Archive for June, 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

I love getting weird shit in the post. Not literal shit, of course, not the kind of shit one might have received for panning The Levellers in a review in the early 90s, but the kind of sonic faeces people I associate with might send me when they have a new release or project in the offing.

I clocked the sender’s name on the envelope: one P.A. Morbid of Middlesbrough. Having been moving in the same circles for a while, the arrival of a package in itself was no major shock, but I hadn’t been aware of anything musical in the offing from this North-Eastern master of bleak lines who, having recently published a collection of poetry split with local luminary Harry Gallagher, has also been working on some flash fiction pieces. It’s not entirely clear where this fits in: on-line sources suggest it was released back in 2017, but the infrequently gigging band also look set to make a rare hometown appearance in July.

Morbs is credited as providing ‘vocals, rhythms, noises’ on this three-tracker, produced in collaboration with Peter Heselton, who’s responsible for guitars, electronics, keyboards, and also rhythms.

Most of those rhythms are sequenced pulsations, with the vintage feel of analogue or at least early, primitive digital drum machines, and overall, the production on this experimental electro effort is primitive to the point of condenser mic in the middle of the room standard. But this kind of straight-to-tape DIY approach is integral to both the ethos and the appeal.

Dingy pulsations drive ‘Das Jenseits’, the first cut on here, and it’s pure Throbbing Gristle. Murky drones and extraneous noise that all sits in the mid-range form a drifting sonic fog. There are vocals lurking in the smog, but they’re distorted and low in the mix: the result is that they’re an abstract disorientating addition to a difficult mess of abstract disorientation.

‘Standing by the Grave’ is more direct: a whipcrack snare cuts though the infinite murk of the guitars while Morbid moans and grunts impenetrably. There are hints of neofolk, but equally goth-tinged post-punk in evidence. The atmosphere is oppressive, dense. You don’t really know what it’s about or what’s going on, but it’s like wading through treacle and a suffocating airless smog that lies thick and heavy.

The closer, ‘what light remains’ is a mercifully short four minutes in duration. Rippling shards and quivering synths shimmer through the atmospheric fog. It’s dislocated, difficult, dark ambient; percussionless desert rock, reverby chords echoing out across space and time rippling in a heat haze.

I’m left dazed, feeling strangely alone and wondering what it was all about.

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Christopher Nosnibor

This is a show I’d been looking forward to for weeks, even months. Arranged as a benefit gig for Mind and Shelter, Aural Aggro and personal faves Modern Technology have pulled together a truly killer lineup for their official hometown EP launch show.

So I arrived at The Victoria a full two hours before loading in and soundcheck was due to begin. Ordinarily I’d be positively crapping myself, a mess of perspiration and palpitations, but unusually, the only reason I’m sweating is because it’s bloody hot. But kicking back with my book in the beer garden outside The Victoria, I’m decidedly chilled.

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I get a message from Owen, Modern Tech’s drummer, asking if I want a pint since he’s arrived and getting a round in. Of course I do: I’m sweating them out faster than I can sink them, and I finally meet him and Chris in person after months of to-and-fro and co-producing a tabloid zine for tonight’s event, which I’ll soon see has tuned out brilliantly.

I walk in during Bruxa Maria’s soundcheck. The snare alone is punishing, and the full band’s run-through is devastating. This isn’t a venue that’s afraid to turn it up. It’s also a really nice space, too, something Owen and Chris comment on as we riff bout work, mental health, merch, and whatever else. The rest of us soundcheck. We’re all buzzing with anticipation. The sound is fucking incredible. And I realise I’m in a room with some of the nicest, most decent people you could find. No bullshit, no posing, just mutual respect and support.

Tim, aka Cementimental, and I take the floor – literally. We’re playing in front of the stage at 8:20. The plan really is as simple as ‘you do what you do, I’ll do what I do. I’ve got maybe 15-18 minutes of material including gaps, and I’ll drop the mic and walk off when I’m done.’ And we stick to the plan. It works better than I could have ever dreamed.

Nosnibor v Cementimental

Nosnibor vs Cementimental – photo by Phil Mackie

I’d been genuinely concerned about my ability to perform, wrestling with a cold that had affected my ability to speak for a full week. Friends had advised me not to perform, but I don’t ‘do’ defeat. I don’t know how long we played for, but I managed all six of the pieces I’d planned – ‘Thoughts for the Day’ / ‘News’ / ‘Ambition’ / ‘Punk’ / ‘Cheer Up… It Might Never Happen’ / ‘Alright’. Tim’s racket was punishing, and spanned broad sonic range, tapering down and going full nuclear with remarkable intuition. It was brutal, and it broke me. And we went down a storm: I was inundated with people – perfect strangers – enthusing about the set, how well it worked. They were all incredulous when I croaked, squeaked, or barked at them that we’d not even met properly, let alone rehearsed even once beforehand.

Lump Hammer – whose front man James I’ve has been sending me stuff from his label for review for a while, but who I’d also not met in person previously – are a different kind of punishing. With pounding drums, and guitar – churning, overloading with distortion – providing the music from the stage, James is in front of the stage with some kind of sacking over this head and eyes. He’s a tall guy with big presence and a lot of hair, and he howls impenetrable anguish into the churning aural abyss of dirgy downtuned grinds, some of which last an eternity. And yet for all the agony, the unremitting catharsis, there’s something immensely enjoyable in this kind of torture.

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Lump Hammer

Exploiting the limitations of a drum ‘n’ bass (no, not that kind) duo arrangement, Modern Technology focus heavily on the rhythmic and the low-end. It’s the perfect backdrop to Chris’ dramatic vocal style: there’s an arch-gothic hint to it, and it lends a sense of detachment and alienation to the heavyweight blasts of disaffection and desolation. Tonight’s show is the first of three of a mini-tour to officially launch their debut EP, and while on record they’re intense, live, they take it to another level. There’s nothing fancy, or even pretty about their performance. There’s no great showmanship, no empty chat between songs, just hard riffs played at hard volume.

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Modern Technology

Things are starting to catch up with be a bit during Bruxa Maria’s set: I get to witness it from the front row, next to the right-hand speaker stack, which is both an optimal spot and handy as my voice is so fucked I can barely speak. And Christ, they’re noisy and intense. The guitars are dirty and distorted, and they play fast and furious, a relentless frenzy of punk and no-wave that tears your ribs open and punches your intestines, laughing at the blood. Gill Dread may be diminutive but she’s one hell of a presence – just on the other side of deranged, her raw-throated scream goes right through you. If I was close to being finished before, I’m utterly spent by the time they bring their set to a roaring close.

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Bruxa Maria

People hang around afterwards to chat, and the merch stall does steady trade. I’m struck by the levels of enthusiasm and appreciation for all of the performers, and not only has the evening drawn a respectable turnout, but a bunch of really great people, the likes of whom collectively demonstrate that however bad sit gets, not everyone is bad shit.

We have more beer, and Owen finds a late-night wrap joint where I join him and the Lump Hammer guys for what I realise is my first proper meal of the day. It’s 3am when I finally hit the hay. Rock and fucking roll. Yeah!

James Wells

And after weeks of torrential rain, temperatures so far below the seasonal average if feel more like a different season, we suddenly find ourselves not experiencing just warmer weather, but day one of a burning heatwave set to last for… two days.

Imbeciles may scoff about so-called ‘global warming’ because they fail to grasp the fact that in some places, like Britain, the melting of the ice caps doesn’t mean we can grow bananas, grapes and coffee beans in our window boxes, and that instead, tropical storms are going to batter us while the coastline shrinks beneath rising sea levels.

So, what do we know? Thanks to the press blurbage, we know that ‘HIN is the new ambient/electronic project of Jerome Alexander, best known as Message To Bears, along with his school friend Justin Lee Radford, also known as The Kids And The Cosmos’. We also know that the ‘Warmer Weather EP’ is HIN’s debut release.

The five songs on offer here are mellow to the max. The beats are so laid back they’re practically soporific, all the tones so soft-focus as to be tantamount to dissipating vapours in a clear blue sky on a hot summer’s day. Yes, this is definitely a hot summer’s day soundtrack. But it’s also completely smoothed out, depersonalised, chilled to the point of total blandness, the Mr Whippy of ice cream. What is there to say? Can I have sprinkles and a flake with that soft vanilla?

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HIN

Following the announcement of IAMTHEMORNING’s new studio album The Bell, due for release on Kscope on 2nd August, the Russian duo, comprising of virtuoso classical pianist Gleb Kolyadin and charismatic vocalist Marjana Semkina have premiered the first single to be taken from the new opus ‘Ghost Of A Story’.

You can watch the video for ‘Ghost of a Story’ here:

Following the announcement of IAMTHEMORNING’s new studio album The Bell, due for release on Kscope on 2nd August, the Russian duo, comprising of virtuoso classical pianist Gleb Kolyadin and charismatic vocalist Marjana Semkina have premiered the first single to be taken from the new opus “Ghost Of A Story”.

Marjana explains more on how “Ghost Of A Story” fits into the album’s song cycle “’Ghost of a Story’ starts the second part of the song cycle that is The Bell, and we decided to launch it with a brighter note to have a bigger contrast with all what comes after. It’s a song about awakening, reinterpreting and questioning yourself and the world and looking for deeper meanings. It’s a song about how pain dims with time – about the fact that in the end, every tragedy that we suffer through is just a drop in the ocean of suffering of men – that we survive anyway. "Nothing feels real, these scars won’t heal – Nothing’s worth tears, it was alright from very start"

The live studio clip was filmed by the band’s long-time collaborator Eggor Kree at Lendok studios in St Petersburg.

The duo’s dedication to writing forward-thinking and thought-provoking music sees them create a new album of impressive depth and playability. A modern blend of rock, classical and folk, The Bell makes use of 19th Century song cycles – a style established by Schubert – that cohesively tells 10 individual stories. Vocalist Marjana Semkina explains in more detail “The Bell is divided into two parts but each song is a story in its own right, all of them are fuelled by human cruelty and pain caused by it. Cruelty is the central theme of the album – together with all the different ways we respond to it and cope with it. This album is multi-layered and is, in many ways, a journey inwards, taking us inside of a mind of a person suffering from abuse or neglect or open hostility of the society or a specific person.

“Aesthetically, the album is based on themes taken from Victorian England’s art and culture, but more in a way of turning our attention to the fact that at its core, humankind isn’t making much progress in terms of emotional maturity.”

The Bell was recorded in March 2019 across Russia, the UK and Canada in several studios: Mosfilm in Moscow; Lendoc and Red Wave in St Petersburg; Noatune in London; The Studio at Sunbeams, Penrith; and Union Sound Company in Toronto. With engineering and mastering handled by Vlad Avy. 

The album features the track “Blue Sea” which featured in demo form on the band’s studio film Ocean Sounds.

The album’s beautiful cover artwork was created by the band’s favoured collaborator Constantine Nagishkin. Marjana explains the imagery “on the cover is a safety coffin bell – it’s a 19th century idea born from people’s obsessive fear of being buried alive, having been provoked by a lot of press attention to supposed cases of premature burials across the country.  and the fact that Edgar Allan Poe frightened many readers by vividly describing the premature burial phenomenon in his short stories.

“One of the inventions to escape such a terrifying ordeal was a so called “safety coffin” that existed in many different configurations, including the one that had a bell attached to the gravestone with a thread that was attached to it and went all the way underground into the coffin so that the when the poor soul awoke  and  on realizing  he’s been buried alive, could ring to let the people outside know what has happened.

“Although the idea is a bit morbid I feel there is hope in the artwork too – no matter how low you are or desperate you think your situation is, you can still call for help, but more than that you have to call for help if you need it”.

16th June 2019

Of course I was always going to be sold on an album with a title like Southern Phlegm. I mean, what’s not to like? Kadaitcha’s third release straddles ambient, drone, industrial, and power electronics to deliver four tracks driven by throbbing pulsating grooves welded to repetitive, cyclical guitar lines, and rent with the gnarliest, nastiest treble-shredded distorted vocals.

The first, ‘Phagocide’ pumps away for over nine minutes. The guitar and synths form a messy sonic fusion, a thick mass of distortion while wibbling space-rock blasts of analogue send blurred neon arcs through the heavily-grained backdrop like shooting stars. ‘Sewerbound’ is appropriately titled as it plunges deeper into impenetrable murk. It’s dominated by clattering percussion, the edges distorted and decayed, while screeding noise howls a vortex of sonic agony. Frequencies collide to create an endless flux of aural incompatibility. Everything is distorted, dirty, there’s malice in every note. The lyrics are impossible to decipher from amidst the sonic blitzkrieg, but there’s nothing about the delivery that suggests there’s any comfort or kindness on offer here.

Slow, brooding ambience builds an unsettling atmosphere during the opening minutes of ‘Datura’, before the overloading guitar crashes in. It’s got the low-end distortion of Sunn O))), but grinds away at a repetitive motif with the bludgeoning brutality of Swans. It’s a full-on kick to the diaphragm.

Closing off, ‘Vulpine Sacrifice’ arrives almost by stealth, a snaking bassline strolls in slow and slow, a stop/start stammer gives it an almost hesitant feel. Circuits fizz, crackle and hiss all over the place, before the final two or three minutes find the conglomeration of elongated hums coalesce to create something approximating ‘music’, akin to a swelling organ drone. But you couldn’t exactly call this brief moment of musicality that draws out to the fade the light at the end of the tunnel: it’s low, slow, and ominous and seems, if anything, to point toward another darkened door which opens onto stairs leading to an eternal abyss.

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Kadaitcha – Southern Phlegm

Focused Silence – FOCUSED0065 – 7th June 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

Shrill. Treble. Not so much chiming as trilling, a sound between a rapid ringing bell and an alarm that drills into the cranium introduces ‘Colophon’, both the album and the title track on this release by ifitisn’t, a duo comprising Robinson & Kalnars – who both have musical pedigree. It’s the jangle of shattered glass and continues for what feels like an eternity, even though it’s only five minutes or so, before dissipating, dispersing into fragments amidst soft clouds of sound punctuated by near-subliminal bumps and scrapes.

According to the press release, ‘ifitisn’t is about the interruptive noise that exists between transmission and the intended reception of the message, the fragments of concrete experience that interrupt hegemony. it is the mapping of emotional and political territories. ifitisn’t is cartographer and rhetoricican’.

They probably realise that absolutely none of this ‘mapping of emotional and political territories’ actually translates through the work itself: the transmission conveys none of the intended reception. They’re probably more than aware that art’s capacity to ‘interrupt hegemony’ is limited at beast, especially in the current climate, especially when that art is obscure and inscrutable. The disparity between the medium and the message are immeasurable, and all that we have to process is ‘interruptive noise’. It’s quite conceivable that that’s the entire point. The fact they’ve gone ahead and done it anyway is what matters. Artistic statements count for less than pissing in the wind, but its through persistence and perseverance and a steadfast refusal to bow or quit that art will ultimately rise above its societal and cultural backdrop. And it’s art, in all of its myriad forms across all media, which makes life worth living.

I’m by no means saying that with Colophon, ifitisn’t are going to have any impact on my life praxis, or make any waves even within artistic circles. But that doesn’t matter.

Random sounds abound on the second piece, the eleven-minute ‘Denity’, which finds whistling digital feedback, dd snorts, disembodied voices and sounds of unidentifiable origin rifting in and out and intersecting with irregular chanking chimes and glooping ripples of analogue waves frothing impatiently. Nine minutes in, some gallic-sounding vibes enter the mix: it sounds at first like an accordion or concertina of some kind, but could equally be a melodica, but it’s soon washed away on a tide of fuzzy extraneous sound whatever it is.

And whatever it is, it’s worth hearing at least once.

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