Archive for April, 2021

Buzzhowl Records – 7th May 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Health Plan’s all-caps bio on their Bandcamp doesn’t really tell us much, bujt it does, I suppose, tell us enough in the pan of three short, declarative sentences: ‘HEALTH PLAN ARE DAN, STEVEN AND FRANCOIS. WE PLUGGED GUITARS STRAIGHT INTO A LAPTOP AND MADE SOME POP SONGS. MEMBERS OF USA NAILS, BLKLSTRS, THE EUROSUITE, DEAD ARMS’. Whether or not that qualifies them as a supergroup I’m not sure, but this emerging hub of intersection musicians is proving to be a fertile melting pot, and on the musical evidence of this, their eponymous debut, they are a super group. And of course, as you’d expect, a noisy one.

The album’s eight tracks are an extended exercise in crashing, droning noise rock, and it’s not intended to be pleasant: this is the kind of music where you marvel at the layers of noise as they scrape and clash against one another, feedback shrieking against low-end-grooves, as reverbs bounce off one another in different directions. And maybe there is something masochistic about enjoying this kind of thing, but it’s about sensation, and feeling the sound batter your body and brain.

‘Post Traumatic Growth’ piles in as an introduction, a mess of buzzing bass, relentless percussion, and squalling guitars, landing somewhere between Big Black and The Jesus and Mary Chain, with additional blasts of exploding lasers and blank monotone vocals.

And this is the flavour of the album: motoric and messy, lo-fi and abrasive. The rhythm section holds things down, albeit muzzed up, fuzzed out and indelicately. It works a treat: the bass buzzes and booms, and the drums thump, and in combination they punch hard. The guitars are toppy, discordant and disco-ordinated, slashing away at angles across the linear rhythm grooves.

When they dial it down a bit, as on the altogether more sedate instrumental ‘Fade’, where a thumping bass beat flutters like a heartbeat beneath a current of swirling, meandering sound, the production is still such that it’s anything but comfortable, and it’s not lo-fi, but wilful awkwardness: there’s a cymbal that cuts through the mix at a mean volume, and it’s not smooth or in keeping, but harsh, crashing, incongruent.

‘Vapid Expressions’ comes on like The Fall, like MES at huis most hectoring in a swelling surge of motoric repetition that drills into your brain. ‘Stuck in a Loop’ lives up to its title, a cyclical repetition of a motif pinned to a relentless beat, providing some kind of lull before the acerbic hollering of ‘Cataract’ that drives it to a finish in a frenzy of sax and distortion.

While so many bands take cues from The Fall, Health Plan do so with real style, and moreover, take as much influence from the band’s stubborn refusal to conform, or to pretty up their sound with tidy production. To my mind, punk has always been about an aesthetic rather than a style – primarily about going against the grain and not giving a toss about anything other than pleasing yourself – meaning that Health Plan is truly as punk as fuck.

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14th April 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

I’d take cheap red win over red, red wine any day: back in the early to mid-90s as a poor student (back when such a thing existed), Liquorsave – the off-license department of Kwik Save, who at the time were selling their No-Frills baked beans for 3p a tin – it was possible to purchase a bottle of Hungarian red wine at 12% ABV for £1.85. It was actually better – by which I mean not only stronger, but also fuller-bodied – than the £5-£6 bottles of French wine. Nowadays, cheap mis under a fiver, but I’ll still stand by budget wines from the right sources, and in the absence of pubs, people, and life in general over the course of a year of lockdown, cheap red wine has become a friend on a par with strong Polish lager.

Anyway: on ‘Cheap Red Wine’, Muca and the evasive, semi-illusory Marquise paint a laid-back, smoky picture from a minimal sonic palette, evoking the spirit of smoky basements bars of times gone by. It wasn’t so long ago you could find somewhere down some stairs that was open till 1 or 2am and sip a bottled beer or a whisky and feel like you were somewhere else while people smoked… but time is relative. Nevertheless, the easy-going, laid-back jazzy vibes of ‘Cheap Red Wine’ evoke a pretty deep nostalgia, and it hits harder than the song itself, which is simple, melodic, reflective, landing somewhere between Amy Winehouse and Portishead.

Based around a simple acoustic guitar and Muca’s magnificent vocal that drawls, but isn’t quite lazy per se, ‘Cheap Red Wine’ builds to incorporate layers of strings and a wandering electric guitar solo, and conveys a heavy ache of emotion, too. An understated instant classic.

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False Industries False – 23rd April 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

None of us was ready for this. Separation, detachment, deaths, a relentless media frenzy… New normal? We haven’t had a moment to process, not really: it’s been one thing after another, and any time for reflection has simply slammed home another level of horror as the realisation of the harshest realities not only of the present, but the possible future hit us. There are people and places we may never see again, but existing in the moment has afforded little time to really assimilate this prospect. ‘All art made in this period has been impacted by the shifts 2020 brought on the world, so why deny it?’ asks Etziony, and it’s a fair question: even art not specifically or directly influenced by the events of the last year will have been affected in some way, and the psychological impact of a year of global lockdown, apart from friends and relatives will likely take significantly longer to truly unravel.

How adjusted do you feel to talk to people or otherwise act normally in proximity, in your workplace, in public, general? How many of us have become desocialised, socially awkward, uncomfortable around others? How many with social anxiety have

And so it was that, as the blurb details, ‘Yair Etziony wrote Further Reduction after returning from Israel to his home of Berlin in September last year. In his own words, something in him “snapped” as he realized that many of the places he knew and loved had simply stopped existing.’

It begins with expansive, resonant ambience, and continues with more of the same: Further Reduction is an album that’s constructed around rhythmic pulsations and slow ebbs and flows. Take, for example, ‘Caves of Steel’, which is a definite ambient work, but one which points towards quite definite structures and sounds of a solidly percussive nature.

The first track, ‘Reploicaset’, transitions from sparse ad echoic to a full, building, slow-moving swell of sound. It maybe evocative of scenes of life beneath the oceans, as jellyfish pulse through deep waters There are a passages or extended tranquillity, but also of unrest.

Short vocal samples echo through the waves om both ‘Polar Vortex’ and ‘Recreate and Update’, and these moments disrupt the long, slow droning eeriness of the album as a whole – although this is very much a positive, adding texture and new layers of the uncanny as slow-shifting tones turn and reverberate. By ‘Service Recovery’, everything has been reduced to a scratching, hovering drone that hovers and hums, and the final stages of the album are ominous, unsettling, and taper down too a slow conclusion, whereby we’re left with nothing but silence to reflect upon, just like those dark night when the conversation stops and we find ourselves alone in the world, wondering precisely how we fit, who – if anyone – cares, and what will be next.

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White Moth Black Butterfly the project from TesseracT’s Daniel Tompkins have shared the first single from their new album The Cost of Dreaming. You can watch the video for ’The Dreamer’ now:

The project sees Tompkins collaborating with New-Delhi based Skyharbor songwriter and producer Keshav Dhar; US based producer and string arranger Randy Slaugh who has previously worked with the likes of Devin Townsend, Architects & Periphery, drummer Mac Christensen and the line up is completed by ethereal vocals of UK singer & lyricist Jordan Turner.

‘The Cost of Dreaming’ is out on 28th May (Kscope).

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Clicks are now releasing a video clip for the track ‘Dropdead’, which once again stresses the sharp ironic humour of the Polish electro project. ‘Dropdead’ is the third single taken from the forthcoming new full-length "G.O.T.H.", which has been scheduled for release on April 16.

Watch the video here:

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Opa Loka Records – OL2004

Christopher Nosnibor

Just over two years on from The Forcing Season: Further Acts of Severance, and Michael Page delivers another instalment of Sky Burial music.

According to the accompanying text, ‘Stations of the Sun was composed in the spring of 2020 after returning from travels through Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa’, and ‘the five tracks form a ritual soundtrack to a journey which became an inadvertent pilgrimage to view the rising and setting sun from ancient sites of historical significance’.

As is often the case with ambient works, while intended to be evocative, its evocations remain secret, hidden from the listener and locked inside the creator’s mind and separated by process. The sense of journey, the sense of location, isn’t particularly apparent here, and as is so common, to the genre where there’s a concept and an inspiration deriving from some specific experience or place, that sense of place, space, and inspiration is largely lost in vague mists. That said, there are some rich textures and nice tones here, and while the idea of ‘journey’ may not be readily conveyed, there is a definite trajectory and evolution across the album’s five tracks.

The expansive opener drifts and washes broad strokes, with little detail, but over its sixteen-minute duration becomes increasingly calm and soothing. As you let it wash over you, you become more attuned not to the location in Michael Page’s mind, but your own immediate surroundings. As ever, I’m in a small, tunnel-like rectilinear room, but at the same time, I am drifting beyond it in my mind due to the transportative effects of music on the mind.

‘Stations of the Sun 2’ is sparse, fleeting notes that glide in and out through tweets and trills of sounds that imitate birdsong without being actual birdsong, as n erratically-pulsing beat throbs and glitches at its heart, like a muted Kraftwerk, or an ultra-muted take on Throbbing Gristle’s ‘Discipline’. As the album progresses, distant samples and incidental interventions creep in, changing the tone, and the rhythms become more pronounced and the atmosphere grows darker, although by ‘Stations of the Sun 5’ – a sixteen-minute megalith to bookend the album with a counterpart to the opener, the beats have evaporated, replaced by random, clanks and scrapes that echo dolorously through eternal caverns of gloom. Whirs, bleeps and whooshes like shooting stars occasionally flicker and flash through the dense, dark space.

And so it ends more or less as it begins, and we find ourselves, having been led onwards and through a succession of sonic spaces, that the terminus resembles – at least in memory – the origin. So where have we been? For each of us, the answer will be different. From the comfort of our own spaces, Stations of the Sun leads the listener on a journey of the mind.

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WHY Record Company (WRC) – 20th March 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Once again, Gintas Kraptavicius, aka Gintas K has shamed me with his relentless output. Sure, Art Brut is only his second released of the year, but then, it is only the first week of April, and he’s maintained a pretty steady flow of two or three albums a year since 2003, and that’s before you get to the collaborations and visual projects. And if cranking out improvised sets using various permutations of keyboard and battered laptop with software seems to be something that can be done relatively quickly in principle, the setting up of said software for optimal effect, and devising how best to exploit it to achieve one’s aims and objectives can be time-consuming.

Art Brut finds Gintas delve deep into the most extreme digital territory in a while, with some wild improvisation and some pretty harsh keyboard battering conjuring a brain-frothing array of stammers and glitches, bleeps and bloops, all stop-starting, stutters, judders and clunks. This is one of those ‘everything all at once’ efforts that leaves you dizzy and bewildered, drowning in a digital foam. The experience is jittery and intense.

Although a digital release, it’s clearly designed as an album of two halves, corresponding with two sides of vinyl or cassette, with the three parts of ‘Art Brut’ in combination spanning some twenty-two minutes, and virtual B-side, the three parts of ‘Al Sublime’ stretching out over a similar duration, with the ten-minute ‘Al Sublime #2’ extending beyond the ten-minute mark.

The three movements of ‘Art Brut’ melt together in a transistor-troubling digital meltdown. Tractor beans and laser blast tear through warped tapes spinning on fast forward, and the whole bathful of bubbling noise swashes and sways in lurching waves. Fizzes and crackles and sparks fly like a heater dropped in, and you can almost hear the sizzling of flesh as electrodes pop at a rate of a hundred a minute. Everything fizzes, pops, squeaks, squeals and crackles in a crunching blizzard of scrappy, scratchy skitters and scrapes, and every single second is different.

‘Al Sublime’ isn’t radically different from ‘Art Brut’, but it is different nevertheless, with the effervescence countered by a broiling volcanic low-end simmer that grumbles and ferments. The low-end thrumming is at times almost subliminal, a humming drone that buzzes and grates, but is so often almost buries in the hectic insectoid clamouring. But this is also slower, lower, more warped and droning. Twisted tones resemble human voices, elongated moans droning become quite unsettling as gurgling electronic trails rise and fall and as jangling, chiming blips bounce off one another at random angles atop the gurgling discombobulation as if a blender is being sucked into a minuscule black hole, it all becomes to much to digest and assimilate… but then save for the two minute scrabble and scrape of a curtain closer in the form of the stammering ‘Al Sublime#3’ – a brief but tense bookend to an extended exercise in fractured fragmentation that digs deep into the cranial cavities and leaves you feeling slightly violated.

It’s a return to previous territory for Gintas K, and Art Brut finds him on peak form.

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Inverted Grim-Mill Recordings – 2nd April 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

This is one of those albums you can judge by its cover – and title. Golden Threads From Riven Rot continues to trace the same themes of death and decay as its Inverted Grim Mill predecessor, The Sea To Which The Body Is Drawn.

The liner notes promise Wreaths’ ‘signature swells of fragile strings [which] drift and fluctuate throughout, laying down a thick atmosphere that draws the listener in. While there’s a swamp of sadness to be sinking in, there’s also a hopeful tone.’

The hope isn’t always immediately apparent, and it’s the bleakness of eternity stretching out with nothing to grasp hold of that dominates the album’s eight pieces, the majority of which extend beyond the six-minute mark, giving them room to fully immerse and envelop the listener. The compositions are rich in texture, and the long, slow, droning swells of sound – not notes, not chords, just dense, yet at the same time wispy and intangible, like layers of smoke or fog hanging in the air. The grand sonic vista of ‘The Throes of Them’ is defined by a slowly pulsating rhythmic chime, while ‘That’s How Buildings Burn Down’ grows deeper, darker, denser as it progresses, a rumbling lower-end drone sonorous and heavy beneath the creeping stealth of the top layer, a thin, stratospheric drone that twinkles and shimmers.

The theme of decay dominates the bleakly suffocating smog of ‘Words Come to Rot in the Throat’, the title conjuring the sensation of all the thoughts we fail to articulate as the rise and catch in our throats and remain unuttered, for fear, for shame, for cowardice. Where do those words go? Sometimes, we swallow them back down, but something remains lodged and decaying as those recollections return and manifest as angst and self-loathing. Here, the sounds quiver tremulously as they linger, lost, directionless in the darkness.

Originally self released as a digital album, this CD reissue of Golden Threads From Riven Rot includes the lengthy final ‘lost’ track, ‘A Cloak For Rotting In’. Where it’s been and for how long is unclear, but it’s a sixteen-minute expanse of cold sonic desert. Strings scrape and whine as they suffer in quiet solitude and a sepulchral chill descends. It’s a gloomy, dolorous affair, steeped in sadness.

After Golden Threads From Riven Rot has drifted into nothingness, it leaves you cold, shaken, somehow empty and adrift. The prospect of moving feels beyond attainment, and there is nothing you want to do or listen to afterwards, but sit and bask in the faded silence.

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2nd April 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Hot on the heels of February’s ‘Sabotage’, rock duo Arcade Fortress return with ‘Uppercut (Pembroke Boxing Club Tribute)’. Celebrating the club, which is run by Christopher McEwan, who’s the chairman of Great Britain Disability Boxing, and as such, it’s a celebration of triumph in the face of adversity, of the power of perseverance and the strength of the human spirit. Uplifting and lively in its lyrics, ‘Uppercut’ showcases a much more hard-edged sound than its predecessor, it’s also a full-on TUNE that comes blasting out with real attack from the very first bar. It’s less Survivor and more Therapy? The guitar buzzes hard and is driven by a relentless percussion that pummels away, and hard, with an adrenalizing effect that really grabs you. For all its edge, though, ‘Uppercut’ still boasts a solid hook (sorry, unintentional).

Clocking in at under three-and-a-half minutes, ‘Uppercut’ packs a punch (and I’m happy to own that pun) and raises the expectations for the forthcoming album.

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Christopher Nosnibor

Originally released in 1999, Music from the Empty Quarter was Photographed by Lightning’s fifth album. The band described it as ‘their Troutmask Replica, their Tago Mago’, forewarning the listener that it’s ‘a monstrous slice of avant jazz, musique concrete Lovecraftian horror and should under no circumstances be listened to while under the influence of ‘substances’, and it’s immediately clear why. Like Trout Mask, it seems to be an album intended to be as difficult and challenging as possible, the sound of four musicians playing four different tunes in different keys and time signatures at the same time.

A strolling bassline stops and starts, runs and halts against a thunking beat. Everything’s up to the max, resulting in a slightly fuzzed-out sound, murky with the edges frayed by distortion. And over all of it, horns honk and parp, weaving weird patterns. This is the first of the four parts of ‘Al Azif’, scattered at strategic points across the album, with the same nagging bass motif recurring on each, as if in some attempt to give some sense of structure or cogency to the deranged, sprawling mass of weirdy noise. While three of the four parts are comparatively short, ‘Al Azif 4’ is a colossal twenty-one minutes in duration, but there’s a hell of a lot to wade through before – namely the whole of disc one.

‘Reptiles Invent The Amniotic Egg’ is a slow-trudging grind, somewhere between Justin Broadrick and Kevin Martin’s GOD, and SWANS, and ‘Foehn’ occupies similarly dark, weighty territory. Meanwhile, ‘Pop Song’ stands out as the most accessible track here, a snappy number with an actual semblance of a tune that’s reminiscent of early Public Image – but after a minute and a bit, they’re done, and back to making the most chaotic racket going with the frenzied discord of ‘The Assembly of Membranes’, and taking things up a notch on ‘Timing of Cellularisation’ which sounds like The Fall playing next door to Merzbow, and they’ve both left the door open and you’re standing in the corridor between the two.

By the time you’ve been battered by the murky wasteland that is the noodling delirium of ‘Mosses Invade the land’, with its impenetrable vocals, and the unexpectedly folksy lo-fi indie of Sugar Fist – part Silver Jews, part Syd Barrett, you arrive dizzied and dazed at ‘Al Azif 3’ with a strange sense of déjà-vu, before disc two arrives with more of the same – literally. That sensation of being on an endlessly recurring loop is a headfuck almost on a par with Rudimentary Peni’s Pope Adrian 37th Psychristiatric, but perhaps more realistically an approximation of The Fall’s ‘Bremen Nacht’ repetitions on The Frenz Experiment and accompanying 7”.

The demented, snarling vocals, that gibber and gnash away into the drifting fade of horns is most unsettling as disc two gets dubby and deranged on the fourth instalment, and after the brief interlude that is ‘Hypoxia’, the fifteen-minute title track is a yawning, droning swirl of somnambulance, a ritualistic swell and groan with laser rockets arcing over its bubbling, swampy expanse.

This is fucking heavy stuff: not heavy in the metal sense, but in the sense that’s it’s relentlessly oppressive and lasts an eternity. It’s absolutely bloody great, but it’s also probably the soundtrack to life in purgatory. You have been warned.

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