Posts Tagged ‘dark’

Christopher Nosnibor

Leeds’ DIY scene is becoming increasingly adept at turning poky rehearsal spaces into gig venues: it makes sense from a funding perspective, but also means that while conventional scenes are struggling to stay open for various reasons (as often redevelopment as being squeezed financially) and new and niche acts are finding it increasingly difficult to get gigs, the Leeds scene is thriving and as diverse as ever.

I’ve previously sung the praises of rehearsal-room-turned venue CHUNK, and it’s Theo Gowans, who does a lot of the stuff there, who’s behind this evening’s show. Tonight, Mabgate Beach (or Madgate Beach, as the poster has it), tucked away in a corner of an industrial estate in an obscure corner of the city plays host to a brace of Newcastle noisemongers, supported by a brace of very different local supports.

I’d been forewarned that the room was small, but that’s something of an understatement.

Intimate isn’t even close.: it’s about the size of my living room, although it’s still probably a few feet bigger than The Hovel in York’s South Bank Social, which has a capacity of maybe 16. The drum kit and back-line fill most of the room, after which we manage to pack in maybe 20. And the lighting is as minimal as the space, only less consistent.

The Truth About Frank have been knocking around for over a decade now, and Alan Edwards’ sets don’t get any more mellow over time. Kicks off the bill with a riot of samples, the set comprises a single continuous improvised soundwerk, a jarring audio cut-up through which murky beats fade in and out through an ever-shifting collage of noise, creating what cut-up originator Brion Gysin would refer to as ‘a derangement of the senses’. Playing in near-darkness with a pencil beam of light emanating from the arm of his glasses to illuminate his minimal digital kit, Edwards’ stubby nicotine-stained fingers manipulate shapes on a touch screen and jab buttons, and with each prod and poke, more strange sounds emerge, and it’s brilliantly bewildering.

DSC_3262[1]

The Truth About Frank

Things start to feel quite cramped when a full band with bass and two guitars play, and I’m less concerned about site lines for photographs than being smacked by the bassist’s headstock, meaning I’m happy to settle for the second row to observe Loro spin a set of mellow post-rock. It’s kinda standard circa 2004 fodder for the most part, but it’s nice, and with twists of mathiness and jazz without being indulgent.

DSC_3265[1]

Loro

Penance Stare prove to be an absolute revelation. Their recent recordings are a hybrid of ethereal shoegaziness with black metal production values, and while those elements are very much present here, witnessing their colossal noise in such an enclosed space is an incredibly intense experience. There’s ferocious reverb on the vocals, and murky as fuck guitar duels with thunderous drumming. The duo explore some deep, dark atmospheres, too, and coupled with Esmé’s brutal anguished shriek, there are comparisons to both Amenra and early Cranes to be drawn here. Some of the soft instrumental segments are achingly beautiful and affecting, and are invariably obliterated by devastating distortion and howling agony. This is music that reaches deep inside and leaves one feeling somehow altered.

James Watts has more bands and projects than I have albums in my review pile, and having met him and performed alongside Lump Hammer in the summer, I was keen to see how things worked with a different slant and lineup, and an absence of knitted head/face garb. Whereas Lump Hammer ae sludgy and repetitive, Plague Rider mine a seam of pounding math metal, with Watts’ vocal veering between shrieking demonic and guttural taking a shit deep grunt. And what the fuck even is his two-string instrument with some kind of touchscreen attached? In the less-than—half-light, I’m struck by how much Watts resembles a young Alan Moore. It’s so dark, I can barely see the rest of the band to know what they look like, but they relentlessly kick out juggernaut riffs that hammer hard.

DSC_3274[1]

Plague Rider

Technical difficulties struck 15 minutes in, with a power outage on the guitarist’s pedal board bringing a halt to the set, but after a brief intermission they resumed as loud and punishing as before, and then some.

In such a confined space, the effect is staggering: every beat, every chord, lands like a punch to the gut. It’s exhausting but exhilarating.

Christopher Nosnibor

The trouble with receiving more shit than you could ever listen to in a week on a daily basis means you lose track now only of what you’ve got, but also where much of it came from. The positive spin is that life becomes a constantly-rolling conveyor-belt of surprises, some of which are pleasant.

What’s pleasant is a matter of taste, of course, meaning not everyone in my position would be enthused on stumbling on the dark, industrial-strength electronica of Kojoohar × Ködzid Goo – less a collaboration than a collision of Ukranian Andrei Kojoohar (who produces industrial / power electronics as Kadaitcha, and synthpop / triphop / downtempo under the Fogscape moniker), and Ködzid Goo from Russia, who specialises in bleak darkwave.

It’s no criticism to say that Дотла represents the sum of its parts. ‘Сулема’ (trans:‘Sulema / (Mercury Chloride)’ sets the tone with churning atmospherics paving the way for a thudding industrial rhythm and shivering electronica. It’s low-tempo, intense and claustrophobic. There’s no space to get comfortable here: there’s barely space to breathe. Its as dark as the black on charcoal cover from beginning to end.

There are dark hip-hop elements buried deep in the songs, too, and the hybridity contributes to the otherworldly distancing that defines the sound.

Whether or not the lyrics lose anything in translation, I couldn’t comment, but there’s something fascinating about their viscerality and potent images, with the opening lines of the final track, ‘Полынь’ (trans: ‘Polyn’ / Wormwood’ being fairly typical:

Eye slits plastered with phlegm completely,

eyelashes sealed with wax tightly

All the humanity has a single mind,

and now it starts getting distracted

Wrapped in food plastic film deceitfully,

it rots in its semiconsciousness

Drowning unhelpfully in swampy lakes,

trudging scarcely through powder dunes

The same song closes off with the equally dark lines:

Dust settled on our senile scalped heads

Successively having turned into powder

We all were born at the wrong time in vain

Blossomed in the wrong place all over

Delivered in a blank monotone, devoid of emotional and humanity, it sits well with the stark, mechanoid instrumentation that thumps and grinds low-end bass throbs welded to dead-hearted beats, overlaid with icy synths.

Hard, stark, cold and dystopian in every sense, this release offers no comfort and no breaks, no hooks and no easy inroads. It’s a difficult and singular work that reminds us that we’re all on the outside, all alone, and all doomed.

AA

cover

Buzzhowl Records – 18th October 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

What came first, the music or the mindset? I’m going to put it down to how some of us – myself included – are wired, and will forever be drawn to that tense, dark sound that came out of the late 70s and early 80s that was a reaction to – and against – everything that was happening at the time. Just as punk was a reaction to – and rebellion against – prog and the beigeness of the times, so post -punk and its various strains, including (dare I whisper it?) goth harnessed the frustration and the dejection that was a product of the first years under Thatcher and the political climate of the second cold war and rendered it in a more articulate, and perhaps more musically resonant way (because let’s face it, 90% of so-called punk bands were just playing pub rock with the amps up).

To revisit briefly an observation I’ve made variously in recent years, these are bleak, bleak times, and the future is well out of hand. The post-punk renaissance that began around 2004 with the emergence of Editors and Interpol grew from an underground which was there long before, but now it’s in full spate. Reading’s Typical Hunks fully embrace all of this as a guitar bass duo backed by a drum machine.

The guitar on ‘Snakebit’ is spindly, reverb-heavy, weaving one of those tense post-punk guitar-lines that’s pure Joy Division, and it snakes its way around a tight, insistent bass that booms and drives along with the insistence of the grooves Craig Adams laid down to define the sound of The Sisters of Mercy in the early years. That in turn is wenled to thumping beat that’s a distillation of all things Yorkshire circa 1983-4. It’s all in the programming: nothing fancy, no attempt to make it sound like an actual drummer, no flash fills or flourishes, just a hammering repetition and a snare sound that’ll slice the top off your head. Those Boss Dr Rhythm machines really are unbeatable. The vocals are tense, paranoid, and channel disaffection.

Strains of feedback and a hesitant bass hover before everything locks in around another relentless rhythm on ‘Unravelling’ with elements of March Violets, Red Lorry Yellow Lorry, and early Danse Society all spun into a solid block of discomfort. Vintage in its roots yet ultimately providing the soundtrack of the zeitgeist, this is a cracking Aside / B-side combo housed in a suitably barren sleeve, that showcases Typical Hunks at their strongest and most focused yet.

AA

Artwork

Christopher Nosnibor

I love getting weird shit in the post. Not literal shit, of course, not the kind of shit one might have received for panning The Levellers in a review in the early 90s, but the kind of sonic faeces people I associate with might send me when they have a new release or project in the offing.

I clocked the sender’s name on the envelope: one P.A. Morbid of Middlesbrough. Having been moving in the same circles for a while, the arrival of a package in itself was no major shock, but I hadn’t been aware of anything musical in the offing from this North-Eastern master of bleak lines who, having recently published a collection of poetry split with local luminary Harry Gallagher, has also been working on some flash fiction pieces. It’s not entirely clear where this fits in: on-line sources suggest it was released back in 2017, but the infrequently gigging band also look set to make a rare hometown appearance in July.

Morbs is credited as providing ‘vocals, rhythms, noises’ on this three-tracker, produced in collaboration with Peter Heselton, who’s responsible for guitars, electronics, keyboards, and also rhythms.

Most of those rhythms are sequenced pulsations, with the vintage feel of analogue or at least early, primitive digital drum machines, and overall, the production on this experimental electro effort is primitive to the point of condenser mic in the middle of the room standard. But this kind of straight-to-tape DIY approach is integral to both the ethos and the appeal.

Dingy pulsations drive ‘Das Jenseits’, the first cut on here, and it’s pure Throbbing Gristle. Murky drones and extraneous noise that all sits in the mid-range form a drifting sonic fog. There are vocals lurking in the smog, but they’re distorted and low in the mix: the result is that they’re an abstract disorientating addition to a difficult mess of abstract disorientation.

‘Standing by the Grave’ is more direct: a whipcrack snare cuts though the infinite murk of the guitars while Morbid moans and grunts impenetrably. There are hints of neofolk, but equally goth-tinged post-punk in evidence. The atmosphere is oppressive, dense. You don’t really know what it’s about or what’s going on, but it’s like wading through treacle and a suffocating airless smog that lies thick and heavy.

The closer, ‘what light remains’ is a mercifully short four minutes in duration. Rippling shards and quivering synths shimmer through the atmospheric fog. It’s dislocated, difficult, dark ambient; percussionless desert rock, reverby chords echoing out across space and time rippling in a heat haze.

I’m left dazed, feeling strangely alone and wondering what it was all about.

KDB

Metropolis Records – 24th May 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

Dark, slithering atmospherics – the sound of a postindustrial, postapocalyptic, Bladerunner cityscape, with twitching broken cables fizzing sparks showering into anonymous alleyways – mark the opening of Nero Bellum’s solo debut. A low, gut-churning bass grinds in against hefty beats – not snare drums, but blasts of distorted noise, and as such, ‘Another Prayer to Lucifer’ sets the tone.

Representing two years’ work, with each piece being recorded live, ‘improvised, with no overdubs, and without the use of computers in the creative process’, NFRNº marks a clear departure from the industrial metal of Psyclon Nine.

It’s still got an industrial feel, but it’s about atmosphere rather than brutal attack. Everything is dank, murky, indistinct, and while many of the arrangements are sparse, there’s an oppressive density which permeates the album as a whole. Monotonous, hammering beats thud dolorously, pounding relentlessly against whirring electronics with serrated edges, and each piece bleeds into the next to forge a sprawling mass of discomfort. The album’s impact stems not from its range, but precisely from it’s lack, bludgeoning the senses with trudging repetition and tonal similarity. There is next to no light here, only varying shades of darkness and inhuman bleakness.

‘An Angel’s Offering’ hints at some sort of redemption, with blooping, skittering interloping synth lines that venture into (comparatively) accessible dance territory, before ‘The Beauty in Something Broken’ offers the first pang of melancholic yearning from amidst the relentless stream of emotionally-desensitised machine-made noise.

The reprieve is but brief, though, and ‘Stranded’ wavers back down the path toward darker territories, casting an air of uncertainty and trepidation with its quavering drones. The closing pairing of ‘A Candle Once Burned’, which is more the sound of hope being extinguished rather than light, and the onset of a purgatorial emptiness, and ‘Never Good Enough’ wanders in shadow, formless, with no sense of closure as it fades to nothing.

AA

Nero Bellum – NFRNº

Treading that line between elevated art and unnecessarily loftiness and pretension… It’s a challenge. It’s not always easy to differentiate parody and sincerity, not least of all because we exist in a world in which real-life news resembles Brasseye and The Day Today. Irony is dead, and belief is the enemy in a post-truth society.

So when a press release reads half like a sample from a William Burroughs cut-up whereby Lemegeton Party is described as ‘the narcotic and occluded industrial-ambient debut for the Junkie Flamingos,’ it’s difficult to rate its level of seriousness. And, according to the accompanying text, the album is inspired by Friedrich Hölderlin’s Hyperion, [and] is gilded with a neoclassical sheen that alludes to both the divine and the diabolical. Kundalini’s whispered invocations which have so creepily effective in addressing psychosexually abject conditions in She Spread Sorrow are immediately recognizable here. Yet, she shifts the content towards messages of power and strength, even if cast in the shadows of desolation and solitude’.

The chances are – no criticism – that this will go over the heads of many, and returns us to the question of the extent to which understanding the theory behind any work of art should have a bearing on one’s capacity to appreciate it. I don’t believe that it should even one iota. But then again, my own background draws me to note that in their naming, Junkie Flamingos allude to surrealist juxtapositions built on incongruity, something which defined Dada and indicates a strong Surrealist bent.

The detail is that Junkie Flamingos is ‘a project conceived in 2017 by Luca Sigurtà, Alice Kundalini, and Daniele Delogu’, and that ‘Each of these musicians has their distinctive sounds: Sigurtà with his vertiginous electronica, Kundalini best known as the author behind the death industrial project She Spread Sorrow, and Delogu in the bombastic folk of the Barbarian Pipe and. Their collective amalgamation shifts but does not denude each of these aesthetics in the construction of this oblique, sidereal album.’

It’s clear Junkie Flamingos have high artistic ambitions, and ‘Evening of Our Days’, the first of the albums five expansive tracks sounds pretty serious: even a line like ‘you are a small man’ sounds menacing, threatening, dangerous when whispered, serpentine, from the mouth of Alice Kundalini against a rising tide of electronic manging. The backdrop is sparse, but ugly. ‘Shape of Men’, the album’s eight-and-a-half minute centrepiece is dolorous, sparse, and funereal as a single bell chime rings out over a low, thudding bass beat.

‘Restless Youth’ rumbles, grinds and glitches amidst flickering beats, ominous rumbles, hushes, barely audible vocals, and a general radiance of discomfort and disquiet. The lower, slower, and quieter they take it, the more you feel your skin crawl and your nerves jangle. Sitting between ambient and sparse electronica, it’s darkly atmospheric not in the ambient sense, but in the most chilling, semi-human, psychotic sense. ‘The Language of Slaves’ continues on the same path, the semi-robotic, processed vocals creating a distance between event and emotion. There’s no obvious entry point, and this is music of detachment and cognitive dissonance. These are the album’s positives. It isn’t easy to get into, but why should it be? But where Lemegeton Party stands out is in its subtlety, something chronically underrated right now. With Lemegeton Party, Junkie Flamingos steel in by stealth… and then fuck with your psyche. And that’s why I love it.

AA

Junkie Flamingos – Lemegeton Party

Metropolis Records – 22 March 2019

So often, less is more. All we know if muet is that ‘muet is the sound of American noir. Sonically defiant art rock sung under the shadow of a long brim hat. Deliberate dissonance and heartbreaking melody are stitched together beneath sodium light with tales of the tragic, the romantic, and the bizarre. The band features Steven Seibold, Daniel Evans and Vince Mcaley, who have all enjoyed moderate success in various post-industrial and punk bands. based out of Chicago’.

I may have mentioned before that I broke free of mainstream music by route of 80s goth, so I have something of an appreciation of hats. Actually, that’s something of an understatement, as I’ve been an avid hat-wearer for large portions of the last 27 years. Muet is the sound of doomed romanticism and hat-wearing, a meshing of the gothier end of the post-punk spectrum with more contemporary takes on the same: because for all of the referencing and influence, the likes of Interpol and She Wants Revenge very much filter the past through a post-millennial lens.

The album’s first chord is a single, echoing strike that could almost be a sample of the opening note on ‘Marian’ by The Sisters of Mercy, and then a mechanoid drum and solid , square bass groove rumbles in, holding down that c.85 Sisters vibe… but the nagging, trebly guitar that chops in is more Gang of 4 via Radio 4 ‘Leather Jacket Perfume.’

There’s a heavy sleaze vibe that permeates every aspect of the album, with song titles like the aforementioned ‘Leather Jacket Perfume’, ‘Weirdest Sex’, ‘Her Dad’s Car’, and ‘Muscle’, but there’s equally a considerable amount of brooding and melancholy, conveyed by atmospheric, echo-drenched, minor-key guitars picked and spun.

‘Reach out and Murder’ features some wild, bending post-punk guitar and a thunderous rhythm section and kicks out a riff reminiscent of Department S’ ‘Is Vic There?’, whole the chorus has something of a Cooper Temple Clause feel. ‘on2u’ combines swagger and groove with a dash of early 90s Mission wrapped in a haze of psychedelia

One thing that comes across strongly is the emotional depth ploughed into each of the songs. Yes, there’s an element of stylisation which is part and parcel of the genre form, but there’s a conviction that resonates and it’s unmistakeably genuine. Moreover, muet has range, and doesn’t focus excessively on any one theme or mood, while maintaining a stylistic cohesion. It’s a proper album, and a damn fine one at that.

AA

muet