Posts Tagged ‘Album Review’

Sargent House – 6th August 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Here in England – and Britain, as elsewhere further afield – division is rife: views and positions have become increasingly polarised and entrenched in recent years, and man, it’s fucking ugly. From here, it’s perhaps difficult to appreciate just how much uglier it gets when fervent religiosity is added to the mix. And while the white, Christian west expends boundless energy vilifying Islam, much of this feels like so much hypocrisy. For a religion that officially preaches for its adherents to ‘love thy neighbour’, Christianity is prone to being particularly harsh and judgemental, and as the album’s title suggests, there is a strong element of Christian judgment at the heart of the songs here.

The press release describes Sinner Get Ready as ‘an abrasive, unsettling portrait of devotion and betrayal, judgment and consequence, set in the severe and derelict landscape of rural Pennsylvania, a neglected and interstitial region deeply embedded with a particularly austere brand of Christianity, and where Hayter currently lives.’ It goes on to explain: ‘The rigorous and almost procedural site-specificity reflects an obsession with externalizing that site as the locus of great personal pain – pain that is the Will of that region’s presiding God; an atonement for sin that only the blood of Jesus can cleanse’. There is a certain specificity about the songs collected here, but, as is so often the case, the personal radiates out to become the universal, and however specific the subject and inspiration on a personal level to the artist a work may be, true art resonates far beyond.

Sinner Get Ready is an album that proves, demonstrably, that you don’t need noise or volume to achieve levels of devastating intensity. It’s spectacularly simple, raw, and at the same time complex and layered, not least of all in the vocal arrangements, and also hits like a tsunami. Sinner Get Ready is an intensely spiritual work, but it’s also quite simply an intense work, and one that conveys the power of the word of the Lord, that conjures fire and brimstone and that forewarns sinners- and non-believers – what they can expect.

The album begins gently enough, with rolling piano and strong but melodic vocals, operatic and elevating. But it doesn’t take long before things grow dark and disturbing on the nine-minute opener, ‘The Order of Spiritual Virgins’. The delicate, ethereal, choral evocations are rent with crashing, violent blasts of piano – fist-smashing thunderousness. It hits hard.

There is something of the musical about this, at least in terms of there being a narrative thread and a sense of characterisation running through it. It’s certainly more than simply a collection of songs: there is a sense of sequence, of progression. ‘I Who Bend the Tall Grass’ is sparsely arranged around a soft organ drone, and over which Hayter’s vocal cracks and breaks with force and emotion, and harmony melts into warped dissonance. ‘He has to die! There is no other way!’ she barks, rough and raw, before an atonal chorus of voices and drones carry it away.

Contrastingly, ‘Many Hands’ is traditional folk with an element of roots American country. It’s also dolorous, painful, its many-layered beseeching vocal, and ‘The Sacred Linametnt of Judgement’ is similarly folky, with a rich earthiness that speaks of tradition and evokes bygone times. Yet, as ‘Repent Now Confess Now’ brings into sharp relief just how alive some of those traditions still are in certain places, and these aren’t just small pockets, but huge swathes, and while the deep south is most commonly associated with hardline Christianity, it’s a trait of many rural areas. It may be 2021, but fire and brimstone and divine retribution are still dominant in these places, and what may seem strange to an outsider – like the material for a Louis Theroux documentary – this shit is real, and people live and die by their beliefs. There are some well-selected, well-placed samples, too, which accentuate this.

The songs on here soar, but rage with intensity, trembling with the fear of God and the weight of judgement and the threat of punishment. It would be hard to hear Sinner Get Ready and not feel moved in some way or another.

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21st June 2021

Black Angel emerged four years ago, and released Kiss of Death in July of last year – an album that brought together Matt Vowles’ years of experience from being in and around the goth scene to recreate the spirit of 1985.

This time, Vowles and co have come out with a concept album for their third outing, which is ‘inspired by cinematic classics such as ‘Dracula’ (Gary Oldman-1992) and ‘Interview with a Vampire’ with contemporary inspiration on tracks like "Alive" and "Give It To Me’" from the modern aristocratic sophisticated vampires in ‘Underworld’.

The album’s concept, the blurbage explains, is ‘to take you on a journey. The record starts out with an introduction to set the tone and to put you in 10th century England. As our protagonist embarks on his pillage through the town, we hear screams from the villagers as they run for their lives. He’s the Prince Of Darkness and causes chaos and mischief wherever he goes’.

There’s a fine line between artistry and pretence, theatre and corn, and despite the concept that veers towards an amalgamation of all the clichés of goth distilled into a dozen tracks, Prince of Darkness once again nails that vintage goth sound, with ‘Alive’ melding the energy of early Mission with the mechanised drumming of The Sisters to create a swirling cyclone of tripwire guitars and gloom with a glint of joy.

The energy is sustained across the bulk of the album, and the vibe is very much a muscle-flexing dominance, delivered with a big, ballsy swagger: there’s a hefty whiff of testosterone and a barrel load of rock god posturing going down here, but it’s delivered with a knowing nod ‘Live to Love’ is a proper old-school rock ‘n’ roll stomper with a smoky vocal growling and grizzled over a piston-pumping beat and a wonderfully insistent bassline that nags away at a repetitive motif. It’s got that level of grab that immediately makes you want to stick the whole album on repeat, especially after ‘Turn Around’, which pushes the quiet / loud dynamic with a searing guitar line that’s right in the vein of The March Violets – it’s that flangey reverby chorus thing.

Vowles has some depth, and range, too – on some tracks, like ’Call the Night Part II’ he showcases a grainy croon reminiscent of Mark Lanegan, and it’s heavy timbre is well-suited to such expansive epics, and then again, on ‘Secretly’ we see a more soulful, even tender side, and ‘My Love’ goes all out for the heart on sleeve grand gesture. It’s theatrical, but at the same times feels emotionally sincere, and while the melody bears similarities to ‘The Scientist’ by Coldplay, it sounds like it’s being sung by James Ray, and it’s quite moving in a brooding, gothy way.

Throughout, the songwriting is solid, with guitar hooks galore and a taut rhythm section that forges that classic goth groove. There’s a clear lineage from its predecessor in that Prince of Darkness is very much old-school goth delivered with a subtly contemporary twist, but it sounds and feels more confident, more ambitious, and not just on account of its embracing an overarching concept. Prince of Darkness is the sound of a band really hitting their stride, and achieves the perfect marriage of concept and execution.

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Nefarious Industries

Christopher Nosnibor

Less than two years after the release of the ambient avant-jazz oddity that was CCXMD (that’s not some random Roman numeralisation, but Cinema Cinema X Matt Darriau (The Klezmatics), the New York duo return for round two of their collaboration with the astutely-titled CCXMDII.

Let’s get the spoiler out of the way up front and early: they couldn’t have shifted further from their noise roots, and there really isn’t an overloading guitar riff in the whole album. If CCXMD was avant-jazzy and ambient, CCXMDII is avant-jazzier and more ambient. Having laid the foundations previously, it’s not so much of a shock, but anyone hoping for a return to their riffier roots will be disappointed by this weirdy, spaced-out experimental work.

It contains but seven tracks, although three of them are over ten minutes in duration, including the eighteen-minute opener ‘A Life of its Own’, which was unveiled as the album’s lead single a couple of weeks ago. And here, Cinema Cinema push further still than on their previous album, with those seven tracks bleeding together to forge one, vast continuous piece.

It begins tentatively, with tremulous, trilling woodwind and some scratchy strumming. Sounds echo and reverberate and voices mumble in a blurred, slowed, hallucinated state that’s most unsettling, and slowly transitions from some shilled, chiming new-age desert vibe into an increasingly bad trip as unintelligible jabbering spits and slurs angrily against the warping backdrop and swelling percussion – and that’s before the crazed jazz horns begin to bray and parp.

There are definite ebbs and flows, but not necessarily correspondent with the transitions between the tracks, and ponderous guitar and trepidatious woodwind teeter precariously through ‘Continued’, which is less of a piece in its own right than a bridge toward the nine-minute ‘Bratislava’. Guitars scrape and the drums stutter and test the waters and levels, and it actually sounds like a band checking their levels between songs during a live show than anything. There are some exploratory post-rock moments, but they’re fleeting, and even when the rhythm section finds a groove, it’s but for a short time and ultimately frustrating and unsatisfying, chopping and changing in a mathy fashion – which is fine in itself, but for the lack of a resolution, a crescendo, a finish. Instead, it peters out and squeaks and toots into the next piece.

The trilling woodwind – pan-pipes or similar – are all over the meandering piece and while the percussion rolls, the guitar is pegged back to providing mere texture, and there is no question that the band have shunned pretty much all ‘rock’ trappings here. The raspy, chthonic vocal whispering and manic hollering returns, before it trickles down into ‘Crack of Dawn’ with its stop / start arrhythmic percussion, hovering drones and eerie formlessness.

It’s not until the penultimate track that we get power chords. There is silence, briefly, before ‘Trigger’, which is unexpectedly led by a stop/start drum and hesitant bass groove that eventually emerges as a core motif. Imagine Shellac with brass instead of vocals, and you probably get the idea. It locks into a motoric krautrock groove – but that freewheeling wild horn action is something else. It brings chaos, it brings discord, riding wild all over some wild improv.

CCXMDII isn’t an easy album, and it’s not the punk or guitar-led set some may have expected. But it is a bold, daring work, one that sees a band who don’t give a fuck about conventions or expectations demonstrating that lack of fucks musically. Every band says they’re making music for themselves, but hardly any mean it. These guys do. CCXMDII is also a wonderfully odd abstract soundscapes that drifts and meanders and entertains and perplexes. CCXMDII is the work of a band in continual evolution, and long may that evolution continue.

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Roman Numeral (US) / Wolves And Vibrancy (EU) –13th August 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Linear narrative can be so dull, so predictable, or otherwise lacking in intrigue and imagination. There is so much more challenge – both as a writer and a reader – to a work that doesn’t follow that standard beginning / middle / end convention. There’s nothing predictable or obvious or linear about Fawn Limbs’ their third long player.

‘Day three. I woke up in a bed made of hay and roots. For a brief but fleeting moment, I couldn’t recall the incidents of the past days…’ This is how we arrive in Darwin Falls. It’s a sparse country vibe, a bit True Detective. It’s hazy, hot. The dry, cracked voice of Lee Fisher narrates the scene, and we’re as lost and bewildered as he is. Where are we? Why are we here? What the fuck happened? The picture gets darker as it unfurls, and it’s a slow, languorous build… and then, unexpectedly, everything erupts and shit spews forth as if from a volcano bursting from the very molten pits of hell. It tears with a burning fury at your guts and at your organs, and this is punishment. And then, this is calm, this is tranquillity. This is schizophrenic, unpredictable. It’s too much to process.

How you do describe Fawn Limbs? Odd and experimental is perhaps a fair starting point, and the first track in this is both. ‘Nesting Lumens’ is abstract and ethereal, a shade abstract, but it’s also raging chthonic demon-noise metal and all the brutality delivered with a razor-sharp technicality. It’s perhaps most interesting when the rage dissipates and we’re left with expensive post-rock tropes, and these extend into the majestic

The Transatlantic trio describe themselves as ‘avant-garde mathgrind’ and that seems a fair summary of the blistering hellfest that is Darwin Falls.

We’re still struggling to find orientation amidst the slow-twisting post-rock smog of the opening segment of ‘Wound Hiss’ when things suddenly turn brutal, a battering sonic assault that’s brief but so violent as to cause concussion.

It’s the extremity of the contrasts that render these songs so staggering in their impact. As a post-rock band, they’re outstanding at forging delicate, graceful pastoral pieces, musical passages of delicacy and grace – but instead of breaking into breathtaking crescendos of cinematic beauty, they rampage into howling blasts of anguish that explode on the most frenzied slabs of extreme metal. There are moments of eerie spaciousness, as on ‘Caesura’, a short piece which appropriately provides a moment of respite, and mellow interludes such as the still waters of laid-back jazz at the start of ‘Twitching, Lapsing’ which jolts into life with a haemorrhage-inducing blast of rampant noise and only becomes more impossible as the brass collides with a nuclear storm and a tsunami of noise.

If Justin Broadrick and co successfully combined free jazz with slow, industrial grind as GOD, then Fawn Limbs push the concept to another level, and the spoken word sections provide a fascinating counterpoint to the roaring, blazing sonic blasts that come in between. But ultimately, comparisons simply don’t hold up here. True innovation is rare, and we’re unaccustomed to it: it’s difficult to respond to it appropriately, somehow. It phases us. Shuddering, bemusement, bewilderment. A lack of comprehension. How do you measure it, and how do you process? Darwin Falls is a remarkable album, a sonic supernova, and it’s no mere hybrid: it is truly unique. Prepare to have your mind – and eardrums – blown.

AA

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Cleopatra Records

Christopher Nosnibor

As a label, Cleopatra has arguably established itself as the home of goth and dark music, with leanings toward the vintage period where goth emerged from post-punk – alongside some classic 80s acts, old-school punk, and some weird shit, of course.

Belgian ‘band’ Controversial – the vehicle of Bart Coninckx – mines a largely industrial seam in the vein of Wax Trax! – early Ministry, KMFDM, Skrew, blending stark synths with grating guitars and thumping programmed beats.

It’s a bleak, barren start to the album with the eerie dark drone of ‘The Trauma of Birth’ that ruptures the haunting, ethereal choral sound with dirty guitars and grainy samples, before things get 80s motoric with the cyclical synth groove of ‘With a Vision of Death’: plinking videogame laser sounds give way to the heavy chug of a metallic guitar, and, low in the mix, a distorted, Al Jourgensen style raspy roar that growls and spits and snarls its way through a cacophony of tortured howl.

Having done birth and death, we’re into the myriad shades of pain of the human condition, from recent single ‘Violence’ – an absolutely relentless riff-driven pounder – to the brooding piano-led ‘Is This the Best’ via serene theatricals of ‘Crying’ that swerves into an epic prog guitar solo. You couldn’t accuse Controversial of being predictable or one-dimensional.

Over the course of thirteen muscular cuts (plus a couple of bonus remixes courtesy of Die Krupps and Laether Strip) dominated by some brutally heavy, hard-edge riffage, Controversial tears through modern society like, like a typhoon, like a forest fire, like a juggernaut with the brakes cut.

‘Commercial Breakdown’ blasts its way through pandemic control mechanisms and leans heavily on both ‘NWO’ and ‘Psalm 69’ but works because of it rather than in spite of it – because if you’re going to be overt, best to take a solid source of influence, and while much of the album is geared toward the grating guitar sound, a handful, like ‘Suffering Unseen’ (which nabs the drum fill from Cabaret Voltaire’s ‘Nag Nag Nag’) go all out technoindustrial / aggrotech. The songs tend to be centred around heavy repetition, both with circular, repetitive riffs and motifs, and looped samples, pitched around the optimal 120 BPM to render them instant grippers.

No two ways about it, Second Genesis is a solid album with plenty of attack paired with an unexpected range.

AA

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Khatacomb – 7th July 2021

Christopheer Nosnibor

Some artists clearly thrive on collaboration, throwing themselves fully into the possibilities and potentials ideas from other quarters offer. Ukrainian experimentalist Kojoohar, aka Andrii Kozhukhar, is clearly one such artist, with the self-explanatory Split– a collaboration with fellow Ukrainian Acedia and New Zealander Acclimate – is his second release of the year so far.

Split is something of a celebration of darkness, and a coming together of artists with fundamentally divergent styles, and its finding a home on Ukrainian label / webzine Khatacomb is no coincidence, given its commitment to ‘covering various manifestations of Ukrainian post-industrial music, from dark folk to experimental electronics, and art in general’. It’s an immense departure from anything Kojoohar has done before, with his 2019 and 2021 collaborations with ködzid goo exploring the realms of industrial and avant-garde hip-hop.

The way Split is split is interesting in itself, with four solo Acedia pieces, one Acedia and Kojoohar composition, and a brace from Kojoohar and Acclimate, making it very much an album of three segments – and as such, split.

In context, the vocal element of Acedia’s contributions come as something of a surprise: against minimal, stark electronic backing, with snaking percussion and strong snare sounds that cut through, Acedia delivers a vocal that’s glacial yet warm in its human vulnerability. Ugh, comparisons feels like lazy journalism, but serve their purpose: Depeche Mode, Ladytron, and New Order’s Movement coalesce in the tone and style on these chilly tunes.

‘You’re already dead’ she intimates in a blank monotone on the cold as ice ‘Cocoon’, and the insularity closes in as each song progresses: ‘Slaughterous Game’ is as dark and dangerous as it gets, so cold that it strikes chill to the very marrow. It’s bleak but bold, and the four Acedia cuts feel like an EP in their own right.

I can’t help but feel that this release would work best in physical format, either as n album with the Acedia tracks on one side and the rest on the other, or as a pair of 12” to give each segment clear separation.

Acedia with Kojoohar conjure some darkly dreamy drone with ‘Forget my Name’, with its rolling, woozy bass and whipcracking snare that slashes away at a slow pace, and dark gets darker with ‘Enwomb’, the first of the pieces jointly forged by Kojoohar and Acclimate. It’s nearly ten minutes of ambient drone that billows and rumbles while treble bubbles and bounces eddy this way and that amidst the grumbling mid-range fog. Sparks fly and stutter incidentally but without effect, and the horizon grows broader in the face of this vast vista despite the grumbling discomfiture and whispering in tongues. It’s unsettling, a squirming, churning, twisting and turning with no breaks in which to find a position that’s comfortable. The same is true of the final track, the second Kojoohar and Acclimate cut, and it’s a cut that cuts deep: serrated edges burr and saw away, and tribal percussion thuds away insistently against subdued but wince-inducing trails of feedback.

None of this is comfortable; none of this is easy. But it’s a contrasting set that strains the edges of convention to create something quite, quite different.

AA

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Vinyl Eddie Records – VINED006 & VINED007 – 9th July 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Opposites and opposition – and the way in which those contrasts are core to our understanding of the world and our place in it – have been key points of exploration in art for centuries. The concept of either / or, light / dark, heaven / hell is the foundation of Judaeo-Christian religions and those polarities became the core tropes of Elizabethan poetry, at the dawn of modern literature. Sir Thomas Wyatt’s ‘I Find No Peace’ cements these tropes that have come to define both internal conflict, the turmoil of love, and the fundamental dichotomies of the human condition.

And yet it’s Earth’s Angels Of Darkness, Demons Of Light, released in two parts that comes to mind when presented with Soma Crew’s new offering, a twin vinyl release capturing two days’ intensive recording to collectively forge one monumental document of the band’s creative work since the release off 2019’s F for Fake in 2019.

I know, I know I always say the same when writing of Soma Crew – which I have done often since they formed under the guide of Muttley Crew back in 2013 – that they get better with every release, with every show. But that’s the simple fact of the matter. They tend not to deviate far from their psychedelic drone style that’s most reminiscent of Black Angels, but that isn’t to say they don’t push their limits in the execution. But most importantly, they know how to batter away at a riff for an age and whip up a psychedelic haze.

Out Of Darkness / Into Light is a slow-burner, and marks something of a shift, and on first listen, I was a shade concerned by the lack of motoric beats and shimmering walls of distortion and delay rippling over cascading riffs. But this is the new direction: the beats are still motoric, but simply more minimal and subdued, and the emphasis has shifted toward a more understated and minimalist sound.

The first track, ‘Phantom’ starts off simple, plugging away at a four-chord riff with a hint of swagger that’s almost Primal Scream. The guitar sound is clean, shimmering, and Si Micklethwaite’s vocal is pretty low in the mix, meaning everything blends together gently. There are heavy hints of early Fall about the six-and-a-half-minute ‘You’re So Cool’ – the easy-tripping clean guitar with its naggingly repetitious riff is straight off Live at the Witch Trials or Dragnet. It’s simple, it’s immediate, and the fact it was recorded on the spot only accentuate these qualities.

Soma Crew don’t do short songs: of the twelve here, only two are under five minutes, with the majority clocking in around the six-minute mark. There’s plenty of throbbing bass runs and repetitions and spacey slide guitar going on here, and these qualities are integral to the Soma sound. They’re not a ‘chorus’ band, but a band who create a hypnotic atmosphere through their endlessly cyclical riffs and the plod of the percussion – by no means a criticism here, as drummer Nick understands that less is more – using a setup consisting solely of snare and floor tom for the duration. This minimal ‘Bobby Gillespie’ setup works well, meaning the instruments occupy the space – or don’t – instead of the conventional sound whereby crashing cymbals fill the sound the a load of top-end mess that so often sounds crap.

‘There’s a Fire’ steps up the urgency eight songs in, but instead of going all guns blazing with distortion and a blast of cymbals and snares, Soma Crew hold steady. The slow down again for the forlorn country meandering of ‘Broken Matches’ and counterpart ‘Machines’ with some nice lap steel work, and there’s no question that Out Of Darkness / Into Light is a more ponderous, reflective set of songs, and rather than being a set of two distinct halves, it’s very much a coherent and unified work.

If anything about Out Of Darkness / Into Light intimates production values that eschew slickness and polish, that’s one of its real selling points: recorded live over two days in January 2020, this is a band at work, and it’s an album that captures what they actually sound like, rather than a studio-based tweaked and fiddled fantasy version of what they might sound like if they were another band entirely. Hearing them stripped back and sparse, they sound musically confident even while Micklethwaite’s plaintive vocal navigates seams of self-doubt and introspection through the lyrics, and this album shows that plugging away at simple, cyclical chord structures is as effective and hypnotic without the deluge of effects as with.

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Room40 – RM4143 – 9th July 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

This cassette release’s liner notes are prefaced with an epigraph from Fredric Jameson, one of the preeminent writers on postmodern theory. It reads, ‘It is easier to imagine the end of the world than it is to imagine the end of capitalism.’

One of the most profound things about Jameson’s writing is that much of it seems more true and more relevant now, than when it was first published. Postmodernism, or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism appeared in 1991, with the rather more succinct The Cultural Turn, which collected his writings on postmodernism form 1983-1998 distilling his critique of the era. The present feels like postmodernism on steroids, a relentless blizzard of media, technology and consumption progressing at a pace that evolution simply has no hope of keeping abreast of. The worst spins ever faster, but our bodies and brains aren’t equipped for the environment we’ve created. And it’s capitalism that drives much of the pace, perpetually reinventing, recreating, reselling to milk the market dry. And any suggestion that the pandemic would cause a rethink is already proving to have bene but wishful thinking. Capitalism has made off the situation, even when high-street retail and hospitality has been dying, and now the race is on to get everyone back to work, back to the office, and to supply those ever-growing demands.

This, then, is part of the context for Robert Gerard Pietrusko’s new album, and the press release provides a more granular and specific level of context, explaining how ‘On Elegyia, Robert Gerard Pietrusko reflects on notions of accumulation and decay, calling specifically on his memories of the demise of the Soviet Union. The sudden collapse of the USSR shocked the world and in that moment came an intense and wholesale reveal, that spoke to the impermanence of all political and social structures, no matter how fixed they might appear. Using this as a compositional metaphor, Pietrusko creates an edition of muted sonics, rich saturation and submerged low energies.’

The album and the compositions it contains are highly structured, ‘based on five piano motifs that are repeated with constant variation and extrapolation across the album’s nine tracks. In structure, harmony, and timbre each piece attempts to capture the contradictory condition of a macro-level stasis versus a tumultuous interior, rigorous movement but no progression, and a threat of its own undoing’.

Indeed, the greatest threat to capitalism is always capitalism itself, and it’s the endless recycling and regurgitation of ideas that keeps it alive: each revival is a reimagining of the past that exploits the ache of nostalgia, which grows ever stronger the worse the present becomes.

And so it is that Elegyia mourns the passing of the past through its subtly-sequenced movements of droning ambience and slow-turning mellifluous aural abstractions. The nine-minute ‘Perishing Red Skies’ sets the tone and is formed from slow-turning waves and the most gradual of movements. The motifs are often buried beneath broad washes of sound, and twist and warp further out of shape as the album progresses – but they are, breaking through the waves, at times discernible, bobbing around in eddying flows. Sometimes, the feel is quite light-hearted – but then, at others, it feels vaguely threatening, while at others simply contemplative. How I miss those periods of quiet introspection, before work, family, and simply life took over.

Dark clouds build on the two-parts of ‘The Lost Seasons’, the second occupied by a stammering oscillation of slow disruption to a smooth, soft surface. It’s soothing, but is it real? Postmodernism is all about surface, about deception, about appearance, and so one must inevitably ask how much of Elegyia is art, and how much is artifice? take the sepiatone cover image. It’s an evocation of a bygone age – but it’s simply a shortcut, a signifier – rather than the signified.

And these are the questions to ponder as you cast away on the drift, and without expending too much energy on what lies beneath the surface.

Elegyia is a delicate and finely-balanced work, with expansive sweeps and fine detail coexisting, layering atop of one another, reforging its own reality in the moment.

AA

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Panurus Productions – 4th August 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Fading Tapes: a moniker that casts allusions to degradation, the wear and fade through the passage of time, the notion of impermanence and the significance of medium – because the medium isn’t only the message, it’s the determining factor in the lifespan of a record, whereby digital is supposedly forever, but analogue corrodes, deteriorates, and ultimately becomes unusable.

A Cartographer is one who draws or makes maps, and Fading Tapes’ latest work is, ins ways, both map and territory. The titles of the four tracks sketch out the features of the locations in the most minimal of forms – and these aren’t necessarily natural geographical landforms or biomes, but remains of human activity left marking the landscape.

The sequencing of the four compositions, each of which span around fifteen minutes apiece, very much create the sensation that the listener is being guided on a journey, and there is a clear linearity to Cartographer.

Opener ‘East Valley’ calls us to the ritual with an insistent tribal drumming and wailing pipe before… actually, before what the fuck? It’s not so much a building of layers of sound as it is a jet plane flying overhead, devastating the image of a hidden tribe enacting an ancient, esoteric ritual. And this is the dynamic of the piece – ancient collides with modern, and as immense gongs and cymbals crash, ringing out into an expansive desert, unchanged for centuries, hidden from the march of technology and evoking a deep-seated spirituality, the disruptions are deep incisions that disrupt without care for the existing habitat. But over time it’s the soft, supple droning ambience and wordless vocal tones that ring out into a spacious echo that come to dominate. For once, nature, and the old world, wins out as so-called progress falls by the wayside: the valley remains unconquered.

‘Bones’ is a more contemporary-sounding drone work, with conventional western percussion propelling a deep, dark surge of slow-burning desert rock that’s slowed to a the pace of drifting dunes, and the sound is dense. The snare rings out into a cavern of reverb – it’s almost dubby, but it’s accompanied by wailing feedback, that does on, and on, and endless mid-range drones. We learn little, if anything, of the bones themselves, or their origins, but there is a sense that there is little interest in the real detail of the past, and that a sketched narrative is all that there is an appetite for. Instead, to the present, and the future.

The cymbals grow in dominance on the tempestuous ‘Boats’, but again, echoes and shadows dominate, and this very much feels like a window on an historical event, the soundtrack to a battle or other catastrophe at sea where boats were lost beneath the waves. To all intents and purposes, this is a spacious post-rock piece, but it possesses a richness, a level of detail, and a degree of ambience, that is so much more.

The final track, ‘Red Dry Land’ is a hypnotic piece that drifts without real movement, a nagging motif backed by a thrum that simply thumps on unchanging for what feels like an eternity. There’s a scratchy guitar that’s reminiscent of Andy Moor, and mines a more avant-jazz seam, but retains that expansive post-rock vibe, too.

The map charts a route, and as it progresses, it leads the listener back to themselves. This all feels highly evocative, and conjures images in the mind’s eye – but every perception is different. Perhaps that difference ultimately does come down to the map, and one’s experience of the territory – for while the former is fixed, factual, the latter is not, and will always be coloured by individual realities, the eye of the explorer. You may know exactly where you are, and still be lost. With Cartographer, Fading Tapes point the way but provide no real answers. But perhaps that’s ok: the enjoyment is in the journey rather than the destination.

AA

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Chapter 22 – 24th June 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

On 31 December 2019, writing on Yur Mum’s explosive Ellipsis EP, I closed with the lines ‘Fuck it, for my last review of the year, and of the decade, I’ll put it out there: 2020 is going to be Yur Mum’s year. And if it isn’t, then I give up.’ There was no way of knowing that 2020 would be no-one’s year, if it could even be considered a year rather than an immense, bleak desert of time without form or meaning. If it seems as if in 2021 we’re now just starting to emerge from a long dormant spell, it’s perhaps worth realising that it’s already the end of June and we’re past the longest day.

Still, it’s been a while in the gestation, but Yur Mum having scored a deal with Chapter 22, finally get to unveil their second full-length album, Tropical Fuzz. Apart from ‘Sweatshop’, the lead single form the aforementioned Ellipsis EP, this is a completely new set of material, penned since they cut back from a trio to a duo in 2019, and it feels very much like an album, a cohesive work that’s been planned and structured, with the second half comprising noticeably shorter songs as it builds up and races to the finish.

‘Banana Republic’ comes belting out of the traps with a colossal lumbering riff, the gritty, grainy bass and thunderous drumming tight as you like. There’s such a density to the sound that it punches you right in the stomach, and the production captures that live feel magnificently.

‘Black Rainbow’, premiered at the start of the year, marks a change of tone and tempo, with its slower pace, and more theatrically gothic feel, it’s a dark, brooding beast of a song that showcases another facet of Anelise Kunz’s vocal range.

It’s on third track, ‘Crazy’ where they deliver on the pitch of ‘more cowbell, more fuzz’, as drummer Fabio Couto goes all Blue Oyster Cult and Kunz grinds out a doozer bassline while coming on like Courtney Love, with a drawling sneer and full-lunged roar, and they pack the belters in back-to-back, the driving alt-pop of ‘Dig Deep’ is a fast and furious two-and-a-half minute harmony-filled rush of adrenaline. They step up the volume and fuzz another few notches with ballsy grunger ‘Kiss and Tell’.

The pairing of the jarring, ribcage-rattling ‘Sweatshop’ and the raucous hard-rock attack of the title track makes for a killer finale.

Each song feels fully honed, distilled to its optimal strength, with no fat or faffing about – this is, of course, one benefit of being a two-piece: there’s not a lot to faff about with – breakdowns and extended solos simply don’t work with such a minimal format, but where Yur Mum really make it work for them is that they achieve a maximal sound. And that sound is a driving, punky blast of energy that feels great.

AA

Yur Mum Press Shot 2