Posts Tagged ‘Chunk’

Christopher Nosnibor

My appreciation of the debut album by Leeds noisemongers Irk is already out in the public domain, as is my admiration of their capacity as a live act. It was only fitting that they should launch their debut album at Chunk, the rehearsal space which has become the hub of the new Leeds underground / alternative scene which has begun to emerge since the Brudenell – still the best venue in the country – has become increasingly popular and catering ever more to bigger-name acts. And there’s no escaping the fact that without the tiny venues, the microscenes, the free and cheap spaces where anything goes, there’d be nowhere for the bands of the future to explore and develop ideas free from the limitations of marketability and the pressure to achieve success. Commercialism strangles creativity, and we need the obscure band who want to fuck shit up more than ever in these desperate times in the stranglehold of corrupt, constricting neoliberalist capitalism which is not-so-slowly eroding every real freedom for the ordinary person.

Chunk is so no-budget, so DIY that there’s no licence for tonight’s (free) event: its BYOB, and people file in with carrier bags containing four-packs and the atmosphere is just so laid back that my anxieties about finding the place (Chunk is hidden through a door up some steps (which I worry I may fall down on my way out) next to a car repair place in an industrial area two miles out into the arse-end of nowhere) and all of the other stuff I panic about but tend not to talk about evaporate almost immediately. There are friendly faces, faces I recognise, faces I can chat to, and it feels more like a house party than a gig.

Only, there’s a gig PA and there are bands, and Beige Palace are on first. I note that they’ve been using a quite from a review I wrote of their live debut on my only previous visit to Chunk in the summer of 2016, which says ‘Beige Palace make sparse-sounding music that’s jarring, dissonant and hints at a clash between early Pram and No Wave angularity.’ Two yeas on, it still seems a fair summary. ‘It’s not math-rock’, their diminutive and moustachioed front man, Freddy Vinehill-Clifee forewarns the audience before they begin their set. He’s right. It’s atonal, droney, repetitive noise-rock with an almost spoken word delivery. Kelly Bishop’s flat, elongated vowels are reminiscent of Mark E. Smith in the early years of The Fall. They’re bursting with nagging, awkward guitar lines and clattering percussion playing unusual time signatures, too. So, like math-rock, only not. Or something. But it’s not about labels, but the music, and while they’re still rough ‘n’ ready, their confidence and intuition has evolved a lot over the last two years, and they turn in a more than decent performance.

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Beige Palace

It was the release of BRITN3Y that brought deranged Edinburgh 3-piece Britney to my attention, and I’d been itching to see them live ever since. They don’t disappoint. Comprising bass – through a fuckload of pedals; vocals – through an even bigger fuckload of pedals; – and drums, they deliver sonic riots in the form of blistering sub-two-minute noisefests. Occasionally, chuggy riffs and even grooves emerge from the screaming, spasmodic mess, albeit fleetingly. It hurts after two songs. It hurts a whole lot better after ten. The speaker a foot from my right ear is sounding like it’s fucked and they just fuck it harder with a relentless barrage of explosive, brutal hybridized noise that draws on elements of metal, hardcore, and grindcore and Final Fantasy (the victory fanfare is a recurrent feature throughout their set and closes it, too, while the infamous Tidus Laugh from FF X also features). They’re joined at the end by NALA for some screaming vocals to wrap up set appropriately culminates in an ear-splitting wall of noise, and I’m not the only one blown away.

Britney

Britney

It turns out that Jack Gordon still has the copy of The Rage Monologues from the time we exchanged books. He’s read my review of the album, and during our brief exchange, I’m reminded that so many of the people who make art that pushes extremities, in whatever way, are the most pleasant, polite, and mild-mannered people you could wish to meet. It’s their outlet, and it’s what keeps them sane. Better to make brutal art than commit mass murder. Probably. Jack – bespectacled, sporting jacket and chinos and looking like any other smart-casual office worker – is a nice guy. But with the aid of a PA, a backline, and a bottle of Buckfast, he brings the brutality.

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Irk

If the disappearance of Blacklisters from the Leeds scene following Billy Mason-Wood’s departure for Germany left a jagged, gaping hole, then Irk more than manage it fill it with their own rendition of that Jesus Lizard, Touch ‘n’ Go skewed 90s US noise-rock racket. The trio are quite a different proposition and are very much their own people, but the comparisons and local lineage are impossible to ignore. And in this enclosed space, with the volume at pulverising levels and the warmth of community and camaraderie only adding to that of the proximity of bodies, everything comes together perfectly.

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7th December 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

Irk have been tearing it up on the Leeds scene for a little while now, and are a band at the epicentre of the DIY scene surrounding the CHUNK studio / rehearsal room space, tucked away in a rough and dilapidated industrial estate a good half-hour hike out of the city centre. It’s an apposite location for the thriving creative community of metal / sludge / noise bands.

The band describe themselves as ‘three polite wee rascals…. who make ugly, angular, noise-fused, math rock, consisting of drums, bass, and vocals’, and as such, belong to the city’s now well-established post-millennium tradition for producing seriously noisy bands who are bloody good. Many have fallen by the wayside, but a lineage of acts that includes Blacklisters, Hawk Eyes, That Fucking Tank, Holy State, Hora Douse, and yes, we’ll throw in Pulled Apart by Horses here, because they’re hardy quiet or genteel, speaks for itself.

I’ve caught them live a few times in the last couple of years, and have even performed on the same bill, exchanging books with front man Jack (I think Life Pervert is ace; I’ve no idea what he makes of The Rage Monologues). I’ve never once been disappointed by their performances, and it’s a reasonable expectation that Recipes from the Bible should sound like the work of a band who’ve been honing their material live for some time.

But by Christ, Irk really give it some here, and forge the title: this is a sonic concoction that cooks up the most unholy racket going. ‘I Bleed Horses’ begins with a howl and a barrage of frenetic drums and a mass of guitar racket. While you’re picking your jaw off the floor, check that tight, compressed, springy bass sound and the churning throb it produces that just about holds the whole squalling mess of discord together. Less that two and a half minutes in duration, the bled horses bleed out into ‘Life Changing Porno’, another unintelligible blizzard of noise that’s so chaotic it’s not always entirely clear if they’re all playing the same song: the tempo lurches unpredictably and whole racket collides in a spectacularly ugly explosion.

The seven-minute ‘The Observatory’ built around a choppy, cyclical riff reminiscent of Bleach era Nirvana, and again, it’s the menacing bass that dominates as they forge a suffocatingly claustrophobic density. It’s about as close to respite as it gets: with the only other exception being the verses of the lumbering ‘The Healer’, Recipes from the Bible is relentless in its screaming mania and brutal angles. The wild sax action on ‘You’re My Germ’ could be free jazz in another context, but here, it just adds another level of crazed hysteria to the mix.

Taking obvious cues from Shellac and Blacklisters, it’s a set of sharp-cornered, serrated brutality that stops, starts, shudders, judders, jolts and jerks – but unlike Shellac, Jack’s raving, gibbering, rabid vocals break free from the tight limits of the coiled tension of math-rock tropes and instead cut loose and careen into the wild noise of The Jesus Lizard. Snarling, howling, drawling and slavering, there’s something cracked, even psychotic. In combination, it’s a tense, intense set that sound deranged, dangerous: at times, its really quite uncomfortable. That’s a clear measure of success.

Chances are, reviews will tout this as being ‘uncompromising’, not least of all on account of it’s being self-produced by the band (of course). But Recipes from the Bible goes beyond that. Way beyond. It harnesses the full force of the band: so often, bands draft in producers only for the sound to be polished, slickened, rendered overtly ‘studio’. By keeping things in-house, they’ve retained the rawness, and the sheer velocity and unbridled power that defined them, and the sonic vision remains unadulterated. And beneath all of distortion and dirt, the ragged, jagged edges and the feel of a style of playing that’s loose and uncontained, there’s a remarkable and deceptive degree of precision.

It’s hard to find fault with Recipes from the Bible: there isn’t a weak track or an ounce of fat. There’s no filler, and no slack. There’s not a moment of tameness or timidity, and instead, they bring top-level ferocity and relentless fury, and the chances are you’ll be hard-pushed to find a better noise-rock album this year.

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Irk - Recipes

Bearfoot Beware have come a long way from their scrappy, DIY beginnings. They’ve shared stages with luminaries like Future of the Left, played on the BBC Introducing stage at Reading and Leeds, and toured all over mainland Europe. Now, after years on the road they’re back with their most coherent sonic manifesto in the shape of second album, Sea Magnolia.

Eschewing for the most part their crossover punk-meets-math of their early recordings and debut LP, Sea Magnolia is a much more heavy-hitting release that doesn’t feel the need to overcomplicate for the sake of egos. “The heavier tunes are where we had the most fun” they say, linking this change in their sound to “a lot of the music that surrounds us down at CHUNK [collective, a space which the band co-founded] and in the Leeds Music Community.”

Lyrically, this aggression is felt as well. “It’s angry but not hateful,” they explain, “anger is a tool you can use to express yourself but hate is a weapon.” The simple fact was that “creating something way more direct and focused this time meant this time the lyrics felt like they needed that too.”

They’ve unveiled ‘Point Scorer’ as a taste for Sea Magnolia, and you can listen to it here:

Sea Magnolia is out on 16th March via Superstar Destroy Records.

Bearfoot Beware

Christopher Nosnibor

Given the vast array of microgenres and the broad spread of metal itself, curating a metal festival must be quite a challenge. A number of friends of mine have, in recent years, complained of events leaning too much towards a certain part of the metal spectrum, with an overemphasis on doom or sludge. A lot of credit is therefore due to the organisers of the first Hearth Life event, hosted in one of Leeds’ hottest new underground venues, Chunk. To describe it as intimate would be an understatement. A rehearsal room for arts and music which doubles as a two-room venue, it’s smaller than some living rooms. And yet they’ve managed to host 14 bands representing a huge cross-section of noise from the more extreme end of the scale. And there isn’t a dud act on the bill.

Using the two ‘stages’ to optimum effect, and keeping sets to half an hour or less means the bands are on back-to-back with no more than a few minutes in between, for eight hours straight. But by alternating the faster and slower bands, it’s neither a non-stop frenzy nor a marathon slog through hours of droning doom. That they’d not only got in a decent range of beers, but taken the time to mark up on the price list the vegetarian / vegan friendly beverages, not to mention having food courtesy of local ‘real junk food’ nosh merchants Armley Junk-tion on a pay-what-you-feel basis, all showed an attention to detail and general thoughtfulness you simply don’t find in larger commercial ventures. And most miraculously, the bands ran to time on what was an insanely tight schedule.

I’d seen around a third of the bands on the bill previously, so my expectations were set, at least to an extent. That said, the lineup’s diversity is the key, and discovering Human Certainty more than justified getting down early. Combining heavily chorused / flanged goth guitars with grindcore vocals buried in a fuck-ton of reverb and delay, while the singer battles invisible demons as he charges maniacally to and fro, they’re a unique proposition and a compelling live act.

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Human Certainty

A whole lot less heavy were Beige Palace, and despite not being very metal, it as pleasing to see the young band, making their debut live appearance, receive a warm reception. Not for the last time during the event, I was reminded what an accommodating and thoroughly decent bunch of people attend the events with the most extreme bands. With shades of Young Marble Giants, Beige Palace make sparse-sounding music that’s jarring, dissonant and hints at a clash between early Pram and No Wave angularity.

While the space given to manic full-throttle thrashing was extremely welcome given the current vogue for doom, stoner and sludge, the grindcore acts on the bill felt a bit throwaway in their delivery here: Ona Snap announced themselves as being ‘fucking idiots’ before launching into 20 minutes of frenetic mayhem made up of short violent jolts of noise. They were tight, and went down well, but felt a bit too much like a party band to really pack a punch. Similarly, Famine – who I think are ace, and have seen evolve considerably over the last couple of years or so – seemed more about getting the crowd whipped into a frenzy, and consequent, their set felt more like an excuse to go mental than a serious assault on society. That said, having bemoaned the too-cool-for-school audiences at bigger gigs, they played hard and insanely fast, and it’s good to see this crowd going bonkers with some wild moshing and even crowd surfing in an extremely confined space. A tidal wave of bodies almost threatens to upend the makeshift bar during Horsebastard’s set. There is carnage. It’s good-natured, but carnage nonetheless.

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Famine

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Horsebastard

Ghold, touting new long player PYR are a band on the rise. Having expanded to a three-piece since I last saw them 11 months ago, they’re sounding denser and more layered than before. The drumming is explosive, and there’s a perverse sense of performance, as Oliver Martin plays and sings with his back to the audience, and Aleks Wilson, while forward-facing, hides behind his hair and is hardly conversational. But cultivating this distance between audience and band work well, and adds to the intrigue of a band who trade in pulverizing heavy sludge riffs while also incorporating elements of psychedelia and offering radical changes of tone and pace. Epic sludge workouts are contrasted with fast-paced attacks, although thy always keep the ‘heavy’ cranked up to the max. One-dimensional they aren’t, and in the space of their half-hour set they demonstrate more diversity than some band manage over a whole career. They’ve got some chops, alright, and I’m not talking about Wilson’s monster ‘burns.

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Ghold

The heavy trucker metal of Nottingham monster mofos Moloch bring the noise and a different kind of density. Dark, sludgy and burning with anguish, they embody pained nihilism, they’re unphased when the mic completely cuts out – that or front man Chris is simply too immersed in the thunderous wall of brutal rage he and his cohorts are churning out to make a deal of it. Either way, the sound guy is quick with a replacement and they power on through triumphant.

Palehorse, playing their last Leeds show and penultimate gig in a sixteen-year career, are given an extended, 45-minute slot, which is the day’s punishing highlight. Although not the last band to play (that slot is given to The Afternoon Gentlemen), they’re effectively the headliners. I took no notes during their set, too engrossed in the immense, brutal sound, and too crushed by the clamouring front rows to even consider anything beyond the immediate experience. The event page describes them as ‘noise shitting bass bastards’ (they’ve got two basses, but no guitars), while their bandcamp page heads them as being ‘London Powerviolence’. Call their music what you like, it’s as heavy as fuck. The vast bottom-end is enough to rearrange internal organs, and contrasts with Nikolai Grune’s sharp, seething vocals. But it’s music that’s textured, articulate and powerful beyond mere brute force.

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Palehorse

It’s hard to stumble out of an event like this feeling anything other than elated. Live music is all about escape, release, and the more brutal and cathartic the music, the greater the release, and seeing so many incredible, intense bands in such close proximity is exactly the way it should be. It’s personal, intimate to the point of exclusive, interior. There may have been a few crazies in the crowd, but there were no out-and-out cunts: the vibe was one of camaraderie and companionship, the event a coming together of outsiders and misfits in a celebration of all things outsider and beyond the grasp and cognisance of the mass media and general populace. Let’s hope this is the first of a long run for Hearth Life.

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Shrykull