Archive for March, 2019

Gizeh Records – 26th April 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

Aidan Baker has done it again: pulling together a brace of collaborators to form a perfect triangle, See Through is a magnificent sum that’s greater than the parts, showcasing the way relinquishing individuality in favour of collectivism can yield something… other. And See Through is decidedly other. The press release describes the process, an evolution and layering: ‘The project was brought to life through Baker exploring textural rhythms created by sampling small, sharp and abrupt sounds on the electric guitar and then sequencing them in a drum machine to form the bedrock of the tracks. Mueller then added his particular, signature brand of intricate, hypnotic percussion to the mix and the compositions began to grow and take shape. The pair agreed that the pieces needed a more human touch and Coloccia was invited onboard, contributing processed vocals via looping, tape manipulation and microphone feedback.

To describe it as ‘ambient with beats’ – a phrase I’ve used to describe worriedbaoutsatan, who sound nothing like this – may be vague, but it’s accurate. It’s all about the slow build… and the percussion. Starting with higher-pitched finger drums, it evolves to a polyrhythmic experience. Insistent tribal drumming hammers a martial beat that underscores wraith-like vocal echoes and soft, supple surges of abstract ambience… the effect is mesmerising, hypnotic. Snaking hints of the exotic twist through the hazy infusions of the sprawling eight-and-a-half-minute ‘Repeat’, which finds the percussion dampened, dulled, yet no less insistent as it clumps and clatters along in the swirling sonic mists.

See Through is an album of evolution, and the tracks seep into one another to form a cohesive but ever-shifting sequence. As is the case in respect the album as a whole, the percussion is key, and changes between each piece, backing off and rising to the fore once more.

‘Summer’ takes a more ambient direction, the beats subdued and submerged, muffled and distant and pulsing through a viscous, subaquatic density, before the title track ventures deeper into darker territory, an unsettling, shifting rumble that shudders and shuffles, suffused with incidental scrapes and vaporous drones which creep in and out of the frame like ghosts, like drifting mists, like so many intangibles. It’s dark, uncomfortable, disorientating, and extremely difficult to pin down -which is precisely its indefinable source of both its appeal and its artistic success. It builds to a scraping crescendo around the 8-9minute mark.

The final track, ‘Harmony in Distance’ wafts drifting ambience over a soft rhythm that builds in intensity, until the soft sonic washes and drifting vocals give way to a rising thunder of drums that drive the album to a tidal climax.

AA

Baker et al

Advertisements

Crocodile Records

Christopher Nosnibor

I thought the title rang a bell when I clocked it in my inbox, and despite kicking out more or less a review a day for the last decade, and despite knocking back at least a couple of units of alcohol for each one, my memory’s not bad, and lo, Amy’s 2019 comeback single was the B-side to her 2015 comeback single ‘Different Coloured Pills’, which I reviewed for Whisperin’ and Hollerin’ at the time. I was quite moved at the time, and I’m equally moved now.

In context, her halting progress is understandable: after immense major-label success aged just 16, before being subsequently being dropped before her 18th birthday, a protracted period of wilderness years plagued by mental health issues are likely attributable to the pressures of fame at a young age, but equally, can be seen as symptomatic of contemporary culture more broadly. Admittedly, it may be a shade contentious to suggest that mental health issues have become a badge of honour or a get-out clause for some, and I need to be clear that I say this as someone who is a strong advocate for bringing mental health issues into the forum of discussion – even though I’m not always the best at opening up myself. We do need to talk about mental health issues – and constructively. And via artistic media is one very positive starting point.

Amy’s slow-phased comeback is an appraisal of her experiences channelled creatively, and this time around, she’s on a different label and the release is part of a bigger project, as outlined in the press release: ‘I Was Jesus in Your Veins’ is the first track and chapter in a series of songs that will be released every six weeks and will ultimately make up the overall story / track listing on Amy’s eagerly awaited new album. A narrative diary of depression, hope and redemption, the new long player is a bold and intimate set of heartfelt songs and is set to arrive later this year.’

It’s telling that the video visuals, and the artwork accompanying the single are blurred, grainy, unflattering, indicating that what we’re getting here isn’t attention-seeking woe-is-me trauma porn, but the work of an artist genuinely using their chosen medium to explore and make sense of their life experience. There’s certainly nothing glamorising suffering here.

It’s an intimate, melodic slice of quintessential indie-pop delivered with an accessible, melodic and easy-going breeziness, but there’s a dark and deeply personal undercurrent that ripples through the fractured lyrical dialogue that also conjures the constant back and forth of the internal monologue of self-doubt and questioning. And in the personal lies the universal, which makes this such a powerful and moving work.

‘I have no expectations as to how it will be received but this album is so deeply personal I feel like I achieved what I was striving for just by creating it,’ she posted n her Facebook page just ahead of release. And that’s the mark of a true artist: this is about the creation rather than the reception. And while deserving of success, it’s also worthy of immense respect. And that’s actually worth more.

AA

Amy Studt

Efrim Manuel Menuck (Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Thee Silver Mt. Zion) and Kevin Doria (Growing, Total Life) have joined forces on the new LP are SING SINCK, SING, out via Constellation on 10th May. As a first offering, the duo have shared the track ‘We Will’, which layers oscillating waves of melancholy drone with plaintive, reverb-cloaked vocals, before eventually coalescing into a determined and hopeful refrain. You can hear it here:

AA

As the title suggests, this is also an interstitial album of sorts, an identity-bridge that leads away from Menuck as ‘solo’ artist and towards SING, SINCK SING which will be the new band name for future work by the duo.

Efrim Manuel Menuck & Kevin Doria Live Dates:
09 May – Montréal, QC @ Ritz PDB
10 May – Toronto, ON @ The Burdock
11 May – Hamilton, ON @ Christ Church Cathedral
16 May – Brooklyn, NY @ Murmrr
25 May – Biarritz, FR @ Festival Usopop
27 May – Limoges, FR @ Le Phare
31 May – Zottegem, BE @ Dunk Festival
01 June – Amsterdam, NL @ Best Kept Secret Festival
02 June – Barcelona, ES @ Primavera Festival
03 June – Poznan, PL @ LAS
04 June – Berlin, DE @ Arkaoda
06 June – Brussels, BE @ Botanique Rotonde
07 June – Diksmuiden, BE @ 4AD
09 June – Paris, FR @ Villette Sonique

AA

SSS

New Heavy Sounds – 1st March 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

There aren’t many Welsh-language bands who’ve made much progress beyond the border: Catatonia only really broke through when they switched to English, and they were pedalling accessible indie-pop tunes, not pulverizingly heavy sludgy doom metal.

And so it seems very much against the odds, that the absurdly (and most certainly not mainstream-media-friendly-monikered) Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard broke into chart territory on the release of Yn Ol I Annwn (Welsh for ‘Return To The Underworld’) the third part of the trilogy of albums that began with Noeth Ac Anoeth in 2015 and 2017s Y Proffwyd Dwyll, and is pitched as ‘the final phase of the band’s first intergalactic voyage.’

And ‘intergalactic’ is a fitting description. The band’s intention was to move even further from the standard doom tropes without losing sight of their origins: this involves pulsating, gloopy synths and rippling waves which introduce the album, before a wibbling waft of retro-futuristic analogue wobbles give way to the album’s first megalithic lumbering riffage on ‘The Spaceships of Ezekiel’. It’s every bit as preposterously huge and epic as the title suggests; galactic and of biblical proportions, with fizzing lasers firing left, right, and centre, all framing Jess Balls dreamy, melodic, almost folksy vocals to create something that’s out of this world, but also has clear ties to vintage Hawkwindian space rock.

‘Fata Morgana’ pursues the folksy aspect further, and colours it with picked guitar that’s pure vintage gothy post-punk and wouldn’t sound out of place on a Sisters of Mercy record circa 1984/85 before the power-chords crash in at the mid-point – from which point it builds, and builds, to a sustained crescendo propelled by pounding percussion.

It’s all in the detail on Yn Ol I Annwn. For all the devastating grind, the ribcage-crushing, heart-stopping heaviness, there are layers and details that make it an album to listen to. The nuance doesn’t reduce the force, but simply makes this an album with more points of interest than your average in its field. The spiralling synth incidentals should sound corny but work incredibly well; it’s perhaps because it’s delivered with both conviction and panache, meaning MWWB rise above pretence to drive it home not only sincerely, but artfully.

Significantly, for all the synth and cello, there’s no shortage of repetitive, grinding riffage, with the thirteen-minute ‘Katyusha’ bringing all the overdrive as the band up the pace and really rock out while synthy fireworks blossom and bloom all around. It bleeds into the slow, heavyweight trudge of ‘The Majestic Clockwork’, and the closer, the ten-minute ‘Five Days in the Abyss’ is a full-weight doom crusher of a climax.

With each release, MWWB have broadened the scope of doom, and Yn Ol I Annwn sees them forge another immense expansion, and further solidify their unique place as trailblazing innovators in the genre.

AA

MWWB

This is it Forever – 15th March 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

It would be perhaps too obvious to quip that worriedaboutsatan / related releases are like busses, what with Gavin Miller’s latest solo offering appearing just weeks after the arrival of the duo’s fourth full-length album, Revenant. It would also be somewhat inaccurate, as both Gavin and Thomas Ragsdale have maintained a steady flow of solo releases in recent years, and, indeed, for much of the band’s lifespan to date.

I’ve variously sung the praises of split singles, and increasingly, split albums are a thing which well-suits the resurgence of both vinyl and cassette releases. Front & Follow’s The Blow series is a clear standout in the field of the split release, with some well-considered (or otherwise wonderfully random) curation resulting in some truly inspired pairings: sometimes, contrasting is every bit as satisfying as complimentary.

This release, according to the label, is ‘the first in a series of splits for the label’, which ‘sees Polypores and Gavin Miller explore their more dreamy, ambient sounds by taking a side of cassette each’.

Miller’s ten-and-a-half minute ‘Dragon Lily’ is a work of delicacy. There is movement, slow, sweeping, the tones soft and warm. There is progression: barely perceptible in the moment, as the listener is carried on the long drift, but definite, as picked notes begin to chime and the sound gradually swells with the scraping drone of an ebowed guitar drenched in reverberating echo.

Polypores’ ‘Those Infinite Spaces’ is more overtly structured, with distinguishable note sequences and sounds that are more ‘synthy’ in comparison to Miller’s abstract washes of sound. This gives the piece a certain sense of solidity, and although mellow and soporific, it’s the repetition the soothes and lulls – until around the mid-point, when everything flattens to an elongated, wavering multi-tonal drone, which quite changes the tone, if not the mood, as the trajectory moves towards a long, slow wind-down.

Individually, and side-by-side, the two compositions work well, and I suspect it’ll be worth keeping an ear out for future split releases from TIIF.

AA

Gavin Miller & Polyspores

Vile Entertainment – 5th April 2019

James Wells

‘Vile Assembly Unveil The Most Controversial Video of the Year,’ shouts the title of the email which crashed into my mailbox to announce the arrival of the promo for ‘Last Century Man’, the latest from Liverpudlian punks Vile Assembly.

How do you possibly quantify that? Controversy requires debate, often heated, passionate, divided, and while it’s not hard to see why their clip, which intercuts images and clips of Donald Trump and The Pope, defaced with crosses, blood spatter, and swastikas, with images of Hitler are likely to spark indignation in some quarters, the fact hardly anyone appears to have noticed, let alone be talking about, the video, which was posted just over a week ago suggests that while it’s been ‘banned’ from two news networks, the controversy has so far been fairly muted.

It certainly isn’t because people don’t shock or offend anymore: if anything, people in the west seem more like to be more sensitive at this point in time than any in recent history. However, the well-worn approaches to provocation, particularly when the targets are so widely unpopular.

Similarly, VA may describe themselves as ‘a band for our times’ with the objective to ‘disrupt the status quo and interrupt the flow of mass indoctrination with a searing honesty designed to energise and unite,’ but ultimately, they’re just another punk band. They’re a good one, and Paul Mason has perfected a Lydonesque sneer, but retreading the ground of the last 40 years isn’t where the revolution starts in 2019.

AA

Vile Assembly