Archive for June, 2018

Constellation Records – 15th June 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

Bush Lady, originally released in 1985, is described as ‘a unique and magical record by any definition’, and as ‘an invaluable example of contemporary First Nations music that blends traditional folkways with modern composition’. Obomsawin is a member of the Abenaki Nation and one of Canada’s foremost activist documentary filmmakers: with over 50 films to her credit, she’s not primarily known for her musical output, with Bush Lady being released as a private pressing, half of which languished in her home for years and years.

It’s not easy to place. It’s not folk; it’s not spoken word. But then, these aren’t conventional songs either, although there are some charmingly pleasant flickers of woodwind and strings. But it’s primarily about Obomsawin’s vocals. Her voice conveys so much; against monotonous, thudding rhythms and trilling notes, eerie discord and wandering abstraction, she swings between blank monotone and quirky vocal contortions that jar the spine.

The real thing about Bush Lady is just how fresh and contemporary it feels, and sounds, never mind the fact it’s 33 years old. It’s not that nothing’s changed in this time, but an indicator or the creative prowess and sheer otherness of Alanis Obomsawin’s art.

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Grammy-winning Norwegian art-noise-rock outfit Årabrot are returning on 7th September with their new album Who Do You Love. Over the years the band has collaborated with producers like Billy Anderson and Steve Albini, and musicians such as Ted Parsons (Killing Joke/Swans), Sunn O))))’s Stephen O’Malley, and Kvelertak’s Erlend Hjelvik. Most recently they appeared at this year’s Roadburn Festival which was swiftly followed by a support slot in Norway with Marilyn Manson. You can listen to the latest track from the record, ‘Maldoror’s Love’, here, now:

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Arabrot

Les Albums Claus – 30th April 2018

Stuart Bateman

Ben Bertrand comes armed with a bass clarinet and a bunch of effects. Recorded live at les ateliers claus in October 2017, NGC 1999 doesn’t sound in any way live, and the five pieces feel very structured and are sequenced in a most cohesive fashion. While the number of singer-songwriters using loop pedals to fill out their sound seemed to explode about 12 years ago, to the point that it’s long been tedious and predictable to witness someone with an acoustic guitar and a little synth layering up the vocals and building simple three-chord strums up to epic choral dimensions.

Bertrand’s application of the equipment is both more subtle and more innovative. The repetitive motifs ripple and bounce against one another, and while there is layering, Bertrand’s restraint is noteworthy, keeping things sparse, low-key, minimal.

Taking its title from a dust-filled bright nebula in the constellation of Orion, 1,500 light years from earth – and distinctive for a black patch at its centre which is believed to be completely empty – the compositions are thematically-linked and contrive to convey a sense of floating in space.

Things to threaten to spiral out of control with shrill, electronic whistles sending the end of ‘V380 Orionis’ (a multiple star system at the centre of Orion and the primary source of light for NGC 1999) skyward. But thereafter it’s very much sparser and quieter. ‘Malkauns on Kitt Peak’ brings a change of tone for the album’s mid-point: a hushed, brooding expanse of elongated pulses which echo out into the darkness, it’s spacious yet strangely airless. For the first time on the album, the clarinet sounds like a clarinet as it meanders through a fizz of skittering treble that falls like shooting stars.

The pieces flow together and transition effortlessly as Bertrand bounces through the abyss with an assurance and tranquillity that’s soothing, but nevertheless strange.

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Ben Bertrand – NGC 1999

Hyperdelia – HEX002

Christopher Nosnibor

It seems to be something almost unique to the world of experimental and avant-garde music, that the titles are directly descriptive, functional, literal. Imagine if the practise was adopted in the genres of rock or indie. How would releases like Angsty shit ripping off the Foo Fighters, Adolescents who are pissed off because we can’t get laid and Ten three-minute derivative jangly guitar-based songs about life in college be received? Actually, they’d probably still sell infinitely more units than releases like this, but the point of differentiation is that this is art, and commercial considerations really are not leading factors in determining the work or its release into the public domain.

We learn that Womb is ‘a musical narration for abstracted ears and bodies – engulfing a listener simultaneously in subaquatic sonic environments, distant dreams of childhoods, memories and voices from the unknown: where time and space fold into each other.

The initial material of field-recordings of nature and body sounds, interviews and compositions has been re-recorded and re-amped underwater in a swimming pool – and has been re-arranged (partly by way of the impulse responses of the pool) now for stereo home listening.’ And so we’re very deeply into literal territory here.

It’s watery and muffled, womb-like every second of the way. ‘Cocoon’ sounds like someone typing – quite slowly, unsteadily – while slow ambient music with whale song and slow, arrhythmic beats pulse, all heard with cotton wool in one’s ears. ‘The Garden’ is a long, slow ebb and flow of elongated dronage, spiralling contrails of vapour and mist, an eddying vortex of mid-range that twists ethereal, occasionally rent with bulbous belches of sound which echo out beyond the reaches of perception.

The beats are glitches, pulses, crackles and thudding heartbeats, incongruously urgent and pacey and at odds with the sedate sonic swirls that hover and hang, Samples, muffled and heavily filtered, are abstracted amidst twittering birdsong, wide-sweeping drones, ominous fear tones and unsettling extranea.

The focus is beyond soft: it’s submerged, out of reach. Everything about Womb is warm, supple. There is a sense of depth – immense depth that extends beyond sound to the absolute core of being. A slow immersion that works its way inside, Womb is both meditative and introspective, and while it’s very much conceptual, it succeeds independently as a soundwork.

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Kajasa Lindgren – Womb

Christopher Nosnibor

Into the Void is Gintas K’s second album-length release of 2018, and we’re not even quite halfway through. For this outing, the enigmatic granular sonic artist from Lithuania has delivered an array of 14 fragmentary pieces, the majority titled by number, spanning snippets less than a minute in length to quarter-hour brain-sizzlers, with the majority of pieces clocking in around the two-minute mark.

The limited notes accompanying the release state ‘Pieces created by Gintas K using Travis Johnson sound material.- rhythms loops.’ It’s perhaps worth noting that this is Travis Johnson (2) as listed on Discogs – the ‘sound designer, electronic music producer, improviser, and farmer from Suwannee County, Florida, United States’, and not the bassist with metal band In This Moment or either of the other two.

We’re all staring into one void or another, so there’s a degree of universality in the experimental intent of this release.

Those rhythms and loops are warped, splayed, disjointed, whipping backwards and forwards across the heads in a jumble of crazed anagalogia reminiscent in places of some of William Burroughs’ tape experiments from the late 50s and early 60s, when he and Brion Gysin, with the assistance of Iain Sommerville, who was an electronics engineer and programmer.

For the most part, it’s about variation – or not so much – on a theme. Beats stutter and funnel into disarray and fuzzy edges dominate the sounds as those beats crackle and fizz. Most of the loops on here sound sped up and pitch-shifted, gloopy electronica and synthy beats shifted up to resemble clicks and bleeps and scratches of static. Everything crunches and collides at a frenetic pace to create an overwhelming blizzard of sound, a sonic soup that batters rather than massages the senses and the brain. A great many of the rhythms are arrhythmic, or otherwise disturbed or distorted in some way or another. At times akin to a palpating heart, and at others a flutter beneath a screeching squall of static, a fizz of treble and a mess of skittering noise, Into the Void leads the listener into difficult territory, and at times threatens to abandon them in a sandstorm of sound that will leave them completely adrift.

There are some moments of variance: ‘Void4’ is a slow, woozy slice of opiate dub, and ‘Void6’ is largely distorted thumping and rumbling, and ‘Void12’ brings the emptiness of it all into sharp relief, a quavering, oscillating humming drone. It’s minimal, but delivers maximum discomfort.

Personally, I dig it, but as a listening experience, its uncomfortable and far from easy.

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Travis Johnson & Gintas K – Into the Void

Christopher Nosnibor

On the face of it, it’s a fairly complimentary lineup, showcasing three similar but varied strains of angsty alternative rock. On closer analysis and observation, the three bands appear to have quite different fanbases, with only limited crossover. Surveying the demographic, I’ve no explanation, and it’s really quite odd, to the extent that it almost feels like three separate gigs. Not so much a partisan audience, as three, with limited crossover. Admittedly, I’m here for Weekend Recovery, having championed them from way back, but it strikes as strange that someone would pay £7 for a 3-band lineup and spent all but half an hour at the bar or outside. Maybe I’m just old-fashioned and have a thing about getting value for money. And given the bar – £4.50 for a pint of Stella Cidre is as good as it gets – the punters should be keen to get something to justify their outlay.

Weekend Recovery are up first, and after a few cable issues, they start their set, kicking in with ‘Turn it Up’ – and I find myself wishing the sound guy would do just that with the guitars. Nevertheless, they power through a set primarily culled from the debut album that they’re relentlessly touring this year with energy and panache. They’ve come a long way in 18 months.

Owen’s guitar lunges have developed to full-on rock posing: he’s a tall, burly fella and he dominates his space, and when she ditches the guitar for ‘Monster’, Lauren’s liberated and mobile. It’s a well-structured set, with ‘New Tattoo’ bringing a change of pace and mood at the mid-point, and culminating in a fiery rendition of ‘Get What You Came For’ followed by a breakneck blast though ‘Why Don’t You Love Me?’

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Weekend Recovery

There’s a degree of irony there: it’s a song about on-line dating and insecurity. Because everyone wants to be loved, to be subject of adulation… don’t they? Spending just a few minutes with Lauren before and after their show is quite eye-opening, and sustaining a conversation uninterrupted for more than two minutes is impossible. There’s certainly a lot of love for the band, and her – to the point at which requests for photos and autographs on tickets and body parts has become pretty much standard form. As I say, they’ve come a long way in 18 months, but it also brings home just how fucking weird people are, what life in a band – even at relatively low-level – is like, and how women in rock and in the music industry in general are subject to some shocking treatment.

Avenoir have a hard act to follow. They’re either really popular or have a lot of mates. Did they sell all of the T-shirts occupying the first two packed-out rows? Judging by how quickly they thin out over the course of the set, one suspect possibly not.

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Avenoir

The singer’s wearing a Misfits T and a torn black denim jacket with a Ramones back patch, and he implores the crowd to ‘go fucking crazy’. Three or four people bob their heads in response. They do manage to get half a dozen or so moshing at one point, but there’s just somethings lacking about their energetic but ultimately forgettable brand of alt rock. Songs, mostly.

Our Divinity have both songs and fans. Zara Saunders has immense presence, making for an engaging performance from beginning to end, and for a band who’ve only played a handful of shows, they’re outstandingly tight. Musically… well, there’s a risk of courting accusations of lazy journalism given that every third female-fronted rock band with a bit of grunt sound like Paramore, but the influence on Our Divinity is undeniable: they even throw in a Paramore cover near the end.

What sets Our Divinity apart from their peers is the density of the sound – benefiting as they do from duelling guitars that weave tripwire lead lines over chunky, overdriven rhythm – and the quality of the material. They may have only one single to their credit, but they’ve got an album’s worth on the strength of tonight.

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Our Divinity

The audience show their appreciation by climbing on one another’s shoulders and constructing human pyramids in front of the stage like it’s a 1980s Sisters of Mercy of Mission gig. For such early days, such adulation is remarkable, and if tonight is in any way representative, they’re building momentum for a rapid ascendance.

Uniform hit us with their most powerful, most emotional and bleakest endeavour yet. Vocalist Michael Berdan and instrumentalist Ben Greenberg have joined forces with drummer Greg Fox (Liturgy, Zs) to perfect their vicious post-industrial dystopian cyber-punk and are ready to announce their new studio album The Long Walk incoming via Sacred Bones on 17th August. They’ve also revealed a video for the album’s lead single ‘The Walk’. Created by Danny Perez, the video highlights the cynicism, absurdities and downright bloodlust of our current news cycle. 

Intense doesn’t cut it. Check it here: