Archive for August, 2019

Bohemian Drips – BD10 – 30th August 2019

Christopher Nonsibor

January 2017: I was introduced to Microtub on receipt of their album Bite of the Orange.it prompted all kinds of tangential associations, few actually or specifically related to the album’s sonic contents. But then, that’s s often one of the great pleasures of music for me – the ideas and images it has the capacity to unlock. And while more conventional musical forms – especially lyric-orientated works – resonate on a more direct level in that sound and sentiment combine to connect with given emotional states, more abstract works have greater potential for far freer associations.

July 2019: I’m reintroduced to Microtub and reminded that I still don’t really grasp what a microtonal tuba is, and remain amazed by the idea of there being three microtonal tubas in existence, let alone musicians to play them. Because, yes, as the press release informs / reminds us, ‘Microtub is the world’s first and only microtonal tuba trio, exploring Just Intonation and the rich harmonic potential of the tuba. In collaboration with bohemian drips and Ace Tunes they bring us their new release Chronic Shift, featuring recorded material from the stunning “Großer Wasserspeicher” (large water tower) in Berlin-Pankow, mixed with analog synthesizers’.

It gets a bit technical after that: ‘Carefully recorded in binaural audio by the bohemian drips engineers, this unlikely combination of tubas and simple synth pitches provides a meditative and immersive experience, and an auditory glimpse into a truly unique acoustic space. By using Kunstkopf stereophony and the perspective of a so-called dummyhead microphone (Neumann KU-100), the acoustical scenary of the tank was captured in 3D-audio, relocating the listener into the actual recording situation’.

More usefully, we learn that ‘the title track ‘Chronic Shift’ is a rework based on the piece ‘Sonic Drift’, a Robin Hayward composition written specifically for Microtub. Not that I’ve heard ‘Sonic Drift’ to compare, or know if I’d be able discern the connections.

Still, the two pieces on Chronic Shift are yawning longform experiments in organic hum and drone that sound nothing like anything involving an actual tuba. Which is probably for the best.

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The spellbinding new album from Chelsea Wolfe is out in just under a month and today she has given us another glimpse of her more folk leaning sound. Her new single, ‘Be All Things’ is an emotional journey and shows Wolfe at the top of her songwriting game.

Of the track, Chelsea Wolfe says “’Be All Things’ is about navigating the world as a woman: reconciling the soft and the strong, balancing the warrior and the goddess, and wanting to be everything and nothing at the same time. Telling stories through song allows me to explore so many facets of myself; so many lives within. Some days I want to be quiet and reach my roots into the earth, and some days I want to spring up from the ground and be all things.”

“The video is a culmination of footage taken in a few magical locations,” says Wolfe. “Around southwestern Iceland, while shooting the Birth of Violence album cover, inside Moaning Cavern in Northern California – a marble cavern 450 feet deep that I visited as a child and sang in as an adult, sending my voice out as heavy as I could against the powerful dampness and sparkles of the ancient cave walls. A special spot in nature not far from my home where the Manzanita grows up like a red and green tunnel, and a historic California hotel from the Victorian era where many from the past rested their heads.”

Watch the video here:

Neurot Recordings – 2nd August 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

The best collaborations are greater than the sum of the parts, and transcend 2 + 2 = 4 equations of artists playing to type while rubbing up against one another in a predictable fashion. We often hope for more, but artists seldom really deliver.

The self-explanatory Neurosis & Jarboe, originally released in 2003, now fully remastered and with entirely new artwork from Aaron Turner, and available on vinyl for the first time sounds neither like Neurosis nor Jarboe, nor 50/50 Neurosis and Jarboe, but something that draws on the best elements of both to forge something very, very different.

The lugubrious slow grind of Neurosis is present in the low bass churn and the more ethereal elements of Jarboe’s vocals, which have brought grace to Swans since 1986 and her own solo work over a good two decades now. Both artists’ work has a certain timelessness about it.

In context, this is both noteworthy and, if not exactly ironic, a point of cognitive dissonance. In my head, 2003 is recent and this reissue is shockingly close to the original release. But this is the point at which the passage of time and its acceleration comes screaming in my face to remind me that 2003 was sixteen years ago. There are kids who’ve been born and are now of a legal age to raise families and to vote since the album was first released, and yet Swans calling it a day the first time around in ‘96 with Soundtracks for the Blind still feels quite recent. How is this album sixteen years old? Nostalgia isn’t what it used to be, and Neurosis & Jarboe has very much stood the test of time, largely because it doesn’t sound quite like anything else.

‘His Last Words’ is perhaps the most overtly ‘modern’ cut on offer, and after a slow guitar grind, hits a groove that straddles dance and psychedelia. But there’s a deep, dark atmosphere that creeps over this and the album as a whole, with the majority of the tracks stretching out beyond seven minutes and pushing repetitive motives which worm their way under the skin and penetrate the skull by means of sonic bludgeoning.

The nine-minute ‘Erase’ brings some heavy, emotion-wrought doom-country with a distortion-tinged vocal that alludes to a dirgy Come, with Jarboe sounding more like Thalia Zedek in the song’s early minutes before the anguished howl emerges, culminating in a throat-tearing, raw-spewing roar by its uncomfortable climax.

Then, ‘In Harm’s Way’ recreates the woozy two-chord grating attack of early Swans when they were at their most gut-churningly jarring and abrasive, and it hits hard.

So why remaster, and why now? What does it add? According to Steve Von Till, ‘We recorded this ourselves with consumer level Pro Tools back then, in order to be able to experiment at home in getting different sounds and writing spontaneously. The technology has come a long way since then and we thought we could run it through better digital to analog conversion… This new mastered version is a bit more open, with a better stereo image, and better final eq treatment’.

And because they got Bob Weston of Shellac, and engineer at Electrical Audio to work on it, it does sound bloody great and lands with maximum impact. And the new artwork’s rather nice, too.

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Neurosis and Jarboe

Svart Records – 30th August 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

The Portland two-piece described as purveyors of ‘noisy metal’ haven’t wasted time on naming their third album, which lands five years on from 2014’s Here in the Deadlights, and have instead focused on the contents and rendering it as maximalist as possible. There are a fair few duos around at the moment who manage to conjure a full-band sound. It’s impressive, but how do they do it? Big amps and lots of pedals is the usual answer, but with these guys, there’s got to be something more. I mean, the sound is huge. In fact, no, it’s way bigger than huge. Alchemy. It’s gotta be.

The album’s five songs are all at least seven minutes long, and are, without exception, hefty as hell riffmongous monsters, the noisy metal style being very much of the sludgy stoner persuasion, with Melvins being the most obvious and appropriate touchstone. But they’re no half-arsed style appropriators: there’s a lot going on here, and there’s a slew of other elements in the mix. Punk and psychedelia may sound like an awkward combination, but they pull them together effortlessly, along with a dose of really gritty thrash.

‘Caveman Waltz’ doesn’t sound like it’s actually in waltz-time, but steps up from a lumbering knuckledragger of a riff to doubling the tempo halfway through and thrashing out an uptempo throb with spiralling lead fretwork weaving a sonic mesh over the thumping percussion as the vocals go full-throated holler mode.

And they’ve got tricks galore up their (wizard’s) sleeves. The twelve-minute ‘Funeral of the Sun’ melds black metal and prog to create an expansive piece that rages and snarls but also features moments of rich atmosphere and strong melody.

Closer ‘V’ drives in hard with the most overtly thrash riff, but the vocals go all psych and the lead line is mathy and then… my head’ spinning with all of it after just a minute and a half. Nine minutes in and it’s all over.

You’ll likely often read that metal is running out of ideas, and that doomy / stoner / sludge has become a predictable parody of itself. And it’s not entirely untrue. But then an act like Wizard Rifle will present themselves and completely smash all preconceptions with a blend of killer riffs and wild innovation. Here, Wizard Rifle prove that there’s still a lot of ground to be explored through permutation and hybridity, delivering an album that’s solidly rooted in familiar territories, but at the same time explores new ground and doesn’t sound quite like anything else. At least, nothing I’ve yet heard.

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Wizard Rifle – Wizard Rifle

Crocodile Laboratories – 9th August 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

After a faltering start a couple of years ago, Amy Studt’s comeback is properly under way and in full flow now. Over the last few months, she’s unveiled a new track every six weeks from her upcoming album, The Happiest Girl in the Universe which will finally see the light of day after a long gestation and almost equally long run-up.

Building momentum after any setback is hard, and Amy’s had a protracted spell of continuous setbacks after her initial flurry of fame back in her teens. I mean it sincerely and without a hint of patronism when I write that to see her pushing through all of the sludge to emerge a stronger artist with a clear sense of self is inspiring.

Moreover, ‘Overdose’ more than delivers on the promise of an album that gives us ‘a narrative diary of depression, hope and redemption’ and ‘features eleven bold, intimate and heartfelt tracks’. Amy herself describes the song as ‘one of the most personal songs on the album (also one of my favourites)’.

It’s a simple piano-led song with an intimate vibe: Amy’s vocals are close-mic and mumbled in the lower registers, but she soars and imbues every syllable, whether intelligible or not, with emotion. The difficulty in deciphering the lyrics is perhaps significant. It’s not about embarrassment, but about the difficulty of actually committing to verbalising the intensely personal, dredging through those dark places. Digging deep is a purge, and painful. But where the words aren’t clear or audible, the sentiment remains, as does the melody and the

They say that time heals all wounds, but time is a variable quantity which differs for everyone. Some find they’re never ready, never equipped. ‘Overdose’, it’s fair to say, is another document of Amy’s self-help programme, the channelling of creativity as therapy of sorts. The result is wonderful – dark, but ultimately uplifting, conveying a fragility and humanity, not to mention a sense of personal proximity that’s beyond touching, and instead offering something to cling to. And we all need something to cling to, whether we acknowledge this publicly, or even privately.

30th August 2019 – Retratando Voces

Christopher Nosnibor

This split release, which pairs Leeds solo artist Black Ribbon with Nottingham duo Don’t Try, follows up on the former’s remix of Drahla’s single ‘Twelve Divisions of the Day’ and the latter’s 2018 single, ‘JWAFJ’, emerging on a German label. Mixed and mastered by Wayne Adams of Bear Bites Horse Studios, and featuring artwork by Hayden Menzies (METZ), this has got the lot behind it – and it delivers on all of its promise.

Listening to the dark, goth-tinged post-punk vibes that permeate both contributions, it makes sense: you get the impression that however much there’s been a sustained renaissance for all things goth-tinged and post-punk here in Britain (which, let’s face it, hasn’t been especially great of late), these are artists who will likely fare better on the mainland, especially in Germany.

Black Ribbon’s ‘Interception’ arrives in a squeal of feedback before clattering percussion and angular synth discord pave the way for a driving dark disco groove. It’s a magnificently mangled hybrid of DAF, Gary Numan, The Human League and early Foetus. Take away any one of the elements and it’s a different animal, but it’s the collision of all things at once that make it special. Done differently, it could be a straight-ahead electropop tune, albeit with an industrial production and early 80s vibe. But with incidentals exploding all over the place, while the vocals, heavily treated and low in the mix have a robotic tone and veer between blank monotone and rising desperation.

Transitioning through a series of passages with some expansive instrumental segments, it stretches out to build a masterfully epic listening experience. Fading out just shy of nine minutes, its end brings a disappointment that its not much, much longer.

The Big Black comparisons that have been hovering around Don’t Try are of merit in the context of ‘Melancholy Chapters’, the drum machine pounding relentlessly behind a gauze of guitars reminiscent very much of ‘Bad Houses’ from Big Black’s debut. Notably, this was Albini and Co’s attempt to sound like The Cure. And while it captured the claustrophobia of 17 Seconds, it did so with everything cranked up to eleven. Don’t Try bring the goth via Big Back loop full circle here with a pulverising six minutes of hard-hitting bleakness.

However, something about ‘Melancholy Chapters’ calls to mind other acts, notably to my ear The Screaming Blue Messiahs, particularly in the sneering vocal delivery. It’s kinda punk, kinda something more sophisticated. That doesn’t mean it’s not direct, hard-hitting, heavy: if anything, this is denser and packs more impact than their previous releases, which have focused on primitivism and treble.

It may only contain two songs, but this feels like a massive release, a landmark of sorts, and something deserving of a lathe-cut clear vinyl 12”. It’s challenging and likely divisive, with both acts taking something that could be accessible and rendering it with degrees of difficulty. On a personal level, this is much of the appeal: I crave art that makes demands, and admire the makers of the art that does so. But it’s more than that: art that challenges probes into the soul and the psyche, it alerts the senses and makes you feel. Against a backdrop of sameness that induces a numb torpor, we need that jolt, that kick, that buzz to remind us we’re alive. And this does that.

Hayden Menzies Artwork

We usually review albums and live shows. Sometimes we preview them. Following our involvement in the recent Humankind show in London featuring Bruxa Maria, Modern Technology, and Christopher Nosnibor vs Cementimental, this extends the departure into hosting and promotion….

Gig Poster 29 Aug 19

Facebook event? Yep… https://www.facebook.com/events/346436192966478/

Christopher Nosnibor

Shirt status on arrival in Leeds: moist, and particularly damp on the stomach and lower back. It’s another humid hot day and half the trains re screwed and the other half are packed solid. It’s going to take a lot of £5 pints of Amstel (well, it’s that or Strongbow or Strongbow Forest Fruits) just to replenish.

Sandwiched in between Black Grape, Cast, and Dodgy on Friday night and Leeds Pride on Sunday, this new local talent showcase pitched some incongruous alternative acts alongside a bunch of names I’d never heard of. But I figured the ones I had heard of were more than enough to justify the trip over from York, with Dead Naked Hippies being incentive to make for an early start.

As a band I’ve seen play a venue smaller than my living room to fifteen people, as well as regular reasonable gig spaces, their outdoor performance at Long Division in May proved that they’ve got the chops to go big. And Millennium Square is big. And as expected, the trio fill the stage with noise and presence. The dense, gritty-as-fuck guitar that also fills the space in the of bass is immense even outdoors. ‘Dead Animals’ provides an early afternoon family friendly crowd pleaser. Lucy Jowett’s in fine form as always, and ends the set prowling the front rows, her wanderings only limited by the length of her mic lead.

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Dead Naked Hippies

Tommy Monaghan is pleasant but mediocre, with a static bassist and some bad shirts proving more interesting than his accessible pub gig fare that would probably be able to work its way into the charts given a suitably R1 friendly production.

I know it’s poor form to judge a band on appearance, but with the white shirts and rainbow braces and a sax/harmonica player in their numerous ranks, Hobson would never have been my choice. But their gutsy brand of country / folk rock is infinitely better than their presentation. That the singer’s teeth are whiter than the shirts is quite something, and they kinda spoil the ‘all originals’ pitch with a well-executed but uninspired rendition of ‘All the things that I have done’ by The Killers as a set-closer. It goes down well, though.

Tyrone Webster is probably Leeds’ answer to Craig David or something. Only his laid-back soulful pop packs some woozy sub-bass and trip-hop beatage. Final song and current single ‘Crippled’ is pretty meaty and emotionally wrought, though.

SCUM are barely old enough to have been born, but kick out fiery, politicised 3-chord shouty punk. The nagging repetitions hint at The Fall played with The fury of Black Flag. The songs all clock in at around a minute and a half and are played at 100mph, and despite the massive stage, they’re utterly fearless and totally ferocious. It’s a rush, and maybe there’s hope yet. These kids are certainly alright.

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SCUM

Isaac Saierre’s slick brand of r’n’b was never going to do it for me, but people stuck out the onset of rain for his set brimming with covers. This, right here, reminds me why shit like The Voice is popular.

Afterwards, Girl Gang DJ Emily injected some alternative cred back into proceedings with a selection of indie, post-punk and riot grrrl that was most welcome.

Inching into the evening stretch, Victors arrive with an array of sportswear, beards, and man buns, looking like some kind of hipster math-rock E17 to roll out some smooth sonic wallpaper.

Thank fuck for Magic Mountain. The local supergroup, consisting of Tom Hudson (Pulled Apart by Horses) Nestor Matthews (Sky Larkin / Menace Beach) and Lins Wilson (who seems to have involvement in infinite projects, including Music:Leeds), kick out heavyweight psychedelic grunge bursts with energy and riffs galore without sacrificing melody or hooks. They’re tight on schedule and promise to power through the set – and that’s exactly what they do.

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Magic Mountain

Treeboy & Arc’s spacey motorik post-punk has power and energy, and the scrawny guitarist (who’s sporting a Zozo T-shirt) races around the stage like he’s possessed and they thrash away maniacally. On paper, they offer nothing musically that hasn’t been done before, but to deliver it with such vigour is petty radical and entirely engaging. How have they bypassed me for so long?

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Treeboy & Arc

The first (and last) time I caught Cowtown was supporting Oozing Wound at the Brudenell. I’d enjoyed their set enough, but they seemed an ill fit for a dirty US thrash band. In context of tonight’s lineup, they sit a lot more comfortably with their high-energy, jerky rockabilly indie. ‘Tweak’ mashes together The Ramones with the Bangles, and is fairly representative of what they’re about – which mostly is uptempo fun.

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Cowtown

There’s something amusing about someone with a cut-glass accent on stage at a show celebrating Leeds music announcing headliners Bilge Pump. They slay, of course. But let’s unpack this a bit. Bilge Pump. Playing in Millennium Square. It’s crazy. But cool. So cool. Primarily active in the first decade of the new millennium, their angular noise rock found them a cult following and favour with John Peel, scoring a handful of Peel sessions, bowing out in 2010 with the EP The Fucking Cunts Still Treat Us Like Pricks.

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Bilge Pump

No two ways about it, comeback album We Love You is a blinder, and recent shows have been pretty special. But, not to denigrate their achievements, they’re very much a smaller venues band. And yet here they are, on this immense stage with the biggest crowd of the day – and it’s really quite substantial, especially considering they’re up against Flipper at the Brudnell – and they absolutely kill it. Joe O’Sullivan’s guitar is blistering as the throws squalls of noise – and himself – in all directions. It’s a blast – somewhat surreal, but a blast. And ultimately, Bilge Pump headlining in Millennium Square on a Saturday night in August encapsulates everything that’s ace about the Leeds scene.

Front and Follow – 2nd August 2019

Ever-evolving and always finding new angles Front and Follow’s latest release is the second in a new series celebrating the present and past of some of their favourite artists. The premise is simple, and in some respects, it’s remarkable it hasn’t been done before: ‘For each volume in the series we ask artists to create a new project of their own choosing and present it alongside a retrospective of their past output.’ Unusually for F&F, this release is available as a CD as well as cassette and download.

What this means is an album of new material, which comes with a bonus album (to download with all physical copies, and available separately to download) which for this release features tracks from Michael’s previous releases plus new remixes by Pye Corner Audio, Polypores, Kemper Norton, Psychological Strategy Board, Basic House and Elite Barbarian.

Longstanding Rothko member Donnelly has quite a career span and output to his credit, with myriad projects simmering simultaneously, and this latest offering promises ‘new worlds of beats and rhythm, sound collage, ambience and noise using random borrowed equipment, broken gear and household appliances’ – which it delivers, with gloopy synths and scratchy, insectoid microbeats paving the way for chunky disco grooves and funk-tinged minimalism.

Across the span of seven instrumental tracks, Donnelly explores a range of sonic territories, from semi-industrial gloom to stealthily-creeping dark ambient, with swathes of static and extraneous noise that shimmers, shudders, grates, grinds and crashes and bucks like tectonic plates in collision, occasionally propelled by hypnotic and unconventional rhythms.

‘Thick Skull’ closes off with a heartbeat drum and quivering, quavering stun drone with serrated edges and overloading frequencies played in 360˚ stereo.

The bonus album, Pardon Error contains eleven tracks, leading with seven remixes. The first four are various interpretations of ‘Mole Man’, which appeared on 2013’s I’ve Come to Love You Forever and also resurfaces later as both a remix and in its original form, but rather than reduce Donnelly’s extensive body of work to essentially one track, it serves to demonstrate the adaptability of his compositions. It’s hard to tell they’re the same track, and the spooky ambience of the ‘Basic House Mix’ couldn’t be further from the wheezing swirl of the Polypores interpretation, let alone the drilling drone assault of the Psychological Strategy Board Exercise of Impalement mix’, while the Elite Barbarian remix of ‘Laburnum’ goes full techno dance. ‘Behind the Laburnum’ sounds like a dub mix of Soft Cell on LSD crossed with ‘Carnage Visors’ by The Cure. It really is al going on here.

The gurgling ‘Root about the Carcass’ and minimal wooze of ‘Urge to Swarm’ again mark further departures as they bring the curtain down on the compilation. And once again, Front and Follow have given us something different – and of exceptional quality. Everything’s ‘curated’ now and 99% of it’s wank and cobbled together or otherwise simply misnamed, but F&F have developed a distinct style and now what works, and as such, they’ve established themselves as being dependable in the quality stakes. Why So Mute, Fond Lover? is no exception, and while Pardon Error may not be the expansive career summary one may have hoped for, it has a twist of innovation that makes for a listen that’s engaging and enlightening, offering a new insight into Donnelly’s work instead of cobbling together an easy best of.

AA

Michael Donnelly - Why So Mute, Fond Lover

Sacred Bones – 16th August 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

I’ve barely recovered from Uniform’s last punishing album and the gut-punching spectacle of hearing it played live when they land a second collaboration with The Body, only a year on from their first, the punishing noise-fest that was Mental Wounds Not Healing. An album that roughly ravaged and picked deep into the scabs and scars, it was everything you’d expect from two of the most uncompromising acts around right now.

NY purveyors of sonic violence Uniform carve their own trench of frenzied fury, and if they lack variety, where they excel is in their capacity to relentlessly attack, spitting and spewing their raging antagonism and venomous vitriol, while experimental noise duo The Body have largely forged a career from adding layers of abrasion to myriad collaborations – and this one is no exception.

The press release provides a fair summary of the kind of noise contained on Everything That Dies Someday Comes Back: ‘Comprised of an amalgam of abrasive influence that spans Swans-y dirge and purge, Whitehouse’s clenched-jaw noise, middle-period Ministry’s penchant for metallic post-industrial everything, New Order’s nose for melodic emotionality, and Juicy J-inspired beats.’ It’s all in there, and none of it’s pleasant, although somewhat ironically, when pressed against the full-tilt ferocity of Uniform, The Body serve more as a counterbalance, as if the two have a certain cancelling effect on one another’s most extreme aspects. The result, then, isn’t intensified – it simply wouldn’t be possible – but mangled and mutated into a different distillation of the component parts.

‘Gallows in Heaven’ is perhaps a misleading opener, stylistically, sonically, and in terms of mood, in that it’s goth to the core, a deep, surging three-chord bass sequence and thunderous mechanoid drumming at its core. With a wonky, fractal guitar line weaving over the top, it’s a vintage slice of post-punk – only there’s feedback and extraneous noise all over and backed off in the distance, Michael Berdan’s vocals, eternally petulant, the epitome of fucked off with everything.

If ‘Not Good Enough’ sounds a bit like standard Uniform but with additional electronic noise thrown over the top of it, the thumping disco groove that underpins ‘Vacancy’, which shudders, shimmers, and howls, is another kind of proposition altogether. A snarling electronic bass booms in along with a jittery sequenced synth rhythm, and this is something that’s got ‘80s dancefloor’ all over it – or would have were it not for the mess of noise all over it.

‘Patron Saint of Regret’ is little more than a mess of noise at first, evolving into some kind of fucked-up post-Wu-Tang trip-hop crossover that miraculously works, while ‘Penance’ takes the hybridisation a step further, a collision of thumping industrial beats and lumbering synth chords, with tinkling 80s synths worthy of mid 80s Cure or A Flock of Seagulls and impenetrable shrieking vocals by way of an interlude from the grating keyboard drone.

The stripped back ‘All This Bleeding’ brings the industrial clank of NIN and gentle cascading synth melody –paired with the raging rants – of Prurient together to forge something both anguished and atmospheric. Twanging guitars echo around punishing percussion and create an unexpected spaciousness amidst the claustrophobic intensity. The electronic inches to the fore, culminating in the sample-soaked ‘Day of Atonement’, which consists of little more than a droning synth bass over spiky drumming and Berdan’s distorted vocal amidst a howl of excruciating extraneous noise.

Instead of softening the relentless blows, the graded transition toward the album’s final cut only accentuates the unforgiving nature of the material: the churning maelstrom of dark ambience of ‘Waiting for the End of the World’ is the sound of the apocalypse as a jaunty tune plays in the background and ‘Contempt’ grinds into the desolation of nihilistic blackness.

This feels like the collapse of it all, the degradation of society, represented in sonic form. It sounds like the cover looks. Everything That Dies Someday Comes Back is nothing short of devastating.

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Uniform and The Body