Archive for the ‘Singles and EPs’ Category

Loner Noise – 13th October 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

Now, I’ve been digging Nasty Little Lonely for a while. Clearly, this is because I’m a music reviewer who gets to hear about everything in advance and I’m infinitely cool because of it.

But seriously, I was introduced to these noisemongerous mofos three years ago, by means of their Bad Jack & Other Stories EP. And they’ve only continued to get better – by which I mean more intense and visceral – ever since.

‘Ugly Vitamin’ is a seething, squalid eruption of-guitar-driven derangement that calls to mind not only Hole at their best, but also the sneering ferocity of Lydia Lunch the rather more psychotic Queen Adreena. It writhes into the skull and penetrates hard. A choppy, chunky bass and hammering rhythm drives through squalling, treble-smash guitar and Charlie Beddoes does sweet but dangerous on the vocal front. You don’t want to fuck with NLL, that’s for sure: but you do need them in your life.

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Nasty Little Lonely - Vitamin

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Too Pure – 29th September 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

With Billy Blacklister’s recent relocation to Germany, there were likely to be questions over the future of Leeds’ masters of abrasive angular noise. The arrival a new three-tracker as part of Too Pure’s singles club series answers them: their first new material to be released since their second album, Adult, in October 2015, is absolutely fucking blistering.

It may be hard to believe, but they’ve actually gone one louder, one heavier, one more ferocious than the previous release here. A tangle over overdriven guitar wails over drumming that’s up front and pure Shellac leads the assault on Dart. The bass is brutal and Billy’s vocals are sharp and full-lunged. They’ve not gone for hooks, instead going all out for battering ram brutality, all with their trademark hint of mania.

‘Disco’ and ‘Drag’ both clock in at under three minutes (the latter only just breaking two). On the former, sinewy guitars skew angles across a nagging bass groove. Funky it isn’t. On the latter, chords stab like daggers as the whole thing lurches at pace to an abrupt halt.

Lyrically, the songs are largely impenetrable, but this isn’t music to muse to: Dart is a violent, visceral experience – and one of the best things I’ve heard all year.

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Blacklisters - Dart

22nd September 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

Ummagma really do have some impressive friends and fans. The Canadian dreampop duo’s lush, textured shoegaze has garnered them not only and admirable fanbase and favourable critical reception, but has placed them into direct contact and collaboration with a number of their heroes.

The ‘LCD’ EP, which follows up their ‘Winter Tale’ maxi-single with 4AD dream pop pioneer A.R.Kane earlier this year, features four tracks, including the new original title track ‘LCD’, and reworkings of Ummagma songs two legendary British musical figures in the form of Cocteau Twin Robin Guthrie, and Dean Garcia of Curve and, latterly, SPC ECO.

The lead track is a classic slice of 90s-tinged dreampop with tangents ago-go: a slippery funk-infused groove envelops what sounds like two independent drum tracks which interlace and intertwine, while synths bubble and grind. It all comes together to create something strangely nebulous and at the same time compellingly propulsive despite its lack of obvious form.

Dean Garcia’s SPC ECO mix really accentuates the spaciness of the track, stripping it back to a sparse frame around which echoed notes and voices drift. Gloopy beats reverberate around dripping synths and elongated drones to conjure a rich atmosphere. Garcia takes a similar approach to the minimal drift of ‘Back to You’, which takes a turn for the darker as its resonant bass tones hang in a rarefied air, cloud-like and barely tangible yet present.

What Robin Guthrie brings to ‘Lama’, which originally featured on their debut album, is a real sense of appreciation of the original, and an accentuation of the nuance. He also provides not only a new arrangement and mix, but additional guitar work, which renders it more of a collaborative piece than a straight remix. There’s something magically organic about it, and as Shauna McLarnon’s soaring vocal tops off the sonic soufflé perfectly.

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Ummagma – LCD EP

22nd September 2017

James Wells

Christ, I fucking hate Cast. Overrated, jangly 90s bollocks shit, and turgid as fuck to boot. The fact that Tony Steele’s biggest claim to fame (and as far as I can tell he’s no relation to Tommy Steele) seems to be that he and his pals have supported Cast and a bunch of other Liverpudlian luminaries and the fact they’ve gigged all over Liverpool.

The press blurb points out, helpfully, that ‘A Ballad For Dead Love’ has been produced by Steve Powell, renowned for his work with the likes of Lee Mavers (The La’s) and Michael Head (The Pale Fountains, Shack)’, and highlights ‘Scouse Rockabilly’ as one of the track’s ‘unmistakeable influences’. Scouse Rockabilly? Is that even a thing? And did I mention I hold the same lack of regard for The La’s as I do Cast? Overrated, one-hit wonders.

Anyway, this is actually ok. It’s got a 60s pop vibe to it, an energetic, loping rhythm, and fuckloads of reverb all over the twangy guitar. If anything, it calls to mind John Leyton’s 1961 number one single ‘Johnny Remember Me’ (which is an absolute classic). Maybe if they can break out of Liverpool, Tony Steele and the Massacre could go somewhere with tunes like this.

Tony Steele

Christopher Nosnibor

I know very little about this release, at least in terms of specifics. I do know that it’s the work of the prodigious John Tuffen, who also performs as part of Neuschlaufen and Wharf Street Galaxy Band amongst others. I know its physical edition is in a hand-numbered run of 50 CD-R, housed in a paper foldover sleeve in a PVC wallet, with an appropriately blank image by way of cover art. There’s a bleak, quasi-modernist feel to the night-shot photograph of a structure constructed as some kind of shelter. But a shelter without people and a car-park without car is simply dead space. One Year, Two Days is a night-time work. Recorded at night (we’ll return to that shortly), it’s the soundtrack to empty spaces and time without people. And abstract as the sound sequence are on One Year; Two Days, it’s reasonable to summarise the project as a work about time and space and a certain absence.

I do know that John likes his kit, and to fiddle with it, and that a lot of his works are ‘project’ based, centred around either a piece of equipment (e.g. 808 // Whammy (2016) and Field Memory Recorder (2017) recorded exclusively with a novation circuit) or specific times / locations. I also know that John has been working under the Namke Communications moniker for some seventeen years now, and has built quite a body of experimental work in this guise.

The track titles are simply dates and times, and show that the four pieces were recorded over two days in 2016 – as the EP’s title suggests. In some ways, it marks a continuation of the 365/2015 project, which saw Tuffen record – and release – a track a day for the entirety of 2015.

This project and its predecessor provide a considerable insight into Tuffen’s creative modus operandi, which could equally be described as a work ethic. It’s one I can personally relate to, as I strive to produce and publish at least one review a day. This does, of course, raise the inevitable question about quality control, but there are two very different positions on creativity: the first suggests creativity is something which cannot be controlled, is spontaneous. It says you have to wait or the moment, the idea, the impulse. To wait and to go with the flow. The second says that creativity is like a muscle: the more you do, the more you’re able. In time, quantity begets quality as a committed, systematic approach to making art.

‘2016-08-08-2202’ sets the tone, a distorting oscillation provides the backdrop to creeping notes which gradually rise majestically before bleeding into ‘2016-08-08-2318’. It may be growing later, but the mood grows marginally lighter. The sequencing of the tracks is a major factor in the listening experience here, as there is an overall arc from beginning to end. The mid-section, as represented by ‘2016-08-10-1909’ transitions into hushed ambience, before fragmenting into darker territory with fractured distortion and dislocation taking hold. Eventually, it spins into hovering metallic drones, the frequencies touching on the teeth-jangling.

The final track, ‘2016-08-08-2256’ forges a cloud of amorphous sonic drift, a sonic cloud without tangible form. It’s immersive, but at the same time entirely engaging, as the oscillations and quavering notes which fade in and out of the rumbling thunder slowly dissipate in a drifting mist.

While locked in time and space in terms of their creation, in terms of reception, the four tracks on One Year; Two Days transport the listener beyond both time and space. And herein lies the power of this release, in that it both freezes time, and stretches it out over a frame which has no fixed limits.

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Namke Communications – One Year Two Days

Future Void Records – 25th August 2017

James Wells

The pedant in me – and he’s a dominant, sarcastic brawling bastard – asks if two tracks with a combined running time of just over eight minutes really constitutes an EP. The same pedant also wonders if post-rock and post-hardcore can really sit together as a hybrid genre.

The debut release by Brighton’s Chalk Hands makes him shut the fuck up. These two cuts – ‘Burrows’ and ‘Arms’ – are both brutal and beautiful in equal measure. The guitars shift between delicate chiming notes and driving power chords, the vocals a nihilistic snarl of rage amidst the tempest.

According to the band’s bio, they’ve been compared to Pianos Become The Teeth, Caspian, and Envy. Because I’m old and because it’s impossible to know every inch of every microgenre or even every genre, I don’t know any of these bands, but instead draw from a sphere of reference that includes Profane and Andsoiwatchyoufromafar, and comparisons to both are favourable in the case of Chalk Hands. However, they also reference MONO and Russian Circles, and yes, they hold up nicely against them too.

On ‘Burrows’ in particular, Chalk Hands build some awesome crescendos from delicate, rippling washes of clean, chorused guitars, presenting an impressive dynamic and emotional range.

Chalk Hands EP Sleeve R2 OL