Archive for November, 2020

generate and test – 30th October 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

The blurb bewilders me before I hear a note, as I read how ‘ʇןǝɯs is a high density package crafted with care and luck from a rare mixture of ingredients. The four track MP (micro-package) takes you on a ride across a one- dimensional checkerboard landscape rendered in colors of euphoria and terror. Players emerge at side exits and diffuse presently. If the album title is unmanageable you can use the unoffending smelt.’

Delving deeper, I learn, ‘Entire package produced on-the-go using mobile phones, some of them rooted. Apps are Nanoloop, g-stomper, termux/python, different media recording apps. Custom app autovoice takes care of slicing the voice tracks and beat aligning them on the track.’

From this fragmentary non-narrative, I’m braced for something irregular, unusual, beyond boundaries, and that’s very much what this is. Micro-package is a fair description of an EP comprising four tracks, none of which really exceed two and a half minutes, although it doesn’t convey the flickering intensity of slow-tripping hip-hop that’s rooted in samplist, cut-up methodology with disjointed loops and fragments providing the fabric of this digital tapestry.

It may not be easy to follow, and at times so deeply immersed in obscure referencing and the exploration of the technology used to create the material, ʇןǝɯs feels as much like a case of experimentalism for its own sake than a document of artistic creativity. The titles are more or less impenetrable, at least in terms of their significance or relevance, although ‘very veird’ is quite odd, if not overtly Germanic, a college of bleeps and a bubbling stew of vocals simmering over minimal beats and bloopy, stammering bass. It actually makes for a long two minutes, but the richness of the layering and density of the combined source materials is undeniably impressive.

There’s almost infinite bubble and fizz, crackled and grind, particularly on the closer, ‘argh uargh (kann ich ans handy?)’ where the title is a fair summary of the chaotic cacophony it contains.

ʇןǝɯs is messy and uncomfortable, but taking its sequence of input > process > output as a creative model, it’s likely the ultimate summary of 2020.

AA

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25th November 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Following what, at least to the outside world, appeared to be a fallow spell between the release of beech and its attendant remixes version, during which time elk became elkyn, Joseph Donnelly returns remarkably swiftly with a new single, ‘if only it was alright now’.

It’s a sentiment that’s so, so relatable right now as we find ourselves eddying along in a relentless tumult of who knows that the fuck. And in the space of just over three minutes, Donnelly captures and articulates all of the uncertainty and wraps it around with a warm, thick blanket of home and opens the window to let the light in.

It begins in what’s swiftly become trademark style, his quiet, introspective vocals almost a mumble, trepidatious, accompanied only by sparse, picked acoustic guitar. And it’s truly beautiful, in that most intimate, soul-searching of ways. But from here, things evolve as layers of textured sound build on one another, and at pace, and in no time, galloping drums are bounding along, pushing the song onwards, and it’s a rush – a clean, uplifting rush, like a warm breeze on a perfect summer’s day, where the clouds are just wisps, high in the upper reaches of the atmosphere.

Comparisons and references that spring up here and there, but to evoke them feels futile, and moreover to diminish the emotional and sonic richness of the work, which exists in its own self-made space, and completely apart from all external forces of influence and time, creating a brief but magical moment you wish could be frozen to last for all eternity.

24th November 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Black days and even blacker nights call for black metal, and the second track taken from German trio Imha Tarikat’s forthcoming second long player, Sternenberster (which translates literally as ‘burster of stars’) scheduled for release on December 11th. As you might expect from a band whose name is Turkish and translates as ‘extermination sect’, it’s black in the ‘scorched earth, charred remains’ sense.

It begins with a single bass note, a power grunt, and then all hell breaks loose, and it’s fast, furious, and the production is, of course, ultra-primitive. Usually, with black metal, I’m inundated with synonyms for swamps and sludge, here, it’s The Fall that come to mind. Not that Imha Tarikat sound like The Fall musically, but the clattering racket is distinctive by virtue of the instrumental separation. What’s more, that ragged bass sound, particularly the descending run before it all collapses into a frenzied wall of nose, sounds almost exactly like the start of ‘Elves’. It’s endearingly ramshackle, and while it is in time and in key – just about – I think – it’s perfectly unpolished, a one- or two-take demo-quality throwdown. Unusually, it’s possible to distinguish the bass, the guitars, the drums, and the vocals – but not the lyrics, of course – in what is a remarkably bright mix.

With the vocals heavily doused in delay, which repeats and reverberates around among the pulverizing and utterly relentless percussion, it does take on a different feel from so much of the genre. Of course, there’s nothing audible that conveys the song’s concept which ‘metaphorically signifies the violent collision with reality that follows a fall from intoxicating heights’ but it does convey excruciating agony and kinetic energy in abundance. And it’s fucking brutal.

Panurus Productions – 4th December 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Some of these experimentalists, they’re real buggers, you know. Awkward sods. Wilfully obtuse, intentionally unlistenable. Sindre Bjerga & Tanto sure as hell aren’t aiming for mass appeal on this absolute monster of a cassette release. In fact, I’d go so far as to suggest their primary goal is mass-alienation, because this is pretty fucking horrible. And it never stops.

Sindre Bjerga & Tanto’s collaboration contains two pieces which fill a C90. It’s an experimental mash-up, a cut-up, fold-in audio experiment that if not inspired by William Burroughs’ 1960s tape experiments, lots inevitably can be traced in terms of lineage and influence, conscious or otherwise. And for all the levity of the title, it makes for some seriously hard listening.

Amidst crackling fizz and stretched tape discord, there’s a warped, off-key rendition of ‘Don’t Cry for me, Argentina’, that’s buried in an underwater bubbling, a blur of blender nose and a mess of detuned radios. Shrieking feedback emerges and lingers on after grating clanks, and serrated droned, pulsing washed of analogue noise and sharp static blasts that cut through bubbling torrents and crude farting noises and a collage of contrasts and contradictions.

It becomes more challenging as it progresses: ‘Crashing Sonic Pepper Waves’ delves deeper under water and begins to take on the feel of a long underwater swim – the sound of a frenzied splash after being toppled overboard from a liner or destroyer. Beepling wipples fracture and disrupt a narrative of long, dark tones that rumble and scrape and intonate a truly post-industrial, post-apocalyptic soundscape – bleak, desolate, rusted, decayed.

If the first forty-five minutes feel like an endurance test then the second – ‘Tabasco Mist Prescription’ feels even more intensely so. What do you actually do with this? A masochist can enjoy it to an extent, and anyone with an appreciation of Throbbing Gristle and any of the myriad acts of all strains of genre style influenced by TG likewise. TG represent the closest reference here, with the heart of industrial music being less about the stylized appropriation of factory noise and the like than an attitude based on perversion of what was even considered ‘music’ delivered with a confrontational, antagonistic attitude – and Sneezing Waves From The Peppered Oceans is antagonistic, and then some.

35 minutes into ‘Crashing Sonic Pepper Waves’ is shrill blasts of treble are being amped up against all kinds of found-sound dissonance and difficulty, and it only gets messier, more brain-pulping with the messy murk of ‘Crashing Sonic Pepper Waves’. It’s unsettling, uncomfortable, and those are the compliments. It’s not even particularly dark, it’s just a nasty conglomeration of disparate sounds, collaged together to render something that’s uncomfortable, and never-ending, and quite enough to induce heartburn.

It’s good, but don’t expect to like it.

AA

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Tambourine Machine – 20th November 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Nine years on from their inception, and seven years since their last release, Epilogues return from hiatus with a brace of new EPs, simply entitled ‘me’ and ‘you’. Mikey Donnelly has been keeping occupied, recently working solo as miles. and alongside his brother, Joey, who goes by elk.

If the title sounds like this is an exercise in narcissistic, egotistical self-indulgence, you’d be way, way off the mark: yes, Donnelly’s primary focus is himself, but this is a work of deep introspection and is one of those magical moments of fine artistry where the artist finds universality in the personal.

The recording is intimate, close-up, and you can hear every last breath, every scratch and scrape of finger on string and fretboard. The instrumentation is simple, essentially acoustic guitar and voice, with occasional incidentals so subtle as to be barely there. There is nowhere to hide, and that’s largely the point: this is a set of songs that explores identity and picks it apart unsparingly.

In the opening lines of ‘Me’ he sings, quietly, ‘Hello again; it’s me / At least I think that’s who I’m wearing; my character this week’, as he begins to lay himself bare, pulling back the layers of the onion to reveal a fragile core.

A softly quavering ambient drone marks the understated arrival of ‘Two Weeks’, a song so quietly mournful and reflective, and if one applauds the bravery of a statement which says, unashamedly ‘this is me, with all my flaws’, then it’s perhaps even bolder and more powerful to find an artist turning it around and asking ‘who is ‘me’?’. And here, Donnelly succeeds in bringing the two together, taking the listener on a journey that both questions and answers.

Donnelly is, it has to be said, a remarkably eloquent lyricist, each line adeptly spun with a rare poeticism: it’s rare to find a record where simply reading the words on the page is a moving experience.

The final song, ‘The Gap’ begins in typically hushed, reflective style, buy blossoms into a full-band finale, with drums, bass, and chiming guitar as Mikey sings out the refrain, and suddenly, he emerges from the shadows and into the light. For all the rust and dust, death and decay, there is hope and optimism.

   AA

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Click on the image to listen.

20th November 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

So often, less is more. Lyrics that are personal and specific yet vague have the capacity to convey as much more than lines that are direct or explicit. And so it is with ‘Wander & Lost’ that Kin speak of loss and yearning, of distance and sadness and that sense of feeling cut off and alone.

As much as ‘Wander & Lost’ is ostensibly a pining, post-breakup song, it equally stands as a summary of the sense of loss that the distance so many are feeling from friends and family under life in lockdown. Maintaining closeness simply isn’t as easy, and everyone, everything has changed, is changing.

Wander & Lost begins with a wistful, minor-key guitar, picked and chorus-laden, and it provides a delicate backing for the dreamy, contemplative vocals. The drums are distant and everything is balanced, the instruments and vocals all infusing to form a cloudy aural drift. There are shades of melancholy lingering on the peripheries, and it’s never easy to determine if this is the music or projection – but then again, this is why music resonates beyond its immediate boundaries, and ‘Wander & Lost’ transcends its immediate aims on account of a certain musical intuition.

This is one of those songs that’s all about the slow build, and it doesn’t suddenly erupt or explode, but instead gradually swells into a soft, rippling wash of introspection. It’s a sad song that hits that perfect sad song sweet spot.

AA

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Southern Lord – 4th December 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

High Command’s new release on Southern Lord drags me back to a point of debate I’ve covered variously over the twelve years I’ve been doing this reviewing thing: what distinguishes a single from an EP, an EP from an album? And aren’t EPs and mini-album’s the same thing? It may be so much hair-splitting and semantics, and about as important as genre boundaries in the scheme of things, but… well, High Command, being a crossover of thrash metal, punk, and hardcore, are a cause of consternation on that front too.

The two tracks on this digital single, which prefaces the 7” EP release due early next year via Triple B records, are fast, furious, gnarly, and there’s no question over their thrashiness.

‘Everlasting Torment’ may not be literal in its title, being a short, sharp four-minute attack of overdrive, but it does pack all the melodic fretwork, thunderous drums and mega-fast plectrum flashing of something purgatorially thrashy, while counterpart – or B-side, if you will – ‘Sword of Wisdom’ penetrated with a raft of sudden tempo changes and pierces with the lunge into a monster guitar solo.

It’s a whole lot less sludgy and perhaps less Ministry and a lot less industrial than its predecessor, although the key trappings are all in place.

However you position it, this release brings a full-range display of some pretty frenzied fretwork which is driven – hard, and fast – by a strong, dynamic rhythm section that packs all the power, and if any of it threatens to slide toward cliché, the execution and sheer brute force are more than enough.

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Constellation Records share the eighth entry in their Corona Borealis Longplay Singles Series. "Je Vois / Non-Dit" by Montreal based avant-electronic artist Joni Void and featuring vocals by poet/singer and frequent collaborator N NAO, with an experimental film by Sonya Stefan.

"Je Vois / Non-Dit" combines live recordings by the duo into a single track longform where N NAO’s vocals are given unearthly yet organic treatments through Void’s warped manipulations, sampling, atmospheric textures and deconstructed beats – joined by Eddie Wagner on flute about halfway through the track’s 21-minute running time.

Listen to ‘Je Vois / Non-Dit’ here:

…and stream the video here.

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Photo by Thomas Boucher & Sonya Stefan, 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

Lorin Forster certainly isn’t lacking in ambition, or ideas. Her work-rate, be it new music, a tour, artwork, merchandise a side-project of some sort, has been quite remarkable in recent years, and since Weekend Recovery formed around five years ago to say she’s been keeping busy would be an understatement.

As a restless and energetic soul who’s accustomed to being constantly on the move, she’s not someone who waits for luck to happen, or who’s particularly well-suited to lockdown life, so I wasn’t surprised to learn she’s made busy with by far her biggest project to date in the form of a festival. It felt like something we should discuss properly. So that’s what we did.

AA: Let’s get straight to the headline here: you’re organising a festival across two major cities – London and Leeds – over two days in November 2021. What inspired Ghost Road Fest?

LF: Yes, so last year we played crocro land festival which was put together my bugeye’s Angela Martin and it was such an amazing experience.

Then during lockdown I saw This Feeling released a festival-esque lineup I think called Rewired. I’ve lost a lot of passion for music during lockdown, and thought do you know what, if we all sit here like I am feeling sorry for myself then nothing will happen, I’m not gonna retrain, I’m gonna be a creative and get creative!

That’s a really positive thing to have come out of a less than positive place, and it’s interesting you should mention losing your passion and feeling sorry for yourself. You’ve been a keen advocate of mental health, so what have you ben doing to manage, and is there any advice or experience you’d like to share about coping with lockdown, especially for musicians and artists like yourself?

You know I had this conversation with someone today doing this sort of thing is what has helped me cope with lockdown. To start with I was like, great this is the time off of gigging and stuff I’ve needed but very quickly I realised gigging is a big part of what attributes towards my happiness. So I needed to do stuff that distracts me – I work a full time job as well, but the minute I stop I feel a lot more doom and gloom so keep my mind busy and excited toward achieving something is what has kept me going.

The provisional lineup is impressive, and also features a fair few acts you’ve played with / alongside in recent years with Weekend Recovery. What were your selection criteria, and how easy was it to get the acts you wanted on board?

Thank you! I wanted to play with bands I look up to and respect, the hardest part was making that long list a short list, each venue has 9 acts, that’s it! The scene is so full of amazing bands, talent and wicked awesome people, it was harder to work out who didn’t quite fit than who I wanted, and that’s what it came down too, who fit best together for the line up, without it sounding too samey. There’s only been a couple of bands I couldn’t get on board, and that was more to do with super organised agents having sorted our tour schedules than anything else.

How did you go about selecting the venues?

I went to see Rifffest – presented by Brooders at the start of the year and Belgrave Music Hall and absolutely fell in love with the venue – I love the vibe, the cocktails and the food they serve. The staff are lovely – Joe from Superfriendz has been nothing but helpful – and that aside the stage is amazing!

London I went with Kolis – a good friend of mine Arno owns the venue – we’ve gigged there a few times and again has such a cool vibe – it’s really quirky and stylish – also it located right next to a tube station so super convenient for anyone wanting to come to the event.

You’ll be the first to admit that it’s an ambitious project, and 2020 has been the absolute worst. With everything having been postponed and repostponed, and live music in such a precarious state, is planning a festival now a bold move or madness?

Oh complete madness, I’m bonkers doing this, but I hope it’s a way to stimulate the underground music scene, because fuck me it’s taken a hit. The lineup I have is ambitious but amazing, and I’m sure it will sell well, especially as the venues are quite intimate considering the size of the headliners.

But I think if you don’t try you never will. So I thought yeah I wanna play/go to a festival next year, so I’ll make my own.

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Can you tell us a bit more about the concept and overarching principles of Ghost Road Fest, and what sets it apart from other events?

We’re very focused on proportional representation, unfortunately I think this is an issue that’s still a bit overlooked. That’s not to say any of the acts were approached to tick a box, because honestly I’m in awe of who I’ve managed to book. But I want to offer opportunity for up and coming bands as much as established.

We’re also looking to offer opportunity for young people for disadvantaged back grounds who want to have experience in this sort of event; the other roles that make events happen not just the bands.

My business partner Alexandra and I have worked really hard to make everything as diverse as possible, from the crew to the acts to the partners of the festival. I’m really very excited.

Proportional representation is almost certainly still overlooked: the major festivals, Reading and Leeds, Download, Glastonbury, are all notoriously poor with their records of female headliners and on the bill in general, and often it feels like some inclusions are simply tokenismm. Why do you think this is, and what can be done about it?

I’d like to think anyone on any bill is there because they deserve to be rather than for tokenism (although I’m also quite naive and want to see the best in everyone) if it is the case and that it is to tick a box rather than because of inclusion or merit – I think people need to have a real hard look at their morals – I absolutely would like to think any bills I’ve been on have been because people like our music rather than I have a pair of boobs. But maybe organisers feel they have to to not upset people – which is sad because there are LOADS of bands with females in, or non-binary, or gender fluid people, who play fucking good music. I think there is still a really long way to go but baby steps are better than standing still.

Recent years have seen a small number of all-female festival lineups – Boudica Festival, Loud Women Fest, Native Festival in your home county of Kent: how do you feel about these from an inclusivity perspective – do they redress the balance or simply recreate the same problem in reverse?

You know I think they’re really great – they celebrate a minority of the industry, opportunities like this for women are really great! I’ve been quite lucky in that I’ve only experienced sexism a couple of times (a couple of times too many really, but compared to some…)

You’ve been a recording artist and a gigging musician for a while: you’ve managed to establish an admirable following with Weekend Recovery, and are also just embarking on a solo career, so what prompted you to branch out into management?

I sound like a right martyr but I enjoy helping people, watching them grow and feeling proud. I’ve grafted for years, paying my dues and I always wish I had the opportunity to have someone to badger and ask advice to skip a few steps almost, although those steps were the best lessons I learnt

It’s quite evocative – but why Ghost Road for the name?

It was actually a good friend of mine that came up with the name. I’m into really jarring imagery, I’ve worked under this name for a few years now, I also don’t think ghosts are always scary. I think they guide us for better or for worst.

Have you ever seen a ghost?

I haven’t! But then I haven’t ever not seen one – if that makes sense – I’m pretty open minded I’d like to think people are looking out for us when they pass over – so I guess that’s like a ghost

So what else have you got in the pipeline – that you can tell us about?

Well Weekend Recovery have our album out next year (finally) my solo tour coming up – I actually feel busier now than I did pre-lockdown if that was even possible!!

Ghost Road fest is scheduled for 6-7 November 2021 in London and Leeds. You can get updates via the Ghost Road website, as well as the festival’s dedicated Facebook and Instagram pages.

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Human Worth- 26th November 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

This one’s been cropping up in my Facebook feed a fair bit lately, and I’m quite ashamed by how long it took me to get around to playing it, given the great work Human Worth do both in terms of music and charitable donations – plus the fact they’re decent guys who I’m proud to know. Shit happens, even in the midst of Lockdown 2.0 where it’s shit mostly because there’s only shit and nothing happens, and mostly it’s simply that there just aren’t enough hours in the day. In the event, it turns out the greatest loss is mine, because this album really is something else. How was I to know that this was the album I’d been looking for, that I needed in my life the last few months?

Given the pedigree of the performers who make up Cower – namely Wayne Adams (Pet Brick / Big Lad), Gareth Thomas (USA Nails / Silent Front) & Thomas Lacey (Yards / The Ghost of a Thousand) – it would be a reasonable expectation for their debut album to contain a fair bit of noise, but then equally, it would be reasonable to expect it to be a bit experimental, a bit electronic, and a bit weird. How do all of the elements brought by the component parts marry up?

The short answer is remarkably well, and Cower sound like all of the component pats simultaneously, but equally none, as they morph together to forge something truly unique, and also quite unexpected.

It begins in a pretty understated fashion, with ‘Tight Trousers and a Look of Intent’ following the path of a dense, woozy, but accessible dark electro tune. Admittedly, that pulsating bass throb is something you could drown in, but the incidentals and the vocals are quite accessible – although all hell breaks loose just halfway through and it’s wild. Initially, I was inclined to say that as an opening, it was ‘tame’, but that would be unjust: restraint isn’t an indication of weakness, but of controlling the beast. But then, when the beast breaks loose… ‘Proto-Lion-Tamer’, brings the noise, and does it in proper full-on style, a squalling, brawling mess of din – old-school noise merchants like The Jesus Lizard are in the blender with contemporaries like Daughters and Blacklisters to whip up a nasty maelstrom of noise.

Tribal drumming dominates the bleak, eerie soundscape of ‘Arise You Shimmering Nightmare’, while the downtempo mid-album slowie, ‘Saxophones by the Water’ finds them coming on like Violator-era Depeche Mode, and this trickles through into the next song, ‘Midnight Sauce’ that combined a rich, soulful vocal with some chilly synths and blasts of percussion-led noise and cinematic drama that goes fully 3D, to the extent that it gives JG Thirlwell a run for his money.

If BOYS pursues a dark, brooding, electro road as its dominant style, it’s the album’s range and diversity that is its real selling point, and the songs are all far darker than most of the titles suggest. And if much of the album feels pointed, challenging, ‘For the Boys’ is outstanding in its emotional sensitivity. Closer ‘Park Jogger’ in particular sounds like it might be light, even vaguely comedic by its title, but no: it’s a colossal electroindustrial behemoth tat packs some seriously pounding force into its short running time.

With BOYS, Cower surprise and excel: the quality of the songs is remarkable: there’s a real sense of everything having been carefully crafted for accessibility, to the extent that this is actually a pop album – making for the darkest, heaviest pop album you’re likely to hear in a long time.

AA

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