Posts Tagged ‘Dance’

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….

AA

Tilbury - Execution

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5th February 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

Sidestepping any comparison of the title to Chocolate Starfish And The Hot Dog Flavored Water and perhaps clocking a nod to Cinema Cinema’s Manic Children and the Slow Aggression, The Tattooed Aunts and Mice on Speed stands not only as one of the most intriguing juxtaposed item album titles I can think of, but is probaby one of the best you’ll hear all year.

It’s been some time in coming, but Rick Senley’s fourth album under the I Am A Man with a St Tropez Tan guise. He has many, including musicforvoyeurs, alongside his work as a photographer, journalist, writer, teacher, actor and guitarist in a number of bands. I Am A Man With a St Tropez Tan is – according to Senley himself – ‘the sound of aggression borne of death, mental health struggles and addiction. It’s also a project centred around one man and his Dictaphone, a magpie-like approach to lifting and combining snippets of sound to create a nasty, messy and quite abrasive collage.

The biographical context to The Tattooed Aunts and Mice on Speed is genuinely harrowing, and I shall quote without abridgement: ‘After the death of his girlfriend and an accident left Rick housebound for months he channelled his rage and despair though electronic sounds and screams – a Chemical Brother nightmare put to sleep by Apex Twin’s downers, a bed-bath by Depeche Mode with Nine Inch Nails glaring through the keyhole and The Prodigy banging on the door.’

It’s a challenging mess of splintered noise, fragmented and disjointed, with pumping technoindustrial beats and dark club-orientated grooves pounding insistently beneath it all.

The whole thing has a nightmarish quality about it. Warped vocal samples taper in the way for a juddering beat and warping bass groove on the first track, ‘Killing Seals’, and thins become only more challenging from hereon in. the second Senley seems prepared to offer an inroad, an accessible structure centred around a solid rhythm and consistent bassline, he tears it to shreds and throws it all up in the air.

Senley pitches the album with the summary ‘Bursts of Burma, Thai ladyboys, Egyptian dogs and kittiwakes from Iceland join forces in equally disturbing measure.’ It’s perhaps a slanted perspective of the actual contents of The Tattooed Aunts, but it does give some indication of the wide-ranging sourcing of material Senley has engaged in in order to formulate this near-Burroughsian cut-up collage of sound. It’s disruptive, disturbing, a soundtrack of dissonance and dislocation. And it very much captures and conveys a mood of a difficult headspace, making for an album that’s at times tough, but ultimately rewarding.

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I Am A Man - Tattooed Aunts

Metropolis Records – 13th October 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

I’ve lost count of how many bands and songs I’ve encountered that reference ‘dream machine.’ The first was perhaps back in maybe 1992, aged seventeen, on purchasing Scenes from the Second Story by The God Machine. Although I had read Naked Lunch, Junky, and Queer (which was the limit of William Burroughs material available in my local Waterstones), I had yet to discover the weirder and more wonderful, experimental side of Burroughs, let alone his accomplice Brion Gysin, who was as responsible for the advent of the cut-ups as Burroughs himself. It was electronics technician, computer programmer, and peripheral Beat Generation associate, Ian Sommerville who invented the stroboscopic device know as the Dream Machine in 1960. I do sometimes wonder how many of those references to Dream Machines are aware of its origin and history, but given Burroughs’ popularity in industrial / related circles, the chances are probably fairly high. Which then leads to the question – just how much is this about trip, and how much about hip?

Inertia have been kicking out technoindustrial tunage for almost two and a half decades now. Over that time, they’ve acquired a respectable fanbase and released a slew of albums. As is always the case with the ‘goth’ scene, it’s all happened more or less invisibly, underground, and internationally rather than domestically.

Dream Machine is very much an album which follows established templates: insistent, bubbling synths heave and grind over thumping sequenced beats with a toppy edge and hard dancefloor edge. It’s solid, and it has tunes. It’s got the right balance of attack and melody, edge and groove. In fact, it’s pretty much back-to-back tracks you could get down to on the dancefloor at a goth night, and steel toe caps would be recommended.

The drum pattern at the start of ‘Only Law’ is a near-lift of the intro to ‘Burn’ by The Sisters of Mercy, before it all goes Music for the Masses Depeche Mode. It’s not just the insistent synths and jittery sequenced bass, or the hard-edged beats, but the soulful, melodic, backing vocals. Elsewhere, ‘Thorns’ goes Ministry circa Twitch. But for the most part, as is so often the case with longstanding technoindustrial acts, I hear Depeche Mode, with a dash of early Nine Inch Nails. I’m by no means averse to the sound, the style, or the influences: in fact, I’m a huge fan of both DM and NIN and have more Wax Trax! 12” than I could play in a week.

So where’s the beef? It’s all a bit samey. I feel like I’ve been listening to the same hardfloor techno-driven industrial-strength electro grooves for more than twenty-five years. Cybergoth, Darkwave, EBM, Aggrotech, Industrial Dance Music… the terminologies matter not. Some came, some went, but musically, it’s much of a muchness and I’m not up for debating the semantics of microgenre aesthetics.

Dream Machine is ok. It’s got some decent tunes. And it sounds like countess albums I’ve heard before.

AAA

Intertia - Dream Machine

Bearsuit Records – 24th June 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

If the album’s opening cut suggests an album of slightly hipsterish glitchy electronica, it soon evolves into rather less comfortable territory. The elements of commercial club music are all in evidence, and at times, to the fore, but this is an album that pushes into myriad electronic territories. Throughout, Mitsui keeps one eye on groove and the other on confounding expectations.

You want ideas? You want range? Ippu Mitsui has ideas and range. ‘Small Rider’ is exemplary, flipping between delicate chimes and mellow grooves to altogether more aggressive beats with woozy, warping basslines burrowing every which way. It packs a lot into four and a half minutes, and no mistake.

Moment of ‘Fine Spine’ come on like early Prodigy, with vintage acid house stylings colliding with abstract electro-oddness. ‘Bottle Neck U’ brings a deep, subterranean bass groove and hard beats with an almost industrial intensity, while ‘In My Mind’ ventures into deep, dubby territory.

‘Bug’s Wings (Another Take)’, like its counterpart opener, is, superficially, pure bouncy club music, with a flimsy 90s piano– a throwback to the Chicago house sound that carried forward infinitely too long – line weaving its way through the track, but then it also bundles in a whole heap of other stuff that sees Mitsui leaping off on unexpected tangents with dizzying frequency. The albums final track, ‘Quick 919’,with its fairground organs and explosive beats, owes more to JG Thirlwell’s early adventures with tape loops than anything contemporary.

I might argue that only a Japenese artist could, or would, make an album like this. It is, by turns, kitschy and saccharine, and brain-bendingly obtuse and awkward. It’s certainly inventive, and Mitsui seems bent on self-sabotage, with every moment of linear, accessible dance countered by some twisted and unpredictable moment of weirdness. And this is what makes L + R an album worth hearing.

 

Ippu Mitsui

Inter-Dimensional Recordings – 1st June 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

The greatest pressure for any emerging artist must surely to be to get product out onto the market: something to satisfy new fans and entice prospective fans. The urge to splurge material, whether ready or not, in order to strike while the iron is hot is more than most can resist. Nathassia is indeed a rare artist, and, it would seem, something of a perfectionist. Recording as Nathassia Devine, she had a 13-track debut album recorded, packaged, and in circulation to the press, finding favourable reviews (including one from me). That was 2014. The album was shelved. It’s now 2016, and a lot has happened. Having decided to pull back and regroup, restyling herself as Nathassia, she’s spent the intervening time reshaping her sound and building an enviable audience at home and internationally. Finally, she’s satisfied, and the end product is Light of the World. And yes, it was worth the wait.

Cut back to 10 tracks, only four songs from the original album remain. Having honed her songs with the assistance of Bruce Elliott-Smith, Light of the World finds Nathassia exploring cross-cultural music evermore broadly and evermore confidently. Half Dutch, half Indian and residing in London, Light of the World is very much a 21st century hybrid of these very different cultural backgrounds. It’s an electronic album, but not one that confirms to any one strain or style, leaping hither and thither and picking, magpie-like, from a host of musical strands.

Nathassia’s striking appearance is the perfect visual representation of her sound, and embodies her mixed roots, as East meets West in a perfect amalgamation. But this is no mere marketing schtick: she is very much a self-made package, and one which has immense market appeal both visually and sonically.

Contrast and juxtaposition lie at the heart of Light of the World, but rather than treat this yin and yang as conflicting elements, she embraces them and draws them together to intriguing effect. The sultry ‘Egypt’s Queen’ finds Nathassia rolling her r’s and accentuating the eastern influences of her music. Single cut ‘Turning Headz’ is more hard-edged and showcases a driving, drum ‘n’ bass orientated sound, something which wasn’t present on the original album, and similarly, ‘Parasite’ is driven by a grating bass and insistent, industrial-edged drumming. Melding insistent beats with snarling techno, it’s dark in hue, and paired with Nathassia’s keeningly exotic vocal delivery that’s tinged with a hint of venom, it’s a powerful piece.

Elsewhere, the title track spins out an expansive, cosmic vibe, highlighting the diversity of the material on Light of the World. It certainly isn’t an album that works to a formula, and stands as a truly multidimensional piece. It helps, of course, that the range is matched by the quality of the material.

Light of the World is an album which not only reveals Nathassia to be a fascinating, chameleon-like songsmith and performer, but a distinctive and even unique voice.

 

light-of-the-world-album-artwork

Nathassia Online