Archive for February, 2021

5th March 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Inspired by a passage in the novel White Teeth by Zadie Smith, NYC’s Charlie Nieland describes the lead single, ‘Land of Accidents’ from his new album as ‘a dark anthem to not-belonging’. Divisions certainly presents an eclectic mix that doesn’t really belong anywhere, and perhaps encapsulates that sentiment of unbelonging most perfectly within its very fabric. Traversing between a host of styles spanning post-rock, neo-prog, folk, indie, and further afield, if any one genre has an overarching influence, it’s 70s prog.

A stuttering, jittering rapidfire drum machine snare jolts like an electric current through the easy strumming clean guitar that leads the instrumentation on ‘Always on Fire’, the first song on the album. He’s gone all out for the grand curtain opener with this expansive, emotive, cinematic effort that lures the listener into a spiralling, psychedelic experience, and it’s effective – there’s a lot going on and a lot to explore. The same is true of the album as a whole, as it reveals more with every track.

A swell of sweeping strings add layers to the rolling drums and mid-pace melancholy of ‘The Falling Man,’ which contrasts with the uptempo punk-tinged indie drive of ‘I Refuse’ which comes on a like a blend of The Wedding Present, The Fall, and Mission of Burmah.

Aforementioned single cut ‘Land of Accidents’ packs it all in, and has the twists and turns and explosive dynamics of Oceansize at their best and builds into a muscular wall of sound, with dense waves of guitar dominating. ‘Tightrope’ is pure REM, only it’s probably a better take on REM than many of the band’s own later years work, and spins into a soaring shoegaze climax that is nothing short of absolute gold. It’s one of those songs you could easily play on repeat for hours – but then that would be to underexpose the broody magnificence of ‘Skin’ which immediately follows. ‘Some Things You Keep to Yourself’ has hints of Mansun but also later Depeche Mode about it with its dark brooding and also its soulful feel, not least of all the backing vocals. Things continue to get darker and starker on the synth-led closer ‘Pawns’ that goes all weirdy as it stretches and twists out of shape.

Neiland sustains the interest and the variety throughout, and there’s no let-up in quality either: there’s not a throwaway or duff song on Divisions, and with thirteen tracks, that’s no small achievement. That Divisions is almost impossible to pigeonhole is no issue: after all there are only two kinds of music – good and bad. And this is most definitely good.

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Charlie Nieland - Divisions (LP cover)

5th March 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

I’ve spent hours racking my brains to fathom what the opening bars of ‘Nouveau Bleach’ – the first track on the eponymous EP by Nouveau Bleach remind me of, and I still can’t bloody make it out. With a name that’s straight out of Nathan Barley, this south London trio are as postmodern as they are post-punk, and the four tracks of their debut EP sets their stall out plainly, with no pissing about.

There’s are elements of The Fall with the ramshackle, rattling guitar that goes here there and everywhere, and especially the yelping, partially atonal vocal, with the simple repetition of the sloganeering refrain ‘Nouveau bleach / Rinse repeat’, conveying the ennui of tedious repetition so succinctly. The baritone vocal has a hint of Editors’ Tom Smith about it, but then, there’s quite a concoction of elements in the mix., and the production being lo-fi and primitive really suits the sound.

‘Pharmakon’ is amore straight head punk tune, and the band soon reveal a simple but effective formula, based on heavy repetition, and ‘Kondonauts’ exemplary – again, The Fall, Public Image, and comparisons to more recent acts from Scumbag Philosopher to Bilge Pump seem reasonable: a propensity for the motoric, for repetitive, cyclical riffs and unmelody still reveal some lovely moments – but mostly jarring, sharp-edged ones that make sitting back and just listening uncomfortable ‘but does it spark joy?’ they ask. In some way, it sort of does, and you join the dots to Gang of Four and snotty, shouty 90s underground and riot grrrl.

If it sounds like an explosive, incoherent identity crisis, it’s because it probably is: Nouveau Bleach are absolute magpies, and not entirely discriminate, which is actually an asset: everything is material, and they bring it together in a broiling melting pot to create a unique and antagonistic fusion, and it kicks ass.

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26th February 2021

It seems only fitting that lo-fi indie duo Videostore should return to the roots that inspired their vaguely nostalgic moniker and the theme for their debut album Vincent’s Picks for their latest lockdown single release with a song which Nathan says was inspired by ‘sitting around watching superhero movies.’

Certainly, inspiration for a lot of art has been coming from closer to home this last year, and most life has been lived vicariously for many of us. Movies provide a much-needed escape when the limits of your life are just four walls, and this punchy, guitar-driven single is exemplary of Videostore’s resourcefulness. Written and recorded just a week ago, accompanied by self-filed footage (mostly shot at home or in local parks in a single day) and assembled by Dave Meyer, it’s once again a strong sell for the DIY methodology that facilitates not only full artistic control but a greatly reduced time-lag between conception and release, ‘Superhero Movies’ celebrates its uncomplicated evolution – Nathan sitting on the sofa with one of his many guitars, parked in front of a laptop, the pair supping wine.

‘This is not my movie’ Lorna sings, increasingly frenzied, as she spirals and spins around, beshaded, in a park somewhere as the guitars fizz and the bass thumps against an insistent drum machine.

And while this is ostensibly an indie tune, the tumultuous distortion of the buzzsaw guitar and the overall production is actually reminiscent of Big Black – in particular their cover of Wire’s ‘Heartbeat’. It’s not entirely pretty, and it’s better for it: ‘Superhero Movies’ packs all the energy, and delivers it with a raw immediacy that really hits the spot.

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Cruel Nature Recordings – 5th March 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Live performances of experimental electronic work, particularly when involving an element of improvisation, can be somewhat hit and miss, and what’s more, sometimes, much of the wonder and appreciation is derived from witnessing the performance itself, as much as the sound.

This album was recorded live at Cave 12 in Geneva in 2019, when Stuart Chalmers and Distant Animals shared a stage is a document of a moment in time, and is one that explores differences and similarities. Each act occupies one side of the limited-edition cassette (of which there are just 45 copies) and naturally, a track each on the digital version, and each track contains a full performance from each artist.

Chalmers’ set is a sparse, minimalist affair. Clanking chiming notes – partially atonal, and entirely arrhythmic plink, plonk, clatter and clink every which way. It is detuned strings? Is it a glockenspiel, xylophone, or similar? Whatever the sonic source, it increases in speed and urgency, but not in musicality, and a flat chord shreds and mangles as though strumming a washboard with relentless frustration. While the performance is brimming with energy, there’s a purposeful tonal flatness to this.

At times a clattering clang, a monotonous chang of deadened notes, and a tension-building thrum that grates away relentlessly, Chalmers’ set is never comfortable, never easy, never really breaking into the realms of melodic. The relentless scrapes and scuffles scratch away for twenty-three troublesome minutes. It’s rhythmic and does build in a certain way, but it’s slow progress that’s uncomfortable. One suspects that this uneasy sensation would only be heightened during the actual performance.

Distant Animals’ set is more overtly ambient, a twenty-minute piece that centres around twisting dronescapes and elongated crawls. The layers ripple and rub against one another to create not a dissonance as such, but a vibration of frequencies.. but suddenly, around the mi-section, the storm breaks and dissipates… there is a calm. Soothing synth waves of something that borders on electroprog crossed with chilled-out electroambient. Its trajectory is very different from Chalmers’ – instead of a single, linear trajectory that works its way to a specific end point, they navigate a series of passages and movements that segue into one another to form a meandering journey, which eventually tapers to a fade that leaves you wondering if it was all a dream, and wishing you had been there.

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Releasing their most recent album ‘Canyons’ in 2019, Slomatics have solidified their status as veterans of the underground heavy scene since forming in 2004 with 6 albums and a number of split releases alongside Conan, Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard and Holly Hunt. Now as part of their upcoming split LP with Ungraven they have shared new track, ‘Kaān’.

The band state, ‘Sometimes the joy of music is the contrast between light and shade, the subtle textures and the space between notes. Other times it’s just about turning the amps to eleven, loading as much fuzz into the signal as possible, putting everything in the red, cranking out the same neanderthal riff relentlessly and screaming into the void. ‘Kaän’ is most definitely the latter.’

Listen to ‘Kaān’ here:

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Cruel Nature Records – 5th March 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

I know next to nothing about Fast Blood beyond the brief biographical info that accompanies this, their debut EP, which follows a brace of singles.

Apparently, the members of the foursome are stalwarts of the Newcastle-upon-Tyne DIY scene, but as a unit they only came together in 2019, performing together for the first time in April of that year. They managed to amass a decent resume of support slots in the eleven months before the world ended for live music, and announced their arrival in November 2019 with the hooky as hell ‘You’, which is featured here as the EP’s second track.

They trade in short – three minutes or less – poppy punk tunes, and for all their ‘nods to 90’s Midwestern indie/emo, hardcore and garage punk’, what actually comes through above anything is how they hark back to a more classic female-fronted punk vintage. That isn’t to say they sound like X-Ray Spex, or Penetration, or Blondie, but there’s certainly something of that vibe infused within their driving, guitar-driven songs which are big on energy.

‘Why do I keep doing this to myself? / I keep telling myself I’m not worthy’ Abigail Barlow sings on ‘Milo’, which was released as their second single in January last year, and while the delivery is accessible, and very much driven by a sense of ‘song’, and ‘melody’, and there’s nothing that’s overtly dark about their songs, there’s an emotional honesty and a sincerity about the lyrics that runs deeper. In this sense, it’s the best of both: a vintage style with a contemporary edge – without the crap connotations of punk-pop dragged along by the likes of shit like Panic! At the Disco, New Found Glory, and All Time Low – they balance bite with something altogether more easy on the ear. Kudos.

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12th February 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Coventry quartet SENSES have had a stuttering journey to bring them here, with the release of ‘Drop Your Arms’ as a taster for their impending debit album – which has been a long time in coming. There is a classic tale of burgeoning progress being stalled and creativity stifled by label wranglings. Throw in a global pandemic and you’ve got the perfect recipe for a stalled career. It’s almost as if some labels are more concerned with contractual constrictions than the nurturing and promotion of creativity and new music.

But you can’t keep a good band down forever, and regrouping after a hiatus to embark in a multi-media project designed to take their music to the masses and to the next level, and ‘Drop Your Arms’ is the opening gambit that prefaces the debut album Little Pictures Without Sound.

Yes, it’s indie at heat, but it’s also so much more: it’s also big, bold and anthemic – and swings between the throbbing anthemic stylings of Doves with the darker post-punk currents of early Editors (whose producer Gavin Monaghan was involved in the early recording work) – I’m specifically thinking ‘Bullets’ here, particularly when it ratchets up around the mid-point. Then again, I’m equally reminded of The Psychedelic Furs’ debut album and their ‘wall of noise’ that really hit hard.

There’s a darkness and a seriousness about ‘Drop Your Arms’, a track that drives and bounces with an effervescence and energy that’s as infectious as it is undeniable. In short, it’s a cracking single, and if the rest of the album is half as good, it’ll be a corker.

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SENSES_Drop Your Arms_Single Artwork

Danny Kiranos, otherwise known by his musical alter ego Amigo The Devil, will release his highly anticipated second full length album, ‘Born Against’, on 16th April (Liars Club/Regime Music Group). A song from it entitled ‘Quiet As A Rat’ is available from today and is the second single taken from the record.
‘Quiet As A Rat’ is comprised of three vignettes that feature characters hiding their inner turmoil in order to maintain a strong outer façade. The video for the song is packed full of gallows humour, in fact literally so, with Kiranos as the narrator of its interlinked tales with themes modelled after both fables and biblical elements. Subjected to what appear to be Jodorowsky-esque tongue in cheek torture and execution attempts, they ultimately represent questions of faith and the doubt of it.

As with many of ATD’s songs, everything serves as a metaphor for something larger that resides within. “Faith without doubt seems unhealthy,” states Kiranos. “It’s an extreme that leaves no room for growth and honest learning, only the mindless repetition of old and sometimes hateful traditions. This song explores the bridge between faith and doubt, nurture and abandon…the fine line between belief and control. It plays to the true value of our spirit and whether we have a purpose to find or if we are the purpose and are simply here to be used and forgotten. You know…real fun stuff.”

Watch the video here:

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Panurus Productions – 5th March 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Charlie Butler’s Gathering Dust is something of a departure for Newcastle tape label, PANURUS Productions, in that it’s incredibly mellow. It’s not a complete departure, through: designed as a cassette release, it features two longform tracks, each fitting neatly onto one side of a good old C30 (the likes of which I used to get from Maplins back in the early 90s) – or, in an ideal world, perhaps one side of a 12” or 10” vinyl release. But we know that for a niche label like this, the cost of a vinyl run is prohibitive, and while their print runs are extremely limited, they do sell out – which is the perfect operating model: knowing the scale of their audience and sales reach, and catering to demand without massively overreaching, means costs are covered, and everyone wins. There’s a stream and digital download for anyone who wants it, after all. Everyone’s a winner.

The album title is in fact an amalgamation of the individual titles of the two tracks, and separated, the context shifts a little. Gathering dust connotes a lack of movement, a stasis, something that’s essentially furniture, something neglected, unused. This places the power of word association in sharp relief: together, the words suggest something very different in contrast to when they’re independent of one another.

And so ‘gathering’ brings connotations of collecting, bringing together, of hunter—gathering. And from the dense, swirling drone of a trilling keyboard on the fifteen-and-a-half-minute track that is ‘Gathering’ emerges a slow-picked guitar. The drone und strang approach, whereby echo and tube crunch coalesce to envelop the guitar in a soft sonic bubble is highly reminiscent of latter-day Earth and Dylan Carlson’s solo releases. It doesn’t ‘do’ much, and doesn’t need to: ‘Gathering’ is a long, slow, and expansive work that explores atmosphere.

‘Dust’ is a deep, sense drone that billows and booms, and is indeed reminiscent of the heavy drone of Sunn O))). Its effects are soporific, and for a time my notes are sparse as I drift and move beyond the immediate environs of my workspace to immerse myself in this thick fog of a composition as it slowly unfurls with its post-rock leanings and immersive atmosphere. There’s a tonal warmth that surrounds this, and it borders on ambience at times, and dust washes and drifts like particles descending. And over time, it builds… and builds, swirling into a dense, billowing sonic cloud. The final minutes are reminiscent of the eternal drone of Earth 2 – and being one of my all-time favourites, that’s very much a compliment and an indication of just how textured and enthralling Charlie Butler’s brand of drone is.

Gathering Dust is remarkably dense, but it’s not heavy per se. It’s one of those releases you can simply surrender to, and lose yourself in the enormity of the sound.

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Over the past several years, Sandro Perri has been letting us in on a fascinating collection of strange and enchanting collaborative sound recordings that he’s crafted under the project name Off World. Chiefly a studio-based endeavour, Off World traces its origins as far back as 2008, with Perri and fellow Torontonian Lorenz Peter (Corpusse, Processor) working together on tracks and very occasionally performing live under the moniker. However the project’s recordings encompass collaborations between Perri and many other producers and musicians, including Drew Brown (Lower Dens, Blonde Redhead, Beck), Susumu Mukai (Zongamin), M J Silver (Mickey Moonlight), Craig Dunsmuir (Glissandro 70, Kanada 70), Eric Chenaux, and Jesse Zubot.

About this latest track, Sandro Perri comments, “Impulse Controller (Pre-Dub)” was born in the Off World “1” sessions and developed during the making of Off World “2”. A “pre-dub” (not to be confused with a "rough mix" or a "demo") is made long before a track meets its death and subsequent rebirth as the “final mix". It has a special and usually private purpose – to hear the sounds as they are, without too much concern for the musical composition – and to notice what impulses arise in response to them. This version in particular is a showcase for a blistering first take by trumpeter Nicole Rampersaud".

Check it here:

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