Posts Tagged ‘Album Reviw’

Gizeh Records – GZH99 26th June 2020 (Digital) / 25th September 2020 (LP/CD)

Christopher Nosnibor

Wren’s third album – or ‘third chapter in Wren’s seasonal lore exploration’ as the press release puts it – is their first on Gizeh, and promises ‘six melancholy-shrouded sonic ruminations [which] swell between intimate performances devoid of adornment, and evolving soundscapes of auditory ruin’. And pitched as being of interest to fans of Godflesh, ISIS, Kowloon Walled City, Neurosis, it does the job of bringing slow-burning slow-trudging metal with an emotionally-articulate aspect and certain musical nuance.

The first megalithic sonic slab to assail the listener is the nine-minute ‘Chromed’, an epic battery of guitar and anguished vocal, and it piledrives in with a repetitive chord sequence, there are heavy hints of Amenra, and it’s the grainy, earthy quality that’s most reminiscent of Neurosis. There’s a lot of space here between the crushingly weighty power chords that drive, hard, low, and slow, less like a battering ram and more like a tank driving against a wall: slow, deliberate, and completely devastating.

There is detail, there is texture, and there is space within the broad parameters of this ambitious work, giving moments of respite and pauses for reflection between the raging infernos of fury that flare upwards toward the skies from the troughs of gloom. And yes, Groundswells is gloomy, dark, lugubrious, the soundtrack to motional trauma and swings from anguished introspection to annihilative rage.

If the album’s entirety could be encapsulated on a single track, it would be the dynamically-flexible ‘Subterranean Messiah’, which stretches out beyond ten minutes as it works it was way though a series of peaks and troughs, venturing into a range or mood-spaces and sonic terrains to forge a compelling sonic journey that’s utterly immersive. Jo Quail adds layers of subtlety and not to mention sonic depth with her cello work on the track also.

The final song, ‘The Throes’ is a grinding dirge, Godflesh played at the pace of Swans’ Cop. But amidst the torture, punishment, and the anguish – those excoriating vocals and that shrieking lead guitar that battles against the dense, slow chug and grind coalesce to form a perfect prism of pain, the psychological expressed through the physical.

If the band’s name suggests something soft, delicate, melodic, then Groundswells tears those expectations to shreds in the most obliterative way. It’s simultaneously harrowing and beautiful, and an all-consuming experience.

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Hallow Ground – HG2005 – 5th June 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

For this release, it’s worth laying out the context in detail, as provided in he press release, which explains that the album ‘was conceived as the soundtrack for the eponymous installation piece by the French artist Fanny Béguély.’

‘First presented as part of the group exhibition »Panorama 21 – ›Les Revenants‹« at Tourcoing’s Le Fresnoy Studio National des Arts Contemporains in December 2019, Béguély’s chemically painted photographs focused on humankind’s propensity for self-examination and its attempts to probe the mysteries of the past, present and future. Oberland’s heavily processed electric hurdy-gurdy, the »boîte à bourdons,« provides the foundation upon which the Borghesia member Tomažin unfolds her gripping vocal magic(k). Their dense mesh of soundscapes and singing mediate between the mystic and the modern, the natural and the all-too-unreal to further examine our persistent desire to decipher the signs we find in nature. As the first collaboration between these prolific experimental artists, ARBA, DÂK ARBA is as evocative and thought-provoking as the art that has inspired it.’

The hurdy gurdy is by no means a common or popular instrument. Not that you’d be likely to be able to discern any specific instruments on the five sparse, ominously atmospheric pieces presented here.

From a sparse, quivering tone surrounded by emptiness, ‘Grotta’ builds in density over the course of fourteen and a half minutes into dense bugle of sound, a deep, resonant thrum over which mournful sounds – voice-like but not voices – moan and groan as they drape elongates notes of sadness over an increasingly uncomfortable backdrop.

This is not an album so settle down comfortably with, and it’s not a comfortable kind of ambience: ‘Fumes’ brings a suffocating tension, heightened by the unintelligible vocals that speak – wordlessly – of an inner torment as they reverberate in an endless monotone, through which rumbles of thunder rupture. Ululations undulate evoking strange, distant lands and mystical esotericism. It culminates in a long, isolated drone, almost lost beneath a cacophony of shrieking, wailing, and crying. It’s difficult to hear: I feel my chest tighten: it’s the sound of pain of torture.

‘Hieromancy’ (brief research tells me this is a form of divination involving sacrificial remains or sacred objects) only heightens the anguish amidst more shrieking and wordless despair. It fades down to a defeated murmur and a hovering hum which drift into the more optimistic dawn of ‘Hereafter’, which offers a glimmer of light and hope. It’s late-coming, but welcome.

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Superstar Destroyer – 16th March 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

It’s pleasing to see that Bearfoot Beware are still here after eight years and a bunch of EPs to release a third album. They’re one of those bands who are destined to remain on the fringes of cultdom, who will never be huge, but who produce art, and do it for the love. Now more than ever, in a climate where the industry is all about money and is populated by careerists and independent bands and venues are simply unable to sustain their existence due to the world needs bands like this. Bands who are driven by passion and a desire to make the music they want, without keeping an eye on trends or pandering to markets. They’ve always done their own thing, and ‘Sea Magnolia’ is no sell-out and offers no concessions. To anything. They’re as DIY, and uncompromisingly all-over as ever, and, best of all, they’re showing no sign of their frenetic energy dissipating or being otherwise subdued or contained in order to mould their style to accommodate commercial pressures.

The title connotes infinite blandness, an absence of character. This certainly isn’t the case where BB’s lively sonic firecrackers are concerned.

The album kicks off in shouty fashion with the angular, jolting ‘Point Scorer’, which manages to swerve in some noodly mathy moments between the jarring chords. The tracks are packed in tight, and hard on its heels slams in the riffy, grungy, ‘Without a Shot Fired’. It’s got a driving urgency and has a hard(core) edge.

If ‘Knot in the Rope’ calls to mind Shellac in terms of its instrumentation and the choppy guitars and chunky bass, it’s certainly no bad thing. It’s a big, dense, shouty sonic ruckus. And then it goes a bit Pavement just over halfway through. As it happens, ‘shouty sonic ruckus’ pretty much covers the album as a whole – and most of their back catalogue, got that matter. But Sea Magnolia feels more organised – however haphazard, chaotic and discordant it is. Because it has some nifty riffs, and the rhythm section is strong and sprightly as it leaps and lurches with precision timing from one segment to the next. ‘No Wisdom’ is particularly twisty, turny, amped up, choppy, jarring. And with the majority of the album’s nine uptempo tracks clocking in around the three-and-a-bit minute mark, it’s succinct and a lot more focused than it probably first appears.

None of the songs on here is straightforward: you won’t find anthemic choruses done to death over predictable structures, and lyrically it’s as just as non-linear in formulation. Every couple of bars you find yourself wondering what’s going to happen next, and whatever you’re probably expecting, it won’t be that. This, of course, is precisely the album’s strength. Predictable it isn’t and there’s never a dull moment. And yet for all that, they still throw in some decent hooks amidst the chaos. It’s a massive achievement – and a great album, if you can hack it.

Bearfoot Beware – Sea Magnolia

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Bearfoot Beware

Bearsuit Records – 24th March 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

Talk about a car crash. This split release between Swamp Sounds / Uncle Pops & The Dumbloods isn’t so much a hybridised sound clash as a head-on train wreck. Bearsuit Records can be relied upon for giving a platform for the most eccentric crossover works going, and this meeting of Japanese electronic/experimental musician, Yuuya Kuno, aka Swamp Sounds, and Scottish musician/artist, Douglas Wallace, aka Uncle Pops & The Dumbloods certainly fits the criteria.

You might broadly call it an experimental avant-disco / elecro album, but then you might equally call it pretty much anything you like, because it’s a brain-bending whirlpool of stylistic elements, thrown together with a wild and reckless abandon, with no regard for the effect it may have on the listener’s psyche.

And so it is that shrill analogue tweeking and frenetic, messy electro beats crash into a wall of screeding, mangled noise that pulses and throbs. The first half of the album belongs to Swamp Sounds, and the opener, ‘Marionette’, piles more ideas and juxtaposing elements into a dizzying three and a half minutes than seems even halfway sane.

When Uncle Pops takes over for the second half and things down to a more sedate groove, the overloading static abates, but as on ‘Harry Smith’s Paper Planes’, there’s still weird, woozy note bending in abundance, along with interruptions of extraneous noise and unexpected incidentals, tempo changes and myriad pan-cultural influences in the mix.

The split works well, as it means it’s not all crazy, deranged noise and mental overload: while switching between shuffling, low-key passages and cinematic sonic bursts, ‘Portrait in an Egg Cup’ brings both atmosphere and impressively expansive aural vistas, and by placing Swamp Soinds’ more manic stuff on what would effectively stands as side one , the album gradually tapers into more ambient territory over the course of the later tracks.

Exploring deep into the seam of the strange and excavating new layers of the uncanny, it’s all spectacularly oddball and wilfully weird, but without being smug or irritatingly zany in execution.

 

 

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