Archive for September, 2017

Gizeh Records – 13th October 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

Otto Lindholm is based in Belgium. More pertinently, he plays double pass and is an electronic producer. Divided into four colour-inspired, long-form movements, the press release informs us that Alter takes off from Lindholm’s previous work (a self-titled album released in 2015), and ‘pushes the already abundant palette of sounds even further’. It also references Greek chamber-doom merchants Mohammad by way of a touchstone, but suggests that Lindholm’s latest may focus more attention on textures and melody.

Alter is very much a slow burn, to the extent that it crawls from the speakers with the first track, ‘Fauve’, which starts low and slow and gradually burrows deeper, with a long, low, resonant bass throb providing the undercurrent over which tremulous strings brood and sweep. ‘Lehener’ is sparser and more tentative-sounding, exploring more the space between the sounds, as the notes pulse and decay. The bass rolls in by stealth, before a range of sounds, all attenuated to different tones, textures and frequencies, as well as modulations. The notes rub against one another as they shift in different times and spaces.

At ten and a half minutes, ‘Alyscamps’ is the album’s longest piece, and Lindholm explores dark spaces through shuddering sonic shapes in slow collision.

The final composition, ‘Heliotrope’, is perhaps the most conventionally ‘orchestral’ of the four, and the one which offers the lightest of mood, with bowed bass and strings combining to create a delicate and graceful feel. But there’s a magnificent fluidity about Lindholm’s compositions, and these moments of levity emerge but briefly from the sombre atmospherics, before being subsumed into shades of grating dissonance.

The structures may be obscure, but there is a definite sense of form lurking behind the shape-shifting ambience of Lindholm’s work. And through those near-subliminal structures, which tease at the senses and inch into the subconscious, Lindholm achieves something which reaches beyond the listening experience and into another realm altogether.

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Otto Lindholm – Alter

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22nd September 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

Ummagma really do have some impressive friends and fans. The Canadian dreampop duo’s lush, textured shoegaze has garnered them not only and admirable fanbase and favourable critical reception, but has placed them into direct contact and collaboration with a number of their heroes.

The ‘LCD’ EP, which follows up their ‘Winter Tale’ maxi-single with 4AD dream pop pioneer A.R.Kane earlier this year, features four tracks, including the new original title track ‘LCD’, and reworkings of Ummagma songs two legendary British musical figures in the form of Cocteau Twin Robin Guthrie, and Dean Garcia of Curve and, latterly, SPC ECO.

The lead track is a classic slice of 90s-tinged dreampop with tangents ago-go: a slippery funk-infused groove envelops what sounds like two independent drum tracks which interlace and intertwine, while synths bubble and grind. It all comes together to create something strangely nebulous and at the same time compellingly propulsive despite its lack of obvious form.

Dean Garcia’s SPC ECO mix really accentuates the spaciness of the track, stripping it back to a sparse frame around which echoed notes and voices drift. Gloopy beats reverberate around dripping synths and elongated drones to conjure a rich atmosphere. Garcia takes a similar approach to the minimal drift of ‘Back to You’, which takes a turn for the darker as its resonant bass tones hang in a rarefied air, cloud-like and barely tangible yet present.

What Robin Guthrie brings to ‘Lama’, which originally featured on their debut album, is a real sense of appreciation of the original, and an accentuation of the nuance. He also provides not only a new arrangement and mix, but additional guitar work, which renders it more of a collaborative piece than a straight remix. There’s something magically organic about it, and as Shauna McLarnon’s soaring vocal tops off the sonic soufflé perfectly.

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Ummagma – LCD EP

13th October 2017

James Wells

This the first CD released by drøne, a collaborative project featuring the pioneering Mark Van Hoen and Mike Harding (not the 80s comedian also known as The Rochdale Cowboy). The accompanying text informs us that ‘Mappa Mundi traces and describes audio surrounding and occupying the planet earth’. In fact, the album comes with one hell of a write-up, which quoting at length is instructive:

Workers toil in smithies, call signs and chants-at-prayer reveal attempts to order the chaos, which always remains one step ahead. Post-lapsarian for sure, but smoke signals and drums have morphed into the ‘bing bong’ of the attention-grabbing, mind-polluting PA system. The coded simplicity of the whistle (“Start!”) has evolved into a more deliberate attempt to control rather than inform by explicit, structured language. Announcements have become commands; signs bark orders. Thus ‘no’ becomes a powerful rejection, rather than merely a preference; and no-ers are more easily to spot… “You’re going the wrong way”! (To which the only sensitive and mature response is: “Good!”)

Call signs, IDs, audio sigils and signatures all combine to describe a polluted, confusing atmosphere which threatens to leave us powerless and bewildered. "Decipher the sounds and you win the game! First prize is, guess what? You get to take the audio poison! Congratulations! You’ve lost!”.

As for the actuality, there’s perhaps something of a disparity. Because ultimately, not a lot happens on Mappa Mundi. It crackles and fizzes, clicks and pops, humming and droning along the way. But it’s largely quiet, unobtrusive,

The album’s five movements, with a total running time of thirty-five minutes, are mastered as a single continuous track, at least on the advance digital. On the one hand, it’s frustrating, but Mappa Mundi is an album which is best experienced in a single sitting, uninterrupted. And it is an experience, albeit an uncomfortable one.

Drøne - Mappa Mundi

Nakama Records – NKM008

Christopher Nosnibor

Strolling bass, graceful strings, rolling piano: these are the defining elements of Nakama’s Most Intimate. But if this sounds like it’s an album of romantic pastoral compositions, then this would be to misrepresent the range and expanse of the more experimental bent of the Most Intimate sonic experience. And none of this touches the

By way of background, Nakama is ‘a five-piece band led by Norwegian bassist Christian Meaas Svendsen. Nakama is Japanese and can be translated as ‘comrade’, or simply a community where no-one is above the other, but rather watches over one another.

The intimacy articulated on this album, then, is not of a sexual nature, but instead reflects the close interaction of artists working in collaboration. Can anything be more intimate than revealing the soul of one’s creative process, the core of one’s art?

At times discordant, at times venturing into free jazz, at times eerie, and at times playful, the album’s fifteen tracks bleed into one another to forge an aural journey. Over its course, the album demonstrates musical range and a certain depth. It’s not always fun, and it’s not always easy. But it’s never anything less than art. And the embossed cover is something special.

Nakama,

Clang – 29th September 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

There’s probably a press release somewhere, but I should probably just listen and lose myself in this. Endless Undo is a work of infinite subtlety, layered and detailed. It is, of course, the result of meticulous editing, a restive mind working and reworking, doing and endlessly undoing in order to achieve moments of microtonal bliss.

Böhm’s field is, ostensibly, the space between ambience and beat-propelled electronica: the compositions are rhythmic at heart, and while there are distinct and definite beats, they’re rarely dominant, and are often subdued, restrained or otherwise bouncing agitatedly in the background.

‘Heissenberg’ is built around bleeps and whistles, crackles drones and some swampy avant-electro percussion, and creates an enticing atmosphere without disclosing even a fraction of the range of the album as a whole.

‘Liub’ goes scratchy and glitchy against clanking electronica, explosive blasts of shuffling, processed beats and while it’s paired back and sparse on the surface, there is a lot going on: ‘Dezembur’ bumps and scrapes, bumps and scrapes its way through tremulous fear chords and dramatic yet understated piano. Glass tinkles and chimes while a single picked note hangs in the air for an eternity, swelling before a slow decay. It segues into the dense swell of ‘Klicker’, which builds to a bubbling, bassy groove which is far from ambient, bit so swampy as to be submersive.

There’s a definite arc to Endless Undo, and while it may only contain five tracks, over the course of its thirty-five-and-a-half-minute running time, Böhm may not exactly develop a sense of narrative, but does build upwards in solidity and intensity before the sparse, crystalline ‘Madeira’ turns in on itself to bring the album to a delicate yet moody close.

There’s a sense that Endless Undo is an album about potentials: the end product is simply the version the artist has settled on after a relentless tweaking and adjustment. It could have been a very different album. But then again, perhaps not, but we will never know.

Volker Böhm – Endless Undo

‘Taxonomy Of Illusions’ is the opening track to Amplify Human Vibration, a full length soundtrack from Brighton cinematic post-rock duo Nordic Giants.

Amplify Human Vibration is the soundtrack to an upcoming short film, directed by the duo, that hopes to shed a positive light on the everyday world we live in. The crowd-funded film will be proceeded by the soundtrack, released on CD & Vinyl with the film given away online for free at a later date. The opening track of the soundtrack, ‘The Taxonomy of Illusions’ is named after and features a speech given by Terence McKenna at UC Berkeley in 1993.

“This opening track highlights some of the great illusions most of us have unwillingly accepted as our reality. The toxic consequences are now clear for everyone to see, so its really up to us to face our issues -not tomorrow, but today! The message of this song is not to create any more fear or negativity but to help realise our problems so we can empower ourselves and step out from this illusion/delusion we are living in,” say the band.

Listen here:

Amplify Human Vibration  is released on October 22nd.

Nordic

Christopher Nosnibor

Last time I saw Ming City Rockers, supporting Arrows of Love in Leeds, I wasn’t hugely impressed, and thought that if they put as much effort into the songs as into looking like rock clichés, they might get somewhere. I’m here, in fact, for grungy Australian duo Mannequin Death squad, whose debut EP was one of last year’s highlights. Anyone who caught them on the supporting tour over here, thanks to their Hull-based label, would have witnessed a treat.

Back in the UK once more, they’re gracing York with their presence on the night before dropping their first new material since the Eat, Hate, Regurgitate EP in the form of the track ‘Blue’.

Warming things up are local lads Naked Six. At one time a three-piece, they’re now reduced to a two-piece. But rather than diminishing their power, the guitar / drum combo have focused and concentrated their energy, and with the guitar signal split across two amps, there’s a real depth and solidity to their sound. And it helps that the amps are cranked up loud. It’s the best way to listen to their swaggering, ballsy, hard-edged blues rock. Seb Byford not only has a classic blues rock voice that also works well when they move into grungier territory later in the set, but he’s got a stomp that’s half Angus Young, half frenzied madman as she grinds the riffs into the stage with his heel. It’s a cracking performance.

Naked Six

Naked Six

Mannequin Death Squad certainly don’t disappoint, and it’s telling that the instrument-swapping pair have evolved a set with enough new material to be able to drop killer tracks like ‘KYMS’ from their debut EP without the set being remotely lacking.

The eight-song set, which kicks off with ‘Sick’ from the aforementioned EP boasts almost 50% new and unreleased material. For a band who are yet to really break the market, it’s a bold move, but with a debut album in the offing and so many ace tunes, it means they’re able to arrange the set based not on simply what they’ve got, but to sequence it from a selection that gives the set shape and a dynamic beyond the individual tracks. It’s clear they’ve spent time out and about, on the road, refining their sound, and they benefit from the venue’s appropriate volume to make for an attacking sound.

MDS1

Mannequin Death Squad

‘Nightmare’ marks a change of pace and style, bringing a darker hue and a bass-led dirginess to break up the succession of driving grunge tunes with killer hooks which define the band’s sound.

Swapping instruments at the set’s mid-point and again near the end (much to the appreciation of those who thought they were about to finish), they keep themselves and the crowd on their toes, and they work bloody hard to power through a full-throttle set often coming on like Live Through This era Hole, with the added punch of a spiky post-punk edge. They’re fucking awesome.

MDS2

Mannequin Death Squad

With a surly-looking female guitarist, a trashy aesthetic, and a slew of uptempo punk tunes, what’s not to like about Ming City Rockers? Regrettably, and despite the consensus of the aged punks going nuts down the front, they still suck. The lack of imagination is the issue. It’s bog-standard spirit of ‘77 4/4 punk, and like many of the bands of the era, at its heart it’s just pub rock played fast with the amps cranked up. The songs are churned out with an abundance of posturing and posing but without any real substance, or tunes, and the sameness gets tedious very quickly.

MCR

Ming City Rockers

They introduce one song as being about playing a gig in Lowestoft where a man chased the singer and ‘tried to pin me down and fuck me, I mean proper fuck me!’ but the lyrics are articulated as something along the lines of ‘wahwahwahwahyaggch’. It’s crass, lowest-common denominator stuff, and much of what happens on stage feels extremely contrived: the walking off stage into the crowd, knocking over cymbals on the way by way of a finale is pretty much emblematic.

Filing out, a few punters could be overheard commenting that Mannequin Death Squad were the best band of the night, and those punters would be right.