Posts Tagged ‘Bandcamp Friday’

Dret Skivor – 7th May 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

The island of Poveglia in the Venetian lagoon, where plague victims were sent to quarantine – and die – is commonly known as ‘plague island’. But the ‘unprecedented’ pandemic that has circulated the globe in the last eighteen months or so has created a new ‘plague island’, where almost every element of dystopian fiction has become a reality.

There’s no question that this is a political album. The cover alone says it all: this is not some fictional place, but an album that’s explicitly inspired by a specific island that is – sadly, for many of us – very real. The UK, the tiny island with one of the highest death tolls in Europe from the COVID-19 pandemic is indeed a plague island – an island ridden with not only literal plague, but metaphorical plague, its seedy government the worst exponents of capitalist excess, and widely reputed as being more corrupt than the mafia, its racist, jingoistic bullshit-by-the-dozen prime minister with more children than he can account for, tossing money at his mistress while in a position of power, slinging multi-million pound contracts to associates to cash in on the pandemic, and misappropriating funds for a lavish refurb on his flat while unable to find the funds for more than a 1% pay rise for medics… A prime minister who would ‘fuck business’ but would still rather let ‘the bodies pile high’ than shut down and further damage his precious economy’. That’s a plague on a plague, a pestilence on an international scale, and also an absolute fucking disgrace.

It’s an island that also seems to have forgotten how small and isolated it is, both by geography and, now, politically: it’s forgotten it doesn’t have the empire it once did, and so, cut loose from the EU, isn’t an economic powerhouse on a global scale… just a tiny pathetic spec on the map, deludedly flexing its muscles and posturing while plunging further into debt by the hour. It’s a scabby scummy pit of self-importance and irrelevance, where the ruling elite trample the rest every second of the day purely out of self-interest. It’s a hellhole of division and decline that would rather cut off its face to spite its nose, all in the name of reclaiming its borders and blue fucking passports – and all of this is neatly encapsulated in the album’s opening blitzkrieg of noise overload, ‘Wading Through the Dead Bodies to Feel the Sovereignty’.

Because words alone cannot articulate the violent disgust at the country’s policies on immigration, welfare, child poverty, this barrage of cranium-crushing overload is the perfect expression of the rage and the fury – fizzing static and electronic sparks fly through a stammering buzz and headlong collisions of explosive distortion. It’s ten-and-three-quarter minutes of sonic annihilation that’s almost unbearable in its intensity and sheer abrasion. It’s weight and intensity feel like being trapped underneath a tank stuck on a mudbank. You’re clinging on as it tries to run you over the edge, where you can only hope to find a sleazy, lying scumbag lying dead in a ditch before you.

The churning earthworks continue unabated on second track, ‘Bring No Pestilence back’, which dissolves into a babbling, streaming gurgle that accelerates in pace and tapes to a treble as a thin, scrawling drone extends out over its final minutes, before fading to silence. It’s unpleasant and uncomfortable, and clearly intentionally so. For all that, it’s not as unpleasant or uncomfortable as living in post-Brexit Britain in a semi-lockdown state and knowing that the future offers no hope on the horizon.

IMG_9306

4th December 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Bandcamp Fridays have been providing a rare and unique lifeline for struggling artists, and while times are still ridiculously tight in what continue to be utterly bewildering times which have hit the music industry where it really hurts – namely grass-roots venues and the artist who depend on them – the opportunity for artists to actually make a proper revenue from sales or downloads and physical releases is a big deal.

And if one thing’s become apparent, its that artists are going all-out to create releases that offer something different for their fans, and the unexpected arrival of an EP of 90s grunge covers from U.S doom quartet Embr.

Recorded in August of this year – in an actual studio, no less – with Matt Washburn (Mastodon, Royal Thunder, Artimus Pyledriver) the EP finds the band bringing a full-blooded sludge tone and a doomy, old-school, Sabbath-esque twist to four songs by leading exponents of the grunge era – with each member of the band selecting a song for inclusion.

Confession time: I absolutely fucking loved Nirvana, and still do. Alive in Chains, I dug, but never really found any enthusiasm for Stone Temple Pilots or Soundgarden, preferring Mudhoney, and the greasy heft of Tad. Nevetheless, what’s clearly apparent from listening to these four cuts is the degree of sincere affection for the songs and the sound that’s on display here. Moreover, they’ve done a great job of selecting songs that suit their own sound, showcasing the strengths of the original songs while sounding like Embr. It’s also something of a revelation hearing songs originally sung by men delivered by a female vocalist, and again, that they’ve pitched them in Crystal Bigalow’s range is a major factor in their success.

If the half-tempo trudge of their take on ‘Heart Shaped Box’ (Crystal’s choice) takes some getting used to, its impact – as the immense power chords drive down hard and heavy – is strong. The ultra-low bass that rumbles at a crawl through the stripped-back second verse is worth the money alone, but ‘Junkhead’ is probably the heaviest track here – which is no real surprise, given that AIC were always at the most overtly metal end of the spectrum in the grunge canon.

Then again, despite the rather poppy middling rock chorus, the repetitive chord sequence of ‘Mailman’ is well suited to a sludgy trudge-along, and ultimately, Embr have done a good job, making Idolatry well worth a punt.

AA

Embr-Idolatry