Archive for December, 2016

Consouling Sounds – 25th November 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

The title of Barst’s first full-length album is a reference to William Burroughs’ novel of the same title. Of course it is. Burroughs’ influence on music is immense, and where the is no direct absorption of his ideas or methodologies, musicians since the 1960s have been citing him as an influence. He remains, arguably, one of the ultimate countercultural icons of the twentieth century.

While Barst acknowledges ‘the fragmented, the transcendental and the viscerally unsettling imagery of his work’ as an inspiration point for this richly detailed sonic journey of an album, there’s also a nod to the cut-up technique devised and formalised by Burroughs and Brion Gysin in 1959. There’s logic to this. The cut-ups, both on paper and when subsequently applied to audiotape suggested immediate practical applications in the production of music, and if there was a link between the concept of the cut-ups and the work of Throbbing Gristle, it was acts like Cabaret Voltaire and Foetus who really rendered the connection a direct one.

The cut-up intrinsically connotes a hybridity, a drawing together of eclectic sources, a combining and collaging of fragments to forge a multi-layered intertext, while simultaneously providing a creative liberation, in which the creator is subservient to the material.

While Burroughs claimed to have abandoned the cut-up by the time of his final trilogy, which consisted of Cities of the Red Night, The Western Lands and The Place of Dead Roads, there was a certain disingenuousness about this: the cut-ups continued to inform his writing, albeit in a more subtle form, and with the editorial input of James Grauerholz who reshaped the works with an eye to a more commercial text. The result was a more accessible mode of writing, but one which evoked something of a fugue-like state, in contrast to the annihilative cerebral barrage of his works of the 1960s. This is perhaps the point at which Barst most readily intersects with Burroughs, in offering a work which, as the press blurb explains, sees ‘layer upon layer…fitted to build up a work of art… Cutting up sounds, and layering them from very subtle to incredibly huge.’

The album effectively has five tracks, but they’re mastered as two, corresponding with the sides of the vinyl: as such, track one consists not so much of three tracks or chapters (‘The Threshold / The Rite / The Passage’) but three movements segued together to form a longform piece. Likewise side / track two features ‘The Western Lands / The Fields’

Screeding noise fills the spaces in the rich shoegaze swirl of the first movement. The drums are muddy, partly submerged, distant amidst the maelstrom. The whole thing drifts… ‘The Rite’ is built around an insistent beat and pulsating, looped synth motif. It’s perhaps the most overtly structured, and the most overtly electronic track on the album, laying down an expansive desert groove that transports the listener to another space altogether. An immense sonic swell bursts into a multi-layered, infinitely-faceted cathedral of sound, which gives way to engine-like drones. What is this? Where are we? In the afterburn, tectonic thuds shake. A deep, murky bass warps and grinds against a decayed industrial rhythm to create a sinister, post-apocalyptic soundscape.

The moody, dark ambience of the title track melds an almost ritualistic, ceremonial spiritualism to a thumping electronic beat. Low in the mix, the vocals howl out in a barely intelligible expulsion of soul-burning anguish. Part black metal, part Prurient, devastatingly barren, it’s perhaps one of the most innovatively genre-breaking tracks I’ve heard all year. The vastness of ‘The Fields’ is an experience beyond words. The percussion hammers out hard, but low, grinding explosively but largely buried in the immense swathe of layered sound which is totally immersive. But then, the storm is over. The grace and elegance of the piano-led play-out is contrasting in the extreme. But this is beautiful music, and provides welcome respite.

The Western Lands is an accomplished work, and an incredible achievement, both conceptually and sonically. A different kind of epic.

 

 

Barst - The Western Lands

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Fabrique Records – FAB060CD – 14th October 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

Whatever is present, there is always an absence of something, even if the absence is of nothing. What absence ends on Jana Irmert’s debut album, which comprises six pieces created with a combination of field recordings, experimental electronic sounds, and voice, is unclear. But then, clarity is not Irmert’s objective: End of Absence is subtle, nuanced and atmospheric, a project designed to stir the imagination.

The title track opens the album with a thick bussing hum of feedback, which mutates into an eternal, mid-tone drone. The sparse beats and monotone spoken word of ‘Bagful’ sits somewhere between Young Marble Giants and Throbbing Gristle, the thunking percussion whips through the stark minimal grind. Elsewhere, on, ‘Obstacles’ a barrelling wind of white noise, burred with scraping metal-edged electronic distortion, blows into silence. Long, rumbling tones hang and swirl like mist around hisses and hums.

Irmert’s interests are the vague, irrational, less tangible aspects of existence, and these manifest in the compositions which make up End of Absence. Immense washes of sound, like tidal waves of static, crash against virtual shores on an imaginary world. drawing from a broad sonic palette, Irmert inspires an almost paradoxical sense of engaged detachment, in which the listener cannot help but bring something of themselves to complete the listening experience. In such an exercise in inclusivity, both artist and listener are fully present, and so we arrive at the end of absence.

Jana Irmert - End of Absence

Edition Beides – beides 2 – 9th December 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

Why am I enthralled by a deep, churning low-end rumble that sounds like a slowed-down washing machine with pops that sound like a ping-pong ball being smacked around? What is it that’s so compelling about a distant sound that may or may not be a sustaining guitar that suddenly breaks into ear-shattering strains of feedback? It’s uncomfortable, it attacks the senses. Perhaps it’s a deep-seated defect which lurks like a parasite in my psyche, and gnaws away invisibly, driving me toward audio works which induce discomfort, craving a psychologically twisted, deviant form of amour. Perhaps I’m just wired differently. The answers to these questions do not lie in Paul Wirkus’ ‘psycho-acoustic essay’, described as ‘a consciously digital ambient album between laptop electronica and field recordings’, which is forged with ‘mental strolls… are combined with real strolls through the green fields of the summery, loud city on the search for security, calm, and a chance to exhale’.

The four tracks on Discours Amoureux offer little sense of comfort, of respite, of security or calm. In fact, it’s a fairly dark and oppressive work from beginning to end, although a sense of exploration, of discovery, does still linger in traces in the corners of the uncomfortable, claustrophobic sonic spaces created by Wirkus. There’s something reluctant, grudging about Wirkus’ stance in relation to his art, and just as there’s little sense of concern for the listener’s reaction to it, there’s equally little sense of context or framing.

Welcome to 1982. I can only assume, in the absence of information, that the track’s title – and the titles of the other tracks – are dates. This first track on Discours Amoureux is in the same kind of difficult noise field as early Whitehouse (although not nearly as trebly and harsh as their work of this time), Prurient, and Merzbow, and as such, evokes the spirit of the emerging underground scene of power electronics as it was in 1982 or thereabouts. Or maybe not. Nevertheless, it’s abrasive and disturbing. The origins of the sounds are unclear, and the sleeve divulges precisely nothing beyond the artist’s name, the album title, record label and track listing. But there’s an organic feel to the slowly-evolving layers on the individual compositions. From the amorphous, shimmering wall of sound emerge moments of outstanding beauty, towering, glistening…. Yet still rough-edged, rusting, with a sufficiently abrasive surface as to scour the senses.

‘1499’ is more overtly electronic. At its foundation, the piece explores resonating notes ringing against one another, the undulating pitch creating a strangely harmonious melody. Incidental clatters and clangs – spanners against scaffolding, the chank of glass – interrupt the flow, and the notes increase in pace and the mellowness gradually is lost to rising tension and ultimately, echoes into the void of a sea of static.

The more overtly ambient ‘2016’ takes the form of a sound collage, with found sounds and field recordings assembled over random percussion and multitonal hums and drones. A gloomy, dense atmosphere descends, encapsulating in sound the long shadows which have cast themselves over the world during a year marked by catastrophic political, economic and humanitarian events. Back to a golden age, and much happier times: 1888. The year in which the great blizzard hit the US, Jack the Ripper began his notorious spree, and the first (known) recording of classical music was made, is represented by a long, sonorous, humming drone, its surface distorted with crackling, clicking. It seems reasonably apposite, intentionally or otherwise. Distant voices, slow, warped, intimate a dark spirituality and an even darker future.

What kind of perverse amour is this? How do Wirkus’ sonic explorations move you? Discours Amoureux is an uncomfortable, unsettling experience which speaks of a dark love, a brutal and torturous love, a love which causes pain, physical and psychological. Yield to it.

 

Paul Wirkus – Discours Amoureux

27th January 2014

James Wells

Weekend Recovery are a band whose career is very much on an upward trajectory, and it’s hard to believe they’ve only existed (in this incarnation, at least) since April this year. They’ve spent 2016 touring hard, and recent months have seen them read the boards at 93 Feet East, Dublin Castle, and The Alley Cat, with shows at Hoxton Von Underbelly, Hope and Anchor, and another NME’s Mark Beaumont presents at The Monarch all cued up for the New Year.

‘Don’t Try and Stop Me’ is an attitude-filled, guitar-driven sonic slap. With enough attention to the hook and enough melody to carry it commercially, it still has more than enough edge to keep it safely within the ‘alternative’ bracket.

Laurin Forster’s vocal performance is strong, gutsy yet simultaneously melodic, and it all amounts to a cracking tune with power and the fire of authenticity behind it. If they keep on with singles like this, it will be less a case of ‘don’t try and stop me’ and more a case of Weekend Recovery being unstoppable.

 

Weekend Recovery

 

Weekend Recovery Online

Hubro – HUBROCD2582 – 25th November 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

Gathering pieces composed over the span of some thirteen years, Sound of Horse provides an insight into the compositional methodology of Laurence Crane, with each of the pieces performed by the shifting lineups of the Norwegian Asamimasa ensemble.

It begins with ‘John White in Berlin’ (2003), a long, low, ominous rumbling drone-based composition for electric guitar, cello, percussion and piano. The piano is sparse and way off in the distance. The strains of guitar feedback scrape at the senses in contrast to the low, almost subsonic rippling bass hum: it builds tension, but eventually this plateaus. There’s a daring fragility to the composition, but there’s little by way of movement or progression and little to really get a grip on. ‘Riis’ (1996), for clarinet, cello and electric organ manifests first as a cloud of ambience, from which elongated organ notes pipe a slow, majestic sound, a sort of semi-ambient church muzak. It’s an imposing work, as much by virtue of the instrumentation as the composition, although Crane does cast an immersive atmosphere.

The three ‘Events’ pieces for voice, three clarinets and a vibraphone move further into the realms of the spiritual, the wordless vocals are hushed, reverent, brushed with a celestial hue radiating upwards as they entwine with the sparse, soft-edged instrumentation. It’s the sound of a dark corner, illuminated by flickering candlelight. These pieces may be short, but they’re quietly powerful, moving.

The title track consists of seven parts spanning a full twenty minutes. It sounds nothing like any horse. With clarinet, bass clarinet, acoustic and electric guitar, as well as percussion and cello, the pieces offer a greater range of texture and tone than the other pieces, and at times offer more conventional melodic passages. Chords are strummed in slow repetition while the wind instruments make minor chord progressions underscoring an atmosphere of brooding melancholy and, in places, trepidatious uncertainty. Choppy electric guitars and thumping drums on the fourth section mark the biggest divergence from the overall form of not just the suite, but the album as a whole, and hint almost toward an assimilation of the elements of rock music, albeit in its most deconstructed and experimental form.

Precisely how to summarise what this album ‘does’ is immensely challenging, and equally, it’s not particularly clear what its purpose is to convey. It isn’t that the compositions lack finesse, but they do, all too often, lack focus. While Sound of Horse is a collection, there seems to be little connection, stylistically, between the pieces, giving it something of a scrapbook feel. But what to make of it? I dunno. Maybe it needs time. Maybe it need different ears. Maybe I need a different headspace. But at the time of writing, I’ve got little more than a shrug.

Laurnce Crane - Sound of Horse

Essence – 9th December 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

The circumstances of this release are rooted in the kind of rock mythology that usually surrounds cult acts of the 60s and 70s: the kind of band known to only a few people, but spoken of with reverence and a messianic enthusiasm which, through time, finds the band achieving a legendary status which far exceeds their actual audience.

Unusually, Expo Seventy are a post-millennium band. Formed in 2003, this album captures a brief moment in their history from around 2010, when they featured a second drummer. Expo Seventy played only a handful of shows in Kansas City, and Chicago at the Neon Marshmalow festival in this four-piece iteration. Born out of a series of experimental jams laid down in the studio for an at ‘experience’ project in Kansas which would see the funding lost and the project dropped, this release accounts for the entirety of their recorded work. Recorded over the course of three weeks, the album contains two longform movements (with the CD version featuring a third).

The first section builds a steady desert rock vibe and a simmering groove emerges. Through a succession of meandering detours, breakdowns, breaks and diversions, the track holds down a thunderous rhythm, solid, and rides through a series of sustained, surging crescendos. The twenty-six minute second movement begins as a long, slow drone, an interminable hum throbbing on some six minutes in with no sign of abatement. It’s a real patience-tester, but gradually, one becomes drawn into the textures, and then, subtly, synth notes creep into the mix. A flicker of cymbals. Around the ten-minute mark, the slow build begins to step up, rolling toms building tension: it’s only a matter of time before the wall breaks. It’s all about time. And it’s all about the double-drummer lineup. They rumble like thunder, cymbals explode over the deep, augmented drone. The third movement picks up where the second leaves off, pitching a darkly atmospheric rumble. Tribal drumming thunders while analogue synths bubble through the battering beats.

For an album of its length, not a lot happens, but then, it doesn’t need to.

Finally, it’s worth mentioning the artwork and packaging. It’s truly outstanding: not only does it capture the vintage vibe beautifully, but the heavy stock makes this release feel like something special.

http://www.exposeventy.com/

Expo Seventy

Ahead of the two sell out dates at The Black Heart in March, Raging Speedhorn are set to join ragga metallers Skindred on their upcoming February tour, following on from the success of their earlier tour in late 2016.

 

Guitarist Jim Palmer had this to say of the upcoming tour: “After the fun we had last year, it’s a huge honour to hit the road once again with Skindred and finish what we started! Skindred have grown into such an

incredible band so it’s an honour. It’ll be like stepping right back to those days in the early 2000’s when we last shared a stage. Bring on the party!"

 

Raging Speedhorn will appear on the following dates with Skindred:

Jan 31st – Brighton – Concorde 2

Feb 2nd – Derby – The Venue

Feb 3rd – Edinburgh – Liquid Room

Feb 4th – Inverness – Ironworks

Feb 5th – Carlisle – Brickyard

Feb 7th – Liverpool – O2 Academy

Feb 8th – York – Fibbers

Feb 9th – Holmfirth – Picturedrome

Skindred Tour Poster 2017