Archive for April, 2017

It’s no secret that we’re fans of Hands Off Gretel here at Aural Aggro. Burn the Beauty Queen is – in our educated, objective opinion – a bona fide contemporary grunge classic.

Following the video release of ‘Bad Egg’ at the start of April, they’ve gone and done a cracking promo for ‘Plasters’ too. Watch it here:

 

25th April 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

National Instruction is Soma Crew’s debut album. This is something of a technicality, as they rebranded shortly after the release of Another Dead Insect in 2015. And while all of the defining features of their previous incarnation remain, Soma Crew, having solidified with their current lineup, can be seen to have made marked progress since then.

The sonic haze which hangs heavy over all of their previous recordings and which defines their live sound is present and correct. On National Instruction, there’s also a wilful raggedness to the performances, with guitars and vocals titling off-kilter every which way, often to quite disorientating effect. It’s also by far the best-realised representation of what Soma Crew are about, showcasing a dense, murky sound, and a climax-centric approach to forging layered songs which plug hard at a single cyclical riff, nailed tight to a simple, repetitive drum pattern. Yet it’s also the work of a band who are evolving, and National Instruction marks a clear progression from their Soma EP release last autumn.

Si Micklethwaite’s vocal style isn’t conventionally tuneful, but then a melodic attenuation is by no means a prerequisite for singing in a rock band. Given the atonal drone elements of Soma Crew’s compositions, which are more focused on creating an atmospheric dissonance than a technically precise, melody-driven musicality, it works, and, bathed in reverb and a kind of fuzzy-edged soft-focus, he sounds more comfortable than on any release he’s featured on thus far.

‘Got It Bad’ features what is probably one of their most overtly catchy choruses to date, with a more clearly defined structure than any previous song – but it’s perfectly offset by a guitar line that heaves off to the left during one of the chord changes which launches said chorus. The nine-minute ‘Pyramids’ finds the band locking into the kind of groove they work the best. A spindly echo-drenched lead guitar wanders, spider-like over a chugging rhythm and spare, motoric beat that typifies their slow-burning brand of Black Angels-influenced psychedelic rock. Elsewhere, ‘Dangerzone’ is tense and angular, with eddying swells of abstract sound and feedback building into a cyclone of immersive noise close to the end. This is something they’ve got a real knack for.

Having heard a fair few of the cuts on Natural Instruction played live, it’s gratifying to observe just how well they’ve replicated the spirit and energy of the live sound on songs like ‘Remote Control’, which carries a shuddering, ramshackle Fall-esque vibe within its jagged two-chord battery. The album’s second eight-minuter, ‘Westworld’ starts of slow, sedate, but simmering: it’s never a case of if it’s going to break, but when, and while maintaining a pedestrian pace, it’s almost halfway through before the drums thud in. And then the guitars get up the volume… and then… and then… By the end, it’s still plodding away but the layers have built up and it’s a big old racket.

There’s something of a trickle toward the tranquil on the last two tracks, with the closer, ‘Maps and Charts’ being a particularly sedate – not to mention accessible indie tune. But rather than being an anti-climax, it reveals newly emerging facets of the bands, perhaps hinting that future releases will see them further extend their range.

 

Soma Crew - National Instruction

Mi Mye have announced details of the final single to be released from their 2016 album The Sympathy Sigh. The Wakefield quintet will release the soothing and melancholy ‘Methadone Church’ alongside a re-imagined ‘He Believes In Me’ featuring the vocals of James Smith of Post War Glamour Girls.

Inspired by Hemmingway’s ‘The Old Man and the Sea’, the album earned the band praise from the likes of The 405 and The Line Of Best Fit. (Aural Aggravation can’t take any credit here: we’re miserly bastards at times when it comes to praise and even selecting what we cover.)

‘Methadone Church’ is a thoughtful and beautiful song that deals with Jamie observing life around him at his place of work in Armley in Leeds. He explains “Chad and I were leaving the studio where I work and when we got to the bus stop we saw a mother with twin girls walk past us. The girls were identically dressed and the mother had blood on her top lip. That’s all the song is, just that, I wrote it as soon as I got on the bus. It’s a track that doesn’t judge or comment, it’s just what was there.”

The other side of this new single features a new version of album track ‘He Believes In Me’ sung by James Smith of label mates and long standing friends & collaborators Post War Glamour Girls. Jamie recently co-produced the band’s  Swan Songs album.

When asked on what made him so keen to collaborate with Mi Mye, James said “I adore the man and it was an honour to be asked to sing on He Believes in Me. To voice Jamie’s inner monologue of confusion and fear toward a religious maniac ranting and grabbing people on the streets of Wakefield was a more spiritually uplifting experience than that preacher man will ever have.”

So get your lugs round ‘He Believes In Me’  and enjoy….

Play Loud! Productions – PL063LP

Christopher Nosnibor

Mark E Smith is not Damo Suzuki. Only Damo Suzuki is Damo Suzuki. Damo Suzuki requires no introduction, of course. However, his vast and almost immeasurably influential output seems to exist almost in the ether, his own name and that of CAN being names to conjure with, but perhaps carrying more connotations than actual connection.

Suzuki’ status as an innovator and a one-off requires no comment, either. The fact he’s been going for multiple eternities, and continues to perform sets that are completely off the wall means his reputation remains unharmed, and this release – one more addition to already impressive body of work which essentially stands to define Krautrock – won’t dent that.

As the title suggests, this set was recorded live at Marie-Antoinette, Berlin, Germany, on 24th November 2011. Damo Suzuki was joined on stage by a stellar lineup, consisting of Dirk Dresselhaus (Schneider TM, Angel) on electric baritone guitar and effects; Ilpo Väisänen (Pan Sonic, Angel) on electronics and effects; Michael Beckett (kptmichigan, Super Reverb) on electric guitar and effects; Claas Großzeit (Saal-C) on drums and percussion, and Tomoko Nakasato (Mio, JINN) on dance and electric rake. No, I have no idea what an electric rake is, but on vinyl, each of the album’s half-hour tracks occupies a side of the two-disc set.

Ordinarily, live releases take the best cuts, or the single best night of a tour. Dirk Dresselhaus’ comments which accompany the release suggest that this recording doesn’t necessarily follow that rule, and instead presents an honest account of a singular event: “I find it fairly difficult to say something about how the music in this concert came about, cause we didn’t plan or rehearse anything and hardly were able to hear each other on stage. Wherever it came from, the energy and course of this concert is very much based on group dynamics and an almost telepathic sort of communication, like a swarm of fish. When I mixed the sound later on in the studio I discovered a lot of weird things on the separate tracks: for example Kptmichigan’s guitar signal is changing level for about +/-30 dB once in a while which is a lot and was probably caused by a broken microphone cable. Luckily the fucked up parts made the sound even heavier and more distorted instead of destroying it,” he says.

At times the lack of planning and rehearsal is apparent, but in the main, Live at Marie-Antoinette captures a collective who are capable of a rare musical intuitiveness. And whatever it may have sounded like on stage, and regardless of the occasional stab of feedback and errant extraneous intrusion, the recording captures a tense, atmospheric musical soundscape which transitions across the various parts with a creeping stealth.

To draw attention to any one passage would be to entirely misrepresent the overall arc of the performance. From the tribal chants to the undulating synth-like tones to the slow-building crescendos and the sustained sonic blitzkriegs which absolutely tear through the curtains of sonic decency, each and every aspect of the set is integral to the overall experience, which is built around a series of ebbs and flows, often rising from next to nothing to a whorling tempest quite unexpectedly. And it’s true that the colossal peaks are accentuated by the shuddering volume and crackling distortion they produce. Sometimes, fucked up is good.

This is all part and parcel of the live medium: while the studio affords total control over every aspect of every element of the sound, when playing live, anything can happen. The real test of a band’s capabilities is how they deal with the unexpected eventualities and how they deliver the show to a crowd under adverse circumstances. There is no audience sound on Live at Marie-Antoinette, which means it’s impossible to gauge the audience reaction to the show. But the sound balance suggests the audience were subjected to a punishingly loud and challenging set. It’s probably one of those rare live albums where the recording is more pleasurable than the actual event.

http://playloud.org/archiveandstore/trailers/damosuzuki/trailercode.html

 

damo-suzuki-sound-carriers-live-at-marie-antoinette

LP: Let Them Eat Vinyl  – 22nd April  2017

CD and digital: Westworld Recordings – 5th May 2017

Perhaps it’s because I consider Joy Division to be one of those bands that will forever be precious of, that I’ve always been a shade sceptical of Peter Hook and the Light’s activities. By which I mean that my scepticism is not solely on account of Hook’s churlish reputation. Granted, if anyone can lay claim to ‘owning’ those bands, it’s probably Peter Hook: his bass wasn’t so much integral to the bands’ sound, particularly that of Joy Division, but defined it. But, feeling conflicted, I’ve passed up on a number of opportunities to see The Light play live, despite the fact that having been born in 1975, meaning that I was simply too young to see Joy Division, or New Order when they were good.

But then there are these four releases, which capture Peter Hook and the Light playing gigs devoted to Joy Division’s two albums, as well as New Order’s Movement and Power, Corruption and Lies. Because the sets include tracks not from the albums in question, they manifest as some sort of ‘expanded edition’ performances, throwing in demos, rarities, B-sides, contemporaneous material and a selection of classics alongside. As such, these performances are a far cry from the ‘greatest hits’ sets Hook so vehemently criticises his former band-mates for, but while as a live proposition it’s all completely valid, one has to ask why the need for the shows to be released. I mean, fine as a memento for those who were there perhaps, but aren’t these releases tantamount to a live album by a tribute band?

Maybe, but in fairness, they’re pretty good and in the main do a decent job of capturing the spirit of the songs and the bands at the time they were originally released.

The recording of the band’s performance of Unknown Pleasures was originally released digitally in 2012, and features a slew of choice cuts from the Joy Division catalogue, including large chunks of Closer alongside. The performance is solid overall, but it’s certainly a warts-and-all effort, in keeping with disc two of Still and any other live Joy Division recordings you may happen to find. The end of ‘Disorder’ is ropey enough to have been played by the original lineup. ‘Heart and Soul’ is sparse, haunting. It’s followed by ‘A Means to an End’, which is well played, but the guitar heroics don’t sit right. That said, it would be wrong to suggest that the performance is patchy: honest would perhaps be a more appropriate description.

Closer was recorded at The Factory in Manchester (where else?) in May 2011, and again, includes a lot more than simply the album from beginning to end. Again, it’s a case of taking the rough with the smooth: the vocals on ‘Colony sound more like Lou Gramm than Ian Curtis, and the high, forced, rock stylings simply don’t work. Still (no pun intended), it’s more hit than miss.

Movement stands apart in the New Order oeuvre. The set begins with a stomping version of ‘Incubation’ and there’s a good run of Joy Division material before any New Order songs are reached. The album – played in sequential order – is prefaced by New Order’s debut single, ‘Ceremony’ and transition-marking single ‘Procession’. Somewhere in my collection still lurks a cassette containing bootleg live recordings of New Order from around the time of Movement, including a set at the Retford Porterhouse. It’s a remarkable document of the early, tentative steps of a band finding their way into the light after the greatest moment of darkness. The songs sound brittle, developmental, but their spirit is ineffable. That same atmosphere is recreated with breathtaking accuracy as The Light play Movement from beginning to end: the murky mix, through which stuttering beats hammer nervously is encapsulated so perfectly on ‘Truth’ that it sends a shiver down the spine. This, I had not expected, and it’s enough to challenge the ‘what’s the point?’ position quite effectively. The point, it seems, is that these are great songs, played in the spirit in which they were first played, and this live recording serves as a reminder of just what a killer – and unique – album Movement was, and still is.

Power Corruption and Lies, New Order’s second album, released in 1983 is almost universally recognised as the point at which the post-Curtis band began to forge their own identity and in context of the other releases, this is rendered plainly apparent. The sound may still be fractal and sparse, but the focus is very much on insistent grooves and study, propellant disco beats. It also marks the point at which New Order began to produce songs which sounded very like one another, developing the template which would define their sound for much of the next decade. It also reminds us that New Order have never been a vocally-led band, keeping the voice element of their songs backed off and comparatively anonymous. And that works here, as the driving bass and buoyant synths dominate the mix.

Listening now, it’s clear that Power Corruption and Lies isn’t only a very dance -oriented album, but also an album of its time, and the fact that Hook and crew faithfully replicate the sound may be problematic in itself: obviously, the fans love it and the entire premise of Hook’s project is to play the songs as intended. But parts of Power Corruption and Lies sound rather dated now. This is no criticism of the band or its fans: I still go berserk over the details of the production of albums I love from the 70s and 80s. Ultimately, it all boils down to context, of course and the current context is, sadly and unavoidably, nostalgia.

Wading through the full set of releases is no small challenge, and probably on even the most ardent fan is unlikely to undertake, at least in a sequential or back-to-back context.

Critically, I’m still on the fence. But on balance, these aren’t bad at all.

Peter_Hook_Digi-600x425

Aural Aggravation is pant-shittingly proud to present Nightmares For Children (And Other Stories), the debut soundtrack from York-based HFD (Hypnotic Funeral Drone) act, The THING!

Taking some inspiration from drone/doom bands like Sunn O))) and Godflesh, and  created with the sole purpose to force people to recoil in aural horror, the two-piece (featuring TC6’s Kreecha Honey [guitars, samples] and Seep Away’s Dom Smith [drums]) combine haunting samples with ferocious guitar work and intense drums to craft what can only be described as an abrasive, stomach-churning soundtrack to the death and destruction of your emotions…and hearing.

Of the track which was recorded live and raw at Melrose Yard in York, Kreecha comments: “The Thing’s most beautiful of childhood night terrors has been re-awoken for your listening displeasure.”

‘Nightmares For Children (And Other Stories)’ will be released as a free download on Friday, April 28th via Soundcloud – soundcloud.com/the-thing-the- band.

The band will shortly be working on their next instalment of predicted psychosis – ‘Now We Are SixSixSix’.

Listen to Nightmares For Children (And Other Stories) here:

 

The THING