Archive for March, 2020

Legendary NYC based musician JG Thirlwell (Foetus, Manorexia, Xordox) and composer Simon Steensland present the cinematic noir of their new track "Papal Stain" from the new collaborative album Oscillospira, to be released 24 April on Ipecac Recordings.

Speaking on the track Thirlwell remarks, "’Papal Stain’ is a multi movement piece which takes the listener on a cinematic journey that vacillates wildly in mood before its tumultuous climax. Along with Thirlwell and Steensland playing many instruments between them, the track features performances by drum virtuoso Morgan Ågren (Devin Townshend Band, Zappa, Mats Morgan) Simon Hanes (Tredici Bacci) on guitar, Chris McIntyre (Tilt Brass, Either/Or, SEM Ensemble) on trombone and Joanna Mattrey (Tredici Bacci) on violins."

A frequent collaborator with the likes of Zola Jesus, Melvins, Swans, Kronos Quartet and many others, JG Thirlwell is also the composer for the highly acclaimed animated TV series  ‘Archer’ and ‘Venture Bros’ while Swedish multi-instrumentalist Simon Steensland is known for his compositions for theatre.

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.

JG Thirlwell and Simon Steensland’s journey together first began in 2017 in Stockholm at a workshop for the Great Learning Orchestra, a collective that operate on the model of an experimental music ensemble from the late 60s, Cornelius Cardew’s Scratch Orchestra, using musicians from a variety of backgrounds and abilities. 

JG Thirlwell recounts "I had been a fan of Steensland’s work for some years through his albums like Led Circus and Fat Again. I admired the dark power in his work and it seemed adjacent to a lot of music that I love and inspires me – groups in the Rock in Opposition and Zeuhl worlds such as Magma, Univers Zero and Present, as well as 70’s era King Crimson and Bartok."

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Yorkshire’s answer to The Fall may have postponed the release of their new album, and since they can’t build any buzz with their usual gigging schedule, they’ve released an album preview to accompany the pre-order on Bandcamp. Showcasing some solid songs and a ragged, lo-fi production on an album that – in the best possible way – sounds like Percy, in the way they’ve sounded like Percy since forever. In uncertain times, here is a band you can depend on…

Get yer lugs round it here:

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March 28, 2020

No preamble, no slow-building intro: Fret! pile in with everything louder than everything else on the full-throttle set opener, ‘Hillbilly’. It’s got swagger and groove, but it sure as hell ain’t country, and similarly, ‘Surf’ is swampy, repetitive, dingy. And of course, I’m excited.

Recorded live at South Street Arts Centre, Reading (UK) 18 March 2017, Fierce Business On South Street documents a set which comprises a large number of songs from the album

Through The Wound The Light Comes In, released the month before. It captures the feel of a live show brilliantly, being raw, unsanitised, and in your face. Right now, when I’m missing gigs so badly it hurts, Fierce Business On South Street reminds me of everything that’s special and unique about that blast of sound in a confined space, with the immediacy and proximity to both the band and other people being leading factors. It’s perhaps ironic that this live recording does more justice to some of the songs than their studio counterparts, but Fret! are a band who are 100% DIY in their aesthetic, and the zero production applied to the releases to date is integral to that.

‘DK’, the first track on Through The Wound, is built around a cyclical bass riff and some churning guitar that slows to a crawl before bleeding into the lugubrious doomy dirge of ‘Dark as a Dungeon’, a downtuned grinder that which features the set’s first vocals. If you’re looking for melody or hooks, look elsewhere. Cut down to seven minutes from the 14-minute studio version, it’s still epic on every level.

They rip through nine songs in just over half an hour, with a succession of short sharp shocks – ‘Cowboy’, ‘Punch’, and ‘Loop’ are all around two-and-a-half minutes, with the penultimate assault, ‘Tired’ being blasted through in a blink-and-miss-it minute and a half. Closer ‘Sonic’ blasts in with a blitzkrieg of snare shots like machine-gun fire and it drives it all home to the finish in style and with all the energy.

The riffage is relentless, and dingy and packs the same sweaty gunge heft of early Tad, and this is so grimy you’ll probably need to shower afterwards.

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13th March 2020

Following on from the single cuts ‘An’ and ‘Zabt’ in January and February, Turkish musician Akkor unveils the full-length album in the form of Durma, which promises ‘an electroacoustic narrative in a progressive cinematic sound universe through piano, synthesizers, soundscapes and recorded/found noises’.

What these releases hinted at, and which the album confirms, is that Akkor’s approach to combining found sound and electroacoustic arrangements are subtle, seamless, even. Rather than collaging cut-up fragments and snippets across one another to disorientating effect, Akkor processes everything, hard, smoothing it together to form a whole that’s textured but remarkably coherent. That there’s an overtly structured feel to the album, with piano motifs and defined beats holding things together is the key here.

The ten-and-a-half minute title track which opens the album is a spacious ambient work that rumbles, scrapes and soars towards the stratosphere before the thudding electro beats kick in and pull it back towards the ground. It’s mellow and expansive, but there’s a solidity at the core of the cloud-like drift.

It sets the tone and the form nicely. With all but one of the seven tracks stretching past the five-minute mark and the majority in the six to ten-minute range, Akkor isn’t afraid to explore, to give his ideas and the sounds that carry them room to breathe. And Durma is one of those albums that’s best experienced as a whole, not because of continuity or flow, but because it sits together as a single piece. And when heard as such, it’s an absolute pleasure.

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Industrial Coast – 20th March 2020

Please Call Me Fuck In Front Of My Friends, the latest dispatch from the prodigiously prolific Theo Gowans, aka Territorial Gobbing, finds oodles of discombobulating discord and dissonance thrown together in a set of skewed sound collages. As such, it’s business as usual. TG’s wildly experimental approach to rendering and processing sound by means not just of founds found and myriad effects, but the (mis)appropriation of random objects means you never know what the hell you’re actually listening to: loud crackles and scratches are probably the sound of sweet wrappers and paper towels being scrunched up close to the mic. It’s supposedly Theo’s most ‘organised’ work to date, and maybe it is, but of course, it’s all relative and one man’s organised is another man’s chaos – as anyone who’s seen my office will probably appreciate.

Amp hum and scrambled tape loops twist and entwine into a massive twisty knot of noise, a clashing conglomeration of aural chaos, a crazed cataclysm of random elements thrown together in the most haphazard of fashions. This shit’s impossible to pin down.

Garbled groans and wheezes, bleeps and blasts of noise collide with static and radios being tuned detuned, and retuned; there are prolonged periods where not a lot happens, which are annihilated by brain-bending bursts wee everything happens all at once.

‘Pyrex Chalice’ is representative, with something that sounds like bottles and cutlery being used as an improvised xylophone while dustbins clatter in a city alleyway and someone close to the mic stifles the breaths of a crafty wank.

Metallic scrapes and clatters coagulate into messy improvised chimes, and there’s some kind of whispered, gallic-sounding sleaze that descends into sobbing and is backed by clattering pots and pans on ‘Massage the Scar, Five Minutes, Five Times’. If none of it makes any sense, then that’s entirely the point.

Playful but bleak and as twisted as fuck, Please Call Me Fuck In Front Of My Friends again suggest that Territorial Gobbing is one of the acts closest to the spirit of the other TG, and Genesis P-Orridge’s absorption of the influence of William Burroughs’ cut-ups. The Industrial Records release of a collection culled from Burroughs’ archives of tape cut-ups on Nothing Here Now But the Recordings marked a direct link: Territorial Gobbing very much continues the trajectory in creating music that discards linearity in favour of simultaneity.

Weird times call for weird music, and Please Call Me Fuck In Front Of My Friends is the perfect brain-bending soundtrack and exactly the distraction you need.

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Bearsuit Records – 27th March 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

This release acquired a new poignance with the passing of the person who inspired it just weeks before its release. Mark was the editor of Losing Today magazine and his blog, The Sunday Experience was renowned and revered for its coverage of the weird, the wonderful, and ultimately, the underexposed, an ethos I can more than relate to. It’s something you do for the love – and I don’t mean adulation – not the money. But the thing I’ve learned from personal experience is that the more obscure and niche the band, the greater the appreciation for the exposure. Depeche Mode were right: it’s a competitive world, and with a gazillion bands vying for attention, it’s hard to snag coverage if you’re unknown.

As I see it, as a music fan and writer, it’s all about the grass roots and the underground: no-one needs my opinion on the latest Editors or U2, but they do need to know about the great stuff being released by the likes of Bearsuit and Panurus and infinite acts working on a DIY basis. This was also very much Mark Barton’s territory, and the disparate array of contributors to this compilation is testament to his eclecticism and unswerving commitment to promoting all things beyond the mainstream – so much so that this CD reminds me of what it was like to listen to an episode of John Peel in the early 90s. So there’s a shedload of indie and alt-rock, a dash of grunge, all the shoegaze, and some trudging industrial metal. Yep, they’ve even scored a track from Godflesh for this release, in the form of ‘Ringer’, lifted from the ‘Decline & Fall’ EP released back in 2014 and now deleted.

The list of contributors and the track list is remarkable, and testament to Barton’s range and reach, and also respect in the music community. The relationship between music writers and artists can at times be fractious, and so tom observe the reciprocal appreciation for a true champion is something.

It’s pretty cool having The Lovely Eggs up first: they’re one of those quintessential lo-fi indie/ alt-rock bands that could have exited at any time in the last 30 years, but we’re fortunate they exist now to carve out melodic songs with a quirky twist and all the crunchy guitars. And while guitars do dominate the selection – Kiran Leonard’s ‘Pink Fruit’ is rather like early Radiohead but with a major grunge twist, while Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs bring a mess of Hawkwind-like space rock and Yellow 6 and Moon Duo booth melt together combinations of psychedelia and shoegaze together over a motorik groove.

Given Bearsuit’s propensity for the ultra-weird, often with hints of electronica and with a Japanese flavour, this release seems surprisingly regular – but that’ a question of context rather than a case of selling out, as the gloopy ambience of Irkan’s ‘Hirkeskov’, the swampy bedroom trip hop of Fort Dax’s ‘Sakura’ and the presence of an array of unknown acts evidence.

The names and unknowns sit alongside one another perfectly, however, and in balancing knowns and unknowns, it makes for a great showcase of diversity, and a great compilation in its own right. The fact all proceeds are being donated to Macmillan Cancer Support is an additional bonus, and shows the artistic community doing what big businesses so rarely do, namely putting people and causes before profit.

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Ipecac Recordings – 3rd April 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Tētēma’s second album, Necroscape, takes as its theme ‘isolation in the surveillance age; and although lofty/high-concept sounding, this is still an intensely fun and heavy listen’. As we enter a strange (I’m already sick of ‘unprecedented’) time that gets stranger by the day, isolation is coming to take a new level of meaning and a heightened reality for many around the globe. As if the constant surveillance wasn’t enough to make many of us jittery and paranoid, the world in which we now find ourselves is one in which paranoia has been replaced by all-out panic, jitterniess by full-on bog-roll buying shitting. However caught up in the hysteria one is, the incontrovertible fact is that things are weird right now. And because tētēma is a project involving Mike Patton, this is a weird album.

Pairing again with Anthony Pateras to deliver a ‘modernist electro-acoustic rock proposition’, the one thing Necroscape is not is predictable. It’s also far from po-faced, instead leading the listener on a wild ride that’s intense, and bewildering but not bleak.

The haunting, sepulchral title track, with monastic vocal utterances and delicate piano does nothing to prepare the listener for the blistering racket that follows on ‘Cutlass Eye’. Swinging between snarling black metal and wild orchestrals, it’s a rollercoaster to say the least. ‘Soliloquy’, released recently as a single, ain’t Shakespeare, but is a random blast that sounds like a 33 being played at 45 with sinister vocals that veer from a whisper to a snake-like strangulated snarl. There are passages of murky experimentalism and discord that slide in and out of swampy jazz, and there are classic Patton moments that slip out amidst the collage of chaos, with hints of Faith No More’s inimitable melodies an Mr Bungle’s nuttiness balanced by Anthony Pateras slightly more balanced, rational compositional style.

As a collaboration, it brings together two quite different styles and melds them seamlessly.

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