Archive for February, 2020

Cruel Nature Records – 9th March 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Cruel Nature clearly aren’t going for a major cash-in with this release, a 12-years-after-the-fact album containing the final recordings of a band who, while building a cult national following during their existence between 2002 and 2008, were predominantly a local phenomenon in their stomping grounds around Gateshead. Which means you may be forgiven for not being entirely au fait with Marzuraan and their work, of if you haven’t been o the edge of your seat and dripping with anticipation for this limited-to-75-copes cassette compendium.

For those not up to speed (and I’ll include myself here), the potted history of Marzuraan is that they started out as the duo of Pete Burn (guitar) and Lee Stokoe (Culver) (bass) before evolving into a full band with the introduction of Rob Woodcock (drums) and Stu Ellen (voice). ‘Taking their cue from bands such as Melvins; Black Flag; Harvey Milk; Earth; Godflesh and Loop, they soon cemented themselves as a pivotal band in the North East’s burgeoning Drone-rock / Trudge-core scene. Revered locally with a strong cult following nationally, they released 3 studio albums, appeared on countless compilations and split records influencing bands such as Bong and Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs, before disbanding in 2008’. The title, therefore, is on point and self-aware to the max. But t’s never too late, right?

The recordings here – apart from two tracks which featured on an obscure compilation and split 7” back in the day – represent their final cuts, dating back to 2005 and 2006, and they’ve lain neglected in the proverbial vaults ever since.

But if anything, the timing couldn’t be better: what goes around comes around, and heavy music is very much enjoying a renaissance right now, and the north-east scene is also thriving thanks to various acts associated with microlabels represented by Cruel nature and Panurus Recordings.

It’s the seven-minute ‘Morphine Waterfall’ from the Mare Nero compilation that introduces the release, and it’s a dislocated, angular dirge of a tune that plods and trudges disconsolately through barren territory that alludes to early Swans and 90s Touch and Go, along with peer obscuritants like Oil Seed Rape and Zoopsia: it’s grunge distilled and chilled to sub-zero and as it builds toward the end, the guitars become increasingly discordant, while the snarling, rapping vocal becomes increasingly desperate.

It’s Tar and Girls Against Boys that come to mind through the low-end murk of the chunky riff grind of ‘Golden Roman’, and everything is there for a killer tune but the recording, despite having been remastered last year prior to release. It’s as muddy as hell. It doesn’t actually detract, for what I’s worth, and in many ways is integral to the gritty, lo-fi charm.

It very much sets the level: ‘Muckbucket’ and ‘Blowin’ Cool Breeze’ are built around thumping, repetitive riffs, but the guitars are trebly and skew off at divergent angles.

The final track, ‘Moneybox’, which previously featured on a record split with SINK is a doomy trudge that pushes the influence of early Melvins to the fore as it crawls in a sea of howling feedback and a 23bpm percussive trudge that’s paired with a gut-quiveringly downtuned bass. It’s ace. If you can cope with infinite suspense between drum beats and the striking of a single chord, that is.

Ten Years Too Late shows that Marzuraan were both a band of their time, and a band ahead of their time, sounding utterly contemporary now. Maybe it’s time for a reunion…

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"This video was pieced together over several months.  Most of the footage was shot by the intrepid Pierre Malacarnet at Beck Studios in Wellingborough, the site of the original Bauhaus recording of ‘Bela Lugosi’s Dead’. I filmed the game and lovely Emily Jane White in a 19th Century bathtub in San Francisco.  Pierre then shot some other cut away scenes in Berlin and edited the whole thing together quite brilliantly.  The mood of the film resonates perfectly with that of the music," says David J.

Released in support of the massive double album Missive to an Angel from the Halls of Infamy and Allure, there’s a lot to get enthused by. Watch the video here:

Hallow Ground – HG2001 – 28th February 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Electric Sewer Age began as a collaborative project between Peter ‘Sleazy’ Christopherson (of Throbbing Gristle, Psychic TV, and Coil) and Danny Hyde, who continued the project together with John Deek, who subsequently passed away in 2013. It’s perhaps only natural that a sense of bleakness, of darkness, of a certain sense of grief permeates Electric Sewer Age, as a project strewn with loss.

Contemplating Nothingness is the third release by Electric Sewer Age, and the second one that Hyde finished alone, following on from Bad White Corpuscle, originally released in 2014, and re-released in 2016.

Contemplating Nothingness is pitched as ‘a lysergic tapestry culled from the deep end of the collective pop cultural unconscious’. It begins with some spaced-out trippy, doodly interweaving drones and some disorientating analogue latticeworks and shuffling electronic judderings providing the backdrop to some reverby, echoic vocals before transitioning into woozy dance territory, a stammering heartbeat bass beat fluttering beneath shifting layers of disquiet which collide with elliptical elisions to dance tropes.

‘Got some bad news this morning / which in turn made my day’, Hyde wheezes in a distorted Al Jourgensen-style vocal on ‘Whose Gonna Save my Soul’. I try not to wince too hard and the grammatical error and instead focus on the dark atmospherics the song conjured. Moreover, this single line encapsulates the contradictions which stand at the very foundations of this album, and the track itself delves into swampy dark ambience, dominated by a rhythmic wash, with Eastern motifs twisting in and out sporadically amidst a lower-end washing ebb and flow while the vocal, half-buried, is detached, distant.

Like its predecessor, Contemplating Nothingness is dark and difficult. Slow beats that land somewhere between heavy hip-hop, trip-hop and industrial drive ‘Chebo’, a delirious drag of chimes and electronic ululations. ‘Surrender to the Crags’ plunges into dark, dank, murkiness, but retains that eastern vibe that calls to mind both The Master Musicians of Joujouka and the otherness of the Tangiers scene in the 50s and 60s as depicted by William Burroughs.

‘Self Doubting Trip’ brings a dark intensity that will likely resonate for many: it’s claustrophobic and uncomfortable, and stands as something of a highlight in the way it attacks the psyche. You hate yourself enough already, but there’s a slight comfort in knowing your self-flagellation is not unique as you chastise yourself for simply living.

It makes the last track, ‘Dekotour’, feel like an electropop breeze by comparison, the chiming synth tones more early Depeche Mode than anything, but they bend, warp, twist and weave across one another to create a difficult knot of noise, with a thick, gloopy bass rising into the increasingly tangled textures.

There’s a certain nihilism at the heart of Contemplating Nothingness, which extends beyond merely the title and its implications of introverted emptiness, but it’s paired with a less certain and altogether less tangible levity which lifts it above dark ambience and into a space that’s given to contemplation and awakening. While ultimately minimal, there is variety and depth on display here, making for an album that deserves absorption and deliberation.

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Electric Sewer Age – Contemplating Nothingness

tētēma (Mike Patton and Anthony Pateras) release a video for “Wait Till Mornin’", the second single from the band’s second album, Necroscape (April 3, Ipecac Recordings).

“Peter Gunn on methamphetamine with RD Burman as co-pilot, being pursued by Madlib through an early 80s London industrial estate,” is how Pateras describes the three minute track. He went on to add: “This was one of the first songs we wrote for the new album, and probably played a big part in convincing us doing another would be a good idea. It is the only song on the record with a drum less chorus; like a lot of our music, the drama is upside down.”

“Wait Till Mornin’” is the second track to be released from the 13-song Necroscape, with the band debuting “Haunted On The Uptake” in mid-January. Pre-orders, which include a limited edition embossed gatefold vinyl (2500 copies), CD digipak and digital download are available here: https://smarturl.it/necroscape.

Necroscape is the second album from the modernist electro-acoustic rock proposition, seeing the outfit continuing to employ the wayward orchestrations and arresting physicality of their 2014 debut, Geocidal with a renewed melodic language which grounds its multi-colored twists and turns in hallucinatory lyricism.

Watch ‘Wait Till Mornin’ here:

Mille Plateaux – 6th February 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Motus is one of those albums that spreads eight pieces across four sides of vinyl. Most of these pieces are around seven minutes in duration, and manifest as grumbling, low-end analogue electronic instrumentals. Indulgent? Depends on your position, maybe. Audiophile quality? Vinyl addiction? While the pieces which make up Motus don’t immediately intimate a need for attention to detail and there’s no scope for the listener to bask in hearing the rich production values optimally through the medium of vinyl, the frequencies and tones that Köner explores probably do benefit from that full-spectrum vinyl sound, the audio uncompressed and benefitting from the full dynamic range, particularly those low-end sounds, some of which are so low as to almost disappear beneath the average listener’s hearing range.

Motus is steeped in theory, which is fitting given its release on Mille Plateaux, which takes t name – and also its ideologies from radical theorists Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, after whose 1980 text Achim Szepanski’s Frankfurt label devoted to minimal techno, glitch, and other various other experimental electronic forms takes its name.

Köner says of the album that ‘Motus is more (to me) than just music made with analogue synthesizers, it is about attitude, a way of relating to sound and the (e)motion it affects. A lifestyle, where movement, being moved and moving become one. My practice is vibrational, about the skin, touch and surfaces and the gaseous medium in between.

Vibrational it is: these pieces tremble and quiver and grate and grind and shudder and shake and judder and growl.

The first piece, ‘EXTENSION (Attack)’ is a low, glutinous throb, a gelatinous bellyache of a pulsation, rent with crackling, grating treble spurs that scrape at the walls of the cerebellum and scratch the lining of the gut. It’s unsettling, and marks the start of the album’s trajectory, which is unexpectedly linear, and follows a slow descent towards sluggish sludge that’s barely a muddy bubble by the end.

Along the way, ‘SUBSTRATE (Binaural)’ is a low, oscillating throb that expands and resonates over seven brain-bending minutes: there’s something about the more subtle of variations having the most torturous effect, especially when there’s a metronomic pulsing beat lurking beneath, while ‘OSCILLATOR (Luminous)’ reduces everything to an ambulating low-end slip and slide, a muddy melt of trudging bumps. The final cut, ‘SYNTHESIS (Carnal)’, takes things lower and slower still, to the point of near subliminality, slowly winding and grinding into the ground.

Motus is an odd one, an album that undermines itself as it evolves, reducing itself to a lesser sonic amount with each piece. And yet, as the sounds shrinks to little more than a gloopy brown puddle, the effect grows.

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Ahead of the release of their second album, Inviolate, Dystopian Future Movies release ‘Black-Cloaked’ as a follow-up to ‘Countenance’, which came out in January.

Check it here:

Monotreme Records

Christopher Nosnibor

I met my wife as she now is online back in 2000, before it was the done thing. Online dating didn’t exist, and we got chatting in Holechat, the band’s official online chatroom. We were both there because we had an appreciation of Hole, oddly enough. But Celebrity Skin has always been a point of division, in that it was my point of departure, with single ‘Malibu’ being a significant factor. To my ears, it was, and remains, the sound of selling out, and while pop is by no means is dirty word for me, it represented a slide into lazy, poppy commercial rock. From the band that brought us the snarling, spitting mess of noise that was ‘Teenage Whore’, this was the work of a band who’d completely lost their bite.

This is the personal context for my engagement with Stumbleine’s cover of ‘Malibu’, released as the second taster of the forthcoming album ‘Sink Into The Ether’, which promises ‘a deep submergence within a celestial upper region somewhere beyond the clouds’, and on this outing, ‘a lush ambient electro cover of Hole’s ‘Malibu’ featuring Elizabeth Heaton of Midas Fall on vocals’.

According to Stumbleine, ‘Hole’s ‘Malibu’ is the perfect balance of bittersweetness, a golden soundscape of serene melancholy. Tracks which illustrate that symmetry between light and dark are timeless to me, they mirror life with piercing clarity.’

That’s clearly a different perspective on the song from the one I have, and clearly informs this breathy, slow-unfurling drifter of a tune that bears negligible commonality with the original bar the lyrics. It’s slowed to a dripping mellowness that’s pleasant on the ear, but so prised apart and washed-out it’s bereft of chorus, hooks, or any other memorable moments. And in context, it’s nicely done, but it’s perhaps less of a cover than a reworking that’s 99% Stumbleine and 1% Hole. In this instance, that’s not such a bad thing.

Christopher Nosnibor

I’m here for the support. So much so, I’m here as a paying punter wearing a PIG T-Shirt. One of those bands who’ve existed on the fringes for over 30 years now, and have fared better in Japan and other territories than domestically, they’re an act which has evolved while retaining a unique and singular vision, with a particular slant on the whole ‘industrial’ thing. Raymond Watts may have taken his early cues from JG Thirlwell and KMFDM, and various collaborations have proven remarkably fruitful, but ultimately, PIG are special because their sound and style is possessed of a certain flair, an irony and self-awareness that’s atypical of the genre.

This is only their second UK tour since they supported Nine Inch Nails on the Downward Spiral tour back in ’94, and I wonder how any people in the room can claim to have seen all three of their tours? Half the audience probably weren’t even born in 94, but for once, rather than bemoaning my age, I get to pity them for being born too late.

Having slung out a slew of new prime cuts in recent years, with a new covers album hot off the press and hot on the heels of Risen in 2018 and an attendant remix album and a Christmas EP last year, one would have been forgiven for some heavy pluggage, but tonight, PIG- featuring a lineup including the near-legendary En Esch on second guitar.

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PIG

After an opening salvo of recent material including ‘Mobocracy’, a grating thrashgrind of a number, they delve into the rich pickings of the band’s extensive back catalogue, dredging up the cabaret sleezegrindgroove of ‘Hot Hole’. ‘Find it, Fuck it, Forget it’ and ‘Painiac also get unexpected airings, and Watts is on magnificent form, a fluffy of fake fur and pelvic dynamism: it’s a small stage and he’s a tall man, but it’s his presence that fills every inch of the space as he works the room. ‘Pray Obey’ thunders in before they close with 1997 single cut ‘Prime Evil’. It’s far too short a set, but it packs some punch and slams some ham and that’ll do nicely.

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PIG

3Teeth are a band who’ve completely bypassed me before this tour was announced, which probably says more about how poorly I’ve kept abreast of the contemporary industrial scene than anything. They’re from the industrial metal strain that revels in the S&M aspect of the imagery (which explains all the leather jackets, fishnets, and mesh tops out tonight) and they push it hard, so hard that Alexis Mincolla’s presentation swings into the territory of camp machismo, and musically, they represent entire Wax Trax! catalogue compressed into one band. And perhaps that’s the issue and the reason I haven’t kept up to date: there doesn’t feel like any real progression has taken place in the last quarter of a century or so.

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3Teeth

They come out strong with gritty metallic riffs and hard rhythms. With a 5-strong bass and 7-string guitar setup, there’s a real density to the sound, and they’re all about the crisp chug, and they display no shortage of hooks.

What struck harder than the music was Mincolla’s observations on the proliferation of CCTV here in Britain is more pronounced even than back home Stateside. It’s a sobering thought that stays with me while they power through a solid set during with they showcase new additions to the live repertoire from last year’s Metawar in the form of ‘Sell Your Face 2.0’ and ‘Time Slave’ about the corporate grind. It’s relatable.

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3Teeth

Running close to the curfew, they manage to just squeeze an encore, Mincolla returning to the stage in a suit and red lizard mask for ‘President X’.

It may not be revolutionary, but it’s well executed and played with passion, and the audience reception is definitely deserved.

Brooklyn based composer/producer/performer JG Thirlwell (Foetus, Manorexia, Xordox) – who has collaborated with the likes of Zola Jesus, Melvins, Swans, Kronos Quartet and many others, and is the composer for the highly acclaimed animated TV series  ‘Archer’ and ‘Venture Bros’  – and Swedish multi-instrumentalist and theatre music composer Simon Steensland collaborate on a new album Oscillospira due April 24th on Ipecac Recordings.

Different yet complementary, both creators make idiosyncratic music that can be characterised by dramatic intensity, shadowy suspense, darkness and light, sometimes breathtaking and always evocative cinematics. Oscillospira is an odyssey of dark chamber prog with a cinematic bent, largely instrumental album with eerie choral parts.

Ahead of the album they’ve unveiled ‘Heron’ as a taster. Listen to it here:

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Oscillospira