Archive for April, 2018

Karl Records -20th April 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

The title is, in many respects, self-explanatory: the successor to last year’s Organism, organism_evolution finds the collaborative pairing of Arovane (the recording alias of Berlinbased electronic artist Uwe Zahn) and Porys Hatami, who, I gather, is a prime mover on the Iranian electronic underground.

The 23 pieces which comprise organism_evolution – and whether or not this number is coincidental or confluent with the 23 enigma is perhaps an extensive aside too far – are sparse, elliptical sliver of minimalist electronica. The rhythms are cyclical, emergent, rather than overtly beat-driven: there’s little to nothing immediately identifiable as percussive.

With the exception of a brace of expansive, seven-minute sprawlers, the pieces are brief, largely sub-two-minute snippets and fragments, which range from undulating swampy miasmas of amorphous, undefined ambient smog, to clicky, crackly sketches of dissonant arrhythmia. Slow, bulbous pulses, gurgles and spiralling buzzes, woody knocks and hushed, wispy undulations weave fractal patterns. It’s a collection of intangibles, sounds in ever-shifting states and perpetual transition, the forms conforming to no distinct shape or structure.

The pieces aren’t only brief, but adopt a microscopic focus – the accompanying blurb lists among the processes involved in the album’s formulation ‘modular and granular synthesis, spectral processing, resonator/modal synthesis’. The technicalities of synthesiser work are beyond my ken: ultimately, I’m interested in the output rather than the input, and its effects as a listening experience.

At times, the experience is discomfiting, the eerie atmospherics creating unsettling disharmony as ominous low notes hover, hum and scrape against jittering skitters of treble that set the teeth on edge. The extreme use of stereo in places creates an immersive – if disorientating – three-dimensionality. But for all of the perpetual movement and the speed of the sonic transitions – sounds and ideas pass before they’ve even registered, giving organism_evolution an air or ephemerality – the overall effect is one of a work which flows.

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arovane-porya-hatami-organism-evolution

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20th April 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

I was on the edge of my seat for a cover of Inner Circle’s 90s reggae-pop classic when this landed with me, but on balance, this offering from Windsor-based quartet Saharas is better.

It’s vaguely horrifying to consider the notion that anything jangly and melodic indie with a tense, post-punk undertone, reminiscent of the class of, oh, c2003 or 2004 may qualify as connoting a certain nostalgia. But then, nostalgia is a vague and intensely personal sensation. Being the age I am, I’m probably more likely to feel pangs for 1994 than 2004. And yet, 2004… pre-family, disposable income, part-time work… strolling down to my local record shop mid-morning on a Monday and splurging disposable income on the latest vinyl… Yeah, I can buy into a nostalgia for that, as I recall strolling home with releases by the likes of Editors, Interpol, She Wants Revenge, The Organ, stowed in a nice square carrier bag. I miss it. The likelihood is that someone 10 years younger will feel a nostalgia for whatever they were doing in 2004 (which may well have been a variation on the same thing).

‘Sweat’ very much captures not only the sound, but the energy surrounding the zeitgeist of the first few post-millennial years, which blended a certain optimism with the pessimism of almost twenty years previous. It boasts a spectacularly nagging chorus-soaked guitar-line that hints as much at Yazoo’s ‘Don’t Go’ as Editors’ ‘Munich’.

It’s all extremely fitting for the current climate: dark times call for dark music, and also inspire a yearning for better times. The early years of the millennium, by which time the euphoria of Labour’s 1997 landslide had slipped into a malaise even before the recession hit, echoed the wilderness of 30 years previous. In 2018, 2004 looks like a hoot.

But most importantly, it’s a cracking tune with hooks galore, and it would be so in any decade.

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Saharas - Sweat

Christopher Nosnibor

If you look up scarily intense in the dictionary, you’ll probably find a picture of Olga, the dynamo shouter who fronts Russian hardcore punks Svetlanas.

The three strong supports have already done a decent job of getting the crowd warmed up. First up, Weekend Recovery have been touring hard in support of their debut album, and seem at ease in the intimate venue. Kicking off with a punchy rendition of the hooky ‘Turn it Up’ and signing off with a driving romp through the power pop of ‘Why Don’t You Love Me’, they deliver a neat tour of the album. Lauren’s in good voice, the band are tight, and the grunge heft of the album’s title track, ‘Get What You Came For’, is a clear standout.

Weekend Wharf

Weekend Recovery

Jaded Eyes and bring sheer, snarling fury and immense, brutal density. They crank things up several notches in terms of volume, too. There’s no pretence. There’s nothing showy. Just full-on, balls-out, aggressive punk, the songs played hard, fast and packed back to back with no let-up. Hardcore the way it should be.

Jaded Eyes Wharf

Jaded Eyes

Brazilian female-fronted three-piece Yer Mum don’t exactly go easy on the ears, either: packing some dirty, low-slung riffage worthy of Fudge Tunnel, theirs is a hefty, dense sound. There’s pace and energy to their full-throttle grungy punk attack, and my notes – appear to reference Nymphs and L7, although I wouldn’t necessarily trust my notes as they’re scrawly and very sparse – I was too busy watching the band. This is the main reason to go and watch live music, after all, and we always hope for those moments where the experience envelops us and everything else, all the bubble and froth of thought about work, life, and all the rest, is pushed out of the frame in favour of the moment.

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Yer Mum

Svetlanas achieve this, and then some. The band are mighty in the noise they produce, but it’s Olga who provides the focal point. Compelling would be an appropriate adjective for her performance, but fails to convey the fact that you watch the set with your eyes glued to her because you fear for what may happen if you don’t pay attention. She’s an incendiary force, and what she lacks in stature she makes up thousandfold with her fiery energy: the kineticism is exhilarating and exhausting. But it’s all in the eyes: the wild, wide eyes that she sticks right in people’s faces as she jerks and flails her way through the crowd. There’s mania and danger in those eyes. Paired with the pulverising sonic blast that explodes from the PA, Svetlanas live are the very definition of intense.

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Svetlanas

I’m The Devil and I’m Ok is the second album from the transatlantic group Split Cranium, featuring Faith Coloccia (Mamiffer, Mara), Aaron Turner (Mamiffer, Sumac, Old Man Gloom and so much more), Nate Newton (Converge, Doomriders, Old Man Gloom), Tomi Leppänen (Circle, K-X- P) and Jussi Lehtisalo (Circle). Released on 25th May 2018, ‘Evil Hands’ is out now as a taster… Get your lugs round it here

Acte – Acte 002

Christopher Nosnibor

The press release provides previous little detail about the release, or the artist, beyond a brief summary of his broad interdisciplinary pursuits which include dance, theatre, live electronics improvisations and audiovisual performances and installations. It’s quite an expansion on his biography last time I encountered his work, back in 2011, when he simply described himself as a ‘sound artist’. That was when he released the ambient-orientated exploration usure.paysage.

Transfert/Futur is a long way from ambient. Heavy on the synths, it’s a beaty work that packs some considerable attack amidst the airy pulses and breezy blossoms of effervescence. It contains two tracks, the first of which, ‘transfert (299 792 458 m/s)’ is the audio element of a touring sound/light installation from 2017. On CD, it’s simply sound without the light, and clearly, the interactive and multisensory aspect of the project is nowhere near fully represented. Nevertheless, musically, it works. Over the course of some eighteen minutes, Bernier builds the atmosphere but above all, builds the beats. Scratchy, stuttering, synthetic, exploding in all directions, the rhythms pop and thrum, marching surges halting abruptly to change direction before powering forwards once more embarking on a propellant trajectory. The surround synths glide, pop and bubble, but mostly click and bleep and elongate, morphing and stretching longways, occasionally plunging into expansive, oceanic depths and venturing into eerie subaquatic territories. With so many false starts, false ends, twists, turns and unpredictable stammers, it’s anything but linear.

The second composition, ‘synthèse (299 792 458 m/s)’ has no such obvious context attached, but again is centred around warping synths and woozy bass tones wrapped around bold beats. Over the course of twelve minutes, it swerves from oblique bleeps and minimalist electronic squiggles and arabesques, via slow-building crescendos, to passages approximating straight-ahead dance music that you can actually get down to. As the track progresses, its form gradually dissolves. The soundscape is increasingly rent with bleeps and whispers and tranquillity always gives way to tension after a few uncountable bars. Microbeats and circuit spasms come to dominate the swell of hyperenergetic electrodes in synaptic collapse. Finally, nothing is left but a quivering whistle which slowly decays to nothing.

What does it all mean? Probably precious little. Transfert / Futur is about the journey, and the algorithms, rather than the meaning. It’s not a journey that traverses from A to B, but burrows its way into its own unique space.

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Nicolas Bernier

Nakama Records – NKM014 – 23rd March 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

The title sounds like a Radio 4 quiz, or perhaps some selections for ‘Call my Bluff’. The accompanying blurb outlines how the album consists of three nonsensical musical conversations between Malaysian nylon guitar player Goh Lee Kwang and Norwegian bass player Christian Meaas Svendson, and describes it as ‘the story of the first encounter between two different mindsets, nationalities and generations trying – and totally failing at – making any sensible dialogue with their respective musical languages.

Success and failure are relative, of course, and one may contend that there’s no success like failure. It’s in the disconnect between artistic vision and the material realisation that unexpected creative outcomes emerge. The three pieces – I would probably hesitate to describe them as ‘compositions’ given that they are, in effect, haphazard jumbles of notes played over and across one another – are indeed sonic babble. But it’s still just freeform jazz to my ears. And for once, this isn’t a complaint or criticism.

The description reminds me of those days when every conversation feels like a misfire, and you miscommunicate with everyone you encounter. Try as you might, you never connect as intended. A jovial quip lands as an insult, a reply to a simple question leaves your interlocutor nonplussed and you realise you’ve misunderstood or misspoken, or otherwise just gabbled a stream of random bollocks for no apparent reason. You question whether the fault lies with you, or the world at large. You burn with shame. You want to hide away, an avoid people for a while. I say ‘you’; I mean me, of course, and as usual.

It takes a certain – nay, special – ability to separate and absorb any shame or embarrassment to place a document of those misfires and disconnects out into the public arena with the free admission of failure. But then again, failure in intent does not necessarily equate to artistic failure. And the disjointed, discordant jumble of notes on the three pieces – respectively entitled ‘Gibberish’, ‘Balderdash’, and ‘Drivel’ are entertaining and stand as art in the sense that they document a collaborative creative process.

At the heart of Gibberish, Balderdash and Drivel is an exploration of language, and the apparent obstacle of linguistic disparity. I’d long assumed -and believed – that the language of sound transcended linguistic boundaries. But on delving into the development of this skewed collaboration, I realise that while this may be broadly true, it is not a universal truth, and am reminded that context counts for a lot.

But the language itself matters. Dialogue doesn’t have to have explicit meaning or linear cohesion to convey something. It’s as much about interpretation as intention: the receiver / listener will inevitably bring their own perspective and one man’s throwaway nonsense is another’s serious art. The accompanying pencil for the owner to draw their own art into the blank white cover is a nice touch, which adds to the interactivity. The listener is inevitably – and incontrovertibly -implicated in the process, and this inclusion only serves to accentuate this point.

And for all its self-effacing flippancy, Gibberish, Balderdash and Drivel stands as a work of art. The very word selection is telling. In dismissing its very own existence as lesser, it does so using elevated language, indicative of an advanced and expanded vocabulary, while also adhering to the rule of threes. This is not by any means an illiterate work. Quite the contrary, in fact: Gibberish, Balderdash and Drivel is a celebratory work.

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Goh Lee Kwang & Christian Meaas Svensen – Gibberish, Balderdash and Drivel

13th April 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

Being a Sister of Mercy is a long way from being a full-time job, an even Andrew Eldritch must have a lot of time on his hands these days. Ben Christo isn’t one to sit idle, though, fronting Night by Night between 2008 and 2015, before founding Diamond Black the following year, as well as working alongside Raymond Watts on Pig’s Prey &Obey.

With their second single entitled ‘Ghost in the Glass’, it all hints at something that’s a bit, well, stereotypical goth, you might say – something The Sisters have always tended to avoid, despite being saddled with the somewhat ignominious tag of being the godfathers of the genre. But you’ll not find any bats or graveyards or introverted moping in the Sisters’ back catalogue, and thankfully, Diamond Black are more about the hard edges of polished steel than the soft feelings of doomed romanticism and despair.

‘Ghost in the Glass’ is built around a very contemporary Sisters-like guitar riff, a driving rhythm and spindly lead line creating a distinct dynamic tension. The guitars are up-front and pack some grit and heft, making this a more overtly ‘rock’ proposition, but the first point where Diamond Black clearly depart from The Sisters is in the live drumming, which, tight as it is, gives a freer feel.

The second and perhaps most obvious point of departure is in the vocal style: singer J.I.Turunen is Finnish and brings a quintessential mainland Europe rock delivery: strong, but clean and melodic. Proper singing, if you will. If it carries echoes of classic 80s rock, it equally suggests that their biggest audience lies cross-channel, rather than domestically. This isn’t a criticism, not least of all because I must confess to having a soft spot for Andreas Bruhn’s solo album – and this, with its punchy rock attributes, is way better.

The production’s expansive, but doesn’t detract from the forward thrust of the guitars and the result is a song that’s simultaneously widescreen and punchy. The bottom line is that Christo has a knack for a chunky riff and a decent tune, and it’s great to hear some of them being recorded and released. More, please!

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Diamond Black