Archive for February, 2019

Karlrecords – KR064 – 15th March 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

This is one of those made-for-vinyl releases comprising two longform tracks, and comes with a title that has heavy hints of JG Ballard. But then, doesn’t so much nowadays. Perhaps it’s my personal intertextual radar, but it does very much seem that the prescience and influence of Ballard’s work which was often spoken and written of in his lifetime has only become truly apparent in its extent in the last decade. It’s perhaps fitting that while Terminal Desert carries connotations of his more stilted, genre-driven works of the 1960s in its title, its sound calls to mind some of Ballard’s more wayward peers, not least of all William Burroughs and the Tangiers Beat collective.

The accompanying text refers to ‘Jajouka Pipe Dream’ as ‘a clear reference to the Master Musicians of Joujouka, with lots of flutes and percussion’, and describes it as ‘a very rhythmical, ritualistic track.’ And it is. Slow, undulating, dominated by polytonal, polyrhythmic percussion, it marks a thematic revisiting of some of Barakat’s previous work, albeit in a less confrontational and more ambient-orientated setting.

But then, this collaboration marks both a departure and a continuum for each of the contributors. German-Palestinian artist Ghazi Barakat, after playing in rock bands including The Golden Showers and Boy From Brazil, developed the alias Pharoah Chromium, a vehicle for the creation of what he calls “meta-music for meta-people in a meta-world”. Meanwhile, Paul LaBrecque, of vast collective Sunburned Hand of the Man and who usually records as a solo artist as Head of Wantastiquet, contributes guitar and synthesizer to the two tracks.

Less cut-up and less mashed than some of his other stuff, it’s still certainly not rock. It chanks and thumps and conjures an air of obscure eastern mysticism as haunting notes echo through a sonic heat-haze.

‘Planet R-101’ is altogether mellower, less edgy and agitated, rippling out over seventeen minutes of soft synth oscillations that brings together ambience and Krautrock to forge a mellow, immersive sonic expanse, a drifting sea of soft tones and Then, from amidst the wibbly, woozy, spacey ripples emerge some word music / new age pipe drones which echo out into eternity. And then, soaring guitars that are pure prog emerge as if rm nowhere and take the composition to another genre plain.

What to make of it all? Terminal Desert is best absorbed without too much contemplation. That isn’t because it lacks conceptual depth or consideration, but because it’s an album that needs to be given room to breathe without close analysis, for the atmosphere to be fully absorbed.

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Terminal Desert

Clara Engel’s 2017 album, Songs for Leonora Carrington rather impressed us here at Aural Aggravation. So we were pretty pleased to learn she has a new album almost ready. Entitled Where a CityONce Drowned, the album features six new songs, ‘with an instrumentation of voice, electric guitar, cello, guitalele, hammond organ, synthesizer, banjo, electric koto, bass, harmonium, and bowed glockenspiel’.

She says, ‘it is populated by dogs that race through the night sky, the Russian witch Baba Yaga, a meditation on deep time and climate change, wild goats, and a song that arose from looking at a book of Tarkovsky’s polaroids. These songs feel like a product of my time, and also reflect how out-of-step I often feel with my time.

‘I recorded the basis for the album in Bethlehem PA, in the final hours of December 4th, 2018, with Taylor Galassi accompanying me on cello. The last time Taylor and I worked together was in 2009, when we recorded The Bethelehem Tapes — also live-off-the-floor, in one sitting. It felt wonderful and seamless to work together again.’

She’s shared a taster here, and it’s beautiful:

…and we’re very much looking forward to hearing the whole album…. an when we do, you’ll be the first to know.

Spotlights, the Brooklyn-based band whose music finds “that perfect balance between crushing heaviness and dreamier melodies” (WFPK), release Love & Decay on April 26 via Ipecac Recordings. Spotlights’ music is iron tone in a velvet glove. They strike with full force, perfectly balancing the weight and sound spectrum of each instrument. And yet it’s a weight that’s also sublime in it’s beauty, with dream-like vocals encased in the mix of subharmonics. A rich and unctuous vibration that melts in your ears, nourishes your brain, and engulfs you with their warmth, like the gravity of a small planet.

"The Age of Decay encapsulates everything we do on this record,” explains guitar player/singer Mario Quintero. “Musically, it has some of the heaviest moments as well as the most dynamic and melodic. It shows little bits of what we get into throughout the entire album in one track. Lyrically, it reflects on personal points in my and Sarah’s relationship, how things grew from when we met, moving around the country and chasing this thing together. The juxtaposition about love against this backdrop of a world that can be hard to deal with.” Mario continues “It’s intangible, It’s intense. It’s beautiful. There’s an impending darkness underneath everything and a sense of unease, but it’s also honest and vulnerable. It’s just really important to us. Regardless of why anyone might react, that’s why we do it.”

As a taster, they’ve aired ‘The Age of Decay’, which you can listen to here:

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Spotlights - Love

Neurot Recordings – 15th March 2019

James Wells

They probably started off with perfect hearing, but a couple of sessions rehearsing this cacophonous melange at infinite decibels would soon put paid to that. Monastic chorals meet Sunn O))) with the wordless vocal drones that build sinister spirituals that echo into eternity on ‘Vox Dei’, the opening piece on the colossal noise fest that is Metaprogramação by Brazilian act Deafkids. And then all hell breaks loose: ‘Alucinações de Comando’ is a blizzard of lasers, manic percussion, and messed-up vocals echoed to infinity. The overall result comes on like listening to Whitehouse duetting with Dr Mix from across the street.

Metaprogramação is an insane work. Seriously: where are their heads at? Thrumming bass bounces around on the dubby, experimental electro-ish ‘Pacto de Màscaras’, while ‘Mente Bicamerel’ packs a dirty, amped-up groove as it pounds away at a single riff motif – albeit with the occasional chord omission – for what feels like a very long time, but is actually only four and a half minutes. This isn’t to say it’s arduous, but recognises the rewards of repetition.

All of the aforementioned come together on ‘Templo de Caos’, a frenetically drum-driven riot of echoed vocals, grating bottom-end and stun guitars, while ‘Raíz Negativa (Não-Vontade)’ is a mess of murk, with everything as muddy as hell, and even more oppressive as they crank out a repetitive cyclical chord sequence on bass and guitar, while the vocals are more or less lost in the fog. Then again, ‘Vírus da Imagem do Ser’ goes full-on thrash, a hypercharges blur of crusty grind.

Ending in a short, sharp blast of white noise, there isn’t a moment to breathe here. I’ve no idea what the fuck it’s about, but it’s a sonic blitzkrieg that’s nothing like anything else going.

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Deafkids – Metaprogramação

Metropolis Records – 8th February 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

In a sense, I was raised on so-called ‘industrial’. It was the very early 90s and I was in my mid-late teens: Ministry had broken through to the MTV major league with ‘Psalm 69’ and I worked weekends in a second-hand record shop. The other hired hand, who worked when the owner wasn’t around and drove the van carrying the shop’s contents to record fairs on Sundays, was around 15 years older than me, and was massively into all sorts, but particularly punk, new wave, and industrial shit. He’d feed me stuff like Pigface and Lard. Records and CD had a pretty rapid turnover, so recent releases often landed with us for resale within a few weeks of release after a rush of ‘mistake’ purchases off the back of reviews in the music press, and at record fair, it was possible to swipe Wax Trax! remainder12” – which included albums, often still sealed – for a pound apiece.

The fact there was a certain similarity of sound across many of the releases was, in a sense, part of the appeal: the uniformity of industrial civilisation and its attendant culture, reflected in musical from echoed a blank nihilism that simultaneously accepted and confronted the grim harshness of daily reality.

But it’s 2019 and many of the old bands are still cranking out the same trudging grind, and there don’t really seem to be that many emerging bands in the field, making for a genre that’s increasingly stagnant, continually cross-feeding from within itself without drawing inspiration or air from outside its hermetic grey-hued space. The additional contributors featured here is a case in point: the album features contributions from Robert Gorl (DAF), Nick Holmes (Paradise Lost), and Chris Connelly (Revolting Cocks, Cocksure). As a catalogue of luminaries from the scene, it’s cool, but it’s the same catalogue as you might have seen as far back as twenty years ago

Wake Up the Coma isn’t bad by any means, and it certainly has its standout moments. It’s brimming with thumping industrial-strength disco beats, bubbling basslines and stabbing synths, and in this field, songs like ‘Hatevol’ are exemplary. The minimalist slow grind of ‘Tilt’ sounds very like PIG with its woozy, grimy, stop / start synth bass and snarling vocals, fuzzed at the edges with a metallic distortion. Then again, their cover of Falco’s ‘Rock Me Amadeus’ (with Jimmy Urine) stands out for less good reasons: it’s 100% straight, with negligible deviations from the original save for a more industrial beat. And I can’t help but think ‘what’s the point?’ there have been plenty of inspired industrial covers, and I will always cite RevCo’s take on ‘Da Ya Think I’m Sexy’ as an example of irreverent and inventive adaptation.

No-one looking for a solid Front Line Assembly album is going to be disappointed by this. And since FLA, now thirty-three years and almost twenty albums into their existence, are always likely to be preaching to the choir, they’ve delivered firmly with Wake Up the Coma.

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Front Line Assembly – Wake Up The Coma

22nd February 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

I was – for reasons I forget – watching Alain de Botton’s lecture entitled ‘Why You Will Marry the Wrong Person’ the other week. ‘We seem normal only to those who don’t know us very well,’ he says. ‘In a wiser, more self-aware society than our own, a standard question on any early dinner date would be: “And how are you crazy?”’

Maybe I give off a certain vibe, but increasingly, I find myself encountering people who are more up-front about their defects, and while I find I’m still surrounded by stressers, anxietisers, low-mooders, neurotics, etc., at least I get to choose the ones I feel comfortable sharing my time with instead of discovering way down the line that they’re completely fucking nuts. That’s not actually intended as a flippantly disparaging or critical comment, for the record: we’re all fucking nuts, and I’m as warped as anyone.

It’s not just in my personal life I’m a magnet. It’s in my (second) professional life, too that people approach me from nowhere. Sometimes, it isn’t easy to assimilate. My online persona is just that: it isn’t me. Then again, I write, and I put it – a part of myself – out there, daily.

This epic digression is in fact contextual narrative. Having been approached via Twitter, a PR was angling for a review. Close friends are right: I am soft and maybe I am too nice. But then, I don’t want anyone to think I’m actually the guy who does The Rage Monologues live. Said PR was touting the latest single offering from Miel – who is, in fact, Swiss contemporary art collector, singer-songwriter, psychologist, and philanthropist, Miel de Botton, who lives in London. De Botton is the daughter of the pioneer of open architecture asset management Gilbert de Botton, and the sister of Alain de Botton. It’s a small world.

The cover art illustrates the sentiment of a desire to escape, to be elsewhere, to be immersed in someone else, and this conveys the sentiment of Londoner Meil’s new single ‘It’s been such a long hard road / I wait for you /I need your love to get me through / take me away / to the deepest sea / finally you and me together at last’, she sings in a dreamy pop tone against a backdrop of rippling piano, synth strings and understated beats.

“When I wrote this, I was imagining an ideal man whisking me away to the tropics. Understanding and thoughtful, he would be bringing me joy, ridding me of loneliness,” says Meil. It’s pure fantasy escapism, of course, and in some form or another, it’s a sentiment that has a universality to it that’s undeniable.

Neatly wrapped in some deft pop packaging, ‘Take Me Away’ radiates pure quality, and augers well for her forthcoming second album.

Christopher Nosnibor

It may only be nine minutes on foot from the station according to Google Maps, but despite having probably been maybe twenty or even thirty times, I still find myself struggling to find it, even with GPS assistance. I have no idea why: it’s like I have some kind of mental block, or the venue has some kind of cloaking device that blocks my internal geographical radar. And so I’m disproportionately pleased when I find myself within yards of the venue without taking a single wrong turn. And then I remember the bar doesn’t take cars, and despite having intended to get cash at York station, then Leeds station, then en route, I’ve sailed past all of the cashpoints and only have about four quid on me. Even with beer at £2.80 a pint, I might be a bit thirsty at the end of the night.

I still make it back, with cash, before doors, and they’re not quite done soundchecking. The fact I’m considering plugging up just for the soundcheck brings a small buzz of anticipation: we’re here for some hefty riffage, and it’s best experienced at an appropriate volume. If it doesn’t hurt, it’s not loud enough.

Leeds drums and bass duo Calm are an interesting proposition on paper, consisting of John Sutcliffe from Canvas, Humanfly, Kings, Natterers, and Paul Handley from The Plight, Kings and Ladies Night. In the flesh they’re interesting, too: at the opening, oscillating sequenced synth lines bubble along beneath woozy bass before the distortion crashes I like a tidal wave of sludge. The drums are more energetic than the low-BPM grind of the chords. Structurally, the compositions are segmented and almost sound like three or four pieces glued together, but the transitions make for a set that holds the attention well, and as Sutcliffe, on drums, intones mystical droning incantations into a sea of reverb against a wall of low-end that sends vibrations through my steel-toed boots, the experience takes on an almost spiritual quality.

Calm

Calm

A Headless Horse bring a much more sedate atmosphere with mellow female vocals and delicately layered, meticulously structured songs. Their songs are keenly focused on texture and melody. In contrast to Calm and the rest of the lineup, there’s significantly less weight, and less emphasis on volume overall: that isn’t to say they’re quiet, but when they bring in the riffs, they’re not obliterative, but simply denser. Comparisons aren’t everything, but The Cure and Cranes provide fair touchstones here, and Headless Horse demonstrate that they’re capable of delivering mathy post-rock with emotional resonance. Given that this is only their second outing, they show a lot of promise.

A Headless Horse

A Headless Horse

There’s a proliferation of beards tonight, and Dystopian Future Movies are very much a beard band (singer / guitarist Catherine Cawley clearly excepted). They’re also a very much an atmospheric band, and a band who exploit the dynamics of volume to optimal effect, as abundantly demonstrated by the choppy stop/start lumbering riff of ‘Dulled Guilt’ which opens the set powerfully. Their description of themselves as ‘taking a Sonic Youth approach but arriving at some dark place between Neurosis and Chelsea Wolfe’ is pretty accurate, and they pull the listener in with slow-burning ethereality that yields to punishing riffery, without at any time falling into the trap of formula.

Dystopian Futuere Movies

Dystopian Future Movies

This four-date joint tour sees DFM and Grave Lines unveil a collaborative / split EP, and they’re joined on stage by Jake Harding for a killer rendition of ‘Beholden, which begins a brooding whisper, almost folky in feel, before erupting into thunderous power chords The vocal duet is magnificent: the two singers intertwine with Hardin’s baritone croon underpinning Cawley’s graceful, evocatively gothic intonation to conclude a mesmerising set.

Grave Lines stand out as being very much different from their peers by virtue of the exploration of extended quiet passages that are as much dark folk as post-anything, while exploiting tropes commonly associated with post-rock. This imbues the songs with a palpable emotional depth, and when they crash in with the u-to-eleven distortion, it hits hard.

With ragged hair and beard, wrists and shoes wrapped in grubby shreds of bandage, and a dingy off-white vest, Jake Harding cuts a dramatic and tortured figure as he spews anguish and nihilistic fury, his body tense and wracked, over low, slow sludginess; then again, guitarist Oli, with Alan More hair and beard and sporting a torso so tatood as to appear to be wearing a heavily patterned shirt brings a stoic intensity that’s in stark contrast to the laid-back drumming of Julia Owen, who has an airy style of playing that belies the force with which she delivers stick on skin.

Grave Lines 2Grave Lines

Grave Lines

And yet it’s when Harding ceases words and spits a guttural ‘urrggh’ that most succinctly articulates all the pain and frustration the band channels.

Caroline from Dystopian Future Movies returns the favour of providing additional vocals on Grave Lines’ contribution to the new EP, the epic ‘False Flame’, and they take things right down for the penultimate track of a remarkably concise – but suitably hard-hitting – set with the minimal ‘Loathe / Disgrace’, pairing a droning organ sound which quavers against a vulnerable, melancholic vocal performance.

My notes blur to nothing as the band drive the set home with crushing force with ‘The Greave’. And in this high-volume release lies the uplifting joy of catharsis.

12th April 2019

Creativity is one of those things that’s innate, and as such, while it’s something that can be suppressed, sidelined, ignored, overlooked, and can even lie dormant for protracted periods, it’s an urge that never dies.

Karen Haglof stepped in to play guitar with Band of Susans after two of the three Susans who featured in the original lineup departed after the first album and featured alongside Paige Hamilton on 1989’s Love Agenda and the band’s Peel session, also released as an EP before departing to pursue a more solid, and what some might call ‘grown-up’ career’.

Most people in bands have day-jobs on account of the economics of music-making, but few have successful headline careers in medicine. And yet, after building a career as an oncologist for some twenty years, Haglof felt the urge to get back into music. And somehow, she’s found time to release three albums and an EP since 2015 – although their writing and evolution goes back a little further.

Karen says of her music, “I love a heavy drum beat and thick deep bass. I love noise and wall of sound guitars and idiosyncratic rhythms. I love open D and finger style. I love a crunchy guitar. I love sly lyrics and depth of feeling. I love a pop song and a pop groove. I love a dance groove. Does all this come through in my music? I don’t know, but I am always trying for it to come through.”

Tobriano is certainly a lot poppier than anything Band of Susans released, and definitely boasts some tidy grooves, bringing to the fore elements of country and vintage radio-friendly rock. But pop should never be viewed as synonymous with lightweight, weak, or disposable. ‘Humbled and Chastened’ brings some beef, while ‘These are the Things’ brings some jazz brass and a solid groove. Elsewhere, the choppy guitars, insistent drums and raw sax of ‘Favour Favour’ calls to mind the early years of The Psychedelic Furs, which is certainly no bad thing.

To describe Tobriano as ‘mature’ isn’t to do it a disservice or dismiss it as dull: it’s an album that’s laid back, confident, assured. It isn’t about testing limits or pushing boundaries, and it’s in that sense that Tobriano is mature. What it is about is enjoying act of making music, and celebrating musicianship and creativity. And this very much does come through in the music, making for solid listening pleasure.

Karen Haglof online.

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Come Play With Me – 8th February 2019

With some luscious chiming, chorus-soaked guitar, jittery drumming, wandering bass and vocals reminiscent of Mark E Smith circa 1978, Treeboy & Arc’s latest – released through Leeds label Come Play With Me’s singles club, sharing a 7” with Japan’s Jebiotto in a joint effort with Japanese Label Call & Response – is a belter.

As has become CPWM’s signature, this split single showcases a brace of contrasting but complimentary acts, each contributing a classically single-length single – if that makes sense. The medium is the message: 7” singles were, and remain, an artform. Brevity is the key. Giving enough, while leaving the listener wanting more.

And in three and a half minutes, Treeboy & Arc do exactly that, combining hooks with edge, packed into a hell-for-leather song about a car crash.

Jebiotto’s contribution is a shade further off-kilter and a little more difficult, but that’s the benefit and joy of a split 7”. It’s a taster, there’s no commitment, and if one side’s stellar, you’re made. If the other side’s got grower potential, then it’s a double win. And this is very much a double win.

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Treeboy & Arc

Herod have arisen from the ever- prosperous Swiss music scene. Throughout their young 4 years of presence, they have already shared the stage with such acts as Gojira, Crowbar, The Ocean, Carcass, Obituary, Napalm Death and Voivod – Attesting their repute as the bus boy’s of King Herod, serving up whole sides of rare riffs, disposition, beauty and authority.

Initially the brain child of guitarist Pierre Carroz, 2014 saw Herod’s debut release They were None via Mighty Music and a subsequent European tour. Following the departure of original vocalist David, former THE OCEAN (Precambrian) vocalist Mike Pilat was recruited for follow up album Sombre Dessein.

Pilat also plays guitar and Herod are now furnished with a supplementary layer of musicality to complement both heaviness and soundscape aspects of their palette. CARCASS guitar player Bill Steer makes a guest appearance on ‘Fork Tongue’. Watch the video here:

Sombre Dessein is released on 15th February via Pelagic Records.

Herod will also be touring Europe in March + April with The Ocean:

13/03 – DE, Stuttgart – Im Wizemann

14/03 – CH, Geneva – PTR/ L’Usine

15/03 – FR, Lyon – CCO

16/03 – FR, Toulouse – Rex

17/03 – FR, Marseilles – Les Pennes Mirabeau

18/03 – FR, Colmar – Le Grillen

19/03 – FR, Bethune – Le Poche

20/03 – UK, Birmingham – Mama Roux

21/03 – IR, Limerick – Dolan’s Warehouse

22/03 – IR, Dublin – Voodoo Lounge

23/03 – UK, Glasgow – Audio

24/03 – UK, Leeds – Brudenell Social Club

25/03 – BE, Antwerp – Trix

26/03 – NL, Den Haag – Paard

27/03 – DE, Cologne – Club Volta

28/03 – DE, Leipzig – Werk 2

29/03 – PL, Poznan – U Bazyla

30/03 – DE, Bremen – Tower

31/03 – DE, Hamburg – Logo

02/04 – SE, Stockholm – Fryhuset, Klubben

03/04 – SE, Gothenburg – Tradgarn

06/04 – NO, Stavangar – Folken

07/04 – NO, Hamar – Gregers

08/04 – DK, Copenhagen – Vega