Posts Tagged ‘Crossover’

30th April 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

I had something of what you might call an epiphany of sorts last night. I was cooking dinner, and as is standard, had put the TV on. I usually have it on mute and watch the news with subtitles while listening to a CD, but instead, while chopping veg for a healthy stir-fry, I had a music channel playing 80s hits, and it was good – mostly the early 80s, with some ABC and Aha (‘The Sun Always Shines in TV’ for change) before plummeting into the shit of Bros and Brother Beyond just before I served, at which point it went off. But it was during this unashamed nostalgiafest that I realised that for my daughter, who’s 9, the 80s are further in the past than the 60s were when I was her age. And that at her age, I had no interest in the 60s because it was so far back in history it was tinny, trebly, scratchy, dated, sepiatone or black and white. It was historical relics and I never got why my parents rated anything 60s. I still don’t really have much interest in the main.

But chowing my chow mein, I came to realise that things have changed, largely, one assumes, on account of the Internet. Now, we have truly hit peak postmodern in the sense that the historical is now part of the present, and everything and anything goes. The 60s likely feel a lot less distant and alien to a nine-year-old than to someone like me in their mid-40s, because they’re simply so much more accommodating.

And so it is that 23-year-old singer/songwriter Bethany Ferrie takes in a wide range of influences, from the likes of Fleetwood Mac to Lewis Capaldi, Kings of Leon to Taylor Swift. And also, I’m reminded that no longer is anyone purist in their allegiance to rock, pop, or folk. For those under thirty who can extricate themselves from the mundane bilge of R1 mediocrity, whereby music is so much wallpaper, music is music, and there are only two kinds – good and bad. There’s perhaps a certain naivete in the idea that all of these things sit together, but Bethany demonstrates an admirable songwriting prowess with her new single, ‘Bones’. The piano-led song is low-key, but layered, melodic yet heartfelt. It’s also one of those songs that has a slow, contemplative start, before bursting into a cinematic chorus, aided by some reverby production that really does the scope of the song justice.

Is it alternative? Is it niche? No. Is it commercial? In terms of R1 circa 2004 when Keane’s ‘Something Only We Know’ and playlists were wall-to-wall Coldplay, yes and no. ‘Bones’ isn’t dreary, drab, or manufactured, but does have clear commercial potential.

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Cruel Nature Records – 5th March 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Aiden Baker’s releases have become a regular feature here at Aural Aggravation. His prodigious output, not only as a solo artist, but through innumerable collaborations, often released through Gizeh Records, have given us no shortage of material to contemplate and ruminate over. It’s often hard to keep up with his output,

Stimmt was first released digitally back in 2015 on Broken Spine Productions, and has been was remixed and remastered for its first physical format outing via Cruel Nature in a limited edition of 60 cassettes (as well as digitally again).

Baker is to guitar what John Cage and Reinhold Friedl were / are to piano, with the ‘prepared’ guitar being a prominent feature of his musical arsenal, along with an array of other ‘alternative’ methods of playing, across a genre span that incorporates elements of rock, electronic, classical, and jazz, within his broadly ambient / experimental works

Stimmt sits at the more overtly ‘rock’ end of Baker’s stylistic spectrum, launching with the heavy riffology of ‘Dance of the Entartet’ that’s got a prog vibe but comes on with a heavily repetitious throb that owes more to Swans than Pink Floyd or Yes. The percussion crashes away hard but it’s almost buried in the overloading guitar assault that’s cranked up to the max and is straining to feed back constantly throughout, before it wanders off into ‘Atemlos’, where it’s the strolling bass that dominates as the guitars retreat to the background and sampled dialogue echoes through the slightly jazz-flavoured ripples. It’s here that things begin to feel less linear, more meandering, and the chiming post-rock sections feel less like an integral part of a journey and more like detours – pleasant, appropriate detours, but detours nevertheless – and it culminates in a climactic violin-soaked crescendo.

Veering between hazy shoegazey ambience that borders on abstraction, and mellifluous post-rock drifts, Stimmt is varied, and, oftentimes, rich in atmosphere. ‘Mir’ is very much a soporific slow-turner that casts a nod to Slowdive, but with everything slowed and sedated, wafting to an inconclusive finish.

The lumbering ‘Staerken’ stands out as another heavy-duty riffcentric behemoth: it’s low, it’s heavy, and finds Baker exploring the range of distortion effects on his pedal board, stepping from doom sludge to bolstering shred and back, and there’s a deep, crunchy bass that grinds away hard, boring at the bowels and hangs, resonating at the end.

After the full-on overloading ballast of ‘Quer’ that really does go all out on the abrasion, with squalling guitar paired with a nagging bass loop that’s reminiscent of The God Machine (the track as a while, calls to mind ‘Ego’ from their debut Songs From the Second Story), closer ‘Resolut’ is eight minutes of semi-ambient prog.

It’s a lot to digest, and it’s certainly not an easy pigeonhole, but it’s an intriguing album that stands out as being quite different both musically, and in the context of Baker’s output. Unusual but good, and offering much to explore.

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Cruel Nature Recordings – 29th January 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

The description sets the scene and the expectation perfectly: ‘True Archweigian Improve-Free-Grind-Noise-Experimental-Avant-Jazzcore. John Coltrane quadruple booked on the same stage as Extreme Noise Terror, Swans and The Incapacitants.

It sounds horrible and utterly brain-frying, and it is. ‘Deep Pan Magna Carta’ launches the album – a whopping sixteen-track sprawl that reveals something of a fixation with wolves and goats – with a barrage of crashing, chaotic percussion, gut-churning bass, wild horns and tortured vocals that spew larva from the very bowels of hell. And they’re clearly intent on dragging you there with them, into the pit of pain, because there is absolutely no fucking let-up. This is everything all at once – and while it’s relentlessly and uncompromisingly nasty, it certainly doesn’t confide itself to any one style – and as for genre, it’s a crazed hybrid mash-up, seemingly intended to inflict maximum pain – and if this is indeed the objective, they succeed.

Most of the tracks are around the minute mark – but actually feel much longer, as they drag and dredge their way through the deepest sludge. Believe it or not, that’s not a complaint or criticism, so much as an observation on how it feels to be brutally battered from all sides at once. There is, undoubtedly, an element of endurance required here.

As the band’s name and whacky, irreverent and possibly irrelevant (it’s impossible to tell without being able to decipher the lyrics) song titles suggest, we should probably only take this so seriously. But then, as the best comedians will tell you, comedy is serious business, and so it would seem is slugging out the harshest, brutal mess of noise.

Before long, they’re in full-tilt frenzied grindcore territory: ‘Wolf Goat’ is nine seconds of snarking and blastb(l)eats, followed immediately by the thirty-six second ‘Goat Wolf’, another blast of carnage that thunders at a thousand miles an hour. There’s some black metal nastiness in the mix when the snarling vocals deliver a snarling acappella intro to ‘hash, Weed, Pills, Saurkraut’. ‘Red sausage’ is about the only phrase I can pull out of the frenetic thrash that follows.

‘Natural Born Testicle’ takes a different turn: a howling blizzard of shrieking electronics and clean shouting, it’s a wild swing into power electronics, and is more reminiscent of Whitehouse than anything else.

It’s the manic horn action that really makes Blood & Stomach Pills the experience that it is. It’s chaotic, discordant, and above all, incongruous – but then again, it calls to mind the jazz-coloured noise of GOD, as well as recent work by Sly and the Family Drone – but this is probably the grindiest permutation of such crazed free jazz I’ve encountered yet.

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generate and test – 30th October 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

The blurb bewilders me before I hear a note, as I read how ‘ʇןǝɯs is a high density package crafted with care and luck from a rare mixture of ingredients. The four track MP (micro-package) takes you on a ride across a one- dimensional checkerboard landscape rendered in colors of euphoria and terror. Players emerge at side exits and diffuse presently. If the album title is unmanageable you can use the unoffending smelt.’

Delving deeper, I learn, ‘Entire package produced on-the-go using mobile phones, some of them rooted. Apps are Nanoloop, g-stomper, termux/python, different media recording apps. Custom app autovoice takes care of slicing the voice tracks and beat aligning them on the track.’

From this fragmentary non-narrative, I’m braced for something irregular, unusual, beyond boundaries, and that’s very much what this is. Micro-package is a fair description of an EP comprising four tracks, none of which really exceed two and a half minutes, although it doesn’t convey the flickering intensity of slow-tripping hip-hop that’s rooted in samplist, cut-up methodology with disjointed loops and fragments providing the fabric of this digital tapestry.

It may not be easy to follow, and at times so deeply immersed in obscure referencing and the exploration of the technology used to create the material, ʇןǝɯs feels as much like a case of experimentalism for its own sake than a document of artistic creativity. The titles are more or less impenetrable, at least in terms of their significance or relevance, although ‘very veird’ is quite odd, if not overtly Germanic, a collage of bleeps and a bubbling stew of vocals simmering over minimal beats and bloopy, stammering bass. It actually makes for a long two minutes, but the richness of the layering and density of the combined source materials is undeniably impressive.

There’s almost infinite bubble and fizz, crackled and grind, particularly on the closer, ‘argh uargh (kann ich ans handy?)’ where the title is a fair summary of the chaotic cacophony it contains.

ʇןǝɯs is messy and uncomfortable, but taking its sequence of input > process > output as a creative model, it’s likely the ultimate summary of 2020.

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Cruel Nature Recordings – 16th October 2020

New York’s Lip Critic return with their second album, imaginatively titled Lip Critic II. Now, I have a tendency – and I know it’s spurious – to associate numbered albums with prog and indulgence, ranging from Peter Gabriel to Led Zeppelin. But there is nothing remotely proggy or indulgent about Lip Critic’s second eponymous release, which crams nine tracks into 21 minutes of genre hybridity and maniacal mayhem. And make no mistake: this is intense and crazy shit, all going off in a boiler at once.

The lazy hookline would be that the album’s first track, ‘Why Not’, sounds like The B52s on acid, but more accurately, it sounds like The B52s on acid and meth imitating a fictitious Dead Kennedys / obscure hip-hop collaboration for the Judgement Night soundtrack. But none of this really convey just how frantic, frenetic, fucked-up and actually quite how wrong this all is. Yes, the world of Lip Critic is a bewildering one that absolutely defines the concept of ‘crossover’, and the closest comparison I can think of is Castrovalva, who were ace but niche and probably for a reason. It’s so far into niche crossover it’s hard to determine the level of seriousness behind the hybridized mess of noise that is Lip Critic II: this is an album that goes beyond so many boundaries all at once.

I don’t know what this is, and I suspect it doesn’t either. And nor should it: music should exist for its own sake, free from any constraints of genre. But with Lip Critic, it’s brain-bending and bewildering: there is simply so much going on, and all of it’s incongruous and seemingly incompatible.

‘Dreamland I’ is out-and-out mad, not so much a mash-up or hybrid as a multi-genre pileup with gas tank explosions and flames and wailing sirens and probably some people being cut from cars by fire and rescue and others being abducted by aliens.

‘Like a Lemon’ brings garage, grime, and industrial-strength hip-hop together with mangled beats a punishingly heavy groove that provides a backdrop to a more narrative-orientated approach to the lyrics, describing a guy with ‘A double-breasted suit and tight shorts / they’re so tight they cut off the circulation to his legs / … he said ‘I’m going to fill you up with rhinestones’.

At every turn, Lip Critic deliver mind bombs of every shape and form: sonically, stylistically, lyrically, Lip Critic II is simply an explosion. With every song being so brief, one barely has time to realise it’s started before it’s finished, and by the end, the listener is left punch-drunk, bewildered and dizzy. I think it’s good. I think it’s horrible. I think it’s a mess. But I can’t be sure.

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InsideOut Music – 24th July 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

It’s almost as if they planned it, or saw it coming (although not sufficiently to prevent the release date being put back three times). And you could almost believe it, too: there’s a potently portentous aspect to Haken’s brand of progressive rock, and Virus is very much timely as much for its ruminations on the psychology of contemporary culture, as the press release explains:

‘If ‘Vector’ was an origin story, ‘Virus’ portrays an ascent to power, tyranny and subsequent endgame. The opening track, ‘Prosthetic’, bridges the two albums where scars of institutional abuse are brought into focus. This 6-minute onslaught of brutal riffing starts the spread of a virus that affects all aspects of our lives, be they biological, psychological, technological, environmental or political.’

They’ve been working on the album since the release of Vector in October 2018, and it shows: the level of detail in the interweaving guitars and the spacious melodies are remarkable, but then, so are the thunderous riffs.

The ten-and-a-half-minute ‘Carousel’ is a clear standout, and packs the experience of an entire album into a single song. The rest of the songs are much more concise, at least if you take the five-part ‘Messiah Complex’ suite as separate chapters. As you’d perhaps expect, this is a grand and grandiose sequence, with everything elevated and amplified, and with the addition of some bombastic orchestral strikes, while the final part, subtitled ‘Ectobius Rex’ goes full-on industrial metal riffage.

Elsewhere. ‘Canary Yellow’ is a condensed epic, soaring shoegaze anthem, while the final song, ‘Only Stars’ is a magnificently sparse affair which finds Ross Jennings emoting an almost choral elegy. It feels like a moment of calm reflection in the wake of a wave of devastation.

For all of the heavy power chords that crash like slabs of granite in a most contemporary metal way, I’m in some way reminded of Jeff Wayne’s musical version of The War of the Worlds and Mansun’s Six, although Jennings’ vocals often carry that rich but troubled soulfulness of Dave Gahan. If this all sounds like an unlikely and improbable cocktail, it’s testament to Haken’s abilities that they make it all work not only cohesively, but deliver some great songs along the way.

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Ipecac Recordings – 24th April 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Some cursory research tells me that Oscillospira is an anaerobic bacterial genus from Clostridial cluster IV that has resisted cultivation for over a century since the first time it was observed. There’s a distinct compositional theme across the album’s eight compositions, although, with high drama and dynamics dominating.

Thirlwell has been mining a rich seam of orchestral drama for a long while now, in a trajectory that began with the 1985 Foetus album Nail. Since then, his projects have become increasingly expansive and ambitious, and the last decade has seen him abandon all trace of anything that could be remotely construed as ‘industrial’ in favour of grand cinematics, not only on the latter Foetus albums, but also the Manorexia releases and soundtrack works and all the other various side projects… Did I mention that over 40 years into his career, despite having tempered his wilder sonic urges, Thirlwell’s creativity and output remains unabated? And yet for all the volume, the quality remains undented. I make no apologies for the fact that I’m a total fan, and have been forever.

Few musicians are even a fraction as articulate as Thirlwell, musically, lyrically, or conversationally. Throughout his lengthy career, he’s retained his somewhat enigmatic status and singular musical view.

This collaboration with Simon Steensland is one of many during his career, and is very much representative of Thirlwell’s output over the last decade: heavy orchestral work with all the widescreen feel of a John Williams work, while at the same time seeing Thirlwell return to territories that bring industrial and orchestral together in a head-on collision.

‘Catholic Deceit’ enters by stealth with a sweep of strings, but swiftly develops into something bold and layered, before crunching metal guitars grind in hard and heavy. Revisiting the religious theme at the album’s mind-point, single release ‘Papal Stain’ follows a similar trajectory, with some energetic jazz drumming and discordant horns clashing crazily over the course of its ten-minute running time.

‘Heron’ goes choral and a little bit original Star Trek, but equally has some hushed, eerie passages that not only provide contrast, but alter the mood significantly. There’s a Swans-like stop-start guitar grind at the heart of ‘Night Shift’ over which monastic vocals echo like a ritual, and ‘Heresy Flank’ pushes a cyclical groove that’s ruptured by some classic orchestral strikes.

It’s not just the arrangements and the varied instrumentation that are outstanding in their immense vision and inventiveness, but the production too: it’s immense, and while the overall effect is one thing, the detail entirely another, as incidentals leap out unexpectedly, and different instruments rise to the to fore. Often, such details are subtle, but the effect and impact are pronounced, and something special.

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26th October 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

‘Dramatic and bold’… ‘driven and experiential’… songs which deliver ‘a perfectly executed sense of tension and release’… I’m No Chessman promise a lot with this, their second release. Do they deliver all of it? Well, it’s a matter of taste as much as opinion.

When I relaunched my reviewing ‘career’ such as it is a decade ago this month, I thought it would be neat to make providing objective reviews my signature. Over time, I’ve come to revise this ambition, having realised that the way one responds to music has precisely nothing to objective matters like technical competence. Granted, poor production can ruin a great set of songs, but the best production in the world won’t transform songs that are technically proficient in terms of musicianship but otherwise predictable and lacking in emotional resonance exhilarating.

Music is intensely personal, and how an individual responds to a composition isn’t purely about the recipient or their tastes, but their headspace and the precise context in which they first hear it.

All of which is to say that this EP is well executed, and despite what the title may suggest, is decidedly not the work of amateurs (just as it has nothing to do with John Niven’s debut novel, which is about golf. And wanking. Well, maybe it’s about wanking. Some of it is a bit Fall Out Boy). It’s that combination of poppy, up-tempo guitar-driven punk with spitting angst that will enthuse or antagonise dependent on your politic.

But yes, throwing in bouncy pianos and widdly guitar breaks in between big, hooky choruses, it’s impossible to deny that they do bring elements of ‘riven and experimental’ and ‘(melo)dramatic and bold’ with their expansive theatricality. All of which is t say that objectively, the band’s appeal is clear. Subjectively… I’m probably not the right demographic.

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Im No Chessman

Super Secret Records – 25th May 208

Given the album’s title, I wasn’t exactly expecting jaunty jubilance. But then, having heard a million albums since reviewing their 2014 debut, A Mothers Work is Never Done, I wasn’t expecting a wild hybrid of-hop hop and jazz at first.

They’ve upped the edge and intensity for this second outing, going all out with a strong start. An insistent groove, dominated by a relentless ‘vintage’ hip-hop beat, hammered out hard provides the backdrop to the jazz-rap crossover of the eight-minute ‘Attica Black’. Breaking from some nagging guitar and angry vocals, it breaks into a cacophony of discord, with brass honking like braying elephants tooting all over a collapsing barrage of percussion.

‘Black Tar Caviar’ mellows the pace and goes big on the sax and the sleaze in the opening bars. That sax… sax not in the smooth jazz sense, not in the café PA sense, but big bold, raucous, gutsy sax – before a thick, tearing bass grinds in, and… woah. Blackened hop-hop-jazz-metal? It’s like fur songs playing at once. It’s roaring and savage and intense and utterly bewildering. I don’t even know if it’ any good: it’s simply too much to take in. But if a derangement of the senses of the desires effect, then they’ve undeniably achieved it in around two and a half explosive minutes.

The weirdness abates for the start of ‘Bodiless Arms’, but only slightly, as a braying sax honks rudely to disrupt a delicately picked guitar piece that evokes pastoral tranquillity.

And yes, it’s ultimately all about the sax… it’s wild. The two short ‘untitled’ composition are bursts of noise without overt structure or form, but while the drums are all over and there’s

Ironically, ‘Jazz Oppression’ the least overtly jazz tune on the album, manifesting more as a full-throttle hip-hop metal crossover, a driving, two-and-a-half minute bass-driven barrage with throaty hollers and a sinewy lead guitar that’s swiftly buried amidst the chaos and screaming feedback. It’s swiftly followed by the equally attacking (and brief) title track: ‘Fuck all that weak shit’ is the half-buried refrain on ‘Morose’, which barrels headlong from a throbbing, insistent groove into screaming metal noise amidst a cascade of off-key xylophone.

If there’s a formula to be found, it’s a loose one based around shifting perceptions and expectations, the way in which a song can begin as one thing and end completely as another. The moments of accessibility lull and woo the listener, before s sharp left-turn and a sudden swell of noise annihilates all semblance of order and location.

But then, the crooning closer disrupts much of that: despite its extraneous additions, a swirling vortex of feedback in the background, and its awkward industrial trip-hop leanings, it’s a remarkably pleasant and smooth piece of soul-soaked hip-hop. To remark that it’s incongruous feels pretty redundant: everything about this album seems incongruous with the rest of the album. And somehow, it works.

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Young Mothers - Morose

Radio Bongo

Christopher Nosnibor

The cover art – a photograph of the stump of a recently-felled tree – is one of those exercises in magnificent blandness. It’s the fact it’s clearly in an urban setting which perhaps gives the greatest clue to the music it accompanies; it’s the discarded trainer which actually makes the shot, however. The image really only makes sense in context of the liner notes, which begin ‘The spiral of a record. The routine of life. The growth rings of a tree. The rhythm of a drummer. The groove.’

Production credits go to a President Bongo, and Execution is listed as being the first volume in ‘Les Adventures de President Bongo’ – which, apparently, ‘is a unique work of art that will reveal itself over the next seven years, give or take, in the form of 24 LP’s.’ This is quite ambitious, and while I still have no real handle on the concept or direction after several listens to this album, ‘adventure’ seems to be an appropriate choice of word.

The album contains two tracks, ‘Drama’ and ‘Transmission’. ‘Drama’ certainly fulfils its promise, but in the most unexpected ways. It begins with gloopy electronic pulsations, a sort of semi-ambient dance vibe rippling, soft-edged and mellow. So far, so chillout-orientated, club-friendly mediocre. But then extraneous drones hover and scrape at oblique angles across it, at complete odds with the chilled waves. It takes a while to build, and before the beats kick in. ‘She can make it,’ croons Þormóður Dagsson, over and over again. It’s a cool groove, alright. His voice is so sweet, so smooth, so achingly soulful. He could probably sing a shopping list and still make you melt. But while the vocal sits with the mellow bubbling synth, it’s the discordant noise that swells to dominate the mix. The jarring incongruity of the clash forges less a dynamic tension than it serves as an apparent act of brutal sabotage. And then the drumming goes absolutely fucking berserk, and the whole thing whips into a brain-bending, bewildering mess of sound. The groove is buried in the tumult, from which eventually emerges a driving, bass-dominated jazz-rock groove. Where did that come from? Dagsson’s voice continues to float, untouched, surrounded by a halo of reverb, through the wild wig-out. It all goes jungle with added whistles and bleeps further down the line, and it’s fair to say you’re unlikely to experience a similar seventeen minutes of song anywhere else.

Well, apart from on side two, perhaps. ‘Transmission’ creeps in by stealth before taking a turn for the dubby. It strolls along, bouncing echoes hither and thither. The vocal performance is understated, low-key, yet all the more effective because of it. A note hangs in an echo as a kaleidoscopic spiral of synth notes swirls around the steady, toe-tapping beat. There’s none of the wild experimentalism of the previous track here, the focus instead being on building laid-back atmospherics and a smooching groove that shuffles on unassumingly.

Groove, then, comes in many shapes and forms, and some are less obvious than others. Tilbury take the groove and twist it, bend it, kick it around a bit, push it close to breaking point. The curious nature of the music indicates a curiosity about music on the part of the creators. The end result is pretty damn strange, but also strangely enjoyable. It’s all in the execution….

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Tilbury - Execution