Archive for December, 2020

Secret Warehouse Of Sound Records – 15th December 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Here we are at the fading fag-end of the shittiets year in living memory and yet as energy levels and any prospect of salvaging anything of real merit fades faster than that of a satisfactory deal on Brexit, some are keeping those flickering flames of optimism alive. With venues having been closed since March, the odd socially-distanced all-seated show notwithstanding, live music has been largely off the table in 2020, leaving not so much a gap as a gaping chasm in the lives of many, and not only gigging musicians and venues and the staff who work in those venues in their various capacities.

Music is more than music: music is community, music is a place of retreat, of escape, music is personal freedom. But music is also… music, an outlet for its makers and a conduit for its fans, and Muca & La Marquise are determined to wring the very last drop of accomplishment from this bleak year with their fourth single of the year in the shape of ‘Devil’s Dance’.

An acoustic homage to long summer days spent lounging under the gaze of an unrelenting sun, it feels like a real misfit in what feels like the darkest week of the darkest month of the darkest year, but maybe that was the plan – to break through the deep-set mopology and lift the spirits with something bright, buoyant, and above all, summery – think Bobby McFerrin, think Macy Gray, think Paolo Nutini’s ‘New Shoes’, think laid-back soulful jazz-flavoured mellowness. Think maybe about not thinking for a bit and giving your brain a rest. I know it’s not aggro. It’s time for a night off. With a large whisky and some candles lit, this one’s working for me.

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MC/free iOS app Langham Research Centre LRC001

7th December 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

My last encounter with Langham Research Centre was 2017’s Tape Works Vol 1, an experimental set that evoked the spirit of William Burroughs while also being littered with references to JG Ballard which inevitably piqued my interest. However, on the arrival of Quanta / Signal / Noise, I discover that both a remix of Tape Works Vol 1 as well as Tics and Ampersands and the spectacularly mundane yet dauntingly postmodern-sounding Gateshead Multi-storey Car Park, both released in 2018 had bypassed me.

Quanta / Signal / Noise, a work in four parts seems to offer a fair – and welcome – point at which to reconvene with Langham Research Centre. the press release forewarns of ‘a shift away from the conventional building blocks of music: notes and harmony and rhythms that are mapped onto a grid of steady pulse. Instead, the focus is on a fascination with sound itself; with its unfolding textures, shapes, energies and dynamics’. So far, so much standard avant-garde / experimental fare.

The release contains four tracks, in the form of versions 1 to 4 of ‘Quanta / Signal / Noise’, each of which has a duration of four minutes and thirty-four seconds, two of which were composed by Iain Chambers, and two of which were composed by Robert Worby. ‘Version’ is a misnomer: none of the pieces bear any real resemblance to one another, ranging from heavy discordant clunks and thunks to fizzing circuitry and erratic bleepery, with woozy atmospherics, warped chatter of multiple simultaneous conversations and deep, dark, ominous undercurrents. Explosions shattering plate glass windows behind real-time running documentaries collide simultaneously with birdsong and erratic levels of volume. It’s an interesting sonic collage, but, one might say, largely of its type.

But there’s more to this than immediately meets the ear, as in addition to the standard audio release, there’s an iOS app, ‘Langham Research Centre variPlay: Quanta / Signal / Noise’, produced and developed in collaboration with London College of Music at the University of West London, which presents an interactive version of the release. The pitch is that it may be thought of as ‘experimental cinema for the ear or maybe a tool for dynamic sound painting [which] follows in the musical tradition established by composers, specifically in the middle of the 20th century, when sound recording became widely available… In the app version, by playing with these sonic materials, imaginary auditory landscapes may be created. Sonic narratives, with expressive moods, unfold before the ears and mobile, fluid sound canvases can be brushed and sketched and collaged.’

Such interactivity may not be wholly new, but still, to break the third wall in such a way becomes rare, and inviting the audience to become the artist radically alters the dynamic of the relationship not only between the artist and audience, but also audience and material. The material ceases to be something the audience ‘receives’, but instead repositions the audience as part of the art ad its creation. That breaking down of boundaries utterly transforms the experience of reception. It is quite possible that the concept is more exciting than the reality, but then, playing about with sound can be great fun. Unfortunately, the app only appears to be available for Apple / iPhone users, so I’m unable to confirm or comment either way.

The app version stands in extreme contrast to the physical release, on cassette, a format that was on the brink of obsolescence over twenty years ago, and yet is still going, albeit with a microniche market. The chances are half the interaction with the format involves a hexagonal pencil or a Bic biro.

Nevertheless, it’s an intriguing exercise to witness the evolution of interactive art that strives to question and to redefine the role or artist and audience, as well as the notion of the ‘finished’ or definitive artefact, making this more than just something to listen to, even if only conceptually and for a certain portion of the audience.

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Christopher Nosnibor

Digital release date: 18th December 2020

Physical release date: March 2021

Released as part of a series of collaborative releases between INA GRM and Editions MEGO, this is something of an unusual package, in that it’s presented as a split LP, but is also sort of two separate LPs. – digitally, they’re being released separately, but the vinyl version is split. Given the length of each contribution – in the 20-25-minute zone that neatly corresponds with one side of a 33rpm vinyl album – it makes sense, and certainly more sense than splitting a continuous piece in two over a 45rpm 12”, or the economics of a pair of one-sided albums.

Hecker – Florian, not Tim – contributes a work of ‘computer-generated sound with resynthesized situated texture recordings’. It’s a rumbling tempest of a composition, the crashing of digital waves against a hard shore of tightly-packed circuitry that rolls and thuds. A sonar pulse is rent by tinnitus-inducing drill-like whirr, and over the course of its twenty-five-minute exploration of toes and textures, Statistique Synthétique becomes quite a challenge – one that you may find yourself drifting from and struggling to maintain focus on at times, while at other wishing you could zone out a bit more instead of having an incessant buzzing and crackling piercing your brain.

I often find that with experimental instrumental works that do place such a strong emphasis on texture and that whole ‘cerebral sonic experience’ for want of a better phrase, that my mind does tend to drift while listening. It’s a challenge as a reviewer to critique something that’s so intentionally removed from the domain of overt musicality, or using a combination of music and words (or even not) to express or article something. Because precisely how does one engage with it – or, to consider another perspective, how is one supposed to engage with it? What does the artist want to convey to the audience, what kind of dialogue are they striving to create? Works like this certainly aren’t preoccupied with emotional responses or striking that kind of resonance that’s so integral to music with even the most vaguely ‘popular’ leaning. It’s not a matter of technical competence, at least in the sense of musicianship: there’s no breathtaking virtuosity on display in the world of electronics – and when I say ‘electronics’, I mean laptop and circuitry, not electropop or whatever. And so this is almost purely cerebral, and I’m forced to reflect on the way certain sounds, pitches, frequencies, and textures make me feel, what they do to me – how much treble and fizz makes me tense, how much s just quite exciting. Here, Hecker pushes all the buttons, literally and metaphorically, and I find myself twisting and turning in varying degrees of discomfort.

The objective, apparently, is to stove got ‘a properly hallucinatory state, that is to say to a meeting point where the object and perception dissolve into each other, in a sort of transcendental field.’ I might not quite be reaching that peak, but it certainly has some kind of effect.

Okkyung Lee gives us howls and yowls and overloading circuitry that bleeps and barrels, and of the two pieces, it’s the sharper, and more abrasive, and is also perhaps less nuanced. That’s no criticism: there’s a dense roar that tears from the speakers and there’s a tangible sense of volume. Everything creaks and groans and stammers, as if the equipment is about to buckle and blow under the weight of so much noise all at once.

This fits in context: Teum is intended as ‘a truly telluric moment’, the expression of ‘where tectonic movements and shear stresses become music’. ‘If the earthquakes were, as we thought in the 18th century, due to underground thunderstorms,’ observe the liner notes, ‘there is no doubt that this piece of music, both celestial and continental, could have been their audible manifestation’.

And there is no question that this is a musical work with a strong sense of physicality. The sound veritably heaves and shudders, a gut-lurching low-end heft you feel as much as you hear.

There’s a lot going on here, and there are – so it seems – some wild brass explosions rioting in the distance at some point amidst the churning sprawl. Again, this isn’t about emotional resonance, but how it touches and effects the listener on other levels.

These two works are distinct and different, both sonically and intent and purpose – and consequently, their effects are different too. But equally, the difference can be attributed to the different forms, and textures, with Hecker’s composition being sharper, more abrasive and, I suppose, more overtly ‘computerised’ than the denser, earthier piece by Lee. But for this, the contrasts are complimentary, and the two sit side by side and back to back nicely, and make for a perfectly-pitched double dose of discomfort.

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Mamka Records – 3rd December 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Just when things threaten to be getting a bit safe and predictable, with many musical artists having found ways of working around Covid restrictions to record remotely, release digitally and promote by means of performing on line or otherwise streaming shows, the ever-restless Maja Osojnik manages to do something truly different and innovative.

The third release on her recently-established Mamka Records is far, far more than just another digital single, and it’s not just about the music, either: it’s about both art and artefact, and forms the very fabric – literally – of an exhibition as well.

With Matija Schellander, Osojnik is Rdeča Raketa, and for this project, they’ve teamed up with author Natascha Gangl and evolved a genre unto themselves, in the form of the ‘sound comic’ (or beautifully evocative ‘Klangcomic’ in German). The concept – whereby, as with comics, ‘where words and images merge into one another, here it is the spoken word and sound which blend together.’ As such, this is a graphic novel in audio form, a juxtaposition of word and sound that conjures an alternative space in between, a cut-up collage of sorts.

But first, the artefact: as the liner notes explain, ‘Each individual record is its own uniquely woven and hand-printed specimen. Woven from the randomly selected strips of paper, cutting remnants from the other works’. Consciously or otherwise, this links the project into the lineage of cut-up forms that feeds through from Tristan Tzara to Kenji Siratori, although perhaps most obviously via William Burroughs. The assimilation and recycling of pre-exiting material taps into the subconscious on a level that’s difficult to explain, conjuring a strange sense of deja-vu, whereby the ghosts of those remnants and scraps of other works forge a subliminal nexus of intertextual references, reminding us of the things we know, but don’t know that we know (to paraphrase Burroughs).

‘Superandome’ very much exists within this territory of the simultaneously familiar and unfamiliar, a murky electronic collage – not really a tune or a song but a shifting soundscape – but an immersive experience. Woozy, tremorous synthy wibbles oscillate and ripple and churn, while a mutter of voices gradually rises in volume and pitch until it reaches a helium-filled cacophony or babble. As with any collage, interpretation is as much about rezeptionsästhetik – essentially what the individual brings to the work as its specific meaning as bestowed upon a work by its creator. And as such, I find myself increasingly on edge, the swelling conglomeration of chatter evoking the anxiety of overcrowding and agoraphobia.

‘Super Random Me’- which is exactly the same 4:28 duration as ‘Superandome’ – is a yet more extreme collage as fragments of voices are overlaid and cut in / out over ominous rumbles, eerie drones, and random tweets. Again, it’s disorientating, bewildering – and yet equally, an encapsulation of the experience of life as lives, a clamour of voices and random sounds all at once.

Both tracks are reworked and edited from a previous work, and so such, are recycled cut-ups that in turn form a self-referential intertext which also challenge the concept of a work of art ever being ‘finished’ or a fixed definite article.

As for the art, in lieu of a conventional single launch, the record was set to be presented as a picture (built out of 110 of the 160 singles) and a video on 17th of December as an Exhibition in the Gallery Kluckyland in Vienna, and the exhibition is scheduled to run until the 3rd of January 2021 – and while at present it can only be viewed from outside, ‘Superandome / Super Random Me’ stands as a remarkable accomplishment that shows once again that it’s the artists of the avant-garde who innovate the hardest. In the year of the lockdown, we need art even more than ever.

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The opulent darkwave closing song off of VEXILLARY’s latest EP, SurViolence has now received the music video treatment it deserves. Both the song and the video explore the link between science and spirituality and how they influence one another. The dark supernatural theme is embodied by the menacing lyrics of the song :“Chimera awaits at the tip of his hands, a snap of his fingers and the beast is in your land."

The video echoes the same theme visually. It presents us with a sci-fi dream sequence that plays like techno hypnotism.

Watch the video here:

SurViolence adopts the theme of unease in an overly politicized society; using surveillance culture as a metaphor on how technology that was created to serve and protect can serve to exploit. Hence the title, SurViolence.  The sub-plot of tension and lack of trust in the decisions that are being made for us fueled the eerie sounds and direction of the record. 

Voyeurism has been weaponized to give rise to surveillance. Violence has been digitized to replace intelligence.  This is where evolution has led us. It’s time to take back control. If only we could have our eyes back to see. 
Welcome to the surrealist horror of SurViolence.

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Front and Follow – F&F064 – 30th October 2020

It’s taken me a while to get around to this, the fifth and final instalment of Front and Follow’s lockdown fundraising compilation series, Isolation & Rejection, as the last couple of months in particular have found many, including myself in a weird lockdown limbo: schools are back, but I’m not back at the office for the day-job, and regular social activity remains more of less off-limits, even here in tier 2 York. So, not really an excuse, so much as an explanation f how work/ life balance hasn’t been entirely conducive to devoting the time deserved by a mammoth release like this, which certainly deserves more than a cursory glance and a few lines lauding the series’ quality to date and its having raised some £2,000 for The Brick in Wigan.

When I say ‘mammoth release’, Volume 5 contains twenty-four tracks, making a total of 115 tracks released across the whole series. And these aren’t all short efforts, and nor are they of a single genre, so taking this in isn’t like a set of two-minute three-chord punk tunes where the options are ‘yeah, no, ok’.

Yet again, the stylistic breadth, paired with the depth of quality is astounding, and given the open-door policy that was the criteria for this series – namely that submissions must have been previously rejected for inclusion elsewhere – it just goes to show how many remarkable artists there are out there. While there have been some curious and oddly-matched contributions in the mix, it’s fair to say that despite the acceptance of all submission, there hasn’t actually been a duff track in the entire series.

Volume 5 maintains that record. That all important opener this time comes courtesy of Assembled Minds, whose ‘The Eerie Machine Hums a Barley Song to the Sun’ is a lo-fi retro-vibing easy listener in the vein of Stereolab, with all the analogue and some bendy discord to give its Krauty instrumental groove an additional twist. With ‘Mute’, Accidental Tones’ bring the eerie shit, with a dolorous loop of funeral bells, before A.R.C. Soundtracks introduce 80s drum machines to a deep post-punk synth drone, and what ‘Exhibit F’ lacks in duration is packs tenfold in density. It’s a pretty dark opening by any standards, but as a compilation…Not that compilations are never bleak, but there’s a certain expectation that they showcase a certain degree of accessibility: and maybe this is why so many compilations re only so-so: they’re designed with one eye on commercial appeal and drawing a broader audience. Because Front and Follow never even cast a glance at a broader audience and the premise of this series isn’t remotely populist, they’ve remained free to do what they do best.

Cahn Ingold Prelog’s ‘Dwieddon’ is a grainy mess of pink noise and static that crackles like the heavy patter of rain, disrupted by an arrhythmic beat that clunks along awkwardly at first, before a pulsating thud booms in with an incongruously dance feel, while Heat Evolution bring some glitchy, swampy pulsations and some big explosive blasts.

Detailing the entire contents of this would be a task beyond gargantuan, but for the most part this is a set comprised of glitchy oddities and grinding sonic earthworks, with dark, heavy atmospheres – das fax mattinger’s nine-and-a-half minutes of deep, shuddering drone is as much a physical experience as it is cerebral, while contributions from Isobel Ccircle and Jonathan Sharp also explore all the corners of dark ambience. There’s throbbing techno and heavy hip-hop on offer, too, but none of it’s especially gentle or kind. And in saying how dark it is, it’s worth mentioning the gloomy synthy goth of Johnny Mugwump’s ‘the mirror cracked’ and the impenetrably dense black metal murk of Petrine Cross’ ‘Absorbed in Artificial Night’.

If Isolation & Rejection Vol 5 explores a quite focused part of the sonic spectrum, it does so in the kind of detail that reveals its breadth, with all shades of electronica and all shades of darkness and shadow covered in its immense span. It’s a strong end to a strong series, and while Front and Follow aren’t giving any indications that this is more than a one-off, there’s no shortage of back catalogue to explore while we wait for the next wave and, maybe, just maybe, the next collection.

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Texas goth-rock band IN A DARKENED ROOM has unveiled their new video for the song, ‘Final Vows.’  This is the third single off of their debut album slated for release in 2021. Check the video here:

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As the world reels from a deadly pandemic and the U.S veers towards civil war, 13,890 nuclear weapons lie dormant. In their first single since signing to APF records, Indica Blues’ imagine a catastrophic very-near-future scenario in which current world events lead to all-out war and nuclear annihilation: We Are Doomed.

Indica Blues (in-deh-ka) are a four-piece psychedelic doom band from Oxford, U.K. Once described as ‘bong filling rock that is platinum heavy, but blessed with a melodic sensibility underneath it all,’ the band’s unique sound has garnered fans across the world since their formation in 2014. They have gigged with stoner rock luminaries such as Elder, Samsara Blues Experiment and Mars Red Sky.

On the new video for ‘We Are Doomed,’ Tom Pilsworth (guitars/vocals) comments, “This song is our vision of near future nuclear annihilation, written in response to the chaotic world events of the last four years. We spent six hours in pouring rain at an abandoned cold war missile facility with director Josh Horwood and his team, and he couldn’t of done a better job. We hope people enjoy watching it as much as we enjoyed making it.”

The video reminds us just how much we miss seeing bands knocking out heavy chords in small rooms. This shit hurts. It’s a top video though.

Watch the video now:

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Christopher Nosnibor

2020 has been cack. That’s pretty much a fact. And here we are in December after nine months in varying degrees of lockdown around the globe, and many of us are really starting to feel it now. So what do we need to top off this annum of cack? More cack, of course, courtesy of the prime purveyors – and possibly the sole exponents – of cack-pop, Wevie Stonder.

Founded by Al Boorman in Brighton in 1993, along with Chris Umney, Richard Sothcott, Henry Sargeant, Wevie Stonder’s bio is a combination of tall tales and out-and-out oddness, which pretty much summarises everything they’ve done. Sargeant turned solo and split for Germany, where he’s now massive – or at least Vast – while Boorman operates a ‘music and sound design’ studio called Wevie as his mainline, with a catalogue of adverts and TV credits, spanning Comedy Central, Adidas, Netflix, and even Disney. Hunter S. Thompson said that when the going gets weird, the weird turn pro, and these guys demonstrate that it’s actually possible to go pro without ditching the weird. And make no mistake, they’re way weirder than most.

So this landed with me, and I don’t even know what the fuck it is. It’s a digital file. Is it an album? A podcast? Kinda. A FaceBook post on the Wevie Stonder page announced that ‘While some have been working on a vaccine, Al’s been working on an antidote to 2020 as a whole. To hear the results so far, tune in to the Skam Records live stream’. And so here we have an hour of wild experimentalism – with the emphasis firmly on the mental.

It starts off comparatively sedately with some wibbly synths and some narrative delivered in a prim English accent reminiscent of British 1950s children’s TV shows, but rapidly explodes into a brain-melting collage of all kinds of chaos. Despite the fact I’m personally more than well accustomed to all kinds of

A mere two minutes in, notes are sliding, gliding melting, a sonic equivalent of Dali’s brie-like clocks, before scratches and scrapes collide with mainstream trance and snippets of 80s disco chart hits are cut and spliced with vintage averts and clattering industrial beats. Carpet tile infomercials and grinding techno are glued at completely wrong angles. It’s disorientating, and the juxtaposition of the mundane and the strange creates an experience which is perfectly unheimlich, straddling as it does the familiar and the not-quite familiar just a step or two out of step with one another. It’s this proximity that creates such discomforting dissonance. You almost know where you are with it… but then there are elements which are just so wholly inexplicable.

You begin to feel woozy. You know, you get, that there is no lens into the mind of another person, especially not someone who thinks differently… but what the fuck is this? Suddenly Trout Mask Replica sounds coherent and linear. The thing about Hyperboredom (Vol 1) is just how quickly the scenes cut. It’s dizzying, and often, those cuts aren’t remotely subtle, but as clumsy as they come, calling to mind the primitive collaging of the Justified Ancients of Mu Mu on 1987 and Shag Times.

Daytime YV snippets and wonky jazz collide in a messy mashup. ‘If you get bored of your own boredom, you experience what we call hyperboredom’ a soporific voice explains with almost a yawn. I’m thinking I’m more likely to throw up than suffer from any shade of boredom listening to this.

Whether knowingly or not, Hyperboredom belongs to the cut-up lineage that can be traced back to William Burroughs’ tape experiments of the late 50s and early 60s, and while the anarchic yet quintessentially English leanings may owe more to the Bonzo Dog band, the overall formulation is explicitly around methods of collaging, and the way different source materials play off one another. And in listening to this hour-long cut ‘n’ splice oddity, it’s impossible not to pick out or otherwise listen out for familiar voices and clips, and these in turn trigger recollections and avenues of reminiscence and contemplation, or otherwise the satisfaction of saying to yourself ‘ah, yes, I remember that’ – or frustratingly – aagh, that sounds so familiar, but what is it?’

And ultimately, what is it? It’s everything all at once, and one to explore, however much it might make you dizzy. The forthcoming album looks likely to be a cracker.

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11th of December 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Lifted from their Codependency D.S.T. EP, ‘The Causeway’ for no obvious or specific reason evokes the experience of reading Lee Rourke’s debut novel, Vulgar Things, which is set on Canvey Island in Essex. It may be in the Thames estuary, but it’s not connected to the mainland by a causeway – at least not since 1931. Although inspired by the street on which a pub in London frontman Ted Joyce stumbled upon and had been about to frequent before discovering it was boarded up due to COVID restrictions, ‘The Causeway’ in some way reminds us of the ways in which we’re all cut off and isolated, and how we’re all subject to – and dictated to – by the ebbs and flows not just of tides, or time, but of life, and of moods, ours and those of others.

The lyrics are a stream of consciousness unfolding, the tune is a colossal hybrid of indie, alt-rock, post-punk and funk. The fat, strolling bass is the focal point and bounces a groove that owes a debt to The Cure in their poppier moments (and coupled with the buoyant lead line in the bridge, if they weren’t listening to ‘Hot, Hot, Hot!!!’ around the time of writing, then it only goes to prove that influence is transmitted through the ether and spreads like a rhizome in the subconscious) before cutting hard left into a driving chorus that’s got indie anthem stamped all over it.

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