Archive for the ‘Albums’ Category

Cruel Nature Records – 5th March 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Aiden Baker’s releases have become a regular feature here at Aural Aggravation. His prodigious output, not only as a solo artist, but through innumerable collaborations, often released through Gizeh Records, have given us no shortage of material to contemplate and ruminate over. It’s often hard to keep up with his output,

Stimmt was first released digitally back in 2015 on Broken Spine Productions, and has been was remixed and remastered for its first physical format outing via Cruel Nature in a limited edition of 60 cassettes (as well as digitally again).

Baker is to guitar what John Cage and Reinhold Friedl were / are to piano, with the ‘prepared’ guitar being a prominent feature of his musical arsenal, along with an array of other ‘alternative’ methods of playing, across a genre span that incorporates elements of rock, electronic, classical, and jazz, within his broadly ambient / experimental works

Stimmt sits at the more overtly ‘rock’ end of Baker’s stylistic spectrum, launching with the heavy riffology of ‘Dance of the Entartet’ that’s got a prog vibe but comes on with a heavily repetitious throb that owes more to Swans than Pink Floyd or Yes. The percussion crashes away hard but it’s almost buried in the overloading guitar assault that’s cranked up to the max and is straining to feed back constantly throughout, before it wanders off into ‘Atemlos’, where it’s the strolling bass that dominates as the guitars retreat to the background and sampled dialogue echoes through the slightly jazz-flavoured ripples. It’s here that things begin to feel less linear, more meandering, and the chiming post-rock sections feel less like an integral part of a journey and more like detours – pleasant, appropriate detours, but detours nevertheless – and it culminates in a climactic violin-soaked crescendo.

Veering between hazy shoegazey ambience that borders on abstraction, and mellifluous post-rock drifts, Stimmt is varied, and, oftentimes, rich in atmosphere. ‘Mir’ is very much a soporific slow-turner that casts a nod to Slowdive, but with everything slowed and sedated, wafting to an inconclusive finish.

The lumbering ‘Staerken’ stands out as another heavy-duty riffcentric behemoth: it’s low, it’s heavy, and finds Baker exploring the range of distortion effects on his pedal board, stepping from doom sludge to bolstering shred and back, and there’s a deep, crunchy bass that grinds away hard, boring at the bowels and hangs, resonating at the end.

After the full-on overloading ballast of ‘Quer’ that really does go all out on the abrasion, with squalling guitar paired with a nagging bass loop that’s reminiscent of The God Machine (the track as a while, calls to mind ‘Ego’ from their debut Songs From the Second Story), closer ‘Resolut’ is eight minutes of semi-ambient prog.

It’s a lot to digest, and it’s certainly not an easy pigeonhole, but it’s an intriguing album that stands out as being quite different both musically, and in the context of Baker’s output. Unusual but good, and offering much to explore.

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Music For Nations – 22nd January 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Wardruna were recently the focus of a rather unexpected article on ‘the rise of dark Nordic folk’ in The Guardian. It was largely positive, about how a largely obscure underground scene was reaching a wider audience, and emphasised the elementary influences of the distinctly non-metal genre. It was a feature that also doubled as a plug for new album Kvitravn, which, we’re told, is a continuation of the Runaljod trilogy in musical terms, but at the same time marks ‘a distinct evolution in Wardruna’s unique sound’.

And it is indeed a unique sound, and the album begins with haunting acapella vocals and rumbling atmospherics before picked strings and pounding martial drums fill the air with bold patterns. The sense of scale and depth that characterises the album as a whole is brought to the fore from the very start. More than this, it’s a sense of something primeval and non-linguistic that pervades Kvitravn. Like many listeners, I have no comprehension of the words, which are sung in elongated vowelly drones, the voices coming together not so much in harmony but in throng. And there is something immensely powerful about that. I suppose that the voice as an instrument taps into some deeper consciousness and resonates on a level that’s more genetic or spiritual than gnostic.

Tense and mournful violins provide the main accompaniment to the lugubrious vocals on the six-minute title track. It’s the roar of the sea that brings the arrival of the funereal shanty that is ‘Skugge’. The thumping motoric ‘Fylgjutal’ with its brooding bassline and repetitive guttural vocal growling is incredibly Germanic, and referencing Rammstein doesn’t seem entirely inappropriate here in terms of connecting to anyone unfamiliar with Wardruna: the drums pummel and it’s intense in a relentless way, battering away for the majority of its expansive seven and a half minutes before taking a more poet-rock turn to the close. It all drives forward toward the ten-minute ‘Andvevarljod’ or ‘Song of the Spirit-weavers’ which is epic in every sense and encapsulates the album within a single, immense track.

The instrumentation is, by and large, spartan, and if the string arrangements connote more traditional folk, then ethereal droning backdrops and tribal drumming hark back to something more traditional still – that is to say, that what we commonly associate with ‘traditional’ is often fairly modern, and that all too often our sense of history and skewed and myopic.

Kvitravn evokes images of forests, of caves, of barren mountain tops and vast expanses of moorland, and wide open spaces without people… the occasional wolf or bear, maybe, but a preindustrial world, of wildness and wilderness. And while it does have a certain ‘soundtrack’ feel to it, nothing feel forced or artificial. Kvitravn doesn’t feel like an ersatz replica of Nordic dark ages, but as if it was actually created there and has leaked forward through time to the present, untouched. As such, it’s a moving experience.

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5th March 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Inspired by a passage in the novel White Teeth by Zadie Smith, NYC’s Charlie Nieland describes the lead single, ‘Land of Accidents’ from his new album as ‘a dark anthem to not-belonging’. Divisions certainly presents an eclectic mix that doesn’t really belong anywhere, and perhaps encapsulates that sentiment of unbelonging most perfectly within its very fabric. Traversing between a host of styles spanning post-rock, neo-prog, folk, indie, and further afield, if any one genre has an overarching influence, it’s 70s prog.

A stuttering, jittering rapidfire drum machine snare jolts like an electric current through the easy strumming clean guitar that leads the instrumentation on ‘Always on Fire’, the first song on the album. He’s gone all out for the grand curtain opener with this expansive, emotive, cinematic effort that lures the listener into a spiralling, psychedelic experience, and it’s effective – there’s a lot going on and a lot to explore. The same is true of the album as a whole, as it reveals more with every track.

A swell of sweeping strings add layers to the rolling drums and mid-pace melancholy of ‘The Falling Man,’ which contrasts with the uptempo punk-tinged indie drive of ‘I Refuse’ which comes on a like a blend of The Wedding Present, The Fall, and Mission of Burmah.

Aforementioned single cut ‘Land of Accidents’ packs it all in, and has the twists and turns and explosive dynamics of Oceansize at their best and builds into a muscular wall of sound, with dense waves of guitar dominating. ‘Tightrope’ is pure REM, only it’s probably a better take on REM than many of the band’s own later years work, and spins into a soaring shoegaze climax that is nothing short of absolute gold. It’s one of those songs you could easily play on repeat for hours – but then that would be to underexpose the broody magnificence of ‘Skin’ which immediately follows. ‘Some Things You Keep to Yourself’ has hints of Mansun but also later Depeche Mode about it with its dark brooding and also its soulful feel, not least of all the backing vocals. Things continue to get darker and starker on the synth-led closer ‘Pawns’ that goes all weirdy as it stretches and twists out of shape.

Neiland sustains the interest and the variety throughout, and there’s no let-up in quality either: there’s not a throwaway or duff song on Divisions, and with thirteen tracks, that’s no small achievement. That Divisions is almost impossible to pigeonhole is no issue: after all there are only two kinds of music – good and bad. And this is most definitely good.

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Cruel Nature Recordings – 5th March 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Live performances of experimental electronic work, particularly when involving an element of improvisation, can be somewhat hit and miss, and what’s more, sometimes, much of the wonder and appreciation is derived from witnessing the performance itself, as much as the sound.

This album was recorded live at Cave 12 in Geneva in 2019, when Stuart Chalmers and Distant Animals shared a stage is a document of a moment in time, and is one that explores differences and similarities. Each act occupies one side of the limited-edition cassette (of which there are just 45 copies) and naturally, a track each on the digital version, and each track contains a full performance from each artist.

Chalmers’ set is a sparse, minimalist affair. Clanking chiming notes – partially atonal, and entirely arrhythmic plink, plonk, clatter and clink every which way. It is detuned strings? Is it a glockenspiel, xylophone, or similar? Whatever the sonic source, it increases in speed and urgency, but not in musicality, and a flat chord shreds and mangles as though strumming a washboard with relentless frustration. While the performance is brimming with energy, there’s a purposeful tonal flatness to this.

At times a clattering clang, a monotonous chang of deadened notes, and a tension-building thrum that grates away relentlessly, Chalmers’ set is never comfortable, never easy, never really breaking into the realms of melodic. The relentless scrapes and scuffles scratch away for twenty-three troublesome minutes. It’s rhythmic and does build in a certain way, but it’s slow progress that’s uncomfortable. One suspects that this uneasy sensation would only be heightened during the actual performance.

Distant Animals’ set is more overtly ambient, a twenty-minute piece that centres around twisting dronescapes and elongated crawls. The layers ripple and rub against one another to create not a dissonance as such, but a vibration of frequencies.. but suddenly, around the mi-section, the storm breaks and dissipates… there is a calm. Soothing synth waves of something that borders on electroprog crossed with chilled-out electroambient. Its trajectory is very different from Chalmers’ – instead of a single, linear trajectory that works its way to a specific end point, they navigate a series of passages and movements that segue into one another to form a meandering journey, which eventually tapers to a fade that leaves you wondering if it was all a dream, and wishing you had been there.

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Panurus Productions – 5th March 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Charlie Butler’s Gathering Dust is something of a departure for Newcastle tape label, PANURUS Productions, in that it’s incredibly mellow. It’s not a complete departure, through: designed as a cassette release, it features two longform tracks, each fitting neatly onto one side of a good old C30 (the likes of which I used to get from Maplins back in the early 90s) – or, in an ideal world, perhaps one side of a 12” or 10” vinyl release. But we know that for a niche label like this, the cost of a vinyl run is prohibitive, and while their print runs are extremely limited, they do sell out – which is the perfect operating model: knowing the scale of their audience and sales reach, and catering to demand without massively overreaching, means costs are covered, and everyone wins. There’s a stream and digital download for anyone who wants it, after all. Everyone’s a winner.

The album title is in fact an amalgamation of the individual titles of the two tracks, and separated, the context shifts a little. Gathering dust connotes a lack of movement, a stasis, something that’s essentially furniture, something neglected, unused. This places the power of word association in sharp relief: together, the words suggest something very different in contrast to when they’re independent of one another.

And so ‘gathering’ brings connotations of collecting, bringing together, of hunter—gathering. And from the dense, swirling drone of a trilling keyboard on the fifteen-and-a-half-minute track that is ‘Gathering’ emerges a slow-picked guitar. The drone und strang approach, whereby echo and tube crunch coalesce to envelop the guitar in a soft sonic bubble is highly reminiscent of latter-day Earth and Dylan Carlson’s solo releases. It doesn’t ‘do’ much, and doesn’t need to: ‘Gathering’ is a long, slow, and expansive work that explores atmosphere.

‘Dust’ is a deep, sense drone that billows and booms, and is indeed reminiscent of the heavy drone of Sunn O))). Its effects are soporific, and for a time my notes are sparse as I drift and move beyond the immediate environs of my workspace to immerse myself in this thick fog of a composition as it slowly unfurls with its post-rock leanings and immersive atmosphere. There’s a tonal warmth that surrounds this, and it borders on ambience at times, and dust washes and drifts like particles descending. And over time, it builds… and builds, swirling into a dense, billowing sonic cloud. The final minutes are reminiscent of the eternal drone of Earth 2 – and being one of my all-time favourites, that’s very much a compliment and an indication of just how textured and enthralling Charlie Butler’s brand of drone is.

Gathering Dust is remarkably dense, but it’s not heavy per se. It’s one of those releases you can simply surrender to, and lose yourself in the enormity of the sound.

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Alrealon Musique – 19th February 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

In the past I’ve struggled a bit with Pas Musique. It’s not that I don’t think it’s music, despite the project’s moniker – far from it. It’s simply a matter of taste: their music has often felt a bit easy, a bit contrived, in its gloopy synthiness, to my ears. It’s easy to judge, of course, but then that is the function of the music critic. We trade in opinions, and if everything was entirely objective there would be none. And there would be no art. Because art exists to tap into the emotions, into the psyche, to stir a response – and a negative response is a greater feat than eliciting a sense of complete indifference. Art serves to reflect and articulate life experience and those innermost thoughts. If art doesn’t connect in some way to the human condition, then it is worthless. So what does Psychedelic Talismans have to say? How does it connect?

I’m not sure. But then, in casting that seed of uncertainty, it succeeds in provoking some kind of engagement. So far, so good, I suppose.

According to the liner notes, rather than being a collective effort, Psychedelic Talismans is actually a solo effort from project founder Robert L. Pepper, which was recorded during Covid-19 lockdown in Brooklyn, New York, and the music and drawings draw their inspiration from the Turkish archaeological site, Göbekli Tepe, which is said to be as old as 10,000 B.C. As such, there are deep currents running beneath the fabric of the album’s six compositions.

Opening the set, ‘Splash of Red Touch’ is gloopy, but also led by sparse, brittle, alien synth sound that sounds like it’s echoing down a long pipe, and as the layers build, there’s a low, almost subliminal thud of a beat and a guitar that sounds like twisted metal scraps. Then there’s twittering birdsong and disconnected voices and there’s a lot going on, and not all of the elements seem entirely complimentary or pinned to the tame time signature, creating a swimming, dizzying sensation, and it plunges onwards with ‘Collected Fictions Brightly’, by which time the style is becoming clearly set: insistent, urgent beats, thumping, monotonous, primitive in the Suicide sense, overlayed with wispy, experimentally-orientated Krautrock synth wibbles and drones.

The vibe is very much vintage here, and often the instrumental pieces, which by and large hover around the five-minute mark, are quite meandering, and despite the low-end density that dredges the depths at points, despite the tense guitar notes that emerge twisted and strangled on ‘In Likeness of Me’, and the impatient palpating beats, and an emerging sense of unease that surfaces in places, for the most part there’s a certain mellowness that permeates the album. Great sonic expenses unfurl in long-echoing reverberations, crackling snippets of sampled dialogue, and long, slow-turning drones.

‘Las Bas’ brings the curtain down in a haze of drones and drifts and with a dash of Eastern mysticism, trilling pipe notes which bounce off one another and turn and fade, and if the piece, and he album as a whole, seems to lack direction, then its points of interest all lie in the diversions, the distractions, the divergences. And when so little else is happening, those detours are most welcome. And finally, I feel I click with Pas Musique.

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Buzzhowl Records – 12th February 2021

It had to be a limited run of 23 vinyl copies, didn’t it? The latest outing for the ever-intertextual, eternally reference-making anything-and-everything-goes melting pot of a project, Territorial Gobbing, is the first vinyl release in a jaw-droppingly prolific career.

For anyone familiar with Territorial Gobbing, Automatic For Nobody sounds exactly like Territorial Gobbing, only with a greater leaning toward some softer, more contemplative moments. Meanwhile, for anyone not familiar with Territorial Gobbing, it’s a good place to start, because it is wholly representative, but also – arguably – a shade more accessible. That is to say, it sounds exactly like the three different covers. Because yes, sometimes, you can judge an album by its cover.

And because T’Gobbing is a musical magpie of a thing, because Terry T Gerbs is the ultimate in postmodernism, indiscriminately drawing on everything and everything more or less at random, we arrive at REM brought to you by the power of 23, that mystical, magical number oft-referenced by fans and students of William S. Burroughs – myself included. The fascinating thing about the so-called ‘23 Enigma’ is that once you become aware of it, it becomes wholly inescapable. So it its ubiquity real, or a case of positive determinism? It’s hard to say, of course, but probability versus frequency makes it a fascinating thing to observe.

And, whether or not it’s knowing or intentional, the Burroughs connection is strong with Territorial Gobbing: the collaging / splicing / tape fuckery approach to audio which defines the entire catalogue can be traced to the cut-up technique devised by Burroughs and Brion Gysin in the late 1950s and extended to tape experiments in the 1960s, which in turn prefaced sampling and also begat the methods deployed by Throbbing Gristle and their peers in the late 70s and early 80s. It doesn’t matter whether or not it’s knowing or intentional, either: the nature of influence is so often indirect – but like a virus, once a concept is out, it becomes airborne and has the capacity to spread invisible, subliminally.

And while Automatic For Nobody may not be quite the sonic riot of many previous Territorial Gobbing releases, it does nevertheless manifest as a massive sonic tapestry cut from infinite and divergent sources.

Sirens and birdsong and field sounds drone and fade by way of a backdrop to the spoken word opener, ‘Spontaneous Bin Lake’. It sounds like having muttered a few observations into his phone on a windy day, Theo stops for a bite to eat and a drink, and, leaving the phone recording in his pocket, manages to record about seven different sources n top of one another, and it bleeds into the scratchy, scrapy scribblings of ‘Oxfam Tulpa’.

‘Tack Says Ski Meme Free Peas Soot’ forges an unsettling atmosphere that’s eerie in the uncanny, strange sense rather than being overtly creepy, sounding like something that was recorded under water, while the eleven-minute title track does go for the creepy vibe, coming on like the ‘original’ TG, Throbbing Gristle, at their most darkly experimental, as Gowans gasps and quivers just a handful of lines repetitively in a muttering, tremulous fashion that exudes a psychotic tension, the under-breath mutterings of someone in psychological distress. It’s dark and menacing, and utterly disturbed. The tape stutters and warps, and there are yells, yelps, and howls off in the background, with extraneous noises throughout, ranging from lilting piano of children’s tune’s to fragments of music warped and deranged. The lightness of those piano pieces only accentuate the deranged horror of the demonic whispering – the words barely audible, but the menace and threat conveyed transcends linguistic articulation.

While there may not be the explosions of noise that assail the eardrums and blast off in your face, the same sonic abrasions are present – just backed off, and toned down – which renders the material here all the more menacing – and on ‘The Ocean of Black Hair is Not Your Friend’, gurgling electronics spark and fizz by ay of a backdrop to a distorted, pitch-shifted vocal, and it’s somewhere between a ransom call and Whitehouse circa Twice is Never Enough. It’s pretty dark, but only a shadow against what’s to com with the closer ‘He’s Absorbing’, which features guest vocals from YOL and Freddy Vinehill-Cliffe. This six-and-a-half-minute mess of noise ratchets the discomfort and the volume up several levels – screeding shards of noise that stop and start blast through babbling gloops and grinding earthworks, which are interspersed with inchoate shouts and yelps, and there is nothing comfortable or pleasant about this. And as everything twists, warps, crumbles and fades into a melting mess in the final couple of minutes, it feels like the very world is disintegrating. It probably is – and this, ladies and gentlemen, is the soundtrack.

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Crónica 166 – 19th February 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

From the very opening seconds, Francisco López’s latest offering assails the ears and scorches the brain: the first track – which hits the magical running time of twenty-three minutes – is nothing short of explosive – literally. Opening with a roaring blast of brutal harsh noise, it soon separates into a series of samples and sounds, whereby propeller engines swoop low, spitting machine-gun fire and dropping detonations all around and bomb blasts tear the air. I’ve previously described certain noise works as sonic blitzkriegs, but this is actually nothing short of total war – captured in audio.

DSB is the accumulation of a decade’s work, which was, apparently, created at ‘mobile messor’ (worldwide), 2009-2019. Mixed and mastered at ‘Dune Studio’ (Loosduinen), 2020.According to the press release, López’s objective over the forty years of his career to date is to ‘Destroy boundaries between industrial sounds and wilderness sound environments, shifting with passion from the limits of perception to the most dreadful abyss of sonic power, proposing a blind, profound and transcendental listening, freed from the imperatives of knowledge and open to sensory and spiritual expansion’.

But with DSB, López doesn’t just destroy boundaries. It destroys everything in an obliterative sonic attack that’s sustained for some forty-five agonising minutes.

When it does pull back from the eye-popping extremes, it presents a dank, ominous atmosphere, and one minute you’re underwater, as if being drowned, the next, your head’s above water and you’re surrounded by a roaring sonic assault that lands blows from all sides. The quieter moments are tense and oppressive, and with unexpected jolts and speaker-shredding blasts.

A low rumble and clodding thuds and thunks, like slamming doors and hobnail boots create a darkly percussive aspect that dominates the start of DSB-B… but then you’re under water again and everything is muffled… you can’t hear or breathe, but all around there are bombs and you’re feeling the vibrations in your chest. It’s all too close and you’re terrified. It’s eighteen and three-quarter minutes of ominous atmospherics and tempestuous crescendos of noise, raging storms with protracted periods of unsettled turbulence in between as strong winds buffet away. The dynamics are extreme, as is the experience.

Something has clearly shifted here: López’s work a decade ago was predominantly experimental, wibbly, electronic ambient in its leanings, predominantly layerings of drones, hums, and scrapes. Interesting enough, exploratory, but not harsh. Yet DSB is so, so harsh, it’s positively brutal. But these are harsh times, and when everything is a grey monotony, same news on a roll on every outlet, the instinct is to slump into an empty rut.

DSB will kick you out of that and kick you around unapologetically, landing boots in the ribs, and then more. It will leave you dizzy and drained. But it will make you feel. And that’s essential.

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Dret Skivor – 12th February 2021

While there have been a few shady folks who have dwelt in prominent places on the noise scene through the years, leading to a certain association between noise and the ugliest aspects of the far right, my own personal experience has been, fortunately, quite different, and the noise-orientated circles I’ve found myself moving in are populated by some of the most sincere left-leaning people who devote their time to speaking up for equality, workers’ rights, and railing against bigotry, discrimination, and fascism. In a way, it feels strange that I should even feel the vaguest need to preface a review by setting this out by way of a context. But there we have it: the world is full of cunts, and sadly certain genres have more than their share of prominent ones, and it only takes a couple of mouldy grapes to taint a batch of fine wine. Or to bypass the metaphor, a handful of cunts to tarnish the reputation of a large group.

There’s no question around the politics of Malmö act Noise Against Fascism, the latest additions to the Dret Skivor label, founded by the ubiquitous Dave Procter following his recent relocation from Leeds to Sweden (prompted partly by the shitshow of Brexit). The band’s bio describes the project as ‘harsh noise against all forms of oppression and injustice. A violent non-violent tool of resistance’. And it makes sense: noise, when it’s harsh, can be one of the most brutally violent things around. And The Violence lives up to its title. Released on limited cassette, it features a longform track on each side, and they’re unswervingly optimally harsh.

‘Policemachine’ is a churning blast of mid-range noise, a welter of distortion that’s remorselessly abrasive. It’s difficult to tell it it’s resonance of a rapid phase, but it pulsates at a high frequency, the metallic shuddering racket positively shaking the walls, while occasional snarls and crashes and heavy blows add more horror to the relentless assault. It is, of course, entirely fitting of the title, which is take as a reference to both police brutality – a topic which has been hot for some time now, and never more so than in the last year or so, giving rise to the Black Lives Matter movement. But it’s a trope that reaches back far further. A Clockwork Orange was published in 1962, and forty years, how much has actually changed? The track is a real fucking horrorshow, a nuclear assault of devastating sonic proportions that speaks of every kind of violence. Lasers blast through the tempest toward the end, only accentuating the sensation that this is a war trasmited sonically. It’s an aural battering, a sonic blitzkrieg, a full-on gut-shredding mess of overloading nastiness, that’s sustained for over half an hour, with not a moment’s respite, and it’s enough to leave you feeling absolutely ruined.

And so, still staggering, battered and bruised, the listener is thrown headlong into the engulfing racket that is the title track, a further twenty-five minutes of extreme noise that beings with a sample that’s cut to a loop and separated by some dramatic stereo that feels like a sharp left-right punching before the devastating noise crashes in like a bulldozer. Obliterative is an understatement. The cut loop of ‘the violence’ continues throughout, reminding me of Rudimentary Peni’s Pope Adrian 37th Psychristiatric album, with it’s mind-bending loop of ‘Papus Adrianus’ which runs for its entire duration.

It’s noise, and holy fuck is it harsh. The monotony only accentuates it, of course, but sonically, it’s a howling mess of overloading circuitry that offers not even so much as a microsecond’s breathing space. If you want to lose yourself in body-breaking, brain-shredding noise, then this album is going to deliver. With the added benefit of knowing they’re not nazi cunts.

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Ipecac Recordings – 26th February 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Another Melvins album? But of course! As the press release outlines, Working With God is the second release from their 1983 iteration featuring Buzz Osborne, Dale Crover and original drummer Mike Dillard and it follows the trio’s previous release, the 2013 album, Tres Cabrones. The sheer volume of Melvins releases, particularly with the trawling of the archives that’s been ongoing for some years now, paired with the infinite permutations of the various lineups means that the chronology has become increasingly muddy. But it seems the 1983 lineup is also the 2013 and 2021 lineup, at least on occasion. I think. Please, don’t correct me if I’m wrong. I can live with the confusion and factual inaccuracy. The point is, we have Another new Melvins album.

Working With God is a bit of a mixed bag, but then of course it is: it’s a Melvins album meaning it’s half serious, half twisted humour that’s likely to only make sense if you’re in the band.

Buzzo, of course, bigs it up spectacularly, coming on a shade Trumpian in declaring that ‘Working With God is a damn good record. It’s the album bands like Green Day and Metallica wish they could put out if they only had the guts. Foo Fighters maybe but probably not. Once again, no guts…’

He’s probably right, of course, but this does sound like a lot of ego as she calls out big-name bands. At least he’s punching upwards. As for the album, it’s hard to know exactly what to make of it at times. It sounds like Melvins, of course. Because whatever the lineup, Melvins always sound like Melvins. It’s got hefty drums, driving bass, and monstrous, overdriven guitars.

But on Working With God, it’s Melvins sounding better as the album progresses: ‘I Fuck Around’ is a pretty straight cover of The Beach Boys’ ‘I Get Around’ with the lyrics not-so-subtly changed, and it’s an underwhelming starter, and middling at best. They finally power into explosive riff mode on third track, ‘Bouncing Rick’, which is full-throttle and high-octane and sounds like early 90s Butthole Surfers – a good thing, and no mistake.

They’re in standard territory on the super-sludgy Sabbath-inspired riffcentric racket of ‘Caddy Daddy’ which is undeniably classic Melvins, and it’s by no means the only one. ‘The Great Good Place’ brings the guitars in heavy and ‘Hot Fish’ is low, slow, and deep, a squall of noise making a sonic mess all over the grinding, sludgy riff – but with vocals harmonies on the hook that lift it several pegs. ‘Hund’ is another churner, but delivered at pace, melding thrash with sludge, and calling to mind the material from the ‘Houdini’ and ‘Stoner Witch’ era, it really is Melvins distilled into a three-minute roiiff-laden package.

The off-kilter, comedic ‘Brian the Horse-Faced Goon’ is shit, but is equally classic Melvins – because if any band are masters of the mockery, of the pisstake, of the throwaway cut, it’s Melvins, and anyone who’s heard the ‘Cowboy’ single will attest. The corny Status Quo pub-rock glam stomp of ‘Fuck You’ only further reminds is that Melvins really aren’t a band to be taken seriously all the time.

To give any meaningful critique of a Melvins album is nigh on impossible. It’s impossible to measure it by any standards other than by those of other Melvins album, and the fact is that they don’t really care to be judged y anything but their latest output, even if said output is historical, and while the lineups have changes more often than I’ve changed by underwear, Melvins’ ethos hasn’t changes one iota.

So what’s to say? Working With God is a Melvins album. If you dig Melvins, you’ll like at least half it. If you don’t dig Melvins, you may still like about half of it. Who knows? Embrace the weird and embrace the riffery and see what you make of it.

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