Posts Tagged ‘Blues’

Christopher Nosnibor

Seems like gigs at the Vaults are cursed when I go. Just as headliners Witch of the East cancelled the last time I was down, so PAK40 have had to bail due to Covid. Yep, over two years on and it’s still having a significant impact on live music. But the good news is that REDFYRN are worth turning out for, as previous outings have shown, and even prior to PAK40’s withdrawal, it had the air of a double-header.

It’s fucking melting. I mean, I’m drinking cider, it’s that mafting. And I’m sweating it out faster than I can drink it. My skin is like a sieve or muslin bag. It must be absolutely punishing on stage.

Openers Beswick get off to a bit of a ragged start. But then, it is their first gig in three years, and they’re not looking like the kind of band who get tour-tight. It would be wrong to complain about the lack of guitar definition with a black metal band, and they lean towards the lower, slower end, where everything slips into a sludgy mid-range mesh, thanks to the five-string bass and seven-string guitar and the most fuckedest cymbal I’ve seen in use in a long time.

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Beswick

The main vocalist has three distinct styles: a penetrating, shivering squawk, a low growl, and a cleanish, atonal punk snarling shout, which actually works at least half of the time as they swing towards a dingy punk style at various points during the set. They do seem like a band in a bit of a stylistic quandary as they slither hither and thither, but they’re solid entertainment. The final song is a nod to their previous incarnation as Tokechamber, and sees the set conclude with billowing drone doom chords and feedback. I would have happily watched that for an hour.

REDFYRN start as they mean to go on, bringing the riffs slow and steady, with more five-string bass groove through an immense effects rack. The bassist has bounding energy, smashing every note with fists and feet, and the weighty guitars contrast with the soaring vocals. Big brave but stoner with a bluesy twist, chunky gritty riffs.

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REDFYRN

The solos aren’t overdone, and showcase the fact Cat Redfern is an excellent guitarist on a technical level as well as being a heavy hitter. She plays with only a handful of pedals, but a lot of crunch and a big dense sound and big volume.

A big hairy moshpit happened during the last song, and the half dozen beardy guys going crackers down the front was enough to bring the band back for one more, and they encore with ‘Unreal’, to an even more vibrant response. For a hot Thursday night when people would have likely been lured to a beer garden to toast the announcement of the Prime Minister’s departure, albeit at some time in the future, and for a stand-in headline slot, REDFYRN delivered a commanding performance and owned the night. Having only recently found themselves in headline slots, REDFYRN look ready to take it to the next level.

BISOU Records/Beast Records – 18th March 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

Sometimes, there’s simply no escaping the fact that grooves and hooks are important. However wearying the conventions of rock and pop are so much of the time, there’s still a vital appeal. Sometimes you just need something to grab hold of, something to grip your short, feeble attention span. But what happens when you bring all the conventions together at once and then mash them, bash them, squash and smoosh them with joyful irreverence? It goes one of two ways: it’s a horrible hybrid mess with no cohesion, or it’s genius. Supersound is genius. It mines many aspects of those conventions to forge an album that’s got groove and hooks, while making unusual takes on country, rockabilly and post-punk, and wrapping them in an abundance of noise that’s pretty gnarly at times. It’s all in the mix – blues rock, alt-rock, grunge, even regular radio rock – but delivered in a twisted, mangled fashion that’s guaranteed to keep it off the airwaves.

The story of the creation of this masterwork is decidedly un-rock’n’roll as it involves Red (Olivier Lambin) suffering from presbyopia and purchasing a bass because it has ‘bigger frets and fewer strings’ and recruiting a collective who can actually see to play their instruments to realise his musical vision. It’s perhaps no wonder it’s a blurry haze of bits and bobs. Said lineup involves ‘two drummers, Néman (Zombie Zombie, Herman Düne) and DDDxie (The Shoes, Rocky, Gumm)’ who Red asked to create their own rhythms, plus Jex, aka Jérôme Excoffier, his lifelong accomplice, who still has excellent eyesight, who played all the guitars on the album.

A strolling bass and jagged guitar slew angular lines on ‘Normal’ that’s spineshaking swamp rock, sounding like a collision between the B52s and The Volcanoes. ‘Ready to Founce’ has all the groove and all the swagger, and has the glorious grittiness of Girls Against Boys at their scuzzy, sleaze-grind best, calling to mind ‘Rockets Are Red’. Then, ‘Shark’ sounds like Butthole Surfers covering an early Fall Song. ‘Screen Kills’ is altogether gothier, with acres of flange swathing the trebly guitar, and all paths lead to the tense, needling jabbing jangle of the final song of the album, ‘Carcrash Disasters’. It could have so easily been tempting fate, but while they veer wildly and screech around every corner on two wheels, DER remain on the road to the end of a crazy conglomeration of an album that buzzes from start to finish.

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Fire Records – 25th February 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

If the reissue of Come’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, felt like the much-needed reappraisal of one of the 90s’ criminally underrated  – or underappreciated – bands was finally happening, then the arrival of their Peel Sessions is proof positive. It wasn’t that Come didn’t receive exposure or critical acclaim: tours supporting the likes of Dinosaur Jr at their commercial peak as they took Where You Been on the road, off the back off their widely-lauded debut album Eleven: Eleven, Come should, by rights, have been elevated to the same bracket of 90s alt-rock icons. But I guess their sound was simply too subtle and too nuanced, and too bluesy, to sit entirely comfortably with the zeitgeist. There are no instant hooks in the vein of Nirvana or RATM. In fact, there are barely any hooks, or even choruses. But the detail, the craft of the songs, the delivery of the emotional heft woven into those songs mean that Come are a band I’ve probably listened to more during the years since we left the 90s than the majority of that class of 92-94, and during this time, I’ve found myself frustrated by the fact that seemingly hardly anyone has even heard of them.

The band recorded two session for John Peel, the first in 1992 and the second in 1993, and rounding it off, perhaps a little incongruously, is the unreleased song ‘Clockface’, recorded live in Boston (that’s Massachusetts, not Lincolnshire) in 1991, and it’s rough ‘n’ ready and not the best live sound ever, but it captures the spirit and the energy, which is worth so much more than all the production in the world.

The first session comprises ‘Dead Molly’, ‘Bell’, ‘William’, and ‘Off to One Side’, all of which appear on Eleven: Eleven. Being Peel Sessions, recorded and mixed in a day, they’re rougher, more immediate versions. ‘William’ is perhaps the standout as the driving grunger of the set, a reminder of the power of which the band were capable of, particularly around the time of their debut, while ‘Off To One Side’, with its slide guitar and wonky riffery is the blusiest, and the slower-burning tune is more subtle but also less immediate.

The second sessions comprises ‘Wrong Side’, ‘Sharon vs. Karen’, ‘Mercury Falls’ and ‘City of Fun’, and while two of these would appear on sophomore album Don’t Ask, ‘Sharon vs Karen’ (a title way, way, way ahead of its time) was a feature of their love set, which appeared as a live cut on the expanded anniversary edition of Eleven:Eleven , and ‘City of Fun’ failed to make an official studio release. The sound and feel of this session is quite different, and also shows how the songwiting rapidly evolved to explore a broader palette of tone and texture as well as tempo shifts, and ‘Wrong Side’ packs it all into just under four and a half minutes. ‘Sharon vs. Karen’ brings some attack alongside some sinewy guitars as it lumbers and lurches along. ‘Mercury Falls’ is faster than the studio version, and feel both tentative and ragged, unready, yet still packs a punch, especially around the mid-section.

This is one of the many great things about Peel Sessions: bands were given free time in the studio to use as they felt fit, and many would try out new material, for better or worse. It’s most definitely for better here, and the eight session tracks are all, without exception, showcases of the magnificent guitar interplay between Chris Brokaw (Codeine) and Thalia Zedek (Live Skull); everything comes in from different angles, the tempos change not so much unexpectedly, but at key moments and turn the trajectory of the songs in an instant, and Zedek has a knack of conveying a heart-tugging melancholy with her drawling vocal and mournful guitar style. It’s not a twang, as such, more a slow bending that almost feels like tears. Pitched together with a tight and intuitive rhythm section with ‘the visceral bass and drums of Sean O’Brien and Arthur Johnson’, the sessions capture a band operating as a cohesive unit and really just hitting the mark with precision every time.

Fans will absolutely love this, as it provides an insight into their transition between first and second albums and well as capturing the live power in a studio setting. Those unfamiliar couldn’t want for a better introduction, with a set that represents the band at their finest, spanning the first two albums and, quite simply, kicking ass. Absolutely essential.

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Fire Records – 22nd October 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

“What does ‘regret’ mean?” “Well, son, a funny thing about regret is that better to regret something you have done, than to regret something you haven’t done.” I have no shortage of regrets, but one is that I saw Come and thought ‘meh’. It was 1993: they were supporting Dinosaur Jr, who’s just released Where You Been?, along with Bettie Serveert in Nottingham. I’d read reviews of, but was still yet to hear Eleven: Eleven at the time. They’d been all over the press with that debut album. And I just didn’t get gripped. Maybe it was because, at seventeen, I was just so revved for the headliners I wasn’t in a place to fully appreciate the supports.

I had no way of knowing that their second album would become one of my absolute favourites. Again, having picked up Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, I wasn’t immediately enamoured. I guess it took me awhile to appreciate the album’s subtlety and emotional depth – and it has so much depth – but investing in listening properly and not holding out for the big riffery of Nirvana or Dinosaur Jr or the general sound of the class of ’93-’94 unlocks Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Some of it’s about maturity, some of it’s about patience – I didn’t really dig The God Machine on the first few spins of Scenes from the Second Storey.

It was a long album, for a start. Only two of the songs are under four minutes long, and half are five or more. The structures aren’t obvious, there’s not a lot that’s straight verse / chorus / verse. It was also a bit slow, and quite country / blues. It really wasn’t the sound of the grunge zeitgeist of 1994. But one day, somehow, something clicket. Quite possibly it was by absently half-listening to it, that moment arrived in ‘String’. I have this thing, whereby a fleeting moment of a song -m a change of key, chord, a single sound, or something else otherwise minor, extraneous, will absolutely make it for me. By which I mean, I am completely obsessive about this. When a moment strikes me as ‘pivotal’ I simply have to hear it, over and over, and that will be a reason to play an entire song – on repeat. That first scrape of fingers on strings at the start of ‘My Black Ass’ on Shellac at Action Park? Yeah, that’s one such moment. That moment at 3:05 on ‘String’ in Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is another. It just hits an instant of musical perfection, and it’s absolute bliss.

The song is a standout – on the CD, it’s positioned after the slow, blooding ‘Let’s Get Lost’ and picks the tempo up. The fact it arrives after a false ending or sorts and a change in direction is key, and the guitar interplay is sublime… The trouble is, explaining it in words simply doesn’t convey the impact, the way it resonates. But there it is. And now, here it is again, remastered. And it sounds great, all over again, as well as giving reason to revisit what is a remarkable and courageous album, one that represents a band committed to making the music they want to make instead of succumbing to trends or record company or peer pressure. And revisiting it only further highlights the dynamics, the tempo changes and unexpected shifts, and the way those sonic twists can instantly alter the mood, and the way the band imbue every bar with emotion. It’s so, so powerful, and all the more so for the fact it isn’t immediate. In fact, all of the things that made it ‘difficult’, that I struggled with at first, are the reasons I love it now and are the reasons it’s such a remarkable and accomplished album, and one that proved without doubt that volume is not the sole driver of intensity. Thalia Zedek’s vocal with its rich patina has a deep rasp, and carries a greater emotional than tonal range, and it’s perfectly suited to the twisting, restlessness of the songs: these are songs to lose yourself in.

The remastering is nicely done – nothing too intrusive, it just feels that bit crisper, somehow, the details clearer, and that’s nice.

The bonus disc, Wrong Sides contains an entire album’s worth of additional material, and with the exception of the demo version of ‘German Song’ (with some magnificent spiralling guitar work and if anything, this slightly less polished take, with the notable addition of clarinet and piano packs only more aching beauty), it’s not a gathering of alternative takes, radio sessions, and rehearsals, but a truly worthy assembly of contemporaneous material – B—sides, stray compilation tracks, and unreleased material, and it’s fair to say that it’s all killer.

‘Angelhead’ – a ‘String’ 12” B-side was recorded on a stop-off on tour, and is one of the most directly riff-centric grungers of the band’s career. ‘Cimarron’ is up there with the best of Come, with some crunchy guitars augmented by sweeping violin. Their cover of Swell Maps’ ‘Loin of the Surf’ is a groove-led math-rock instrumental workout, while ‘Submerge’ is chunky, crunky, dense, lumbering. This is the version that actually predates the one that appears on Eleven: Eleven, and instead came out on the German Sub Pop 12” and CD of the menacing ‘Car’ (also featured here with its warping guitars alongside B-side ‘Last Mistake’. But what matters most is that every single bonus cut here would have been worthy of the album.

With the additions as strong as the album, what the expanded version of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell reveals is an insight into a great – if massively underrated – band at their absolute peak.

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Danny Kiranos, otherwise known by his musical alter ego Amigo The Devil, will release his highly anticipated second full length album, ‘Born Against’, on 16th April (Liars Club/Regime Music Group). A song from it entitled ‘Quiet As A Rat’ is available from today and is the second single taken from the record.
‘Quiet As A Rat’ is comprised of three vignettes that feature characters hiding their inner turmoil in order to maintain a strong outer façade. The video for the song is packed full of gallows humour, in fact literally so, with Kiranos as the narrator of its interlinked tales with themes modelled after both fables and biblical elements. Subjected to what appear to be Jodorowsky-esque tongue in cheek torture and execution attempts, they ultimately represent questions of faith and the doubt of it.

As with many of ATD’s songs, everything serves as a metaphor for something larger that resides within. “Faith without doubt seems unhealthy,” states Kiranos. “It’s an extreme that leaves no room for growth and honest learning, only the mindless repetition of old and sometimes hateful traditions. This song explores the bridge between faith and doubt, nurture and abandon…the fine line between belief and control. It plays to the true value of our spirit and whether we have a purpose to find or if we are the purpose and are simply here to be used and forgotten. You know…real fun stuff.”

Watch the video here:

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16 November 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

The latest six-tracker from GHXT goes for the slow-building intro with the low, slow ‘Shimmer’, where the murky, distorted guitar drone and twang cascading out over a retro drum machine stutter that’s backed off in the mix but cuts through sharp as a whip. It’s the Sisters of Mercy’s Reptile House EP slithering into a stranglehold of The Black Angels on ketamine with a dash of Barbed Wire Kisses era Jesus and Mary Chain.

Two years on from the appropriately-titled Gloom EP, the New York duo return with another batch of weighty, dark material which demonstrates their continued evolution, and the fact the EP format is one which suits them particularly well.

While operating from a comparatively limited sonic palette – dense, overdriven guitar that’s got a big, thick valve sound, minimally-programmed drum machine, and reverb-swamped female vocal they manage to do a lot with it: ‘Come Home’ is Curve-y shoegaze, while ‘It Falls Apart,’ released as a single in October, is a big, bollock-swinging swagger of messy blues, boasting a monster lead solo that sprawls over the entire track. Gloom and blues and murk dominate, casting heavy shadows and a hint of goth over the mood, but there’s so much more besides: the rich timbre of the guitar as it spins a slow-unfurling picked riff on closer ‘Die High’ calls to mind recent works by Earth and Dylan Carlson.

As the nights draw in on the approach to winter and the world feels like an increasingly apocalyptic hellhole, there’s something comforting about GHXST’s brand of immersive darkness.

The Secret Warehouse of Sound Recordings – 23rd September 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Maybe it’s just me, perhaps I’m tired and emotional or perhaps I’m just feeling particularly sensitive as the long-term effects of an absence of live music and being generally cut off from people bites harder as the nights draw in and the days grow shorter, but I’ve started to feel a real heavy-hearted ache lately for the things I miss. Maybe these are my October Blues, which means the arrival of this single is perfectly timed – not to lift the spirits, but to reflect that inward-facing melancholy that comes with the urge to hibernate or hunker down by a log fire.

Admittedly, it’s been a long time since I spent lazy evenings in basement bars listening to live blues, and it’s perhaps precisely because of that that Muca & La Marquise’s latest single, fills me with pangs of nostalgia.

Stripped-back and simple, primarily an acoustic guitar and voice, it evokes simpler times – while at the same time being absolutely timeless – of late-night smoky basement bars, with its jazz-tinged blues and laid back laconic delivery. La Marquise has a magnificent voice – timeless, classic, smooth. The guitar-playing is similarly understated, but follows a nice, chilled slow blues chord sequence and there’s an exquisite break, too, that draws you in and drifts away on a magnificent wave of melancholy.

Christopher Nosnibor

Six whole years in the making In Her Eyes Lies the Golden Dawn is the third release from Austin TX’s Black Earth. Before we get to the album, take a moment to reflect on that. Six years. Can you even remember how the world was six years ago? It as another world. We were all different people. I’m going to assume the members of Black Earth have been busy wit life. Life has a habit of devouring time. Yu get sidetracked by dayjob and family, and suddenly, six years have passed. No sarcasm: this is how it happens. I expect some people will have been on tenterhooks for this.

‘She is the Void’ brings an ‘Unplugged in New York’ kind of vibe by ay of an opener, only without vocals, it’s lot less angsty, and it practically bleeds into the title track, which starts out Mark Lanegan before bursting into a chorus that’s more a grunged-up Zeppelin and wraps with a big rock climax around the mid-point. Being over eight-and-a-half minutes, it’s a bit of a beast. I may not be entirely sold on the ‘eyes / thighs’ rhyme but hey, when it comes to good old fashioned rock ‘n’ roll, there’s currency still to be found in booze and birds type relationship stuff.

‘I never meant to hurt you / but you gave me no choice’ goes the opening of ‘Pushing Back My Hand’, and I find myself wondering just how comfortable I am with it, before I remind myself that it’s a mistake to align artist with art, and there’s nothing here that in any way condones any kind of misogyny. In fact, what we have is a pretty straight-ahead blues-grunge album, and a solid one at that.

They pack the riffs, and that’s a fact. ‘Left Behind’ is particularly ball-busting, coming on with enough weight as to sound like Melvins covering some vintage cock rock. ‘She’s a Do or Die’ brings more dirty heft, the guitars thick and overdriven, and there comes a point where skirting sabbath touchstones becomes impossible, although the swaggering space-rock midsection is more Hawkwind and finds the band going all out on going all out, and it kicks ass. And as for the colossal closer, ‘She is the Universe’… woah. It brings the riffs, the repetition, and locks into a dense psychedelic groove, which breaks around the seven-minute mark to return to Mark Lanegan territory, before piling into a massive guitar finish.

It’s so easy to dismiss blues / rock albums – even those that incorporate grunge and psych – as being a bit standard, and being much of a muchness. But that’s a genre thing: let’s face it, within any genre there will always be tropes that form a level of format. This is where it comes down to quality of material and execution, and on In Her Eyes Lies the Golden Dawn, Black Earth have both.

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Tensheds Music – 6th December 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

Having caught Tensheds live back in 2018 and been impressed by their gritty yet flamboyant sound, the arrival of an album in the form of Deathrow Disco promised to be good news. And it really is.

No guitars. No synths. No bass. Just a Rhodes organ. And some drums. Written in three days and recorded in three more, Deathrow Disco packs an immediacy without being lo-fi in a way that’s detrimental. However, everything is upfront and direct and cranked up, delivering maximum impact with a sense of urgency.

Everything fits together perfectly, and it all serves to showcase Matt Millership’s distinctive voice. The guy’s got more gravel than Jewson’s. And while that sand-blasted larynx is used to growl out mangled blued-based songs, he’s no predictable Tom Waits rip-off like so any others. Lead single and opening track ‘Youngbloods’ packs some flamboyant keys of a grandeur worthy of Muse or Yes, but pins the trilling tones go a stomping rhythm.

Second single cut ‘Gold Tooth’ is a grainy glammy blues boogie, but sonically, it’s a collision of The Doors at their swaggering badass baddest with Suicide, mining a relentless groove with a swirling Hammond that’s been mangled and

Then again, ‘Slag’ is more like a synth Mötörhead, only with some piano thrown into the mix. ‘Deathrow Disco’ combines immense theatricality with full-blooded rock ‘n’ roll, and elsewhere, ‘Black Blood’ goes prog and at the same times reveals a softer, more sensitive side, and ‘Troubleshooter’ inches toward lighter-waving anthem territory, or maybe would without the bitter heartbreak lyrics.

Deathrow Disco is varied, and largely uptempo and big on boppable grooves, but make no mistake, Tensheds have a highly distinctive style that works well, and makes optimal use of minimal kit.

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Exile On Mainstream – 11th May 2018

English intergenerational duo Noisepicker are one of the new generation of two-piece acts who sound like full bands. Not by virtue of any trickery, but because they whack everything up full tilt and rock hard. Peace Off sounds like a band, albeit one with the guitars and drums dominating the mix.

There are so many shades, but for Noisepicker, it’s a spectrum of subtle blues that colours their lumbering, riffy racket. The songs are heavy, raw, the lyrics dark. It may mark something of a stylistic shift for Earl of Mars and former Lord of Putrefaction Harry Armstrong, but he still pours all the anger into it, his thick-throated vocal roar the perfect vehicle for this kind of heavy, heavy scuzzed-out stoner blues metal.

Pulverizing, slow, heavy discord worthy of Swans circa 1984 swiftly yields to swaggering heavy rock on opener ‘No Man Lies Blameless, which thunders away with the grainy grungy heft of Black Sabbath as filtered through Melvins. It sets the tone, and the tempo: Peace Off very much favours weight and groove over pace, the riffs big and gutsy (although when they do pick up the face, as on ‘O What Mercy Sorrow Brings’, they really do drive hard and fast.

‘A Taste of My Dying’ is the grittiest, grainiest blues, dark and dirty and slowed to a crawl. Under any other circumstances, you’d be thinking about grime and sweat, but at this low, low tempo, it’s more of a case of Led Zep on Temazepam. Armstrong gargles and spits the words to ‘He Knew it Would All End in Tears’ against a roar of guitars and crashing drums: there’s nothing fancy about Kieran Murphy’s style, and that’s a virtue, as the songs are focused in a fashion that delivers optimal force.

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