Archive for November, 2019

Cruel Nature Records – 17th November 2019

Christophe Nosnibor

Nathalie Stern made her solo debut with Firetales in 2010: almost a decade on, she delivers a follow-up in the form of Nerves and Skin. The album promises to ‘builds on the experimental folk traditions of her debut, awash with vocal harmonies, synth loops and drones but with the maturity of an artist who knows their craft and is top of their game’.

Although now resident in Newcastle, Stern’s roots are Swedish, and it’s traditional Swedish folk which informs her music. While I have precisely no knowledge or experience of Swedish folk music, the compositions here, as the title suggests, conjure a sense of the barest essence of human existence. Nerves and skin the components essential to the senses, especially touch, are here exposed and highly sensitive. As much as anything it’s the organic feel that permeates the album that renders it so subtly affecting as it drifts and melds to form a sort of biological symbiosis with the listener’s internal mechanisms while it plays.

Stern’s voice is the primary instrument here, and she builds layers of harmony, often by unconventional means, with breaths and short, wordless sounds looped to form cyclical motifs atop sparse synth drones

‘Luchdora’ brings low-impact, lurching beats that thud soft and there’s a heartbeat thump on ‘Then You Talk of War’, which delves into darker territories with moody bass oscillations over which layers of choral vocals build majestically.

‘Deep Sleep’ wheezes monotonously, a lugubrious drone: Nathalie’s vocal is barely a whisper, haunting, ethereal, the melody a sing-song lullaby with an uncanny, shadowy twist that may not exactly be Chuck Palahniuk, but is still moderately unsettling. ‘Moderately unsettling’ is a fair summary of the atmosphere that creeps across the compositions as the album unfolds. Although fear chords creep all over the gloomy ‘Stig in Lucia’, it’s not overtly dark, but the disembodied vocal echoes evoke a certain cognitive dissonance.

And for all its oddness and otherness, it’s on an instinctive, human level that you experience Nerves and Skin: you feel it, somehow, almost subliminally, and it touches parts rarely reached and in ways that are abstract and indefinably, but nevertheless real.

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Los Angeles-based dark punk band The Wraith share the first single "Wing Of Night" from their incoming debut album, Gloom Ballet (Southern Lord, 29th Nov). Influenced by the likes of Killing Joke and 1919, The Wraith’s post-apocalyptic ‘Wing of Night’ juxtaposes a relentless verse groove – the ominous march of a spiritual death squad – with faint hope flickering amidst its expansive chorus.

“’Wing of Night’ is about not just surviving the pain and struggle of living in a dark world, but also welcoming these,” says The Wraith vocalist/lyricist Davey Bales. He continues, “Embracing hell and rejecting heaven as your reality, but in a positive way.”

Gloom Ballet delivers twelve infectious tracks drenched in the band’s ‘80s UK post-punk (Death Cult, Killing Joke, Chameleons) and SoCal deathrock (T.S.O.L., Samhain) influences. Recorded by Puscifer guitarist/producer Mat Mitchell, Gloom Ballet was mastered at Audiosiege by Brad Boatright (From Ashes Rise, Tragedy, Alaric) and the artwork by Rebecca Sauve.

Listen to ‘Wing of Night’ here:

29th November 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

Ahead of the release his seventh solo-album, Exo, in January next year, Swiss electronic artist Bit-Tuner indicates a significant change in direction with this single release. The two pieces on offer here are brief and – here’s the headline – beatless, as Bit-Tuner goes fully ambient.

It’s also a surprisingly succinct sonic document, the two tracks combined clock in at a mere fraction over seven minutes. ‘Passage’, the press release tell us, is ‘based on field-recordings, synthesizer pads and fluttering arpeggios,’ and ‘resembles a winding descent into a weightless but fragile science fiction world.’ The music in itself conveys almost nothing of this yet at the same time, succeeds in creating its on psychological space through the language of sound. It’ hushed, subdued, fragmented. Sounds like seagull calls drawl across ethereal twistings. Sometimes, abstractions conveys more than anything concrete or specific.

Virtual flipside / counterpart ‘Irisia’ is described as ‘a call from way below’ in which ‘a thunder-like growl from the underworld wraps itself around a floating choir-drone’. At a mere two-and-a-quarter minutes, and consisting of echoed notes and a mist-like sonic mist swirling directionless, it’s barely an interlude. And yet, despite its lack of substance, it has atmosphere and a certain depth.

I am left pondering the oddity of a ‘single’ release in the context of an ambient work that’s most likely designed to be consumed as a single while, but this showcases Bit-Tuner’s latest work in a digestible and readily accessible, bite-sized format, and it works nicely.

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Christopher Nosnibor

For some inexplicable reason, I woke up feeling nostalgic today. Perhaps it was unloading a pile of NME and Melody Maker from 1992-1995 recently collected from my father’s house from the boot of the car that triggered it, but then I got to thinking about all kinds of random things from my youth, from Noodle Doodle pasta to the smell of classrooms.

Videostore’s third independent DIY release, ‘Every Town’ is two and a half minutes of swirling, spaced-out shoegazey-indie. Think Slowdive covering The Jesus and Mary Chain. Or vice versa. It doesn’t really matter either way: it’s a laid-back, low-tempo effort that harks back to an early 90s vintage, while at the same time casting a nod back a long way further, to the 60s when pop single was just two and a half minutes long, with no filler.

This in itself is nothing new: The Smiths were very much geared toward that perfect pop template, and The Wedding Present’s ‘Hit Parade’ project in 1992 was very much centred around creating succinct slices of pop.

Videostore – a side project of husband and wife duo Nathan and Lorna of London indie-pop act Argonaut – absorb all of this and add their own twist to the template to create something special here, and the result is nostalgia-drenched and retro without being twee.

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Videostrore

Words: Christopher Nosnibor

Pics: Chris Power

Sometimes, the everyday and the ordinary are just so difficult to navigate. Stuff that the majority of the time is just what you do becomes suddenly too much. For some, it’s going to work; others, it’s worse even than that, like leaving the house to go to the corner shop. We all have our limits, and they can change unexpectedly, and seemingly inexplicably. For me, the onset of darkness as the clocks changing hurls us into the late autumn / winter spell does it every time and the urge to hibernate or hang myself becomes stronger than the enthusiasm for going out and watching live music.

Sometimes, it’s easier to crawl out to someplace where you know you won’t be known, so it’s possible to concentrate on the music and not have to deal with conversation. But sometimes, there has to be an end to avoidance, and the only way forward is to do the thing, however hard. There’s no snapping out of it, no flicking a virtual or metaphorical switch. There is no one single means of dealing. For me, it’s about a self-created nudge. Because no amount of external nudging has any effect – although, arguably, Hogwash was a successful external nudge here.

Wharf Chambers is one of those places that doesn’t make a twitchy, lone drinker feel awkward, and the vibe is never anything but welcoming and inclusive. This matters, a lot: I don’t feel like anyone thinks I’m a weirdo or inadequate when I fumble around with change, or as I sit in a corner with a pint to read – Lee Rourke’s Vulgar Things – and do the constant phone-checking thing that’s become habitual, by candlelight while waiting for doors.

So why am I here? Well, the Facebook event suggests folk may be ‘baffled and/or enticed by’ the eclectic lineup, consisting of Claus Poulsen // Stuart Chalmers, Eskimoomin, Two’s Company, and Inhuman Resources. I’m here for the music. Also, people: much as I feel a compulsion to avoid them, there’s a comfort in knowing there will be people there that you know, who are there for the same reasons.

The latter is up first, and it’s another of the infinitely-numerous project by event organiser and master purveyor of weird random noise, Dave Procter. Playing in a Parka with the hood up, he churns out a wall of blistering electronic noise that gets louder and more brain-melting as the set progresses. Reminiscent of Whitehouse without the vocals, here’s some classic power posing happening behind the trestle table laden with gear, and it’s a quality example of contemporary power electronics, with a self-awareness that carries an ironic twist in the posturing. Oddly, I find this all a source of immense joy: I find myself relaxing, and smiling to myself. This is exactly what I came for, and this is why live music is a holistic form of therapy: it offers escape, external stimuli suggesting routes inwards to explore and also let go of things.

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Inhuman Resources

Eskimoomin play warped synth pop. She plays synths and sings. He dances like Bez, wearing shorts, a Hawaiian shirt with some kind of shark design and meerkat mask or something. It’s brilliantly bizarre, visually and sonically, and as quirky as fuck, but also accessible with some pumping beats. Bewildering, baffling, a but wrong, but also a whole lot of fun. The world needs more artists who give this much effort and this little of a shit what you think of it.

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Eskimoomin

Claus Poulsen and Stuart Chalmers do what I might reasonably describe – according to what I’ve tapped in onto my phone – as ‘some kind of Eastern / pan pipe percussive string-scraping shit. Bow against the side of a table. Clattering percussion gives way to trilling organ tones’. It’s immersive, although I suspect it’s the beer rather than the music that’s proving soporific. The pair work their respective segments of kit intuitively and coordinatedly, and it’ a pleasure to watch.

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Claus Poulsen and Stuart Chalmers

Headliners Two’s Company deliver fractured, droning noise, and I’m way in the wash of atmosphere. Nothing seems entirely real right now, and I like it like that. I’m, primarily in the moment but if my sketchy notes are to be believed, the ‘synth guy in coat has William Bennett trappings, while guy sitting down has lounging cunt all over. Beat-heavy electro with a hard and challenging edge’. I could, and maybe should, expand on that, and attempt to convey the real, lived experience. But ultimately, you had to be there to fully experience the physical and psychological effects of their textured soundscapes in a darkened room. And being there next time is a must.

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Two’s Company

Bubblewrap Collective – 15th November 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

It’s 2019, but Right Hand Left Hand’s third album leaps us back to 2004. But let’s be clear: this is not a criticism. ‘Zone Rouge’ follows on from their self-titled, Welsh Music Prize-nominated second album, and, according to the press release, ‘tells the story of humanity’s contempt for the earth beneath us, the air above us and the people around us.’ The titles of the album’s 11 tracks each refer to ‘a location on Earth where something bad has happened: An act of corruption against the planet, an act of evil against fellow humans and occasionally both.’ Obviously, there’s scope for this to have been an album of infinite duration with a new track added every three seconds for all eternity, but there have to be limits.

Instead, what we have is a concise and urgent post-rock statement on the state of the planet. Being largely instrumental, the sentiment and intention isn’t immediately apparent or openly conveyed without some kind of preface, ‘Zone Rouge’ doesn’t scream ‘environmental crisis reaction!’ or ‘mass killing’ or ‘war’. A lot of this is pretty smooth, expansive, cinematic, with well-placed but ultimately controlled crescendos. The production is sensitive to the mood and the from, but ultimately, it’s clean, dynamic, textured.

There are departures: ‘Prora’ is a kind of choppy, post-punk funk effort with vocals, and it feels rather incongruous in the scheme of the hefty back-and-forth riffery and heavy atmospherics that pervade. ‘Chacabuco’, featuring Taliesyn Kallstrom of Cardiff’s ESTRONS feels particularly anomalous, being some kind of trippy indie / alt metal hybrid. For what it’s worth, it’s a belting tune and single-worthy in its own right, but stands out like a sore thumb in the context of the album.

At times, it feels like the Right Hand Left Hand doesn’t know exactly what the Right Hand Left Hand is doing, but for the most part, Zone Rouge is a solid post-rock album, pushing into an array of stylistic territories with rare aplomb.

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Right Hand Left Hand