Archive for the ‘Albums’ Category

New Heavy Sounds – 1st March 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

There aren’t many Welsh-language bands who’ve made much progress beyond the border: Catatonia only really broke through when they switched to English, and they were pedalling accessible indie-pop tunes, not pulverizingly heavy sludgy doom metal.

And so it seems very much against the odds, that the absurdly (and most certainly not mainstream-media-friendly-monikered) Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard broke into chart territory on the release of Yn Ol I Annwn (Welsh for ‘Return To The Underworld’) the third part of the trilogy of albums that began with Noeth Ac Anoeth in 2015 and 2017s Y Proffwyd Dwyll, and is pitched as ‘the final phase of the band’s first intergalactic voyage.’

And ‘intergalactic’ is a fitting description. The band’s intention was to move even further from the standard doom tropes without losing sight of their origins: this involves pulsating, gloopy synths and rippling waves which introduce the album, before a wibbling waft of retro-futuristic analogue wobbles give way to the album’s first megalithic lumbering riffage on ‘The Spaceships of Ezekiel’. It’s every bit as preposterously huge and epic as the title suggests; galactic and of biblical proportions, with fizzing lasers firing left, right, and centre, all framing Jess Balls dreamy, melodic, almost folksy vocals to create something that’s out of this world, but also has clear ties to vintage Hawkwindian space rock.

‘Fata Morgana’ pursues the folksy aspect further, and colours it with picked guitar that’s pure vintage gothy post-punk and wouldn’t sound out of place on a Sisters of Mercy record circa 1984/85 before the power-chords crash in at the mid-point – from which point it builds, and builds, to a sustained crescendo propelled by pounding percussion.

It’s all in the detail on Yn Ol I Annwn. For all the devastating grind, the ribcage-crushing, heart-stopping heaviness, there are layers and details that make it an album to listen to. The nuance doesn’t reduce the force, but simply makes this an album with more points of interest than your average in its field. The spiralling synth incidentals should sound corny but work incredibly well; it’s perhaps because it’s delivered with both conviction and panache, meaning MWWB rise above pretence to drive it home not only sincerely, but artfully.

Significantly, for all the synth and cello, there’s no shortage of repetitive, grinding riffage, with the thirteen-minute ‘Katyusha’ bringing all the overdrive as the band up the pace and really rock out while synthy fireworks blossom and bloom all around. It bleeds into the slow, heavyweight trudge of ‘The Majestic Clockwork’, and the closer, the ten-minute ‘Five Days in the Abyss’ is a full-weight doom crusher of a climax.

With each release, MWWB have broadened the scope of doom, and Yn Ol I Annwn sees them forge another immense expansion, and further solidify their unique place as trailblazing innovators in the genre.

AA

MWWB

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This is it Forever – 15th March 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

It would be perhaps too obvious to quip that worriedaboutsatan / related releases are like busses, what with Gavin Miller’s latest solo offering appearing just weeks after the arrival of the duo’s fourth full-length album, Revenant. It would also be somewhat inaccurate, as both Gavin and Thomas Ragsdale have maintained a steady flow of solo releases in recent years, and, indeed, for much of the band’s lifespan to date.

I’ve variously sung the praises of split singles, and increasingly, split albums are a thing which well-suits the resurgence of both vinyl and cassette releases. Front & Follow’s The Blow series is a clear standout in the field of the split release, with some well-considered (or otherwise wonderfully random) curation resulting in some truly inspired pairings: sometimes, contrasting is every bit as satisfying as complimentary.

This release, according to the label, is ‘the first in a series of splits for the label’, which ‘sees Polypores and Gavin Miller explore their more dreamy, ambient sounds by taking a side of cassette each’.

Miller’s ten-and-a-half minute ‘Dragon Lily’ is a work of delicacy. There is movement, slow, sweeping, the tones soft and warm. There is progression: barely perceptible in the moment, as the listener is carried on the long drift, but definite, as picked notes begin to chime and the sound gradually swells with the scraping drone of an ebowed guitar drenched in reverberating echo.

Polypores’ ‘Those Infinite Spaces’ is more overtly structured, with distinguishable note sequences and sounds that are more ‘synthy’ in comparison to Miller’s abstract washes of sound. This gives the piece a certain sense of solidity, and although mellow and soporific, it’s the repetition the soothes and lulls – until around the mid-point, when everything flattens to an elongated, wavering multi-tonal drone, which quite changes the tone, if not the mood, as the trajectory moves towards a long, slow wind-down.

Individually, and side-by-side, the two compositions work well, and I suspect it’ll be worth keeping an ear out for future split releases from TIIF.

AA

Gavin Miller & Polyspores

Panurus Productions / Inverted Grim-Mill Recordings – 22nd March 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

It feels like I’ve been bombarded with spectral oceans lately, what with Teeth of the Sea’s Wraiths and now The Sea to Which the Body is Drawn by Wreaths, the project of Northumberland based artist Michael R. Donaldson, which utilises ‘four track experimentation, aged equipment, drones and field recordings to build haunting soundscapes’ lands in my inbox.

And such soundscapes are precisely what Wreaths deliver here. ‘Sea Lulled | A Spire Remains’ is what you might call a ‘classic’ example of contemporary ambient music, and opens the album in the most spectacularly understated style. It’s background, bit it’s also deep, layered, and multi-faceted.

Listening to the vast washes of sound in context of the album’s title, I become preoccupied with drowning. So often, I’ll describe ambient works as enveloping’ and ‘immersive’, but what is it like to be truly immersed?

‘Sorries’ hangs on a desolate, metallic drone that scrapes and swirls for some nine-and-a-half minutes. Ambient as it is, with soft piano notes ringing out into the air, the dominant textures and tones are harsh mid-range.

It’s a contrast to the titles, which allude to the soft, damp, organic, and also tell dark, depressing tales in Twitter-flash form: ‘Her Ornate Gown Marred by the Sea’; ‘Tides of Soil and Loam, Tides of Wreck and Ruins’; ‘Fell Foul of the Shallows’ – these all tell bleak and harrowing tales in their own rights, oblique hints of tales like tsunamis, tales like the flooding of Mardale Green beneath Haweswater Reservoir in Cumbia, and the creation of Ladybower Reservoir with Derwent village’s church spire rising above the water for some years after the village was submerged.

Water always wins, and even man’s harnessing of water is but finite, a power held on a knife edge.

The final track, the eighteen-minute ‘Timbers Sodden’ is a low, slow drone that hovers and drifts, conjuring the smell and feel of dank dampness, the sensation of slow decay. And herein lies the power of Wreaths: The Sea to Which the Body is Drawn is an album of atmosphere and evocation. It celebrates the transient, the fleeting, and conjures the ebb and flow, the mists and slow tidal pulls to create a listening experience that draws the mind as the sea draws the body.

AA

Wreaths - The Sea

Buzzhowl Records – 5th April 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

The first time I stumbled upon Beige Palace – a band with a name that simultaneously and contradictorily evokes blandness and grandeur – was at one of their early shows, back in May 2016. They were still ramshackle and difficult, in the best possible way, a couple of years later. On record, Beige Palace capture that awkwardness,

‘Mum, Tell Him’ congeals a discordant cacophony as shrieking feedback grates against a throbbing organ, off-key and out of time, hollered atonal vocals, hoarse, raw and not giving a fuck about musicality bark in the background – and then the rhythm section slams in, angular, stuttering, at which point it lurches into the territories of early Shellac and all things Touch ‘n’ Go, that early 90s noise attack recreated in full effect, and it bleeds into the dissonant racket of ‘Dr Thingy’, half-serious, half irreverent, it tears into a dense bass-driven shouting din reminiscent of the criminally underrated Rosa Mota around two-thirds of the way though. It’s the balance of dual male / female vocals tat does it. that. and the underlying aggression, and the raw, underproduced DIY sound.

Slowing it down, there’s a bit of a Pavement- feel to ‘Candy Pink Sparkle’. It’s stripped back, minimal and unpretentious in its lo-fi nature. In many respects, Beige Palace are prime representatives of the emerging underground scene in Leeds, much of which centres around the rehearsal space CHUNK, in the middle of a bleak industrial estate in Meanwood – it’s dingy, off the beaten track, and consequently affordable. Which also means it’s a community built on a collective desire to make music for art’s sake rather than commercial ends.

The lurching, stop-start ‘Illegal Backflip’ and jolting, sinewy ‘Ketchup Dirt’ both evoke the spirit of the 90s underground, and I’m going way underground in referencing the first album by Pram (but justified in that they would subsequently sign to classic cult label Too Pure). ‘Dinner Practice’ closes in a stop/start jolting mess of guitar that’s overloading the treble, the shouty atonal vocals… it’s so wrongly ace. And I’ve no idea why the album’s called Leg.

AA

Beige Palace - Leg

Burning Witches Records – 20th February 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

No, it’s not a reference to the movie. A revenant is ‘a person who has returned, especially supposedly from the dead.’ It’s a fitting title for the Yorkshire duo’s fourth full-length album: having disappeared, mutating into Ghosting Season and perusing solo projects following their initial flurry of EPs and debut album. It was six years before they would return with Even Temper in 2015, and since then, they’ve maintained a pretty strong work-rate. But, not so healthy as to feel like their output is a constant spate, and as such, a new album still feels like an event.

The write-up says that Revenant ‘marks a slight departure from their previous album, the critically acclaimed Blank Tape, by venturing into more synthesiser heavy pieces, based around dark, brooding atmospheres and switching from the bouncing arpeggios and slow, hypnotic rhythms of 10 minute album opener ‘Skylon’, to the jittering, cinematic rush of ‘Making Your Masks’’.

Revenant in fact begins with a brief introductory passage in the form of the soft-focus, minimal, and haunting ‘Hawk’ with muffled, distant voices echoing over almost subliminally-hushed droning notes, before the aforementioned ‘Skylon’, which inches its way in discreetly with subtle rippling rhythms and slowly building layers and textures. It’s a semi-ambient opus that carries heavy shades of Krautrock: the beats are s backed off as to be non-existent, but the pulsating notes coalesce to a steady, insistent rhythm.

Both the shoegazey, post-rock guitars and glitchy, flickering beats that characterise so much of their work, are largely left in the background and are sometimes virtually absent. Revenant is extremely subtle, low-key, and favours muted hues and abstract shades.

‘Strax’ is propelled by a flickering heartbeat, while the wispy contrails of ‘Making Your Masks’ are underpinned with a slow, deliberate beat and definite notes, and it marks the beginning of a closing sequence which sees a growing solidity of form, segueing into closer ‘Wasteland’, which is more overtly structured, beat-driven. The effect is like swirling mists solidifying, a phantom taking corporeal form.

Revenant is very much an album: a beginning-to-end experience. What it lacks in immediacy, it more than delivers in detail: the attention to subtle forms and also the overarching structure is impressive, but, one also feels somehow intuitive. There’s something special and unique about the interplay between Thomas Ragsdale and Gavin Miller, and it’s this which has always made worriedaboutsatan an act without peers, an act who effortlessly amalgamate styles and forms to create a space outside of time-frame and genre. Rarefied and refined, Revenant represents another step in the evolution of worriedaboutsatan, without denting the arc of their developmental trajectory.

AA

WAS - Revenant

Folk Wisdom – FW008 1st February 2019

James Wells https://auralaggravation.com/2019/03/05/bewider-full-panorama/

BeWider, aka Piernicola Di Muro, says of his latest offering, ‘Full Panorama is perhaps the most intimate, irrational and emotional work I’ve done. Not only because I freely followed what I really felt close to musically speaking, but also because it is an album that comes from a very important moment of my life: a moment of creative change, of transformation. I wanted to make an album that started strongly from elements that are closest to my heart, which are cinema and imagery. I thought about what cinematically represented me the most. I imagined what the soundtrack I wanted to accomplish would sound like, and these 12 tracks were born. These are more than 12 tracks in themselves, they represent a complete and unitary work, as a whole. It is a journey, a path, that evolves throughout the entire span of the album, and that touches several musical stages of my life.’

It’s perhaps not unfair to say that the context doesn’t entirely convey in the end product, which is a cinematic electronic album driven by subtle but solid beats. It’s pleasant, danceable, even, but the emotional resonance is well buried in the full production and accessible, laid-back dance forms which follow well-established tropes.

The first piece, ‘Panorama’ is built on rippling, gloopy synths and a slow-building feedback that yields to a hypnotically chilled groove which locks in and pulses its way into the distance. It sets the tone for the album as a whole, with broad, semi-abstract washes of sound and undulating synths.

‘Last One Night’ is about soft ambient pulsations and backed-off beats as it evolves into a kaleidoscopic trance, and so it continues through ‘Retina’ and ‘Sartorius’, which slowly drift into one another in a hazy mellifluousness.

It’s nice, its gentle, and it’s largely background: Full Panorama is relaxed and enjoyable, but not an album you really listen to or engage with. It just sort of happens, just kinda drifts. I want to feel the emotional pull, the depth, the range, but I just don’t. But… it’s pretty cool to listen to.

AA

BeWilder