Posts Tagged ‘Atmospheric’

17th August 2020 – Submarine Broadcasting Co

Christopher Nosnibor

According to the blurbage (I can’t claim to spend all that much time on research when my primary objective is to report a critical and sometimes emotional response to a release, and band and PR invest a lot of time in their explications, so why not?) ‘Hozro’, is a native American Dineh word that means living being conscious about the beauty, the magic and the mystery of the universe to which we belong.

I’ve been struggling to find much hozro myself in recent months, confined to a diminished space, rarely seeing or speaking to anyone outside my immediate household and inundated with reports of the shitshow that is western governments, so ,maybe I need this album right now.

Iyari describes it as post-rock, but threatens elements of folk and traditional music, avant garde and electronica, as performed by him and a while slew of guest musician, who all contribute

‘Eloher’, the first composition, is but an introduction, a path that leads the listener toward the body of sound that lies ahead, and it’s a wide-ranging and eclectic set, of which the title rack is representative. There’s a certain restraint in the echo-soaked lead guitar line that rings out over a low-key but insistent sting-damped strum.

Is it just me that instantly connects reverb and atmosphere? Is it the musical equivalent of an autosuggestive word association? Maybe, but Hozro brings all the atmosphere with its sparse arrangements.

There’s a magnificently moving vocal on ‘The Great Spirit’, and while it soars and quavers most movingly, there are undercurrents that intimate ancient folk traditions, and one suspects its this that taps into a deeper level of the psyche than the surface of the singing or the tune itself. ‘Islay’ may or may not be a musical homage to the Scottish island which is home to distillers of the finest single malts going, because Hozro is a pancultural melting-pot, and moreover, one which actually infuses the elements effortlessly. ‘Land of the Silver Shadows’ stands out, not by virtue of its difference, but the fact it encapsulates every magnificently understated aspect of the album within a softly-ripping six minutes.

Iyari clearly grasps the idea that less is more, and in bringing the volume and the detail and the level of demand on the listener down, Hozro brings more – much more, making it one to explore.

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Sige 071 – 31st July 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Nordra is the vehicle by which Monika Khot, of Zen Mother, and a touring member of Daughters delivers ‘apocalyptic dirges combining modern classical explorations of electronic ambience with hardware-fueled industrial barrages’.

The press release explains the transition and difference between Pylon III and its predecessor, Pylon II: ‘Nordra’s second outing, the commissioned score for PYLON II, was a hard-edged martial exercise—fitting for the dystopian nature of the series’ second installment. But for PYLON III, Pester was looking for the light at the end of the tunnel and requested that Khot instill her work with hope and calm in order to serve the utopian aims of the performance’.

Hope and calm aren’t the initial senses I draw from listening to the ten compositions that comprise Pylon III. In fact, I find myself adrift, and also buffeted from one emotional moodspace to another. Lugubrious, haunting, and often eerie, unsettling, Pylon III is no relaxation tape by which to practise meditational breathing.

Stuttering beats, murky and muffled and rapid like machinegun fire bather hard against dense, slow-turning, ethereal drones, juxtaposing tension and tranquillity. The seven-minute ‘Monologue on the Beach’ is very much representative of the album as whole: piano notes ring out, sparse and lonely against eddying, undulating notes, particularly as it’s followed immediately by the booming drones of ‘Un-Hopeful’, the sonorous parp of a cruise liner’s horn sounding into a thick fog.

‘Reconciliation’ marches hard, a short, stabbing loop thumping insistently while dark serrated drones loom unexpectedly and seemingly at random, like sharks emerging from the depths. ‘Transcendence 1’ hints at something approximating conventional dance tropes, with its regular, pulsating beat that booms into a ocean of reverb as the bass builds. ‘Transcendence 2’ could well be off another album altogether as Nordra goes ‘rock’ – a chugging guitar plugs away at a couple of chords while drum twitches away nervously, and strong seep in with additional tension. It has hints of Swans about it in its density and its mesmeric insistence, and it makes for a compelling and hypnotic conclusion to an intriguing album.

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For nearly twenty years, Gazpacho have reigned as the kings of atmospheric and affective art rock. That’s certainly no small feat, as the subgenre is full of wonderfully moody, ornate, and emotional artists; yet, none of them manage to achieve the same level of exquisite baroque resonance and hypnotically introspective weight as the Norwegian sextet. As a result, they never fail to provide awe-inspiring examinations of the human condition, and their latest observation, Fireworker, is no exception. It is undoubtedly among their greatest achievements, as well as one of the most profound pieces of music you’ll hear in 2020.

Listen to ‘Fireworker’ here:

 

Conceptually, the album follows the band’s tradition of blending grand philosophical quandaries, stimulating literary leanings, and haunting personal turmoil. In a way, it acts as the culmination of the themes and techniques that’ve decorated earlier collections, combining the fatalistic isolation of Night and Missa Atropos; the ill-fated narrative drama of Tick Tock and Soyuz; and the hefty theological/scientific contemplations of Demon and Molok. Beyond that, its central premise (that humanity has always been controlled by an infallible and omniscient creature determined to propagate at any cost) means that Fireworker comes across like the overarching umbrella under which all of its predecessors occur.

Keyboardist Thomas Andersen elucidates: “There’s an instinctual part of you that lives inside your mind, separate from your consciousness. I call it the ‘Fireworker’ or the ‘Lizard’ or the ‘Space Cowboy.’ It’s an eternal and unbroken lifeforce that’s survived every generation, with a new version in each of us. It’s evolved alongside our consciousness, and it can override us and control all of our actions.” In order to get us to do what it wants, he clarifies, the “Fireworker” will silence the parts of our mind that feel disgust or remorse so that we’re unable to stop it. The conscious part of our mind, Andersen notes, will actually “rationalize and legitimize” those thoughts and actions so that we never discover the beast behind-the-scenes. No matter how we feel about ourselves in terms of identity, accomplishments, and value, we’re all just vessels—or “Sapiens”—that the creature uses until it no longer needs us. “If you play along,” Andersen explains, “It’ll reward you like a puppy and let you feel fantastic; if you don’t, it’ll punish you severely.”

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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Toundra, the intrepid instrumental rock band from Spain that recently announced the release of Das Cabinet Des Dr.Caligari are proud to present the first video/single from the album, which will be available on February 28th 2020.

You can now enjoy the first song, Akt. 1, here:

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The video is taken from the first Act of the movie to which Toundra have composed a breath-taking original soundtrack. The film is a quintessential German silent horror film directed by Robert Wiene that turns exactly 100 years old in 2020, and that the band approached it as a dialogue with the listener with the intention of questioning ideas like manipulation, freedom and human nature itself.

There has also been a tour announced this week, a unique opportunity to watch the movie while the band performs the album entirely.

28.02.20, Madrid, Teatros del Canal, tickets soon

06.03.20, Zaragoza, Las Armas

07.03.20, Barcelona, Aribau Multicines, tickets, http://www.cafekino.es

15.03.20, Siegen, Vortex

16.03.20, Hamburg, Knust

17.03.20, Jena, Kassablanca

18.03.20, München, Backstage

20.03.20, Darmstadt, 806qm

21.03.20, Martigny, Caves Du manoir

22.03.20, Stuttgart, Club Zentral

Gizeh Records – 26th July 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

‘File under: Avant-Garde, Drone, Dark-Ambient’, says the press release. And yes, the nine pieces on Göldi fell, an album limited to 175 hand-printed copies on CD are indeed darkly ambient drone-fests, rich in atmosphere and the rumbles of distant thunder. I spend many long hours listening to music of this ilk, and while I do enjoy it, I sometimes struggle for new descriptors, and often find myself gradually drifting in a way that means I have no significant emotional response to detail. And yet this is most definitely not ‘background’ audio: it’s mood-influencing, and the creeping fear chords and unexpected interjections and the trembling sawing scrapes contrive to jangle the nerves and leave the listener on edge. Yes, I’m glancing over my shoulder, pausing my typing to listen to determine if the sound I just heard came from the speakers of an intruder on the stairs, someone in the back yard.

The strings drone and drag into scraping metallic contrails that melt into undifferentiated sonic melanges, and this is an album that creeps and crawls, spreading dark energy like dry ice around the ankles as it plunders the gut-twisting fear-chords and unsettles from beginning to end.

At times mellow, delicate, and at others uncomfortable, scraping sinuous and dissonant, this is a deep and contemplative work that elicits reflection from the listener. At this particular moment, I’m reflecting on time – specifically, time when I had time to stop, to think, to spend afternoons simply listening to music and / or reading a book. It feels like a long time ago. What happened?

For all the darkness, I can’t help but be amused by the press write that states ‘Several Wives lie in the darkened corner of a room. Paintings torn, forgotten against the wall. Dead rhythms seep through the floor. Everything is tired. Everything is jaded.’

It’s funny because of the band name. it works in that it conjures a most visual and vaguely surreal image that’s entirely incongruous with the music itself. Plus, as anyone who’s married will likely tell you, one wife is more than enough, and the prospect of several is even more terrifying than the shrieking, wailing cat, string crescendo that howls and mewls the challenging finale of ‘The Blinding of Delilah’. There’s also an element of if not outright humour, them flippancy about some of the titles: ‘that dream you had’, ‘that other dream you had’, and ‘Her on the phone’ are casual-sounding and contrast with the weighty, atmospheric drones that creep and crawl around among the looming shadows of their own casting.

Göldi fell is a difficult album, but for all of the right reasons. None of it feels easy or comfortable. And nor should we want it to. It’s healthy to be unsettled, unnerved from time to time, to be dragged out of that tiredness, that jadedness.

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Treading that line between elevated art and unnecessarily loftiness and pretension… It’s a challenge. It’s not always easy to differentiate parody and sincerity, not least of all because we exist in a world in which real-life news resembles Brasseye and The Day Today. Irony is dead, and belief is the enemy in a post-truth society.

So when a press release reads half like a sample from a William Burroughs cut-up whereby Lemegeton Party is described as ‘the narcotic and occluded industrial-ambient debut for the Junkie Flamingos,’ it’s difficult to rate its level of seriousness. And, according to the accompanying text, the album is inspired by Friedrich Hölderlin’s Hyperion, [and] is gilded with a neoclassical sheen that alludes to both the divine and the diabolical. Kundalini’s whispered invocations which have so creepily effective in addressing psychosexually abject conditions in She Spread Sorrow are immediately recognizable here. Yet, she shifts the content towards messages of power and strength, even if cast in the shadows of desolation and solitude’.

The chances are – no criticism – that this will go over the heads of many, and returns us to the question of the extent to which understanding the theory behind any work of art should have a bearing on one’s capacity to appreciate it. I don’t believe that it should even one iota. But then again, my own background draws me to note that in their naming, Junkie Flamingos allude to surrealist juxtapositions built on incongruity, something which defined Dada and indicates a strong Surrealist bent.

The detail is that Junkie Flamingos is ‘a project conceived in 2017 by Luca Sigurtà, Alice Kundalini, and Daniele Delogu’, and that ‘Each of these musicians has their distinctive sounds: Sigurtà with his vertiginous electronica, Kundalini best known as the author behind the death industrial project She Spread Sorrow, and Delogu in the bombastic folk of the Barbarian Pipe and. Their collective amalgamation shifts but does not denude each of these aesthetics in the construction of this oblique, sidereal album.’

It’s clear Junkie Flamingos have high artistic ambitions, and ‘Evening of Our Days’, the first of the albums five expansive tracks sounds pretty serious: even a line like ‘you are a small man’ sounds menacing, threatening, dangerous when whispered, serpentine, from the mouth of Alice Kundalini against a rising tide of electronic manging. The backdrop is sparse, but ugly. ‘Shape of Men’, the album’s eight-and-a-half minute centrepiece is dolorous, sparse, and funereal as a single bell chime rings out over a low, thudding bass beat.

‘Restless Youth’ rumbles, grinds and glitches amidst flickering beats, ominous rumbles, hushes, barely audible vocals, and a general radiance of discomfort and disquiet. The lower, slower, and quieter they take it, the more you feel your skin crawl and your nerves jangle. Sitting between ambient and sparse electronica, it’s darkly atmospheric not in the ambient sense, but in the most chilling, semi-human, psychotic sense. ‘The Language of Slaves’ continues on the same path, the semi-robotic, processed vocals creating a distance between event and emotion. There’s no obvious entry point, and this is music of detachment and cognitive dissonance. These are the album’s positives. It isn’t easy to get into, but why should it be? But where Lemegeton Party stands out is in its subtlety, something chronically underrated right now. With Lemegeton Party, Junkie Flamingos steel in by stealth… and then fuck with your psyche. And that’s why I love it.

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Junkie Flamingos – Lemegeton Party

This is it Forever – 12th March 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

Ok, I’m biased. Thomas Ragsdale’s work as one half of worriedaboutsatan and Ghosting Season has enthused me for over a decade now, and his solo work, too, has consistently mesmerised and enthralled me. This isn’t just journo gush: his work is rich and immersive and simply never disappoints. His latest offering, the three-track ‘Under Dwellers’ EP is no exception.

The BandCamp blurb describes it as ‘Three pieces of music paying tribute to the world beneath our own’, and goes on to describe how ‘Acid lines are fed through tape echo and back into a reel to reel machine… Randomised synth arps clatter around unpredictably inside a distortion unit… Crumbling piano melodies faintly cry out over the hiss and hum of modern circuits… Sounds made by a human, but with no control. Music for beneath the grit and surface of our modern world’.

Ragsdale translates all of these things into something more than pitch, more than process jargon, and presents a set of atmospheric, semi-ambient compositions, rich in tone and texture, and which utterly envelop the listener.

There is little point in detailing either the structure or sound of the individual pieces, or much else for that matter. Dark clouds drift and scrape, twist and turn and swell to fill the air. Yet There is depth, and above all a certain intangible grip and pull here. One listens. One reacts. One feels it, somehow, subliminally, a head-tingling, gut-pulling soundwork.

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Thomas Ragsdale - Under Dwellers

Kranky – 19th May 2017

James Wells

‘Atmospheric’, ‘haunting’, ‘hypnotic’… these are the first words which spring to mind while the resonant bass notes pulse long and slow beneath Irma Orm’s uniquely sedate voice, bathed in radiant reverb like a sonic halo. These words are all cliché, the everyday tools of the music writer’s trade, and in being cliché, their power has been eroded over time. But what words are there which truly convey, and do justice to, the depths of the music which comprises Nektyr?

The album’s seven tracks are expansive in every direction: textured, rich, slow in tempo, they gradually unfurl to reveal an enigmatic sonic vastness and deep emotional pull.

‘Morgon’ drifts, fugue-like, the dense cloud of sound utterly immersive and with Orm’s vocal, Jarboe’s most intoxicating work comes to mind by way of a touchstone. Woozy synth tones lurch and sway over a stuttering heartbeat of a drum in the fade of ‘Korridorer’.

This is deep material that reaches into the soul on an almost subliminal level: to dissect its power to the point at which it can be readily conveyed n words would be to diminish that power. This is music which communicates on another level, one which transcends language and as such, renders any critical appraisal in mere words not only challenging, but essentially obsolete. This is music you feel, intuitively, instinctively, and in your core. It’s a spiritual, if not a religious experience. Indescribably moving on a level far below the conscious, it really is quite an album.

 

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3rd February 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

As a band who really grabbed me by the throat with the release of their ‘Nowhere’ EP in 2015, the arrival of the latest offering from GHXST in my inbox was cause for excitement. And rightly so. To cut to the chase, Perish is a masterpiece.

The EP’s first track, ‘Southern Eye’, carries the refrain of ‘nowhere’ and as such, continues the theme of displacement, of outsiderdom, of not belonging which was core to the aforementioned EP. It’s a fair summary of what GHXST are about, musically, conceptually, and lyrically. Their songs deal with darker themes, and the cover art, which seems to evoke the spirit of Joy Division conveys an appropriate sense of bleakness, but also a certain, ineffable serenity and grace.

On the title track, a rushing guitar grind and reverberating samples are counterpointed by a haunting – and achingly beautiful – vocal that has hints of Alison Shaw of Cranes, only less squeaky, and Toni Halliday. The contrast is what defines the sound, and is ultimately what makes GHXST so special: it’s so rare for a band this heavy to convey so much emotional sensitivity. Theirs is not a sonic expression of nihilistic rage, but of something altogether more nuanced, possessing a heart-trembling beauty, rendered all the more distinct in their execution by the use of a drum machine. As such, they’re in an entirely different league from the few doomgaze contemporaries with female vocals one might name, like Esben and the Witch and Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard. And on this outing they expand their sound to incorporate elements of blues and country. How does that sit as a genre? But it’s not merely the fact they exist within their own niche: the tracks on Perish: the quality of the songs, and their spectacularly atmospheric execution is something special.

‘Stories We Tell’ achieves a heart-rending beauty while crushing your skull with punishing guitars and pounding, slow-tempo percussion: the guitars grate and grind, each power chord throbbing with a malevolent afterburn. ‘Summer Moon’ presents a surging pop dynamic, a dash of Jesus and May Chain against a Chapterhouse-y whirl of shoegaziness and ‘Waiting for the Night’ is a slow-surging dirge, riven with the crackling pops of Akai snare bursts which shouldn’t work but actually bring a bleak aggression to the droning. Closer ‘No Wild West’ introduces a droning desert blues element, the chugging guitars drifting over an expansive, barren wasteland as Shelley X drawls into a sea of reverb.

This is by no means inaccessible music: it’s music to lose yourself in. The songs themselves are comparatively short – none extend beyond the five-minute mark – but all bear all the hallmarks of true epics, with a sound which is beyond vast.

 

 

 

 

GHXST - Perish