Archive for the ‘Singles and EPs’ Category

Crocodile Records

Christopher Nosnibor

I thought the title rang a bell when I clocked it in my inbox, and despite kicking out more or less a review a day for the last decade, and despite knocking back at least a couple of units of alcohol for each one, my memory’s not bad, and lo, Amy’s 2019 comeback single was the B-side to her 2015 comeback single ‘Different Coloured Pills’, which I reviewed for Whisperin’ and Hollerin’ at the time. I was quite moved at the time, and I’m equally moved now.

In context, her halting progress is understandable: after immense major-label success aged just 16, before being subsequently being dropped before her 18th birthday, a protracted period of wilderness years plagued by mental health issues are likely attributable to the pressures of fame at a young age, but equally, can be seen as symptomatic of contemporary culture more broadly. Admittedly, it may be a shade contentious to suggest that mental health issues have become a badge of honour or a get-out clause for some, and I need to be clear that I say this as someone who is a strong advocate for bringing mental health issues into the forum of discussion – even though I’m not always the best at opening up myself. We do need to talk about mental health issues – and constructively. And via artistic media is one very positive starting point.

Amy’s slow-phased comeback is an appraisal of her experiences channelled creatively, and this time around, she’s on a different label and the release is part of a bigger project, as outlined in the press release: ‘I Was Jesus in Your Veins’ is the first track and chapter in a series of songs that will be released every six weeks and will ultimately make up the overall story / track listing on Amy’s eagerly awaited new album. A narrative diary of depression, hope and redemption, the new long player is a bold and intimate set of heartfelt songs and is set to arrive later this year.’

It’s telling that the video visuals, and the artwork accompanying the single are blurred, grainy, unflattering, indicating that what we’re getting here isn’t attention-seeking woe-is-me trauma porn, but the work of an artist genuinely using their chosen medium to explore and make sense of their life experience. There’s certainly nothing glamorising suffering here.

It’s an intimate, melodic slice of quintessential indie-pop delivered with an accessible, melodic and easy-going breeziness, but there’s a dark and deeply personal undercurrent that ripples through the fractured lyrical dialogue that also conjures the constant back and forth of the internal monologue of self-doubt and questioning. And in the personal lies the universal, which makes this such a powerful and moving work.

‘I have no expectations as to how it will be received but this album is so deeply personal I feel like I achieved what I was striving for just by creating it,’ she posted n her Facebook page just ahead of release. And that’s the mark of a true artist: this is about the creation rather than the reception. And while deserving of success, it’s also worthy of immense respect. And that’s actually worth more.

AA

Amy Studt

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Vile Entertainment – 5th April 2019

James Wells

‘Vile Assembly Unveil The Most Controversial Video of the Year,’ shouts the title of the email which crashed into my mailbox to announce the arrival of the promo for ‘Last Century Man’, the latest from Liverpudlian punks Vile Assembly.

How do you possibly quantify that? Controversy requires debate, often heated, passionate, divided, and while it’s not hard to see why their clip, which intercuts images and clips of Donald Trump and The Pope, defaced with crosses, blood spatter, and swastikas, with images of Hitler are likely to spark indignation in some quarters, the fact hardly anyone appears to have noticed, let alone be talking about, the video, which was posted just over a week ago suggests that while it’s been ‘banned’ from two news networks, the controversy has so far been fairly muted.

It certainly isn’t because people don’t shock or offend anymore: if anything, people in the west seem more like to be more sensitive at this point in time than any in recent history. However, the well-worn approaches to provocation, particularly when the targets are so widely unpopular.

Similarly, VA may describe themselves as ‘a band for our times’ with the objective to ‘disrupt the status quo and interrupt the flow of mass indoctrination with a searing honesty designed to energise and unite,’ but ultimately, they’re just another punk band. They’re a good one, and Paul Mason has perfected a Lydonesque sneer, but retreading the ground of the last 40 years isn’t where the revolution starts in 2019.

AA

Vile Assembly

Hangman Ho Records – 14th March 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

Every 18 months or so, I get contact from Rick Senley. This has been happening for a good few years now. I like him, and I like his work. There’s a pattern of sorts. He seemingly hibernates for a while, then emerges with a brace of albums, one each from his main projects, Music for Voyeurs and I Am A Man With A St Tropez Tan. Both different sides of the same coin, they tend to be contrasting but complimentary.

So this latest arrives came as something of a surprise: not an album but a single, and representing a new project. Made in Minks sees Senley return to the fold of a band-orientated project after many years operating in a solo capacity, and the international quintet, which initially coalesced in 2014, they’ve been honing their sound before declaring that ‘now is the time’.

Citing influences from Pixies to The Cure, Kate Bush, Black Sabbath and Aztec Camera, Made in Minsk claim to ‘sculpt a unique sound of psychedelic indie thrash folk’. If that sounds deranged, well, yes, it is.

‘Where the Truth Lies’ starts with darkly atmospheric muttering that calls to mind the Cure’s ‘Pornography’, before breaking out into a muscular riff that builds on a thunking bass throb and insistent rhythm that contains elements of The Fall but combines it with the snaking reverby bleakness of The Cure circa Faith and the fiery goth favours of Skeletal Family. It’s retro as, and it’s all the better for it: whereas so many contemporary acts play post-punk through a post-millennial filter of Interpol and Editors, MIM return to source to deliver something that feels authentic in every way, from the sentiment to the production.

Dark, stark, and angular, it’s also hypnotic and catchy, and a really strong song.

AA

Made in Minsk

22nd February 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

Everyone wants to be The Fall, everyone rips off The Fall but no-one actually sounds like The Fall – not even The Fall, at least in their first post Mark E Smith incarnation. That’s only half true: ‘No Man’s Land, the lead single from upcoming debut album Gastwerk Saboteurs sounds very much like The Fall in places. Hardly surprising given the musicians involved. How about the slightly flat, nasal vocal? San Curran’s spent a long time around MES’s work, but then again, flat, nasal vocals are common to both punk and indie bands from over the last 40 years, and he doesn’t end a single line with an ‘uh’, so his delivery isn’t entirely a derivative emulation. What’s more, when he steps up and starts gibbering at pace into a wash of reverb, there’s a vocal energy on display here that The Fall were missing for most of the last decade and a half, and from this alone, it becomes apparent that this is something new, something emergent, something born out of a need to create more than out of a desire to trade on legacy.

So, yes, it has heavy echoes of The Fall, because the musicians involved have been The Fall for the last decade or so: muscular riffs, driving drumming, a certain tension and a nagging repetition provide the core elements of ‘No Man’s Land’, a song which probably articulates in some way the position these four men find themselves. But as Imperial Wax, it sounds like they’re establishing a new home and a new identity.

AA

Imperial Wax

22nd February 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

I was – for reasons I forget – watching Alain de Botton’s lecture entitled ‘Why You Will Marry the Wrong Person’ the other week. ‘We seem normal only to those who don’t know us very well,’ he says. ‘In a wiser, more self-aware society than our own, a standard question on any early dinner date would be: “And how are you crazy?”’

Maybe I give off a certain vibe, but increasingly, I find myself encountering people who are more up-front about their defects, and while I find I’m still surrounded by stressers, anxietisers, low-mooders, neurotics, etc., at least I get to choose the ones I feel comfortable sharing my time with instead of discovering way down the line that they’re completely fucking nuts. That’s not actually intended as a flippantly disparaging or critical comment, for the record: we’re all fucking nuts, and I’m as warped as anyone.

It’s not just in my personal life I’m a magnet. It’s in my (second) professional life, too that people approach me from nowhere. Sometimes, it isn’t easy to assimilate. My online persona is just that: it isn’t me. Then again, I write, and I put it – a part of myself – out there, daily.

This epic digression is in fact contextual narrative. Having been approached via Twitter, a PR was angling for a review. Close friends are right: I am soft and maybe I am too nice. But then, I don’t want anyone to think I’m actually the guy who does The Rage Monologues live. Said PR was touting the latest single offering from Miel – who is, in fact, Swiss contemporary art collector, singer-songwriter, psychologist, and philanthropist, Miel de Botton, who lives in London. De Botton is the daughter of the pioneer of open architecture asset management Gilbert de Botton, and the sister of Alain de Botton. It’s a small world.

The cover art illustrates the sentiment of a desire to escape, to be elsewhere, to be immersed in someone else, and this conveys the sentiment of Londoner Meil’s new single ‘It’s been such a long hard road / I wait for you /I need your love to get me through / take me away / to the deepest sea / finally you and me together at last’, she sings in a dreamy pop tone against a backdrop of rippling piano, synth strings and understated beats.

“When I wrote this, I was imagining an ideal man whisking me away to the tropics. Understanding and thoughtful, he would be bringing me joy, ridding me of loneliness,” says Meil. It’s pure fantasy escapism, of course, and in some form or another, it’s a sentiment that has a universality to it that’s undeniable.

Neatly wrapped in some deft pop packaging, ‘Take Me Away’ radiates pure quality, and augers well for her forthcoming second album.

Come Play With Me – 8th February 2019

With some luscious chiming, chorus-soaked guitar, jittery drumming, wandering bass and vocals reminiscent of Mark E Smith circa 1978, Treeboy & Arc’s latest – released through Leeds label Come Play With Me’s singles club, sharing a 7” with Japan’s Jebiotto in a joint effort with Japanese Label Call & Response – is a belter.

As has become CPWM’s signature, this split single showcases a brace of contrasting but complimentary acts, each contributing a classically single-length single – if that makes sense. The medium is the message: 7” singles were, and remain, an artform. Brevity is the key. Giving enough, while leaving the listener wanting more.

And in three and a half minutes, Treeboy & Arc do exactly that, combining hooks with edge, packed into a hell-for-leather song about a car crash.

Jebiotto’s contribution is a shade further off-kilter and a little more difficult, but that’s the benefit and joy of a split 7”. It’s a taster, there’s no commitment, and if one side’s stellar, you’re made. If the other side’s got grower potential, then it’s a double win. And this is very much a double win.

AA

AA

Treeboy & Arc

7th January 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

I like Modern Technology before I’ve even heard a note. Drummer Owen approached me through Facebook having clocked Aural Aggravation with a link to the East London duo’s debut EP. Most bands starting out want to get on the radar, and get some cash back for the hard graft they’ve put in trying to get to the point of putting music out into the public domain, especially as a physical release – and this comes in limited-to-200 clear vinyl in addition to the digital version – but they’re donating all profits between Mind and Shelter, perhaps two of the most vital charities in the age of austerity.

I may not have written much about the plight of the homeless, although the fact we have a massive problem here in Britain right now requires no qualification, but I have touched on mental health on more than one occasion here in the past. The oft-shared statistics are just statistics, but in my day-job (yes, I work for a multinational who deal in insurance and investments, because, incredibly reviewing bands no-one’s heard of and writing books no-one reads doesn’t pay the bills) I’m often required to step out of my role to help people and to listen to people. They all have trouble. They’re all stressed. They’re all anxietised. Some are depressed. I know how they feel, and they know it. It really is good to talk. No, not just good: vital. This is my daily reality. So the fact that the bulk of CD I get sent for review which I don’t choose to keep end up at my local Mind charity shop is just something I do. Because it’s important to do what you can, right?

According to their bio, Modern Technology formed through ‘a shared frustration of the post-truth society and political unrest that is currently suffocating our global conscious’. The one positive of political turbulence is the spur to creativity: it’s no coincidence that that post-punk emerged during the Thatcher era, and it’s fair to say that the parallels between then and now are strong. One major difference now, however, is that it’s practically impossible to sign on and form a band: zero-hours contracts and the benefits system mean that even looking for work is a full-time job, and the economics of making music simply don’t stack favourably. But regardless of economics, all that shit has to go somewhere. You need to process. You need to vent. Modern Technology sound like a band who are doing this not for fun, but because they need to.

The EP’s opener provides a theme tune of sorts: entitled ‘Modern Technology’, it launches with an ear-shredding blast of splintering noise, before pulverizing drums, grating bass and squalling feedback hammer out a sonic landslide of a backdrop to a hollering vocal, half-lost in an avalanche of reverb. Christ! They’ve got the savagery of early Head of David coupled with the goth-noise mania of The Birthday Party.

It certainly sets the tone and tempo: ‘Project Fear’ is two minutes of overloading, distorted fury that makes optimal use of lo-fi production values for maximum impact. It hits like a punch in the guts. Deciphering the lyrics isn’t easy and at times is pretty much impossible, but the sentiment is more than adequately conveyed by the medium. Besides, the titles speak for themselves in many respects, as they take the most mundane aspects of contemporary capitalist living and attack them with shuddering sonic barrages. Shades of psych filter through the scuzzed-up tumult of no-wave noise. And deep from within that sonic cyclone screams the painful truth: everything is fucked.

When they do slow it down, as on the grinding ‘Select Retail’, they bring out the brooding theatricality and highlight the depthlessness and superficiality of consumerism with the blank slogan / refrain ‘Select retail / reject detail’. But then they also do choppy, bass-led Shellac-tinged angularity on ‘Queue Jumper’. Closer ‘Modern Detritus’ distils every last ounce of frustration and compresses it into a dense roar of thunder.

Modern Technology are the real deal: this isn’t music being made with one eye on a commercial ticket, but music that’s born out of compulsion, the urge to purge. It’s art. It’s raw, it’s visceral, it’s painful. And in expressing the agony of frustration, it’s perfect.

AA

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