Archive for July, 2017

ChristopherNosnibor

The split album seems to be in vogue again, and it’s a format which perhaps offers more scope for artists who don’t trade in punchy little tunes than the split single or EP. Shine on you Crazy Diagram may only contain four tracks and have a running time of just over thirty minutes, but it allows both contributing acts to showcase the range of their sound by presenting expanded, developed musical works.

The two tracks by Splitter Orchestra explore and examine weird digital percussion: the ever-shifting pitch creates the illusion of ever-shifting tempo (or does it? Perhaps the tempo does shift albeit subtly) beneath whistling contrails of feedback. They sputter and scrape and drone and hum. ‘Diagram 1’, at under four and a half minutes, is but a prelude to its counterpart, ‘Diagram 2’ which hums and wheezes for almost eleven minutes. There are rhythms in the mix, but they’re pinned back in the mix and bounce around against a shimmering backdrop of feedback and extraneous noise.

Kubin’s compositions are altogether less overtly structured, or at least rhythmic, as swampy swashes and thumps rumble and eddy before – from seemingly out of nowhere – faceripping blasts of distortion roar and blast. ‘Lückenschere’ is constructed around a clattering, shifting rhythm.

‘Lichtsplitter’ clatters and moans and hums and drones for an eternity, before stepping up about ten gars. By the end, one has a fair idea of what it just be like to stand within two feet of a Boeing 474 taking off.

This is, without doubt, one of those releases which lends itself perfectly to vinyl: it is, after all, an album of two halves. They compliment and contrast, and showcase two quite different sides of the experimental digital coin.

There’s a digital bonus track from the Splitter Orchester. ‘Diagram 3’ is a ten-minute extravaganza of thick, impenetrable hums and drones. It might not exactly change the complexion of the release, but it does unquestionably fill out and round off the intangible, non-physical format nicely.

Splitter Orchestra   Felix Kubin

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Editions Mego – eMEGO241 – 11th August 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

Hell, this is gnarly. It’s painful. This is not music designed to entertain. It’s not music deigned for comfort. To many ears, it’s not even music. It is, of course, but it’s not music or pleasure. AI Deviation #1, #2 comprises two grinding, cacophonous, chaotic longform tracks which sound like a protracted meltdown of circuitry.

‘Deviation #1’ is a full forty minutes of splintering, spluttering, bleeping, blooping electronic carnage. The whoosh and swirl of the Tardis relocating vaporises into a churning black hole, and by the ten-minute mark, it’s grown to a raging tempest of overloading noise. From thereon in, it’s a brain-melting succession of sonic ruptures. Skittering, spidery notes are scorched away to blackened shards in a flame-torch of white noise blasts. Squelching, squirming subaquatic sounds bubble and broil in a hectic froth of digital swash in between tidal waves of distortion and static.

Flickering chirps like R2-D2 on amphetamine bibble frenetically against a backdrop of bloops and gloops before being consumed in a tearing blizzard of wall-to-wall-white noise, heaving, hefting, endlessly flickering barrages of sound. It’s absolutely fucking relentless. Scraping, twinging, wibbling, ever-shifting audio madness tumbles from the speakers in wave upon wave of electronic abrasion. Shrill shrieks counterpointed by scouring low-end coalesce to create a swashing, multi-faceted, cross-tonal aural assault.

‘Deviation # 2’ offers more of the same, albeit over a more mercifully brief thirty-three minute stretch. It’s abrasive, disorientating, with time signatures thrown out of the window in favour of warping cacophonies. Resonations and echoes dominate an eternally challenging discord of tweets and tweaks, grumbles and rumbling throbs.

Tone has a knack for clobbering the listener with synth-generated sonic violence, but AI Deviation #1, #2 really takes it up a notch. In exploring the longform – and taking it to the max – Tone produces a sonic attack on a par with Merzbow and Kenji Siratori: anything else is just mannered and polite in contrast.

 

Yasunao Tone - AI Deviation

Montreal three-piece BIG|BRAVE  share an official video for ‘Sound’, a brand new track from their forthcoming third album, Ardor, due out September 15th via Southern Lord.  The trio also share headline tour dates in support of the album, with Jessica Moss (who features on the album) performing in support on some dates.

‘Sound’ speaks volumes regarding what’s to come in BIG|BRAVE’s next endeavor; swirling static, booming guitars, powerful drums—all the hallmarks that have made them one of experimental rock’s most exciting acts today.  With just three songs that clock in for a 40-minute-long LP, BIG|BRAVE have adopted a nearly unbearable level of urgency and intensity that weaves throughout Ardor.

Check out ‘Sound’ here (tour dates below):

TOUR DATES (SO FAR):

Sat 21/10 – UK, Brighton – Sticky´s Mike Frog**

Sun 22/10 – UK, Manchester – Star and Garter**

Mon 23/10 – UK, London – Underworld**

Tue 24/10 – FRA, Lille – Le Biplan

Wen 25/10 – FRA, Rennes – Barhic**

Thur 26/10 – FRA, Nantes – Soy Festival**

Fri 27/10 – FRA, Rouen – 3 Pieces

Tues 07/11 – FRA, Lyon – Sonic

Wed 08/11 – BE, Antwerp – Autumn Falls @ Het Bos

Thur 09/11 – NL, Utrecht – Le Guess Who?

Mon 13/11 – DE, Oldenburg – MTS

Tues 14/11 – DE, Mannheim – Kurzbar

Fri 17/11 – DE, Dresden – Scheune

**with Jessica Moss

(Further Dates to be confirmed soon)

Image result for big brave sound

Chelsea Wolfe shares new song ‘Vex’, featuring harrowing bellows from Aaron Turner (SUMAC, Old Man Gloom). Dynamic, heavy, and raw, her sixth album Hiss Spun (Sargent House, 22 September), also features prominent guitar contributions by Troy Van Leeuwen (Queens of the Stone Age, Failure) throughout.

With heavy hints of Cranes, ‘Vex’ is a dark, intense and claustrophobically gothic track, brimming with drama and tension. It’a also her heaviest cut to date. Listen to it here:

Photo by Zohn Mandel

Unsounds – 57u – 10th February 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

Unsounds have a history of releasing magnificently-packaged albums, and Subvoice by Yannis Kyriakides is up there with the best of them. The double CD is housed in a chunky hardcover book binding, which contains an actual book, some forty pages in span.

My introduction to the concept of the subvoice came via William Burroughs, who, around the time he was exploring the myriad potentials of the cut-up technique, made innumerable audio experiments. While most of these involved tape splicing, dropping in and cutting out, some investigated the subvoice in a most literal fashion. Some of these barely audible and even more barely listenable recordings appeared on Nothing Here Now But the Recrdings on Industrial records, with the liner notes describing ‘Throat Microphone Experiment’ – if memory serves – as a not entirely successful attempt to capture subvocal speech.

The definition of ‘subvocal’ is ‘relating to or denoting an unarticulated level of speech comparable to thought’. Kyriakides describes the works in the collection as ‘an investigation into ideas of voice and language [which] range from works in which text is directly encoded into music… to ones in which the voice is examined, dissected and pulled apart’. He explains that ‘in both approaches the underlying idea is to explore what happens when material has a clear semantic form, whether communicated in text or speech, is translated into musical structure’.

While thematically and theoretically linked, the nine pieces – which have a combined running time of almost two and a half hours – are from quite distinct and separate collaborative projects Kyriakides was involved in between 2010 and 2015.

The first piece on disc one, ‘Words and Song Without Words’ is the shortest work, being a couple of seconds under ten minutes, but appropriately introduces the kind of sonic palette Kyriakides and his collaborators – in this instance, Francesco Dillon, who contributes cello – work from. ‘Paramyth’ is eerie, disconsolate, the cracked ramblings splayed in all directions over tense piano and uncomfortable strings, but ultimately peters out into something softer. Skittering strings scurry busily in brief and disjointed flurries, hectically flying here and there, on ‘Toponymy’. Muffed voices bring a discomforting sense of the unheimlich, a sense of the intangible and of something just out of the reach of understanding.

Ominous notes hover and ring on the last piece on the first disc, ‘Circadian Surveillance,’ a twenty-five minute exercise in haunting atmospherics, where distant voices are barely audible under a rumble of turning static and hovering notes which resonate into dead air.

Onto disc two, ‘Der Komponist’ – a composition for orchestra and computer – begins quietly, ominously, with protracted near-silences between delicate, low, slow builds, before horns begin to add cinematic drama. It’s very filmic, very – for wont of a better word – soundtracky, and is reminiscent of some of JG Thirlwell’s more recent orchestral works. The climax is a slow, swelling succession of surging brass, underscored by a rippling digital churn.

‘Politicus (Dawn in the Giardini’ is perhaps the lightest and most playful composition of the nine, and utilises the variability and versatility of the prepared disklavier. The original work was a twelve-hour sound installation. The booklet explains the technical aspects in great detail, and Kyriakides outlines the way in which algorithms based on speech drive the formulation of the piece, here in an abridged fourteen-minute segment. The immense complexities behind the composition are completely hidden from the listener, with the surface completely masking the mechanical depths.

The final piece, ‘Oneiricon’ is a work for ensemble and computers. It’s an exploration of dreams, and is often subtle to the point of subliminality. And because Subvoice is very much a ‘background’ work, while it often drifts for significant stretches without really pulling particularly hard on the attention, it does mean that its immense duration is not an issue. Equally, because Subvoice is a collection rather than a work conceived as a single continuous whole, it’s possible to listen and appreciate in segments, without absolute commitment. And it is an album to listen to and appreciate: Kyriakides’ compositions are varied and textured and demonstrate an attention to form and sonic detail which extends far beyond the basic premise of ‘the voice.’

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Nuclear Blast – 1st September 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

When charged with the task of covering a new release by a ‘big’ name act, or an act which has been around a long time and developed a significant global following, but that you’re not an ardent fan of, the pressure is on. As a reviewer, you’re supposed to know everything about every aspect of every band ever, and the kind of act who has an established fanbase is also the kind of act who has a fanbase who expect critics to really know their shit before passing comment on ‘their band. At least, that’s my perception based on hard experience from sitting on both sides of the fence.

That progenitors of gothic metal Paradise Lost are still here to launch the fifteenth album of their career is impressive by any standards. And while I’ve been aware of them for an eternity – as a Sisters of Mercy fan for an even longer eternity, it was their cover of ‘Walk Away which provided an introduction – I’ve never really spent any time getting acquainted with their back catalogue. Nevertheless, and despite their death / doom roots, the fact Medusa is strong and proper heavy is even more impressive, especially given their forays into Depeche Mode-style synthpop and electronica and a stint on EMI which saw them move further into more commercial territories.

As the press release notes, ‘most people will know Medusa as the Gorgon from Greek mythology; she is the infamous beast with venomous snakes for hair who will turn anyone that dares to look into her eyes to stone. It is this hideous creature who Paradise Lost have chosen to be the figureheard for their 15th studio album, as, from a philosophical perspective, she is more than simply a monster.’

It’s the epic, doomy trudge of ‘Fearless Sky’ which grinds out for over eight and a half minutes which gets the album off to a dark and suitably intense start and demonstrates they’ve still got the high-art bombast which defines their sound, and of the poem which gave them their name in the first place. It was hearing segments of Milton’s immensely epic poem read aloud by one of my university’s more eccentric but enthusiastic professors which turned me on to his work, and in context, it all fits together. Medusa is an immense and ambitious album, and it’s also as heavy as hell.

The thunderous tribal drumming which propels the low-end focused sludge riffery of ‘Gods of Ancient’ leads the album deeper into darkness before the snarling desolation of ‘From the Gallows.’ ‘The Longest Winter’ is perhaps more accessible with its processed, dry and altogether more melodic vocals, but the guitars are still are thick and overdriven as you like. As for the title track, it brings the sense of immense portent with its groaningly heavy guitars and noodling lead, paired with a sense of gothic theatricality which lends it a kind of poeticism.

This is an album that trudges, dark and heavy, for the duration, and any comparisons to other bands from either the goth or metal sides of the equation are essentially redundant because it was this band who effectively spawned the hybrid which Medusa so perfectly epitomises anyway.

What makes Medusa a great album is that while it is heavy, it’s heavily gothy and it’s ultra metally in the snarling, guttural sense, and it’s also got immense range. As such, it doesn’t ever feel formulaic or dull, and ultimately, Medusa is a strong album which stands up in the Paradise Lost catalogue.

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I, Awake is the new album from progressive, sludge, horror synth outfit Upcdownc set for release on 22nd September.

Following 17 years of producing constant heavy, instrumental, fuzzy noise this will be the band’s first album as a 3 piece.  The change in personnel and dynamics led to the band taking a new approach to their songwriting, looking at it from an alternate angle and with it bringing a fresh perspective. Guitarist Chris Garth comments: 

‘The writing was heavily influenced by the later Swans albums like The Glowing Man and To Be Kind where dynamics and repetition are used to great effect. We were listening to a lot of early Black Sabbath at the time which accounts for the heavy riffs, as well as quite a few different horror sound tracks.’  

Horror is one theme that is constant throughout I, Awake, and the band were heavily influenced by composers such as Fabio Frizzi, John Carpenter alongside the Shogun Assassin soundtrack, which led to the use of synthesizers on the album.  Garth adds, ‘we liked the idea of lots of small sections put together in bigger passages so that they form one whole entire piece which doesn’t necessarily have to be played in the same order when playing live. We had also started to use loops but wanted to keep things simple so used them more for textures rather than melodies, as we always like to record live with minimal overdubs.’ 

 The concept behind the music and artwork is based on the idea of sleep, dreams, nightmares and fears coupled with extreme anxiety and night terrors. I, Awake explores the transitions between sleep and waking life.   

‘Looming Part 2’ is the first track to be shared from the album. Chris comments, I guess this song is part of the segment after you wake from a nightmare/dream and still have that feeling of anxiety/terror where you still are unsure whether what happened in the dream was real or not’.
Listen to ‘Looming Part 2’ here:
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