Posts Tagged ‘Atmospheric’

Hypershape Records – 22nd October 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Chronology can be a real bitch sometimes. Linearity is incredibly overrated. How can it be that even now, the world can be so far behind William S. Burroughs’ concept that the conventional novel in its staid, conventional, linear form is passe, and ultimately fails to represent life as it’s lived? Iron Speaks is a release that may trouble some sequential obsessives, as it was in fact recorded before 2020’s Deathless Mind, the fifth album from Stephen Āh Burroughs, formerly known as Stephen R. Burroughs of heavy makers of noise Head of David. Since 2013, he’s pursued subterranean channels of darkness via the medium of fundamentally ambient music, but with an ancient and spiritual undercurrent.

As the press release explains, ‘Iron Speaks has become known as the ‘lost’ Tunnels of Āh album since it was abandoned as the fifth album release due to it sounding ‘unengaged’ to writer Stephen Āh Burroughs; until now. After reworking the original material, Iron Speaks emerges as a rediscovered official sixth album release.’

This is perhaps to overstate the album’s mythology – being shelved for a time is one thing, but to attain ‘lost’ status within three years another. Nevertheless, fans who’ve been keen about this album’s development will likely be happy with both its eventual emergence and its content, which is predominantly a dark whorl of bleak, churning ambience laced with a ghoulish shriek of feedback and general top-end tension. And tense it is: the six pieces bleed together to forge a continuous work that offers no respite and continually works at the psyche and the gut, twisting and gnawing at both. Time stalls, and you find yourself sucked into a subterranean space that’s dark and disorientating.

According to the accompanying blurb, ‘The material deals with the transitional stages of life and death, and it’s an ominous possessive piece of work. As ever though, the darkness of Tunnels of Āh’s output stems from and towards a place of infinite light.’ None of this is so readily apparent on listening, with any light feeling particularly distant as Burroughs leads the listener deeper and deeper through tunnels that rumble and surge with dense walls of noise – and sometimes, it hurts as the weight of it all bears down on the listener. It’s a rich, dense, elemental sound, born of earth and minerals.

We’re told that ‘The title, Iron Speaks, is a reference to the chapter in the Koran which states that iron emerges from the heavens as a gift to mankind. This is often graphically depicted as a blazing ball of molten fire approaching its earthly target, and that image perfectly encapsulates the sonic dynamism of this album. This album is a consuming experience as it slowly enters its intended orbit to its chosen point with inevitable crushing impact.’ The tile track does indeed pack that crushing impact, an oscillating tumult of treble atop layers of rhythmic squalling; in contrast, ‘Every Hour Wounds’ inflicts a different kind of pain as the lower-end notes bounce like oxygen bubbles in murky water in a deep, dark pool. Ominous drones and hums hover before an industrial slash of sheet metal strikes.

The album’s six pieces all sit around the seven- or eight-minute mark, and are densely-textured, and often quite oppressively heavy works. The first, ‘Wardens’ is a smog of bubbling murkiness, where the sound churns ad churns, like dense cloud and uncomfortable gut churning. Long strains of feedback scrape out over a barren wasteland, and ominous hums and drones hover over heavily-textured earth-shifting grind. It’s ultimately not really about ‘engagement’, but about tone texture, and atmosphere, and this is bleak, dense, and uncomfortable, and in a way that draws the listener in. Thunder rumbles, and the experience is quite discomforting. It’s more than that: it’s claustrophobic, suffocating. ‘Terminus Est’ clanks and chimes and booms out dolorous, depressing notes that offer no space to breathe or to reflect. It leaves you feeling compressed, and if not necessarily anxious, then far from relaxed or soothed, but instead on edge and unsettled – and this is why Iron Speaks is a strong work: it has the capacity to have a palpable effect on the listener.

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After a painfully long and undeliberate break, Toundra return from the isolation of their homes to present their new album Hex, which is set for release via InsideOutMusic on January 14th, 2022.

Toundra practically disappeared when the world stopped in March 2020. The outbreak of this global pandemic caught them loading their van to present their last reference in Europe so far: “Das Cabinet Des Dr. Caligari”. After presenting it in Madrid, Zaragoza and Barcelona, ​​on the same Monday that they returned to their daily jobs, the band decided to cancel their umpteenth European tour. Things looked bad. What happened next, we all know, and it is too hackneyed and serious a matter to be dealt with in a record press release.

Toundra returned to their homes. This time divided between the band’s native city of Madrid and the Cantabrian coast, where two of its members settled just before the squares and streets were empty. The distance and the difficult situation did not make them relax and sit by idly. If Toundra have shown one thing since their formation in 2007, it is the band’s hyperactivity and the need to keep moving forward, looking ahead and not at their shoelaces.

The band members bought the necessary equipment to be able to set up small and indecent studios in their homes and began to send ideas for new songs in a chaotic way at first. Without knowing very well where they were going or knowing very well what they might find. In the summer of 2020, the band began meeting in Madrid again to review the material that had been sent. The composition sessions were accompanied by constant talks about where to go with this eighth studio album (if we count “For those still living”, the album that was released by that side project called Exquirla).

The band states:

“Writing each new Toundra album means doing a job to find each other as a band. From our most innocent early days we have been self-righteous enough to take every step that we have taken as a band too seriously maybe. Every time we think about writing new albums we even suffer for it. This album means a job in which the four of us have rediscovered what we wanted to do without really knowing how we did it. The ideas were coming up in a chaotic way during the first months until little by little we saw how everything was being arranged in various notebooks and on the blackboard of our premises. Finally, the extreme cruelty that we can see around us (closer and closer) served as a catalyst to be able to give order to a lot of ideas, songs and, ultimately, to this new album. We are looking forward to finally presenting it to the fans now.

The composition work led them to finish the demos for their new album “HEX”, under the always faithful sight of Raúl Rodríguez, in May 2021. The next step was to trust Sati García again, who transferred them to Cal Pau studios again. (Vilafranca del Penedés, Barcelona) and Ultramarinos Costa Brava (Sant Feliu de Guixols, Girona) to record the seven cuts of this new album. Seven cuts that actually make up five songs. On July 30, 2021, the band obtained a new master’s degree and Mr. García could finally sleep peacefully. “HEX” will be released on January 14th, 2022 via InsideOutMusic. See the new album artwork here:

Today, “El Odio. Part I” is released as the first single from Toundra’s new album Hex. It is the first of three singles that will later form one long piece of music. For the video of “El odio. Parte I” the band collaborated with Asturian director Jorge Carbajales. Watch the video here:

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Box Records – 7th May 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Gavin Miller’s hardly been slacking of late: in fact, it turns out I’ve been struggling to keep pace with his output this last year or so. While for many, time seems to have stalled since the sequence of lockdowns began some fourteen months ago, Miller’s had his foot firmly on the accelerator, expanding the already extensive worriedaboutsatan catalogue with five new releases, including an archival excavation (appropriately titled The Vault) and an expanded reissue of the Europa EP, and a split release with Capac, all of which followed a brand-new LP, in the form of Time Lapse.

This latest effort, releases on Box Records, run by Matt Beatty of Pigs x7, arrives almost a year to the day after Time Lapse, and is in many respects of the period since its predecessor was recorded, a period which has been both eventful and uneventful at the same time.

The liner notes detail Miller’s objective in piecing together the album as follows: ‘Resisting the urge to simply turn in more longform experiments in expansive post-rock informed electronica, Providence seeks to capture several different elements of the ‘satan sound, whilst attempting to thread it together into one cohesive whole.’

There has been a certain sense of linearity to the majority of previous ‘satan releases, although that sense of trajectory has, for me, always been most defined in the live sets, and the challenge here is very much how does one provide a sense of flow, of linearity, or narrative, of continuity; to what is, in many ways, a drifting desert of time, punctuated by so very little?

Since the departure of Thomas Ragsdale, at which point worriedaboutsatan again became Gain solo, the beat and bass elements of the sound have much more subdued, and sonically, Providence is very much classic Miller: rich ambient tones with subtle undercurrents that allude to post-rock and glitchtronica, and on paper, it probably doesn’t sound all that remarkable – although perhaps what is remarkable is that worrriedaboutstan started carving this nice back in 2006, before it became commonplace, making was trailblazers the world has gradually caught up with.

‘Stück Für Stück’ shimmers, rippling notes cascading delicately down like droplets of spring rain while a subdued, almost subliminal beat and bassline pule in the background, and ‘Für Immer’ finds Miller return to German for the track’s title – and perhaps some clues as to the narrative lie in the titles of the tracks. ‘Für Immer’ shares no obvious connections to the 1982 DAF album of the same title, but perhaps hints at the sense of eternity that pervades Miller’s work, not least of all as reflected in the name of his label, This is it Forever. It may be creative reading, it may be the enactment of reception theory or even projection on my part, but some of the track’s resonance lies in the sense that the soft ambience, directionless, lacking overt form, encapsulates the drifting emptiness of this span of disconnection, of aimlessness, of there being no end in sight, and the weak, powerless, listless, feeling is engenders, a sense reinforced by ‘On Your Own’, and all of the connotations of isolation and loneliness it carries.

Waves washing onto the shore splash through soft chimes on the short interlude that is ‘Everything is Fine’ (which I can’t help as read by turns as sarcastic and self-affirmation, but neither of which suggest that things truly are fine), while ‘Stop Calling My Phone’ is its antithetical scenario, and it’s a jabbing, petulant synth that dominates this track All or nothing: the desolate silence, or the bombardment of contact are both equally difficult to manage, and there rarely seems to be a happy medium.

If the nine-minute trance-inducing haze of ‘Stórar Franskar’ articulates the expansive drift of time and that sea of emptiness, then closer ‘Just to Feel Something’ is perhaps the companion to ‘Everything is Fine’, in that the numbness manifests as façade. Because everything is so empty, and so numb, and so absent, it’s difficult to retain focus, a sense of space, a sense of perspective.

Providence is the perfect soundtrack to those protracted spells of ponderance, that discomfort and dissatisfaction, the introspective reflection and self-doubt. It stands as a magnificent blank canvas into which to project and reflect. It’s also another strong addition to the worriedaboutsatan catalogue.

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The press email landed with the leader: ‘UK based, anti-facist black metallers Underdark have announced details on their debut album  Our Bodies Burned Bright on Re-Entry which is set for release on 30th July via Surviving Sounds (UK), Through Love Records (EU) and Tridroid Records (US/CAN).’

In a  time where the outgoing US president identified antifa as ‘the enemy’, we here at Aural Aggro are proud to back and provide coverage to any act with an expressly anti-fascist agenda – although it does also help if they produce good noise, and Underdark most definitely do.

After forming in 2015, Nottingham based black metallers Underdark are finally ready to present their debut album to the world. Following their recent ‘Plainsong​/With Bruised & Bloodied Feet’ single release in 2020, ‘Our Bodies Burned Bright on Re-Entry’ is the sound of a new chapter of Underdark, set for release on 30th July via Surviving Sounds (UK), Through Love Records (EU) and Tridroid Records (US/CAN).

While still utilising a dreamlike and heavy mixture of black-metal, post-metal and shoegaze, Underdark’s debut album also packs a renewed punch alongside a ferocity and intensity matched only by the innovative and engaging song structures.

Recorded & mixed with Misha Herring at Holy Mountain Studio (40 Watt Sun, Inhuman Nature, Idles, Spiritualised, Puppy) & mastered by Adam Gonsalves at Telegraph Mastering (Emma Ruth Rundle, Southern Lord Records, Power Trip, Mizmor), the album captures five tracks of intense & emotional progressive compositions, not limited by genre to create a tidal wave of sound; that shift in emotions, drowning you between sections of crushing blast beats and ear splitting vocals to blissful, atmospheric soundscapes that engulf you within them.

On first single ‘Coyotes’ vocalist Abi comments,

“THE ALBUM IS READY. You thought we were dead. At times, we thought we might be too, but we’re here, we’re (mostly) alive, and this is  COYOTES. It’s one of the first songs I wrote in Underdark and it’s about the ongoing humanitarian crisis at the Mexico/US border. Hope you’re as stoked on it as we are.”

Listen to ‘Coyotes’ here:

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Lamour Records / Purlieu Recordings

Christopher Nosnibor

Spending most evenings immersing myself in an array of weird and wonderful and sometimes not so wonderful noise, this album came as a real surprise. The accompanying text does little to prepare the listener for such a gentle and exquisite collection of cinematic neoclassical compositions.

And yet the liner notes are precisely why Transformation is surprising, because all is not as it seems, explaining that ‘The album Transformation challenges the boundaries of human and machine, the physical and the artificial, the feasible and the impossible. The result is a thoughtful and true emotional storm where the piano forms the basis for an opposite pole between sound and playing technique. When the sound is real, it is played with inhuman technology. When played by hand, the sound moves outside the spectrum of the physical piano. What role does "lying" play for the listener?’ And what exactly are we listening to here?

It’s impossible to distinguish organs and organic sounds from synthesised or sampled approximations, and while the human / inhuman / orchestral /electronic sounds are impossible to distinguish – is that piano, performed by a musician with a real passion and a deep sense of drama, creating rippling waves of notes, or is it all so much programming? Listening to ‘Skeppsrå’, it sounds real. It feels real. I want it to be real. Can I therefore simply not believe that it’s real and accept it?

It’s not quite as straightforward as that. Once you’re aware of something, it’s impossible to erase that awareness. You want to feel as though you’re tapping into something real, otherwise it’s just muzak, film music made to fill a space and manipulate an emotional response to what may otherwise be a blandly-shot scene.

‘Tradition’ sounds like the product of synthesised sounds, while the brooding sonorous atmospherics of ‘Mekanik’ are simply other-worldly, while ‘Skogsrå’ is another magnificently supple slice of post-rock flavoured ambience that swirls and soars towards the stratosphere.

There’s no questioning that the elegiac solo piano piece, ‘Artikulation’ a beautifully poised piece, understated yet rich and immersive, and likewise ‘Klinga’ which follows. But are those ‘wrong’ notes simply artifice? Are they programmed in to create ‘imperfections’ in order to create a sense of humanity and therefore a greater ‘trust’ in the machine? Or is this an example of an openness about human error? I’m not convinced: why would any musician play to highlight their flaws? But this is the challenge and the dilemma: what and who do you trust?

Trust nothing and trust no-one: but do trust me when I say that Transformation is a fascinating and most listenable work.

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Anna von Hausswolff presents an immersive new video for "Dolore di Orsini." The track appears on the latest album All Thoughts Fly, out now on Southern Lord. 

The breathtaking new video for "Dolore di Orsini" was directed by Ludvig Holtenäs and Gustaf Holtenäs, with animation effects by Mathias Söderberg.

Anna von Hausswolff writes, "’Dolore di Orsini’ is a song about profound sadness and finding freedom in grief. It’s inspired by the idea that Pier Orsini, a wealthy patron of arts, created the garden Sacro Bosco as a way to cope with grief and loss after losing his wife, Giulia Farnese. I look at the park as a symbol for love where love is an incitement for chaos and harmony. The video depicts Mr. Orsini burying his wife, the passing of time in nature, and sculptures taking shape and being set up by the help of a spirit. A movement forwards whilst looking backwards."

Watch the video here:

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Photo credit: Gianluca Grasselli

Panurus Productions – 4th December 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Although August is the peak of the British summer, its end often seems to mark a sharp shift into Autumn; less a transition than a rapid cut. It’s a trick of the mind and a distortion of memory, of course, but summers always seemed longer and hotter in childhood; the realisation that what once felt like an infinite expanse of time which was free to fill or squander at will is, in fact, but a heartbeat in a life is a source of deep anguish. There is never enough time. No-one ever lay on their death-bed lamenting that they wished they’d spent more time watching repeats of Bargain Hunt or Homes Under the Hammer or whatever, no-one complains that they read to many books or spent too much time living their life, do they? The torment of a constant awareness of the passage of time is self-sabotaging, as the paralysis of panic grips hard. And pitched as ‘a screaming elegy for lost moments and isolation’, this is precisely what Centuries of August, which takes its title from a line from a poem by the solitary and reclusive Emily Dickinson, articulates.

If everything seems to be dominated by themes of isolation and derangement in 2020, then perhaps that’s because the magnitude of the events – or non-events – we’re living though exit on a scale that is truly all-consuming. Even the most introverted and reclusive are finding the isolation difficult to deal with: there’s a world of difference from choosing not to go out and see people, and not having the choice, especially as for many, music events provide a safe space where it’s possible to feel included and among people without the need for the kind of forced interaction that’s part and parcel of the workplace, and where it’s possible to experience a sense of community and collectivism without conforming to the less comfortable social conventions.

2020 has revealed new shades of darkness, and Centuries of August expresses anxiety, panic, rage, fear, isolation, in every one of those shades – as long as it’s black.

It’s a low, ominous synth drone that brings fear chords like creeping mist in a graveyard that marks the stealthy arrival of ‘Ripe for Solitude, Exhausted by Life’ – before all hues of murky black metal hell break loose. It’s a thunderous tempest of the darkest, densest noise, pounding hard and fast, before eventually dissipating once more into to quiet clouds of synth.

‘The Breezes Bought by Dejected Lutes’ is by no means the Elizabethan romantic piece the title suggests, but a savage blast of bleak and brutal mid-range sludge. There are drums, guitars, and vocals in the mix somewhere, but everything is a grimy blur and it’s impossible to identify anything distinctly.

Quavering dark ambience cast shadowy shades of gloom over the opening moments of ‘This Lamentable Autumn’; a picked lead guitar line adds a rich, brooding atmosphere, and then there’s everything else, coughed up from the very bowels of hell, a swirling sonic fog that goes beyond pea soup to the consistency of treacle, and wading through the barren soundscape for sic and a half minutes almost precisely recreates the experience of the last eight months in sound, before eight-minute closer ‘Under the Lowering Sky’ bulldozes in with cranium-crushing density.

That Centuries of August takes the lo-fi production values of the genre to its more extreme limits is integral to its appeal: the fact it’s so murky as to border on the frustrating is a source of power here, accentuating the oppressive density of the compositions to a level of intensity that hurts. But it’s the kind of pain that’s the perfect mirror, reflecting the conflicting nature of time, amplified by the anguish of living in the now.

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Wardruna today share the title track, and pinnacle moment of their upcoming album, Kvitravn (meaning White Raven). A music video produced by Ragnarok Films reveals a powerful narrative centred around this sacred, elusive creature, and namesake of the album.

Dramatic scenery unfolds from a bird’s eye perspective, and enchanting images of this rare animal are captured, as we follow Wardruna founder Einar Selvik and vocalist Lindy Fay-Hella through the wilderness. As the video unfolds, a question arises, is this sighting only good fortune, or is it destiny?

About the song "Kvitravn", Wardruna founder Einar Selvik states, “I am very excited to finally share this song with you. “Kvitravn” is a song that explores traditions of animal-guides and the symbolism and legends of sacred white animals found in Nordic- and other cultures all over the world. These highly regarded ghostly creatures, whether a raven, snake, bear, moose, reindeer, elephant or lion – are in animist traditions seen as prophetic, divine messengers, and guardians representing renewal, purity and a bridge between worlds.”

Einar Selvik continues, “Being fully aware of how rare it is to come across white ravens, we knew from the start that this would be an ambitious and challenging task to pull off. However, fate seemed to be on our side in this and the “impossible” piece of the puzzle fell into place as if gifted from the divine.“

Watch the spectacular video here:

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Emma Ruth Rundle (appearing courtesy of Sargent House) and Thou’s groundbreaking collaborative album, May Our Chambers Be Full sees its release October 30th via Sacred Bones. While their solo material seems on its face to be quite disparate, both prolific groups have spent their lauded careers lurking at the outer boundaries of heavy scenes, each having more in common with DIY punk and its spiritual successor, grunge.

The debut straddles a similar, very fine line both musically and thematically. While Emma’s standard fare is a blend of post-rock-infused folk music, and Thou is typically known for its downtuned, doomy sludge, the conjoining of the two artists has created a record more in the vein of the early ’90s Seattle sound and later ’90s episodes of Alternative Nation, while still retaining much of the artists’ core identities.

The visual art accompanying this work was created in collaboration with preeminent New Orleans photographer Craig Mulcahy. The faceless, genderless models are meant to emphasize this pervasive state of ambiguity and emotional vacillation, the images falling somewhere between modern high fashion and classical Renaissance.

Check the single here:

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Album Artwork | Photo By Craig Mulcahy

Santa Rosa-based alternative pop artist Darwin presents his new single ‘Unkind Lover’, which features David J (Love and Rockets, Bauhaus) on harmonica, Dustin Heald on guitar noise and ambience, and producer/collaborator Julian Shah-Tayler (a.k.a. The Singularity). 

Darwin (full name Darwin Meiners) makes alternative pop with a dark, electronic feel. While rooted in the 80s, his music straddles several genres simultaneously, assimilating new ideas, processes and instrumentation into his work.

A beautifully eerie tune, this was inspired by the writing of Dani Burlison (particularly ‘Shark Week’, which is included in her book of short stories ‘Some Places Worth Leaving’).  
‘I was asked to make the music for a spoken word video written by my friend, Dani Burlison.  She had recently released a book of short stories called ‘Some Places Worth Leaving’.  I love adding music to film and was especially moved given Dani’s talent.  The short story is called ‘Shark Week’ and features a character known only as the Unkind Lover.  When I saw the final video, it struck me that it would be exciting to develop the music into a song," says Darwin. 

After getting Dani’s permission, the first person I contacted was Julian Shah-Tayler and told him the plan.  It was an inspiring song to work on sonically, but also writing in character – which I’ve grown to love.  My friend Dustin Heald is a master at getting his guitar to make wonderful noise.  He was enlisted to do just that.  The final piece was the addition of David J (Bauhaus, Love & Rockets) on harmonica.  Having been in a band with him for many years (David J & The Gentleman Thieves), I had gotten used to the sound of that instrument and I knew he would be perfect to put that final touch on it."
This new offering follows Darwin’s latest single ‘Dance Alone’, a synthtastic explosion of energy attesting to the strength of human spirit with a fun self-isolation-inspired video directed by Linda Strawberry, featuring dance clips sent in by people sheltering in place. 

Watch the video here:

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Darwin - Unkind Lover (cover artwork)