Archive for August, 2017

Macaque Records – 21st August 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

Gilman Mom is the musical vehicle for Dominic Francisco (which has a star quality of its own). As Dominic explains, Manifest Destiny ‘plays heavily with texture and field recordings melding with emotional chords and words in attempt to convey my mental transformation from a vulnerable state to a confident one’.

The text which accompanies the release is almost uncomfortably direct, and it seems appropriate to quote in full:

I want it to feel like a troubled night walk of self-reflection that blossoms into realization.

This album isn’t for you so much as it is for me. I needed a way to document my circular thought process. Around and around until I stumbled upon developments. It’s not for everybody but it’s what I felt in my head when I thought about you for so long after that night. Nature surrounded me almost perfectly as this unfolded; you left me in the rain and by the time that storm ended I had found myself again. With this piece I want to remember who I was and how I got here. However fragile we were and unfit for each other, I gained so much insight into who I am from what was us. With your inadvertent help I’ve entered a state of definity. This is my journey to that place.

It’s clear from this that Manifest Destiny originates from an intensely personal place and one feels almost voyeuristic by simply being in its presence, without even listening to it. Should you listen to it? It sounds more like a work of therapy following a sequence of breakdown and recovery. Is it even intended for the ears of the casual listener?

In contrast to the write-up, the music the album features is uncomfortably indirect. Rumbling piano, distant discord that rolls like thunder way, way off, an unsettlingly sparse piano and muttered vocal snippets, the words inaudible, congeal into a dense mass of sound which offers little by way of shape, form, or tangibility.

At times barely there, eddying arabesques of synth contrails surround distorted, hushed vocal snippets, the actual words unintelligible. Gloopy tremors shiver amidst subaquatic hums and bubbling drones. Clicks, clatters and muffled extranea ebb and flow in the sonic swamp.

Any sense of linear progression, narrative flow, or emotional shift over the sequence of the album’s eleven tracks is difficult to determine: it feels more like a murky sonic miasma, slowly pulsating through a fog of introspection, apart from the glimmers of light briefly afforded by ‘Fool’s Gold’ at the mid-point. This is in no way a criticism: as an experience in ephemera, a vague allusion to sequence of events and emotions largely unknowable, the context matters less than the recordings themselves. And these are deeply atmospheric, sparse yet subtly immersive compositions, which exist in a realm of detachment, a world between worlds.

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Gilman Mom - Manifest Destiny

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Southern Lord – 29th September 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

The arrival of this album in my inbox gave me pause for thought. Their debut album, the brilliantly-titled Iron Balls of Steel was a full five years ago. I reviewed it, and raved about it. And I realise I’ve been doing this for quite a while now. Over that time, bands – great bands, shit bands, mediocre and forgettable bands – have come and gone. And now, Loincloth, whom I praised for their ‘megalithic chunks of undecorated, heads-down behemoth guitar riffage and earth-shuddering rhythms hewn from colossal slabs of basalt’, are entering the catalogue of bands gone.

The press release includes the following statement: “Loincloth is no longer a live band, so this record is our final offering not only to the great horned one below, but to the committed ladies and gentlemen of the Cloth.” Still, what a sign-off. Never mind the ladies and gentlemen of the Cloth: the nine shuddering riffcentric sonic barrages that form Psalm Of The Morbid Whore are terrifyingly heavy, dingy and gut-churning enough to leave the listener close to touching cloth. As such, while their departure is sad news, the delivery of this awe-inspiring musical gift is a cause to rejoice for those who like their shit heavy.

The press release pitches Psalm Of The Morbid Whore as ‘packing nine new instrumental passages of white-knuckled twists, and by-the-throat percussion, into a half-hour’.  But this fails to convey, even slightly, the grungey riffs which jolt and jar, shuddering through a stop/start chug of thick distortion. Between the blastbeats and thunderous culminations of bass and rhythm guitar twist sinewy lead guitar lines that spread and unfurl like foliage spreading in a mystical forest. Also emerging from the swamps are fleeting moments of prog-hued illumination.

It also overlooks the progression between Psalm Of The Morbid Whore and its predecessor. While the tracks are, on the whole, short, there are a number of longer workouts, with the final cut, ‘Ibex (To Burn in Hell Is To Refine)’ running to almost eight minutes (twice the length of the lengthiest piece on Iron Balls). And, significantly, the tone has shifted, from the slightly jokey or flippant-sounding ‘Underwear Bomb’, ‘Shark Dancer’ and ‘The Moistener’ of the debut the to the subterranean savagery of religious / pagan coloured titles like ‘Necro Fucking Satanae’, ‘Pentecost Dissident’, ‘Bestial Infernal’. Psalm Of The Morbid Whore is dense, dark, and heavy, and while in some respects less claustrophobic than its predecessor, it feels more focused, less metal, more grunge, and also more groove orientated.

But most importantly, Psalm Of The Morbid Whore retains the dirty, unpolished primitivism worthy of a band named Loincloth.

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London based alternative/indie rock trio Desert Mountain Tribe are releasing the song ‘Interstellar’ from their 2016 debut album Either That Or The Moon as a new single.  It coincides with the band’s appearance at Manchester Psych Fest 2017 on 2nd September. Edited from its original nine minute duration to just under five, the BVB Version of this epic track also boasts a superb video directed by Daniel Turner of Sound & Colour.

‘Interstellar’ follows a pair of digital EP’s, ‘If You Don’t Know Can You Don’t Know Köln’ and ‘Live At St. Pancras Old Church’, plus the single ‘Enos In Space (Top Of The World)’, which was mixed by Youth. The band have also spent much of 2017 on the road, including an extensive spring tour of North America and summer festivals in mainland Europe.

Watch the video here (and tour dated are below):

live UK

02.09.17  MANCHESTER Psych Fest 2017

live Europe

08.09.17  SANTAREM Reverence Festival (Portugal)

12.09.17  LLODIO Orbeko Etxea (Spain)

14.09.17  BARCELONA Sidecar Factory Club (Spain)

15.09.17  ZARAGOZA Psych Fest (Spain)

16.09.17  BUDAPEST Vanishing Point Festival (Hungary)

17.10.17  ASCHAFFENBURG Colos Saal (Germany)

18.10.17  KÖLN Underground (Germany)

19.10.17  MÜNSTER Gleis 22 (Germany)

20.10.17  BREMEN Lila Eule (Germany)

The seventh record by Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Luciferian Towers, will be released 22nd September 2017 on Constellation. As a taster, they’ve unveiled the album’s opening track, ‘Undoing a Luciferian Towers’, on line.

We’ll spare any extensive preamble or detail about the album here, and shall instead get to the important business: listen to ‘Undoing a Luciferian Towers’ here:

Godspeed

Christopher Nosnibor

It’s Saturday night on the August bank holiday weekend. The students are on holiday, and it’s Leeds Festival weekend. On the face of it, it seems like madness to put a gig on in a tiny underground venue in the city centre, but in fact, it makes a lot of sense. Not only are the big festivals insanely expensive, but because commercial concerns are inevitably a priority these days, they represent an ever-narrowing musical choice. Festivals have become tediously safe, with corporate sponsorship and the same obvious, established acts playing the headline slots at every festival year on year. But it’s at gigs like this that future festival features cut their teeth. I’d take four little bands, up close and personal, at a free entry show, over the entirety of Reading and Leeds any day.

The first band up, who I assume are The Blewes (since they’re mentioned on the poster if not the event page, and they don’t say) deliver a competent set of alternative rock tunes, foraying into light funk rock mode around halfway through the set. The singer / guitarist’s wearing cherry-red 12-hole DM’s, but his butch credentials are covered by the fact he’s got his shirt, off and relentless calls of ‘show us your tiger’ from the back to the room (presumably the band’s mates) sees the bassist get his moobs out too. Unremarkable but entertaining enough, they’re more than adequate bill-proppers.

The Claxbys proved rather less entertaining. The bassist may have a Big Muff in his rack, but it doesn’t do anything to elevate the three-piece’s pedestrian pub rock. It’s only on the last song when the Scunthorpe trio kick out some beefy blues rock that things get interesting, but it’s rather too little, too late.

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The Claxbys

It turns out that the cocky kid who engaged me in conversation earlier, with seemingly good intentions, is the nineteen-year-old singer with The Bohos. It’s a crap name, but the Liverpool quartet blend psychedelic and 60s rock elements into neat packages delivered with energy. They look the part, too, and emanate a confidence befitting of a band who’ve got some big gigs including a support slot with White Lies under their belt. A critical stance would be that there’s little to differentiate them from a great many other bands, but there’s no question that they’re solid. The final song of the set, ‘I’m a Hero’ comes on like Oasis wrestling with The Cooper Temple Clause, and is the work of a band with enough assurance – or ego – to go places.

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The Bohos

Weekend Recovery are a band with definite star quality, and in singer Lauren Forster, they have a compelling focal point. She does a good line I that ‘grrrrghhh’ throat thing. She plays guitar. She has a natiral charisma. And while she may have devoted more time to practising her eye movements than her fretwork, as a unit, they’re musically tight throughout. The fact the band are playing with a stand-in bassist in the form of Joe Scotcher makes this even more impressive.

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Weekend Recovery

Yes, they’re a rock band with a keen pop sensibility, and since I first caught them in February, on the release of ‘Don’t Try and Stop Me’, they’ve honed their sound and grown in confidence through touring. Debus single ‘Focus’ is dropped early in a well-paced set, and latest single, ‘New Tattoo’, lifted from their ‘Rumours’ EP and their darkest, broodingest moment to date – showcases a capacity to combine emotional intensity with anthemic tunage. And despite the lateness of the hour (they don’t start till 11pm), they manage to hold the attention and even get some people moving down the front. They wrap up the night with a stomping rendition of ‘Don’t Try and Stop Me’, and exit triumphant. So yeah, take that, Eminem.

Christopher Nosnibor

This is one of those lineups that has cult appeal written all over it. It’s also wall-to-wall quality. So while The Crescent may not be rammed – it was always going to be challenge to fill a 350-capacity venue in York on a Tuesday night in August with a lineup specialising in experimental and Kratuy workouts – those present are enthusiastic and know they’re in for a treat.

As I absorb Neuschlaufen’s immersive set, I’m increasingly aware of how much they sound – and even look like – so many of the improv-led experimental rock acts from mainland Europe I hear, courtesy of one Berlin-based PR in particular. These bands have substantial but ultimately underground and disparate cult followings, and release their albums on microlabels in batches of numbered editions of 300 or so, and perform in cool but nice venues around Germany and The Netherlands. Neuschlaufen are as good as any of them, and watching the trio manipulate sound – sometimes intuitively, sleekly, and sometimes by using electrical tape to pin keys on a synth down to sustain a note for ten minutes uninterrupted – is a real treat. An extended two-chord workout around the set’s mid-point – and the whole thing is magnificently and intuitively structured – is pinned together with piercing synth and clanging metallic guitar forging serpentine shapes Ash Sagar weaving a strolling six-string bassline. At times they mine a seam that brings together Bauhaus, PiL and The Fall, with shuddering bass grooves underpinning clanging, repetitive guitar-lines which are so angular as to cause flesh wounds.

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Neuschlaufen

It seems that every time I review Soma Crew, I comment on how they’re better with every outing. It’s not just my ears, or forgetfulness: it’s a fact. It’s been a long and slow ascent, but everything about them is totally cohesive, and tonight they spin their hypnotic brand of pulsating psychedelic rock in the tightest, most mesmerising style I’ve yet witnessed. The sound is rich, dense textured, and they’re brighter, clearer, groovier and trippier than ever.

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Soma Crew

Dave Keegan, standing in on bass, does a fantastic job: he holds the rhythm down perfectly with a heavy tone, pinned to Nick Barker’s insistent drumming, and the occasional nifty run for variety. The drumming is a defining feature, and I’m not the only one to note that Nick has, seemingly, one T-shirt and one rhythm. It’s this consistency and his complete lack of drumming ego which places him as one of my all-time drumming heroes.

On ‘Danger Zone’, they amalgamate Joy Division, The Back Angels, and The Doors to forge a unique sonic compound that encapsulates the brilliance of Soma Crew, and closer ‘Celluloid’ builds to a full-throttle sonic attack.

I can barely read a word of the notes I took during Chris Forsyth & The Solar Motel Band’s set, and there aren’t many. I was too busy standing, absorbed, by the trio’s seamless and utterly compelling performance. With elements of psych and prog and 70s rock and out and out rhythm-driven jamming, and songs like ‘The First Ren Minutes of “Cocksucker Blues”’ to groove out on, there’s a lot to get lost in.

They have a simple setup: drums, bass, guitar, a single amp apiece. Nothing fancy. And yes, there are epic guitar solos comparable to Neil Young and Dinosaur Jr (one track even bears more than a passing resemblance to ‘Like a Hurricane’ in its chord sequence, and the emotion Forsyth wrings from those six strings is almost tear-jerking in places). But – and here’s the important point of note – nothing is overdone. However exemplary the musicianship – these guys can’t just play, thy can fucking play – at no point during the set do things ever descend into self-indulgence. This is a major, and extremely rare, feat. But not a bar passes without an ear to structure, and a remembrance of the importance of the audience’s entertainment.

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Chris Forsyth & The Solar Motel Band

At no point to these guys go too far out on a limb, lose the crowd with tangents or indulgence. They’re well-rehearsed and tight as hell, but equally, they’re not so slick as to feel like they’re going through the motions, and this is when wigging out is at its best. Chris Forsyth & The Solar Motel Band define intuition, and play with an understated showmanship that’s something special.

22nd September 2017

James Wells

Christ, I fucking hate Cast. Overrated, jangly 90s bollocks shit, and turgid as fuck to boot. The fact that Tony Steele’s biggest claim to fame (and as far as I can tell he’s no relation to Tommy Steele) seems to be that he and his pals have supported Cast and a bunch of other Liverpudlian luminaries and the fact they’ve gigged all over Liverpool.

The press blurb points out, helpfully, that ‘A Ballad For Dead Love’ has been produced by Steve Powell, renowned for his work with the likes of Lee Mavers (The La’s) and Michael Head (The Pale Fountains, Shack)’, and highlights ‘Scouse Rockabilly’ as one of the track’s ‘unmistakeable influences’. Scouse Rockabilly? Is that even a thing? And did I mention I hold the same lack of regard for The La’s as I do Cast? Overrated, one-hit wonders.

Anyway, this is actually ok. It’s got a 60s pop vibe to it, an energetic, loping rhythm, and fuckloads of reverb all over the twangy guitar. If anything, it calls to mind John Leyton’s 1961 number one single ‘Johnny Remember Me’ (which is an absolute classic). Maybe if they can break out of Liverpool, Tony Steele and the Massacre could go somewhere with tunes like this.

Tony Steele