Posts Tagged ‘90s alternative’

Christopher Nosnibor

The clue’s in the name: Bdrmm started out as a bedroom-based solo project for Ryan Smith in 2017, but soon transitioned to being a proper gigging band. Like so many bands, their progress was severely hampered by more than eighteen months of no live activity, something that seems to have hit bands in the early stages of their careers the hardest, since they rely on performing in grassroots venues and supporting larger bands to build their fanbase.

This was one of many shows that got booked, rescheduled, and rescheduled over the course of the last eighteen months, during which time they’ve maintained a steady flow of releases, including their debut album and an attendant set of remixes and a number of singles, which have clearly done no harm to their profile, garnering glowing reviews from across the spectrum from NME to MOJO via Line of Best Fit. The Fulford Arms, then – sold out, although still operating at reduced capacity for ticket sales – is pretty busy even early doors.

It’s an interesting demographic, too, probably around a 60/40 split of twenty-somethings and forty-somethings – which isn’t entire surprising given Bdrmm’s referencing of the music that the older fans were listening to when they were around the age of the younger ones.

Having just two bands on the bill works well – not only allowing time to ventilate the room between acts – but to give the punters and their ears a rest, time to recharge glasses without a crush at the bar, and an early finish. After so much time out, it might take some time to rebuild the stamina for late nights for a few of us, and for those slightly further afield, public transport isn’t what it was a couple of years ago (or more).

Manchester’s crush – another band who, having formed in 2018 have a lot of early-days ground to recover – are on first. I was pretty sure there have been other bands called Crush, and it was only later I recalled Donna Air and Jayni Hoy’s short-lived pop career and the early 90s project featuring John Valentine Carruthers (formerly of Siouxsie and the Banshees) and Killing Joke drummer Paul Ferguson . The young four-piece are nothing like either. The set makes a shuddering launch into mid-tempo post-rock shoegaze with two guitars. Their sound is reminiscent of melodic 90s indie with a dreamy style, but still some drive too. There’s lots of texture and occasional bursts of noise. They may be lacking that slickness that playing often develops, but they can really play, and the closer comes on like Dinosaur Jr being covered by Slowdive, and it’s ace.

DSC_0793

crush

Crackling distortion yields to a driving motorik riff to announce the arrival of Bdrmm, and it’s immediately apparent that they’re a cut above, and that any hyp is entirely justified. The sound is immense. The drums are half-submerged beneath a heft wash of guitar. It’s a dense, throbbing, shimmering wall of sound. The percussion is a mix of traditional and electronic drum pads, and everything comes together magnificently. New single ‘Port’ drops early as the third song and it’s a brooding synth-driven beast, part My Bloody Valentine, but probably more A Place to Bury Strangers. There’s all the reverb, and all the volume: in fact the sound is great, and sound man Chris Tuke gets a deserved shoutout from the stage during the set. Because while it’s nice on record, and all the comparisons to Slowdive and early Ride are entirely appropriate, live, it really needs to be heard – and felt – at organ-trembling volume.

DSC_0812DSC_0813

Bdrmm

‘Happy, is a synthy swirl meshed with a gritty bass, and as the set progresses, we see the band peeling off blistering sheets of noise. Bent over, guitars practically scraping the floor, they don’t only do shoegaze but they also properly rock out. Near the end of the set they treat us to an immense, slow-building crescendo climax worthy of I Like Trains.

DSC_0796

Bdrmm

They leave us overheated, breathless, and stunned by the sheer power of the blistering noise of the guitars that howl and melt. No way should we have been able to experience this in a venue with a capacity of around 130, and I rather doubt we will again. Bdrmm are a Brudenell band at the very least: they have not only the songs, but that indefinable ‘fuck yeah!’ quality that comes from the wild exhilaration of seeing a band who simply blow you away.

Bohemian Drips – BD011 – 4th October 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

There’s not much beauty on the face of this. But it is outstanding, I’ll give it that.

The Berlin-based trio trade in a kind of angular, grungy 90s alt-rock hybrid. With Josefine Lukschy’s scratchy vocals and the off-kilter country leanings that characterise the first song, ‘Flap’, I’m reminded of Thalia Zedek’s 90s act Come, and it’s a Come / Hole / Solar Race vibe that defines this six-tracker.

You wouldn’t exactly say it’s big on tunes, but it is big on attitude, not to mention messy guitars spluttering out stop/start noise and a busy, sinewy mess of busy lead lines over some tense bass. ‘Tadpole’ brings jarring Shellac-inspired racket paired with some twisted Rage Against the machine meets

As song titles go, ‘Stuck in a Turd’ is nothing if not memorable. It brings a kind of mangled cyclical jazz groove to the fucked-up riff party ‘you’re nothing but a speck of dust!’ Lukschy spits venomously and manages not to sound comedic, which is quite an achievement.

‘I want to tear your heart out!’ she hollers as the opening line to the last song, ‘Welcoming the Awful Being’, another choppy, lurching math-tinged grunger. And it’s a killer finish, too: after some meandering, it all comes together in a climactic sustained crescendo, a space-rock workout that drives the EP to a rush of a finale.

In the tidal wave of retro and revivalism, this kind of slanted alt-rock that exploded in the late 80s and early 90s and defined what many – myself included – consider a kind of golden era when alternative broke into the mainstream and the standard and selection of noisy alternative bands was incredible, never really went away. But right now, it seems like there is more – which is most definitely a positive. Especially when that more is represented by crackers like this.

AA

Dog Dimenion Cover

Cruel Nature Records – 29th July 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

Sometimes, social networking really works. When Facebook isn’t about infighting, trolling, bitching, pissing and moaning, and people accept contact from strangers based on mutual friends and mutual interests, good stuff happens. I can’t exactly recall how I came into contact with James Watts, who runs Newcastle-Upon-Tyne based tape label Panurus productions, but some months after, I ended up performing in London alongside Lump Hammer, one of his numerus musical vehicles, thanks to another mutual friend with a penchant for big, noisy guitars who found me via Aural Aggro reviews. And so it came to pass that said mutual friend – Owen, from Modern Technology – introduced me and Steve Strode, who’s also in a bad and who also runs another Newcastle-based tape label, Cruel Nature Records. Fret! happen to feature Strode on guitar (twang), alongside Rob Woodcock (credited with ‘flails / screams’) and Cath Tyler (‘thrum / la’). And with cover art by Tom McCarthaigh, the design/layout is courtesy of none other than James Watts. It really is a small world. Especially in Newcastle.

This is lo-fi, low-budget, scuzzy. The production is proper rough, the guitar sound fuzzed-out and unpolished – we’re in home-recorded four-track demo quality here, with crackling at the edges and needles pushing the top ends of red, and opener ‘Belly’ comes on like early Fall with its repetitive riffage played rough ‘n’ ready. It seems fitting, not only because this is a cassette release, but because this is underground in every way.

On the lumbering slow-pace riff noise of ‘Hucknall’ (pretty much all of the titles are indecipherable one-worders), there’s a hoarse howl all bit buried in the mix, by accident or design, countered by a drawing monotone counterpoint. ‘Davy’ goes for the all-out screaming racket that not quite metal but is unquestionably all-out in its frenzied brutality, but most of the album favours the frenetic but contained blistering squall of 90s alternative. By which I mean bands like Fudge Tunnel, Terminal Cheesecake, Helmet, are all viable and appropriate reference points, and by which it should be apparent that this is a monster riffageous racket of the highest order. ‘SUSD’ sows it down, grinding away at a repetitive cyclical riff that’s as messy as hell, wash with distortion, reverb, and tremolo, while ‘Cowboy’ piledrives into got/psychobilly/hardcore/crust-punk territory with obliterative fury.

Is there an element of nostalgia in the appeal of this, as a 43-year old fan of grunge and more subterranean 90s alternative? Well, naturally, but that really isn’t the primary appeal here. What appeals about A Vanity Spawned By Fear is the simple fact that it’s raw and uncompromising and blindingly intense. It isn’t pretty or nice, and isn’t supposed to be. It wouldn’t work if it was.

The last track, ‘Country’ is a slow, hesitant cross between early Pavement and Shellac. But A Vanity Spawned is most definitely not derivative, and there’s nothing remotely lifted or directly referential here. Instead, they amalgamate a mass of influences and condense them in a mould of their own making. It’s hard, heavy, and difficult. Stylistically, it isn’t any one thing, but it’s completely ace.

AA

Fret - Vanity

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