Archive for March, 2022

Cool Thing Records – 1st April 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

BAIT exists as a side-project for Asylums’ Michael Webster and Luke Branch, and they couldn’t be much different, with Webster using this vehicle as an outlet by which to channel all his angst and anger through sharp-eyed and sharp-tongued social observation and critique.

This debut long-player has been a long time in coming. Their eponymous mini-album landed back in March 2017, and apart from the standalone single release of ‘DLP’ in the spring of 2019, they’ve seemingly been dormant, at least in the public domain. But despite the obstacles of geography during lockdown, they’ve been busy, and the last couple of years have provided an abundance of grist to their mill.

The band describe it as ‘a digital post-punk lockdown docu-record which watches the clock, gets the jitters & lashes out just like the rest of us. It’s an internal monologue that accounts the anxiety, the struggles, the pressures experienced living by the sea during an international pandemic’.

Most struggled in one way or another during the pandemic, some unspeakably, and for a great many, the lasting effects of the trauma of lockdown and isolation are every bit as bad as those of the virus itself. Many lost loved ones, but were unable to gain closure or grieve with friends and relatives due to restrictions – while, it turns out, the government of ‘Great’ Britain partied on. It was often hard to know what to make of anything: conspiracy theories abounded, but over time, some of those theories began to look rather less far-fetched, and under such close surveillance, people could be forgiven for getting paranoid, for being angry.

Sea Change is one angry record. But to describe it as such is to overlook the emotional range it articulates: it’s an album that gives voice to anxiety, panic, fear, trauma. Perhaps it’s the ‘internal monologue’ aspect of its evolution is why it really speaks. As is so often the case, in the personal lies the universal, and it conveys the rapid changes in mood and general state of confusion, questioning, and self-doubt that defined the lockdown experience for so many of us. And just because we’ve left lockdown doesn’t mean that we’ve left lockdown behind, psychologically, meaning that Sea Change’s resonance goes far beyond that defined period in time which spawned it (‘inspired probably isn’t the word).

The mood is tense and dark throughout, and the production has that mid- to late-80s Wax Trax! Industrial feel to it: the guitars are gritty, but everything is condensed into a dense lump of sound that batters rather than saws at the senses. ‘No Sleep for Light Sleepers’ is more minimal, haunting, but also ominous, the processed spoken word like the mutter in your ear that just won’t let you settle.

It’s not entirely without humour, either: if the frenzied, pounding ‘DRAMA DRAMA DRAMA DRAMA’ encapsulates the way in which a heightened state of anxiety is a shortcut to a loss of perspective, whereby the smallest, most trivial things give cause to great panic (things you know are irrational, like, say, getting twitchy when your phone battery drops below 49%), it also highlights just how self-obsessed and microfocussed we are as a society (that that incident at the Oscars totally engulfed the internet against a backdrop of war, a cost of living crisis, and rising Covid cases and hospitalisation is perhaps the definitive moment in our culture of self-absorption, and perhaps, in the wake of lockdown panic, the need to have something to fret and opine over obsessively just to fill the gap). It’s not all completely oppressive, either: ‘Electric Murder’ is a straight-up dark electropop tune that would comfortably sit in Depeche Mode’s catalogue.

‘The Weight of the Water’ finds them punching through a steely grey mesh of guitars, and it’s dense and tense; the jitters amp up tangibly on ‘Somewhere to Be’. ‘I’ve got somewhere to be… I’ve got somewhere to be’ Webster repeats as if a mantra, like the White Rabbit trapped in a postmodern world in which all holes have been concreted over and gentrified in the name of ‘progress’. ‘Sugarlumps’ leaps from a queasy, claustrophobic wheeze to a roaring metal blast reminiscent of Ministry’s Filth Pig, and the album ends with a ferocious finale with ‘We Will Learn to Bark’, the sound of pure catharsis.

It’s pretty much an instant grab, but Sea Change is definitely an album that offers up more over repeat plays.

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Sea Change

Pure Reason Revolution recently announced their fifth studio album Above Cirrus will be released on 6th May 2022 via InsideOutMusic. The is the follow-up to 2020’s Eupnea, which was the band’s first record since reuniting in 2019. This time around, Jon Courtney, Chloë Alper & Greg Jong (who returns as a full-time member for the first time since the ‘Cautionary Tales For The Brave’ EP) find themselves adapting to a world that is radically changing before their eyes, and on this new record, exorcising the isolation and uncertainty in search of something greater.

Today the band are launching a brand new single titled ‘Phantoms’. Watch the video, once again created by Thomas Hicks, here:

The band are also about to head out on a European tour alongside Gazpacho in April 2022. Find the full list of dates below:

8th April – Club Cann, Stuttgart, Germany

9th April – Colos-Saal, Aschaffenburg, Germany

10th April – Columbia Theater, Berlin, Germany

11th April – Die Kantine, Cologne, Germany

13th April – Mezz, Breda, Netherlands

14th April – Hedon, Zwolle, Netherlands

16th April – Petit Bain, Paris, France

17th April – Earth Theatre, London, UK

PRR

25th March 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

In today’s low-attention-threshold society, quite literally everything has to be instant. People simply won’t wait: they don’t have time. A 2019 survey found that the average person grows frustrated after waiting sixteen seconds for a webpage to load, and twenty-five seconds for traffic signal to change, and as far back as 2011, the average time spent on a webpage is under a minute. On Spotify, again pre-pandemic, there was a 24.14% likelihood of skipping to the next song in the first 5 seconds, 28.97% in the first 10 seconds, 35.05% in the first 30 seconds and a whopping 48.6% skip before the song finishes.

‘Nightmare’ piqued my interest inside five seconds, then had me fully by the throat at eleven. Why eleven? That’s when everything slams in – from a fade-in of dirty, distorted guitar chords (and it’s not often you get a fade-in), there’s a pause, a moment of silence, of suspense… the tenth second passes as you’re holding your breath, and then BANG! A pumping industrial disco beat and booming bass provide the driving backdrop to a vocal performance that’s all attitude, but it’s also clear that Eva Sheldrake knows her way around a hook, too.

Robin G Breeze’s production is a strong asset, in that is balances a slick, digital aspect with noise, in a way that’s reminiscent of Nine Inch Nails. Throw in a dash of metal and a dose of shadowy goth and you’ve got a killer formula and a cracking single.

(Click the pic to play)

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Pic: Derek Bremner

18th March 2022

James Wells

It’s late March, and after an unseasonably warm and sunny few days, we’re back to single figures and sleet and snow forecast for Scotland the north of England. It’s enough to make you want to hibernate, or maybe escape to somewhere else – somewhere open, free. A lot of people felt this yearning over the last couple of years, and it’s that which Sweet Giant have harnessed for the first single from their forthcoming four-tracker, to conjure a breezy, summery vibe.

The twangy guitar bounces along with a laid-back groove that’s pure 70s Americana, and the vocal harmonies are both sweet and giant, it’s chilled and breezy and easy on the ear in a way that’s transporative, but define exactly how and why and it drifts away on a sunbeam. Best to just go with the flow.

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Artwork - Sweet Giant

Christopher Nosnibor

Vampyre is the third album from Washington DC’s The Neuro Farm, following The Descent (2019), and Ghosts (2014). If the album titles suggest dark and haunting, it’s fitting for a band who harvest influence from the field that contains Joy Division, Radiohead, Nine Inch Nails, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Sigur Ros, Chelsea Wolfe, Portishead, and Rammstein.

Comprising Brian Wolff (guitar, vocal), Rebekah Feng (violin, vocal), DreamrD (drums), and Tim Phillips (synth), the violin and synth contrive to bring rather less standard instrumental elements to the format, particularly with the absence of a live bass. That’s certainly no impedance (the only people who bleat about synth bass ironically seem to be fans of The Sisters of Mercy who haven’t move on from 1985 – because drum machine = cool, synth bass = not cool). Meh. They’re wrong.

Vampyre is a concept album, which they explain as follows: ‘Our titular heroine, lured by the promise of immortality, is given this curse by the egomaniacal leader of a vampyric cult. But within the cult there is a growing sense of disillusion, and she builds her own following. Eventually, she spurns her maker, rebelling against him and his decaying institution. She says a final farewell to her mortal husband, turning away from humanity and embracing her new nature. She slays her former master in the “midnight massacre” and declares herself queen.’

Now, as much as I’m an advocate of albums over random collections of songs, I do sometimes struggle with concept albums, in that following a narrative is often quite a strain. Too much narrative can be tedious; too little, and you’re lost, wondering what the fuck is going on. It’s a thorny territory to navigate under any circumstances.

‘Cain’ makes for a bold, theatrical introduction, the brooding drums that roll and roil providing a stoic backdrop to some theatrical, dramatic vocals. Feng isn‘t just operatic in her delivery, but she’s backed by a full choral arrangement, and then the violin sweeps in and the cinematic scale of the composition truly reveals itself in all its grand enormity.

It’s all going on with ‘Purity, a slow-builder that slithers through Rozz-era Christian Death gothness via trudging stoner rock to crescendo-blasting post-rock over the course of its six-and-a-half minutes.

‘Maker’ brings the bombast, to something on a part with Carl Orff’s ‘Carmina Burana’, and transitioning through various passages of grandeur. It’s a lot to take in. The spacey prog-rock of ‘Enthralled’, the gloopy electro industrial of single release ‘Confession’, the brass-laden brooding of the metallic ‘Decay’. The piano-led, echo-heavy title track is something of a gothic masterpiece, dark, shadowy, with soaring vocals and it’s brimming with epic qualities that touch the emotional centres as it blooms in a glorious cascading sunburst finish that’s peak goth and post-rock in perfect concordance. It feels like a finale, but the three remaining songs continue to cast forth rich and resonant atmospheres, with ‘Midnight Massacre’ landing a gloom-tinged glam-stomp unexpectedly near the end. This is proper gothic rock, perfectly realised.

More often than not, anything that proclaims to be ‘goth’ or ‘gothic’ and goes down the ‘vampire’ route’ tends to be awkward, corny, and cliché, but for all of its ‘conceptual’ leanings, Vampyre is none of these; instead, it’s like a darker, more gothic dip into the domain of early iLiKETRAiNS. But above all, it’s varied, imaginative, dramatic, and really quite spectacular.

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Christopher Nosnibor

Tonight’s bill represents a Sheffield invasion of Leeds, with four noisy bands packed in back-to-back. And they may only be from across a county border, but it’s apparent these guys aren’t from around these parts (and I say that as someone who’s ventured from North Yorkshire, where things are different again). I mean, since when did thick silver neck chains become a thing? There’s a proliferation of them on stage tonight.

It’s a small stage and a small venue, and a four-band lineup means it feels busy even before any punters turn up, and it’s one of those sweaty, drinking-like-it’s Saturday night intimate gigs that has something of a party vibe the moment you walk in, and it’s made all the better by a sound man who isn’t afraid to crank it up.

Spaff are on first, and their name certainly sets the bar low in terms of expectation. And visually… The singer’s questionable choice of office trousers and wifebeater vest (and seemingly obligatory chain) is paired with an iffy haircut. But the trio prove they’re not a load of wank, slugging hard and sound infinitely better than they look. Slamming down driving grunge riffs, they get properly heavy in places, while in others they’re more overtly punk. They showcase some particularly impressive drumming, with facial expressions to match, playing every beat with his mouth and manic eyes. There’s some innovative stuff going on with the arrangements, too, where the groovesome bass sometimes doubles as guitar, and it’s a solid sound. The last song is by far the best, with a genuine hook.

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Spaff

Apparently making their ‘technical’ debut after a number of previous debuts, Sickboy show off more questionable style, although it’s probably not intentionally an homage to Trainspotting: the drummer appears to be wearing scrubs while the bleach – haired guitarist has a knitted tank-top-cum-waistcoat, but again, musically they’re gutsy and loud, and they sound immense, with gritty guitars to the fore. The stage is a bit tight for four of them, so the singer spends much of the set in front. He prowls, hunched, menacing but awkward, anguished. There is a kinda 90s vibe with occasional hints of rap/rock crossover, and throughout they’re channelling a lot of angst, and in places sound a fair bit like Filter.

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Sickboy

Caesar Did It have one hell of a lot of effects and incorporate sequencers into their thick, post-grunge sound. It’s so dense, but also melodic, even a shade Alice in Chains or Soundgarden. Going slower, heavier, they venture into stoner rock territory, driven by some hard-hitting, expressive drumming. The guitarist has a short-sleeved t-shirt over a long-sleeved t-shirt that’s pure 90s, and has a chunky silver chain. He and bassist Kane share vocal duties to create a sound that nicely balances layers and thick, dirty overdrive.

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Caesar Did It

Another gig, another lineup as Weekend Recovery continue their heavy live schedule in promotion of their new EP ‘No Guts, All the Glory’. Lori’s gone for some permutation of the superhero outfit, only it’s her bra rather than her underpants on the outside. I’m not sure it’ll take off, but stranger things have happened. The band’s true superhero tonight is stand—in drummer Elaina from Caesar Did It, filling in for Dan (not to be confused with bassist Dan) who’s out due to work commitments (damn those dayjobs!), Playing two sets back to back is pretty hardcore, and best of all, she’s a good fit, being a hard-hitter and super-tight.

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Weekend Recovery

Dan’s bass is dominant in a good way: it fills out the sound and he plays with passion, throwing some shapes and lofting his instrument in true ‘axeman’ style, and everything looks and sounds cohesive throughout this punchy set. ‘In the Mourning’ is an early rocket, and ‘Yeah’ is back into the set after not featuring on their last trip to Leeds in January.

If ‘There’s a Sense’ feels a bit flat and short on breath, the crowd are too busy bouncing and throwing themselves about or falling over to notice, and they immediately pick up the energy and power on through and end with a searing rendition of ‘No Guts’. It’s a ripping finish to a fiery set.

There are probably going to be some sore heads in the morning.

Jonestown, Texas-based proto-metal/heavy psych bringers PETH have shared ‘Abolish the Overseer’ single off their upcoming debut, Merchant of Death, which is set for release on 27 May 2022 via Electric Valley Records (digital and vinyl – multiple variants) and The Cosmic Peddler (vinyl – US Editions).

According to PETH: “‘Abolish The Overseer’ is a new age proto-metal song dedicated to the trashing of any form of oppression in modern society.”

Listen here:

Central Texas is well known for its underground heavy rock ‘n’ roll from the late ‘60s,’70s, and ‘80s: — a series of sounds different than any other place on earth have been originated and evolved from here time and time again. Fast forward some 50 years later and there are still the same hell-raisin, beer-drinking, guitar-slinging rock ‘n’ cowboys makin some noise in the Lone Star! Hence, it’s no surprise that in the 21st century, a band like PETH come along and start making some big ‘70s Texas noise!

Born in the middle of the 2020 pandemic, these four native Texans have been doing all the maniacal and lawless exploits with a wild mix of early ‘70s proto-metal and heavy psych/occult rock soundscapes matched to that of early Black Sabbath, Scorpions, Medusa, Venom, Blue Cheer, Pentagram, ZZ Top, and the likes. Conjuring evil guitarmonies (what they call guitar harmonies), explosive trucking bass and drum section, and two knock-out vocalists, PETH truly help preserve the spirit of Texas’s old way of life while helping usher in this new era of rock ‘n’ roll for generations to follow.

PETH’s debut LP, Merchant of Death, is a hidden gem of the ‘70s/’80s metal invasion, but got discovered in the 21st century. The album in part brings menacing aggressions, in part brings breathtaking rhythms, but steers clear of the modern, lustrous sonic aesthetics. Roll out the red carpet for Merchant of Death and revel in the wilderness.

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29th April 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

No, you’re not paranoid. This shit is real: you’re under surveillance, 24/7. London is one of the most surveilled cities in the world, but it’s by no means so far ahead of many others. Living in York, I noted walking past no fewer than thirteen cameras on my twenty-three minute walk to work – a stretch of precisely a mile. But you’re under surveillance without leaving the house, too: practically every keystroke you make is feeding the big data, and your mobile phone shows where you’ve been, as does your bank and credit card.

Brighton purveyors of psychedelic punk, Dog of Man are on a narrative path with their new single, ‘Hello MI5!, and you can’t help but wonder if the video concept preceded the song. Regardless, it’s three minutes of spiky indie-punk that’s so fast and furious it trips over itself at every step in its rush to pack everything in. It’s got one of those stringy, noodly, knotty guitar lines that’s positively addictive but also trips you up every other bar because it’s so busy it’s impossible to keep up.

Keeping up with Dog of Man is another problem, and it’s difficult. ‘Hello M15’ is eye-popping – arch, punky, poppy. It’s difficult, it’s frenetic, a sonic spasm inducing the same kind of jolting, jarring headache as early Foetus while bringing the chaotic snarking of Menswe@r and Selfish Cunt and driving into a head-on collision with This Et Al and S*M*A*S*H. Or something.

I suppose what I’m attempting to convey is that Dog of Man throw down everything all at once, and do so and a hundred miles an hour. This is mental shit, a frenzied chaos it’s… mayhem. There’s no real sense to be made here. ‘Hello MI5!’ is dizzying, and it’s brilliant.

Hello MI5! montage - Dog Of Man

Cool Thing Records – 25th March 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

Cool Thing isn’t just a name: it’s essentially a manifesto. Established in 2014 as a conduit for Asylums to release their music, the label is truly a beacon of DIY independence, with in-house PR, the lot. One suspects the success they’ve achieved is in no small part to the calibre of the releases they’ve put out, not only for Asylums and side-project BAIT, but also the various acts from their locale of Southend-on-Sea, and occasionally London that they’ve given a home through the years.

The latest is ‘Submission’ by Southend electronic duo A Cause In Distress’, the follow up to the band’s third single, ‘Paraffin’, released just short of a year ago.

The band describe themselves as ‘The lovechild of Nine Inch Nails, Fugazi & Radiohead, if it was fathered by David Lynch’, and on the basis of previous press coverage, they’re everything all at once, which sounds like a tightrope walk that could be spectacularly amazing, or the most disastrous plunge into a catastrophic platter of shit imaginable.

Cool Thing know how to pick ‘em, and this is an outstanding hybrid that packs a throbbing synth that weaves and waves, propelled by an urgent shuffling beat and a vocal reminiscent of Morten Harket: it’s as if Factory Floor had perfected soaring melodic pop instead of running out of steam and ideas after just two EPs. At three minutes, it’s succinct, and it feels like half that. The cyclical groove just sucks you in, and tugs you along, and you’re completely immersed. It’s not music, it’s alchemy. Give in to it.

A Cause In Distress - ‘Submission’ _ Artwork

When negative childhood experiences leave the soul scarred, some angry feelings remain even in adult live and may result in strong words or evoke black-and-white images in the head akin to an old crime thriller. The second single from St. Michael Front’s sophomore full-length Schuld & Sühne (‘Crime and Punishment’) is loosely based on such memories that have been turned into this song’s bold title ‘Knochen & Blut’ (‘bones and blood’), which has been visually cast into a video-clip.

The Hamburgian ‘Chanson Noire’ duo formed by guitarist Bruder Matthias and singer Bruder Sascha will release Schuld & Sühne on Friday, 13th of May.

Watch the video for ‘Knochen und Blut’ here:

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St_Michael_Front_005_by_Pelle_Buys Pic by Pelle Buys