Archive for February, 2017

AnalogueTrash – 17th March 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

First impressions matter. The opening seconds of ‘Beware of the Gods’, the first track on The Last Punks on Earth remind me of ‘Corrosion’ by Ministry. As such, my attention is well and truly grabbed, even before the album breaks. And when it does break, it’s a shouty, snotty, snarling drum-machine driven punk racket reminiscent of early Revolting Cocks that comes hammering from the speakers. Combining gritty, overdriven guitars and pounding, insistent mechanised beats with aggressive vocals and surging electronic noise and grinding synths, it’s not pretty.

‘We Are Freaks in the Sky’ has that classic Wax Trax! sound all over it, while ‘Sarah’s Song’ is an exemplar of the full-tilt industrialised Eurodisco of the late 80s and early 90s. KMFDM is a fair reference point for the driving, danceable technoindustrial nihilism that defines The Last Punks on Earth.

There’s little to no respite over the course of the album’s ten tracks, which offer up a savage and bleak postapocalyptic cultural worldview. Ok, so the name might evoke the blank postmodern irony of Nathan Barley, as might the band’s image and sound, but their brutal genre-clashing noise is exactly the music that these fucked-up times demand. The darkest dystopian fictions have become our reality, and on The Last Punks on Earth Syd.31 capture the zeitgeist with a violence, venom and vitality that’s pure and compelling.

Syd.31

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Christopher Nosnibor

Life is stressful, and life is strange. Our understanding of the world is built on a web of infinite lies, distortions, misrepresentations, and, essentially, a version of history which is skewed. This was an angle pushed by Willian Burroughs as far back as the early 1960s, and which subsequently came to be a key aspect of postmodern theory: amidst the blizzard of information, historians sift through the ‘facts’ and ascribe them narrative significance and superiority over one another, while at the same time forging a linear version of events which necessarily frames them in a position of cause and effect.

Tony Curtis’ Hypernormalisation documentary presents an alternative perspective of those events, and rationalises the semi-fictionalised version of events which has become accepted as the narrative of historical fact, in the name of simplification, and primarily for political end. The music of Manchester-based duo worriedaboutsatan features on the soundtrack to this epic documentary and, indeed, many other projects for film and television. Hypernormalisation is one of those works which makes you feel tense and uncomfortable. On the other hand, the music of worriedaboutsatan, while built on what on the surface may appear to be jarring incongruences, offers a conduit to escape the horrors of the modern world in some small but precious way.

Tonight’s event is the fifth and final date of a mini-package tour which serves as something of a platform for the type of music favoured by the label, This is it Forever, run by Gavin Miller and Thomas Ragsdale, aka worriedaboutsatan (and also for a time, Ghosting Season), with Sunset Graves – the brainchild of Andy Fosberry, who also happens to run microlabel 3rd and Debut providing a complimentary yet subtly contrasting coalition.

Sunset Graves’ material could reasonably be lodged into the brackets to techno and electro. And while it would be just to praise the swirling ambience which eddies around the set, and the meticulous architecture of progressive beats which defines the sound, any objective appraisal of the performance will inevitably fall short. And herein lies the magic of Sunset Graves: the carefully-considered and yet equally intuitive structures and the attention to texture and detail disappears in the enrapturing experience of simply experiencing it in the moment. Playing in near-darkness, the man with the short back and sides and the Sonic Youth ‘Confusion is Sex’ T-shirt makes musical alchemy.

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Sunset Graves

The same is true in many respects of worriedaboutsatan, an act who have evolved immensely over the course of the last decade. Without doubt, while they continue to exist on the fringes, the word of music is all the richer for their presence. Way back, they could be described as post rock with glitchy beats. In fact, I probably did describe them as precisely that. In fact, my first review of them in 2009 contained the following: ‘The scratchy click and pop beats give way to thunderous pounding rhythms, and Tom, arched over the Mac, looks like an alien hardwired into the mains as he twitches spasmodically. Meanwhile, lurking in the gloom, Gavin adds depth and texture with drones by means of guitar played with a violin bow.’

And so, in many respects, little has changed. Gavin still conjures layers of vaporously-textured guitar sound, occasionally with the use of a bow to the strings and Thomas still launches salvoes of thumping beats and deep, resonant basslines. Yet, by the same token, so much has changed. The pounding beats are there from the start, making for a more direct and immediate impact, and the sonic and textural contrasts are more prominent than ever.

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worriedaboutsatan

Having performed independently of one another during their hiatus, Gavin and Thomas’ contrasting styles have become more pronounced, and now, as Gavin cascades cinematic post-rock textures from his fretboard, Thomas cranks out evermore dense, thumping rhythms and woozy basslines which resonate around the solar plexus. They play facing one another, and if you put a line down the middle of the stage, or split the screen, you would likely be convinced you were watching two separate shows: Miller rocks silently back and forth, his guitar so drenched in effects as to not sound remotely like a guitar, while Ragsdale is a man possessed, savagely attacking his electronic gear and channelling every last drop of power from its circuitry through his veins and into the PA. But it’s the contrasts which ultimately render worriedaboutsatan such an exciting and unique proposition, both sonically and in a performance setting.

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worriedaboutsatan

It’s in the coming together of these seemingly dichotomous forces that worriedaboutsatan create their unique and utterly immersive space. There are vast expanses of sound which wash over the listener, and as the tracks often segue together, the set feels like a deftly-navigated sonic journey. It’s clear that I’m by no means the only one in the room who’s completely engaged: the minimal visuals – on this outing, relatively simple changes of light, and not a lot of it, as they still favour playing in near-darkness – mean that it’s the music which stands well to the fore, and this s music capable of inducing an almost trance-like state. There’s a guy in front of me who’s flailing his arms and pounding the air in time with the big beat drops, and there’s no question that he’s utterly lost in the moment; the majority of the rest of us simply stand stationery, transfixed.

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worriedaboutsatan

More than a decade into their career, and worriedaboutsatan are stronger than ever. If there was any doubt following the release of Blank Tape last year, they’re an act who are going far beyond fulfilling their early promise and are now well into the realms of forging a niche that’s entirely their own.

kranky – 17th February 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

It’s pitched as a ‘compelling synthesis of shadowy rhythms and opaque atmospherics, drawing on the most potent qualities of melancholic ambient and dub techno’. An Act of Love is very much an album which possesses a haunting atmosphere, with a supple, soft, subaquatic sound dragging the listener into a warm, hushed place of dark stillness where movement is slowed.

The album’s first track, ‘The Present Mist’, sets the tone, and its title is an appropriate summary of the vague, amorphous drifting soundscapes which encapsulate the overall feel of a set the fabric of which is woven from intangibles.

‘About that Time’ builds a hypnotic groove with an overtly dance-orientated beat – that is to say, an insistent bass drum in square four-four time at around 120bpm – while soft waves of sound drift like mist to form obfuscating layers which envelop the senses. A piano rings out into the warm aural webbing and hangs in the air. But the drums rattle and reverberate, echoing across one another: it’s not nearly as ambient or understated as may first appear. And so, while the album does often drift, making minimal demands on concentration, it is not without dynamic or the capacity to withstand a degree of attentiveness. It’s well-constructed and has a flow about it which works well. That flow creates, magically, a certain temporal suspension as time evaporates like vapour over the distance of successive tracks.

Jittering beats, like a palpitating heart, thump through ‘Exuberant Burning’. This is no up-front dance work, but nevertheless, there is a tension, and an excitement which emanates from its dark, cellular landscape. The flickering, pulsing beats muffled and bear a certain resemblance to sounds heard through a stethoscope.

An Act of Love is an album which slowly, subtly, almost subliminally, evolves and unfurls.

 

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SOFA – SOFA553 – 24th February 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

The album’s title is a nod to a Polish science fiction film from 1988 which has an unusual story behind its production and eventual, much-delayed release. Also in the mix of influences is the book Moon Dust by Andrew Smith, which discusses the way in which each of the Apollo astronauts dealt with their experiences, as well as how the space programme was closed down by the Nixon administration.

As you might reasonably expect, then, On the Silver Globe is a lunar / space-themed work, and one which does, albeit in in less than conventional manifestations, incorporate many common elements of ambient music which evoke all things ‘spacey’. By which, I mean it’s a reverby, synthy, cinematic work which forges a sense of abstract ‘otherness’. And so, ladies and gentleman, listening to On the Silver Globe we really do feel as if we are floating in space, above the earth and free from all of its groundedness, its gravity, its noise, the claustrophobic clamour of life in the 21st Century.

Slow, deliberate hums hover and hang. Distant static swells in density and intensity, growing to a thick rumble of distortion that slithers menacingly around the cranium. The dominant feature of the first of these five numbered tracks is the ebb and slow, easy, flow: if seemingly arbitrarily-timed, the rise and fall, the swell and decline, the attack and decay all occur in a fluid and natural-feeling way.

For a moment, you’re removed from everything. The horrors of Trump’s first month in presidency – that terrifying train-wreck of bullshit and bravado, the violent social division – and never mind the horrors of Brexit (whatever that may yet mean as the government continue to push in increasingly sadistic, inhumane bills by the back door behind the smokescreen of confusion and bickering – all diminish as you push out beyond the atmosphere, into another realm entirely. Is this how life could be? Perhaps now, more than ever, a life off earth has the greatest appeal. A new colony, a fresh start. Of course, it is all a dream, but one which Kim Myhr and Lasse Marhaup articulate magnificently through the medium of sound.

A quavering note rings out across time while a whupping thrum chops at the airless atmosphere. Scrunching crackles, whistles, bleeps and pops disturb the surface of an ever-shifting kaleidoscopic latticework of sound. The fourth track engages more directly with conventional sci-fi tropes, while throwing in blasting engines and ominous oscillations and the roaring swarm of a nuclear wind.

For all the slowness, the evolutionary pace of the compositions, in terms of their end-to-end transition, there are seismic changes and a vast textural expanse explored in microcosmic detail on each of the five pieces.

 

We love a scuzzy, messed-up, lo-fi, post-punk, no-wave racket here at Aural Aggro. There’s no shortage of bands around who fit the bill, but the email that alerted us to the existence of London trio Girls in Synthesis, and the imminent release of their debut single, double A-side ‘The Mound / Disappear’ (set for release on March 17th) made our day.

Listen here and you’ll easily get why:

Live dates:

Thursday 16th March: The Lock Tavern – London, UK
Saturday 25th March: Deptford Vinyl instore – London, UK

You’re here. YOu’ve probably deduced that we’re in psychedelic rock territory here. Sun Abduction surfaced in 2015 in Brooklyn with the release of their autonomous self titled EP. Heavily involved in the NYC underground psychedelic scene, Sun Abduction are back with two new singles – or, indeed, a digital double A-side, if you like – with ‘Acid Pyramid / Pale Rider’ ahead of a nine-date US string and to introduce their debut LP.

You can watch the video for ‘Acid Pyramid’ here, and the tour dates are below for those fortunate enough to live on the US west coast.

 

US WEST COAST TOUR DATES:

2/16 Seattle @ Victory Lounge

w/ Grey Waves, Moon Temple, D-497

2/17 Olympia @ Le Voyeur

w/ Molten Salt, Viking State Country

2/18 Tacoma @ The New Frontier

w/ Ssnackss, Mr. Motorcycle, Grey Waves, Blotters

2/19 Portland @ Dacha

w/ Dim Wit + 1tba

2/20 Arcata @ Blondies

w/ tba

2/21 Oakland @ The Stork

w/ Bloody Waters, Maisy goes to 711

2/24 Los Angeles @ Lot 1 Cafe

w/ King Tree & The Earth mothers, Draculamb, Jenson Gore

2/25 Los Angeles @ Gnarburger (5pm)

w/ Exbats

Christopher Nosnibor

It’s a cold, wet, February night in York. The wind is howling and the air is bitter. It’s not much warmer in The Crescent, despite a respectable turnout for this incredibly good value five-band extravaganza hosted by Leeds promoters and label Come Play With Me (and while I’ve never asked or otherwise bothered to research, I’ve always assumed the name is taken from the 1992 Single by Leeds indie stalwarts The Wedding Present, rather than the 1977 sex-comedy movie).

Perhaps it’s because they play so frequently in and around York that I often pass up on seeing Bull play. As a consequence, I tend to forget just how good they are, and often feel as if I’m, discovering them anew when I do see them. Their breezy US alternative sound, which hints at Dinosaur Jr and Pavement is laced with a distinctly Northern attitude, and they’ve got a real knack for a nifty pop song. They make for an uplifting start to proceedings.

The ubiquitous and multi-talented local stalwart Danny Barton features among the lineup of three-piece Sewage Farm, in capacity of bassist. Their post-grunge style is a sort of hybrid of US alt rock and 60s pop: more New York than Old York. With nods to Sonic Youth, but equally, Weezer, they’re good fun and make a dense noise for just three people.

Looking around the venue, I observe a number of long coats and above-the-ankle trousers. It’s starting to look like 1984, while on stage it sounds like it’s 1994. Time is warping, history is bending in on itself. Clearly, I need more beer. While I’m at the bar, The Jesus and Mary Chain and Slowdive pour from the PA, setting the tone nicely for the next act.

While they’re setting up, I chat briefly to Adam Weikert, drummer with Her Name is Calla. I waffle a load of bollocks, and as he heads off to get warm and grab a beverage, I realise just how unbelievably fucking tired I am. Maybe if I drink enough beer I’ll perk up, or otherwise fall asleep at the table I’m sitting at to make notes between bands. Perhaps I’ll simply care less, and also develop a much-needed beer-coat.

Team Picture describe themselves as ‘One part post-punk, two parts fuzz’, and having been impressed by their single cut released by CPWM the night before, I was keen to check them live. Biographical details about the Leeds act is scant, and despite the positioning of old-school cathode ray tube television sets around the stage and the female singer being one of the hyper-retro bods I’d clocked, giving an air of hypermodernism of a vintage circa 1979, they’re really not an image band. They are, however, an exceptionally strong live act. The six-piece forge a layered sound that oozes tension: the monotone dual vocals and fractal guitars trickle brittle over strolling basslines and taut drums. The songs are magnificently composed and executed. Atmospheric segments blow out into expansive passages propelled by motoric rhythms. I’m totally sold: it’s a cert that this is going to be a band who are on an upward trajectory and 2017 could be a big year for them.

Team Picture

Team Picture

I’m still freezing my tits off, tired, and feeling disconnected and out of sorts, so I buy a third beer: surely an Old Peculier will unthaw my toes at least. The barmaid throws a friendly smile as she hands me my change. Inexplicably, I feel hopeless and empty, and now, I’m without a seat, as the girl who stood right at my elbow during Team Picture’s set, despite the venue being only a third full is now sitting with her mate at the table I was at previously. She looks vaguely familiar, but I’m not about to embarrass myself by attempting conversation. Perhaps it’s the chilly post-punk vibes lingering in the air spurring my existentialism; perhaps not. Regardless, I don’t go to gigs to socialise.

It’s a relief when Halo Blind begin their set. Another York band featuring another ubiquitous face on bass, this time in the form of former Seahorse Stuart Fletcher (currently rocking a look that says he wants to be Tom Hardy), they’re classic exemplars of post-millennium neo-prog, and they’re seriously good at it. Having just released their second album, Occupying Forces, they showcase an evolving, expansive sound. Layered, dynamic, melodic and harmony-soaked songs, rich in atmosphere and calling to mind the likes of Oceansize and Anathema, define their set. They explore dynamics fearlessly, building some sustained crescendos and executing them with admirable precision. During ‘Downpour’, I find myself drawing parallels with ‘Pictures of a Bleeding Boy’ by The God Machine. But if a band’s worst crime is betraying echoes of The God Machine, then you know they’re a band worth hearing.

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Halo Blind

Her Name is Calla: another tour, another lineup. Sophie Green is out (a shame, as she’s an awesome presence), making way for a return for Anja Madhvani (which is cool, because she’s a superb player). And that bearded guy at the back, manning a bank of electronics and hoisting a trombone: is that really departed fonder Thom Corah? Yes, yes it is, and they open up a tempestuous set with the rarely-aired single-only track ‘A Moment of Clarity’. I may be in a minority, but it’s one of my favourite Her Name is Calla songs, and as Tom Morris pushes his voice to the limit with the cry of ‘the crunch / is the sound / of a human spirit breaking’ as the band erupt around him, it’s a powerful and emotive moment.

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Her Name is Calla

The band play a varied set with intensity and vigour. Quiet and melancholy, ‘Pour More Oil’ is delicate and moving; ‘Meridian Arc’ brings an insistent throb, vlume and tension in spades. Tiernan Welsh’s bass coms to the fore and his complete immersion in the songs is compelling.

They close the set with ‘New England’. I stopped taking notes, beyond scribbling ‘fucking yes’ in a barely decipherable scrawl. One of the highlights of The Heritage¸ this is precisely the kind of slow-building, explosive epic that made the band their name, and to see them thrash wildly, with Tom gnawing his guitar strings with his teeth amidst a tumult of ever-swelling noise, is an experience that’s something special. There is no encore: there doesn’t need to be. There is nowhere to go from here: an awesome finale to an awesome night.