Archive for July, 2019

Monika Enterprise – Monika94 – 16th August 2019

Released in December, Moment was one of those albums that grabbed my attention by virtue of its ‘otherly’ take on the conventions of electronica. Gudrun summarised it as being ‘stark, somber, sultry, and clever’, and indeed, it was all of those things, as well as being utterly compelling. How you do improve on that?

Ordinarily, I’d have said you don’t mess with near-perfection, and that you certainly don’t improve on anything with remixes. But then, much as I enjoy my reputation for always being right, I’m sometimes happy to be proven wrong, and with Moment Remixes, Gudrun Gut has found sympathetic remixers who all seem to have honed in on similar elements of the album’s tracks, meaning it’s a stylistically coherent collection, and with only four tracks, it doesn’t feel laboured or like it’s milking the material in any way.

The remixes very much accentuate the stark, minimalist aspects of Moment, as well as the retro vibe that amalgamates early DAF with ‘Warm Leatherette’ by way of a blueprint, and it’s the crisp cracks of vintage drum machine snares that dominate and define the sound here, while everything else is backed off. It’s robotic, dehumanised, and in some respects, challenging in its mechanised sterility. Or, as the press release puts it, ‘4 goose-bump inducing tracks ideal for all floors and moods’.

T. Raumschmiere’s remix of ‘Lover’ launches proceedings as a pumping dance track. It’s energetic and energized, but at the same time sultry and bleak, somehow balancing the seemingly contradictory atmospheres or claustrophobia and spaciousness.

The remix of Gut’s cover of David Bowie’s ‘Boys Keep Swinging’ courtesy of Pilocka Krach distils everything that was quirky and interesting about the album version and brings it together in magnificent style, and Dasha Rush and Paul Frick (remixing ‘Baby I Can Drive My Car’ and ‘Musik’ respectively) retain the emphasis on sparse yet ultimately danceable grooves. I don’t dance, but I do dig.

Gudrun Gut - Moment Remixes

Christopher Nosnibor

Arriving at gigs in Leeds drenched is becoming not so much a habit as the norm for me by the looks of things. But unlike recent jaunts across the border to West Yorkshire, where I was caught in torrential precipitation, we’re in the middle of a heatwave. The humidity is off the scale, it’s rammed like a cattle freighter, and I’m not convinced the air conditioning is functioning in the vestibule I find myself standing. Consequently, I disembark with my shirt completely saturated ahead of what I know will be a warm gig in Leeds’ best venue for all things metal. And hot on the heels of Thou and Moloch on the same bill, tonight’s is another absolutely killer lineup.

Things are off to an abrasive start with harsh electronic duo Soft Issues. Gnarly electronic noise fizzes from the PA before hammering beats kick in. Samples fire off all over between the distorted, pain-filled screaming vocals and they’re switching patch-leads with mechanical precision as the mess of treble and pulsating lower-range synth oscillations grind forth. It’s relentless, repetitive, and brutally industrial, and there may be hints of NIN but this is way, way harsher, the obliterative wall of anguish-filled noise closer to Prurient than anything. It hurts.

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Soft Issues

Whipping Post’s goatee-sporting bassist may be wearing an REM T-Shirt, but there’s no Shinny Happy People vibe here. He churns out some strong, strolling basslines that provide the solid foundations for some gritty hardcore racket reminiscent of Touch and Go’s early 90s roster. Theirs is a sound that’s nicely angular, dirty, and dense, with lurching rhythms and no shortage of attack.

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Whipping Post

If things are already warm (and I’m so grateful cans of Scrumpy Jack are only £2.50 as I’m sweating it out faster than I can drink it), then co-headliners Bad Breeding really turn up the heat, blasting in at 150 miles per hour with their brand of raging grindy hardcore. A band whose album liner notes and essays posted on their website reference Mark Fisher and American Psycho while dissecting the politics of Brexit while substantiating points with figures on GDP and a host of verifiable statistics, there’s some qualifiable intellect beyond the blizzards of rage they spew out on stage. And the force with which they do it is monstrously intense and gives rise to some energetic – but extremely well-natured – moshing. And yet again, I’m reminded that the nicest audiences are to be found at the most extreme shows.

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Bad Breeding

For a number, Bad Breeding are the headliners, and fair play. They were storming, and moreover, Uniform are a whole other kind of intense nasty. Their debut, Wake in Fright was a non-stop shoutfest with a pounding drum machine and raw, ragged guitar assault fused into a nightmarish sensory overload. The Long Walk added live drums to the mix, but in retaining that raw, unproduced approach, the sound didn’t change radically, but instead stepped things up a notch. So this was a band I’d been absolutely busting to see live.

And fucking hell, they know how to deliver. Perhaps it’s because the studio work has a live, immediate feel that on stage they replicate it so well – only with the added bonus of being able to see the sweat and the whites of their eyes from the front rows of a venue like this. The set explodes with ‘The Walk’, and it’s nothing short of devastating. Bloody, brutal, raw, it excavates the depths of nihilism and paranoia. They burn straight into ‘Human Condition’, the album’s second track, and it’s pulverising: everything’s overloading, and Michael Berdan’s wide-eyed, rage-spewing delivery is as menacing as hell. Everything blurs and melts with the heat and the blistering intensity of Uniform’s wall of noise. To complain it’s a bit one-key is to miss the point completely: Uniform savagely drive at that seem of gnarly, shouty rage that takes the template of snotty punk and distils it into something that’s so potent it could make you want to puke.

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Uniform

They piledrive home the end of a scorching and frankly punishing set with – I think – a brutal rendition of ‘Alone in the Dark’. I’m already lost. There’s no encore and we filter out. I’m drained, a husk, and so, so happy.

16th August 2019

Their first release in a couple of years finds bassist Lachlan Anderson return to the fold after eight years away. Recorded in just one afternoon, the EP exudes urgency and marks a return to earlier form. The guitars jolt and scratch, sharp treble explosions that crackle like fire. They’re choppy and cut across the rhythm section at blurred, oblique angles, fraying the edges as they side and scrape skewiff and frenetic. The rhythm section pins it all together tight, but it’s attacking, relentlessly kinetic and propulsive, driving, and simultaneously solid and agile.

‘These songs find the band much more raw and harsh than they have sounded in years. Maybe it’s something personal or maybe it’s because the world is on fire’, writes Nate Holdren in his enthusiastic text which accompanies the release. It’s true: New Zealand may not be the place most directly feeling the pain of Trump or Brexit or now Johnson, but it’s clear it’s no place to be. In fact, the bottom line is that there simply is no place to be right now, with rapidly accelerating climate change and, quite simply everything. We’re all doomed. But while we’re all screwed, at least we still have art and music.

‘Casualties of Decades’ slams in hard by way of an opener, machine gun drumming driving a stop/start riff attack that’s a blend of Shellac, Fugazi, and Trail of Dead. ‘What We Choose to Remember’ is also reminiscent of Shellac, the minimal lyrics half-spoken, half shouted, and half buried beneath angular guitar blasts and a throbbing bass that’s less of a groove than a hammer assault. It’s the bass that dominates ‘Everyone Else’ and hold the whole blustering, blistering racket together. ‘Break the Mirror’ rams it home in a blistering minute and 23 seconds, a full-tilt stuttering frenzy of (post)punk noise that goes hell for leather in a scream of feedback.

This is the sound of a band rejuvenated, reinvigorated, a band bursting with energy, passion, and fury. There’s no shortage of things to fuel fury in the world now, and I’m certainly not the only one with a vast thirst for music which channels that fury and frustration.

Die! Die! Die! on Facebook and Bandcamp.

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Die! Die! Die! – O EP

Panurus Productions – 26th July 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

‘Prolific’ is the word. There are a number of artists, with a significant pocket being Japanese noisemakers like Merzbow and Kenji Siratori As Paraponera Clavata, released in March, marked his 41st release since his 2014 debut, it would be fair to place Osaka’s Takahiro Mukai in the ‘prolific’ bracket.

And while Ripples isn’t explicitly a ‘noise’ work, it does find Mukai drilling the listeners senses with some pretty shrill shards of treble atop whupping phased synths. The cover art may depict a perfect tropical ocean, clear and a glorious turquoise / blue washing softly over white sand, but delicate and gentle it isn’t, and Mukai’s approach to minimalism doesn’t equate to quiet or tranquil – simply that less is more.

The first of the album’s four tracks, ‘#437’ is reminiscent of Whitehouse around the time of Birthdeath Experience or Total Sex – only with better production and without the vocals. ‘#436’ follows, and draws abrasion from smooth surfaces. In the distance, a sound like a siren, while an oscillating synth bubbles along, its volume increasing as it moves to the foreground. More phasing pulsations bring a rhythm that stop and starts inconsistently to disorientating effect. The effect is the real achievement here: the compositions on Ripples work in such a way that the component sounds rub against one another to draw the listener’s attention to that peculiar tension that exists in the space in between.

Completely disrupting my sense of order with the non-sequential ‘#439’, Mukai stretches elongated, undulating drones out over some ten and a half minutes to create a deep disquiet, but it’s on the closer, ‘#438’ where Mukai steps up on the noise. Low in the mix, electronic fizzes like shooting stars whistle through the dense droning atmosphere. Over the course of almost nine minutes, the volume and intensity increase, revealing new textures and tones. Stuttering rhythms emerge like desperate messages in Morse code where every sound is a dot. Scrapes and squalls bore into the cranium in the upper frequencies, while a thunderous wind billows through the mid-range, expanding from a rumble to a roar like an approaching helicopter, or an avalanche.

Sitting in my office at home, writing on the hottest day of the year so far, and what may yet prove to be the hottest in the UK on record, the thought of an avalanche carries a rare appeal. But then, whether it be a literal avalanche or merely an avalanche of sound, Ripples fulfils that desire to be submerged and separated from one’s immediate environment.

Takahiro Mukai – Ripples

There are rituals surrounding all acts of surrender; the strange dance we perform before the many endings scattered throughout our lives, before the next beginning rises from the dust. Cold in Berlin’s new album Rituals of Surrender, released on 11th October via London label New Heavy Sounds, offers up thunderous modern fables, crawling from the wreckage of an ordinary life – dark and hopeful – standing tall in the debris.

With new single ’The Power’, Cold in Berlin return with a dark slab of gothic doom just in time to soundtrack a burning world, which they describe as, ‘dark, black and infinitely heavy’. Listen now:

SN Variations – 5th July 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

Having read the press release, and from my previous – albeit somewhat limited – experience of lock grooves, I had expected something overtly technical and perhaps somewhat tedious:

‘A lock groove is one cycle of one groove on a record. This is 1.8 sec cut at 33RPM and 1.33 cut at 45RPM. Having used lock grooves on film scores for British film Waiting for You and The Have Nots directed by Florian Hoffmeister, Corker wanted to explore their potential further in a standalone more percussive release. He used the cutting lathe currently residing in the living room of The Exchange mastering legend Graeme Durham to experiment with different sounds cut onto acetate and then recorded over different durations back into a computer. The process is similar to print processes in the visual arts where there is a high degree of unpredictability in how the eventual lock groove is recorded and then plays. Also because of the softness of the acetate the lock grooves break down as they are re re-recorded causing unexpected effects as the needle carves away the surface of the vinyl. This generative process adds layers of unpredictable noise culminating finally in white noise. These are combined forming frames for performances of violin, percussion and piano. The pieces reflect on the tension between the mechanical and the human gesture/expression and place where they merge.’

The album is split across two sides: ‘Inflow’ and ‘Outflow’, with each comprising three pieces. Rhythm is at the forefront of the pieces. Not solid, beat-built rhythm, but repetitive swells of sound. The close-packed humming loop that forms the foundation of ‘Inflow Part 1’ is gradually overlaid with a range of other sounds which repeat at varying regular frequencies, an immense, dramatic crash leading to a sustained crescendo. ‘Part 2’ pairs an echoing piano note and a picked string which vibrate off one another in a space between accord and discord, and it’s discord that marks the mood on ‘Part 3’. The album’s longest piece finds Corker develop tension through the juxtaposition of elongated drones and stabs of rumbling piano and sharp strings before building to a large swell of sound that fizzes and hisses white noise around the cavernous conglomeration.

‘Outflow Part 1’ creates a different kind of tension, with harsher sounds – buzzing, grating, distorted sounds looped in short, fast repetitions that get into your skull and raise the blood pressure. I’m actually typing visibly faster, and not for the first time I’m aware of the way music affects the listener in ways beyond subliminal mood adjustments. ‘Part 2’ is subtler, more subdued as an ominous drone hovers beneath scratches and scrapes. and leads into the slowly-shifting ‘Part 3,’ which transitions through a gentle pulsation to a wail of straining violin.

And however technical its construction, it’s far from tedious.

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Adrian Corker – Music For Lock Grooves

Christopher Nosnibor

And yet again, after a soaking on my way to see Interpol in Leeds a fortnight ago, the heavens open to deliver a truly tropical downpour, a torrent of fair biblical proportions in stepping out of the station. It’s way to wet to have my phone out to sat-nav to the pub I’ve arranged to meet a mate in, so I take hasty refuge in The Scarboro Hotel.

It’s not hyperbole or dramatic scaremongering to say that this is climate change in effect. It’s been stiflingly hot, we’ve experienced high winds – which is why I left my umbrella at home: Poundland brollies and strong gusts don’t go together – and light showers and some flash downpours. But this precipitation isn’t so much a cloudfall as a monsoon, and as frustrating and mood-despoiling the soaking is, the bigger picture is that this is a sign of things to come. JG Ballard’s 1962 post-apocalyptic sci-fi novel The Drowned World is rapidly looking like future reportage rather than speculation.

It’s a good thing I’m heading to Temple of Boom in my drenched state. Live music invariably proves itself to be a mod-lifter, or at least the best conduit to a window of escapism, and never more than a night of full-throttle metal. It’s a genre I’ve come to appreciate almost exponentially over the last decade after spending years completely disinterested and dismissive. The irony that I considered metal somehow juvenile and primitive isn’t lost as I realise I’ve grown to grasp the sheer diversity of the – infinitely fragmented – genre, as well as the benefits of untrammelled catharsis as a form of therapy.

The tip I’d had ahead of the show suggested Vonnis were pedlars of fairly standard grindy thrash, and musically, this is fundamentally true. It’s all in the delivery, and I’m wondering a day on if their front-man’s antics were the result of drunkenness, insanity, or a combination of the two. Their Facebook bio records a history of ‘dislocated shoulders or open leg fractures’ and a ‘disregard for any kind of personal safety’, and they deliver on that. Tonight’s set found this guy piling up (and falling off) monitors, stumbling wildly, stripping from his boiler suit to socks and boxers and ending the set on the flor in front of the stage with his head in a bin. The whole thing was demented, and was a real horrorshow car-crash of a performance – but it was utterly compelling.

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Vonnis

Bismuth are compelling for all the right reasons, bashing out some monumental noise with drums and bass. By which I mean BASS. Arsequaking bass. Head-shredding bass. Immense bass drones that sound like Sunn O))) and Earth circa Earth 2. Simultaneously. Bass channelled through a pedal board the size of a cruise liner to the point it no longer sounds like bass. An age separates the trike of every chord, every explosive, punishing beat. Bismuth grind it out, low, slow and heavy, but with the full frequency spectrum: bass that sounds like a full band lineup with everything up to eleven, or even twelve.

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Bismuth

Tanya Byrne’s vocals range from a delicate and emotionally-charged melodic to full-blooded howl of pain: it’s all integral to Bismuth’s sound and intensity, and the set concludes with Tanya out in the audience, on her knees, shrieking and howling into a wall of feedback. It feels like the purest catharsis, and the entire room is on edge and close to breaking to bring down a devastating finish.

Whereas Bismuth’s sound is textured, detailed, and atmospheric, Moloch go all out for blunt force trauma. Lumbering riffage provides the backdrop to rasping guttural anguish. There’s something about the vocals, which register in the higher regions, and the way they contrast with the shuddering downtuned sludgefest. There’s also the complete lack of pretence or even any real kind of show involved.

“Hiya, we’re Moloch,” says Chris Braddock as he takes the mic. Cue a wail of feedback before everything crashes in and continues to grind away at a gut-churning crawl for the next forty punishing minutes.

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Moloch

With three guitars dominating the six-piece’s instrumentation, Thou have texture and density completely covered. And despite the fact they’ve been going some fourteen years with only two changes to the lineup, they still appear remarkably youthful. The ever-informative Encyclopaedia Metallum locates them in the bracket of ‘Sludge/Drone/Doom Metal’ and lists their lyrical themes as ‘Despair, Revolution, Societal collapse, Death.’ This does nothing to convey the intensity of their albums or the kind of performance they deliver – or, moreover, the nonchalance with which Bryan Funck – wild-eyed and grey-bearded – delivers his velociraptor vocal scream.

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Thou

It should be harrowing, hellish, but is precisely the opposite. To witness a band so finely-honed, channelling everything into a powerful and relentless piledriving assault is a beautiful and uplifting thing: elating, life-affirming. As they thunder through an immaculate set, I find I’m no longer in the room and everyone else has melted away. There is nothing but this moment, in which I find my mind is empty and I am floating, detached, wired into the music alone. Time stops and the sound becomes everything.