Archive for January, 2017

You want slow-buiding, psych-tinged shoegaze with a magnificent motorik groove? We’ve got it right here. Lifted from their upcoming debut album Call Them Brothers, it’s seven and three-quarter minutes of blissed-out, FX-laden alternative rock steeped in the haze of 90s greats like Ride and Chapterhouse. But enough preamble. Watch and listen. And enjoy.

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Ipecac Recordings – 24th February 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

Some project ae just so wild and so awesome that they can’t fail. Crystal Fairy is one. The fact that it’s out on Ipecac should be a big clue. Essentially another Melvins offshoot, this project features King Buzzo and Dale Crover (Melvins and myriad mental offshoots), with Teri Gender Bender (Le Butcherettes), Omar Rodriguez-Lopez (Mars Volta, At the Drive In). If you haven’t already encountered Le Butcherettes, our life is sadly lacking and you need to do something about it, immediately.

Le Butcherettes are one of the most ferociously angular, choppy, abrasive and truly awesome contemporary exemplars of the no-wave ethos, and Terri Gender Bender is a fearsome and fantastic front woman: the perfect foil to the sludge with a grin craziness of The Melvins. Omar Rodrguez-Lopez (Mars Volta, At the Drive In) is hardly a weak link here.

As the press release recounts, ‘The whole idea for Crystal Fairy began when The Melvins and Le Butcherettes toured together and The Melvins started doing the song “Rebel Girl” with Teri at the end of their set.’

The album erupts with a whack! Think! Chug-a-chug thundrball punk-tinged rock racket of Chiseler’. It crackles. It fizzes. But what’s perhaps unexpected is just how accessible it is, courtesy of its strong, melody-led chorus. It also has that early 80s vibe and the poke of a small-town pub gig or a demo tape recorded by an ultra-proficient provincial band who deserve a wide audience. That’s not a criticism of Crystal Fairy, but of the industry, at least as it was.

Rock cliché is never far away on this album: ‘Necklace of Divorce’ wheels in AC/CDisms and Led Zeppelinisms galore, but there’s a savviness to the delivery that hints at a certain knowingness, a play on the clichés being stirred in and churned around in the mix. The result is alchemy, and an album brimming with choppy tunes that explode with full-throttle drive, and build the dynamics with passages of tension-building stealth. Grunge classic? Yeah, and so much more

‘Moth Tongue’ simply sounds like Terri Gender Bender fronting The Melvins playing one of their poppier tracks. As such, it’s ace, and ‘Bent Teeth’ is simply scorching. As is the album as a whole: raucous rambunctious, it combined churning, gritty riffs with wild-eyed histrionic vocals. As much as I’m a sucker for a meaty guitar, I’m even more one to be pulled in by a vocal delivery that borders on the psychotic, and Terri’s go that absolutely nailed. But then, as the title track attests, the foursome can also nail a full-throttle post-punk pop tune: think Blondie, think PJ Harvey, delivered with energy and guts and raw sex. Belting as the backing is, Terri makes it: she sounds dangerous, intense, precarious. While the basslines tear through your guts, she tears through your very soul.

Crystal Fairy is the supergroup every supergroup should aspire to: the embodiment of rock ‘n’ roll awesome, they’ve got the full works going on here.

 

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The band who brought us ‘Riot Revolt Revolution (Tory Bastard Scum)’, Razor Sharp Death Blizzard, recently unleashed their new video for what their PR describe as ‘the shattering’ “There Will Be Blood”.

Since releasing their first EP “Riot, Revolt, Revolution” themselves in 2015, the band have been busy making a name for themselves on the UK live circuit, with their ferocious shows and politically charged shards of punk hate. In January 2016 the band returned to the studio to work with producer Chris Fielding at Skyhammer Studios in Scotland to record their thrilling new record; “You Will Burn”. Nine blasts of furious, nihilistic noise that prises its way between The Exploited and Dead Kennedy’s like an unwelcome dinner guest.

Frontman Jamie Clark simply had this to say on the track: “The change is coming, there will be blood, revolution needs to come our governments are playing us for fools. The world is fucked, but we the people can rise above the scum.”

Watch the appropriately metal video to this impressively fierce effort here:

Cat Werk Imprint – CW11 – 8th February 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

The inspiration for Olivia Louvel’s latest album (fantastically presented, like its predecessor, in a DVD size digipak) casts an arc way back into history. Louvel, it transpires, was fascinated by the lives of Mary Queen of Scots and Elizabeth I – two queens who existed simultaneously on the same island, during the 16th Century – a period dominated by men. Two queens who, powerful and celebrated in their own lifetimes as well as posthumously, would never meet. And so, on Data Regina, Olivia Louvel sets herself the challenge of addressing their simultaneous yet entirely separate, disparate narratives of these two bitter rivals, and presenting distinct voices as she charts their adversarial relationship.

The twenty years during which the two queens reigned simultaneously were fraught, tempestuous ones, punctuated by battles on the Anglo-Scottish borders, disputes and reconciliations, and ultimately saw Mary Tudor sentenced to death and executed.

Effectively two works intertwined – ‘The Antechamber; and ‘Battles’, with the latter comprising a sequence of relatively short instrumental pieces positioned between the longer ‘songs’ – Data Regina is no polite period drama in musical form. It most certainly doesn’t correspond with the popular Elizabeth-slanted syllabus readings of the period, or correspond with the backdrop generally presented on degree-level modules taught on ‘Elizabethan’ and ‘Renaissance’ Literature (the Renaissance was late to reach Britain in relation to the rest of Europe). Herein lies an immense problem, of course: how can we learn from history when so much of the past is unknown, shrouded in layer of mystery and obfuscation as the result of political (self)interest? Would the present be as fucked as it is if we all had a better knowledge and understanding of history? Maybe, maybe not. The age of Elizabeth I, of Shakespeare, of – my preferred man of letters, Christopher Marlowe – is a long way in the past.

Data Regina an album of dark, haunting electronica, which stands in a league of its own: it has no obvious reference points in music, history or elsewhere. It’s a bold project, for sure, and Louvel admirably achieved her ambitions with a work which conveys its intent without becoming overly mired in explication and cumbersome narrative segments which disrupt the flow.

Louvel sets the tone – both musically and in terms of narrative – with the dark swell of ‘Battlefield’. Vaporous in its atmospherics, the track combines echoey beats which clatter and rattle around between resonant, woozy basslines and sparse, drifting notes. ‘My Crown’ weaves a haunting spell, slow pulsating electronics and mournful strings first float and then rise to a tense climax. At times, juddering electronics and stuttering, glitchy rhythms spasm and render scenes of claustrophobic intensity, Louvel’s detached, icy vocals eerily menacing. The pieces – they don’t follow clear or conventional song structures – are intense sonic explorations of character and voice.

‘Langside, 1568’, is a dark, dolorous interlude, the fractured vocalisations preface the marching drums which dominate the barren landscapes of ‘Deploy’ and ‘Battle’. It’s uncomfortable, queasy listening, the elegance and grace of the sparse compositions and Louvel’s voice countered by a discomforting undercurrent that runs throughout. It’s by no means an easy, accessible work: in fact, Data Regina is dark and turbulent and often uncomfortable, but it is deeply compelling.

 

Olivia Louvel - Data Regina

Reject and Fade – 28th February 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

Tim Hann used to front a Leeds-based alternative rock band called I Concur some years ago. I forget exactly how I discovered them now, but they were really, really good, one of those bands you would see play liv and think ‘Fuck. How are they not immense?’ One of the most precise and exhilarating live acts around, they were in another league, and it felt wrong to see them play as a support at the 450-capacity Brudenell Social Club. With the NME and Huw Stephens backing them they should have been huge. Sadly, the show I caught at the Packhorse in Leeds in 2010, where they tried out some of the material that would appear on the 2012 album Burial Proof would be one of their last, and Burial Proof would effectively be their sign-off. Life had already got in the way prior to the album’s release: ‘the usual thirty-something excuses of jobs, kids & houses’, as they put it on Facebook. And so it goes: ambition and dreams crushed by reality. The guilt and the money-pit of leaving your wife to deal with the children, while you go out on tour, pursuing the life of a young, single man.

I get it. Bands slog their guts out for fuck all. So do music reviewers, it so happens. ‘It’s not work, you don’t get paid for it,’ Mrs N retorts as I wade through the thirty or so emails which have crashed into my inbox while I’ve been at the day-job. Don’t free CDs, downloads and gigs count as pay? I’m not going to argue: I take the point. At least I get free stuff in abundance. Bands just hand out free stuff to buggers like me in the hope they’ll get a review. I review maybe 20% of the material I receive these days. It’s not because I’m a shit – no, it’s not the reason – it’s because I simply can’t do any more. The point is that being in a band is hard. It’s no life for a grown adult with mouths to feed.

A brief backtrack: in my endless quest for self-promotion, I used to run round slapping stickers and postcards everywhere every time I attended a gig. I didn’t sell many books off the back of it, but I did get an introduction to Tim’s younger brother Michael, a writer and soon-to-be head honcho at experimental Reject and Fade, a label devoted to dark ambient and generally weird, dark electronic-based nastiness. It’s a small and sometimes wonderful world. Were it not for all of this backstory – and I make no apology for the anecdotal meanderings with their Sartrean, Robbe-Grillet tinted reflections – this review would not exist. You should be grateful for the existence of this review because this offering by break_fold – Tim Hann’s latest project, released on brother Michael Hann’s Reject and Fade imprint is an inspired underground work, which, by its nature is unlikely to receive much mainstream critical coverage, deserves your attention.

break_fold represents a significant departure: there isn’t a jangly guitar to be heard here, not a single emotive swell, and no vocals: in other words, nothing remotely resembling the conventions of rock. This is music produced slowly, during moments away from life. And it’s music made by one man, at home, likely in the small hours, without the need to rely on the input of others. Hann clearly has music in his blood, and possesses an incredible focus when he’s making it. As a dark ambient work, amorphous, intangible yet curiously challenging, it’s an outstanding release and one which displays a meticulous attention to detail. The tones, the texture, the crispness of the beats and the overtly synthetic elements, in contrast with the swirling background elements is quite something.

About the title: 07_07_15 – 13_04_16 is pitched as ‘a record of memories and time stamped bursts of creative activity, captured and crystallised in glacial beats, foggy textures and electrified rhythms.’ The track titles are, in fact, the dates on which the individual track were started. As a whole, it’s a document of a specific time-span. There is something simultaneously resonant and alienating about this location in time, in that time is both universal and personal. Events take place at given times which are known globally. Other events are strictly personal. But our location in time is often marked not by the event but by our reaction to it. Take, for example, the announcement that the UK had voted to leave the EU. Many, if not most, UK citizens will forever have the fateful events of the 23rd June 2016, and also the 24th (very much the morning after) etched into their memories. But their responses will vary wildly, and the memories will inevitably be shaped by that immediate reaction on hearing the result.

07_07_15 – 13_04_16 is a journey into the break_fold mind-space, but without context in terms of the events of the dates in question. This accentuates the sense of dislocation already present in the music itself – music which conveys emotional tension, conflict, unease through the medium of rumbling, uncomfortable layers of sound which drift and hang like mist or toxic gas. Murky, impenetrable, tense and dubby, it’s a challenging journey into the unknown defined by low, strolling basslines streaking, slow-turning ambient tension and clamorous beats swathed in echo.

 

break_fold

SOFA – SOFA 555 – 13th January 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

It’s no secret that I have a real penchant for what the man on the street – and most of my friends, and certainly the uncultured crets in my dayjob would brand ‘weird shit.’ Indeed, it’s fair to say that Aural Aggro’s primary raison d’être is to give coverage to the obscure, weird shit that exists way, way off the radar. It’s not necessarily that I’m being wilfully perverse: oftentimes, I will simply find that the supposedly weird shit resonates with me on some subconscious level, in the way that only music can. But then there are some releases that I appreciate because they’re plain bizarre. Muddersten’s Karpatlokke is an album that appeals on both levels, in that sonically, it’s intriguing, unusual, dark and intense, and conceptually, and in its construction, it’s utterly perverse.

‘Muddersten is a type of mudrock whose original constituents were clays’, the press release explains. Perhaps it was creative misprision on my part, but I immediately began to envisage the trappings of an obscure subgenre, a bastard offshoot of sludge metal, or a hybrid born out of crust punk. This would ordinarily make more sense, contextually, than the literal meaning which in fact applies here.

The second release to land with me in a week to feature Martin Taxt and his microtonal tuba, the instrumentation listed in the creation of this creeping compost-based composition is nothing if not unusual: Håvard Volden plays (relatively) conventional instruments, the guitar and the tape loop. Taxt, along with his microtonal tuba, contributes electronics. And then there’s Henrik Olsson, master of objects, friction, and piezo. I had to look up piezo. Precisely how one renders music from abstractions is unclear, but this strange union, which finds the trio conjure an album which is ‘all about the hydraulic’ and is preoccupied with the movement of moisture through clay and soil and its absorption by plants, is a successful one. And, for the second time in a week, I’m compelled to contemplate the line in Marvell’s ‘To His Coy Mistress’ which refers to ‘vegetable love’. Karpatlokke could well be a definite soundtrack to the Aristotelean reading of the concept.

The sounds the trio produce are appropriately earthy, although by no means overtly or conventionally musical in their nature. As such, the music does not feel as if its mechanical origins are instruments as man-made as guitars, tape-loops and electronics. Although predominantly organic-sounding, there are some pretty gnarly tones to be found here: droidal, digital squeaks and bleeps ping rapidly around sharp-edged bursts of sound. Drips and groans counterpoint dark, growling rumbles. ‘Kjempeløk’ grinds out a heavy, trudging vibration, thickly abrasive. Slow-motion scrapes turn through glitchy, crackling rhythms on ‘Stjerneskjerm’, as strings bend, bow and slowly slip the sprockets of time. It’s an unsettling work, evoking slow, creeping movement and evolutionary growth, amplified: the sonic equivalent of a nature documentary shot in high-definition, with ultra-close-ups, the frames sped up and slowed down to render in the sharpest relief the brain-bendingly awesome occurrences which take place daily in the natural world, unnoticed and invisible to the naked eye.

Each track’s title refers to a plant: ‘Stjerneskjerm’ translates as ‘Astrantia major’, commonly known as ‘master wort’, and the impressive-sounding ‘Blodstorkenebb’ is in fact a composition inspired by the rather humble Geranium sanguineum, aka bloody crane’s-bill or bloody geranium. Yes, this dark, dank, swirling noise which gnaws as the intestines and churns at the cranium is inspired by a bloody geranium. Which why it’s a great, if extremely unusual, album. Well worth digging out.

 

Muddersten – Karpatklokke

Whereas many microtonal explorations manifest as tiny, pinging blips, Microtub’s Bite of the Orange is constructed using immense, elongated notes. Perhaps somewhat obscurely and tangentially, I find myself considering Andrew Marvell’s poem ‘To His Coy Mistress’, specifically the following couplet:

My vegetable love should grow
Vaster than empires, and more slow.

No, not on account of the popular tumescent implications most readings of the lines offer: I’ve even explored the mirthsome connotations of Marvell’s emerging bulbous courgette during undergraduate seminars in an attempt to draw some kind of engagement from a room of late teens who really couldn’t give a crap about Elizabethan poetry, but that’s not why Bite of the Orange evokes Marvell in my mind. Instead, I’m drawn by the poem’s allusions to the Aristotelean connotations of a love borne out of the vegetative soul, as commented on at length by Lawrence Burton in his magnificent Anatomy of Melancholy, one of my favourite 17th Century texts (largely, it’s true, on account of Burton’s magnificent language). Burton makes a connection between the ‘vegetative soul’ and ‘natural love’; a love which is a slow-growing, evolutionary condition.

Granted, an orange is not a vegetable, but, like this slow-growing love, Bite of the Orange moves at an almost imperceptible pace, organic. Microtub’s slow, microtonal explorations require patience, and it’s only through time that a true appreciation of its qualities and its sonic depths can be truly appreciated.

The three tracks seep into one another, both in terms of the structures of their titles, and sonically. ‘Violet Man’ ventures into the dark, its low rumblings feeling their way through subterranean territories and poking the deepest recesses of the mind, and the three long-firm tracks combine to offer a full, panoramic perspective on the nuanced tonalities three microtonal tubas can create.

Bite of the Orange is not an album of action. It is an album which unfurls, creeping, revealing its aspects in greater detail the more closely one listens.

Microtub