Archive for the ‘Singles and EPs’ Category

26th October 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

‘Dramatic and bold’… ‘driven and experiential’… songs which deliver ‘a perfectly executed sense of tension and release’… I’m No Chessman promise a lot with this, their second release. Do they deliver all of it? Well, it’s a matter of taste as much as opinion.

When I relaunched my reviewing ‘career’ such as it is a decade ago this month, I thought it would be neat to make providing objective reviews my signature. Over time, I’ve come to revise this ambition, having realised that the way one responds to music has precisely nothing to objective matters like technical competence. Granted, poor production can ruin a great set of songs, but the best production in the world won’t transform songs that are technically proficient in terms of musicianship but otherwise predictable and lacking in emotional resonance exhilarating.

Music is intensely personal, and how an individual responds to a composition isn’t purely about the recipient or their tastes, but their headspace and the precise context in which they first hear it.

All of which is to say that this EP is well executed, and despite what the title may suggest, is decidedly not the work of amateurs (just as it has nothing to do with John Niven’s debut novel, which is about golf. And wanking. Well, maybe it’s about wanking. Some of it is a bit Fall Out Boy). It’s that combination of poppy, up-tempo guitar-driven punk with spitting angst that will enthuse or antagonise dependent on your politic.

But yes, throwing in bouncy pianos and widdly guitar breaks in between big, hooky choruses, it’s impossible to deny that they do bring elements of ‘riven and experimental’ and ‘(melo)dramatic and bold’ with their expansive theatricality. All of which is t say that objectively, the band’s appeal is clear. Subjectively… I’m probably not the right demographic.

AA

Im No Chessman

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Movement-2 Records – 31st October 2018

Some things shouldn’t be rushed. And some things just take time, because. When it comes to the Gaa Gaas’ career and release schedule, both statements apply. 15 years on from their inception, they’re finally on the brink of the release of their debut album, and to build momentum, they’re throwing out a few tasters / reminders. Following a brace of EPs, V.O.L.T.A.I.R.E. was the band’s first single release back in 2010. And finally, it’s received a vinyl reissue, with a limited amount sold exclusively for Record Store Day 2018 prior to the official release date in October.

The physical format matters. For bands – anyone who was born pre-millennium, at least, I would say – the dream is to release music and be able to hold, as well as hear it. Music-making is a multi-media, multi-sensory practise, and how it’s presented is an integral part of the experience where consuming music is concerned. And for fans – the object is the gateway to the sonic experience, the tangible form to which the attachment to the music itself forms, presenting the band and their music and firing an infinite array of subliminal triggers and associations. The black-and-white cover art and labels say budget, independent, underground – and it’s all in the detail, like the hand-stamped number on the label. It gives a sense of artefact, of something to be treasured.

And rightly so: the single itself, it’s a stormer. The drums snake out of a screed of feedback and nagging, off-kilter, shrieking guitar that’s got a bit of Bauhaus about it before the bass cuts in with a funksome groove that again hints at Bauhaus’ ‘Kick in the Eye’ but equally hints at Gang of Four and Radio Four. It’s tense, dark, reverby post-punk with a twisted psychedelic edge that’s claustrophobic, desperate, anguished, the trebly, echoey production capturing the essence of early March Violets and at the same time offering an infectious hookiness.

Flipside – and yes, it’s a genuine, literal, flipside here – ‘Hypnoti(z)ed follows a similar trajectory, with a dense, throbbing bass groove and metronomic, mechanised doom disco drumming providing the skeleton over which they stretch a skin of spindly guitars and echo-soaked yelping vocals. Skeletal Family and The Danse Society’s early work comes to mind, but The Gaa Gaas bring a manic edge that’s uniquely their own, and Gavin Tate’s vocal only accentuates the fevered unpredictability of the skewed, clanging guitars.

The post-punk revival that spawned the likes of Interpol predates the emergence of The Gaa Gaas, meaning they don’t sit within that bracket in terms of timing, but then again, The Gaa Gaas don’t sit within that bracket stylistically, either. While Interpol, White Lies, et al feel somewhat studied, controlled, and produced even in their more formative stages, there’s something warped, unhinged, dangerous about this. And eight years on from its initial release, it feels more vital than ever.

AA

Gaa Gaas

Bearsuit Records – 1st November 2018

James Wells

This one seemingly pinged in from nowhere finds BBC (that’s Black Bear Catapult, which consists of Ippu Mitsui and Jimmy Finlayson) deliver a slice of strangeness that combines hyperactive electropop backing of spacey synths which wibble and warp against a drum machine which flitters and stutters frenetically as if its programmer is on a rush of sugar and caffeine, bursting into double-time seemingly on a whim. Jittery, jumpy, overenergised, this release positively twitches with a stroboscopic kineticism.

There’s a nice strolling bassline that emerges here and there during ‘Leopold Checks In At The Laughing House’, and while the overall tone is playful and a little bit daft, it’s something you can groove to. And I’m down with that!

AA

BBC - Laughing

16th November 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

Salvation Jayne are going from strength to strength at the moment, and kicking off with lead single ‘Cortez’ which drives hard with an amalgam of grunge guitars, solid, hard-rock riffage and pop-tinged rock-solid vocal sass their eponymous six-tracker sees the band take stock, refocus and capitalise on their work to date to mark the trajectory of the next stage of their emerging career.

‘Juno,’ which surfaces as a standalone track a year ago showcases a poppier groove in the med-section, but is primarily about the hefty, bass-driven, riff-centric chorus, and at the risk of reductionism, it’s the riff and the rock vocals that define the EP as a whole. There’s no lack of heft to ‘Black Heart’, either, which is propelled by some attacking drumming and thickly overdriven guitar, while Chess belts out the lyrics with full lung.

If the verses of ‘Tongue Tied’ suggest a slight lifting of the foot from the pedal with its layered, chorused guitar and easy disco beat, the chorus kicks it back up a notch or two. The slide guitar and strolling bass of ‘The Art of Falling’ marks the biggest shift as they slip comfortably into country grunge that expands into stadium space-filling emotionally-charged rock epic territory. It may be vaguely template and conventional, but it’s got a captivating sincerity, it’s well-placed and works well, and more importantly, it’s what you might reasonably call a ‘big’ tune that indicates the band’s mass-market potential

Yes, the Salvation Jayne EP is on the more accessible side of whatever: it’s not nasty or gnarly or dirty or fucked. But is does pack some riffy, guitar-based punch, at least for the most part: the ‘stripped’ version of ‘Juno’, with its aid-back, sultry beats is pleasant enough but my views on remixes and alternative versions are strewn about the Internet for those who remotely give a fuck. Suffice it to say that while it’s actually quite nice, it still feels like quite nice filler, and perhaps five tracks would have done the job just as well.

That said, it’s a fair inclusion and not a terrible addition to an EP that’s got some guts and showcases a band with game.

AA

EP GOLD large

Mamka Records – MAM01 – 1st November 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

‘Language becomes sound, and sound becomes language. Out of the fragmentary, the density is weaved. From the depths of the fragile, the whole is born. Time structures are questioned and assembled through loops. Field recording from Mexico meet Osojnik’s singing. Spoken language turn into melodies, whole noise turns into bittersweet rancheras.’ The words from the text – more of a short essay – which accompanies this release resonate: as a long-time student and practitioner of cut-up methodologies, I’m a firm believer in the unusual power of the fragmentary, the capacity for those broken, ruptured pieces of discontinuity to unlock experiences and emotions direct approaches to narrative and the channelling of experience cannot. similarly, I’ve long maintained that the language of sound has the capacity to transcend the language of words, to touch deep and difficult parts of the soul and the psyche irrespective of the tongue or tongues in the listener’s ken.

And so it is that the first release on Mamka records, the label established by Maja Osojnik – whose work I’ve not only covered previously but greatly admire – is something really quite special. My download arrives – personally addressed, handwritten, stamped, embellished – all the way from Vienna, in an envelope 7” square and therefore resembling a 7” single, accompanied by a six-sided press release packed with words far more engaging than the usual hyperbole. There’s also a numbered cut-vinyl print, 7” square included in the package, and it all adds up to a multisensory experience – sonic, tactile, visual – which above all conveys a real sense of commitment, a passion, to making something tangible, something that’s not ephemeral or disposable, but something that matters. The medium is the message, and Maja has found a way – labour-intensive as it is – which goes beyond the medium of the audio release to create… art. The same approach applies to the ‘commercial’ release, a 7” available in a super-small run of 150 copes, only 120 of which are available for public consumption. But better target a small, passionate niche than a large indifferent mainstream if art is your pursuit.

Finding a way to render digital media tactile, visual, and above all, personal, in giving the digital listener a large portion of the vinyl experience, Maja is quite possibly breaking new ground, or at least standing at the forefront of something new. For me, it’s less about nostalgia and more about recovering some of what’s been lost with the demise of physical media.

Said release finds Maja performing with Rdeča Raketa (together with Matija Schellander, she’s integral to the duo who go by the name of Rdeča Raketa) and author Natascha Gangl to deliver a brace of tracks – very much a replication of the classic 7” A and B sides.

‘Chicken’ opens with a frenzy of analogue synth noise. It simmers to a grating buzz and pulsating electro beat before Maja barrels in with a deep-throated monotone with a barrage of lyrics about a chicken in her heart which bleeds and bleeds, and while clucking electronic bleeps twitter and bleep here, there, and everywhere. It’s weird, it’s noisy, it bumps and thrums, but still has an off-kilter pop sensibility partially submerged in the layers of noise and oddness.

‘Die Toten’ (that’s ‘the dead’ in translation) is rather less accessible, but no less intriguing, engaging, or odd, and in fact, introduces a new level of strangeness to proceedings. It’s low, slow, lugubrious.

Simultaneously weird and wonderful, ‘Chicken’ is everything you want – and need – by way of an introduction to partially-accessible, highly idiosyncratic, and extremely engaging weird shit.

AA

Natasha Gangl & Rdeča Raketa – Chicken

31st August 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

SAHARAS’ previous single, ‘Sweat’ won me over in an instant, being a sucker for that post-millennial retake on the post-punk sound.

The contention that they’re ‘one of the most unique emerging bands in the industry’ might be a bit of a stretch, but on the strength of this latest effort, they’re proving to be one of the most consistent and exciting, which is probably a bigger deal.

They forewarn that ‘Shake My Fever’ marks ‘a shift in focus from their previous synth-heavy arrangements of past releases [resulting…] in an increase of emphasis on their spacious and melodic guitar work.’ This is no bad thing, and said guitar work was always there and integral to the sound and structure.

The cover art looks like a nod to The Cure’s ‘A Forest’, but with its buoyant post-punk disco beats, ‘Shake My Fever’ is closer to ‘Let’s go to Bed’ or ‘Hot! Hot! Hot!’. It’s unashamedly poppy and less angular than its predecessor: it’s still all about the smoky, chorus-heavy guitars and wandering bass groove, but with the melodic backing vocal hook to the fore in the chorus, it’s what you might justifiably call a ‘chooooon!’

AA

Saharas - Shake

James Wells

The Clash’s Topper Headon reckons they’re ‘fucking brilliant,’ so they must have something about them. But we already knew that here at Aural Aggravation, and that was before they were featured on Metal Hammer’s Revenge of the Riff cover CD and landed on Planet Rock playlists with single ‘Juno’.

Salvation Jayne’s latest offering, ‘Cortez’, was inspired TV show American Horror Story and sees their sound continuing to evolve. Propelled by a sturdy beat you can dance to. It’s still got plenty of melody and a keen sense of groove, but brings a harder, darker edge. In fact, it’s quite the riffy beast, a solid grunger that drives hard from the start.

It’s not only a massive grower, but also has the potential to reach an even wider audience. The video ain’t bad, either.

AA

Salvation