Archive for December, 2017

‘Lost In Space’ is inspired by the novel My Life As A Dog by Reidar Jönsson, and the character Ingemar’s meditations on Laika the space dog. It was written for Bushwick Book Club, and it taken from the EP Hopeful Monsters.

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Listen to the EP in full here:

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Lusterlit - Hopeful

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Unknown Pleasures Records – 14th February 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

Given the band’s name and that of the label they’re signed to, it’s only fitting that they’re exponents of bleak synth-driven post-punk. Sure enough, as the Italian five-piece’s biography notes, Stefano Bellerba (vocals, guitar), Leonardo Mori (synth), Matteo Luciani (bass), Saverio Paiella (guitar), and Daniele Cruccolini (drums) formed in 2010, and united over their love of Joy Division, The Cure, Nine Inch Nails, and Depeche Mode. The bio adds that ‘their music is also strongly influenced by Bauhaus, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Japan, The Damned, Interpol, Suicide, CSI, CCCP, and Massimo Volume.’

One of my favourite poems of all time is Philip Larkin’s ‘This be the Verse’, and the fact they put it to music for single release in the summer of 2017 -and made a decent job of it – got me on-side ahead of the new album.

The album in question, Santa Sangre is a lot more guitar-orientated and edgier: while the synths are still very much in the mix, the sound is dominated by brittle, metallic-edged guitars drenched in reverb and flanged hard. It’s the sound of 1982-1985. I’d be hesitant to use the term ‘gothic’ or any variant, despite the snaking atmospherics of tracks like ‘Rejoice’, with its strolling bassline and vocals all but lost in an ocean of echo, which allude to the likes of The Danse Society and acts of similar vintage.

I make no apologies for being an old goth (although I’m not nearly old enough to be a proper old goth, having been born in 1975 and only discovered alternative music in any form in 1986/7). Similarly, I make no apologies for not being a purist, or for my knowledge of second-wave and beyond bands being limited. There’s so much else out there in the musical sphere. Yet, at the tail end of the year, feeling weary and wintery and withdrawn, I find myself here – as I did late last year, and the year before – with a crop of albums which betray gothier leanings which leap out as among the strongest and most compelling releases I’ve received all year.

Lead single, ‘Circle’ was a blast of buzzing bass and squalling guitars, with elements of The Jesus and Mary Chain and A Place to Bury Strangers, pitched with chilly synths and vocals with a grippingly desperate edge. It’s placed up front in the track listing, and serves the purpose of demanding the attention with its urgency and serrated edges.

Snaking basslines, choppy guitars and tribal drumming abound, but there’s a pop edge to a number of the songs: ‘Blown Away’ melds fractal guitars to an insistent flanged bassline that’s as pure Cure as the synths which eddy at a respectful distance in the background. There’s a certain bounce – and even catchiness – to the richly-layered shoegaze-goth of ‘For Every Flaw’.

When they do lugubrious, it’s as sparse and bleak as anything on Faith, and when they do slow-build, they really go for delayed gratification, forging a dense atmosphere along the way.

Santa Sangre is taut, tense and crackles with dark energy.

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Japan Suicide - Santa Sangre (cover)

We like Rachel Mason here at AA. Her latest offering, a stand-alone release apart from her recent album Das Ram, is a sample-soaked collage that laves no question over her stance on the current President of the US. It’s not surprising it’s racking up the hits on YouTube. It certainly gets our vote… and you can watch it here:

20th December 2017

There’s something uniquely enjoyable about watching a band develop from their most formative stages to become the act they aspired to be, and showed the potential to be. I first encountered Seep Away on a bill of noisy shit around Christmas in 2015, soon after they came into existence.

They describe their sound as ‘raw and punkish,’ and not that ‘there’s not too much melody, a lot of anger and a tonne of noise’. Their performance was ragged, and it was clear they were very much in development, both musically and as an act. But the sheer passion and raw energy they poured into that set was something else. They would stop and gasp for breath between songs, having played each one like it was the last song they would ever play.

Over the course of the next two years, they didn’t just get better, they got awesome. Tighter, louder, harder, harsher. Jay Sillence swiftly evolved into one of the most compelling front men you could hope to see: fearlessly in your face, anarchic and unpredictable, and it was clear watching them play that they were loving every minute.

It’s therefore sad that The Blackened Carnival of Societal Ineptitude is a parting gesture. But it’s also a cause for elation that they’re signing off with a collection of songs that encapsulate the sound – not to mention the brutal, ferocious, energy of those later live shows. Circumstance and geography may be behind the band’s demise, but better that than acrimony or creative collapse, and they’re departing on a high. The Blackened Carnival of Societal Ineptitude contains eight tracks and clocks in at around twenty-two minutes and condenses all elements of the essence of Seep Away into that.

‘Rot’ is all about the churning, pulverizing riffage, the ribcage-rattling bass and snarling vocal attack. For dingy, murky, metal-done-dirty, it’s up here with Fudge Tunnel at their best. Single cut ‘Matchstick Man’ throbs and rages. Their rendition of Ol’ Dirty Bastard’s Shimmy Shimmy Ya’ has long been alive favourite, and the studio version captures the spirit of their interpretation perfectly. You’ll be leaping round the house hollering ‘baby I like it rrrrrrrrrrroooooaaaaawwwwww!’ for a week after hearing it just once.

The album’s second cover, a take on Minnie Riperton’s ‘Loving You’ sees Sillence come on full Marilyn Manson, and they ratchet up the sneering sleaze to eleven. It’s a showy, metallic-grinding wheeze, brimming with sadistic malice. It’s also a sackful of deliciously manic and suitably irreverent fun.

‘Joie de Vivre’ returns to the snarling, churning, grunt and chug of the heavy grindy / metal / hardcore amalgam that defines the band’s sound, and it’s hard-edged and gnarly in the best possible way. It packs in all of the band’s intensity and full-throttle attack into under four minutes (and is the longest track here).

Closing the album (EP. whatever) in quirky and irreverent style, ‘The Awkward Handjob’ is a piece of silly fairground japery about, er, wanking, of course. It’s fitting that of any band, Seep Away should end their all-too-brief career with a toss-off track about tossing off.

Instead of bemoaning unfulfilled potential or mourning their departure, we should focus on the positive: Seep Away have delivered a blinder of a set here.

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Seep Away - Blackened

Malignant Records – TUMRCD117 – 8th January 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

Greek ritual ambient duo, Martyria promise ‘5 stunning tracks of textural depth, sepulchral darkness, and exotic, richly detailed atmospheres’, and are pitched for fans of Dead Can Dance, Funerary Call, Voice of Eye, and Shibalba. I’m not going to feign superior knowledge: I’m only aware of Dead Can Dance from that list, but I have a hunch I know what’s reasonable to expect here. I’m braced for dark, haunting, atmospheric. I’m anticipating compositions which emanate subterranean spiritualism and mystery. And this is precisely what Martyria deliver.

This is dark. Dark in the sense of ominous, eerie. Dark in the sense of foreboding. Dark in the sense of the occult and the otherworldly. Dark in the sense of the unheimlich. Rhythms clatter and patter as wordless invocations float and drift above eternal drones. Dolorous bells herald the arrival of an elongated drone and an ethereal, choral female voice. Bells chime in a whorl of what sounds like didgeridoo as heaving chants and vocalisations conjured from the depths of the diaphragm in monasterial intonations.

At the mid-point of the album, ‘Nekron’, plunges into deeper, darker depths: dank rumblings and distant thunder which registers low on the sonic spectrum, churning at the gut, conjure dark, shadowy visions. It bleeds into the even longer darker, more sinister ‘Nyx’, dominated by cavernous percussion, muffled by distance and depth. It evokes flickering images of candlelit rituals held in carved temples far beneath the surface in secret cave networks.

The final composition, ‘Eschaton’, stretches out over some twelve and a half minutes with wordless vocal evocations and intimations of ancient occultism. It’s not music you can readily understand or cognise: it registers on a level far, far beneath the surface of comprehension. It’s the calling of the earth, the rocks, the trees. It registers and calls to a part of the psyche long-buried. Martyria speaks to the resonant brain, to genetic imprints, to the soul as conveyed through generations of heredity. It speaks to ancient history, knowledge buried through centuries of ‘progress’. Martyria is not a work to comprehend, but to allow to bury its way into the canals of the mind devoted to instinct. Its impact is difficult to quantify or even to explain on a rational, scientific level. And yet, it has impact and resonance – deep, slow-register resonance.

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Martyria – Martyria

6th June 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

Mention Surrealism and the chances are Dali will be the first – and perhaps only – name mentioned by many. Breton, Ernst, Magritte may follow, but the chances are few would likely mention Beat luminary Brion Gysin, who was ejected from the Surrealists on the eve of a major exhibition. The fact of the matter is that Surrealism covers a broad territory, and is represented by myriad lesser known – although by no means lesser value – artists in all media. Leonara Carringon may be competitively obscure – as, indeed, are most women in Surrealism – but the English-born Mexican artist was both a painter, and novelist, who not only received an OBE but is also notable as being one of the last surviving members of the 1930s Surrealist movement, living until 2011.

This album (originally released by Wist Rec) is based on Carringon’s works, and the accompanying text quotes lines penned by Carringon: ‘Ice ages pass, and although the world is frozen over we suppose someday grass and flowers will grow again. In the meantime I keep a daily record on three wax tablets. After I die Anubeth’s werecubs will continue the document, till the planet is peopled with cats, werewolves, bees and goats. We all fervently hope that this will be an improvement on humanity, which deliberately renounced the Pneuma of the Goddess.’

Clara Engel, meanwhile, has built quite a body of work, and has also featured on a number of other works, including Aidan Baker’s Already Drowning in 2013. This is album is not overtly Surreal in its sound or delivery, but then again, it does forge an atmospheric depth that reaches into the subconscious and the further reaches of the listener’s psyche.

From the chiming minimal post-rock leanings of ‘Birdheaded Queen’ to the delicate, almost folky ‘Anubeth’s Song (Burn Eternally)’ (although it’s more the arboreal, ancient folk patina of latter-day Earth than anything most would recognise as ‘folk’), the album’s five compositions explore the spaces between the notes and use them to pull the listener in almost imperceptibly.

Soft piano notes and delicately-picked guitar are the primary instruments which provide the backdrop to strong imagery of animal devourment, transformation, and otherworldliness, not to mention infinite intangibles depicted in the most visually engaging of ways. Engel draws together a mesmerising, magical vocal style with compelling yet understated approach to arrangement and lyrical composition. Simple motifs and structures accrue power through repetition.

‘Microgods of the Subatomic Words’ is a splendorous work, brimming with rippling, shimmering electronic atmospherics over a solid but restrained rhythm. ‘The Ancestor’ is slow and sparse and ponderous: echo-laden guitar notes ring out into the thick air and hang, slowly resonating.

Engel’s voice conveys emotional depth, is rich and possesses an ethereal otherness, a kind of disembodied, abstract spirituality that’s haunting and deeply evocative. Exquisitely played and beautifully nuanced, it all combines to make for an album which is subtly strong.

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Clara Engel – Songs for Leonora Carrington

Japan Suicide are a dynamic post-punk alternative rock band from Italy. ‘Circle’ is the first single from their forthcoming album Santa Sangre, due in February. We’re digging very much indeed.

Enjoy!