Archive for June, 2017

Noble – NBL-221 – 15th April 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

Reliq is Serph. What’s the difference? Serph’s compositions are typically dream-like and utopian in their stylings, while Reliq’s work are edgier and more dance orientated. So says the press release. Life Prismic is the third album by Serph in his Reliq guise, and draws on music from a vast array of cultural and geographical origins for forge something

Life Prismic jangles and jingles, wows and flutters with swerving, loopy grooves and rippling rhythms which run into and across one another from perpendicular angles.

Plinky-plonk house piano tropes are bent and twisted through funnels of mellow head-nodding hipster dance vibes. The hyped-up chipmunk energy of ‘Ceramic Samba’ is nothing if not energetic, with flickering, clippy beats and hyperactive, pitched-up vocals. It demonstrates a playfulness at work, as well as a serious overdose of sugar, and it’s enough to leave anyone feeling vaguely giddy with the surging uptempo headrush.

Gentle, bleepy chillout zones are conjured with in between spaces, with xylophones and lad-back beats creating moments of comparative tranquillity, and ‘Morocco Drive’ introduces a range of strings and woodwind over a drifting synth to create an enigmatic, ethereal and exotic atmosphere before a frenetic drum ‘n’ bass rhythm powers in.

Each track bursts outward and reaches in multiple directions over its course: there’s nothing predictable about any of the structures or arrangements. Jazz licks, samples and other vocal snippets, bhangra beats and abstract incantations are all whipped into the same mix as thumping 4/4 dancefloor-orientated rhythms, and ‘Rain No More’ manages to pack in a low-down and dirty funk mid-section into its eclectic hybrid form.

It’s rather difficult to know exactly what to make of Life Prismic. In terms of ideas, it’s an explosive riot. That said, some of those ideas develop into recurrent themes over the course of the album, which in some respects diminishes their impact. But with 13 tracks and a running time in excess of an hour, there comes a point where it feels like overkill. No matter: in smaller chunks, Life Prismic is an entertaining listen.

Rwliq - Life Prismic

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Immediata – IMM010 – 3rd July 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

One track spanning fifty minutes. It’s one of those compositions which lacks explicit firm, and creeps and crawls and spreads itself like a low fog that drifts under doors and through cracks in windows. Much of The Slow Creep Of Convenience is quiet, to the point of near inaudibility. It’s most definitely background music, and ambient in the purest sense, in that it affects the mood subliminally, infiltrating the psyche almost completely imperceptibly. It is, as the title suggests, a slow creep, an album which slowly, invisibly reaches in and subtly massages the edges of the mental state, rather than affecting an overt and direct transformation.

It’s almost exactly a year since Anthony Pateras released to very different albums simultaneously, and the style of The Slow Creep Of Convenience is very different from either of those, revealing an artist capable of significant creative diversity. The Moment In and Of Itself and The Long Exhale, while contesting and in some respects complimentary, were both overtly experimental. The Slow Creep Of Convenience is infinitely more restrained, focused. It’s very much a minimalist work.

We’ve covered the slow creep, but what about the convenience? Reading this as social commentary, and perhaps as a quieter parallel to Arsenal’s Factory Smog is a Sign of Progress, The Slow Creep Of Convenience stands as a document referencing the less positive aspects of the endless tide of progress and development. Just as industrialisation heralded the onset of the modern age and a new mode of existence, which brought with it infinite benefits but also new and unprecedented problems, so the shift toward convenience, toward tertiary industry, the advent of leisure industries, heralded the arrival of the age of stress, anxiety and dysfunction. We now live in a culture of endless immediacy, centred around instant online transaction and interaction, around immediate dispatch. Amazon Prime is nothing to on-line banking and Hungry House. Everything I available immediately, at the click of a button. Smartphones may have only come to the market in 2008 – less than a decade ago – but the revolution has already happened and we’ve all been utterly engulfed by the pace of development. So just how slow has his creep been in real terms?

In some respects, it doesn’t matter: our perception of time has changed. Time is accelerating, and in the age of convenience, it’s easier than ever to evaporate time. But who noticed?

The undulating, intertwining drones and hovering, jangling, multitonal hums with the texture of dragonfly wings which forge extended passages of this multi-faceted work intimate a nagging unease, the underlying discomfort of anxiety. It’s more than difficult to pinpoint, of course: it’s simply there in the background, yet impossible to ignore.

 

By Norse – 23rd June 2017

James Wells

BardSpec is the ambient project / band from Enslaved composer/ guitarist Ivar Bjørnson. It’s certainly quite a departure from the snarling, gnarly but melodic metal he’s associated with. There isn’t a single bar of double-pedal bass drumming, one mangled, downtuned chord struck on a guitar with in excess of six strings.

How this actually translates is a series of compositions which incorporate electroacoustic elements for form a layered, atmospheric sound. Even so, Hydrogen is really not ambient in the strictest sense: the album’s six lengthy tracks are structured, sculpted, organised and arranged so as to be anything but background.

On ‘Bone’, a picked acoustic guitar occupies the foreground while howling electric guitar feedback hangs so far back in the distance as to be barely audible. Against bust bongos and a fleeting bassline, clouds of abstract electronic wing drift. There’s a linearity to the nine-minute piece as the percussion builds and everything layers progressively toward a rich, oceanic expanse of sound.

‘Fire Tongue builds a huge sonic cloud which drifts around a propulsive rhythm and serpentine guitar / synth motifs which intertwine to create a hypnotic, trance-like desert of sound.

‘Gamma’ is perhaps the album’s most truly ambient work: while there is a picked guitar echoing in the background it’s a piece which drifts and twists and actually calls to mind the introductory passage in the debut by The Psychedelic Furs, where the hum and circle of static gradually fade in before the throbbing bass and chiming guitars of ‘India’ kick in.

On the twelve-minute ‘Salt’, the combination of mesmeric beats and echo-soaked guitar create a deep, textured atmosphere.

This is intelligent, articulate music which explores an array of textures and styles to create a something nuanced and detailed and quietly compelling.

2LP-Gatefold-6mm-Spine

Bearsuit Records – 24th June 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

If the album’s opening cut suggests an album of slightly hipsterish glitchy electronica, it soon evolves into rather less comfortable territory. The elements of commercial club music are all in evidence, and at times, to the fore, but this is an album that pushes into myriad electronic territories. Throughout, Mitsui keeps one eye on groove and the other on confounding expectations.

You want ideas? You want range? Ippu Mitsui has ideas and range. ‘Small Rider’ is exemplary, flipping between delicate chimes and mellow grooves to altogether more aggressive beats with woozy, warping basslines burrowing every which way. It packs a lot into four and a half minutes, and no mistake.

Moment of ‘Fine Spine’ come on like early Prodigy, with vintage acid house stylings colliding with abstract electro-oddness. ‘Bottle Neck U’ brings a deep, subterranean bass groove and hard beats with an almost industrial intensity, while ‘In My Mind’ ventures into deep, dubby territory.

‘Bug’s Wings (Another Take)’, like its counterpart opener, is, superficially, pure bouncy club music, with a flimsy 90s piano– a throwback to the Chicago house sound that carried forward infinitely too long – line weaving its way through the track, but then it also bundles in a whole heap of other stuff that sees Mitsui leaping off on unexpected tangents with dizzying frequency. The albums final track, ‘Quick 919’,with its fairground organs and explosive beats, owes more to JG Thirlwell’s early adventures with tape loops than anything contemporary.

I might argue that only a Japenese artist could, or would, make an album like this. It is, by turns, kitschy and saccharine, and brain-bendingly obtuse and awkward. It’s certainly inventive, and Mitsui seems bent on self-sabotage, with every moment of linear, accessible dance countered by some twisted and unpredictable moment of weirdness. And this is what makes L + R an album worth hearing.

 

Ippu Mitsui

2nd June 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

The digital generation may be unfamiliar with the experience of leaping around their bedrooms to favourite tunes, only for their exuberance to result in the needle skipping a groove or two. While it’s unlikely to cause any damage to either the vinyl or the stylus, it has a way of disrupting the flow and making you feel like a bit of a buffoon. There’s Kent four-piece Salvation Jayne’s EP suggests, it contains rock nuggets potent enough to inspire bedroom moshing, although it’s not being released on vinyl.

After a brief introductory segment, the EP gets going properly with ‘Burn it Down’ which we covered when it first aired back in April. And it’s a cracking tune, chunky blues-based guitars chopping against a sinewy lead line and strolling bass. It also meets the ‘monster chorus’ requirement for a strong rock tune. And yes, tunes matter: on Moves That Make the Record Skip, Salvation Jayne offer tunes, with strong vocal melodies shaping the songs.

If ‘The Jailer’ contains all of the elements of infinite 80s rock bands and reminds me of many, many pub gigs I caught at the tail end of the 80s and into the early 90s in my home town (for all I know, there are still the same sort of bands cranking out the same stuff in the same venues now: Lincoln never was the most progressive of places), it’s well-executed and has the guts in the delivery to make it work. There’s also some nice slidey guitar action that brings a dirty country / blues vibe. ‘Thrillride’ starts with a low-slung bass and sassy, semi-menacing vocal from Chess Smith before she gives it some throat and everything kicks in.

EP closer ‘Whorehouse Down on the SE’ makes for a strong finish: it’s a percussion-driven hefty rock workout which has all the makings of an anthemic crowd-pleaser live. It mines a proper old-school rock seam, and calls to mind The Pretty Reckless at their best, with Smith giving it the raw, rough ‘n’ tough treatment.

 

 

Salvation Jayne - Moves

Consouling Sounds – 23rd June 2017

IIVII – pronounced ‘ivy’ as it so happens – is the musical vehicle for visual artist, multi-instrumentalist and composer Josh Graham. It’s actually quite fitting to the creeping ambience and gradually-expanding soundscapes which develop almost imperceptibly on Invasion. The bio bigs it up as being his ‘enigmatic inter-galactic solo project’, which focuses on ‘sonically engulfing and moody soundscapes, layered with a science-fiction edge.’

Graham has quite a resume: having worked as a designer and director, he has also collaborated with a variety of bands including Mastodon, Neurosis, Jesu, Shrinebuilder, ISIS and The Dillinger Escape Plan.

Invasion is pitched as a work which ‘traverses genre and explores elements of drone, classical, ambient, electronica, and vaporwave’, and it’s very much an album of tonal variety and texture, not to mention compositional and stylistic range – to the extent that sometimes one might wonder if the playlist has moved onto something else entirely.

Invasion is less a collection of individual pieces but a single set which forms an ever0shifting whole; from the lonely piano which echoes across the expansive atmospherics of ‘We Came Here from a Dying World’ through the creeping bassline and fear notes which hang hauntingly on ‘Unclouded by Conscience’, with its distant, rolling drum and post-rock intimations, and through the more overtly beat-driven.

There are extended minimalist moments, like the slow-pule hum which introduces ‘Hidden Inside’ to stark and chilling effect; the glitchy bass and glacial overtones do little to soften the icy bleakness of the funeral bells and amorphous sonic drifts which carry a chilly edge over the occasional bursts of subsonic thunder. Melodic arabesques rise from eddying pools of resonant bass hums and twirling contrails.

The tribal beats and throbbing synthesized bass, draped with icy synth notes, which define the dynamic drive of ‘No More Enemies’ call to mind Movement era New Order: it’s dark, detached, otherworldly, and corresponds with the album’s artwork, which depicts an invading species of alien origin (also completed by Graham, who, poignantly, served as Soundgarden’s art director at the time of the press release).

Nuanced has become one of those words, but there’s a rich detail and infinite texture to be found on Invasion that demands its application. This is an articulate, considered and meticulously-realised work which operates on multiple levels.

 

IIVII_INVASION_Cover_1500

Schoolkids Records – 2nd June 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

The blurb tells me that ‘On the trail of their successful Record Store Day 7” single ‘Symmetry / Slow Grind’, Raleigh-based Schoolkids Records have announced the coming release of ‘The Shocking Fuzz of Your Electric Fur: The Drake Equation Mixtape EP’ by alternative soul and shoegaze pioneers The Veldt.’

The Veldt have been around for a very long time, now – always on the peripheries, but wholly ingrained in the same milieu as The Cocteau Twins, The Jesus and Mary Chain, et al, as well as sharing stags with an impressive roll-call of acts spanning The Pixies to Echo and the Bunnymen via The Manic Street Preachers.

The EP’s title is (in part) lifted from a poem by e.e.cummings, while ‘The Drake Equation’ is a sort of punning gag that’s both intellectual and spectacularly . Cumbersome as it is, it’s quite a tidy literary allusion, and one which illustrates both the band’s overtly arty leanings the and the immense breadth of their spheres of reference: this is, after all, a band whose name derives from a story by Ray Bradbury. If the idea of high modernism coming together with slick 21st century r‘n’b seems like an improbable and unlikely recipe for success, then it’s all down to the execution.

The five tracks on this EP may or may not ‘rage’ with ‘a sound influenced equally by emotional soul of Marvin Gaye, free jazz warriors Sun Ra and Pharaoh Sanders, various Drake hip-hop tracks, long-term musical kin Cocteau Twins, and their own fertile electric imagination.’ But what they do achieve is a compelling hybrid of styles.

Stuttering beats, somewhere between hip-hop, jazz and drum ‘n’ bass jitter and twitch beneath draping, rifting layers of sonic mist define the multifaceted ‘Sanctified’, which glides he EP into a smooth yet detailed launch. It’s the progressive soul element of their expansive shoegaze-orientated sound which renders The Veldt most distinctive:

‘In A Quiet Room’ simmers and chimes, a laid-back rhythm contrasting against the swirl and eddy of layered, FX-drenched blankets of guitars. The tom-orientated drumming on the dreamy ‘One Day Out of Life’ has echoes of early New Order about it, before a rising swell of a drifting sonic cloud.

The EP ends on a super-mellow soul trip in the shape of ‘And It’s You’: with a melody that evokes Bread’s ‘Make it With You’. Perverse as it may sound, it not only works well, but seems entirely fitting, the smooth soul vibes entwine with a slick hip-hop beat to forge a loved-up groove that’s sort of slanted, but at the same time, kinda natural. Nice.

 

Veldt EP