Archive for the ‘Singles and EPs’ Category

26th June 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Aural Aggro’s favourite DIY indie duo Videostore keep crankin’ ‘em out, and a week after the belter that is ‘Your Mind’, they take a step to the left to deliver a cover of Manic Street Preachers’ ‘Roses In the Hospital’, which in context of their their previous releases, comes as something of a surprise.

Their take brings a twist – they definitely ‘make it their own’ as judges are so keen on saying on ‘The Voice’ and shit. That is to say, it sounds way more like Videostore than The Manics, and that’s a positive: so many acts are overly cautious and reverential in their approach to covers, especially when it comes to bands who are ‘canon’ and have acquired a status of being largely untouchable.

Lorna takes the vocal lead here, and Nathan gives a gargled backing vocal: the drum machine is whacked up in the mix and the guitar is stripped to a choppy, Metal Urbain fizz, and it’s a buzz.

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Christopher Nosnibor

I Like Trains’ emergence from hibernation may be coinciding with that of the nation, and while it’s perhaps to an extent coincidental, one feels that perhaps it largely isn’t. Their latest reinvention has seemingly come out of nowhere, and if their shift from genre-leading purveyors of songs based on historical events, formed as slabs of tremulous post-rock with shattering crescendos, to something rather less dramatic and more direct came by a certain sense of transition, this is a true bolt from the blue.

Crashing in from nowhere with the stark, synth-heavy and highly-political ‘Truth’ to announce the imminence of new album, Kompromat after a hiatus that had looked dangerously like becoming permanent, it was immediately apparent that I Like Trains haven’t so much evolved as metamorphosised.

The band describe ‘Dig In’ as being ‘probably as lean and direct as we’ve ever been’ and continue: ‘There’s plenty to be angry about at the moment, and this is a pure distillation of that. It’s aimed mostly at the campaign managers and ‘special advisors’ who manoeuvre their people into positions of power with little or no regard for the rules. Never back down. Never apologise. Show no signs of weakness.’

‘Dig In’ has a real attack to it, an urgency that’s new. Over a choppy guitar that’s more Gang of Four than anything even vaguely post-rock, and which is welded to an elastic rhythm section with a driving bass, David Martin growls political agitation. No longer jumbling through his beard, there’s even a hint of Richard Butler in the early years of the Psychedelic Furs in the delivery, and perhaps even hints of Post war Glamour Girls, he casts an elevated eye over the world as is, and it’s sharp incisive.

Old ILiKETRAiNS were formidable. Middle I Like Trains were ace. New I Like Trains, with their newfound edge, right now, feel re-energised and essential.

Sacred Bones

Christopher Nosnibor

Fucking yes: the news of a new Uniform album is welcome news. Not that a new Uniform album is ever going to be an uplifting experience, but a soundtrack to the torment of modern life. Few bands – not only now, but ever – have so perfectly articulated that noise in your head, the pain of being alive and completely fucking trapped on this planet with so many examples of a species who seem hellbent on bringing about their own extinction, and what’s more, completely deserve it.

Many fans will be devastated to hear, then, that they’ve gone pop on the lead single for their upcoming fourth album, Shame.

Of course I’m kidding. ‘Delco’ is less gnarly than previous outings, with actual chords distinguishable among the churn, and overall the sound is more balanced, less abrasive. But these things are relative. ‘Less abrasive’ means something approximating Filth Pig era Ministry, only with a shade less treble. It’s still a heavy grind, a relentless trudge of repetitive chord cycles and petulant, pissed-off vocals channelling all the angst. Still keeping it brutal.

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Following on from their 2016 record “You Will Burn”, Scottish hardcore quartet Razor Sharp Death Blizzard have returned with their new album “The World Is Fucked” which is set for release on July 17th. Ahead of this the band have released a video for their new single “Suicide”.

Frontman Jamie Clark had this to say on the track:

“When we write our songs, we almost always write in the practice room. “Suicide” took me by surprise by the intensity of the music. I like to stand in the room with Daz, Liam and Ross going for it so I can feel the song. The music brought out a lot of emotion in me be it anger, be it tearful. The emotion that came was the feelings for suicide I’d had off and on for a number of years and this song really helped me bring things out. I tried to put into word some of the feelings and thoughts I had.

From the crushing self-defeat to the feeling of wanting to through myself from the Newcastle to Amsterdam ferry on my way to and from holiday with my wife and kids. From not knowing what I was feeling, the utter confusion, wondering if someone would help me now that ‘I’ needed help. All things came to a head when we were a couple of weeks away from a European tour and I ended up doing one show and the rest of the guys played as a three piece for the remaining shows. It coming to a head was the best thing to happen. I was able to talk to those closest to me and turn a lot round.

The end of the song says it all and is a mantra I kind of abide by and its was Daz that said it ‘ no matter how dark the night may seem, tomorrow may be brighter’. What advice I try to give is please talk to someone, that first step will take so much weight from your shoulders. It won’t cure you but will give you courage to talk. It really is okay to not be okay. The hardest step is talking to someone but trust me it’s the best step you can take.”

Both tracks can be streamed here:

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7th May 2020

So, what do you do when your band is forced to take some downtime due to lockdown? Take up crochet? Perfect your breadmaking? Develop a nine-wanks-a-day porn habit? In the case of Chris Garth, guitarist with Post Rock/Metal/Sludge/Progressive Rock act UpCDownC, the answer is ‘work on a new side-project’. And so with an album in the pipeline, he’s unveiled ‘Bricks’ by way of a debut for Dead Mammals.

Immediately, I’m reminded of Shellac, specifically ‘Wingwalker’, but also more broadly of that 90s US noise scene as represented by acts on Touch&Go and Amphetamine Reptile. It’s the dirty, churning bass that really drives it. The drums thump along – more kick and tom, limited cymbal work – and the vocals – crackling through distortion – are half submerged when the angular shards of guitar scream in, a mess of scratchy treble that’s clear in its Steve Albini influence.

‘This song is about a woman / dead woman’ it begins, and judging by the way the monotone verse delivery gives way to anguished howls, the circumstances surrounding this involve some kind of psychopathy, seemingly on the narrator’s part. In context, the obliqueness of the lyrics is integral to the overall experience, which is first and foremost about the sonic compact of that slugging rhythm section and jolting guitar scrape. First impressions count, and ‘Bricks’ is one hell of an introduction.

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Christopher Nosnibor

Daily, I read about how the current situation is affecting bands, and, indeed, every aspect of the music industry. That said, it’s always the grass roots and lower echelons who are hardest hit, as is the case in any kind of crisis. Major-league artists will always be ok as gong as there are radio stations to play their stuff and produce a steady flow of royalties, and their millions of fans continue to stream their songs endlessly online. Beyoncé, Bono, and Ed Sheeran aren’t going to starve under lockdown.

But bands who rely on gigs in pubs alongside other bands who rely on gigs in pubs to find a fanbase and maybe flog enough merchandise to cover their fuel between said gigs have nothing to fall back on.

Sleep Kicks’ story is by no means unique, but they way they tell it as they present their new single really brings it home:

The whole live music scene shut down less than two weeks after our debut single came out. Instead of doing gigs and rehearsals, we just kept going, working on our own with a handful of songs we had recorded. Mixing, videos, artwork – the lot. We suddenly realised that one of the songs happened to describe this weird situation, and the feeling we somehow knew we would have once this whole thing was over. In short, the soundtrack to coming out of urban lockdown. It turned out an epic ode to the city, and at least it helped ourselves keeping the spirits up during the bleak times!

With ‘Recovery’, the Norwegian quartet paint scenes of an empty world springing back to life, and the difficulties of the prospect of readjustment.

A rolling rhythm and chiming guitar pave the way for a strolling bass motif and they coalesce into a spacious, reflective soundscape that sits between A-Ha, Editors, and mid-80s U2 and Simple Minds. Things kick up a notch and even nod toward anthemic around the mid-point of this six-and-a-half minute epic, before blossoming fully for a mesmerising final minute, where it soars on every level as they cast their eye to a brighter future: not the chalk-drawn rainbow on the pavement featured on the cover art, but a life of fulfilment, a re-emergence from the stasis of the now to actually living, rather than merely existing.

For a ‘little’ band, they have a big, ambitious sound that’s also got big audience potential. Here’s hoping they fulfil it.

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11th June 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Stoke on Trent’s pottery industry may not be what it once was, and apart from Robbie Williams, who’s not a good advertisement for any city, it’s not exactly renowned for its music. But then, underground artists tend not to be renowned generally, existing as more of a loose-knit and divergent community. It was through this community that I first heard the sounds of Plan Pony, although I’ve known the man behind the project – again, through the community – for some time.

Single release ‘Martyr’, backed with ‘Martyr II’ (and accompanied by a third track, ‘Hipster Soufflé’ on the ultra-limited CD-R edition) is a dank, muffled, chunk of raw experimental noise layering that combines elements of gnarly punk, early industrial, and no-wave.

Created using sampler, delay pedals, voice, loops, guitar and found sounds all recorded to tape, it’s primitive, raw, and the epitome of DIY in the best possible sense: this is the sound of an artist making art out of a need to make art, without having even the peripheral vision of one eye on any kind of audience.

‘Martyr’ thuds in with a muddy sequenced drum that sounds like a wet pair of balled socks being slapped around inside a cardboard box. The guitar sparks like the jack lead’s been plugged directly into the mains, and the shouty vocals are all the echo and utterly impenetrable. The result is an angular, abrasive noise that sounds how I expect some of Uniform’s demos to sound.

‘Martyr II’ is very much a contrast: the same production values and tonal range this time provide the context for a slice of brooding dark ambience, an instrumental (de)composition that creeps and spreads like mildew.

These are dark times, which are evidently inspiring some dark shit: and this is some dark shit right here.

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7th June 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

I suppose I’m fortunate to move in the circles I do. In both the real and virtual world, I’m surrounded by some remarkably talented creatives, working in all fields. Many seem to have found new outlets for their creative leanings under lockdown, in many cases probably for the sake of their sanity.

The emergence of a brand new act, VVolves, proved as welcome as is was unexpected, because the duo’s debut, a blend of shoegaze and cool synth pop, is a belter.

‘Momentum’ is a brilliantly kinetic, driving tune that kicks in solidly after a gentle, spacious intro. I’m a sucker for a song that locks into a groove and feels like it’s surging forwards because of, not despite, the repetition, and ‘Momentum’ absolutely does that: a repetitive chord motif, overlaid with chilly synth stabs and a propulsive drum track which contrasts with the ethereal vocal delivery. In combination, it’s an exhilarating rush.

We need more of this, please.

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Bearsuit Records – 26th June 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

The latest Bearsuit offering is a single by The Original Magnetic Light Parade, which is a collaboration between Belgian musician, Alexander Stordiau and Edinburgh man, and Bearsuit favourite, Harold Nono.

‘Confusion Reigns’ is surprisingly unweird, at least to begin with, exploring a sort of cinematic synthwave trajectory, a sparse machine drum low in the mix. Then it breaks into something massively bombastic, and it’s faux-epic in tone, sounding as much like someone fiddling with the voice settings on a keyboard, before finally settling on a piano sound and rolling into a space-rock explosion. With about half a dozen passages in all packed into its five-and-a-half minutes, it feels more like a collection of ideas for longer pieces than a single composition. Confusion does indeed reign.

It’s a fitting summary of the now: everything is confused and confusing, especially in the UK, especially in England. I still don’t know under what circumstances I’m supposed to stay at home or meet people, what’s essential or non-essential, and the logic behind any explanations of the changes that seem to be announced by the day seems deeply flawed and downright contradictory, even for the things I think I do know.

Nothing is as it seems and you can’t trust even trusted sources, and counterpart ‘Smoke and Mirrors’ very much hints at this global obfuscation in its title. Who can you trust? What can you trust? Certainly not statistics.

Instrumentally, it brings together acoustic guitar and smoky synths. The transitions are less frequent, resulting in a piece that twists and turns, but flows rather more smoothly. It’s still odd, and angular, just not as brain-bendingly difficult to follow.

And as a set, it’s all good. Just don’t come here looking to make sense of insane times.

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24th May 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Like many artists during life in lockdown, Foldhead has been enjoying a spell of enormous creativity. Well, enjoying may not be quite the word: immersion in work for therapeutic purposes is as much a necessity as a joy, and moreover, as his recent spate of output highlights, zanntone is a highly political animal, and some recent events have sparked an ire that can only be purged through noise.

Skegdeath, released in March, served up an obliterative wall of noise against hundreds of thousands who reportedly descended on Skegness beach on Saturday 21st, the final days before official lockdown landed, against advice on social distancing. The Guardian ran a headline quoting a local dentist who said that it was ‘a disaster waiting to happen.’ It did happen, of course, and it didn’t wait long.

But that didn’t stop the government’s top advisor from doing the precise opposite of staying at home, saving lives, and protecting the NHS by driving his child, in the company of his wife who was suffering symptoms of Covid-19 some 260 miles from London to Durham to stay on his parents’ property, and taking a 60-mile round trip to Barnard Castle to check his eyesight was ok to make the journey home once they’d all recovered, despite having been barely able to walk the day before. He called it ‘reasonable’ and parental responsibility; half the country called it bullshit.

Foldhead refers to this punchy two-tracker, which would make for a neat 7” single at any other time as ‘A reaction to a piece of shit I will not sully my vocal chords by naming’, although the cover art leaves us in no doubt.

‘Carrion / Carrier’ marks one of Foldhead’s most brutal sonic assaults, five minutes of squalling, head-shredding electrical noise, with infinite layers of static and feedback and more noise on top. You can almost imagine him turning knobs so hard as to almost napping them off, and jamming down pedals and circuitry with brute force in order to channel the fury. Because nothing inspires rage like deceit and hypocrisy, apart from when that deceit and hypocrisy is so brazen and comes from a place of such self-confidence and superiority.

‘Poundshop Gollum’ is a howling, braying racket, somewhere between feedback and the anguished sounds of a dying heifer or maybe an elephant, against a backdrop of metal being crushed in a wrecker’s yard. There are fleeting moments that carry echoes of the most twisted, abstract jazz, but above all, it’s the sound of torture.

Amidst all of the outpourings of anger on social media, and even in the mainstream media, this release perhaps makes the strongest and clearest statement of all: because there are no words. The language of sound is the most articulate.

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