Posts Tagged ‘Atmospheric’

28th April 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

While physical formats for music may not be especially popular these days, there really is no substitute for holding an article in in your hand. It’s not just about the artefact or the possession – although increasingly, I feel that actually ‘owning’ your music seems like a sound move as acts pull their music from popular platforms – particularly Spotify – and acts who no longer exist cease to maintain their websites and BandCamp profiles and their works simply disappears. Nothing is permanent, but when it comes to things which are virtual, their ephemerality is even more pronounced. This is a long way to coming around to saying that the CD for Abrasive Trees’ new single is magnificent as an item, and it’s very much a fitting way to present the musical contents, and with three tracks including a remix of ‘Moulding Heaven with Earth’ by Mark Beazley (Rothko), it’s a proper 12” / CD single release, the likes of which are sadly scarce these days.

I don’t just love it for the nostalgia: this feels like a proper, solid package in every way, and ‘Moulding Heaven with Earth’ is very much cut from the cloth of sparse, minimal shoegazey post-rock, which provides the backdrop to a stirring spoken word performance before spinning into a slow-burning extended instrumental work. It builds and it broods, the atmosphere growing denser and tender as the picked guitar lines unfurl and interweave across a slow, strolling bass. A reflection on life and death, earth and afterlife, it’s a compelling performance, and the words would stand alone either on a lyrics sheet or as a poem. From there, it’s a gradual, and subtle journey that culminates in a crescendo – that’s strong, yet restrained.

B-side / AA side ‘Kali Sends Flowers’ is moving: again, it’s understated, and yet so very different, spinning a blend of post punk – even hinting at the gothier end of the post-punk spectrum – and psychedelia that in places hints at Spear of Destiny in the way it’s sparse yet rousing. It’s one of those songs that simply isn’t long enough, and that demands for ‘repeat’ to be hit immediately to keep it going.

Mark Beazley’s remix of ‘Moulding Heaven with Earth’ accentuates the atmospherics, and while it retains the rhythm – and if anything it highlights the beef of the bass – and is generally quite respectful in its treatment, and somehow expands the vibe and introduces a more ambient feel, while at the same time shaving over a minute off the time of the original. It’s an interesting – and I mean that positively – reworking, and one that most definitely brings something fresh to the track, rounding off what’s as close to a perfect EP as you’ll hear all year.

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DARKHER are now premiering the bitter-sweet video single ‘Love’s Sudden Death’ taken from the beloved Northern English doom act’s sophomore album The Buried Storm, which has been chalked-up for release on April 15.

The black and white clip ‘Love’s Sudden Death’ was filmed on location at Long Dike Moor, which lies between Hebden Bridge and Haworth in West Yorkshire – and is also very close to Top Withens, the moorland that inspired the Brontë Sisters’ novels and poetry.

Watch the video here:

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Photo: Catherine Pogue

Metropolis Records – 4 February 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

For years, I’ve had the rage. There is, after all plenty in this world, this life, and no doubt beyond, to rage about and against. iVardensphere focus that rage through sound rather than verbally, through an album that articulates darkness and tension through the language of sound.

‘A Whimsical Requiem for the Fey’ is appropriately titled; being a breezy, neoclassical assimilation of light-as-air plucked strings and soft, accessible melody. As such, it does nothing to prepare the listener for the instant plunge into the darkest of depths brough with the growling churn of ‘The Maw’, which features Jesse Thom. But it’s on the title track that the album really hits its stride. Tribal drums dominate a gloomy soundscape, weighted with dense bass tones, but also the portent of soaring vocals. And while the jagged strings add to the tension, the drums simply build and build and batter your very being. This isn’t rage, it’s the unleashing of vengeance via the hammering of the soul.

The individual compositions are each dramatic and powerful in their own right, and the attention not only to the details of the arrangement, but the sequencing of the album stands out, and the ambition is clear without the explanation that this is ‘a sweeping, cinematic album, equally suited as the next evolutionary step of iVardensphere, and as the film score to a post-apocalyptic motion picture.’ It’s dark, stark, and atmospheric, and thunderous rhythms evoke ancient mysticism, and scenes on barren hilltops and sweeping moorlands; tribal rituals, burials, spiritual ceremonies of great import. And there are moments when those rhythms step up, pounding harder and more intensely, so as to be all-encompassing.

As the accompanying notes outline, ‘Traditional percussion from all corners of the world, Taiko, Surdo, djembe, timpani, and more are deftly intermixed with all manner of sourced percussion sounds. Hammers and anvils, slamming doors, even the sound of a dumpster being kicked are sampled and folded into the sonic melange.’ We’re in Neubauten / Test Dept territory here, but there’s a subtlety to so many of the compositions that go beyond these comparisons too: the graceful sweeps of ‘Indomitus’ stray from anything industrial towards progressive / post rock territories, and Seeming’s vocals are almost rock.

The electronic elements are remarkably restrained in the main, with only occasional incursions, such as the bending blasts of bass on ‘Varunastra’ (which features Brittany Bindrim’s vocals); elsewhere, ‘Draconian’ brings the drones, and a low, serrated throbbing. Then, it also brings glitchy danceable beats, which evolve into another crashing assault that batters away relentlessly.

Then there’s the straight-ahead thump ‘n’ grind of ‘Orcus’ and the mournful trudge of ‘The Age of Angels is Over’; these tracks conjure very different atmospheres, but in the way the album unfolds, they develop a sense of significance. If ‘Sisters of the Vipers Womb’, with Brien Hindman’s vocals, seems a little too cliché in its sinister stylings, it sits in the broader context of an expansive and immersive work that has a trajectory through ever-changing moods, and to powerful effect.

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3rd December 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

If there’s ever been an emerging theme across music of all genres in the last year and a half, it’s isolation. Yes, if a global pandemic has achieved one thing, it’s brought everyone together in their feelings of isolation.

And so it is that we learn that the tracks on Graceful Isolation ‘address the feelings of isolation and coming to terms with new norms that the past year has brought. The title is derived from the fact that over the course of the album, none of the collaborators were ever in the same room.

One could counteract that in creating an album featuring numerous collaborations (notably Kimberly Kornmeier of brooding orchestral electro goth act Bow Ever Down on vocals on three songs, but also a slew of remixers), Dave McAnally has been far from alone despite being forced to work in physical isolation, yielding an album that demonstrates that distance is no object and geography is a state of mind, even if it is no substitute for proximity.

‘Poison My Skin’ makes for an atmospheric opener, with stark, minimal synths and drum machine providing a cold backdrop. ‘You’re never gonna touch me again’, Kimberly croons in a detached, robotic monotone, with subtle hints of Siouxsie, while giving voice to the thoughts that have echoed around my head that there are likely many people I have seen, heard, and been in the presence of for the last time in my life. I don’t miss the office, I don’t miss the people I used to work alongside in that artificial, uncomfortable, unnatural space, and yet… well, none of us expected that way of life to be curtailed, and certainly not in the way it was, an instant switch-off. March 2020, on being told to go home to work, I never anticipated being away more than a few weeks. And here we are… people have moved on; people have left; people are no longer with us. It’s been a long and painful couple of years.

‘All the Pieces’ and in particular ‘Impossible Dreams’ are stripped-back and sparse in their arrangements – not quite demos, but certainly skeletal, with stuttering drum machines providing the brittle spine to the songs. The lack of flesh on the bones is integral to the appeal here.

‘Drowning in the Past’ and ‘Illusions’ are tense, queasy in their taut atmosphere. McAnally resumes vocal duties, and said vocals are pegged low in the mix, compressed, accentuating the dislocation and distance. The former pegs a particularly expansive guitar solo to some nagging synths and comes on like a proggy James Ray, and it’s some good shit if you’re on the market for dark, gothy electropop.

My only niggle – surprisingly or perhaps not so much – would be that the thirteen tracks on the album consist of only five individual songs, and with three mixes of ‘All The Pieces’ slap bang in the middle, in addition to the original version, plus three versions of ‘Drowning in the Past’ it’s does get a little bit repetitive, and it may have worked better as an EP and a remix EP rather than a full-length album in its own right. Put another way, I’d play the grooves off the EP, but would probably only spin the remixes every now and again – not because they’re poor remixes, but because the original cuts hang together so well, it feels like a fully-realised document that requires no adornment.

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By Norse – 26th November 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Hildring is the second album by Wardruna vocalist Lindy-Fay Hella with musicians Dei Farne. It’s been a long time in the making, with ‘Taag’ dropping as a single back in the summer of 2020. But what is time when the world is off its keel and the world is spinning at a different pace, one so rapid we’ve lost touch with our innermost selves? Lindy-Fay Hella and Dei Farne connect with a past world, a time before technology: not necessarily a more primitive time, but a time in which there was a closer connection to earth and nature, and also to the inner self, the core spirit.

‘Hildring’ is the Norwegian word for mirage, and it’s fitting, for despite the solid, tribal percussion that dominates the sound, paired with solid, chunky basslines, the remaining musical elements are fleeting, flitting, mellifluous, transient, impossible to grasp a firm hold of.

That isn’t to say the album is all airy atmosphere and no substance: quite the opposite, in fact, there’s a sturdiness and density to the richly layered compositions, and it’s a very fine balance of the seemingly separate elements, namely the solid, and the ethereal and airy. The drumming is immense, ribcage-rattling, rousing. There is a wonderfully rich, earthy quality to Hildring. In keeping with Wardruna’s quest to explore Norse cultural and esoteric traditions by delving into ancient history and mythology, so in this collaborative project Lindy-Fay Hella continues that focus. The sound is modern, but the album is deeply evocative as echoes of the ancient resonate forward through every note, and you feel the aura of generations past around your being as you listen. It resonates in ways beyond expression, beyond lived experience. It’s deep, and it’s powerful, and strikes a resonant chord from the off with the percussion-led title track, where soaring vocals and a driving bass melt together amidst spacious waves of sound, and it sets the bar and the form.

In something of a shift from the overarching style, ‘Insect’ feels rather more overtly electronic, with skittering glow-worm flickers flitting hither and thither, but it’s still packing a rare emotional intensity.

‘Compositionally, ‘Briising’ is minimal; drums, bass, sweeping, droning synth, and incidental cymbals accompany a balanced, inwardly-focused vocal performance. There’s a menacing, growling vocal that is again otherworldly, and if not scary, then unsettling. ‘I return to fire’, he repeats in a dark, gravelled monotone.

‘Taag’ goes big on the expansive sound, and it’s sweeping, immense, immersive. It’s bordering on the grandiosity of post-rock, and propelled by urgent drumming. Elsewhere, the sparse, looping synth of the appropriately-titled ‘Otherworld’ is relentless and resonant.

Throughout, Lindy-Fay’s vocals are outstanding, and the album showcases her remarkable vocal dexterity. Often light and airy and floating and soaring above all layers of human perception, Hildring is magical, mystical, beautiful, majestic, and powerful. There, I managed to not to use ‘epic’!

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Italian shoegaze and post-rock project led by Gianluca Divirgilio, Arctic Plateau have just revealed a music video for a brand new track titled ‘Saturn Girl’, which is taken from their third album Songs of Shame, due out on December 3rd via Shunu Records.

Watch the video here:

Emerging from an eight-year hiatus, songwriter Gianluca Divirgilio brings his darkest and most introspective thoughts to light with Arctic Plateau’s Songs of Shame. Recorded by Fabio Fraschini at PlayRec Studio,mixed and produced by Gianluca Divirgilio at Arctic Plateau Studio, the follow-up to 2012’s second effort, "The Enemy Inside", is an album of intimate and powerful performances that serve as the first steps toward a healing that has been decades in the making. Pre-orders are now available at this location.

Formed by Gianluca Divirgilio in 2006, Arctic Plateau is a post-rock and shoegaze project from Rome, Italy. Having signed to Prophecy Productions in 2008, Divirgilio recorded his first studio album On a Sad Sunny Day in 2009, followed by a split-release with Les Discrets in 2011. 2012 saw the release of his second full-length, The Enemy Inside, which allowed him to open for Anathema on their Italian tour.

The newest record called Songs of Shame will be released in late 2021 by Shunu Records, and distributed by Season of Mist.

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Tanto. so much. too much.

Lucrecia Dalt and I have shared much music with one another, and over the course of the many years of knowing each other and sharing stages, we decided to collaborate on the track ‘Tanto’ for Qalaq. We discussed a few ideas and wanted to keep it minimal, but maintain the form of a ‘duet’. We exchanged some music and she came up with a beautiful tape loop for the backbone of the track, through which we were able to find our vocal identities. It was a haunting, eerie, out-of-time tape loop, which she proposed after I had sent her the (Arabic) lyrics and a translation of them—and most importantly, their intention. The song is meant to evoke the feeling of ‘envy’ familiar to many people in developing nations.

Legs in an Eastern sewage, eyes in a Western fictitious paradise.

Erin Weisgerber and I decided to make a small film for this song. I had wanted to work with the incredible Stacey Desilier as a choreographer and dancer. We exchanged some ideas and I sent everyone some film references, to which everyone echoed back others, and from there we settled on a setting and imagery and actions and shot this film in the forests north of Tiohtia:ke / Montréal.

–  Radwan Ghazi Moumneh –

Watch the video here:

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Qalaq album cover
Photo of the 2019 Beirut October Revolution by Myriam Boulous

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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