Archive for November, 2022

Magic Door Record Label

28 November 2022

Sometimes, you just need to ease the pressure a bit, kick back, chill, unwind. Breathe. Intensity, catharsis, and rage are good, vital, but a change can be the rest in itself. So here it is.

Art pop band Elk City presents new timidly confessional single ‘Apology Song’, a Suzanne Vega-esque offering from their new album Above the Water, following up earlier singles ‘That Someone’, which explores the dual nature of self and other, excitement and dismay, and the more laid-back and philosophical ‘Your Time Doesn’t Exist’.

Revolving around its founders, artist/ vocalist Renée LoBue and producer/drummer Ray Ketchem, the band is rounded out by guitarist Sean Eden (Luna), bass guitarist Richard Baluyut (Versus) and Chris Robertson of Punch Havana and Psychedelic Furs side-project Feed. Since their formation in 1999, Elk City has released five albums, three EPs and numerous singles. Pursuing a glimmering rock thread, Elk City makes potent atmospheric pop with psychedelic undertones and overtones.

A new chapter in the Montclair, New Jersey band’s evolutionary story, this album is vibrant, raw-edged and bold, showcasing a new guitar-rich lineup. Released via the newly-launched Magic Door Record Label, founded by Guided by Voices drummer Kevin March with Ketchem and LoBue with a simple mission to release music created by the rich community of artists who surround them, this album reveals the band’s North Jersey roots and lineage with The Feelies, Yo La Tengo (with whom they share a former label, Bar/None) and Luna (with whom they share a guitarist).

“’Apology Song’ is probably Elk City’s most well-crafted song to date. Straight up songwriting craftsmanship. I came up with the chorus late in the game. The band wanted something more, something additional to sink their musical teeth into. They asked me to come up with an add-on to the parts that were already there. That’s when I came up with the part that says, “I’m sorry. I did it. I got all caught up in my head. I’m sorry, you know it. My head got caught up in that thing”,  I’ve never written a lyric so simplistic, yet meaningful. Both off-the-cuff and relatable AF,” says Renée LoBue.

"I’ve had this concept and have wanted to direct this video for a while now. I describe the video as "A sensual comedy packed with nutrition". As ‘Apology Song’ is heavy on drama, we knew we needed to go lighter/comedic with a video for the song. It’s the visual wack-a-doo companion that balances the song’s "heart on sleeve" message. Eat your fruits and vegetables, kids!"

We can’t condone the use of plastic bags, but we can very much condone everything else about this song and its video.

Watch ‘Apology Song’ here:

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Front & Follow – 25th November 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

Longtime Aural Aggro faves Front & Follow have delivered the third in their series of truly immense Rental Yields compilations, with another twenty-five tracks of remixed works which showcase the community spirit they espouse as a label and among those in its orbit.

They describe it as ‘a multi-release collaboration project raising money to tackle homelessness in Manchester… Inspired (if that’s the right word – perhaps ‘motivated’…) by our current housing system, the project encourages artists to steal (or borrow, nicely) from another artist to create their own new track – in the process producing HIGH RENTAL YIELDS. Over 100 artists are now involved (the spreadsheet is fun), each one tasked with creating a new track from the sounds created by someone else – we are then collating the tracks and releasing them over the course of the next year.’

Some would describe the project as ambitious, others as simply crackers, and it’s likely both in equal measure, but this is why we love F&F. That, and the fact that they seem of have a knack for attracting and releasing interesting artists who exist far beyond the peripheries of any kid of commercial radar (or even most alternative radars).

This compilation really does make the most of the medium: unrestrained by the limits of vinyl, cassette or CD, and has a playing time of about a week. Yes, I exaggerate, but the point is, each contribution is the length it needs to be, or the artist feels it ought to be, rather than cut or constrained, meaning that while a fair few pieces sit around the five minute mark, the Decommissioned Forests vs Pulselovers rendition of ‘Rental Yields’ runs for nine minutes and forty-four seconds, ahead of the ten-minute workout that is IVY NOSTRUM vs The Snaps Jar’s ‘AND MONEY LESS’ and a few other six- and seven-minute monsters.

But what is time, anyway, and what’s it for? As much as it’s a measure of time, it’s a tool by which lives are ordered, limited, constrained, controlled. The vast majority are paid work by the hour, not by output, and time on the clock is not your time, but your employer’s. You don’t own your time, and you don’t own your space, and you give your time to some company who profit from your time and output in order to pay for a roof over your head, a space to eat and sleep, for the profit of a landlord or a bank you owe tens, even hundreds of thousands.

How often do you hear people shrug about their shit jobs saying ‘well, it pays the rent’. Imagine lying on your deathbed, reflecting on a lifetime of drudgery to say ‘I paid the rent’, while your landlord’s spent their life living it up in restaurants and on overseas holidays and celebrating their success because you’ve paid their rent too.

Audio Obscura VS Secret Nuclear’s ‘Vacant Period’ opens the album with an apposite sample from a TV show discussing gross and net yield before embarking on a glitchy, flickering journey of droning industrial Krautrock, and paves the way for an extensive and magnificent-curated collection of variant forms of ambience. Pettaluck Vs Giant Head’s ‘Dot to Dot’ is disorientation yet soothing and hypnotic – and fucking strange. But we like strange, and Front & Follow provide plenty.

If it’s a long, long listening journey of crackling stating, looming darkness, bleeps, bloops, and extraneous noise intercut with snippets of radio, film, and TV, and ultimately forges an immense intertext of sources.

Sometimes it’s swampy, eerie, tense, others it’s quite mellow and finds a subtle groove, but Rental Yields is unyieldingly brilliant, both in terms of range and quality. And you really can’t go wrong for a fiver – the worthy cause is simply a bonus.

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James Wells

It’s either fight or flight, right? It’s clear what this foursome choose, although they may need to square up for the other if some disagree with their claims: their website home page is certain bold and confident, welcoming the surfer with the invitation to ‘Discover a new name to send you back to 1973, outrageously overlooked and under-appreciated – until now.’

Looking at the hits of 1973 makes me glad I wasn’t there. It’s bad enough that Glen Campbell’s ‘Rhinestone Cowboy’ was at number one when I was born, but the thing with any new movement that’s remembered as defining a period is that it was rarely a cultural dominant. People harp on about punk in 77 and 78, but it was Boney M, 10cc, Leo Sayer, ABBA and Rod Stewart who dominated the charts and the radio in 77, and 73 is more accurately represented by Elton John, Stevie Wonder, Paull Simon, and Wings than anything glam.

So when Flight suggest that now is the time for a glam revival, rekindling the sound of 1973, remember how much history distorts things.

Fair play to these guys, ‘Don’t Ask’ has the swagger off T-Rex propelled by the thumping insistent drumming of The Glitter Band and a well-realised retro vibe, with a hazy, shimmery production and a neat tube-crunching guitar sound. It’s catchy as, and clocking in at a super-succinct two minutes and forty-seven seconds, it’s punchy, too, and very much in keeping with that vintage vibe.

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We Become Strangers is the debut EP from the new darkwave project, The Bleak Assembly, a collaboration between Kimberly of Bow Ever Down and Michael Smith of Fiction8.  While there are a few electronic textures here and there, We Become Strangers is straight-up post-punk and darkwave. Guitars, drums, and songwriting with hooks for days.  This EP sits more comfortably alongside Siouxsie & the Banshees, ACTORS, and Bootblacks than it does VNV Nation or Covenant.

Add to that list Skeletal Family, Ghost dance, later March Violets. It’s pure vintage mid-80s goth.

Regarding the nature of ‘change’ that inspired the EP, Michael Smith states, “if there’s a theme to this EP, it’s in recognizing how we’ve changed as artists and as people. What if you met your younger self and your younger self didn’t even recognize you?  That’s what We Become Strangers is about.  Kimberly goes on to say, “It’s a strong feeling of ‘being cut from the past’.  It’s a little alienating but also very liberating.”

Listen here. Do:

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Cruel Nature Records – 2nd December 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

Having raved about Pound Land’s second album, Can’t Be Arsed back in March, I was pretty thrilled to find the follow-up landing so swiftly. What with the exponential rise of Benefits, and acts like Polevaulter emerging, it seems that now is a good time for angsty, angry music with noisy tendencies and gritty sociopolitical leanings. Of course it is: it’s a sign of the times, and besides, it’s not a good time for anything else, unless you happen to be a non-dom billionaire or a CEO at an oil company.

If Sleaford Mods set a new template for the paired-back duo setup as being in vogue before the pandemic, the combination of lockdowns and crippling economic circumstance has rendered this an operational necessity for many musicians.

Pound Land may be up to their elbows in grimy dishwater and wading through excrement in streets where the drains and sewers are backed up due to torrential downpours and a lack of council funding, but they share little common ground with Sleaford Mods, and that’s despite favouring repetitive monotonous Krautrock-inspired grooves over dynamic structures: Pound Land are far doomier, dingier, lugging their way closer to sludge metal than anything you could possibly dance to.

The Stockport duo’s third album is a monster slab of punishing, gut-dragging, bass-heavy grimness, and one has to wonder how much to read into the title. The people are weary, ground down: will they rise up, or curl up and give up?

The blurb points out that the album finds the Stockport band pushing their ‘post-industrial kitchen-sink drama preoccupations even further on Defeated, exploring the dark comedy of everyday life in the dismal land of eternal recession. Sometimes the vision expands out of shitty Britain too, ‘Drone’ recounting the wearied observations of an electronic device as it traverses the globe… You’ve got to laugh, because if you don’t you’ll kill yourself. Or somebody else.’

The laughter is pretty dark and pretty hollow, though, and derives as much from the keen observations as any particular knack for a punchline (a line about mobility scooters with Northern soul stickers on stands out as particularly pithy) and the stark musical backing isn’t especially musical, more of a pounding trudge that provides a backdrop to an endless stream of vitriol and bleak depictions of the everyday, from pavements caked with dogshit and news items about rising fuel prices and their effect in the average household. If it sounds mundane, it is, but then we need art that speaks to us about life as we experience it, and the majority know far more about scrabbling for change to buy a loaf of bread than luxury cars, watches, and clothes.

‘Violence’ is their equivalent of Public Image Ltd’s ‘Theme’, a brutal, sprawling, brawling, squalling monster that opens the album with a relentlessly heavy battering ram of a racket, like Sunn O))) with a howling harmonica and sneering Lydonesque vocal. It crushes your skull, before it fades out swiftly and unexpectedly, which somehow works. But maintaining the PiL comparison, it’s Metal Box that is perhaps the closest similarity, in that the album as a whole is diverse, fractured, unpredictable.

‘Carry On Screaming’ sounds like The Fall in a three-way collision with Yard Act and Melvins. It’s a mangled mess of drum machine beats and psychedelia and noise with a monotone vocal drawl.

Against a thumping dirge of a noise, a grating mesh of distortion and dolorous drum, the title track is a gnarly hybrid of early Swans, and elsewhere, as on ‘Sick Day’, it becomes less about songs and more about spoken word narrative delivered against a backdrop of mangled noise, and at times, it’s pretty harrowing. Lyrically, Pound Land don’t pretty things up. Sonically, they don’t either. It’s magnificently raw and un-produced, and this is no more true than on penultimate song ‘Pathogen’, a dirty slow stomp that’s pure rage and invites comparisons to Uniform. And it sounds like it was recorded on a phone from the next room.

‘Drone’ sneers and snarls like Lydon at his best, closing with a venomous refrain of ‘fucking twat’ delivered in a thick, spitting Manchester accent.

Defeated may only contain eight songs, and only a couple of them extend beyond the five-minute mark, but it’s feels immense, and experience that’s exhausting both physically and mentally. Listening, you feel the weight of the world condense and compress as the angst and anguish press down ever darker, ever denser. It’s a bleak, suffocating document of everything that’s wrong right now. This is the sound of broken Britain, and it’s a harrowing insight into just how fucked everything is. But in this channelling of nihilistic anguish, you realise you’re not alone. It doesn’t change anything, but it’s something to cling to.

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New Heavy Sounds is stoked to announce their first release of 2023, and what a beast it is. The self-titled debut album by Death Pill, an all-female hardcore punk power trio of considerable muscle, combining metalcore, punk rock and (like labelmates ‘Shooting Daggers’) oodles of ‘Riot Grrl’ vibe.

It’s significant how many female punk bands are using the stance and attitude of the ‘Riot Grrl’ movement as a touchstone for what they are about, but it doesn’t end there. From the classic punk of Black Flag, The Distillers and Circle Jerks, to modern outfits like Axe Rash and the thrash metal of Nervosa and Exodus, there’s a nod to all of this in Death Pill’s visceral sound. Full on and fully formed.

That aside, what makes this release even more pertinent for us, and the fact that it is happening at all, is that Mariana, Anastasiya and Nataliya are from the Ukraine, who’s troubles are well known to all of course, but naturally enough have hit the band very hard.

Singer/guitarist Mariana tells the story so far.

Just imagine: You are a 20-year-old girl. Society constantly puts pressure on you: you should find a nice husband, have children and at the same time build a successful career. But no one asks what do you really want? What are exactly your interests and ambitions?

Because maybe you want to be a punk rock star?

Yes, I do and even against it all. I can create a female non-commercial band, play heavy high-quality music, and ignite the crowd. After all, rock is not only about brutal men with curly long hair, right?

Nafa (Anastasiya), the drummer, also got sick of this idea. Together we created an all-female punk rock band Death Pill (2017), just like we wanted to! Before COVID started we played a lot of gigs at the main underground festivals in Ukraine (“Back to Youth”, “Burn the Scene for Fun”). We also released EP (2018). We had a lot of success in front of our audience, which led to the creation of more female bands.

We did have trouble with bass players. They changed one after another and we were looking for someone who would be “on the same vibe” with us …

There is a strong and super friendly community of people in Ukraine. It’s a big family of true music lovers, people who live by creating the Ukrainian underground scene. This is also how we met Nataliia. After our first practice with her, we realized that this is a real perfect match, and the problem was solved. We started recording our first full album, filming music clips etc.

Until the war comes… In February fucking Russia started a full-scale invasion of Ukraine. It really changed our plans, dreams, and attitude. So now we are spread out, Mariana stays in Kyiv, Nafa is in Spain, Nataliia is in Australia. We try to stay in touch online, we keep working on the album and support our defenders. Like all in our Ukrainian scene.

Some do it with weapons in their hands, some volunteer and help in any way they can to bring our victory closer. Hard times, but right now we have a real chance to change lives for the better.

Victory will be ours; we are sure of it.

P.S. It is soon, and we have already decided to make the most hot, amazing and gig ever!

Watch out.

Watch ‘Расцарапаю Ебало’ here:

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Death Pill

12th October 2022

James Wells

Alright, so I can’t see ‘bad news’ without thinking of the spoof rock band that was part of the Comic Strip Presents… series, featuring the actors behind The Young Ones who released a parody rendition of Queen’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, actually produced by Brian May, and got themselves bottled off stage at Monsters of Rock in 1986.

There’s nothing periodic or rock cliché about this, though. As the blurb outlines, ‘Bad News explores dreams and nightmares, forgiveness and damnation. Through dark electronic and industrial rock themes: wailing bagpipes and fragile synths on the likes of ‘Not Enough Bridge’ contrasted with pounding beats and heavy guitars on ‘Wild Girl (Slug Mix)’ the band further develops their self-described ‘alternadustrial’ sound.

Admittedly, bagpipes sound like really fucking bad news, but this six-tracker doesn’t sound nearly as bad as the cover art suggests it might. ‘L’appel du Vide’ comes on like Pornography-era Cure with doomy synths and clattering, crushing drum, but with the bonus addition of crunching metal guitar, with the end result being as heavy as hell.

‘Echo Chamber’ is twitchy and urgent, a vintage snare cutting through stark synths and a murky fog of bass and guitar; elsewhere, ‘Darkest Dream’ is stark and sparse, blending early Depeche Mode and Meat Beat Manifesto with a dash of Wax Trax! industrial-tinged electronica injected with a shot of adrenaline – and it’s all slammed home with that tempo that gets you pumped.

If the dense, dark waves of synth and snarling vocals and stomping beats which dominate the EP seem fairly standard fare, at least the pipes are kept in the background.

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Allen Epley (Shiner, The Life and Times) has released ‘Evangeline’ the next single off his upcoming debut solo album ‘Everything,’ out 6th January 2023  on Spartan Records.

Listen here:

Epley says, “’Evangeline’ is a reference to someone close to me who tends to bottle up emotions until another person says something quite innocently, and it triggers an often hateful and explosive response. So the smallest innuendo or slight from a passerby could set off cannons and flamethrowers from this person. The offense doesn’t merit the response many times, inflicting even more damage.

I wanted it to be a short song and get to the point pretty quick. Don’t bore us, get to the chorus. Agreed. Vocally, I feel like the chorus part in particular reflects a kind of Elliott Smith vibe. Mike Burns adds the beautiful lap steel line that perfectly echoes the hurt in the lyric. Drummer Chris Prescott (from Pinback) sets the song in a restrained way then lets it open up on the solo section.”

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Feral Note – 2nd December 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

I don’t think – or don’t like to think – that it’s an age thing when I say that at some point recently I started to feel not only a separation from certain aspects of mainstream culture, but a seismic wrench away from vast swathes of so-called culture.

Clearly, I don’t fit the stereotype of my peers who decide on turning 35 that there’s been no decent new music since they were 19 or thereabouts, and immediately perpetuate the generation gap musical position that kids today only listen to shit manufactured crap, even if it is largely true.

But more than anything, I simply cannot grasp the concept of the NFT. I mean, what the actual fuck? Cryptocurrencies are insane and seemingly purely for the ultra-rich, but I kinda get them. But paying for a thumbnail GIF? That’s beyond me.

Kaan Bulak’s Illusions has my head swimming, in that it offers not only a multidimensional sonic streaming experience and a length bibliography, but also comes exclusively as a download and offers an art print, and I find myself wondering ‘How’, ‘Why’? The first why is ‘why did it get so bad?’ Like, how is it that artists hawk this shit? As if signed drum heads and the like weren’t exploitative enough (and believe me, they are, and then some). Stepping back from my knee-jerk spasm, I realise I should perhaps give some benefit of the doubt. After all, artists outside of the mainstream have always been compelled to innovate and to find novel ways of not only reaching an audience, but eking an existence that funds their work.

And as the accompanying text reveals, Illusions has been an arduous labour of love:

‘The album had been in the making since 2013, and its creative journey started back then with the track ‘Falling in a Dream’: it was created with violinist Contrapunct playing the melody, when Kaan Bulak had his studio in a techno club above the dance floor, and the thought came that falling asleep must lead to a noisy dream state. In January 2018 Kaan Bulak recorded a prepared grand piano, improvised and locked himself in until numerous sketches were finished. In 2018-2020 he worked on-off on the tracks, including additional recordings on Wurlitzer, oud, frame drums, and electric guitar, and then actually completed them in the summer of 2020. As visible in the quotes in the appendix, it is about a journey into the self through the help of art and philosophy. Zen kōans create an awareness of the illusions and contradictions in everyday life, art makes them tangible.’

Illusions, then, is the product of an immense journey, and ‘Falling in a Dream’ is in fact the last of the fourteen compositions presented here, in a set that’s a shade jazzy, smooth yet angular and unpredictable, with fast-fingered piano and an understated melding of funk and motoric grooves with a dose of hypnotic Doorsy keyboard drone, not to mention minimal techno and spartan disco. There’s a certain slickness to it, too, which gives the album a kind of polish that may attract radio play.

It’s hardly an obvious radio choice, but it’s an album that clearly warrants some playlisting, by virtue of it being, well, a bit out-there. But Illusions  is solid, and real, and a nice album.

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