Archive for May, 2018

Membran – 1st June 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

Endless reverb? Check. Jangle? Check. Breezy vocals half-buried amidst swirling swathes of overdriven, FX-drenched guitars? Oh yes. If their 2016 debut, Either That Or The Moon, pitched DMT as significant and exciting proponents of pulsating psychedelic rock, their second absolutely cements it. It’s not about innovation, but quality. Quality of songs, quality of execution. And DMT deliver solid quality with consistency here. But that isn’t to say there’s no innovation here: Om Parvat Mystery finds the trio pushing boundaries more than merely their own, and this is an album that shoots off in all directions.

The album barrels in with ‘It’s All Good’, which is true to the promise of the title, before ‘Way Back to You’ crashes in with splintering guitar and a thumping, repetitive rhythm section driving a quintessential psych-hued shoegaze riff. ‘Spyders’ does that heavy groove thing, with a swirling blend of airiness and drive keeping it moving forward while at the same time pinning it to a single spot. The whole gloriously kaleidoscopic affair calls to mind Chapterhouse and early Ride. So far, so nice and true to type.

But Om Parvat Mystery represents a massive expansion for DMT. Granted, ‘VII’ may venture a bit too close to Oasis territory for comfort or to be entirely cool, although it’s salvaged by a brilliantly nagging echo-heavy lead guitar and some reverbed-to-fuck vocals that are more Jesus and Mary Chain than Gallagher brothers.

But this album finds the band expanding in myriad and often unexpected directions. I’m a sucker for long songs that have a turn around the mid-point. ‘Chemical Genius’ is one of those: it begins as a thumping desert shoegaze trip, with reverb stretching to a heat-hazed before a sudden turn into something altogether different. After an explosive mid-section, it becomes a lot more overtly dancey than anything they’ve ever done before, but by the same token, it’s all about the driving, motoric groove, and dense, shimmering atmosphere. And it’s at this that Desert Mountain Tribe excel. And because of these quite dramatically different moments, Om Parvat Mystery brings elements of surprise and exploration without alienating the established fan-base. Difficult second album? DMT have absolutely smashed it.

DMT - Om

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Loner Noise – 25th May 2018

It’s a delight, when facing an endless stream of dross and mediocrity, or otherwise stuff you’ve never heard of but that has only limited appeal (I daresay I’ve bypassed some great music on the basis of a dismal press release or email, but then again, I’ve squandered countless hours listening to cack that’s been oversold), to receive a promo invitation for something that’s quality is assured.

Bristol trio Nasty Little Lonely have, since day one, been kicking out gut-punching, balls-out riffage with a grimy, sleazy edge, and they haven’t put a foot wrong. ‘Wicked Vicious’ continues the trajectory set with their two previous singles on Loner Noise, ‘Ugly Vitamin’ (October 2017) and ‘Glitter’ (February 2018), and plays up the ‘power’ in ‘power trio’.

‘Wicked Vicious’ is driven by a snarling, lumbering bass, over witch jittery, tripwire guitars, tense with treble and stretched, sinewy and angular across in a mathy mess reminiscent of The Jesus Lizard and a hefty, grinding hunk of the vintage Touch ‘n’ Go roster, as well as contemporaries who’ve drawn on the same sources, like Blacklisters. It grabs you by the throat in the first attacking bars, and then tightens the grip, pinning you against the wall and constricting.

There’s nothing pretty about this venomous assault: Charlie Beddoes may be coming on almost cuetsy in her semi-salacious, squeaky vocal, but make no mistake, there’s menace and malice and venom behind that hissing, spitting, yet also bubbly delivery, and the relentlessly churning rhythm section. It may only be 2:47 in length, but seriously, check the weight and the girth: ‘Wicked Vicious’ packs some serious meat. Nasty… vicious… killer.

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NLL - Wicked

Baptists have shared the mid-paced rock-stomper ‘Victim Service’, which is taken from their third album Beacon Of Faith, out through Southern Lord on 25th May.

Beacon Of Faith broadly follows the same trajectory as the album’s predecessors, Bushcraft (2013) and Bloodmines (2014) – combining raw adrenaline-fuelled emotion, venomous vocal delivery, gigantic guitar sound, and a visceral rhythmic propulsion – a sonic manifestation of desolate rage, bolstered by a palpable sense of urgency.

Beacon Of Faith is densely-packed yet Baptists’ sound is far from claustrophobic, there is melody amongst the dissonance, as the band more deeply explore the noise rock vistas that have always underpinned their sound.  
Lyrics are drawn from their direct experience of a broken society and general discontentment with everyday life. A multitude of issues are in the firing line, from the Canadian court system, issues surrounding substance abuse, mental health, and how the more fortunate “tend to dismiss people who have been dealt a less-fortunate hand” – as guitarist Danny also reflects.

Listen to ‘Victim Service’ here:

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Baptists - Beacon

ANTIME – ANTIME20

Christopher Nosnibor

According the bio, ‘Bad Stream is guitars and machines vanishing in the spaces between Radiohead, The Notwist and Nine Inch Nails only to reemerge amidst ambient, noise, and drone. It marks Martin [Steer]’s attempt to release his own history, alienation and loneliness into the chaos of the digital world and to retain their substance in doing so.

This is very much Martin’s thing, essentially a solo project, and the album represents five years of work, of gathering, of sifting, of seeking ways to represent the realities of life in contemporary society.

“I look at my phone even while I’m playing guitar,” says Martin Steer, “and that isn’t even entirely voluntary. The 2010s really changed my perception of how digital technologies and social media affect me as a musician. Through Bad Stream I want to make sense of this particular kind of anxiety, and to use sensory overstimulation as a way to develop an independent and progressive musical language.”

I can relate. Starting out as a writer around the turn of the millennium, I was fascinated by the idea of postmodernism – because although the concept emerged in the 70s in considering writing of the 1950s and 1960s, I was completely engaged in the notion that this was something that was happening now. Whatever McLuhan, Lyotard, and Jameson, or Deleuze and Guattari had to say about the effects of accelerated communications and a ubiquitous blizzard of media and sensory overload, nothing could truly predict or account for the psychological impact of living in the second decade of the second millennium. Nothing we’ve seen before corresponds with the endless twitching, the nagging anxieties of text messages without response, the barren Facebook page, the diminishing Twitter following, the hassling, haranguing, emails and messages, the relentless barrage of information and contact from every direction.

Besides, theory and practise, however closely they endeavour to merge, invariably and inevitably exist with degrees of separation. And so it is with Bad Stream. It’s a nicely-assembled album, with some suitably dark and intense moments, and the production balances the slick, crisp ultra-digital with the messy, reverby, sonic halo that pulls it all back a way.

I often wonder what the musical landscape would look like if Nine Inch Nails hadn’t happened. It seems that one act not only spawned a genre unto themselves, but reshaped the musical landscape, to the point that what would once have sounded ‘edgy’ now sounds mundane, and so much can simply be filed as ‘derivative of Nine Inch Nails’. In drawing in a samples, semi-ambient segments and more besides, Steer extends hi sonic palette beyond the NIN template – but by the same token, Reznor’s shadow looms large over the majority of the compositions here.

Amidst the accessible (granted, it’s all relative) electro tunes, the bleak ‘Drown on Mars’ builds a pulsating bass groove over an insistent beat that call to mind the darker, more downbeat moments of The Downward Spiral and With Teeth. But where Steer separates from Reznor is his unswerving tendency to offer melody and chorus over obliterative noise. On the one hand, it’s a relief: life is punishment enough – but on the other, there’s a sense that he simply doesn’t push far or hard enough, and fails to convey the anguish, the anxiety, the trauma. ‘Polyzero’ is a cracking stab at surging shoegaze with a resonant electro throb, and it’s perfectly executed – a kind of hybrid of ‘March of the Pigs; with Nowhere era Ride. And I dig. But Bad Stream fails to convey the claustrophobia and relentless bombardment and the mental anguish it engenders. It’s a relatively minor criticism, though: everything is fucked-up enough as it is, and do we need more music that mirrors, even amplifies back, the torment of the overload that is life as we experience it? I’m too fried to conclude right now…

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Sacred Bones – 8th June 2018

I’m accustomed to feeling tense and anxietised. It’s more or less my default setting. The insomnia. The 4am sweats, the nocturnal panic attacks that feel like asphyxiation. There are peaks and troughs, of course, although I often find that immersing myself in music that probably ought to add to my unsettlement has something of a neutralising effect. After a few wavering weeks, during which I discovered that Naproxen isn’t the painkiller for me right now, experiencing shortness of breath, accelerated heartbeat and heightened anxiety being the most pronounced of the side-effects. None of this was especially conducive to writing, and even listening to music was proving to be less enjoyable than usual. The prospect of facing my inbox was more than I could reasonably bare most days. A week after my last dose, I’m feeling the calmest and most overtly ‘normal’ I’ve felt in a fair while. If this is perhaps excessive disclosure, it’s a question of context. However objectively I want to operate as a reviewer, listening to music as a ‘job’ inevitably entails an element of the personal. There’s simply no escaping this. Any response to art necessarily involves a subconscious and emotional element. A critic is a person, not a machine: we don’t critique and opine with algorithms.

Sifting through the scores of emails, I’m cheered to find a fair few releases to get excited about. Where to start? Well, this seems like a reasonable opener…

That Uniform and The Body should come together – or perhaps collide, screaming head-on into one another – is a logical, if terrifying idea. It’s pitched as ‘a collaboration that pushes both bands far beyond their roots in industrial music and metal – creating an immersive listening experience that truly transcends genre’. And I suppose it does. The Body have long pushed far beyond the confines of metal, and have forged a career that thrives on collaboration – or, put another way, a career that extracts new levels of nastiness by channelling carnage through other acts.

It’s a messy, murky sonic miasma that seeps from the speakers: a cacophony of impenetrable shrieking – like some mass acid-bath or people trapped in a burning room as the flames seer their flesh – tears through a thick aural sludge that’s heavy on bass and light on production polish.

A nervous drum machine pumps frantically, as though in the throes of a panic attack, beneath a mess of noise on ‘The Curse of Eternal Life’. The vocals are distorted, dalek-like, and there’s more screaming in the background, and with everything buzzing and whirring away, it’s impossible to know what the fuck’s going on, let alone if there’s any kind of attempt at a tune in there. It’s like listening to the Dr Mix and the Remix album played on a shit stereo through next door’s wall.

There are crushing guitar chords and crashing beats on the slow grind of ‘Come and See’, evoking the essence of early Swans or Godflesh, but with Michael Berdan’s sneering vocal style, there’s an overtly punk aspect to the pulverizing industrial trudge. It may be one of the most structured compositions on the album – in that there are actual chord sequences audible through the sonic smog – but it’s still hard going. But then, it’s no accident: neither act is renowned for its accessibility or ease of listening. And when two acts as uncompromising as Uniform and The Body meet, and there’s still no compromise, then the sum is instantly an exponential amplification of uncompromising. It was always going to hurt: it was simply a question of how much. And it’s nothing short of punishing.

When they do turn things down a bit, back off the guitars, and tweak musical motifs from the electronic setup instead of extraneous noise, there are hints of melody – and even grace – these emerge through the fog on ‘In My Skin’, and in context, it’s almost soothing. In any other context, though, maybe not so much. It’s like saying that Prurient are soothing in comparison to Whitehouse.

Mental Wounds Not Healing is – to use a term all too often tossed about in reference to anything a bit raw or intense – visceral. Listening to the album, I realise I’m grinding my teeth, chewing my lip and gnawing at the inside of my check. I’m clenching my jaw, tightly. My shoulders are hunched. Mental Wounds Not Healing isn’t just intense: it makes me feel tense. The density and lack of separation makes for a sound where everything congeals into an oppressive morass. The production – such as it is – only emphasises the claustrophobic sensation; being unable to distinguish one sound from another elicits a broiling frustration, and a certain paranoia, as you wonder if maybe there’s something wrong with the speakers or your hearing. It’s not pleasant, and the seven songs – none of which run past the five-minute mark – make for an endurance test. And yet for all that, it’s a powerful experience. It’s no wonder the wounds aren’t healing: this is the soundtrack to scratching and scraping at the scabs, picking away until the blood seeps once more. Insofar as any psychological damage foes, this isn’t going to help, but it’s fair reflection of various tortured states.

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The London based alternative/indie rock trio Desert Mountain Tribe will release their second album on 1st June. Om Parvat Mystery is co-produced by the band with James Aparicio and was recorded in London and the Faroe Islands. Najma Akhtar, the well known British singer of Indian ancestry who has previously collaborated with the likes of Page & Plant and Jah Wobble as well as making several acclaimed solo albums in her own right, features on two songs.

Describing the new album, DMT say : “We’re very proud of this new record. It definitely shows a progression from our personal tastes in music and style of playing. We didn’t consciously make an effort to sound different from the first album but it felt like a natural development to a more experimental sound.”

Ahead of the album, and following lead single ‘Wide Eyes’, they’re streaming ‘High Drive’. Get your lugs round it here:

https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/412506723%3Fsecret_token%3Ds-YvR9A&color=%23ff5500&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show

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