Archive for August, 2020

USA Nails release their fifth album “Character Stop” on October 23rd 2020 through Hex Records (USA) and Bigout Records (Europe).

The record was tracked live over 4 days at Bear Bites Horse in London with producer Wayne Adams. Though “Character Stop” still features the pummelling noise-punk that USA Nails have become renowned for, it’s balanced with more sober, downbeat moments. On it they explore identity – like the online personas of aggressive twitter users, influencers and vloggers, as well as more introspective takes on mental health, giving up on dreams, the joy (and despair) of being a part-timer, and contemplating who they would be if they decided to hang up their guitars for good. Guitarist Gareth Thomas comments,

"For me "Character Stop" is the best album USA Nails have ever made by miles. It’s more varied than anything we’ve ever done before and I think it’s stronger for it. I feel like it’s more fully realised, and more complete as a collection of songs. Everytime we get in a room together and write, the dynamic of our relationship as writers (and mates) develops a bit further, we get better at anticipating and complimenting each other. We’ve always tried to be efficient in our creativity, to do what feels natural and just let things flow. I’m obviously still really happy with all the music we’ve written up to this point, but on this record everything seemed to come together so sweetly. “

Frontman Steven Hodson describes first single ‘Revolution Worker’ as ‘about not knowing how long you have left at being in a band and life in general. My Dad died quite young and now I’m a father it’s something I think about quite a lot. It’s also about balancing time between family, work and band. All that grim stuff is wrapped up in a hell of a catchy riff, feedback and woodblocks.’

Ahead of the album, they’ve unveiled the video for ‘Revolution Worker’ . Watch it here:

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Cool Thing Records – 7th August 2020

The band – the coalescence of an enigmatic visual artist, a prodigal singer-songwriter and an ambitious beat-maker ‘trapped inside a digital landscape’ describe their debut, ‘Lumbering’ as being ‘about viewing the world with a sense of claustrophobia and dread, as humanity bounces between various financial crashes, wars and climate disasters, whilst continuing to lumber endlessly forwards, seemingly in a wounded state.’

This is, indeed, the world of the now, and as such, I expect it’s broadly relatable to many on its perspective. It’s certainly relatable to me on a personal level, having become attenuated to a sense of perpetual panic and wild upheaval. The only thing you can be sure of is that nothing is certain, and you can’t rely on or trust anything – or anyone. The fact is, no-one is exactly who you think, and we live in an evermore divided and more extremely polarised society, be it Brexit or the wearing of masks.

‘Lumbering’ is pitched as ‘an intriguing soundscape of skeletal guitars, layered angular rhythms and fantastic lyrics’ and a hybrid of Boards Of Canada, 00’s Radiohead and The Cure’s Bloodflowers era.

With clattering drums and a pulsing bassline, I’m reminded more of the early 00s New Wave revival as spearheaded by the likes of Interpol and Editors, as well as The Cinematics. A Cause In Distress capture that tension and sense of urgency and distil it down to a truly gripping three-and-a-half minutes of surging dynamism.

It doesn’t necessarily make me feel better, but articulates my restless tension perfectly.

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12th June 2020

James Wells

According to their bio, Milton Keynes based British metal outfit Chasing Ghosts were ‘born of a passion to create dark and melodic music’ and their latest offering ‘is no doubt their biggest and most ambitious record yet, a union of haunting female harmonies and natural sombre strings, resulting in an evolution of all the darker elements in their already present sound since the release of their critically acclaimed debut album in 2018’.

Cynic that I am, was prepared for this to bring me some suffering, with a load of overblown bombastic rock – and make no mistake, there are elements that creep towards being OTT, but they manage to balance it with enough drive and majesty and emotional resonance as to render it an engaging and powerful release.

Opener ‘Until the End’ is a bold, gothic sweep of a song with intricate guitar lines that interweave across choral vocals that evoke the spirit of The Sisters of Mercy, and, moreover, the myriad bands who followed in their wake. The rhythm guitar chugs hard while the lead picks a serpentine thread and the baritone vocals (which aren’t short on a hint of Carl McCoy) cast a mix of gloom and drama over the whole thing.

Brooding violins sway through the intro to ‘A Darker Place’ that pitches somewhere between All About Eve and Evancessence, while the title track, ‘Bring Me Suffering’, which draws the curtain, is what one would justifiably describe as an ‘epic’, a seven-minute, string-soaked rendition of emotional anguish that rides post-rock crescendos while surging to a slow-burning climax that makes you ache as you listen.

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Magnetic Eye

Christopher Nosnibor

While reviewing Hymn’s new album, Breach Us for Whisperin’ and Hollerin’, I found myself undertaking a massive detour: having decided that for a few brief bars, Ole Rokseth’s vocals bore some resemblance to Layne Staley’s, and unsure of the spelling of Staley, fatally turned to Google, after which I squandered little short of three hours reading biographical details of the late singer.

And lo, lurking in my inbox was Khemmis’ cover of Alice in Chains’ ‘Down in a Hole’, the first track to be aired from the Dirt (Redux) album forthcoming on Magnetic Eye Records via their ‘Redux’ series (which has previously reimaged albums by Pink Floyd, Hendrix, and Helmet -although the title is a little misleading. There’s no real restoration involved here: this is a covers album, where a different band tackles each track to reconstruct the album not through remixes, but rerecordings.

I’m shamefully ignorant of most of the artists on here, although Thou are clearly a strong opening act, covering ‘Them Bones’, and label regulars These Beasts and Forming the Void also appear.

Anyway: Khemmis express that they were keen to ‘stay true to parts of the song, particularly the chorus, but that we also needed to make it our own.’ Sidestepping the TV karaoke cliché where every week the judges commend the contestants for making a well-known song their ‘own’, Khemmis have actually fulfilled their ambition by bringing layers of atmosphere and expansive guitar harmonics to the verses while retaining the integrity of the choruses. And while there are guitar flourishes aplenty, it’s apparent that this cover is born out of a genuine appreciation of the original.

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Cruel Nature Records – 28th August 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

It would be a flippant cliché to describe this offering by the insanely prolific Whirling Hall of Knives (this is their fourth release of 2020 and their thirteen full-length album) as an album of two halves, split as it is across two sides of the cassette release – but it would also be a valid assessment of its musical contents, also. For while it is consistently atmospheric and droney throughout, the six tracks, which bleed into one another to create the sensation of two longform tracks (the digital version is even mastered as such) consisting of a number of passages, they each bear a distinct character, if not necessarily form.

With such a daunting back catalogue, it’s difficult to know where to begin both on terms of exploration and comparison, but it’s probably fair to say that being neither as harsh as some efforts, or as ominously oppressive as others, Sabre is representative while siting at the more accessible end of their output spectrum.

These compositions are loose, transitional, and while they do lead the listener on a sonic journey of sorts, it’s meandering and non-linear in its trajectory.

The clattering rhythm that marches in the opening bars of the first track, ‘Laid to Rust’, immediately reminds me of the intro to ‘Breathe’ by Ministry, although perhaps a shade dubbier. But the percussion soon fades out and leaves, not grating metal guitars, but tapering whistles of feedback and drones like damaged woodwind. But this is very much a percussive album, at times verging on experimental dance music… and so in fades ‘Those Tracers’, the lead single, accompanied by a video we’re immensely proud to premiere here at AA. This is very much a work of abstract freeform dance music that bumps along in a vortex bubble.

Side A closes off with the altogether more attacking ‘Gutterpressed’, a gritty industrial grating through which bleak winds howl desolately.

Side B’s three cuts are lower, slower, dronier. Before sliding into a sepulchural reverence, ‘Olde Slice (Edit) is ominous and sparse. When the beats do emerge on ‘Ring Dialog’, they’re swampy and backed off, some indistinguishable robotix vocals echoing into a murky mass. The final track, ‘Barkd’ drift and hovers for so long, but suddenly, from amidst distant chords that reverberate hints of the sparsest, most minimal desert rock , percussion rises and drives away at a heavy beat and pulsating industrial bass throb to conjure an intense and oppressive atmosphere as the album inches toward its finale.

Sabre isn’t easy to categorise, and at times, it’s not that easy to listen to, either. But that’s what makes it.

Preorder Sabre here.

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Human Worth – 7th August 2020

Tough times for bands, venues, and all things music in general is proving to be a good time for the compilation, particularly the fundraiser. And while many individuals are struggling to cover bills due to lack of work and reduced income, many gig-goers and pub dwellers are finding they’ve got some spare cash going. It also so happens that there are plenty of albums being released to support the causes their enforced absence means are struggling.

Human Worth, as the name suggests, is more about the people than the spaces, and if mental health and poverty were major issues before all of this shit went down, it’s even more vital they’re supported, and the proceeds from this latest release are going to Harmless, a charity that supports metal health, and to assist in the prevention of self-harm and suicide.

The fact that more than half the acts on this release are ones we’ve covered or are otherwise on the Aural Aggro radar is a strong indicator of the style and hopefully the quality of this release. Like its predecessor, Human Worth Vol II is a showcase of premium-grade noisy stuff from across the spectrum.

AJA crash in with a mix of bewildering noise and eerie ethereality before Klämp bring some brutal lo-fi grunge noise. Snarly vocals half-buried amidst a barrage of muffled drums, gnarly bass and space-rock synths It’s challenging, but equally, it’s exciting in its raw viscerality.

Blóm do riot-grrl punk but at a thousand miles an hour, with a hefty dash of black metal / hardcore in the mix, and the resultant blast of noise that is ‘Meat’ is hefty. Meanwhile, masters of heavily percussion-led free jazz racket, Sly and The Family Drone, really churn the guts with ‘Shrieking Grief’, lifted from the new album Walk it Dry. Even on a 20-track compilation of challenging, headfucking din, they manage to stand out, in the best possible way.

Modern Technology’s ‘Gate Crasher’, taken from their upcoming debut full-length is an exercise in intense and claustrophobic tension-filled angst, a dense, roaring bass and pummelling percussion all but burying the vocals. And it’s the low-slung, gritty bass that dominates the dingy grind of Mummise Guns’ ‘Glitter Balls’, before We Wild Blood’s ‘Eat Your Tail’ brings a sandstorm of wild shoegaze / psychedelia with a darker than dark hue. Bismuth and Vile Creature collaborate to create a low-end assault that sounds like the burning pits of hell and make me seriously consider heading to the bog before I shit myself. Elsewhere, USA Nails’ minimal cover of ’Paranoid’ is a hybrid of Big Black and Suicide, but with a dash of Cabaret Voltaire, and its primitivism is compelling.

So how is this kind of sonic torture appropriate for raising awareness of and funds for mental health charities? How can a barrage of noise be a good thing? Well, some of us find comfort in this kind of racket. It’s all about the immersion, all about the catharsis. You can totally bury yourself in this kind of stuff, and feel the pain and anguish being purged. There’s something cleansing about a howling tempest that envelops you and transports you to another place that’s difficult to communicate. It’s intense, and often quite personal, and some distance beyond words. There’s often a real sense of community around the more fringe scenes, and Human Worth is very much a community of artists pulling together to care for one another and not just like-minded individuals, but anyone.

There is joy in the fact that there’s some seriously heavy shit to be found on this album’s twenty tracks, and none of its especially friendly: Lovely Wife, as you’d probably expect given their previous output, seem keen to push the brown. The snarling demonism of ‘My Cup Overfloweth’ sounds particularly close to dredging through the bowels of hell by raging demons playing improv renditions of Hawkwind songs, and it’s a murky, gut-churning blast.

There isn’t a weak – or gentle – track to be found in this collection, but Ballpeen’s ‘Hate Fantasies’ – here in demo form – Working Men’s Club (not the shit indie one) are standouts in a field of standouts.

Sometimes, there’s a sense of obligation to purchase charity compilations because there’s a decent track or two, and because it’s for a good cause, but Human Worth have again curated an album that’s just that unbelievably good you want to buy ten copies.

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We absolutely love what Human Worth are doing, both in terms of their humanitarian work and the promotion of some stunning underground and emerging acts. And so the arrival of a second lockdown-period fundraising compilation is a most welcome thing, and the proceeds from this latest release are going to Harmless, a charity that supports metal health, and to assist in the prevention of self-harm and suicide.

For this reason, we’re immensely proud to be serving up an exclusive premier stream of ‘Serenity’, by AJA, the first of the album’s massive twenty tracks.

AJA works with the charity Harmless that they’re donating the funds of this release to – It was her suggestion and she said "I work for an organisation who give their profits from training people in mental health awareness and suicide prevention / intervention directly back into helping support people with free therapy. They are self funded and have been massively affected by covid and they do really amazing work!” For more info, go to https://www.facebook.com/HarmlessUK/

The album drops via BandCamp on Friday 7th August. Check out ‘Serenity’ here:

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Former New Creatures / Johnathan Christian co-founder Johnathan Mooney and Machinery of Desire’s Adrian Auchrome have teamed up to form the new project THE FUNHOUSE COLLECTIVE.  The duo has announced the release of their cover of Golden Earring’s classic song, ‘Twilight Zone’.  The original song was written by Golden Earring guitarist George Kooymans who got inspiration from Robert Ludlum’s book, The Bourne Identity.

Produced by Johnathan Mooney and Michael Bann, this new darker, post-punk version aptly arrives at a very poignant time in the world.

“Growing up during the Cold War and coming of age when the original came out left me with indelible memories of that era. Add the events past few months to the mix and it seemed this could have new relevance.” Says Adrian Auchrome.

Pitched as being for fans of The Sisters of Mercy and The Mission, to our ears, it’s more reminiscent of technoindustrial gods PIG, and that’s no bad thing. Get your lugs and peepers round it here:

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Weeping Prophet Records – 31st July 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

The facts and the pitch are that Fuse Box City is a new London based band. They combine indie and electronic with noise and melody; the intricate layering of which produces a rich sound that provides a platform for Rachel Kenedy’s fragile yet mellifluous vocals to sit on top. Talking about the stuff that matters all in the same breath.

I like hybridity and eclecticism, and have developed an increasing appreciation of some of the 80s samplist / looping acts that broke through in the late 80s. It wasn’t immediately apparent at the time, but this wasn’t about simply making dance music and turntable scratching and drum machines: this was utilising emerging technology to create a soundtrack to our ever-faster, ever more fragmented experience of life.

Revisiting the spirit of then makes sense to an extent: we’re witnessing even less comprehensible times, even faster, more fragmentary lives, and even niftier tech while in a position to cast an eye back over recent history.

But sometimes blending lo-fi indie and experimental electronica and throwing in bits of prog and 80s hip-hop means the elements don’t always gel especially well, and ‘Shine On’ makes for a shaky, somewhat chaotic and disjointed start.

Maybe it’s a matter of adjustment, or maybe the band really do find their groove better as the album progresses, and it’s when they slow things down a bit as they do first on ‘Pub Licker’ and then on ‘Crossing Swords’ that things begin to feel rather more cohesive, and find FBC explore a territory that sounds like a trip-hop reimagining of Young Marble Giants.

The album’s closer marks another departure: the thirteen-minute ‘Bendy One’ starts out a low, slow semi-ambient work with a murky beat stuttering away like a fibrillating heart, and low in the mix before slowly taking form: the beat becomes ore solid, regular, insistent, and comes to dominate a vague wash of a droning backdrop which stretches and yawns and swells behind Kenedy’s soaring choral vocal. Somewhere along the way it emerges as a new ag stomper with a thumping tribal beat and some squirming electronics that bubble away in the background of some approximation of a celebratory sunset incantation.

The end product seems to be that of a band who are ideas-rich and unafraid to experiment, while still finding their feet and sense of direction. Despite its messier moments, which often boil down to execution as much as concept, it’s a bold debut, and never uninteresting or uninspired.

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Methodical Movements – 29th May 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

While I’m so desperately missing live music, it seems only reasonable that the least I can do is cover as many fundraiser releases as possible, and there are loads. Hardly surprising, really: there are loads of little venues, and they’re all struggling. And it’s the sub-100 capacity venues and the 100-200 capacity spaces that are the worst affected, and which are the venues that are the most vital for cultivating those communities of underground and unusual artists. That’s certainly not to say that rock, pop, and indie music isn’t suffering, but the market for more obscure stuff means those gig are always going to be held in basement venues in front of 20-30 people – and you might argue they’ve been practising social distancing for years, but while carrying an element of truth, fails to acknowledge the fact that the more niche the music, the more hardcore the following, and moreover, the more the need for its sustenance: often, these are small communities populated by introverts and quietly vulnerable types.

I shall quote from the press release at length, as it feels appropriate here: ‘Music for empty venues is a charitable music compilation in response to the Covid-19 crisis. Independent music venues across the country are struggling more than ever due to the imposed lockdown, with many listings cancelled and the uncertainty over any future bookings. This compilation aims to support some of the affected venues within the city of London through the means of a fund-raising, with all profits of the release going to three chosen independent London venues selected by the featured artists. These venues are: Iklectik, Hundred Years Gallery and Jazzlive at the Crypt.

The compilation features a wide range of forward thinking, electronic based musicians who have graced many of London’s (UK) independent music venues over the years. We’ve all come together in this one moment to support the venues that normally support us.’

I’m reminded of the EMOM nights I’ve attended in York and Leeds: a broad church, and so, so accommodating: they’ve effectively created their own circuit for artists, and a safe space for aficionados of the eclectic electronic music they create. As such, this project isn’t simply one to back in principle, but one that resonates on a personal level. It also helps that the standard of the contributions is outstanding, and the track list is a remarkable showcase for the range of underground electronic music emerging right now.

Blame’s ‘Flummoxed’ is an eight-minute blast of stammering electronic trilling, tweaks and jerks, bleeps and stuttering overload that hovers just below speaker distortion and fried circuitry.

Docor Stevio mines a more conventional, if dark, seam. On the face of I, ‘Another day’ is a throbbing electropop / industrial crossover with a gothy vibe, but there’s a hint of proggines in the vocal delivery and the bridge sections.

This is, incidentally, an absolutely mammoth release: nineteen tracks, many of them way over the six-minute mark, and a few truly behemoth efforts, not least of all, Laura Netz’s ‘Medial Dark Ages’ and the last track, ‘Fragments#1’ by Tony James Morton. Both are expansive and immersive and enjoyable in their own subtle ways.

Adam Paroussos’ ‘Murmurations and the Fool’ is something of a standout, by virtue of the disorientating nature of its collage pile-up of wibbly electronics and overlaid samples colliding in a riot of simultaneity, while Mathr seems intent on dissecting dance tropes to extrapolate aspects of beat, bass, and groove into a shuddering stop-start headfuck. No, you can’ t dance to it. ‘Bloom’s Taxonomy’ by Obrigada Nadamay be almost fragmentary, but with its broad, sweeping drones swishing across Japanese-influenced chimes, it’s textured, layered, and compelling.

‘Desilencing the Sea, Part 1’ by xvelastín contrasts in every way, being a minimal ambient work that’s devoid of beats and overt structure, drifting, without form, without chords… barely there, yet somehow atmospheric. Not dark, not even particularly eerie, but not light or comfortable either, ambulating a sonic no-man’s land, an aural limbo of sorts.

Ambivalence and ambiguity is a positive thing, and the material on this compilation thrives in this space without definition.

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