Posts Tagged ‘Album Review’

Ideologic Organ – SOMA034

Digital release date: July 3/10 / Physical release date: mid August 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Ideologic Organ label owner Stephen O’Malley effuses over Ai Aso’s ‘immaculately crafted form of minimalist pop music skirts the edges of tensity with the manner and with the skill of a tight rope walker, calmly balancing repeatedly at every step, with a combination of surety and the risk of a slip, a fall, and an unknown uncoiling of events’.

Pop may not be a genre commonly associated with he label or the Sunn O))) founder, but Ideologic Organ do have a track record for venturing beyond the expected and showcasing some unusual talents, and Ai Aso is definitely one of those, as the nine tracks on The Faintest Hint demonstrate. Legendary Japanese rock band Boris accompany Aso on two of the pieces, but if you’re expecting powerchords, keep moving on.

Picked acoustic guitar alone accompanies Aso’s voice for most of the first song, ‘Itsumo’, and indeed, much of the album, and even with the multi-tracked vocal, it’s a simple, spartan, and intimate recording. The guitar and voice are in the room with you. And they touch you accordingly.

‘Scene’ is more post-rock, a slow, quivering bass chord echoes out against chiming guitar notes and Ai’s soaring ethereal voice calls to mind Cranes at their most delicately haunting, but also at times is simply a shy humming that’s endearing in its understatement and apparent reticence.

Sometimes, quietness and sparseness simply seem to equate to sadness, and the low, mumbling low-note repetitions of ‘Gone’, despite the words being unintelligible, emanate an aching sadness, while in contrast, ‘I’ll do it My Way’ carries something of a playfulness, not to mention a certain Young marble Giants lo-fi bedroom indie vibe. The straining electric guitar discordance that disrupts the singsong easiness of the song toward the end is a nice touch. She trills, swoops and croons on ‘Floating Rhythms’ in a way that sounds like she’s singing to herself – and this intimacy provides a large part of the appeal.

If there’s anything about The Faintest Hint that may suggest ‘amateurish’ to some, that’s certainly not the reaction from my ears: Aso’s minimal approach to songwriting and performance gives a rare immediacy, and it’ss unhampered by conspicuous production. It’s touching, intimate, and special.

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Come Play With Me – 17th July 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Since their inception and their first release, Leeds label Come Play With Me have done a remarkable job of showcasing local talent and giving an outlet to an array of acts from the area – and to be fair, they’ve always been spoiled for choice.

As has been increasingly apparent over social media in particular lately, with attention all on schools, pubs, hairdressers, the music industry is foundering. Which is why this release is important, as a compilation record ‘to support contributing artists as they deal with the delays, cancellations and loss of income caused by the coronavirus pandemic’.

I may have mentioned it before: I’d questioned the appropriateness of reviewing under the circumstances, but with so many acts releasing new music under lockdown either out of boredom or necessity, following a certain degree of public pressure, I elected to press on, and releases like this remind me why.

Come Stay With Me is ‘a collection of 13 new songs from bands and artists across Leeds ‘Come Stay With Me’ will feature Magick Mountain, Talkboy, Dialect, Team Picture, Van Houten, Dead Naked Hippies and more with artwork from ‘Life’ drummer Stewart Baxter. Set for release in July on eco-vinyl, all profits from Come Stay With Me will be shared between the contributing artists.

What isn’t to support here? For those in need of a reason, here are plenty:

Team Picture are a band who invariably surprise: perhaps it’s because of their incorporation of so many disparate stylistic elements that they never sound like the same band. On this outing, they’ve gone for some Hi-NRG disco which is more Donna Summer than the indie seem they’ve mined previously.

Mindstate are a new name to me, and while I’m not taken by their brand of mellow, lougey jazz, it’s hard to fault the musicianship or their capacity to conjure a mellow, late-night club vibe with their chilled brass and skipping percussion. As it happens, the majority of the bands are unfamiliar, and it’s heartening to discover so many emerging artists. The majority are of an overtly ‘indie’ persuasion, and collectively, there’s something of a C86 vibe to this compilation.

But then, what goes around comes around, and the label is names after a song by on of the definitive indie bands of all time, local legends The Wedding Present.

But then Dialect’s ‘Come Up’ represents a vastly underrepresented aspect of the Leeds scene, with some direct and no-messing old-school bassy, beaty hip-hop. It hits hard and packs some meaty bass, too. That it’s very much a lone example amidst the stereotypically white indie probably suggests less an act of tokenism as how the various scenes in the city meet, and hearing this says it’s a shame and reminds us of just how far we still have to go to realise

Tall Talker’s ‘River Hands’ may be contemporary, but their noodly instrumental math-rock belongs to a rich heritage of technical post-rock that goes back to the turn of the millennium and reminds me of countless bands I saw at the Brudenell and various other venues around the city circa 2004-2008. There was a time I found this stuff a bit samey, but listening to this now, it’s hard not to get dewy-eyed. I’d rather listen to a thousand identikit instrumental post-rock acts than see venues going under and not be able to mill around at the bar between acts and discover new bands several nights a week.

Jagged post-punkers Dead Naked Hippies offer something different with the stark, broody electropop of the ‘Night Time Version’ of ‘Eyes Wide’, which sounds like Siouxsie and the Banshees remixed by Depeche Mode. Which means it’s absolutely killer.

Local supergroup and Pulled Apart by Horses offshoot Magic Mountain bring all the grungy surfy racket with ‘The Shitty Beatles’, and DENSE do a storming job of primitive lo-fi punk din with a contemporary spin on the ball-busting ‘Electric Chair’.

Dead Poets bring a slice of DIY folktronica, that boasts a dense cinematic production that belies its simplicity, and Talkboy’s demo for ‘Over Under’ is another classic indie cut with a certain vintage feel

The last track, ‘One Last Look Around’ by Household Dogs is interesting, musically and in terms of its place on the album: it’s brooding, reverby, and semi-gothic, at the same time calling to mind Post war Glamour Girls and early Pulp. It’s no understatement to say that this is an absolute revelation, and I’m buzzing for more Household Dogs. It makes me yearn even more for the live scene and situations where I can stumble upon new acts with ease. But in the meantime, stay alert, keep on the hunt for new artists and support music any and every way you can.

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Cruel Nature Records – 3rd July 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

On the face of it, Newcastle has a conspicuously large and thriving scene devoted to all kinds of noisy / experimental metal shit, until you realise that about 75% of the bands feature James Watts and a number of his mates. Ultimately, that’s col, because Watts is a versatile vocalist – maybe not Mike Patton, but more than adept at affecting all kinds of low-throated metal, as well as anguished elongated notes and monastic incantations, and, as the last song evidences, human didgeridoo.

The band are described as ‘a unique weirdo blend of improvised doom with a drunken psychedelic vibe which is anywhere between THRONES to The Melvins to a very pissed off Butthole Surfers.’ The blurb also goes on to detail that ‘They normally play as a 3 piece, with bass, drums, a little sax and vocals which sound like they are coming out of someone’s mouth who has been trapped in a basement for 20 years and staying alive by licking the mould that grows on beer barrels.’

It’s a fair summary, although there’s more than a little sax here. But no violins. For all the sonic assault, they’re very much pacifists.

There’s nothing like easing the listener into an album gently, and the twenty-three minute opener, ‘Ioniser’ is absolutely nothing like easing the listener into an album gently. An overloading crackle and buzz churns and distorts like hell. It eventually settles into a Shellac-like groove, hectic Todd Trainer-esque drumming driving a grungy low-end grind that provides the backdrop for a display of vocal contortions that celebrate all things tortured and guttural.

Christ, that bass! It’s so low and grindy it could relieve constipation within a matter of bars, and against a jazz-influenced rhythm played with explosive force, ‘Shan patter’ is an absolute beast. The vocals are barely audible and as low, if not lower, than the bass, a chthonic gurgle

‘Shenanigans’ has the looping structure of a dance track crossed with the nagging circular motifs that defined Therapy’s sound on Nurse – only it’s a twisted jazz-funk odyssey, and it’s a complete contrast with the ultra-slow, ultra-minimalist drone-plod of ‘Wallow’ that crawls into a droning boom of repetition, a single chord ringing out for an eternity, the sustain twisting to feedback. Any Sunn O))) comparisons are entirely justified, although the percussion has a certain swing that lifts it from the domain of sludgy doomy drone and into that of something more jazz/low grunge in style.

And if the title of the final cut inspires references to Derek an Clive, the thirteen-minute ‘Horn’ is less to inspire a rush of blood to the penis than a crawling sensation over the skin as another lumbering bassline strolls, battered, bruised, dust and dirt-covered from amidst a fizz of noise before a heavy-hearted brass brays, wails, and honks all over.

While the freeform elements of the pieces give them a sense of looseness, or non-conformity, of spontaneity, of disarray, the way they come together so tightly and intuitively on the extended riffy segments is indicative of a real musical competence and a high level of intuition. It’s special and it’s rare. And it’s a defining feature of an album that’s properly heavy, and at the same time, way jazzy without sucking.

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limitedNOISE – 10th July 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Eleven whole years on from Third One Rises, World Sanguine Report crawl bloodied and bruised from a dark, dingy back alley to stagger into the light and toss down onto the rain-soaked, blood-spattered concrete their new album, Skeleton Blush. It’s a haggard, battered beast, a collection of songs that wheeze and puff pain from every pore. Whether it’s whisky-soaked introspection of staggering, brawling bleariness, it’s grainy, gritty, and often bleak, dredging emotions from the pits of the city’s sewers.

The various members have been keeping busy in the meantime, with various projects, notably with vocalist / guitarist Andrew Plummer having detoured for a few years with the grizzled no-wave racket of Snack Family. The various projects are clearly different, but at the same time their creative roots are abundantly clear.

Across the spread of the album, the band swing psychotically, schizophrenically, between dirty jazz-tinged blues that draws together The Doors and Tom Waits in a deliriously drunken swagger of swinging rhythms (you could never call it an elevated or euphoric mood – more an upswing in a maniacally volatile moodset) and boozy, brawling horns, and seedy, low-down lugubriosity.

The title track is as close as thing get to flamboyant, with a flamboyant jazz cacophony delivered with a Beefheartian mania and taste for dissonance, and ‘Drip Driven’ is similarly crazed in his riot of jolting, discordant horns that spirt every whichway over a low-slung stop-start funk groove, while ‘Aou’ trudges through dark, soup waters of brass-tinged gloom, sounding like Gallon Drunk on Ketamine.

Skeleton Blush brings derangement to a big band setting: it’s absolutely wild, and also low-down and seedy – and absolutely fucking ace.

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Gizeh Records – 3rd July 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Presumably, Black Rain (I) is the first in a series, and contains three extended pieces – each of around a quarter of an hour – which were written and recorded by Richard Knox during the early months of 2020. Focusing on a more ambient and cinematic approach, Black Rain offers another texture to the A-Sun Amissa palette.

The blurb explains its relatively swift assembly, whereby ‘the record was written over a three month period where Knox had a self-imposed deadline of completing one piece of music per month to then be released digitally with immediate effect at the beginning of the following month. A deliberate move to be more impulsive and instinctive during the writing process and, for him, a new way of looking at releasing a record.’

For all that, nothing about the music here feels remotely rushed. The mood, meanwhile, is in some senses difficult to gauge: it’s not overtly melancholy, but there’s a wistful air to the delicately-arranged compositions.

The first of the three compositions, ‘The Sea’s Collapse’, isn’t a heavy, dramatic piece, but a deep, slow-turning ambient work that possesses a sense of grandeur in its gradual pulls back and forth, tapering down to a muted piano and the softest of washing drones that form a barely-present aural mist. It takes an eerier turn in the dying minutes, a combination of scrapes and extraneous wind-like howls whistling in the distance

The rhythmically-paced piano gives ‘Out Past the Dark’ a clearer sense of structure, as the trailing ambient notes hover in the background. While shifting and evolving over the course of the track, the cyclical chord motifs that surface and subsequently fade create a sense of movement.

‘Pulling Feathers from a Swan Song’ is sparser, and also darker in tone than the others. Long, brooding notes emerge from a slow-swirling murk, and while it’s graceful in its epically-proportioned brooding, there’s a sense of finality in the air that passes between the notes. And yet that finality does not intimate gloom or despair, but sad, weary acceptance of passing.

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5th June 2020

James Wells

So The Moms is not a bunch of women who meet for coffee or a WhatsApp group about homework, but actually three dudes from Copenhagen who trade in textural noise/free improv, manipulating conventional instruments in self-invented unorthodox ways. On this, their self-released debut which contains a single track of 39 minutes and 34 seconds in duration, they promise ‘no soothing melodies or calming new-age harmonies, yet it can be a meditative experience if you accept the push and let your mind slip through the void.’

It sort of sounds like jazz in its origins, as some kind of brass struggles for breath, honking and parping in a strangled tone. Low-end grumbles and high-end fizzing duel for dominance as the jostle around mid-range drones. The ratio of droniness and rasping horniness and warped jazz dissonance vary as the elements interweave, shifting and mutating.

At times sparse, minimal, subdued and strained toots expectedly from within extended sections of restrained low-level noise, punctuated by thuds and thumps: strains of feedback and scraping are recurring sonic elements as the ever-shifting piece drips from swirling murk to squealing torture, with distortion and discord dominating.

The final minutes build to a climax of shrill, shrieking cacophonous noise before slowly dissipating to draw the curtain on an album that’s restless and difficult, an album that doesn’t allow the listener to settle into a single frame of mind for more than a couple of minutes, as it twists and turns, honks and churns.

It’s by no means commercial, but nor does it have any will to be, and in its field of jazz-orientated experimentalism, Kalipedia is a solid debut.

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Love Love Records

Christopher Nosnibor

It’s no secret I’m quite a fan of Matt Cargill and Co’s oddball, off-kilter approach to freeform experimental weird noisy shit that stubbornly defies genre categorisation – largely on account of the fact that it is weird noisy shit that stubbornly defies genre categorisation (although the blurbage that accompanies Walk it Dry, the follow-up to 2019’s Gentle Persuaders describes them as ‘London’s neo-jazz wrecking crew’.

Sly have trod themselves a unique path, and find themselves in the curious position of being one of the most obtuse bands beloved by almost everyone I know in underground musical circles. I’d like to think it’s a combination of their uniqueness and the fact that they are unequivocally

On this outing, they promise ‘the familiar sound palette of skronked electronics, bulging noise blasts, wailing sax & Kalashnikov drums that was found on ‘Gentle Persuaders’’ but at the same time say that this ‘is a very different beast. The tracks here are shorter and punchier as the band digs deeper than ever to find increasingly potent sonic pockets.’

Mad horns and a crushing, slow-paced jazz beat explode from the speakers the second the ‘play’ button his hit, and with ‘A Black Uniformed Strutting Animal’ they plunge into a collision of heavy rhythms and divergent notes that counteract one another in a battle between order and chaos, where there is no clear winner.

‘Dead Cat Chaos Magician’ is frivolous, glooping electronics, with a fast-paced jitter of tension and some ragged blasts of drums that are nothing to do with rhythm and everything to do with dramatic punctuation, sudden explosions that disrupt any semblance of an emerging flow.

The compositions on Walk it Dry are difficult, dissonant, and while they are indeed more succinct than the bult of the pieces on previous outings, they condense those dank, disrupted soundscapes into dense chunks of ‘Bulgarian Steel’ brings the kind of swampy mess of nose that’s quintessentially Sly, dominated as it is by booming beats and murky mid-range, before ‘Shrieking Grief’ steps the torturous din up a notch, with more thunderous rhythms bashing frantically into a void of grinding greyness while horns flash and flail

The lack of pun-based titles is compensated to an extent by ‘Sunken Disorderly’, while ‘My Torso is a Shotgun’ is a cranium-crushing morass of tension, a bludgeoning battery of hammering and noise.

This all stacks up to an album that’s classic Sly: the same dark industrial clanking, doomy undercurrent and warped jazz overtones, but in much shorter segments. It’s still dark, dingy, difficult, jazzy, otherly, and there’s no other band who quit straddle so many boundaries. Walk it Dry may mark a certain evolution, but more than anything, it’s the work of a band who simply don’t do compromise. And that’s why we love them.

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5th May 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Starless is a new musical project from Yurii Samson of Ukranian industrial noisemakers Kadaitcha. It’s pitched as being ‘less industrial and noisy than Kadaitcha, but more acoustic and lyrical’, although this very much depends on the strain of industrial you’re angling towards.

Admittedly, my first thought is less ‘more acoustic and lyrical’ than Kadaitcha, but ‘fuck me, this is spaced-out experimental jazz!’ ‘Entro’ piles in haphazard and chaotic, as a riot of parping horns hoot and honk seemingly at random though a twittering electronic oscillation with bleeps and quirts, and wandering notes that are difficult to assimilate, stylistically or psychologically. There’s a lot going on at once.

But the title track goes much more industrial / dark ambient, a restless thrumming providing the backdrop to a distanced, echo-heavy vocal and squalls of extraneous noise, swells of feedback and layers of serrated electronica, whole distorted impenetrable vocals ring out with a bold authority. It’s the sound of Big Brother’s dictation, monotone, cold, flat, and impervious, while metallic noise spirals and swirls.

Next up, ‘Chudovys’ka’ begins all aclatter and aflutter, a clicking flicker or delicate beats, before a warped vocal begins to nag away in the background. And then, before long, it goes full Throbbing Gristle with churning electronic rhythms and hard-edged noise butting up against them. And this is a sustained sonic attack, the best part of ten minutes of difficult noise that simultaneously rumbles and screes, a low-end wash that rolls and throbs while clattering percussion ricochets off in all directions.

‘Kiviten’’ goes all-out with the heavy-duty percussion, calling to mind the thunderous battery of Test Dept. It also brings droning church organ and shrieking feedback that hurts the ears and bends the brain, as well as heralding introduction of epic choral voices on the scale of Carl Orff’s ‘Carmina Burana’, only distant and dissonant. It’s big on drama, and also disquiet.

Closer, ‘Saga’ is also impressive in its depth, and equally the depth of the discomfort it discharges as wheezing monotone vocals drone out over a shifting soundscape of hesitant beats, creeping jazz horns and scrapes and bubbling synths. It’s sparse, low, slow, and trepidatious, making for an unexpectedly Low-key conclusion that also happens to leave the listener hanging on the edge of a swamp hidden by fog, wondering what lies beyond.

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Rock is Hell Records – July 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

At the risk of repetition, there are no two ways about it: these are desperate times. No, not unprecedented. Desperate, dire, and fucked-up. The liner notes to BUG’s latest offering, Nunc finis offer a fair summary:

‘Global warming. Trump. Corona virus. New normal. We are living in interesting times. It is one minute before midnight on the doomsday watch. Nunc finis means end of time, end times or end now. And if you buy the ticket, you gonna take the ride.’

Fucked-up times require some fucked-up heavy shit by way of a soundtrack, and BUG bring it in spades here. I for one am immensely grateful: I’ve found myself frequently returning to Calamitas, and Nunc finis brings the same blend of familiar noise rock tropes and uniqueness, with jarring riffs, sludgy low-end and crazed, gruff-throated vocals. Above all, BUG know how to create tension through music, to articulate that tightening of the chest, evoke that clenching of the jaw, the grinding of the teeth.

The opening salvoes leave no doubt that this is a dark album reflecting darkness back in on itself, a tumultuous tempest of disaffection and (internal) conflict. ‘Happy Pills’ kicks off in pretty savage style, a hell-for-leather raging blast of overdriven guitars and angled vocals. You can barely make out a word, but then, the delivery communicates the sentiment, the manic fury. ‘Hell is Empty’ drops down several shades darker toward sludgy doom territory, before ‘Lost Soul’ takes a more conventionally noise-rock turn. It also provides the first softer moments, as chiming guitars effect a more ponderous perspective before exploding into a ragged riff. Exploiting the quiet / loud dynamic, it’s a classic slow-burner that builds to a killer climax.

‘Leftovers’ is a standout by virtue of its sheer brutality, while the seven-minute closer, ‘Hass gegen Rechts’ is positively schizophrenic, switching between a strolling vaudeville waltz and volcanic, earth-shattering blasts of noise, and is everything the album represents distilled into a single gut-wrenching track. It’s intense, alright.

Jolting riffs and stop-start noodles define the structures, to bewildering, dizzying effect: it’s not a regular bludgeoning, but successive left / right hooks, followed by an upper-cut, a headbutt, and a knee in the nuts for good measure. It’s heavy, hard, harrowing, and, ultimately physically and emotionally draining – just as it should be.

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Christopher Nosnibor

Pierre Massé, the man behind the Paramestre project, threatens ‘Electronic-ish music with human vocals, guitars (played by a human), and far too many effects (along with a healthy dose of digital manipulation)’. It’s an intriguing proposition, and is it even possible to have too many effects, at least when used well?

As Massé explains in the liner notes, ‘As stated by the opening track, it is nothing “perfect”; there are artefacts from tortured source material, there is noise, there are glitches from randomized effects processing, and there is no pitch correction. But there is also warmth, groove, melancholy, and hope. I hope you find something that speaks to you amidst it all.’

This is, to my mind, a succinct summary of why any artist creates; in the hope of there being a shred of commonality with the receiver in the work. But, at the same time, creating not with the audience at the forefront of the creative process. This, ultimately, is what differentiates art from entertainment. The latter is primarily commercial, designed for the (perceived) audience. Art exists for its own sake, and any audience it attracts finds it.

Rippling post-rock guitars with an almost Spanish vibe cascade softly over a dislocated beat that bumps and bounces and flickers on the aforementioned opening track, providing a supple, mellow backdrop to Pierre’s dreamy, soulful vocals, and it’s a smooth, Gallic air that permeates the lilting synth pop of ‘Elle’. It’s pleasant, but it’s not an instant grab by any means, and much of Conditions Initiales feels in some ways exploratory, tentative. It isn’t that the songs themselves feel incomplete, because they certain don’t: it’s more that one feels Massé is still working towards a sound that is one he’s entirely comfortable with, that translates his sonic ambition into the final recorded output.

‘Conceal/Reveal’ goes a shade darker, but it’s the subdued waltz of the seven-minute ‘Madeleines’, with its echoing sampled background conversation that creates a subtle but clear level of juxtaposition, that really draws the listener in, in search of its evasive heart amongst the layers.

And it’s when Massé goes still darker and brings thudding beats to the fore that Conditions Initiales really becomes interesting: ‘Carry’ and closer, ‘Endless’ are both sparse but feature more prominent percussion, the latter worthy of favourable comparisons to Depeche Mode.

Understated as it is, Conditions Initiales contains no shortage of detail, and it’s an intriguing debut that hints at even better to come.

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