Archive for February, 2021

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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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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Alrealon Musique – 19th February 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

In the past I’ve struggled a bit with Pas Musique. It’s not that I don’t think it’s music, despite the project’s moniker – far from it. It’s simply a matter of taste: their music has often felt a bit easy, a bit contrived, in its gloopy synthiness, to my ears. It’s easy to judge, of course, but then that is the function of the music critic. We trade in opinions, and if everything was entirely objective there would be none. And there would be no art. Because art exists to tap into the emotions, into the psyche, to stir a response – and a negative response is a greater feat than eliciting a sense of complete indifference. Art serves to reflect and articulate life experience and those innermost thoughts. If art doesn’t connect in some way to the human condition, then it is worthless. So what does Psychedelic Talismans have to say? How does it connect?

I’m not sure. But then, in casting that seed of uncertainty, it succeeds in provoking some kind of engagement. So far, so good, I suppose.

According to the liner notes, rather than being a collective effort, Psychedelic Talismans is actually a solo effort from project founder Robert L. Pepper, which was recorded during Covid-19 lockdown in Brooklyn, New York, and the music and drawings draw their inspiration from the Turkish archaeological site, Göbekli Tepe, which is said to be as old as 10,000 B.C. As such, there are deep currents running beneath the fabric of the album’s six compositions.

Opening the set, ‘Splash of Red Touch’ is gloopy, but also led by sparse, brittle, alien synth sound that sounds like it’s echoing down a long pipe, and as the layers build, there’s a low, almost subliminal thud of a beat and a guitar that sounds like twisted metal scraps. Then there’s twittering birdsong and disconnected voices and there’s a lot going on, and not all of the elements seem entirely complimentary or pinned to the tame time signature, creating a swimming, dizzying sensation, and it plunges onwards with ‘Collected Fictions Brightly’, by which time the style is becoming clearly set: insistent, urgent beats, thumping, monotonous, primitive in the Suicide sense, overlayed with wispy, experimentally-orientated Krautrock synth wibbles and drones.

The vibe is very much vintage here, and often the instrumental pieces, which by and large hover around the five-minute mark, are quite meandering, and despite the low-end density that dredges the depths at points, despite the tense guitar notes that emerge twisted and strangled on ‘In Likeness of Me’, and the impatient palpating beats, and an emerging sense of unease that surfaces in places, for the most part there’s a certain mellowness that permeates the album. Great sonic expenses unfurl in long-echoing reverberations, crackling snippets of sampled dialogue, and long, slow-turning drones.

‘Las Bas’ brings the curtain down in a haze of drones and drifts and with a dash of Eastern mysticism, trilling pipe notes which bounce off one another and turn and fade, and if the piece, and he album as a whole, seems to lack direction, then its points of interest all lie in the diversions, the distractions, the divergences. And when so little else is happening, those detours are most welcome. And finally, I feel I click with Pas Musique.

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Born of the long dark winters of Norway Årabrot was too black for metal and too avant-garde for punk so it forged its own path. Hewn from empty roads and the cold impenetrable depths of the fiords of its home.

A Norwegian Gothic, tales sung and stories told in screams and whispers. With its steel guitar, a steely gaze a sneer and a Stetson, Årabrot is the bastard offspring of Billie Holiday and Elmore James. It is The Velvet Underground if Johnny Cash was a member and Nico was able to sing. It is Camus, Sartre, Poe and Burroughs cut-up and regurgitated in an unholy erotic mass. It is all the great bands you haven’t even heard of. It is you. It is here it is now and there are other bodies to bury. Årabrot is not fucking around.

Årabrot is Kjetil “Tall Man” Nernes and Karin “Dark Diva” Park. They live in the Swedish countryside with their two children in the old church that they own. Rock’n roll is their religion.

Discussing the new video for ‘Kinks of the Heart’, Kjetil comments, “’Kinks Of The Heart’ and ‘Hailstones For Rain’ is one narrative in two parts. It is the tale of Årabrot, preachers of rock’n roll. The videos are shot in the church where we live and its surroundings, our neighbours and friends as the congregation. Karin is 8 months pregnant. If you want to know what Årabrot is all about this is where you want to start. Brilliantly directed by Thomas Knights and Kassandra Powell of Obscure Film Collective.”

Watch the video here:

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Årabrot’s 9th full-length album Norwegian Gothic sees the band collaborate with Lars Horntveth (Jaga Jazzist), cellist Jo Quail, Tomas Järmyr (Motorpsycho), Anders Møller (Turbonegro, Ulver) and Massimo Pupillo (Zu).

A stellar production by Jaime Gomez Arellano (Black Eyed Peas, Paradise Lost, Hexvessel, Oranssi Pazusu) makes this the quintessential Årabrot record. Commenting on latest single ‘Kinks of the Heart’, Kjetil adds,

‘There is a certain beauty to living in the countryside- there’s clear crisp air, fresh water, splendid sunsets. Every day we see wild animals coming down from the forests that surround us. There is a freedom attached to all that. The other day I went out of the church where we live and found a dead crow on the porch. It was only the head, its eyes gorged out and it had a huge claw stuck in its neck. There is also a brutality to nature which is ever-present out here. It is this duality Cormac McCarthy so masterly puts into words. It is also what Kinks Of The Heart is about.’

While the 20 years history of the band is a story of change and correlation, it would be too simple to

break this creative duality down to the stereotypical dichotomy of the yin and the yang… and if one attempted to do so, it would turn out to be quite difficult to determine which of these forces would be represented by which individual.

A chubby child from a Christian family, growing up in a small Swedish village and years spent in a Missionary school in Japan made Karin desperate to break away from narrow thinking. And she used her only advantages to do so; her unique voice and personality. By the age 15 she had moved away from home to find her place in music After studying at Stockholm Music Conservatory, a Norwegian poet took her to Norway where she started her pop career, this was followed by a move to London to write songs, and working as a model.

After five albums, a few Grammy’s, writing a Eurovision entry for Norway and hits for other artists and performances with Lana Del Rey and David Bowie, Karin returned to the village of her youth and bought the church where she first sang in front of an audience as a child. She turned the church into where they rehearse and record, surrounded by pianos, organs and hundreds of old bibles that the church left behind when the congregation stopped.

The clerical environment has proven to be an excellent creative tapestry for a band whose lyrical focus orbits around sex, death and defiance.

Kjetil Nernes was diagnosed with malignant throat cancer in 2014, in the middle of a tour. Instead of heading in for surgery right away, the band finished a full European tour first, "Every night of that tour was like the last show ever“, Nernes comments, "It was really strange. When a doctor calls and says, ‘you’re terribly sick’, it’s surreal. You go into this phase where life is more vivid and more real, in a weird way. We’ve done so many shows through the years and sometimes it’s a little like going to the factory to do a job. But with an axe hanging over your head you perceive the world differently.“

But the axe did not fall, and after successfully recovering from cancer, Årabrot are now stronger than ever.

The band has collaborated with procuders like Billy Anderson and Steve Albini, and musicians like Ted Parsons (Killing Joke/Swans), Sunn O))))’s Stephen O’Malley, and Kvelertak’s Erlend Hjelvik. They have composed music for silent movies like “Die Niebelungen” and “Doctor Caligari”, and have teamed up with The Quietus founder John Doran on his spoken word tour. Their album “The Gospel” was named “Album of the Year” by The Quietus.

Norwegian Gothic is released 9th April (Pelagic Records).

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26th February 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

LA instrumentalists Teethers, centred around drummer and composer Andrew Lessman, brings together an unusual fusion for their debut release. With contributions straddling jazz, avant garde, and indie pop, for Teethers, Lessman has brought together an eclectic lineup, consisting of Graham Chapman on bass, guitarist Alexander Noise, Joe Sanata Maria and Ted Faforo on saxophones and Stefan Kac on tuba. The results are, as you might expect, unusual.

There’s a smooth, jazzy, swingy pop vibe that permeates the EP#s three tracks, and as ‘Goose Chasing’ indicates, they can locks down a tidy groove and create music you can bop to, nod along to, even dance to… and then they’re more than capable of – and willing to – drive that train straight off a cliff into a wild frenzy of horn-driven discord and madness. This is bit a brief introduction that sets the scene for what Teethers are really all about: the twelve-minute ‘Monopoly on Violence / Mushroom dance’ is a multi-faceted, shifting exploration of rippling shades and expansive soundscapes.

It’s rambling, at times immensely proggy in a vintage sense, and at times it just can’t seem to make up its mind as it ambles and weaves hither and thither, a mellow jazz meandering that hits some frenzies peaks and altogether more sedate intersections. It’s one of those pieces that transitions enticing and irritating in a mere blink – and that’s not even a criticism. Condensing so many elements into its space, it’s difficult to keep up.

The third track, ‘Love Poem’ is seven-and-a-half minutes of dappled sunlight painted in music, with a clean, picked guitar chiming in a simple, hypnotic sequence that’s a post-rock / contemporary prog crossover laced with soft, delicate strings. It’s perhaps the most focused and conventionally coherent of the three compositions, on what is a fairly wide-ranging set – so wide-ranging that it’s not easy to immediately assimilate, and even more difficult to pin down – not just stylistically, but in the most basic terms of formulating an opinion. Is it any good? Do I like it? Does it matter? There’s certainly no doubting the technical proficiency on display here, and having the confidence and audacity to make music that straddles so many boundaries and genuinely challenges the listener is an achievement worthy of recognition.

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14th February 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

A Sunday is an unusual day to release a single but then, the ‘Teetering’ single release is can be considered a Valentine’s gift of sorts, from polyartist Carmina Budworth. It’s a love song, a song about falling in love, that point on the brink of uncertainty, the excitement and anticipation of something new, told vividly through hazy images of the kind of drunken night out with music and people that seem so very long ago. And as such, it’s not only a love song to an individual, a song about that moment, but can be taken as a love song to the time before everything stopped.

Recorded in between lockdowns back in June of last year, it’s a song of optimism, of new beginnings. It lands at a time when after what has been for many the longest, hardest winter, there is a growing sense of optimism for new shoots of life concurrent with the coming of spring, and ‘Teetering’ conveys that spirit of optimism tempered by trepidation.

There’s a timelessly old-fashioned or vintage feel to the song that goes beyond the traditional Argentinean tango and 60s pop vibe that’s laced with soul, and it stands in contrast with the swelling drum machine beats that eventually grow to lead the backing and propel the song to a blossoming flourish of a finish that’s entirely contemporary.

Carmina has a distinctive and unusual vocal style, which is at once soft and strong, delicate and powerful. That’s not to mention her impressive range, that spans a ponderous whisper to sky-soaring freedom, and it’s enthralling. Carmina carries the listener on a wave that builds and lifts and stops before the drop. It’s a wonderful experience.

The ‘Malica Surprise’ mix pins down a smooth electropop groove with a crisp, solid beat and bulbous bass that brings new dimensions to a song that’s already multi-dimensional, making this quite a package.

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