Archive for January, 2017

January 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

There’s nothing wrong with pop. Critics the world over will tell you that pop is trash, that it has less artistic currency than any other musical style. We don’t mean it, at least as abrasively and directly as all that. And those who do man it are terrible snobs who lack the broadmindedness to be a just critic. Any music critic worth paying attention to loves pop – good pop. This means I’m not talking about the mass-produced r’n’b slop that proliferates in the top 40. What, they dispensed with that? Well, R1 did, and that perhaps shows just how devalued mainstream pop has become. But moving on… pop isn’t always a dirty word. Quality pop is a rare find.

Balancing expansive, bombastic, surging songs with more introspective, low-key yet deft and accessible songs, Ukrane’s Vagabond Specter produce pop of a rare quality: their synth-led songs are dreamy, layered. Pablo Specter, the band’s singer dispenses lyrics – his voice heavily processed and accented – about swans and dancing, and he’s got a decent range which spans from the light and soaring to a crooning baritone.

They’re not lightweight or lacking in substance or imagination, either. There’s a magical electronic snowstorm in the middle of ‘Scars as Notes’, and ‘Dancing in the Light’ has guitar chug, buoyant synths and a bouncy vocal, and calls to mind XTC’s ‘Making Plans for Nigel’. XTC are a perfect example of a pop band and ‘Making Plans for Nigel’ is as good a pop song as you’ll ever hear. This is not critical opinion: it’s fact. So, by associative connections, Vagabond Specter are a great pop band, and ‘Mirrors’ is a great album. And it is: as much as it’s steeped in nostalgia and historicity, it’s a cracking pop album which harks back to certain vintage. There’s nothing wrong with that: great songs defy genre, age and epoch.

 

Vagabond Specter

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Ideologic Organ – SOMA025 – 10th February 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

The accompanying press release is instructive and informative as to the premise of the latest offering from The Necks. Entering their thirtieth year of their existence, the trio continue to innovate and to create music which expands the parameters of jazz music:

The latest document from this long-running ensemble, Unfold, presents itself as a double LP, with four side-length tracks. A deliberate absence of numbered sides hands a substantial swatch of participation over to the listener, allowing her to navigate his own path through the soundscape at hand. The shorter length of the vinyl format, far from being a constraint upon the members of the ensemble, instead offers them a more compact horizon to contemplate, wherein the distance travelled is recalibrated to more immediate and dynamic textural concerns.

The title is appropriate, in that it gives a fitting indication of the nature of the compositions. Although the vinyl format is pitched as being a ‘shorter’ format, the fact that each track occupies a full side of this double album means that each piece still has a running time of between fifteen and twenty-one minutes. And unfold is what they do: gradual evolutions, slow unfurlings and near-imperceptible outspreadings which creep from sparse to near-overwhelming.

‘Blue Mountain’ begins with a delicate piano, but over time builds in depth, tension and pace to a sustained crescendo that never quite breaks. It simmers long and leisurely, cymbal crashes rising in intensity, resembling an intro to a track on a recent Swans album. I mean this as a compliment: it’s a lengthy piece, but there’s movement, there are dynamics, there’s a tangible sense of trajectory.

Noodling Hammond keys wander over a slow, pulsating undulation on ‘Overhear’, and it’s hypnotic and mellow. Perhaps the most overtly ‘jazz’ composition, it also encapsulates perfectly the wide-ranging elements The Necks incorporate within their music. Bongos bubble up jittery rhythms while the trilling organ notes meander and weave, intersecting time signature s forging an increasing sense of spatial disorientation over time.

The tribal rhythms which dominate ‘Ride’ slowly but surely increase in pace, raising the tension as the elongated, barely perceptible notes hang in slow suspense. Ultimately, the pace reaches a frenetic peak, before collapsing into arrhythmia , a conglomeration of discord and distempo, and the fourth track, ‘Timepiece’ is nothing short of a bewildering chaos of percussion, discord and orchestrated dissonance. Against the clattering rattle of drums and more, bass notes resonate and xylophone notes ring out in different directions, and over time, it becomes increasingly unsettling disorientating, difficult.

Unfold is by no means an easy album. It’s by no means a ‘jazz’ album in conventional terms. But in terms of an album which bounces off the wall in myriad unexpected directions freeforming and freewheeling as the musicians explore interpersonal musical boundaries, it’s the epitome of jazz. It’s also really rather good. Well, it is a Necks album, after all.

The Necks - Unfold

We don’t normally replicate press circulations wholesale, but this… well, this is huge It just had to be shared, and requires no input from us here at AA:

‘WHERE DOES A BODY END?’ is the first-ever authorized documentary of the band Swans. A Kickstarter fundraising effort is being launched to raise production funds and help see the project to fruition.

The film will not only focus on the various historical stages of the band’s career but also investigate band founder/leader Michael Gira’s vision and determination, which have been the powerhouse that has fueled this group’s run of unprecedented, explosive art for 35 years, a burden shouldered by him for better or worse the entire time.

The aim of the documentary is not to be just a traditional music documentary about a band but more of an artistic piece to help put the band and its music in their rightful place in the annals of cultural history. Marco Porsia, the filmmaker, has gained great personal insight into the band by filming them live since 2010.

…and collected hundreds of hours of never before seen archival video and photographic documentation of Swans from 1982 to 1997.  This will capture the intensity of the band throughout the years and will be supported with interviews from past and present band members and journalists, as well as importantimportant musical figures of the music industry – Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore and Lee Ranaldo, JG "Foetus" Thirwell, Karen O, Amanda Palmer, Kid Congo Powers, Daniel Miller (Mute), Jehnny Beth (Savages), and Jarboe among them.

Consistently at the vanguard of music, as Swans in its current incarnation approaches its ‘end’ with a final album and tour, it is important to capture one of the most influential, unique and powerful bands in history at its peak.

35 years of perseverance, creativity and self reliance has seen the band Swans maintain a unique position in modern music.  From its inception as a NYC ‘noise experience’ to its current maelstroms and intensely focused grooves, Swans have not only survived the music industry, they have transcended musical preconceptions by consistently delving into new musical territory.  This is a band of collaborators, linked by one man, its leader, Michel Gira.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1000942931/where-does-a-body-end-a-documentary-on-the-band-sw

Leonard Skully Records – 9th December 2016

James Wells

I’m growing rather weary of arty shots of naked or semi-naked women adorning the covers of releases by post-rock and shoegaze bands. And shit post-metal and post-hardcore bands. Everything’s post-something now, and I’m beyond weary of that. But we live in a click-bait world where adolescence is suspended in perpetuity, and despite the fact that everything’s freely available and as hardcore or strange as you want it at the click of a button, there’s still a certain lure in the risqué.

Call it art – and it should be possible to do so – but the prevalence of the practice makes it feel hollow, cheap and exploitative. ‘Yeah, let’s slap a chick on the cover of our meandering, ponderous post-rock EP… it’ll make us look arty and interesting and like we know photographers who can get girls to pose for them. Incidentally, I hate photographers as a rule, especially the ones who manage to make like they’re ‘safe’ aren’t sleazy… and no, not because I’m jealous. I really do just think they’re cunts.

The_Veldt_-_In_a_Quiet_Room

In a Quiet Room’, the single cut from The Veldt’s preposterously-titled The Shocking Fuzz of Your Electric Fur: The Drake Equation has an arty black and white head and shoulders shot of a woman, or a girl, by way of a cover. Apropos of absolutely bloody nothing. It certainly says nothing of the layered, textured, murky, glitchy, drum ‘n’ bass influenced soulful post-rock sonic expanses they conjure, the trickling cymbal work which grips a tight tension over squalling, drifting guitar treble on the EP’s opener ‘Sanctified’ or the shimmering post-rock / r’n’b crossover of said single ‘In a Quiet Room’.

Quite how comfortable I am with their seemingly incongruous but seamlessly smelted hybridity, I’m not sure, but there’s no faulting its execution. The Veldt get atmosphere, and they get sleekness. I’m not sure I get it, or the appeal, but it’s neatly executed and sounds nothing like the cover art suggests.

 

Veldt EP

PIG mark the release of new album ‘The Gospel’ with a UK tour, for which the Lord of Lard Raymond Watts has enlisted former KMFDM colleagues En Esch and Günter Schulz, Greg Steward aka Z.Marr (formerly of Combichrist) and Galen Waling (Left Spine Down/16 Volt).

The ‘Swine & Punishment’ tour is jointly headlined with Mortiis. Dates are as follows :

10.03.17  NOTTINGHAM Rescue Rooms

11.03.17  GLASGOW Ivory Blacks

12.03.17  NEWCASTLE Think Tank

13.03.17  YORK Fibbers

14.03.17  SHEFFIELD Plug

15.03.17  MANCHESTER Ruby Lounge

16.03.17  BRISTOL The Fleece

17.03.17  NORWICH Epic Studios

18.03.17  LONDON The Garage

Tickets can be purchased here.

PIG and Mortiis have recently reworked one of each other’s songs for new remix records. PIG’s is entitled Swine & Punishment and will be released in May. It also features remixes by the likes of Chris Vrenna (as Tweaker), Kanga, Skold and Marc Heal of Cubanate (as MC Lord Of The Flies).

Meanwhile, you can watch the video for ‘The Diamond Sinners’ here:

Southern Lord – 20th January 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

It’s part and parcel of the music critic’s remit to know anything and everything about all music, and to have an opinion on it all, too. More importantly, the music critic’s job description entails knowing more about music than you, irrespective of anything. Go on, talk to me about music. I’ll gush about some of the things you life if they’re cool, and I’ll shit over everything else, demolishing your favourite bands on which because I’m the fucking expert. Why? What drives this propensity for inordinately cunty behaviour? Think about it. In the age of the internet, everyone’s a fucking expert. So how else do we justify our position if not by proving we’re more expert, more opinionated and more eloquent in our critiques?

So, it’s confession time: much as I dig a fair bit of proper, old-school US hardcore, I do not profess to be an expert. Having not heard of Uniform Choice, I asked a friend of mine who’s a proper fan of US hardcore for his opinion on Uniform Choice. He hadn’t heard of them either, which means he’s not as much of a fan or expert as I took him for, or Uniform Choice are really bloody obscure. Either is equally likely, and Southern Lord’s commitment to excavating lesser-known bands of the heyday of hardcore is laudable.

But I did have misgivings about Uniform Choice: the press release promises ‘furious hardcore energy and a signature vocal delivery combine with empowering lyrical output to formulate one of the most renowned and longstanding albums of the ‘80s hardcore scene.’ ‘Fourteen straightedge anthems’ I can handle, but something doesn’t sit to comfortably: namely, the fact Uniform Choice are pitched as ‘California’s godfathers of positive hardcore’.

‘It’s going to be shit,’ I told my friend.

‘You need to be more positive,’ he replied.

‘Ok, I’m positive it’s going to be shit,’ I told him.

I’m funny like that. It’s the way I tell ‘em.

But really, isn’t positive hardcore a dismal oxymoron which sits in the same field as Christian metal?

Sonically, Screaming For Change, their first full-length album, originally released in 1986, is incendiary, a blistering, fiery powerhouse of punk rock noise, an album which encapsulates the ferocity, the intensity, and the raw, brutal determination of the early hardcore movement to make a difference. The songs are – as you’d expect – hard, fast and short. The drums are hell-for-leather and the guitars a furious chug. The production is surprisingly crisp, with clear separation between the instruments. Screaming for Change finds Uniform Choice exploit many popular punk tropes, with terrace-chant ‘choruses’ – the title shouted out a few times, as on ‘Use Your Head’ and shouted vocals bellowing out the expletive-filled lyrics so fast half the words are impossible to catch.

It’s all about the force of expression, and more about the sentiment than the melody: ‘it’s all the same / and I’m tired of taking the fucking blame!’

The ‘positive’ aspect doesn’t come across as preaching, and despite titles like ‘Straight and Alert’ and ‘My Own Mind,’ ‘Don’t Quit’, Uniform Choice are pissed off and looking to smash the system. But instead of blind nihilistic rage, theirs is a message that celebrates the idea that there are alternatives, that you don’t have to follow the crowd, that shit as everything is, you don’t have to perpetuate the same shit yourself. And I’m down with that.

 

tp0009c_SP_Gate_Cover

Grunge is not dead. What’s more, with Hands Off Gretel, it’s kicking, scratching an hollering loud and angry. Having grabbed our attention last year, they’re starting 2017 in suitably fiery fashion, with a new self-released video. ‘World Against She’ is an angst-spitting belter. You can watch it here, and we srongly recommend that you do: