Archive for July, 2018

16th April 2018 – Riot Season Records

Christopher Nosnibor

For the love, not the money, Every time. I fell out of the loop, and missed out on the promo and wasn’t even aware that one of my favourite active bands had a new album out. And that’s reason to write about it. I feel I somehow owe the band for all of the killer music so far, and owe it to myself for posterity. So, I’m playing catch-up here with the Hey Colossus offshoot, and immediately, what strikes is the grit of the guitar and the murky production that renders The Making of Junio Bonner possibly their grimiest effort to date.

It’s the combination of spindly lead guitar lines that loop over the bowel-bothering bass frequencies before dissolving into overdriven sludge, coupled with the cool-as-fuck drawling vocals that does it. And yes, it’s pure 90s grunge, with big nods to Alice in Chains and Soundgarden, but with the dingy, greasy, rough-hewn raggedness of Tad. Do I like Henry Blacker for being an allusive throwback? Inevitably, grunge is in my DNA having immersed myself in all the bands of the day in my mid-late teens in the mid-late 90s. But no: Henry Blacker don’t evoke nostalgia. However much their template may be of an era, their music is timeless. Because good music is.

Initial spins don’t reveal any instant grabs like ‘Pullin’ Like a Dray’, ‘Cold Laking’, or ‘The Grain’, but then again, it’s time spent with Henry Blacker that allows the growers to emerge: over time, their previous two albums have proved themselves to be solid gold, albeit caked in mud and shit. And perhaps the lack of standouts is an indicator of its absolute consistency: all the songs are equal, and all are equally solid. And solid is the word. The back-to-back dispatching of songs centred around cyclical grooves and relentless riffery places it in the same space occupied by Nirvana’s debut. It grafts and grinds, hawks and chisels away, snarling, spitting, raging.

‘Shingles to the Floor’ is almost an accessible rock tune when you wipe it down. The classic rock intro on ‘Cellmate’ gives way to a panelling, thick, grungy riff that hits that sweet spot of optimum density, where the guitars fill the speakers with a distortion that threatens to overload them with a fuzz that sounds like tearing cardboard while the bass isn’t something you hear but feel. The mangled vocals, half buried, are the perfect addition.

‘Keep it Out of Your Heart’ locks into a thick, stoner groove that Queens of the Stone Age would likely kill to replicate these days. It has a certain overloaded smoothness and a swagger that chugs and chunks as it drives onwards. And maybe it’s one of those tracks that grows as a standout after just a few plays after all…

The density of sound, the way the riffs churn in on themselves and repeat as they snarl and grate, all combine to build a claustrophobic intensity. There’s no room to breathe here, and there’s no slow-tempo lighter-waving anthem at the end of side one: it’s truly end-to-end in conception and delivery.

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Henry Blacker

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York, UK-based post-punk band, Mary And The Ram (featuring The Parasitic Twins‘ Dom Smith on drums, and Kiran Tanna [The Trembling Hellish Infernal Nightmare Generator] on vocals and production, have announced a single version of ‘The Dream’, to be released on Friday, July 20 via the band’s Soundcloud.

The original track, which appeared a b-side to ‘The Cross’ single (NSFW video below), clocks in at seven minutes, with this new version running in at just over three, and is heavily influenced by the likes of Nine Inch Nails, and Nick Cave.

This version of ‘The Dream’ marks MATR’s last offering before heading into the studio at York St John University over the next few months to record a follow-up EP that will take the band away from its more post-punk and goth roots, and bring it into more alternative rock territory, with concentration on live instrumentation, alongside the signature brooding synth-heavy sound. Alongside Tanna’s production, the group will be working with Howie Weinberg, who is responsible for Nirvana’s ‘Nevermind’, and Muse’s ‘Black Holes And Revelations’ among others).

Dom’s Parasitic Twins bandmate, Max Watt will also be joining the band in the studio to record guitars, and bolster the live line-up in 2019.

Check out the original version of ‘The Dream’, mixed by John Fryer (Depeche Mode, HIM) below, after the jump:

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James Wells

You’d never guess that this York-based band was hardcore, with a name like Rotting Monarchs. ‘Disorder’ isn’t a Joy Division cover, but a self-penned slab of churning, bile-brimming noise that comes off the back of last year’s debut EP and provides a flavour of their debut album, also entitled Disorder, set for release next year.

It’s 2:22 of trebly, shouty, full-tilt abrasion. It’s not pretty, and it’s not technical: instead, it slams in at a hundred miles an hour, fiery and full-throated, pissed off and petulant, and with a simple, hollering chant of the title by way of a refrain, it’s got a vintage punk vibe: uncomplicated, antagonistic, sloganeering. Its primitivism is much of its appeal: it’s direct, an uncomplicated shout of dissatisfaction.

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Rotting Monarchs

The Helen Scarsdale Agency – HMS048 – 17th August 2018

The pitch for Maps’ as ‘minor-key’ where ‘tear-stained notes of piano, organ, and guitar veer along elliptical orbits as a soft-whisper lilt of Ekin’s voice narrates more by emotive decree than by literary couplet’ is but a flavour.

The album is largely inspired by her first winter on an island in the Sea of Marmara, away from the hustle and bustle of Istanbul, Maps is a completive work that reflects on experiencing silence and isolation. It’s relatable, and as is so often the case, in the personal lies the universal.

Isolation is not necessarily geographic, and distance doesn’t need to be great (the Sea of Marmara lies within the greater metropolitan umbrella of Istanbul) to have an effect on the psyche. Distance also needn’t be geographic: there’s no distance more isolating than emotional distance. It’s immeasurable, impossible to quantify, but manifests as a relentless ache, a sense of emptiness that sits in the gut and echoes around the chamber of the chest cavity. Mere inches in physical terms count for nothing when there’s that separation, and it grows to a pulling desperation, a gap that can’t be bridged. So close, and yet so far… just out of reach. There’s no-one to turn to, nowhere to go. Because you’re alone. And there are no words. Maps charts a journey through inner space, its hesitant notes representing the hesitant steps into unknown territory, alone.

On Maps, there are no words: this is the language of sound which communicates the message in its entirety. The warm-tones and sparse arrangements define the atmosphere of Maps. Fuzzy-edged guitar notes hanging in rarefied air for an eternity allude to Fil’s delicate, understated approach. Her music is sparse yet warm, delicate yet rich.

It’s a remarkably quiet, soft, understated work. It isn’t that nothing happens, but that evens unfurl discreetly, subtly, solely, with a certain delicacy. Organ wheezes as feedback whines on ‘Away’, while on the majority of the compositions, it’s a soft, echo-soaked piano that provides the main focus for this hushed, sparse song sequence which drifts together to create a very natural flow.

Maps doesn’t offer a direct route from A to B. But it does remind that the map is not the territory, and that the geographical terrain is not the mental space.

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Christopher Nosnibor

The 13th of July is a Friday. It seems like an appropriate date for a show hosted by The Trembling Hellish Infernal Nightmare Generator. And besides, an event that involves standing in a dark pub venue being aurally assaulted by four noisy bands in sweltering heat represents the perfectly antithetical alternative to the populism of a city swarming with racegoers.

It might not exactly be packed for Pak40, who begin their set with a claxon and bass hum, before thumping in with some tom-heavy drumming and thunderous, super-low bass growl that comes on like early Earth, only with percussion. While the duo’s focus is firmly on the creation of maximum noise, the stylistic manifestations are varied, with classic rock elements churned through a cement mixer and a vocal style characterised by elongated vowels that range from pysch-tinged prog to something closer to Bong. The final track is sludgy as hell, but ups the pace considerably, inviting comparisons to Fudge Tunnel.

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Pak40

Saltwater Injection are another drum / bass combo. As last year’s debut single, ‘Vinegar / Cuntryfile Part 3’ revealed, they’re noisy, too, cranking out a mesh of grindcore noise interspersed and overlaid with trebly, distorted samples from films and whatnot. It’s not about innovation, but execution, and after a lengthy intro, the bass feedback howls and they go full-throttle to deliver a set of high-octane aggression. It’s stick-twirling drummer Paul Soames who provides the vocals – predominantly guttural barks to their frenetic attacks. There are flickers of pop, but they’re transmogrified into roaring slabs of rage that go off like a clusterbomb.

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Saltwater Injection

Nottingham’s Bone Cult have been on my radar for a while, and I’ve been quite taken with their brand of hard-edged technoindustrial crossover music. Visually, they’re on a whole other level: with dense smoke, neon skull-masks, a crisp, clinical sound, and laser lighting shooting every which way, they transform the 120-capacity pub venue with a stage a foot high into an academy-type gig experience. They’re so slick, so tight, so immense. For all the intensity and aggression, they do seem a shade lightweight in context, mining more the Pretty Hate Machine era sound of Nine Inch Nails and aping the electro end of the Wax Trax! roster circa 1988. Still, in terms of entertainment, they’re hard to fault.

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Bone Cult

The same is true of headliners, London three-piece Little Death Machine. They neither look nor sound like a band on the lower rungs of the circuit. They’re mechanoid tight, and have a set packed with killer tunes, delivered with nuance, passion, emotion, and panache. A spot of research suggests that this is a new lineup, and while I lack the reference to compare to the old one, they seem to have gelled well. Yes, they do sound a lot like Placebo. A LOT like Placebo. But old Placebo, which is A Good Thing. It’s a punchy set, packed out with songs with massive drive and killer hooks and crackling energy. It’s also the perfect climax to an exciting night.

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Little Death Machine

Humpty Dumpty Records – 11th May 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

It’s quite the introduction: ‘Jérôme Deuson is an unstable musician’ is the opening sentence of the press release that accompanies his seventh album as aMute. But how many musicians are stable? And what even is stability? Is anyone entirely stable? Is it even a desirable state? So often, creativity emerges from a state of inner turmoil, or tempestuous emotional flux. There are, of course, infinite shades: this is just to peel back some of the layers of the initial and likely awkward response to the statement.

Some Rest is not the millpond calm the title may imply: it’s only some rest, not total rest, and in truth, the rest here is minimal, on an album that’s clearly the work of a restless soul.

The album’s structure and sequence is unusual, opening with the longest composition by far: the title track is almost eighteen minutes long, and transitions from a delicate swirl of strings through a vast, shoegazey post-rock vista to an expansive, driving rock workout. While there are strains of feedback amidst the humming melodic drifts and samples which echo, almost buried in the mix, and the whole thing builds to a sustained crescendo, it’s still a more sedate experience than its predecessor, the tempestuous 2016 album Bending Time in Waves.

Side two begins with the gloopy, bubbling ambience of ‘I’ve Seen it All’ before sliding into eerie dissonance on ‘Dead Cold’, which exploits ringing chimes which give way to softer, picked guitar and a more tranquil, melodic space, disturbed only be the vocal, processed and burred with distortion. It’s sort of melancholic, sort of trippy, sort of dislocated, sort of abstract, sort of shoegazey in a trilling organ swamped in echo sort of way. It’s all amplified into a fizzing digital funnel on ‘The Obsedian’, which features Christian Bailleau, emerging as a grand, slow-moving and mournful piece reminiscent in some respects of Dylan Carlson’s more recent work, exploring as it does the pitch, tone, and timbre of the guitar in near-granular detail. Closer ‘Maria’, with hints of early Pink Floyd, is similarly drifty, dreamy, trippy, echoey-warped, and it tapers away into vaporous clouds.

Because of its ever-shifting nature, and its sonic range, Some Rest provides only the briefest of respites for the listener to relax, creating as it does an atmosphere of flux and continual movement.

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aMute

15th July 2018

Recently named ‘artist of the month’ at The Great Frog, former Arrows of Love drummer, film and game soundtracker and artist in his own right, Mike Frank is on a bit of a roll.

He’s written and recorded two albums post-Arrows: ‘This is going to get weird… I’m going to make this weird’, which he describes as ‘a collection of orchestral and experimental film music songs’, and an album featuring Rufus Miller, Lyndsey Lupe and Artur Dyjecinski which is ‘full of dark sounds and Middle Eastern instruments’. Only the former has yet seen the light of day.

A taster of a forthcoming album, ‘All My Possessions’ has no connection with either project, and is infinitely more accessible – I’ll refrain from going so far as to say commercial – than anything we’ve heard from him so far. What’s more, this downtempo yet somehow simultaneously jaunty, jangly indie rock tune, which boasts a really rather catchy chorus, hints further at his songwriting range. With delicate, understated, picked guitar and a bleak croon, the opening resembles Leonard Cohen, and there’s a darkness which shadows the song as a whole.

Bukowski’s influence is rendered explicit in the lifted footage which accompanies the song, which is essentially about the vagabond life of a writer, but also, as he puts it ‘about feeling down and out, lonely or even desperate’ – and you wonder which voice or perspective lines like ‘she’s so good to me / I’m such an asshole’ and ‘I like to drink because I can / It makes me feel like I’m still with the band’ are really coming from.

It’s got a nice slow build that swells subtly to a full finish, and is, as a song, rounded and satisfying. And really very nice, if kinda sad.

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Mike Frank