Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

Christian Death – Quicksand

10th January 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

Christian Death have long shown a love of Bowie, which has subtly permeated their work but was rendered concrete with their version of ‘Panic in Detroit’ in the Rage of Angels album. But anyone who would think that the Bowie fandom was specific to the Rozz Williams era of the band would be mistaken: Valor has long embraced androgynous elements in his style, and never shied away from pop / art rock elements within the music itself.

There have, of course been numerous covers of ‘Quicksand’, and the one thing that’s apparent from all of them is that a great song is a great song, whoever’s playing it, even Seal. If Dinosaur Jr’s cover was a brilliant example of reconfiguring the song into a slacker anthem, Christian Death’s take, which stretches the original five-minute song well past the seven-minute mark is remarkably faithful to the original and doesn’t goth it up in the slightest. This isn’t a complete surprise: their previous covers, from Garyn Numan’s ‘Down in the Park’ to Jimi Hendrix’s ‘Angel’, which appeared on All the Love, were straight and sensitive, even reverent in their approach.

Performed by Valor and Maitri, it’s predominantly acoustic guitar and piano, but there’s a full backing with drums, bass, and sweeping string sounds, making for a take that’s bold, theatrical, and yet, at the same time, intimate, and fitting at a time when Bowie covers and links to his songs are proliferating on social media: it may be the fifth anniversary of his death, but the week also marks what would have been his 75th birthday, and it’s fair to say few, if any artists have had quite the impact he did. Elvis, The Beatles, The Stones, may have all broken immense ground, but Bowie was an entirely different proposition, on so many levels, and it’s clear the shock and grief are still strong for so many. This, then, is a fitting and well-executed, heartfelt tribute.

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Iranian groove metal/hardcore band Confess describe themselves as a “five-piece street protest”. It’s not a figure of speech: Nikan Khosravi (vocals/guitar) and Arash Ilkhani (DJ/Sampler) have experienced political persecution first-hand. Theband’s upcoming album “Revenge at All Costs” is a cry of outrage in the form of chunky down-tuned riffs marinated in the Norwegian winter.

The journey started in junior high school in Tehran when Nikan got a CD from a classmate. It contained music videos by metal bands from the 90s and 2000s. "I was fascinated by the sound of the genre," he states. "Ever since this music has been the centre of my life." Nikan and Arash started the band as
teenagers in 2010, releasing their first album "Beginning of Dominion" in 2012. Their early sound gravitated towards old-school death metal and 90s hardcore, always with some grooviness to it.

Nikan started his own label "Opposite Records" in 2014. Up until now, this could sound like the story of any European band. But change the context and being a metal musician in Iran could mean anything from government surveillance to execution. Arrest and prison followed the release of the band’s second album
In Pursuit of Dreams in 2015. This led to the pair being arrested and facing execution on charges of blasphemy in one of Iran’s harshest prisons.

Fast forward to 2018, when both Nikan and Arash obtained refugee status in Norway. Confess started experimenting with seven strings and adding modern death metal sounds. But the groovy headbanging spirit of their musical DNA is very much alive. Confess has played in public without fear of repercussions ever since. After several concerts in Norway, their latest milestone has been opening for Mayhem at Festspillene i Nord.

As a taster for the 2022 album ‘evenge at all Costs, they’ve given us ‘Ransom Note.’ Watch ‘Ransom Note’ here:

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DROTT have released hypnotic new single and video ‘Arch of Gloom’. The song can now be streamed/downloaded on all platforms . The video was directed and edited by Jens Kristian Rimau.

The band comments on ‘Arch of Gloom’: “At the end of a dark and bouncy road lies the Arch of Gloom. Through persistent bass and drums, Arch of Gloom is driven to the point of desperate collapse by a haunting guitar solo. Mesmerizing in its mystical attraction, it hypnotizes desperate souls into a surrealistic dance before they are lured down the abyss to face the verdict of Orcus.”

DROTT is comprised of Arve Isdal (Enslaved), Ivar Thormodsæter (Ulver) and Matias Monsen and hails from Bergen in the west coast of Norway. With their varied musical background ranging from metal and jazz to classical music, they create the genre which can only be described as DROTT. Inspired by forces of nature, superstition and spirituality the trio explores light within darkness through their music. 

The group, recently established (2020), released their self-titled EP in March 2021 and received great reviews. It established the Drott’s instrumental Progressive Rock sound as a breath of fresh air in the genre! Their first full-length Orcus album takes Drott in a new creative and artistic direction. With 10 tracks they dive deeper into sonic, experimental landscapes!

Check the video here:

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Pic: Jens Kristian Rimau

Cruel Nature Recordings – 27th August 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Grunge isn’t dead. Not by a long way. Although, the trouble with grunge is that even at its height, most of the bands weren’t that impressive, and the ones who were achieved the widest success were the weakest, most accessible of the crop. Without the polished and ultimately marketable Nevermind, Nirvana would have never achieved global domination, although both Bleach and In Utero were, and remain, far superior albums, while the like of Tad and Mudhoney are the true sound of grunge, and capture the gritty, sweaty toil of blue collar labour channelled into aural catharsis. These bands never set out to change the world, but to vent their frustrations and ultimately their sense of powerlessness through music.

Perhaps it’s an age thing, but being in sixth form when grunge exploded it felt like not only an exciting time for music, but that this was a wave of music that actually spoke both to and for my generation at the time. In a way I feel rather sorry for the Millennials and Gen Z; the blandness of contemporary music speaks of nothing but surface. Even when addressing genuine issues, there feels like not only an absence of depth, but an absence of real emotion, of soul. Perhaps it’s just that the mainstream industry, represented by the mainstream charts, dominated by mainstream artists on major labels is simply giving the entirety of its focus on monetising slick sonic wallpaper. It seems odd that generations so riven with pain and angst (and who can blame them?) should find solace in this kind of anodyne slop. It can’t just be the numbing effects of antidepressants: something is clearly awry. Small wonder, then, that some delve into their parents’ collections in order to find music that contains what’s missing for them.

New York’s Cronies formed in June 2020 by brothers Jack and Sam Carillo, the press pitch describes the project as ‘the creative offspring of Covid and isolation’. Creative is the word: having pulled in a couple of mates to render this a full band, they’ve already banged out a brace of Eps in the last year ahead of this, their eponymous debut, which Cruel Nature are releasing on another Bandcamp Friday, with Proceeds going to charity.

It’s a bowel-shaking bass note that strikes first, and the sustain is something. And then in lurches a grimy guitar that’s welded to a stumbling rhythm section – and it’s heavy. Then the drawling vocal rips into a fill-throated roar that’s pure Cobain. These guys have taken the relentless battery of Bleach and the nihilistic squall of In Utero as their template, with a dash of thrash and some of the grimy heft of Tad in the mix (‘Slush Fund’ even leans on the riff from Tad’s ‘Behemoth’ but chicks in some stun synths and some manic hollering that’s more reminiscent of The Jesus Lizard), and ‘A Slippery Slope’ throws all of these in at once, along with a sudden change of pace and direction two-thirds of the way in. On ‘Ritchie from Lebanon’ they build a massively dense bulk of noise, the guitars and bass churning, overloading at great volume.

What Cronies have that their peers lack – well, there are many things, if we’re analysing (and of course we are: that’s the purpose of music criticism). But first and foremost, it’s raw passion and energy. There’s nothing slick or ultra-processed about this: Cronies are unashamedly ragged, and really embrace the grunge ethic of the time when most of the bands from Nirvana to Mudhoney were still on labels like Sub Pop. It’s perhaps because of the band’s origins – confined, trapped – that the songs on Cronies teem and seethe with abject frustration. Sometimes, words simply cannot articulate those feelings, and all there is to do is scream and unleash howls of feedback instead of neat chords. And this is what Cronies do, and this is why they speak to us: it’s accepting the limitations of articulation and unleashing a primal howl. It’s powerful because it’s real.

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Internationally acclaimed composer and virtuoso cellist Jo Quail has today released, ‘The Parodos Cairn’ to raise money for the ‘Save Our Venues’ crowd funder. This new composition is comprised entirely of 167 audio samples sent to her over the first few weeks of lockdown during the Covid-19 crisis. Jo comments,

‘I was of course disappointed following the necessary and inevitable cancellation and postponement of all concerts and tours, but primarily I felt an overwhelming urge to somehow connect with you in this time, to still symbolically meet with you and though without a concert hall and stage I felt sure we could still somehow unite, and create an inclusive, unifying experience.

I posted a video on social media outlining these thoughts and suggesting people record a note or a sound, then send these to me, and from these I would create a piece of music. I suggested using phones to record, as I wanted to make this creative outlet available to everybody, musician or not, with or without a recording facility.  At the outset of this project  I envisaged receiving perhaps 10 or 20 contributions, writing a piece of music for solo cello and then incorporating within this piece whatever samples I received. The incredible take up and enthusiasm from my initial video request meant I had to rethink my strategy! I never foresaw this reaction – I received all kinds of contributions, far beyond my expectations. We in fact have 124 musical contributors sending 167 samples, from 24 countries across the world – everything  from operatic soprano to shamans, pianos, printers, table thumps, singing bowls, amazing overdrives, percussion, hiphop beats, cows,  guitars, flutes, rattling keys, recorders, dulcimers, strings, and the list goes on!’

Watch the video now for ‘The Parodos Cairn’, directed and produced by Dorian Robinson, incorporating photographic and video contributions generously donated to the cause:

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Steve Von Till swan-dives into the darkness of modern life with a sonic document of rural psychedelia that transcends the physical world—towards a greater spiritual acceptance that connects naturalism, spiritualism, and the corporeal form. As uncertainty abounds, Von Till’s forthcoming album No Wilderness Deep Enough and debut book Harvestman: 23 Untitled Poems and Collected Lyrics provide a voice of existential wisdom and experience to offer comfort and perspective in an era of uncharted territory. Today, he’s shared the album’s ethereal second single, “Shadows on the Run” , which you can listen to here:

Von Till’s charted an extraordinary musical path over the last several decades, from his main duties as singer and guitarist of the boundary-breaking Neurosis to the psychedelic music of his Harvestman project and the unique folk songs he’s released under his own name. But No Wilderness Deep Enough is truly like nothing you’ve ever heard from him before—an album that’s devastatingly beautiful and overwhelming in its scope, reminiscent of the tragic ecstasy of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds’ recent work as well as the borderless ambient music pioneered by Brian Eno, late composer Jóhann Jóhannsson’s glacial compositions, and the electronic mutations of Coil.

The album’s six pieces of music shape a hallucinatory landscape of sound that plumbs the depths of the natural world’s mysteries and uncertainties—questions that have vexed humanity since the dawn of time asked anew amidst a backdrop that’s as haunting as it is holistic. It’s music to lose yourself in.

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Brooklyn based composer/producer/performer JG Thirlwell (Foetus, Manorexia, Xordox) – who has collaborated with the likes of Zola Jesus, Melvins, Swans, Kronos Quartet and many others, and is the composer for the highly acclaimed animated TV series  ‘Archer’ and ‘Venture Bros’  – and Swedish multi-instrumentalist and theatre music composer Simon Steensland collaborate on a new album Oscillospira due April 24th on Ipecac Recordings.

Different yet complementary, both creators make idiosyncratic music that can be characterised by dramatic intensity, shadowy suspense, darkness and light, sometimes breathtaking and always evocative cinematics. Oscillospira is an odyssey of dark chamber prog with a cinematic bent, largely instrumental album with eerie choral parts.

Ahead of the album they’ve unveiled ‘Heron’ as a taster. Listen to it here:

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Oscillospira

Pomperipossa Records – 10th January 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

The Stilling, according to the accompanying text, is ‘a phenomenon whereby the wind speed on the planet seems to be slowing down for no known scientific reason’. Given the nature of climate change and what seems to be an increasing number of more violent storms hitting the shores of what no longer feels very much like a green or pleasant and, it seems hard to credit, but there are no shortage of articles which discuss this phenomenon which began in the 1960s or 70s, although recent months have seen reports that wind-speeds are beginning to pick up again.

For now, let’s remain with the narrative that inspired the album which ‘explores this state of discomfort and perplexion’, and locate it in a context of wind speeds sowing while the pace of life and the flow of information have accelerated exponentially and in direct proportion to wind speeds slowing over the same time span.

For their fourth album, drøne, the duo consisting of Mark Van Hoen and Mike Harding (not the Mancunian singer / songwriter / poet / comedian who was popular in the 70s and 80s), have enlisted a role-call of contributors to add strings, noise and vocals to their unsettling mash-up of samples and random sounds layered up and over one another.

They promise ‘the trademark drøne sounds of static, radio voices, field recordings, modular synthesizer and found sounds, recording chance sounds right up to the final mix add to the dynamism and energy of the album’. And the stilling very much is a mess of incongruity: car horns cut through chatter and chanting while ominous hums and tremulous top-end flickers and tweets.

‘Scream – its all you can do now. Overwhelming, scatter-gun information delivery has us confused, bowel churningly fearful and appalled at the nature of the changing times. We are biologically, psychologically and emotionally able to cope with slow evolutionary change, but struggle with revolutionary, violent distortion or mutation. This leaves us anxious and even desperate for a firmer footing.’ So says the press release, summarising the lived experience of the postmodern condition in just five lines.

With segments of monologue and dialogue chopped up and scattered, sometimes overlapping with one another as well as the musical backing, which isn’t exactly musical or backing, so much as a shimmering, shifting sonic collage, if not exactly reminiscent of William Burroughs’ audio experiments, then very much a sonic interpretation of the cut-up technique in its simultaneous representations of multiple events and perspectives. Because every moment is a moment of change and the pieces on the stilling are constructed around a continual shift, it’s disorientating by design. Scrambling the mutter lines, it’s the soundtrack to your soundtrack.

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Loner Noise – 25th May 2018

It’s a delight, when facing an endless stream of dross and mediocrity, or otherwise stuff you’ve never heard of but that has only limited appeal (I daresay I’ve bypassed some great music on the basis of a dismal press release or email, but then again, I’ve squandered countless hours listening to cack that’s been oversold), to receive a promo invitation for something that’s quality is assured.

Bristol trio Nasty Little Lonely have, since day one, been kicking out gut-punching, balls-out riffage with a grimy, sleazy edge, and they haven’t put a foot wrong. ‘Wicked Vicious’ continues the trajectory set with their two previous singles on Loner Noise, ‘Ugly Vitamin’ (October 2017) and ‘Glitter’ (February 2018), and plays up the ‘power’ in ‘power trio’.

‘Wicked Vicious’ is driven by a snarling, lumbering bass, over witch jittery, tripwire guitars, tense with treble and stretched, sinewy and angular across in a mathy mess reminiscent of The Jesus Lizard and a hefty, grinding hunk of the vintage Touch ‘n’ Go roster, as well as contemporaries who’ve drawn on the same sources, like Blacklisters. It grabs you by the throat in the first attacking bars, and then tightens the grip, pinning you against the wall and constricting.

There’s nothing pretty about this venomous assault: Charlie Beddoes may be coming on almost cuetsy in her semi-salacious, squeaky vocal, but make no mistake, there’s menace and malice and venom behind that hissing, spitting, yet also bubbly delivery, and the relentlessly churning rhythm section. It may only be 2:47 in length, but seriously, check the weight and the girth: ‘Wicked Vicious’ packs some serious meat. Nasty… vicious… killer.

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Long-running Japanese power trio Boris are preparing for the release of their twenty-third studio album Dear on July 14th (Sargent House). The legendary amplifier worshippers have unveiled the album’s second single, ‘Memento Mori,’ which juxtaposes deluges of fuzz with hints of ethereal dream pop in ways only Boris can.

Get your lugs round it here: