Archive for June, 2020

Rock is Hell Records – July 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

At the risk of repetition, there are no two ways about it: these are desperate times. No, not unprecedented. Desperate, dire, and fucked-up. The liner notes to BUG’s latest offering, Nunc finis offer a fair summary:

‘Global warming. Trump. Corona virus. New normal. We are living in interesting times. It is one minute before midnight on the doomsday watch. Nunc finis means end of time, end times or end now. And if you buy the ticket, you gonna take the ride.’

Fucked-up times require some fucked-up heavy shit by way of a soundtrack, and BUG bring it in spades here. I for one am immensely grateful: I’ve found myself frequently returning to Calamitas, and Nunc finis brings the same blend of familiar noise rock tropes and uniqueness, with jarring riffs, sludgy low-end and crazed, gruff-throated vocals. Above all, BUG know how to create tension through music, to articulate that tightening of the chest, evoke that clenching of the jaw, the grinding of the teeth.

The opening salvoes leave no doubt that this is a dark album reflecting darkness back in on itself, a tumultuous tempest of disaffection and (internal) conflict. ‘Happy Pills’ kicks off in pretty savage style, a hell-for-leather raging blast of overdriven guitars and angled vocals. You can barely make out a word, but then, the delivery communicates the sentiment, the manic fury. ‘Hell is Empty’ drops down several shades darker toward sludgy doom territory, before ‘Lost Soul’ takes a more conventionally noise-rock turn. It also provides the first softer moments, as chiming guitars effect a more ponderous perspective before exploding into a ragged riff. Exploiting the quiet / loud dynamic, it’s a classic slow-burner that builds to a killer climax.

‘Leftovers’ is a standout by virtue of its sheer brutality, while the seven-minute closer, ‘Hass gegen Rechts’ is positively schizophrenic, switching between a strolling vaudeville waltz and volcanic, earth-shattering blasts of noise, and is everything the album represents distilled into a single gut-wrenching track. It’s intense, alright.

Jolting riffs and stop-start noodles define the structures, to bewildering, dizzying effect: it’s not a regular bludgeoning, but successive left / right hooks, followed by an upper-cut, a headbutt, and a knee in the nuts for good measure. It’s heavy, hard, harrowing, and, ultimately physically and emotionally draining – just as it should be.

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7th May 2020

So, what do you do when your band is forced to take some downtime due to lockdown? Take up crochet? Perfect your breadmaking? Develop a nine-wanks-a-day porn habit? In the case of Chris Garth, guitarist with Post Rock/Metal/Sludge/Progressive Rock act UpCDownC, the answer is ‘work on a new side-project’. And so with an album in the pipeline, he’s unveiled ‘Bricks’ by way of a debut for Dead Mammals.

Immediately, I’m reminded of Shellac, specifically ‘Wingwalker’, but also more broadly of that 90s US noise scene as represented by acts on Touch&Go and Amphetamine Reptile. It’s the dirty, churning bass that really drives it. The drums thump along – more kick and tom, limited cymbal work – and the vocals – crackling through distortion – are half submerged when the angular shards of guitar scream in, a mess of scratchy treble that’s clear in its Steve Albini influence.

‘This song is about a woman / dead woman’ it begins, and judging by the way the monotone verse delivery gives way to anguished howls, the circumstances surrounding this involve some kind of psychopathy, seemingly on the narrator’s part. In context, the obliqueness of the lyrics is integral to the overall experience, which is first and foremost about the sonic compact of that slugging rhythm section and jolting guitar scrape. First impressions count, and ‘Bricks’ is one hell of an introduction.

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19th June 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

I’m always pleased to hear from Nathan Argonaut, because it invariably means he’s made some new music. He and Lorna have certainly been keeping busy writing and recording under their Videostore moniker while under lockdown, and sire enough, his most recent missive came with a link to the ‘brand spanking new single from the Videostore, written and recorded in the doldrums this week!’

It does very much seem to have been one of those low weeks for many, myself included, so a new sliver of their choppy lo-fi indie makes for a welcome arrival. Better still, it’s a corker: the drum machine is half-buried in the verses beneath a thumping fat bass and sustained synth note. ‘Over thinking, over drinking solution friendly messy ending’ the intonate in monotone, encapsulating the ennui with wonderful simplicity and precision.

Prefacing the lyrics, the BandCamp release, features the line ‘We must be out of our brilliant minds…’ On noticing, I then spent the next half hour – and more – watching first the video for Furniture’s 1986 single ‘Brilliant Mind’ followed by a slew of contemporaneous content. Such is my mind-blank distractibility. I forgot to finish the review and instead went on an epic mental diversion.

And then the guitar detonates all over everything, an overloading blast of distortion, and I’m reminded of the obliterative wall-of-noise bursts on The Jesus and Mary Chain song ‘Taste The Floor’.

‘Your Mind’ is an explosive release of tension that fizzes and flames all over, landing somewhere between The JAMC and more recent peers Scumbag Philosopher. It’s also quite possibly their best work to date.

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Christopher Nosnibor

Daily, I read about how the current situation is affecting bands, and, indeed, every aspect of the music industry. That said, it’s always the grass roots and lower echelons who are hardest hit, as is the case in any kind of crisis. Major-league artists will always be ok as gong as there are radio stations to play their stuff and produce a steady flow of royalties, and their millions of fans continue to stream their songs endlessly online. Beyoncé, Bono, and Ed Sheeran aren’t going to starve under lockdown.

But bands who rely on gigs in pubs alongside other bands who rely on gigs in pubs to find a fanbase and maybe flog enough merchandise to cover their fuel between said gigs have nothing to fall back on.

Sleep Kicks’ story is by no means unique, but they way they tell it as they present their new single really brings it home:

The whole live music scene shut down less than two weeks after our debut single came out. Instead of doing gigs and rehearsals, we just kept going, working on our own with a handful of songs we had recorded. Mixing, videos, artwork – the lot. We suddenly realised that one of the songs happened to describe this weird situation, and the feeling we somehow knew we would have once this whole thing was over. In short, the soundtrack to coming out of urban lockdown. It turned out an epic ode to the city, and at least it helped ourselves keeping the spirits up during the bleak times!

With ‘Recovery’, the Norwegian quartet paint scenes of an empty world springing back to life, and the difficulties of the prospect of readjustment.

A rolling rhythm and chiming guitar pave the way for a strolling bass motif and they coalesce into a spacious, reflective soundscape that sits between A-Ha, Editors, and mid-80s U2 and Simple Minds. Things kick up a notch and even nod toward anthemic around the mid-point of this six-and-a-half minute epic, before blossoming fully for a mesmerising final minute, where it soars on every level as they cast their eye to a brighter future: not the chalk-drawn rainbow on the pavement featured on the cover art, but a life of fulfilment, a re-emergence from the stasis of the now to actually living, rather than merely existing.

For a ‘little’ band, they have a big, ambitious sound that’s also got big audience potential. Here’s hoping they fulfil it.

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That 2020 has been relentlessly shit requires no qualification. Its shitness is almost as unprecedented as the unprecedented overuse of the word unprecedented. Only, you’d think that meant there’d never been a plague or viral pandemic before, but there has, so what’s unprecedented is the shitness of the way it’s been managed, on a global scale. Despite the unprecedented shitness, or perhaps because of it, it’s been a remarkable year for new music already, and it’s suddenly just got even better, with a new cut from Blacklisters, far and away one of the most outstanding noise rock bands of the last decade.

‘Sports Drinks’ prefaces the arrival of a long, long, long awaited new album, Fantastic Man, due out in August. And it’s a fucking belter. Check the video here:

“It seemed to make a lot of sense to strip it back of all the industrial electronic sounds and leave it with just a guitar that sounds like it’s lost in an empty void, because that’s pretty much what’s happening to every town and city around the world right now”

For Sky Valley Mistress the lockdown couldn’t have come at a more challenging time, you see March 20th was the release date of their debut album Faithless Rituals an album that had already had a rocky road to get to the finish line and as momentum grew and everything started to fall into place the reality that the world would soon be standing still and for a period of time the band would have to sit back and not be the centre of the universe albeit for a short time has been testing. With all promotional duties and tour commitments shelved and working out the challenges of lockdown Sky Valley Mistress have simply just got on with it.

Seeing the band live is a sight to behold and the real frustration is that the “Faithless Rituals Tour” and the preparation that went into it hasn’t happened and when it does it can’t help but be different from the Pre-Covid version, we know venues and live music arenas won’t be the same, but we also know as a band Sky Valley Mistress won’t be the same, they haven’t really took to or got the luxury of performing streamed shows but instead have been putting together enough material for a second album and even though its all been done from a distance the band have never been closer and when the time is right they’ll be working in the studio.

To begin their lockdown endeavours and armed with Trent Reznor’s Tambourine which Max & Kayley required live from a Nine Inch Nails Scala show in 2013 they have recorded a version of ‘Everyday Is Exactly The Same’, each part has been performed, recorded and mixed remotely and strips back their usual sound to create a sombre version of this 2005 NIN classic, accompanied by a video created, directed, edited and featuring Kayley filmed in Isolation.  

Watch the video here:

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Christopher Nosnibor

Pierre Massé, the man behind the Paramestre project, threatens ‘Electronic-ish music with human vocals, guitars (played by a human), and far too many effects (along with a healthy dose of digital manipulation)’. It’s an intriguing proposition, and is it even possible to have too many effects, at least when used well?

As Massé explains in the liner notes, ‘As stated by the opening track, it is nothing “perfect”; there are artefacts from tortured source material, there is noise, there are glitches from randomized effects processing, and there is no pitch correction. But there is also warmth, groove, melancholy, and hope. I hope you find something that speaks to you amidst it all.’

This is, to my mind, a succinct summary of why any artist creates; in the hope of there being a shred of commonality with the receiver in the work. But, at the same time, creating not with the audience at the forefront of the creative process. This, ultimately, is what differentiates art from entertainment. The latter is primarily commercial, designed for the (perceived) audience. Art exists for its own sake, and any audience it attracts finds it.

Rippling post-rock guitars with an almost Spanish vibe cascade softly over a dislocated beat that bumps and bounces and flickers on the aforementioned opening track, providing a supple, mellow backdrop to Pierre’s dreamy, soulful vocals, and it’s a smooth, Gallic air that permeates the lilting synth pop of ‘Elle’. It’s pleasant, but it’s not an instant grab by any means, and much of Conditions Initiales feels in some ways exploratory, tentative. It isn’t that the songs themselves feel incomplete, because they certain don’t: it’s more that one feels Massé is still working towards a sound that is one he’s entirely comfortable with, that translates his sonic ambition into the final recorded output.

‘Conceal/Reveal’ goes a shade darker, but it’s the subdued waltz of the seven-minute ‘Madeleines’, with its echoing sampled background conversation that creates a subtle but clear level of juxtaposition, that really draws the listener in, in search of its evasive heart amongst the layers.

And it’s when Massé goes still darker and brings thudding beats to the fore that Conditions Initiales really becomes interesting: ‘Carry’ and closer, ‘Endless’ are both sparse but feature more prominent percussion, the latter worthy of favourable comparisons to Depeche Mode.

Understated as it is, Conditions Initiales contains no shortage of detail, and it’s an intriguing debut that hints at even better to come.

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Liar, Flower (KatieJane Garside of Daisy Chainsaw, QueenAdreena, Ruby Throat and Chris Whittingham) announce the release of their latest single, ‘i am sundress (she of infinite flowers)’ with an ethereal visual accompaniment, as well as a physical version of their recent album Geiger Counter, available from August 21st via One Little Independent Records as a 2xLP + CD deluxe edition as well as a standard CD release. I hope you’ll consider covering this release via interview or album review. Watch the video for ‘i am sundress (she of infinite flowers)’:

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‘i am sundress (she of infinite flowers)’ is a stark contrast to the duo’s first single, ‘My Brain Is Lit Like An Airport’ which was released in late April earlier this year, and showcases the range of Geiger Counter, which varies from raw, bewildering, venomous rock to gentle folk musings.

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Unsounds 65U – 15th June 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

While Andy Moor’s distinctive guitar playing is central to this collaborative work, it’s worth stating from the outset that this is a challenging listen. Spacious and eerie, above all it’s atonal and discordant, as if the two musicians are playing against one another, rather than with, and, moreover, against themselves, particularly in Moor’s case as he digs deep to pick notes in counter-time and counter-melody.

How this album came to be is worth recounting, so I shall quote directly: ‘In 2017 Andy Moor and Yannis Kyriakides were invited to participate in Xavier Veilhan’s ‘Studio Venezia’ at the French pavilion for the 57th Venice Art Biennale. This was a space where a series of musicians were in residence throughout the six month duration of the festival, recording and performing there in an open environment. The two musicians had access to a variety of instruments and machines including Moog, Buchla and Vermona synths which were used for some of the recordings. The unusual situation here was that they were working in a studio, experimenting, trying out ideas while at the same time being a part of an ongoing art installation. So they were part of the space, yet not really knowing whether they should play for the crowds who were constantly passing through the pavilion or just ignore them.’

‘The result was nine hours of recorded material mostly improvised or based on a few basic rhythmic patterns that Kyriakides had prepared as starting blocks. For this album they selected 45 minutes of what they considered to be the strongest material after several listenings and editing sessions.’

That’s a lot of material, and a lot of whittling and editing, but the end result is well-assembled and flows together nicely – while at the same time mining a seam of arrhythmia and clanging dissonance. Moreover, each piece is distinct and distinctive, with different textures, tones, and moods, and as such, Pavilion represents a disorientating, difficult journey.

The layers on ‘Camera’ build at different rates, crossing over one another and interfering with one another’s time signatures so as to become bent out of shape, colliding against one another in a clutter of discoordination. The synth bass on ‘Dedalo’ warps and scratches and scrapes away as low grooves that trip and curl, wow and flutter. There’s a playful side to it, with the rhythmic swing and metallic clattering that sounds like pots and pans, which contrasts with the more ponderous atmospherics of ‘Concha’, a nine-and-a-half minute exercise in detuning and retuning, as notes bend and bow with a slow, resonant decay.

‘Diluvio’ is unpleasantly tense and prickly, and the album ultimately drifts towards an uneasy conclusion with the last couple of pieces, which are simultaneously dolorous and soporific, albeit in a dark, horror-movie dreamscape sort of a way.

Pavilion leaves you feeling… not quite bewildered, but spaced, separated, as if standing half a step behind your own body or your own shadow. It’s less about if this is a good thing in itself, as much as the fact that this is a work which has a degree of psychological resonance, which marks it as a creative success.

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Yannis Kyriakides Andy Moor – Pavilion

Long Distance Calling have launched the new video for latest single ‘Immunity’.

Germany’s most internationally successful instrumental rock act, recently are set to release their seventh studio album ‘How Do We Want To Live?’ on 26th June 2020.

They’ve just launched the third and final track to be released prior to the album’s release, and you can watch the video for ‘Immunity’ here:

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The band comments: ‘Please check out the 3rd single of our upcoming new record "How Do We Want To Live?".

The song is called "Immunity" and we hope you’ll enjoy this tune as much as we do!

The video is very special for us. Some of the footage was shot by our community during the Covid19 pandemic.

Many thanks to all the talented filmmakers out there. On one hand the video deals with the fact, that the digital world we are living in has so much to offer as we are able to communicate with people from all over the world and share important information.

On the other hand all the technology and digital platforms are being misused to spread lies, hate, weird conspiracies.

Of course we are an instrumental band. But that cannot stop us from shouting against racism, xenophobia, homophobia and all that bullshit that is going on during these strange times right now.

So let us use this technical progress and this crisis to make this world a better place!’

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