Archive for July, 2020

Front and Follow – 31st July 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Rejection hurts. Always. Some of us can ride it out, brazen it off, better than others, but always, it stings. Artists in any media tend to be sensitive types, and so the sting is all the harder.

The basis for this series is lovely: it’s relevant, relatable, but also worthy because of its wider context: ‘not an isolation project – it’s a rejection project’. Rejection is isolating in itself, but more specifically, this is a collection of rejections released from isolations.

As the accompanying blurb recounts, ‘Isolation and Rejection was born out of thinking about what happened to all the tracks that didn’t make it onto those fancy compilations, and is now turning into an ongoing project to collect, collate and promote rejected sounds.

With over 100 artists signed up, we are going to release five volumes over the next few months. Each volume will showcase those lost gems, discarded and abandoned but now lovingly embraced and put front and centre for your enjoyment. We’ll also be sharing the stories behind the rejection – funny, weird and sometimes a little heart breaking.’

The beauty of this collection lies not only in the music itself, but its eclecticism. The tracks range from fragmentary snippets to eleven-minute explorations, from bubbling electronica to billowing abstraction. With twenty-four tracks, it is a monumental and truly epic set, and not necessarily one to take in in a single sitting.

Lose a Leg provide the first piece, with a delicate piano snippet of a composition called ‘Thinking About It’. It’s barely a minute and a half, so there isn’t much time to think.

There’s a strong leaning towards mellifluent ambient works, abstract, cloud-like sonic drifts of intangibility, but this being a Front and Follow-curated release, it’s got well-considered range: Time Attendant’s ‘Binocular Visions’ introduces Kraftwerkian robotic electronica into the mix, with a motoric sequenced rhythm underpinning its throbbing electronic structures. Then again, there’s a lot of bleepy electronica centred around cyclical grooves and heavily repetitive beats, as exemplified by Caper One & Vandal Deca’s contribution.

Some pieces straddle both: Audio Obscura’s ‘Castles on Earth’ is big, bold dubby, beaty and ambient all at once, an echoic bath that swells around a dense, booming bass, and elsewhere, Crisp Packet Jacket bring woozy pulsations with ‘Dreadful Own Brand’. No Later’s‘The Revenant Sea’ is spectral and haunting, and in many ways encapsulates the spirit of the release in its hybridity, while ‘Music forBroken Piano’s recalls early Pram in its dissonance and discord.

Sairie’s lilting folk cover of ‘House of the Rising Sun’ stands out by virtue not only of its difference, but its beautiful vocal melodies, which later over a sparse et lush acoustic guitar. Why was it rejected? Did they submit to a death metal or power electronics compilations? But we know that rejection is often more about curatorial taste than quality of submission, and it’s quite apparent with this collection because there simply isn’t a weak track to be found.

It is a colossal collection, and likely not one to play in a single sitting, especially with so much going on. This makes it, along with the first edition, a collection of outstanding quality.

Swedish progressive rock instrumentalists Gösta Berlings Saga are soon to release their upcoming sixth studio album Konkret Musik next week (July 24th, 2020) worldwide via InsideOutMusic.

In order to further pre-promote the release, GBS are therefore releasing a new single/video for the song “To Never Return” today. Check out the cool video-clip directed by Martin Gustafsson here:

GBS checked in with the following comment about the track:

"Our third and last single off ‘Konkret Musik’ is the partly bare-bones, partly grandiose ‘To Never Return’ – a song centered around a circular, pulsating and dark pattern leading up to an ending with a crescendo to die for.

The concept of a musical scorched earth-policy, where one’s vision is always forward-looking, is in the video symbolised by a modern heist – in which all bridges are burnt in search of the ultimate musical experience. The video is as much a tribute to film classics such as Du rififi chez les hommes as well as to more modern depictions such as La Haine – with a tongue in cheek approach.

‘To Never Return’ is our call to arms to never look back."

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Neurot Recordings – 7th August 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Stepping out from the Neurosis fold once more to deliver a fifth solo album since the turn of the millennium, Steve Von Till brings more grizzles bleakness across six lengthy songs. These are still very much songs in the conventional sense, structured, organised, focused, centred around melody and instrument and voice. And as the title suggests, No Wilderness Deep Enough finds Von Till wandering some dark, barren territories.

As is a defining feature of the Neurosis sound, there’s a richly organic feel to the music here. Brooding strings provide the core for the sparse but dark orchestral arrangements which dominate this bleak, acoustic-led album that places Von Till’s grizzled, growling vocals to the fore.

A sparse piano motif – which is almost a direct replication of Glissando’s ‘Floods’ plays out the outro on ‘Dreams of Trees’, the album’s first song, which is a low-key, percussion-free post-rock effort that tugs at emotional levels that have lain dormant for an eternity – or at least since we’ve all been clenched in the spasm of lockdown. It taps into a different and deeper psychological space.

It’s all remarkably low-key, so does actually require some attention to fully absorb, but some quiet time and contemplation soundtracked by No Wilderness Deep Enough makes for a quite moving experience.

Oddly, much of No Wilderness Deep Enough sounds more like I Like Trains fronted by Mark Lanegan, and the dark introspection of single release ‘Indifferent Eyes’ carries the same brooding, mood, and a sense of a cracked emotional state – ground down, world-weary, harrowed, and bereft, embattled, bloodied, but still standing. Von Till conveys all of this with a heavy-timbred creaking sigh, a ravaged, Leonard Cohen growl delivered with magnificent poise. You feel this: every note, every word.

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Japanese instrumental rock band MONO will return to Europe in 2021. Hoping to reunite everyone through music again as they prepare for their new album, lead guitarist Taka comments:

"We’re excited to be able to return and give you live music again after then, almost a year-long of an unfortunate global health crisis. Through the real loud live experience, we hope to re-connect, share hope and rejoice again with you all.

The tour will be supported by A.A. Williams.

Tickets on sale Friday 17th July from: www.monoofjapan.com

MONO w/ A.A Williams:

18/03 – NO Oslo, Jakob

19/03 – SE Stockholm, Sodra Teatern

20/03 – DK Copenhagen, Pumpehuset

21/03 – DE Hamburg, Uebel & Gefahrlich

22/03 – DE Berlin, Columbia Theater

23/03 – DE Cologne, Luxor

24/03 – CH Zurich, Mascotte

25/03 – CH Bulle, Ebolition

26/03 – FR Toulouse, Le Rex

27/03 – FR Biarritz, Atabal

29/03 – PT Porto, Hard Club

30/03 – PT Lisbon, LAV

31/03 – ES Seville, Custom

01/04 – ES Murcia, Garaj

02/04 – ES Madrid, Cats

03/04 – ES Barcelona, Apolo 2

05/04 – FR Besancon, L’Antonnoir

06/04 – FR Paris, Trabendo

07/04 – BE Antwerp, Zappa

08/04 – FR Lille, Aeronef

10/04 – UK London, Lafayette

11/04 – UK London, EartH

13/04 – UK Glasgow, Oran Mor

14/04 – UK Leeds, City Varieties

Recorded with producer Steve Albini, Mono released their 10th album ‘Nowhere Now Here’ in January 2019 via Pelagic Records before ending the year with ‘Beyond The Past’ 20th anniversary shows in London in December.

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EMBR are four musical kindred spirits who have delivered a crushing, yet beautiful debut album in 1823. At this point, it is worth stating that the title 1823 has special significance. It’s not just a numerical title, it has substance. Eric Bigelow (drummer) has been on the list for a kidney for around 4 years.

Eric received a kidney transplant in May of 2019. This happened right in the middle of writing the album. The kidney was from a deceased donor and all Eric and Crystal Bigelow (singer and Eric’s wife) know about the donor is that it was a young woman between the ages of 18-23. The album is dedicated to the donor and the surgeons at Vanderbilt hospital in Nashville TN. And what a fine tribute it is.

Musically, 1823 could be categorized as ‘Doom’. However, on this debut it’s obvious that EMBR have range, drive and a desire to add to the genre, to broaden it whilst staying true to its core fundamentals.

Rest assured, the band have all the nuts and bolts in place. Mark Buchanan (guitar), Alan Light (bass) and Eric Bigelow (drums) keep everything tight and weighty. Massive drop-tuned guitars, chest rattling low end, pounding drums, fuzzy distortion, it’s all there. But they also add in synths, a bit of grunge and alt rock flavours.

The vocal talents of Crystal absolutely soar and strengthen the music. Her range, patterns and harmonies transport the band’s music skyward. Crystal adds soul and an air of melancholia to the musical creations. If a pointer were needed, think Mastodon meets Witch Mountain with epic sweeps and a shade of gothic drama.

The songs on 1823 are loud, brutally beautiful, aggressive, abrasive and at times atmospheric, uplifting and emotional. Welcome to the next chapter of EMBR.

Ahead of 1823, they’ve offered up ‘Where I’ve Been’ . Check the video here:

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Steve Von Till reveals his new single and video ‘Indifferent Eyes’ from his forthcoming album, No Wilderness Deep Enough. The record’s six pieces of music shape a hallucinatory landscape of sound that plumbs the depths of the natural world’s mysteries and uncertainties—questions that have vexed humanity since the dawn of time asked anew amidst a backdrop that’s as haunting as it is holistic.

About the track and video Steve remarks "Indifferent Eyes is perhaps the best example of how the process of creating No Wilderness Deep Enough pulled something very different out of me vocally;  something more expressive, more out on a limb and adventurous, and definitely outside my previous comfort zone. I am grateful at this stage in my artistic life to still have opportunities to challenge myself and grow. This past winter, photographer / videographer Bobby Cochran travelled up to our property in North Idaho to shoot this video.  I love any excuse to get outside and stay outside in the winter time.  We hiked, built fires, and shared many hours of great conversation about what is important in this life.  I think that energy comes through in this video albeit in a simple and understated manner."

It’s music to lose yourself in and unlike anything you’ve heard from Von Till. An album that’s devastatingly beautiful and overwhelming in its scope, reminiscent of the tragic ecstasy of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds’ recent work as well as the borderless ambient music pioneered by Brian Eno, late composer Jóhann Jóhannsson’s glacial compositions, and the electronic mutations of Coil.

Watch the video for ‘Indifferent Eyes’ here:

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Photo credit: Bobby Cochran

Christopher Nosnibor

Soupy exotica that calls to mind William Burroughs’ descriptions of Tangiers winds slowly from the speakers as people filter in, greeting one another in the chat section and the visuals alternate between the event poster and the running order. There’s something quite distinctive about Theo Gowans’ events, and he’s done an amazing job of recreating the vibe of Leeds DIY venue CHUNK on-line. A lot of it’s the culture and the people, of course, and CHUNK’s ethos of accommodating and encouraging the most far-out and fringe makers of music (while having a clear stance against fascists and bigots) is nurturing and community-spirited.

I’m oddly nervous: this will be …(something) ruined’s first on-line airing, and while I’m sort of comfortable shouting at people against a backdrop of extremely loud noise in person, knowing that we’re going to unleash probably our harshest, most experimental piece to date is an unknown.

In an attempt to better replicate the pre-gig experience, I’ve drawn the blind and cracked open a can of 8.5% Belgian lager – a kind of tradition developed when …(something) ruined took to the road (albeit briefly) in February. I manage not to pace the room anxiously, though, which is probably for the best, although it does mean I’m not working toward my daily 6,000 step target.

It’s a prompt start, and BLACKCLOUDSUMMONER pile in hard and strong with shuddering, juddering crackles and blasts of noise that shard from atop a booming, rolling bass. It’s apparently a saxophone, but fucked about with to be a potent, disorientating noise assault, building later upon later of interlooping shrieks of nail-scraping shrillness as the piece progresses. It’s rendered all the more tension-inducing by the cyclical visual consisting of just three rolling gifs. In a gig setting, this by way of an opener would clear the room before it even filled up: in the event, viewers steadily increase… 29… 34… 36…

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Ordinarily, that would be an act you’d not want to follow, but Expose Your Eyes up the noise stakes with thumping percussion and buzzsaw churning electronic noise, some heavy synthy drones with serrated edges bristling all over, intercut with murky pulsations and looped snippets of dialogue. The accompanying videos appear to be clips shot at random while out and about, with the lighting adjusted for maximum dramatic effect, giving the whole thing a horror movie suspense vibe. Only much, much noisier.

The change in style that Labas Krabas being is welcome: the Newcastle duo deliver otherworldly vocal warbling accompanied by disjointed double bass, and we get to watch them perform, albeit with blocky, buffering movement. Said warbling builds to crazed, banshee wailing and shrieking. It is, however, a long set, and it’s perhaps because of its force that it becomes draining some time before the end.

There isn’t a lot to THF Drenching’s set: the beardy avant-gardist shows various artworks close to the camera against an audio backdrop of trilling, twittering and occasional toots, bells, and whistles.

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Carnivorous Plants Trio bring more fucked-up noise-churning double bass action, compacted into a claustrophobic space with experimental guitar sculptures and random percussion. The technique of slapping the bow against the strings produced some interesting sounds, while the guitar work is very much about texture rather than tune. The layered visuals, which place all three musicians in the same space but as ghostly forms, are interesting, and work well.

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Worship My Panther plunder deep drone, which is supplemented by footage of rabbits, mostly: rabbits hopping, fighting and being hunted by birds of prey. Sonically, it’s dark and ponderous and the contrasting visuals add a different dimension.

I can’t really review my own set, but it’s quick and brutal and Paul Tone’s noise and visual collaging feels like a creative success, and I read the silence in the chat comments as positive, like those present being stunned into silence instead of sending virtual missiles and ‘you’re shit’ comments our way. The Whining crowd may be respectful and nice, but they’d say if we were shit. YOL slammed in immediately after with a short sharp shock of a set that was seemingly a guy having a breakdown while straddling a bass drum. I have no real clue what it as about, but it was intense.

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Heavy Lifting’s real-time programming yields tone-shifting phased synth wave sounds reminiscent of some early Whitehouse, minus the vocals. This is a good thing, because the vocals on most early Whitehouse releases were pretty corny, while blasts of distortion and feedback never get tired.

I kinda got distracted for a time in the aftermath of the …(s)r set: for some reason, people wanted to talk to me over various messenger services, but Swarm Front grabbed my attention with a politically-charged mash-up combining no-fi docu-drama and power electronics. Mashed loops played at hyperspeed stutter and whip in between more performance-based segments. The effect is somewhat bewildering, and at times, it’s hard to determine the sense of narrative.

Phil Minton is perhaps the noise equivalent of beatbox master Kevin Olusola, or at least an aspiring equivalent: his vocal gymnastics almost inevitably call to mind Mike Patton’s Adult Themes for Voice recordings, as he replicated the sounds of howling wind, explosions and dark ambient rumbles with his lugs and larynx alone. And it’s pretty impressive.

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Finally, we get to see Mik Quantius do some JG Thirlwell-inspired growling and playing a keyboard with his feet and shake his jowls frantically in front of a mic. Some of it’s ok, some not so much, but the sound quality is pretty poor. And I’m weary and beery. And it feels very like a gig. Only, I’m not rushing for a train at 11pm and after 5 pints or more. Which is one positive over real gigs, I suppose…

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Clue Records

Christopher Nosnibor

The impact of lockdown and social distancing remain a prevalent theme in the blurbs and press releases for artists who’ve found themselves at a loss in recent months. The story behind Yowl’s new vide single, then, is by no means exceptional in itself, although it does have something of a twist to the tale in that it highlights the levels of ingenuity lockdown boredom has inspired for some:

‘unable to play shows online like some of their peers who live in enviable artistic

communes, they hit on a flawless solution; in a Lilliputian masterstroke, they built a cardboard pub and filled it with self-styled miniatures. From this, the video for Sunken Boy took form as a parallel to the cyclical ennui of life in lockdown and a materialisation of an all-consuming desire for power over their fellow bandmates, all while providing an

opportunity for a nod to the seminal video for Nsync’s ‘Bye Bye Bye’.

After a solid but fairly middling indie jangler of an opening, with a largely forgettable crooning vocal, all of which invites Smiths comparisons – but for its confessional lyrics and a strong opening line, which finds Gabriel Byrde admit “I’ve convinced myself and others that I’m a decent person” – it unexpectedly erupts about three-quarters of the way through into a raw, jagged blast of furious alt-rock.

It tapers down to a bleak ending, and makes for quite the rollercoaster, both sonically end emotionally. In short, it’s a great single.

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7th July 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Another face on the Yorkshire electronic music scene, Ian J Cole is someone I’ve seen – and enjoyed – performing a few times. Obviously, not recently, nor probably any time soon, which makes the arrival of his new album, Black Scars Across My Back, most welcome.

Inspired by Bevin Boy John Copley, who died as a result of working down a Doncaster Mine in 1946, Black Scars Across My Back is a conceptual / narrative-based album in essence, although translating any concept or narrative to purely instrumental compositions means the scope for interpretation is vast. The expanse of the album is also pretty substantial, clocking in just shy of an hour and a half.

The details accompanying the album are minimal, but a spot of research show that Copley, who died aged 21, who is buried in York cemetery, was ‘one of the 48,000 ‘Bevin Boys’ (named after Ernest Bevin who was the Minister of Labour & National Service) who were conscripted to work in the UK coal mines between December 1943 and March 1948.

Then again, music alone can convey meaning and emotions in a way that resonate deeper and in ways that words simply cannot. And what’s particularly noteworthy about this album s that it focuses not on grand narratives, the political or even the personal, but a microcosmic sliver of local history, often neglected. Real history isn’t about wars and politicians, but the lives of the everyman, lived and forgotten about. Yet without these people, what would we have?

The album’s sixteen-and-a-half-minute opener balances elegiac piano with creeping swirls of ambience. It’s delicate, and softly transitions between spaces over the course of its duration, with richly layered washes of sound that interlace and interweave. What does it convey? Nothing… but everything. A certain air of simplicity, of airiness, unhurried and uncluttered breathes through the spacious arrangement, which subtly turns moods from optimism to shades of gloom via plain drifting.

There is only one Elvington Terrace in the whole UK, and located in the centre of York it measures a mere 90 metres: ‘2 Elvington Terrace’ is a haunting piece that drifts and wafts, ghostly and ethereal.

The shuffling groove of ‘Cook, Trowton and Simms’ is unexpected, and unexpectedly buoyant, introducing percussion to the album’s palette and upbeat, lively percussion at that – although there are thunderous rumbles and crashing waves in the distance, which twist the tome a little. Next up, the gloopy tension of ‘The Balloteer’ features looped samples amidst the electronic bubbling, calling to mind early Test Department and the like, and lines like ‘produce for victory’ bear remarkable parallels to the latest slogans like ‘eat out to help out’. Do we ever learn from history? It’s a rhetorical question, and I think you know.

‘Drift Sights’ is a conglomeration of clattering, industrial percussion and sparse notes, while the epic ‘The Bevin Boy’ is a constant flux of tempestuous ambience that’s far from tranquil. It provides a bleak backdrop to segments of spoken-word narrative.

The title track brings a chiming, glistening charm, as well as sprightly bright flashes of light, which bounce across the ripples and creaks of metal-cast shade, before the album’s last piece, ‘She Left Flowers on is Grave’ draws the curtain with a dolorous finality.

Black Scars Across My Back may not expressly articulate the life of its subject, but is highly evocative, and knowing the story, the context, imbues it with a sadness that’s affecting. It’s hard not to be touched by its quiet intensity.

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Stylistically varied, Geiger Counter ranges from raw, bewildering, venomous rock to gentle folk musings. liar, flower is a new iteration of Ruby Throat, which consisted of Garside and multi-instrumentalist Chris Whittingham. As Ruby Throat, the duo released four albums and an EP between 2007 and 2017, as well as their 2018 compilations Stone Dress and Liar, Flower.

Watch the video for ‘even through the darkest clouds’, the latest single to be lifted from the album, here:

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