Archive for November, 2016

Hallow Ground – HG1606 – 28th October 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

Reiner Van Houdt presents an interesting proposition: a classically-trained pianist who’s worked with John Cage and Luc Ferrari, he also plays in Current 93 and has worked in collaboration with Nick Cave, John Zorn and Antony Hegarty. The fact this release is on the Hallow Ground label should perhaps give an indication that this is no soft neoclassical effort – although I’m in no way criticising neoclassical music here: I’m simply saying that this dos not sit within the field, and is harder, harsher, heavier, at least in places. There are no neat melodic structures to be found on Paths of the Errant Gaze, and no instrumentation which sits within the classical bracket: this is very much an electronic album.

On the face of it, there isn’t much to this. Paths of the Errant Gaze is an album which is extremely quiet, sparse, minimal, and the detail – and the quantity of source material involved in its creation – are not immediately apparent. Just as Burroughs and Gysin theorised on the power of ‘The Third Mind’ through the act of collaboration, so Van Houdt believes the act of recording creates a ‘third ear’. And so it is that Van Houdt built Paths of the Errant Gaze from myriad recordings gathered from a near-infinite array of locations.

‘The Fabric of Loss’ creeps ominously, scraping strings like creaking doors echo in the still air as dust motes descend silently, ‘Orphic Asylum’ introduces the first semblance of rhythms, murky, clanking, developing to extended bursts of bass-end noise and a thumping, trudging beat which plots treacherously through an unnervingly dark sonic labyrinth. Even when near-silence encroaches, there remains a dark, oppressive atmosphere in the air. Sparse piano notes and a Scott Walker-esque vocal emerge briefly from the dense sonic fog on TR 5, but neither does much to orientate or ground the listener.

There is no indication of the sounds captured by Van Houdt being your common or garden field recordings – in fact, the ‘everyday objects, situations and moments’ which Van Houdt records obsessively are all but lost amidst the process of forming a sonic melange. Nor does Van Houdt utilise these soundpieces in a conventional way: one does not get a sense of Paths of the Errant Gaze existing as a collage work. Paths of the Errant Gaze is not a work which is encumbered by a sense of pretence, and nor does its theoretical or conceptual framework impinge unduly on the end product.

The ten-minute ‘Transfinite Spectre’ is an all-out sonic assault worthy of Merzbow, as laser-guided blasts crackle and fizz, top-end treble drilling directly into the brain through the ear to create maximum discomfort.

 

Reinier Van Houdt - Paths of the Errant Gaze

Season of Mist – 4th November 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

Bronze is the sixth album by Crippled Black Phoenix, the current musical vehicle for Justin Greaves, who has a remarkable CV which features Iron Monkey, Electric Wizard, The Varukers, and Earth 2 referencing drone supergroup Teeth of Lions Rule the Divine. They’ve spent a good few years mining a fresh seam of dark progressive music, and Bronze is an album which qualifies unreservedly for the label of ‘epic’.

As the pre-release blurb helpfully points out, ‘Bronze consists primarily of copper, but it is the inclusion of other metals and non-metals that gives this alloy its specific characteristics. Ever since mankind discovered the secret of its making thousands of years ago, the golden and shining bronze has changed the course of history, spawned destruction and war, yet also been crafted into desired objects of extreme beauty.’

And so it is that the first track, the expansive organ-style synth-soaked instrumental ‘Dead Imperial Bastard’ opens the album with a darkly funereal instrumental. ‘Deviant Burials’ locks into some solid riffing which contrasts with some surprisingly easy-going vocals, and the contrast between melody and driving guitars calls to mind Queens of the Stone Age in their poppier moments, before veering off into more overtly progressive territories with some expansive post-metal dynamics.

‘Rotten Memories’ is the album’s shortest track, and offers something approximating a dark pop song, albeit in the vein of the piano-led power ballad beloved during the 80s. it is, of course, but an interlude before the immense ‘Champions of Disturbance (pt 1 & 2)’, which segue together to form a nine-minute epic. It’s prog, for sure, but in the post-Oceansize sense, a sinewy, riff-led behemoth. ‘Goodbye Then’ brings wistful melancholia, which contrasts with the psych-tinged hard rock of ‘Turn to Stone’, and it’s clear that on this outing, Greaves has brought a whole host of stylistic elements to the party to produce an album that’s got range and depth and which brings emotional evocativeness as well as cinematicism and bombast.

The emotional depth is no fabrication: Greaves recently ‘went public’ about his personal fight against severe depression, and as the press release notes, ‘for him, not letting the “black dog” devour you is a big message mixed within his songs.

That doesn’t mean that Bronze is an easy or entirely uplifting album. In fact, it’s an album of remarkable range, and an album which is often awkward and emotionally bleak. While downtempo epics like ‘Losing a Winning Battle’ bring an expansive, progtastic darkness, what really shines through with ‘Bronze’ is its immense range, as well as its scope and ambition, which is matched by its ambition and production, this is a big album and perfectly executed.

crippled-black-phoenix-bronze

 

Monotype Rec – MONOLP018 – 14th November 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

However broad one’s mind and tastes, there will inevitably be some artists who will baffle, bewilder and leave one somewhat dazed. Carp’s Head, a collaboration between Ghédalia Tazartès, Pawel Romanczuk, and Andrzej Zaleski is one of those releases. So much so, that my first reaction was one of borderline horror, a recoiling, an internal cry of ‘what the hell is this?’

‘Danse Inverse’ begins with a bleep. Minimal electro? Nope. A grizzled yet semi-operatic yellering starts up, almost simultaneous with a strolling bass, wonkily-played and a woozy accordion. Tazartès whoops and grunts, growls and emotes wildly like a drunken French opera singer impersonating Tom Waits, while the cacophonous musical backing veers and weaves all over. The weirdness only continues and as the album progresses, taking the listener on a bizarre journey around the globe and as observed through the eyes of three madmen. ‘You’ll Be Wise’ comes on like Scott Walker on acid, while the quietly crooning ‘Zither Song’ is sparse and eerily haunting in a mystical, dream-like way. ‘Orient Calling’ marks a continental shift in terms of the musical inspirations and influences, a droning sitar accompanies Tazartès’ yodelling ululations and low, chesty quaverings.

The album’s centrepiece is the nine-minute epic ‘Wolves and Birds’, a bleak and disorientating expanse of dark ambience. The wordless vocalisations convey a sense of lack, of absence, as they float, wailing and disembodied through the sonic wastelands. There’s plenty of weirdness on the other side of the bridge, too, with tweeting, trilling pipe notes and scratchy layers of sound by turns tickling and teasing the listener’s senses.

Jazz percussion breaks out unexpectedly at various points, bringing an odd and somewhat incongruous swing to proceedings. With its ‘Trout Mask’ connotations and overt otherness, Carp’s Head is many things: it is, in fact, remarkably focused and feels extremely cohesive in its order, less experimental and more built on musical intuition between the players. I’m not sure I recommend it, or if so, to whom, but there’s no question that it’s interesting or different.

 

Carps Head

This Is It Forever – TIIF031 – 25th November 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

I’ve long been a fan of worriedaboutsatan: on their emergence in 2006, their, a hybrid of ambient and low-key dance music, fused with a rare focus on dynamics, positioned them as purveyors of some kind of electronic post-rock. No-one else was doing anything quite like it. With couple of EPs and an album under their belts, the duo – Gavin Miler and Thomas Ragsdale – morphed into the more overtly techno Ghosting Season. Returning but briefly with a single in 2010, it wasn’t until last year’s second album proper that they really made their return. Now it seems that while marking their tenth anniversary, they’re making up for lost time. And still no one else is doing anything quite like what they’re doing.

Opener ‘A Way Out’ immediately trips against expectations, beginning with tweeting birdsong n chiming piano notes which build anticipation of a slow-building piece that blossoms as layers emerge fluidly. Instead, it ends swiftly an abruptly, with the beat-driven trancey electronica of ‘The Violent Sequence’ taking things in a radically different direction. It’s anything but violent, at least on the surface, but as is often the case with worriedabotsatan’s layered, nuanced arrangements, there’s something menacing hiding beneath the surface.

‘This Restless Wing’ introduces vocals to the mix, courtesy of the gliding falsetto of Vincent Cavanagh of Anathema. If the idea of the wilfully low-key duo going all-out for the big-name collaboration as a lure to the album seems incongruous, it’d worth bearing in mind they’ve previously been featured on various TV shows, and, more recently, the immensely acclaimed Adam Curtis documentary, HyperNormalisation. In other words, nothing is beyond the realms of worriedaboutsatan. And nor should it be: these guys are masters of stealth, and Blank Tape is an album which wears many cloaks.

‘Forward into Night’ approaches almost invisibly, building a dense, murky atmosphere. The ticking cymbals create a tension, while the sparse beats are subdued, and ‘Lament’, a collaboration with Bristol electro duo Face+Heel, is haunting, ethereal. The album’s second track to feature vocals, it’s sparse and understated, and Sinead McMillan brings something unique to the song’s dynamics. The filmic qualities of the piano-led title track are undeniable and it’s a compelling piece which contrasts with the bubbling synths of the closer, ‘From a Dead Man… Part 2’ which plays out the album and drives it home with a return to pulsing beats, undulating sub-bass and rippling synth motifs.

Blank Tape is still distinctly worriedaboutsatan, but also marks quite something of a departure from its predecessor, Even Temper. It’s a lot less beaty, for a start, and a lot less bassy. The samples are virtually non-existent. Moreover, while it’s still richly textured, the textures here are smoother, the frequencies less geared toward eliciting an unprovoked physical reaction. It’s perhaps the sparsest and most minimal work they’ve created to date, but it’s highly detailed and if anything, its subtlety represents a new advancement and refinement of their approach to music-making.

Blank Tape is by no means an immediate album. It’s an album to absorb, ponder and reflect on, and which yields more with repeat listens. It’s certainly not an album made for TV, but these are strange times. This is the instrumental soundtrack to those times, and the next few years will surely see TV being made for this music. Blank Tape will likely see the band achieve the world domination they deserve by subliminal means.

 

ALBUM COVER

MIE – 2nd December 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

 

I was pretty late to the party with Hey Colossus, being introduced by way of their seventh album, 2011’s mighty RRR. In my review at the time, I commented on the album’s diversity, noting that ‘“Teased from the Nest” drifts like a zephyr in the Colorado Desert, and “The Drang” crunches, bucks and grunts, laden with sludgy guitars with an extra layer of treble squall. It’s a fair sumary of the band’s divergent styles, and  both of those cuts feature on this fourteen-track retrospective (that’s one more track than the original cassette release in 2013, of which some  copies exist).

The press release sets the scene, and to quote seems instructive here: “In 2015 Hey Colossus released two albums on Rocket Recordings, In Black and Gold in February and Radio Static High in October. Dedicated to Uri Klangers is a look back. It’s best summed up by the 3000 words that can be found on the inner sleeve of the record, the tale begins: “The 2xLP comp that’s in your hands now was initially released on cassette by S.O.U.L for our 10th anniversary show, September 2013, about 50 tapes were made and sold on the night. We thought a BEST OF would be hilarious. We were average at that show and I’m being generous. I’d give us 5.5/10. A shame. Hacker Farm and Helm also played. It was at The Sebright Arms in London, somewhere out East…..”

This encapsulates the band’s self-effacing an anti-commercialist position perfectly. They’re outsiders, largely by choice, and that’s precisely why they’re so great. That, and the fact they’ve got some belting tunes, if you like it loud and abrasive, that is.

For those unfamiliar with the band, Hey Colossus make a serious racket, and they get right down to it on this ‘first ten years’ compilation, which draws from their myriad releases which have appeared on a host of different labels (although Riot Season and Rocket have been particularly kind). The throbbing, squalling racket of ‘War Crows’ from 2008’s Happy Birthday starts it all off. It’s an uncompromising, trebly din. ‘How to Tell the Time with Jesus’ showcases the diametric opposite side of the band: a ten-minute avant-Krautrock epic built around a looping bassline and motoric drum, it’s a droning psychedelic behemoth. It’s the first of four tracks which extend past the ten-minute mark, in contrast to explosive blasts like ‘I Am the Chiswich Strangler’, which clock in at under two, but more than compensate in blistering intensity and pace.

Following on from ‘How to Tell the Time’, ‘The Drang’ also brings the contrast. I’d forgotten just how fucking raw it was, how unproduced, what a monstrous mess of feedback and sludge. There’s a song in here? Some semblance of a rhythm? Chords?

The churning sprawl of ‘Eurogrumble PTII’ from Dominant Male (2010) draws together their squalling noise tendencies with their experimental and Krautrock leanings to produce a headsplitting kaleidoscope of feedback, and ‘Drug Widow’ is just one of the nastiest, noisiest, grungiest grinds you’re likely to hear: like Tad only heavier, sweatier, grimier and gnarlier, it’s a raging beast of a track.

‘Hot Grave’ is another chug-heavy heft of grunge rock with some bizarre twists, and is one of the tracks which perhaps gives the best indication of the birth of Hey Colossus offshoot band Henry Blacker, not least of all on account of the mangled vocals.

‘Witchfinder General Hospital’ sits alongside ‘Pope Long Haul III’ for That Fucking Tank-like wordplay titles, and this fifteen-minute behemoth is the album’s motoric centrepiece, and if acts like Hookworms spring to mind by way of a comparson, then fair enough, although a collision of Hawkwind and Dr Mix is perhaps closer to the mark when referencing this thumping monster on which squealing analogue synths shriek over something approximating The Sisters of Mercy covering ‘Sister Ray’ circa 1983.

‘Wait Your Turn’ is a doomy, sludgy, and pretty scary-sounding black metal mess: when Hey Colossus get dark, they go seriously fucking dark. This is, of course, one of the reason they’ve remained a very much underground / cult proposition: they refuse to confirm to any one style, and they’re often given to making the most unpalatably dark noise, without any concession to prettying up the sound for the benefit of a potentially wider audience.

In attempting to research the chronology nd the origins of the individual tracks, I found myself foundering, and again the press release explains why: “Included are one or two tunes from all the HC albums released 2003-2013, it also includes the Witchfinder General Hospital track (only 100 pressed on 12”). All vinyl versions of the albums from this era are long gone. The discography is a bit of a mess now, the band doesn’t fully know and the Discogs site is not much help – godspeed anyone trying to buy all the back cat.

And as much as Dedicated to Uri Klangers may be a prompt to explore the back catalogue in more detail – and righty so – it’s also a perfect summation of their output to this point. Challenging yet rewarding and as noisy as fuck, it’s niche alright, but it’s also a document of everything a cult band should be.

 

Hey Colossus - Dedicated_to_Uri_Klangers_Front_Cover

The abrasive, otherworldly hiphop pioneers Dälek will be touring this month for a week of live shows, following on from the release of their 2016 comeback LP, Asphalt For Eden (Profound Lore), the first new record from the NYC trio since 2009. Ahead of these shows, they have released a brand new track, ‘Molten’, and the wind-tunnel production and furious wordsmith delivery that have become the group’s calling card have been amped up to reflect the song’s theme…

  "After this unprecedented Presidential campaign, a venting was needed. This is bigger than the individual candidates, bigger than a broken system, bigger than the dumbing down of America. ‘Molten’ is the quiet rage, angst, and sadness against the current climate in our country and in this world, it’s a state of mind and emotions manifested. ‘Molten’ is the guttural yell into the nothingness by those of us who still think."

Their live performances are known as intense events that often end in a shoved mic stand and sonically assaultive layers of sound. Witnessing Dälek live is like coming face to face with the bastard child of Public Enemy and My Bloody Valentine; an amalgamation of the heaviest noise that the Velvet Underground or Merzbow ever unleashed and the knowledge spit by the likes of Rakim. The trio leaves you in a trance, sends shivers down your spine from the haunting beats intertwined with ambient textures and noise scales, and hits you with a powerful raw flow from one of the most charismatic MC’s of his, or any, era.

Listen to ‘Molten’ below. Full list of UK live dates after the jump.

 

 

 

22/11 – The Louisiana, Bristol
23/11 – Saint Lukes, Glasgow

24/11 – Chunk, Leeds *new addition
25/11 – Thomas House, Dublin
26/11 – Corsica Studios, London
27/11 – Islington Mill, Salford

clang records – clang47 – 9th December 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

With Band Ane, Ane Østergaard has created her own musical world: armed with a singular magpie mindset and a laptop, she has spent the last decade incorporating elements of ambient, musique concrete, pop and avant-garde, Anish Music is essentially a genre unto itself.

If 2014’s Anish Music Caravan was an other-worldy exploration into unknown sonic territories, there’s a definite sense of order and structure to this outing: the three tracks which make up the EP Anish Music V form a triptych of complimentary and successively evolutionary pieces.

Beginning with a crackle and crystalline ambient tones, ‘Borrowed’ understatedly commences an EP which transitions effortlessly and imperceptibly through a shifting soundscape formed with delicate layers. Together, these layers create a sense of density, and a growing weight. Around the mid-point of the Spooneristic ‘Vultimerse’, a rumble of thunder peaks in a dark crescendo. It’s powerful, forceful, yet still texturally detailed and multi-faceted. It’s here that Ane transcends genre boundaries, stepping above ambience to foreground instrumental music. There’s a rare boldness about it.

‘The Pool’ is an expansive work, gentle washes of sound are rent with the dense roaring jet of a rocket taking off before floating, bleeping and crackling. Ane’s vocal appears on the EP for the first time, a haunting, ethereal whisper which drifts in and out on a soft ripple of humming ambience.

In some respects, it’s difficult to really summarise the qualities of Anish Music V, and even more difficult to present an objective critique. This is music which gently goads the listener’s senses and operates on something of a subliminal level. It’s a rather pleasant experience.

 

Band Ane - V