Posts Tagged ‘Charity’

27th August 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Who would have thought in the middle of March 2020, we would be living in such different – and fucked-up – times a full sixteen months later? Many of us who work in offices left thinking we’d be back in a few weeks, and surely no-one predicted the decimation of so much retail and hospitality. While the most unprecedented thing about the pandemic in the UK was the overuse of the word unprecedented, it is true that this is the first time in history that the healthy have been quarantined en masse alongside the sick and the vulnerable.

In many respects, the vulnerable have been the hidden sufferers and forgotten people during this time. As the band write, ‘People with learning disabilities in England are eight times more likely to die from Covid than the general population, according to research that highlights a “hidden calamity” of the coronavirus crisis. At a time where arts centres are critically underfunded, and the disabled community will be the last to come out of lockdown, we want to offer solidarity and support to our artists and friends.’

The communal and collaborative element of Sly’s work is integral to their ethos: anyone who’s seen them live is as likely to have been implicated in the set as simply spectated, with the band among the audience, the audience becoming part of the band and banging drums… and this is no corny, manufactured communal clap, a contrivance to mask government bullshit, this is a real in-the-moment collectivism that’s life-affirming and enriches the soul. Their music may be murky and weird, but Sly and the Family Drone very much do use music for the power of good. And so of all the bands who would perform at the ICA with Jamaica!!, they were always the most likely candidates. Jamaica!! is less a band than a group musical session operating out of The Gate, an arts centre for adults with learning disabilities located in Shepherds Bush, London. The Gate write, ‘out of efforts to make the music sessions we facilitate there as inclusive as possible which we found by necessity entailed abandoning notions of what makes sense musically; an extension of the central ethos at the gate of reshaping the round hole to allow the square peg to fit rather than the unfair expectations of the inverse’. Their sessions are entirely improvised, and the band is whoever turns up on the night.

Jamaica!! Meets Sly and the Family Drone is a document of this particular night, and it’s being released as a special art edition with the aim of raising money for The Gate. It’s clear from the two expended workouts that occupy a side each of this c46 cassette that the two units readily come together as one in their improvisational stylings

Side one of Celebrating The End Together In The Good Time Swamp is an immense exploratory piece: twenty-one minutes of wild, percussion-heavy, industrial jazz noise. What, that’s not a thing? Yes, yes it is: it’s precisely Sly & The Family Drone’s thing, and the joy of their live work is that the only thing you can predict is that will be percussion-heavy industrial jazz noise.

It begins quiet and atmospheric, picked notes ringing out over a misty murk, drones and croaks of horns groan and yawn like a slumbering beast in dream, perhaps on the brink of awakening… You feel you should tread carefully. But clattering percussion swells unevenly, and there’s a building tension as well as a building volume. It sounds ominous.

And then, off-key notes ring from every whichway. Is it free jazz or is it simply chaos? Perhaps it’s both. Rising up momentarily, a big-band swinging beat that dives some kind of shape and spine to the seemingly formless sonic mass that’s swirling all around.

Ten minutes in, there are some indecipherable vocals shouting, while whizzes and whooshes enter the mix and it’s like a space rock rendition of a Throbbing Gristle performance. And then it gets really fucking drummy. It’s a full-on barrage, a solid wall of percussion. The final few minutes are truly cathartic, as the pace picks up and we hear the sound of ALL THE DRUMS. EVER. ALL AT ONCE. It’s beyond thunderous – it’s positively volcanic.

Side two is, in many respects, more of the same, only it’s slower, denser, more undulating, dronier. It’s a swirling, seething mass of sound, a glorious twenty-three minutes of mayhem, a surging hammering on of drums and drums and drums and drums, battering out a loping march while horns, kitchen sink and cement mixer churn out a heavy grind of weighty discord. There’s a lull around the mid-point, where it delves into an almost shuffling beat, and there’s even a brief paise while there’s some kind of bass break. Then the rhythm shifts again, and things are almost funky for a while – but mostly, it’s noisy and drummy. I mean, this lot are drummier than Boredoms, and they actually lock into a mean groove near the end. As the track powers onwards to its climax, the energy radiates from the speakers and it makes you feel good – because music really is always the best therapy.

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Human Worth – 5th March 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

I am, unashamedly, a massive fan of Modern Technology, and have been from day 1. And their DOIY label, Human Worth, too. Not only do they make and release amazing music of immense weight, but they have real principles, donating a cut of the proceeds of every release to charity, and being thoroughly nice guys on top is just a huge bonus.

The label’s latest release – their first 7” single – is absolute gold (despite actually being marbled silver and black) And that’s another thing: the quality of the label’s product is magnificent, from the design to the finish. With vinyl’s resurgence, we’ve witnessed a greater attention to the physical product as an artefact to behold and to cherish, for all the reasons fans of vinyl spent about 20 years going on about at every opportunity while people moved away, first towards CDs and then towards streaming. I suppose aficionados of the ‘physical product’ proffer the same kind of case for vinyl as books, but when Kindle fans counter that ‘it’s just like a book’, the common retort is that what’s even more like a book is a book, and there is simply no substitute. Streaming fans don’t even have that: all they have is ‘convenience’, but they simply don’t grasp how much is missing from the experience when interacting with a physical format.

I may digress, but it’s relevant: when presented with a gut-punching welter of noise, it always hits harder when blasting from a fat chunk of wax through some speakers with a bit of poke. And shit, is this a gut-punching welter of noise.

Modern Tech and 72% crossed paths just days before life was placed on pause in March 2020. Sharing a bill for Baba Yaga’s Hut in London, no-one foresaw the year that was to come. With the prospect of live shows remaining tentative at best, this single feels like a necessary release of energy.

It’s 72%’s ‘Drowning in a Sea of Bastards’ that’s the (nominal) A-side, and it’s a squalling, full-throttle noise attack. It’s actually the drumming that dominates, while everything else collapses in on itself to create a volcanic sonic explosion of frenzies guitars that are played in such a way as to not really sound like guitars as much as a wild cacophony. There’s screeding feedback and all kinds of chaos flying every whichway, and somewhere, buried low in the mix, are some anguished vocals. You can’t make out a word of it, but the sentiment transcends language.

Meanwhile, Modern Technology continue to go from strength to strength. The first new material since their debut album, Service Provider in September, ‘Lorn’ is a six-minute monster. The droning feedback that howls from Chris Clarke’s bass is more mid-rangey than usual, bringing a sharp, brittle edge to their dark, dingy abrasion that’s pushes forward slow and heavy, propelled by Owen Gildersleeve’s crushing percussion. When the chords hit, they hit hard, and – as is now well-established as integral to their distinctive sound, Clarke’s vocals, distorted and buried in a wash or reverb, snarl and growl all the rage, landing somewhere between Lemmy and Al Jourgensen circa Filth Pig. It’s a trudging slow-burner that builds with a cumulative effect.

Oh, and there’s more: a brace of bonus tracks, starting with a head-shredding remix of ‘Drowning in a Sea of Bastards’ by Wayne Adams (Ladyscraper / Big Lad / Petbrick). Unrecognisable against the original, it’s a pulversing mangled mess of clanging metal and industrial-strength overloading distortion. Gnarly as fuck, it’s bloody brilliant. And as a double bonus, the additional cut from Modern Technology is another new track, ‘Ctrl’. In something of a departure, it finds Clarke deliver a spoken-word piece against a backdrop of thick, booming bass and slow, slow drums. As the murky layers build, so does the crushing weight of a track that’s reminiscent of Swans circa 1984: it’s claustrophobic and suffocating, and makes you feel tense.

It may only be fifteen minutes in total for all four tracks, but to describe the experience as intense would be an understatement, and I find myself simply too blown away to conjure a pithy one-liner to wrap up. Yes, it’s absolute dynamite.

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Criminal Records – 18th December 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

For many, 2020 has been a year to forget, next-level dismal, in ways that it’s hard to relate from our isolated boxes. Those of use fortunate enough to be working from home struggle to fully grasp the hardship of furlough or redundancy, to fully appreciate the impact of mass poverty and the pace of its spread.

Christmas is always difficult for so many people, and if Whammagedon is enough to be an issue for you, then you’re probably in a really, really fortunate position. Seeing artists rallying round at a time when many of them are themselves struggling due to a lack of gigs, which in turn means no merch sales and so on, is heartening in a time of seemingly eternal bleakness, and The Kut’s first new material in a while, in the form of Christmas single ‘Waiting for Christmas’ sees 100% of profit from sales and streams being donated to the Red Cross, supporting those affected by poverty as a result of the pandemic.

‘Waiting for Christmas’ may be a Christmas single, but it’s not, if that makes sense: it’s more about intent than profile or publicity, and as the press release notes, ‘while independent musicians are usually discouraged from releasing at Christmas, due to expected lack of ‘impact’ in comparison to major label peers, The Kut affirmed, “We know the single is an underdog, by the design of the music industry, but I am appealing to our supporters and to Christmas and music lovers in our community… If we can raise even a few hundred pounds for those affected by poverty during the pandemic, and support families, we would love to do that. We have lost so many people before their time, and so many families are suffering and feel alone. With the single, we are collectively raising a candle for all those we have lost and showing solidarity with our wider community this Christmas.”’

It’s a slow-burning ballad, which is seasonally / charity single appropriate and Where ‘Waiting for Christmas’ differs from the norm is that straight into the first verse, Maha reflects ‘It’s Christmas, why do I feel so low?’ Confronting those so-common-but-less-commonly-addressed mental health issues in a Christmas single is practically unheard of, but we need more of this: this is what makes ‘Waiting for Christmas’ an essential Christmas single, even more than the fact it’s a decent tune.

Released across digital formats and CD via a dedicated website, it’s not about the Christmas charts but raising few quid.

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4th December 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Christmas singles are divisive, to say the least. Probably because the majority of them are cack. People get funny about Christmas: sane, rational individuals turn to slushy pulp, pontificating about family and the kids. Yeah, we always do it for the kids. Enduring long hours of pent-up tension spent in stuffy, overheated rooms, feeling uncomfortable with overindulgence and a burning sensation that may be indigestion or just the slow-burning desire to escape.

Often, you will hear people saying that we should remember the less fortunate at Christmas, to spare a thought for them and maybe even a few pence, and we’ll assuage our guilt by donating some mince pies to the food bank or a pair of last year’s unwanted Christmas socks to a charity collecting for third world children or whatever. We do it, and it eases our conscience, and allows us to forget about it all while we plunge back into our own microcosms of manufactured joy, real or falsified. And no, this isn’t a guilt-trip, because I’m certainly by no means exempt here. It’s human nature. How many of us sit and feel sad for those less fortunate, those who aren’t able to spend time with loved ones or feel the comfort of a safe home environment when picking up another pig in a blanket, another slice of meat, another roastie, another splash of gravy?

West London trio Queensmen – who don’t seem to be an intentional response to The Kingsmen, famous for their 1963 version of ‘Louise Louie’ – have released ‘Shine A Light’ in an attempt to raise attention to the plight of the homeless, and to raise money for Crisis.

Where ‘Shine a Light’ stands apart from so many other songs of its ilk is that it takes the viewpoint from someone who’s bereft, and there’s something powerful and moving in the first-person plea of ‘Don’t abandon me / I’m cold as stone / Come and rescue me / Now that I am all alone’.

There’s nothing elevated or preachy about this, and the human impact on an individual level is brought into relief here.

It would be a wrong step to criticise this for being a jangly emo/indie pop rush that musically doesn’t really reflect the gravity of the lyrics, because it’s better to deliver a message in a format that will appeal to a wider audience, and they’re not going to register any better with some dour, po-faced effort. ‘Shine a Light’ has energy and hooks, and while it really would represent an optimal achievement if everyone wo heard this would pause and reflect, spending a few pence on a download because you like the tune would be ok, y’know.

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Front & Follow – F&F062 – 28th August 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

This twenty-three track extravaganza marks the third of five compilations for which cult label Front & Follow has been briefly resurrected with a view to supporting artists who’ve had their work rejected while raising funds for The Brick in Wigan, a charity for homeless people, which also operates a food back – more vital than ever, sadly.

What I personally like about the series and its approach to its purpose is that as has always been the case with F&F and the artists it releases, is its understatedness. And while there’s a lot of noise about the anguish of isolation under lockdown in the media and social media, the liner notes stress clearly ‘This is not an isolation project – it’s a rejection project’. This is very much representative of F&F’s singularity: the label was always about operating apart from trends or vogues, and as such, while it would inevitably cater to a niche audience, it wasn’t a fickle one.

While many of the artists are unfamiliar and probably not only to me, Social Oscillations and Sone Institute stand out as acts whom I’ve reviewed on previous releases on F&F.

Musically, and in terms of quality, though, it’s very much a level playing field, and it’s not hard to grasp why, having been inundated with submission for their modest project proposal, they decided to release a full five volumes.

It’s straight in with the eerie, spooky-sounding dark ambient courtesy of Social Oscillation’s ‘Dreich’, a word that’s stuck with me since my time in Glasgow around the turn of the millennium. It’s so descriptive, and yes, the song’s grey, sombre tone fits it nicely.

As with the previous volumes, despite being largely electronic and instrumental in its basis, the stylistic span is impressive: from minimal, dubby-techno to experimental post-rock via the most vaporous ambience, it’s all here, and curated so as to be perfectly sequenced.

With the super-murky ‘Crawling Guardian’, Everson Poe evokes the spirit of The Cure circa 17 Seconds and Faith before it goes crushing doom metal in the final minute, and the dingy production only amplifies the oppressive atmosphere. Elite Barbarian’s ‘Gat Trap’ is particularly unsettling and particularly impossible to pin down as is groans and rumbles; Newlands’ ‘Father Sky’ is a hypotonic chant, and ‘Orla’ by Farmer Glitchy is tense, claustrophobic, uncomfortable. Jonny Domini’s ‘New Pink Shirt’ is a bit of a departure, being a kind of Pavement-meets-The Fall lo-fi indie racket. It’s pretty cool, and John Peel would have loved it. Dolly Dolly’s ‘HEADS’ is a neat, if rather twisted, spoken word piece, and while it’s perhaps understandable why it may have ben hard to home, it’s no reflection on its being a good piece.

And, yet again, you can’t help but think that those who rejected all of these tracks, no doubt with an ‘it’s good, but just not for us’ let-down, are the ones who have missed out, and it’s all to the benefit of Front & Follow with their accommodating policy in curating this series.

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We absolutely love what Human Worth are doing, both in terms of their humanitarian work and the promotion of some stunning underground and emerging acts. And so the arrival of a second lockdown-period fundraising compilation is a most welcome thing, and the proceeds from this latest release are going to Harmless, a charity that supports metal health, and to assist in the prevention of self-harm and suicide.

For this reason, we’re immensely proud to be serving up an exclusive premier stream of ‘Serenity’, by AJA, the first of the album’s massive twenty tracks.

AJA works with the charity Harmless that they’re donating the funds of this release to – It was her suggestion and she said "I work for an organisation who give their profits from training people in mental health awareness and suicide prevention / intervention directly back into helping support people with free therapy. They are self funded and have been massively affected by covid and they do really amazing work!” For more info, go to https://www.facebook.com/HarmlessUK/

The album drops via BandCamp on Friday 7th August. Check out ‘Serenity’ here:

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Workin’ Man Noise Unit mark the 50th anniversary of The Stooges’ second album, Fun House with the release of their take on ‘1970’. It’s a belter, and captures the blistering intensity of the original with a sinverity that’s impossible to fake. What’s more, it’s priced a pay what you feel, with everything you feel being given to Gendered Intelligence.

Good people doing good things via the medium of good music.

The world needs this right now.

Listen to and download  ‘1970’ here:

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Front & Follow

Christopher Nosnibor

The demise of the label Front & Follow was a sad one, for many reasons. I mean, it was understandable: a one-man enterprise, the degree of effort required to curate, release, and promote music – especially obscure, niche music – is astounding. It’s always going to be a labour of love, but all the love in the world doesn’t pay the bills.

This does mean that the return of F&F, however brief, with a view to issuing a series of lockdown / isolation compilations is extremely welcome, simply in principle. Not only because it’s a reminder of a time before what’s rapidly looking like a collapse of civilisation, not only because it’s a reminder of what a great label it was, but also because despite the tidal wave of lockdown releases that are flooding the virtual world right now, we still need more music like this: music from the fringes, music that coveys the intense cognitive dissonance of the current situation in non-lyrical terms.

To unpack this: the title summarises the situation as it stands for many in the most succinct form. Whether or not you’re officially ‘isolating’, we’re all still isolated for the most part, either alone or with the rest of out household. But it seems that however ‘together’ we are, however connected, however well we communicate, everyone’s individual experience is different, and in many was incommunicable: we’re all islands, isolating inside our own heads. Words get in the way, and impose the experience of others on our own private thoughts, so the fact that this collection is largely instrumental is welcome, and where there are vocals, they tend to be absorbed into the fabric of the sonic experience.

With twenty contributions from a host of artists. Many of whom I’m unfamiliar with, there’s a theoretical pot-luck element to this compilation, but F&F have always been strong on curatorial skills, and while the contribution from Kemper Norton (arguably one of the bigger ‘names’ on the release) is surprisingly brief, it’s positioned in a prominent position opening proceedings, and sets the tone with its tonally-balanced ambience.

Grey Frequency’s ‘Dissolve’ which follows is more what you might expect: almost seven minutes of mellifluous mellowness, but with crackling snippets of static and shadowy undercurrents that run dark and deep.

Picking standout tracks is difficult and also rather to undermine the project, although

‘Basic Design’s ‘Dream Archipelago’ does stand out by virtue of having vocals first and foremost, but also for it’s woozy, fugue-like qualities, something echoed by the ethereal ‘Dining with Phineus’ by Carya Amara.

AZAK BROMIDE bring a more power electronics / industrial slant to the dark ambient party, but it’s the seventeen-minute behemoth that is Boobs of Doom’s ‘Scumbellina’ that really is the ineffable centrepiece here: a towering monolith of a track it’s all the experimental electronica distilled into a single movement of analogue oddness.

Elsewhere, Ekoplex capture the essence of early cabaret Voltaire on the dubby ‘Rejected Replekz’, Thomas Ragsdale delivers some signature ambience with beats with ‘The Light Between’, and Elizabeth Joan Kelly’s ‘Waking Up With a Cat on My Face’ perfectly encapsulates that moment or panic, that abject spasm through a minute and three quarters of swampy discord and sonic confusion. Hibernation’s nine-minute ‘Fragile Times’ is a perfect summary of everything: so fragile and soft as to be barely-present, it’s a mist-like ambient piece that’s impossible to place your hands on it, much less pin it down, and that wisp-like intangibility, that vague ephemerality is the essence of the collective mind right now. However you may think about think about it, whatever your beliefs, pinning down the mood of the moment is nigh on impossible on the tumultuous psychological rollercoaster we find ourselves on.

Thankfully, soothing, spacious sonic wanderings like the album’s final contribution, TVO’s ‘A Wave as the Coast Disappears from View’ offer id to calm, even if the title reminds us we’re only barely afloat and only so far from drowning in an instant.

Isolation & Rejection Vol 1 is a magnificent collection at any time, but also serves as a contemplative soundtrack to strange and troubling times. It’s also classic F&F.

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Internationally acclaimed composer and virtuoso cellist Jo Quail has today released, ‘The Parodos Cairn’ to raise money for the ‘Save Our Venues’ crowd funder. This new composition is comprised entirely of 167 audio samples sent to her over the first few weeks of lockdown during the Covid-19 crisis. Jo comments,

‘I was of course disappointed following the necessary and inevitable cancellation and postponement of all concerts and tours, but primarily I felt an overwhelming urge to somehow connect with you in this time, to still symbolically meet with you and though without a concert hall and stage I felt sure we could still somehow unite, and create an inclusive, unifying experience.

I posted a video on social media outlining these thoughts and suggesting people record a note or a sound, then send these to me, and from these I would create a piece of music. I suggested using phones to record, as I wanted to make this creative outlet available to everybody, musician or not, with or without a recording facility.  At the outset of this project  I envisaged receiving perhaps 10 or 20 contributions, writing a piece of music for solo cello and then incorporating within this piece whatever samples I received. The incredible take up and enthusiasm from my initial video request meant I had to rethink my strategy! I never foresaw this reaction – I received all kinds of contributions, far beyond my expectations. We in fact have 124 musical contributors sending 167 samples, from 24 countries across the world – everything  from operatic soprano to shamans, pianos, printers, table thumps, singing bowls, amazing overdrives, percussion, hiphop beats, cows,  guitars, flutes, rattling keys, recorders, dulcimers, strings, and the list goes on!’

Watch the video now for ‘The Parodos Cairn’, directed and produced by Dorian Robinson, incorporating photographic and video contributions generously donated to the cause:

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A 21-year wait and the first new music is a two-and-a-half minute cover version? Hell yeah! It was more than worth the wait, too.

Mr. Bungle roar back with their first recorded music since 1999, releasing a blistering cover of The Exploited’s politically-charged anthem, “USA” (available now on all digital platforms via Ipecac Recordings.

The Bay Area band, whose current incarnation features original members Trevor Dunn, Mike Patton and Trey Spruance with Scott Ian (Anthrax, S.O.D) and Dave Lombardo (Dead Cross, ex-Slayer, Suicidal Tendencies), is donating 100% of the proceeds from both the song and a limited edition t-shirt to the MusiCares’ COVID-19 Relief Fund, through the 4th of July. The shirt, which will only be offered through Independence Day, is available exclusively via Mr. Bungle’s webstore (https://kontraband.shop/collections/mr-bungle). MusiCares’ COVID-19 Relief Fund was created by The Recording Academy® to help those within the music community who have been affected by the Coronavirus pandemic.

"Doesn’t matter what part of the political spectrum you are on, everyone at some point has said ‘Fuck the USA’. The closest thing we have to a universal sentiment," says Spruance.

“This is a song that resonates and speaks to the country that Ipecac calls home,” adds Ipecac Recordings Co-owner Greg Werckman, who will also be donating the label’s proceeds from the single. “Over 100,000 US citizens are dead from the pandemic. At the same time protective masks have turned into a political football and no one has a grasp on testing. Racism continues to rear its ugly head. Police brutality spikes, unemployment spikes, depression spikes and ‘our’ ego driven elected officials don’t seem to care. We need to do a better job of looking out for each other. MusiCares looks after all of us in the music community.”

Listen to and download ‘America’ here:

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