Posts Tagged ‘Charity’

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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Christopher Nosnibor

It’s fitting that noisy-post-punk London duo Modern Technology should have recorded a live session at the Shacklewell Arms under the banner of Exploding Head: everything about the band to date has been explosive, from the sonic blitzkrieg of the eponymous debut EP to their growing fanbase, due to a committed live schedule which has seen them deliver some killer performances. The fact they’re thoroughly decent guys whose sociopolitical message extends beyond the lyrics and into the active donations of proceeds and profits to charitable causes hopefully counts for something, too: they’re not Bono about it: they just fucking get on and do it. and so the proceeds from this release are going to Crisis at Christmas ‘to help support the homeless during this critical time of year and to help fund and support Crisis’ vital year-round work with homelessness’.

Hearing the nihilistic fury of the music, it’s clear that this philanthropy is born almost entirely of frustration and despair at social injustice and inequality, and this six-tracker captures the live experience very well indeed, with four tracks culled from the aforementioned EP along with a brace of new cuts in the shape of ‘All is Forgiven’ and ‘Bitter End’.

It packs full-throttle viscerality from beginning to end, and two things stand out on this release: 1) the colossal noise they churn out with just bass and drums 2) how faithful to the studio renditions the EP songs are.

2) is a testament to how tight and well-rehearsed they are, with metronomic grooves holding everything together 1) is about ore than just pedals. Modern Technology do volume and appreciate that effects and all that stuff only fill so much space. Ultimately, there is no substitute for hard volume. There is a 3), as well. What’s unique about Modern Technology’s sound is that for all the thunderous density, they create a vast amount of space, and the way the air hangs between the notes, between the punishing snare hits, creates a stark, yet simultaneously oppressive atmosphere.

‘I ain’t quick, I ain’t cheap’ Chris Clarke barks on ‘Queue Jumper’, against a backdrop of tumultuous drums and a grating bass chord that sustains into infinity. It’s a simple but effective refrain that’s instantly memorable. It’s all in the delivery, of course.

The new material is monumentally dense and abrasive, with the downtuned, sinewy riffage of ‘All is Forgiven’ reminiscent of Melvins, while ‘Bitter End’ is sparse, slow and bleak and throws in a vaguely psychedelic twist in the verses, crashing into a grinding low-tempo riff for the chorus, such as it is.

One of my bands of 2019, and with dates booked for 2019 already (I may have something (ruined) of a vested interest in the February dates), Modern Technology are a band on the up because they’re a band for our times.

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Hull Doom merchants, The Parasitic Twins have released a live video to accompany their latest single; a lo-fi heavy cover of the 90s classic ‘Spaceman’ by Babylon Zoo, which was released on April 5th. All proceeds of the sale are going to The Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM). The single is taken from a split EP with York-based hardcore punks, The Carnival Rejects (released via Bandcamp on May 31st in association with Man Demolish Records).

Watch the video here:

Of the decision to record the cover, drummer Dom Smith comments: "Man, we love Babylon Zoo. This is a classic track that was way ahead of its time, and we just wanted to mess with it, and we’ll probably stress a lot of people out, but use it as a way to bring attention to an incredible cause in CALM."

Of CALM’s importance on a national scale, Dom adds: "Male mental health is becoming more spotlighted every day, and myself and Max [guitars and vocals] want to offer any support we can to spread the word."

Those interested in donating to CALM can do so here.

The Parasitic Twins will also head out to Europe and across the UK for a run of shows this April with grindcore mates, Boycott The Baptist and Clunge Destroyer:

APRIL TOUR DATES

19th – The Morgue, Leeuwarden – Holland

20th – Muggefug EV, Cottbus – Germany

23 – Bird’s Nest, London – UK

24 – The Parish, Huddersfield- UK

25 – Paradiddles, Worcester- UK

26 – The Bobbin, Lancaster- UK

27 – The Old England, Bristol- UK

28 – Secret Show, Carlisle- UK

7th January 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

I like Modern Technology before I’ve even heard a note. Drummer Owen approached me through Facebook having clocked Aural Aggravation with a link to the East London duo’s debut EP. Most bands starting out want to get on the radar, and get some cash back for the hard graft they’ve put in trying to get to the point of putting music out into the public domain, especially as a physical release – and this comes in limited-to-200 clear vinyl in addition to the digital version – but they’re donating all profits between Mind and Shelter, perhaps two of the most vital charities in the age of austerity.

I may not have written much about the plight of the homeless, although the fact we have a massive problem here in Britain right now requires no qualification, but I have touched on mental health on more than one occasion here in the past. The oft-shared statistics are just statistics, but in my day-job (yes, I work for a multinational who deal in insurance and investments, because, incredibly reviewing bands no-one’s heard of and writing books no-one reads doesn’t pay the bills) I’m often required to step out of my role to help people and to listen to people. They all have trouble. They’re all stressed. They’re all anxietised. Some are depressed. I know how they feel, and they know it. It really is good to talk. No, not just good: vital. This is my daily reality. So the fact that the bulk of CD I get sent for review which I don’t choose to keep end up at my local Mind charity shop is just something I do. Because it’s important to do what you can, right?

According to their bio, Modern Technology formed through ‘a shared frustration of the post-truth society and political unrest that is currently suffocating our global conscious’. The one positive of political turbulence is the spur to creativity: it’s no coincidence that that post-punk emerged during the Thatcher era, and it’s fair to say that the parallels between then and now are strong. One major difference now, however, is that it’s practically impossible to sign on and form a band: zero-hours contracts and the benefits system mean that even looking for work is a full-time job, and the economics of making music simply don’t stack favourably. But regardless of economics, all that shit has to go somewhere. You need to process. You need to vent. Modern Technology sound like a band who are doing this not for fun, but because they need to.

The EP’s opener provides a theme tune of sorts: entitled ‘Modern Technology’, it launches with an ear-shredding blast of splintering noise, before pulverizing drums, grating bass and squalling feedback hammer out a sonic landslide of a backdrop to a hollering vocal, half-lost in an avalanche of reverb. Christ! They’ve got the savagery of early Head of David coupled with the goth-noise mania of The Birthday Party.

It certainly sets the tone and tempo: ‘Project Fear’ is two minutes of overloading, distorted fury that makes optimal use of lo-fi production values for maximum impact. It hits like a punch in the guts. Deciphering the lyrics isn’t easy and at times is pretty much impossible, but the sentiment is more than adequately conveyed by the medium. Besides, the titles speak for themselves in many respects, as they take the most mundane aspects of contemporary capitalist living and attack them with shuddering sonic barrages. Shades of psych filter through the scuzzed-up tumult of no-wave noise. And deep from within that sonic cyclone screams the painful truth: everything is fucked.

When they do slow it down, as on the grinding ‘Select Retail’, they bring out the brooding theatricality and highlight the depthlessness and superficiality of consumerism with the blank slogan / refrain ‘Select retail / reject detail’. But then they also do choppy, bass-led Shellac-tinged angularity on ‘Queue Jumper’. Closer ‘Modern Detritus’ distils every last ounce of frustration and compresses it into a dense roar of thunder.

Modern Technology are the real deal: this isn’t music being made with one eye on a commercial ticket, but music that’s born out of compulsion, the urge to purge. It’s art. It’s raw, it’s visceral, it’s painful. And in expressing the agony of frustration, it’s perfect.

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