inspired by ‘The Enigma of Bologna’, a text in Latin from the XVI Century inscribed on a tombstone near Bologna. Poet Claudia Schumann also provides and performs poetry texts, and they’re accompanied by French actress and soprano Judith Chemla and Italian tenor Pino Costalunga.

The music is experimental, and frequently more incidental, than the focal element of the album. The compositions feel free, fluid, and serve to primarily create atmosphere, in a dark and appropriately mysterious-sounding manner. Low, grating rumbles groan beneath scraping strings, swells of scratching discord ebb and flow, slowly, deliberately. Sudden jarring bursts of noise blast from the long, ominous string drones. There are moments of musicality, delicacy and grace, subtle chamber orchestral passages which drift through the mist, to slowly dissolve.

The fragmentary pieces of oration, sometimes half-sung, sometimes whispered, often echoed and distorted, weave in and out. Often indecipherable without recourse to the accompanying booklet (especially for speakers of neither French nor Latin), the vocal incursions are as much another layer of atmosphere as narrative. Aggressive bells and lumbering piano combine with low percussion and sinister, whispered vocals on the title track.

The enigmatic text, which is essentially a long riddle based around a man named Lucius Agatho Priscius and a woman named Aelia Laeilia Crispis, includes the classically paradoxical lines, ‘’Tis neither ‘tis neither -But ‘tis all and each / Together without a body I aver / This is in truth a sepulchre / But notwithstanding, I proclaim / Both corpse and sepulchre are the same’.

The aura of death and otherness radiates from every corner of an album which twists and turns and offers no satisfactory resolution to its own internal complexities. It’s a restless work, and one which isn’t entirely satisfying because it doesn’t seem to ever settle in any sense. Given its inspiration, it’s perhaps just the way it ought to be.

 

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James Wells

Sophe Lux & The Mystic is a solo vehicle for Gwynneth Haynes, the younger sister of director Todd Haynes, and the former front person for the band, Sophe Lux (a band who, I’ll admit, I haven’t encountered). Still, new name, new start and all that, or something.

All Are One promises ‘Glam-operatic rock’, and it’s a fair summary of an album that’s forged with analogue gear for a vintage electro sound and a keen pop bent. ‘Your Wonderland’ opens things with a thumping old-school gothy drum machine beat melded to a pulsating synth bass, some chilly keyboards and a dramatic vocal performance. Rumbling thunder and fear chords ripple through the folk-rock-tinged rush of ‘The Love Comet’, a shimmering electropop number with a dark edge.

The title track combines lilting folk with cinematic, soaring, soundscapes and an insistent bassline, bursting into a bold, heraldic mid-section. With elements of Eurythmics, Kate Bush and Queen all in the mix, the sense of scale is immense. Why have one drummer when you can have a whole battalion? Choral vocals swell and ascend to the skies.

The sparse, piano-led intro to ‘Infinite Colours of Desire’ prefaces a Stereolab-like bubbling analogue backing to a full-on soul delivery from Haynes (she gives some big soul grit on the groovesome retro-styles ‘Love is Waiting’ too. As the country-tinged radio-friendly rock of ‘Who Knows What Wonders Might Arise’ evidences she’s an artist who’s more than comfortable turning her hand to any style, and, moreover, makes it sound effortless. Such versatility is rare, and it’s even more rare for it to be displayed on a single album while still making for a work that feels cohesive. And yet All Are One feels extremely well-ordered, a solid body or work that’s more than a bunch of songs slung together. Sophe Lux has got something, and it’s more than wide-eyed flamboyance that says ‘artsy’: she has a charisma that radiates from every note and between every note. Mystic(al) and magical, All Are One is at once a pop album, and something joyously different.

 

Sophe Lux