Archive for the ‘Albums’ Category

Thrill Jockey Records – 17th November 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

The second collaborative album between The Body and Full of Hell, which collides with the earth like a meteor, and a mere 18 months after its predecessor, and just six months after Full of Hell’s full-tilt annihilation that was Trumpeting Ecstasy, it’s every bit as unremitting and remorselessly heavy as anything previous. It’s the sound of two uncompromising bands finding compromise by amplifying one another to the nth degree, meaning that Ascending a Mountain of Heavy Light is fucking intense, fucking heavy, and yes, even more fucking intense.

The accompanying blurb forewarns that ‘samples, synth, saxophone, and a drum orchestra all throb, and sputter, coagulating under the weight of the two bands. Programmed drum patterns and loops taking cues from hip hop are bent and twisted throughout, flawlessly emboldening the distortion drenched guitars and howling vocals.’ And did I mention that it’s intense?

Beyond the first few seconds of skittering synth oscillations, there is no light on the opening track, ‘Light Penetrates’. The crushing power chords land at tectonic pace, while the vocals – an impenetrable scream of anguish – are nothing more than a primal scream of pain. And then the jazz shit beaks loose, with horns squealing like tortured pigs bleeding in all directions.

There’s nothing pretty about this, but occasionally, from amidst the screeding walls of amorphous racket emerge full-throttle stoppers, like the pounding ‘Earth is a Cage’. Elsewhere, ‘Didn’t the Night End’ is a snarling, grinding, bowel-shaking racket of surging waves of noise that simply hurt. It’s the kind of snarling, grinding, bowel-shaking racket that makes you want to lie on the floor and curl up into a foetal position. It makes you want to die, and it certainly makes you long for the night – and the noise – to end, as it assails the senses from every angle.

The drum intro is nabbed from oh, so many tracks – a simple four-four thump of a drum machine bass – before everything explodes in a tempest of screaming industrial-metal fury. Early Pitchshifter come to mind, at least in the drum programming, but this is something altogether more psychotic in its unbridled fury, and in its amalgamation of paired-back hip-hop and industrial metal, all crackling with overloading distortion, ‘Master’s Story’ invited comparisons to the innovations of Godflesh – at least until it goes all crushing doom halfway through.

As with anything produced by either band, either independently or collaboratively, Ascending a Mountain of Heavy Light is not music for pleasure, and large chunks are little short of anti-music, blistering walls of sonic brutality built on discord with the most challenging of tones and frequencies explored to the max.

AAA

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Gizeh Records – 10th November 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

This is certainly quite the collaborative lineup, featuring as it does Aidan Baker (Nadja / Caudal / B/B/S/), Simon Goff (Molecular, Bee & Flower), and Thor Harris (Swans, Shearwater, Thor & Friends). What renders Noplace all the more impressive is that it’s an improvised work, recorded in a single day.

As the press release recounts, ‘having known each other for a number of years and previously contributed to one another’s recordings this trio finally came together as a whole on May 7th 2017 at Redrum Studios in Berlin. In a short, improvised session of just a few hours they set about laying down as much material as possible which was then subsequently edited and re-worked (without overdubs) to form this album.’ And the results are quite something, and I very quickly manage to put aside the thought that the cover art reminds me of the film Up, minus the balloons.

Rippling strings quaver over softly swelling undercurrents while rolling percussion provides a subtle, unobtrusive rhythm as ‘Noplace I’ introduces the album before creeping into the darkness f counterpart piece ‘Noplace II’. And yet it’s very much only the beginning: having been moulded post-recording, the album’s seven individual pieces are structured and sequenced so as to lead the listener on an immersive journey which gradually and subtly moves from one place to entirely another.

‘Red Robin’ builds a pulsating, looping groove overlaid with creeping stealth. Its repetitious motif may owe something to the hypnotic cyclical forms of Swans, but its trance-inducing sonic sprawl also alludes to a hypnogogic reimagining of dance music – and this filters into the spacious ‘Noplace III’, which draws together expansive ambience and, in the distance, shuffling, tranced-out beats, to create something that stands in strange, murky Krautrock / dance territory. Yes, it sounds electronic. Yes, it sounds unique, but at the same time, yes, it sounds familiar in terms of the individual genre tropes. It’s ‘place’ is precisely ‘noplace,’ in that it belongs nowhere specific, yet appeals on many different levels and in many different ways.

Interweaving motifs continue to feature in ‘Tin Chapel,’, but the rhythm here is much more prominent, a weighty four-four bass/snare beat driving a linear road through the sweeping, strings that glide from mournful to tense. The locked-in psyche-hued desert rock bass groove pushes the piece forwards, while at the same time holding it firmly in one place. In turn, it tapers into the bleak, murky expanse that is ‘Northplace’.

The final composition, ‘Nighplace’, brings things down and almost full circle as the percussion retreats into the background amidst a wash of elongated drones which ebb and flow softly.

Noplace certainly doesn’t feel improvised, and while it’s remarkably cohesive, as well as possessing a strong sense of structure, it also reveals a remarkable range, both sonically and compositionally. And irrespective of any context, it’s an engaging and immersive aural experience.

AAA

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Bleak Recordings/Division Records – 22nd September 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

Black Earth is pitched as and expansion on their previous releases, and as ‘a sonic mammoth that pushes their music even further into new dimensions of heaviness, harshness and despair.’ We also learn that ‘the lyrical themes are directly related to the presence and function of men in the planet and, particularly man himself.’ Given that man has pretty much singlehandedly fucked up the planet – creating the ‘black earth’ of the title, it’s small wonder that this is a work of seething fury edged with self-loathing and guilt.

‘(No) Shelter’ hammers out an industrial metal trudge reminiscent of Godflesh and perhaps even hints at early Pitchshifter, the mechanised drum explosions slicing through a wall of low-end grind that’s countered by tripwire guitars with some attacking treble. From the relentless, rhythm-driven maelstrom, vocals howl pure blackened nihilism. It’s a punishing eight and a half minutes and a brutal way to open an album.

‘Feral Ground’ plunges deeper into doomy drone in the opening bars before a pulsating throb of battering ram percussion and churning guitars and bass blended into a thick wall of sonic clay. It’s all about the chunky chop ‘n’ thud, stuttering, stop/start riffs, the trudging grind. One can trace a lineage of brutally nihilistic music which achieves absolute catharsis by simply bludgeoning the listener with brute force, and which possesses a tangible physicality from Swans’ initial phase, through Godflesh and Pitchshifter via Earth to Sunn O))). It’s within this context that Process Of Guilt introduce elements of Neurosis’ gnarly organic enormity to the slow pounding fury of their precursors.

On ‘Servant’, the guitars shriek in tortured anguish, the notes bent out of shape into howls of feedback while the rhythm section pounds on, hard. The twelve-minute title track is a relentless succession of sledgehammer blows, tearing guitar chords and straining feedback, and provides the album with a towering centrepiece.

The fifth and final track, ‘Hoax’ is a trudging dirge of a tune, nihilistic fury distilled and dragged to around 60BPM.

Black Earth is bleak, and it’s heavy, and it feels like the end of days.

AAA

Black Earth Cover

Crypt Of The Wizard – 3rd November 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

2015’s Of Ruin was a sludgy, doomy epic of monumental proportions, and its successor, PYR (2016), which saw them expand to a three-piece heralded the arrival of a more expansive sound. Stoic signifies a further evolution, and feels like their most focussed work to date. This means that there’s nothing quite as vast as the 21-minute ‘Desperate Thrang’ on Stoic. Nevertheless, it’s an album of immense scope and equally immense weight.

Opening with the nine-minute ‘Nothing Dreamt’, Ghold intensify both the droning doom and the heavy psychedelia of their previous outings. The vocals, low in the mix and drenched in effects, swirl amidst a backdrop of guitars as thick as slow-crawling lava. The thunderous riffology is balanced with extended passages of nuanced atmosphere which are delicate, even beautiful, as elongated drones drift into ambience.

‘Ruptured Earth (Head in Sand)’ brings both pace and volume, showing that Ghold haven’t lost sight of their thrashy roots, but have instead honed their sound into a glorious hybrid that’s uniquely theirs.

‘SKHUL V’ brings the heavy trudge, its ultra slow, ultra low sludgefest reminiscent of early Melvins. The percussion is immense, with light years passing between beats. It bleeds into the raging tempest that opens ‘SKHUL VI’, a frenzied and sustained sonic attack. It shudders and burns, and by the four-minute mark has achieved an optimal throb before gradually disintegrating, collapsing in on itself. It’s twelve-minute duration is a succession of cycles, a slow, grinding riff emerging from the howl of feedback only to become buried, lost in a vortex of its own slowing tempo, re-emerging at last as a crawling slice of glacial, minimal jazz.

If the whole deal sounds a shade incongruous, it’s to the band’s credit that they make it work, and so seamlessly. Stoic isn’t just a solid album, it’s an incredible album that pushes further toward the reaches of categorisation.

AA

Ghold correct album artwork

ITN Corporation – 3rd November 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

In the Nursery – or ITN as they’re sometimes referred – have been in existence for some thirty-five years but the Sheffield act centred around core duo of brothers Klive and Nigel Humberstone have existed well beneath the radar for the duration of their career. This hasn’t prevented their music being featured on Game of Thrones, Interview with a Vampire, The Aviator, and Beowulf, amongst others, and 1961, which follows over two dozen previous albums after some six years’ silence, showcases a set with a cinematic quality which is ideally suited to TV and movie soundtracks.

While the album’s title and overarching theme is significant on a number of levels, not least of all it being the year of the birth of the Humbertstone brothers – as well as landmark historical events including the construction of the Berlin Wall – its sound exists out of time, and if it does betray a link to any period, it’s the 1980s. Post punk collides with orchestral grandeur across the album’s nine tracks, which explore a broad array of atmospheres and spaces, with judiciously placed samples and – occasionally – vocals bringing variety and range.

A stocky bass enveloped in eddying synths, cool and spacious dominate the marching beat of ‘Until Before After’, the album’s opener, which hints at the kind of brooding, atmospheric post-rock of early iLiKETRiANS. If the comparison seems dissonant in terms of time-frame, it’s testament to ITN’s ever-shifting sonic form and their endless capacity for evolution.

If the idea of a choir of soaring operatic vocals reminiscent of Karl Orff’s ‘O Fortuna’ atop a sweep of dramatic strings by what sounds like a full orchestra sounds ostentatious, the execution of ‘Torschlusspanik’ elevates is miles above pretention to true art.

Rippling pianos, soaring, graceful strings, chiming guitars and murky percussion all form the fabric of an intriguing album: ‘Grand Corridor’ conjures a claustrophobic intensity worthy of Joy Division, while the acoustic guitar led ‘Pacify’ has echoes of Bauhaus on Burning from the Inside and ‘Solaris’, with its pounding percussion and a bassline that’s pure Peter Hook, is a major standout.

There’s a lot going on, and it’s all good: 1961 is a spectacularly articulate album that never ceases to reveal new layers, new corners, new depths.

AAA

1961

Les Disques Rubicon – 20th October 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

This is pretty high-concept stuff. The album’s framework is based around the sci-fi Contoyen, a novel by the band’s own singer, Philippe Deschemin, and the album’s nine tracks are billed as ‘1st Circle’ through to ‘9th Circle’. Not being available in translation, the connection to the book aids my comprehension and analysis of the album not one iota. However, the bigger picture does, at least a little: eternal masters of intertext and referencing, Porn are in fact named after The Cure’s seminal 1982 album, and are influenced by early 80’s electronic noise exponents such as SPK and Esplendor Geometrico, as well as the 80s/90s dark rock lineage of Bauhaus, Fields Of The Nephilim and Type O Negative.

No two ways about it, we’re in dark, gothy territory here, and The Ogre Inside is a desolate wasteland of an album with an icy core. The album is dominated by spindly lead guitars which are backed by throbbing, tearing, juggernaut rhythm guitars and bass which throb and chug.

Chilly synths and rippling electronics provide texture and atmosphere to the opener, lead single ‘Sunset of Cruelty’, which finds a complex, interweaving lead guitar meshing its way over a thunderous metal-edged rhythm. It’s not short on force.

‘She Holds My Will’ has heavy hints of Rosetta Stone on The Tyranny of Inaction, blending industrial guitars and rhythms with swirling gothic synths and atmosphere, and successfully, landing in the space between early Nine Inch Nails and The Sisters of Mercy circa 1985.

The nine-minute ‘May be the Last Time’ is one of two behemoth compositions which dominate the album. It’s expansive, emotive, and with Deschemin’s gravelly baritone howling through the delicately poised darkness, it’s reminiscent of Fields of the Nephilim.

None of this is to suggest that The Ogre Inside is in any way derivative – more simply to frame it within the tropes of the genres from which it’s clearly emerged. Porn also display some range across the spread of the album: while it’s still centred around chorused guitars juxtaposed with chugging metallic rhythm guitar, there’s a strong hook and keen sense of melody. It’s not flimsy or overtly pop, but it is catchy and accessible and enjoyable.

The album’s penultimate track, ‘You Will be the Death of Me’, is dense, hefty and propelled by rapidfire bass pedalling, and raises things to a high level of tension before the megalithic finale, which stands in the shape of the second nine-minute colossus of a title track.

The Ogre Inside is a well-paced and highly structured album, which stands up without any need for a handle on the work on which it’s based. It’s also an album which is consistent and strong, sustaining both the quality and the rich, dark atmosphere from beginning to end – and that’s no minor achievement.

AAA

Porn - Ogre

3 November 2017

Christopher Nosnibor – Christopher Nosnibor

Primitive Race emerged through a collaborative release with Raymond Watts’ cult techno / industrial vehicle PIG in 2015, which was swiftly followed by an eponymous debut album. Conceived by Lords Of Acid manager / executive producer Chris Kniker, the band’s first iteration featured Graham Crabb (Pop Will Eat Itself), Erie Loch (LUXT, Blownload, Exageist), and Mark Thwaite (Peter Murphy, Tricky, Gary Numan), with a vast roll-call of guest contributors including Tommy Victor (Prong, Ministry, Danzig), Dave “Rave” Ogilvie (Skinny Puppy, Jackalope), Kourtney Klein (Combichrist, Nitzer Ebb), Mark “3KSK” Brooks (Warlock Pinchers, Foreskin 500, Night Club), Josh Bradford (RevCo, Stayte, Simple Shelter), and Andi Sex Gang. As such, they set out their stall as not so much a supergroup, but an industrial uber-collective, and Primitive Race captured that essence perfectly.

Soul Pretender marks a dramatic shift in every way. This is not an ‘industrial’ album. If anything, it’s a grunge album. That’s no criticism: it’s simply a statement of fact.

And while Primitive Race was by no means light on hooks or choruses, Soul Pretender is overtly commercial in comparison. Again, it’s no criticism, but simply a statement of fact.

It’s a common mistake made by critics to posit a negative critique based on what an album isn’t, without really taking into account the aims and objectives which made the album the album it is. So: ‘technoindustrial supergroup make an album that isn’t technoindustrial therefore it’s shit’ is wrong from the very outset.

Kniker makes no bones about the shift: Primitive Race was always intended to be a collaborative vehicle, and with former Faith No More singer Chuck Mosley on lead vocals and Melvins drummer Dale Crover on board, it was inevitable that Soul Pretender would have a different feel.

There’s a warped, Melvins / Mr Bungle vibe about the verse of the opener, ‘Row House, which is centred around a classic cyclical grunge riff that shift between chorus and overdrive on the guitar, and the 90s vice carries into the melodic ‘Cry Out,’ which is centred around three descending chords in the verse, erupting into a chorus that’s pure Nevermind Nirvana. And that’s no bad thing: it’s a great pop-influenced alt-rock tune with a belting chous.

The excessive guitar posturing on ‘Take It All’ is less impressive as a listening experience than on a technical level, but it’s soon blown away by the sneering ‘Bed Six’, with its chubby riffage and overall thrust.

The title track is perhaps the perfect summary of the album as a whole: uplifting four-chord chugs and a monster chorus are uplifting and exhilarating, and ‘Nothing to Behold’ works the classic grunge dynamic with a sinewy guitar and melodic hook. In fact, ‘classic’ is a key descriptor while assessing the compositional style of Soul Pretender: there isn’t a dud track on it, and the songrwiting is tight. There may not be any immediate standouts, but the consistency is impressive, and in that department, it’s a step up from its predecessor, which packed some crackers, but a handful of more middling tunes. Again, the change in methodology – a static lineup rather than infinite collaborators – is likely a factor here.

The album’s lack track, ‘Dancing on the Sun’, is a slow-burn beast, with hints of ‘Black Hole Sun’ trodden beneath the heft and swagger of Queens of the Stone Age. It’s precisely the track in which an album should end, nodding to the epic and marking an optimal change of pace. And it’s in reflecting on the overall structure and shape of Soul Pretender that it’s possible to reflect on what a great album it is, with its back-to-back riffery and explosive choruses. And did I mention force…

AAA

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