Posts Tagged ‘Dark-Ambient’

Panurus Productions – 4th December 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Some of these experimentalists, they’re real buggers, you know. Awkward sods. Wilfully obtuse, intentionally unlistenable. Sindre Bjerga & Tanto sure as hell aren’t aiming for mass appeal on this absolute monster of a cassette release. In fact, I’d go so far as to suggest their primary goal is mass-alienation, because this is pretty fucking horrible. And it never stops.

Sindre Bjerga & Tanto’s collaboration contains two pieces which fill a C90. It’s an experimental mash-up, a cut-up, fold-in audio experiment that if not inspired by William Burroughs’ 1960s tape experiments, lots inevitably can be traced in terms of lineage and influence, conscious or otherwise. And for all the levity of the title, it makes for some seriously hard listening.

Amidst crackling fizz and stretched tape discord, there’s a warped, off-key rendition of ‘Don’t Cry for me, Argentina’, that’s buried in an underwater bubbling, a blur of blender nose and a mess of detuned radios. Shrieking feedback emerges and lingers on after grating clanks, and serrated droned, pulsing washed of analogue noise and sharp static blasts that cut through bubbling torrents and crude farting noises and a collage of contrasts and contradictions.

It becomes more challenging as it progresses: ‘Crashing Sonic Pepper Waves’ delves deeper under water and begins to take on the feel of a long underwater swim – the sound of a frenzied splash after being toppled overboard from a liner or destroyer. Beepling wipples fracture and disrupt a narrative of long, dark tones that rumble and scrape and intonate a truly post-industrial, post-apocalyptic soundscape – bleak, desolate, rusted, decayed.

If the first forty-five minutes feel like an endurance test then the second – ‘Tabasco Mist Prescription’ feels even more intensely so. What do you actually do with this? A masochist can enjoy it to an extent, and anyone with an appreciation of Throbbing Gristle and any of the myriad acts of all strains of genre style influenced by TG likewise. TG represent the closest reference here, with the heart of industrial music being less about the stylized appropriation of factory noise and the like than an attitude based on perversion of what was even considered ‘music’ delivered with a confrontational, antagonistic attitude – and Sneezing Waves From The Peppered Oceans is antagonistic, and then some.

35 minutes into ‘Crashing Sonic Pepper Waves’ is shrill blasts of treble are being amped up against all kinds of found-sound dissonance and difficulty, and it only gets messier, more brain-pulping with the messy murk of ‘Crashing Sonic Pepper Waves’. It’s unsettling, uncomfortable, and those are the compliments. It’s not even particularly dark, it’s just a nasty conglomeration of disparate sounds, collaged together to render something that’s uncomfortable, and never-ending, and quite enough to induce heartburn.

It’s good, but don’t expect to like it.

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Cruel Nature Recordings – 6th November 2020

Christopher Nosnbor

The latest release from Heat Death of the Sun, aka Eugene Davies, was recorded live in Newcastle at The Cluny – a venue that provided a space for many oddball / alternative / noisy gigs and hosting many of the artists on local labels Cruel Nature and Panurus Productions – in May 2019. Yes, back when live music was a thing. There’s a semi-ironic joke to be made that people were practising social distancing at shows like this long before it became a thing, and that there’s likely less chance of catching even the most contagious of viruses at an ultra-niche gig than in your local Aldi, but the sad fact is that while it’s tough for the everyone involved in the music industry, the impact of lockdown on the micro-communities which exist through underground music is immense in mental health terms.

It may not be a fresh observation for me to note the other irony here, namely that people who are disparate, disconnected, and often prone to anxiety and low mood come together over some of the darkest, most challenging music. Often, it’s because they find it articulates their feelings in ways they can’t, and music has a near-infinite capacity to transcend words.

Listening to Drinking Oil From The Black Fountain – a single, continuous piece spanning twenty-eight minutes and documenting HDoTS set – I find myself lamenting my inability to travel to Newcastle and the fact I wasn’t present at the show. The atmospherics are deep and dark and I imagine at the appropriate volume, in a darkened room, the experience must have been immersive and fully multisensory. The range of frequencies is extensive, and winds buffet long and low against tremolo notes that seesaw and drone, intermittently interrupted by swells and glitches. Despite the distance, it holds up well as a recorded audio work.

As the piece progresses, the ruptures become more pronounced, the thudding detonations of bass more resonant, and the whole sonic web begins to tangle itself more irrevocably, twisting and knotting, with the result that what began as a softly oscillating wash transmogrifies into an unsettling, uncomfortable source of tension, and there’s still fully ten minutes to go as I ding my muscles tensing, my jaw clenching, and my stomach beginning to lurch.

Twisted folksy drones shudder in and out of the increasingly warped array of sounds as they slowly melt together before collapsing in a liquefied state as storm clouds gather and thunder rumbles ominously and culminating in a slow, looped throb to fade.

It’s a powerful, hypnotic work that evolves nicely over its course, with just enough angles and disjointed corners to render it challenging without being a total headfuck.

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27th August 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Leeds proves once again to be the spawning ground for some interesting experimental music, and this four-tacker from Material Loss is a work of dark, dark ambient, a genre I’ve become increasingly drawn to over time by virtue of its lack of prescription: what I draw from it is as much about my own projections, my own internal state and contemplations as the music itself, although it in turn has the capacity to reflect back at me those internalisations. And what Material Loss convey corresponds with the name – a sense of emptiness, a sensation of being aimless and bereft. Admittedly, these moods do hit from time to time and I know his isn’t something by any means unique to me, but when they descend they do so rapidly, like a storm blowing in from the horizon on a strong wind, building from out of the blue and forcing a sudden pressure drop.

And what is material? Something palpable, tangible. And yes, these four tracks, for all of their vague, effusiveness, they succeed in conveying something more concrete, somehow. It’s all about the atmosphere, which has been carefully constructed and arranged for optimal effect, and while it’s short, it reached seep into the psyche, and into the body, prodding the gut, the bowels, the lungs, and, above all, stealthily creeping around the deeper recesses of the brain.

Such dank murkiness shouldn’t be associated by any means directly with a depressive state, though: the lack of overt form or structure can be quite therapeutic, offering a form of escapism as one allows oneself to drift through the sonic clouds, The first piece, ‘Set’ rumbles and growls, and within those sonic clouds, there’s a storm brewing. It’s a distant rumbling, a dissonance, an almost unquantifiable and most unspecific unease more than anything else.

Following on, ‘UA’ manifests as a barely-audible droning hum for the most part but it’s occasionally rent with tearing shards of nose or rising tides of amorphous sound. The fact that each composition is brief means that none becomes overwhelming, r challenging to the point of traumatic, although in the infinite subtlety, the menace is always present.

‘SD-CLA’ may be brief, but it’s dark and doomy, a single beat repetitively hammered out at a funereal pace amidst fizzing electrics and splinters of breaking glass. Closer ‘Alm’ – the calm without the c – brings a sense of tranquillity, a lifting of the mood and something approximating a sense of lightness and of relief, and a sense that maybe things aren’t so bleak after all.

They are, of course: the reality of living in the now is beyond dismal, but at least, for a couple of minutes, we can perhaps forget and pretend otherwise.

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Karlrecords – KR077 – 24th April 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

For those unfamiliar (and that may well be many), die ANGEL is the collaborative project of Ilpo Väisänen (ex Pan Sonic) and Dirk Dresselhaus, which began in 1999 on a joint tour with Pan Sonic and Dresselhaus’ Schneider TM, with an objective to ‘use electronics, string instruments and effect loops to develop a sonic world that goes beyond fixed structures and clearly defined genres’. 30 years and 10 albums on, they’re still pushing those boundaries, and on this outing, the duo are joined by Oren Ambarchi.

It’s interesting to note that the material was recorded between December 2015 and January 2016, with Ambarchi adding overdubs in the spring of 2016, and the album being edited and mixed in the May of the same year, meaning it’s languished for the best part of four years., although it’s unclear as to why.

The album, available only on digital formats, comprises four longform tracks that would commonly correspond to a double 12” format

The album starts with ‘Epikurous’, which begins with a long, quavering drones that oscillates menacingly and ambulates directionless, a dark ambient cloud that drifts into the minimal throb of ‘Cargo Cult’. This piece is loosely formed around a rhythmic pulsation, a long, sonorous drone, interspersed with occasional interjections of ranging textures and frequencies. Sharp clustering bleeps and squiggling electronic fizz disrupt the smooth flow as echoic explosions and fractured rattles skitter and scuttle and scrape in and out of the frame.

‘Coup d’État’ is a bubbling foment that foams and froths unsettlingly, like a rumbling gut: it’s queasy, uncomfortable, a difficult, awkward churning that nags and grumbles, and filters into the dank miasma of the fourth and final piece, the ten-minute ‘Khormanoupka’. This is the deepest and darkest of the set, and rumbles almost subliminally, creating a deep, subterranean atmosphere, and as it crackles to a close, the listener is left empty and alone.

There is nowhere to go after this. The world didn’t end but what are you left with? An uncomfortable silence after half an hour of uncomfortable noise, noise that’s dissonant, difficult, and murky. And it works well.

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Panurus Productions – 31st March 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

It’s always a pleasure to receive a new release from Panurus Productions, although that perhaps says as much about my perverse tastes as anything, since this cassette-only microlabel specialises in weird, obscure, dark and resolutely underground music. And this one’s a double cassette. So perhaps my pleasure is in torturing the self-loathing facet of my psyche, or perhaps it’s just that I’m wired to appreciate the way sound – and not necessarily songs, and not necessarily conventional melodies and structures – can convey meaning and be imbed with a subconscious resonance that taps into emotions by an alternative means. That’s the kind of pleasure I get from receiving a new release from Panurus: a pleasure that sets a certain churn in the pit of the stomach in anticipation of the dark delights it will offer up.

It’s also something of a pleasure to read the accompanying press releases, which are more or less reviews in themselves, brimming with descriptions not only of the sound, but the sensation. Here, we’re promised a work on which ‘pneumatic pulses crunch over electronic drones, as bestial grunts and gurgles wallow in the synthetic murk. Wordless siren calls weave through the textures, shifting between forlorn and beckoning. The vocal sounds of Möbius and electronics 1727 at times distinct and at others indistinguishable, giving us a sonic insight into something we are not meant to see. This is the soundtrack to grainy footage of cult activity – to newspaper clippings of strange happenings and missing persons.’ I feel as if my work is done, even though it’s only just beginning. It’s a challenge: where do you go from there?

Down, is the answer on this occasion. Down. And further down. Burning the Black Candles is a journey deep underground, and begins with a rapid descent into darkness, and a cold, paranoid space. You can no longer trust your senses: the very air will prod you and whisper painful truths and lies as you flinch and question your mind.

The title track leads the listener deep underground to a dark, dank place. Subterranean earthworks grind, slow-moving, tectonic resonance shuddering. Haunting, disembodied voices echo through distant caverns, echoes of lost souls enacting obscure rituals. It drones, groans, moans and grumbles on for a full twenty-three minutes.

‘A Censer Hanging from Chains’ continues in the same vein: so much so that the tracks bleed not one another in a seeping morass of swirling murk. Dank air gusts thick and heavy through shafts and tunnels, a purgatorial labyrinth.

It’s a low, slow, bowel-churning rumble of a drone that forges the fabric of ‘Smoke Slowly Filling the Chamber’: the title is evocative and the sound dense and suffocating. There’s a noise, far away, echoes of shouting, possibly torture, but it soon vanishes, and all that’s left is the buzzing low-frequency flutter. It’s an oppressive, chest-tightening experience, and by the end of its twenty-minutes, it’s slowed to a shuddering crackle, like a failing heartbeat. Then stops.

The final piece, ‘GinruB’, which isn’t quite ‘burning’ backwards is so barely there ambient it’s practically subliminal. And yet it radiates a dark presence that over the course of twenty-five minutes burrows deeper down, and into the listener’s psyche to unsettling effect. It rumbles, it crackles. It burns. Monastic voices and mournful drones rise and reverberate a way off, but the ceremony feels like a lament, a funeral ode, as the end draws closer. And closer. And then… nothing.

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Hallow Ground – HG2001 – 28th February 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Electric Sewer Age began as a collaborative project between Peter ‘Sleazy’ Christopherson (of Throbbing Gristle, Psychic TV, and Coil) and Danny Hyde, who continued the project together with John Deek, who subsequently passed away in 2013. It’s perhaps only natural that a sense of bleakness, of darkness, of a certain sense of grief permeates Electric Sewer Age, as a project strewn with loss.

Contemplating Nothingness is the third release by Electric Sewer Age, and the second one that Hyde finished alone, following on from Bad White Corpuscle, originally released in 2014, and re-released in 2016.

Contemplating Nothingness is pitched as ‘a lysergic tapestry culled from the deep end of the collective pop cultural unconscious’. It begins with some spaced-out trippy, doodly interweaving drones and some disorientating analogue latticeworks and shuffling electronic judderings providing the backdrop to some reverby, echoic vocals before transitioning into woozy dance territory, a stammering heartbeat bass beat fluttering beneath shifting layers of disquiet which collide with elliptical elisions to dance tropes.

‘Got some bad news this morning / which in turn made my day’, Hyde wheezes in a distorted Al Jourgensen-style vocal on ‘Whose Gonna Save my Soul’. I try not to wince too hard and the grammatical error and instead focus on the dark atmospherics the song conjured. Moreover, this single line encapsulates the contradictions which stand at the very foundations of this album, and the track itself delves into swampy dark ambience, dominated by a rhythmic wash, with Eastern motifs twisting in and out sporadically amidst a lower-end washing ebb and flow while the vocal, half-buried, is detached, distant.

Like its predecessor, Contemplating Nothingness is dark and difficult. Slow beats that land somewhere between heavy hip-hop, trip-hop and industrial drive ‘Chebo’, a delirious drag of chimes and electronic ululations. ‘Surrender to the Crags’ plunges into dark, dank, murkiness, but retains that eastern vibe that calls to mind both The Master Musicians of Joujouka and the otherness of the Tangiers scene in the 50s and 60s as depicted by William Burroughs.

‘Self Doubting Trip’ brings a dark intensity that will likely resonate for many: it’s claustrophobic and uncomfortable, and stands as something of a highlight in the way it attacks the psyche. You hate yourself enough already, but there’s a slight comfort in knowing your self-flagellation is not unique as you chastise yourself for simply living.

It makes the last track, ‘Dekotour’, feel like an electropop breeze by comparison, the chiming synth tones more early Depeche Mode than anything, but they bend, warp, twist and weave across one another to create a difficult knot of noise, with a thick, gloopy bass rising into the increasingly tangled textures.

There’s a certain nihilism at the heart of Contemplating Nothingness, which extends beyond merely the title and its implications of introverted emptiness, but it’s paired with a less certain and altogether less tangible levity which lifts it above dark ambience and into a space that’s given to contemplation and awakening. While ultimately minimal, there is variety and depth on display here, making for an album that deserves absorption and deliberation.

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Electric Sewer Age – Contemplating Nothingness

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.

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Gizeh Records / Consouling Sounds

13th September 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

A-Sun Amissa’s fifth album promises to build on ‘the foundations of previous record Ceremony in the Stillness (2018), incorporating some of the heavier, distorted, guitar oriented themes but this time fuses them with broken, crumbling electronic beats and primal drone movements’.

Perhaps one of the most impressive things about how Richard Knox has steered A-Sun Amissa in recent years has been his systematic approach to producing new output: following a gap of fur years between 2013’s You Stood Up for Victory, We Stood Up for Less and The Gatherer (2017), with the assistance of an array of collaborators, he’s released an album a year. This has likely proved integral to the steady evolution and the sense of progression across the last three albums. And this album being almost a completely solo effort (Knox wrote, recorded, and mixed the entire album, as well as providing the artwork) has really focused his energies on pushing himself in all directions across the album’s two longform compositions

The pieces on offer here are underpinned by vast ambient passages that are drenched in distortion and reverb, slowly unfurling before more industrial, kinetic sounds are introduced and heaving guitars come to the fore. As ever, there’s a melancholic dissonance that resonates throughout, repetition is key and moments of dread are paired with shafts of light as these two monolithic pieces unravel themselves over the course of forty minutes.

‘Seagreaves’ begins as a distant howl of dark, whirling noise, scraping, screeding, creating a dark, simmering tension and a sense of foreboding, of disquiet.When it fades out to be replaced by guitar, the atmosphere shifts from menacing to melancholy. There are hints of Neurosis, and also Earth Inferno era Fields of the Nephilim in the picked notes, gradually decaying in an organic reverb. The cyclical motif is pushed along by a plodding rhythm, forging a slow, lumbering groove that builds primarily through plain repetition. Petering out to almost nothing around the midpoint, we’re left with a vast, open and almost empty space. It’s around the sixteen-minute point that everything surges back in for a sustained crescendo, a cinematic post-metal climax that finds the guitars soar while the rhythm thunders low and slow.

‘Breath by Breath’ is subtler still, elongated drones and whispers of feedback echo as if a long way away, before a piano ripples somewhere on the horizon. The atmosphere isn’t strictly tense or even dark, but shadowy, and it’s difficult to attribute a specific sensation or mood to it. When the strolling bass and sedate percussion roll in, layers of metallic guitar noise filters in – quiet, backed off, but harsh. Voices echo from the underworld, almost subliminally. And then: a momentary pause. It’s barely a heartbeat, but everything crashes in with the driving yet deliberate force of Amenra. And from hereon in it’s incremental, but also cumulative in its growing volume and impact.

Knox describes For Burdened and Bright Light as ‘a more immersive, ambitious, adventurous record of conflicting emotions as the theme of the work tackles the contradictions of being human and explores the duality of light and dark, hope and despair’, and not only is the ambitiousness clear, but those ambitions are fulfilled. Dare I – once again – describe a work as ‘epic’? Yes: the scope of For Burdened and Bright Light is vast in every sense, and it does engage the listener’s senses and provokes contemplation through it’s shifting movements, moving not only between mods but also genre forms. The result is not only unique, but powerful and captivating, holding the attention and rewarding patience over the expansive pieces.

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16th June 2019

Of course I was always going to be sold on an album with a title like Southern Phlegm. I mean, what’s not to like? Kadaitcha’s third release straddles ambient, drone, industrial, and power electronics to deliver four tracks driven by throbbing pulsating grooves welded to repetitive, cyclical guitar lines, and rent with the gnarliest, nastiest treble-shredded distorted vocals.

The first, ‘Phagocide’ pumps away for over nine minutes. The guitar and synths form a messy sonic fusion, a thick mass of distortion while wibbling space-rock blasts of analogue send blurred neon arcs through the heavily-grained backdrop like shooting stars. ‘Sewerbound’ is appropriately titled as it plunges deeper into impenetrable murk. It’s dominated by clattering percussion, the edges distorted and decayed, while screeding noise howls a vortex of sonic agony. Frequencies collide to create an endless flux of aural incompatibility. Everything is distorted, dirty, there’s malice in every note. The lyrics are impossible to decipher from amidst the sonic blitzkrieg, but there’s nothing about the delivery that suggests there’s any comfort or kindness on offer here.

Slow, brooding ambience builds an unsettling atmosphere during the opening minutes of ‘Datura’, before the overloading guitar crashes in. It’s got the low-end distortion of Sunn O))), but grinds away at a repetitive motif with the bludgeoning brutality of Swans. It’s a full-on kick to the diaphragm.

Closing off, ‘Vulpine Sacrifice’ arrives almost by stealth, a snaking bassline strolls in slow and slow, a stop/start stammer gives it an almost hesitant feel. Circuits fizz, crackle and hiss all over the place, before the final two or three minutes find the conglomeration of elongated hums coalesce to create something approximating ‘music’, akin to a swelling organ drone. But you couldn’t exactly call this brief moment of musicality that draws out to the fade the light at the end of the tunnel: it’s low, slow, and ominous and seems, if anything, to point toward another darkened door which opens onto stairs leading to an eternal abyss.

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Kadaitcha – Southern Phlegm

28th February 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

Piiiisssss’ third LP appeared by stealth, after a two-year hiatus, seemingly taking even its creator, the ever-prolific and unpredictable Dan Buckley, who has more projects, bands and pseudonyms than probably he can remember, by surprise, launching it via Facebook with the announcement ‘Lol I guess we have 3 albums now’. And as if to illustrate the point, that now stands at four just three days later, with the arrival of Enthusiast_ on 2nd March.

This five-tracker is a showcase of Buckley’s comparatively recent move into circuit-making, and if some of his kit doesn’t look especially pretty, then the sounds it makes are even more challenging at times. It’s front-loaded with the epics: ‘1’ is the first of the seemingly randomly-numbered / titled tracks, and is twelve-and-a-half minutes of oscillating loops.

‘II’, which clocks in at eleven-and-a-half minutes ventures into dark ambient territory, whispering and rumbling ominously and quietly, the distant whispers and moans creeping over a mid-range hum resembling a far-off herd of zombies in The Walking Dead. It’s unsettling, creepy… and then echoes of synth hum buzz louder, reverberating into the dead atmosphere. The drone rises to the fore and ultimately dominates everything, creating its own rhythm as the frequencies collide in a slow tidal wash. Sliding down the octaves, it transforms into a fear-chord organ throb that oozes unsettling vibes while a voice, roboticised and barely audible, winds down slowly in the background.

The third track is entitled ‘00000011’, and goes for the out-and-out eerie, with gloopy synths and bleeps and shooting star effects echoing into blackness to conjure an atmosphere that’s pure space-age horror. And if that genre doesn’t exist, then someone needs to make a movie to fit with this soundtrack.

‘Five’ is gnarly, loud, the fucked-up and desperate robotix vocal submerged in a woozy, warping wave of drone, rent with glitches, before it descends into a mess of scratching noise on the circuit-melting closer, ‘Confirmed Sixhavers’.

Piiiisssss marks quite a departure from many of Buckley’s myriad other musical outlet, not least of all his prolonged foray into playing covers revamped as bangin’ donk choons, or the industrial-disco grind of Petrol Hoers, and Alan & His Parents functions well as a standalone piece which showcases one of the many facets of a remarkably diffuse artist.

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