Posts Tagged ‘Big Black’

Human Worth – 17th September 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Sometimes, a record hits you before it’s even got going. Perhaps it’s the way sound connects beyond the rational, striking a chord in the soul on a subconscious level that’s almost impossible to pinpoint, let alone articulate. We All Do Wrong is one such record.

From the first bar, the chord struck is a brittle clang that intimates something sharp-edged and to be mindful of. Meandering brass isn’t the most obvious thing to enter the mix next, but then for all of their hardcore / noise credentials, there’s nothing obvious about the material on this release from X’ed Out, featuring members of Silent Front and Working Men’s Club (the hardcore one, not the shit indie one). And then the guitars blast in and everything explodes. It’s only the first track, and already I’m dazed and dizzy, feeling as though I’d been beaten around the head with a crowbar outside a jazz club – because how else do you explain such a brutal battering while brass bursts all around?

Turns out this is just the gentle introduction to the full-throttle mania that ensues. ‘The 5 Headed Boy’ is a jolting, jarring mess, a blurring whirl of hardcore, math-rock and weird craziness, like Black Flag, Shellac, and Truman’s Water in a blender. I can’t remember if it was NME or MM (probably the latter) who described Truman’s Water’s deconstructed math-rock with their jolting, jerky, off-centre riffs as being ‘the real Pavement’, but it made sense at the time, as Pavement were hailed as inventing slackerist lo-fi with skewed riffs, while TW were way more slanted (if not necessarily enchanted) in their manic approach to similar materials. I digress, but I suppose this is informative to the context of what X’ed out sound like, with stop/start rhythms, changes in tempo and direction at the most unexpected of moment

Sometimes, this job is really tough. You’re exposed to new music quite literally all the time, your inbox bursting with more than you can ever even listen to or even aspire to listen to – in my case, twenty or more albums a day is a minimum average. Have you ever listened to twenty albums in a day? Let along listened to and written about them? I’d love to, of course, and knowing it’s simply not humanly possible, I’ve contemplated the possibility of having music injected directly into your brain, so you have it stored, heard and assessed, without the labour.

Of course it’s a ridiculous concept: you listen to music to feel the energy and emotion, to bask in the experience, not to simply ‘know’ it, and albums like this remind me why. You feel this with a blistering, blinding intensity.

Everything is louder and faster and more angular than everything else. When they play slower, it gets sludgier and gnarlier, as on the synapse-blasting ‘Fouling the Nest’ and ‘Self Healer’. On the former, it’s a bowel-quivering bass that dominates, while on the latter, from seemingly out of nowhere, there’s a long, slow, expansive instrumental section over which melodic vocals drift, and you momentarily forget where you are – namely in the middle of a sonic riot, with bottles, brick and Molotov cocktails being slung in all direction. What happened? Were you temporarily hypnotised? Possibly. I believe it’s called being ‘in the moment’, and this of course is one of the most wonderful things about music, in that it can transport you, can make you forget. A rolling piano chimes out and it’s grand, and almost soothing, and then the drums hammer harder.. and then it’s gone.

The epic ten-minute final track, ‘The Noble Rot’ is different again – expansive, emotive, it sounds very much Oceansize in styling, at least until the trumpet marks its arrival. With so much in the blender, it’s so, so hard to categorise or pigeonhole We All Do Wrong, although alongside the aforementioned comparisons, Terminal Cheesecake and Bilge Pump are probably worth mentioning: if these bands means anything to you, then you need X’ed Out in your life. If they don’t, then you still need X’ed Out in your life, as well as to expand your education.

What’s more, being released on Human Worth, a label where the clue is in the name, 10% of the proceeds from the release is being donated to charities, on this occasion Breast Cancer UK. It’s all good.

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30th August 2019 – Retratando Voces

Christopher Nosnibor

This split release, which pairs Leeds solo artist Black Ribbon with Nottingham duo Don’t Try, follows up on the former’s remix of Drahla’s single ‘Twelve Divisions of the Day’ and the latter’s 2018 single, ‘JWAFJ’, emerging on a German label. Mixed and mastered by Wayne Adams of Bear Bites Horse Studios, and featuring artwork by Hayden Menzies (METZ), this has got the lot behind it – and it delivers on all of its promise.

Listening to the dark, goth-tinged post-punk vibes that permeate both contributions, it makes sense: you get the impression that however much there’s been a sustained renaissance for all things goth-tinged and post-punk here in Britain (which, let’s face it, hasn’t been especially great of late), these are artists who will likely fare better on the mainland, especially in Germany.

Black Ribbon’s ‘Interception’ arrives in a squeal of feedback before clattering percussion and angular synth discord pave the way for a driving dark disco groove. It’s a magnificently mangled hybrid of DAF, Gary Numan, The Human League and early Foetus. Take away any one of the elements and it’s a different animal, but it’s the collision of all things at once that make it special. Done differently, it could be a straight-ahead electropop tune, albeit with an industrial production and early 80s vibe. But with incidentals exploding all over the place, while the vocals, heavily treated and low in the mix have a robotic tone and veer between blank monotone and rising desperation.

Transitioning through a series of passages with some expansive instrumental segments, it stretches out to build a masterfully epic listening experience. Fading out just shy of nine minutes, its end brings a disappointment that its not much, much longer.

The Big Black comparisons that have been hovering around Don’t Try are of merit in the context of ‘Melancholy Chapters’, the drum machine pounding relentlessly behind a gauze of guitars reminiscent very much of ‘Bad Houses’ from Big Black’s debut. Notably, this was Albini and Co’s attempt to sound like The Cure. And while it captured the claustrophobia of 17 Seconds, it did so with everything cranked up to eleven. Don’t Try bring the goth via Big Back loop full circle here with a pulverising six minutes of hard-hitting bleakness.

However, something about ‘Melancholy Chapters’ calls to mind other acts, notably to my ear The Screaming Blue Messiahs, particularly in the sneering vocal delivery. It’s kinda punk, kinda something more sophisticated. That doesn’t mean it’s not direct, hard-hitting, heavy: if anything, this is denser and packs more impact than their previous releases, which have focused on primitivism and treble.

It may only contain two songs, but this feels like a massive release, a landmark of sorts, and something deserving of a lathe-cut clear vinyl 12”. It’s challenging and likely divisive, with both acts taking something that could be accessible and rendering it with degrees of difficulty. On a personal level, this is much of the appeal: I crave art that makes demands, and admire the makers of the art that does so. But it’s more than that: art that challenges probes into the soul and the psyche, it alerts the senses and makes you feel. Against a backdrop of sameness that induces a numb torpor, we need that jolt, that kick, that buzz to remind us we’re alive. And this does that.

Hayden Menzies Artwork

Field Records – 17th April 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

Karhide is Tim Waterfield, whose biography notes that he’s been programming beats for as long as DJ Shadow, but where Josh Davis came from a background of hip hop culture and breakbeats, Tim’s electronic upbringing in the East Midlands was through the industrial-strength beats of Godflesh and Frontline Assembly.

Formerly of ‘Big Black-but-one-louder’ Nottingham duo Ann Arbor, he throws all his past experience onto a choppy, grindy, angular racket on this two-track single release.

It’s a squalling treble-orientated racket with infinite twists and turns, a gnarly hybrid of Shellac and Truman’s Water and Jacob’s Mouse and Oils Seed |Rate and Arsenal, driven by the piston-pumping relentless thump of drum machine rhythms in the vein of Big Black. It’s abrasive, harsh and sinewy. And yes, it’s awesome.

 

Karhide