Archive for October, 2016

The Pop Group have collaborated with one of Bristol’s most forward thinking and distinctive visual artists, Max Kelan Pearce, for  the video of their first single Zipperface, taken from their forthcoming new album Honeymoon On Mars. You can watch it below… and yes, we very strongly recommend it.

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Peaceville – 21st October 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

Christ, this is fucking dark. The video which accompanies ‘Abysmal Channelling’ (the album’s bonus track, perversely enough), depicts scenes of an occult ritual, complete with burning incense, singing bowls, self-mutilation, frenzied bell-ringing, pools of blood, all against a backdrop of murky, mangled industrial noise.

Describing themselves as ‘blackened noise occultists’ US act T.O.M.B. (that’s Total Mechanical Occultic Blasphemy) have been going for 18 years now, and have, not surprisingly, remained deep, deep underground. Positively chthonic, in fact.

Fury Nocturnus is their thirteenth release, and while containing thirteen tracks (plus the aforementioned bonus cut), it contains no tunes, and the truth is, it’s very difficult to really establish what the hell’s going on amidst the dense sonic fog. Yes, they’ve fully embraced the

production values of early black metal classics – and it’s perhaps worth noting that Hellhammer, drummer of infamous Norwegian black metal trailblazers Mayhem is a key contributor to this album. This does mean, of course, that the guitars, drums, vocals and dark ambience which pervades every corner of the album is obfuscated by a thick, grainy coating of dinginess. A number of the tracks end abruptly, and there’s a distinctly low-budget, ‘cassette’ feel to this release. But then of course there is. And while occasionally grinding riffs seep through, there are no tunes, no overt structures and for the most part, it’s a seething morass of dark, dark noise cut through with tribal percussion.

Sometimes, there’s a very fine line between portentous and pretentious, grand art and derangement that borders on the dangerously deviant. It’s not entirely clear where T.O.M.B. sit, other than on a throne of bones in a temple hewn into some inaccessible rock face. They’re very much keeping it real in their approach to the music-making process: when creating the field recording soundscapes which feature on Fury Nocturnus, they report that certain necromantic instrumentation was used: human and animal bone, cemetery crypt doors, tombstones and coffins, and audio EVP equipment. I’m inclined to take them seriously if only because I don’t fancy the idea of being the next sacrificial offering, and crucifixion is, I understand, quite a painful way to go. I’m certainly not about to snort with derision about the cliché of the snarling vocals ranting about Christianity on ‘Hoards Rise Now, or any of the album’s many demonic invocations.

It’s not a fun or pleasurable experience, and protracted exposure to this dank, demonic, deviant, and deeply sinister noise feels like an act of self-flagellation. Needless to say, I’d take it over Justin Bieber, Kanye or Katy Perry any day.

 

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ETYMTONE – ETYM-005 – 22nd November 2016

James Wells

Takamovsky’s second solo album works on the basic premise of juxtaposing the harmonies and structures of early music with electronic sounds. Specifically, the tracks – according to the press release – revolve loosely around a bourrée from Bach’s Cello Suite No 4, BWV 1010, which also simultaneously forms the start and end of Sonic Counterpoint.’ As such, it’s both an electroacoustic work, and a work of traditional and contemporary classical music.

Thudding bass beats and clicky microbeats flicker through the spaces in the delicately picked acoustic guitar notes. Initially, the swirling synths are soft-edged, rounded with, the overall feeling is of a very organic nature, but on ‘Sun’, burrs of white static fizz and cut through the soft tones, bringing a harsher edge to things, and the medieval-sounding picked string motif accompanied by a drum ‘n’ bass rhythm and squiggling blurts and bleeps brings the notion of contrast and counterpoint prominently to the fore.

The balance and relationship between electronic and acoustic sounds swings between the tracks. It’s perhaps noteworthy, albeit in some small way, that the ‘electronic’ aspect of the compositions is limited to beats and extraneous noise, and as such, the separation between the two worlds is rendered apparent in Takamovsky’s approach. ‘Running in the Background’ is the first and only track to feature vocals, and consequently stands out as something of an oddity – but then again, vocals and lyrics provide a counterpoint to instrumental works, so perhaps it works in context of the theme. The final track, ‘D.C’ is a deep, fuzz-tines swirl of dense, overloading semi-ambient noise, a purely electronic revisioning of the bourrée.

It’s interesting, both sonically and conceptually, and although it does seem that it’s not an especially original concept, or that its execution is exactly the height of innovation, it’s still not without merit.

https://player.vimeo.com/video/181293885

 

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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.

 

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