Archive for August, 2022

12th August 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

While we swelter in the middle of the hottest, driest summer on record, during which wild fires and hosepipe bands sweep the nation, people are shitting themselves about paying for heating in the winter as the cost of living crisis bites ever deeper. When a tub of butter costs £7 and people are staying home because they can’t afford to put fuel in their vehicles, it’s clear that things are beyond fucked and that this isn’t simply some post-Covid dip. This is aa cataclysmic collapse, exacerbated by shit government and capitalist greed. You see, not everyone is struggling here. The top guys, the ones who make all the money from the work of their employees, their doing ok. The major shareholders in the companies raking in profit by the million, by the billion, they’re doing ok. Bankers are landing double-figure pay-rises while the people who keep the country going – from the teaches and nurses to rail staff and refuse collectors – are queuing at food banks at the end of their working day. This crisis, then, is a crisis of social division, a crisis of capitalism.

Formed in 2018, Bedroom Tax sound nothing like Benefits, but both bands are clearly part of a growing swell of stylistically disparate but politically similar bands who exist to voice dissatisfaction, and their very name reminds us of just how hard the Conservative government has pushed an agenda to fuck over the poor.

‘Kin’ is a hybrid amalgam of indie, alt UK rap, and blues influences and they’re probably the post-millennial answer to The Streets – only they’re better than that.

‘Kin’ delves into kitchen sink territory, and blends social commentary and disaffection – not so much bile but a whole lot of downtrodden day-to-day depictions, with the jittery drumming and scratchy guitars of the twitchy verses leading into a magnificently melodic chorus that’s buoyed along by some jangling guitar work. It’s genuinely beautiful, and so well-delivered you can forgive the rhyming of ‘issues’ and ‘tissues’ in the blink of an eye.

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12th August 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

It’s 30֠C in the shade up and down the country right now, and everyone is melting. It’s oddly quiet in the office at the back of my house, and had been for a while: some people have gone away on holiday, but most still seem to be at home – because most can’t afford to travel and are still working from home at least half the week – but hardly anyone’s sitting out in their back yards, It’s simply too hot.

You want to know what else is hot? Thins new single by Voodoo Radio. It’s a sizzling serving of primitive pop-flavoured punk that grabs you instantly. To unpack that, pop-punk or punk pop as we’ve come to know it in the contemporary sense is limp, bouncy and lame, but to trace the point where pop and punk converge to the late 70s, we’ve got Buzzcocks, X-Ray Spex, The Adverts , knocking out belting tunes that are bristling with the spiky attitude and gritty guitars of punk as it was emerging, but still packing strong melodies and hooks galore, and it’s in this bracket that Voodoo Radio sit.

There’s no pretence or hidden depth here, no subtext: this is straight up and direct song that’s pure nostalgia, a fond reminiscence about buying ice creams from ice cream vans, delivered with a sing-song tune with a high sugar content that’s guaranteed to make you bounce off the walls. The video, too, plays on that retro vibe, shot in that 70s solarized colour tone with a proper ice-cream van as the main prop.

But what’s special about the Cumbrian duo is their unashamed exposure of their northern roots, which have never been more celebrated than on ‘Ice Cream Man’, where Paige’s pronunciation is proper gritty with flat vowels and glottal stops galore, and this only accentuates the vibrancy and directness that simply makes this sing so much fun. It’s old school, but this comes with added sprinkles, and you won’t hear anything cooler, more fresh, and more exhilarating all heatwave long.

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Russian Circles have released their first ever music video for the title track of their forthcoming LP Gnosis, available next week, 19th August, via Sargent House. The centrepiece of the album “Gnosis” begins with a slow-build exercise in krautrock methodologies — drones, guitar arpeggios, cosmic synth, hypnotic drum patterns—that eventually explodes into the wall-of-sound bombardment Russian Circles are known for. The accompanying video, directed/edited by Joe Kell, is full of dark imagery driving towards the actual definition of the word ‘Gnosis.’ The band explains:

“’Gnosis’ is a special song that has grown with us over a number of years. The main theme of the song was re-conceptualised so many times that it provided nearly endless arrangement options. It’s rewarding to see such a minimal song idea evolve into one of our most dynamic and fully-realised songs to date.

When discussing a concept for the video, we agreed we wanted cinematic footage of nature and humanity. Ultimately, we wanted the video to feel fresh and inspiring despite dealing with a dark theme. Similarly, we wanted to compel viewers to re-watch the video and get something new from each viewing. Somehow, editor Joe Kell masterfully made this all happen.”

‘Gnosis’ eschews the varied terrain of the band’s past works by employing a new songwriting technique. Rather than crafting songs out of fragmented ideas in the practice room, full songs were written and recorded independently before being shared with other members, so that their initial vision was retained. While these demos spanned the full breadth of the band’s varied styles, the more cinematic compositions were ultimately excised in favor of the physically cathartic pieces.

Watch the video here:

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Russian Circles will be touring extensively in support of the album. Dates are as follows:

RUSSIAN CIRCLES N. AMERICA TOUR 2022:

Sep 15 Minneapolis, MN – Fine Line

Sep 17 Denver, CO – Gothic

Sep 18 Salt Lake City, UT – Urban Lounge

Sep 20 Seattle, WA – Croc Showroom

Sep 21 Portland, OR – Revolution Hall

Sep 23 San Francisco, CA – Great American Music Hall

Sep 24 Felton, CA – Felton Music Hall

Sep 25 Los Angeles, CA – The Regent

Sep 26 Phoenix, AZ – Crescent Ballroom

Sep 29 Austin, TX – Empire Garage

Sep 30 Dallas, TX – Amplified Live

Oct 01 Memphis, TN – Growlers

Oct 27 St. Louis, MO – Delmar Hall

Oct 28 Louisville, KY – Headliner’s

Oct 29 Atlanta, GA – Terminal West

Oct 30 Orlando, FL – The Social

Nov 01 Asheville, NC – Grey Eagle

Nov 02 Carrboro, NC – Cat’s Cradle

Nov 04 Washington, DC – 9:30 Club

Nov 05 Philadelphia, PA – World Cafe Live

Nov 06 Brooklyn, NY – Warsaw

Nov 08 Boston, MA – The Sinclair

Nov 09 Montreal, QC – Theatre Fairmount

Nov 10 Toronto, ON – Opera

Nov 11 Detroit, MI – El Club

Nov 12 Chicago, IL – Metro

RUSSIAN CIRCLES EU TOUR 2023 (Co Headline w/ Cult Of Luna):

March 17 Copenhagen, DK – Store Vega

March 18 Berlin, DE – Huxleys

March 19 Wiesbaden, DE – Schlachthof

March 20 Utrecht, NL – Tivoli Ronda

March 21 Brussels, BE – AB

March 22 Paris, FR – Olympia

March 23 Stuttgart, DE – Wizemann

March 24 Lausanne, CH – Les Docks

March 25 Ljubljana, SI – Kino Siska

March 27 Vienna, AT – Arena

March 28 Munich, DE – Muffathalle

March 29 Prague, CZ – Roxy

March 30 Krakow, PL – Studio

March 31 Warsaw, PL – Progresja

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Photo Credit: William Lacalmontie

Following the announcement of Shiki, their new studio album, on 26th August through Peaceville, the cult Japanese black metal legends Sigh have released a video for the track ‘Satsui’.

Sigh mainman Mirai Kawashima explains the track – somewhat cryptically – “The album Shiki is mostly about my personal fear of getting old and my fear of death, but some of the songs are a bit off topic and ‘Satsui’ is one of them. ‘Satsui’ means ‘Intent to Kill’ and it is my personal view on the death penalty. You often hear people say ‘The criminal penalty is not meant to be for revenge’ or ‘we all live in a country governed by law’, but I do not think things are that simple; but of course everybody has the right to have their own opinions though. I guess the song is one of the most straightforward ones on the album.”

Watch ‘Satsu’ here:

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Sigh

He goes on to explain the full album version of the song – “Satsui – Geshi No Ato” – “On the other hand, ‘Geshi no Ato’ is a completely different song. I composed that as an outro to ‘Satsui’, and the lyrical concept followed. The title means ‘After Summer Solstice’’, which is a metaphor saying that your heyday is gone. I played all the guitars on this and Mike Heller banged chairs, pieces of wood, boxes, water bottles, etc to create the beat!”

The full version of the song, “Satsui – Geshi No Ato” will be released as a digital single on all streaming platforms on Thursday 10th August.

Sigh’s forthcoming opus, ‘Shiki’, is dark & eclectic blackened heavy metal, shrouded in traditional eastern influences, and marks the latest chapter in the Sigh legacy, which includes some of the band’s heaviest and darkest material for some years; a fine hybrid of at times primitive black metal akin to early influences such as Celtic Frost amid more epic melodic heavy metal riffing and solos. It will take you on a journey through the strange and the psychedelic, incorporating a whole eclectic mix of genre styles & experimentation throughout their career. Highlighting that Sigh has remained a vital creative force in the avantgarde field whilst maintaining their old school roots.

The word "Shiki" itself has various meanings in Japanese such as four seasons, time to die, conducting an orchestra, ceremony, motivation, colour. The two primary themes for the album are "four seasons" and "time to die". The concept and artwork is based around a traditional Japanese poem, and on ‘Shiki’ Mirai explores how at this stage of life he himself is going through Autumn, with Winter coming soon, and so empathises with the contrasting sentimental feelings from watching cherry blossoms (a symbol of spring) in full bloom.

Joining Mirai and Dr Mikannibal for this release are Frédéric Leclercq of Kreator, plus US drummer extraordinaire, Mike Heller of Fear Factory and Raven, along with an appearance by longtime member Satoshi Fujinami on bass. ‘Shiki’ was recorded across multiple studios, and mixed and mastered by Lasse Lammert at LSD studios in Germany. The album utilises a whole host of instruments to give further texture and dynamics to the compositions and eerie atmosphere, incorporating traditional oriental instruments such as the Shakuhachi & Sinobue flutes.

Metropolis Records – 27th May 2022

Christopher Nosnbor

We’re playing serious catchup here: the band have been on such a (bacon) roll of late that I’ve struggled to keep abreast of their output. It’s quite a contrast to the early post-millennium period, which saw the emergence of Pigmartyr / Pigmata in 2004 or 2005 (depending on your location), fully five years after Genuine American Monster, followed by silence until 2016. It looked for all the world as if Watts was washed up, wiped out, sunk, spent, stopped. The phoenix-like re-emergence with first The Diamond Sinners EP, followed by The Gospel flexed muscles only hinted at on the tentative collaborations with Marc Heal and Primitive Race the year before, and found Watts reinvigorated, revelling in the glammier aspects of industrial sleaze and going the whole hog on the alliteration – and it turned out to be just the (re)beginning. It turns out that next month will see the release of The Merciless Light, the fifth PIG album in six years, and it lands hot on the heels of Baptise Bless & Bleed.

Like many recent PIG releases, this EP features four new tracks, accompanied by remixes of three of them, and the lead track is that quintessential PIG hybrid of low, pulsating synth that bubbled, bumps, and grinds while Watts croaks and groans breathless sleazy and seductive about pain and crucifixion, before it bursts into a bombastic blast of extravagant gospel propelled by a thudding kick drum and chugging guitar with serrated edges.

For all of the crossover with KMFDM and various other industrial contemporaries, not to mention Watts’ formative work alongside JG Thirlwell, the bottom line is that PIG sound uniquely like PIG, with a uniquely hybrid sound of techno and industrial at its heart, but then with glam, goth, and gospel all whipped into the mix, while thematically, it continues the thread that runs from ‘Shit for Brains’ on the 1988 debut single.

‘Shooting Up Mercy’ marks a change in tempo, slowing things down and ramping up the gospel chorus, before throwing in an extravagant guitar break of Slash proportions. There really is never a dull moment, and on this outing, Watts has gone proper maximalist, and it’s delightful, despite / because of its dark overtones.

The remixes are tidy enough, particularly the eight-minute reworking of ‘Tarantula’ that trudges and thuds along with bleeps and squelches along the way, before hitting a deep slow dance groove; it’s the most restrained track on the release, but has no lack of grunt or grind, and the solid chorus remains intact and infectious, reminding us – as if we needed it – that Watts has a knack for a hook, meaning that with this latest offering, we are indeed blessed.

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California darkwave duo, Male Tears has just unveiled their latest single, ‘Deal3r’. The song plays into the themes of an upcoming record that speaks on the abuse and hypocrisy of city night life.

‘Deal3r’ tells the story of the ultimate example of ‘style over substance.’ It’s the tale of an important person; a ‘legend’ embraced by the ‘scene’. But beneath the ‘image’ and artistic craft, lies an individual empty and shallow; a hypocrite and drug dealer whose true identity was hidden under the skin of the community.

The song is intended to be an aggressive dance-pop track pulling from darkwave and EBM influences. Filtered through the lens of 90’s pastiche and acid house, ‘Deal3r’ is a departure from the band’s established 80’s new wave sound.

Watch the video here:

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DEAL3R cover

4th August 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

Back in November of last year, I gave ‘What If I Were the Boy?’ by The Vaulted Skies a massive double-thumbs up, having previously raved about their debut EP, No Fate back in 2018. And now ‘What If I Were the Boy?’ has been rereleased, this time as a remix courtesy of Mark Saunders, whose eye-poppingly extensive discography includes work with The Cure, Lloyd Cole, Depeche Mode, Siouxsie and the Banshees… and many others, including some truly huge names like David Bowie, but those I’ve picked out are relevant is they’re illustrative of his longstanding links with post-punk, of which The Vaulted Skies are emerging contemporary exponents. But Saunders also has a long history of wording on radio-friendly and more dance-orientated material, and it’s fair to say that his remix of ‘What If I Were the Boy?’ brings these two threads together very neatly.

The song itself draws on contrasts in its take on a ‘nostalgic tale that is filled with reflection and regret’, inspired by an encounter experienced by vocalist/guitarist, James Scott., who recounts how “In college, I was paired up in an acting assignment with one of the popular girls. She propositioned me and in doing so, verbally and indirectly alluded to a very troubled home life. I wish I’d recognized the cry for help underneath it all. This song captures the desperation I have felt when wondering what became of her.”

Saunders sensitively preserves the stark, haunted angst of the original, but subtly packs some extra oomph and wraps it in a dark disco groove. The chunky gothy bass of the original is smoothed into a more dancefloor-friendly sound, the drumming – the cymbals in particular – is slickened down and given a more buoyant disco twist. If the original sounded in some way tentative, despite its solid assurance, then the remix rolls it all out and effortlessly stretches it past the seven-minute mark in vintage 12” single style.

If the grit and flange of the driving guitar in the chorus is backed off a bit in favour of a more even sound, well, it works, as does the cleaner vocal treatment. In short, this version may lack the ragged punch of the original, but it by no means does The Vaulted Skies a disservice, and will likely be a major step toward connecting the band with the larger audience they so richly deserve.

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27th July 2022

James Wellls

Gasoline Thrill, have been building things nicely, and snagging James Lerock Loughrey, who, in addition to his renowned work with Skindred, Sumo Cyco also recently worked on the number one rock album by The Kut to record their latest single was a nice move, as was scoring Amir Khan to film direct, and edit the accompanying video.

They’ve been around since 2011 and have a path littered with rave reviews, particularly for their live shows, but after time out for pregnancies and with another inevitable stall due to the pandemic, they’re back all guns blazing with ‘Once’.

It’s a gritty, gutsy grunger that pulls no punches, and instead hits headlong and hard. It’s got the rawness and angst of Hole and L7 at their best, and yeah, it’s a thrill alright, and it’s fiery, too.

Sometimes, it feels a bit pointless to write about music, especially when it simply grabs you by the throat and punches you in the gut. As a music reviewer, that makes life hard. But FUCK… you know the sound of asses being kicked. You know the sound of fury. You know the sound of taking no shit. And this is it, and I’ll tell you only once – hear this, suckers!

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Having emerged from an isolated existence during lockdown with debut single Dwarfed, that exposed the tropes within the fairy-tale genre which romanticise abusive behaviour & gender stereotypes, the enigmatic Bizarrefae returns with ‘Happy [Mirtazapine]’ – a song about how the world can appear when under the influence of the prescribed antidepressant.

With an imminent tour supporting ‘riot grrrl’ Delilah Bon to happen in September, Bizarrefae continues to work with Hull’s top electro producer Endoflevelbaddie and inspired by an ideology based around pleasing the ears of the ‘fae’ in the heart of the woods, new single ‘Happy [Mirtazapine]’ is centred around a fairy tale like melody amidst splashes of electro flavours that punctuate the tune throughout.

“On a miserable grey day, I sat down determined to shake off the feeling of numbness my atypical antidepressant had filled me with” explains Bizarrefae, “acknowledging the weather I considered all the actions that bring me peace. However, overwhelmed by the challenge of remembering the good things about the world, the song became a criticism of being forced to medicate in order to function! The idea of taking pills to feel ‘normal’ angers me & in this seeming ‘hellscape’ we live in it’s hard to find our place or purpose. ‘Happy [Mirtazapine]’ is an attack on the word itself, highlighting the ignorance that I feel must be possessed in order to be ‘happy’ despite all that’s going on in the world. It’s like losing the right to your own emotions through the monochromatic lens of antidepressants”.

Listen to ‘Happy’ here:

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Christopher Nosnibor

Everything Was Forever Until It Was No More is such a quintessentially post-rock album title: without hearing a note, it evokes the spirit of 2003-2006 or thereabouts. On listening, it’s perhaps not as overtly post-rock as all that – it’s not a slow-building crescendo-fest with chiming guitars like Explosions in the Sky or even lesser-known acts like And So I Watch You From Afar, but with ties to legends in the field, it is every inch of that milieu, with ‘the cello of Rebecca Foon (Saltland, Set Fire To Flames, Silver Mt Zion) and the marimba of ex-Godspeed You! Black Emperor percussionist Bruce Cawdron at its core’.

It’s been a full five years since their last album, 2017’s Mechanics of Dominion, and during this time the Montreal-based collective have been doing what, it seems, the Montreal post-rock scene does best – detaching themselves from the world and conjuring magnificent, magical soundscapes that offer a conduit to planes of pure escapism.

Everything Was Forever Until It Was No More presents a rich sonic tapestry that incorporates a broad range of elements. The press released makes mention of ‘emotive chamber works using threads of post-classical, post-rock, Minimalism, neo-Baroque, jazz, pop and a wide array of folk traditions’ as being Esmerine’s palette.

‘Blackout’ opens the album with a soft, elegant piano draped with brooding strings that’s graceful, subtly emotive, and easy on the ear. ‘Entropy: Incantation – Radiance – The Wild Sea’, the first of the two-part ‘Entropy’ suite is a nine-minute journey through atmospheric ambience, where one treads with trepidation, uncertain of what may be hidden in the shadows. There’s an aura of ancient mysticism that echoes before eventually, the track refocuses toward a driving prog rock finale.

The beauty and joy of such a work is that while there are undoubtedly inspirations and emotions poured into the compositions, such wide spaces without words offer the listener a vessel into which to empty their own experiences and interpretations, and as such, a piece like the seven-minute ‘Imaginary Pasts’ with its lilting piano, roiling drums, and textured guitar work which trips out into hazy space offers so much scope for the listener to invest and reflect upon their own imaginary pasts. Such invitations to meditate on life and to journey into inner space are extremely welcome when life is so relentless.

Despite the title seemingly alluding to a sense of nostalgia, Everything Was Forever feels more like a work that creates its own space in time, rather than reflecting on a time past. Three of the four final tracks are under three minutes each in length, and as such, are almost dream-like fragments, and the listener finds themselves wandering through chiming bells and rippling notes that dapple like sunlight through trees in a breeze on ‘Wakesleep’, before ‘Number Stations’ guides the way not towards the light, but through a murky sonic swamp or eerie echoes before taking its final magnificent form, and reminds us that, ultimately, nothing is forever, and everything is just a fleeting moment in the scheme of eternity.

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