Archive for October, 2020

The Secret Warehouse of Sound Recordings – 23rd September 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Maybe it’s just me, perhaps I’m tired and emotional or perhaps I’m just feeling particularly sensitive as the long-term effects of an absence of live music and being generally cut off from people bites harder as the nights draw in and the days grow shorter, but I’ve started to feel a real heavy-hearted ache lately for the things I miss. Maybe these are my October Blues, which means the arrival of this single is perfectly timed – not to lift the spirits, but to reflect that inward-facing melancholy that comes with the urge to hibernate or hunker down by a log fire.

Admittedly, it’s been a long time since I spent lazy evenings in basement bars listening to live blues, and it’s perhaps precisely because of that that Muca & La Marquise’s latest single, fills me with pangs of nostalgia.

Stripped-back and simple, primarily an acoustic guitar and voice, it evokes simpler times – while at the same time being absolutely timeless – of late-night smoky basement bars, with its jazz-tinged blues and laid back laconic delivery. La Marquise has a magnificent voice – timeless, classic, smooth. The guitar-playing is similarly understated, but follows a nice, chilled slow blues chord sequence and there’s an exquisite break, too, that draws you in and drifts away on a magnificent wave of melancholy.

Front&Follow – 25th September 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

So big a space to fill… the absence of live music leaves an abyss of indescribable scale. Social media has been aflame with outcry over the treatment of this so-called ‘unviable’ industry, crippled by restrictions – an industry that generates many, many billions of pounds for the economy. Over and over, I’ve read articles and personal pleas from those involved about the plight not only of musicians and venue owners, but the invisible but essential contributors, the sound and lighting engineers, the roadies, the studios, and it’s all so, so painful and heart-rending.

The fourth, penultimate instalment of the Isolation and Rejection compilation series which brought the Front & Follow label temporarily out of hibernation contains a further twenty-four contributions from a vast array of artists, known and unknown, assembled here under the common banner of all having been previously rejected by labels. Their loss is our gain and that of Front & Follow, whose inclusive approach to curating this series has made for a truly enriching journey over the last few months.

There is a leaning toward the electronic, and Pulselovers’ ‘Orphans’, which lands early is typical of the atmospheric strain that’s something of a staple of the F&F catalogue. Neither dance nor ambient, it’s understated, rippling, the gauzy layers pinned together by lowkey but insistent beats.

Daphnellc’s ‘Sinker Flies The Plane’ starts out jittery, hyperactive, edgy electronica that tinkles and flutters, before going all out on the hard, pounding beats, and contrasts with many of the more delicate, wispy compositions on offer here. Then again, with ‘Slava Xenoxxx’, Bone Music hit a dense industrial groove, bursting with snappy snare explosions and a blitzkrieg of samples, and for 80s robotix electro, Function Automat’s ‘Data Data’ is proper vintage, and not without a massive nod to not only Kraftwork, but also DAF and Cabaret Voltaire’s ‘Nag Nag Nag.’ In a parallel universe, this was recoded in 1978 and a truly seminal cut that brought its makers international renown.

These more accessible works are countered by the industrial-strength dark ambience brought by Revbjelde and the gouging aggressive dark drone attack of ColdSore, and Howlround push this to the next level with an overloading mess of pulsating distortion.

MJ Hibbert bucks the electro trend with his pithy acoustic indie, and if it seems a shade incongruous it’s all the more essential because of it: the spirit of these compilations is inclusivity, and this is what gives these largely instrumental, experimental, oddball collections soul.

These remain bleak times, and fir many, the long-term prospects continue to grow bleaker, and releases like this are essential not just in terms of bringing high-quality leftfield music to those seeking sonic solace, but also in creating a certain sense of community and collectivism.

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Christopher Nosnibor

A collective of international origins spanning Belgium, Italy, and New Zealand, All Runs Red’s debut is a stylistic hybrid, too, beginning with a drifting picked intro that’s a bit prog, a bit post-rock. It’s one of those tracks that makes a series of rapid transitions and leaves you feeling a shade dazed, but also confused and confounded, as you sit, stunned, just three minutes or so later, wondering how you got from A to B.

Initially, it packs a simmering tension, but one infused with a certain slickness, even a light funk groove before hinting at something else. I’m on the fence here, then between loving and loathing, because that smoothness reminds me of insipid cack like Maroon 5, but then there’s something building beneath the surface… and then the chorus breaks and it’s got ‘stadium’ written all over it – or at least arena. It’s sonically immense, and big on emotion, too, then there are howling backing vocals and a huge guitar workout breaks forth and then…it fades out? What? How? Who would do this, and why? I feel a little short-changed, and like I should perhaps complain – but what good would that do?

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Jason Sharp has been a fixture of Montréal’s experimental/improv scene for many years, chiefly as a saxophonist exploring eletcro-acoustic and durational music, and in a wide variety of jazz, avant and contemporary music ensembles. “Gates of Heaven” is an 18-minute through-composed acoustic recording and Sharp’s first official new release since Stand Above The Streams (2018). The single accompanies an experimental film by Guillaume Vallée.

Jason reveals, "this recording captures a solo bass saxophone performance in the Gates of Heaven, a small synagogue in Madison, Wisconsin. After an exhaustive recording session elsewhere, I visited the synagogue en route to the airport to quickly record a solo piece. The engineer and I had only a couple of hours to capture something before catching our flight home to Montreal.  Microphones were set up at varying distances throughout the synagogue and I improvised a solo piece using the acoustics of the space. We had just enough time to record what became an 18 minute multi-tracked piece. Each layer was a first take and a response to the previous. It began to rain heavily towards the end of our session audibly rattling the synagogue, we tore down the mics, and hurried to the airport. Taking this fleeting moment for myself to play in this beautiful resonant space was both nourishing and revitalising. I returned to this recording when the pandemic hit in mid-March as a way to focus my attention on something positive and future-driven. Listening back to this acoustic document during this unprecedented time, I once again felt the support this space had provided – and was reminded of the fragility that improvised music can often reveal and the strength it can restore."

Guillaume Vallée adds, "along with the musical beauty of the piece, the context of recording was an inspiration to me. When Jason explained to me that he recorded the piece in a place of worship, I imagined something soft & dark, some sort of suggested figurative visual ambiance. After listening obsessively for days, I began to work on a three-part narrative structure that follows the music’s progression. Everything comes from Super8 images that I shot years ago and got processed and scanned during isolation. Flowers, walls from the Middle Ages, a church – in colour and black & white that have then been heavily processed through analog video tools. I wanted the images to be sculpted by the music, as a pure depiction of the emotional states of mind this piece puts me in."

Watch the video here.

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Pic: Gwendal le Flem

generate and test – gt49 – 23rd October 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

I don’t even know what day it is most days. I’m vaguely keeping track of the months and weeks, but a mostly existing day-to-day. Turn on the laptop, check my calendar, dial into the meetings I’m booked into. It’s just mechanical, I’m not really living. I know it’s 2020, by virtue of the fact I don’t know much else: confusion reigns. Time’s meaning has evaporated over the last seven or eight months.

I was drawn by the title, as the two component parts both feel relevant. That may be a personal thing, it may be a more general thing. We’re living every moment of every dystopia ever written, ever filmed, ever imagined, and I’m deeply nostalgic for all things right now, ranging from human interaction to simply feeling as if I have a life. I know I’m not alone in being alone.

I’ve long had an acute sense of nostalgia, but loathe the way nostalgia has become an industry, capitalising in the way the ageing process rose-tints the past. Anniversary edition albums and movie reissues don’t only cash in on that sense of past times, but lock people into a cycle of nostalgia, provoking reminiscences of ‘the good old days.’ Admittedly, the future has never looked so barren and the past more appealing, but generally speaking… we always yearn for the past because things were simpler when we were younger and less burdened with responsibility and emotional baggage.

It looks like this release has been languishing in the vaults for a long time, if my reading of the liner notes is right, they state that this was ‘written, produced, performed, and recorded by Matthew Thomas 1997… mastered by Matthew Thomas 2020’ Apparently, ‘2020 demanded we revisit a 1990s vision of a dystopic future’ – and yes, maybe it did. Or maybe it didn’t. Do we need to be heaped with more dystopian anguish given the pain of living in the every day?

nostalgia:dystopia promises ‘four tracks of dystobeats, placing the human voice within a context of fractured systems’, and delivers something that may be something close, I don’t know. I’m not entirely sure what dystobeats are, but I feel that we’re all living in a nexus of systems all of which are fractured and fragmenting, much to the psychological detriment of many. If lockdown was hard, the fact we’re still living in such uncertain times and under such restrictions and at distance from our fellow human beings is taking its toll. And this… it’s electronic, it’s overloading. Layers of sound collide against one another to forge challenging sound and forms.

There’s a sense of excessive volume and colliding sonic intents on the first track, ‘Pranayama’, where yawning drones like mechanical digeridoos hum and hover amid static blasts and feedback that ruptures from the simmering sonic surface like solar flares. Pulsing rhythms merge from the layers of sound.

In contrast, ‘Within in Orange Sodium Glow’ is thick, deep, and mellow for the most, with squelchy electro vibes coming to the fore: but there’s an eerie undercurrent that’s hard to ignore as lumpy beats lurch and thump amid undulating analogue oscillations, while ‘Sheering Force’ is stark, mechanoid, depersonalised, bleak and ‘Insect’ is a scratchy, buzzing mess of distorted beats and murky gyrations that emanates detachment and dislocation.

Having languished some twenty-three years in the vaults, it does seem as if Thomas had a certain sense of gloomy premonition about the future that’s now here. But then, every year of present feels bleaker than those which preceded, and since the turn of the millennium, it’s felt as though while global warming has been melting the ice caps at an exponential rate, life has been inching closer to a perpetual winter of the soul. With nostalgia:dystopia, Matthew Thomas has created a suitably claustrophobic soundtrack.

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Mr. Bungle, who are mere days away from the release of The Raging Wrath of the Easter Bunny Demo (Oct. 30, Ipecac Recordings), have shared a third and final single ahead of the 11-song release, streaming “Sudden Death”.

The song’s arrival comes as the Bay Area-born band, which features core Mr. Bungle members Trevor Dunn, Mike Patton and Trey Spruance with Scott Ian (Anthrax, S.O.D.) and Dave Lombardo (Dead Cross, Slayer, Suicidal Tendencies), prepare for the Halloween virtual live concert experience dubbed “The Night They Came Home!” The online event screens at 7pm GMT on Oct. 31 with the on-demand program available for the following 72 hours. Tickets and exclusive merchandise are available now via www.mrbungle.live.

Hear ‘Sudden Death’ here:

PERCHTA have released a video for the song ‘Wåssa’, which is the fourth visualisation of a track taken from the Tyrolian band’s debut album ”Ufång”.

PERCHTA comment: "The video for ‘Wåssa’ is the fourth clip from our album ‘Ufång’ and closes the circle that ‘Åtem’ had begun this spring", writes the vocalist. "This song is dealing with the element water and dedicated to the cycles of life. It is symbolised by the tripartite primal goddess, the virgin, the mother, and the crone as it flows through the water’s cycle of existence from the drop to the bottom of the deepest lake."

Watch the video here:

Blaylox Records – 30th October 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

My ignorance of The Wake clearly blows every last one of my goth / post-punk credentials: where have I been all my life? Pitched as for being for fans of all of my favourite bands from my teen goth period – which I never really left – namely The Sisters of Mercy, Peter Murphy, The Mission UK, Tones on Tail, Red Lorry Yellow Lorry, Psychedelic Furs, The Cure, the band emerged in the so-called ‘second wave’ of goth appearing on myriad compilations and extensive touring with peers including Skinny Puppy and Nine Inch Nails, The Wake secured their place in goth and roll history.

‘Everything’, the second single lifted from the new album – their first in a quarter of a century – features Red Lorry Yellow Lorry’s Wolfie providing additional guitar, which further bolsters the release’s heritage credentials.

Not that it needs it: it’s a solid album in its own right. ‘Daisy’ is a daringly bleak, low-tempo opener that may not be quite Reptile House EP barren, but is nevertheless a spectacularly dark, atmospheric trudge through oppressively dark terrain, and at nearly six minutes long, it’s hardly an easy entrance.

Things go very Sisters circa ’85 with ‘Marry Me’, and the guitar work is clearly heavily influenced by Wayne Hussey, as are the vocals: this is their reimagining of the Sisters’ ‘Garden of Delight’ demo and it’s taut and murky, and they’ve got that heavily-chorused / valve sound nailed, and it’s that circa ’85 / ’86 vibe that drifts like a creeping smog of dry ice from every corner of Perfumes and Fripperies, aided by a dense production. While the swirling guitars are most obviously the defining aspect of the sound, the bass is thick and boomy, to the extent that you don’t so much hear the basslines as feel them, and they fill out the sound without being able to specifically separate the bass. Said shuddering bass is welded in a tight 4/4 to the mechanised drum tracks, which are pitched relatively low but are relentless – precisely as they should be.

There’s inevitably an element of comparing the motifs with precursive signatures: the tunnel-like vocal reverb is a Sisters signature that’s become a trope that so many bands have tried to emulate, with varying degrees of success.

The aforementioned ‘Everything’ is a hypnotic mesh of shoegaze that draws together early Lorries and All About Eve’s ‘Phased’, and Troy Payne’s vocals are treated with a steely metallic edge that replicates Chris Reed’s sound. Elsewhere, if the drum sound and overall structure of ‘Emily Closer’ is a Sisters / Rosetta Stone / Suspiria lift, the atmosphere is more Curesque, which the title kind of implies is the aim, and ‘Big Empty’ is hollow, brittle, a blanks pace of flanged bass and claustrophobically intense reverb.

‘Figurine’ marks a lurch into Fields of the Nephilim, and with the bombastic layers of female backing vocals wafting over some icy synths and a bassline that’s pure Simon Gallup on the last track, ‘Rusted’, it seems like The Wake have got all the goth bases covered. On the one hand, I should be irritated, as these things perpetuate the sameness of goth bands that’s been a bugbear of mine for years, largely because it feels self-limiting, like a genre trapped in time. But when it’s this well executed and the songs and production are this strong… you just can’t knock it.

Perfumes and Fripperies isn’t a great title, but it is a great album.

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Better Noise Music – 28th August 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

This may be a little belated, but then arguably, so are the band: From Ashes To New trade in melodic alt-rock that crashes in with the blustery force of post-metal before petering out into some middle ground that’s rooted in the turn-of-the-millennium tats ‘n’ haircuts trend. It’s hard to feel the fire and fury of such angst-by-numbers.

Don’t get me wrong: I feel a genuine sympathy for these guys: the scrolling text at the start of the video reminds me of all of the cancellations I’ve had to witness this year, from gigs and holidays, to conferences to recording sessions to…well, absolutely fucking everything. The office setting for the video hauls me back to the day I was required to return to the office – closed for the foreseeable future, possibly permanently – to collect my personal belongings. It felt like an ending, and a weak one that sputter out to nothing at that. The hangar-like empty space could, under different circumstances, have been quite exciting, even exhilarating, but under the eye of a gloved and masked security guard who watched as I separated out personal and company belongings from my desk, bagging up the items that were my own and separating out stationery, IT kit (although I regret not squirreling away a spare mouse now) and paperwork for recycling before leaving the gloomy open-plan building, the blinds half drawn and the lights off for what was probably the last time. It didn’t occur to me that maybe this would be the setting for recording a rock video: much as I wanted to capture the bleakness of the empty space, I was more preoccupied with making sure I’d loaded up and was off the premises in my allotted twenty minutes, and while the security guard was nothing but friendly, I felt tense and pressured, and yes, maybe the pressure was of my own making but I felt like an intruder and like I needed to get out before I cold relax and breathe properly again.

On departing, it struck me that with more of us being designated permanent home workers as the company looks to finding ways to recoup the immense costs of providing everyone with a laptop, the cost savings of not paying for electricity, cleaners, maintenance, and all of the other things associated with an office housing around 80 staff, I may not see many, if any, of the people I’d spent the last few years working with, in close proximity, ever again. Granted, half of them I could take or leave, some of them were cunts, but they all contributed to the fabric of life. I miss life, and I may even miss some of the people.

But it doesn’t change fact that this is some fairly generic and somewhat dated-sounding Limp Bizkit / Linkin Park lift, and while I feel their pain and panic, it’s all downhill from the intro: the video, likewise, as we move away from the TV screen, the source of the panic, to the empty office, something they seem to revel in but which carries quite different connotations for me and no doubt many.

This isn’t clear-cut, and this is personal, and sometimes, the personal does not lie within the universal. ‘Panic’ will no doubt speak to some, even many, and maybe it’s a matter of demographic, but it certainly doesn’t speak to me.

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Sacred Bones – 30th October 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

This collaborative release is as interesting as it is unexpected. Coming from the heavier and of the guitar-driven spectrum, it isn’t that the coming together of Emma Right Rundle and Thou is entirely unfitting, but it is unquestionably intriguing. The coming together of two such powerful forces has, unsurprisingly, yielded a work that is yet more powerful still.

As the press release observes, ‘while Emma Ruth Rundle’s standard fare is a blend of post-rock-infused folk music, and Thou is typically known for its downtuned, doomy sludge, the conjoining of the two artists has created a record more in the vein of the early ‘90s Seattle sound and later ‘90s episodes of Alternative Nation.’

Needless to say, it’s pretty heavy in places, and not just sonically, although the guitars – more of which shortly – feel heavy enough to shatter rocks, and again, to refer to the liner notes is to reaffirm this as they note how ‘The lyrical content of the album is a marriage of mental trauma, existential crises, and the ecstatic tradition of the expressionist dance movement. “Excessive sorrow laughs. Excessive joy weeps.” Melodic, melancholic, heavy, visceral.’

The grunge influence in this album is apparent and significant, and it’s nearly all in the riffage – but this is an album with rang and depth as well as some serious heft.

‘Killing Floor’ sees the trudging guitar riff emerging from the swirling fog of an atmospheric instrumental intro that borders on shoegaze, Rundle’s voice rises majestically from the thickly distorted power chords and Earth-like picking, and never has she sounded more commanding, more subtly powerful, and never has she come closer to sounding like Chelsea Wolf. And yet, never has she sounded more unique: Bryan Funk’s strained guttural vocal snarls are utterly gut-ripping and contrast with her majestic, emotionally-rich intonation. It’s one of those songs that suck you straight in, and instantly, you’re drawn into the maelstrom.

The album’s shortest song, ‘Monolith’ is a raging beast of a tune a skull-crushing battering of overloading guitars that comes on like a grunge juggernaut, balancing melody with a density that you feel batter against your chest. ‘Ancestral Recall’ swings between brooding ethereality and raging metal, grace and abrasion, but for the most part, it’s little short of absolutely fucking terrifying, a banshee scream howling into a wall of churning guitar noise that’s utterly punishing.

In contrast to the full-on barrage, there are hints of the goth-folk of early All About Eve on the slower, more sedate ‘Magickal Cost’, and once again, the rich, lilting qualities of Emma’s voice comes to the fore. But when the levee breaks around the midpoint, all hell breaks loose, as multi-layered guitars swerve and bend through a tempest of raging noise and a deluge of percussion. The contrasts, cast simultaneously, are stunning and pack all the impact.

The album’s final cut, ‘The Valley’ is deep, a slow-builder with supple violins teetering hesitantly behind rolling drums and soft swell of clean, echo-soaked guitar. It’s by far the most conventional-sounding song on the album, with the folk-infused rock flavour of Fleetwood Mac being more to the fore than anything remotely alternative – but then the last minute and a half is unbridled sonic annihilation as all of the pent-up fury is unleased.

It’s a fitting final to an absolutely stunning album, an album which explores a broad sonic and emotional range to hit hard in the delivery.

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