Archive for January, 2021

12th February 2021

You sometimes feel like the world spins faster for some than others. That’s certainly the case for Weekend Recovery: it doesn’t feel so long ago since the emerging alt-rock act from Kent were turning up at a basement bar in Leeds to play their Paramore-influenced radio-friendly rock with fingers crossed the local support would bring some punters. They’ve toured nonstop since their inception in 2017, and it’s worked well for them in terms of amassing a fervent fanbase, and relocation to Leeds, if anything, has helped set them apart from the sameness of the scene of female-fronted alternative rock bands in and around the capital right now.

So fast forward not that very long, but add a debut album, even more extensive touring including some high-profile festival slots, as well as a change of lineup, into the busy timeline, and Weekend Recovery 2021 slams in hard with a new album. With ten tracks clocking in at twenty-nine minutes, you get the idea: this is concise, punchy, and with no fat left untrimmed. Weekend Recovery have always penned focussed songs, but they’ve really nailed it right here.

‘Radiator’ opens it up – and bleeds – with a nagging guitar motif, before the band plunge into megalithic hard rock territory, coming on more like Black Moth or Cold In Berlin than their usual selves. And it’s good: where there was a simmering tension to their songs, which cut jagged and raw on Get What You Came For, you feel like False Company is the album they always wanted to make but couldn’t, for various reasons. That, or it’s the album that shows what life experience can do: while they certainly weren’t afraid to crank it up and let rip previously, False Company is harder, heavier, and altogether darker.

That isn’t to say they’ve lost their pop edge one iota, and there’s a keen ear for melody on display throughout. And it may well be down to the melody, but ‘Can’t Let Go’ sounds like a glam/metal reworking of ‘These Boots Were Made for Walking’. It’s fitting, as it’s a proper stomper, and whereas the energy on previous releases stemmed from a combination of froth and bounce alongside the fizzing guitars and turns of pace, on False Company it’s more centres – the sound is denser and more-up front somehow.

Single cut ‘Going Nowhere’ – a reflection on stasis that’s specifically about relationships but could equally be a metaphor for the last 12 months – stands out as a furious post-punk pop banger with the spiky angst of Siouxsie and Skeletal Family, not to mention hints of X-Ray Spex melted into a song with massive accessible appeal. ‘It Doesn’t Seem Right’ is the ferociously fiery alt-rock corker they’ve always threatened.

‘Surprise’ is the quintessential album slowie, and sounds suspiciously like a power ballad to my ears. Single cut ‘There’s a Sense’ provides a dash of levity, an airy pop tune that harks back to ‘Why Don’t You Love Me?’ from the previous album and it does feel a shade throwaway in context, a tune dispensed at pace to grab the ear. Likewise, ‘You Know Why’: on its own sounds a bit like a hook with not so much meat, the ‘na-na-na’ refrain sounding like it’s leaning on My Chemical Romance just a bit too hard to be cool, but in context of the album its bubblegum buoyance feels more tempered, and in fairness, it’s a full-tilt punk blast with hints of X-Ray Spex.

Elsewhere, ‘Yeah?!’ has large elements of Nymphs in the mix, capturing that blend of grunge and classic rock and spinning it with a strong hook, and finally, in its juxtaposition of guitar lines and vocal melody, plus aaaaallll the dynamics, closer ‘Zealot’ feels like their most evolved and sophisticated song to date.

In terms of the ‘difficult second album’, the machinations behind the scenes – not to mention timing – may have made its coming together a major challenge, and the cover art speaks volumes – it was a mountain to climb, an endless staircase to where? But none of this is evident from the finished product: instead, False Company is darker, harder, stronger, denser, more assured-sounding and more evolved, and every aspect is a step up from its predecessor: Weekend Recovery have really upped their game and expanded their range, delivering an album that really is something special.

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When an album contains just three tracks, you know before you even hear a note that it’s going to be possessed of epic qualities. Similarly, when a band’s pitch includes ‘RIYL bands like Swans, MONO, lots of layered drums and percussion, ambient soundscapes, and wall of sound guitar and big strings’, (and I think it’s pretty much public knowledge by now that I do), then the same applies, and so needless to say I was all over this in an instant.

The first track, ‘The Gift’, is a twenty-minute behemoth, a sweeping exploration that builds from tense strings of the kind that would likely be at home on a Netflix period drama into something altogether more awe-inspiring, as the drums rumble like distant thunder at a gathering pace and intensity. Over its immense span, it leads the listener on a journey through an array of soundscapes, and there’s not only considerable atmosphere being conjured here, but the music also has a very visual aspect. You feel as if you’re being transported through different scenes, and at times, are creeping cautiously and peering around corners, while at others, staring out from a high plateau overlooking immense vistas that stretch further than the eye can see.

This is very much latterday Swans providing the inspiration here, with the expansive instrumental passages and near-ambient stretches that came to define releases from The Seer to The Glowing Man via To Be Kind, each of which stretched over a full two hours apiece. However, solarminds’ compositional approach and overall sound is quite different, leaning very much toward more conventional post-rock tropes (but without the contrivances of, say, Sigur Rós) and while there are some immense percussion-driven crescendos, with the strong-centric instrumentation, they don’t hit the explosive peaks of, say, Explosions in the Sky or Her Name is Calla. None of these are bad things, and while the sheer scale of their music does definitely sit within the domain occupied by MONO.

‘The Visit’ begins with an amorphous mass of dank, dark ambience, and is thirteen minutes of elongated, undulating drones that twist, turn, scrape and screed against a tumultuous barrage of percussion.

Closer ‘The Lie’ marks a significant departure, as the sound of heavy rain and extraneous noise gives way to a near -acappela vocal, an acoustic guitar, muffled and distant, providing the sparsest of accompaniment. It’s here they’re most reminiscent of Her Name is Calla at their most minimal, stripped-back, and folky, and it’s a delicate, tender experience that grows in emotional intensity and pulls at the gut with its starkness, its rawness.

Dissolving in a rumble of thunder, it’s a fitting conclusion to an album that, beneath some smooth surfaces, presents some quite troubled currents in the depths.

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Dret Skivor – 11th January 2021

I had the pleasure – and it was a pleasure for me, if not necessarily the audience – to perform a couple of times with Legion of Swine. They were noisy, brutal affairs: while Dave Procter’s many musical guises span most shades of noise, with a particular leaning toward all things drone, his work as the lab coat wearing porcine purveyor of aural pain.

The audio on this release is taken from Legion of Swine’s set for the Chapel FM 24-hour Musicathon, which took place on 12th-13th December 2020, which featured forty-five acts in twenty-four hours. Performing at 6:15am on Sunday 13th, the chances are few caught the performance as it aired live, but here, a year on, is an opportunity to bask in the gnarly noise at leisure and a more socially amenable hour. Not that there’s much that’s socially amenable about this: the liner notes explain how ‘It’s “almost” Harsh Noise Wall, but not quite as some random parts of reverb tails interact with others at various stages to create the slight variations.’

So how does that translate as a listening experience? Well, as the title suggests, the noise never abates during this twenty-six-minute blast of electronic abrasion. There are no breaks, no vocals, and next o no sonic variety, although there is some – and it’s heavily textured. In fact, it would be most readily summarised that it sounds like the cover looks: grey, grainy, but woven so as to be not entirely monotone and uniform in shade.

When I find myself listening to HNW – which admittedly, isn’t that often, as I generally prefer the concept to the experience, despite the fact I do very much like my noise to be immersive, not to mention somewhat testing – I find myself hearing subtle shifts in tone and frequency. I suspect it’s the result of some auditory illusion, the aural equivalent of an optical illusion as my receptors strain to find some variety, some detail on which to pin a response of some sort, in the same way a freshly-painted wall will reveal patches that are not as well covered as others the longer you look at it. The beauty – and I use the term with extreme caution here – of this performance is that those patches do exist, and are purposefully brushed into the finish.

This is alternately the sound of a distant swarm of hornets and swimming underwater. The recording doesn’t convey the kind of extreme volume that is an element of a lot of harsh noise, although one suspects that a large proportion of the interplay between sounds is derived from the way that reverberate, resonate, and rub together and against one another, and any comparison to Merzbow is entirely appropriate. But the lack of overt volume only accentuates the sameness – or near-sameness – of the sound, and what’s more that sound is a continuous torrential churning noise that sits in the midrange, and hammers like metal rain, a relentless digital downpour. It’s ultimately oppressive in its relentlessness, and over time seems to fade into the background, as anything with such a lack of dynamics inevitably will. But this is not about stimulating the senses so much as numbing them and challenging the listener to endure. It’s a test alright, and a tough – but good – one.

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Anneke van Giersbergen announced the release of her new solo album The Darkest Skies Are The Brightest last year.  Today sees the release of the second single and video of said album, called “Hurricane”.

Anneke comments on the single as follows: “For the new album I wrote a lot of songs filled with messages of love and heartache, but I also went on a more propulsive journey, with darker storytelling. The percussive opening groove of ‘Hurricane’ is maintained until a slightly ominous middle section. The track closes with heavy drums and a glorious trumpet solo.”

You can watch the video here:

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Ahead of the release of their towering new album I’ve Seen All I Need To See at the end of the month, The Body have shared a pummelling new single ‘Tied Up and Locked In’.

Capturing the astounding weight of the duo’s live sound in stunning detail, ‘Tied Up and Locked In’ is as bludgeoning and corrosive as it is ecstatic – a cathartic eruption of energy delivered with incisive measure.

I’ve Seen All I Need To See demonstrates not only The Body’s fearless spirit and vicious edge, but their intellectual musical heft through its explorations of distorted sound and the power of distorted sounds’ interplay. Composer Roger Johnson said “Noise is power, but is generally represented as negative, chaotic, dangerous, violent, when it comes… from those marginalized from power. Noise is also an expression of freedom, a ‘liberation of sound.’” The Body are sound liberators capable of mining and extracting remarkable details from the most manipulated and distorted sound sources.

I’ve Seen All I Need To See is a groundbreaking work and an ecstatic listen, whether seen as a testament to catharsis in oblivion, an opus of inexorable dread or a wholly liberating adventure.

Listen to The Body’s I’ve Seen All I Need To See single ‘Tied Up and Locked In’ here:

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Norwegian grindcore innovators Beaten to Death have just unleashed a music video for a new song off their new album “Laat maar, ik verhuis naar het bos”, now available only on vinyl. 
Titled “Melankolske Oppstøt”, this new track is also featured on the EP “Laat maar, deel vier: ik verhuis naar Endor”, the last of a series of four EPS containing different versions of album’s tracks that are now available as name your price at Bandcamp.
Watch the video here:

18th December 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

If you’re drawing comparisons to PJ Harvey, Anna Calvi, Tori Amos, and Kate Bush, you’re probably doing something right, even if it may be through lazy journalism. Despite female artists and female-fronted bands having made massive headway in recent years – and seriously, not before time – and frankly, it shouldn’t erven be a talking point or even a subject of reference – the pool of major-league female artists who aren’t pop or r’n’b is quite limited. Consequently, comparisons are often drawn almost out of desperation due to the lack of choice. This is unfair on both sides, and incredibly reductive. But then, comparisons are problematic anyway, and are perhaps indicative of another issue in the music industry: labels, radio stations, media outlets, even fans – most of the time, they’re not really looking for the next big thing, but the new replica of the last big thing.

It’s far easier to market ‘the new PJ Harvey’ than ‘something like nothing you’ve ever heard before.’ Amazon and most streaming sites operate on ‘recommendations’: if you like x, you’ll probably like y’. It’s likely true, but this only leads to a narrowing: where is the encouragement of broadening horizons? Strong female voices are being pigeonholed – and I don’t mean just strong in vocal terms, although Kristina Stazaker is strong on both fronts when it comes to voice, with songs that are imbued with deep emotional resonance delivered with the kind of passion that comes from the very core.

On Follow Me, Stazaker showcases a selection of songs which are stripped back and direct. Primarily centred around acoustic guitar and vocals – often layered up with backing vocals and harmonies – the style is angry folk, but the voice uniquely Stazaker’s. Follow Me is simple but effective: that is to say, it’s imperious, free of fancy production, and is absolutely about the songs. It’s fitting for an album so lyrically concerned with nature, and the lyrical preoccupations are reflected in the honest, earthy instrumentation.

‘Don’t let those bastards beat you down’ Stazaker sings with a strong hint of venom on ‘Everyday’. It’s not an oblique reference to The Handmaid’s Tale, but it should be a feminist / working class anthem in the offing.

The album’s longest song, ‘Goddess’, is a multi-layered emotional dredger that functions on multiple levels. ‘Hail Hail Rain and Sail’ is a lively, even fiery folk tune with just vocals and energetically-strummed acoustic guitar. The format is simple, but the effect is powerful, and Follow Me succeeds because of its confidence: Stazaker demonstrates perfectly that less is more when done right, and with so many strong songs, Follow Me is all the force.

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We love a bit of kröter here at Aural Aggro.

We even love a lot of kröter, like three whole CDs worth at once.

So it shouldn’t be a shock that we love this: the music is a recording of a session on the 12.09.2019 by kröter, and it’s accompanied by a film collage by Chr Chr, using material from a forest zoo close to Berlin, taifun nr.19 coming onto Yokohama and selfies made by the musicians.

Check it here (click the image to link to the player):

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1st February 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Mercy is a four-piece alternative rock act propelled by vocalist and guitarist Mercedes Diett-Krendel, and the debut album by Mercy is a short but punchy guitar-driven exorcism of sorts. Most of the best music comes from a dark place, and has a personal element, and Mercedes has dredged deep into her experience to purge it all here. The self-invited comparisons to Veruca Salt, Hole, and No Doubt are all entirely fitting, in that Forever is very much centred around a strong female front person.

It begins with a rendition of the wedding march played on a heavily echoed, overdriven electric guitar… nice day for a white wedding? Nice day to start again, more like. Forever is an album brimming with ire, anguish, and angst, the soundtrack to a wedding massacre that finds the artist picking the scabs of all the shit, all the trauma… in short, it’s a summary of Mercy’s worst relationships bottled up into an epic explosion of revenge, ending in a bloody mess.

The promo shots suggest that this is more than just a theme or concept, but something far, far more intense and deeply personal, and this gives the album its ragged, sore edge.

The songs are melodic, but have edge – a grungy, 90s alt-rock edge, and it’s pretty full-throttle. The mid-album acoustic slowie,‘Gabriel’ really slows the pace, and marks an essential shift in an album that really works that classic quiet/loud dynamic, and it kicks in for a properly anthemic climax. ‘Damage’ kicks ass with an almost gypsy, folksy edge to its grunge attack, while the stomping title track is brimming with emotion. And you feel that emotion, while being buoyed along by some strong melodies.

It’s concise, and it’s fiery, and the success of Forever is in balancing the fury and the tune.

Mercy Band / Photo © Daniel D. Moses www.danielmoses.com

Cruel Nature Recordings – 29th January 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

The description sets the scene and the expectation perfectly: ‘True Archweigian Improve-Free-Grind-Noise-Experimental-Avant-Jazzcore. John Coltrane quadruple booked on the same stage as Extreme Noise Terror, Swans and The Incapacitants.

It sounds horrible and utterly brain-frying, and it is. ‘Deep Pan Magna Carta’ launches the album – a whopping sixteen-track sprawl that reveals something of a fixation with wolves and goats – with a barrage of crashing, chaotic percussion, gut-churning bass, wild horns and tortured vocals that spew larva from the very bowels of hell. And they’re clearly intent on dragging you there with them, into the pit of pain, because there is absolutely no fucking let-up. This is everything all at once – and while it’s relentlessly and uncompromisingly nasty, it certainly doesn’t confide itself to any one style – and as for genre, it’s a crazed hybrid mash-up, seemingly intended to inflict maximum pain – and if this is indeed the objective, they succeed.

Most of the tracks are around the minute mark – but actually feel much longer, as they drag and dredge their way through the deepest sludge. Believe it or not, that’s not a complaint or criticism, so much as an observation on how it feels to be brutally battered from all sides at once. There is, undoubtedly, an element of endurance required here.

As the band’s name and whacky, irreverent and possibly irrelevant (it’s impossible to tell without being able to decipher the lyrics) song titles suggest, we should probably only take this so seriously. But then, as the best comedians will tell you, comedy is serious business, and so it would seem is slugging out the harshest, brutal mess of noise.

Before long, they’re in full-tilt frenzied grindcore territory: ‘Wolf Goat’ is nine seconds of snarking and blastb(l)eats, followed immediately by the thirty-six second ‘Goat Wolf’, another blast of carnage that thunders at a thousand miles an hour. There’s some black metal nastiness in the mix when the snarling vocals deliver a snarling acappella intro to ‘hash, Weed, Pills, Saurkraut’. ‘Red sausage’ is about the only phrase I can pull out of the frenetic thrash that follows.

‘Natural Born Testicle’ takes a different turn: a howling blizzard of shrieking electronics and clean shouting, it’s a wild swing into power electronics, and is more reminiscent of Whitehouse than anything else.

It’s the manic horn action that really makes Blood & Stomach Pills the experience that it is. It’s chaotic, discordant, and above all, incongruous – but then again, it calls to mind the jazz-coloured noise of GOD, as well as recent work by Sly and the Family Drone – but this is probably the grindiest permutation of such crazed free jazz I’ve encountered yet.

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