Archive for May, 2021

24 April 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

The title is pretty much a summary of this release: a collection – or compilation – of works by dark ambient act In The Absence Of Words. It’s the first of two volumes, and draws on their seventeen previous releases (discounting the 2020 ‘reworked’ version of III (originally 2017).

There are a lot of numerals to assimilate here – which is a point of interest given that the man behind In The Absence Of Words is a copywriter by day, a person who spends the majority of their time immersed in the formation of words in order to convey specific information. The craving for some time away from words is one I can personally relate to, and is one of the reasons for my pursuit of a musical project centred around noise and abstraction. We all need a break from the dayjob, and for a writer, that headspace comes not from time out of the office in the gym, but from something not only devoid of words, but which blanks out words completely, and covers over the internal monologue and that inner voice, whatever it’s saying, to wash away and cleanse the mind of words, if only for a short while.

A Collection I may assemble six compositions from a vast and swiftly-built catalogue, but it’s explicitly not a ‘best of’ intended to shift units of back-catalogue: instead, it’s a carefully-curated project where the pieces have been, as the liner notes explain, ‘carefully selected to complement each other and to create a single immersive listening experience. Each track was originally released individually on Bandcamp between 2017 and 2019 and each has been remastered and assembled specifically for this compilation.

As such, it’s less about singling out individual pieces and immersing oneself in the holistic experience, allowing oneself to simply take the journey and observe the landscape, absorbing the sights, sounds, and scents. That said, there are clear distinctions between the tracks, and these very much signpost the route from beginning to end.

As such, some notes on the passage seem appropriate, in the same way one may jot down observations from any other journey, and ‘The Meeting Point’ undulates slowly, and I’m reminded of the tranquil ripples of Prurient when they’re not devastating the ambience with a blitzkrieg of white noise and distorted vocals.

The seventeen-and-a-half minute ‘Suspension of Belief’, originally featured on debut I back in 2017 isn’t discernibly different, but swells and groans out a textural rinse that rumbles and rolls on and on, its churning grind becoming quite uncomfortable over time.

Much of the album is soft, cloud-like, with sonorous, billowing drones changing shape and form often but subtly over time, and while the second half of the album feels less varied in terms of both texture and tone, the way the individual pieces melt into one another to create a extended sonic space in which it’s possible to relax and empty your mind is credit to the artist for his selection and sequencing of the material to render such an experience.

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A Collection I

21st May 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

With their latest single in the run-up to their debut album due to drop in July, SENSES threaten ‘an absolute stomper soaked in bass and synth… one for any BRMC fans out there’. And in a bit of a shift from the previous two singles, which showcased more psychedelic and indie leanings, that’s what they deliver. ‘Harder Now’ is one of those classic, scuzzy rock ‘n’ roll tunes that’s simple but effective, and centres around a solid rhythm section and nagging, repetitive riff.

So maybe it does nab the bass stylings of the intro to ‘Spread Your Love’ and the drawling vocal hook of ‘Stop’, but so what? BRMC always amalgamated an almost stereotypical rock ‘n’ roll swagger with a dash of The Jesus and Mary Chain – breezy melodies in a collision a with a whole load of overdrive – and no-one owns these things. That’s the beauty of rock ‘n’ roll: it doesn’t have to be radically new, or break new ground to be of merit: it just has to be good. ‘Good’ can be many things, of course, is subjective, but objective good is having that all-important riff that hook, that self-confidence, and a certain knowingness.

In context of their releases to date, it’s clear that SENSES have a sense (sorry) of history, and a keen appreciation of a span of music of a certain vintage – a vintage that has come to possess a timeless quality.

They’ve got some savvy songwriting going on, and the musical skills to deliver it with just the right vibe, and ‘Harder Now (For Love)’ is a cracker.

Harder Now (For Love) single cover

Nadja reveal another track "Starres" from their forthcoming album Luminous Rot, which shall be released on CD and DL formats via Southern Lord on 21st May, with the LP version arriving on 13th August. Luminous Rot pre-orders are live from today, and info can be found on the Southern Lord store, Southern Lord Europe store and via Bandcamp.

About the track and video Nadja comments, "Starres is about both inner- and outerspace, a conflation of the internal neural-network of the human brain with the external cosmos, and how the act of observation might alter those, both from the viewpoint of the observer and the one observed. The video attempts to replicate something of that feeling of cognitive dissonance in the observer, taking a mundane image of houses and warping them, both through reflective filming and digital effects."

Watch the video here:

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Nadja 2

(image by by Janina Gallert)

Christopher Nosnibor

Six months on from ballsy grunger ‘Underground’, Kath & The Kicks return with their fourth single, ‘I’m Alive’. The news of their being alive comes as something of a relief. It may sound like I’m being facetious – As usual – but I do mean it. Even before the pandemic, I’ve discovered people who’ve been off radar for a while are no longer with us, and in the last year or so, many of us have lost friends or relatives – not necessarily to Covid-19 – without being able to exchange our last words or see them that one last time.

For bands accustomed to working together, in a room, lockdown has impacted many, including Kath & The Kicks, who’ve had to adjust their approach in order to continue writing and recording new music, and ‘I’m Alive’ marks something of a stylistic shift from its predecessor.

‘I’m Alive’ starts out subtle, brooding, with lacings of post-punk draped around a soft, insistent bass and understated chorus-tinged guitar… and then when the chorus hits it absolutely erupts. Bass and guitars set to stun, it kicks in with maximum swagger and a deep, deep groove that’s hard and absolutely gripping, going straight for the jugular.

This is more stoner rock than anything else, for those set on genre: otherwise, it’s just a monumental riff-led beast of a tune which really showcases Kath & The Kicks’ versatility and their knack for monster riffs. What more do you need?

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4th April 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

With Illusion, The Long Night threaten ‘a sonic journey capturing the deep melancholy sound of things that are likely to be wrongly perceived or interpreted by the senses, adding that ‘Consisting of massive drones, chants, and field recordings, Illusion paints the picture of darkness trying to find a light in one’s consciousness.’

I’ve been struggling with certain things in recent months. Many things, if I’m honest. Reading books has been one, and listening to song-based music has been another. Concentration has been a real issue. Flitting back and forth in a daze through news items I haven’t the focus to read in their entirety, I see the theme of ‘long Covid’ as a recurring topic. But equally, I find that people I am in regular and frequent contact with – work colleagues, mainly – are feeling utterly drained and devoid of motivation. None of them has suffered from Covid-19, and I can’t help suspect there’s more of a long-term lockdown malaise that’s taking its toll on people. I’ve felt restless, listless, lacking in concentration, unable to face tasks that are beyond my comfort zone, and have immersed myself in domestic chores and cooking, outside my turgid dayjob.

And so it is that I’ve found solace in more ambient sounds. Their abstraction offers a certain escapism, and the right ambient sounds have an immersive quality that offers a distraction from everything else. Illusion is both abstract and immersive. For the most part it rumbles and drones without any real sense of direction, and that’s perhaps its strongest asset as it creates a sonic space in which to wander, lost, adrift, but away from the world.

On ‘Untold Mind’ and the murky morass of ‘Forgotten Time’, monastic voices rise ethereally from the grey smog, but for the most part, Illusion is a thick fog of amorphous, substanceless abstraction that drifts and eddies around without direction or any real sense of form. The nine-minute ‘The Myth of Now’ is a cavernous drone of immense depth and resonance that hangs heavy shadows with intermittent glimpses of light, but the overall experience is unsettling, as dark tones rumble and rise from the dark depths.

Illusion may be little or nothing more than its title suggests, but it is all we need for now as we cling to desperately to whatever we cen. And this is worth clinging on to.

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Dret Skivor – 7th May 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

The island of Poveglia in the Venetian lagoon, where plague victims were sent to quarantine – and die – is commonly known as ‘plague island’. But the ‘unprecedented’ pandemic that has circulated the globe in the last eighteen months or so has created a new ‘plague island’, where almost every element of dystopian fiction has become a reality.

There’s no question that this is a political album. The cover alone says it all: this is not some fictional place, but an album that’s explicitly inspired by a specific island that is – sadly, for many of us – very real. The UK, the tiny island with one of the highest death tolls in Europe from the COVID-19 pandemic is indeed a plague island – an island ridden with not only literal plague, but metaphorical plague, its seedy government the worst exponents of capitalist excess, and widely reputed as being more corrupt than the mafia, its racist, jingoistic bullshit-by-the-dozen prime minister with more children than he can account for, tossing money at his mistress while in a position of power, slinging multi-million pound contracts to associates to cash in on the pandemic, and misappropriating funds for a lavish refurb on his flat while unable to find the funds for more than a 1% pay rise for medics… A prime minister who would ‘fuck business’ but would still rather let ‘the bodies pile high’ than shut down and further damage his precious economy’. That’s a plague on a plague, a pestilence on an international scale, and also an absolute fucking disgrace.

It’s an island that also seems to have forgotten how small and isolated it is, both by geography and, now, politically: it’s forgotten it doesn’t have the empire it once did, and so, cut loose from the EU, isn’t an economic powerhouse on a global scale… just a tiny pathetic spec on the map, deludedly flexing its muscles and posturing while plunging further into debt by the hour. It’s a scabby scummy pit of self-importance and irrelevance, where the ruling elite trample the rest every second of the day purely out of self-interest. It’s a hellhole of division and decline that would rather cut off its face to spite its nose, all in the name of reclaiming its borders and blue fucking passports – and all of this is neatly encapsulated in the album’s opening blitzkrieg of noise overload, ‘Wading Through the Dead Bodies to Feel the Sovereignty’.

Because words alone cannot articulate the violent disgust at the country’s policies on immigration, welfare, child poverty, this barrage of cranium-crushing overload is the perfect expression of the rage and the fury – fizzing static and electronic sparks fly through a stammering buzz and headlong collisions of explosive distortion. It’s ten-and-three-quarter minutes of sonic annihilation that’s almost unbearable in its intensity and sheer abrasion. It’s weight and intensity feel like being trapped underneath a tank stuck on a mudbank. You’re clinging on as it tries to run you over the edge, where you can only hope to find a sleazy, lying scumbag lying dead in a ditch before you.

The churning earthworks continue unabated on second track, ‘Bring No Pestilence back’, which dissolves into a babbling, streaming gurgle that accelerates in pace and tapes to a treble as a thin, scrawling drone extends out over its final minutes, before fading to silence. It’s unpleasant and uncomfortable, and clearly intentionally so. For all that, it’s not as unpleasant or uncomfortable as living in post-Brexit Britain in a semi-lockdown state and knowing that the future offers no hope on the horizon.

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Nordic pop diva Karin Park of Årabrot adds her ethereal, mournful voice and keys to the primordial sound of legendary electronic pioneer Lustmord for this sublime and poignant collaboration. Alter is a ritual of our times and ‘Hiraeth’ is the new single.

Watch the video here:

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On the pair’s frst collaborative work, the nine tracks that make up ALTER are every bit as heart-wrenching as they are terrifying, mining new sonic territory, it is a fascinating study of light and shade that delves deep into vast uncharted darkness. Their ability to create atmosphere on the album opener "Hiraeth" is second to none, perfectly assembling a harrowing backdrop for Park’s lilting sound of longing. From there, Park’s vocals add all of the emotional depth and power found in names like Kate Bush, Maynard J Keenan and Elizabeth Frasier, perfectly playing against Lustmord’s waves of dark drama and creating a wholly unique record that recalls Dead Can Dance, Massive Attack and Portishead at their greatest.

Considering Park’s credentials, it might be surprising that a collaboration with Lustmord would fit so seamlessly. Utilizing a sound comprised of elements of industrial, synth pop and more, the celebrated Swedish solo artist and member of Norwegian rock band Årabrot utilizes experimentation in her work, blazing trails and bringing to mind the work of her peers The Knife, Scott Walker, Robyn, Depeche Mode and Burial with her darkly-rich compositions. Multiple winner of Norway’s Spellemann award, Park co-wrote the Norwegian entry for the 2013 Eurovision, fnishing fourth overall. But it is the sensibility of the sacred music of her youth that Park adds to ALTER, contributing a powerful vocal that guides the listener through the cavernous, mystical depth of their collaborative work.

”Lustmord is the Gustave Doré of music", Karin Park offers pensively. "Painting magical pictures with a sound that is so vast, it gives space for your own imagination.” Brian Williams grew up in North Wales, beginning his musical career as Lustmord in 1980 and becoming a pivotal fgure and pioneer in the early industrial music scene in the UK.

A former member of SPK during arguably their most crucial era, Williams went on to work with Throbbing Gristle members Chris & Cosey and appeared on early albums by Current 93 and Nurse With Wound amongst others. After relocating to Los Angeles in 1993, Williams worked on dozens of motion picture soundtracks including The Crow, Underworld and Paul Schrader’s First Reformed, as well as on several video game, television scores and solo albums. Williams has also contributed to and collaborated with artists as varied as the Melvins, Clock DVA, Jarboe, John Balance of Coil, Clock DVA, Paul Haslinger (Tangerine Dream), Wes Borland (Limp Bizkit), Puscifer and more, including Grammy Award-winners Tool from their much acclaimed efforts 10,000 Days and Fear Inoculum.

Alter is set for release on 25th June (Pelagic Records).

Lustmord  Karin Park

AMENRA announce their Relapse Records full-length debut De Doorn coming June 25th. Watch the official video for ‘De Evenmens’, directed by Dehn Sora, here:

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Amenra vocalist Colin H. van Eeckhout comments:

“We are only here for a split second in history. This song is about finding the answer within the question, man’s search for his place here on earth. A journey of sorrow with mere moments of beauty and happiness and this all in relation to his or her fellowman. To accept what is. Our brother Dehn Sora sculpted the digital world where Everman dwells, protected by its thorns, wounded by the others. Sacrificing blood of gold.”

Amenra

PHOTO CREDIT: STEFAAN TEMMERMAN

Miasmah Recordings – 16th April 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

It was the heavyweight score of his debut album, Hold, that provided my introduction to the work of James Welburn, and very much piqued my interest – because in some way, sonically at least, it seems I like to be published. Almost six years to the year on, Welburn delivers another immensely heavy set with Sleeper in the Void.

According to the accompanying blurb, the album ‘feels like a story in two parts, rising lethargically, but with gargantuan power. The second begins with the momentous In and out of Blue, where Juliana Venter’s disembodied, spectral dirge takes center stage among the furious drums and bassy riffs, reaching a full crescendo with seconds to go. Parallel marks a release – Hilde Marie Holsen’s nostalgic soundscapes, pristine as glass, meeting the distant thunder of Welburn’s strings on the horizon. And finally, Fast Moon ends the record in a most surprising way – a tribal industrialized banger, complete with vile distorted beats and every other spice in demand on a blackened dancefloor.’

It’s intense from the outset, and ‘Raze’ is anything but lethargic. It begins with a modestly middling dark ambient drone, but before long, pattering drums are hammering like machine-gun fire and whipping up a frenzy while all around the drones increase in volume and intensity until there’s a veritable cyclone of sound raging all about. The experience is dizzying, suffocating.

The percussion is again punishing on ‘Falling from Time’, but while the sound is still dense and murky, the thundering rhythm, is far more mechanised, more industrial, thudding in a furious frenzy amidst an impenetrable smog of sound. The tempo is fast, and it’s relentless: you could perhaps even dance to it, although that’s not so much my thing: instead, I found my pulse accelerating and a glow of perspiration as the tension grows. Finally, the synths break into a softer swirl, although there are ominous tones eddying around as the drums finally peter out and it’s finally possible to catch your breath and compose yourself. It’s but a brief respite before crushing percussion crashes in on the doomy dirge of the title track: stuttering, stop-start detonations cut through the shoegaze on ketamine crawl of the blurred blizzard of extraneous noise.

Julia Ventner’s vocal on ‘In and Out of Blue’ and ‘Fast Moon’ (the latter of which is a grating, bulbous bass-driven beast of a cut that loops and lunged in a trill of treble and a crackle of fizzing distortion) are haunting, ghostly, and pitched against the lurching cacophony of drums and juddering blasts of noise that hit like a taser to the abdomen, it’s not only a contrast and a change of atmosphere her presence brings, but a new level of trembling intensity.

Sleeper in the Void unquestionably makes an evolution for Welburn: while incorporating many of the same elements fundamentally, their application is quite different on Sleeper in the Void in comparison to its predecessor. The basslines are less overtly structured, and Sleeper in the Void sees Welburn move further from any loose conventions of ‘rock’ toward something more abstract. It may be less direct, less bludgeoning, less reminiscent of early Swans, but it’s certainly no less intense or powerful, and it’s still dense and percussion-driven. If anything, the greater sense of nuance and Welburn’s expanded palette only amplify its menacing resonance, making Sleeper in the Void an album that may be challenging, but achieves optimum impact.

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Cleopatra Records – 23rd April 2021

James Wells

Ahead of their debut album, set for release on longstanding industrial / goth-leaning label Cleopatra Records – who will forever be a favourite with me for their releasing Rozz Williams-fronted Christian Death albums in the early 90s, although their catalogue is impressive in its depth and breadth – Handsome Abominations deliver their debut single, ‘Slave’.

The band are pitched as purveyors of ‘sleaze industrial’ – but then, isn’t that so much industrial? Leading exponents of technoindustrial, like Revolting Cocks, KMFDM, and PIG are aaaaaall the sleaze, and NIN – probably the biggest name in the field – are hardly clean and family friendly (‘Closer’, anyone?). This kind of grind has long associations with dingy nightclubs, latex, and S&M, and Handsome Abominations are all about that scene here.

As Baron VonSchnell says, “When I heard the strong, primeval beat that Tufty Hacka had programmed, I instantly knew that we had to write a writhing, sleazy anthem that would suite a fetish club.” And that’s precisely that we have here: ‘Slave’ is grimy, sweaty, slippy, heaving with all the wrong desires, and it’s clearly pitched at a specific audience.

There’s a whole lot happening, and a whole lot to unpack and discuss. ‘Slave’ is, without doubt a quintessential industrial disco cut that combines that low-down groove and blends it with some less than subtle lyrics that are all the sleaze. Of course it does. Nor would the blurb be justified in promising a song where ‘a sleazy, groovy musical orgy breaks out’ if it didn’t.

But at what point does the world of S&M fantasy stray into something that’s uncomfortable? I’m no advocate of trigger warnings, especially having run into trouble over an absence of them when referencing suicidal thoughts at a spoken word night a couple of years ago, but sometimes it’s possible to wander over lines in the name of ‘provocativeness’. So when Mistress Misha moans ‘Tie me down and rape me’, it sends a prickle. What is the message there? I suppose the question may ultimately come down to an understanding of the scene, in that rape fantasy is an entirely separate thing from the reality of rape, and the rape culture under discussion in the media right now, although it’s likely difficult to understand the distinctions and nuances of the scene for a straight. It isn’t the job of Handsome Abominations to explain this, and nor should art have to justify itself: it’s just difficult to draw distinctions in the current climate. But one thing is without contention, and that’s that ‘Slave’ is a cracking tune.

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