Posts Tagged ‘Abum Review’

SM-LL BATCH0008 – 25th January 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

Having recently extended my spoken word performances to collaborations with soundmakers, I’ve started to learn a little bit about home-made kit. Not the practicalities of constructing it: I mean I find myself conversing with guys – it’s invariably guys – who assemble circuitry, some of which ends up ether accompanying or processing / destroying my vocals. Their approaches to both construction and housing vary wildly: one guy just leaves his PSB open, while another has a selection of lever-type knobs set in an upturned (empty) chicken and mushroom Pot Noodle pot.

New Tendencies of one of a number of projects of Toronto-based musician, artist, designer, and educator Matt Nish-Lapidus, who explains the origins of Batch0008 as being ‘a set of sound experiments as I was building pieces of my Serge system. With each new modules or panel, I spent time trying to understand its possibilities, limits, and edges. From these experiments I learned techniques for what Serge calls “patch programming”, using the patching of the instrument to specify what each component is meant to do in that specific context.’

‘For this collection of pieces, I used patching as the sole means of sequencing and composing the music. The music here is the result of a process of experimentation and refinement, steadily pushed forward by Martin at SM-LL, providing essential feedback and reference points along the way that helped me arrive at the sound of this record. I wanted to play with the raw electronic sound of the Serge but still make pieces that hold together as compositions and are unique from one another.’

And so we land in microtonal, minimalist, high-detail territory. The pieces are indeed unique, and I’m assuming the titles are indicators of the origins of each. However, at the same time, the pieces share much commonality, with pulsing rhythms providing the focus and the form. None of the pieces really evolve, as much as they trundle along a preset groove. Repetition takes precedent over development, the compositions – such as they are – standing as cyclical, looping phrases, occasionally punctuated by extraneous noises. It’s all strangely cold, clinical, detached: Batch0008 very much feels like the document of a series of experiments, far more than it does an album.

The digital edition contains a seventh track, ‘Swelter’. This also feels like a document of an experiment, another three minutes of electronic pulsations, glitching beats and rhythmic ebb and flow.

As an audience, we probably take from this less than Matt Nish-Lapidus, but, by the same token, there’s an element of shared engagement here, and if Batch0008 is a document of his evolution as a kit-builder, it’s also a journey on which we, as listeners, are involved.

AA

BATCH0008_front

Cleopatra Records – 9th November 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

Pitched as for vans of \the KVB, The Sisters of Mercy, and My Bloody Valentine amongst others, Holygram caught my attention with the second single from Modern Cults, ‘A Faction’. The album’s focus are the themes of big cities, alienation, anonymity, hope and memories, love and identity. It’s in keeping with the band’s post-punk leanings that there’s a darker hue cast over even the lighter themes – you’re more likely to get the anguish of heartbreak and the pull of distance than the bliss of perfection in the musings on love here.

There’s something solid and traditional in an album containing ten tracks – by which I mean it takes me back to me back to my 80s childhood, and if ever a contemporary album had ‘80s vintage’ written all over it, it’s Modern Cults. It begins with dark industrial rumbling, heavy atmospherics, and an insistent bass drumbeat low in the mix, before the title track breaks the levee with a thunder of sequenced tom rolls, churning, distorted bass and heavily chorused guitars. The vocals are half-lost in a wash of reverb and the spiralling guitars and stammering c.84 mechanoid drums.

It’s that drum sound – the massive splash that takes an eternity to decay as it thumps along in a cavern of echo, along with the reverberating vocals and everything else that swirls into a rippling sonic bath – that defines the album. But then, there’s a dense gauze of overt ‘production’ that covers every inch of Modern Cults that may be anything but modern, but is executed with such precision it’s hardly a point of contention.

Modern Cults is loud, deep, resonant, pitched into a swirling vortex void of noise that channels pain and anguish and the banging of one’s head against a wall. ‘Dead Channel Skies’ presents a full-tilt wall of shimmering noise, pure shoegaze but with everything post-punk circa 83 thrown in. then again, other 80s tropes are thrown into the mix: ‘She’s Like the Sun’ comes on like a shoegaze Gary Numan and there’s a deep sense of the retro that permeates every inch of this release. And yet somehow, it rises above the parts to yield a greater sum, arguably despite itself.

AA

Holygram - Modern

Forking Paths PF0013 – 13th July 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

With a title referencing William Gibson’s Neuromancer, L5 finds maker of experimental minimal electronica New Tendencies explore an array of textures and tones with a real focus on the space around the sound. Sonar bleeps warp into whistles of feedback, consumed by underwater monsters and sonic detonations that linger like a heavy cloud of smoke, dust and rubble.

The shifts aren’t always delicate, the tones rarely gentle: the listener is dragged and hurled from high to low, abrasive, serrated edges sharpening the intensity of upper frequencies juxtaposed with rumbling, muffled lower ranges which pull at the pit of the stomach. The album’s ten compositions – which, given the way New Tendencies pull, drag, stretch, twist, and manipulate, are perhaps as well described as decompositions – are affecting by virtue of the physicality of the sound, and this in turn provokes a cerebral response.

Ordinarily, I find abstraction gives rise to an analytical rather than emotive response, but L5 is a different beast. The beats and rhythms – however diversely they manifest (and they range from distorted, crunching poundings to EQ-tweaked whiplash cracks via blasts of static) – create a sense of structure, however vague, a frame on which to hang the infinite varieties of noise, and thus draw the pieces back from absolute abstraction. And with the combination of structure and sonic impact comes a different type of response. Instead of seeking to analyse the technique, L5 invites the listener to feel the effects. And the effect becomes emotional on a certain level: the rippling waves and vibrations test the tension levels, pushing the up and pulling them down. Tense, intense, and at the very least, interesting.

AA

New Tendencies – L5

Ritual Productions – 21st June 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

It’s perhaps fitting that self-professed occultist doom collective Drug Cult should unveil their debut long-player to coincide with midsummer’s day and the solstice.

They open with a nine-minute sludge-trudge that’s bursting with the trappings of psychedelia and old-school hard rock: ‘Serpent Therapy’ starts so slow, with so much distance between each chord that it sounds like an ending, a protracted grinding to a halt, rather than the start. Yes, this is slow, and this is heavy. The guitars are close to collapsing under their own weight, and threaten to bury Aasha Tozer’s reverb-drowned vocals in the process. It’s the soundtrack to a bad trip into the underworld, and while there’s nothing of such epic proportions to be found during the remainder of the album’s nine tracks, the darkness remains all-pervasive.

There’s a classic, vintage quality to the songs, but it’s all sludged up, twisted and messy, and what the songs lack in duration (the majority are below the four-minute mark) they more than compensate in density. The riffs lumber slow, low, and heavy, the bass grinds just as slow and even lower: the percussion doesn’t propel, but instead lands in thunderous ricochets while the cymbals wash in tidal waves. In fact, it’s like listening to an early Melvins 45 at 33, save for the vocals, which never sound anything less than borderline deranged.

The sense of volume is immense, speaker-shredding, earth-shattering. And just when it doesn’t seem possible to drive any deeper, grind any lower, ‘Bloodstone’ reaches a new low in low, the essence of doom-laden hard rock riffing distilled to its absolute. The form is still apparent: Drug Cult don’t take it beyond the limits as Sunn O))) do, but against contemporaries like Esben and the Witch and Big Brave, Drug Cult stand out for their concision and their eschewing of passages of levity: this is unforgiving, ultra-heavyweight from beginning to end. As such, it’s a truly megalithic work. Worship it.

AA

drug-cult-drug-cult

Come Play With Me – 8th December 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

I know I’m prone to harping on about how awesome the music scene in Leeds is, but that’s because it is. It’s not just its vibrancy and diversity, but the sheer quality of acts – and all of the other things integral to a thriving scene, including labels and live venues – that make it so exciting. Living in York, I often feel the best thing about my location is its proximity to Leeds.

The label Come Play With Me – named after a 1992 single by enduring Leeds indie legends The Wedding Present (which, peaking at number 10 in the singles charts actually stands as their biggest hit) – have, in a very short time, established itself as an ambassador for the city and surrounding region. It’s worth noting, then, that all proceeds made from this album will be reinvested into supporting people into sustainable careers within music in the Leeds City Region, and it speaks volumes about the label and everyone involved here.

It’s therefore fitting that on this double-CD compilation (the labels first), The Wedding Present should feature alongside a number of artists who’ve previously appeared on single releases, including Officers, Deadwall (who here, somewhat audaciously, deliver an ethereal shoegaze rendition of ‘Come Play with Me’, no less), Esper Scout, Magic Mountain, Furr and RIIB (Roller Trio / Django Django and whose split single we featured here at Aural Aggro back in July).

ZoZo kick it all off with some jagged brass-laced post-punk funk. ‘No Christmas’ was the last in The Wedding Present’s 12-single run in 1992, and appears here re-recorded from a 2015 album session. It’s a strong start.

The inclusion of ‘Ghost Town’ by Fighting Caravans is particularly sweet – one of the city’s most promising bands who split before they really got going, this track makes a welcome addition to their all-too slender discography. Oh, and it’s a dense, slow-burning belter and one of the album’s (many) standouts, which also include a collaboration between Post War Glamour Girls frontman James Konapinski and American inventor Thomas Truax in the shape of the brooding ‘The Best Things’, part 80s Bowie, part Tom Waits, it’s a gritty, growling hybrid of spoken word and white soul. It’s bloody brilliant. And as a completely unnecessary aside, earlier this year I performed an afternoon spoken word event ahead of Thomas Truax playing the same venue in the evening. He graciously watched me stomp around, spewing profanities and tossing spent sheets of paper to the ground in front of fifteen people. I didn’t have the mettle to approach him after.

Officers – another band with a discography that’s frustratingly short, but who clearly favour quality over quantity of output, and who’ve actually released more in the last 18 months than the preceding five years – are on fine form with ‘Animal’, a stealthy groove-driven cut. No Fixed Identity also bring some dark, low-down grooves, but in what I’m vaguely embarrassed to refer to as an ‘urban’ context. With so many guitar-based bands, it’s perhaps easy to forget or otherwise overlook the other musical elements which are, in truth, essential to the city’s diverse culture. The same, therefore, applies to the wibbly jazz stylings of Skwid Ink, who give us an alternate take of ‘Dungeon Politic’.

Parker Lee (how have I never encountered Parker Lee before?) comes on all Pavement, but it’s Jon Jones and the Beatnik Movement who represent the noisy end of the scene – which is perhaps less represented here than is proportional in terms of the kind of bands coming out of Leeds – although Fizzy Blood show the attacking, darker side to their grunge-orientated sound on ‘Animals’. They’re still a new band and young, but they’ve evolved considerably in a short time and are showing the potential to be a serious force.

Napoleon IIIrd is something of a Leeds stalwart, and the version of ‘The Scrape’ which appears here has been remixed by Wild Beasts. It’s an eight-and-a-half minute behemoth, which builds warping electronics around a laid-back but insistent beat. On the subject of remixes, ‘Classic M’ by Team Picture (who are here credited as Group Photograph and are the only act to contribute two songs) is remixed by LPA. It’s a stripped-back dance-up reworking that’s barely recognisable, but works well.

I usually recommend albums where the proceeds are being donated to good causes in principle, but Come Play is an outstanding compilation – beyond outstanding, even.

Come Play

And you can order Come Play here.