Archive for November, 2022

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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Cruel Nature Records – 2nd December 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

Seems I’ve blinked and missed a while slew of releases from Ontario experimentalist Clara Engel since writing about Hatching Under the Stars in the spring of 2020. Then again, the spring of 2020 doesn’t so much feel like a lifetime ago, as much as it does another life. Released on 5th April 2020, we were only just over a week into the first lockdown here in England, and we had no sense of what was to come.

As the blurb outlines, the album was ‘recorded entirely at home / solo’ and ‘Their Invisible Hands presents 13 tracks of subtle dream-like beauty… A mystical work, mixing classical and dark folk wanderings with misty soundscapes, which creates an abstract, new world atmosphere.’ Self-released in April digitally and on CD, Cruel Nature are giving it a cassette release.

In a way, returning to Clara’s work now is a powerful, and grounding experience. What has happened in the space between? Everything…and nothing. As they explain in the accompanying text, replicated on their Bandcamp, “I’m not writing the same song over and over so much as writing one long continuous song that will end when I die.”

If the last couple of years or so have reminded us of anything, it’s our mortality. And the sound of Their Invisible Hands is both spiritual and earthy. To unpack that, the sparse instrumentation, which consists predominantly of creening woodwind, chiming, picked strings, and hand percussion, has a simple, primitive aspect to it, and the slow, rhythmic undulations are attuned to elements of nature, as grounded as the act of breathing. ‘Dead Tree March’ is exemplary, a long, expansive drone that pulses in and out, repetitively, hypnotically, a sparse guide to a meditation.

Engel’s vocals, meanwhile, are ethereal and other-worldly, with a primal folk leaning that moves effortlessly between narrative and incantation, both of which tap into that subconscious part of the mind that it seems only music and nature can reach.

These themes of nature and of the ancient, of thoughts and tales lost in time, are constants in Engel’s work, giving credence to their comment about writing one long continuous song. In this context, it’s easy to see their entire catalogue as an interrogation and exploration of a quite specific field. Engel’s world is one full of magic and mystery, cryptids and magic beans and magnificent birds which sing. These songs are steeped in atmosphere and wonderment.

‘Ginko’s Blues’ is perhaps the most overtly classical piece on the album, a sparse composition led by picked acoustic guitar that calls to mind a stretched, dispersed rendition of Beethoven’s ‘Ode to Joy’, as it’s slowly dragged into a sea of scratched strings and gauze-like reverb.

Dissecting Their Invisible Hands too hard is to misunderstand its nature. It’s not an album to pick apart for the various elements, or even to comprehend its structures, origins, or meanings: any attempt to do so is to demystify its resonance. ‘It’s all fun and games ‘till somebody shows you their heart.. on a platter on a stake on a riverbed rusted…’ they sing on ‘High Alien Priest’. The metaphorical and the literal blur unsettlingly.

You shiver and find yourself mute as Engel leads you through an array of evocative soundscapes. All you can do is let go, and to explore them.

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Venomous Concept, the hardcore punk band formed by Kevin Sharp of Brutal Truth and Shane Embury of Napalm Death, return in 2023 with their 5th album The Good Ship Lollipop. Bonding over their love of punk heroes such as Black Flag, GBH and Poison Idea, the duo have been the core members of the band since 2004.

Now all these years later Venomous Concept are about to release their most unique album to date on 24th February. "When the pandemic hit we decided we needed to make an album that didn’t fit – we all loved so much other kind of punk and rock, so why not explore that which is in essence closer to our hearts?. To do the same album over and over again would be boring” Shane comments.

The Good Ship Lollipop sees Sharp and Embury joined by fellow Napalm Death member John Cooke alongside Carl Stokes, former drummer with UK death metal legends Cancer. ‘Having John Cooke of Napalm Death on guitar brought a new variety to the record, and Shane’s lifelong friend Carl Stokes formerly of the bands Cancer, Current 93 & The Groundhogs came in on drums to lay down some more solid rock grooves and old school power”  Kevin adds.

First single ‘Voices’ is described by vocalist Kevin as a track that, "deals with the darker side of manipulation in narcissism… the devaluing of gaslighting… the wiring and unwiring of deceptive abuse… re-discovering self-identity for the better and stronger… my humour is dark… I will place the most shit of human qualities next to a melody… it’s a coping mechanism…"

Listen to ‘Voices’ here:

Lyrically this album reflects the various fractured pieces of the band that existed before and during the pandemic. "As with most people they were emotionally unprepared for what was about to happen over the coming weeks, months and subsequent years. “We tried to forge on the only way we knew how" Shane acknowledges. “We all have our darkness to deal with and that look in the face that says “Shit my life is in pieces’‘ Kevin called that The Good Ship Lollipop. What a great album title we thought!"

The album was engineered by Piers Mortimer (Deep Purple, Jakko Jakszyk) and produced by long term friend and colleague Simon Efemey (Paradise Lost, Cancer). Shane concludes, “It was an amazing fun and creative experience, recording while there were COVID restrictions. We seem to now only dimly recall the whole process but this record lives it and breathes it. Kevin then breezed through U.K. customs in the summer of 2020 to record his vocals at headline music studios in Cambridge. There friendships were rekindled amidst worldwide hysteria."

Sharp and Embury formed the band in 2004 and were joined by Danny Herrera and Buzz Osborne (The Melvins), who went on to be replaced by Danny Lilker. They have released 4 albums: Retroactive Abortion (2004), Poisoned Apple (2008), Kick Me Silly VCIII (2016) and most recently Politics Versus the Erection (2020) on Season of Mist.

The Good Ship Lollipop is released in association with Extrinsic Records on 24th February 2023.

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Black Ox Orkestar have shared the new track ‘Viderkol’ from Everything Returns.

The new album from the acclaimed modern Yiddish/Klezmer avant-folk group reunited after a 15-year hiatus, featuring members of Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Thee Silver Mt. Zion, is out on 2nd December 2022 on Constellation.

Black Ox Orkestar formed from Montréal’s fertile post-punk scene of the early 2000s, featuring members of Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Thee Silver Mt. Zion and Sackville, releasing two acclaimed and influential albums Ver Tanzt (2004) and Nisht Azoy (2006).

Everything Returns picks up right where the band left off, with incisively atmospheric, uniquely modern Jewish diasporic folk music of brooding balladry filtered through the lens of an indie-rock sensibility, exquisitely recorded by Greg Norman (Nina Nastasia, Jason Molina)

Black Ox Orkestar will be making select live concert appearances in Toronto, Montréal, Keene NH and Brooklyn NY, December 13-17.

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LIVE DATES • DECEMBER 2022

12/13 • Toronto ON • The Music Gallery
12/14 • Montréal QC • Museum of Jewish Montréal
Co-presented with MJM, POP Montréal and KlezKanada
with special guest Sam Shalabi
12/15 • Keene NH • Nova Arts
12/16 • Brooklyn NY • Union Pool
with special guest Matana Roberts
12/17 • Brooklyn NY • Union Pool
Co-presented with Jewish Currents Magazine

Christopher Nosnibor

All of the good gigs are happening in November this year it seems, when traditionally things tend to be a bit quieter. Much of this is down to the knock-on effect of two years of rescheduling, not least of all with venues being booked solid with rescheduled dates till now. As scheduling goes, the fact that Please Please You has brought Part Chimp to York is a huge deal, and the turnout on a soaking wet night in the middle of a month of rain says it’s widely appreciated.

Part Chimp are one of those bands who’ve been going forever – well, twenty-two years is close enough – and have enjoyed something of a cult following. But with the release of their latest album and the shows to promote it, they seem to have enjoyed something of a surge, receiving at least some of the recognition they’ve deserved – and richly so, because they’re simply a great band.

And tonight they’re headlining a great lineup. The fact the support acts are brain-foamingly good is something I’ll get to the detail of shortly, but again, credit has to go to Joe Coates for his curation skills.

If it’s quiet in the bar before doors, it’s the only thing that is quiet about the night, and it’s remarkably busy for the arrival of the first band. While they’re local, that’s no guarantee of attendance. But they’re bloody good. Junk-It are a shouty riffy drum and guitar duo. They’re kinda straight rock but a bit Pulled Apart By Horses too, with some crazed vocals and incendiary riffs, and with some melodies spun in. Songs are tight, their chat less so. The singer looks a bit like a young Bill Bailey but sounds more often than not more Robert Plant. They’ve got good energy, and good tunes, and they work hard. It’s early days for them, so they’re a bit rough around the edges, but promising; they’re grungy, left-leaning –they’re definitely left – and deliver some exhilarating guitar-driven noise.

Junk-It

Junk-It

Uncle Bari, another duo consisting of Pak 40 / Redfyrn drummer Leo Hancill and Cat Redfern of Redfyrn, only Cat’s drumming and Leo’s on guitar, and they kick out some mega-heavy, mega-loud dark psych drums and dense guitar with vocals submerged beneath the tidal wave of riff and reverb. The sound is immersive, with slow, spacious minimalism dominating, but when they go big, they go big. With slow picked guitar and steady, rolling drums, the last track is very Earth. And at appropriate volume, it’s a remarkable experience.

Uncle Bari

Uncle Bari

The experience is a fundamental aspect of a Part Chimp show. Listening to the albums, it’s obvious that they’re a loud band, but live, they’re LOUD. I mean ear-bleeding, skull-crackingly loud. It’s not just nasty overloading volume for the sake of it, though – the riffs come through with remarkable clarity, you can make out the component parts just fine, even if the vocals are a bit buried (but no more than on the studio recordings). It’s one of the most amazingly joyful experiences, being bathed in sound in such a way, as is witnessing a bunch of older guys play in such a way that really is a masterclass for so many of the next generation to observe. They’re not overtly cool, and there’s no theatre or pretence, and the most chat we get is a ‘cheers’ here and there. It’s simply all about churning out the big, dense, grungy riffs, and sometimes they plug away at two chords for a full half minute.

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Part Chimp

The set is dominated by cuts from Drool, but there are some oldies in the mix, and they encore with ‘Trad’ from 2009’s Thriller and ‘Hello Bastards’ from second album I Am Come. Not that it really matters too much about the specifics of the songs: they’re all beefy blasting riff blowouts, and there is absolutely no letup from beginning to end. There aren’t adequate superlatives or adjectives to express the elation this elicits: sometimes, you really do have to be there.

Darkwave project, Distance H has dropped their new single & video featuring Marita Volodina, ‘Waters Of Woe’.

‘Waters Of Woe’ addresses the necessity to overcome the pain and anguish of broken promises, by others or by oneself, making the promised lands inaccessible. It’s the saving distance to escape collapse when the time comes for resignation and abandonment. It’s also the distance to be taken with our ghosts, (past or present), which haunt the mind and the memory.
To free yourself from the stigmata of the past, to emancipate the psyche into the present. That is ‘Waters Of Woe’.

Parisian producer/artist, Manuel H once again invites a feature singer, Marita Volodina, for the new single.

It’s vintage goth with a contemporary spin. It’s also a cracking tune. We dig it, and you can check it out here:

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