Archive for April, 2021

BIG | BRAVE share a video for "Of This Ilk" – taken from their forthcoming album VITAL arriving on CD and Digital formats this Friday via Southern Lord, and with LP to follow in Summer. Pre-orders are now live and available via the Southern Lord store, Southern Lord Europe, Bandcamp and Evil Greed.

About the new song and video, which originally premiered via Roadburn Festival’s digital edition, Roadburn Redux, vocalist Robin Wattie comments, "This video and song is an ode to those that understand this all too well, all too deeply. There is a silent form of suffering that most do not share. It is a private shame that is very public. The percentage of the global population that take these painstaking, costly efforts in whitening, or rather more aptly, bleaching their skin is higher than a lot would understand, let alone, would ever consider. There is a billion dollar industry in injectables and cream-like products containing harsh and even life-threatening chemicals to lighten, clarify, and whiten one’s skin. This video is an ode to my younger self, and to all the other children, teens and adults of the past, present and future that have used bleach in every way possible, that withdrew from the sun, used clothespins on their nose, scraped their skin raw, buying every product available, in trying every means they can think of to achieve this exclusive coveted lightness, whiteness."

Watch the video here:

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LORD287_12inch Standard LP Jacket

23rd April 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

They may be in the midst of a lineup change and lacking a guitarist and drummer, but while live activity isn’t an option, London-based Emergency are still in aa position to raise their profile with the release of single ‘Another Hit’, a swipe at social media and its content creators, while also turning the lens inwards and reflecting on the role of the consumer and the element of hypocrisy that’s inherent within that.

It’s relatable, to the extent that most of us do it, and I’ll confess my guilt also: I’ve spent what feel like an eternity bitching about Instagram being the platform for vain hipsters before finally relenting and setting up and account ostensibly because, y’know, maximum exposure and all, but I feel like a sell-out and a hypocrite, but it’s just the way of the world, right? Like being absolutely sick to death of everyone’s pictures of their pets and their meals, so electing to do the same, only ‘ironically’ – right? Fuck it. Postmodernism is dead, irony is dead. Thankfully, killer tunes played with energy never die, and ‘Another Hit’ is tight, punchy, zesty, and a shade acerbic, packing some sharp critique and packaged into some astute guitar-driven post-punk influenced indie, with a dash of surf rock and a hint of Franz Ferdinand in the mix.

It’s choppy, dynamic, and has one of those buzzing riffs that drills into your head on the very first listen. Absolute killer.

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Emergency - Artwork

30th April 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

I had something of what you might call an epiphany of sorts last night. I was cooking dinner, and as is standard, had put the TV on. I usually have it on mute and watch the news with subtitles while listening to a CD, but instead, while chopping veg for a healthy stir-fry, I had a music channel playing 80s hits, and it was good – mostly the early 80s, with some ABC and Aha (‘The Sun Always Shines in TV’ for change) before plummeting into the shit of Bros and Brother Beyond just before I served, at which point it went off. But it was during this unashamed nostalgiafest that I realised that for my daughter, who’s 9, the 80s are further in the past than the 60s were when I was her age. And that at her age, I had no interest in the 60s because it was so far back in history it was tinny, trebly, scratchy, dated, sepiatone or black and white. It was historical relics and I never got why my parents rated anything 60s. I still don’t really have much interest in the main.

But chowing my chow mein, I came to realise that things have changed, largely, one assumes, on account of the Internet. Now, we have truly hit peak postmodern in the sense that the historical is now part of the present, and everything and anything goes. The 60s likely feel a lot less distant and alien to a nine-year-old than to someone like me in their mid-40s, because they’re simply so much more accommodating.

And so it is that 23-year-old singer/songwriter Bethany Ferrie takes in a wide range of influences, from the likes of Fleetwood Mac to Lewis Capaldi, Kings of Leon to Taylor Swift. And also, I’m reminded that no longer is anyone purist in their allegiance to rock, pop, or folk. For those under thirty who can extricate themselves from the mundane bilge of R1 mediocrity, whereby music is so much wallpaper, music is music, and there are only two kinds – good and bad. There’s perhaps a certain naivete in the idea that all of these things sit together, but Bethany demonstrates an admirable songwriting prowess with her new single, ‘Bones’. The piano-led song is low-key, but layered, melodic yet heartfelt. It’s also one of those songs that has a slow, contemplative start, before bursting into a cinematic chorus, aided by some reverby production that really does the scope of the song justice.

Is it alternative? Is it niche? No. Is it commercial? In terms of R1 circa 2004 when Keane’s ‘Something Only We Know’ and playlists were wall-to-wall Coldplay, yes and no. ‘Bones’ isn’t dreary, drab, or manufactured, but does have clear commercial potential.

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Final Cover

Christopher Nosnibor

Videostore continue to make the most of lockdown, with the pair banging out a second mini-album, comprising three of their recent singles along with three brand new tracks. Does the title have a significance? Does the end of lockdown mark the end of Videostore as Nathan and Lorna return to work and also reconvene with Argonaut? Perhaps time will tell, but for now, this is a document of the effects of life in confinement – or, as they put it, ‘what happens when you are locked down with Disney plus and Taylor Swift and Spacemen 3 CDs for company.’

It’s an interesting blend, but also a hybrid that works and is distinctively Videostore: scuzzed-out lo-fi pop songs that articulate ennui and nostalgia with a rare energy. As ever, it’s the contrast between Nathan’s worldweary monotone baritone and Lorna’s light, lilting, airy tones that really distinguish and define their sound.

It starts off with single cut ‘Superhero Movies’, a lively blast of choppy guitars where they ruminate on the disparity between movies and life, whereby everyone aspires to be a superhero from the comfort of their sofa. Media and unattainable aspiration is also the focus of ‘Your Perfect Life’. ‘Halfway There’ is a middle-aged lament that finds Nathan mulling over the passage of time, and in its downtempo mood and delivery, I’m reminded of The Fall’s ‘Time Enough at Last’, and even the semi-spirited call of ‘techno techno techno techno’ and a swerve into synth territory near the end can’t lift the melancholy mood – that’s a job for the blistering Pixies-like blast of single ‘Your Mind’, which stands out even more in context.

Low-key single ‘Anglepoise’ marks another return to Brix-era fall stylings, and there’s something affectingly sad in the sound of tiredness, of defeat. The last song, ‘Go’ is the biggest surprise of the set. It’s not a cover of the Moby track, but it is an all-out electro dance banger. It’s incongruous, so say the least, but there are some trademark squalls of noise among the trancey synths and insistent beats.

They Closed Down The Videostore may only contain six tracks, but it’s their most diverse work yet – and if the store remains open, the indications are they’ve no shortage of ideas to pursue.

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Tartarus Records – 28th May 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Then a release comes pitched as ‘FFO Gnaw their Tongues, Lustmord, Haxan Cloak, etc’, you know it’s going to be pretty fucking gnarly and pretty fucking heavy, not to mention dark. The band describe themselves as ‘a vessel of auditory violence whose sole purpose is to exist in this place and moment in time. It is an overwhelming form of aural terror conveyed through primal and mechanical means, conjoining visceral matter of an organic origin with that of an abiotic one. These together fabricate an entity focused on the seething aspects of interminable dread and the humiliation of flesh’. Holy fuck. I’m simultaneously quaking and on the edge of my seat for this.

I’m not entirely sure what ‘larynge’ is, and even the Internet has been of minimal assistance, and the connotations of ‘golden dirges’ in my mind says probably more about me than a band whose name in the current climate makes me think of blood clots. In other words, none of the prefatory encounter is anything but bleak in the way it sets expectations for the album, and Golden Dirges, Molten Larynges is, indeed, a challenging work.

It’s harsh, it’s noisy, it’s hellish, a purgatorial racket that combines extraneous noise, guttural snarls, and ritual beats. It’s fucking nasty, the soundtrack to the most torturous horror imaginable. Imagine being skinned alive and flayed with torches as flames rise all around, and you’re being watched by razor-toothed beasts, pale, emaciated, and brutal, s pat of the most gruesome ritual you can conceive. Your eyes are stretched open and you’re forced to watch your own chest being torn open and your ribcage prised apart as your exposed heart quivers and pulsates in its cavity. Your halfway to experiencing Golden Dirges, Molten Larynges.

Harsh blasts of noise surge like a tide at the start of ‘Devour their Bodies Saturated with Brine’, before an explosion of demonic noise simply shreds everything as the ritual ceremony builds to its most brutal climax as chthonic entities revel in the bloodshed.

And there is absolutely no respite, no retreat, no light. Most of the tracks are under five minutes, but they each feel like an eternity. ‘Our Torches Soaked in Oil’ conjures a descent into an abyss both in title and sonically, but the clunking percussion, cutting through a dank morass of swirling noise is disconcerting, before the vortex of dark noise yields to a spitting demon spewing venom from an unexpectedly gentle piano. It’s but a brief respite before the industrial churn of ‘Rattling Mutter’ brings a wall of noise and anguish that redefined punishing.

Golden Dirges, Molten Larynges is a different kind of heavy: it’s certainly not metal, and nor is it industrial or power electronics. It’s also blacker than black. This is beyond. It’s

the sound of the earth being pulled apart – not by horses, but by Satan’s slaves. It’s like being dragged by barbed hooks buried into the chest and back over rough terrain if burning coals. It is all the torture, all the pain, the soundtrack to the catalogue listing of atrocities that make up the second half of 120 Days of Sodom. As the gut-hammering percussion resonates against a grumble of anguished muttering and screaming agonies on ‘A Thicket of Abrasions and Broken Wounds’, it becomes fully apparent the sheer extent of this album’s relentless abrasion and its capacity to plunder previously unseen depths. There is no preparation for this: it redefines torture.

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Southern Lord – 23rd April 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Canadian trio BIG | BRAVE return bolder, heavier, and more intense than ever on Vital. But when to start?

I seem to recall an essay by William Burroughs which contained the advice for writers that narrative had to be visual in order to work – meaning that writing about a ‘indescribable monster’ just wouldn’t cut it: readers need to be able to visualise the monster in order for it to be scary. Writing about music may be a slightly different discipline, but the challenge is always to convey not only what the music sounds like – the objective bit – but how and why it makes you feel the way it does – the subjective, critical bit. After all, you’re not a music critic without providing any critique. And yet the first – and for some time, only – word that comes to mind to ‘describe’ the experience of listening to Vital is ‘overwhelming’.

The crushing power chords crash in after just a matter of seconds on the first mammoth track, ‘Abating the Incarnation of Matter’. But it’s the jolting, juddering stop / start percussion that hits so hard that really dominates. There’s so much space – and time – between each beat, that it feels as if time is hanging in suspension, and you catch your breath and hold it, waiting, on tenterhooks. And it’s this, the sound of a tectonic collision, juxtaposed with Robin Wattie’s commanding yet incredibly delicate, fragile vocal that makes it such an intriguing and powerful experience. As the song progresses, the anguished calling becomes a ragged, hoarse-throated holler and you feel the emotion tearing at her vocal chords, ‘dissolving each layer until there is little matter left’.

The yawning throb of feedback that fills the first minute and a half of single ‘Half Life’ sounds like a jet preparing for takeoff. And when it stops, it’s the hush that’s deafening and uncomfortable. The lyrics are actually an excerpt from the 2018 essay collection How to Write an Autobiographical Novel, by Alexander Chee. And when the music ends, leaving nothing but Watties’s acapella vocal, they’ve never sounded more stark and intense. Once you become adjusted to noise, there is little more shocking to the system than its absence. And so it is in life: we’ve become accustomed to traffic, to bustle, to busy shops and offices, to streaming media – and when it stops, we struggle to know what to do.

And so it is that the dynamics of Vital are so integral to its impact. ‘Wilted, Still and All…’ is different again. The album’s shortest track is still of a dense tonality and substantial volume but manifests as a billowing cloud of grumbling ambience, and it provides a certain respite ahead of the punishing ‘Of This Ilk’ – nine and a half minutes of slow, deliberate, and absolutely brutal punishment, a bludgeoning assault on a part with Cop-­era Swans. The drums and bass operate as one, a skull-crushing slab of abrasion that hits like battering ram, while the guitars provide texture as strains of feedback howl and whine. The false ending halfway through only accentuates the force ahead of the extended crescendo which follows. It’s the repetition that really batters the brain, though: bludgeoning away at the same chord for what feels like an eternity is somehow both torturous and comforting. The third and final movement is rather more tranquil, but nevertheless always carries the threat of another wave of noise, which doesn’t arrive until the title track, a nine-minute finale that grinds out a dolorous drone, a crawling dirge where a single chord and crashing beat rings out, echoes and decays for what feels like an eternity.

‘Timeless’ is a word that’s so often used and misused in describing music, but with Vital, I mean it to be understood rather more literally, in that time stalls and everything – time, perception, and the world itself – hangs, frozen in suspension. While listening to Vital, nothing exists outside this moment, and everything is sucked into the vacuum of its making. You can barely breathe or swallow, and for the time it’s playing, there is nothing else but this.

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LORD287_12inch Standard LP Jacket

13th April 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

I love an album that carries a warning. In the case of SINthetik Messiah’s full-length debut, Ambient Noize, we’re advised ‘Caution: When listening to the album with headphones the music may cause a form of psychosis, listen with caution’ (although we’re also advised that ‘All music on this album is meant to be listened to through headphones’. Is the Messiah wanting to fuck people up? Or just warn off the kind of people who may not appreciate an album ‘inspired by Ambient and Drone music from around the world’?

The album’s eighteen tracks are simply numbered, AN01-AN18, and due to the multitudinous influences absorbed within its fabric, while all existing within the broad sphere or dark ambient and drone, there is a considerable diversity on offer here. It’s rich in atmosphere, deep, dark, and dense.

If the title seems perhaps like a contradiction, the pieces tend to be either one of the other, and sometimes a collision of both, and while the ambience is often of a darker, rather more eerie persuasion, the noise is dense, abstract, and sometimes harsh.

‘AN01’ arrives with a low, sonorous drone and a crackle of degraded samples, and slowly throbs and eddies in a cloud-like drift, and the tracks run through in a seamless sequence that feels like a continuum. ‘AN03’ slithers and slides, the rasping breath of a dragon that rumbles and bursts before diminishing slowly to silence. ‘AN04’ plunges cavernously deep, dark depths, while a sing-song vocal sample collides with billowing harsh noise on ‘AN05’, while ‘AN06’ gyrates in slow-mo around a deliberate beat, and while there’s a speculative, shifting aspect of the album, there’s also a certain trajectory, and it’s downwards and into darkness from hereon in, as dank rumblings dominate the ever-more oppressive soundscape.

‘AN09’ marks a shift, with something of a folksy element, and with brooding strings alluding almost to a ‘Black Sails’ shipwreck pirate folk vibe, spun in with something more Japanese in origin, and it’s here that the album begins to develop new layers of interest.

And so it goes.

But what of process? It wasn’t perhaps as mystical as all that, when we learns that ‘the album’s creation, by Cajun front man Bug Gigabyte used vst synthesizers, field recordings and Garageband’s Electronic instruments on the Iphone’. Guess it just goes to show you don’t need the best kit and a full studio to capture something intense or professional-sounding. But then, ‘Grammy – nominated engineer, Joe Haze (The Banishment) then mastered the album by recording every track onto tape at 30 IPS (inches per second) and then mastered the audio through analogue gear.’ This isn’t turd-polishing, but an indication of the way some pro finishing can make all the difference. Then again, I’m not sure of the difference to be made to this…

Ambient Noize is challenging, as it’s intended to be. It has some great moments, and also moments that drag you down into dark places…

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Plinki – 15th April 2021

I’ve been vegetarian since around 1994 or 95. My vegetarianism amuses some people, including a couple of friends who are such hardcore meat enthusiasts the prospect of a meal without at least some meat element makes them shudder and quiver and slowly foam away like a slug having salt poured over it. Then again, there’s a real risk they might dehydrate through salivation at the prospect of a tray of meat. Yes, the promise of meat can have a profound and indeed physical effect.

On this album, Anat Ben David and collaborators aren’t promising any meat you can actually eat and digest, but only chew on, which will no doubt disappoint my carnivorous chums. But there is much to chew on, and to ponder, as they present a vast array of styles and sounds that don’t always sit comfortably aside one another and will test many listeners on a number of levels. At times it’s pop, and with an electronic beat, but at others, it’s overtly experimental. And what does the cover art say?

Each of the songs on the album according to the liner notes, takes as its starting point ‘a text by a different author’ with ‘the new compositions bringing out a shared theme: the interaction of humans and the natural world and the assimilation of technology into our being’.

The five tracks on The Promise of Meat are stunning in their dramatic structures, their contrasts, their juxtapositions, and Anat’s soaring operatic vocals are utterly breathtaking. And there is no one overarching style that defines the album beyond the method, a focus on the minimal, the brooding. Pitched against groaning, droning electronica and stammering synths, it’s a striking sensation that creates a certain cognitive dissonance? What is this? How does one process and assimilate it?

‘Naked Axes’, the first song, is sparse and dissonant, dramatic and while the vocal is perhaps most reminiscent of Billie MacKenzie and there are hints of the high drama and tension of The Associates, it’s Scott Walker’s later work that’s perhaps the closest comparison here.

‘Cherish the Birds; is a chorus of delirium, while ‘Face Mixed With Phone’ is a stuttering barely- there dual-vocal acapella / spoken word piece with some bloopy, gloopy incidentals. It’s a shade awkward, especially when growls and whoops collide with shuddering organ-like drones and the crack of the snares of vintage drum machines to forge a wibbly sonic mirage.

The title track, a sprawling ten-minute morass of meanderance, is where things really get weird, and it’s sonorous, lugubrious, as an acoustic guitar plods a deadened strum, augmented by mournful brass sounds sad, lost notes into nothing, and amidst squelches and digital glitches. As atonal and varikeyed vocals collide against one another in the instrumental drift, it becomes increasingly disorientating and deranged.

Maybe this isn’t an album to process or assimilate in the usual ways. There is no clean or simple way to position this or to otherwise feel comfortable with the unexpected transitions and perspectives. But it is an album to spend time with, and to reattenuate your expectations by.

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Christopher Nosnibor

13x is less of musical project and more of an experience. As such, the katt13x website, the platform of the proudly transgender antiscene artist is a brain-melting labyrinth of sound and image that has a William Gibson-esque retro-futurist vibe that screams cyberpunk while searing your retinas with wildly oversaturated images that often render what’s being presented barely distinguishable.

The EPK video is, without doubt, a perfect summary of everything, as raw, bleeding primary tones melt and glow radioactively through a selection of appropriated snippets and other spliced scenes that takes Burroughs’ cut-up technique to the height of early noughties simplism to create something disorientating, disturbing.

Remember when the Internet was considered scary, because it contained the worst and more terrifying shit, from images from murder scenes and people being hit by trains (the original traingirl video was a blur, but a sickening one)? Pages like gruesome.com seemed extreme, and the porn explosion that was so concerning to many consisted of just so-many thumbnails and low-res .JPEGS of barely 50K because dialling up on 14K modems at a penny a minute, that kind of prurience was actually a fucking luxury. 13x takes us back to a time before YouTube, when eBay and Amazon were in their nascency, and we had Yahoo! Auctions and most people accessed the Internet and email having installed AOL with a free 3.5” floppy disc passed on to them by a friend who’d bought a magazine from WHS.

I’m reminded of Stewart Home’s original Spacebunny-designed website, which was a primitive-looking affair, neon-green text on a black background, and every word was an internal hyperlink. Not because 13x looks like it, but because it’s a reminder of when the Internet was inventive, was crazy, because there were no riles and there was no corporate involvement. No-one really policed the Internet, but then, kids were safe because the fact was, no-one even had Internet. But it was then future, and those who were present were pulsating to race headlong into cyberspace, whatever that was. And this takes us back to the time when we were on the cusp, and is accompanied with a period soundtrack, of sorts.

That soundtrack is an array of glitching, overdriven technoindustrial noise propelled by harsh, smashing snare crashes and squelching, wet fabric thwacking deadened bass beats define the abrasive, disorientating sound. Abrasive soundclashes, with squalls of noise and shards of feedback flare and blare over woozy undulating basslines and retro blippy 16-bit game mzk.

The sound and visuals in combination are an extreme and intense experience, where everything goes off in your face all at once, and it’s magnificent: dizzying, overwhelming, uncompromising, and one that doesn’t just touch, but assaults the sense from all sides at once.

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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