Archive for January, 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

In what has been a difficult time for small venues – meaning it’s also been a difficult time for bands who aren’t massive to get gigs – The Fulford Arms in York has gone from strength to strength and while other venues have – sadly – come and gone in the city they’re not only still here, but have built an admirable reputation.

The fact it’s independent and well-run (that is to say professional but also wonderfully friendly), has great sound, and decent beer at the more affordable end of pub prices counts for a lot. That they cater to a remarkably broad range of audiences is another key: it’s easy to stick to tried-and-tested crowd-pleasers like tribute acts or be a ‘rock’ venue, but often to diminishing returns. It’s the only venue in the city you’ll find oddball electronic nights, big-name acts, local acoustic artists, and spoken word events in a single week. Their accommodating approach to new and unusual acts has made the place a real hub for the city’s music scene.

Tonight’s show marks the sixth anniversary of the venue being taken over by its current owners, Christopher Sherrington and Chris Tuke, and it’s very much a celebration of everything that makes The Fulford Arms a great venue. The lineup is very much focused on local acts, and celebrates the diversity of bands active in and around York right now.

Early doors, Miles. sees multi-instrumentalist Michael Donnelly follow the trajectory of his previous band, Epilogues, to a more minimal end. Oh stage, he’s a striking figure, with floppy fringe, specs, above-ankle trews: he’s an 80s/90s hybrid visually, but musically, his delicately-crafted songs are of no specific time, and are perhaps even worthy of being described as timeless. Subtle ambient drones and throbs provide depth to his understated picked acoustic guitar and magnificent soaring vocals on introspective, emotion-rich songs.

Miles

Miles.

Kids today! With their shit clothes and shit music, not like in my day… You hear it all the time, and not just from crotchety old bastards who remember when punk broke, or even slightly less old bastards who remember when grunge broke, but from people barely in their 30s. That may be true of the crap that gets played on the radio, but beyond the mainstream, we’re in a time where the guitars are getting louder, heavier, denser than ever. And REDFYRN go all out for loud, heavy, and dense, with a breathtaking juxtaposition of floating ethereal folky vocals and punishing sludgy/grunge riffs, with comparisons to Big | Brave and Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard not being unjustified, although there’s also a more direct grunge-orientated aspect to their sound, which is more than straight stoner / doom / sludge and all the better for it. Apart from the bassist, they look pretty straight, especially the drummer, but looks are deceptive. They’re heavy and mega-riffy from the first chord, and when they announce the third song as being heavier, they’re not wrong: the bass positively barks and snarls its way through a grating grind of guitar before spinning into an extended blues jam by way of a midsection.

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REDFYRN

Percy don’t piss about. They’ve been at it long enough that they can pretty much plug ‘n’ play, and you pretty much know what you’re going to get from one of the most consistent bands on the circuit: workmanlike is by no means an insult in context of their Fall-influenced kitchen sink grouchfests. Does the delivery help or hinder? It’s probably appealing and offputting in equal measure – like they give a fuck. In so many ways, it’s business as usual for them: tight even when loose, scratchy guitars clang over busy rhythms as Andy Wiles, centre stage on bass throws all the Peter Hook poses. And they’ve got some cracking tunes: in fact, the current set is bursting with them, and it’s apparent that something has changed in the Percy camp of late, and they’re producing the best songs of their career right now. They really step up the intensity on the Fall-does-dance Middle Class Revolt style ‘Rubbernecking in the UK’ followed by the fiery politicking ‘Will of the People’, which ends in a squeal of feedback. They seem more energised than at any point in the last 20 years, and this is probably the best I’ve seen them in all the years since I first caught them back in 97 or 98.

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Percy

My Wonderful Daze take the stage with the guys looking doomy in smeared makeup. My notes for the evening peter out rapidly at this point as ‘m lost in the performance: the band have an incredible dynamic. Amalgamating some hefty grunge with a deftly accessible side, with bursts of noise and fury erupting from simmering tension they’re in some respects quintessential alt-rock, but don’t sound quite like any other band around. Raw but melodic, and with a compelling focal point in the form of Flowers who channels a gamut of emotional range, they’re solid and exciting at the same time.

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My Wonderful Daze

Cowgirl are a fitting headliner, and so very representative of the core of the York scene, featuring the ubiquitous local legend Danny Barton (who must be in or have been in at least two dozen acts who’ve garnered some appreciation in their hometown and beyond) and another former Federal Sam Coates. He’s sporting some heinous tassels on a fawn suede coat, and a bootlace tie. Who on earth wears those these days? The look is somewhat at odds with the band’s Pavementy slacker indie rock, but they’ve got the tunes and the knack of delivery. A lot of it’s the confidence of seasoned performers, but equally, a lot of it’s down to tidy songwriting, and these guys can kick ‘em out effortlessly and copiously. The penultimate song of set is an extended psych workout that’s not only a departure but the highlight of the performance because it’s good to see them cut loose.

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Cowgirl

What do you say to round off a night like this? There should probably be a pithy one-liner, but I’m all out: the Titanic Plum Porter is top-notch and I tumble out into the cold January night with its full moon, happy that things are good on the scene in York, and that while there may be infinite shit to wade through in life and in 2020, The Fulford Arms will continue to provide an oasis of musical joy.

Christopher Nosnibor

Videostore – the lo-fi indie duo consisting of Argonaut members Nathan and Lorna – are on a major roll at the moment, and their latest effort – pitched as a ‘love song for the apocalypse… channelling Stooges, Suede and Spacemen 3 guitars against a relentless drum machine and Atari samples’ – is their strongest to date.

It kicks in hard and that vintage mechanised drum track pumps away like a piston all the way through to the finish: no fills, nothing fancy, nothing but uptempo motoric 4/4 with that classic Roland-type snare sound.

The guitars are big and fizzy and when the extra distortion kicks in, it hits that treble explosion sweet spot that takes the top off your head, and you just don’t get that buzzsaw bliss with slick studio production.

The dual vocals contrast Lorna’s sassy drawl with Nathan’s blank monotone croak and the end result comes on like a riot grrrl rendition of a Pixies song covered by Metal Urbain.

Yet for all the retro, ‘My Back’ is very much a song for now: these are dark, paranoid times and it feels like we’re on the edge of the abyss, and this guitar-driven blitzkrieg is the perfect soundtrack.

Jonathan Hultén, the darkly enigmatic Swedish Grammy-winning songwriter has released the first single & video for track “The Mountain” taken from his debut solo album Chants From Another Place, due for release on Kscope on 13th March.

The musical inspiration for singer/songwriter Jonathan Hultén’s debut album Chants From Another Place is drawn from acapella folk and church choir compositions. Throughout the album, tales are weaved and musical influences collide as HULTÉN draws comparisons to artists including Nick Drake, Sufjan Stevens, Wovenhand and Fleet Foxes, as well as traditional folk artists such as John Martyn right through to his contemporaries in Anna Ternheim, José Gonzales, Anna von Hausswolff Chelsea Wolfe & Hexvessel.

“The Mountain”, the album’s debut single (released 10th January), is a potent yet minimalistic ode to loss and hope. Telling a tale of soul in distress, goes forth on a journey and faces death, transformation and rebirth is accompanied by a stunningly emotive animated video, created by Hultén himself, taking visual influence from the likes of Tolkien, Tove Jansson and art nouveau illustrator Aubrey Beardsley.  

Watch ‘The Mountain’ here:

HULTÉN will join CHELSEA WOLFE on tour, opening for her ‘Birth Of Violence’ acoustic tour in the UK & Europe in March 2020. “The live show is focused on reproducing the mystical state of mind in which the songs themselves were created,” he says. “Incense and lights that follow the music are the keys and draws you into the tranquil yet sometimes dramatic world that Chants From Another Place inhabits. Like watching a sunset; peaceful, sometimes kind of intense while also slightly psychedelic.”

MAR 11, Archa Theatre – Prague, Czech Republic

MAR 12, Großer Sendesaal Des Rbb- Berlin, Germany

MAR 13, UT Connewitz – Leipzig, Germany

MAR 14, Christuskirche Bochum – Bochum, Germany – sold out

MAR 16, TivoliVredenburg – Utrecht, Netherlands

MAR 17, La Gaîté Lyrique – Paris, France

MAR 19, The Stoller Hall – Manchester, United Kingdom

MAR 20, Saint Luke’s – Glasgow, United Kingdom

MAR 21, Coventry Cathedral – Coventry, United Kingdom

MAR 22, Alexandra Palace Theatre – London, United Kingdom

MAR 23, Bourla – Antwerpen, Belgium

MAR 25, Trinity Chapel – Lyon, France

MAR 26, Octagon Theater – Pully, Switzerland

MAR 28, Kammerspiele – Munich, Germany

MAR 29, Gruenspan – Hamburg, Germany

MAR 30, DR Koncerthuset Studie 2 – København, Denmark

MAR 31, Kulturkirken Jakob Oslo, Norway

APR 1, Nalen – Stockholm, Sweden

Remaining tickets available here: https://JonathanHulten.lnk.to/Chants

Hulten

OUS – OUS027 – 7th February 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

The accompanying text reports that Bit-Tuner’s seventh album, EXO ‘marks a milestone in his work’ and tells of how this ‘widescreen and beatless opus focusses on musical storytelling and atmospheric depth’.

EXO is unquestionably cinematic, with synth washes that are simultaneously soft and cloud-like, but achieve a density by their layering, and they conjure a breadth of sound, too, that evokes vast vistas that stretch from horizon to horizon. This isn’t ambient in the conventional sense, and while ‘beatless’ is a largely accurate description, it’s by no means formless, without rhythm, or without a certain sense of sensory attack. There’s a deceptive amount going on across the album’s eight pieces, and EXO is an album that doesn’t simply require attention, but demands it. This is not all wimpy, wispy sonic contrails that hang in the air: EXO has a certain solidity, depth, force that renders it anything but background. You can’t settle down and chill out to this, and while the musical storytelling may not be immediately apparent, the atmospheric depth is all-encompassing.

The prefatory single ‘Passage’ very much sets the tone, and on revisiting the piece here, it’s apparent just how much the mewling top-line, that semi-resembles a lost, plaintive seagull lost in the sweeping swathes provides a contrast and focus: this is an ambient work with intense focus, and, despite the absence of beats, a strong focus on rhythm. Then, ‘Valve’ pulses and throbs and crackles with distortion and decay around the edges and while it’s expansive, it’s also probing inwards toward the depths of the listener’s psyche. This isn’t music you can just leave running in the background: it continually grabs you and draws you in, demanding attention. And at times, it’s downright difficult and edgy.

‘Disbander’ pulses and grinds, low-end hums undulate and swoop into subsonics while mid-range interference collides against thumps and crackles and upper-frequency skitters and flits. There’s a lot going on, and while it’s anything but dark, it is incredibly tense: if you equate ambient with gentle, soft, and soothing, think again. ‘Ghost Light’ hits something of a Tangerine Dream stride, and electronic blips approximating beats coalesce to create a rhythmic structure that pulsates and throbs.

So is this ambient? It certainly doesn’t conform to the notion that it’s unobtrusive, or in an way calming, or soothing, and any contemplation encouraged here is rent with challenges. How does it make you feel? Ambience is so often geared toward the cerebral, but there’s a physicality to EXO, however subtle and subliminal: there are textures that make your skin crawl, tonalities than make you twitch, tense, and tingle.

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At last, an astonishing new creature from the Six Organs sound-lab is ambulatory, and upon us. On Companion Rises, Ben Chasny mixes synths and digital processing techniques with spacey guitar folk to lift his signature song-craft further out, while bringing it strangely full circle at the same time. Exquisitely arrayed and rich with harmonic exploration, the album presents a handful of cosmic folk-tales whose theme can best be stated as "Stellar-Gnostic."

With "Haunted and Known", the second single from the forthcoming Companion Rises, Ben’s darkly ominous acoustic riff is wound with elegantly resonating synth and electric guitar tones, unwinding seductively before becoming engulfed by the static drift of granular synthesizer.  A deep ballad to begin with, "Haunted and Known" is floated into a liquid world of non-linear waves, representing in microcosm the sonic spectre described by Kristen Gallerneaux in her "literary mixtape" High Static, Dead Lines.

With heightened perceptions, "Haunted and Known", along with the rest of Companion Rises, demonstrates sci-folk at the right time for the terrifying new decade. Prick up your ears and give a listen, the new album awaits you.

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Six Organs

KSCOPE – 7th February 2020

James Wells

Inescapable is Godsticks’ fifth studio album, and on it, the central focus is emotion. The accompanying blurb reports how the band ‘found themselves wanting a definitive theme running through Inescapable, without turning it into a concept album, of being more open, more personal and ultimately one that shines an inquisitive light on Charles’s struggle with inner demons which gave the songs a new level of intimacy’.

The first and most striking thing about Inescapable is its range. Opening with lead single ‘Denigrate’ which features TesseracT’s Daniel Tompkins, Inescapable announces its arrival in strong style, and not for the last time am I reminded of Alice in Chains – not because they sound like them so much, as the way they weave their melodies and vocal harmonies, the drawling, elongated vowels, and squirming darkness in the chords themselves: metal that’s not metal.

The nine-minute ‘Change’ slows the tempo and ups the angst, before the pairing of ‘Breathe’ and ‘Time’, both of which are altogether more succinct, counterpart one another nicely, the former being delicately wrought, the latter packing some punch, with sinewy lead guitars and chunky riffage that drive the album to dynamic straight-up rock finish.

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Godsticks – Inescapable

James Wells

Largely eclipsed by the vast melting pot that is Leeds, York tends to exist some way off the musical radar. Years of acoustic blues and middling indie acts probably didn’t do much to promote the city, either, but lately, some interesting and angry bands have emerged, with Old Selves being the latest to throw down some fiery post-hardcore with debut single ‘Strength In Four’.

It’s 3’33” of roaring fury, which throws lashings of loathing inwards and out. It’s tightly structured, and pins down a nice alternating loud / quiet verse / chorus before erupting into a driving mid-section propelled by a springy bass. It’s solid, and says these guys are an exciting prospect for 2020.

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