Archive for October, 2019

Nefarious Industries – 1st November 2019

The one thing that’s been consistent about experimental noise-rock duo Cinema Cinema across their previous releases has been their capacity to confound expectation. Their freeform approach to rock has always made them hard to place in a fixed sense, although Sonic Youth and Live Skull are reasonable references against which to pitch their guitar-driven racket that’s been given to stray into expansive space rock workouts.

Each release has ventured into different stylistic territory, at least at points, and while 2017’s Man Bites Dog did bring some sax into the mix, they’ve predominantly maintained a no-wave rock focus – until now. With CCXMD they cut the cord that holds any ties to the conventions of rock to go all-out on the freeform, and this time it’s jazz. Not even jazz-rock, but a weirdy, off-the-wall, jazz oddity with swirling ambient currents. CCXMD is a genuine ‘wtf?’ release.

Where are the guitars? And words? There are practically no vocals, and the vocals there are, are mangled and so low in the mix they’re barely audible. There are guitars, but they’re practically absent on the first two tracks – short, semi-ambient fragments – and when they do finally appear on the third track, ‘Colours’, it’s more the sound of tuning up, accompanied by pan-pipes and with stuttering percussion that lollops and rolls and crashes chaotically without ever taking form. You’re on the edge of your seat waiting for something – you don’t even really know what – but you don’t get it. It’s hard to tell what you actually do get.

‘Cyclops’ threatens to settle into a rock-riff groove before veering into all kinds of chaos with parping sax trills and every shade of jazz mania mewling like demented cats here there and everywhere, and the album’s thirteen-minute centrepiece, ‘Ode to a Gowanus Flower’ is an exercise on patience-testing as they wander through evocations of Eastern mystery. It’s difficult to listen to because it’s difficult to place and even more difficult to settle in with. This isn’t because it’s a departure, this is simply by virtue of the fact that this is a challenging album it its own right. It’s deranged, messy, unpredictable, incoherent and all the jazz. But it’s ambitious, interesting, and sees Cinema Cinema really test both themselves and their fans. And that’s a good thing: remaining static is tantamount to being dead. And moreover, any band that finds its niche and sticks to it consigns itself to a trajectory of diminishing returns.

Cinema Cinema are following their creative urges and aren’t dictated by any perception of fan demands or dictates: they do what they do because they’re driven to do it, and certainly not because of any label or trend. And this is why Cinema Cinema are such an essential band, and why they’ll endure. They don’t give a fuck about what you’re into. They do their own thing. And that is art.

AA

Cinema Cinama

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Front & Follow – 15th November 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

Front and Follow is a label that’s carved a special niche in the cassette release corner of the industry, and has, for those in the know, become a trademark of quality. But sustaining such consistency – or even anything – as a one-man operation is hard work, and often with little reward. As such, while I was sad to learn they’re taking a break, they’re signing off with an incredibly strong release, courtesy of Ekoplekz, who is also embarking on an indefinite break.

The album’s pitched as ‘drawing parallels between present day Britain and that of the turn of the 80s, Ekoplekz looks back to that era’s industrial and post-punk soundtrack for inspiration,’ and the press release continues: ‘In a land increasingly brutalized by austerity and divided by nationalism, the tensions that informed some of the post-punk era’s most important works (Red Mecca, Unknown Pleasures, Metal Box) haunt this collection of bleak postcards from the present’. The present is indeed bleak, unless, of course, you perhaps run a hedge fund with billions backing a no-deal Brexit or you’re a major corporation invested in climate change denial or pharmaceuticals. But then, if you’re in that bracket, you’re probably on your private jet grabbing bitches by the pussy and going gammon about these smelly hippy protestors or somesuch. For the rest of us these ae dark times that require a dark soundtrack, and as I’ve said elsewhere, it’s no surprise that we’re experiencing a different kind of 80s revival at the moment. Brutal and divided pretty much sum up both UK and US politics and cultures , as well as further afield. Who actually feels safe on the street? Who actually feels safe as a career artist? Who isn’t remotely concerned, doesn’t feel concerned, panicked, anxietised? We don’t need Duran Duran replicas like The Bravery, and even Editors and Interpol’s take on post-punk feels lightweight in the face of the crises that define the current – and so Ekoplekz plunge deep back to the late 70s source to dredge real darkness and despondency here, and in doing so, In Search of the Third Mantra soundtracks the present – bleak as it is.

With In Search of the Third Mantra, Ekoplekz sets his spheres of reference out early, with ‘High Rise Dub’ carrying Ballardian connotations and ‘K-Punk’ taking its title from the seminal blog of the early noughties by the late Mark Fisher, to whom the album is dedicated. This, then, without wanting to sound elitist, is no mindless replication of an array of retro tropes, but a considered assimilation of myriad sources, distilled into something wilfully challenging. We would expect nothing less of K Craig, filmmaker and front man of currently-resting Last Harbour. This is quite a departure, but works in context: while we don’t get brooding vocals and arch-gothic sonic structures, there’s a brooding nihilism that rumbles at the core of In Search of the Third Mantra in the same way it lurks so many albums of the period, and a lot has to be credited to the production.

It’s got grooves and danceable beats, but it’s also possessed of a dehumanised detachment, a sense of distancing and dislocation: you’re in the zone and in the space where you’re feeling the distance, the disfunction. The fact that this doesn’t fit, the fact that you don’t fit.

The spartan electronica of the former, with its dubby bass and rhythm that shuffles and clatters conjures a sense of alienation and otherness, while the latter brings things down a notch darker, laser bleeps and eerie vaporous notes hover ominously. ‘Do the Meinhof’ goes full motoric, channelling the insistent industrial grooves of DAF and Cabaret Voltaire into a tense death disco pounder laced with icy synths.

The sonic touchstones are all very much in evidence as the listener is led through a haunting desert of sound, dark, murky, menacing. ‘Accept Nothing’ has hints of The Cure’s Carnage Visors soundtrack, and the atmosphere which permeates all ten compositions is unforgiving and inhospitable.

There’s a degree of linearity to the album’s sequencing, and each track feels sparser, less defined, and with this progression there comes an increasing sense of collapse, of emptiness, and while sonically, the pieces are spacious, the atmosphere is evermore paranoid. One feels as though familiar structures are falling away, disintegrating. By the time we arrive at ‘Heart Addict (In Make Up)’, there’s little left beyond an almost subliminal, stunted dub bass that twitches anxiously alongside a barely perceptible beat, and we’re left, alone, disorientated, and teetering on the precipice just inches from the void.

AA

Ekoplekz_cover

Leprous have shared the 3rd single from their sixth and most ambitious studio album Pitfalls, which is set for release on 25th October 2019 via InsideOutMusic.

Listen to ‘Distant Bells’ here:

Simen Børven (Bass) says: "The instrumental part of ‘Distant Bells’ is a compilation of my musical background. Influences from Nordic Jazz and Symphonic Pop infuses the attempt of stretching an extremely simple idea, from almost nothing, to an explosion towards the ending of the song. To me the composition is like an evolution from a single self-replicating cell into a complex sentient being."

Einar Solberg (Vocals/Synth): "It was both challenging and very refreshing to work on “Distant Bells”, as the main instrumental idea didn’t come from me. It opened up new doors of creativity within myself and it was very exciting to do the melody and lyrics for this track. It’s a very different LEPROUS track, and it turned out to be one of my personal favourites. Simen has a different musical background than myself, and our contradictions are probably what made this song shine so bright."

Leprous

LEPROUS – Live 2019:

LEPROUS + The Ocean & Port Noir:

01 November Esch (Luxembourg) – Rockhal

02 November Zwolle (The Netherlands) – Hedon

03 November Leiden (The Netherlands) – Gebr. De Nobel

04 November Berlin (Germany) – Kesselhaus

05 November Köln (Germany) – Kantine

06 November Frankfurt (Germany) – Batschkapp

07 November Antwerp (Belgium) – Zappa

08 November London (UK) – ULU

09 November Manchester (UK) – Academy 2

11 November Zurich (Switzerland) – Plaza

12 November Paris (France) – Cabaret Sauvage

13 November Lyon (France) – CCO

14 November Biarritz (France) – Atabal

15 November Madrid (Spain) – Shoko

16 November Barcelona (Spain) – Apolo

18 November Parma (Italy) – Campus Music Industry

19 November Munich (Germany) – Freiheiz

20 November Vienna (Austria) – Szene

21 November Prague (Czech Republic) – Palac Akropolis

22 November Dresden (Germany) – Beatpol

23 November Wroclaw (Poland) – Pralnia

24 November Hamburg (Germany) – Uebel & Gefahrlich

25 November Copenhagen (Denmark) – Lille Vega

26 November Gothenburg (Sweden) – Pustervik

27 November Stockholm (Sweden) – Fryshuset Klubben

LEPROUS:

28 November Oslo (Norway) – Vulkan Arena

29 November Stavanger (Norway) – Folken

30 November Hamar (Norway) – Festiviteten


LEPROUS with
Amorphis, Soilwork & The Ocean:
05 December Turku (Finland) – Logomo
06 December Rauha (Finland) – Saimaa Areena

07 December Helsinki (Finland) – Ice Hall

And many more dates to be announced soon…

Christopher Nosnibor

Some bands, you only dream of seeing. Others, not even that: the possibility doesn’t even exist as a bubble of thought, for one reason or another. As one of the most wilfully obscure acts to emerge from the early 90s scene, Trumans Water have forever existed in the latter category.

After achieving a certain cult cred in the music press with their first three releases after John Peel went ape over their debut, Of Thick Tum, which he played in full in release in 1992, they seemed to deliberately sidestep the limelight with the series of improvised Godspeed albums on minor labels, and after departing Homestead after 1995’s Milktrain to Paydirt album, they more or less seemed to vanish into the underground of their own volition. There’s a certain logic to this: their last album was released nine years ago on Asthmatic Kitty Records, and probably sold about as many cops as my last book., even though Drowned in Sound were nice about it. And so they’re playing at Wharf Chambers in Leeds, which has a capacity of maybe 100 while they tour for the first time in ages to support nothing as far as I can tell. It all seems quite fitting.

It’s a killer lineup, too.

Husband and wife duo Pifco crank out noise that’s pure Dragnet era Fall, and they’ve got the 3R’s (that’s Repetition, Repetition, Repetition) nailed, with dissonance and scratchy guitar clanging over motorik but hectic drumming .

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Pifco

This is the third time I’ve seen Bilge Pump this year after the Leeds legends returned to the fray after some time out. They haven’t been anything less than outstanding on the previous occasions, and it’s a record they maintain tonight. It’s no their first time supporting Trumans Water, and they’re very much a complimentary act that sit between the cyclical repetitions of Pifco and the jarring angularity of the headliners. They also play hard – guitarist Joe’s shirt is saturated by the time the set’s done – and they’re also an absolute joy to watch, a cohesive unit firing on all cylinders.

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Bilge Pump

Trumans Water are also tight and cohesive – remarkably so, in fact. But they hide it well, sounding like they’re completely out of tune and out of key and often playing three different songs at the same time. Some of that’s down to the simultaneous vocals that don’t exactly combine to create conventional harmonies, while a lot of it’s also due to the unusual guitar style: I’m not sure of half the chords are obscure or made-up, but every bar conjures a skewed dissonance. But they are tight: the constant changes in tempo and off-the-wall song structures are brain-melting, and how they not only shift instantaneously, but play an hour-long set of sprawling freeform angularity without a set-list is remarkable.

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Trumans Water

Trumans Water have never really sounded like anyone else. Pavement comparisons don’t really cut it on close inspection: whereas Pavement were genuinely slopping in their playing early on, Trumans Water would probably align more closely to freeform jazz and Beefheart at his oddest.

It’s a riotous blur of jolting, shouty, brain-melting racket that runs into one massive sprawl of crazed anti-music. And it’s an absolute joy.

Bearsuit Records – 27th September 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

Edinburgh-based Bearsuit Records has established itself as a reliable source of weird stuff, a large proportion of which comes from Japan, a country renowned for producing some of the most brilliantly bizarre music. Needless to say, I’m a fan, and admire label owner Dave Hillary’s unswerving commitment to giving niche artists a home.

A trilling fairground waltz with stuttering microbeats provides the backdrop to the ethereal vocal on the title track, leading the listener into the weird and wonderful world of Haq, which is a collaborative musical vehicle for Japanese duo N-qia (Nozomi and Takma, the latter of whom is renowned in certain cult circles for his eight albums released under the Serph moniker) and the ultra-prolific Ediburgh based enigma that is Harold Nono.

Evaporator is a quintessential Bearsuit release – meaning, it’s way, way out there, strange and bewildering, in the most otherworldly sense. Evaporator is an album that more or less defines cognitive dissonance. It’s a headfuck, but that’s not a criticism. We need to be challenged: all too often, we’re presented with sonic chewing gum and shrug and think ‘yeah, that’s ok’. Ok is not ok, of course: we’re swimming in a sea of mediocrity and we need to break free of is tireless tide.

It’s all going on – at once – on ‘Dustboy Horrorshow’, which collides dreamy post-rock with pounding double-speed beats before taking a brief turn for the heavy in the midsection, before the industrial grind is dispersed in a ripple of fairy-lit world music to fade. And it only gets weirder and more incongruously juxtaposed from hereon in.

Ballistic beats and floaty mellowness collide, and often, as they explore the space between The Cocteau Twins and the Prodigy and somehow, in their state of dementure, attempt to bridge it by fusion. This shouldn’t work, and in places, it doesn’t, but that’s all the more reason to celebrate their efforts: experimentation and collaboration shouldn’t be about perfection, and even necessarily about the end product. The creative process is what matters.

That said, the end product, weird and baffling as it is, has more than its share of moments, and this five-tacker comes with a bunch of remixes of the EP tracks as well as an alternative mix of ‘Bees in My Feet’ from 2013’s Nocturnals. The approaches to remixing are ide-ranging and varied, and serve to highlight just how eclectic the composite elements of Haq’s original compositions are.

AA

Haq – Evaporator

Christopher Nosnibor

Riff after riff after riff.

Riff after riff after riff.

Riff after riff after riff.

Celebrating their thirtieth anniversary, Helmet are playing thirty-song sets in thirty cities. It feels like an immense privilege that Leeds is one of them, and the fact it’s the 150-capacity Key Club even more so. With only ten tickets remaining for sale on the door, for a cult band who’ve only released two albums in the last decade, they’ve retained a hardcore following, not all of who, are old buggers.

With no support act, they take the stage at eight sharp, and immediately start with the riffs. Not a word at the start, nor between songs for the first half dozen at least. Instead, it’s all about the riffs.

Riff after riff after riff.

Riff after riff after riff.

The extended freeform solos drift into the background while the rhythm section thunder on relentlessly: the floor-shaking, gut-churning bass, the rhythm guitar that blasts out concrete slabs of noise.

Riff after riff after riff.

Riff after riff after riff.

The blunt, bludgeoning weight of thick, stop/start chunks of noise that became the defining feature of Nu-Metal are Helmet’s staple, but they did it first and did it best. Helmet were also one of the first off-the-street jeans ‘n’ T-shirt bands, and Beavis and Butthead were on the money when they observed that “That drummer looks like a regular guy,” and “If you, like, saw these guys on the street, you wouldn’t even know they were cool.” And yes, they are cool. Seriously cool. Their influence clearly extends far, far beyond their fanbase and commercial reach, which peaked in the early ‘90s. But being cool is also about pushing on, and Helmet’s achieving radio play and MTV exposure around this time was a matter of coincidental timing rather than strategized mass appeal.

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There’s no messing, no posturing: Page regales us with an amusing anecdote about being rehearsing in a space next to Buck Cherry, who commented on the fact the band load their own gear, and who they heard rehearsing their between-song banter. But I never mentioned that. It’s one of only a few moments of chat we get but what’s keenly apparent is that these are nice guys, with no pretence or rock-star delusions, and with their major-label years long behind them, no industry bullshit surrounding them.

They play songs in small venues.

They play hard.

Riff after riff after riff.

Riff after riff after riff.

Song number thirty is ‘In The Meantime’. It’s blistering. But then, so were the preceding twenty-nine songs.

And long may they continue to knock out the riffs.

Grimoire / Buzzhowl Records – 27th September 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

The second album from Baltimore trio Gloop is noisy, messy, manic. The liner notes describe it as ‘a splattering Jackson Pollock painting of a full-length record’, and refers to their sound as ‘a kind of skewed rock music that recalls Shudder to Think, and the Pixies at their harshest and weirdest’.

It is harsh, but that harshness doesn’t come from heaviness, but from a chaotic squall of treble and wildly unpredictable song structures. It’s got the punk spirit and some aggression in its execution, but not exactly post hardcore, either, but a jarring, jolting racket that has many of the hallmarks of math-rock played in such a way as to sound perpetually out of time and out of tune with itself. It’s skewiff, not in a slacker Pavementy way, but in a demented, all-over-the-shop demented Trumans Water way. If I say it’s enough to give anyone a headache, it’s by no means a criticism: we’re attenuated to tune into regular rhythms, accordant tonality, tunes. Smiling Lines has none of these, breaking every last rule of musicality by pulling apart the very fabric of rock music and stretching it, twisting it, tearing it, stomping on it, before examining the stained tatters and deciding ‘yes, this is what we were after.’

Dom Gianninoto’s vocals are kinda shouty, but he’s given to shriek, whoop, and holler and pitch up to falsetto at any instant, adding to the crazed unpredictability of it all. Smiling Lines is the sound of wide-eyed, frenzied derangement, a relentless rollercoaster, a furious flurry of frets. It’s a short, sharp shock, and it’s fucked-up, but it’s ace.

AA

Gloop - Smiling Lines