Archive for March, 2020

Blang Records – 28th February 2020

It’s a strong title, and that’s a fact. There’s a vividness, a visuality, and a physicality to it that gives it a rare impact. Turns out that this single – the title track from their upcoming album – which is pitched as ‘a furious reverb-drenched and darkly caustic song lamenting a culture of hate and envy that has led to the dehumanisation of refugees, and the disturbing rise of the far-right’, is very much everything that captures the zeitgeist.

It’s got all the edge, and it’s nailed to a stomping single-string riff and goth/glam drum beat and a textural rhythm guitar that’s pure Bauhaus. It dismantles all the anguish of life lived under late-period capitalism and in the all-consuming machine that is social media, the fact money dominates every corner of our lives and the way the need to pay the mortgage saps your soul and steals your life.

Combining nihilism and fury and welding it to a post-punk angularity, ‘Crush My Chest With Your Hate’ has bags of edge, and exists in the same space as Arrows of Love – and with the pricking tension of this release, The Reverse give me the same kind of buzz. Ones to watch.

Christopher Nosnibor

Word-fads come and go, and I’m as guilty as the next music journo hack-merchant of repetition and overuse, but I’ll make no apologies here, since this 7” revisits the early 90s zeitgeist with a breathtaking accuracy. Yes, I used both ‘zeitgeist’ and ‘breathtaking’ and I hate myself for both. But what I don’t hate is this release by Orchids.

This is a blizzard blur of vintage shoegaze noise, with ‘Dead Keys’ abrim with angling guitar and epic reverb and all the FX, with the result being a melt-together of early Ride and The Charlatans with latter-day exponents of psych-tinged shoegaze like The Early Years.

They whip up some blistering walls of noise across the two tracks here, while also delving into some spaces of motoric indie as guitars burst all around.

‘Another Day’ follows a similar template, a motoric beat and thudding bass groove underpinning a repetitive guitar line that rattles away in a wash of reverb, and it plugs away at that thing that it does for a hypnotic four and three-quarter minutes, to hypnotic effect.

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Orchids

28th February 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Brighton four-piece Deaf Surf, having emerged from various punk bands and spent their first year in existence gigging hard, formally announce their arrival with ‘Sofa’, a jagged slab of (post) punk that’s pissed off and angsty and picks at the anguish and (self) -loathing that comes from FOMO. If you associate sofas with comfort, relaxation and the pleasure of binge-watching box sets on Netflix, then brace yourself: Deaf Surf’s sofa is hard and lumpy and full of angst.

The lyrics list everyone’s ‘best lives’ splashed all across social media while singer Manon bitterly reflects on her own vicariously-lived life, ‘another, another, another adventure from my sofa’.

Sonically, Deaf Surf come on with clanging, grungy off-key guitar and a raw, DIY post-punk feel reminiscent in some aspects of Solar Race, in others of Come and Live Skull. The song builds to a raucous crescendo, and it’s all over in a succinct 3:22.

It’s a hell of a debut, and as of this moment, Deaf Surf are my favourite new band.

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Deaf Surf

Christopher Nosnibor

Ahead of the release of the album Durma, experimental urban found-sound experimentalist Akkor offers up single cuts ‘An’, and ‘Zabt’. The work of Istanbul-based Üstün Lütfi Yildirim, the two tracks showcase the artist’s approach to rendering a broad range of sources into accessible sound-sculptures.

‘An’, released at the end of January, is a brooding slice of ponderous electronica. Woozy bass tones swoop low and ambulate abstractedly to provide a backdrop to airy piano and incidental synth notes. The structured ambience of ‘Ab’ takes a non-linear form, but clocking in at three-and-a-half minutes, it’s tight and avoids indulgence.

In contrast, the six-minute ambient trance workout that is ‘Zabt’ begins with quiet, softly chiming notes which echo into a soft breeze, before an insistent pulsing dance groove enters the mix. It’s low in the mix and murky, creating tension and a dark energy. Gradually, things melt together to coalesce into an expansive headtrip of a tune.

It all augers well for the album if these singles are representative.

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Bearsuit Records – 20th March 2020

Because I like my shit weird, I’m always thrilled to receive new releases from Bearsuit Records, and Harold Nono’s latest is one of a brace of fresh releases – brimming with weird shit, of course.

The title We’re Almost Home suggests a relaxation, an easing into the home straight. Instead, what Nono delivers is a brain-bending sonic tempest, with ideas lifted from all corners of the planet.

Nono’s straight in with insistent stuttering rhythms that pound systematically over the point as the title intimates, against a jolting japandroid clash of fragmented robotix. Like all of Nono’s previous releases, it’s a whimsical culture clash, stop-start chillout dance grooves are juxtaposed with trilling synths, samples, scratchiness and warping

‘Shaking on an Iron Bed’ is a calamitous crash of wild jazz horns and cymbal bursts that give way to pulping disco with orchestral strikes, while the jazz tones keep on coming. All the ‘what the fuck?’, all the ‘why?’ and all the ‘no need!’ and yet, despite everything, it’s all the reasons Nono is worthy of you ear. It shouldn’t work, and on paper doesn’t work, and even at times in actuality is kind of off the mark, but the transitions are so rapid that it’s doing something else completely different before it’s even registered.

There are moments of Stereolab-like mellow doodling to be found in places, as on ‘Let the Light In (Prince of Darkness)’, heavy dark ambience, as on ‘Ron’s Mental Leap Coach’ and tripped out semi-ambient space electronica, as on ‘The Fall Reprise’. There is oddness and drama, and a whole bunch of abstract glitchiness, and it’s all characteristic of both Nono and Bearsuit. If you’re curious to take a walk on the weird side, then this comes recommended. If you’re not, then you need to expand your horizons, and this is still recommended.

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Harold Nono – We’re Almost Home

Christopher Nosnibor

It’s all about the work / life balance, right? That’s what I tell myself, and my colleagues, an anyone who will listen. The truth of maintaining a work/life balance often – at least in my experience – means killing yourself to meaningfully fulfil the life element. Because life isn’t about resting, it’s about doing the things that matter, pursuing your passion, not binging on Netflix. That isn’t life, that’s hiding from work, finding a mental space in which to escape and decompress. But no-one ever lay on their deathbed saying ‘I wish I’d watched more TV’. I haven’t watched a single episode of ‘Love Island’, ‘The Voice’ or ‘X Factor’ and am fairly confident my life isn’t in any way deficient because of it. Being a writer is more than tapping out a few jolly lines while sitting on the sofa watching a nice rom-com with the wife after the kids have serenely taken themselves to bed straight after dinner, and being in a gigging band, however infrequently you may gig, takes some serious effort, especially in addition to full-time dayjob and family commitments and all the rest.

And so I disembarked in York, where I live, after a two-day work trip to Norwich, and seven minutes later was on a train to Leeds. Some people are accustomed or otherwise adjust readily to travel: I’m not among them. People laugh at me when I use the term ‘train-lagged’, especially when in the context of a day-trip to Sheffield from York, but believe me, I feel it on a molecular level or something.

Another thing I’ve discovered recently is that reviewing and performing are very different disciplines, more so even than leading a meeting and taking minutes – which is pretty much what I’m attempting here.

Performing requires beer, and I had a couple on the train, and a couple more while grabbing some food and plotting a vague strategy for mayhem before going to set up. Unusually, we had a proper soundcheck, although I hate vocal soundchecks. As long as things work, I’m more concerned about volume and tonal impact than mix, given that what happens during the performance rarely resembles the soundcheck anyway, and the while white noise and shouting only works at speaker-shredding, tinnitus-inducing volume. You don’t need to hear the words, you just need to feel the force, ad anything less than freight-train impact falls short. We made noise. We nodded, retreated to the back with more beer.

The Truth About Frank’s set started unusually gently, with an ambience that wasn’t even particularly dark, before murk and muffled samples edge in. Before you know it, the PA is blaring a surging swell of beats and a wash of noise, oscillating washes of discoordinated sound layers meld with off-kilter techno. This is one of TTAF’s more structured-sounding sets, and it builds well and culminates in a fragmented flurry of fractured noise.

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The Truth About Frank

…(something) ruined crash-landed by happy accident, and once again, in the squall of brutal noise, I ruined myself. This simply seems to be how it is. This was probably our strongest and most brutal, tinnitus-inducing set yet. I told the sound guy during soundcheck that I wasn’t fussed if my vocals got buried in the barrage of noise, and unlike some, he respected that. There are fantastic audio and video recordings of the set: I’m barely audible for large portions, but Paul Tone is on absolute A1 peak form for brutal electronic noise, and the volume, it would seem, was pretty much excruciating. So I’m happy.

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…(something) ruined

My sketchy notes state that Black Alert play Tangerine Dreamy Krautrock with samples. It’s an evolutionary electro set that’s heavy on vintage synth and drum sounds, with the drums pumped up in the mix. It’s a nice contrast, and the emphasis on melody is welcome at this point in the evening.

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Black Alert

And then there’s Un Sacapuntas. The solo noise project of Alice Nancy, this performance – and it’s all about the performance – is something else. There’s a reason I prefer to play early, an acts like this are all the reasons why: you wouldn’t want to follow this. Alice is mesmerising and intense as she fastens a contact mic to her throat while unlacing her shoes. What follows is an intense and hypnotic show, both sonically and visually: burrs of treble and shrieks of feedback break through a dank rumble while she shrieks unintelligibly and wafts around the stage, a ghostly presence.

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Un Sacapuntas

It’s a superb end to a great night which is exemplary of the Hogwash experience: Dave Procter’s curation is both considered and intuitive, bringing together a road range of unusual non-rock acts from near and far. With a respectable and enthusiastic audience, Leeds underground scene is very much kicking.

With their recent single ‘Going Nowhere’ taking a lunge into darker, surfy/gothy territory (while retaining the garage/grunge style of their debut album and the ‘In The Mouring’ EP), Weekend Recovery are a band who clearly aren’t content to stay in one place for too long – musically or geographically.

With their second album, False Company, just around the corner – and the indications are it’ll be a belter – the recently streamlined power-trio are hitting the road later this month with a handful of shows to showcase some new material. No doubt there’ll be a few older rabble-rousing favourites, too.

Since the release of their debut album, Get What You Came For in 2018, they’ve garnered radio play, played at Camden Rocks, and expanded a committed fanbase through some hard gigging. We’ve covered them enough times here at Aural Aggro to give a two-thumbs-up recommendation to get down and see them.

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Dates are as follows:

20 March – Blackpool, Bootleg Social (supporting Cut Glass Kings)

21 March – Leeds, Headrow House (w/support from Carry the Crown)

28 March – Manchester, Retro (main support to Joan the Wad)

Event details and tickets are on Weekend Recovery’s Facebook page.

Sky Valley Mistress, who release their debut album Faithless Rituals on 20th March, have shared new single ‘Punk Song’.

‘Punk Song’ is described by drummer, Max Newsome, as ‘the heaviest of jams, an album worth of riffs in six and half minutes. Nasa says this song is so dense it changed the earth’s orbit when it was written’.

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.

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

Listen to ‘Punk Song’ here:

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Sky Valley Mistress - Faithless Rituals [Album Cover] 1500

Ici d’ailleurs – 27th March 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Matt Elliott’s solo work released under his own name is a world apart from his output under the Third Eye Foundation moniker. However, as the press release reminds us, he’s ben flying solo for a while now: The Calm Before, released four years ago, was his seventh solo effort. Farewell To All We Know is not the storm his previous album, The Calm Before alluded to, but nor is it an entirely mellow affair either. There are currents that run deep and perturbed in Farewell To All We Know, an album that leaks a certain sense of despondency which is often hard to define. It’s all in the mood.

The title track, which arrives after a brief instrumental introductory piece, is representative of the album as a whole: sparse acoustic guitar is the primary accompaniment to Elliott’s Leonard Cohen-esque growling drone. He sings low and mumbles his lyrics, but there’s something appealing about this gruff unintelligibility. Oftentimes, the vocals are emitted in monosyllabic breaths, breaking the words down to simple sounds, at which point they become less about linguistic meaning than the conveyance of a feeling, a mood, an emotion.

Flamenco favours and understated piano colour the instrumental slant of the album, giving it an almost continental hue. The soft, vaguely romantic – but bleak – stylings of the compositions are charming, sedate but with an undertow from currents that run dark and deep.

‘Can’t Find Undo’ is dark, stark, and brings a rumbling ambience as a prelude to the almost nursery-rhyme sing-song melodies of ‘Aboulia’ and the scale-driven ‘Crisis Apparition’ is easy on the ear but still drags on the soul.

Farewell To All We Know is a lugubrious and at times slow to the point of dragging effort, but one feels that’s the intention: this is not a pop album. Or a rock album. Farewell To All We Know is bleak and harrowing, but also charming and enjoyable in a dark, dark, dark folksy way.

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28th February 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

It’s a question many of us ask at some time or another – usually in the face of some existential crisis, or moment of isolated reflection. Because really, what’s the point? We’re only born to die, with a short period punctuated by pain and occasional glimmers of joy in a desert of drudge that consists largely of working (if you’re ‘lucky’) and sleeping (again, if you’re ‘lucky’). We’re but specks in an infinite universe and about as useful as cockroaches, only more damaging to the environment.

With this single, Airport Impressions get ponderous against a spacious sonic backdrop, where an understated bass leads the verses, which break into an immense swell of a chorus that’s unquestionably anthemic, even arena-scale, but without pomp or pretence. ‘Why Are We Here?’ has clear commercial appeal but without in any way being dumbed-down or numbingly bland. And that’s surely a winning formula, and at least answers the question of why Airport Impressions are here.

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