Archive for the ‘Singles and EPs’ Category

Cool Thing Records – 14th January 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

Asylums offshoot band Bait mark their return in blistering style with the ball-busting, ballistic blast of tension that is ‘Drama Drama Drama Drama’. Having dropped – or perhaps more accurately detonated – their explosive eponymous debut in 2018, showcasing a post-punk industrial crossover that crash-landed somewhere between PiL and Killing Joke, they reminded us of their existence in the spring of 2019 with the gritty grind of the single ‘DLP’ before falling silent.

In fairness, a global pandemic and a succession of lockdowns and limitations was never going to be conducive to the creation of new output, especially when core members Michael Webster and Luke Branch have been busy beavering away on a new Asylums album.

But, inter alia, they’ve also been working on the new Bait album, Sea Change, which is set for release in April, and ‘Drama Drama Drama Drama’ is one hell of a way of announcing it, distilling all of the pent-up frustration, fury, and anxiety of two years kept on edge into just under two minutes of eye-popping, adrenaline-fuelled sonic catharsis.

If the sneering edge of the vocal delivery sounds like it’s a put-down to those who’ve been panic stricken by the pandemic, it’s likely more a swipe at those who’ve chronically mismanaged the public’s expectations, left them separated, isolated, financially insecure, and unable to seek solace with friends or family while keeping them apart while quaffing drinks and generally having a jolly old time as well as getting minted off slipping multi-million pound contracts for unusable PPE and all the rest at the taxpayers’ expense. The reason the parties have particularly tipped people is because they missed the final moments of loved ones and suffered the immeasurable torture of enforced isolation.

The ‘drama drama drama drama’ in question here isn’t some lame Eastenders shit, this is life. The swirling turmoil and endless uncertainty of everything… On a personal level, when lockdown hit, I was inundated with messages at first, from friends, from family and especially work as WhatsApp groups were set up while we got sent home to work, and the channels of communication were beyond buzzing as everyone flipped out and I witnessed – and participated – in their panics in real-time. It was hectic, a blizzard, a blur… but it was when it went quiet I lost it. You get thrown into something so hard you have to swim. But when the armbands deflate…You text with no reply – that anguish is real and it’s intense. The minutes feel like hours. The tension rises, the panic rises, the palpitations flutter and the perspiration flows and in no time you’re a dishevelled, disoriented mess. You know it’s irrational, but panic is irrational. You struggle to steady your breathing. You can’t face the supermarket because it’s full of people. You can’t face meeting anyone. You can’t breathe. This is the drama, and it piles up and piles up and increases in intensity until it’s unbearable.

‘Drama Drama Drama Drama’ steps up the gritty edge of previous outings, and this time arrives somewhere between Killing Joke and Black Flag, which means it’s absolutely furious and relentlessly raging. It’s a killer tune with all the intensity, and the soundtrack to the now.

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28th January 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

On seeing / hearing this, I’m reminded of the character of Mike TV in Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, a book I loved as a child, and have enjoyed all over again as a parent – although I always detested the film adaptations, especially the original, not least of all because I doubly detest Gene Wilder: the guy just grates. However, Dahl had a way of making points through his characters, often about ‘good’ and ‘bad’ traits and characteristics and behaviours, and Mike TV was no exception, and it may not have been especially subtle, but then it was a children’s book written in the 60s, at a time when sociologists and psychologists too were becoming interested on the effect of the media, in particular television – the twentieth century opium of the people.

The Assist’s new offering unpacks this line of thinking through a contemporary filter and a more immediate perspective, portraying a character – who’s something of an emblem, a stereotype – whose expectations of life are unrealistic, distorted by media representations. Since the turn of the millennium and the advent of ‘reality’; TV, we’ve been fed an endless conveyor belt of shows that have espoused the idea that anyone can achieve anything, and that anyone can become a celebrity – and, worse still, that being a celebrity for its own sake is something not only achievable, but desirable. It wasn’t so long ago kids would grow up wanting to be film stars, pop stars, models, designers, sportspeople; now primary-age kids are coming through wanting to be reality TV celebs, Instagram influencers and YouTubers.

‘TV Kid’ paints the stark disparity between the dream and the reality, where head-in-the-clouds aspirations – ‘a top flight striker, Well known as a good time provider…A boxing expert, an amateur fighter, walks around to the eye of the tiger’ – are a world away from the stress of bills and so on, the kitchen sink drudgery or life on minimum wage – or, as they put it, ‘Big soup for breakfast, big soup for tea, petrol for Christmas’.

It’s a nifty tune, compressed into a sharp, snappy two-and-a-half minutes. It’s buoyant and upbeat in delivery, with some jangly but crunchy guitars driving it along nicely while brimming with melody and energy. The Midlands act are unashamed in their working class stylings, without being as in yer face as Sleaford Mods (which is no doubt one reason The Assist haven’t weighed in with Fat White Family on the ‘faux working classness of Idles), or as brash and tediously crap as Oasis, and consequently, in rank order it’s the music first and the attitude second. It’s a decent balance, and singer Mikey has just the right amount of swagger in his delivery – cocky, but not cockish, and nicely whetting the whistle for the debut album, Council Pop, out in April.

Artwork - The Assist

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Band shot - The Assist

11th January 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

Curse my brain. It’s so unhelpful at times. When Tim Hann – aka break_fold – emailed me his new single release, I managed to misread ‘Welwala’ as ‘Welawala’, and immediately my mental jukebox struck up ‘Summer Nights’ from Grease. ‘Tell me more’, you say?

Uh-huh, ok. Having recently connected with analog horizons, with whom this is his second release ahead of the fourth break_fold album, scheduled for release towards the end of 2022, Tim’s been gaining traction with support for previous singles ‘Meanwhile.. Up in Trump Tower’ and ‘Variant’ from BBC 6 Music DJs Gideon Coe and Steve Lamacq.

As is common for Hann, it’s a TV series that in part inspired the composition: on this occasion, it’s the sci-fi show The Expanse as well as Blanck Mass’ Calm with Horses film soundtrack (as far back as the debut album by I Concur, Hann was drawing on The Wire among his wide-ranging sources).

Gary Numan-esque synths and that crisp crack of a vintage drum machine snare sound. Beneath the bold strikes builds first a later of bass, then a bubbling synth loop, and then the drums kick up a notch and beat harder. As the elements layer up, the track takes on new depths and grows in intensity. The dropdown is perfectly timed, and from there it builds again. Compositionally it’s magnificent, and there’s a lot of action and dynamic work packed into three-and-a-half minutes. It’s tight, and the production is poised, just-so, and it all comes together with a precision that at the same time feels intuitive, and it’s that intuition that really gives it some force as it pushes the listener along in its swelling current.

As the press release explains, ‘Welwala is about seeing something from two different points of view. It is structured around two contrasting synth lines with focus shifting between them, evoking both optimism and threat. These are layered with an insistent drum track in a sequence that hints at narrative evolution.’ So, a bit like ‘Summer Nights’ then. I mean, ok, not musically, but my misread was right about the telling the story from two different perspectives, right? Right?

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4th February 2022

James Wellsz

Quebec City’s Still Insane are punk to the core, and the ‘Black Sheep’ EP represents their first output since 2017’s ‘Friends & Family’ EP. According to their bio, ‘Their goal is simple: to play fast, to play loud, and to play everywhere.’. and since they can’t really play anywhere much right now, they might as well focus on the other two goals.

Still Insane have announced their new ‘Black Sheep’ EP out February 4th and have released the title track. It’s the band’s first new music since 2017’s ‘Friends & Family’ EP.

The first cut, ‘Sleeping on the Floor’ is the longest of the five, and after a slow, atmosphere building intro, it slams into a hell-for-leather fast-and—furious melodic funk anthem bursting with energy and harmonies. Around halfway through, there’s a vocal switch from male to female, then back again.

The title track is heavier by far, but the song itself isn’t anywhere near as heavy as the intro implies will follow; for all the industrial chug of the instrumental passages, which allude to 90s Ministry, it’s still got pop at its heart: the same is true of the minute-long ‘No More Targets’ which lands with a plummeting nosedive into Dead Kennedys terrain, as does the frenetic thrashabout of ‘Stay Home’. The last track, ‘Thank You, and…’ is very much your standard middle of the road melodic punk that could be anything post-millennium, although the band prefer to cite the bands they’ve supported, like NOFX and Bad Religion.

The guitar solos may be wince-inducing by virtue of their existence alone, but they’re kept brief and to the point, and while the ‘melodic punk’ tag doesn’t seem to carry much weight, I’d rather be dealing with the proper raw and rage than some tame intimation. On Black Sheep, Still Insane don’t inspire me much. But then, little does. Life is hard like that.

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Black Sheep EP Cover

6th January 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Like so many IKEA item names, Swedish black metal act Rimfrost’s moniker is one which has the capacity to raise a smirk and a snicker for English speakers. I know, I know, it’s juvenile, chuckling to myself about cold cock and chilly willy, and there‘s nothing particularly comical about this release. But as ever with black metal, there’s an element of high theatre that’s only as serious as you take it. Or, put another way, an element of theatre that can only be taken as seriously as it’s pitched. Venom’s Black Metal may have defined the genre, but ultimately, it was no more than an underproduced collision of punk with Motorhead (who arguably blended punk and metal with shedloads of speed).

The corpse-paint wearing black metallers split in 2019, but reconvened in the Autumn of 2021, and unveiled the first fruits of their reunion in the form of ‘Killer Instinct’ in October. So to refer to The Rise of Evil: Killer Instinct as an EP feels a shade disingenuous, since it contains just two songs – the aforementioned ‘Killer Instinct’ plus ‘The Rise of Evil’ make up a single that form a narrative that, as they explain ‘depicts the story of a killer’. In that sense, I’m reminded of the debut single by iLiKETRAiNS, on which the two parts of ‘As The Curtains Close’ tell of a stalker with murderous intent.

Rimfrost’s release is a lot less brooding and considerably less sinister. ‘The Rise of Evil’ is fast and furious, staccato guitars nailed to a frenetic drum driving the headbanging behemoth slog without pause, and it’s heavy alright, but there’s also some musicianship on display here.

‘Killer Instinct’ is less black in its metal persuasion and altogether more heavy metal, with histrionic guitars and a crisp production, with an overall feel – aside from Hravn’s growling, deep-throated vocal snarlings – that’s more Iron Maiden than Immortal, more Saxon than Satyricon. It’s the sound of spandex more than of souls being crushed.

Sure, genres evolve, and rightly so, but this cleanly-produced fretwork frenzy is a far cry from Bathory or even subsequent Swedish exponents of black metal like Dissection, although the theatrical element is perhaps more in common. While it’s serious music, I’m not certain that they’re entirely serious. The result, then, is ok, but rather cozy if you’re on the market for something more purely black or simply something that’s spine-crunchingly strong.

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Space & I Records – 21st January 2022

January is always a shitter. Whether you love Christmas or loathe it, or even if you’re largely indifferent, January is invariably a slump month of epic proportions. Those of us who aren’t mad keen on Christmas tend to cling to the light at the end of the tunnel that is new year, not because of the New Year celebrations, but because of the prospect of things getting back to normal, where everyone isn’t flapping about doing Christmas shopping and your mates aren’t in an endless conveyor-belt of work and other social commitments and might actually have time for just a pint and a chat, and because gigs and regular social activities resume and you can turn on the TV, radio or walk into a shop without hearing wall-to-wall fucking Christmas tunes.

But no, everyone’s skint, the ones who aren’t are doing dry January and not going out, and the days are short and cold and miserable and Christ, it’s bleak. And for the self-employed, the unsalaried, those in the arts, it’s even bleaker, especially during a pandemic. But then, as ‘Happy Birthday payday’ reminds us, staying afloat in the arts is hard at anytime.

It’s ironic that while mainstream chart musicians are lauded and the pop icon is considered aspirational, those who actually commit themselves to the graft of being in a proper band – or pursuing creative activities like writing or visual arts as a means of earning a living are relentlessly knocked back for being dreamers or unrealistic. Granted, it’s only very few who achieve the heights of Coldplay or Radiohead, or JK Rowling or Damien Hirst, but that isn’t to say that an equitable living shouldn’t be out of reach for the many in the lower echelons, and it simply shouldn’t be the case that tends of thousands of streams on Spotify or iTunes translates to less than the price of a pint.

Moses aren’t a band who are willing to compromise to turn that pint into a round: ‘Happy Birthday Payday’ is culled from their second album, Almost Everything Is Bullshit, which is not only a cracking title but a verifiable fact in this time of endless fakery, but one that’s unlikely to see it garner much mainstream radio play. Similarly, while ‘Happy Birthday Payday’ is a strong tune, bursting with energy and hooks, and with a nagging quasi-rockabilly guitar-line and some storming bass runs, it’s hardly zeitgeist. It’s cut from the punkier end of post-punk, and could have been part of the early 90s New Wave of New Wave ‘movement’ hyped by the press. It’s fast, furious, and spirited, and exactly the kind of tunage we need on offer beyond the mainstream – which is why outsider acts need to be viable, because without them, we’re fucked.

Blighttown Records – 31 December 2021

Christopher Nosnobor

Australian metal act Hadal Maw emerge from lockdown with an EP that threatens ‘four tracks of uncompromising and confronting aural violence whilst also introducing new members Liam Weedall (Dyssidia) and Jarrod Sorbian (Départe)’, adding that ‘Musically the four track EP delves further in to the more visceral aspect of their sound and composition while maintaining the technical wizardry that the band established on previous releases’.

Metal comes in so many different shades, and while the more commercial end of metal is alright for banging heads to, it’s kinda tame, espousing nice production values. Hadal Maw, however, exist at the more raw and gritty end of the spectrum, and plough a dark furrow and plough it deep with some furiously gnarly abrasion.

They come blasting out of the traps with a magnificent amalgamation of discord and groove on the snarling blast that is ‘Fetishize Consumption’, and if firing nihilistic fury at the capitalist machine may be an obvious choice, it’s something that simply can’t be done too much, because excessive consumption isn’t simply the dominant culture, it’s the culture. And if you’re not against it, you’re part of the problem. Clearly, this is a simplistic reduction, which leaves little room for the fact it’s hard to escape the problem without going off-grid and living on roots and shoots. Living within the parameters of this contradiction – whereby digital technology and the use of social media is a necessary evil when it comes to disseminating any kind of message or output – isn’t easy, but channelling rage and(self)-loathing through catharsis can help, and Oblique Order demonstrates thar Hadal Maw are kings of catharsis.

The title track, which features ‘guest vocals from three of Australia’s most accomplished vocalists; Karina Utomo (High Tension), Luke Frizon (Growth) and Antony Oliver (Descent)’ gets darker, dirtier, with strangulated rasping vocals grate and grind over a low, slow, booming bass, which contrasts with the messy scribbly scratching guitar work. It’s turbulent and traumatic, in the most powerful, visceral way. It’s a low-end growl and chug that drives ‘Future Eaters’, a soundtrack to the darkest of all dystopias, and featuring a magnificently textured and detailed guitar break in the mid-section before everything comes crashing down hard.

The last track, ‘Vile Veneration’ could well be the soundtrack to this year’s honours list here in England. After a slower, quite intricate and evocative introduction, the drums power in and it’s a descent into the inferno from thereon in, with everything firing on all cylinders to truly punishing effect. It’s as heavy as hell and full of fury. The slowed-down, vaguely proggy midsection still packs weight as the band trudge, lumberingly through the final assault.

Oblique Order is a triumph not only because it’s relentlessly heavy, but because it’s clearly crafted and is remarkably varied in terms of tempo and tone. The band pack a lot into its duration, making for an EP that’s massively dense and hits like an asteroid on collision course.

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17th December 2021

James Wells

Pieces is the second in a projected series of five EPs, and on the face of it, it’s an immense undertaking: this release contains five tracks, and its predecessor four. Across the project, that’s a full two albums worth of material… until you clock that half of the tracks are remixes. Not that that’s a criticism per se, and I won’t revisit my eternal remix peeve yet again here, because no doubt readers are as sick of that as I am of remixes as a thing.

So ‘Pieces’ is in effect a single, comprising of ‘Disease of Kings’ and ‘Failure Principle’, bolstered by a brace of remixes of the former and one of the latter. ‘Disease of Kings’ is a in some respects a surprising choice of lead song, in that it’s a slow, brooding cut with expansive, cinematic synths casting an arena-wide vista over the reflective mood. It’s well-executed and emotionally charged, but the vocal treatment – namely a fuckload of autotune on the verses – is perhaps a little overdone and reduces the impact of the song’s kick-to-the-chest sincerity. It’s a fine choon, but maybe a fraction too produced and polished and even a little bit Emo, where a slightly rawer edge would have bitten harder.

‘Failure Principle’ is geared toward the mid-tempo, with quintessential dance tropes in full effect, with nagging synth loops rippling over and over an insistent dancefloor-friendly beat. While still featuring the core elements of techoindustrial, it carries a keenly commercial style.

The Assemblage 23 Remix of ‘Failure Principle’ is a standout by virtue of the way in which is accentuates the track’s danciness and general catchiness, bordering on euphoric dance which seems somewhat at odds with the lyrical content. But then, the medium is not necessarily the message, and there’s something to be said for slipping darkness in under the cover of light. In that sense, it works, although the extent to which suggesting any song by an industrial act has mainstream crossover potential and a broad appeal is questionable.

Rounding off the EP, the KALCYFR Remix of ‘Disease of Kings’ beings some fuck-off dirty great guitars and grinding bass to the party and comes on way more Nine Inch Nails, and tempers the vaguely emo leanings of the original and GenCAB remix.

The ‘limited-edition PANIC LIFT FACE MASK to accompany you on your journeys through the current post-apocalyptic landscape’ is a nice touch, too – because we need some nice things to help us navigate living through the reality of all of the dystopian fictional futures becoming reality all at once.

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10th December 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Sense of Scenery first came to my attention way back in 2009 with the release of The Disaster of Imagination which landed with me for review. I fucking loved it, and still love it now: it’s an album that’s stuck with me, and still gets regular play now, although it carries a certain weight of nostalgia now as it comes bearing memories of past, perhaps simpler times, and it also reminds me of people and places, and how things have changed.

But then, it always hit me with a certain level of emotional resonance, there was just something about it.

Sense of Scenery have been slow in their subsequent output: an EP in 2012, a remix EP the following year, and an instrumental single in 2017 has ben the sum of the output prior to the emergence of ‘Through the Walls’ as a single in August as a taster for an upcoming album. And now there’s this, a second single and accompanying B-side.

SOS come out swaggering with bravado about this one, claiming it to be ‘Like a direct injection of Viagra into the flaccid, shriveled wiener of Rock’. Which is pretty fucking bold, however you look at it.

It arrives on a wibbly wave of organ with some warping tape stretches, and a crisp metronomic drum sound, and while it’s immediately apparent that their style is unchanged in its post-punk leanings, it is very much evolved. Sean Douglas’ compositions still revolve around cyclical chord repetitions and choruses that step up the vocals and pack a mean hook, but things are altogether slicker, especially the production.

The drums are bordering on the mechanical, and there’s a tightness and smoothness about the overall sound that brings polish, but more than that, it brings a sense of paranoia and heightened tension. B-side ‘Smokescreen’ really brings this all to the fore, bordering on dance, especially with its blooping synth line, but it sounds like the soundtrack to an 80s car chase sequence, and it’s dynamic and exciting.

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James Wells

In advance, we learn that ‘The songs on Beautiful Hell will take you on a tour of the wreckage that is the contemporary state of affairs brought about during the reign of the Orange Beast. There was the destruction and reversal of environmental policies like withdrawal from the Parris Climate Accord, termination of the Clean Water Act & turning back the clock on human rights’, and that ‘the title track ‘Beautiful Hell’ draws a juxtaposition between the beauty of this planet and decaying state of political affairs. The tune ‘Under his Eye’ is focused on what is seemingly a path toward a Neo-Nazi Christian state. ‘Night Bird Cries’ is a lament for the decline of our environment and morality, that increasingly vie for our attention but go unheeded.’

The sound of Orcus Nullify – headed by bassist / vocalist Bruce Nullify – on this release is very much vintage goth, with fractal guitars, heavy in chorus and flange and setting spindly frameworks around thundering bass and tribal drums, the murky production evolving the sound and style of early Christian Death.

The intro to the title track sounds very like that of The Mission’s ‘Severina’ before it goes all splintering, spirally Nightbreed-sounding second-wave goth. For the record, that’s no criticism, just a contextual referencing placemarker. ‘Night Dance’ showcases a raw, dingy sound where the guitars are trebly and the bass is muddy and everything combines to create something dark and intense. ‘Fall from Faith’ is The Mission amped up to eleven, it’s The March Violets, it’s Groovin’ with Lucy, it’s Rosetta Stone.

As such, it’s not inventive, and Orcus Nullify clearly aren’t out to reinvent the genre, but to add to the body of the catalogue that could reasonably be labelled ‘classic goth’. Nothing wrong with that, and credit to the band, they’ve got the sound nailed, and some decent choons, too, with Beautiful Hell being a solid and dynamic EP.

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