Archive for the ‘Albums’ Category

11th September 2020

Music – and people and individuals – can be positive or negative forces. Often, in the arts, destruction isn’t only a necessary but truly essential part of the creative process, and this can also mean on a long-term cyclical basis also. But ultimately, the title of Arcade Fortress’ debut album makes for a solid recommendation: there has to be some equilibrium, and in destroying more than you create, the result is a negative, an artistic minus, a kind of void or black hole.

There are times I’ve been sceptical about this, though. I mean, creating is ultimately about legacy in some shape or form: what if your output is vast but dismal? What if your legacy is like Status Quo without ‘Matchstick Men’? What if your legacy is Oasis? What if your legacy is the Vengaboys?

Clearly, some people just don’t care, and just want to leave a mark, even if it’s just a skidmark. If the tile of their album is to taken as any kind of statement or manifesto, Arcade Fortress is a band with an eye on their legacy, and they set their stall out without shame, namely to draw together aspects of Biffy Clyro, Foo Fighters and Frightened Rabbit, to produce ‘a collection of eleven festival-ready rock songs’.

And so it’s all about objectives, about ambition. I don’t think these guys have any aspirations or illusions about becoming the next voice of a generation or anything so lofty or pretentious, and once you come around to understanding that, Create More Than You Destroy makes the most sense.

Up first, ‘Oxygen Thief’ is urgent, punchy, and has a poky, up-front production. The chorus is a punk-popper primed to curry favour with Kerrang Radio with a chanty ‘oi-oi-oi-oi!’ hook bridging from a catchy chorus. It’s a surefire moshpit fave in the making, if and when moshpits return – which surely they must, at least one day. We have to cling to some hopes. And hope and aspiration is strongly infused within the songs on here.

‘Crowded’ is a bit Foos-play-pub rock, and for some reason, my ears just hear Meatloaf fronting Biffy Clyro on ‘Erosion’. Elsewhere, ‘In It’ is more Reef / Red Hot Chilli Peppers than appeals to my ear. But then, the driving ‘Nothing to Say’ blends the quiet / loud dynamic of grunge and the raw four-chord stomp of punk to produce a song that’s simple but effective and hits the spot, and with a more melodic slant on gunge than either of the two most obvious touchstones, Nirvana and Dinosaur Jr, ‘Albi’ is a slow-burner that is well-executed.

It’s not hard to hear the appeal of Arcade Fortress here. It’s been a long time in the coming, and Create More Than You Destroy is not an album to be judged on whether it’s revolutionary, but on whether it’s an artistic success based on ambition and purpose: and since their ambition is to produce songs that, quite simply, rock, and in taking on an array of styles, Arcade Fortress show they’re adaptable and have an ear for the accessible: success surely awaits.

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Arcade Fortress Artwork

Panurus Productions – 25th September 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Shrill, harsh, shrieking feedback noise and ear-cleansing scrapes of crunching metal collide and it’s not pretty, it’s not easy on the ear, it’s not rhythmic, melodic, or anything even approaching aesthetic. This is the sound of ‘Cardboard Schimitar’, the eleven-minute opening track on Always Check Your Mirrors, a collaboration between Mariam, Plastiglomerate, SW1n-HUNTER & Yol. It’s something of a departure for Newcastle-based tape label Panurus Productions, for whom dark, odd, and unsettling are standard, because Always Check Your Mirrors hurtles headlong into the domain of warped and outright nasty.

It’s head-shredding, and a sonic experience akin to poking a wet finger in a live socket, but the best of it is that that’s as gentle as it gets. It’s the sound of four similarly attenuated but nevertheless disparate artists pulling in all directions at once to chaotic effect.

To be fair, the liner notes do very much prepare us for the worst: ‘from frantic blasts of electrical necromancy through to sparse ominous ambience, crackling with distortion or resampled and warped. Objects clatter and strings twang over sizzling electronics and stark exclamations, as twisted and sheared sounds fold back into themselves over the course of eleven tracks.’ As the notes also explain, this album was ‘pulled from a session recorded live’, and consequently, ‘these tracks vary in intensity across the tape; from frantic blasts of electrical necromancy through to sparse ominous ambience, crackling with distortion or resampled and warped. Objects clatter and strings twang over sizzling electronics and stark exclamations, as twisted and sheared sounds fold back into themselves over the course of eleven tracks’.

And the end result is a serious fucking din. Unintelligible, maniacal shouting against screeds of impenetrable, undifferentiated noise is the order of the day for ‘Illegible Back Tattoo with Typo’: it’s a primitive stab at power electronics, and it’s this primitivism that gives it such a brutal edge. Twanging, scraping, clanking, clattering, this is truly everything thrown in including the kitchen sink, with bags of spanners, rusty nails, leaky pipes, and a hefty dose of psychosis: this is the sound, and this is the mood: wild-eyed raving and a boiling fermentation of electronic froth come together to create an uncomfortable atmosphere, like being hemmed in a small meeting room with a manager who’s losing their shit every which way, while troubling tinnitus rings in your ears. The tension hurts, and your pulse quickens with discomfort.

The vocals are stuttering, tight-chested, snarled, shouted, choking on fury to the point that thy more or less resemble a breakdown captured by microphone, stammering incohesion amidst a crackling overload of distortion. Always Check Your Mirrors straddles electronic noise and experimental weirdness: ‘Awesome Pop Off the Radio’ is a cut-up explosion with Tourette’s, a spasm smash of warped tape whiplash. Needless to say, it’s the antithesis of pop, and yet it’s probably one of the more accessible cuts by far. ‘Hoiked from Pure Air’ evokes Japanese oddity, and following the bleep, fuzz, and whirr of ‘Test Skeleton’ with its farting circuit melts, while the thirteen-minute closer, ‘Accolades as the Car Stalls Again’ dissolves in a wave of static as bleeps and crackles fly in all directions.

It’s far from soothing – by which I mean it’s borderline psychotic – and an album containing this level of fevered spleneticism should probably carry a trigger warning for the more delicately disposed in these tense times, but the catharsis imbued within each brutal blast that combined noise and words to the most powerful effect is perhaps one of the most succinct articulations of all of this fucked-up shit I’ve hears all year.

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Soundtracking The Void – 18th September 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Before the Magic is the debut from The Incidental Crack, a new collaborative work from Front & Follow and Gated Canal Community’s Justin Watson and Rob Spencer, alongside Simon Proffitt, who also performs as Cahn Ingold Prelog and The Master Musicians Of Dyffryn Moor.

Under the seemingly eternal lockdown and difficulties arising from distancing, which continue to loom large over all things creative and musical where collectivism and collaboration are concerned (live performances are another essay altogether, and their absence will continue to leave an immeasurable void for so many and on so many levels), The Incidental Crack is a project that could only exist thanks to the Internet, which saw, ‘a six month period of remotely sharing atmospheric field recordings, samples and random noise, culminating in studio sessions focused on detailed processing and sound manipulation.’

The album’s four tracks are significantly differing in length, ranging from a ‘mere’ six-minute snippet to an eighteen-minute exploration of the deepest, darkest tunnels

Why are children’s voices always so unsettling? Especially samples of chirpy, innocent calls and singing, when juxtaposed with murky, dark ambient drones? I suppose it’s not least on account of that unheimlich sensation instilled by those quite specific contrasts of carefree naivete and gut-clenching fear. Individually, these sensations can be processed and compartmentalised, but together, they sit uneasily, tapping into a biological parental instinct that tells us that children should be kept safe from harm, and a doomy sonic fog, with connotations of imminent danger, creeping around the ankles is something of a hard-wired trigger. ‘If I Can Do It’, then, is a thoroughly unsettling collage. The voices fade out, but deep rumbles of thunder persist, a different kind of threat as a storm breaks and it reminds us that there is nothing harsher, more devastating, than nature.

‘Skin’ provides some much-needed levity, overlapping myriad snippets of adverts for skin products by way of an intro before drifting off into soft bubble of drifting mellowness. There’s a spoken-word piece, from what initially appears to be lecture on skin but wanders more into the territory of a reflection on skin more generally.

With murky, clunking percussion and inaudible sampled dialogue running throughout its twelve-minute running time, the dark and impenetrable ‘Set free all the birds from your wife’s aviary’ is another level of unsettling, and it’s difficult to settle or adjust to despite the relentless booming plod that hangs in the background.

The sparse, clanging pulsing noises of the final track are hollow, empty, and even when joined by a slow-swelling tide if amorphous, extraneous noise, feels quite bleak and desolate, and the title, ‘We All Feel Happy Now’ feels grimy ironic. Gasping breaths, the sounds of panic, along with slivers of spoken-word narrative (which in passing includes the album’s title is dense and dolorous, and there is no joy to be found here.

And yet the album as a whole feels positive, if only in terms of its fulfilment of purpose as an experimental album with unsettling connotations, and sometimes, you just need a dark, desolate atmosphere to match the mood.

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The Incidental Crack - Before The Magic

Fight the Power Records – 1st October 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Inego, who hail from Manchester, proclaim to channel ‘some of the city’s finest musical heritage such as New Order, James and Oasis; blending them with other influences that range from Daft Punk to Fleetwood Mac, Phoenix to Chic, and meeting somewhere in the mid-Atlantic to create their own unique brand of anthemic leftfield indie dance rock with pop and disco-funk sensibilities’.

I see ‘disco-funk’ and shudder to my core. I expect the problem is with me, and believe it’s biological or neurological. I don’t have a funky bone on my body, and funky shit all too often fuels an almost unspeakable rage that roars from the core of my being. On calmer days, I just get irritated.

But actually, Inego’s Departures draws on elements that appal, perhaps largely on account of their retro elements, most of which hark back to 80s pop. The production is clean and crisp to the point of near-sterility, and I’m frankly in awe: while many dismiss Duran Duran as vapid and overpolished, there are darker undercurrents to be found in their songs, and the production, as smooth as glass, is something else – and that’s what Inego recreate here.

Opener ‘Je Sais Ce Que Tu Ressens’ has heavy hints of The pet Shop Boys in the mix, and there’s a strong pop sensibility that runs throughout. ‘I Need Your Love’ is unashamedly cheesy, a nagging bass and clean guitar defining the sound, and at its best, Departures sounds like Mansun’s Paul Draper fronting The Psychedelic Furs circa 1982. ‘Can You Feel’ throws some bold, arena-friendly cinematic ambition into the mix, hinting at U2, and maybe later Editors and New Order, specifically amalgamating ‘Ceremony’ with the sound of ‘Republic’.

And so I should absolutely detest he slick groove of ‘Coming Up’, but nostalgia prevents me, hearing, withing its hectic shuffle The Associates, Mansun, Duran Duran. The slower, acoustic-based ‘She Don’t care’ is soulful and sincere, and affecting despite being heavy on the brass.

The bottom line is that this is a really, really good, solid album. It’s not challenging, it’s not contemporary, and it’s got the most overwrought bass and slap bass than anyone’s likely to have heard since Top of the Pops circa 1983. But it’s got songs, and they’ve absolutely nailed the sound and the production.

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Inego Album Artwork

Cruel Nature – 18th September 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Meyer Huthwelker is Helge Meyer and René Huthwelker: these are new names to me, but they seemingly have pedigree as emerging from ‘the hydra-headed experimental noise and ambient scene of Hamburg’. Meyer is also part of the band Ex-Kopf together with Scheich In China, and Huthwelker lately released a great solo tape on Phil Struck’s Stoffe imprint.

As Meyer Huthwelker, the liner notes inform us that ‘they play slow moving electronic music, using various modular and semi-modular synthesizers as weapons of choice.’ These words are chosen as carefully as their weapons, and reflect the way the duo’s sound has a strong attacking element to it, which is showcased perfectly here.

Purdue Generator contains two tracks, corresponding with the two sides of an audiotape, and Cruel Nature are releasing this one in a limited edition of 65 copies – which is an indication of the duo’s appeal given that their tape runs are often considerably smaller. It’s nice, it’s cult, but it’s without doubt respectable.

Purdue Generator contains a lot of heavy drone. Heavy drone. And a lot. Purdue Generator is one of those albums where you find there really isn’t much to say. It’s ambiguous, vague, somewhat formless. It drones on and on… and on. It oscillates and undulates. Slowly, gradually, like so much burrowing and tunnelling and meandering from hither to thither… but nothing happens. Wait, here’s the good bit… Actually, that is the good bit: the lack of change or specific ‘bits’ is entirely the point – it’s an elongated, continuous piece, unpunctuated, defined by protracted sameness that has a cumulative effect. The dronier, the less eventful, the more resonant, the deeper the impact, a little like exposure to radiation, I suppose: the more frequent and prolonged, the more effect on the system.

And so, with the first side, ‘Oxy’, where the elongated pulsations last for aeons, eternities, trickling into the second, ‘Hundo’, there’s a continuity and constant buildup. This being 2020, that buildup is one of tension and resembles less a buildup of excitement than a buildup of plaque. It’s something more to pick at than to actually learn major lessons from.

The low, slow, oscillations hum and thrum at a pace and frequency that settles around the lower thorax, and the reaction is as much physical as mental: Purdue Generator blossoms and blooms with questions over answers as it inspires the listener to step back from the tumult of everything external to meditate in one’s own internal rhythms. The higher, trilling notes that sometimes enter the mix bring levels of discomfort, as do the shifts into lower, grinding throbs. Fading out over a long, deliberate gradation, it doesn’t leave us with very much other than an empty space and room for contemplation.

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Sacred Bones – 11th September 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Regular readers will likely have spotted Uniform featured on numerous occasions here at Aural Aggro, and in may ways, they encapsulate everything that inspired me to start this in the first place – namely that reviewing music that moves and affects me isn’t quite enough, because only half of it’s about the music, and the remainder is about that personal reaction, and that’s more of an essay than a review. To some this may seem indulgent, and maybe it is, but the intention is that in explaining my own personal response, there may be something relatable there for other readers – and also, potentially, something for the artist, namely an insight into how their music resonates with fans, what it means to them.

I’m not dismissing the merit of reviews that endeavour to quantify the quality of a release based on various merits and so on, but when confronted with music that exists to convey the most brutal emotions in a way that almost physically hurts, you just have to go deeper, and pick it apart properly, much as in the way you’re compelled to pick at an itchy, crusting scab until it’s weeping and raw and bleeding once more in some wrongheaded attempt to understand the nature of the wound.

The particular thing about Uniform is the way in which they balance unbridled rawness, a rage so explosive and nihilistic that words cannot even begin to convey even the outline of the sentiment, one so deeply enmeshed with a choking fury that renders words worthless, and a rare literacy.

“Thematically, the album is like a classic hard-boiled paperback novel without a case,” says front man Michael Berdan. “It focuses on the static state of an antihero as he mulls over his life in the interim between major events, just existing in the world. At the time we were making the record, I was reading books by Raymond Chandler, James Ellroy, and Dashiell Hammet and strangely found myself identifying with the internal dialogues of characters like Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe.”

These are all authors I have an immense admiration for, on account of the pace of their narrative, their economy, their capacity to deliver plot at pace, and their writing methods. Writing is one discipline. Writing to deadlines and producing quality and quantity quickly entirely another, and one I genuinely aspire to.

Uniform have demonstrated an impressive work ethic since their inception, and have been cranking out an album a year either on their own or in collaboration with The Body on an annual basis for the last few years. And never once has the quality or intensity dipped one iota, and Shame continues this unblemished record.

They have evolved over time, replaving the drum machine with a human drummer, but this hasn’t rendered them any more ‘ordinary’ and even without the harsh, pounding electronic battery of percussion, they’re still cranium-crushingly intense and head-shreddingly harsh.

Admittedly, I’ve had The Long Walk on heavy rotation for some two years now, with ‘The Walk’ not only defining that raw, aggro, nihilism that IS Uniform, but also being something of a soundtrack to life. Because life is short, cruel, and painful an there aren’t many acts who convey this as accurately as Uniform.

Shame explores all of the pains and anguish of shame and humiliation, the desire to bury one’s face or to disappear, and for all its harshness, all its abrasion, and all its brutality, Shame is an album that speaks on a deep emotional level. Shame hurts. It’s also harsh, abrasive, brutal, and as visceral an album as you’re likely to hear, and not just in clusterfuck 2020, but period.

The singles released online in advance of the album certainly give an idea of where it’s headed, but Shame needs to be heard in full – and at full volume of course – for maximum impact.

It crashes in with lead single ‘Delco’, possibly the most accessible of the ten cuts. It’s all relative, and by ‘accessible’ we’re looking at Ministry circa Psalm 69, with driving guitars dominating mangled vocals pegged low in the mix. The album swiftly descends into the depths of darkness, a murky blur of metal fury that combines the detached mechanisation of Ministry and Godflesh with the screeding impenetrable guitar noise.

The title track is tense, bleak, but there are hints of redemption at least in the intro before it turns dark and self-flagellatory. The refrain ‘That’s why I drink / That’s why I weep’ is another intertextual reference, this time made in homage to Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone episode ‘Night of the Meek’. But it distils a dark intensity that is the essence of an internal pain that can only be soothed by a chemical anaesthetic. It’s so succinct, and so absolutely magnificent, despite being painful and ugly. We’re all fucked up, and personally, I’m more wary of those who present themselves as happy and normal than anyone else. Who are they rely lying to?

‘Dispatches from the Gutter’ is a sub-two-minute blast of gnarly noise that is virtual onomatopoeia, while ‘This Won’t End Well’ is a slow-paced, industrial trudge, and closer ‘I Am the Cancer’ is just horrible, a mess of frantically-paced guitars, mangled to fuck, and vocals, distorted beyond impenetrability, all cranked out fast and hard. And this is how this album would always have to end. It would have to be painful. It would have to be like peeling flesh. It would have to be like murder.

Shame sees no sign of Uniform softening, Moreover, as they try to make sense of this ugly, violent world, their music more conveys the confusion and the pain of being alive. Embrace it or don’t, but with Shame, Uniform captures the spirit and the anguish of life right now.

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28th August 2020

James Wells

If a band can’t sell itself up, what hope have they for anyone else? So fair play to Horrible Youth, who pitch themselves as ‘an Icelandic five-piece sludge and grunge band that sprang to life in Oslo in 2016 and quietly recorded their stunning debut, Wounds Bleed.’

And you know what? It is stunning. ‘Monkeys’, the album first track is a low-tempo grunger that blends Nirvana and Metallica and ultimately comes on like Melvins – and if you’re going to for sludge and grunge, Melvins is the band against which any other is going to be judged.

The songs on Wounds Bleed are concise (the majority being under four minutes) and built around simple repetitive riffs cranked out with a big, overdriven guitar, and favouring the mid to lower ends of the EQ spectrum for a dense, murky sound. Only the cymbals crash through the

Single cut ‘Blissful Tropes’ brings a psych twist to the lumbering riffery, and it’s got hooks and weight in equal measure (it’s hardly a pop tune, but there’s a sinewy lead guitar behind the shouting), making it a standout on what is, undeniably, a really solid album.

It sure as hell ain’t soft or gentle, and doesn’t do the cliché ‘mellow’ track at the end of side one or anything, instead slinging riff after riff, with the rawness of Tad at their best. ‘Serve the Plague’ hits a particularly hefty, low-slung, goth-doom groove, and the tempo picking up around halfway through to thrash out a full-throttle attack.

Combining density and intensity, and packing a megalithic dose of angst, Wounds Bleed distils the sound of 1994 and turns the volume up to eleven, and the result is something special.

AA

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29th August 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

True to form, details of the theory or process behind Gintas K’s third release of 2020 are sparse: ‘Played & recorded live by Gintas K 2019. Recorded live at once, without any overdub; using computer, midi keyboard & controller assigned to vst plugins’.

What he presents here are three longform compositions, between fifteen and twenty-one minutes apiece, each accompanied by an ‘extension’ piece, of around five minutes or so, which tacks on to the end. The pieces are untitled, beyond ‘Track One’ and the date and what I assume to be the end time of recording.

K works from a palette of synapse-popping digital froth, tiny bleeping tones that fly around in all directions like amoeba in a cellular explosion, which builds to some neurone-blasting crescendos of whirring electronics and fizzing bursts of static and sparks. Amidst a swampy swirl of squelchiness rises a hum of interference, like an FM radio when a mobile phone’ been left next to it. ‘track one’ dissolves into a mass of amorphous midrange; its counterpart ‘extension’ reprises the glitching wow and flutter, ping and springs of the majority of the preceding twenty minutes, and follows a similar structural trajectory, only over a quarter of the time-frame.

‘track two’, recorded the following day in November of 2019 is, ostensibly, more of the same, with birdlike tweets and twitters fluttering around random clunks and thuds. Here, initially, there is more restraint, fewer fireworks, and more space between the sonic somersaults, until, briefly but intensely, about five minutes in, when a fierce blast of static cuts the babbling bleeps, washing away the sound to silence. Granular notes trickle in a minuscule but rapid flow which hurries keenly toward the conclusion, only to return for the extension piece, sounding rather like the tape being rewound.

Bloops, glops, tweets and twangs abound once more on ‘track three’, and if the pieces on Extensions are given to a certain sameness, it’s testament to Kraptavičius’ focus and dedication that he explores such a small sonic area in such intensely obsessive detail. Gintas K creates intensely insular music, which picks through the details of its own creation in a microscopic level, and if his spheres of reference seem suffocatingly introverted and inwardly-focused, then that’s precisely because they are, and it’s welcome. Instead of eternally reflecting on his emotions, like so many musicians, his work emerges from an infinite loop of self-reflectivity concerning its own content, and as such exists in a space that is free of such emotional self-indulgence. If this is indulgent – and perhaps it is – it’s equally scientific and detached, which very much paces it in a different bracket. And as Gintas K continues to pursue a most singular journey, it’s most educational to be able to tag along.

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Submarine Broadcasting Co

Christopher Nosnibor

The press release details that ‘SCHTUMMM is the new project from Craig Manga (Mangabros, Modwump)’, and that ‘it’s Craig’s solo foray into generative music and it’s experimental, complex, emotional, mathematical and thoroughly original. There is beauty in there for those who are prepared to look’.

‘Despise’ is a harsh word. It connotes such a strong dislike that it borders on the physical. A loathing, a hatred, so consuming one would wish to obliterate it. How could anyone despise music where there is beauty to be found?

To be fair, Manga does make it quite difficult to find the beauty or even particularly like his work at times here.

After the gentle introduction of ‘First Cuts’, which combines subtle post-rock elements with a delicate ambience, and is pretty innocuous to say the least, things immediately become a whole lot more challenging with ‘Cesium Bed Deposits’, an experimental electronic effort which finds multiple rhythmic sound sources jostling and clanking for supremacy while whistling notes on the feedback spectrum waver in and out. It has something of a vintage vibe, hinting at the likes of Cabaret Voltaire and Test Department, even Throbbing Gristle, the kind of innovators who took new and emerging technologies and pushed them – and the boundaries of music – to the limit.

‘Juggerman’ is another exercise in dislocation and disorientation, warped tape loops spooling every which way around bulbous bass notes and clicks and pops which form muddy, stop-start rhythms. White boys can’t dance, especially not to twisted disco that’s out of key and out of time with itself as the tempos wow and flutter erratically all over ‘Tempus Fidget’ (which gets extra points for the audacious pun).

Things take a microtonal turn on ‘Circuitry <v.2.0 binary flesh>’. With piano notes bent and stretched out of shape, it sounds like ‘How Long’ by ACE, or maybe 10cc’s ‘I’m not in Love’ on a chewed-up audiocassette that’s being run over by a bulldozer, while the glitching circuity slowly melts in a stammering overload. It’s certainly a perverse and an intentionally frustrating listen.

The three-part ‘Memorygauze’ sequence, each part of which is precisely 10:00 induration (apart from the third, which is ten minutes and three seconds – I’m convinced b now that SCHTUMMM is out to affront my sense of order and my somewhat OCD tendencies are tripping over this detail

The looping vocal collage of the first of these, ‘Memorygauze: ,the erosion of nostalgia: infantile dementia>’ employs the popular horror trope of the eerie children’s voice singing, but renders it all the more unsettling with its abstraction, and the child-like simplicity of the sing-song repetition when pitched against dripping bleeps and a stuttering heartbeat of a rhythm becomes more uncomfortable over time. ‘Memorygauze: ,the erosion of nostalgia: juvenile dementia>’ sounds like the same track only more melted, a trick repeated on ‘Memorygauze: ,the erosion of nostalgia: alienator goofiest nosh>’, which actually sounds closer to the first, only with additional sighs, farts, and beeps in the mix before going drum ‘n’ bass about six minutes in. It’s almost as if SCHTUMMM is endeavouring to wring every last drop of frustration by testing the patience to the max and then just keeping on going – and going, and going. And I admire the audacity. I also appreciate the exploration of tonality, the way the relationship between incongruous sounds is interrogated in detail. It’s also a credit that instead of switching rapidly between ideas, each is given time enough to be fully realised.

Ultimately, from the frustration emerges a real admiration: it’s a challenging album, and it’s meant to be, and as such, very much an artistic success.

AA

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Front & Follow – F&F062 – 28th August 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

This twenty-three track extravaganza marks the third of five compilations for which cult label Front & Follow has been briefly resurrected with a view to supporting artists who’ve had their work rejected while raising funds for The Brick in Wigan, a charity for homeless people, which also operates a food back – more vital than ever, sadly.

What I personally like about the series and its approach to its purpose is that as has always been the case with F&F and the artists it releases, is its understatedness. And while there’s a lot of noise about the anguish of isolation under lockdown in the media and social media, the liner notes stress clearly ‘This is not an isolation project – it’s a rejection project’. This is very much representative of F&F’s singularity: the label was always about operating apart from trends or vogues, and as such, while it would inevitably cater to a niche audience, it wasn’t a fickle one.

While many of the artists are unfamiliar and probably not only to me, Social Oscillations and Sone Institute stand out as acts whom I’ve reviewed on previous releases on F&F.

Musically, and in terms of quality, though, it’s very much a level playing field, and it’s not hard to grasp why, having been inundated with submission for their modest project proposal, they decided to release a full five volumes.

It’s straight in with the eerie, spooky-sounding dark ambient courtesy of Social Oscillation’s ‘Dreich’, a word that’s stuck with me since my time in Glasgow around the turn of the millennium. It’s so descriptive, and yes, the song’s grey, sombre tone fits it nicely.

As with the previous volumes, despite being largely electronic and instrumental in its basis, the stylistic span is impressive: from minimal, dubby-techno to experimental post-rock via the most vaporous ambience, it’s all here, and curated so as to be perfectly sequenced.

With the super-murky ‘Crawling Guardian’, Everson Poe evokes the spirit of The Cure circa 17 Seconds and Faith before it goes crushing doom metal in the final minute, and the dingy production only amplifies the oppressive atmosphere. Elite Barbarian’s ‘Gat Trap’ is particularly unsettling and particularly impossible to pin down as is groans and rumbles; Newlands’ ‘Father Sky’ is a hypotonic chant, and ‘Orla’ by Farmer Glitchy is tense, claustrophobic, uncomfortable. Jonny Domini’s ‘New Pink Shirt’ is a bit of a departure, being a kind of Pavement-meets-The Fall lo-fi indie racket. It’s pretty cool, and John Peel would have loved it. Dolly Dolly’s ‘HEADS’ is a neat, if rather twisted, spoken word piece, and while it’s perhaps understandable why it may have ben hard to home, it’s no reflection on its being a good piece.

And, yet again, you can’t help but think that those who rejected all of these tracks, no doubt with an ‘it’s good, but just not for us’ let-down, are the ones who have missed out, and it’s all to the benefit of Front & Follow with their accommodating policy in curating this series.

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