Archive for April, 2019

Cool Thing Records – 19th April 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

BAIT’s eponymous debut last year revealed a very different musical facet of Asylums’ Michael Webster and Luke Branch, switching savvy punky indie for something altogether darker, heavier, and more abrasive.

DLP, the first new material since Bait continues the same trajectory of socio-political antagonism delivered lean and mean. The initialism referring to Disney Land Paris (I wonder if so as to avoid hassle or even litigation, since Disney are notoriously protective of their brand, forcing obscure thrash act Bomb Disneyland to rename themselves Bomb Everything), the song addresses the pressure of life in a society where there is no longer conspicuous consumerism, only a conspicuous lack of consumerism, against the realities of living hand-to-mouth at the very limit of the ever-extending overdraft.

Apparently, we’re all worth it and deserve to be out there, living our best life and making memories to share on social media, while countless people are utterly fucked on zero-hours contracts and even healthcare professionals are reliant on food banks just to eke an existence. And this is where late capitalism has brought us: stressed and conflicted to the point of being semi-functional, alienated and trapped.

The band’s musical reference points – Nitzer Ebb, Depeche Mode, Sleaford Mods, D.A.F, NiN, John Carpenter – are all very much in evidence on this slab of electro-driven frustration-venting.

‘Hooray, hooray, it’s payday’ snarls Webster bitterly over a stark industrial backdrop of stabbing synths and a gut-churningly dirty bass grind that’s melded to a murky, mechanoid beat. It’s as hooky as hell and packs a major punch. It won’t smash capitalism, but channelling anger into a three-minute sonic assault is an ideal way to release some of the tension.

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DLP Cover

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Continuing to stoke the anticipation revolving around their mighty return to the studio and stage, legendary duo Earth have shared another snapshot of their forthcoming LP Full Upon Her Burning Lips. Coupled with a stark black-and-white visualiser, the five-and-a-half minute dirge ‘The Colour Of Poison’ is packed with Earth’s thematically meditative, sonically immense hallmarks and marks a return to heavier territories.

Immerse yourself in ‘The Colour of Poison’ here:

Their ninth studio album, Full Upon Her Burning Lips, is due out May 24th on Sargent House.

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Earth — On Tour w/ Helms Alee:

May 24 Seattle, WA @ Neumos

May 25 Portland, OR @ Doug Fir Lounge

May 28 San Francisco, CA @ Great American

May 29 Los Angeles, CA @ The Echo

May 31 Los Angeles, CA @ The Echo

June 1 Phoenix, AZ @ Rebel Lounge

June 2 Albuquerque, NM @ Sister

June 4 Austin, TX @ Barracuda

June 5 Dallas, TX @ Club Dada

June 7 Houston, TX @ The Secret Group

June 8 Baton Rouge, LA @ Spanish Moon

June 10 Orlando, FL @ Wills Pub

June 11 Atlanta, GA @ The Masquerade

June 12 Carrboro, NC @ Cat’s Cradle

June 14 Richmond, VA @ Gallery 5

June 15 Baltimore, MD @ Otto-bar

June 16 Philadelphia, PA @ Johnny Brenda’s

June 18 Somerville, MA @ ONCE Ballroom

June 19 New York, NY @ Le Poisson Rouge

June 21 Pittsburgh, PA @ Spirit Hall

June 22 Detroit, MI @ El Club

June 23 Chicago, IL @ The Empty Bottle

June 24 Minneapolis, MN @ 7th St. Entry

June 27 Denver, CO @ Marquis Theatre

June 28 Salt Lake City, UT @ Urban Lounge

June 29 Boise, ID @ Neurolux

Crónica – 9th April 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

Useful points worth noting by way of a preface: Unwritten Rules for a Ceaseless Journey

documents three pieces composed for dance, commissioned by Ballet Teatro for the play Revoluções (Revolutions) by choreographer Né Barros. The in three parts are designed to embody formal idealisations of the three decisive layers of time — past, present, and future.

The three tracks each span around fifteen minutes, and the first, ‘Something’s Missing (Utopian) begins with elongated, scraping drones… and continues onwards with ominous hums that swirl and eddy around a barely-audible hissing buzz. A rolling organ while emerges from a clamour of shuffling intangibility to provide a vague semblance of form and instrumental musicality, but the it’s sad and sinister in equal parts, conveying a sense of loss while reminding us that the past is dark. The muttering voices, inextricable individually: are those the voices of the dead?

It seems entirely fitting that the pieces should melt into one another: time always transitions seamlessly, and in terms of life lived, it’s difficult to appreciate the fact that every passing second is stacking up the record of time past as the present slips away instantaneously. It’s also fitting that the present, as represented by ‘The Pulsating Waves (Reality)’ flattens into an indistinguishable mid-range hum that groans and sighs and whispers. Metallic sparks hiss way off on the horizon, forever out of reach. There’s a sense of emptiness and despondency about this inhospitably bleak sonic wasteland, even as it swells into an altogether smoother, denser, broader droning hum. It’s the sound of absence, a dulled absence that lacks dynamism or detail. So much positive, pro-mindful life-coaching material and contemporary self-help verbiage tells us that we should live in the moment; but the fact of the matter is that the moment is invariably empty, bleak, depressing.

‘Don’t Look Back, Run (Trauma)’ is solid advice: it’s impossible to retreat to the past, or to recreate it, despite the booming nostalgia industry’s suggestion otherwise. To commit too much time to reflection is to lose oneself to the past and deny the possibility of progress; but, to run to the future without due attention to history is to be doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past. There is a balance to be found. The album’s final track suggests a certain degree of balance: it’s slow, its form emerging from dragging pulsations drawn out in bowed strings – or ersatz assimilations thereof – which gradually diminish into a rumbling gust of wind, blowing grey, blurred particles into a formless mass. The future is, and will forever be indistinct, unclear, as unpredictable as the weather, fashion, and our fragile emotions. And in the dying minutes, it crumbles to a cloud of grey obscurity, lacking shape, form, and tonality, a vaporous viscosity of… what? Uncertainty. Murky, messy, abstraction. What the future holds, we know not: the present is unsettled, dangerous, turbulent. The present is well out of hand, and the future yet more so.

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Crocodile Records – 26th April 2019

Let’s not deny it: we’re all vain to varying extents. Of course I got a buzz from Amy Studt’s sharing of my review of her last release, ‘I Was Jesus in your Veins’ on Facebook (although more than the buzz, I was genuinely touched by her level of appreciation), and to see Aural Aggravation quoted in the press release for the follow-up – well, that did give me a buzz. That isn’t to say that I crave attention and adulation, and when I say I do this for the love not the money, I mean the love of music, not love I receive for writing all this shit, because, well, it’s not how it is, and I’d kiss a lot more arse if I wanted that kind of adulation and approval.

I’ve digressed before I’ve even begun. ‘Let The Music Play’ is the follow up to ‘I Was Jesus in Your Veins’, and is the second 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 what Amy’s PR describe as her ‘eagerly awaited new album’, which is ‘a narrative diary of depression, hope and redemption’, and ‘a bold and intimate set of heartfelt songs’ which is set to arrive later this year.

‘Let the Music Play’ begins as an intimate acoustic song, but over its duration, layers up with warping synths and infinite incidentals that coalesce to a rich, dense sonic soup. Amy’s vocal is quavering, quiet, intimate, as she reaches upwards and soars with a joyous freedom tempered by a deep-seated melancholy. A magnificent slow-burner, it’s quite simply a great song.

With some live dates upcoming, the indications are that after some wilderness years and a false start a bit back, Amy’s finally getting her career back on track, and the signs so far for the new album are all shades of positive.

Kranky – 10th May 2019

Cristopher Nosnibor

As with its predecessor, Konoyo, Anoyo draws its inspiration from traditional Japanese music, but very much reconfigures it not only through an ambient lens, but through Hecker’s own unique musicality.

Anoyo is very much a sequential, linear work, to the extent that the song titles create poem, and also a form of micronarrative:

That world / is but a simulated blur

Step away from Konoyo / into the void

Not alone / you never were

This sense of narrative also extends to the overall listening experience. ‘That World’ begins tentatively, tightly-wound strings picked, twanging. Washes of sound, reversed, flit like will-o-the-wisps as the tapers run the wrong way and slow, warm pulses flesh out the immense spaces between the notes. It’s ambient, and it’s (superficially) background, and quite hypnotic, but not without points of interest: in fact, while it’s easy to simply allow it to drift past, turning up the volume a way and concentrating reveals almost infinite details and ever-shifting forms. This is where Tim Hecker stands out in his field.

‘Is but a simulated blur’ presents a very different dynamic, dominated by irregular percussion. The arrythmia contrasts with the soft wave forms which drape, mist-like around the beats, which evaporate into the air, and the tracks bleed into one another. Things become fuzzier, less distinct, less clearly focused on ‘Into the void’, as piano notes stutter and glitch, warp and bend in the most disorientating ways.

‘Not alone’ brings bold, thunderous drums, but again the beats are erratic and ever-changing in pattern, before melting into the static-rumbling ‘You never were,’ which fractures and stammers like something’s damaged in the playback mechanism, like something in the process is broken, and the effect is disconcerting, discomfiting.

And so it is that Anoyo subtly transitions from delicate and mellow to something altogether more fragmented and more difficult. The subtlety is the key here: it creeps up on you, barely noticeable… and then, by the end, you find yourself wondering how you got here from there.

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Houndstooth -15th March 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

And We Are Passing Through Silently is pitched as ‘a collection of songs reworked by Abul Mogard between 2015 – 2018’, with the press blurb describing it as ‘the sublime first survey of reworks by [the] cult synthesist’. It’s also keen to point out that while there may only be five tracks on offer, here, the stature of the artists with whom Mogard has had involvement, noting ‘divine renderings’ of songs by Aïsha Devi, Penelope Trappes (The Golden Filter) and nick nicely (heralded by luminaries of the US underground Ariel Pink & John Maus), with the album culminating with Brian Eno’s collaboration with Irish avant-folk band Fovea Hex.

The 2LP, CD and digital editions also feature Abul’s brand new rework of Becoming Animal’s ‘The Sky Is Ever Falling’ which features vocals from Cinder (This Mortal Coil/Cindytalk) and Massimo Pupillo on bass (Zu/Thurston Moore/Stephen O’ Malley),

The album opens with Mogard’s reworking of Aïsha Devi’s ‘O.M.A.’ The minimalism of the original, as well as its woozy atmospherics are substituted for a mellow sonic wash, and while it’s eminently listenable, there is a certain sense of loss. The darker, more disturbing aspects are stripped out in favour of something less psychologically traumatic, but… I’m torn between the function of a remix bringing something different, and it taking out the essence, and this very much feels like a stylised dilution.

In contrast, his rendition of Penelope Trappes’ ‘Carry Me’ distils that essence and concentrates it, while also drawing out three mellow minutes into twelve and a half of droning organ abstraction, and Mogard’s reworking of nick nicely’s ‘London South’ follows the same trajectory, stretching out four minutes of soft, wistful psychedelia into a fifteen-minute drift, with long, sonorous drones expanding to cinematic proportions. The vocals are preserved, but spaced out, pushed to the back, partially submerged in reverb.

Everything reaches a perfect coalescence on ‘The Sky Is Ever Falling’. Which combines cinematic and operatic, minimalism and maximalism, as the sparse yet full, widescreen instrumentation comes to crate the backdrop for a soaring vocal performance that lifts and soars. The piece warps and wefts on a solar wind for almost a quarter of an hour, before the contrails bleed into an eternal scraping drone that creates a soporific calm that flows from foreground to background in an imperceptible transition.

On the one hand, there isn’t much to it, and Mogard’s method is simple – but it’s not only effective, but has ‘signature’ stamped all over it: his style is distinctive, to the point that his reworkings relegate the original artist and their work to a secondary placing while his own sound and style dominate. On occasion such an approach to remixing may appear ‘insensitive’ or even ‘selfish’, but Mogard seems to have established himself as a re-creator more than a remixer, with artists lining up to submit their work to his reworkings, he’s clearly got some leverage in the musical community, and fair play.

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Abul Mogard – And We Are Passing Through Silently

Wonkystuff

What do Neuschlafen do? The York / Leeds collective which features member of myriad other bands and projects seem to exist more in the ether and in theory than as a tangible entity, despite the existence of a handful of recordings, most of which capture live improvisations in collaboration with other artists.

It’s been some time since the trio, comprising John Tuffen (guitar, synthesiser, vocals), Ash Sagar (bass, percussion, synthesiser, vocals) and Jason Wilson (drums, percussion, synthesiser) combined forces to release anything ‘proper’, although What We Do – a rehearsal room recording committee to (virtual) tape on a Tascam DR07-mkII (with no overdubs) at House Of Mook, Leeds on March 24th, 2019 adheres to their improvised, zero-budget, DIY ethos to the letter. Some of the sound is a little muffled and muddy, and the balance isn’t quite what studio ix would aim for, but it does capture the band’s essence and approach a vast expanse, before

With the exception of the twenty-five second ‘Breath #1’ the eight pieces here are all long-form explorations that sit toward the ten-minute mark. The first, ‘The Set-Up’ could be a literal rendition of its title and is more f a soundcheck than a song, with a wild crash and slash of cymbal mayhem and frenetic jazz percussion over a gloopy, strolling bass.

‘A Slow Hand’, with its wandering, repetitive motifs, has echoes of latter-day Earth and conjures a spaced-out-desert rock / folk hybrid played under sedation. It meanders along, before the playing becomes quieter, and it finally sort of peters out. And yet it doesn’t feel remotely disappointing, because it sounds somehow intentional.

The tracks tend to follow a similar flow in fundamental terms: the drums plod along with frequent and explosive, unpredictable fills punctuating the rhythmic line while the bass wanders around casually while returning to its root motif by way of an anchor just when things start to look like the structure is losing shape and the guitar lays down layers of abstraction and textured atmospherics rather than affecting any semblance of melody or tune.

The title track is a definite standout: landing at around the albums mid-point, it steps up the tempo and goes straight into a chunky jazz-tinged krautrock groove. It’s the rhythm section that dominates, while synths waft and ripple and heavily echoed guitar rings out crisp and clean but at a distance. And whereas the other pieces tend to drift, ‘What We Do’ drives and maintain a linear, forward-facing trajectory as it builds through successive slow-burning crescendos.

It’s the percussion that comes to the fore on the closing tryptic, with the 15-minute ‘Divisions’ constructed around a relentless rhythm around which pulsating synths grind and drone in way that calls to mind Suicide’s debut. Somewhere, maybe about halfway through, when the drums have hit an optimal thump and the cymbals are crashing all over, the bass boosts into an approximation of Joy Division’s ‘Isolation’, while monotone vocals, the words inaudible, drone away in the background as the instrumentation stretches out into a vast expanse, before the final cut, ‘to the end’ breaks loose with a thunderous clatter of freeform percussion and sprightly bass that bounds around freely and fluidly to conclude a set that’s simultaneously tense and mellow, an amalgamation of so many disparate elements that renders it difficult to place. And that’s all the more reason to rate this effort, that broadly sits in the brackets of avant-garde, experimental, jazz, and even post-rock and math-rock, albeit at their most minimal and most deconstructed. And that is what they do.

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Neuschlafen – What we do