Archive for September, 2017

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.

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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.

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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.

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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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With their youthful candor, it didn’t take the three rock sisters long to play themselves into the hearts of rock fans everywhere. Even though the latest single ‘Look Look Look!’ relates to growing up, there is nothing slowing the three Danes down.

The onrushing sisters sing about loafing about and the bad habits. That comes with not yet having figured out how to structure your life.

“This track was written at a point in our lives, where we all had to get used to time with restlessness and insecurity” says Noa Lachmi.

In the almost Sofia Coppolan music video directed by Daniel Aude, viewers are invited into the dream world of a young woman holding onto unaccountable playfulness, while also exploring her own true self. The restlessness is so thick you could cut through it with a knife, while sisterhood and self-absorption is embraced wearing shiny wigs.

The single ‘Look Look Look!’ is a taste of the upcoming debut album, which will be released on October 6th. The album kicks off the autumn tour starting September 21st at Reeperbahn Festival in Hamburg.

Watch the video here:

LP/DL Editions Mego eMEGO238

8th September 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

The album’s blurbage tells us that ‘Shit & Shine’s sidestep from percussion led bunny rabbit rock ensemble performance based glee to ultimate heavy fools of the sticky dancefloor remains one of the more inspiring turn around’s in recent years’. They’ve certainly come a long way from the percussion-dominated noise rock racket of their formative years, but Craig Clouse continues to demonstrate a tireless appetite for pushing both himself and the listener.

Some People Really Know How To Live picks up where the 2015 album Everybody’s a Fuckin Expert (also on Editions Mego) left off, and the cover art even serves as a companion piece of sorts. Musically, it combines elements of disco, electro, old-school industrial and classic experimentalism to forge a sound that’s murky, dense, vaguely nauseating and still strangely danceable.

Warping, woozy drones taper in and out against bumping bass and a whip-crack vintage Roland snare sound on opener ‘Behind You Back’, before ‘Dish 2 Dish’ brings the groove. Dark and vaguely dubby, it’s also angular an abrasive, hectic and blustery, with some big bass tones. Its lack of sophistication is somehow a virtue, in that there’s a directness and spontaneity that gives it real punch.

Samples are lobbed in here and there, adding to the dislocation of shivering synths and engine-like growls, atonal incidentals and the fractured, warped grooves which abound. ‘Notified’ brings heavy clattering percussion and low-down grindy bass. With a time signature that’s unpredictable to say the least, it’s disorientating and head-pummelling. Elsewhere, the fucked-up funk of ‘Girl Close Your Eyes’ bumps and grinds its way through the stomach to make you shake. With beats that are propulsive providing the power behind a twisted sonic attack that’s more repulsive, Some People Really Know How To Live is some good shit.

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Chelsea Wolfe has shared ‘The Culling’, the final and most expansive single from her upcoming album Hiss Spun. Stretching out to six minutes, the track begins with a tense atmosphere of foreboding, slowly growing into a dense mass of guitar, bass, electronics, and drums.

Of ‘The Culling’, Wolfe says, “I’m at odds with myself, exploring different characters, comparing war stories…desperation, withdrawal, clarity, disgust, grief. There is a sense of feeling like a vulnerable mess, but giving into that and turning it into some kind of beautiful decadence; becoming stronger through accepting the mess of yourself…accepting that you’re this feral creature full of instincts, cycles, rage and love.”

She also defined the four words she repeats at the end of the song:

Flux – movement, flow

Hiss – positive life force

Welt – brutality of life

Groan – sensuality, death

Listen to ‘The Culling’ here:

Hiss Spun, Wolfe’s sixth album, is out September 22nd on Sargent House.

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Ahead of the release of their upcoming album I, Awake, progressive, post-rock and general riff-heavy outfit Upcdownc have shared a new video for the track ‘Adrift (Parts 1 & 2)’. At just 1 min 27 sec in length it’s a short and sharp blast of intense heavy music.

Watch the video here:

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Upcoming live shows:

15th Sept – Birthdays, London
16th Sept – Sticky Mikes, Brighton
20th Oct – Hijack, Bolougne Sur Mer
22nd Oct – Music City, Antwerp

Southern Lord – 29th September 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

It’s been five years since Wreck appeared on Alternative Tentacles. So what have Unsane been doing in the intervening period? Gazing at their navels, taking up yoga and discovering a serene spirituality as a means of dealing with the anguish of life in the modern world? As if. They’ve been distilling their brutal rage into even more intensely bleak slabs of sonic nihilism. And, naturally, it’s housed in appropriately unsubtle, gore-soaked artwork. Unsane’s album covers are nothing if not distinct: while so many metal album covers which display hematomaniac tendencies are highly stylised and revel in the intended shock value, Unsane’s covers are all the more shocking by view of their clinicality, resembling crime scene photos than works of art. This is in many ways true of the music itself: there’s a functionality, a bluntness about it, and no sense of there being any indulgence or show.

Everything about Sterilize is stark, uncompromising, and connotes post-industrial, post-everything society, the dehumanising effects of merely trying to exist in the capitalist world where everyone gets pushed further and further down for the benefit of the few. It’s the soundtrack to life being sucked from the soul, the sonic encapsulation of desolate fury.

The grey steel assault of ‘Factory’ sets the tone and tempo: screeching feedback whistles through the grey, grain of the guitars and sludgy bass. From thereon in, the ferocious howls of anguish and packed in tight, back-to-back.

The song titles are also functional, direct, descriptive. Again, there’s no fluff, and little joy, to be found around ‘We’re Fucked’, ‘A Slow Reaction’ or ‘Distance’. Everything is paired back to the bare essentials and compacted for maximum impact. This includes the blues-based sound that defines Unsane: it’s crunched up, compressed, stomped into submission, meaning that while there is a certain swing to it, it’s limited to the most concise and precise form.

‘The Grind’ is aptly titled and brings a thunderous deluge of guitar; ‘Aberration’ is built around a simple four-chord trudge; and ‘No Reprieve’ sums up the album as a whole. You don’t listen to Unsane for variety, either across a given album, or their output overall. You listen to Unsane to vent, to experience a relentless viscerality. There’s something almost self-flagellatory about listening to an Unsane album in its entirety. At a certain point, the initial sense of catharsis is replaced by a crushing claustrophobia. This isn’t to say it’s an unpleasant experience, but is indicative of the effect of such sustained intensity. It’s as exhausting, mentally and physically, as the exertions of daily life on the treadmill, a punishment as reward.

When they slow the pace a shade, the weight is turned up, and when they hit a groove, it’s explosive and blistering. The tripwire guitar that stretches its sinews over the sludgy trudge of ‘Lung’ only raises the tension, and closer ‘Avail’ draws a heavy curtain of screaming anguish on proceedings with distorted vocals tearing across a rumbling bassline and savage guitars.

There’s a desperation and urgency about Sterilize which ensures that it crackles from beginning to end. Everything seethes, spits and scrapes and there’s not a moment’s relief. It’s this intensity which makes Sterilize as strong as any Unsane release. It’s mercilessly harrowing, but is ultimately satisfying in a perverse, sadistic sense.

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American artist and performer Jarboe and Italian occult duo Father Murphy will be touring together Europe this Autumn, promoting a collaborative EP out September 22nd on Consouling Sounds. Ahead of the release and impending tour, they’ve unveiled a trailer by way of a taster.

You can watch it here (tour dates are below):

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September

22 BE, Eeklo – N9

23 DE, Krefeld – Südbahnhof

24 DE, Berlin – Quasimodo

26 CZ, Brno – Kabinet Muz

27 CZ, Soulkostel – Soulkostel

28 PL, Poznan, LAS

29 PL, Torun – Klub NRD

30 PL, Gdansk – Smoke Over Dock II Festival at B90

October

1 PL, Warsaw – Distorted festival at Klub Hydrozagadka

2 PL, Lodz – Dom

4 LT, Riga – Gertrude Street Theater

5 RU, Moscow – 16 Tons

7 RU, St Petersburg – Place

10 SWE, Stockholm – Kraken

11 SWE, Karlstad – Tinvallakyrkan

12 NO, MOSS – House of Foundation

13 SWE, Gothenburg – Culture Night Festival at Goteborg Public Library

14 DK, Aarhus – Tape

16 CH, Basel – Unternehmen Mitte (Safe)

17 CH, Geneve – Cave 12

18 IT, Pistoia – Bruma Vol.III

19 CH, Busto Arsizio – Circolo Gagarin

20 FR, Lyon – Sonic

21 FR, Paris – Instants Chavirés

23 UK, London – St. Pancras Old church

24 UK, Leicester – The Musician

25 UK, Glasgow – Cottiers Church

26 UK, Preston – The Continental

28 BE, Bruxelles – Magasin 4

29 NL, Utrecht – Tivolivredenburg

November

2 PT, Lisbon – ZDB

3 PT, Porto – Understage