Archive for January, 2020

Only Lovers Records – 4th February 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Sometimes, it doesn’t take much to change the mood of the day, and for me, it’s often the case that the ping of an email containing a release by an act I like that can be that mood-lifter on a barren or otherwise unremarkable day. The arrival of Mayflower Madame’s latest offering was today’s: having been snared by their debut album, 2016’s Observed in Dream, I’ve been on the edge of my seat for more, and while 2018’s Premonition EP was more than welcome, it felt like something of a placeholder ahead of the next event proper.

With album number two, Prepared for a Nightmare around the corner, they’re offering a taste of what’s to come with single ‘Vultures’, a song about ‘desire, gluttony and vanity – both on a personal level and as a general symptom of the excesses of modern society’ which is ‘partly inspired by the art of George Grosz and Hieronymus Bosch’.

‘Vultures’ very much cements the style and sound they’ve showcased previously, with reverby guitars dominating a psych/goth hybrid form that’s got tension and drama by the spade, but also a brooding, doom-laden atmosphere. The pessimism isn’t explicit, but hangs heavy in the air. But while retaining that psychy / dark surf twang, ‘Vultures’ is harder-edged than anything they’ve released to date, pinned down by an insistent beat with the vocals low in the mix and soaked in reverb and angst. The production more muscular, too, and it all stacks up for a belting blast of tense, dark contemporary post-punk that says the album is going to be a corker.

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Mayflower Madame - Vultures (cover)

The experimental chamber collective Collectress, who create unique surrealist-tinged chamber pop and have been described as a cross between "the Elysian Quartet and possessed Brontë sisters teasing an unsuspecting dinner party" (Foxy Digitalis) release a video today for new single "In The Streets, In the Fields".

Using dance as a means to explore the nature of the music, and with nods to both psychedelia (particularly 13th Floor Elevators), and the 1937 recording of Virginia Woolf’s “Words”, Collectress play at taking you somewhere imaginary whilst staying grounded in reality- ‘in the streets’ yet also ‘in the fields.’  The band remark "we liked the sense of the transience of language as evoked by the crackly Woolf recordings, of time passing and of spaces shifting, of being in one place yet another at the same time, in “Different Geographies”. In this technological world of ours, Woolf’s “Words” speaks to us from the past, visionary in suggesting we are mere vessels for language to occur, adapt and move around in. “In the Streets, In the Fields” melodically ‘sets off’ and in some way is doing this too, its simple structure unfolding, shifting and developing over the course of the song."
Collectress continue "the film for "Streets" was always going to include dance as a means to explore and express the nature of the music. We talked about parts of the body, colours and ‘elements’ to include. We each gave our interpretation and filmed ourselves dancing at our own respective ‘different geography’. What you see in the film is a layering of those interpretations to the rhythm and layers of the individual parts of the music, to create an indefinable space that we hope has something recognisable and grounded but that also allows for an element of getting lost."

Watch ‘In the Streets, In the Fields’ here:

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Collectress Spring Shows:

Friday April 10 – Brighton Album Launch at The Rosehill, Brighton

Sat May 9 – Daylight Session (plus special guests), Union Chapel, London

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Collectress

Sky Valley Mistress  recently caught our attention supporting Black Moth at their Leeds farewell show in December, and having signed to New Heavy Sounds, their debut single and its attendant video feels like the passing of a baton.

Sky Valley Mistress spent 10 days recording at Dave Catching’s Rancho de la Luna studio in California, hanging out with the likes of Hutch (QOTSA’s ex sound man), Bingo (Mojave Lords), Chris Goss (Masters of Reality), Peaches and Arctic Monkeys who also dropped by during the stay.

Footage from their time out there is featured in the video for new single ’Skull & Pistons’. Guitarist Sean ‘Starsky’ Berry comments, ‘Skull & Pistons is about Max’s (drummer) leather jacket and the cool things he’s done in it, the video shows the band’s coolest journey to the desert to record their debut album, it was an obvious choice for a debut single and although this jacket is literally now falling of his shoulders it makes a cameo in this film.’

Watch the video for ’Skull & Pistons’ here:

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Sky Valley Mistress are 4 young upstarts from Blackburn, Lancashire, who have been honing their chops over the years up & down the country, and showcasing their blistering live set at Download, Camden Rocks and Sound City along with supports with The Subways, Cadillac Three, Earthlings and Band Of Skulls amongst others.

In fact, SVM could easily hold their own against the likes of Jim Jones, Rival Sons, Royal Blood, BRMC or any other rockers greasy or otherwise.

Still only in their mid 20s, you can only assume, on listening to this debut, that these young turks made that journey to those legendary crossroads and did the dirty deed with the dark one himself, such is the level of musicianship and vocal prowess on show here.

So how did they hook up with Dave Catching?  That’s a story in itself. It was Halloween & the band all went to an Eagles of Death Metal gig in fancy dress as members of EODM and their friends.  After the show the band blagged their way backstage.  The boys in EODM loved their costumes and SVM gave Dave Catching some of their tracks and asked for him to check them out.

Dave later came back to them and said he really liked what he heard and that if they were thinking of doing an album they should record at his place in California, the legendary studio at Rancho de la Luna.

And so it eventually came to pass.

The result of that meeting of minds and souls is the full spectrum stoner rock ‘n’ roll assault of ‘Faithless Rituals’.

‘Faithless Rituals’ will hit the world on 20th March 2020.

Upcoming shows:

Wed 29th Jan – The Jacaranda, Liverpool as part of Independent Venue Week

Wed 18th March – The Fulford Arms, York

Sky Valley Mistress

Christopher Nosnibor

The Wonkystuff nights to date may have been a shade sporadic, but that’s what happens when the organisers have day-jobs and families, and more importantly, what they’ve lacked in regularity, they’ve more than compensated in quality, and that’s a major reason why there’s such a respectable turnout to a gig midweek, mid-January, in York. There’s also the warm, welcoming vibe: these nights may be musical showcases, but they’re also a coming together of an oddball community, where we’re all misfits together and it feels good and feels like home. Tonight’s lineup – as usual – demonstrates John Tuffen’s skill for bringing together acts who provide a satisfying balance of contrasting and complimentary.

It’s the Wonkystuff House Band – a collective rather than a fixed entity, tonight comprising Tuffen alongside Ash Sagar and Simon Higginbotham – who warm things up with a set consisting of permutational repetitions delivered by multiple vocals, delivered in a drab monotone over repetitive beats. Comparisons to Can, Cabaret Voltaire circa ‘Nag Nag Nag’, The Fall, Flying Lizards, Girls vs Boys, Young Marble Giants, and the more contemporary Moderate Rebels all make their way into my notes as I watch them crank out vintage synth and drum machine sounds. Cyclical bass motifs and whizzing diodes fill the air as they sit and twiddle knobs and read lyrics from clipboards and the historical leaps into the present for a while.

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Wonkystuff House Band

The start of TSR2’s set crackles and pops fireworks. The trio hunch over customised kit with wires all over to create warped undulations and machine gun fire beats that batter the speaker cones. The set builds into a dense, murky trudge. The second track, ‘What will be’ is more co-ordinated than the opener, and is solidly rhythmic, mechanoid and spacious, and metamorphosises into some kind of glam reimagining of Kraftwerk via DAF. Heavy echoes and tribal beats dominate the third track, and they very much find their groove at this point, at least for a spell, before the construction grows shaky despite solid foundations. Perhaps it’s the sheer ambition of layering up so much at once that’s difficult to keep together. Despite this, the discord and dissonance are part and parcel of an intriguing set.

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TSR2

Rovellasca takes the stage, quietly and understated and stands behind a bank of kit. So far, so standard. The set begins with deep, dark, rumblings, and very soon builds into something shatteringly immense. It’s dense. It’s loud, and fills the room like a thick, suffocating smog. The sound is thick, immersive. Time passes. Unexpectedly, elongated mid-range notes sound out and the underlying dense noise builds. I’m no longer listening: my entire body is enveloped. This is the effect of sonic force. Noise wall without the harsh. Burrs of static, pink and brown noise lurk in the immense billowing noise. The shifts are subtle, and gradual, but present over the course of the single, continuous half-hour piece. People start to become visibly uncomfortable after a time others vaguely bored. I’m loving it, and could listen all night. A slow fade to finish. The hush is deafening.

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Rovellasca

It’s a hard act to follow, but See Monstd – the new musical vehicle of radiofreemidwich’s Rob Hayler is an inspired choice, in that it represents something completely different that thus prevents any risk of comparison. There’s a lot going on here: the set starts with a sample, then breaks into what my notes describe as ‘wtf noise’. It subsequently settles into heavy harsh ambience, with dense, grating drones providing the body of sound, with swerves off trajectory for spells of audience participation, with a phone being passed around for members of the crowd to repeat lines from the sheets circulated prior to the set. This is one of those performances where you never know quite where it’s going to go, and is all the better for the element of unpredictability.

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See Monstd

And this, in a nutshell, is everything that’s great about the Wonkystuff nights.

SPV / NoCut and ADA / Entertainment One

24th January 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

And we’re back once again in the divergent and varied field of what’s come to be goth in the 21st century, and it’s a very far cry from its post-punk roots. The late 70s and early 80s saw the emergence of Siouxsie and the Banshees, Bauhaus, The Cure, The Sisters of Mercy, The March Violets, Christian Death and a slew of bands who would subsequently be labelled as ‘goth’, and who were subsequently joined by the likes of Red Lorry Yellow Lorry, The Cult, Fields of the Nephilim, The Mission, etc., etc. The fact of the matter is, there was little commonality between these acts, and that goth was something of a media fabrication. What about the fans? Let’s not confuse the fans and the artists, or a subculture with its icons. So what was a scene that never was morphed into an evermore diffuse group of subcultures, with an ever-broader range of bands who had little or nothing in common beyond their shared fanbase. After metal, there can be few labels that provide an umbrella for a greater range of styles.

So here we are, presented with The Book of Fire, the eleventh album by German goth-metal act MONO INC. And while it’s goth, it’s not really my kinda goth, and couldn’t be further from the dark post-punk or art-rock stylings of the first wave of bands. Is this evolution, or dilution, cross-pollination and contamination? I suppose that’s a matter of perspective.

The album’s first song, the title track, is over seven and a half minutes long. It begins with a slick guitar that almost manages to sound like a harpsichord, and then it glides into some kind of Celtic folk metal and it very soon starts to become uncomfortable. Uncomfortable because such buoyant energy is more the domain of the hoedown knees-up. The folk-hued power-metal of ‘Louder Than Hell’ brims with positivity about strength and stuff, and explodes with crisp synths and choral backing vocals and it’s fun enough, but it’s also pretty cringy: it’s the kind of thing Germany might enter into Eurovision.

Then again, ‘Shining Light’ has such a massive chorus and a hook so strong that it’s hard to resist even when you’re hating it: it has that uplifting surge that lifts you and carries you away on the tide from the inside.

The euphoria swiftly dissipates with the next song, ‘Where the Raven Flies’, which is the definition of theatrical cliché melodrama. And herein lies the problem, which I accept is entirely personal, at least on a primary level. In short, I think it’s cheesy and naff.

On a secondary level, and one which is more objective, what The Book of Fire represents is very much a commercial take on the genre; theatre and drama don’t necessarily equate to an absence of depth, but this is good-time party goth, and any emotional sincerity is polished away under a slick veneer of pomp and overblown production. In this way, it’s as credible as examples of either folk or goth as Ed Sheeran’s ‘Galway Girl’ or Doctor and the Medics’ rendition of ‘Spirit in the Sky’. It displays all the trappings, but none of the authenticity. For all the theatre, there’s a woeful absence of substance, the brooding is third-rate thespianism rather than the anguish of tortured souls.

Elsewhere, ‘The Last Crusade’ is riven with choral bombast, but is little more than an obvious ‘This Corrosion’ rip-off, that once again leans heavily on Germanic folk tropes, and ‘The Gods of Love’ similarly brings together Floodland-era Sisters with Rammstein. I’m sure plenty will view this as a good thing, but they’d be wrong, so wrong. ‘What have we done?’ they ask repeatedly on the final and suitably epic finale track ‘What have We Done’, and it’s a fair question: whatever it is, it’s not good.

In fairness, it’s not quite ‘Rocky Horror’ bad on the spectrum of play-goth, but it’s not far off, and while it’s sonically ambitious, creatively, it’s depressingly derivative.

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Tensheds Music – 6th December 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

Having caught Tensheds live back in 2018 and been impressed by their gritty yet flamboyant sound, the arrival of an album in the form of Deathrow Disco promised to be good news. And it really is.

No guitars. No synths. No bass. Just a Rhodes organ. And some drums. Written in three days and recorded in three more, Deathrow Disco packs an immediacy without being lo-fi in a way that’s detrimental. However, everything is upfront and direct and cranked up, delivering maximum impact with a sense of urgency.

Everything fits together perfectly, and it all serves to showcase Matt Millership’s distinctive voice. The guy’s got more gravel than Jewson’s. And while that sand-blasted larynx is used to growl out mangled blued-based songs, he’s no predictable Tom Waits rip-off like so any others. Lead single and opening track ‘Youngbloods’ packs some flamboyant keys of a grandeur worthy of Muse or Yes, but pins the trilling tones go a stomping rhythm.

Second single cut ‘Gold Tooth’ is a grainy glammy blues boogie, but sonically, it’s a collision of The Doors at their swaggering badass baddest with Suicide, mining a relentless groove with a swirling Hammond that’s been mangled and

Then again, ‘Slag’ is more like a synth Mötörhead, only with some piano thrown into the mix. ‘Deathrow Disco’ combines immense theatricality with full-blooded rock ‘n’ roll, and elsewhere, ‘Black Blood’ goes prog and at the same times reveals a softer, more sensitive side, and ‘Troubleshooter’ inches toward lighter-waving anthem territory, or maybe would without the bitter heartbreak lyrics.

Deathrow Disco is varied, and largely uptempo and big on boppable grooves, but make no mistake, Tensheds have a highly distinctive style that works well, and makes optimal use of minimal kit.

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Tensheds - Deathrow Disco

Human Impact, a “band that collects members from three of New York noise’s most important groups — the hardcore-influenced, ultraviolent Unsane, industrial anger mongers Cop Shoot Cop, and erstwhile Lower East Side pummelers Swans” (Rolling Stone), have released a video for “E605”.

The Samuel Mitchell-directed clip visually echoes the gritty, industrial-tinged noise rock on the band’s forthcoming, self-titled debut album (March 13, Ipecac Recordings). It is the second song to preview the 10-track release, with the band previously sharing the song “November”.

Watch ‘E605’ here:

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