Archive for March, 2019

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.

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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.

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Vile Assembly

After releasing "Mining For Gold" and "I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry" alongside the announcement of their forthcoming LP Trinity Thirty, Deadbeat & Camara are thrilled to share "Working On A Building" ahead of the album’s release next month. The Berlin-based Canadian duo reshape the original Cowboy Junkies arrangement into a tense, slow burn. A languid yet insistent bass line anchors hushed, spectral vocals from Monteith, Camara, and guest singer Caoimhe McAlister, while accents of plucked acoustic strings and snippets of mechanical sound harken back to its origins as a traditional work song. Listen to it now in advance of Trinity Thirty‘s release on 26 April.

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Deadbeat & Camara

Panurus Productions / Inverted Grim-Mill Recordings – 22nd March 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

It feels like I’ve been bombarded with spectral oceans lately, what with Teeth of the Sea’s Wraiths and now The Sea to Which the Body is Drawn by Wreaths, the project of Northumberland based artist Michael R. Donaldson, which utilises ‘four track experimentation, aged equipment, drones and field recordings to build haunting soundscapes’ lands in my inbox.

And such soundscapes are precisely what Wreaths deliver here. ‘Sea Lulled | A Spire Remains’ is what you might call a ‘classic’ example of contemporary ambient music, and opens the album in the most spectacularly understated style. It’s background, bit it’s also deep, layered, and multi-faceted.

Listening to the vast washes of sound in context of the album’s title, I become preoccupied with drowning. So often, I’ll describe ambient works as enveloping’ and ‘immersive’, but what is it like to be truly immersed?

‘Sorries’ hangs on a desolate, metallic drone that scrapes and swirls for some nine-and-a-half minutes. Ambient as it is, with soft piano notes ringing out into the air, the dominant textures and tones are harsh mid-range.

It’s a contrast to the titles, which allude to the soft, damp, organic, and also tell dark, depressing tales in Twitter-flash form: ‘Her Ornate Gown Marred by the Sea’; ‘Tides of Soil and Loam, Tides of Wreck and Ruins’; ‘Fell Foul of the Shallows’ – these all tell bleak and harrowing tales in their own rights, oblique hints of tales like tsunamis, tales like the flooding of Mardale Green beneath Haweswater Reservoir in Cumbia, and the creation of Ladybower Reservoir with Derwent village’s church spire rising above the water for some years after the village was submerged.

Water always wins, and even man’s harnessing of water is but finite, a power held on a knife edge.

The final track, the eighteen-minute ‘Timbers Sodden’ is a low, slow drone that hovers and drifts, conjuring the smell and feel of dank dampness, the sensation of slow decay. And herein lies the power of Wreaths: The Sea to Which the Body is Drawn is an album of atmosphere and evocation. It celebrates the transient, the fleeting, and conjures the ebb and flow, the mists and slow tidal pulls to create a listening experience that draws the mind as the sea draws the body.

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Wreaths - The Sea

Buzzhowl Records – 5th April 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

The first time I stumbled upon Beige Palace – a band with a name that simultaneously and contradictorily evokes blandness and grandeur – was at one of their early shows, back in May 2016. They were still ramshackle and difficult, in the best possible way, a couple of years later. On record, Beige Palace capture that awkwardness,

‘Mum, Tell Him’ congeals a discordant cacophony as shrieking feedback grates against a throbbing organ, off-key and out of time, hollered atonal vocals, hoarse, raw and not giving a fuck about musicality bark in the background – and then the rhythm section slams in, angular, stuttering, at which point it lurches into the territories of early Shellac and all things Touch ‘n’ Go, that early 90s noise attack recreated in full effect, and it bleeds into the dissonant racket of ‘Dr Thingy’, half-serious, half irreverent, it tears into a dense bass-driven shouting din reminiscent of the criminally underrated Rosa Mota around two-thirds of the way though. It’s the balance of dual male / female vocals tat does it. that. and the underlying aggression, and the raw, underproduced DIY sound.

Slowing it down, there’s a bit of a Pavement- feel to ‘Candy Pink Sparkle’. It’s stripped back, minimal and unpretentious in its lo-fi nature. In many respects, Beige Palace are prime representatives of the emerging underground scene in Leeds, much of which centres around the rehearsal space CHUNK, in the middle of a bleak industrial estate in Meanwood – it’s dingy, off the beaten track, and consequently affordable. Which also means it’s a community built on a collective desire to make music for art’s sake rather than commercial ends.

The lurching, stop-start ‘Illegal Backflip’ and jolting, sinewy ‘Ketchup Dirt’ both evoke the spirit of the 90s underground, and I’m going way underground in referencing the first album by Pram (but justified in that they would subsequently sign to classic cult label Too Pure). ‘Dinner Practice’ closes in a stop/start jolting mess of guitar that’s overloading the treble, the shouty atonal vocals… it’s so wrongly ace. And I’ve no idea why the album’s called Leg.

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Beige Palace - Leg

Christopher Nosnibor

“Are you a journalist?”

I nod. I don’t like talking when a band is playing. I don’t like other people talking when a band is playing, so why would I do it? It’s rude. And I’m there to watch the band. And so I don’t explain that no, I don’t consider myself to be a journalist or a music journalist, but a writer who happens to write about music often.

She’s already asked me what I’m doing and tried to get a look at my notes – a spidery scrawl barely legible to myself, to which I’d responded by wordlessly waving my A7 pad at her.

Some people just don’t get hints.

Following on from opening acts Steve Hadfield, who’ delivered a set of proficient but slightly static electronica and Dean McPhee, who performed some ethereal, atmospheric guitar instrumentals with the assistance of a bank of pedals that almost filled the venue’s small stage, worriedaboutsatan built their set nicely. One of their trademarks is intelligent structure, and while they’ve woven segments of their latest album’s more delicate parts into their set, they swiftly transitioned from drifting ambience through subtle rhythmic pulsations to propulsive beats, all the while conjuring rich layers of atmosphere. Gavin Miller’s guitar sounds even less guitar-like than ever, as he conjures rippling waves of sonic abstraction from six strings.

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Steve Hadfield

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Dean McPhee

It’s been a long and taxing day, and I’ve consumed more beer than intended, than is wise, I’m switching between tenses, and I’m trying to decipher the narrative of the film projected at the back of the stage. It’s intercut with various black-and-white footage that conveys nothing in itself, but is evocative in its bleakness, and there are flickering light segments, too: beyond this, they play in darkness, visible only in silhouette. Their stage show hasn’t changed dramatically in recent years, but it’s visually striking and effective, and places the immersive music to the fore.

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worriedaboutsatan

Then, halfway through, a couple of women appear at the front and get down to some mum-dancing: fair play, but they don’t need to be exchanging comments about it. I have my earplugs in and am in the zone, perhaps more even than usual in my state of inebriation. It’s the short, chubby one who starts nebbing at my pad – not that I’d have been any happier had t been her taller, slimmer friend.

“Who do you write for?” she shouts in my ear. It’s a shame earplugs only reduce volume and cut top-end rather than muting irritants.

“Me.” I want to tell her to fuck off, but even seven pints in, I’m mindful of manners.

This throws her but she seems to think it’s cool, and she asks yet more questions, and then she starts going on about how she’s worried about my eyesight, writing in the dark and all. I appreciate the concern, but my liver and blood pressure and anxiety are probably more of an issue than my eyes, and besides, I’m wearing tinted glasses at a gig, and if perfect strangers feel the need to worry about anything, I’d say climate change, Brexit, the stranglehold of capitalism, and the simple fact we’re all doomed are more worthy of that worry. Ok, so I don’t appreciate her concern one bit.

Eventually, she leaves me in peace and I’m able to watch the guys bring their set to a triumphant climax to an appreciative response from a home crowd. And deservedly so: the fact they don’t tour often, and when they do, they’re reliably solid, consistently engaging and dynamic in both set formation and performance, and perform with such incredible energy, makes an intimate show like this all the more special.

Burning Witches Records – 20th February 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

No, it’s not a reference to the movie. A revenant is ‘a person who has returned, especially supposedly from the dead.’ It’s a fitting title for the Yorkshire duo’s fourth full-length album: having disappeared, mutating into Ghosting Season and perusing solo projects following their initial flurry of EPs and debut album. It was six years before they would return with Even Temper in 2015, and since then, they’ve maintained a pretty strong work-rate. But, not so healthy as to feel like their output is a constant spate, and as such, a new album still feels like an event.

The write-up says that Revenant ‘marks a slight departure from their previous album, the critically acclaimed Blank Tape, by venturing into more synthesiser heavy pieces, based around dark, brooding atmospheres and switching from the bouncing arpeggios and slow, hypnotic rhythms of 10 minute album opener ‘Skylon’, to the jittering, cinematic rush of ‘Making Your Masks’’.

Revenant in fact begins with a brief introductory passage in the form of the soft-focus, minimal, and haunting ‘Hawk’ with muffled, distant voices echoing over almost subliminally-hushed droning notes, before the aforementioned ‘Skylon’, which inches its way in discreetly with subtle rippling rhythms and slowly building layers and textures. It’s a semi-ambient opus that carries heavy shades of Krautrock: the beats are s backed off as to be non-existent, but the pulsating notes coalesce to a steady, insistent rhythm.

Both the shoegazey, post-rock guitars and glitchy, flickering beats that characterise so much of their work, are largely left in the background and are sometimes virtually absent. Revenant is extremely subtle, low-key, and favours muted hues and abstract shades.

‘Strax’ is propelled by a flickering heartbeat, while the wispy contrails of ‘Making Your Masks’ are underpinned with a slow, deliberate beat and definite notes, and it marks the beginning of a closing sequence which sees a growing solidity of form, segueing into closer ‘Wasteland’, which is more overtly structured, beat-driven. The effect is like swirling mists solidifying, a phantom taking corporeal form.

Revenant is very much an album: a beginning-to-end experience. What it lacks in immediacy, it more than delivers in detail: the attention to subtle forms and also the overarching structure is impressive, but, one also feels somehow intuitive. There’s something special and unique about the interplay between Thomas Ragsdale and Gavin Miller, and it’s this which has always made worriedaboutsatan an act without peers, an act who effortlessly amalgamate styles and forms to create a space outside of time-frame and genre. Rarefied and refined, Revenant represents another step in the evolution of worriedaboutsatan, without denting the arc of their developmental trajectory.

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WAS - Revenant

Anthony Coleman has been a key mover in the avant-garde jazz scene for some 40-odd years. The pianist / keyboard player has built an immense body of work over the course of his career. He’s perhaps best known for his work with the truly seminal John Zorn, as well as extensive contributions to work with Marc Ribot, although he boasts an impressive discography of releases as a solo artist and of albums recorded in collaboration with others.

A writer, film-maker, and academic, Coleman is nothing if not wide-ranging in his talents. John Wisniewski was eager to rap with the legend about his career, his current projects, and his future plans.

JW (AA): What are you currently working on, Anthony?

AC: I’ve got a bunch of projects going on at the same time. One of the major ones is a commission from the Vienna-based chamber group Studio Dan. We’re going to be performing in August and October, both times in Austria. I have been working on a lot of Chamber Music: my last couple of CDs: You (New World) and The End of Summer (Tzadik) were both mostly chamber music. I’ve also been working a lot on solo piano stuff; I came out with this CD this year on the Klopotec label record, recorded in Ljubljana, Slovenia of solo piano stuff and I’m working on another one – I’m actually working on a couple more but one is definitely coming out soon. But these are just the tip of the iceberg – they’re I guess the most important projects. There’s a bunch of other stuff going on: I’m very excited about the trio that I have with Henry Fraser on bass and Francisco Mela on drums. We’ve been starting to play out a lot and I’m hoping to make a record this year. Francisco Mela is an incredible drummer and he’s pushing me into a lot of new areas that are connected to things that I’ve done in the past, but some of those things were only, let’s say, promising or incipient in some way; he’s helping me really realize some ways of using elements of Latin or African rhythmic vocabulary without doing that in an overt or obvious way. Francisco is from Cuba, but that’s not the point. He’s a rhythmic master in the kind of zone where he’s able to move between rhythmic states very freely – pretty effortlessly.

I’m also very excited about my duo project with the drummer/percussionist Brian Chase. That’s a completely different sonic experience; Brian is the most intense and interactive listener you can possibly imagine. I’m also trying to organize a recording of this evening-length piece I wrote last year for the 150th Anniversary of New England Conservatory. It involves around 50 musicians – all from the department I teach in (Contemporary Improvisation). But everything’s in place with that project except for the time to organize everybody and everything again. Some of those pesky students up and graduate and move and stuff like that. And then there’s arranging recording sessions for large ensemble while doing a full-time job… But it will happen!

What is the experience like working with John Zorn?

Well, you’re talking about my history in this case, because it’s been 20 years since I’ve worked with John closely, but it was a very key experience. When you work with John he

definitely pushes you towards a vision of your best work. But it’s one vision of your best work: there’s a certain kind of intensity that he brings out in you that you may not have been aware that that you had, and he pushes you to bring that out, and that’s amazing, but it’s one way of playing and it’s one way of being musically. He is a man with a very strong vision of music and of life and he’s a centrifugal force, and when you’re inside of his orbit it is a world, and when you take some steps out of his orbit you realize that there are other worlds. There were many other words that interested me, but I will say that the 20 years of working closely with him were very, very important to my life. I often say that he was my last teacher because of a certain way that he has of approaching influences and models without too much « respect ». Where I went to school, which is also where I teach now – New England Conservatory – there’s a lot of discussion of models, but I feel like there’s always a little bit too much respect in relation to them. Stravinsky, for example, talked a lot about the problems around this, and John always knew how to use the right amount of force of will to make something his own without too much obeisance to history or tradition or whatever. That was something I needed to get, and it took me a while to learn that lesson. I’m not sure I ever learned it to the degree that John is able to do it, but I figured out a way to do it in my own way.

You have an interest in Hebrew music. Could you tell us about this?

Yes, sure… But you know, when the Radical Jewish Music scene started becoming really important in the early ‘90s one of the things was that a lot of the musicians who are Jewish or who happen to be Jewish didn’t have a lot of background in Jewish music, and that seemed odd – especially in our scene, because one of the things of our scene was that we used material from everywhere. We were very fascinated with material from everywhere. There was a lot of collaging – if you listen to a lot of the music of that time you’ll hear a lot of references to music from all over the world. Music from Asia – Indonesian music, a lot of African music, and then of course if we want to say that Jewish music is « our tradition », it was interesting how little that played a role, and one of the things I like to say now is with all these last 25 years of addressing that this music has become incorporated. It was really truly missing and it needed to become part of the vocabulary and now it is, but I wouldn’t want to say much more than that because it’s an influence on me but it’s not a stronger influence than many other things, and it’s less strong than, let’s say, African-American music which is very, very key to my life, particularly the composer-pianist tradition of Jelly Roll Morton, Duke Ellington, Thelonious Monk, Cecil Taylor, etc.

Do you enjoy klezmer?

I generally don’t like to think about my enjoyment of music in terms of genres. I like to think about people and their work and individual pieces of music. I certainly have pieces of klezmer music which I love very, very much, especially from some of the masters like Naftule Brandwein and Dave Tarras and people like that. I have a relatively large collection of Klezmer records and CDs.

One of the problems I went through in the mid-late ‘90s was the sense that I was starting to become defined as a Modern Jewish musician, and I had problems with this given my background which is in many, many different kinds of things and I was so nervous… I mean, it was a little bit of a conundrum because that scene was the only scene in which I ever felt that I was really central, so there was a little bit of sadness in the idea of possibly giving that up, but like for example if you look at someone like Michael Winograd, he seems very comfortable in his role as Klezmer-defined musician and if you’re comfortable in the role that you’re in then that’s a wonderful thing – that’s how you should be in your relation to your life as a musician, and my identity or self-definition – if you want to put it that way – isn’t about that, it’s about something else. I mean, if you want to find out what it’s about, I guess you would do better to look in couple of my records like the ones I mentioned – the recent ones.

What may inspire you to compose?

Inspiration really can come from anywhere – a lot of experiences. I like words a lot. I like crazy sentences. I like anagrams. I like travel. I like thinking about loss and trying to find a way to make sense out of it. I like movies. I like the way that images take place in time – there’s a great scene in Kiarostami’s Close Up where he just follows a can rolling down the street and just the kinetic nature of that can really inspire me. Time and the way it takes place – movement. I like to think about people who clearly think of the passage of time as a major element in their work and their thinking. I like to say that material is only material but it still is material. In other words, you need material, but when you’ve come up with material that’s not even half the battle.

Do you compose film soundtracks?

I’ve done a few – not very many. I would love to do more. I’ve done them every time I’ve been asked – when I’ve had time. There are a few out there by Peter Stastny and Mike DiPaolo – particularly these two directors. I sure hope that other people ask me at some point and give me enough money so that I can really do it!

Do you enjoy playing to a live audience?

I love it when I’m with my people. When they pay attention. When they’re with me. When we’re grooving together. When I feel the synergy and it’s amazing. You can’t play alone in the house all the time – it’s a different feeling… I used to have a really big circle of friends and now I don’t, and so the social aspect of public music making has become very, very precious and very important. When I was younger the hang after the concert was really, really key. Now that’s never that big of a deal except rarely so it’s like a little precious moment where we have this little communal space. It’s almost like something – I don’t want to say religious, but spiritual in a sense. I’ve been teaching a lot this last few years and last year I felt like the balance between teaching and the rest of my life really got off kilter and I really needed to start performing a lot more again and this year I’m performing pretty much all the time when I’m not teaching, which means I’m a lot more tired than I was but I’m also a lot happier.

Earth announce new album, Full Upon Her Burning Lips, to be released by Sargent House on 24th May 2019. Ahead of this, they’ve unveiled album track ‘Cats in the Briar’, which showcases the evolved sound of the band – now stripped back to core duo of Dylan Carlson and Adrienne Davies, and so resembling, albeit with different instrumentation, their first iteration.

In addition to scaling back on their ranks, Earth altered their previous trajectory by entering into Full Upon Her Burning Lips without a conceptual arc to guide the process, relying instead on their collective subconscious to hone in on the overarching muse as the songs developed. “In the past I’ve usually had a strong framework for an album,” Carlson says. “This one developed over the course of writing and recording. It just felt like ‘Earth’—like just the two players doing their best work at playing, serving the music.” The absence of a pre-existing narrative guiding the compositions meant that the songs were more open and intuitive, often resulting in more terse musical vignettes like the richly harmonic “Exaltation of Larks” or the dreamily itinerant “Maidens Catafalque”.  Yet subconscious impulses gradually created their own subtext for the album. “I wanted this to be a ‘sexy’ record, a record acknowledging the ‘witchy’ and ‘sensual’ aspects in the music… sort of a ‘witch’s garden’ kind of theme, with references to mind altering plants and animals that people have always held superstitious beliefs towards. A conjuror or root doctor’s herbarium of songs, as it were.”

Listen to ‘Cats in the Briar’ here:

Dylan Carlson is also undertaking a succession of solo dates around Europe, including the UK, which are as follows:

MAR 21 Newcastle, UK @ The Cluny

MAR 22 Bristol, UK @ Rough Trade

MAR 23 Manchester, UK @ Soup Kitchen

MAR 24 Birmingham, UK @ The Flapper

MAR 26 London, UK @ St John of Bethnal Green

MAR 27 Brussels, BE @ Botanique

MAR 28 Lille, FR @ La Malterie

MAR 29 Duisburg, DE @ Explorado Museum

MAR 30 Berlin, DE @ Cassiopeia

MAR 31 Prague, CZ @ Futurum

APR 01 Vienna, AT @ Grillx

APR 03 Munich, DE @ Feierwerk

APR 04 Lausanne, CH @ Le Bourg

APR 05 Zurich, CH @ Bogen F

APR 06 Paris, FR @ Sonic Protest Festival

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