Archive for the ‘Singles and EPs’ Category

4th December 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Christmas singles are divisive, to say the least. Probably because the majority of them are cack. People get funny about Christmas: sane, rational individuals turn to slushy pulp, pontificating about family and the kids. Yeah, we always do it for the kids. Enduring long hours of pent-up tension spent in stuffy, overheated rooms, feeling uncomfortable with overindulgence and a burning sensation that may be indigestion or just the slow-burning desire to escape.

Often, you will hear people saying that we should remember the less fortunate at Christmas, to spare a thought for them and maybe even a few pence, and we’ll assuage our guilt by donating some mince pies to the food bank or a pair of last year’s unwanted Christmas socks to a charity collecting for third world children or whatever. We do it, and it eases our conscience, and allows us to forget about it all while we plunge back into our own microcosms of manufactured joy, real or falsified. And no, this isn’t a guilt-trip, because I’m certainly by no means exempt here. It’s human nature. How many of us sit and feel sad for those less fortunate, those who aren’t able to spend time with loved ones or feel the comfort of a safe home environment when picking up another pig in a blanket, another slice of meat, another roastie, another splash of gravy?

West London trio Queensmen – who don’t seem to be an intentional response to The Kingsmen, famous for their 1963 version of ‘Louise Louie’ – have released ‘Shine A Light’ in an attempt to raise attention to the plight of the homeless, and to raise money for Crisis.

Where ‘Shine a Light’ stands apart from so many other songs of its ilk is that it takes the viewpoint from someone who’s bereft, and there’s something powerful and moving in the first-person plea of ‘Don’t abandon me / I’m cold as stone / Come and rescue me / Now that I am all alone’.

There’s nothing elevated or preachy about this, and the human impact on an individual level is brought into relief here.

It would be a wrong step to criticise this for being a jangly emo/indie pop rush that musically doesn’t really reflect the gravity of the lyrics, because it’s better to deliver a message in a format that will appeal to a wider audience, and they’re not going to register any better with some dour, po-faced effort. ‘Shine a Light’ has energy and hooks, and while it really would represent an optimal achievement if everyone wo heard this would pause and reflect, spending a few pence on a download because you like the tune would be ok, y’know.

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Artwork

generate and test – 30th October 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

The blurb bewilders me before I hear a note, as I read how ‘ʇןǝɯs is a high density package crafted with care and luck from a rare mixture of ingredients. The four track MP (micro-package) takes you on a ride across a one- dimensional checkerboard landscape rendered in colors of euphoria and terror. Players emerge at side exits and diffuse presently. If the album title is unmanageable you can use the unoffending smelt.’

Delving deeper, I learn, ‘Entire package produced on-the-go using mobile phones, some of them rooted. Apps are Nanoloop, g-stomper, termux/python, different media recording apps. Custom app autovoice takes care of slicing the voice tracks and beat aligning them on the track.’

From this fragmentary non-narrative, I’m braced for something irregular, unusual, beyond boundaries, and that’s very much what this is. Micro-package is a fair description of an EP comprising four tracks, none of which really exceed two and a half minutes, although it doesn’t convey the flickering intensity of slow-tripping hip-hop that’s rooted in samplist, cut-up methodology with disjointed loops and fragments providing the fabric of this digital tapestry.

It may not be easy to follow, and at times so deeply immersed in obscure referencing and the exploration of the technology used to create the material, ʇןǝɯs feels as much like a case of experimentalism for its own sake than a document of artistic creativity. The titles are more or less impenetrable, at least in terms of their significance or relevance, although ‘very veird’ is quite odd, if not overtly Germanic, a collage of bleeps and a bubbling stew of vocals simmering over minimal beats and bloopy, stammering bass. It actually makes for a long two minutes, but the richness of the layering and density of the combined source materials is undeniably impressive.

There’s almost infinite bubble and fizz, crackled and grind, particularly on the closer, ‘argh uargh (kann ich ans handy?)’ where the title is a fair summary of the chaotic cacophony it contains.

ʇןǝɯs is messy and uncomfortable, but taking its sequence of input > process > output as a creative model, it’s likely the ultimate summary of 2020.

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25th November 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Following what, at least to the outside world, appeared to be a fallow spell between the release of beech and its attendant remixes version, during which time elk became elkyn, Joseph Donnelly returns remarkably swiftly with a new single, ‘if only it was alright now’.

It’s a sentiment that’s so, so relatable right now as we find ourselves eddying along in a relentless tumult of who knows that the fuck. And in the space of just over three minutes, Donnelly captures and articulates all of the uncertainty and wraps it around with a warm, thick blanket of home and opens the window to let the light in.

It begins in what’s swiftly become trademark style, his quiet, introspective vocals almost a mumble, trepidatious, accompanied only by sparse, picked acoustic guitar. And it’s truly beautiful, in that most intimate, soul-searching of ways. But from here, things evolve as layers of textured sound build on one another, and at pace, and in no time, galloping drums are bounding along, pushing the song onwards, and it’s a rush – a clean, uplifting rush, like a warm breeze on a perfect summer’s day, where the clouds are just wisps, high in the upper reaches of the atmosphere.

Comparisons and references that spring up here and there, but to evoke them feels futile, and moreover to diminish the emotional and sonic richness of the work, which exists in its own self-made space, and completely apart from all external forces of influence and time, creating a brief but magical moment you wish could be frozen to last for all eternity.

24th November 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Black days and even blacker nights call for black metal, and the second track taken from German trio Imha Tarikat’s forthcoming second long player, Sternenberster (which translates literally as ‘burster of stars’) scheduled for release on December 11th. As you might expect from a band whose name is Turkish and translates as ‘extermination sect’, it’s black in the ‘scorched earth, charred remains’ sense.

It begins with a single bass note, a power grunt, and then all hell breaks loose, and it’s fast, furious, and the production is, of course, ultra-primitive. Usually, with black metal, I’m inundated with synonyms for swamps and sludge, here, it’s The Fall that come to mind. Not that Imha Tarikat sound like The Fall musically, but the clattering racket is distinctive by virtue of the instrumental separation. What’s more, that ragged bass sound, particularly the descending run before it all collapses into a frenzied wall of nose, sounds almost exactly like the start of ‘Elves’. It’s endearingly ramshackle, and while it is in time and in key – just about – I think – it’s perfectly unpolished, a one- or two-take demo-quality throwdown. Unusually, it’s possible to distinguish the bass, the guitars, the drums, and the vocals – but not the lyrics, of course – in what is a remarkably bright mix.

With the vocals heavily doused in delay, which repeats and reverberates around among the pulverizing and utterly relentless percussion, it does take on a different feel from so much of the genre. Of course, there’s nothing audible that conveys the song’s concept which ‘metaphorically signifies the violent collision with reality that follows a fall from intoxicating heights’ but it does convey excruciating agony and kinetic energy in abundance. And it’s fucking brutal.

Tambourine Machine – 20th November 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Nine years on from their inception, and seven years since their last release, Epilogues return from hiatus with a brace of new EPs, simply entitled ‘me’ and ‘you’. Mikey Donnelly has been keeping occupied, recently working solo as miles. and alongside his brother, Joey, who goes by elk.

If the title sounds like this is an exercise in narcissistic, egotistical self-indulgence, you’d be way, way off the mark: yes, Donnelly’s primary focus is himself, but this is a work of deep introspection and is one of those magical moments of fine artistry where the artist finds universality in the personal.

The recording is intimate, close-up, and you can hear every last breath, every scratch and scrape of finger on string and fretboard. The instrumentation is simple, essentially acoustic guitar and voice, with occasional incidentals so subtle as to be barely there. There is nowhere to hide, and that’s largely the point: this is a set of songs that explores identity and picks it apart unsparingly.

In the opening lines of ‘Me’ he sings, quietly, ‘Hello again; it’s me / At least I think that’s who I’m wearing; my character this week’, as he begins to lay himself bare, pulling back the layers of the onion to reveal a fragile core.

A softly quavering ambient drone marks the understated arrival of ‘Two Weeks’, a song so quietly mournful and reflective, and if one applauds the bravery of a statement which says, unashamedly ‘this is me, with all my flaws’, then it’s perhaps even bolder and more powerful to find an artist turning it around and asking ‘who is ‘me’?’. And here, Donnelly succeeds in bringing the two together, taking the listener on a journey that both questions and answers.

Donnelly is, it has to be said, a remarkably eloquent lyricist, each line adeptly spun with a rare poeticism: it’s rare to find a record where simply reading the words on the page is a moving experience.

The final song, ‘The Gap’ begins in typically hushed, reflective style, buy blossoms into a full-band finale, with drums, bass, and chiming guitar as Mikey sings out the refrain, and suddenly, he emerges from the shadows and into the light. For all the rust and dust, death and decay, there is hope and optimism.

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Epilogues - Me

Click on the image to listen.

20th November 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

So often, less is more. Lyrics that are personal and specific yet vague have the capacity to convey as much more than lines that are direct or explicit. And so it is with ‘Wander & Lost’ that Kin speak of loss and yearning, of distance and sadness and that sense of feeling cut off and alone.

As much as ‘Wander & Lost’ is ostensibly a pining, post-breakup song, it equally stands as a summary of the sense of loss that the distance so many are feeling from friends and family under life in lockdown. Maintaining closeness simply isn’t as easy, and everyone, everything has changed, is changing.

Wander & Lost begins with a wistful, minor-key guitar, picked and chorus-laden, and it provides a delicate backing for the dreamy, contemplative vocals. The drums are distant and everything is balanced, the instruments and vocals all infusing to form a cloudy aural drift. There are shades of melancholy lingering on the peripheries, and it’s never easy to determine if this is the music or projection – but then again, this is why music resonates beyond its immediate boundaries, and ‘Wander & Lost’ transcends its immediate aims on account of a certain musical intuition.

This is one of those songs that’s all about the slow build, and it doesn’t suddenly erupt or explode, but instead gradually swells into a soft, rippling wash of introspection. It’s a sad song that hits that perfect sad song sweet spot.

AA

Kin press shot

Southern Lord – 4th December 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

High Command’s new release on Southern Lord drags me back to a point of debate I’ve covered variously over the twelve years I’ve been doing this reviewing thing: what distinguishes a single from an EP, an EP from an album? And aren’t EPs and mini-album’s the same thing? It may be so much hair-splitting and semantics, and about as important as genre boundaries in the scheme of things, but… well, High Command, being a crossover of thrash metal, punk, and hardcore, are a cause of consternation on that front too.

The two tracks on this digital single, which prefaces the 7” EP release due early next year via Triple B records, are fast, furious, gnarly, and there’s no question over their thrashiness.

‘Everlasting Torment’ may not be literal in its title, being a short, sharp four-minute attack of overdrive, but it does pack all the melodic fretwork, thunderous drums and mega-fast plectrum flashing of something purgatorially thrashy, while counterpart – or B-side, if you will – ‘Sword of Wisdom’ penetrated with a raft of sudden tempo changes and pierces with the lunge into a monster guitar solo.

It’s a whole lot less sludgy and perhaps less Ministry and a lot less industrial than its predecessor, although the key trappings are all in place.

However you position it, this release brings a full-range display of some pretty frenzied fretwork which is driven – hard, and fast – by a strong, dynamic rhythm section that packs all the power, and if any of it threatens to slide toward cliché, the execution and sheer brute force are more than enough.

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Human Worth – 6th November 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Evan Gildersleeve’s debut solo single, ‘Mortal’ is an absolute masterclass in suspenseful, atmospheric instrumental music. While incorporating ambient elements, the mellifluous piano work is clearly structured, albeit subtly as it drifts, the notes reverberating in the rarefied air. It’s deeply evocative, resonating on a level that’s at the innermost point and therefore beyond specific articulation.

That ‘Mortal’ emerged from a very personal space, with Evan’s creative process in its formation being a journey through challenges with mental health and the impact of lockdown renders it all the more poignant. While turbulence and trauma are completely removed from this soundtrack, it’s perhaps telling in itself, serving as it does as a refuge from all of that.

It may be a mere six-and-a-half minutes long, but ‘Mortal’ captures something special and moreover, has the capacity to slow time, drawing the listener into a slow suspension, with the most soothing effect.

This is music that requires you to put down the phone, step away from the keyboard, disconnect social media, the TV, all streaming news, dim the lights and breathe slowly. The video features some remarkable visuals likely to assist in soothing a crowded mind – and with proceeds going to MIND, it’s pretty much one of the essentials of 2020.

AA

Fierce Panda – 13th November 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Fierce panda will be forever intrinsically linked to the cutting edge of indie in the 90s, emerging as it did in 1994 and immediately making a name for itself with limited edition 7”singles by big-name contemporaries initially including Ash, Supergrass, The Bluetones, and Baby Bird, not to mention Placebo, Keane, Coldplay, Embrace, and that record by Oasis.

More than a quarter of a century on, they retain that certain sense of cool-by-association, but also continue to release damn good indie singles, breaking new talent with astounding frequency. National Service are a perfect example: the label picked up the London quartet National Service from seemingly out of nowhere, releasing their debut single, ‘A Little More Time’ in the year of their formation. Three years on, and here we have their third single, a song that unpicks he seams of the mundane, the everyday, and the introspective pains of self-expectation.

‘I haven’t had a decent sleep in days / I’m overthinking when I should be happy doing something mundane / But I’m too busy thinking about the long run / That I rarely find the time to enjoy today’ laments Fintan Campbell against a welter of shimmering guitars and rolling drums.

Comparisons to The Twilight Sad aren’t unjustified, and the band mine that seam of post-punk revival / indie crossover that dominated 2002-2006 as represented by Editors, Interpol, The Cinematics and myriad others, and the bassline that cuts in at the midpoint is pure Carlos D circa Turn on the Bright Lights. None of this is in any way to suggest that ‘Caving’ is derivative or locked in time: it’s a genuine rush of a tune, and condenses all the emotional resonance into four and a half minutes. It’s taut, hooky, and packs a punch.

AA

Caving Artwork

20th of November 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Grunge is dead, so the slogan ran on a T-shirt worn by Kurt Cobain back in 93 or thereabouts. And yet, he we are in 2020 and listening to the third single by Leeds power trio Kath & The Kicks, and the evidence says otherwise.

Like punk, post-punk, goth, shoegaze, and so many genres that are intrinsically tied to a specific period in time, the legacy of grunge reverberates and returns in waves, and one of the joy of being alive now as that cross-genre hybrids of all of these are possible and emerge all the time.

‘Underground’ is all about the thick, overdriven grungy guitar. The sound is dense and dirty, and benefits from an unpolished, no-messing production that accentuates the abrasive edges. It’s the vehicle which carries Kath’s bold, powerful vocal, which, stylistically, sits between vintage hard rock and goth – there’s a dash of Siouxsie in there, while at the same time hinting at being the natural successors to sadly departed Leeds favourites Black Moth.

The dark, ever-so-slightly twisted lyrics dig into a subterranean psyche that’s part goth, part agoraphobe, part obsessive psychopath. It’s a pretty potent cocktail.

Kath _ The Kicks Single Cover