Posts Tagged ‘Cruel Nature Records’

Cruel Nature Records – 9th March 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Cruel Nature clearly aren’t going for a major cash-in with this release, a 12-years-after-the-fact album containing the final recordings of a band who, while building a cult national following during their existence between 2002 and 2008, were predominantly a local phenomenon in their stomping grounds around Gateshead. Which means you may be forgiven for not being entirely au fait with Marzuraan and their work, of if you haven’t been o the edge of your seat and dripping with anticipation for this limited-to-75-copes cassette compendium.

For those not up to speed (and I’ll include myself here), the potted history of Marzuraan is that they started out as the duo of Pete Burn (guitar) and Lee Stokoe (Culver) (bass) before evolving into a full band with the introduction of Rob Woodcock (drums) and Stu Ellen (voice). ‘Taking their cue from bands such as Melvins; Black Flag; Harvey Milk; Earth; Godflesh and Loop, they soon cemented themselves as a pivotal band in the North East’s burgeoning Drone-rock / Trudge-core scene. Revered locally with a strong cult following nationally, they released 3 studio albums, appeared on countless compilations and split records influencing bands such as Bong and Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs, before disbanding in 2008’. The title, therefore, is on point and self-aware to the max. But t’s never too late, right?

The recordings here – apart from two tracks which featured on an obscure compilation and split 7” back in the day – represent their final cuts, dating back to 2005 and 2006, and they’ve lain neglected in the proverbial vaults ever since.

But if anything, the timing couldn’t be better: what goes around comes around, and heavy music is very much enjoying a renaissance right now, and the north-east scene is also thriving thanks to various acts associated with microlabels represented by Cruel nature and Panurus Recordings.

It’s the seven-minute ‘Morphine Waterfall’ from the Mare Nero compilation that introduces the release, and it’s a dislocated, angular dirge of a tune that plods and trudges disconsolately through barren territory that alludes to early Swans and 90s Touch and Go, along with peer obscuritants like Oil Seed Rape and Zoopsia: it’s grunge distilled and chilled to sub-zero and as it builds toward the end, the guitars become increasingly discordant, while the snarling, rapping vocal becomes increasingly desperate.

It’s Tar and Girls Against Boys that come to mind through the low-end murk of the chunky riff grind of ‘Golden Roman’, and everything is there for a killer tune but the recording, despite having been remastered last year prior to release. It’s as muddy as hell. It doesn’t actually detract, for what I’s worth, and in many ways is integral to the gritty, lo-fi charm.

It very much sets the level: ‘Muckbucket’ and ‘Blowin’ Cool Breeze’ are built around thumping, repetitive riffs, but the guitars are trebly and skew off at divergent angles.

The final track, ‘Moneybox’, which previously featured on a record split with SINK is a doomy trudge that pushes the influence of early Melvins to the fore as it crawls in a sea of howling feedback and a 23bpm percussive trudge that’s paired with a gut-quiveringly downtuned bass. It’s ace. If you can cope with infinite suspense between drum beats and the striking of a single chord, that is.

Ten Years Too Late shows that Marzuraan were both a band of their time, and a band ahead of their time, sounding utterly contemporary now. Maybe it’s time for a reunion…

AA

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Cruel Nature Records – 23rd November 2019

No release by a band called corpse tWitcHer was ever going to be pretty. But Bring Your Dead is next level.

The album contains only four tracks, the shortest of which, ‘Opening: The Bird’ is over eight minutes long and pitches some dark atmospherics with low, dank rumblings and mid-range scrapes that twist and taper into a soft fog of ambience with tempered chiming notes ringing out into the mist. It is but an opening, an extended introduction, which paves the way for the speaker-shredding, Sunn O)))-like devastation of ‘Of Bones & Head’ that lands the crushing low drone of guitars like a cement mixer on slow speed, blended with shrieking howl of feedback. This swirling mass of amorphous sound on sound surges and swells for a full eighteen minutes, and while its form is impossible to take a hold of as it shifts and twists, it’s a fully immersive experience. It’s possibly the closest thing to Earth 2 I’ve heard since, well, Earth 2. This is music that packs a suffocating density, and rattles the ribs as well. It vibrates the molecules while crushing the skull. It’s a painful joy, and a joyful pain.

‘A Thorough Necropsy’ grinds out a quarter of an hour of relentlessly heavy, percussion-free sludge that crawls from the speakers and wraps itself around not just your ears or body but your very soul, strangulating and suffocating with its tarry black mass. It’s in the territory whereby guitars melt into a grating morass of noise: struck chords don’t hit but instead billow into a cloud of noise so dense as to choke. There are some anguished, guttural vocals buried beneath it all, I think. It’s the sound of pain beyond words, a charred snarl from the underground. The tempest builds louder and darker around halfway through, and it’s around this point we slip off the face of the planet into another dimension. It’s bleak, but not like death or dying: this is transcendental and bleak and we’re floating in another sphere, buoyed by a sound denser than the Dead Sea.

The final cut, ‘Closing: Sutures’ sews it all up nicely with an expansive rumble of dark ambience that swirls and eddies and billows around in a formless morass of sonic fog. It rumbles around the bowels, the lungs, and the spleen. It sends shivers down the spine and a shudder over the skin. It resonates on a biological, physical level.

Bring Your Dead is heavy, intense, and unsettlingly dark, it doesn’t so much hit the mark as consume it in blackness.

AA

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Cruel Nature Records – 17th November 2019

Christophe Nosnibor

Nathalie Stern made her solo debut with Firetales in 2010: almost a decade on, she delivers a follow-up in the form of Nerves and Skin. The album promises to ‘builds on the experimental folk traditions of her debut, awash with vocal harmonies, synth loops and drones but with the maturity of an artist who knows their craft and is top of their game’.

Although now resident in Newcastle, Stern’s roots are Swedish, and it’s traditional Swedish folk which informs her music. While I have precisely no knowledge or experience of Swedish folk music, the compositions here, as the title suggests, conjure a sense of the barest essence of human existence. Nerves and skin the components essential to the senses, especially touch, are here exposed and highly sensitive. As much as anything it’s the organic feel that permeates the album that renders it so subtly affecting as it drifts and melds to form a sort of biological symbiosis with the listener’s internal mechanisms while it plays.

Stern’s voice is the primary instrument here, and she builds layers of harmony, often by unconventional means, with breaths and short, wordless sounds looped to form cyclical motifs atop sparse synth drones

‘Luchdora’ brings low-impact, lurching beats that thud soft and there’s a heartbeat thump on ‘Then You Talk of War’, which delves into darker territories with moody bass oscillations over which layers of choral vocals build majestically.

‘Deep Sleep’ wheezes monotonously, a lugubrious drone: Nathalie’s vocal is barely a whisper, haunting, ethereal, the melody a sing-song lullaby with an uncanny, shadowy twist that may not exactly be Chuck Palahniuk, but is still moderately unsettling. ‘Moderately unsettling’ is a fair summary of the atmosphere that creeps across the compositions as the album unfolds. Although fear chords creep all over the gloomy ‘Stig in Lucia’, it’s not overtly dark, but the disembodied vocal echoes evoke a certain cognitive dissonance.

And for all its oddness and otherness, it’s on an instinctive, human level that you experience Nerves and Skin: you feel it, somehow, almost subliminally, and it touches parts rarely reached and in ways that are abstract and indefinably, but nevertheless real.

AA

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Cruel Nature Records – 29th July 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

Sometimes, social networking really works. When Facebook isn’t about infighting, trolling, bitching, pissing and moaning, and people accept contact from strangers based on mutual friends and mutual interests, good stuff happens. I can’t exactly recall how I came into contact with James Watts, who runs Newcastle-Upon-Tyne based tape label Panurus productions, but some months after, I ended up performing in London alongside Lump Hammer, one of his numerus musical vehicles, thanks to another mutual friend with a penchant for big, noisy guitars who found me via Aural Aggro reviews. And so it came to pass that said mutual friend – Owen, from Modern Technology – introduced me and Steve Strode, who’s also in a bad and who also runs another Newcastle-based tape label, Cruel Nature Records. Fret! happen to feature Strode on guitar (twang), alongside Rob Woodcock (credited with ‘flails / screams’) and Cath Tyler (‘thrum / la’). And with cover art by Tom McCarthaigh, the design/layout is courtesy of none other than James Watts. It really is a small world. Especially in Newcastle.

This is lo-fi, low-budget, scuzzy. The production is proper rough, the guitar sound fuzzed-out and unpolished – we’re in home-recorded four-track demo quality here, with crackling at the edges and needles pushing the top ends of red, and opener ‘Belly’ comes on like early Fall with its repetitive riffage played rough ‘n’ ready. It seems fitting, not only because this is a cassette release, but because this is underground in every way.

On the lumbering slow-pace riff noise of ‘Hucknall’ (pretty much all of the titles are indecipherable one-worders), there’s a hoarse howl all bit buried in the mix, by accident or design, countered by a drawing monotone counterpoint. ‘Davy’ goes for the all-out screaming racket that not quite metal but is unquestionably all-out in its frenzied brutality, but most of the album favours the frenetic but contained blistering squall of 90s alternative. By which I mean bands like Fudge Tunnel, Terminal Cheesecake, Helmet, are all viable and appropriate reference points, and by which it should be apparent that this is a monster riffageous racket of the highest order. ‘SUSD’ sows it down, grinding away at a repetitive cyclical riff that’s as messy as hell, wash with distortion, reverb, and tremolo, while ‘Cowboy’ piledrives into got/psychobilly/hardcore/crust-punk territory with obliterative fury.

Is there an element of nostalgia in the appeal of this, as a 43-year old fan of grunge and more subterranean 90s alternative? Well, naturally, but that really isn’t the primary appeal here. What appeals about A Vanity Spawned By Fear is the simple fact that it’s raw and uncompromising and blindingly intense. It isn’t pretty or nice, and isn’t supposed to be. It wouldn’t work if it was.

The last track, ‘Country’ is a slow, hesitant cross between early Pavement and Shellac. But A Vanity Spawned is most definitely not derivative, and there’s nothing remotely lifted or directly referential here. Instead, they amalgamate a mass of influences and condense them in a mould of their own making. It’s hard, heavy, and difficult. Stylistically, it isn’t any one thing, but it’s completely ace.

AA

Fret - Vanity