Posts Tagged ‘collaboration’

Bam Balam Records –12th June 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Two names to conjure with collided live in Tokyo on 14th March 2019, with sprawling psychedelic masters Acid Mothers Temple coming together once more, a full decade after the release of the live album Underdogg Express in 2009, with the founder of the legendary Krautrock band Guru Guru. ‘A fiery psychedelic collaboration recorded in the spirit of early Guru Guru’ ensued.

Edited neatly into four tracks – two per side of vinyl – it’s being released on limited edition vinyl for the French ‘Disquaire Day’ June 2021 (French Record Store Day 2021).

In recent years, I’ve come to despise Record Store day: after all, a record store is for life, not just for RSD, and the whole thing reeks of exploitation, from the retail prices being set as a level that means stores themselves make next to nothing from any sales, many fans are priced out – assuming they aren’t geographically advantaged – and then they’re shafted once more when those who had both the benefit of cash and location resell at even more exorbitant prices. Yes, one could discus free markets and supply and demand and how buyers choose to pay those prices – and I personally choose not to – but ultimately, a lot of the fun has gone out of it since the early years.

It doesn’t help that RSD has been swamped by reissues by major labels, meaning completists and hardcore collectors of some very popular acts are climbing over to buy new editions of old records, and none of them really give a fuck about independent stores, labels, or artists.

In this context, this release is a welcome one. It’s also a good one, and finds the collaborators veering from wildly chaotic and discordant free-jazz to muted, atmospheric ambience, with the fifteen-minute ‘Electric Junk’ spanning both, and beyond, exploding as it does into a searing proggy / post-rock crescendo in the closing couple of minutes.

‘The Next Time You See the Dalai Llama’ is built around a cyclical motif that whirls like a kaleidoscope over a throbbing reception of pounding drums and bass that lock into a relentless groove for the first four of is nine minutes. The title track closes with a mash-up of classic rock and wild desert psych, with some wild guitar work going fret crazy over an insistent, monotonous bass groove and thumping percussion that pounds and crashes relentlessly, and it even get on quite a swagger and swings into a full strolling jazz workout in the second half.

Tokugoya doesn’t bring any real surprises, and is, really, exactly what you’d expect – but then it doesn’t disappoint… although its limited availability might (but there is still a CD version).

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SN Variations – 7th May 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Did downloading really kill physical formats and the music industry? If you believe the media and the major labels, yes, and again, when it comes to non-major artists, it’s clear that the current industry model is not one that benefits them kindly. Then again, streaming services probably did more damage than downloading – or home taping – ever did. But there is also a very definite flipside, in that the cost of producing physical releases on a small scale is phenomenally expensive on a per-unit basis, to the point that it’s often prohibitive, and that’s before one factors in issues of distribution and postage.

There’s also a matter of purpose: conventionally, singles were released to promote albums, and in order to achieve that aim, tended to be the most commercially viable song(s) from said album that radio stations (and, later, blogs and the like) may play and draw potential buyers in. But artists like Adrian Coker don’t make music that has that kind of marketability. You won’t find his music being played on commercial radio, and a single is probably likely to sell a bunch of albums.

No artist makes music for it not to be heard. And so it is that SN Variations release Adrian Corker’s ‘9 Spaces’ single as a download only, and it makes sense, particularly in context, as a musical work that was only possible via digital means, as Corker explains: ‘This piece started quite a while ago in a room with me, Chris Watson and an electro magnetic receiver made in Russia. It ended with the processing of these parts by Takuma Watanabe and a percussive improvisation by Tatsuhisa Yamamoto that left my original demo in his recording worldising my track in Japan. In between over the last year musicians such as Aisha Orazbayeva, the Ligeti Quartet and Pascal Wyse sent me parts remotely from London and various places around Europe. A track that was made in 9 spaces of which I was in 3’.

It’s in this context that the title makes sense also. And the roll-call of contributors is quite something:

Tatsuhisa Yamamoto – percussion

Takuma Watanabe – max

Chris Watson – field recordings

Aisha Orazbayeva – violin

Pascal Wyse – trombone

Ligeti Quartet:

Mandhira de Saram – violin

Patrick Dawkins – violin

Richard Jones – viola

Val Welbanks – cello

The first version, a quite punishing nine-and-a-half-minutes in duration, begins with grating drones and serrated buzzes, somewhere between an electric hair clipper and a palm-sander, before transitioning into trepidatious territory, with skittering fleeting buzzes and swarming sounds creating an unsettling tension atop a sparse, hesitant bass that stops and starts, single notes echoing and halting, And ultimately, it’s quite challenging – but to be clear, that’s no criticism. Art that isn’t challenging isn’t really art, but entertainment.

‘V2’ is subtler, quieter, stealthier, the drones trimmed, more mid-range, cleaner, manifesting as more like organ notes that quiver and quaver into space, disturbed only by the occasional extraneous disruption. As such, it’s more ambient and less upfront. It’s also everything a single should be: a snapshot of the artist, showcasing different aspects of their sound in contrasting and complimentary fashion.

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Herhalen – H#023 – 21st May 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

The press release for this second album by The Incidental Crack – a collaboration between Justin Watson, Rob Spencer and Simon Proffitt – which follows last year’s Before The Magic describes the trio ‘exchanging field recordings, samples and random noise between Manchester, Wigan and North Wales, culminating in studio sessions focused on detailed processing and sound manipulation. They have yet to meet. Maybe one day when this is all over, in a pub in North Wales, free from this madness’.

As such, it’s a classic lockdown project, a virtual collaboration that proves that when it comes to the making of music, distance doesn’t have to be an object. In fact, it’s probably easier to collaborate without the logistics of brining people together in the same place at the same time. Writing on the project, Justin (one half of The Gated Canal Community and formerly of Front & Follow, a label which will be familiar to regular readers of AA), notes that Municipal Music ‘includes tracks recorded during the same period, using our now foolproof approach of sharing stuff, fiddling with it, sharing some more etc.’, adding, ‘It kept me sane at least during the last year!’

That is something that’s certainly relatable: keeping occupied has, for me, been the only way to keep myself together. I’m not saying it’s healthy, it’s just how it is. And increasingly, I’ve found abstract music easier to manage. Structured music, anything overtly ‘song’ orientated and rhythm driven is, all too often, just so much noise and instead of providing a welcome point of focus, feels just like being smacked from all sides at once. So while there may still be a lot going on in this, it’s not psychologically disruptive, and is suitably absorbing and immersive.

There are three extended-length tracks in all, which exploit the full dynamic range, with a strong focus on texture. The first, ‘The Second Cup of Tea of the Day’ is strong – certainly more English Breakfast or Nambarrie than Earl Grey or anything herbal – and probably inspired by the sound of a boiling kettle that’s been manipulated and fucked around with. However, it sounds at first more like a freight train, an extended continuous roar occupying the first three minutes before it gradually abates in volume and intensity, and gentler, softly-woven ambient drones fade in. there are still rumblings and incidental clatterings, forging a soundscape that never fully reconciles the tensions between the elements of soft and harsh, the light and dark. Bubbling Krautrock with bulbous beats collides with metallic shards of grating noise.

‘Just Passing Through’ is appropriately positioned in the middle, and is altogether gentler, softer, warmer, and pursues a more conventional ambient line. But there are peaks and troughs and ebbs and flows as the sound swells and at times shifts toward more unsettling territory, with some woozy oscillations that tug uncomfortably at the pit of the stomach before receding and allowing calmer vibes to return once more.

The third and final cut, the fourteen-minute ‘Ice Cream at the Pavilion’ starts with what sounds like the crashing of waves against a rocky beach in a storm, which strangely reminds me of a number of occasions we’ve had ice cream at the coast on family outings, because it’s always ice-cream weather for children. Voices chatter and babble and whoop excitedly, while a dolorous church organ begins to while away majestically in the background. Eventually, it’s superseded by a barrelling drone and a throbbing, slow-pulsing sound that swells and surges.

There’s a certain wistfulness and nostalgia to be found in the spaces in and around Municipal Music, although perhaps some of that’s my own reception aesthetic, a response as much to the circumstances of its creation and the allusions of the title, both of which remind me I’ve not left my own municipality in months, haven’t met any of my collaborators or friends in so very long, and yearn for both proximity to (some) people and also the countryside and country pubs. All of these thoughts wash around in my mind as the sounds surround me, and it occurs to me, finally, that Municipal Music is good music to think to.

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Bankrecords – blank037 – 12th March 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

In his everyday work, Tobias Vethake composes music for theatres, installations, radio plays, television and film, and while also participating in various collaborative projects, including Mini Pops Junior, his primary outlet for his experimental explorations is Sicker Man. With electric cello at the heart of the compositions, Vethake incorporates myriad additional sound sources and draws on a vast cultural spectrum spanning jazz and industrial, from east and from west to forge expansive and quite intense works of range and depth.

Like Jo Quail, Vethake plays the cello in ways that rarely sound recognisably cello-like: it’s apparent that the instrument’s versatility is severely underrated. So while there are certainly orchestral elements present on Dialog, it’s by no means an overtly orchestral album, and by absolutely no means an overtly ‘cello’ album. It’s more of an abstract, ambient, (post) rock work. Moreover, collaboration has a way of drawing different ideas and methods out of artists, with the potential to realise works which are infinitely greater than the sum of the parts, the product of the ‘third mind’, if you will.

Dialog contains a collection of pieces recorded in collaboration with different artists – all improvised and unarranged. The dialogs therefore represent the musical exchanges between the musicians in the moment as they respond, spontaneously and intuitively, to one another, often as they meet and ‘converse’ for the first time.

The album’s first track, ‘dialog with Manuel Klotz’ begins with a weaving air of eastern mysticism (a Turkish marriage orchestra Tobias would pass as they played on his way to the sessions), and I’m reminded of the Master Musicians of Joujouka, only with more prominent percussion – but before long, a yawning swell of noise engulfs it, the wave finally breaking to a heavy tidal drone with an instant beat. Eventually, everything collapses to a buzzing drone.

Each piece has its own distinctive style, indicating not only the merits of what each collaborator brings, but also Sicker Man’s versatility. There’s a swampy swagger to the piece recorded with Lip Smh, where drill-like drone buzzes vibrate against serpentine scales that twist enigmatically into a desert haze.

Aidan Baker gets everywhere, and here he is bringing brooding shadows of melancholy the a mournfully lugubrious piece, which is, for my money, one of the standouts. Of the others, there are lengthy passages of gentle, abstract ambience in succession, but the dialog with Kiki Bohemia brings all the dingy bass, as well as all the shimmering space-rock synths, while Scheider TM goes all out on the electro pulsations. Clocking in at over nine and a half minutes, it makes for one mighty finale, building into an immense wall of overdriven guitar that’s absolutely crushing in its weight and density. It has the elements of Earth 2 and Sunn O))), but played at pace, a swirling black metal vortex of overloading distortion. It’s absolutely punishing, and its relentless.

After the curious journey that is the rest of Dialogs, this is just a devastating finisher. There is nowhere to go from here, other than to turn out the light and stare at the ceiling.

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Ojud Records – 1st January 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

It may only be January 1st, but 2021 already feels very much – as expected – like a continuation of 2020. As a friend pointed out to me only this morning, in summarising the fact that the pandemic position remained unchanged and now we had the added shit bonus of having fully left the EU, ‘shit never sleeps’. Seeing so many post on social media about being glad to see the back of 2020 was somewhat depressing: I get the sentiment, and very much am on board with the significance and psychology of book-ending a period of time with the striking of midnight marking the start of a new calendar, but really, what changes? This year or ever?

One positive of this continuity is that Dave Procter is kicking off the new year where he left off the old one, namely by making and releasing more noise, and its timing is noteworthy, as a common theme within Procter’s work is some form of commemoration or ritual, with events like midsummer drone walks

This time, it’s with an alliteratively-titled work with occasional collaborator Claus Poulsen, with whom he plays one concert and makes one release every year. Parallel Perspectives is very much from the dronier end of his working spectrum, and follows Solaris (2019) and Minimum / Maximum (2018) in a continuum stretching back to 2015 and the release of his first work with Poulsen, PP. The release of Parallel Perspectives being a day late for 2020, despite having been recorded almost a year ago on 20th January 2020 also seems somehow, if accidentally appropriate, and something that won’t be lost on the artists, not least of all with Procter having relocated to Sweden ahead of the finalisation of Brexit. And works like Parallel Perspectives illustrate why: when creativity is so reliant on collaboration, free movement is essential, and this is a perfect advertisement for everything the un-UK has just thrown away in the name of ‘sovereignty’.

Not that there is anything remotely political about the album itself: this is purely a coming together of musical minds, and a celebration of their commonalities and differences – and it’s that mutual understanding, paired with an awareness of the power of contrast that make this.

As the liner notes detail, Parallel Perspectives was recorded in Copenhagen. The single track on the album is an extension of Procter’s Fibonacci Drone Organ minimalistic project, but with Poulsen adding overdubs. With his different perspective, he quickly forgets the minimalistic nature of the piece and details it with waves of half speed vinyl and samples.

An elongated organ drone hums, hovering and wavering gently in semi-stasis. Ruptures and incidentals abound, from seemingly random discordant cascades of sound and piano interjections to slow-whispering thermal winds and desolately chill nuclear gusts, and I’s remarkable just how much those details prove to dramatically colour the mood. Perhaps it’s the – for a better term – blankness of the flat organ drone that is as much key here, in that as of and in itself, it has no particular ‘mood’; it’s a neutral sound, imbued with precisely nothing. It’s only when rubbing against or along with another sound that it slides upwards or downwards, into light or darkness. There is no shortage of either over the course of the album’s fifty-three minutes, but there are many protracted passages which explore the realms of the ominous and eerie, the uncomfortable and the suspenseful, as fear chords creep like drifting mist in a dark city alley.

At times, it chimes, and at others, it grates. Sometimes it rings, and at others it drifts. At times, it swells, at others it tapers to nearly nothing. Its pace is barely perceptible, a continuously creeping shift, not so much a slow-burn as a smoulder of smoke tricking from a peat burner, and the layers added by Poulson only serve to protract the transitions, grinding a slow-motion audio that has a cognitive effect as you feel yourself slowing in line with its interminable aural crawl. And for all the moments that sounds like there is a heavy craft looming on the horizon, for all the protracted ponderous spells, there are moments that sound very like the soundtrack to breaking dawn, the soundtrack to redemption on the horizon.

Parallel Perspectives is subtle, but the devil is very much in the detail here.

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Outsider Art / Nim-Brut – 4th December 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

I should probably apologise in advance for this one: my mind has a habit of sprouting off on tangents of word association at the best of times, and with the turmoil that is 2020, a year that’s been – and continues to be – an endless conveyor belt of shit on shit, none of which makes any fucking sense, there are many days and evenings when I am absolutely all over the place. Not literally, of course, since I can’t really go anywhere or see anyone. The weirdy collage sprawl of ‘Carving Another Flute’, the first of three compositions on this split / collaborative effort by BlackCloudSummonerand the hypermanic, uber-prolific Theo Gowans, aka Territorial Gobbings is the perfectly bewildering soundtrack to these brain-foggingly bewildering times. So ‘Carving Another Flute’ just makes me think, inexplicably, of the slang term skinflute. That’s probably the only instrument not in the mix in this chaotic cacophony of an album, that’s got everything else going on, probably including the kitchen sink.

‘Peaches and Crayons’ sounds soft and playful, but is in fact droney and dark, and there’s no easy access point here. But they save their harshest noise for last: ‘Playing All My Black Dice Records At The Same Time’ is a 15-minute assault that is pretty much what the title says, meaning it’s a squalling blitzkrieg of screaming feedback and mid-and low-end that growls and bangs around erratically midst metallic crashes and a fizzing circuitry. It’s utterly excruciating, and probably one of the most intense and sustained blasts of noise I’ve heard in a while, being nothing short of an explosive sonic firework display – but, unchoreographed and untamed, it’s more like a blaze in a firework factory, with everything going off all at once, and it’s incendiary and blinding and overwhelming. Crash-landing somewhere between Merzbow and Whitehouse around the time of Never Forget Death, it’s a fucking nasty mess of abrasive noise – which of course means I love it.

There’s no sitting on the fence with this one: if you do noise, you will love this. If you don’t, it’s your worst nightmare.

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Geins’t Naït + L. Petitgand – Like This Maybe Or This

Ici d’ailleurs – MT012 – 13th November 2020

I must have fallen into a black hole in recent times: I hadn’t even realised that Ici d’ailleurs were still running their ‘Mind Travels’ series, which I’d followed from its inception, and have the first seven or eight releases on CD in a neat pile. Although, it would seem that apart from a couple of releases in 2017 and 2018, the series has lain largely dormant since 2015 – until now, so maybe I’m not quite as far out of the loop as I’d first thought. Its return is a welcome one, and arrives at a time many will be grateful. I am among the grateful, although providing a valid commentary to this – or anything – feels vaguely inappropriate.

These ‘Mind Travels’ releases were always strong by virtue of their otherness. The series was appropriately named, as the music each release contains is transportative, lifting the listener out of mind and body and to another realm. Like This Maybe Or This is no exception.

The pair came together in 2014 for the release of Je vous dis, which stood as a remarkable intersection of two very different artists – and yet it worked because of, rather than in spite of their disparity. Like This Maybe Or This is the duo’s second collaborative contribution to the series, and once again, it’s unsettling and awkward, although magnificently executed and greater than the sum of the parts. It seems that these two superficially divergent and disparate composers have found a certain commonality, and this, their second collaboration for the series, is a perfect merging of forms and ideas.

‘Hac’ brings clattering drums, undulating synths and a whole tumult of extraneous noise and voices not a slow-turning blender, while ‘22’ is a soft, supple semi-ambient effort, with mellifluous synth washes drifting in waves around a slow, metronomic wooden thud. Elsewhere, ‘uido 10’ is spare, grating, industrial: muffled vocal samples are partially submerged beneath murky sloughing waves of analogue noise that rises and falls like waves lapping against the shore.

It’s a brooding piano and stealthy sine waves that sculpt the tense mood of ‘Bagd’, before ‘Pecno’ brings an insistent oscillating throb that’s pure Suicide, while strings and piano grace the atmospheric ‘Dustil’ with an overtly orchestral / classical flavour, which contrasts with the expansive 80s electro stylings of ‘Liber’ which immediately follows. The final moments of the penultimate track, ‘37’ sounds- and feels – like the shoot-out at the end of a movie where everyone dies, and the desolate closer, ‘Aphro’ is a sullen-piano-led elegy at the end of everything. And it’s at the end of everything that we stand, or so it seems.

The world is on a knife-edge, and nothing feels safe, and nothing feels certain. And since, right now, the only travels many of us can undertake are in the mind, this album makes for a fitting soundtrack to a stationery journey.

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Panurus Productions – 25th September 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Shrill, harsh, shrieking feedback noise and ear-cleansing scrapes of crunching metal collide and it’s not pretty, it’s not easy on the ear, it’s not rhythmic, melodic, or anything even approaching aesthetic. This is the sound of ‘Cardboard Schimitar’, the eleven-minute opening track on Always Check Your Mirrors, a collaboration between Mariam, Plastiglomerate, SW1n-HUNTER & Yol. It’s something of a departure for Newcastle-based tape label Panurus Productions, for whom dark, odd, and unsettling are standard, because Always Check Your Mirrors hurtles headlong into the domain of warped and outright nasty.

It’s head-shredding, and a sonic experience akin to poking a wet finger in a live socket, but the best of it is that that’s as gentle as it gets. It’s the sound of four similarly attenuated but nevertheless disparate artists pulling in all directions at once to chaotic effect.

To be fair, the liner notes do very much prepare us for the worst: ‘from frantic blasts of electrical necromancy through to sparse ominous ambience, crackling with distortion or resampled and warped. Objects clatter and strings twang over sizzling electronics and stark exclamations, as twisted and sheared sounds fold back into themselves over the course of eleven tracks.’ As the notes also explain, this album was ‘pulled from a session recorded live’, and consequently, ‘these tracks vary in intensity across the tape; from frantic blasts of electrical necromancy through to sparse ominous ambience, crackling with distortion or resampled and warped. Objects clatter and strings twang over sizzling electronics and stark exclamations, as twisted and sheared sounds fold back into themselves over the course of eleven tracks’.

And the end result is a serious fucking din. Unintelligible, maniacal shouting against screeds of impenetrable, undifferentiated noise is the order of the day for ‘Illegible Back Tattoo with Typo’: it’s a primitive stab at power electronics, and it’s this primitivism that gives it such a brutal edge. Twanging, scraping, clanking, clattering, this is truly everything thrown in including the kitchen sink, with bags of spanners, rusty nails, leaky pipes, and a hefty dose of psychosis: this is the sound, and this is the mood: wild-eyed raving and a boiling fermentation of electronic froth come together to create an uncomfortable atmosphere, like being hemmed in a small meeting room with a manager who’s losing their shit every which way, while troubling tinnitus rings in your ears. The tension hurts, and your pulse quickens with discomfort.

The vocals are stuttering, tight-chested, snarled, shouted, choking on fury to the point that thy more or less resemble a breakdown captured by microphone, stammering incohesion amidst a crackling overload of distortion. Always Check Your Mirrors straddles electronic noise and experimental weirdness: ‘Awesome Pop Off the Radio’ is a cut-up explosion with Tourette’s, a spasm smash of warped tape whiplash. Needless to say, it’s the antithesis of pop, and yet it’s probably one of the more accessible cuts by far. ‘Hoiked from Pure Air’ evokes Japanese oddity, and following the bleep, fuzz, and whirr of ‘Test Skeleton’ with its farting circuit melts, while the thirteen-minute closer, ‘Accolades as the Car Stalls Again’ dissolves in a wave of static as bleeps and crackles fly in all directions.

It’s far from soothing – by which I mean it’s borderline psychotic – and an album containing this level of fevered spleneticism should probably carry a trigger warning for the more delicately disposed in these tense times, but the catharsis imbued within each brutal blast that combined noise and words to the most powerful effect is perhaps one of the most succinct articulations of all of this fucked-up shit I’ve hears all year.

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24th July 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

For the Benefit of All represents the coming together of two artists whom the descriptor ‘visionary’ isn’t really hyperbole: having led Her Name is Calla through a decade-long career of turbulence which produced a catalogue of truly definitive, landmark releases in the field of post-rock which pushed the boundaries of the genre in myriad directions, as well as forging a solo career as a minor-key acoustic troubadour T.E. Morris’ cult status is based on his creative singularity. Meanwhile, Jo Quail has very much created her own niche, bringing the cello to a whole new audience with her tempestuous compositions that are far more rock than classical, turning her instrument of choice from an orchestral element to a full band and more courtesy of her innovative playing techniques and judicious use of effects (admittedly a bloody huge bank of effects).

As the press release outlines, For the Benefit of All was inspired by, and was originally intended to be performed within, Kelly Richardson’s Mariner 9 panoramic exhibition at the Attenborough Arts Centre in Leicester, but was cancelled due to the global Covid-19 pandemic.

As such For the Benefit of All is essentially a soundtrack work, but also a narrative work, which plots the trajectory of a mission to Mars. It’s a sci-fi hybrid that tells of a future based on true events past and present, and more than this, it’s a reflection on time and space. With the original project plans put paid by the COVID-19 pandemic, they elected to continue work remotely and release the music as a standalone work, and it succeeds – although it does work best with an understanding of the context, because an abstract ambient work without context is simply one more abstract ambient work. In context, it’s very much a departure for both artists, devoid of climaxes and crescendos, instead focusing on the recreation of the emptiness of space, where movement is slow, and the immediate surroundings are filled with vast expanses of nothing.

In many mays, it also stands as a metaphor for the circumstances of its creation: we’re all together apart, distant, separate, isolated however adept we are at calling, Zooming, or meeting in the street. We are all floating in space, just out of reach, and sometimes two metres may be two thousand miles. And we’re not built for this.

The chapters contained within the booklet which accompany the compositions provide a textual narrative which adds to the substance of the work. The track titles, meanwhile, signify dates on the journey, from the significant 1972 ‘(A map from Mariner 9)’ which was the first vehicle to orbit another planet and successfully returned over 7,000 images from the enigmatic red planet, to the futuristic dates projected for colonisation. Going further back, 1610 relates to Galileo, the polymath from Pisa, the first person to use a telescope for astronomical purposes, and his viewing the red planet through the newly-invented ‘spyglass’.

The majority of the music is quiet, spacious, minimal, and while the plot includes raging global and galactic wars, the soundtrack is more given to creating the sense of distance, of isolation, of… space. The emptiness. The void. The tranquillity. The absence of atmosphere.

A hushed rapidfire beat flickers like a palpating heartbeat beneath the barely-there ripplings of the penultimate piece, ‘2212 (We Had it in Our Hands the Whole Time)’ and while it’s still subtle, it’s dramatic in its effect, and the rising tension is palpable.

The final section, ‘2452’ leaves us with both a cliffhanger and a sad sense of emptiness at the end of an expansive and exquisitely delicate album that often belies the violence, turbulence, and often bleak reflection on humankind that it soundtracks.

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Neurot Recordings – 2nd August 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

The best collaborations are greater than the sum of the parts, and transcend 2 + 2 = 4 equations of artists playing to type while rubbing up against one another in a predictable fashion. We often hope for more, but artists seldom really deliver.

The self-explanatory Neurosis & Jarboe, originally released in 2003, now fully remastered and with entirely new artwork from Aaron Turner, and available on vinyl for the first time sounds neither like Neurosis nor Jarboe, nor 50/50 Neurosis and Jarboe, but something that draws on the best elements of both to forge something very, very different.

The lugubrious slow grind of Neurosis is present in the low bass churn and the more ethereal elements of Jarboe’s vocals, which have brought grace to Swans since 1986 and her own solo work over a good two decades now. Both artists’ work has a certain timelessness about it.

In context, this is both noteworthy and, if not exactly ironic, a point of cognitive dissonance. In my head, 2003 is recent and this reissue is shockingly close to the original release. But this is the point at which the passage of time and its acceleration comes screaming in my face to remind me that 2003 was sixteen years ago. There are kids who’ve been born and are now of a legal age to raise families and to vote since the album was first released, and yet Swans calling it a day the first time around in ‘96 with Soundtracks for the Blind still feels quite recent. How is this album sixteen years old? Nostalgia isn’t what it used to be, and Neurosis & Jarboe has very much stood the test of time, largely because it doesn’t sound quite like anything else.

‘His Last Words’ is perhaps the most overtly ‘modern’ cut on offer, and after a slow guitar grind, hits a groove that straddles dance and psychedelia. But there’s a deep, dark atmosphere that creeps over this and the album as a whole, with the majority of the tracks stretching out beyond seven minutes and pushing repetitive motives which worm their way under the skin and penetrate the skull by means of sonic bludgeoning.

The nine-minute ‘Erase’ brings some heavy, emotion-wrought doom-country with a distortion-tinged vocal that alludes to a dirgy Come, with Jarboe sounding more like Thalia Zedek in the song’s early minutes before the anguished howl emerges, culminating in a throat-tearing, raw-spewing roar by its uncomfortable climax.

Then, ‘In Harm’s Way’ recreates the woozy two-chord grating attack of early Swans when they were at their most gut-churningly jarring and abrasive, and it hits hard.

So why remaster, and why now? What does it add? According to Steve Von Till, ‘We recorded this ourselves with consumer level Pro Tools back then, in order to be able to experiment at home in getting different sounds and writing spontaneously. The technology has come a long way since then and we thought we could run it through better digital to analog conversion… This new mastered version is a bit more open, with a better stereo image, and better final eq treatment’.

And because they got Bob Weston of Shellac, and engineer at Electrical Audio to work on it, it does sound bloody great and lands with maximum impact. And the new artwork’s rather nice, too.

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