Archive for May, 2020

Human Worth – 25th August 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Modern Technology crashed the scene hard with their eponymous debut EP in January of 2019. A devastating detonation of thunderous post-punk nihilism that dismantled consumer culture with half a dozen hard-hitting sonic blasts, it was focused and perfectly formed. It also very much captured the zeitgeist, while plunging sonic depths appropriate to the bleakness of mass consumerism and a culture that favours conformity and the erosion of individuality.

The duo – bassist / vocalist Chris Clarke and drummer Owen Gildersleeve gigged hard for a full year off the back of the EP, proving themselves to be a truly formidable live act: with a clear grasp of dynamics, intensity, and the importance of volume, they not only won a proper grass-roots fanbase, but also used their art for social good, donating proceeds from their Human Worth events and the profits from said EP to a selection of charities, notably Mind, Shelter, and The Trussell Trust.

Service Provider finds the duo even more aflame with fury and frustration at contemporary society, and although they seemed pretty well-honed on their first outing, they’ve taken things up another level or three here. The formula – such as it is – is unchanged, with the compositions centred around repetitive, cyclical grooves, pulverizing percussion and anguished vocals swamped in reverb to forge dense capsules of nihilism. The artwork, similarly, consolidates their identity, and the stark monochrome design with its dissolving text is a perfect summary of the stark images of social decay the band depict in their songs. But now, they’ve triple-distilled their ire, and the mammoth production only enhances the effect.

The first of the eight songs, ‘Therapy’ starts sparse, just Clarke’s brooding baritone voice and a primitive thudding drum beat. Those opening bars contain pure anguish, his voice cracked and distorted. Then, in a sharp squeal of feedback, the bass tears in like a whole troop of tanks crashing in, their caterpillar treads tearing at the earth, before locking into a single grinding note that booms out, each simultaneous strike of drum and bass like an explosion. Part Unsane, part Swans, it’s a heavy-hitter, and sets the tone and weight from the outset.

The bass buzzes and rumbles, the drums are understated, thumping away an insistent slow build, and it’s mostly just a scream of feedback like a jet engine that accompanies Chris’ vocal, an edge of distortion on the epic reverb, while he hollers, half-buried in the mix on ‘Blackwall Approach’. According to Wikipedia, ‘The northbound Blackwall Tunnel is a traffic bottleneck with tailbacks. A TfL study in 2009 revealed that the 1.1-mile (1.7 km) approach to the northbound tunnel took around 19 minutes in rush hour traffic, or a delay of approximately 11 minutes per kilometre.’ As such, it makes sense, the band casting a bleak eye over miles of excess traffic and literally tonnes of CO2 emissions. Because this is how we will die, choking the planet and ourselves in our question for exponential growth. And if you think ‘The Great Pause’ will change anything, then while I applaud your optimism, you are completely deluded: lockdown isn’t even over and there are mile-long queues of traffic to access beaches and beauty spots.

‘All is Forgiven’ is an epic grunger, coming on like an outtake demo for Nirvana’s Bleach played at half speed, with Owen’s powerhouse drumming driving thunderously. It’s raw and dingy and hits with serious velocity. The riff on ‘Gate Crasher’ is cyclical, repetitive, gut-churning, ribcage rattling, an intensely physical experience, which captures the force of the band’s live performances perfectly.

Describing a riff as ‘crushing’ may be a cliché, but fuck it: ‘Twitcher’ is a monolithic doom-weight crusher of a beast. A low-slow stealth verse yields to a thick distortion-ripping chorus that is absolutely punishing.

‘Terra Firma’, the album’s shortest song at a mere two-and-a-half-minutes, finds the band explore their more experimental side in a bleepy intro that gives way to a devastating bass blast paired with a squall of treble that calls to mind early Head of David, and serves as an into to the closer, ‘Life Like’, into which it segues. It begins with a spoken-word narrative, a rolling drum and bass almost serene as Clarke hovers around a calm monotone. Early crescendo threats subside and contribute to a simmering tension. But around the four-minute mark the build really begins in earnest, the bass thickening, swelling, and emerging in a tempestuous burst for an elongated outro that takes it to near the eight-minute point.

As a social commentary, Service Provider gets right to the rotten core of capitalist exploitation, and the way it pitches everyone as competition. The upper echelons are competing for supremacy: the majority are competing for scraps and for survival as the divide grows wider. And yet the irony is that the supremacy at the top is predicated on the rest purchasing whatever they’re selling, and all too often it’s shit they don’t need and can’t afford but that’s somehow become essential to contemporary living.

If anyone believes a world emerging from lockdown after the first wave of Covid-19 will be kinder, more accommodating, more humane, the early signs are that they’re sadly mistaken, as businesses slash employees and push even harder to return profits in the wake of a global financial slump.

We’re all fucked, and Service Provider sells it out loud – very loud – and clear, in stark, brutal terms. It’s a pretty punishing set, and what’s impressive is that they sustain the bludgeoning impact throughout, making for an absolute monster of an album. It’s hard to fault service like this.

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30th May 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Having begun May with a new release in the form of Beyond Life, an exploratory ambient work in the form of a single twenty-six minute track, Ashley Sagar ends the month with a follow-up, and counterpart of similar scope and scale.

If the title suggests something a bit new-age, a bit hippy, trippy cosmic, and a bit pretentious, the music is contains isn’t anything of the sort, although there is a certain haze of mysticism and perhaps a sniff of incense about the album’s slow-drifting atmospherics.

There’s a faint scratching pulsation, like a metal object scraping against scratched glass, that grabs my attention early on: the arrival of slow, sedate, rolling percussion– possibly conga or similar hand drums – provides a new focus for the attention, and changes the tone considerably. With a rhythmic structure providing a framework and solidity, the piece becomes less overtly ambient and abstract. Shifting further over time towards cyclical, non-percussive rhythms transports the listener into a softer pace, before an unexpectedly weighty segment around the eleven-minute mark where the beats crash in and dominate, however briefly.

Thereafter the looming shadows are longer and darker, with rumbling low notes and heavy drones underlying Ian Mitchell’s delicate picked guitar notes and the returning percussion, along with one of Sagar’s distinctively strolling basslines. It may be subtle and muted, but its presence builds depth beneath the numerous shimmering layers which ebb and flow.

The segments are short and the transitions relatively swift, which gives The Temple… a strong sense of movement, movements that’s effortless and natural, since the parts flow seamlessly into one another like a stream flowing through a varied landscape, cascading from a spring-line, down a hillside and through a woodland. This may not be the most fitting metaphor, but you get the idea, and it’s perhaps telling that my mind is drawn to the natural rather than the spiritual, and I’m drawn to the distant horizon as the final notes throb and ripple to the fade.

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Sargent House

Christopher Nosnibor

Chelsea Wolfe and her band drummer Jess Gowrie came together while touring Wolfe’s Hiss Spun album in 2017. I reasonably expected Chelsea to be the dominant force here, and it’s perhaps because of that expectation that Self Surgery, the fruits of their collaboration under the moniker of Mrs Piss, hits as hard as it does. It’s the best kind of collaboration, greater than the sum of its parts, and finds Wolfe standing equal creative billing.

If Wolfe’s albums are marked by a degree of poise, control, balance, then those are tossed to the wind in a deluge of noise on Self Surgery. It’s unrefined, even messy in places, and all the better for it. It feels like a true exploration as the pair cut loose, dredge deep, and find what’s really inside themselves.

‘To Crawl Inside’ is but an intro track, 43 seconds of no-wave buzz and a vocal stew that bubbles discord and disquiet. It sets the tone in that it’s raw and ragged, angular and challenging, but it barely begins to set the levels for volume and abrasion. On Self Surgery, Wolfe and Gowrie crank it up and go all out.

‘Downer Surrounded by Uppers’ blasts headlong into a grunge blast, and we’re talking more early Hole than the stereotypically formulaic quiet/loud dynamic of what’s come to be associated with grunge since Nevermind and Live Through This redrew the template and rendered it accessible. It’s not the only full-throttle grunge explosion: ‘Nobody Wants to Party with Us’ is throws in some skull-cracking percussion and an industrial edge that lands it somewhere between Pretty On the Inside and The Downward Spiral. It’s heavy-duty.

‘Knelt’ finds Chelsea in more familiar territory, with a grinding, low-registering bass and swirling maelstrom of distorted guitar providing a dense, murky backdrop to a breathy, brooding vocal that’s reminiscent of ‘Spun’. But while still cinematic, and also deep, dark, and weighty, as well as simultaneously ethereal, the guitars wrapped in layers of effects and drenched in reverb, there’s a different feel to the production here: less polished, less precise, everything is more up-front, more direct.

If the first half of the album is intense, the second is next level: muscles twitch and nerves jangle in the face of the upshift in pace and intensity that begins with the driving riffery of ‘M.B.O.T.W.O.’ and steps up with ‘You Took Everything’, which is shadowy, gloomy, gothic in mood, stark snare ricochets shaping the direction as screaming banshee backing vocals fill the backdrop with a fearful hauntology.

The title track is a daunting morass of dingy bass and pulverising percussion that paves the way for the mess of no-wave noise that is the pair’s titular tune and sums up what their about perfectly, as the guitars and dual vocals swirl in currents of feedback before a driving drum thrash that calls to mind Bleach-era Nirvana hammers to an unexpected moment of calm to fade.

Because of its timing, and its staunchly uncommercial titling, this project could well be a bit of a sleeper, but the fact is, it’s as strong as anything Wolfe has released during her career to date, and is a truly killer album in its own right.

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Cruel Nature Records – 19th June 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Much as I love living in York because of The Fulford Arms, and the ease of access to limitless gigs in Leeds (without having to actually live in Leeds), I’m starting to think that Newcastle is the place to be.

Cruel Nature’s roster is reason alone, and this latest offering from full-throttle noisemakers Ballpeen is exemplary. Three years on from their first live show and, the band have established themselves, ‘through releases on premier DIY punk label, Serial Bowl Records’. As the press release recounts, ‘2018’s ‘Loose Knot’ with its wry nod to Black Flag in title and excellent artwork, rapped five across the listener’s brow from the get-go, with its attention-grabbing power and undulating groove, coursing through the 6 tracks, leaving you thirsty – but not miserable – for more’.

In attempting to capture the energy of their live performances, Pachinko is a relentlessly balls-out, up front amalgamation of all things post-hardcore, with a big, bold 90s slant that evokes the spirit of Touch & Go and Amphetamine Reptile, as well as contemporaneous little UK labels like Eve Recordings and Jackass.

At times, it feels like we’re wading through endless indie sameness, and even so much alternative music, spanning metal, hardcore, post-hardcore and whatever else you’ve got simply fails to hit the spot, and I’ve felt listless, uninspired many evenings while reviewing these last few weeks. And then Pachinko slams in with a proper smack to the chops and I’m instantly reinvigorated and reminded of all of the reasons for music. Pachinko is distilled excitement. The album’s eight tracks are packed back-to-back and are all the guitars, spasmodic, jolting, big distortion. The fact it’s a mere twenty-one minutes in duration indicates the density and hell-for-leather pace of the album, which last less time than it takes some bands to tune up, or in the case of Sunn O))), to strike the first chord.

Pachinko isn’t pretty: it’s direct, and drives straight for the jugular. Following the lurching drive of ‘One Man’s Opinion’, a thorny mess of Killing Joke and early Therapy? with a dash of Milk, ‘Flipper’ brings a downtuned churning riff assault, before ‘Ornate Coleman’ slugs out a messy morass of guitar-driven abrasion.

Blending Trail of Dead and Blacklisters at their most attacking, or to pluck lesser-known but perhaps more accurate reference points, Tar, Guzzard, and Hora Douse all spin into Ballpeen’s sonic blast.

‘Kancho’ goes full-on Bleach era Nirvana with a driving, circular riff and sprays of feedback bursting from the halts in the crushing percussion. It’s heavy in a relentless, churning way. Some songs, like the closer, ‘No Mark’ are straight-ahead hardcore punishers that are Black Flag and all the hardcore releases Southern Lord have released in the last five years rolled together and deep-fried in breadcrumbs that stick in the throat simply to choke you.

No prisoners. No respite. Just full-on fury. The best.

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With FROST*’s latest album, “Falling Satellites”, dating back to 2016, it was about time, mastermind Jem Godfrey teamed up with Nathan King and John Mitchell to continue forging daring and dynamic progressive music. After announcing the 32 minutes long “Others – EP”, now the time is nigh to reveal a brand-new track ‘Exhibit A’.

Jem Godfrey states: “It’s good to be back with a cheerful song for these cheerful times! This is about being careful what you wish for when playing the fame game”.

Listen to the song here:

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Leeds trio Magick Mountain have shared new single ‘The Shitty Beatles (Live)’, the first to be heard from ‘Come Stay With Me’, a fundraising compilation by and for Leeds based artists.

Made up of Lins Wilson (Grammatics), Tom Hudson (Pulled Apart By Horses),  and Nestor Matthews (Sky Larkin / Menace Beach), Magick Mountain are a trio who embody the long running collaborative spirit that has made the city home to some of the UK’s finest new DIY bands and, thanks to a number of ferocious live performances, have built a strong reputation as one of the most exciting new bands from the West Yorkshire city.

New single ‘The Shitty Beatles (Live)’ captures the band at their noisy and riotous best. The two-minute whirlwind of frantic garage rock was recorded live last year in Mabgate Bleach, a small independent arts space in a decommissioned textile mill just outside Leeds city centre. Just one of a number of treasured small venues in the city currently crowdfunding to try and survive through a difficult time. The band want to highlight these campaigns with their live single explains singer and guitarist.

Lins Wilson: I think this track is probably as punk as Magick Mountain gets. A 2 min ankle biter that’s over before you can cry ‘Help!’. Usually the last track of our set – it’s like a snarling ‘full stop’ that’s been released from Iggy Pop’s clenched butt cheeks. This track was recorded live at one of our favourite Leeds DIY venues, Mabgate Bleach whilst supporting Aussie fuzz queens, Stonefield and we think it has a sort of feral charm about it. We’re massively missing live music right now, I think this is the longest we’ve ever been without any of us playing or going to a show. It’s great that people are finding new ways of connecting and performing online, but absolutely nothing can beat a live gig, where you truly feel the force of music.”

‘The Shitty Beatles’ will be released on ‘Come Stay With Me’, a collection of 13 new songs from bands and artists across Leeds including Talkboy, Dialect, Team Picture, Van Houten, Dead Naked Hippies and more. Set for release in July on eco-vinyl, all profits from Come Stay With Me will be shared between the contributing artists.

While the vinyl won’t be arriving until July, Come Play With Me have launched a new crowd funder for the compilation where it can be pre-ordered now.

Launching in 2015, Come Play With Me is a record label, promoter, magazine and development organisation based in Leeds working to support artists in the region and releasing a series of 7” record splits, compilations, magazines and more.

Listen to ‘The Shitty Beatles (Live)’ here:

Order the compilation here.

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Credit: Jessica Ciantar

24th May 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Like many artists during life in lockdown, Foldhead has been enjoying a spell of enormous creativity. Well, enjoying may not be quite the word: immersion in work for therapeutic purposes is as much a necessity as a joy, and moreover, as his recent spate of output highlights, zanntone is a highly political animal, and some recent events have sparked an ire that can only be purged through noise.

Skegdeath, released in March, served up an obliterative wall of noise against hundreds of thousands who reportedly descended on Skegness beach on Saturday 21st, the final days before official lockdown landed, against advice on social distancing. The Guardian ran a headline quoting a local dentist who said that it was ‘a disaster waiting to happen.’ It did happen, of course, and it didn’t wait long.

But that didn’t stop the government’s top advisor from doing the precise opposite of staying at home, saving lives, and protecting the NHS by driving his child, in the company of his wife who was suffering symptoms of Covid-19 some 260 miles from London to Durham to stay on his parents’ property, and taking a 60-mile round trip to Barnard Castle to check his eyesight was ok to make the journey home once they’d all recovered, despite having been barely able to walk the day before. He called it ‘reasonable’ and parental responsibility; half the country called it bullshit.

Foldhead refers to this punchy two-tracker, which would make for a neat 7” single at any other time as ‘A reaction to a piece of shit I will not sully my vocal chords by naming’, although the cover art leaves us in no doubt.

‘Carrion / Carrier’ marks one of Foldhead’s most brutal sonic assaults, five minutes of squalling, head-shredding electrical noise, with infinite layers of static and feedback and more noise on top. You can almost imagine him turning knobs so hard as to almost napping them off, and jamming down pedals and circuitry with brute force in order to channel the fury. Because nothing inspires rage like deceit and hypocrisy, apart from when that deceit and hypocrisy is so brazen and comes from a place of such self-confidence and superiority.

‘Poundshop Gollum’ is a howling, braying racket, somewhere between feedback and the anguished sounds of a dying heifer or maybe an elephant, against a backdrop of metal being crushed in a wrecker’s yard. There are fleeting moments that carry echoes of the most twisted, abstract jazz, but above all, it’s the sound of torture.

Amidst all of the outpourings of anger on social media, and even in the mainstream media, this release perhaps makes the strongest and clearest statement of all: because there are no words. The language of sound is the most articulate.

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