Archive for February, 2020

21st February 2020

James Wells

So the name sounds like either a virus or some kind of lozenge or medicine marketed to soothe the symptoms or a kind of virus, and the Birmingham quartet may trade in the kind of blues rock that’s been kicking around the last forty years since Led Zeppelin invented the heavy blues rock genre, but fuck it: ‘Frosty’ kicks ass. It does so by virtue of volume, and by bringing a dirty grunge twist, but first and foremost, it kicks ass because it’s solid.

It gets straight down to business. It’s got a lumbering, spiralling, circular riff that twists around on itself, and the guitar’s cranked up to eleven while the rhythm section thunders along and it’s everything Reef wanted to be, but failed to reach.

Ones to watch? Hell yeah.

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Cruel Nature Records / Sapien Music – 6th March 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

This is one of those releases that doesn’t piss about: ‘Mambo’ blasts in with a squall of discordant guitar and shuddering bass that immediately calls to mind Shellac and The Jesus Lizard, and it’s one of those ‘holy shit!’ Moments where you remember why coming into this kind of stuff in the early 90s was such a revelation. It’s the combination of power and unpredictability that was exciting them and still is now, and Tankengine have both in spades, zooming off every which way on the crash of a cymbal.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise: two members of Tankengine were previously in Yourcodenameis: milo, and the disparate elements that defined their work are abundantly in evidence here. And so as not to confuse this, their second EP, with their eponymous debut, they’ve named it twice. Consequently, I no longer quite so strongly feel the urge to form a band and name it Minotaur, with a view to the first tour being labelled the Minotaur Tour, the tour in support of the eponymous album the Minotaur Minotaur Tour, and the tour supporting the stop-gap EP before the second album the Minotaur Minor Tour. I also digress spectacularly.

The point I’m coming to is that Tankegine live up to the connotations of their name from the opening bars of opener ‘Mambo’, which twists and winds its way through a succession of sections that sound like completely different songs smooshed together yet somehow find a flow in some perverse mathtastic way. It’s all topped off with vocals that sound a bit like Jello Biafra, and it’s punk to the max. Hard on its heels, ‘Giant’ is everything all at once, a driving grunge beast with moments that sound like Talking Heads emerge between proggier segments, while there’s more of a John Lydon intonation in the vocals

‘Swagger’ sounds like it’s going to be a ballad, and it maintains a lower tempo, but shifts from being introspective and reflective, into a roaring inferno of anguish and overdriven guitar, and ‘Banshee’ combines post-hardcore aggression and shouting with a heavy goth hue, with a throbbing bass groove and chorus-coated guitars and a baritone croon.

On paper, it portrays as something between an identity crisis and a breakdown, but in the ears, it’s an identity crisis and a breakdown that resolves itself with a strange cohesion, and it’s all manifest in the six-minute closer ‘Flicker’, which begins low-key and strolls along and takes it time with some mellow melodies before finally delivering a squalling crescendo worthy of such a tumultuous, tempestuous EP, climaxing in a deafening roar that can only lead to stunned silence.

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Tankengine Tankengine

ZEHRA – 6th March 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

There’s always some impending doom or looming crisis facing us. As a species, we seemingly need some end of days narrative and a horizon shaded with the colours of oblivion in order to function – or maintain order. Collectively, we thrive on the drama. Given the state of the planet and of western democracy, it’s something of a shame that we’re still here, that we’ve not obliterated ourselves in a nuclear holocaust, that the earth hasn’t been swallowed by a black hole or supernova, that the millennium didn’t bring about the collapse of civilisation, that Ah Pook failed to materialise in 2012.

I’m listening to the mystical, timeless sounds of The Master Musicians of Jajouka, as captured on the colossal double album Apocalypse Across The Sky while being inundated with updates on the ever-accelerating spread of COVID-9: my office have emailed telling me that having pulled international travel a couple of weeks ago, there’s no travel between UK offices, including those within the same city, and that I’m to be prepared for enforced home-working. Could it be that where SARS and Bird Flu failed, we finally have the 21st century’s answer to bubonic plague? Time will tell, but it very much does feel as if there is indeed Apocalypse Across The Sky. Bring out your dead!

Having first come into being in 1950 and been introduced to a wider audience via the conduit of polyartist and William Burroughs collaborator Brion Gysin, The Master Musicians of Jajouka really broke into western consciousness in the late 60s, after Gysin took Rolling Stone Brian Jones to the village in Morocco – although there are now two groups purporting to be the ‘real’ Master Musicians: the one on this album, which ‘features’ Bachir Attar is the one Brian Jones encountered on his visit, when Attir’s father was at the helm. It’s ironic, as this is music that transcends all boundaries.

Apocalypse Across The Sky doesn’t sound especially apocalyptic, or radically different from any of the other recordings of the Master Musicians (in either iteration) I’ve heard that were captured since Brian Jones’ 1971 Pipes of Pan album, via the snippets captured in 1973 which appeared on the Burroughs album Break Through in Grey Room (my first encounter, and one which, with murky recordings sandwiched between various tape experiments, encapsulated the cut-up experience in a most singular way), the performances of various Joujouka musicians who performed at Gysin’s 1001 café in the mid-50s, released on One Night @ 1001 in the 90s, and on to more recent recordings.

Perhaps it’s my untrained ear: perhaps it’s that like many strains of dance and trance, which are very much dependent on the effects of repetition on both the mind and body, that much Sufi trance music sounds similar by design. But then again, when I described this music as timeless, I meant that the expectations of progression and evolution which are part and parcel of contemporary genre tropes simply do not apply here: folk music is steeped in tradition, and this is folk music in the truest sense, and therefore its very purpose is to remain unchanged and to preserve the past.

That isn’t to say all the pieces sound the same: some place considerably greater emphasis on the trilling pipes, while others are dominated by the complex polyrhythms, and Apocalypse Across The Sky does its thing and does it nicely, again capturing the experience of The Master Musicians of Jajouka. It’s hypnotic, captivating, resonant on a subliminal, psychological level.

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The Master Musicians of Jajouka feat Bachir Attar – Apocalypse Across The Sky

Christopher Nosnibor

I’m both intrigued and vaguely amused by the focus of the press release, which informs us that ‘In anticipation of their upcoming European tour in support of Suffocation, Belphegor and Hate, Italian metallers Necrosy have released a brand-new video for the track “Drown In Perdition” (at 320 bpm)’. But then, in certain circles, presumably including those of Thrash Speed, and Technical Death Metal (the latter being where this Venetian foursome position themselves in genre terms), the pace is of importance.

The album, Perdition, was in fact released back in 2015, and this video single is something of a stop-gap while they piece together album number two and gear up for a significant tur of the European mainland. What no UK dates? Well, no, and it’ probably not necessarily a Brexit thing, but while we’re at it, fuck Brexit and the damage the latest piece of hateful, movement-limiting legislation will do to touring bands and the music industry. Bands and fans and the economy alike will suffer.

On the subject of suffering, ‘Drown Into Perdition (at 320BPM)’ (and yes, the parenthetical element is noted on not only the video’s YouTube post, but also the album’s track list) is pretty fucking punishing, a whiplash blur of frenzied guitars and drumming which provide the backdrop to a guttural howl and while the lyrics are wholly unintelligible, the sound articulates by the medium of sound a fair approximation of the song’s title – a hellish, torturous assault.

The woman in the white dress / sheet who features in the video feels like a bit of a superfluous addition, but provides a nice visual contrast to the hairy, tattooed blokes lunging and prowling while wielding their instruments menacingly. It doesn’t detract from the song though, and of this is any measure, both the live shows and upcoming album should be pretty intense.

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Tour dates are as follows:

March 11th – Legend Club – Milan, Italy
March 12th – Kufa – Lyss, Switzerland
March 13th – Gare De Lion – Wil, Switzerland
March 14th – Le Jas Rod – Marseille, France
March 15th – BT 59 – Bordeaux, France
March 17th – Stage Live – Bilbao, Spain
March 18th – Capitol – Santiago, Spain
March 19th – Hard Club – Porto, Portugal
March 20th – RCA Club – Lisbon, Portugal
March 21st – Independance – Madrid, Spain
March 22nd – Razzmatazz – Barcelona, Spain
March 24th – Grillen – Colmar, France
March 25th – Garage – Saarbrucken, Germany
March 26th – Helvete – Oberhausen, Germany
March 27th – Felsenkeller – Leipzig, Germany

Only Lovers Records – 4th February 2020

James Wells

Mayflower Madame step up the promo for Prepared for a Nightmare, the follow-up to 2016’s Observed in a Dream with a second single in the shape of ‘Swallow’. It reveals a mellower side in relation to its predecessor, the bruising ‘Vultures’, and while it’s still very much an example of their trademark sultry psychedelic surf, ‘Swallow’ reveals a previously unheard melodic leaning.

Described as ‘a love song… about the dependence and fragility one might feel in a relationship – involving both a fear of and a desire for submission’, according to front man Trond Fagernes, it’s still not quite pop, and not exactly a ballad, either, and it’s draped in gothy shadows and doomed romanticism.

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Mayflower - Swallow

BlackLab, ‘the dark witch doom duo from Osaka, Japan’ are poised to return with their new long playing record Abyss.

Recorded under a full moon over three intense days, the album has the ‘off the leash’ abandon of ‘Fun House’ era ‘Stooges’ and is marked by a fat dose of doom meets slowed down hardcore punk; filled with loud, ultra distorted guitar, and yet, a surprising amount of melody as well.

In fact, Yuko has said that the band’s name is a combination of Black Sabbath and Stereolab, well here on Abyss is where that strange mix begins to make musical sense.

The band haven’t lost their love of lo-fi or ‘Riot Grrrl’ attitude.

The guitars are loud and heavily gnarled to the point of chaos.

Vocals go from shoegaze melodic to hardcore screams (in fact rarely has a vocalist in this genre screamed so musically as Yuko does) and underneath all this, Chia batters the skins, all rolling and tumbling thunder amidst the riffs.

Yes there is a smattering of ‘Sabbathy Wizarding’ of course, but submerged within dark, deep fuzz and punk rock crank and grind.

In truth the vibe is closer to both the arty heaviness of early Boris, and the sweet savagery of My Bloody Valentine, than any kind of ‘doom’ tropes. And in many ways, Blacklab are continuing the long tradition of Japanese experimental noise that bands like Melt Banana and Bordeoms exemplify. Ultimately though, it’s a sound that is undoubtedly BlackLab’s own.

So over 8 tracks, clocking in at around 42 mins, you get the current Blacklab world view.

‘Abyss’ is an album that is as raw and alive as it gets.

It’s refreshingly free of artifice, and it doesn’t arse around. What more can you want.

Say hello to the Osaka underground and watch the video for new single ‘Insanity’ now.

Canadian multi-media artist Jay Crocker presents what’s being pitched as his ‘third and most impressive Joyfulktalk album, a tour-de-force of modern composition systems music for electronics and strings. A Separation Of Being is based on Crocker’s mural-sized visual score artwork and his Planetary Music System of rotational interlocking notation. Channelling minimalism, Japanese environmental music, Maghrebian rhythmic modes and other numinous folkways, and featuring string arrangements performed by Juno and Polaris Prize winner Jesse Zubot (Tanya Tagaq, Destroyer). A Separation Of Being is translated from two-dimensional page to trans-dimensional aural life using an array of homemade instruments.

As a taster, Crocker’s shared the 9-minute track ‘Pixelated skin’, which you can check out here:

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Joyfultalk

(Photo Credit  Annie France Noel)