Archive for the ‘Albums’ Category

IHeartNoise – 16th July 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

What am I being sent now? Admittedly, I have some time for IHeartNoise with their championing and general backing – not to mention occasional releasing – of music that most would like file under ‘weird shit.’ As the label remind us, ‘rock music with oddly-tuned guitars, varied rhythms, clouds of dissonance, and bursts of energy wasn’t too hard to come by in the 1990s’.

Howcha Magowcha, the second album by Turkish Delight, originally released in 1988 (and which follows IHeartNoise’s cassette rerelease of their 1996 debut last year), isn’t quite as weird as all that, but it’s hardy accessible or mainstream. In the main, it’s a high-octane, helium-filled punky thrashabout, and really rather fun. And while punk-pop has very clear connotations in contemporary terms, aspects of Howcha Magowcha belong to the time when indie bands like Voodoo Queens and Rosa Mota and Huggy Bear were cranking up the amps and revelling in the juxtaposition of ramshackle punky noise delivered with a pop sensibility. And Howcha Magowcha is bursting with tunes – all delivered with a spiky, angular energy.

The feel is very much of the era. We’re not talking grunge or nu-metal, but are deep in the domains of the weird underground that emerged and occupied the pages of Melody Maker and the NME for a while, and would often be found spun by John Peel. Reference points are likely pointless given this level of obscurity.

Anyway: let’s skip comparisons and get to the music, which is about jolting tempo changes, jarring key switches, contrast between pretty-pretty female vocals with throaty male vocals, as evidenced no more keenly than on ‘Smooth Karate’. ‘Li Cold Vas’ has the jangle of The Wedding Present and blends it with the angularity of The Fall and the obtuse oddness of early Pram, while ‘Sea Quest’ goes Slanted era Pavement with additional full-throttle US 90s noise. ‘Metronome’ creates new levels of angularity, and explores lyrical avenues of abstraction that twist the mundane and really mess with ideas of the ordinary. ‘No Sky’ slows the pace and goes all moody, before it erupts in all directions… extra points for the epic closer, appropriately entitled ‘Close’ that goes from nagging verses to explosive tornadoes of noise by way of choruses and veers all over the place over the course of seven minutes – in contrast to the three-minute blasts of the rest of the album.

There isn’t one song on here that stands out as a single: Howcha Magowcha is very much an album, and a discordant, noisy one at that. There’s no time to settle into any of the songs: mellow moments are torn in half with propulsive drumming and low-slung bass, while the guitars fire off in all directions. It’s music that keeps you on edge, engaged, exhilarated. And however big the 90s revival gets, they’ll never make ‘em quite like this again.

AA

Turkish Delight

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Reject and Fade – 13th August 2018

It’s been some eighteen months since we heard from break_fold, the, post-I Concur musical vehicle of Tim Hann.

27_05_17 – 21_01_18 continues the trajectory of its predecessor, the first break_fold release 07_07_15 – 13_04_16, and as previously, each track title refers to the date that work on the song commenced. And, as the press release for this limited-edition cassette release explains, ‘The album serves as a document of time stamped periods of creativity captured in layered beats and foggy reverse reverb textures’. However, this set also marks a evolution, and whereas dark ambience dominated the first release, this outing offers some real range, not to mention stylistic expansion.

As such, it’s something of a musical diary, and Hann’s methodology isn’t a world apart from that of John Tuffen on a number of his projects, notably Namke Communications’ One Year; Two Days and 365/2015. An what both artists share is a certain logical sense of documentation and a prioritisation of location in time (but, seemingly, less so space: we know the when, but there where, undocumented, is immediately lost to history and perhaps vague memory).

There’s a lot of fog and murk in the mix on the seven semi-ambient pieces collected here, but 27_05_17 – 21_01_18 is a lot, lot lighter than its predecessor and is the soundtrack t a move o an altogether happier place.

‘08_01_18_Intro’ raises the curtain with clitchy, flickering microbeats, sedate pulses of bass and swathes of expansive, abstract sweeps of sound.‘21_01_18’ goes low-tempo and stealthy, with a strolling, near subsonic bass and rippling piano drifting gently over a slow-turning sonic expanse. There’s a more direct feel to ‘07_08_17’, with it pulsing synths and insistent beats – and with the vintage Roland snare sound, it has something of a tense, Krautrock vibe and a certain urgent turbulence beneath its smooth surface.

‘19_11_17’ hits an almost commercial vibe, with a buoyant dance beat pushing the altogether more focused composition forwards. There are no two ways about it: 27_05_17 – 21_01_18 finds Hann pushing himself and expanding his musical palette.

The atmosphere on this release is very different from its predecessor, and while it’s very much a mistake to align the artist and the art, the tone suggests that Tim Hann is in a better place than when he recorded 07_07_15 – 13_04_16. I certainly hope so. 27_05_17 – 21_01_18 isn’t all sweetness and light, but it is a varied and, in places, uplifting album with no shortage of buoyance, melody and accessibility.

AA

break_fold – 27_05_17 – 21_01_18

Sacred Bones – 17 August 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

Of all of the bands to make an impact recently, Uniform’s arrival has to have been one of the most hard-hitting. Wake in Fright was appropriately-titled: a terrifying mess of industrial and punk compressed into a brutal explosion of unproduced noise, it was the kind of tinnitus-inducing horror that rang in your ears as you sat bolt upright at 4am in a sweaty state of anxiety after a bad dream. When I say ‘you’, I’m presenting the personal as universal.

Yet none of this really prepares anyone for its follow-up. Whereas its predecessor was a ragged, raging sonic inferno, raw and trebly, having expanded to a three-piece with drummer Greg Fox (Liturgy, Zs) joining Michael Berdan (vocals) and instrumentalist Ben Greenberg, The Long Walk (the title of which references a Stephen King book) brings a newfound density to intensify the ferocity. That doesn’t mean they’ve toned it down: if anything, they’ve cranked it up and added new dimensions to the ear-bleeding brutality that defines the Uniform sound.

If I were being cynical, I might contend that Uniform only have one song, which they repeat with various minor adjustments. Michael Berdan’s vocals are hardy varied: a raging punk sneer smeared across a cyclical riff that grates and throbs amidst a tempest of overloading noise as the needles all quiver towards the top of the red. It’s a simple method, but often, simplicity is most effective, especially when the aim is to produce art that drills directly through the skull into the soft tissue of the brain. Maximum impact doesn’t require complex algorithms or theory. Maximum impact taps into the most primitive aspects of the psyche, targets the visceral, punches straight into instinct. And maximum impact isn’t necessarily about variety: that isn’t Uniform’s ambition: they’re out to batter relentlessly at the senses. The effect of The Long Walk is cumulative. And that effect, for those predisposed, is anxietising, stressful. Listening to The Long Walk actually raises my heart rate, and makes me perspire. And really, so it should: this is intense, claustrophobic, a different kind of aggression that speaks of derangement and blind rage.

The Long Walk is as raw as it gets, to the extent that its complete lack of refinement makes some of the most aggressive, antagonistic, and purposefully unlistenable songs even less appealing: you actually have to get through the jarring noise, the treble, the wilfully impenetrable mixing and what could safely be described as anti-production – to find the songs, let alone the appeal. The be clear: this isn’t just noisy: it’s fucking nasty, and is the work of a band deliberately pushing even the most accommodating of listeners to their limits, if not away altogether. It’s almost as if they don’t want any fans.

I can relate: as a spoken word performer, I discovered greater satisfaction in driving as many people from the room within the first couple of minutes than a smattering of polite applause from a full room at the end. Producing art is not about popularity. It’s about release, about channelling, about, catharsis, about being true to oneself or one’s aesthetic. If it’s commercial, it’s probably not art.

I know that in my writing I’m prone to revert to various ‘paint’-related tropes when reviewing work of a certain volume and / or intensity. But Uniform absolutely fucking decimate. Everything.

AA

Uniform - Long Wak

Svart Records – 31st August 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

I read ‘ffo Unsane, Jesus Lizard, Shellac, Blacklisters’ and practically jazzed my pants before I’d even opened the email, let along downloaded the promo. That was before I read the slick, sleazy, fluid-dripping pitch for Finland-based Throat’s sophomore album, as seeing the band plunging ‘head first into unprotected encounters with musical elements hardly even hinted at on their previous releases.’

‘Safe Unsound’ opens the album with a sparse into: just guitar and baritone croon that invited comparisons to Glenn Danzig. But then the guitar goes to picked notes and the atmosphere builds into more Neurosis territory… but they keep pulling back. You’re waiting for it to break, for something to happen… How long is it reasonable to hold back? I recall seeing Shellac-influenced Glasgow act Aereogramme circa 2003 and being bored to tears: there simply wasn’t enough reward for the patience of enduring the build-up. But then, Shellac can be masters of frustration: just listen to Terraform.Thankfully, Throat cut loose and hit the distortion pedals around the three-and-a-half minute mark during this eight-and-a-half minute epic. And the song has a sort of coda which is a repetitive, grinding loop worthy of early Swans, which culminates of two minutes of screeding feedback and noise. So far, so punishing. And there are still another seven songs left to go.

‘No Hard Shoulder’ justifies the Jesus Lizard/ Blacklisters comparisons, with its driving guitar and bass welded together and glued to pulverizing drums that forge a Melvins-ish take on grungy stoner rock. Gritty, shouty, unpolished, it also evokes the Touch ‘n’ Go vibe while also hinting at favourable parallels with contemporaries like Pissed Jeans. So far, my jizzed pants are justified, and the rest of the album doesn’t disappoint.

Things go a bit Techno Animal / Godflesh / NIN on ‘Shortage (Version)’ with its hefty, crashing beats, straining digital noise and thickly distorted vocals which, in combination, carve out a lugubrious, funereal piece. Dense and dark I equal measure, it provides a mid-album interlude of crushing, neogoth intensity that stands quite apart from the other tracks. and the sonorous, subsonic bass just kills.

‘Born Old’ slams back into 90’s T&G territory and sounds like Tar at their best. Obscure? Sure, but if you get the reference, the album’s for you. If you don’t, but are digging Throat, you need Tar in hour life. Really. ‘Rat Domain’ slams and churns hard, the jarring grunge riffery whipping up a churn that resonates in the gut, before closer ‘Maritime’ hammers home six minutes of brutally jarring noise-rock, which is angular, sinewy, and relentless in its abrasion, and even brings a hint of the gothic before piledriving into the home straight with a remarkably accessible, melodic finale. If it seems at odds with the rest of the album, it’s hardly a weak finish, and instead demonstrates that Throat aren’t all about the gnarly noise… just mostly.

AA

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16th April 2018 – Riot Season Records

Christopher Nosnibor

For the love, not the money, Every time. I fell out of the loop, and missed out on the promo and wasn’t even aware that one of my favourite active bands had a new album out. And that’s reason to write about it. I feel I somehow owe the band for all of the killer music so far, and owe it to myself for posterity. So, I’m playing catch-up here with the Hey Colossus offshoot, and immediately, what strikes is the grit of the guitar and the murky production that renders The Making of Junio Bonner possibly their grimiest effort to date.

It’s the combination of spindly lead guitar lines that loop over the bowel-bothering bass frequencies before dissolving into overdriven sludge, coupled with the cool-as-fuck drawling vocals that does it. And yes, it’s pure 90s grunge, with big nods to Alice in Chains and Soundgarden, but with the dingy, greasy, rough-hewn raggedness of Tad. Do I like Henry Blacker for being an allusive throwback? Inevitably, grunge is in my DNA having immersed myself in all the bands of the day in my mid-late teens in the mid-late 90s. But no: Henry Blacker don’t evoke nostalgia. However much their template may be of an era, their music is timeless. Because good music is.

Initial spins don’t reveal any instant grabs like ‘Pullin’ Like a Dray’, ‘Cold Laking’, or ‘The Grain’, but then again, it’s time spent with Henry Blacker that allows the growers to emerge: over time, their previous two albums have proved themselves to be solid gold, albeit caked in mud and shit. And perhaps the lack of standouts is an indicator of its absolute consistency: all the songs are equal, and all are equally solid. And solid is the word. The back-to-back dispatching of songs centred around cyclical grooves and relentless riffery places it in the same space occupied by Nirvana’s debut. It grafts and grinds, hawks and chisels away, snarling, spitting, raging.

‘Shingles to the Floor’ is almost an accessible rock tune when you wipe it down. The classic rock intro on ‘Cellmate’ gives way to a panelling, thick, grungy riff that hits that sweet spot of optimum density, where the guitars fill the speakers with a distortion that threatens to overload them with a fuzz that sounds like tearing cardboard while the bass isn’t something you hear but feel. The mangled vocals, half buried, are the perfect addition.

‘Keep it Out of Your Heart’ locks into a thick, stoner groove that Queens of the Stone Age would likely kill to replicate these days. It has a certain overloaded smoothness and a swagger that chugs and chunks as it drives onwards. And maybe it’s one of those tracks that grows as a standout after just a few plays after all…

The density of sound, the way the riffs churn in on themselves and repeat as they snarl and grate, all combine to build a claustrophobic intensity. There’s no room to breathe here, and there’s no slow-tempo lighter-waving anthem at the end of side one: it’s truly end-to-end in conception and delivery.

AA

Henry Blacker

The Helen Scarsdale Agency – HMS048 – 17th August 2018

The pitch for Maps’ as ‘minor-key’ where ‘tear-stained notes of piano, organ, and guitar veer along elliptical orbits as a soft-whisper lilt of Ekin’s voice narrates more by emotive decree than by literary couplet’ is but a flavour.

The album is largely inspired by her first winter on an island in the Sea of Marmara, away from the hustle and bustle of Istanbul, Maps is a completive work that reflects on experiencing silence and isolation. It’s relatable, and as is so often the case, in the personal lies the universal.

Isolation is not necessarily geographic, and distance doesn’t need to be great (the Sea of Marmara lies within the greater metropolitan umbrella of Istanbul) to have an effect on the psyche. Distance also needn’t be geographic: there’s no distance more isolating than emotional distance. It’s immeasurable, impossible to quantify, but manifests as a relentless ache, a sense of emptiness that sits in the gut and echoes around the chamber of the chest cavity. Mere inches in physical terms count for nothing when there’s that separation, and it grows to a pulling desperation, a gap that can’t be bridged. So close, and yet so far… just out of reach. There’s no-one to turn to, nowhere to go. Because you’re alone. And there are no words. Maps charts a journey through inner space, its hesitant notes representing the hesitant steps into unknown territory, alone.

On Maps, there are no words: this is the language of sound which communicates the message in its entirety. The warm-tones and sparse arrangements define the atmosphere of Maps. Fuzzy-edged guitar notes hanging in rarefied air for an eternity allude to Fil’s delicate, understated approach. Her music is sparse yet warm, delicate yet rich.

It’s a remarkably quiet, soft, understated work. It isn’t that nothing happens, but that evens unfurl discreetly, subtly, solely, with a certain delicacy. Organ wheezes as feedback whines on ‘Away’, while on the majority of the compositions, it’s a soft, echo-soaked piano that provides the main focus for this hushed, sparse song sequence which drifts together to create a very natural flow.

Maps doesn’t offer a direct route from A to B. But it does remind that the map is not the territory, and that the geographical terrain is not the mental space.

hms_048_M2

Humpty Dumpty Records – 11th May 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

It’s quite the introduction: ‘Jérôme Deuson is an unstable musician’ is the opening sentence of the press release that accompanies his seventh album as aMute. But how many musicians are stable? And what even is stability? Is anyone entirely stable? Is it even a desirable state? So often, creativity emerges from a state of inner turmoil, or tempestuous emotional flux. There are, of course, infinite shades: this is just to peel back some of the layers of the initial and likely awkward response to the statement.

Some Rest is not the millpond calm the title may imply: it’s only some rest, not total rest, and in truth, the rest here is minimal, on an album that’s clearly the work of a restless soul.

The album’s structure and sequence is unusual, opening with the longest composition by far: the title track is almost eighteen minutes long, and transitions from a delicate swirl of strings through a vast, shoegazey post-rock vista to an expansive, driving rock workout. While there are strains of feedback amidst the humming melodic drifts and samples which echo, almost buried in the mix, and the whole thing builds to a sustained crescendo, it’s still a more sedate experience than its predecessor, the tempestuous 2016 album Bending Time in Waves.

Side two begins with the gloopy, bubbling ambience of ‘I’ve Seen it All’ before sliding into eerie dissonance on ‘Dead Cold’, which exploits ringing chimes which give way to softer, picked guitar and a more tranquil, melodic space, disturbed only be the vocal, processed and burred with distortion. It’s sort of melancholic, sort of trippy, sort of dislocated, sort of abstract, sort of shoegazey in a trilling organ swamped in echo sort of way. It’s all amplified into a fizzing digital funnel on ‘The Obsedian’, which features Christian Bailleau, emerging as a grand, slow-moving and mournful piece reminiscent in some respects of Dylan Carlson’s more recent work, exploring as it does the pitch, tone, and timbre of the guitar in near-granular detail. Closer ‘Maria’, with hints of early Pink Floyd, is similarly drifty, dreamy, trippy, echoey-warped, and it tapers away into vaporous clouds.

Because of its ever-shifting nature, and its sonic range, Some Rest provides only the briefest of respites for the listener to relax, creating as it does an atmosphere of flux and continual movement.

AA

aMute