Archive for the ‘Singles and EPs’ Category

23rd July 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Let’s get this covered off before I start: I’m a grumpy, curmudgeonly git, awkward and obtuse. I’m one of those people who hates Christmas – because festive cheer is false and everything’s just about oiling the cogs of capitalism – and I loathe summer because anything over eighteen degrees is too fucking hot, I can’t think straight while an uncomfortable mess of sweat, and people turn into absolute dicks. And by people, I mean practically everyone: it becomes the new norm once the mercury rises above twenty-one, and the level of dickness seems to increase incrementally with each degree. And to some, it may sound like a strange and perhaps petty niggle, but summer hits – songs specifically written to be played on the beach and at barbecues, in the park and in cars with the windows open evoke a unique level of ire and inspire a quite specific kind of fury.

Maybe it’s because as a teenage goth, I’d spend my summer holidays holed up in my room with the curtains drawn and trying not to die of hayfever while listening to The Sisters of Mercy and The Cure in semi-darkness while reading Stephen King novels that

I have no truck with this shit. Or maybe it’s just that people are generally insufferable.

But my job is to be objective, at least to a reasonable extent – ant prejudice shouldn’t colour a review, and certainly shouldn’t demolish a band – unless they’re Kasabian or Glass Caves, in which it’s entirely justified and why do these bands even have any fans in the first place?

There’s something TV / movie aspirational about California, the so-called Golden State which is renowned for its beaches and of course, Hollywood. With so much media propagating this image of sunkissed perfection and carefree living and celebrity lifestyles – often soundtracked by breezy ‘summer’ tunes, it’s no wonder it’s acquired a status that’s almost mythological over and above the reality and that it’s a popular travel destination.

But it’s 29֠C in the shade in my back yard and anyone with aspirations of travel should simply step outside and feel the melt. And if you want to enhance that sunny, summery vibe that’s a cut above the bland-as-fuck Radio 1 wallpaper, then Family Jools’ ‘California Sunshine’ is a solid choice. It’s got some strong classic rock vibes with some strong lead guitar work, whipped together with a really nice strolling bass that hits a nagging groove without being too much funk. In fact, there’s not too much of anything, and Family Jools deliver easy without being corny, and without the technicality of their playing being an obstacle to delivering a good tune. Nice.

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20th July 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

More than I dislike talking politics or sport with colleagues and strangers, I feel most uncomfortable talking about music, because unless their leanings are, it’s almost guaranteed that we won’t hare similar tastes or knowledge. Usually, it’s a case of my hating everything they love, and their not having heard of anything I listen to. There’s no middle ground there: even if I feign an interest, nod and smile, where is there left to go?

And so I do often wonder about press releases, specifically the influences artists cite. In the more fringe fields of obscure metal, ambient, and electronica, esoteric reference points abound, perhaps because to an extent obscurantism carries a certain coolness and cachet. In more commercially-leaning circles, the opposite tends to be true. Artists aiming for a broad acceptance tend to cite artists who are well-known to the point that they’re essentially household names.

This isn’t to single out Jack Caine by any means, but his listed influences – Bob Dylan, The Beatles, Leonard Cohen, Tom Waits, Patti Smith, Arctic Monkeys, Joni Mitchell, The Smiths – feels incredibly ‘standard’. Are these really his influences? Maybe – it could really be that most people who make music listen to the same well-known artists. I also have a personal discomfort with citations of The Smiths, a band I loved with a deep passion in my teens, but have since struggled to relate to in my thirties and forties, and with their memory sullied by the colossal twat Morrissey has confirmed himself to be.

Of course, even music that is very much an evidential sum of its parts should be judged on its own merits, and while ‘derivative’ clearly bears heavily negative connotations, the assimilation of tropes and absorption of influences is, in itself, no bad thing per se. It’s all in the delivery, and for all this, ‘All in a Day’s Work’ is an accessible, melodic middling tune with hints of classic vintage indie and pop when pop wasn’t slick, manufactured, mechanised, digitised – and it’s well-executed. It has spirit, it has soul.

Building from a muted electric guitar played clean, over which Caine paints a kitchen sink scene, the bass begins to get twitchy and the muffled drumming begins to push things along and you just sense it’s going to break sooner or later… and then it spills. It’s a great single, with dynamics, energy, and emotion, and hooks.

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The Secret Warehouse of Sound Recordings – 29th June 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

The thing that fades with the morning is the night, the hours of darkness in which so many of us find ourselves, if not sleeping, in contemplation or otherwise tormented with thoughts, while others find the memories of the night before receding with the sunrise. And what is so often vivid in those dark hours becomes hazy, intangible, and moved further out of reach with every hour that passes. And it’s that sense of loss, of the passing, of an absence that permeates ‘Fading with the Morning’ with a palpable ache.

Over the course of five finely-crafted minutes, The Beatflux build from a delicate, twinkling guitar intro that’s almost post-rock in its persuasion, into a colossal country-tinged grunger and Enrico Minelli’s gritty vocal has a grainy timbre that’s thick with emotion and a tone that says ‘drunk it, smoked it, lived it’.

Musing on how the ‘Sunlight cuts our eyes, changing hue’ may not be a startlingly poetic or vivid image, but it’s all in the delivery as the band conjure something far more evocative in the moment than on paper. ‘Fading With The Morning’ very much harks back to the sound of Alice in Chains, with a keen sense of melody and a layered subtlety in the arrangement that means it gains momentum as it progresses to truly anthemic scale.

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Dedstrange Records – 16th July 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

It’s been a while since we last heard from New York’s purveyors of treble-blasting psychedelic post-punk noise – they slipped album number five, Pinned out back in the spring of 2018, since when they’ve been relatively quiet. Not that one of the contenders for the ‘loudest band in the world’ tag ever do quiet, in terms of volume of output, with an EP and self-released single in 2019.

The Hologram EP is the first release with a new lineup, whereby core member Oliver Ackermann is joined by John Fedowitz (bass) and Sandra Fedowitz (drums) of Ceremony East Coast, and comes from a difficult place at a difficult time, ‘with songs addressing the decay of connections, friendships lost, and the trials and tribulations of these troubled times, Hologram serves as an abstract mirror to the moment we live in’, details the press release. The tone is pretty apocalyptic: ‘Written and recorded during the on-going global pandemic and in the midst of the decline of civilization, Hologram is a sonic vaccine to the horrors of modern life.’

And if Pinned was perhaps their most overtly 80s-sounding release, Hologram pushes the experimentalism that began to become pronounced from Transfixiation while amalgamating all of the elements that have featured across their career to date.

Previous singles ‘End of the Night’ and ‘I Might Have’ provide the opening salvoes: the former’s murky percussion-driven blast of noise is a bassy, booming, raw slice of fucked up psychedelia. Everything is warped, melting, overloading, like MBV covering The Monkees, and the latter being pretty much classic APTBS, a blur of three-chord rock ‘n’ roll riffing – the Jesus and Mary Chain as filtered through Black Rebel Motorcycle Club – minus any desire for even the slightest hint of polish.

‘Playing the Part’ is short, a melodic indie jangle with a light, easy melody and a melancholy that belies the breeziness as it emanates from the frayed edges. ‘In My Hive’ revisits the form of ‘Now It’s Over’ from Transfixiation, only it goes somewhere else – and if Transfixiation pushed the boundaries of songs that felt incomplete, fragmentary, as if the structures are only partial and prone to cracking and splintering apart as they go, then the Hive is being used as a piñata by some crazed maniacs, and all the while the insistent beat hammers away like a palpating heart in the midst of a panic attack.  

Things gets slower and dreamier with the slow-unfurling shoegaze wisps of closer ‘I Need You’. With a Cure-like wistfulness, it’s again familiar territory, particularly in context of Pinned, but also songs like ‘Dissolved’ from Worship. Where this differs, again, is in the production: the brutal shards of feedback still swirl and soak the bass and vocals and at times almost bury the sparse drums, but whereas before the EQ was geared toward the top-end and walls of ear-splitting treble, there’s a lot of mid- and lower-range present here, which creates a more subdued and less attacking sound.

As with everything APTBS do, it sounds distinctively like ABPTBS, but once again, sounds and feels different, and the mood on Hologram is as much the departure as any aspect of the songwriting or sound itself. Whereas there has historically been a sense of obliterative catharsis about the shattering noise that defines their catalogue, Hologram feels darker and more introspective, and it feels fitting.

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16th July 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

One of my mates enjoys expounding on the opinion that all band names are inherently and fundamentally crap, at least when taken on face value and interrogated for their meanings and connotations. He invariably takes it back to The Beatles – a shockingly bad pun if ever there was one, and I would have to say that point is hard to argue. It’s not even especially clever.

Any band with a one-word name prefixed with ‘the’ is, unquestionably terrible (even allowing for the fact that The Melvins is purposefully bad), and existing and acts who’ve added a definite article have gone rapidly downhill on doing so – take The Offspring, for example. But maybe not so much The Verve, because they were gash to begin with, with their overblown, flappy indie shoegaze flailings.

Recently, we discussed Death by Unga Bunga and Ender Bender, and unanimously agreed that they were both terrible names. But then, objectively, pretty much every band name – even your favourite – is poor and difficult to defend.

But we were divided over Weston Super Maim, which he deemed a bit shit, and which, objectively, is based on a terrible half pun that only UK residents and only then a percentage will grasp. But, despite knowing this, I can’t help but find amusement and a certain admiration for it and the audacity.

Their latest offering, the 180-Degree Murder EP isn’t so much a source of amusement, but more of a brutal industrial battering. Tom Stevens (All Of Space, Brown Stratos) teams up with US-based Seth Detrick of Los Angeles thrash outfit PDP to handle vocal duties. It’s an EP in the 80s tradition, where two tracks too long for a 7” would make up a 12” release. The two tracks on offer here both extend beyond the six-minute mark and pack all the punch.

It’s been a long time in the making, as the press release details: ‘Written as a single track, 180-Degree Murder traverses caveman heaviness, tech-driven grooves and shifting melodic patterns to create an immersive experience that rewards multiple listens. The writing process for the EP began in 2019. By the time the pandemic hit, an early instrumental draft had already been recorded, but it wasn’t until Detrick joined the project in June 2020 that things really began to take shape. Making use of extra time at home in London during the first UK lockdown, Stevens retracked instruments for the EP at his home studio while Detrick developed lyrical ideas and vocal patterns from his home in Eugene, Oregon. Vocal tracking was completed in early 2021, and the mix not long thereafter.’

‘180 Degree Murder’ is a cacophony of hard slabs plus squalling bleeping fretwork, roaring, ground-razing vocals and an air of explosive violence as guttural roars set against the most pulverising of riffs. Strapping Young Lad is the comparison that comes to mind, but then there’s also the relentless mechanised industrial blast of Wiseblood and Swans that’s also hard to ignore. Oh yes, this is hard and heavy, alright.

‘We Need to Talk About Heaven’ offers a graceful intro and the breaks are remarkably light and melodic in context, but the chug never stops, and cuts loose into violent distortion-driven fury at precisely those crucial points, and it’s not for wimps. In fact, it may only be some fifteen-and-a-bit minutes in duration, but 180 Degree Murder is a savage and brutal affair.

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Prank Monkey Records – 11th June 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

The story goes that London four-piece Muscle Vest reportedly ‘formed in 2018 over a mutual appreciation for ugly rock music’, and that’s what they serve up on their debut EP – a sweaty, guitar-driven dirty rock workout that’s brimming with churning riffs, grease and grime. They come out all guns blazing and firing wildly in all directions with the manic racket of ‘Creepy Crawlie’, a juddering, angular rager that melts the best of 90s noise into a mangled metal nugget in the vein of later acts like Blacklisters and Hawk Eyes, and it very much sets the fast and furious tone for the rest of the EP: ‘Stray’ bears fair comparison to Blacklisters’ ‘Shirts’, with a throbbing riff blasting out against a low-slung bassline. If Shellac and Big Black are in the mix, so are The Jesus Lizard and early Pulled Apart by Horses.

Muscle Vest pack in a boatload of adrenaline and bring ALL the noise: it’s fucking ugly and monstrously brutal, and those are its positive points. It ain’t polished or pretty, and if you’re on the market for something gnarly, look no further.

‘We’ll all be dead / we’ll all be dead one day’ vocalist Dave Rogers howls nihilistically into a tempest of abrasive guitar noise that churns and grinds on ‘A Slow Death’. He’s right, of course: the question is whether we will die a quiet, peaceful death, or a horrible, painful one, shrieking in agony for the duration of those final hours. This is very much the soundtrack to the latter, and it’s almost enough to make death sound appealing. Because, well, better to go out screaming than to flicker out. The last track, ‘Blissbucket’ is a minute and three-quarters of blazing napalm, taking its cues from hardcore punk and tossing in all the jarring, jolting guitars that scratch and scrape at all angles across the relentlessly churning rhythm section. It’s fast and furious and brings the EP to a blistering close and then some. It positively burns with an intense fury, and it’s beautifully brutal. Gets my vote, and then some.

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16th July 2021

James Wells

Here at Aural Aggravation, we may have a predilection for noise and abrasion, but sometimes, we get headaches, sometimes we just get too het up and stressed and life gets so horrible that we need a break. Besides, even pop songs don’t necessarily mean mainstream these days: and without the kind of exposure that propels them to stardom, purveyors of pop can be as underground as the darkest of sludge metal acts.

Bethany Ferrie – 23 and hailing from Glasgow – beings us a piano-led song that’s poppy, but also serious, but without being Coldplay or Keane about it. She does, however, represent a generation of new artists who are emerging with a maturity that belies their years.

On ‘This is Where I Leave You’, Bethanie twists and turns through a gamut of emotional turmoil, and there’s a whole lot of emotional anguish here, but it’s presented delicately and digestibly thanks to a sweetly melodic delivery.

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2nd July 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Did I ever mention that I am absolutely fucking swamped, every single day, to the extent that while I’m working the dayjob, I’ll; see emails flowing via notifications on my phone, and by the time I actually get to check my emails on an evening, I just stare bewildered, wondering where to begin? And so often, I don’t even. It’s not a complaint, and the fact of the matter is, that while I barely even open 10% of my emails, the standard of music is such that daily, I’m probably missing out on at least half a dozen acts who could utterly blow me away.

It’s a good job I didn’t pass on Yammerer: I felt a certain urge to pass after a day of corporate backslapping being posted on the company’s Yammer community, but something drew me in. The words dystopian and existential in their write-up more than likely. That, and references to WIRE and The Dead Kennedys. It certainly makes for an intriguing cocktail, and despite it’s cumbersome title that hints at noodlesome post-rock, ‘Tell Me What the Ancient Astronaut Theorists Believe’ is a manic blast of energy, raucous and raw. It’s a giddy riot of off-key half sung, half spoken vocals amidst a blurred whirl of space rock guitars, a thunderous, strolling bass and relentless, motoric drums. It’s kinda chaotic, and reminds me of the swirling twelve-minute encore segues of ‘Ghostrider / Sister Ray’ the Sisters of Mercy used to kick out live circa 1984 – dark, murky, hypnotic, vaguely psychedelic, and utterly absorbing.

There is, however, one major shortcoming of this single: at three minutes and eleven seconds, it’s about twenty minutes too short.

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CONFIRMED TOUR DATES 2021

29/08 – Alexanders Live / Chester

11/09 – Futurama Festival / Liverpool

24/09 – Smithdown Road Festival / Liverpool

07/10 – Focus Wales / Wrexham

06/11 – Hot Box Live / Chelmsford

19/12 – The Castle Hotel / Manchester

25th June 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

The older you get, the weirder things get. On the one hand, the generational gap widens by the day, but on the other, you see thing come full circle, and faster. Growing up in the 80s, the fact of the matter is that my parents had abysmal taste in music, both contemporary and of their era. My mum would groove to Phil Collins and Tina Turner and Paul Young Van Halen and the fucking Bee Gees while ironing, while my dad hadn’t bought a new LP since Steeleye Span’s ‘All Around My Hat’. Car journeys on family holidays were a real hoot, what with Leo Sayer and 80s Cliff Richard tapes alternating with Now That’s What I Call Music 1 and 2. Philip Larking was right: your parents fuck you up in ways they don’t even realise. However, the point is that increasingly, new bands are turning to their parents’ rather cooler collections and discovering the likes of Nirvana, Pavement, Weezer, Teenage Fanclub and Pixies – and Sweethearts are a case in point.

They’re pitched as standing at the forefront of the 90s resurgence, but for some of us, the 90s never ended, especially for many of those who were in their teens and early twenties at the time and are around 4 now. Midlife crisis? Maybe. But then, for many, music stops when they hit 30, and I’ve spent the last fifteen years listening to peers bemoaning the lack of any decent new music. They’re all wrong, of course: there has been innovative and exciting new music released every year since the beginning of music. It just happens that none of the music of interest has received any kind of mainstream attention for a long time. But it’s all out there if you know where to look.

You wouldn’t call ‘If I Could I Would’ innovative, but that isn’t the point: this is a classic example of a band drawing on their influences, which so happen to reach back a generation – and distilling them into a strong and potent mix. ‘If I Could I Would’ is a melodic grunge-leaning slice of college rock, but there are some obvious indie features spun into the composition, not least of all the lead guitar part that spins its way around the rhythm section like a tripwire.

Lyrically, the song explores the limitations of desire and capability, and the song’s hook is a neat piece of circular, self-negating logic: ‘If I could, I would, but I can’t so I couldn’t’. It’s not nihilistic, just more a slackerist ‘meh’, and with its nostalgia-inducing retro musical backing, it’s the perfect summary of the listlessness of the zeitgeist.

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Bearsuit Records – 25th June 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Home of all things odd from Edinburgh and Japan, Bearsuit Records, has a new signing, in the form of Edinburgh-based singer/songwriter Eamon the Destroyer. Eamon also records as Annie & The Station Orchestra, and is one half of Edinburgh purveyors of noise Ageing Children, both of whom have received mentions here. If his name has the hallmarks of a mythical war deity or some evil comic book character, his music is altogether less megalomaniacally threatening. The press blub describes it as ‘lo-fi miserablism with a side order of noise / mumbling & whispering – or something’ – and on hearing these two tracks, which serve as a lead-in to Eamon’s debut album, A Small Blue Car – this vagueness makes perfect sense. And, of course, like most Bearsuit releases, it’s about the only thing that does.

It’s rather welcome to see a release that resembles a conventional A-side / B-side single release in 2021, and what’s noteworthy about this one is that the two tracks are actually quite similar, sonically and stylistically, leaving no confusion as to what the Destroyer’s sound is.

Against a minimalist backdrop of quite country guitars, the Destroyer croaks flatly about, well, what, I’m not entirely sure – every line seems to turn on a contradiction or some bathetic construction, like ‘Nobody knows it / well nobody ought to’. Instrumentally, it’s sparse and scratchy, and the vocals sound like they’re coming from a CB radio that’s only just tuned to the edge of the channel. But in the mix there’s a scrape and chatter of extraneous background noise and some cronky feedback, and around the mid-point of ‘My Drive’ it takes a massive left turn into altogether louder territory.

The whole vibe is downbeat and melancholy, and driving emerges as a theme in ‘Silver Shadow’, alongside some vague but wistful images that drift around in a wash of sad, Cure-esque synth and a crashing tide of distortion. It’s more mood-affecting than you would likely expect, and while very much appreciating the unusual mix, it left me feeling downcast and slightly sad, which is a clear indication that either I’m heading for a mood slump, or there’s more craftsmanship to Eamon’s songs than the surface suggests.

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