Archive for February, 2019

Midira Records

Christopher Nosnibor

The press release informs us that Four Movements Of A Shade is the second solo album by Sarram, and that it ‘features four haunting tracks, that move through different genres like doom, drone, ambient and somehow minimal post-rock, played with just a guitar and some synths. The idea behind that album was to go to the studio without having tracks, just an idea and the mood he had in mind to play an improvisational session. The result was recorded in one day and turned out as a very dark and intense soundjourney. You can feel the temper of the recording session by listening to that record. Sarram recommends very loud volume.’

I can’t recall an album that mentions volume which actually recommends playing at a reduced level, although increased volume can definitely increase or even optimise the level of impact and appreciation, depending on context. Music played and recorded at high volume is definitely best heard at the volume intended: there’s a distinct relationship between volume and frequency, and certain frequencies and notational interplays only occur with the amps up. Many of the bands which stand out as purveyors of dangerous decibels – MBV, Sunn O))), Swans, A Place to Bury Strangers – simply wouldn’t work quiet: and I say that as having witnessed Swans’ show at Leeds Cockpit (no longer in existence) a few years ago. At regular gig volume, they sounded like a band rather than a transcendental sonic force capable of shattering atoms.

Listening to Four Movements of a Shade, the benefits of increased amplification soon becomes clear. It’s got some heft, and while these are countered by extended quieter passages which are often delicate and nuanced, and chime along nicely at ordinary levels, it’s when the crescendos climax that Sarram’s music really needs to be felt vibrationally as well as sonically.

The first movement begins quietly, rising to a bowel-trembling wall of low and mid-range dark ambient droning sonic cloud. Big, barbed, sonorous swells of sound scrape sharp edges, while other aspects of the resonant whirling blackness cast sinister shadows, long and deep: hints of the billowing drone of Sunn O))) build into tempestuous thunder and rumbling, grating storms that cast unsettling atmospherics into the psyche and resonate around the gut, but this is very much a composition of ebb and flow. Nevertheless, while the underlying menace remains undiminished, around the mid-point the darkness yields to dappled sunlight and soft strings, hinting and optimism and freedom. For a fleeting moment, one actually feels somehow lighter, despite the inescapable sense that it’s only the calm before the next storm – an instinctive drag that proves – of course – to be correct. It’s always a matter of when, rather than if….

The album’s second half – comprising the megalithic, fifteen-minute third movement and the final, eight-minute forth – focus on the atmospheric layers and the drifting clouds of drone on drone, occasionally straying into expansive post-rock territory.

If it feels like the grip of darkness is being released, the dying minutes swirl into a deep, dark vortex that leave the listener drained, shattered.

The success – and ultimate power – of Four Movements lies in Sarram’s attention to detail and the compositional awareness: it’s not just the way the crushing weight contrasts with the graceful levity, but the timing of the transitions. Everything is exquisitely poised and placed to yield the greatest effect – cerebral, emotional, physical – and that effect is most moving.

AA

Sarram – Four Movements of a Shade

Advertisements

Modern Technology’s eponymous debut EP got us foaming with excitement the other week, and they’ve now unveiled a video for the song ‘Project Fear’, which pairs the full-throttle guitar abrasion and politically-charged anger with stark, grainy black and white images that seer the retinas. It’s fucking mint, and you can watch it here:

gk rec – 18th February 2019

Gintas K’s catalogue continues to expand at a remarkable rate, and yet again, he demonstrates his deep interest in the production of theory-driven experimentation. However, the theory behind M isn’t necessarily as it may appear, as the text on his Bandcamp page for the release indicates:

Ralph Hopper: Is ‘Mimicry’ a re-imagining of the earlier ‘M’? It appears that ‘M’ is computer music and that ‘Mimicry’ is also computer music but in a live performance if I have that right and thus I’m thinking that your are ‘mimicking’ the earlier release. Maybe not?

Gintas K: well, when you said so it looks quite logical. Music inside is a bit similar. But in fact it is not. It is made using a different vst plugins. M is made from live played files, but later from them is made a collage. Mimicry is made just from real time made files, without any overdub.

In effect, M and Mimicry – released here together under the single monograph banner of M – are the product of a process played forward and then in reverse: first, the live performance collaged and generally fucked with, and second fucked-with sounds played as a live performance.

As a consequence of its modes of production, M is very much an album of two halves, a call-and response, an expostulation and reply, a working as a reworking. Comprising two album-length suites of compositions, ‘M’ and ‘Mimicry’, M was originally ‘played, composed & mastered by gintas k by computer in 2012. M (2012)’, while ‘Mimicry’ was ‘played live / real time & mastered by gintas k by computer’ some five years later in 2017.

‘M’ consists of six compositions, numbered in sequence, with the longest being the first, ‘1m’ which clocks in with just shy of 18 minutes of gurgling digital distortion, hissing static, whistles of feedback and fucked-up overloading, glitching gnarliness that sits comfortably in the bracket of extreme electronica. It’s not the frequencies which hurt: it’s the relentlessly stuttering, juddering, fracturing of sound, the jolting, the jarring the cutting out, the intermittency. By nature, the mind works to fill in gaps, and so the subconscious work required to smooth the tremolo effect of the stammering noise mess is mentally exhausting.

‘3m’ and ‘4m’ are substantial pieces, over seven minutes in duration, while the remaining three are snippety fragments of drone and hum, although they all congeal into a morass of brain-pulping pops and whizzes which crackle and creak and skitter and sizzle in erratic tides of discomfiting discord. And yet there’s something oddly compelling about this sonic sup that bubbles and froths and tugs at the nerve-endings without pity.

My synapses are fried and firing in all directions by the time I’m halfway through ‘3m’, a grinding, grating mess of clipped signals with all dials in the red which resembles ‘A Cunt Like You’ by Whitehouse, minus the ranting vocals. And then on ‘4m’… what is that? Some kind of subliminal vocal? Or is my mind just messing with me as it struggles to find orientation and points of familiarity in the stream of inhuman sound. It’s disorientating and difficult – and these are the positive attributes.

The ten ‘Mimicry’ pieces are perhaps re overtly playful – bleeps and whirs, crackles and pops, all cut back and forth so fast as to induce whiplash – not necessarily in the neck, but in the brain stem as the organ shifts into meltdown as it attempts to process the bewildering back-and-forth transmission of sonic data. Tones bounce and ripple at pace in confined spaces, and much of the sound seems to be in reverse, which adds to the dizzyingly fractured, disorientating sensation. There are dark moments, which hum and throb and drill and yammer and chew at the guts, but overall, the ‘Mimicry’ suite is less dense, less brutal, less painful.

The two sections would have worked as standalone albums, but to hear them side-by-side as contrasting and complimentary works is, ultimately, a more fulfilling experience, despite also being something of an endurance test. Its clear that as much as M challenges the listener, Gintas K is an artist intent on constantly challenging himself. And in an era when trigger warnings, entertainment and safe conformity have infiltrated and now dictate every corner of the arts, Gintas Kraptavičius’ unswerving commitment to pursuing his own interests and ends stands out more than ever.

AA

gintas k - M

Hangman Ho Records – 14th March 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

Every 18 months or so, I get contact from Rick Senley. This has been happening for a good few years now. I like him, and I like his work. There’s a pattern of sorts. He seemingly hibernates for a while, then emerges with a brace of albums, one each from his main projects, Music for Voyeurs and I Am A Man With A St Tropez Tan. Both different sides of the same coin, they tend to be contrasting but complimentary.

So this latest arrives came as something of a surprise: not an album but a single, and representing a new project. Made in Minks sees Senley return to the fold of a band-orientated project after many years operating in a solo capacity, and the international quintet, which initially coalesced in 2014, they’ve been honing their sound before declaring that ‘now is the time’.

Citing influences from Pixies to The Cure, Kate Bush, Black Sabbath and Aztec Camera, Made in Minsk claim to ‘sculpt a unique sound of psychedelic indie thrash folk’. If that sounds deranged, well, yes, it is.

‘Where the Truth Lies’ starts with darkly atmospheric muttering that calls to mind the Cure’s ‘Pornography’, before breaking out into a muscular riff that builds on a thunking bass throb and insistent rhythm that contains elements of The Fall but combines it with the snaking reverby bleakness of The Cure circa Faith and the fiery goth favours of Skeletal Family. It’s retro as, and it’s all the better for it: whereas so many contemporary acts play post-punk through a post-millennial filter of Interpol and Editors, MIM return to source to deliver something that feels authentic in every way, from the sentiment to the production.

Dark, stark, and angular, it’s also hypnotic and catchy, and a really strong song.

AA

Made in Minsk

After sharing the track ‘Dysfunctional Helper’ in late January, Joni Void – the avant-garde electronic project of Montréal-based composer Jean Cousin – is unveiling a second song entitled ‘Abusers’ from his forthcoming album Mise En Abyme. ‘Abusers’ highlights Cousin’s ability to craft gorgeously layered sonic collages, dextrously incorporating minimal percussive elements and melodic tones sampled from Ai Aso’s ‘Most Children Do’ with vocal contributions from fellow Montréal artist Sarah Pagé. Minute snippets of sound fit together in tight sequence, eventually giving way to stretched vocal arcs that remind us of the organic, deeply human instincts that root Cousin’s digital explorations.

Listen to ‘Abusers’ here:

AA

Joni Void

Christopher Nosnibor

Scheduled headliners Ming City Rockers have had to pull out due to a bout of laryngitis. I’m distraught, as I’d been itching to see them again. Thankfully, with Filthy Filthy – a band so filthy they had to name themselves twice – stepping up to fill the slot, we were treated to an alternative choice of middling band with an overreaching sense of self-worth. You can’t please all of the people…

Having headlined the venue not so long back, Weekend Recovery’s first trip to York of 2019 finds them in the strange place of propping up the bill on the night their new single is scheduled to be payed on Kerrang! Radio, after an airing on Radio X the night before. Yes, it really is all happening for the Leeds four-piece right now. And, over the last 18 months, the AA staples have evolved on a massive scale, and they’ve emerged as one of the most solidly consistent live acts around.

 DSCF7526

Weekend Recovery

Tonight, they don’t seem to be quite firing on all cylinders, at least to begin with, and back-catalogue single  ‘Don’t Try and Stop Me’ strikes as an unusual choice of opener, but things definitely pick up as the set progresses. Lori is jogging and lunging by the time they power into the grungey thrashabout ‘Why Don’t You Stay?’ and the guitars start sounding denser and meatier. They wrap up with new single ‘Bite Your Tongue’ and it’s not hard to glean why it’s been piquing radio interest: it’s got mass appeal, but rest assured, it’s not R1.

I’ll admit it: I don’t feel entirely comfortable here. After the whole Dream Nails shitstorm, I’m often self-conscious of being a straight white male in his 40s at the front of the stage taking notes and snaps of female-fronted bands. I’m by no means the only one tonight for either Weekend Recovery or Leeds foursome Purple Thread who’ve stepped in as last-minute additions to the bill.

Liz Mann owns the stage from the second she walks on, busting moves every which way, and leads the band through a tight set of what they call ‘funky punky glitter-drenched rock n’roll’ on their Facebook page, and which to my ears combines elements of classic 70s rock with sassy poppy punk in the vein of Blondie. And yes, there is a bit of a funk groove woven into their guitar-led workouts, but it’s so well executed, I’ll let it pass: they’re so confident and comfortable with what they do, melding the vintage vibe with a contemporary attitude, and they really do work hard. The one minor detraction s that the sound is a bit muffled and lacking in definition, although I gather they didn’t get much, if any, soundchecking in, which means credit is due to both band and sound man for pulling it together. There’s a gutsy swagger to closer ‘Back to New York City’ that says they’re a band well worth seeing again.

DSCF7542

Purple Thread

Filthy Filthy trade in old-school punk: four middle-aged dudes cranking out thudding four-chord riffs with enthusiasm, if not always an equal level of technical proficiency, and that’s fine: it’s punk in the well-worn style of Sham 69 at al, and it’s very one tempo, one attitude, one song. It has its place, but we’re in the territory of punk that’s essentially pub rock with attitude and the amps up, and it’s hard to get excited about it in 2019.

DSCF7592

Filthy Filthy

Still, it’s serviceable, and besides, two outta three ain’t bad.

22nd February 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

Everyone wants to be The Fall, everyone rips off The Fall but no-one actually sounds like The Fall – not even The Fall, at least in their first post Mark E Smith incarnation. That’s only half true: ‘No Man’s Land, the lead single from upcoming debut album Gastwerk Saboteurs sounds very much like The Fall in places. Hardly surprising given the musicians involved. How about the slightly flat, nasal vocal? San Curran’s spent a long time around MES’s work, but then again, flat, nasal vocals are common to both punk and indie bands from over the last 40 years, and he doesn’t end a single line with an ‘uh’, so his delivery isn’t entirely a derivative emulation. What’s more, when he steps up and starts gibbering at pace into a wash of reverb, there’s a vocal energy on display here that The Fall were missing for most of the last decade and a half, and from this alone, it becomes apparent that this is something new, something emergent, something born out of a need to create more than out of a desire to trade on legacy.

So, yes, it has heavy echoes of The Fall, because the musicians involved have been The Fall for the last decade or so: muscular riffs, driving drumming, a certain tension and a nagging repetition provide the core elements of ‘No Man’s Land’, a song which probably articulates in some way the position these four men find themselves. But as Imperial Wax, it sounds like they’re establishing a new home and a new identity.

AA

Imperial Wax