Archive for March, 2018

Kranky – 6th April 2018

It was Alexander Trocchi, often referred to as the ‘Scottish Beat’ with whom the phrase ‘cosmonaut of inner space’ who seemingly has the strongest connection, largely on account of the fact that this was how he often referred to himself. However, it was in fact coined by William Burroughs, who said, “in my writing I am acting as a map maker, an explorer of psychic areas, a cosmonaut of inner space, and I see no point in exploring areas that have already been thoroughly surveyed”.

This is pertinent, as the press release which accompanies the functionally-titled No. 4 – Belgium-based composer Christina Vantzou’s fourth full-length for Kranky – explains how her latest work ‘ventures further into the uniquely elusive and evocative mode of ambient classical minimalism which has become her signature: a fragile synthesis of contemplative drift, heady silences, and muted dissonance. In regards to the new album she speaks of focusing particular attention on the effects of the recordings on the body, and of “directing sound perception into an inner space.”’

More often than not, I will dismiss the contents of any accompanying verbiage in order to engage with the music unswayed by sales pitch or theoretical position. However, there was something about the context of this album which resonated, and – not wholly intentionally, I should stress – informed my listening and analysis. One may assume that ambient music is ambient music. But no: there are those vast, swirling, cinematic ambient works which explore immense spatiality; there are those works which gather and collage sounds specific to a given time or place, or both, and which are concerned in some way with location, be it geographical or temporal; and then there are those inward-looking explorations which filer through the libraries of the mind and memory. This very much sits in the latter category, with Vantzou’s sparse, minimal compositions possessing deeply haunting qualities, with the notes echoing into the deeper recesses of recollection.

The titles ascribed to the eleven compositions which comprise No.4 are all vague yet strangely evocative. ‘Doorway’; ‘Staircases’; ‘Some Limited and Waning Memory’… so non-specific, and precisely for this reason, so resonant. Within the personal lies the universal and between the spaces between the softly echoed piano notes, the subtle, drifting strings, the soft washes of sound that drift like vapour and gradually dissipate into the air.

Tranquillity descends. Under Vantzou’s aural guidance, I find myself reflecting on my own inner space and conjure images and recollections of experiences linked – however tangentially – to those spaces named in the titles. A bulbous bass pulsates on ‘Garden of Forking |Paths’ and I’m transported back to my father’s long, sprawling garden – and because the bass sound is reminiscent of The Cure circa Faith – specifically Carnage Visors – I’m back to when I discovered this music, age fourteen or fifteen. I visualise dappled orchard sunlight and smell grass clipping. This will mean nothing to you, but by allowing myself to drift inside, I’m feeling that interiority that Vantzou’s work intimates.

In times past, I may have felt embarrassment as taking such a tangential approach to a review. But music – and the response it elicits – is not scientific. To analyse this objectively would be futile, and worse still to strip the soul from its very heart. No.4 isn’t an album to listen to, so much as to feel.

AA

Christina Vantzou – No.4

Advertisements

New Heavy Sounds – 4th May 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

Grave Lines’ second album is… heavy.

From a personal perspective, they impressed me no end when I caught them supporting Black Moth when their tour for Anatomical Venus landed in their hometown of Leeds. Mostly, because their set was brutal in its weight, the howling vocals sitting in the mid-range and low in the mix against a tempest of low-end guitar noise.

Fed Into the Nihlist Engine doesn’t disappoint, and captures the essence of the live sound. It also opens in the most daring fashion, with a fifteen-minute epic that blends ferocity and dirginess to form a perfect balance: at first coming on like Amenra in their haunting, atmospheric passages, before erupting into a full-blown assault of rage. Its crawling pace and sinewy lead guitar parts, paired with dense, chugging rhythm with major emphasis on the bottom end make for a punishing experience. However, over the course of the album’s nine tracks, Grave Lines demonstrate a remarkable range and a deep-seated sense of atmosphere and texture. It’s heavy – seriously heavy, in fact – but it’s also light: ‘Shame Retreat’ is a delicate acoustic song, simple and completive, and elsewhere, there are some beautifully melodic passages.

In fact, much of the weight of Fed Into the Nihilist Engine isn’t about crushing guitars, overdriven and overloaded and labouring amp-blowing riffs – not that there isn’t an abundance of these. No, Grave Lines explore the brooding a the shadowy, the quietly intense, the darkness of the gothic. ‘Self Mutilation by Fire and Stone’ sees Harding adopt an almost crooning goth baritone in places. ‘Loss Betrayal’ – at least for the first minute or so – sounds more like early iLiKETRAiNS with its chiming post-rock guitar and reflective stance. And then it all piles in, while on ‘Silent Salt’, the guitars grind and churn relentlessly from the start. ‘Loathe Displace’ is similarly disarming, stripped back, a wheezing, undulating organ drone providing the instrumental backdrop to Jake Harding’s surprisingly sensitive and tuneful vocals.

But when they do hit the overdrive pedals, they really go in hard and heavy. The one thing they don’t do is uptempo. These are slow, deliberate slabs of sound that bludgeon the senses. This is the sound of anger. This is punishment. There’s a lot of grind and churn going down on Fed Into the Nihilist Engine: ‘The Greae’ has that early Melvins vibe about it, only shoutier, and it grinds on well past the seven-minute mark.

Fed Into the Nihilist Engine really works the contrasts and dynamics, but not in the way, say, Neurosis do – which I suppose is my way of saying not in a way that’s formulaic or predictable.

Ultimately, Fed Into the Nihilist Engine is a dark album. And yet, it’s a dark album that’s haunting, moving and achingly beautiful in its articulation of despondency and disquiet.

AA

Grave Lines - Nihilist Engine

Metropolis Records – 6th April 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

However much music you know, there’s always a near-infinite realm beyond your ken. Until now, German electronic crossover act Haujobb – a hybrid of electro, noise, IDM and techno, who lean toward the more mainstream electro-industrial sphere – have existed beyond my range of awareness. I can’t imagine why.

I would rarely recommend a live album by way of an introduction to any band, but then again, it was by listening to Concert that I found the motivation to explore The Cure in more detail, and it was Welcome to Mexico… which compelled me to listen to releases beyond Gub.

So, we’re presented here with ‘a career-spanning collection of the band’s most beloved songs, recorded at various recent concerts throughout Europe’, which, according to the blurb, ‘stands as a testament to the band’s live prowess and unique creativity’.

They’ve produced a vast body of work over the course of their 25-years existence, and Alive gathers 15 cuts from across it, opening with the slow-building ‘Machine Drum’. Lifted from 2011’s New World March, it’s brooding, dark, and angry. But – overlooking the absence of audience noise, which on one hand can interfere with the listening experience, but by the same token is also pretty much integral to the live experience, and I always eye (metaphorically) a live album with no audience noise suspiciously – the question of how representative it all is encroaches on the enjoyment of such a release. And sequencing matters: is this live collection in any way representative of the actual live experience? I suspect not. The sound quality is pretty consistent given that it’s a compilation culled from various shows, but then again, the slickness and uniformity mean it doesn’t feel very ‘live’, and equally, with so much of the instrumentation sequenced and preprogrammed, meaning that it’s a little hard, perhaps, to convey the band’s live prowess.

‘Renegades of Noise’ – and a fair few others, if truth be told – sounds like a Depeche Move studio offcut, as remixed by RevCo. Elsewhere, ‘Input Error’ is driven by a clanking industrial beat and a bucketload of aggression and anguish. As on ‘Let’s Drop Bombs’, The anger is palpable, while electronic stabs rain in like gunfire from every angle near the end. And while Haujobb occupy well-trodden territory, the semi-familiarity of the structures and delivery doesn’t undermine the fact they’ve got some strong songs and a mastery of driving beats and hypnotically looping sequenced grooves. In all… it’s not bad.

017339

Sound on Probation – SOP018 – 17th April 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

Zonk’t is one of the many guises of polychrome composer Laurent Perrier. According to his biography, while many of these projects often share many common elements, they are all built on a strong individual identity, and are therefore distinct and different from one another. Thus, Zonk’t ‘has always been a way of exploring the most ambient fringes of dub, and the transition from the all-digital to compositions made entirely on modular synthesizers has overall not changed its approach in depth’.

The album takes its title from the cryptanalytic process developed by Alan Turing during the Second World War, which ultimately facilitated the deciphering of the coded messages the German military produced via their Enigma machines. The track titles all relate back to the theme of the title. However, this album seems more concerned with the evocation of messages buried or encoded than the application of complex formulae to the compositional methodology.

‘Square’ (which I assume to be a reference to the Polybius square, also known as the Polybius checkerboard, which in cryptography, is a device invented by the Ancient Greek historian and scholar Polybius, for fractionating plaintext characters so that they can be represented by a smaller set of symbols, at least according to Wikipedia). occupies the entirely of side A, almost 20 minutes of slow-paged ambient dub propelled by thick, heavy beats. Thin, twisting sinews of sound like strings stretch across the space and spin layers of texture.

Side B contains three more short-form compositions in the shape of ‘Chronogyre’, ‘Colossus’, and ‘Conditional Probability’. The first of these forges a low, deliberate groove that undulates at a deliberate pace, while erratic, glitchy beats and crackles of static flitter and clank through the swampy tones. ‘Colossus’ picks up the pace and the bass-centric density, thwupping and thrumming in waves. A stark synthesised stab echoes out before the final track – the most direct and beat-orientated of the set – conjures an immersive retro-futurist groove.

It’s the combination of space and bass-orientated groove dislocation that makes Banburismus worth the effort. It’s not immediately accessible, and doesn’t sit comfortably in either the ambient or dub genres. Crossovers as far removed from not only the mainstream but the mass market as this will inevitably slide into ultra-niche categories, but this by no means devalues the work. If anything, the existence of Banburismus only further illustrates the need for art more than mere entertainment.

AA

SOP018_front

The Melvins, who recently announced the April 20th release of Pinkus Abortion Technician (Ipecac Recordings), have debuted the Mackie Osborne directed video for ‘Embrace The Rub’.

"’Embrace The Rub’ is a Steven McDonald penned, punker tune throwback to his days as a young Hawthorne, CA punk hanging out with Black Flag,” explained Dale Crover. “For some reason, I decided that this tune really needed a piano part.”

Watch the video here:

AA

Melvins2018wPinkusinlinelores--1

Christopher Nosnibor

The fact the word ‘fan’ comes from ‘fanatic’ is perhaps worth bearing in mind. A band can probably be considered to have achieved a certain level of fan appreciation when they see the same faces in the crowd at venues around the country on a given tour. As one of those fans who’s attended multiple (although never more than a couple or three) dates on a tour for several bands, I’ve found it interesting to observe how audiences in different cities react, and also how those reactions feed into the performance. And, of course, there’s a certain curiosity about a band’s consistency. And in my capacity as a critic, the same is true – although it’s fair to say that as far as my second time of seeing Weekend Recovery in a month is concerned, I’m attending as both fan and critic. Having just unveiled their debut album, their touring schedule has amped up considerably, with almost three months of dates around the UK now to promote it, followed by a cluster of festival dates in the summer.

But here are now, this does mean I’m playing compare and contrast with Leeds on a Friday night where Weekend Recovery are the main support, and York on a Thursday, where the band, with their origins down south and now based in Leeds, are headlining. It’s hardly like-for-like. Much as I love York and its music scene, there is a conservatism which runs deep in the city’s gig-going community. Local bands will fair ok, but any act from out of town who isn’t well-known will, more often than not, find there’s a lot of space in the room. So it’s credit to Weekend Recovery that while the place is far from packed, there’s a respectable turnout, especially given that it’s the week before payday.

Maybe it’s my age. Maybe it’s my rage. Increasingly, I’ve come to respect and admire and enjoy bands comprising guys of or approaching middle age ranting about the mundane. They’re not all even a fraction as good as Pissed Jeans, but Paint Nothing, while endlessly ripping off The Fall up to 1983, occupy the same office-based miserabilist territory as Scumbag Philosopher. The singer’s wide-eyed intensity augments the spitting anger. The audience may be divided, but those who don’t dig these four shouty, balding midlifers ranting about stuff clearly haven’t lived.

DSCF2462

Paint Nothing

Brooders are probably young enough to have been parented by Paint Nothing, and probably were busy being born when grunge was all the rage. But having built themselves up as a live act with some impressive support slots and single release ‘Lie’ on Leeds label Come Play With Me imminent, the trio bring a finely-honed fusion of abrasive noise and not-so-abrasive melody. When they hit optimal heavy, they’re in the territory of Therapy? in collision with Fudge Tunnel, and the clean guitar sound, that’s awash with chorus and flange is lifted wholesale from Soundgarden’s ‘Black Hole Sun’. At times they get pretty and it’s more indie than grunge, and with a psychey / shoegaze twist. There’s never a dull moment in their varied but relentlessly riffcentric set.

DSCF2499

Brooders

Last time I saw Brooders, it was supporting Hands Off Gretel at the same venue, so it’s perhaps fitting that Weekend Recovery’s front woman Lorin’s sporting a short dress, holed tights and knee-length white socks, passing a note to the now-classic 90s kindergarten whore look.

DSCF2508

Weekend Recovery

Their set isn’t radically different from the one in Leeds last month, and kicks off with a driving rendition of ‘Turn It Up’ which encapsulates the up-front grunge-orientated sound of the album, which marks a distinct evolution from their previous work. ‘Oh Jenny’ sees the titular character introduced as a ‘colossal slag’ after I’d chatted with Lorin before the show about the merits of ‘colossal’ and ‘massive’ as adjectives (we have a colleague who’s a colossal pussy; my boss is a massive cunt) and the set closes with ‘Why Don’t You Love Me?’ as is now standard, and it’s delivered full-tilt and brimming with a balance of desperation and sarcasm.

DSCF2513

Weekend Recovery

In between…. Lorin may not pogo as much or appear as bouncy in general as the last time I caught them, but bassist Josh (wearing the same outlandish shirt as at the Leeds gig – not that I can comment on outlandish shirts) and guitarist Owen throw lunging, leg-splaying poses all over. But this isn’t mere posturing: they’re really giving it all the energy. And the crowd appreciate it. Did they get what they came for? Of course.

30th April 2018

James Wells

Execrate – ˈɛksɪkreɪt/verb

verb: execrate; 3rd person present: execrates; past tense: execrated; past participle: execrated; gerund or present participle: execrating

1.feel or express great loathing for.

synonyms: revile, denounce, decry, condemn, vilify;

2. archaic curse; swear.

Nottingham-based Deathflux, formed a couple of years ago around guitarist Tom Clarke, articulate deep and unbridled loathing through their highly technical but relentlessly fierce brand of metal. They may curse too, but the snarled lyrics are only partially audible.

To set their agenda clearly from the outset, the album’s first song is called ‘Bludgeon’. And it does, the stop/start guitars shudder against drums like machine gun fire to forge a blast(beat) or grindy abrasion.

Lead single ‘Transcend’ (all of the tracks have one-word titles, adding to the stark and brutal effect) is representative of the albums 7 tracks: the drumming is so fast the effect is more akin to the rattle of a knitting machine than distinct and separate beats registering to mark time. The guitars – with several octaves of strings – are a blurred blizzard of fretwork, while the vocals epitomise guttural nihilism. It’s about conveying sentiment and raw emotion than actual lyrics. Where actual lyrics are audible, they’re venting violent threats like ‘break your face now!’

There are some wild guitar solos laid over the churning riffs, and there’s no let up in the seething fury that radiates from every note.

AA

Execrated Artwork - Lo Res 1