Archive for the ‘Singles and EPs’ Category

31st May 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

Where We Sleep – the supergroup consisting of Debbie Smith of Echobelly and Blindness, Curve and SPC ECO, Beth Rettig of Blindness, and also Axel Ray of United Ghosts – extend their super status on this outing, with Ben Pritchard, formerly of The Fall and currently Manc Floyd contributing guitar work on ‘Control’.

Despite the more indie-leaning backgrounds of the collaborators, Experiments in the Dark espouse more of a post-punk sound, amalgamated with the blurry shoegaze of Curve. There’s reverb galore as the layers of guitar wash over and bleed into one another: ‘What I Deserve’ has one of those classic slow-building intros that’s built around a strolling bass and dual guitars – one chiming fractal, gothy, the other overdriven and set to stun. And from the emerging murk, Rettig’s voice combines sultry and dangerous to strong – yet simultaneously understated – effect.

‘The Desert’ sits between Curve and debut-album era Garbage – and it’s magnificent: rich in atmosphere, dark, brooding, and again centring around a strong rhythmic framework. ‘Control’ is a standout: after gentle start, it bursts into a mesh of guitars colliding over a woozy bass and metronomic mechanised drum sound. And as the track progresses, the icy vocals and treble snap of the snare become increasingly submerged by the squalling noise. ‘Into the Light’ repeats the form, only with the added bonus of a propulsive chorus and a bassline on a par with The Mission’s ‘Wasteland’ overlayed with howls of feedback.

The title track which draws the curtain on proceedings is sparse, stark, and minimal, and owes more to the ghostly, smoky trip-hop of Portishead than anything remotely post-punk or shoegaze.

If Experiments In The Dark is 75% 80s and 25% early 90s, it’s also 100% representative of the zeitgeist in terms of the aspects of the past it draws on. And Where We Sleep’s strength lies in their ability to absorb those elements and draw them together to forge a sound that’s both familiar and fresh, avoiding sounding derivative and instead delivering an exciting set of songs that demand repeat plays.

AA

Where We Sleep – Experiments In The Dark

Advertisements

19th July 2019 – Buzzhowl Records

Christopher Nosnibor

This quartet from Richmond, VA, may have a name that suggests quiet, introspective contemplation and piety, but their third EP, which follows ‘Touched’ (2015) and ‘ICUP’ (2017) whips up an unholy racket.

It’s a lumbering, off-kilter, shouty discord that defines their sound. Chugging, math-tinged rhythms cut across with angular guitars that evoke the spirit of Shellac, The Jesus Lizard, and the essence of the Touch & Go roster from the late 80s and early 90s. It’s gnarly, gut-churning, challenging – and hits the spot like a punch to the oesophagus.

Should we consider why there seems to be a resurgence of music that recrates that period around the grunge explosion, when alternative music that wasn’t grunge but centred around dirty-as-fuck guitars and difficult rhythms that would come to define ‘math’ rock? Probably. Back then, there was a revolt against radio-friendly rock, the slick sonic paste being pumped out by major labels. Of course, the ‘alternative’ sound very quickly got co-opted, but no-one was ever going to flog acts like Tad or Tar or Helmet or Guzzard to the masses even when Warners were angling Ministry at MTV and A&M had launched Therapy? As a top 40 singles band. The bands who got signed and broke through may have changed the face of the musical scene, but it was always the bands who remained underground who defined the era.

Now, with the chasm between mainstream and everything else wider than ever – and long beyond the point at which it becomes unbridgeable – the underground is more resolute than ever. They’re never going to make on this… but they have every inch of credibility intact as they channel their frustrations against an ever-grimmer world of conformity and vacuity. The bands that matter aren’t in it for the money – but then, they never were, and Prayer Group are admirable in their absolute lack of compromise.

They’ve just unleased the EP’s closer, ‘The Other’ by way of a taster. It’s nicely representative, and trust me, you need it.

AA

Prayer Group - Eudean

The Minus Pool is a new project from members of Nasty Little Lonely and friends. ‘Safety In Numbness’ is their first release, inspired by TV series Peaky Blinders. And because I’m a firm fan of Nasty Little Lonely’s style of noise, my interest was instantly piqued by the prospect of another related project.

On the strength of their debut, The Minus Pool seem more restrained in comparison to NLL’s squalling barrage, instead distilling the fierceness into something dark and brooding. ‘Safety in Numbness’ is queasy and uncomfortable, built around a low-slung, repetitive bassline. Coming on like Foetus slithering around with Gallon Drunk, the atmosphere is grimy, dirty and airless. Wallow and enjoy the suffocation.

Christopher Nosnib0r

The press release froth on about how Milton Keynes pop-punkers Get Your Head Straight have just launched their new single, ‘Swansea’, which is taken from their excellently received debut EP, Contrast.

The fact it’s pop-punk – and I’ll admit a certain genre prejudice here – notwithstanding, ‘Swansea’ is a neatly performed slab of generic bilge. The guitars are up in the mix, but you get the impression that’s more by accident that design, as the production is okay to middling at best. Meaning, what may sit as ‘dynamic’ elsewhere simply conveys ‘slapdash’ in context. Call me choosy.

And it really is a terrible name for a band.

Buzzhowl Records / EXAG

I caught Thank way back in December 2016, supporting Oozing Wound at The Brudenell in December 2016. Having a gig to review never fails as an excuse to leave a works night out early: it’s up there with a family emergency, only way cooler. Obviously, working with a bunch of straights who listen to whatever’s on the radio and have next to no concept of ‘alternative’, the sphere in which I exist and the music which is the focus of my ‘other’ job is completely beyond them,

The review of that night described Thank as something of a ‘“supergroup” collaboration between members of various bands, including Irk and Super Luxury’, clocking Irk’s front man Jack Gordon on drums, and Freddy Vinehill-Cliffe, bassist with Beige Palace, providing off-kilter vocals. And a lot of Day-Glo. On reflection, it’s probable that not a single member of Thank had been born when Day-Go was all the rage first time around. I remember my eye-watering acid yellow tennis socks with fondness. As I also now remember that show, meaning that a new release is most welcome.

‘Think Less’ prefaces the arrival of their second EP, ‘Please’, set for release in October, and finds another Leeds noise luminary, Theo Gowans adopt a permanent place in the latest lineup. It’s a wild frenzy of lo-budget industrial funk that throws together Cabaret Voltaire, Throbbing Gristle and early Nine Inch Nails into a blender, tossing in a messy vocal with an unashamedly northern accent and spraying the resultant snarling mess all over a chunky and deeply infectious cyclical groove that’s an instant earworm. Raw, ragged, jagged and all the better because of it, it’s cause to get excited.

AA

Thank - Please

Crocodile Records – 28th June 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

I’m always elated to see one of my own lines quoted in a press release, but I’m actually more pleased to see that Amy’s comeback remains in the rails with the release of the third of her projected singles ahead of the release of her long-awaited album in October.

Said album is being described as ‘a narrative diary of depression, hope and redemption’, and ‘a bold and intimate set of heartfelt songs’. I’d assumed that ‘bold’ was referring to her personal, reflective lyrics, but this offering is bold in the musical sense, going large and cinematic and revealing another facet of her artistry.

‘Sleepwalker’ still contains personal, emotionally-driven lyrics – fragments that see two separate threads intercut with one another – and is a deceptively layered composition, with xylophone and acoustic guitar riding loping drums into a chorus that’s simultaneously delicate but surging, and finds Studt stepping away from contemplative fragility, really belting it out with a force and confidence not in evidence on either of the two previous releases.

It’s a great alt-pop tune, which in context hints at an album release that’s diverse and packed with some serious growers.

Christopher Nosnibor

I love getting weird shit in the post. Not literal shit, of course, not the kind of shit one might have received for panning The Levellers in a review in the early 90s, but the kind of sonic faeces people I associate with might send me when they have a new release or project in the offing.

I clocked the sender’s name on the envelope: one P.A. Morbid of Middlesbrough. Having been moving in the same circles for a while, the arrival of a package in itself was no major shock, but I hadn’t been aware of anything musical in the offing from this North-Eastern master of bleak lines who, having recently published a collection of poetry split with local luminary Harry Gallagher, has also been working on some flash fiction pieces. It’s not entirely clear where this fits in: on-line sources suggest it was released back in 2017, but the infrequently gigging band also look set to make a rare hometown appearance in July.

Morbs is credited as providing ‘vocals, rhythms, noises’ on this three-tracker, produced in collaboration with Peter Heselton, who’s responsible for guitars, electronics, keyboards, and also rhythms.

Most of those rhythms are sequenced pulsations, with the vintage feel of analogue or at least early, primitive digital drum machines, and overall, the production on this experimental electro effort is primitive to the point of condenser mic in the middle of the room standard. But this kind of straight-to-tape DIY approach is integral to both the ethos and the appeal.

Dingy pulsations drive ‘Das Jenseits’, the first cut on here, and it’s pure Throbbing Gristle. Murky drones and extraneous noise that all sits in the mid-range form a drifting sonic fog. There are vocals lurking in the smog, but they’re distorted and low in the mix: the result is that they’re an abstract disorientating addition to a difficult mess of abstract disorientation.

‘Standing by the Grave’ is more direct: a whipcrack snare cuts though the infinite murk of the guitars while Morbid moans and grunts impenetrably. There are hints of neofolk, but equally goth-tinged post-punk in evidence. The atmosphere is oppressive, dense. You don’t really know what it’s about or what’s going on, but it’s like wading through treacle and a suffocating airless smog that lies thick and heavy.

The closer, ‘what light remains’ is a mercifully short four minutes in duration. Rippling shards and quivering synths shimmer through the atmospheric fog. It’s dislocated, difficult, dark ambient; percussionless desert rock, reverby chords echoing out across space and time rippling in a heat haze.

I’m left dazed, feeling strangely alone and wondering what it was all about.

KDB