Archive for September, 2017

"Blue" is a brand new track from Melbourne’s Mannequin Death Squad, online for 3 weeks only during their 2017 UK tour:

Thur 14th Sept – Brighton Sticky Mikes
Sat 16th Sept – London DIY Thursdays
Wed 20th Sept – Hull Adelphi
Thur 21st Sept – York Fulford Arms
Fri 22nd Sept – Manchester The Peer Hat
Tue 26th Sept – Glasgow Bloc
Thur 28th Sept – Edinburgh Opium
Sat 30th Sept – Doncaster Vintage Rock Bar
Fri 6th Oct – London Monarch
Sat 7th Oct – Stafford Redrum
Sun 8th Oct – Leeds Hyde Park Book Club

Get your lugs round it here, ‘cause it’s a belter:

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Sargent House – 22nd September 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

Chelsea Wolfe is one of those artists who seems to continually grow with every release, and 2015’s Abyss was something special: a grand, powerful, and intense musical work that reached the parts other albums cannot reach. It’s fair to say that expectations for Hiss Spun were set high as a consequence.

As the accompanying blurb tells us, ‘the album was conceived as an emotional purge, a means of coming to terms with the tumult of the outside world by exploring the complexities of one’s inner unrest’.

Chelsea gets down to conveying this turmoil from the first bars: opener, ‘Spun’, is a throbbing deluge of dense, low-tempo, Godfleshy, bass-centric grind, a seething surge of low-end noise with an overloading, freewheeling lead guitar that’s not so much a solo as an out of control rollercoaster of fretwork that heaves and lurches every which way as if uncertain of its own direction but desperate to find a route to the end. ‘Particle Flux’ is also centred around a tectonic, subterranean low-end pulsation, and builds to a multi-layered, multi-faceted crescendo.

Single cut ’16 Psyche’ has the epic qualities of some of the strongest tracks from previous album Abyss – ‘Iron Moon’ in particular – and ‘The Culling’ repeats the trick of bursting into a crushingly powerful bloom from a quiet, delicate bud. But while nailing choruses of immense scale, these tracks also pound hard, sonically and emotionally.

Placing Hiss Spin side by side with Abyss is instructive: this latest work marks a considerable shift from the brooding industrial-edged gothic folk of its predecessor toward a much more metal-orientated sound that’s not only heavier and more abrasive, but more overtly challenging and confrontational. In fact, everything about Hiss Spun is more.

Following a heavy synth drone intro, ‘Vex’ brings blistering guitar dynamics and a shoegaze atmosphere to a twisted, reverb-soaked vocal that’s simultaneously emotion-rich and curiously detached. ‘Scrape’ draws the curtain with a dark, murky grind that’s as intense as it is dense, and Chelsea’s voice soars higher than ever, wracked with desperation. Thunderous tribal drumming blasts through the squalling guitars to render an imposing finale.

The production on Hiss Spun is immense. The percussion is enormous, every snare hit an explosion, every bass thump enough to trigger an earthquake or tsunami. Every beat, every note, strikes deep into the soul and drags at the deepest levels. To explain precisely how and why Hiss Spun resonates so deeply would be to ruin its magic: this is an album which connects subconsciously, subliminally, pulling as it does between fragility and fury, and with such stunning grace, and it drives, but as a slow pace.

Instrumentally, the dynamics are breathtaking. And never has Wolfe sounded so raw, by turns so fragile and so powerful, channelling emotions to utterly devastating and bewildering effect. Superlatives are inadequate: Hiss Spun is an album so strong as to be almost overwhelming and marks, my a mile, a new career high-point.

AAA

Chelsea Wolfe - Hiss Spun Cover 3000x3000 300 dpi (1)

MC/CD/DL – Nakama Records –NKM012 – 22nd September 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

I’m not entirely sure what a no-input mixer is, and I’m not sure I have the energy or motivation to find out. But it’s one of the ‘instruments’ Utku Tavil ‘plays’ on this album, in addition to snare drum and sampler.

What I do know is that Juxtaposition is a studio work of four Oslo based improvisers (and not the indie mongs who went by the same name who came round to my flat in Glasgow in 2000 to be photographed by my achingly hip flatmate) recorded in the spring of 2016. Various timbres of opposite extreme, as a result of each musicians’ different approach and background, coexist without hierarchical restrictions. Having that in mind during playing, the mixing process played a crucial role to deliver a concrete body of equalitarian sonic output. Without compromise, moments of joy and pain, screams, feedback and bird sounds are layered on top of each other.

This is not music that’s easy to listen to, let alone love. Scraping, distorted clanks and clatters echo atop growling, prowling, near subsonic bass intrusions and an elongated howl of sustain. And that’s just the first thirty seconds. An overloading mass of shuddering, screeding extranea rapidly builds to skull-crushing intensity, as shrieks of treble erupt like solar flares from amidst the tempestuous racket.

‘Pakistansk Mango’ is a fiendish mash of vocals – Natali Abrahamsen Garner does not sound of this world, and it’s hard to compute that the sounds emanating from her being are untreated, unprocessed – shudder and judder to a babble of stuttering repetition, against a backdrop of bubbling synths, ear-shredding bursts of pink and white noise, and nail-scraping feedback reminiscent of Total Sex era Whitehouse. Pleasant it is not. In fact, as distorted metallic bangs and hammers batter through a sonic riot of indeterminate origin, I’m feeling pretty fucking tense.

A yammering percussion that sounds like a cross between a locomotive and a nailgun provides the spine behind a whirling aural assault for ‘Revolver’.

Natali Abrahamsen Garner and Agnes Hvizdalek’s voices exist outside the realm of the human, and serve to add a disturbing, unheimlich aspect to the already hellish, grating sonic torture. Screams, shrieks howls and growls are all integral to the traumatic experience. ‘1000 Poeng’ features a host of primal screams over growling synth bass and brutal, waspish feedback. On ‘Enkle I’, a deranged bleating entwines with a surging skitter of overloading electronics and a swirling vortex of nastiness, and a mess of brown noise buzz blasts in around five minutes into the final track, ‘Trost’.

Juxtaposition is a cruel and punishing work, which exploits the full sonic spectrum and every texture, from grainy abrasion to the razor-sharp to inflict maximum pain.

AAA

- dsn - JUXTAPOSITION - VIDEO titles

Gusstaff Records – 2nd September 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

It may have bene groundbreaking and have acquired a legendary status, but I have to confess to being unfamiliar with Mapa’s previous album, Fudo, released some nineteen years ago. That said, No Automato is billed as being quite an evolution and reveals a newfound simplicity and sense of minimalism.

Not that you could exactly call any of the album’s nine compositions simple or minimal, because there’s a lot going on, but there is a directness and energy which emanates from the music. Stylistically, it’s all in the mix, incorporating elements of punk, avant-garde jazz, instrumental hip-hop and experimental electronica.

There’s a playfulness about the way they forge juxtapositions: slow, ritual percussion booms and rattles tribalistically as if marking the pace of a funeral march deep in the jungle. In contrast, warping bass tones and flickering, glitchy electro whirs and bleepy scrapes shape the sound: this is ‘MPA Jazz’, and this is how Mapa introduce themselves on No Automatu, and it’s clear that working with Marcin Dymiter brings out a different side of Paul Wirkus.

The mad, lo-fi disco of ‘Burnt Tragiczny’ transitions into the world of the weird as the juddering retro beats slip their sprockets, and the rapid-fire retro snare explosions which pin the woozy bass undulations of ‘Heute Tanz A’ in place evoke a bygone era of experimental electro recordings. ‘Heute Tanz B’ juxtaposes surging waves of analogue synth with a beat lifted almost directly from Cabaret Voltaire’s ‘Nag Nag Nag’, and it’s the primitive drum machine sounds that define the album’s sound throughout.

‘Rudyment’ may be instrumental, but its sparse plod is harrowing and oppressive, and it’s clear that Mapa are abundantly capable of forging an atmosphere more or less out of nowhere and pulsing throbs build the backdrop of the infinite layers that build on top. The title track is the album’s closer, and it’s a dense, relentless attack built around motoric drums and woozy, abrasive synth-bass.

Mapa are all about the clatter and clang, and No Automatu is a curious album whichever angle you care to view it from. Messy, noisy, unpredictable, the range of atmospheres and vibes packed into the album keeps it moving at pace, and means it’s never less than fascinating.

AAA

mapa-no-automatu

Cherry Red Records – 29th September 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

Forty-two years on from their inception and David Thomas’ Pere Ubu are still cranking them out. Significantly, they’ve continued to push parameters and stubbornly refused to bow to commercial concerns, pursuing the production of art over commerce. On this outing, Thomas has assembled quite an impressive ensemble, for ‘a three-guitar revision [which] sees Keith Moliné, Gary Siperko and Kristof Hahn (Swans) expand the established orchestra of analog and digital synths (Wheeler, Gagarin), clarinet (Boon), drums (Mehlman) and Thomas’ unique vocals.

For the most part, 20 Years In A Montana Missile Silo is a set of swampy, snaking blues-based workouts, although it certainly explores the full expanse of the core aspects – and explore is the operative word here. Experimentalism has always been a defining feature of Pere Ubu’s output, and 20 Years is no exception. But there’s nothing indulgent about it: in fact, it packs more than its share of driving garage rock, and half he songs clock in at under two and a half-minutes.

If the slow and meandering ‘Cold Sweat’, which borders on romantic post-rock, seems like an odd choice of opener, its simply testament to Thomas’ perverse will and fans should know what to expect by now. So, the melody is off and the quavering croon is vaguely uncomfortable, but the payoff hits immediately afterwards with the locked-in blues jam of ‘Funk 49’, which finds Pere Ubu come on like The John Giorno band, with a real swagger. It’s entirely out of step with anything contemporary, but then, even echoing 80s beat poetry, it doesn’t actually sit comfortably anywhere.

‘Howl’ isn’t a reference to Allen Ginsberg’s celebrated poem, however, but does find Thomas swing between Jim Morrison and Howlin’ Wolf as he lurches through some murky psychedelic blues. From the stealthy, woozy atmospherics of ‘I Can Still See’, to the uptempo rock ‘n’ roll attack of ‘Monkey Bizness’, with its warped lyrics and off-kilter splurges of synth, 20 Years has a range and dynamism which contrive to shape a rounded and exciting album. The slurred blur of ‘Walking Again’ closes the album with a drawling, dark derangement.

The brevity of the tracks doesn’t feel like they’re sketchy or incomplete, but imbued the album with a punchy directness. Similarly, even the more freeform compositions aren’t indulgently long, with none of the pieces stretching beyond five minutes, meaning that the experimentalism is very much kept in check and the focus on songs retained. And ultimately, songs are important. There’s no waste on 20 Years In A Montana Missile Silo, and there’s no chaff, either: for all its experimentalism, it’s a tight, taut and lean album overall. It’s also really rather good, and an album that shows that even after more than four decades, Pere Ubu can produce music that’s more thrilling than the majority of contemporary acts.

Pere-Ubu-20-Years-Front-Cover

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Fire Records – 15th September 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

There’s a segment that starts around the six-minute mark on ‘Absent Friend’ where the guitars, soaked in reverb, chime and interweave, forming a delicate latticework of notes which is the very quintessence of post-rock. Hex was released in 1994. While much of the album isn’t quite post-rock as we now know it here in 2017, listening back to the debut album by the band which saw Simon Reynolds famously apply the term ‘post-rock’ (although often cited as marking the term’s coinage, this is as much-debated as what actually constitutes post-rock), it’s not hard to identify this as the definitive moment at which the tropes which define post-rock as we broadly recognise it began to coalesce.

The intense and arduous work that went into Hex would ultimately lead to the band’s disintegration, and it would be a full twenty years before Graham Sutton would reconvene Bark Psychosis to deliver a second album in the form of ///Codename: Dustsucker. But one could reasonably argue that with Hex, Bark Psychosis achieved more than many bands could even aspire to over the course of ten albums.

The delicate, evocative piano of ‘The Loom’, accompanied by soft strings arguably set a certain corner of the blueprint acts like Glissando and Her Name is Calla would come to place at the centre of their sound, and the meandering melodies would subsequently be developed by the likes of Oceansize – admittedly, more neoprog than post-rock, but this only highlights the range of Hex and the far-reaching vision it demonstrates. ‘Big Shot’ boasts a strolling bass and warping, dreamy atmospherics over a rolling glockenspiel and a semi-ambient breakdown in the middle. ‘Finger Spit’ may not feature the kind of epic crescendos which characterise a lot of ‘classic’ post-millennium post-rock, but its hushed, quietly intense space clearly explores surging dynamics. The gloomy discordant brass of ‘Eyes and Smiles’ prefaces the early sound if iLiKETRAiNS. And so on.

Across the course of the seven tracks (these are long expansive compositions), Hex weaves cinematic soundscapes and wring all shades of emotion not from the lyrics and vocals, which are largely secondary, but from the music itself. It has texture and depth, and at its best, possesses a transportative, almost transcendental quality that goes beyond mere music. This, it’s fair to say, has been the ambition of the acts which have come to stand as synonymous with post-rock, disparate and different as they are, from Godspeed You! Back Emperor’s immense, surging soundscapes, to the chiming crescendo-orientated compositions of Explosions in the Sky via the twee elvin twinkles of Sigur Rós.

Hex was certainly not an album of its time. 1994 was the year of In Utero, and Live Through This, Sixteen Stone by Bush, and Weezer’s eponymous debut, as well as Dookie, Smash, and Parklife, and Definitely Maybe, His and Hers, and The Second Coming¸ as well as Dog Man Star. As grunge jostled with Britpop in a divided musical landscape, and in a year which also delivered Pavement’s Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain, The Beastie Boys’ Ill Communication, and Manic Street Preachers’ The Holy Bible. Put simply, Hex did not fit. Amongst broadly contemporaneous works, it does share more commonality with The God Machine’s Scenes from the Second Storey (1992), Slowdive’s Slouvaki (1993) and Rosa Mota’s Wishful Sinking (1995) (all unappreciated at the time and still criminally underrated) than anything that could be considered zeitgeist.

Now seems an appropriate distance to re-evaluate Hex. And even now, despite so many of its tropes having been absorbed, assimilated and endlessly replicated, it sounds beyond contemporary. It possesses so much depth and range, and conveys a close, personal intensity which has absolutely nothing to do with raging volume. Within or without context, Hex is a remarkable album. Yes, it effectively spawned a genre, and yet, it still stands apart. And that’s every reason to sit back and enjoy Hex not as an influential album, but simply on its own merits, of which there are plenty.

Bark Psychosis - Hex COVER

Room40 – 1st September 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

In certain circles at least, Tony Buck requires little to no introduction as the percussionist of longstanding Australia purveyors of avant-jazz trio The Necks.

Unearth is an immense departure in many respects, not least of all in that it not a percussion-led composition. His first solo work, recorded over a number of years, is an expansive, long-form piece spanning some fifty-one and a half minutes.

It’s a quiet, unsettling composition, with layered sounds building and overlapping, dark rumbles and drones juxtaposing with vague clattering incidentals, hisses, scrapes, hums, drips, plops and thuds.

Around the fifteen-minute mark, conventional instrumentation emerge, with ratting percussion, sonorous bass notes and picked guitar strings drifting across sampled voices and fragmented field recordings. However, it’s clear that the tension isn’t about to break any time soon, and nor is Buck about to unleash a square slice of rock tunage. Plinks, plonks and rattles shade across creaks and yawning ultra-low bass which hangs dense and heavy in the air.

There is a transitory moment of graceful musicality around the half-hour point, where chiming guitars and irregular, delicate percussion combine to create a subtle passage that’s ethereal, atmospheric and pure post-rock. And here comes the build: cymbals clatter and crash in a rising crescendo; gongs boom, and a tempest of sound rises as if from nowhere, as the treble of electronic bleeps cut through the evolving cacophony.

Things to settle into a less disturbing, less abrasive roll of swirling ambience thereafter, with chanks and chinks trembling over skittering sinews of sound stretched over weary, low-end drones which crawl and scratch.

Nothing about Unearth is easy or accessible, although Buck’s grasp on the slow-evolving dynamic of the longform composition is abundantly clear as the gradual transitions flow s effortlessly as to be unnoticeable.

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Tony Buck -Unearth