Posts Tagged ‘Bass’

Cruel Nature Records – 24th June 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

Hot on the heels of second album Can’t Be Arsed, Cruel Nature have repackaged the eponymous debut from the Manchester makers of ‘kitchen sink punk for the 21st century with a whole side’s worth of remixes from both previous releases – including two pretty radical reworkings of snarling single cut ‘Brain Driver’.

First, to revisit the debut – it’s a primitive, noisy document of disaffection. Adam Stone’s drawling, sneering vocal style is vintage punk, less about holding a tune as conveying attitude, and from the off they set the tone with the seven-minute ‘Food Chain’. A thick, dirty bass grinds out just a couple of notes over a plodding drum while Stone vomits vitriol. If ever a track encapsulated the monotonous drudgery of existing in Boris Johnson’s Britain, this is it. Most of the songs churn away for around seven minutes, but if you’re wondering just how far a band can push low, slow, trudging bass repeating the same simple motif atop a plodding beat, then the answer lies in ‘Half Priced Chickens’ – and the answer is just shy of fourteen minutes. This quarter-hour slog is a gloomy, dark, monotonous trudge: the kick drum sounds like a wet lump of wood, and the sneering shoutiness is replaced by a blank monotone spoken word, and in combination, they create an oppressive sonic fug. The scenes depicted are mundane. Words drift in and out – mobility scooters, office, boyfriend, cough mixture, cheese pasty – and these objects assume bleak resonance as you ask yourself, ‘is this it? Is this life?’ and the answer is there, slumped, devoid of energy, eyelids half closed: yes, this is life. And this is as good as it gets. And it’s fucking endless. Until it ends, in a swampy morass of slow decayed distortion and noise.

The final track, ‘Bunker’ locks into an uptempo groove, but while the drums rattle and bounce away, the mood remains tense, equal parts The Fall and Uniform. As the track progresses, so the anguish builds, and the effect is cumulative Stone hollers roughly about world war as feedback wails and the bass and drums just batter on, and on. Same old, same old…

There’s nothing pretty about Pound Land – the band or the album – and this is a good thing: they deal with the gritty reality of living in shit times. Pound Land articulates the languorous torpor of demotivation, of waking daily to feel the aching anguish of being beaten by life, every minute of every day. Sonically, it’s a long, long way from early Swans, but the density and oppression are very much shared aspects.

By the end of the five tracks, you’re absolutely harrowed and drained.

The remixes are a nice addition, though. The Ruffians on the Train Remix of ‘Brain Driver’ ventures into swampy, almost avant-jazz / trip-hop territory, before kicking into gnarly space-rock swirl. The drums are crisp but overloading, while the bass is pure punishment. Where remixes for most other bands are either dancier or more ambient or whatever, this set – with three of the six from R.O.D., these are primarily exercises in accentuating the gnarliness of the originals, with everything simply sounding even heavier, more crushing.

Pound Land is the real soundtrack to the now. They may have to change their name to Tenner Land before the year’s out the way things are going, so you’d be wise to bag this while you can, and hunker down before things get really tough…

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MFZ Records – 24th June 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

Conceived and recorded between the end of 2021 and the beginning of 2022, this set reflects ‘the everyday troubles Davide [Nicosia, aka Acid Youth], deals with as an individual but also as part of a community’.

The title refers to his ‘desire to get out of the gloom and seek for a reassuring light’, and explores this theme by the vehicle of dance music exploiting the vintage Roland TB-303, produced only for a short time between 1981 and 84. It was supposed to sound like a bass guitar. It didn’t. Of course, it would later come to be appreciated, and Reverse Darkness is a concise encapsulation of the appeal of these vintage analogue machines.

Against shuffling drums – heavy echoed with some thudding bass beats – there are simmering synths that drift and wash, and a flock of fluttering tweets, all underpinned by a thick, bouncing bass groove, ‘Vibrato Brilliance’ is simultaneously sparse yet dense, and Nicosia really starts to warp things up on the dislocated retro-futurist title track.

Acid Youth very much captures not only the sound but also the feel of those early 80s dance cuts, the kind of meandering, gloopy synth works that appeared on soundtracks of movies where computers had green text on little monitors and neon lights were synonymous with the future. Being nine or ten in 1985, it felt exciting; with hindsight, it feels like the future we ended up with is a whole lot less of a rush, but hearing this inspires a kind of nostalgia, not for anything specific, but for a feeling, a sense of a near future, thanks to rapidly evolving technologies, that held near-infinite potential. Setting aside any gloom over the disappointment that those potentials now feel chronically unfulfilled as we stumble through every dystopia ever envisioned rolled into one colossal morass of shit on shit, Reverse Darkness tugs me back to the crackle of excitement that once coursed through culture.

He goes really deep on the uptempo ‘Modded Dub’, full-on bass squelch wobbling and rippling atop an insistent kick drum – but it’s toppy, and really packs a punch towards the chest rather than the gut, and in context creates a different kind of tension by way of the contrast with the thick, bassy bass, and it’s true – they don’t make ‘em like they used to.

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Ipecac Recordings – 29th April 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

Dälek emerged in the late 90s when hip-hop was transforming in all directions. But while the Wu-Tang Clan and their offshoot projects had a level of dynamism and radicalism about them, it’s no understatement that Dälek shattered through their achievements, and if there was any debate about that, then Precipice really should settle it. It’s felt like we’ve been teetering on the edge of a precipice for a long time, and that pre-millennium tension has, over time, proven justified as the entire world careers into some kind of end-of-days chaos. If this sounds like some hysterical end-of-days paranoia panic, you’re probably not paying attention. The pandemic was just a sideshow, a distraction from global tension, climate change… Trump, Brexit, the war in Ukraine and the threat of nuclear war stepped up to levels not seen since the 80s… Are we still at the edge of the precipice, or have we just tipped – or powered, full-throttle – over it? I’m too dazed and bewildered to know, but Dälek have provided a soundtrack that conveys the sense of confusion and dislocation brought on by uncertainty and tension.

‘Lest We Forget’ is a mid-shade, mid-tempo swell of ambience that swirls around densely before ‘Boycott’ hits hard and heavy. Christ, that booming bass! That eddying noise that drones and warps! The beats! Man, the fucking beats! They’re heavy alright, and there’s no let up on ‘Decimation (Dis Nation)’.

If so much mainstream contemporary hip-hop has been overtly commercial, with Precipice, Dälek remind that hip-hop’s origins were a voice of protest, of antagonism toward the mainstream, against the government, against oppression, against suppression. N.W.A were telling it like it is with ‘Fuck Tha Police’, and fuck shit, nothing has changed thirty-four years later.

Dälek are a whole lot more subtle and less up-front and in your face in their antagonism, but they’re no less aggrieved, and no less political. This means that their impact is just as powerful, albeit in different ways, and sonically, Dälek are devastating. There’s a physicality to their music, and where the lyrics aren’t necessarily so prominent, the weight of the beats, the density of the bass and the murk of the midrange combine to create a force like colliding with a wall of breeze blocks.

‘The Harbingers’ slows things down, and it’s dark, stark, the atmosphere desperate, desolate, while ‘Devotion (when I cry the wind disappears)’ feels almost uplifting as the synths soar and their subtle, sonorous sounds swoop upwards before the seven-minute ‘A Heretic’s Inheritance’ crashes in, hard, cyclical, heavy, an urgent throbbing riff marking the intro amidst a maelstrom of scratching feedback and extraneous noise. It throbs and thrums, and this isn’t hip-hop like you get on the radio, it’s not the shit—hop of the mainstream beloved by the masses. No, this is fucking brutal, and it kicks and punches hard, repeatedly, leaving you winded, breathless, gurgling., while MC dälek repeats the mantra ‘I hold myself to high standards / I don’t give a fuck if the gods are angry’. No doubt that applies to the gods of capital. Fuck them.

The title track is weightier still, and it’s positively skull-crushing, and it goes to show that it doesn’t have to be metal to be heavy, and the final track, ‘Incite’ is stark, tense, and gloomy, rounding off an album that packs a lot of weight and tension. It’s hard to place exactly how it feels as an experience, and how it sits, musically. Precipice is the sound of dislocation, of alienation. It’s real life.

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Mongkong Music – mkng-01

Digital release date: 4th June 2021 / Physical release date: 4th July 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Having been introduced to the world of microtonal experimentation around a decade ago, I’ve found a certain fascination in those close lenses on the most minute of details – the musical equivalent of peering through a microscope and seeing objects and life forms on a granular, even cellular level. I’ve also learned that anything that can be rendered or viewed from a micro level, it’s probably been done, or otherwise is within someone’s sites to do, or I simply haven’t found it yet. Take, for example, the ensemble Microtub – not a small bath, but a trio of microtonal tubas.

Mycrotom is not a microtonal tom drum, nor a microtonal extension of the work of the Vegetable Orchestra (a ten-piece collective based in Vienna who make music using instruments crafted from actual fresh vegetables). In fact, the moniker is somewhat misleading, for as the press release notes, ‘Tom Simonetti alias mycrotom has created rather large-format sound carpets in the Bertolt Brecht mechanical engineering city of Augsburg. He now presents the same: soundscapes on which you can go out of work and walk away.’

So, it’s actually about sound carpets. I have to confess that I chuckled a little on reading that, before reminding myself of my own habit of describing works as ‘sonic tapestries’ and going into detail about the ‘fabric’ of numerous compositions – and that was before I listened to the album.

The pieces are built on interesting juxtapositions – sparse motoric beats click metronomically through gloopy synth basslines that could have been lifted off early 80s electro cuts on Wax Trax! while xylophone-type chimes ring out lilting motifs. Extraneous sounds are looped to forge unusual rhythms, and there’s a muddy, murky aspect to the sound that makes it difficult to separate the different elements.

Many of the synth sounds are vintage in style, squelchy, thick, fuzzy-edged, and while the arrangements are sparse, the effect is far from minimalist: there’s quite some density to the sound, and what’s more, a lot of Ratoratiyo pursues quite danceable grooves, and with a hybrid of 90s minimalism and 80s robotix, it feels completely removed from anything human.

‘Logic by Machine’ contains human voices – sampled, distanced, detached – against a sparse, rhythmic loop. It’s anything but comforting, and leaves one feeling even further adrift, alienated. It’s a strange experience that twists at the cognitive filters in unexpected ways. After all, none of the elements are new or particularly unusual – but their assemblage is, and in ways that are difficult to place a finger on. And it’s that difficulty of placement that lies at the heart of the challenge for a listener. You ask yourself ‘how does this fit with my experience?’ and ‘where do I belong in all of this?’ There are no handholds or footholds in terms of emotional resonance, in terms of experience. And precisely what does this convey? The sounds may be warm, but the experience is somehow cold, with a sense of separation.

It’s from this place of distance, a position of removal, isolation, that we begin to explore the spaces of Ratoratiyo, and the exploratory adventure begins.

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11th of December 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Lifted from their Codependency D.S.T. EP, ‘The Causeway’ for no obvious or specific reason evokes the experience of reading Lee Rourke’s debut novel, Vulgar Things, which is set on Canvey Island in Essex. It may be in the Thames estuary, but it’s not connected to the mainland by a causeway – at least not since 1931. Although inspired by the street on which a pub in London frontman Ted Joyce stumbled upon and had been about to frequent before discovering it was boarded up due to COVID restrictions, ‘The Causeway’ in some way reminds us of the ways in which we’re all cut off and isolated, and how we’re all subject to – and dictated to – by the ebbs and flows not just of tides, or time, but of life, and of moods, ours and those of others.

The lyrics are a stream of consciousness unfolding, the tune is a colossal hybrid of indie, alt-rock, post-punk and funk. The fat, strolling bass is the focal point and bounces a groove that owes a debt to The Cure in their poppier moments (and coupled with the buoyant lead line in the bridge, if they weren’t listening to ‘Hot, Hot, Hot!!!’ around the time of writing, then it only goes to prove that influence is transmitted through the ether and spreads like a rhizome in the subconscious) before cutting hard left into a driving chorus that’s got indie anthem stamped all over it.

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DST part ii EP Artwork

Christopher Nosnibor

Heaven may not be a venue one would immediately associate with heavy, heavy noise, but tonight it’s packed with a broad demographic that only a show as genre-smashing as the line-up would be likely to draw.

Bong are only just setting up their kit five minutes before they’re due on stage, but despite the absence of a proper soundcheck, they sound every bit as mighty as they ought. The Newcastle trio take their time, grinding out power chords with endless sustain without mercy during a half-hour set that contains just a single track. Epic is indeed the word. For all the leaning toward the doomy, droney low end, the guitar packs a crackling treble hit, which balances the sound against the shuddering, throbbing bass and the megalithic drumming, each thunderous beat registering individually on the Richter scale, crashing heavy through the 20bpm dirge with stutters and pauses to maximise the impact of each stroke. Their thirty-minute set consists of just one song. And this is precisely the way it should be: the band use the allotted time to fully demonstrate the expansive nature of their sound and compositions. This is heavy, grinding two-chord dredging pushed to the max and is designed to simultaneously batter and hypnotise the audience, and they deliver it beautifully.

Bong

Bong

If the reality of the studio realisation of Concrete Desert, the collaborative project which saw The Bug’s dubby dancehall stylings drawn out into infinite regressions of reverb as they collided with the dark drone of Earth’s earlier works felt somewhat restrained, and at times bordered on the ambient, in a live setting, the dynamics prove to be altogether different. Perhaps The Bug’s input felt somewhat muted on the release, as Carson’s murky, chiming ambient drones dominated he sound. Sure, the stealthy, bulbous bass and clacking beats, paired with quavering guitar notes which occupy the album’s grooves are atmospheric, but it often feels somewhat cautious, even subdued. Live, however, it’s an entirely different proposition and it feels far more like an equal partnership.

On the surface, the pair exist – and perform – in entirely separate, personal spaces, despite sharing a stage. The Bug – aka Kevin Martin – and Dylan Carlson, representing Earth, stand apart, separated by a wall of equipment: Martin is surrounded by banks of electronic gadgetry and stands focused on his Apple laptop for the majority of the set, while Carlson stands, side-on to the audience, one eye on Martin as he cranks out deep, seething drones and sculpted feedback squalls of noise.

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The Bug vs Dylan Carlson

Volume matters, and can so often prove to be integral to the live music experience: and this is loud. Proper, seriously, loud. Martin begins by sending bibbling waves of electronica out in juxtaposition to Carlson’s screeds of guitar: before long, it’s a veritable sonic tsunami as thunderous bass and violent blasts of percussion crash against a wall of relentlessly dense multitonal noise bleeding in every direction from Carlson’s fretboard. The bass frequencies – and gut-churning volume – are something else. Confetti glued by static electricity or other means to the venue’s high ceiling after being blasted out during the venue’s famous club nights shower down on band and audience alike as the thunderous vibrations rattle every molecule of the building’s interior fabric as well as my nostrils, my trousers and every inch of my flesh.

Many of the compositions are unrecognisable in relation to their studio counterparts, so radically reworked and so much more up front are the dynamics. This is no stealthy, sedate recreation of the album but something way more attacking and pure in its physicality. This is one of those sets which builds in intensity – and seemingly in volume – as it progresses, and toward the end, the pair drop a colossal slow-burner with slow, deliberate drops of bowel-shuddering bass frequencies: a single note resonates through the floor and the solar plexus for what feels like minutes, and the effect is utterly immersive and all-encompassing. The security guy in front of me, blocking the stairs (Heaven has a very strange arrangement of stairs up to the stag and only limited security at front of house, which is welcome), is clutching his ears despite waring plugs, and while it’s an uplifting euphoric experience which plasters a huge grin on my on face, it’s not hard to fathom why this much bass, and this much guitar, at this kind of volume, would cause discomfort. Because actually, it hurts. And that’s the best thing about it, because this is how it’s meant to be.