Archive for January, 2021

22nd January 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Penned in 2018 as a reaction to the effects of constant touring and international travel, and the sense of groundlessness it brought, ‘Deepest Ocean’ is the third single to be lifted from The fin.’s upcoming album. It finds the Japanese duo, consisting of Yuto Uchino and Kaoru Nakazawa in a reflective mood, and immersing themselves in some deep retro synth tones that truckle and weave over a slow grooving bassline.

It’s got a kind of vaguely funky vibe that’s a bit prog, a bit electrop, a bit 80s and a bit lounge. And even a bit disco: the clean guitar that nags away, coupled with the soft-focus production reminds me for some reason I can’t entirely pinpoint of Imagination (specifically ‘Body Talk’) and I really can’t decide if this is a good thing or not.

I mean, it’s certainly got a hook, and a strangely sultry atmosphere that’s not so much sleazy as semi-soporific in a smoky, opiate way, but it’s also a bit soft and wet, a shade limp in its smooth slickness. So where does this leave us? Clean, vibrant synths run ascending and descending runs, and things layer up deep, and fast over a metronomic key stab and backed-off beat.

I suppose it’s a matter of taste, and I’m flapping to and fro like a fish out f water wondering if I’ll get sold or left to rot, caring not one iota if I’m a British fish or not. It’s proficient musically, and on all technical levels from the composition, arrangement., performance and production, ‘Deepest Ocean’ is genuinely impressive, and conveys a sense of fuzziness, of being at all sea. But ultimately I feel the unsettling emptiness of transient entertainment and instant gratification which lies at the heart of the song’s inspiration becomes something of a self-made outcome, and that its success is also its failure: in embodying the sensation it’s intended to convey, it recreates the experience of that emptiness, that sense of hollowness and an absence of soul.

Houndstooth Records – 22nd January 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

‘Transmogrifications’ features a brace of compositions by Guy Andrews reworked, reimagined, decomposed – spin it whichever way – by seminal experimental musician Kevin Drumm, with one from Permanence (which was released in September) and another from his latest, [MT][NT][ET]. Back in the day, this would have been a 12” single, or a CD single / EP. Now, it’s simply a release. Part of me feels that the devolvement – and dissolvement – of the physical format is sad not because of plain nostalgia, but because of the way it’s altered our relationship with music. The release of new music, when it required actually going into town to purchase it, arriving home with a sense of excitement and anticipation to hear something that had required not only the effort of the journey, but the outlay of actual cash, meant that there was an element of deliberation involved in each purchase: you’ve got a tenner (and there was a time not SO long ago when that would likely get you three new 12” singles at £2.99 – £3.50 apiece), and dropping the needle on each was an actual event. The loss of that sense of occasion, that event, is significant, and one that struck me unexpectedly on hearing this. As excited as I was to hear it, the joy was tempered by a certain pang of loss.

Drumm explains the remit he was given, which directed his approach to the project, recounting that “Guy essentially said that he’d rather not hear his own music played back to him…So with that in mind, it freed me up to drastically transform his material…it was a good experience taking something that is quite different than what I usually get up to and turn it into something different than what it is in its original form.” And the title says it all, really: ‘transmogrification’ is defined as the process of complete and usually extreme or grotesque change from one state or form to another.

Each track is an entire album, compressed, condensed, and generally reworked and altered beyond recognition.

And so it is that ‘[MT][NT][ET]’ is seven-and-three-quarter minutes of deep, swirling ambience, a deep mass of sound that eddies and drifts with a drilling metallic edge giving it a slightly uncomfortable sharpness. While it’s a more or less even drone, there are occasional – subtle – dips and twists that add to the understated but quite definite tension. And yet for all that, there is an overall sense of calm, a smoothness, until near the end, when its rich, space-like tranquillity is devasted by a rising blast of extraneous noise.

‘Permanence’ offers a different kind of experience, it’s more deeply textured, and a slower, lower simmering fermentation of sound. It also boils the thirty-two minute album down to eight minutes of overlapping sonic layers. Glistering shards of feedback are worn smooth in a soft wash of pink noise and an undulating amorphous cloud of noise, beneath which a grating sonic wreckage churns at such distance as to be almost subliminal.

And then it stops. Just like that. The abrupt nature of the ending is of note, accentuating the silence that follows immediately, and giving a tangible pause for thought on a release that has a lot more depth than the surface first suggests.

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A Projection are a post-punk/darkwave act from Stockholm, who signed to Metropolis Records in 2019 for the release of their well received third album, ‘Section’. Inspired by dark post-punk/proto-goth acts such as The Cure, Sisters Of Mercy and Joy Division along with the electronica of Depeche Mode, the band are known for their compelling and dynamic live shows.

‘Darwin’s Eden’ is a brand new single by the quartet and sees them more fully embracing the electronic realm, placing themselves in the intersection between the ‘80s synth pop and the darkwave hit lists of 2021.

Watch the video here:

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Liquid Tension Experiment, the legendary supergroup comprised of Mike Portnoy (Transatlantic, Sons of Apollo), John Petrucci (Dream Theater), Jordan Rudess (Dream Theater), and Tony Levin (King Crimson, Peter Gabriel) recently announced their return with a new album titled ‘LTE3’, due to be released March 26th, 2021 via InsideOutMusic, twenty-two years after the bands’ last studio album.

Today, the band are pleased to share the first video from the album for the single “The Passage of Time.”  You can watch the video, created by Christian Rios, here:

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Thrill Jockey – 29th January 2021

The sheer quantity of The Body’s output – often produced collaboratively – is little short of astounding, and since coming together some 20 years ago the duo comprising Lee Buford and Chip King have forged a reputation as masters of noise, and, as their biography attests, they’ve ‘consistently challenged assumptions and defied categorisation, redefining what it means to be a heavy band’.

There is no question that I’ve Seen All I Need To See is heavy: listening to it from beginning to end truly hurts.

It opens with crushing slabs of overloading distortion backing a monotone spoken-word piece. The juxtaposition of the blank, the bland, and the speaker-breaking blasts of bass-orientated menace is difficult to process, and that’s before the screaming demon-howl vocal begins howling its hellish anguish into the dense, murky mix of thunderous drums and bowel-churning low-end. ‘Lament’ is six minutes of pure heavyweight abrasion that tears at the guts and the soul. Every cymbal crash is an explosion, the decay distorted by deep bass detonations as it trudges doomily onwards – or down. Down. Down.

Everything simply splinters and overloads on the punishing single release, ‘Tied Up and Locked In’, which is a whole next level of heavy shit, a churning mess of overloading noise that’s utterly brain-pulping.

If the prospect of a slower song, which arrives as the album’s third track, Eschatological Imperative’, suggests some kind of respite, you’re going to be disappointed: slower, yes, but it’s a dirgy wall of noise that’s nothing short of overloading in every sense. It’s horrible, painful, but utterly perfect in fulfilling its purpose: there is no respite here, only pain, and pain articulated through brutal sound. ‘Pain of Knowing’ is so dense and dark, you could almost cry in the hope of a return to ignorance. A low, griding bass feedback noter hangs for eternity and rings a resonating pain, and the reminder that knowledge isn’t power, it’s pain.

The pain continues with the percussion-dominated slow throb of ‘The City is Shelled’, which crawls, bloodied, into the kind of territory occupied by Swans circa 1984, with crushingly slow beats and a buzzing bass that practically swallows everything. It’s a trajectory continued by on ‘They Are Coming’, a stop/start piece that’s utterly obliterative. The stops leave you hanging: the starts make your stomach lurch. There isn’t a moment’s respite or implicit kindness here. Hearing the bass drum downtune into a morass of distorted extranea and broken bass on ‘The handle The Blade’ is a most physical experience, and one that’s only heighted by the final track, ‘The Path of Failure’ which is utterly crushing. It’s megalithically, slow, and heavy, but also dark and punishing, and when noise does erupt on ‘The Path of Failure’ it does wo with a slow, brutal violence

I’ve Seen All I Need To See is a distillation of pain, and the production and mastering takes that to the max, to the point that I repeatedly found myself checking my connections and cables and even my speakers. In short, I’ve Seen All I Need To See is as brutal as anything you’ll hear, a work of total sonic overload.

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Since forming in 2013 UK label Blackbow Records has continued to release music created and appreciated by those who worship tone and riffs. Now in 2021 they are set to continue this trend with a new split LP of pure heaviness from Belfast based, sludge-juggernauts Slomatics alongside the blistering and crushing sounds of Ungraven. With 3 new tracks from each band the split is set for release on 5th March.

Formed in 2019 by Conan frontman Jon Davis and featuring Fudge Tunnel bassist David Ryley and drummer Tyler Hodges (Tuskar), Ungraven pay homage to the 90s heavy and industrial sounds of the likes of Ministry, Godflesh, Sepultura and Nailbomb. On the split with Slomatics Jon states,

‘As the world groans and creaks and crawls forward in slow motion we chose to release three tracks with our brothers in Slomatics, our first on vinyl. Ungraven was an idea that started in my head as I drove into Richmond Virginia in 2017, on tour with Conan. It was originally intended as a solo act. Blackened Gates and Onwards She Rides were initially written to be performed with a drum machine, while Defeat The Object came along during rehearsal with Tyler before we toured early March 2020, before the earth stood still. Enjoy.’

Listen to the new Ungraven track ‘Onwards She Rides To A Certain Death’ here:

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Editions Mego/Cave12  – 8th January 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

There’s a heavy air of finality about this release, encapsulated simply and plainly and unemotively in the title. Mika Vainio, best known as one half of Pan Sonic, produced a quite remarkable body of work under various guises and through numerous noteworthy collaborations, before his death, age 53, in April 2017. Last Live is a document of his final live performance, recorded on 2 February 2017 at Cave12, in Geneva. This is by no means a cash-in release or some poor-taste milking of the vaults.

As the liner notes recount, ‘we needed time to listen to this archive again, which we did in situ in June 2020 with Cindy Van Acker. After this listening, we felt invested in having to make this archive public.’ And instead of just banging it out, Editions Mego invested in making it fit the format, with Carl Michael von Hausswolff to do the mixing, and the recording was organized in 4 movements, with Stephen O’Malley involved in the pre-edit process and the legendary. Denis Blackham doing the mastering. This was, of course, necessary, in order to fit the double-LP format, and each segment spans between ten and nineteen minutes to cover the full hour-long set, which begins as a low, oscillating hum.

The drone goes on through the duration of ‘Movement 1’: indeed, it’s almost torturous after a mere five minutes, and we’re reminded early on that Vainio’s reputation was not based on his commercial appeal. Eventually, the hum halts and is replaced by a low-level throbbing, and a softer tone, before plunging into a drone of ow-level murk that one feels more than hears.

There are breaks in the ever-shifting sonic blanket pitched forth by Vainio, and the near-silent spells don’t correspond with the lulls between tracks as you might expect – but then, on the CD, the tracks beleed together anyway, giving a true sense of the set as a continuous piece, and a performance that explores tonality and texture, as well as frequency and dynamics.

There’s no question that this performance was loud: circuits creak, wail, and scream in a bulldozering barrage of grinding earthworking sound, a nuclear wind in the middle of a construction site drilling through the mantle to the earth’s core. But Vainio also ventures effortlessly into quieter, more tranquil bywaters, as well as bringing it down into semi-ambient territory.

At times, it hurts. The density is just bewildering, and twelve minutes into ‘Movement 2’ when everything starts to overload, it’s tempting just to lie down and stare at the ceiling muttering ‘holy fuck.’ When the sound really starts to crescendo, it’s a brutal, speaker shredding wall of noise, and it’s dark, and utterly obliterative. It’s also absolutely fucking punishing. So much so, any kind of analysis or critique feels almost futile.

Even without the context of death and finality, while penning this review in a place where there has been next to no live music in ten months, listening to Last Live is an intense and moving experience. It serves as a reminder of just how physical and how transportative live music can be, how songs may be important but sometimes, all you need is a sea of sound which will carry you away. There is no destination here, just an immense flow of sonic waves. And this is all you need.

It may well have been an unintentional sign-off, but as a last, and lasting, live statement turning the light off on an illustrious career, this is an appropriate curtain close.

29th January 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

My wife detests The Twilight Sad. I love The Twilight Sad, and am prone to crying at their gigs. I’ve also been called a cunt online for suggesting the intensity of their shows may be akin to witnessing Joy Division at their peak (a suggestion I still stand by: James Graham is capable of conveying a rare emotional intensity in his performances that’s compelling, and at times, borders on the disturbing). They’re a band that are divisive beyond Marmite, but elicit a level of devotion from their fans that’s truly fervent.

When it comes to covering a band that inspire such passion, it’s a big, big challenge, and a huge risk – one of those moves that could be absolute fucking suicide, or inspire career-defining awe.

The last time I wrote about National Service, a four-piece band consisting of Fintan Campbell (vocals/guitar), Daniel Hipkin (bass/vocals), Iain Kelly (guitar/vocals) and Matthew Alston (drums) back in November on the release of ‘Caving’, I actually compared them to The Twilight Sad, so this feels like a much a test of my skills as theirs – and it’s perhaps worth noting that this is the last in a series of cover releases from Fierce Panda, which has also featured Moon Panda, Desperate Journalist, and China |Bears.

Now, you should never mess with perfection, but with their glacial, stripped-back, minimalist take on the song, National Service really capture the wintery melancholy of the original. The dark beauty of the lyrics, which blend sadness with a certain distanced, twisted psychopathy is conveyed with a sincerity that transcends the ethereal atmosphere.

The absence of the soaring finale may come as something of an anticlimax, but this is a well-conceived and magnificently-executed cover, and the distinctive, even slightly unusual vocals delivery, with a certain twang on the higher notes, are well-suited to the song, stamping a unique marker on it while accentuating the multifaceted layers embedded within the song’s dark spirit.

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18th January 2021

Yur Mum’s reputation as a hard-gigging and particularly outstanding live act is one that’s been key to their building the fanbase they have. However, the question of how they will continue to deliver live since being reduced to a two-piece is somewhat moot under the present circumstances. That said, on the strength of this outing, being stripped back to a bass / drum combo suits them remarkably well.

The third Monday in January is widely believed to be the most depressing day of the year, and has come to be known as Blue Monday – and it’s for this reason the pair elected to unveil the release today, rather than on Friday, the day that’s come to be established as the ‘standard’ day for releases. Your Mum is rebellious and unconventional like that.

It’s the heavy-duty, gut-punching bass that dominates and drives this mid-tempo goth-tinged hard rock lurcher of a single that comes as a preface to their forthcoming album, Tropical Fuzz. It’s not depressing per se – there’s far too much energy and dynamic action going on here for that – but make no mistake., it is pretty heavy and pretty dark, and certainly a departure from their usual riff-churning grungy bangers, although the trajectory from ‘What Do You Want From Me’ and the rest of the Ellipsis EP is an easy one to chart.

There’s an almost mystical / occult vibe to this dense brooder of a tune, which feels far more expansive and epic than its four-and-a-half-minute running time. More Sabbath than Nirvana, it might not lighten the mood much, but it is the perfect soundtrack by which to channel that bleak angst and the hard, slow emptiness of cold, heavy days without light. It’s no vitamin D booster, but it is exactly what you need right now.

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Christopher Nosnibor

Recorded live at The Fulford Arms and streamed post-production as part of the venue’s seventh anniversary celebrations, Petrol Hoers’ performance was always going to be a must-see, and while there’s no way there can ever be a substitute for witnessing the spectacle first-hand, if ever a band was capable of conveying the eye-popping ‘wtf’ factor of their live shows via a recorded medium it was always going to be Hoers.

An overtly novelty band whose cover art – which invariably featured cartoon depictions of pumped-up horses with crudely-drawn phalluses – summed up the target level fairly accurately, it was a shock to none more than them for their last album Oh I Don’t Know, Just Horse Stuff, I Guess to be picked up by BBC 6Music. In the blink of a weeping third eye, they had a song about wanking being blasted out over the national airwaves.

The set opens with a massive slow-build, as crushing metal powerchords and epic synchs build up before powering into frenetic hardcore technothrash that rips the top off our skull.

‘Music! Is serious business!!’ yells the burly, hairy, horse-headed man wearing nothing else but tattoos and a pair of tight yellow trunks by way of an opening line. He’s right, of course, but how seriously can we take this? How seriously is he taking it? He – Dan Buckley, aka Danny Carnage is accompanied by a dude in a Mexican wrestling mask, accompanied by sheer vest and a pair of Y-fronts, and behind the synths and other electronic kit that generates the music, a third dude wearing a zebra mask.

‘I say petrol you say hoers!’ they chant shortly after. They’re masters of the slogan, and kings of the corn, and because of the masks, it’s impossible to tell if they’re actually managing to do this with straight faces or not. They clearly know that the whole thing is absurd, and are revelling in it, as they crank out a relentless barrage of HI-NRG pun-riven rave-metal insanity.

‘Help Me I Am in Hoers’ is another ear-bashing genre straddling grindcore/techno explosion, machine-gun drumming and wild (sampled / sequenced) guitar noise hammering in at a thousand miles an hour. ‘Only Fuels and Horses’ switches back and forth between bulbous trance and head-shredding industrial grind, while they list all the trials and tribulations of the physical limitations of equine existence om the stomper ‘#horseproblems’: ‘Have you ever tried to play a blastbeat with hooves?’ Well, have you?

Hoers live was always a brain-bending and mildly traumatic experience, but beamed into the homes of viewers in a blitzkreik of strobes and crazy fast-paced camera edits that are like early 90s TOTP on speed, this is something else. Credit to both the band and the Fulford Arms for really doing something different and something special here: it’s one thing to stream a live performance online, but entirely another to render it in such a fashion with such production – and to add to that, the sound production was absolutely fucking brilliant.

Having found online gigs something of a disappointment over the last ten months or so, it’s a joy to report that finally, I feel like I’ve attended a real event. And I’m going to have one hell of a hangover in the morning.

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