Archive for August, 2018

3rd August 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

A decade in existence and with three previous albums to their credit, instrumental prog band Tides of Man from Tampa, Florida, deliver album number four. While their first two albums featured vocals courtesy of Tilian Pearson (who, since his departure in 2010 has provided the ‘clean’ vocals for craply-named post-hardcore act Dance Gavin Dance and enjoys a solo career as Tilian), 2014’s Young and Courageous saw the band emerge as a very different, instrumental, entity.

This means that Every Nothing has been four years in the making. It’s an expansive post-rock / prog crossover, with the twelve compositions spreading and exploring in various directions, both in terms of mood and instrumentation. Ranted, the majority of the album weaves reverby soundscapes from chiming guitars, rolling drums and understated, strolling bass, breaking into the occasional sustained crescendo that alludes strongly to the slow-build and big-burst stylings of Explosions in the Sky. And while they do really work hard to delay gratification, to the point that there are moments the album borders on frustration, and much of the album is so much standard template form, when they do break out, as on ‘Old 88’, and the explosive, choppy breaking on ‘Everything is Fine, Everyone is Happy’, which veers into Shellac territory, it proves to be more than worth it.

Elsewhere, the spacious, wistful piano of ‘Far Off’ – a song that exists more in the echoes between the notes than in the notes themselves – reveals a band who are comfortable with giving the structures and sounds room to breathe, and the piano-led ‘Death is No Dread Enemy’ which slows the pace, lowers the tempo and conjures a reflective mood marks an atmospheric shift.

Every Nothing is by no means a high-impact album, or a set which even stands out as an exemplar in its field. It’ll never set the world alight, but is solid, and a pleasure to listen to. And that’s probably enough.

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Gizeh Records – 31st August 2018

The Great Lake Swallows is a collaboration between Canadian cellist Julia Kent and Belgian guitarist/tape machine manipulator Jean D.L. The former came to my attention some time ago, and her nuanced style of playing had yielded some compelling works. Jean DL, however is an unknown quantity to me, and I came to approach the release without any real preconceptions. I leave it with none either. It’s ambient and droney, but offers infinite layers. The Great Lake Swallows doesn’t really fit anywhere in terms of genre, and this is very much a positive. Sometimes, music simply is.

The Great Lake Swallows is a graceful and co-ordinated suite in four parts, and finds the duo creating sonic interplay that displays a certain musical connection, even telepathy. Collaborations of this type, which find musicians with such different approaches (and modes of instrumentation) requires a certain intuition to achieve coherence.

Its brevity contrasts with its scale and scope. The four tracks have a total running time of a shade over 25 minutes, but the aching cello bends and melts over hushed, brooding atmospherics to create compositions of great atmospheric depth and imbued with great significance. At times manifesting as dark portent, others seeping sadness without words to describe it, the layers build and pull at the senses almost subliminally.

The press release informs us the album was recorded in Charleroi, Belgium in 2015 during a video installation with Sandrine Verstraete, and that the music was created using field recordings, processed guitar and cello and serves as a soundtrack to the video of the same name. And the soundtrack qualities of the compositions are very much evident: the parts bleed together to forge a single, continuous piece, which slowly and subtly transition between place and mood.

On ‘Part 3’, a low throb slowly oscillates beneath the ebb and flow of strings that weft and warp, before ‘Part Four’ forges an expansive vista of surge and swell, as ghostly voices echo in the shadowy background. The effect is haunting, but also beautiful and as a whole, the work is deeply evocative. The Great Lake Swallows doesn’t just occupy space, but creates it.

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Season Of Mist – 31st August 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

I don’t know what’s more exciting about the proposition of Loved – whether it’s the introduction of ‘decidedly more extreme tone and presence of death and black metal’ into KEN Mode’s palate, or the fact it’s been produced by Andrew Schneider (Unsane, Cave In, Daughters), who has, we’re told, a ‘vision of noise and girth’.

It’s got to be the girth.

And add all this to their existing sources – ‘the desperate noise and industrial sonics of the 80’s and 90’s’ and you’ve got a truly lethal cocktail.

Lead single ‘Doesn’t Feel Pain Like He Should’ sets the tone, a squall of feedback prefacing a deluge of thunderous bass and drums and shouted vocals. The Unsane parallels are immediately apparent. This isn’t just intense, but claustrophobic: less black than steely grey, hard, and with a matt sheen.

A heavy bass trudge and guitar that’s more geared toward texture than tune evoke the spirit of Godflesh and early Swans on ‘The Illusion of Dignity’. However, the braying sax owes more to another Justin Broadrick-related project, the industrial avant-jazz brutality of GOD. It hits hard, both sonically and sentimentally.

And that sentiment is the motivation to produce an album that responds to the fucked-up ties in which we find ourselves, while also revelling in the absurdity of it all. Because the only sane response to such madness as Trump and Brexit and social media and the dominance of global corporations is insanity – to adopt an antic disposition, to appropriate from Shakespeare. In the postmodern climate, an appropriation is appropriate, although Loved lifts more in terms of spirit than anything concrete.

Jesse Mathewson (guitar / vocals) sets out the purpose: “We wanted tones that bash and cut, and for you to feel that desperate part of yourself clawing for a way out. And then, just when things are at their most bleak, you start to focus on what’s actually being said, and you’ll see the humour in absolutely everything that is transpiring before you.”

In surveying the scene that is the socio-political landscape, the humour is pretty bleak – more grim irony and a gallows grimace than a belly laugh. But it is funny in the sense that you couldn’t make any of this shit up. Loved is also pretty bleak and also full-on and brutal. It grinds and points relentlessly, churning guitars carving angularity and discord. And the bass… it hits the guts. Hard.

The tempo and tone don’t alter all that much over the course of the album’s nine tracks (‘This is a Love Test’ notwithstanding, that is – its spacious intro with strolling bass and wandering sax create an eerie calm): like any album by Unsane, it’s a work to simply let pummel you furiously, channelling the fury of US hardcore and beefing it up to industrial strength. And yes, fury is the key: this is the sound of the fury. And while the majority of the songs are fairly short, sharp shots of adrenaline injected with a large dose of acidic bile, the album closes with the eight-and-a-half-minute ‘No Gentle Art’. It goes for the slow build, scratching away, quiet but chugging away on the low end. In that sense, it’s a bit Shellac… and when it breaks out into an explosive cacophony of distortion and braying brass… it’s a bit crazy. And by the end, I’m more than ready to kill everyone. Now.

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A Storm of Light return with a new record. Five years after their last studio album (Nation To Flames, Southern Lord), Josh Graham and his companions Chris Common, Dan Hawkins and Domenic Seita have completed their fifth full length Anthroscene, to be released via Consouling Sounds (EU and UK), Translation Loss (US) and Daymare (JP) on 5th October.

Josh Graham explains the different mood on this record: "Anthroscene ignores genre and freely combines a lot our our early influences. Christian Death, The Cure, Discharge, Lard, Fugazi, Big Black, Ministry, Pailhead, Melvins, Pink Floyd, Killing Joke, NIN, Tool, etc.  Where Nations to Flames was a very a focused sonic assault, this record has more time to breathe, yet still keeps the intensity intact. We allowed the songs to venture into new territory and push our personal boundaries. It’s heavy and intense, but always focuses on interwoven melodies, song structure and dynamic. Bringing Dan Hawkins (old friend and high school bandmate) on second guitar and keyboards, has further expanded the album’s palette".

Lyrically the songs are an honest, brutal and emotional response to what is happening all around us: the disaster of American politics, racism, greed, climate change, climate change denial, nationalism, war, refugees, and how technology is actively changing us as human beings. 

Josh continues… “The current events happening across the planet right now are very overwhelming. It’s difficult not to feel very hopeless at times. This record is a big cathartic release….not offering much in the way of fixes, but serving more as a surreal document of our current times.“

Ahead of the album, they’ve served up ‘Slow Motion Apocalypse’  as a taster. Get your lugs round it here:

7th September 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

Argonaut are back with a new line-up and a new EP. You’d never guess from the title about there being a new EP. Having booked the studio for eight hours, the whole session was wrapped in six, with ‘minimal overdubs or embellishments’ as they put it. This honest, unlaboured approach gives the songs a directness and urgency which is integral to the appeal here.

All clocking in at between two and a half and three minutes, the four tracks on Argonaut’s latest offering are punchy, spiky, and with uncluttered arrangements and lo-fi production values, are perfect examples of punk/new wave crossover, delivered with the zeal of riot grrrl and grunge. And it’s great fun.

The band indulge their pop tendencies with a gloriously joyful rendition of Strawberry Switchblade’s ‘Since Yesterday’ (they do quite a line in covers, as it happens). It’s faithful to the original, but where the original was a shade twee, their take is free, vaguely ramshackle, and has a superbly messy guitar sound fizzing away.

With guitarist Nathan sharing the vocal duties on ‘March!’ – which is built around a simple, cyclical chord sequence played jangly and off-kilter – they come on like Brix-era Fall, and it’s the exuberance that crackles from ‘Girl Talk’ that pretty much serves to define the spirit of the EP.

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Finnish noise rockers Throat who are set to release their highly anticipated and Aural Aggro approved second album, Bareback on August 31st via Svart Records have shared a second track. ‘Born Old’ is described by vocalist/guitarist Jukka Mattila as ’a deliberate effort to break some formulas we always fall into when writing music. To most people it might sound like the same drivel we always do and in spite of the fact that they’re probably right, we’re proud of our song. Lyrically, ‘Born Old’ is about feeling bad in every which way possible. Feeling good is overrated anyway. Plus there’s a Coil reference in the lyrics, see if you can spot that!’

Listen to ‘Born Old’ here:

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Sacred Bones Records – 31st August 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

Magus is Thou’s first full-length since 2014’s Heathen. It’s perhaps fair to say that the three EPs which preceded it – which they forewarned would be ‘a complete sonic departure from Magus and from each other’ – which effectively constituted albums in their own right – did nothing to prepare us for this.

But what exactly is this? As the album’s press blurb acknowledges, they’re ‘often lumped in with New Orleans sludge bands like Eyehategod and Crowbar, [but share] shares a more spiritual kinship with ‘90s proto-grunge bands like Nirvana, Alice in Chains, and Soundgarden’, while ‘the band’s aesthetic and political impulses reflect the obscure ’90s DIY hardcore punk found on labels like Ebullition, Vermiform, and Crimethinc’. All this makes them hard to place.

The album’s opener, ‘Inward’, provides just over ten full minutes of snarling fury that carries enough weight to crush weaker souls who may venture forth expecting any of the soft musicality of the Inconsolable EP (which revealed Thou to be capable of extreme gentility, and, indeed, extreme beauty).

Things turn very black and very sludgy and very heavy on ‘Transcending Dualities’; and while it’s a snarling, low-tuned mess of slow-creeping sludge, there are stray notes that break free to squeal to break the trudging oppression. Bryan Funck’s twisted vocals draw every ounce of excruciation into the mix.

‘The Changeling Prince’ brings grace and grandeur to proceedings, and the hushed intro and expansive sound of ‘Sovereign Self’ (the second of three songs to cross the ten-minute mark) calls to mind Amenra, but his is a whole other level of gnarly, demonic savagery, and the overall sonic density is suffocating.

But Magus does find Thou continue to expand and explore in all directions, and there are three shorter tracks that serve as interludes between the towering monoliths which are the songs themselves: the cacophonous racket of ‘My Brother Caliban’ contrasts sharply with ‘Divine Will’, with its ethereal female vocals and pounding tribal drums. Elsewhere, the sprawling epic that is ‘In the Kingdom of Meaning’ introduces a psychedelic twist to the doomy trudge. And there are passages of extreme delicacy, rich in evocative atmosphere, which draw the lister into quiet clearings with dappled light where an air of calm radiates before the shadows loom, the clouds gather and the next tempestuous storm breaks. Such tension-building passages and contrasts of mood and volume create a compelling dynamic and makes Magus a mighty album which requires attention and exploration of the detail.

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Constellations – 24th August 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

Automatisme is the moniker of reclusive glitch artist and electronic music producer William Jourdain. Transit is the follow-up to 2016 debut Momentform Accumulations, and has been formulated using modular synth racks and a vast library of field recordings.

As the title suggests, Transit is an album of movement. In transit are not only the creators, but the listener, who finds themselves being taken – often at pace – to unexpected destinations. But there is no stopping – each port of call is no more than a glance and a wave out of the window, perhaps a quick photo, before you’re on the move again.

The first suite – ‘Bureau’, a work in four movements, combines ambience and rhythm to often disorientating effect, and explores brooding expanses of sound and juxtaposes them with often jolting beats. ‘Bureau 0’ rapidly shifts from softly swirling cloudlike ambience to snarling, grating overloading noise – and back again. Blast of distorted beats and speaker-crackling overdrive create some disturbing kind of Dalek disco. ‘Bureau 1’ casts shades of gloopy glitchtronica which crackles and hisses, before bleeding into the more overtly groove-orientated ‘Bureau 2’. Groove is all relative, of course, and there are natural non-beat-orientated rhythms, too: shuddering oscillations swell like thunder on ‘Bureau 3’.

‘Registrariat’ stands alone between the ‘Bureau’ and ‘Bateau’ suites, and forges a more overtly dance beat. Only, the tempos shift erratically and sampled voices echo in the swirling sonic mists, and it gets too fast and before long, you feel your heart race increasing and instead of wanting to get down, you’re on the edge of panic.

The two-part ‘Bateau’ builds tonal intensity and volume, culminating in a dense eddying swell of noise that fills the cranium and creates an all-encompassing throb.

And it’s only at the final destination – a roar that abruptly leaves silence – that the album’s overall route becomes clear, a deleterious course from A to B via Z, Q and an unexpected assortment of curious places. You cast your eyes back over the map but it by no means conveys the experience of the territory. And after a pause, a moment of quiet reflection, you can’t quite recall the sequence of events that brought you here. You turn, and start to retrace your steps…

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Nonclassical – cnclss024

Christopher Nosnibor

Langham Research Centre originated through late-night experimental gatherings at the BBC studios, and have evolved to produce long-form radiophonic works, of which 2014’s Muffled Ciphers was inspiredby JG Ballard’s seminal novel -which challenged the very notion of the form – The Atrocity Exhibition. Created with an accumulation of rare and obsolete instruments and devices, and inspired by early electronic composers spanning John Cage, Alvin Lucier, and Delia Derbyshire, Tape Works Vol. 1 is pitched as ‘a collection of modern musique concrète.’

The first thing I noticed was that my copy is number 11 of an edition of 30 promos. This knowledge spurs me to get my finger out and provide some coverage. The second thing I notice, on scanning the track listing, before reading the biography containing the above, is that it features tracks with the titles ‘The Voices of Time’ and ‘The Terminal Beach’ – the former of which is a collection of short stories by Ballard, and the latter of which is the title of one of the stories in that collection, which first appeared in 1963 under the title The Four-Dimensional Nightmare.

On Tape Works Vol. 1, the Langham Research Centre (and doesn’t that sound so Ballardian in itself… I’ve spent hours scanning my collection to see if there’s a character named Langham in Ballard’s oeuvre and have drawn blanks before ultimately deciding it’s better to actually get the work done than disappear down another rabbit-hole of research) explore all the dimensions. And while at times it confirms to the template of so much experimental analogue work, at times it ventures in the truly weird.

‘LOL, Pt 1’ mixes monkey chatters and R2D2 bleeps with eerie abstractions, bibbling bloops, fractured vocal snippets and small samples of laughter enter the mix alongside the kitchen sink to from an uncomfortable, disorientating sound collage.

There’s a lot of stopping and starting, whistling and droning, woe and flutter and infinite disruption. This is the sound of dislocation, a soundtrack designed to induce maximum disorientation.

Bleeps and squiggles, trilling squeals rising to a high-pitched hum collide with woozy, groaning bass frequencies. Notes bend as if on a stretched tape, and tape whips back and forth through heads. There are moments which recall the head-spinning cut-up and drop-in tape experiments conducted by William Burroughs, Brion Gysin, and Iain Sommerville in the late 50s and early 60s.

Birdsong. New snippets. A plane roars overhead. A conglomeration of voices. Static. Interference. A howling wind. Sparse, arrhythmic beats clatter and clang. Yes, this is life: fractured discordant, difficult. Simultaneous. Overwhelming. This is essentially how I feel about it. I cannot compute. I feel dislocated, alienated. I feel tense. Nothing new there. But Just as reading Ballard makes me feel uncomfortable in my own skin, so Langham Research Centre’s fucked-up sampling of old adverts and blending them with minimalist dark ambient twists me into a state of discomfort.

At time gentle, at others abrasive and bordering on the attacking treble whistles and white/pink noise crackle of early Whitehouse and Merzbow, Tape Works Vol. 1 is at no point accessible, easy, cuddly. But it does push the senses and question linearity and accessibility and even the boundaries of musicality. And as such, it fulfils its objective.

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27th September 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

They’re still touring their debut album, Get What You Came For and already Weekend Recovery are moving on with a new EP that marks another step in their ever-advancing evolution.

If the album saw them ditch the Kerrang-radio-friendly Paramore-influenced alternative rock of their early efforts in favour of a more direct, punk style (nevertheless marked by a pop sass that passed a nod to Blondie), this latest effort finds Weekend Recovery get grittier and grungier. And once again, it’s a move for the better, and while it may not exactly be garage but more grunge, it is full-tilt and raw, while also benefitting from a fuller sound that showcases the material to best effect.

The band haven’t been around that long in real terms – I first caught them a couple of years ago in a basement bar in Leeds, and they were good, but clearly still searching for their identity, although Lauren came on like a star in the making, rocking up in a faux-fur coat and ready to kick ass. And not only live but on record, she’s really evolved as a performer, and behind the scenes, as an artist. The same goes for the rest of the band, too: this is solid and assured, and everything about In the Mourning marks a progression.

They’ve dug deep for this, and the press release points out that ‘Lori has doubled down on the transparent window into her own turbulent world that ‘Anyway’ [from the album] provided with a formidable and resonating track in ‘I’m Not That Girl’. The song in question finds the band mining an almost country seem albeit amped up to eleven with driving guitars dominating the chorus of this gut-spilling reflective confessional.

But it’s the choppy ‘Bite Your Tongue’ that grabs the attention as the EP’s opener, a thumping four-square bassline underpinning a quintessential grunge dynamic of chiming chorus-soaked verse guitar and overdriven chorus. And they totally nail it, with a hefty, heads-down riffcentric mid-section. Beneath the breezy woah-oh-oh-oh chorus, there’s a tension that’s both sonic and emotional, and the title track steps it up a couple of notches, propelled by a twisted disco groove that drives an explosive chorus. The guitars are up-front and meaty, and Lauren’s delivery balances melody with a raw passion that comes from churning internal anguish that has to find an outlet.

In the Mourning sees Weekend Recovery take another leap into forging their own identity, growing bolder and braver and more confident. Where they’ll be in another 18 months… I’m on the edge of my seat to see.

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