Posts Tagged ‘bleak’

Modern Technology have unveiled a video for the second single to be released from their upcoming debut long player, Service provider. Featuring visuals every bit as stark and impactful as the bleak ribcage-rattling bass-driven racket of the song, ‘Blackwall Approach’, it’s a belter. Watch it here:

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Human Worth – 25th August 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Modern Technology crashed the scene hard with their eponymous debut EP in January of 2019. A devastating detonation of thunderous post-punk nihilism that dismantled consumer culture with half a dozen hard-hitting sonic blasts, it was focused and perfectly formed. It also very much captured the zeitgeist, while plunging sonic depths appropriate to the bleakness of mass consumerism and a culture that favours conformity and the erosion of individuality.

The duo – bassist / vocalist Chris Clarke and drummer Owen Gildersleeve gigged hard for a full year off the back of the EP, proving themselves to be a truly formidable live act: with a clear grasp of dynamics, intensity, and the importance of volume, they not only won a proper grass-roots fanbase, but also used their art for social good, donating proceeds from their Human Worth events and the profits from said EP to a selection of charities, notably Mind, Shelter, and The Trussell Trust.

Service Provider finds the duo even more aflame with fury and frustration at contemporary society, and although they seemed pretty well-honed on their first outing, they’ve taken things up another level or three here. The formula – such as it is – is unchanged, with the compositions centred around repetitive, cyclical grooves, pulverizing percussion and anguished vocals swamped in reverb to forge dense capsules of nihilism. The artwork, similarly, consolidates their identity, and the stark monochrome design with its dissolving text is a perfect summary of the stark images of social decay the band depict in their songs. But now, they’ve triple-distilled their ire, and the mammoth production only enhances the effect.

The first of the eight songs, ‘Therapy’ starts sparse, just Clarke’s brooding baritone voice and a primitive thudding drum beat. Those opening bars contain pure anguish, his voice cracked and distorted. Then, in a sharp squeal of feedback, the bass tears in like a whole troop of tanks crashing in, their caterpillar treads tearing at the earth, before locking into a single grinding note that booms out, each simultaneous strike of drum and bass like an explosion. Part Unsane, part Swans, it’s a heavy-hitter, and sets the tone and weight from the outset.

The bass buzzes and rumbles, the drums are understated, thumping away an insistent slow build, and it’s mostly just a scream of feedback like a jet engine that accompanies Chris’ vocal, an edge of distortion on the epic reverb, while he hollers, half-buried in the mix on ‘Blackwall Approach’. According to Wikipedia, ‘The northbound Blackwall Tunnel is a traffic bottleneck with tailbacks. A TfL study in 2009 revealed that the 1.1-mile (1.7 km) approach to the northbound tunnel took around 19 minutes in rush hour traffic, or a delay of approximately 11 minutes per kilometre.’ As such, it makes sense, the band casting a bleak eye over miles of excess traffic and literally tonnes of CO2 emissions. Because this is how we will die, choking the planet and ourselves in our question for exponential growth. And if you think ‘The Great Pause’ will change anything, then while I applaud your optimism, you are completely deluded: lockdown isn’t even over and there are mile-long queues of traffic to access beaches and beauty spots.

‘All is Forgiven’ is an epic grunger, coming on like an outtake demo for Nirvana’s Bleach played at half speed, with Owen’s powerhouse drumming driving thunderously. It’s raw and dingy and hits with serious velocity. The riff on ‘Gate Crasher’ is cyclical, repetitive, gut-churning, ribcage rattling, an intensely physical experience, which captures the force of the band’s live performances perfectly.

Describing a riff as ‘crushing’ may be a cliché, but fuck it: ‘Twitcher’ is a monolithic doom-weight crusher of a beast. A low-slow stealth verse yields to a thick distortion-ripping chorus that is absolutely punishing.

‘Terra Firma’, the album’s shortest song at a mere two-and-a-half-minutes, finds the band explore their more experimental side in a bleepy intro that gives way to a devastating bass blast paired with a squall of treble that calls to mind early Head of David, and serves as an into to the closer, ‘Life Like’, into which it segues. It begins with a spoken-word narrative, a rolling drum and bass almost serene as Clarke hovers around a calm monotone. Early crescendo threats subside and contribute to a simmering tension. But around the four-minute mark the build really begins in earnest, the bass thickening, swelling, and emerging in a tempestuous burst for an elongated outro that takes it to near the eight-minute point.

As a social commentary, Service Provider gets right to the rotten core of capitalist exploitation, and the way it pitches everyone as competition. The upper echelons are competing for supremacy: the majority are competing for scraps and for survival as the divide grows wider. And yet the irony is that the supremacy at the top is predicated on the rest purchasing whatever they’re selling, and all too often it’s shit they don’t need and can’t afford but that’s somehow become essential to contemporary living.

If anyone believes a world emerging from lockdown after the first wave of Covid-19 will be kinder, more accommodating, more humane, the early signs are that they’re sadly mistaken, as businesses slash employees and push even harder to return profits in the wake of a global financial slump.

We’re all fucked, and Service Provider sells it out loud – very loud – and clear, in stark, brutal terms. It’s a pretty punishing set, and what’s impressive is that they sustain the bludgeoning impact throughout, making for an absolute monster of an album. It’s hard to fault service like this.

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Cruel Nature Records – 23rd November 2019

No release by a band called corpse tWitcHer was ever going to be pretty. But Bring Your Dead is next level.

The album contains only four tracks, the shortest of which, ‘Opening: The Bird’ is over eight minutes long and pitches some dark atmospherics with low, dank rumblings and mid-range scrapes that twist and taper into a soft fog of ambience with tempered chiming notes ringing out into the mist. It is but an opening, an extended introduction, which paves the way for the speaker-shredding, Sunn O)))-like devastation of ‘Of Bones & Head’ that lands the crushing low drone of guitars like a cement mixer on slow speed, blended with shrieking howl of feedback. This swirling mass of amorphous sound on sound surges and swells for a full eighteen minutes, and while its form is impossible to take a hold of as it shifts and twists, it’s a fully immersive experience. It’s possibly the closest thing to Earth 2 I’ve heard since, well, Earth 2. This is music that packs a suffocating density, and rattles the ribs as well. It vibrates the molecules while crushing the skull. It’s a painful joy, and a joyful pain.

‘A Thorough Necropsy’ grinds out a quarter of an hour of relentlessly heavy, percussion-free sludge that crawls from the speakers and wraps itself around not just your ears or body but your very soul, strangulating and suffocating with its tarry black mass. It’s in the territory whereby guitars melt into a grating morass of noise: struck chords don’t hit but instead billow into a cloud of noise so dense as to choke. There are some anguished, guttural vocals buried beneath it all, I think. It’s the sound of pain beyond words, a charred snarl from the underground. The tempest builds louder and darker around halfway through, and it’s around this point we slip off the face of the planet into another dimension. It’s bleak, but not like death or dying: this is transcendental and bleak and we’re floating in another sphere, buoyed by a sound denser than the Dead Sea.

The final cut, ‘Closing: Sutures’ sews it all up nicely with an expansive rumble of dark ambience that swirls and eddies and billows around in a formless morass of sonic fog. It rumbles around the bowels, the lungs, and the spleen. It sends shivers down the spine and a shudder over the skin. It resonates on a biological, physical level.

Bring Your Dead is heavy, intense, and unsettlingly dark, it doesn’t so much hit the mark as consume it in blackness.

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Buzzhowl Records – 24th January 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Masks are generally used to either obscure, hide, or otherwise present an alternative identity. The press blurb which accompanies the debut release by Masks, which arrives in the form of a two-track (lathe-cut) seven-inch gives little away, beyond the ‘fact’ that Masks is a New Zealand based artist. Singular. Although this is immediately thrown into question by the statement ‘We’re very excited to be putting out Masks’ debut release. We’ve been fans of the people involved for some time now.’ This doesn’t discredit the singular aspect, but does compel questioning. Toward the end of any interrogation, it’s perhaps worth asking ‘does or should it matter?’ Probably not, although our instinct is to seek something upon which to pin an identity or similar concrete elements as identifiers, as a means of basing experience and engagement.

Most songs about weekends I’m aware of are jaunty, jubilant, celebratory tunes. Take Michael Gray’s 2004 chart smash ‘The Weekend’, accompanied by a video with a sultry secretary busting moves around a photocopier, for example Reverend and the Makers’ ‘Living for the Weekend’ was irksome wank, and ‘The Weekend’ by Interpol is one of their weakest tracks by yards. The emphasis is very much on the separation pf the working week, and the weekend, which for many is not the reality of how work and life balance.

Masks sounds like their weekend contains back-to-back funerals as they grind and hammer their way through a murky mess of guitar that’s more about atmosphere than definition or tune. The percussion is pure punishment, industrial-strength pounding, while a synth howls an anguish-inducing drone around a monotone vocal that carries hints of Brian Molko. Yes, ‘Our Weekend Starts Tomorrow’ comes on like a bleak industrial / post-punk Placebo and packs some serious punch in a lugubrious, mid-tempo but thunderously dense sense.

There’s a change of mask for ‘Broken Glass’, a drifting, beat-free swell of instrumental ambience. It’s pleasant, but dark and contrasts starkly with ‘Our Weekend Starts Tomorrow’ in its overt formlessness. Is it a different face of the ‘band’ / ‘artist’, or another identity altogether? It’s unquestionably a departure, and if nothing else, suggests that Masks are multi-faceted.. complex. Unpredictable. Subject to change. What lies behind the mask? Maybe all will be revealed in good time…

Artwork Credit_ Sven Soric

Front & Follow – 15th November 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

Front and Follow is a label that’s carved a special niche in the cassette release corner of the industry, and has, for those in the know, become a trademark of quality. But sustaining such consistency – or even anything – as a one-man operation is hard work, and often with little reward. As such, while I was sad to learn they’re taking a break, they’re signing off with an incredibly strong release, courtesy of Ekoplekz, who is also embarking on an indefinite break.

The album’s pitched as ‘drawing parallels between present day Britain and that of the turn of the 80s, Ekoplekz looks back to that era’s industrial and post-punk soundtrack for inspiration,’ and the press release continues: ‘In a land increasingly brutalized by austerity and divided by nationalism, the tensions that informed some of the post-punk era’s most important works (Red Mecca, Unknown Pleasures, Metal Box) haunt this collection of bleak postcards from the present’. The present is indeed bleak, unless, of course, you perhaps run a hedge fund with billions backing a no-deal Brexit or you’re a major corporation invested in climate change denial or pharmaceuticals. But then, if you’re in that bracket, you’re probably on your private jet grabbing bitches by the pussy and going gammon about these smelly hippy protestors or somesuch. For the rest of us these ae dark times that require a dark soundtrack, and as I’ve said elsewhere, it’s no surprise that we’re experiencing a different kind of 80s revival at the moment. Brutal and divided pretty much sum up both UK and US politics and cultures , as well as further afield. Who actually feels safe on the street? Who actually feels safe as a career artist? Who isn’t remotely concerned, doesn’t feel concerned, panicked, anxietised? We don’t need Duran Duran replicas like The Bravery, and even Editors and Interpol’s take on post-punk feels lightweight in the face of the crises that define the current – and so Ekoplekz plunge deep back to the late 70s source to dredge real darkness and despondency here, and in doing so, In Search of the Third Mantra soundtracks the present – bleak as it is.

With In Search of the Third Mantra, Ekoplekz sets his spheres of reference out early, with ‘High Rise Dub’ carrying Ballardian connotations and ‘K-Punk’ taking its title from the seminal blog of the early noughties by the late Mark Fisher, to whom the album is dedicated. This, then, without wanting to sound elitist, is no mindless replication of an array of retro tropes, but a considered assimilation of myriad sources, distilled into something wilfully challenging. We would expect nothing less of K Craig, filmmaker and front man of currently-resting Last Harbour. This is quite a departure, but works in context: while we don’t get brooding vocals and arch-gothic sonic structures, there’s a brooding nihilism that rumbles at the core of In Search of the Third Mantra in the same way it lurks so many albums of the period, and a lot has to be credited to the production.

It’s got grooves and danceable beats, but it’s also possessed of a dehumanised detachment, a sense of distancing and dislocation: you’re in the zone and in the space where you’re feeling the distance, the disfunction. The fact that this doesn’t fit, the fact that you don’t fit.

The spartan electronica of the former, with its dubby bass and rhythm that shuffles and clatters conjures a sense of alienation and otherness, while the latter brings things down a notch darker, laser bleeps and eerie vaporous notes hover ominously. ‘Do the Meinhof’ goes full motoric, channelling the insistent industrial grooves of DAF and Cabaret Voltaire into a tense death disco pounder laced with icy synths.

The sonic touchstones are all very much in evidence as the listener is led through a haunting desert of sound, dark, murky, menacing. ‘Accept Nothing’ has hints of The Cure’s Carnage Visors soundtrack, and the atmosphere which permeates all ten compositions is unforgiving and inhospitable.

There’s a degree of linearity to the album’s sequencing, and each track feels sparser, less defined, and with this progression there comes an increasing sense of collapse, of emptiness, and while sonically, the pieces are spacious, the atmosphere is evermore paranoid. One feels as though familiar structures are falling away, disintegrating. By the time we arrive at ‘Heart Addict (In Make Up)’, there’s little left beyond an almost subliminal, stunted dub bass that twitches anxiously alongside a barely perceptible beat, and we’re left, alone, disorientated, and teetering on the precipice just inches from the void.

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Pretty Ugly Records – 24th May 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

The London synth duo follow up on last year’s debut double A-side ‘Are You Ready’ / ‘Hell Is Where the Heart Is’ with ‘Modern Witchcraft’, which according to the press release ‘sees the band explore Britain’s lost highways in their darkly psychedelic animation’.

Having spent the last few months holed up with Dave M. Allen (The Cure, Sisters Of Mercy, Yassasin), Matt Kilda and Willow Vincent have been experimenting hard, and this singe is the first fruits to be revealed from the forthcoming ‘Cheer Up The Apocalypse Is Here’ EP.

Instead of lamenting the absent comma, I shall instead concentrate on focusing my energies on celebrating the taut goth-hued electropop of ‘Modern Witchcraft’. It mines a supremely retro seam of 80s bleakness, pulling together Gary Numan, The Human League, and Depeche Mode, with the warmth of analogue condensing against a chilly atmosphere and brittle, stripped-back production to evoke a sense of desolation, of isolation.

Whichever fan review suggested Sex Cells are ‘helping define the anxiety and utter dread of late-stage Capitalism’ was on the money: if it’s the sound of the 80s intensified for the post-millennial world, it’s fitting, given that the parallels between then and ow are clear – only then, we only had one clear enemy and cause of social division, and less CCTV.

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Supernatural Cat – 8th November 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

Eerie strings streak across an ominous low-end throb, transitioning expansive vaporous drones with serrated edges on the album’s first track, ‘Hefy Lamarr’ and it sets the ominous tone for the rest of the album, as piano notes hover in rarefied atmospheres with a slow-decaying sustain carried on a cold, dry echo. It’s minimal, sparse, dislocated, disconnected. There are no sonic hugs on Doppeleben. It’s an album that builds walls, force-fields. Nihilism, isolation, introspection… these are the moods of Doppeleben.

So what do we know about the artist? The Mon is the solo name of a new project by Urlo, best known as the lead vocalist, bass and synth player in heavy trio Ufomammut. Doppelleben is The Mon’s debut album, and, as the press release notes, ‘where Ufomammut create mind-expanding, heavy psychedelic, almost other-dimensional sounds, The Mon by comparison is far more intimate, looking inward, as Urlo explores and examines his inner most thoughts through music.’

And Doppeleben is very much an introspective set, which is far from heavy and as such, it is very much a departure from Urlo’s work with Ufomammut. But heavy is relative, and ‘Relics’ still manages to come on like Ministry on ketamine, with distorted, raw-throated vocals hollering out against a backdrop of plodding percussion and howling feedback. It’s representative, but it isn’t: the atmosphere of Doppeleben recreates the claustrophobic intensity of The Cure’s Pornography, while drawing on the stark discomfort that pervaded the alternative scene circa 1979-1983.

Fear chords ripple, delicate notes drip and drop over slow surges of dark density which rise and swell through interminable sustain. ‘Hate One I Hate’ sounds like Earth circa 1992 covering ‘One Hundred Years’ by The Cure. Devoid of percussion, the glacial synths and thick, crawling guitars coalesce for create a spine-stiffening tension.

With clattering metallic drums battering away in the background, ‘Blut’ grinds hard at a bleak post-punk seam, landing somewhere between Movement era New Order and Downward Spiral era NIN, with hints of Visage’s ‘Fade to Grey’ thrown in for good measure. It’s compellingly intense and makes optimal use of a handful of chords in a descending sequence.

In contrast, ‘Her’ offers a bend of shoegaze haze and Bauhaus-hued art rock as it washes blank curtains of synth and monotone vocals before a cascade of slide guitar swerves its way into the mix. And yet never could it be as far removed from country as the notes bend and glide and slide to fade.

Low, slow, and dark, there’s an oppressive density to Doppeleben which is hard to define and even harder to let go.

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The Mon – Doppeleben

HOLYGRAM presents ‘A Faction’, the second single off their debut album, Modern Cults, which is released on 9th November.

This news follows the lead single ‘Signals’. Prior to that, the Cologne-based outfit released their self-titled EP in 2016. HOLYGRAM cleverly blends new wave and Krautrock with post-punk and shoegaze to achieve headstrong multi-layered bliss. This is a thoroughly contemporary homage to the sound of the ’80s with a resolute look to the future – the result is driving, dark and catchy.

Produced by Maurizio Baggio, who also produced The Soft Moon’s Deeper and Criminal albums, this long-play was recorded at Cologne’s Amen Studios. The new video for ‘A Faction’ is produced by WE OWN YOU GmbH and directed by Jan-Peter Horns with animation by Alison Flora.

HOLYGRAM is Patrick Blümel (vocals), Sebastian Heer (drums), Marius Lansing (guitars), Pilo Lenger (synthesizers) and Bennett Reimann (bass). Formed in 2015, the band’s approach to making music references the past, while remaining future-oriented. Hard-to-combine elements cleverly come together to become the soundtrack of a city that appears threatening in the twilight.

Watch the video here:

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