Archive for February, 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

There’s probably not much to say or write about Lydia Lunch that hasn’t been said or written before. A cult legend in her own lifetime – a rare thing indeed – she remains one of the most formidable performers around. Tonight – performing the only northern show of three UK dates with Weasel Walter with her ‘Brutal Measures’ spoken word show (why said show happened to be in York… Those present weren’t merely grateful, but overjoyed, but those present were depressingly few in number), she’s uncompromising from start to finish.

Before Lydia and sidekick Weasel Walter who drums and generates all mind of noise to accompany her take stage, Leeds punk foursome Flies On You deliver a visceral, in-your-face set of primal punk songs. It’s a challenging and emotional show, a mere fortnight after guitarist and lad songwriter Andy Watkins’ sudden and unexpected death. Front man Doug Aikman clearly struggles at times, but still pulls of a storming performance. And while the basis of what Flies on You do is meat-and-potatoes old-school punk, there’s a distinctly post-punk vibe that borders on goth in their rattling basslines and screeding reverby guitar peels. Moreover, it’s delivered with passion and a certain degree of wit – and the refrain ‘Katie Hopkins in human form’ is a great line whichever way you look at it.

She may have mellowed with age, but Lydia Lunch is still infinitely more fierce in every way than pretty much anyone. It’s all relative. And she may not be large in stature, but her presence fills the room. Her voice is a cracked rasp for the most part, but she uses it to compelling effect. It’s not about being seasoned, either: this is her nature, who she is. Raw, real. Intense. Intense. Intense.

DSC_0248[1]

‘Brutal Measures’ is an extended spoken-word piece set in a number of movements, split by segments of hefty percussion and augmented by extraneous noise passages. Or, as Lunch’s bandcamp page describes it, ‘a longform composition featuring tense spoken word versus manic free drumming outbursts, glued together by cryptic electronics’. Recorded live, there’s an improvisational aspect to the musical accompaniment to Lunch’s words, which she delivers alternating between two mics, one clean, one heavily reverbed. The twenty-minute recorded take stretches to a full fifty-minute set live. And yet there is no filler: the drum solos breaks are tight, taut, concise and blistering. The instrumental electronic passages and the extraneous noise which both accompany and intersperse the chapters are intriguing, and the beer barrels Lydia uses as a table for her notes double as percussion instruments in the sometimes cacophonous batteries of sound between spoken word passages.

She does get slightly pissed off when the stand for the clean mic slides down and is uncooperative, and the venue techs are slow to react – but then, who wouldn’t be? But she doesn’t make a deal of it, and continues her narrative stream regardless. She’s a performer, not a diva.

As a spoken word performer myself, I am in awe. For me, it’s a challenge, and one I sometimes struggle with. Even the good nights are challenges. Lydia is in a league of her own. She holds the room, even with a whisper. She silences the chatting tossers at the bar. Not because she’s dictatorial: she does it for everyone who’s paid to hear her and Weasel and the chat at the back.

Words fly every which way as Lydia sparks in all directions: she’s a relentless conjurer of images and ideas, with a perspective on everything. Even delivered slow, mean and low, it’s often hard to keep up with her endlessly swerving trajectory, but it all comes together to present a version of her world-view. And yes, it is pretty brutal, all told.

DSC_0253[1]

It’s an early finish – but then, it’s a Monday night – but what the set lacks in duration, it more than compensates in intensity – did I mention intensity? If some spoken word performances leave the audience departing wilting because they’re a trudge, tonight is very different: Lydia Lunch and Weasel Walter create something utterly compelling, that leave the audience wilting by virtue of its immense force. Spoken word at its best.

Centuries have premiered a video from their second LP, The Lights Of This Earth Are Blinding out now through Southern Lord. Set to the album track ‘May Love Be With You Always’, the video was filmed and edited by Derrick Flanagin, and uses footage from Germany, Italy, Austria, India, Thailand, Vietnam, and Japan.

In the band’s words, "the video is about human movement and the constant inertia we experience, frequently without taking time to properly reflect on it. Things we see, people we meet, places we go, stories we are told; events that are so fleeting they often don’t become catalogued in our memory and will forever exist only in that moment."

Watch the video below – tour dates in full after.

AA

CENTURIES EUROPEAN TOUR WITH PORTRAYAL OF GUILT:

28/04/18 GER Greifswald Klex

29/04/18 SWE Gothenburg Sekten

30/04/18 SWE Stockholm Firestorm Fest

01/05/18 SWE Malmö

02/05/18 DK Copenhagen

03/05/18 GER Hamburg

04/05/18 NL Amsterdam/Utrecht Fest

05/05/18 GER Cologne Privat

06/05/18 BE Antwerp Kavka

07/05/18 FR Paris La Comedia Michelet

08/05/18 CH / FR

09/05/18 GER Stuttgart Juha West

10/05/18 GER Bielefeld/GER Weimar

11/05/18 GER Berlin Miss the Stars Fest

+ + +

12/05/18 CZ Prague **

13/05/18 AT Vienna Venster 99 **

14/05/18 HRO Zagreb AKC Attack **

15/05/18 IT Bolzano Bunker Youth Center TBA **

16/05/18 AT Innsbruck DeCentral **

17/05/18 GER Regensburg Alte Mälzerei **

18/05/18 GER Darmstadt Oettinger Villa **

19/05/18 GER Leipzig/Halle **

**Dates without Centuries. Portrayal Of Guilt only

Gizeh Records – 2nd March 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

Tomorrow We Sail are a classic example of the kind of band who exist outside of their geography. Based in Leeds, the six-piece aren’t generally renowned as part of the local scene or prominent gig-wise, but have a reach that exists in the ether of the virtual world and into mainland Europe. Four years on from their debut, the collective have evolved their brand of folk-infused string-soaked post-rock into something even more unique.

Subdued, strolling beats and rolling piano provide the rhythmic backdrop to the nagging strings and aching vocals on the opening song, the six-minute ‘Side By Side’. It breaks into a sustained crescendo after just a couple of minutes, but it’s more a case of upping the volume and the intensity than hitting the soaring peaks which characterise so much ‘classic’ post-rock. And perhaps this is the key to the differentials which separate Tomorrow We Sail from their peers, and indeed, any other act. The Shadows is a careful and poised album which exploits the dynamic tropes of post-rock but in a contained fashion. There’s certainly nothing as expansive or sprawling as 2015’s ‘Saturn’, with its twenty-minute duration, or even the single ‘Rosa’ from the first album with its thirteen-minute running time. The Shadows is altogether more concise and all the more intense because of it. Moreover, the context feels different, the slant altered somewhat.

In some respects, the context is that this doesn’t feel like a ‘Leeds’ album. Even when the city was post-rock central a decade or so back, with iLiKETRAiNS (as they were then styled), Vessels and adopted Leeds friends Her Name is Calla all over everywhere, there was nothing this folksy or parameter-pushing as The Shadows, an album which expands the limits of post-rock. ‘The Ghost of John Maynard Keynes’ really pitches the folk aspect of the album to the fore, with a chorus of voices giving the almost shanty-like folk tune a lilting aspect.

There is unspeakable, throat-tightening beauty in the piano-led minimalism of ‘To Sleep’ which calls to mind the very best work of the now-defunct Glissando, and at the same time harks back to their debut.

The Shadows is a well-balanced collection: understated, delicate, melodic, it exists, as the title alludes, in the spaces between light and dark, exploring with deftness and sensitivity the infinite shades between.

AAA

tomorrow-we-sail-the-shadows-sleeve_1_orig

Loner Noise – 9th February 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

The second in their series of singles for Loner Noise, ‘Glitter’ finds Bristolian purveyors of post-punk / industrial racket mining a full-on grunge seam. And Christ, do they bring the weight on this outing. A thunderous, churning riff, as dark as hell and twice as dense, provides the backdrop to Charlie Beddoes’ angst-filled reverb-drenched vocal.

‘Glitter’ is pitched as ‘an introspective and poetic take on the mental strains of being a performer, with the moments of exhilaration on stage often coming at the cost of a great deal of stress and in some cases depression, ruminating on whether the highs would be as powerful without the lows’.

Lyrically, it’s introspective, but sonically, it throws it all out there, and slams it down, hard. And then kicks it around a bit. While Nasty Little Lonely have always had attack, ‘Glitter’ is perhaps one of their hardest, heftiest, and most unforgiving cuts to date. While instrumentally they’ve never been soft, the melodic vocal elements common to their previous outings are relegated in favour of all-out abrasion here. And it’s absolutely bloody storming.

AA

NLL - Glitter

30th January 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

On the strength of the cover, with its sombre-looking black and white image of a fledgling gull (I think – I’m not David Attenborough) perched atop a post with the sea behind it, all the way to the horizon where it meets a brooding sky, you would expect The Earth Swan Sings Again to mark a turn towards serious, introspective and altogether less hectic approach to music-making. And in some respects, it is.

While still incorporating the wildly disparate elements of his recent previous albums – of which there are many, and then some (he’s put out a full dozen in the last decade) – The Earth Swan Sings Again feels less manic, more refined, but no less magpie-like in its amalgamation of a broad range of genres. And on this outing, Reaks has gone even further out on the jazz trip he embarked upon with Track Marks last year. This may seem strange for an artist who doesn’t really like jazz, but Reaks is an artist who doesn’t allow genre prejudice to contaminate his creative process. This is postmodern art at its intertextual best: everything is equal, and it’s all material. What counts is how that material is used, recycled, adapted. Etc.

This all makes for a more accessible set of material, but of course it’s all relative, and songs with titles like ‘I Stroked Her Like a Leper’, ‘Her Body Convulsed’ and ‘Today Hurts More than Mercy’ are never going to have the commercial appeal of the mediocre shit of Ed Sheeran or Bastille or whatever cal R1 is spinning on an endless brainwashing loop these days, and that’s before you even get to the music itself. ‘She stretches open like a parasite’s echo,’ Reaks sings by way of a refrain on ‘She Stretches Open (Like a Parasite’s Echo)’. It’s vaguely disturbing, and entirely surreal, but in keeping with his abstract / cut-up approach to the creation of art.

Bringing a more low-key vibe that’s dominated by a post-punk atmosphere, The Earth Swan Sings Again is darker and challenges in different ways from preceding efforts. The basslines are still dubby but less rampantly wild, and more about driving by stealth. The guitars are still choppy, but veering toward the picked and understated – apart from the immense and brain-meltingly OTT jazz/prog wigouts that splurge all over the place unexpectedly and incongruously – they’re altogether more subtle. Well, the guitars, maybe: the OTT jazz/prog wigouts are maybe less so, but they work, and there’s a sense that Reaks knows all of this. As one of the most singular artist practising at this moment in time, Reaks knows what he’s doing, and also knows that one chooses art of commercial success. And this is art.

The Earth Swan Sings Again is dark and stark, low-key yet eclectic, and at times inexplicable. Of course it is: it’s an Ashley Reaks album, and when it comes to walking the line between genius and madness, Reaks has forged a career by joyously straddling it and raising two fingers to convention of any kind. Outré creative talents like Reaks are few and far between, and while the mainstream grows ever safer, ever more diluted, ever more background and by-numbers, the need to artists who rub hard against the grain grows ever greater.

AA

Ashley Reaks – The Earth Swan Sings Again

Music Information Centre Lithuania – MICLCD097

Christopher Nosnibor

Horizons has been a long time in the making, and the artist has described it as a ‘Sisyphean process’, which, at the end, ‘only strengthened the joy of accomplishment’. The five compositions span from between 2006 and 2015. Martinaitytė’s biography is long and detailed, and covers the complex and challenging circumstances surrounding the composer’s journey to its completion. But an abridged rendering would focus on the fact that the pieces here are from what she terms the decade which represents the ‘blue’ period of her career, and that the album as a whole represents her explorations of ‘the dichotomies between proximity and distance, nearing and departing’.

It’s perhaps worth quoting from the accompanying notes at length, in order to demonstrate the full expanse of the album’s scope: ‘With this album and the individual works on it the author tells an absorbing emotional narrative. She begins with a larger picture – a multi-layered, timbrally rich sonic expression of the faraway landscapes (Horizons, 2013; The Blue of Distance, 2010); she then moves on towards her subjective relationship with the untouchable distance (Thousand Doors to the World, 2009; Completely Embraced by the Beauty of Emptiness, 2006); finally, she reaches the state of inner calm (Serenity Diptychs, 2015). Acoustically speaking, the concept of nearing is presented through instrumentation – she begins with larger orchestral and choral works, and finishes with a refined, chamber sound.’

The title track sets the album’s tone: ‘Horizons’ begins expansively, a vast, expansive sonic vista stretching for some seventeen and a half minutes and leading the listener through moments of grace and tranquillity punctuated by moments of drama and tension. The choral swell of ‘The Blue of Distance’ resonates deep and strikes a spiritual chord, albeit in a vague, abstract sense, touching as it does the corners of the subconscious. Bursts of vaporous ambience spar against distant echoes of notes. The drama surges and sweeps on ‘Thousand Doors’, a tempest of brass and strings mounting and enveloping the listener. While Martinaitytė is a master of the subtle and the delicate, her compositions equally demonstrate her capacity for the bold, with passages of grandeur and turbulence.

Contemporary classical seems to have been relegated to big-budget film scores, but Žibuoklė Martinaitytė is unquestionably an exponent of 21st century classical music. More to the point, Horizons is a powerful orchestral work which transcends genre boundaries and interacts on many levels.

AA

Žibuoklė Martinaitytė – Horizons