Archive for March, 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

No bones: Santa Sangre was one of the standout albums to land with me last year. The perfect amalgamation of dark-edged 80s synth-pop which took its cues from Depeche Mode and A-Ha, and gritty guitar-driven post-punk, it felt contemporary while also joyously retro. Having found myself in the late 80s (circa ‘87/’88), when the goth of the early/mid 80s was finally cracking the top 40, and could be heard on R1 on a Sunday night and even on Top of the Pops. At a time when pop was altogether darker anyway (I recall, aged 8, seeing Killing Joke perform Love Like Blood’ on TOTP and being rapt), I find myself right at home with this.

For the recording of their third album, the Italian quartet made the journey to Leeds, the heartland of the 80s post-punk / goth scene and equally a hotbed for its postmillennial revival, to work with Matt Peel, perhaps best known for producing Kaiser Chiefs and Eagulls, at The Nave Studios. And all of this shows, and the band have very much continued to embrace their influences to deliver an album that’s both taut and atmospheric.

KI perhaps lacks the immediacy of its predecessor, but that’s no bad thing. This means that instead of kicking in with lasers set to stun at the opening, ‘Dance for You’ makes for a fairly low-key entrance, a thrumming sequenced synth bass and Curesque sweeps overlaid in misty layers, the vocals low in the mix and twisting together wistfulness and melancholic desperation.

It isn’t until the second song, ‘Empire’, that Ki really hits its stride and immediately expands the band’s sonic palette: a yawning shoegaze blur that’s part Ride, part Curve, but filtered through a Jesus and Mary Chain mess of treble noise and driven by a thudding four-square bass, it’s a mid-pace squall of density – and it’s this that really kicks through the driving ‘Fury’, which combines drifting, fractal guitars with a pulsating bass, driving drum track and darkly desperate vocal. It’s the Sister’s circa 84, it’s early Mission, it’s brilliantly crafted, capturing the spirit of the retro zeitgeist.

‘Kanagawa-oki Nai-ura’ broods like all the brooding over droning organs and glacial synths underpinned by a murky funeral rhythm section, replete with dolorous bass before a crunching guitar glides in and

‘Mishima’ slips into dream-pop territory, again taking obvious cues from The Cure – which is no criticism. Is it wrong to chuck in references to early Interpol and Editors? I’ll say no: this is music cut from the same post-millennial post-punk cloth. It’s no longer about uniqueness, but how well influences are assimilated, and here, Japan Suicide show enough capacity for crafting a tune that their stylistic appropriations are more than acceptable.

‘One Day the Black Will Swallow the Red’, which lifts its lyrics from a piece of writing by artist Mark Rothko , with its thumping beat and chunky bass underpinning a wash of hazy guitars, and moody but driving ‘The Devil They Know’ make for a strong finale to a solid album that has ‘grower’ written all over it.

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Japan Suicidie - KI - copertina WEB

Some press releases are special and uplifting and make our day when they land in the Aural Aggro inbox. This is one of those. Because news doesn’t get much better than this.

Hull Doom merchants, The Parasitic Twins today announce a lo-fi heavy cover of the 90s classic ‘Spaceman’ by Babylon Zoo, out on Friday, April 5, 2019 with all proceeds going to The Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM). The single is taken from a split EP with York-based hardcore punks, The Carnival Rejects (released via Bandcamp on May 31st in association with Man Demolish Records). Artwork for the piece was made by Jess Zchorn.

Of the decision to record the cover, drummer Dom Smith comments: "Man, we love Babylon Zoo. This is a classic track that was way ahead of its time, and we just wanted to mess with it, and we’ll probably stress a lot of people out, but use it as a way to bring attention to an incredible cause in CALM."

Of CALM’s importance on a national scale, Dom adds: "Male mental health is becoming more spotlighted every day, and myself and Max [guitars and vocals] want to offer any support we can to spread the word."

For those interested in donating to CALM can do so here:

CALM

The Parasitic Twins will also head out to Europe and across the UK for a run of shows this April with grindcore mates, Boycott The Baptist and Clunge Destroyer:

APRIL TOUR DATES

19th – The Morgue, Leeuwarden – Holland

20th – Muggefug EV, Cottbus – Germany

23 – Bird’s Nest, London – UK

24 – The Parish, Huddersfield- UK

25 – Paradiddles, Worcester- UK

26 – The Bobbin, Lancaster- UK

27 – The Old England, Bristol- UK

28 – Secret Show, Carlisle- UK

For more information visit:

https://www.facebook.com/ParasiticTwinsBand/

Love Love Records – 26th April 2019 – LOVLP03

Christopher Nsnibor

However you remember Sly and the Family Drone, whatever your past experience, and whatever you may expect, the reality of each new entry in their catalogue brings something slightly different.

My first encounter with them was in a live setting, and I was left reeling with images of a bloke in boxer shorts pummelling drums and getting half the audience to join in. I remember noise, rhythms and chaos. Various YouTube footage confirms this is pretty much representative.

All of those elements are present on their studio recordings, but in different measures. It works: it’s a different medium. And moreover, each release reflects an evolution, usually a subtle but nevertheless key shift. And so it is on Gentle Persuaders, the collective who describe themselves as a ‘neo-noise-jazz outfit’ (one suspects that as apt as the description is, there’s an element of tongue-in-cheek here, just as their absurdist track titles aren’t entirely straight-faced) ‘vomit forth a smooth serving of curious and clattering noise not devoid of fun’.

Smooth is perhaps one thing it isn’t, and for that we should all try and be grateful. Challenging, angular, tonally and structurally abrasive, Gentle Persuaders finds Matt Cargill and co. playing to their ever-growing strengths.

The album opens in suitably uncompromising style, with the longest of the four compositions, the fourteen-minute ‘Heaven’s Gate Dog Agility’. It takes its time to get going, and with minimal instrumentation save for elongated sax drones, it has something of a sparse, free jazz feel. The percussion is restrained, distant, muted, and the emphasis seems to be on atmosphere, and – so it would seem at this stage – musicianship. But by the mid-point the drums are full-blooded, and the sax is battling amidst a barrelling wall of extraneous noise. The closing minutes find the rare emergence of an overt structure, a form, with repetition and a coalescence of sound that could almost be mistaken for a tune.

Crashing, head-blasting industrial beats worthy of Test Dept or perhaps reminiscent of Revolting Cocks’ ‘Beers, Steers & Queers’ shatter the air on ‘New Free Spirits Falconry & Horsemanship’. And they continue to pound away for the duration, while the sax screeching becomes ever more strangled and frenzied.

‘Votive Offerings’ ventures into murky, dark ambient territory, and reveals glimmering flickers of light shifting amidst the shadows of sombre drones and unsettling incidentals. It’s a mosaic of fragments: forms start to emerge, solid rhythms kick in, only to halt after a few bars, and if it’s jazz with noise, it’s jazz with noise penned as a soundtrack to the fragmented hallucinatory anti-narrative of Naked Lunch.

It’s this change of mood that renders the finale all the more impactful: beginning stark, sparse, eerie, with single notes ringing out into a sea of black echo and swampy low undercurrents, the spectacularly punny (and so very typical) ‘Jehovah’s Wetness’, a low-end bass grind begins to build the foundations of a swirling sludge-trudge climax. It’s not gentle, but it’s extremely persuasive.

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Gentle Persuaders

Christopher Nosnibor

The Ocean certainly don’t do things by halves. The progressive metal act aren’t afraid to go large, delving wide and deep into major concepts, producing music with a sound to match. The band’s website explains ‘The Phanerozoic eon succeeded the Precambrian supereon, spanning a 500 million-year period leading to the present day, and it has witnessed the evolution and diversification of plant and animal life on Earth, and the partial destruction of it during 5 mass extinction events. Conceptually and musically, The Ocean’s Phanerozoic is the missing link between the albums Precambrian and Heliocentric / Anthropocentric.

Only, they do sometimes do things by halves: their most recent album, Phanerozoic I: Palaeozoic released in November is half of a two-album project that evolved and gestated during the five years spent touring Pelagial.

One suspects the current set of dates for the Phanerozoic tour won’t be the last, especially not with the second phanerozoic album due for release later this year or sometime next.

For all that, I’m actually here to see Herod, having been sold on the gut-churning abrasion of Sombre Dessein, released last month. The inclusion of the Swedish metallers makes much sense in context, given that the album explores the idea of ‘the end of our Judaeo-Christian and thermo-industrial civilisation’. What’s more, vocalist / guitarist Mike Pelat was a member of The Ocean Collective between 2007 and 2009, so there’s almost a sense of community reunion here, which is reinforced when current Ocean singer Loïc Rossetti joins them to complete the carnage at the end of the set – and it’s a strong set, which doesn’t disappoint.

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Herod

With dark, heavy atmospherics emerging from the darkness, they pile in with the first series of crushing power chords as the lights – minimal, blood-red – flare up to illuminate the band. They’ve got three guitars, and about 25 strings between them, which makes for a full, dense sound that brings a fully-weighted assault.

In contrast, with standard guitars, Downfall of Gaia sound a little thin at first, but once the ears have adjusted to the relentless blast of overdrive, they erase any trace of lesserdom. Having entered the stage to a low churning emanating from the PA, they play hard and fast, with the three-way alternating vocals providing texture and a constantly-shifting focus in terms of attention, there’s a lot going on. Frequent changes of tempo and blistering volume interspersed with ambient interludes and subtle piano passages make for a gripping set that’s something special.

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Downfall of Gaia

The Ocean’s legendary lightshow is truly something to behold, and in the intimate setting of The Brudenell, it’s blinding at times. again, they build the atmosphere for a grand entrance: smoke…. Minimal lighting…. A sound that sees Tubular Bells melting into ambience before a booming bass note sounds out and the band filter on stage to appreciative applause – which they repay with epic chords on a grand scale.

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The Ocean

It’s easy to understand the appeal and the reason why fans aren’t only singing along but constantly reaching out to shake hands with the band: their set is varied, textured, expansive, ranging from the deeply proggy, to the gnarly: it’s palatable but powerful and packs no shortage of abrasion, offset with moments of breathtaking grace. And while Loïc Rossetti has possibly the most flexible neck in metal, and displays a most affable demeanour he still plays with aggression and edge. It’s a perfect balance.

COdA / Lonktaar – 20th March 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

This release came my way via master purveyor of noise and drone and occasional collaborator of mine, Dave Procter. The man with more pseudonyms and projects than possibly anyone I’ve ever met – with Legion of Swine, Fibonacci Drone Organ, Wharf Street Galaxy Band, Hundbajs, Dale Prudent, and Trouser Carrier being just a few of his outlets – he’s immensely well-connected (and deservedly respected) in this niche corner of difficult experimental music (with forays into poetry and spoken word and with an angular post-punk band in the mix). I’m therefore assured that anything he recommends will be suitably obscure, and challenging, and probably very good and right up my alley. This is very much the case of Systemet’s När Vintern Kommer Till Sverige.

According to the press sheet, ‘Systemet is a collective that challenges the architecture of a standard band. While the sounds have their roots in early industrial, dungeon synth, dark ambient and noise drone music, only a segment of Systemet is a harsh reinterpretation of the mix of these genres.’ And it is harsh. Meanwhile, according to Dave, it’s a ‘beast’. And it is a beast.

I learn that ‘the aim of this album is to recreate the sensations of the Swedish winter, based on a one-week off-track trek in the Sami area north of mount Kebnekaise, where the cover picture was taken, in the period between autumn and winter 2018.’ Having never experienced a Swedish winter, I’m ill-equipped to comment, but if it really is anything like När Vintern Kommer Till Sverige, I can only conclude that Swedish winters are seriously tough.

I also learn that ‘all sounds were produced by ELI and ELQ synthesizers’ – which, being custom-made, you won’t find in the shops or emulated on-line – on a quadraphonic system, and recorded in dual stereo. The effect is deep, wide, immense.

‘Čievrrajávri’, the first of the album’s four pieces – I’d be reluctant to call them compositions, begins as barely a whisper of wind, a delicate breeze laced with almost invisible, inaudible traces, before the low-gravity bass notes begin to amble and moan in rumbling undercurrents that set an uneasy tone.

Things don’t get lighter or easier from thereon in: ‘Glaciären Brinner’ brings more space-age pulsations, oscillating rhythmic throbs of distorting low-end and murky mid-range over which whistles and screeches. But mostly, it’s about dark washes out found, swirling gurgles that spiral and whip the air. It’s an ever-shifting soundscape of swirling, pulsating darkness, a vortex which sucks the listener in. and it only become s progressively more difficult. It’s perhaps a cumulative effect: scrapes and drones in small doses are simply scrapes and drones, but over the course of almost forty minutes, it slowly becomes increasingly torturous, and När Vintern Kommer Till Sverige offers no respite.

The ‘extended version’ of ‘Gaskkasvággi’ is 11:11 of elongated, grating drone and what sounds like heavy breathing up close to a mic amplified and looped. It’s a shade hypnotic. It’s followed by the final piece, ‘Vy Över Visstas’, Which is the sound of collapse and a protracted final meltdown; circuitry slowing, fizzling to a halt, howling and braying like slain robots in an uncoordinated wash of distortion and stuttering analogue froth.

När Vintern Kommer Till Sverige is indeed a beast: challenging, uncompromising, bridging the gap between Tangerine Dream, Throbbing Gristle and the vast field of contemporary dark ambient / industrial / electronic crossover, it succeeds in pitching unsettling layers of unease in the pit of the stomach.

Systemet – När Vintern Kommer Till Sverige

Gizeh Records – 15th March 2019

Christine Ott has graced the virtual pages of Aural Aggravation on a number of occasions, and has been on my radar for a while. Here, she comprises one half of newly-founded Snowdrops, a France-based keyboard duo formed with Mathieu Gabry.

With Yann Tiersen, Tindersticks, Foudre!… as resumé namedrops, the pair have pedigree. Snowdrops is a soundtrack work, composed for Phuttiphong Aroonpheng’s film of the same name, which has won several awards including Best Film in the Orizzonti section at the Venice Film Festival.

The press release explains that ‘the Thai film trains a poetic look at the void of humanity through the story of two men, a Thai fisherman with peroxide blonde hair and a nameless stranger stuck in a foreign land and supposed to be a Rohingya of Myanmar, whose continuing persecution is constituting one of the biggest human rights scandals of our time’. And so Snowdrops is a film of extreme importance right now. The world is in turmoil, and while culture is supposedly the most evolved it’s ever been, humans right are being eroded, disregarded. Corporations and governments act s if they’re exempt, and yet they all talk of ‘the will of the people’.

According to the press release, ‘Snowdrops’ soundtrack brings another dimension to Aroonpheng’s movie. The duo was especially focused to build their sound here on a frame of keyboards of different generations (Ondes Martenot, Mellotron, MS2000 or Altered keyboards). The color is sometimes dark (‘The Mangrove’, ‘Losing a Friend to Death’), sometimes surrealistic (‘Lights in the Deep), and in the case of ‘Weird Dance’, a suggestion of romance between the two main characters on the rhythm of a dreamy electronic tune.’

A soundtrack’s function must always be to enhance the movie it accompanies, and to add depth and dimension. But my initial response to any soundtrack release is ‘does it work without the visuals?’ And while immersing myself in the work, I ask ‘what visuals, what images does this conjure? What mood does it convey?’ Soundtracks which are reliant on the film they accompany are fine, but are better not release independently. And I’m doubly not a fan of those ‘OST’ works which feature snippets of dialogue or scenes intersected with songs. 20 years ago, it was maybe cool. In fact, it was. It was the way soundtracks were, and showcased classic dialogue that would pass into postmodern parlance. But listening back now to the CD of Pulp Fiction, it sounds somehow naff. And the Trainspotting soundtrack albums aren’t soundtrack albums, but compilations. Has the world changed or have I changed? Perhaps both: there’s an entire generation coming through who haven’t even heard of Trainspotting, let alone its vast cultural impact. Culture has a short memory, and it’s depressing.

Snowdrops’ soundtrack to Manta Ray is very much a musical work in its own right, designed to compliment the film. It isn’t glitzy, it isn’t mainstream.

Sonorous, rumbling pulsations sound out into the depths on the first piece, ‘Introduction / Gemstones in the Forest,’ before soft, delicate sonic lacework begins to drape its semi-abstract from over the fluid framework of the composition as it drifts in a loose, languid form.

‘The Monologue’ may have more solidity for French-speakers, but the mumbled utterances, delivered against a backdrop of distant piano, played as a dolorous, single chord motif, whispering contrails and melancholic atmosphere speaks beyond language. And indeed, language and its abstraction shapes a large part of this album’s organic feel. It bubbles, mellifluous, and isn’t an easy work to grasp any sense of tangibility from.

Much of the album consists of muffled dissonance and unintelligible murmurings, and these work well in the way they conjure deep, dark atmospherics. They do little to convey any sense of filmic narrative, but in context it’s hardly a problem. Manta Ray is abrim with subaquatic abstraction, subterranean, swampy sounds, and exists within a sense of itself. 

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Snowdrops

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.

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Baker et al