Archive for the ‘Albums’ Category

Headcheck Records – 17th February 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

It seems an age since we featured a review of Weekend Recovery’s single ‘Focus’ here at AA. It was, in fact, September 2016, when James Wells noted the band’s ambition and suggested they were probably ones to watch.

Here we are, a year and a quarter later, on the eve of the release of their debut album. They’ve relocated to Leeds, and have an extensive touring schedule and slots lined up at Camden Rocks and Rebellion Festival this year. And it feels good to be able to say ‘told you so.’

Weekend Recovery have certainly done it the hard way: sheer grit and determination, hard plugging, hard gigging and a succession of strong single and EP releases are how they’ve got here in a comparatively short time. It helps that they’re a cracking live act, but ultimately, it all comes down to having songs. And Weekend Recovery have songs.

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They describe the songs on Get What You Came For as being ‘their most mature and personal tracks to date,’ and it’s telling that none of the material from previous releases is included here. As I said, they have songs, and plenty of them. So many bands knock out debut albums that collect their singles and EPs and augment them a clutch of new songs, and leave you wondering if they’ve shot their load before they even got as far as an album. Not so Weekend Recovery: Get What You Came For is a proper album, and it possesses a unity and cohesion. It also maintains the pace throughout, avoiding the all-too-common mid-album mid-tempo slump.

They bail in hard with blustering guitars on ‘Turn It Up’, a grungy / punk tune with a descending chord sequence and some nifty bass runs backing a vocal delivery that’s as much Debbie Harry as anything, and it’s a vintage punk pop vibe that radiates from ‘Oh Jenny’ (again, we’re talking more Blondie or Penetration than any contemporary Kerrang! Radio fodder by way of a comparison if you need one).

Oftentimes, when bands refer to their songwriting as having matured, it usually means they’ve gone safe, and are all about the craft, man. Chin-stroking introspection paired with layered-up acoustic-led laments, soulfulness, an emphasis on musicianship, and all that shit. There’s none of that shit on Get What You Came For: by maturity, they mean they’ve focussed and refined their approach, trimming any trace of fat to produce songs that are sharp and direct, powerful and punchy. Dull, overworked, overthought, it isn’t.

The Paramore / Katy Perry comparisons which applied to their previous works no longer hold here: it’s less pop and more punk, and there’s a hard edge and tangible fury which drives the songs here. Instead of prettying things up with an eye on the commercial, Weekend Recovery have tackled the turbulence of life head on and sculpted it into music you feel. Lead single ‘Why Don’t You Love Me’ is the most overtly commercial and poppy cut here, but the guitars are sharp and there’s a barb to the lyrical angle on dating sites and the inherent narcissism of social media.

When they do slow it down and strip it back on ‘Anyway’, it’s Courtney Love’s solo material that comes to mind. And while it’s not up there with the first two Hole albums, I’d take solo Courtney over the last two Hole albums any day. The title track is a gritty minor-chord crunch with some thumping percussion, singer Lauren snarls venomously, while at the same time displaying a certain sass, before ‘I Wanna Get Off’ wraps the album up with a full-throttle flurry of guitars.

There’s a real sense that Get What You Came For captures the real Weekend Recovery. They’ve broken loose from the mouldings of their early influences and found their true identity here. And, no longer concerned with confirming to a form, or even being so bothered about being liked, they’ve unleashed the rage, harnessed all the pain and the fury that drives that creative urge, and channelled it honestly. The end result is an album that’s driving, immediate, engaging – and exhilarating, exciting, energetic, and very good indeed.

Weekend Recovery - Get What You Came For

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Crónica 138 – 6th February 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

Mark E Smith has died. It shouldn’t come as a surprise. In fact, the surprise should be that he didn’t die sooner. But I can’t help but be shaken by the news. It doesn’t feel appropriate to post any music reviews: my social media streams are aclog with tributes to Smith, and it feels wrong even to add to the noise. Part of me feels I should revisit a slew of the old favourites, but they’re so engrained in my mind, I don’t really need to hear them, especially not now.

And so I immerse myself in Témoins, the latest offering from Mathias Delplanque, whose work I’ve previously enjoyed. The three sections of Témoins (including the digital bonus track ‘TU)’ are a world away from the ramshackle three-chord stomps and lyrical derangements of The Fall: these instrumental works – sound collages laid over difficult hums and drones – present a very different kind of abstraction. And it reminds me, vitally, that life goes on. Music goes on.

The sparse arrangements – often, they barely feel like arrangements – are as much about space and silence as sound. The sounds – the whirrs, the drones, he hums, the hisses – are interrupted, disrupted, broken – by seemingly random elements. Birdsong, lowing cattle, slamming doors, clatters and bangs, thumps and crackles. These are amidst the irregular extranea which form the fabric of the material of Témoins.

The atmosphere shifts and moods emerge most unexpectedly from seemingly innocuous sound pairings and juxtapositions. Late in the second piece, ‘Bruz’, thin, tentative notes hover long in the air, needling the senses while unexpected bumps and knocks at close proximity are enough to make you jump. Muffled conversation carries on all around. Here, Delplanque expertly recreates the conditions and sensations of the anxiety of agoraphobia. It grows chill, and it’s difficult to not feel tense are wary. On ‘TU’ – by far the shortest piece running for less than ten minutes – a ghostly piano drifts into the damp air while scraping footfalls combine to create an unsettling, spine-tingling atmosphere.

With Témoins, Mathias Delplanque delivers an hour of understated yet quietly compelling ambient dissonance.

AA

Crónica138_front

This is it Forever – 28th February 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

Capac are an electronic duo, currently based Athens and Bristol. But geography is a state of mind, and while details about the context and circumstance surrounding Through The Dread Waste are limited, the music stands for itself. Yes, it’s supposed to contain ‘ten interpretations of the coldest traditional winter music in the form of dark drone and atmospheric ambience’, but without a priori knowledge of the original versions, all that is left is drone and ambience.

The ‘dread’ ascribed to the ‘waste’ is entirely redundant: waste is surplus, unnecessary, for disposal. Why dread it? The sense of portent, of impending doom… Yes, in a world where there is no time to waste, no money to waste, we may rightly dread it. And yet. The waste: anything waste is unnecessary, and should be confronted, not dreaded or feared. And without value or purpose, anything is waste.

On the subject of disposal, the order page for the physical edition of the album is most telling, containing as it does the following: ‘The physical form and true embodiment of the concept behind Through The Dread Waste… You receive a fire log with a metal plate hidden deep inside. After burning the log, among the ashes you will find your metal plate revealing instructions to access the original constructions of the traditional pieces of music, prior to their deconstruction. Destruction, after all, is a form of creation.’ This echoes a classic and fundamental tenet of the avant-garde, namely the premise that one must destroy in order to create anew.

Postmodernism’s defeatism and acceptance of the death of originality is either the last gasp of the avant-garde, or the point at which is necessarily destroys itself to re-emerge, the creative equivalent of stubble-burning at the end of the cycle of growth and croppage. It would be easy to deride the ‘fire log with a metal plate’ but this is art, and there’s precious little the production and release of music by and large, especially in the mainstream. And this is art which is more than merely willing to be ephemeral, and actually invites its own destruction.

The album’s ten compositions are by no means indicative of a conventional, square set-up, as longer tracks are separated and segued by fragmental pieces. And over its duration, there is a lot of piano, and a lot of space. A lot of space. Through The Dread Waste is a sparse, ominously atmospheric set. This is music to stare into space to. At times, its presence is so sparse as to be beneath detection. The lilting piano, the endless resonant air between them, is captivating, yet so understated as s drift into the ether.

The overlaid and unintelligible snippets of voice on ‘Winter Morning’ call to mind the scratchy, pre-fade in discord of ‘Disintegration’ by The Cure. But here, there is no swampy tune riding in on oppressive drums to hammer it all home. Instead, it drifts into another space, and we consider valiant spaces and parallels. Elsewhere, monasterial voices hover in fogy darkness and drones crackle, from eternity.

As such as it’s a spiritual, transportative, and eventually an immediately accessible release (and not in the same sense of ‘accessible’ which is at the centre of the divisive and heated debate which is raging in the poetry sphere right now). Through The Dread Waste has infinite inroads, and is not abrasive or overtly difficult. Yet equally, it’s not dull or unchallenging. It has melody, and drifts in a way you can get lost in.

AA

Capac – Through The Dread Waste

Wolves & Vibrancy

Christopher Nosnibor

German label Wolves & Vibrancy is predominantly given to releasing metal, which makes worriedaboutsatan something of an unusual choice. Still, any release by the genre-straddling electronic duo is welcome regardless of who releases it. With two tracks spanning twenty-five minutes, Shift sits somewhere between an EP and a mini-album. And while it’s categorically not metal, because it’s worriedaboutsatan, it does, most definitely, err toward shades of darkness is places. But equally, because it’s worriedaboutsatan, it’s a work built on contrasts and detail.

On ‘Shift 1’, the rendering of those contrasts and details is analagous to a pencil sketch drawn with a relaxed, free hand, the shading effortlessly contoured by a smooth, easy, and relaxed wrist action to form soft, organic shapes and subtle movement.

A throbbing, low-to-mid drone swells dark, sombre. The first beats are but scratches. Paired, isolates. Hanging n space amidst the dense swirl. But they pick up – almost imperceptibly at first – and slowly, so slowly, begin to approximate a sedated heartbeat. From the building tension and growing density, just as it threatens to reach a critical mass of claustrophobia, emerges a soft, supple, rippling sound of light. Toward the end, a stippling, dappling pattern of light in the form of an interweaving motif rises on a slow wave.

‘Shift 2’ is more about stark contrast, black and white op-art flickers: the interweaving motif that surfaced, spectral, in ‘Shift 1’ takes on a new dynamic, a new tone, and dominates the front end of composition. The result is the sonic equivalent of a monochrome kaleidoscope, the patterns shifting in time and sequence with disorientating effect. Simultaneously calling to mind the vintage works of the likes of Tangerine Dream, Mike Oldfield and contemporary microtonal experimenters, it’s immersive and powerfully hypnotic. In time, it tapers away, and the temp slows, returning to the heartbeat bass and echoic click, before resurging around the mid-pint to weave a mesmerising sonic latticework.

Shift is appropriately titled given its endless evolution and morphology. In context of their oeuvre, its one of their ostensibly less ‘beaty’ releases, but it’ still displays the dynamism and sense of atmosphere that was have made their trademark since their emergence as premier purveyors of music that crosses post-rock and electronica. And as such, while it marks yet another evolutionary progression and expansion, Shift is quintessential worriedaboutsatan.

worriedaboutsatan – Shift

AA

Dependent /Amped – 26th January 2018

It would be easy to criticise Kirlian Camera’s new album for being a genre stereotype, entrenched in darkwave clichés of thumping disco beats propelling shuddering sequenced bass undulations and chilly, inhuman synth sweeps. But having formed in 1980, the Italian act, having mutated from pedalling synth-pop to progress into darker territories as the 8s progressed, are part of the first wave of bands to fore the style.

As maligned and misunderstood as it is, goth and its subcultures and musical substrains have endured, impervious to fashion, and any ebb and flow which has witnessed an upsurge in popularity has seemingly been coincidental.

I’ve no aversion to electronic music, but as a general rule, dark wave / cold wave music leaves me, well, cold. It’s not that synths and carefully produced vocals can’t convey emotional depth and that there is nothing to connect with, but as a style, it tends to lack humanity and consequently resonance. There’s music you hear, and music you feel. The electronic strains of goth all too often tend to be heavily stylised, entrenched in the well-established tropes.

As a listener and critic, I’m in no position to judge or undermine the actual emotional content of the lyrics or to question their sincerity. I am no-one to challenge how strongly any individual feels something, and I’m the last person to deride a so-called goth for being sensitive. It’s a matter of articulation: eternally drawing on a limited bank of metaphorical references and stock-phrase imagery, it feels more like the feelings are pulled tightly into a corset or genre conformity than a true release of pent-up, innermost pain. Moreover, the drama-focused delivery feels to careful, too meticulous in its presentation.

Despite a shifting line-up over the years, Elena Fossi has covered vocal duties since the turn of the millennium, and her melodies are excellent, strongly delivered with grace and nuance. So what’s the issue? It’s certainly not technical or compositional. It’s not about lack of range in terms of tone or tempo, either: ‘Helium 3’ goes all swampy, with whiplash snare and a stark, minimal synth chord sequence reminiscent of The Human Leagues ‘Being Boiled’ overlaid with creeping fear chords, atmospherics and samples. ‘Kryostar’ brings robotix vocals and a pounding technoindustrial beat, and a relentless juggernaut groove paired with soaring, choral operatics.

But whether it’s rolling piano and breathy vocals building the drama, as on ‘Traveller’s Dream’, or bombastic synth explosions, Hologram Moon feels very stylised, controlled. And thus we return full circle. It would be easy to criticise Kirlian Camera’s new album for being a genre stereotype, but however well-crafted, well-performed and well-produced, it would be difficult to compliment it for being anything more.

AA

Kirlian Camera - Moon

Crónica 136 – 9th January 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

There’s something seriously awry with my promo download of the album. The tracks won’t play any audio, and instead flit by as if scrolling, searching through a menu on fast-forward. It’s a disorientating experience, and frustrating. But my curiosity I piqued, and so I feel compelled to piece together a review from the sources I can access, starting with the album’s BandCamp page on the label website.

The genesis and evolution of this collaborate project is described in the most factual of terms in the accompanying blurb.

To start AMT and Tarab exchanged materials and objects. AMT exchanged a single sound sculpture for Tarab’s collection of small objects. This material exchange led to activity. AMT manually manipulated, Tarab also, but more often than not he placed the sculpture in situations and let them work on it. Once again exchanges took place, this time of audio material. Elements where then selected and arranged and further rearranged; some left untouched and some where [sic] transformed.

I know little about either act, beyond the sketchy bios which accompany the release. On the evidence of the contents of this curious split album, Artificial Memory Trace – a project by Slavek Kwi, a sound-artist, composer and researcher interested in the phenomena of perception as the fundamental determinant of relations with reality – create fragments of sound, with seemingly random bumps and scrapes and whistles and near-mic distortions and whatever snippets come to hand tossed together to make bumpy, jumpy sonic rides. Very brief, bumpy, jumpy sonic rides at that: the seven AMT contributions to this release are under the minute mark, but what they lack in duration is countered by their intensity. They don’t make for easy or smooth listening.

Tarab’s seven pieces are lengthier and present a very different approach to composition and arrangement. Scuffling shuffling scrapes and thumps congeal to render soundscapes that couldn’t possibly sit within the ‘ambient’ bracket. It’s altogether too jarring, the intrusions unexpected and sometimes surprising. You can’t settle to this, you can’t mellow out or relax. If fact, this is a sonic experience that provokes twitchy, tetchy reactions. It’s not music to ‘like’ but to appreciate artistically. Its challenge is its strength.

None of this is to pitch one act against the other as being more ‘evolved’: if anything, their contrasting styles and near-duality is integral to the appreciation of this release.

How seriously should it be taken? Probably quite seriously. Nothing about Obex intimates an explicitly light-hearted release, an album geared towards ‘fun’. And yet amidst the dark, ponderous clanks and rumbles, something about Obex suggests an entertaining aspect, and also hints that this is art for the love of art over and above any grander narrative. And, context / no context, this is an interesting, textured work, rich in texture and dynamics.

AAA

OBEX