Archive for December, 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

There’s nothing shameful about pop music per se, and there’s no two ways about it: a good hook is a good hook, and however much you – or I – might adore obscure noisy shit of the most punishing velocity, there’s no substitute for a killer chorus, well-delivered. So, enter Chess Smith. She looks the part, and sound it, too.

So how’s ‘Queen of the High Held Head Walk’ for a tongue-twister of a song-title? It’s the first we’ve heard of Chess Smith here at Aural Aggro but hopefully, it won’t be the last. A sharp-edged, dark-pop tune, it’s the lead track from her six-track EP of the same title, and melds a heavily chorused / flange-treated Curesque bassline to a hard-edged 80s disco beat. Smith’s vocal is strong without being shrill, as she delivers a powerful message of self-affirmation.

The other tracks are far from weak, showcasing a pop talent with a heavy 80s influence, benefiting from 21st century production values. The seething dark electro of ‘Pinocchio’ offers up an undulating rhythmic force, and as a whole, this EP shows more than a little promise: there’s a confidence and coolness about Smith’s presentation which suggests she’s got big prospects.

 

 

Chess Smith - Queen

Hubro – HUBROCD2576 – 28th October 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

So sad, so haunting. The sliding notes, gently picked, cascade and ripple through the still air, reverb coating them in a vaporous mist. Somewhere between classical and country, the title track opens the album in a quietly moving style: pedal steel, banjo and musical saw all combine to create an air of melancholy, evocative of dappled light, and touched at the edges with a vague nostalgia. A slow, sedate swell gradually builds, a looping motif channelling a lilting, mesmeric melody. Lonesome country vibes drift across the desertscape of ‘Gråtarslaget, but it’s tinged with a hint of eastern mysticism. It’s an intriguing juxtaposition. Rolling piano and slow marching drums drift through the slowcore country meandering of ‘Florianer’, which in turn trickles down into the woozy warp of ‘Røk’.

The sparse arrangements and slowly unfurling motifs make for music – or, in places, something so background as to be an approximation of muzak – which is paired down, stripped back, presenting pieces which are less compositions and more emblematic of the essence of slowcore country. It’s not often that I would suggest songs would benefit from vocals, but these instrumental works do carry a weighted note of absence.

 

 

Geir Sundstol

Oktaf – OKTAF#13

Christopher Nosnibor

Still Air is the third solo album by Japanese electronic musician and soundtrack composer Teruyuki Nobuchika. Promising ‘electronic abstractions and classic sensitivity’ with ‘influences in a minimal ambient music context’, Still Air is very much about the atmospheric background, in the most fundamental of terms. Nobuchika creates ambient music which is subdued, toned down, quiet, devoid of beats and overt structures. Still Air is an album which, first and foremost, drifts.

Microglitches, the soft hiss of a vinyl groove, a barely discernible click disturb the almost pure ambience of the title track, and introduce Nobuchika as a musician with a keenly attenuated ear for subtlety and nuance. Across the album elongated drones, backwards hums and soft, supple strings create delicately atmospheric background compositions. What renders them interesting is the way in which Nobuchika filters in tiny incidentals, brief brushstrokes which add layering and depth. Rays of light filter through swirling fogs, chimes and tinkling notes ripple mellifluously amidst soothing washes of cloud-like sound.

The measure of any music is what kind of response it engenders in the listener. More often than not, ambient works evoke a sense of vague, relaxed enjoyment, but little more, as a tranquil boredom slowly takes hold. Still Air achieves something similar, but without the boredom. It’s a pleasurable experience, and one which offers an unconventionally three-dimensional ambient experience.

 

Teruyuki Nobuchika – Still Air

Orchestrated Dystopia – 1st October 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

Another release it’s taken me four months to review, and for no reason than that I’ve been utterly swamped and a little disorganised, both in terms of my time management and my thoughts. Such is the life of an unpaid music reviewer who stumbles in from working the day-job to be greeted by around twenty emails each evening and a bundle of CDs on the doormat, all demanding attention.

Somewhat ironically, this latest offering from Italian band Humus, purveyors of nasty metal noise, is one of the shortest releases – including singles – I’ve had come my way all year, with the running time for these four tracks totalling barely a fraction over five minutes.

We’re in authentically brutal, crusty, grindy d-beat metal territory here. The guitars a dirty, murky, churning mess, the drums a frenzied thousand-mile-an-hour tempest. The bass is all but lost in the frenetic, furious low-fi treble fest, while the vocals are all about that snarling, strangulated, torn-throat demonic rage, the sound of one of Satan’s minions gargling nitric acid while dancing over hot coals en route to a purgatorial abyss.

It’s dark, the sound of burning rage, a blurring welter of relentless noise. Keeping the songs savagely short and the production mercilessly raw, it’s everything you would want from a band who trade in thrashcore crustpunk.

 

Humus

Interstellar Records – INT040 – 1st November 2016

James Wells

Two years on from the release of the album Nomads, Tumido return with xaxim – an EP of remixes of the track from Nomads. That’s two years to assemble four remixes, one of which they’ve done themselves. There’s nothing like working at a leisurely pace. Was it worth the wait?

Nik Hummer’s remix goes for the slow build, shuddering bass throb and flashing electrode treble rumble for an eternity, building tension and expectation. It’s three minutes before the bumping beats slide in and kick out a devilishly low-down groove. Stefan Nemeth strips it back to a bare bass loop, all subsonic tones and burred edges, grinding out a monotonous yet majestic dirge. The Buenventura remix offers some relief, with an uptempo, beat-led reinterpretation. Hectic rhythms bump hard, and the bleepy analogue synths over the top have a classic vintage vibe about them. The tracks builds and expands, layering up and growing in density until it obtains an optimum groove.

Tumido’s own reworking is perhaps the most radical of all, accentuating the darker tones with elongated, organ-like drones which swell and crackle with overloading low-end frequencies. Rippling waves of metallic-edged sound tear through the deep, wide expanse to create a vast swathe of pulsating sonic space. It’s a towering display of magnificence which ends abruptly and rather disappointingly.

Was it worth the wait? For the final track alone, yes.

 

Tumido - xaxim

Solaire Records

Christopher Nosnibor

Threads of a Prayer is an immense work. Over the course of two discs and two and a half hours, Volume 1 of this two-part project finds Jeffrey Roden exploring quiet spaces, and as much as he explores spirituality, he also explores the effects of quietness and solitude in a world where life is a perpetual crescendo of noise.

The first time I played disc one was at work. I like to listen to music to drown out the inane babble of my colleagues. Due to recent cost-saving moves, my colleagues are now in closer proximity and more densely-packed than previously (which is what happens when multinational corporations decide that profits are more important than people, and close one of the main offices, condensing the workforce of three offices into two). The volume is, at times, unbearable, and music helps to filter out the background racket and therefore helps me to focus. This was not the result with Threads of a Prayer, which is, in the most part, so quiet as to be barely audible.

There are long periods of silence, or near silence. Such silence feels somehow daring, but also creates a remarkable atmospheric intensity. In these moments, in the right listening conditions, it is possible to cast off the clamourous hum of the world, the everyday, other people. These are periods for reflection, for contemplation. A dolorous single note played on piano resonates, booming, on the third of ’12 Prayers: One’. These, it feels, are prayers offered in dark times, under testing circumstances, but always with a ray of hope twinkling.

Roden’s piano playing demonstrates remarkable focus and restraint, not just in the spaces between the individual notes, but the attention to the way in which the soft passages are played with such delicacy, flickering flourishes as gentle as a butterfly’s wing, and with a natural grace seemingly finer than the blunt tools of human hands are capable.

The presentation is outstanding: the design is sleek, discreet, classically understated. The card stock which houses the jewel case and magnificently produced thirty-six page booklet is uncommonly heavy, and the high level thought that has gone into both the contents and layout of the booklet is clearly apparent. Make no mistake, this is a true work of art. The presentation gives a sense of occasion, of importance. For all its duration and the meticulous nature of the packaging, the pieces which make up the work are remarkable not for their scale or grandeur, but for their hushed introspection.

 

Jeffrey Roden – Threads of a Prayer – Volume 1

Unsounds – 54U

Christopher Nosnibor

This is one of many releases I’ve been sitting on – figuratively speaking – for a long time without getting round to playing. I tend to listen to CDs while at work in my day-job, and digital promos at home (because I can’t stream or download on work systems), and while I can stuff a bunch of regular CDs into a jiffy and carry them to and from the office, the packaging of this release made it simply impractical. That, and the fact I had to battle long and hard with myself to resist the urge to burn the thing.

It’s not that I have any kind of objection to any of the artists in this three-way collaboration, or take issue with its premise, namely a series of portraits of radical heretical figures from across history, spanning Caravaggio and the Marquis de Sade, to William Burroughs and Johnny Rotten. In fact, it’s a concept I can get on board with, and for months I’ve looked at the magnificent packaging, a box-type affair which folds out to reveal a CD, a DVD and a book containing all of the words to the tracks – some in French, some in English, some in a combination of the two – forming a rich linguistic tapestry. Published in an edition of just 1,000 copies, including 26 lettered copies, it’s a work of art, not a disposable piece of trash. But the box is a giant flip-front matchbook. The front cover is made of fine sandpaper, and glued inside the flap, on its own, stark and inviting is a match, a full fore inches long. What would be more in keeping with the spirit of the project than burning it without hearing so much as a note, and reviewing the sound of the fire taking hold and the rustle of art burning, the colour of the dancing flames and the texture of the ash? It would hardly be Watch the KLF Burn a Million Quid, but nevertheless… I’m a pussy. I was also too curious to explore the contents of the package. And having heard the album and watched the film, there was no way I could even pretend to burn it. I’m weak. I’m no heretic.

Chaton, Moor and Moore are no heretics, either: they’re artists who appreciate heretics. It’s not always obvious to whom each piece relates, and perhaps a priori knowledge of the individual heretical figures is beneficial, as is an ability to translate French. ‘The Things that belong to William’ does not mention Burroughs by name. However, the bilingual text, in referencing ‘a Paregoric Kid’, ‘Pontopon Rose’, ‘Joselito’, ‘Bradley the Buyer’ and a host of characters and scenes from Naked Lunch and beyond, the connection is clear – to those versed in the author’s work. ‘Poetry Must Me Made By All’ is, then, presumably, a dedication to Comte de Lautreamont, pro-plagiaristic precursor of the Surrealists, Situationists and Neoists, as well as the cut-up technique of Burroughs and Gysin.

Textually – these are texts and not lyrics, delivered in a spoken word / narrative form – it’s an erudite work, researched, intertextual, referential. Sonically, it’s no more immediate. Oblique, obtuse, challenging: these are the first descriptors which volunteer their services in untangling Heretics.

‘Casino Rabelaisien’ is a tense effort, with angular guitar clanging perpendicular to a gritty, awkward bass grind. Chatton remains nonchalant and monotone amidst the chaotic no-wave cacophony. ‘Dull Jack’ begins with Thurston’s voice alone, before churning guitars slither in. There are no regular rhythmic signatures here, no ‘tunes’, no hooks or melodies: instead, this is a set which uses instruments in a more abstract way, conjuring uneasy atmosphere and often simply attacking the senses.

With the guitars of Moor and Moore duelling, playing across one another as much as with one another, the effect is jarring, uncomfortable. Both players employ atonality and discord within their performances, and when discordant passages collide, it’s a brain-bending experience.

Heretics is a work which delivers on its promise and conveys the spirit of the outré, unconventional artists who inspired it. It is, in addition, a true work of art. Don’t burn it.

Heretics