Archive for the ‘Albums’ Category

This is It Forever – 9th October 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

The years between 2004 and 2008 are something of a musical blur now, a period – well over a decade past – spent at the Brudenell and various other venues – immersed in endless post-rock sets. The similarness of so many bands wasn’t a problem: if any one band could be considered immersive, then the scene as a whole melted into one protracted wash of chiming guitars and a succession of crescendos that became almost an integral aspect of life itself as everything drifted into a mist that was pure escapism from the drudgery of work.

I didn’t actually manage to catch Bradford’s Falconetti, and instead came to them by way of a mate who picked up an EP – the self-released debut Oceanography – at Jumbo Records in Leeds on the basis of the staff write-up (Jumbo’s attention to detail with the inclusion of a blurb for everything they stock, coupled their support for local and regional acts really is special)

Falconetti were active between 2003 and 2008, and the fact A History of Skyscrapers contains just eight tracks while representing (almost) the entirety of their output (barring ‘Solid State’ from their last EP, given away at their final show in 2008, and the outlying hip-hop crossover collaboration ‘Falconetti vs The Enemy’), which emerged slowly along the way is evidence of just how they didn’t rush their work. It may or may not have hampered their short-lived career, but listening back now with fresh ears, it’s clear that the small legacy they have left is practically faultless.

If the title, and the connotations of ‘a history’ suggest chronology, then A History of Skyscrapers brings a certain disappointment, in that the tracks aren’t arranged in order of release, and do don’t provide a sense of the band’s evolution over time: the idea here is that A History of Skyscrapers approximates the debut album that never was.

‘Finisterre’ stays with the nautical themes that dominate their work, but breaks from the instrumental form to incorporate soaring, semi-operative female vocal curtesy of guest singer Emma Adams, against a shimmering, lustre-filled guitar.

‘Body of Water’, from the 2003 Oceanography is outstanding, building as it does from a delicate meandering into a full-on heavy riff noise that betrays their appreciation of Jesu and takes it further into lunging God/Godflesh territory with grinding guitars, lumbering bass, and some wild free jazz horns.

Lifted from that final EP, ‘Sonatine’ is lugubrious, spacious and the sound of a band expanding and experimenting, while the twelve-minute ‘Straits of Messina’, from 2007’s Finesterre is a slow-simmering exercise in subtlety and texture that’s minimal and mournful and moving, as is fitting for a composition about the site of a major earthquake in 1908, which had a magnitude of 7.1, almost completely destroying the cities of Messina and Reggio Calabria, with the loss of between 75,000 and 82,000 lives.

For all of the bleak history, there is a grace and elegance about Falconetti’s work, and while much of the sound of very much rooted in the time, not least of all the mournful brass and rolling guitar lines, softly picked and reverb-heavy, over a decade on, their brooding atmospherics and range, which incorporates elements of shoegaze and dream pop and ambient and even post-punk mean that Falconetti sound as fresh and exciting as ever.

There’s a strong temptation to reflect on what could have been, but knowing how fickle and chance-based the music industry is, it’s as likely they’d have stalled and faded around regional small-venue gigs as it is they’d have progressed to headlining 200+ capacity venues nationally and acquired the kind of cult following in mainland Europe that would have kept them going nicely. So instead, it’s better that A History of Skyscrapers is viewed with the appreciation for the music as it is: as ‘Magna Via’ builds to a cathedral of a crescendo, we’re reminded of just how cathartic and invigorating the best of post-rock was, and still is. And while Falconetti may be no more the music still remains – and is now considerably easier to access, thanks to This Is It Forever and this compilation.

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31st July 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Matt Vowles is the first to admit that he’s a little out of step with musical trends and ‘late to the party’ in forming a goth band in 2018.

Unlike some of us, he was around the music in clubs in the mis 80s, but spent over 30 ears doing other things, before, as he explains, ‘in 2017 I rediscovered my passion for this genre. I started listening again to those goth bands from the eighties. I was totally reinvigorated. So I put down all of my keyboards, picked up my guitars and started MY goth band, BLACK ANGEL. Now here we are: two albums later. People say BLACK ANGEL captures that sound and feeling from 1985. I love the process which is what is most important. This is what I do now. And as they say, the rest is history…..I guess I was just a little late to the party.’

Kiss of Death does very much capture the essence of the school of goth from the mid-to-late 80s, and the album’s pitch as being for fans of The Sisters of Mercy, The Cult, and Bauhaus is pretty much on the money, although to my ear Kiss of Death is more Mission than Bauhaus, favouring as it does that grand arena-filling reverb and a layered but polished sound defined by a sturdy rhythm section and chorus-heavy guitars that spindle and twist their way. Then again, the album’s last song, ‘Black Angel’ lifts its bassline from ‘Bella Lugosi’s Dead’ and features a classic stony-voiced horror narrative segment, so maybe it’s a fair summary after all.

After a grand intro that echoes and swirls, the title track is in with a hard four-square thud of a drum machine, and welded it is a Craig Adams-style bass groove: nothing fancy, just that classic, metronomic strike-on-every-beat low-end. The lead vocals are menacing and low in the mix, and in the choruses it’s the female backing vocals that dominate and carry the melody. Incorporating the Sisters’ rhythm section circa ‘85, the Sisters’ bombast circa ‘87 and the melodical leanings of The Mission, it equally calls to mind contemporaries like Mayflower Madame. It’s quite telling that much of the album’s sound bypasses the 90s ‘second wave’ sound and instead hones in more on the chuggier, rockier side of the first wave – think The Cult’s Sonic Temple and The Sisters’ Vision Thing: and while there are synths present, they’re more augmentation to the guitars than to the fore.

‘Animal’ is Black Angel’s ‘More’, with a megalithic chorus propelled again by a relentless mechanised beat and a rush of layered backing vocals that border on the choral, but the synth elements hint at Depeche Mode, while ‘Alchemy’ comes on like The Sisters’ cover of ‘Ghostrider’ with its nagging bassline and blistering guitars, but laced with chilly synths.

‘Hurricane’ is more a cross between The Cult and Rose of Avalanche, while ‘Put Your Lips…’ is conspicuously ungoth, more a glam-goth rock ‘n’ roll stomp – again, more 90s Mission with a nod to James Ray’s cover of ‘My Coo-Ca-Choo’.

Lyrically, much as it’s an album about love, it’s a goth album about love, and as such all the familiar tropes about demons, goddesses and all the rest are present in abundance: it would be unduly harsh to criticise on this score, and Kiss Of Death is a truly solid contemporary trad-goth album.

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14th August 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Amongst the fermenting foment that is the melting pot of the Leeds alternative scene, J. S. Gordon, or Jack as he’s also known, is one of those people who’s to be found ambulating the underground circuit around the rehearsal space and indie venue CHUNK with noisemongers IRK. His Platitude Queen vehicle represents a less frenetic, splenetic kind of sound: a ‘contemplation on cultural heritage’, it’s pitched as an album which fits ‘the wider traditions of folk music’ while crossing into ‘the world of hauntology’.

In liner notes fitting for a philosophy graduate, Gordon unpacks the idea behind the album:

‘The form of hauntology which besieges this collection of songs is one that lurches from the depths of the past, but also recognises the (lack of) future. The traditional view of hauntology (as per Jacques Derrida) is that the present is haunted by persistent recurrence of concepts and ideas from the past. The discomfort lies in the fact that these concepts, these ghosts, do not properly belong to the past, and the observer who connects with these ghosts is therefore also removed from a common sense view of time. We are therefore forced to remove our expectations of causality and the origins on these concepts, before they “returned” as ghosts.’

In its continual plundering of the past and the immense fiscal value of the nostalgia industry, in which a collective yearning for even the most recent past has scope for commodification, Postmodernism is in some sense built on hauntology, and in its endless recycling of the past, whether through a contemporary filter or a fashionable dash of retro chic, we find ourselves in a present where the future is doomed to remain mired in the past, while at the same time any real sense of history is dismantled by an all-encompassing simultaneity. As such, everything is rootless, as fragmentary echoes of all things past reverberate around us. And so we come to Forebears.

Forebears certainly presents an intriguing aspect on what you may categorise as hauntological folk: often wonky, always sketchy, and curiously evocative, if not necessarily unheimlich in its evocativeness.

The first song, ‘Sambucus’ is sparse and lo-fi, an acoustic piece that rumbles and mumbles like a Silver Jews outtake, wistful melancholy and off-the-cuff. The stomping ‘Dance of the Mummers’ s quite a contrast, a kind of folk-punk Cossack shanty, but as if played by Trumans Water on acoustic guitars. If that description sounds addled and vague, then it’s probably about right in conveying the strange atmosphere of the album. Everything calls to mind something else, something just beyond the ken of recognisance.

‘Hob Headless’ introduces an almost country tint, and ‘Pignut’ comes on like a wonky, vibrant and wholly irreverent collision between Pavement and The Pixies, unplugged. The eight-and-a-half-minute ‘Peg Powler’ is stark and lugubrious, some Leonard Cohenesque acoustic picking growing to some layered splendour and a slow surge of tension. Forebears, then, isn’t short on intriguing moments, or, indeed, quality songs that hang suspended in an indefinable time all of their own.

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24th July 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

For the Benefit of All represents the coming together of two artists whom the descriptor ‘visionary’ isn’t really hyperbole: having led Her Name is Calla through a decade-long career of turbulence which produced a catalogue of truly definitive, landmark releases in the field of post-rock which pushed the boundaries of the genre in myriad directions, as well as forging a solo career as a minor-key acoustic troubadour T.E. Morris’ cult status is based on his creative singularity. Meanwhile, Jo Quail has very much created her own niche, bringing the cello to a whole new audience with her tempestuous compositions that are far more rock than classical, turning her instrument of choice from an orchestral element to a full band and more courtesy of her innovative playing techniques and judicious use of effects (admittedly a bloody huge bank of effects).

As the press release outlines, For the Benefit of All was inspired by, and was originally intended to be performed within, Kelly Richardson’s Mariner 9 panoramic exhibition at the Attenborough Arts Centre in Leicester, but was cancelled due to the global Covid-19 pandemic.

As such For the Benefit of All is essentially a soundtrack work, but also a narrative work, which plots the trajectory of a mission to Mars. It’s a sci-fi hybrid that tells of a future based on true events past and present, and more than this, it’s a reflection on time and space. With the original project plans put paid by the COVID-19 pandemic, they elected to continue work remotely and release the music as a standalone work, and it succeeds – although it does work best with an understanding of the context, because an abstract ambient work without context is simply one more abstract ambient work. In context, it’s very much a departure for both artists, devoid of climaxes and crescendos, instead focusing on the recreation of the emptiness of space, where movement is slow, and the immediate surroundings are filled with vast expanses of nothing.

In many mays, it also stands as a metaphor for the circumstances of its creation: we’re all together apart, distant, separate, isolated however adept we are at calling, Zooming, or meeting in the street. We are all floating in space, just out of reach, and sometimes two metres may be two thousand miles. And we’re not built for this.

The chapters contained within the booklet which accompany the compositions provide a textual narrative which adds to the substance of the work. The track titles, meanwhile, signify dates on the journey, from the significant 1972 ‘(A map from Mariner 9)’ which was the first vehicle to orbit another planet and successfully returned over 7,000 images from the enigmatic red planet, to the futuristic dates projected for colonisation. Going further back, 1610 relates to Galileo, the polymath from Pisa, the first person to use a telescope for astronomical purposes, and his viewing the red planet through the newly-invented ‘spyglass’.

The majority of the music is quiet, spacious, minimal, and while the plot includes raging global and galactic wars, the soundtrack is more given to creating the sense of distance, of isolation, of… space. The emptiness. The void. The tranquillity. The absence of atmosphere.

A hushed rapidfire beat flickers like a palpating heartbeat beneath the barely-there ripplings of the penultimate piece, ‘2212 (We Had it in Our Hands the Whole Time)’ and while it’s still subtle, it’s dramatic in its effect, and the rising tension is palpable.

The final section, ‘2452’ leaves us with both a cliffhanger and a sad sense of emptiness at the end of an expansive and exquisitely delicate album that often belies the violence, turbulence, and often bleak reflection on humankind that it soundtracks.

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Editions Mego – EMEGO289 – Digital: July 24/31 – LP: end August 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Who knew that there was a burgeoning experimental music scene in Nairobi? I’ll confess, not me. It transpires that KMRU, known to friends and others as Joseph Kamaru was listed by Resident Advisor as one of “15 East African Artists You Need To Hear” in 2018, and is a regular performer at the Nyegenyege Festival, having also presented live performances at CTM festival and Gamma Festival.

As a low, slow-oscillating, cloud-shifting, minimalist ambient work, Peel is well-executed and seems like a reasonable entry point into KMRU’s work. The field recordings that are integral to its material form are so subtly integrated as to be practically indiscernible, absorbed in the soft swell of sound. This is testament to KMRU’s attention to detail, and in a time that’s an overwhelming blast of soundbites and headlines and music that’s compressed and geared towards MP3 / radio / streaming, Peel explores the full dynamic range.

While the album features six pieces in total, four run past the ten-minute mark, with opener ‘Why Are You Here’ drifting elongatedly past the fifteen minute mark, and the title track rounding off with a monumental twenty-two-minutes or minimalism.

‘Why Are You Here’ begins quietly, a lurching bass slowly rising against clattering metallics, and it’s a hushed, stealthy and vaguely challenging introduction, a combination of melody and disharmony. ‘Solace’ offers none, despite its soft misty formlessness and ‘Well’ is simply fair enough.

‘Klang’ picks up, pulsating subtly, its rhythm reduced to an electronic throb like a sore finger. It pulses and thrums like a rising tide against a sandy shore. It has a tangible density, a physical resonance, which contrasts with the vagueness of the appropriately-titled ‘Insubstantial’ and the 22-minute closer in the form of the title track. It’s not about form but feel, and Peel feels soft, reaching out across territories and emotional landscapes with no agenda and no set motive. This freedom is refreshing, not to mention rare.

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Lamour Records – 28th August 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Vinyl may continue to make a comeback, but the 7” box set is hardly the format of choice in the second decade of the second millennium. It’s sad in a way, as I very much treasure my special editions of the debut albums by Garbage and The Cooper Temple Clause in that very format, but have to admit, if I’m actually going to listen to either album, I tend not to play these versions.

According to the press bumph, ‘This is actually the original format from 1949, when the record companies demanded a little more from their listeners. At that time they were forced to choose the playing order by stacking the discs on top of each other on the designed gramophone player. Long before today’s playlists. ‘I can’t claim to recall this being an actual thing, but my first record player, a hand-me-down from my parents, was a massive Phillips thing with speeds of 17, 33, 45, and 78. I’ve never yet seen a 17rpm record, but the deck came with a spindle upon which one could stack up to ten 7” singles, which would drop down and play, jukebox style.

Apparently, ‘The box Umf with four vinyls [sic / sick] is a tribute to two major sources of inspiration: the Dadaist Hugo Ball and the German kraut pioneers Cluster. Featuring some sci-fi (crackling movie music from the 50’s) and mixed percussion from Asia (Java, Japan, Korea). Somewhere out on the periphery, Ball and Cluster meet in a common idea: That everything has a sound, and most sounds can be music.

The concept behind this album is that ‘Umf is thus an individual album “at your choise”. It makes some demands. But it can be worth it. A mosaic where each song title gives a hint of how the music sounds: umf, bloiko, olobo, huju, higo, blung, wulla, gorem.’ In other words, an interactive album, where the sequencing is at the listener’s discretion, a sort of ‘choose your own adventure’ book in musical form, or otherwise the vinyl equivalent of shuffle.

Give that the tracks are ambient, fleeting, transitory, and non-linear, and the titles seemingly more sonically descriptive than language-based, this really is a work that gives itself to permutational sequencing, to collaging. Singling out individual ices is, of course, pointless: for the most part, they’re airy, abstract, occasionally, rumblings and laser points interrupt the relatively smooth, formless flow, which at times trickles to almost nothing, and at others grumbles and swells like an intestinal infection that churns and grumbles. It may be understated, but it’s never uninteresting.

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Cruel Nature Records – 28th August 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

It would be a flippant cliché to describe this offering by the insanely prolific Whirling Hall of Knives (this is their fourth release of 2020 and their thirteen full-length album) as an album of two halves, split as it is across two sides of the cassette release – but it would also be a valid assessment of its musical contents, also. For while it is consistently atmospheric and droney throughout, the six tracks, which bleed into one another to create the sensation of two longform tracks (the digital version is even mastered as such) consisting of a number of passages, they each bear a distinct character, if not necessarily form.

With such a daunting back catalogue, it’s difficult to know where to begin both on terms of exploration and comparison, but it’s probably fair to say that being neither as harsh as some efforts, or as ominously oppressive as others, Sabre is representative while siting at the more accessible end of their output spectrum.

These compositions are loose, transitional, and while they do lead the listener on a sonic journey of sorts, it’s meandering and non-linear in its trajectory.

The clattering rhythm that marches in the opening bars of the first track, ‘Laid to Rust’, immediately reminds me of the intro to ‘Breathe’ by Ministry, although perhaps a shade dubbier. But the percussion soon fades out and leaves, not grating metal guitars, but tapering whistles of feedback and drones like damaged woodwind. But this is very much a percussive album, at times verging on experimental dance music… and so in fades ‘Those Tracers’, the lead single, accompanied by a video we’re immensely proud to premiere here at AA. This is very much a work of abstract freeform dance music that bumps along in a vortex bubble.

Side A closes off with the altogether more attacking ‘Gutterpressed’, a gritty industrial grating through which bleak winds howl desolately.

Side B’s three cuts are lower, slower, dronier. Before sliding into a sepulchural reverence, ‘Olde Slice (Edit) is ominous and sparse. When the beats do emerge on ‘Ring Dialog’, they’re swampy and backed off, some indistinguishable robotix vocals echoing into a murky mass. The final track, ‘Barkd’ drift and hovers for so long, but suddenly, from amidst distant chords that reverberate hints of the sparsest, most minimal desert rock , percussion rises and drives away at a heavy beat and pulsating industrial bass throb to conjure an intense and oppressive atmosphere as the album inches toward its finale.

Sabre isn’t easy to categorise, and at times, it’s not that easy to listen to, either. But that’s what makes it.

Preorder Sabre here.

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Human Worth – 7th August 2020

Tough times for bands, venues, and all things music in general is proving to be a good time for the compilation, particularly the fundraiser. And while many individuals are struggling to cover bills due to lack of work and reduced income, many gig-goers and pub dwellers are finding they’ve got some spare cash going. It also so happens that there are plenty of albums being released to support the causes their enforced absence means are struggling.

Human Worth, as the name suggests, is more about the people than the spaces, and if mental health and poverty were major issues before all of this shit went down, it’s even more vital they’re supported, and the proceeds from this latest release are going to Harmless, a charity that supports metal health, and to assist in the prevention of self-harm and suicide.

The fact that more than half the acts on this release are ones we’ve covered or are otherwise on the Aural Aggro radar is a strong indicator of the style and hopefully the quality of this release. Like its predecessor, Human Worth Vol II is a showcase of premium-grade noisy stuff from across the spectrum.

AJA crash in with a mix of bewildering noise and eerie ethereality before Klämp bring some brutal lo-fi grunge noise. Snarly vocals half-buried amidst a barrage of muffled drums, gnarly bass and space-rock synths It’s challenging, but equally, it’s exciting in its raw viscerality.

Blóm do riot-grrl punk but at a thousand miles an hour, with a hefty dash of black metal / hardcore in the mix, and the resultant blast of noise that is ‘Meat’ is hefty. Meanwhile, masters of heavily percussion-led free jazz racket, Sly and The Family Drone, really churn the guts with ‘Shrieking Grief’, lifted from the new album Walk it Dry. Even on a 20-track compilation of challenging, headfucking din, they manage to stand out, in the best possible way.

Modern Technology’s ‘Gate Crasher’, taken from their upcoming debut full-length is an exercise in intense and claustrophobic tension-filled angst, a dense, roaring bass and pummelling percussion all but burying the vocals. And it’s the low-slung, gritty bass that dominates the dingy grind of Mummise Guns’ ‘Glitter Balls’, before We Wild Blood’s ‘Eat Your Tail’ brings a sandstorm of wild shoegaze / psychedelia with a darker than dark hue. Bismuth and Vile Creature collaborate to create a low-end assault that sounds like the burning pits of hell and make me seriously consider heading to the bog before I shit myself. Elsewhere, USA Nails’ minimal cover of ’Paranoid’ is a hybrid of Big Black and Suicide, but with a dash of Cabaret Voltaire, and its primitivism is compelling.

So how is this kind of sonic torture appropriate for raising awareness of and funds for mental health charities? How can a barrage of noise be a good thing? Well, some of us find comfort in this kind of racket. It’s all about the immersion, all about the catharsis. You can totally bury yourself in this kind of stuff, and feel the pain and anguish being purged. There’s something cleansing about a howling tempest that envelops you and transports you to another place that’s difficult to communicate. It’s intense, and often quite personal, and some distance beyond words. There’s often a real sense of community around the more fringe scenes, and Human Worth is very much a community of artists pulling together to care for one another and not just like-minded individuals, but anyone.

There is joy in the fact that there’s some seriously heavy shit to be found on this album’s twenty tracks, and none of its especially friendly: Lovely Wife, as you’d probably expect given their previous output, seem keen to push the brown. The snarling demonism of ‘My Cup Overfloweth’ sounds particularly close to dredging through the bowels of hell by raging demons playing improv renditions of Hawkwind songs, and it’s a murky, gut-churning blast.

There isn’t a weak – or gentle – track to be found in this collection, but Ballpeen’s ‘Hate Fantasies’ – here in demo form – Working Men’s Club (not the shit indie one) are standouts in a field of standouts.

Sometimes, there’s a sense of obligation to purchase charity compilations because there’s a decent track or two, and because it’s for a good cause, but Human Worth have again curated an album that’s just that unbelievably good you want to buy ten copies.

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Weeping Prophet Records – 31st July 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

The facts and the pitch are that Fuse Box City is a new London based band. They combine indie and electronic with noise and melody; the intricate layering of which produces a rich sound that provides a platform for Rachel Kenedy’s fragile yet mellifluous vocals to sit on top. Talking about the stuff that matters all in the same breath.

I like hybridity and eclecticism, and have developed an increasing appreciation of some of the 80s samplist / looping acts that broke through in the late 80s. It wasn’t immediately apparent at the time, but this wasn’t about simply making dance music and turntable scratching and drum machines: this was utilising emerging technology to create a soundtrack to our ever-faster, ever more fragmented experience of life.

Revisiting the spirit of then makes sense to an extent: we’re witnessing even less comprehensible times, even faster, more fragmentary lives, and even niftier tech while in a position to cast an eye back over recent history.

But sometimes blending lo-fi indie and experimental electronica and throwing in bits of prog and 80s hip-hop means the elements don’t always gel especially well, and ‘Shine On’ makes for a shaky, somewhat chaotic and disjointed start.

Maybe it’s a matter of adjustment, or maybe the band really do find their groove better as the album progresses, and it’s when they slow things down a bit as they do first on ‘Pub Licker’ and then on ‘Crossing Swords’ that things begin to feel rather more cohesive, and find FBC explore a territory that sounds like a trip-hop reimagining of Young Marble Giants.

The album’s closer marks another departure: the thirteen-minute ‘Bendy One’ starts out a low, slow semi-ambient work with a murky beat stuttering away like a fibrillating heart, and low in the mix before slowly taking form: the beat becomes ore solid, regular, insistent, and comes to dominate a vague wash of a droning backdrop which stretches and yawns and swells behind Kenedy’s soaring choral vocal. Somewhere along the way it emerges as a new ag stomper with a thumping tribal beat and some squirming electronics that bubble away in the background of some approximation of a celebratory sunset incantation.

The end product seems to be that of a band who are ideas-rich and unafraid to experiment, while still finding their feet and sense of direction. Despite its messier moments, which often boil down to execution as much as concept, it’s a bold debut, and never uninteresting or uninspired.

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Methodical Movements – 29th May 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

While I’m so desperately missing live music, it seems only reasonable that the least I can do is cover as many fundraiser releases as possible, and there are loads. Hardly surprising, really: there are loads of little venues, and they’re all struggling. And it’s the sub-100 capacity venues and the 100-200 capacity spaces that are the worst affected, and which are the venues that are the most vital for cultivating those communities of underground and unusual artists. That’s certainly not to say that rock, pop, and indie music isn’t suffering, but the market for more obscure stuff means those gig are always going to be held in basement venues in front of 20-30 people – and you might argue they’ve been practising social distancing for years, but while carrying an element of truth, fails to acknowledge the fact that the more niche the music, the more hardcore the following, and moreover, the more the need for its sustenance: often, these are small communities populated by introverts and quietly vulnerable types.

I shall quote from the press release at length, as it feels appropriate here: ‘Music for empty venues is a charitable music compilation in response to the Covid-19 crisis. Independent music venues across the country are struggling more than ever due to the imposed lockdown, with many listings cancelled and the uncertainty over any future bookings. This compilation aims to support some of the affected venues within the city of London through the means of a fund-raising, with all profits of the release going to three chosen independent London venues selected by the featured artists. These venues are: Iklectik, Hundred Years Gallery and Jazzlive at the Crypt.

The compilation features a wide range of forward thinking, electronic based musicians who have graced many of London’s (UK) independent music venues over the years. We’ve all come together in this one moment to support the venues that normally support us.’

I’m reminded of the EMOM nights I’ve attended in York and Leeds: a broad church, and so, so accommodating: they’ve effectively created their own circuit for artists, and a safe space for aficionados of the eclectic electronic music they create. As such, this project isn’t simply one to back in principle, but one that resonates on a personal level. It also helps that the standard of the contributions is outstanding, and the track list is a remarkable showcase for the range of underground electronic music emerging right now.

Blame’s ‘Flummoxed’ is an eight-minute blast of stammering electronic trilling, tweaks and jerks, bleeps and stuttering overload that hovers just below speaker distortion and fried circuitry.

Docor Stevio mines a more conventional, if dark, seam. On the face of I, ‘Another day’ is a throbbing electropop / industrial crossover with a gothy vibe, but there’s a hint of proggines in the vocal delivery and the bridge sections.

This is, incidentally, an absolutely mammoth release: nineteen tracks, many of them way over the six-minute mark, and a few truly behemoth efforts, not least of all, Laura Netz’s ‘Medial Dark Ages’ and the last track, ‘Fragments#1’ by Tony James Morton. Both are expansive and immersive and enjoyable in their own subtle ways.

Adam Paroussos’ ‘Murmurations and the Fool’ is something of a standout, by virtue of the disorientating nature of its collage pile-up of wibbly electronics and overlaid samples colliding in a riot of simultaneity, while Mathr seems intent on dissecting dance tropes to extrapolate aspects of beat, bass, and groove into a shuddering stop-start headfuck. No, you can’ t dance to it. ‘Bloom’s Taxonomy’ by Obrigada Nadamay be almost fragmentary, but with its broad, sweeping drones swishing across Japanese-influenced chimes, it’s textured, layered, and compelling.

‘Desilencing the Sea, Part 1’ by xvelastín contrasts in every way, being a minimal ambient work that’s devoid of beats and overt structure, drifting, without form, without chords… barely there, yet somehow atmospheric. Not dark, not even particularly eerie, but not light or comfortable either, ambulating a sonic no-man’s land, an aural limbo of sorts.

Ambivalence and ambiguity is a positive thing, and the material on this compilation thrives in this space without definition.

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