Archive for April, 2018

Textile Records – May 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

Just as I don’t really do jazz, I don’t much do country, either. But for every rule – or perhaps more of a broad, general guideline – there necessarily has to be an exception. So here I am, sipping hot black coffee having just ejected an album by Marc Sarrazy and Laurent Rochelle, which goes way over the limit on the jazzometer and has left me shaking my head and thinking there’s just no way I can review that objectively, and looking at a plain white paper sleeve stamped with six song titles under the header ‘J.O.M.F BLOOM’.

The biographical commentary that ‘the band is moving more slowly these days, with core members Tom Greenwood and Michael Whittaker living in the more rural corners f Northern California’ is perhaps an understatement: Bloom was a full three years in the making. But it’s not just its evolution that was gradual: compositionally, too, the pieces are slow-growing and sparse. The quietly picked guitar notes resonate outwards as woodwind trills over the hills on the instrumental intro piece, ‘Pipe’ It’s kinda quiet, sort of ambient. A sudden swell of noise ends abruptly to make way for the sedate country ramblings of ‘Radiating’. If you dig downbeat country tines that drag on for over eight minutes, this is going to do it for you bigtime. If you don’t… It’s laid back to the point of horizontal, the lyrics drawled rather than sung, and as such decipherable only in snippets.

But while this is very much a country album, it’s anything but conventional or straight ahead overall. ‘Wreck’ is slow-building, initially just guitar and Greenwood’s cracked croon. But before long, a tumult of crashing cymbals, overloading electric guitar feedback and straining saxophone create a glorious cacophony. Wild brass and woodwind shriek and squeal all over the raucous stomp of ‘Strike’. A sort of country/blues heart pulses beneath the chaotic racket that pummels in all directions and drives toward the horizon of abstraction. ‘Wildgeese’ brings dolorous trudging before the lo-fi plod of ‘Golden Bees’ thuds its way to the album’s conclusion in a muddy haze of echo.

On Bloom, Jackie-O Motherfucker fuse the mellowest, most downcast of country with the most awkward jazz dirges, which drone and wheeze and scrape at divergent angles across the linear country compositions. It may be country at its core, but it’s a whole lot more.

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Jakie-O Motherfucker

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Warren Records – 16th March 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

We think we may have mentioned Cannibal Animal once or twice before here on Aural Aggro – and there’s a very good reason for this: the Hull band make a dark, dense, swampy post-punk racket that owes as much to The Cramps and The Volcanoes as anyone else, on account of the serpentine lead guitars and reverb-soaked surf sound. With a thunderous rhythm section, it’s more like surfing a tsunami than coasting on the crest of a wave, mind. Throw in a dollop of early 90s underground noise – think in particular early Therapy? And you’ve got the measure. Their latest offering, ‘A Decline in Morality’ is a belter. As if lead single ‘Ellipsisism’ didn’t already demonstrate it already.

The band explain that ‘Lyrically these songs are about the moral compass of specific fictional characters’, with ‘Lack of Skin’ turning focus to ‘the candle burning nymphomaniac’. If ever a track distilled a potent blend of tripwire tension and a loose, near-tribal groove, it’s this one, with bone-rattling beats and a fat, fuzzy bass driving a fury of guitar bathed in cavernous echo. The effect is one of terrifying entrapment, but edged with a twist of sleaze.

The desperation and anxiety that drives the band’s work has hit critical mass here: it’s less about sonic density and thick, overdriven guitars, and more about scorching, wild-eyed mania. And I can’t recall the last time I heard a conventional fade-out…

https://open.spotify.com/embed/track/2gS3ogYcsSaW67jmKTcLAz

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Cannibal Animal -Decline

ROOM40 – 5th April 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

A single, repetitive beat rings out for what feels like an eternity. With nothing else to focus on, the mind begins to conjure deceptions: is it entirely consistent in tempo and timbre? Or are some beats vaguely out of step by an infinitesimal fraction of second? Are some strikes harder or softer than others? A sparse chord rises up, slowly, then stops abruptly. The beat goes on. Another chord swells…. Repeats, disappearing the same way as the first. Then just as something threatens to build, the beat stops. The notes drift, without form, direction, or guidance. Eventually, just as tension and a certain confusion begins to mount, everything comes together: the rhythmic thud, the strings, the soft ambience and the faint strains feedback, combine to create a resolution. Unsteady, somehow incomplete, but a resolution. And so it is that ‘Neither Flesh not Fleshless’ sets the tone for At the Still Point of the Turning World.

The album takes its title from T.S. Eliot’s ‘Burnt Norton’, the first of his Four Quartets sequence:

IV

Time and the bell have buried the day,

The black cloud carries the sun away.

Will the sunflower turn to us, will the clematis

Stray down, bend to us; tendril and spray

Clutch and cling?

Chill

Fingers of yew be curled

Down on us? After the kingfisher’s wing

Has answered light to light, and is silent, the light is still

At the still point of the turning world.

This collaborative work is preoccupied with time and how we experience it, and the accompanying blurb observes how the two artists were very much working both with and against one another in the creative process – which seems an apt analogy for the human relationship with time itself. On the one hand, it’s simply a concept, and an intangible: and yet we see and feel it, in the short and long terms: there is no escaping time, and no-one ever fought time and emerged triumphant. The still point is but the blink of an eye, and the turning is endless despite its invisibility. These are the irreconcilable and dichotomous tensions which inform the sonic push-and-pull Gama and Fernandes explore and exploit in these compositions, which are simultaneously smooth but turbulent.

‘The Patterns is Movement’ is a slow swell and glide of sombre strings pitched against a desolate but mournfully graceful piano: the form is vague, but there is something rather post-rock about the brooding disquiet. It segues into unsettling, rumbling industrial clanking way off at a distance. The haunting clangs of metal are cold, without comfort. I’m pulled back into the mindset of the worker: the ghosts of heavy labour still haunt the structures of the tertiary industries which now dominate the western world. The final coupling of the sparse and altogether lighter ‘Lucid Stillness’ and ‘Shaft of Sunlight’ pitch the album to a calmer, more redemptive close.

While much of the movement within the compositions on this album is slow, and often somewhat non-linear and marks a trajectory that’s divergent, indirect and non-evolutionary, there is, nevertheless, an indisputable sense of movement that’s perpetual.

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Joana Gama   Luís Fernandes – At the Still Point of the Turning World

Play Loud! Productions – 13th April 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

My first thought on hearing the opening bars of the album’s first track, ‘Light & Grace’ is ‘wow, this sounds just like Dinosaur Jr!’ My second thought, on the vocals starting is ‘No way, this really sounds like Dinosaur Jr!’ Sure enough, J. Mascis is listed among the long list of collaborators on this, the first Locus Fudge album in 20 years. Mascis has nothing if not a unique signature sound, often aped but never replicated. The track in question rumbles along for over eleven minutes, the singing soon giving up for the guitar solo to do the talking. Less characteristic of Dinosaur Jr is the way in which the solo comes to battle against a rising tide of extraneous noise, and the song itself finally collapses to a churn of dark ambience and feedback. As it happens, large chunks of Oscillations sound very Dinosaur Jr, and the overall vibe is very much late 80s / early 90s US alternative rock.

This is also very much the sphere to which Locust Fudge belong: their two previous albums, Flush and Royal Flush, released in 1993 and 1995 respectively, were released on Glitterhouse and saw the German duo aligned to the grunge movement. The EP, Business Express (1996), saw them push into more electro/industrial/krautrock territories, and even include overt elements of drum’n’bass in the mix. Those records are almost impossible to find now and the YouTube uploads of the tracks aren’t available in the UK. There’s something strange about the idea of being unable to access something on-line now. Whatever happened to the global village? Marshall McLuhan and Quentin Fiore pitched the global village as the territory of electronic media; with territorial divisions over music rights, it feels much more like a map of war than a plan for peace.

Oscillation reminds of simpler times – but more than that, seems to belong there. It’s not merely a nostalgia work, but a heartfelt return. You can’t exactly criticise a work for being ‘derivative’ when the bulk of the artists it’s derivative of feature.

‘Hormones’ slips into the easy but wonky country vibes of Pavement, while the motoric groove of ‘No Defense’ has some gloriously skewed guitar work. And then…. then there’s a wild frenzy of discordant jazz all over the middle eight. The big sax break on ‘Something’s Wrong’ comes on like The Psychedelic Furs, over a big, crackling valve guitar buzz, a melody reminiscent of Dinosaur Jr’s ‘Turnip Farm’, and lyrics that appear to present a process of self-dismemberment.

It’s a great album – not of its time, but of its spawning era. And now I’m off to revisit You’re Living All Over Me. Just because.

https://playloud.org/archiveandstore/trailers/locustfudge/trailercode.html

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locust-fudge-oscillation

Christopher Nosnibor

It’s my second visit to Wharf Chambers in as many evenings. It’s a good job the beer’s cheap. And that it’s a nice little venue. And that the promoters, TV’s Over, have booked some quality bands. I’ve just about recovered from the blistering assault of Svetlanas the previous night when I arrive.

There seems to be a certain misapprehension that music reviewers hang out with bands and are mates with all the bands, their managers, PR and labels, and it may be true for some, but I prefer to preserve a certain professional distance as a rule. You never know when an act may deliver an absolute stinker of an album, and then what do you do? Blow your critical integrity, or the friendship? And so I find it’s generally better – safer – to keep people at arm’s length. And that’s a rule I apply to life in general.

But, necessarily, for every rule there is an exception, and it so happens that two of them are on the bill tonight, in the shape of the two support acts, Leeds’ Wharf Street Galaxy Band and Lincoln’s Suburban Toys. Both acts feature individuals I know and like, but also know well enough to share an honest appraisal. These things matter.

WGSB have evolved a fair bit over the last year, and the set has changed radically over the time. The fare they’re touting now is, dare I say it, significantly more commercial than before. It’s all relative, of course: the set opens with a loping marching rhythm, feedback and an eternal bass rumble before Dave Procter enters and paces the venue, hollering impenetrably into a loudhailer, building toward a monotonous chant of the song’s title, ‘Freedom is Compulsory’, culled from their eponymous debut EP.

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Wharf Street Galaxy Band

‘Hector and Harass’ is an altogether more accessible effort, with a terrace chant of a chorus, and as I listen and smirk, I remember that in fact, this is my fault. Yes, my review of the aforementioned EP inspired the title, and there are no two ways about it, this is exactly what they do, especially here.

In a set that’s as much, it would seem, designed to torture the band as the audience, they bludgeon away at repetitive, cyclical riffs, looping bass motifs and singe-chord assaults, topped with repeated refrains (‘fucking useless stupid bastard’ they drone on ‘Clueless Advocate’) ‘Sex Master’ mines a squelchy bass groove and funky drum that threatens to veer into Duran Duran / Associates territory. Which is no bad thing. Puffins dominate the closing duo, as does a thunderous PiL meets Fall Krautrock groove dominated by a relentless, juddering bass.

Suburban Toys have had more lineup changes than I’ve had hot dinners, and could probably rival The Fall or even The Damned. They’ve probably been going nearly as long as The Fall, too, off and on, although the difference being that their mainstay is still with us, and it’s bassist Vincent Ramsey (or Vinnie, as he’s named on the website) who’s the consistent feature of their revolving-door credits. And like The Fall – to appropriate from John Peel – they are always different; they are always the same. A number of the songs (notably ‘Far Away’ and ‘Salamander’) are familiar to me from (dare I say it?) some 25+ years ago, but have been overhauled to varying extents.

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Suburban Toys

What they do is simple enough, and it’s a tried and tested formula: poppy punk songs with just the right balance of bite and bounce. They sit well alongside the female-fronted poppy punk bands they reference, which include Blondie, No Doubt, Penetration, and X-ray Spex. Abi is bubbly and energetic and a likeable performer, who brings a real presence. Her vocals are strong, but not overpowering or overtly spiky, enhancing the band’s accessibility. They’re proficient, they’re tight, they’ve got some decent tunes and endless bass runs, and most importantly, they’re uptempo and fun. They go down well, and deservedly so.

Culture Shock may be one of the key exponents of Ska Punk, and noteworthy for being Dick Lucas’ band between Subhumans (whose drummer Trotsky actually did a stint with Suburban Toys some years later) and Citizen Fish, but it’s simply not a genre I can get into. Maybe it’s the awkward stylistic straddling, paired with uncomfortable cultural appropriation that doesn’t it well. Maybe it’s the tendency of fans to feel the compulsion to go all Dick Van Dyke and dance like a bunch of Cockney chimney sweeps when presented with anything ska punk. Maybe I’m just difficult and hyper-critical. But Culture Shock simply offer nothing to excite, let alone shock: it’s all so very predictable. Any rebellious intent is diminished by three decades and the delivery being in the form of party tunes.

The nostalgia is tangible: you can see it on the punters’ faces. And I get it. It’s just not my nostalgia. I’ve already got what I came for, and with a 5:30 alarm in prospect, I slip out into the night to leave the old punks to their party.

Christopher Nosnibor

Live music tends to follow a fairly standard format, namely where artists perform on a stage either in a conventional venue, or outdoors if it’s a festival. Punters traipse in, stand around, talk (sometimes through the performances) and file out again, and judge their enjoyment based on the merits of the performances and the sound and perhaps the company. Music performed in conjunction with art tends to be installation-based in some sense, and the music then finds itself relegated to a secondary position. It was only on arriving at the Leeds Industrial Museum in glorious sunshine that I began to consider the fact that while field recordings are an essential part of a huge array of musical works in the more experimental and avant-garde fields, and that there’s a huge body of musical work which is concerned with responding to and working with specific environments, it’s rare for an audience to experience the music and the environment from which it originated simultaneously.

Having seen the event – and it is an event, not a mere gig, not even simply a night of music, but something that, as the evening progresses, I realise is something that will stay with me as an experience, something different and really rather special – was in the museum, I assumed it would simply be in the museum. To arrive at the PA required walking the full length of the labyrinthine factory space, packed with weird machinery and other abstruse-looking contraptions. Some were operating, clanging and banging away. Following the arrows, we arrived at the sewing room, where NikNak is spinning discs and adding some wild flavour to the established tradition of scratching. I assume the bar is just around the corner and that we’ll be assembling in or near here, so move on with a view to returning. Follow the arrows. Follow the arrows. I try not to panic that getting out again is going to add quarter of an hour to my walk back to the station, and instead marvel at the displays. I’m not really digesting: the museum is looking like a full day’s exploration, and I make a note to return before too long.

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Eventually, we stumble into what appears to be some kind of old engine house. Past that, the bar and toilets. A nice array of local beers, bit in cans and kegs. No commercial piss on offer here.

The sun is slowly sinking, but still casting a fair bit of light as Bambooman delivers his ‘site-specific’ set, which is built predominantly around field recordings captured around the museum in the weeks ahead of tonight’s show. He throws some solid beats, and bass loops and samples in abundance. Light, skipping motifs that hint of the orient and extraneous industrial sounds – repetitious mechanical clankings which forge heavy marches dominate, and are overlaid with oddly folky vocals. The incongruity actually works in its favour.

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Bambooman

And it’s here that I begin to really experience – and to appreciate – the synergy of sound and space. It isn’t because the music isn’t engaging that I find myself casting my eyes around the space I’m standing in: it’s because the music compels me to do so. I cast my eyes upwards, and wonder what caused the various punctures and tears in the corrugated roof, through which the fading light seeps, purplish. People begin to pack in with greater density, legs and pelvises moving in time with the rhythms. A woman comes and stands too close to me, and keeps knocking my shoulder as she moves to the music. I let it pass.

My notes thin in density: a trip to the bar results in my missing the front end of Object Blue’s set, but time is already beginning to warp before her altogether more abrasive set assails my senses. Abrasion may be relative, but in any context, Object Blue packs some attack. The bass frequencies register around the pelvis, while the treble hits around the upper reaches of the cranium: the cymbal work is almost sharp enough to slice off the top like cutting open a boiled egg. The sounds are pushing the limits, fraying at the edges, and tug ant the nerve endings, but the PA is supremely crisp and clear and despite the respectable volume, I’m not feeling any need to get the ear plugs out. Object Blue’s approach to ‘industrial’ may be less literal than that of Bambooman, and more conventional in terms of genre, but with contrast comes impact. As a performer, she’s understated and demur, but sonically, her set is combative, aggressive, every frequency tweaked for optimal discomfort. I absolutely love it, and instead of raising the blood pressure, the sheer quality of the compositions and the attention to detail is uplifting. And with any uplifting uplifting experience comes a sense of quiet joy.

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Object Blue

Time really begins to slip now, and it’s not about the alcohol consumed. I’ve actually been pacing myself, for a change against recent outings more immersed in the experience than the quest for obliteration. During the space between acts, and as the beats knocked out by the DJs echo out into the night, I talk to my friend about mental health. It seems oddly comfortable and in come ways appropriate: I’ve spent the last few months operating at a frenetic tempo, which has resulted in wild fluctuations in mood. Tonight, at one with my surroundings, immersed by the music, stepping out of my life and engaged by everything that’s going on and the sense of something different something new, I find I’m reattenuating, becoming once more aware of the details of my environment – the sky, the details of chimney tower, the rusted engine, the imposing hulk of the mill on the hill, the skeletal frame of an engine tunnel or something, rusty and covered in ivy, the inexplicable machinery at every turn. I’m breathing at a slower pace. I’m back in life.

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Pye Corner Audio delivers something special. The downtempo focus of the set is key to its hypnotic effect. One moment, I’m engaged, observing the laser lighting and the drift of illuminated smoke across the space where he performer is situated, attuned to every last nuance of the surroundings, from the wire fence to the way the other members of the audience engage. The next, I find I’m swaying on my feet, eyes barely ajar, in something approaching a hypnotic trance. It’s the best I’ve felt in months – zoned out, but not completely out of it – the music becomes a throbbing wash that envelopes my body and every last one of my senses. THIS is what immersion feels like. The moment is all, and nothing else matters.

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Pye Corner Audio

I remember, jerking alert between lengthy spells of complete immersion, that this is a life experience. For the first time ever, it’s one I feel comfortable being only semi-present for.

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