Posts Tagged ‘Dinosaur Jr’

Curation Records

Christopher Nosnibor

Elkyn is very much about the slow burn, the gradual diffusion, both musically and in terms of career trajectory. Joey Donnelly unveiled elkyn in 2020, having made the subtle shift from performing as elk and releasing the magnificently understated beech EP in 2019. Since then, he’s continued to release a steady stream off beautifully-crafted singles as teasers for the album, the most recent of which, ‘if you’re still leaving’ emerged in March of this year. Interestingly, the melody bears certain parallels with U2’s ‘Where the Streets Have No Name’, but nothing could be further from the bombast of the stadium-fillers’ epic: this is introspective bedroom indie, quiet and contemplative; there’s no ego, no pomp, no big production. ‘So this is it,’ he sings with a weak resignation.

So while progress certainly hasn’t been slow, it’s not exactly been swift, either, and listening to holy spirit social club seemingly explains why. To begin with, there’s the level of detail in the arrangements: on the surface, they’re fairly sparse, simple, acoustic works, but listen closely and there is so much more to hear, from delicate bass and washes of synth, rolling drums and incidental interludes with rippling piano and more. Reverb and layering are applied subtly and judiciously, too, and these things don’t happen by accident, but through a close and careful ear on every bar. The absence of capitalisation may niggle a pedant like me, but it’s clearly another conscious decision and rather than coming across like an irritating affectation, feels more like another aspect of elkyn’s self-opinion, the small ‘i’ indicative of a kind of abasement, while in no way seeking sympathy or validation. It’s a cliché to the point of a running joke when musicians say they write songs for themselves and aren’t bothered if anyone likes them, but with elkyn, it seems genuinely plausible: these songs are so intimate, it’s as if he’s playing them under the assumption no-one else will ever hear them.

If ‘found the back of the tv remote’ (another single cut) sounds like dreamy, winsome indie, it’s equally reminiscent of Dinosaur Jr’s more stripped back moments, and Donnelly shares that sense of almost being embarrassed to be audible as he sings comes through in J Mascis’ delivery. But then, this leads us to the second reason why elkyn isn’t banging stuff out every few weeks – these songs are intensely intimate, and filled with vulnerability and self-criticism, and one suspects that tendency to self-critique extends to his recordings in the same was as social situations, relationships, and life in general.

But while the tone is plaintive, mournful, regretful, sad, that isn’t the vibe of the songs in themselves, because elkyn manages to infuse every song with a certain optimism, the melancholy flavoured with hope. There’s a breeziness, a brightness, I might even say a ‘summeriness’ about many of the songs on holy spirit social club that renders them uplifting. But even at its saddest, most disconsolate and dejected, holy spirit social club brings joy simply by virtue of being so achingly wonderful in every way.

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26th January 2022

Christopheer Nosnibor

Elkyn first came to my attention – and, quite frankly, blew me away instantaneously – in his previous iteration as elk, in the spring of 2019, an appreciation that was cemented with the release of the ‘beech’ EP that summer. Since then, Leeds based multi-instrumentalist Joey Donnelly has become elkyn and gone on to craft not only more remarkable songs, but also something of a rarefied space artistically.

In many respects, there’s very little of Joey out in the public domain: press shots tend to be similar in style, and unassuming, and interviews, while interesting in themselves, and while he comes across well, reveal little about the man behind the music. In contrast, his songs are so intensely personal that there’s likely little need to elucidate further: the songs really do speak for him.

Those songs have already earned him airplay on BBC 6Music, BBC Introducing and Radio X, and deservedly so, and now, with a debut album, holy spirit social club, due for release in the spring, elkyn is sharing ‘talon’ as a taster.

Fuller in sound and more up-tempo than previous singles ‘something’ and ‘everything looks darker now’, it’s more akin to ‘found the back of the tv remote’, which found him flexing new muscles and venturing into Twilight Sad kitchen-sink melancholia.

It’s a(nother) magnificently-crafted tune, and it’s clear by now that Joey has a real knack for bittersweetness. The guitar is melodic and imbued with a wistfulness that’s hard to define. There’s a Curesque lilt to it, in the way that when the Cure do pop, it’s somehow sadder and more emotionally touching than then they do gloomy – or is that just me who experiences that sensation where a certain shade of happy just makes me want to cry inexplicably? But more than anything, when Donnelly’s voice enters the mix, I’m reminded of Dinosaur Jr. Joey’s a better singer than J Mascis, but his voice has that same plaintive quality that tugs away and evokes that emotional hinterland between gloom, resignation, and hope.

Donnelly deals in self-doubt, self-criticism and articulations of inadequacy, and this is why his songs are so affecting and relatable. But it’s the hope that shines through on ‘talon’ – thin rays of sun through the closed curtains of despair perhaps, but with a tune this breezy it’s hard to feel anything other than uplifted by the end.

Live dates:

18/03/22 Hyde Park Book Club Leeds

19/03/22 Fulford Arms York

20/03/22 The Castle Manchester

24/03/22 Scale Liverpool

25/03/22 JT Soar Nottingham

26/03/22 The Flapper Birmingham

27/03/22 Duffy’s Leicester

29/03/22 Strongrooms London

30/03/22 Folklore Rooms Brighton

01/04/22 Clifton Community Bookshop

02/04/22 Tiny Rebel Cardiff

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Pic: Stewart Baxter

Fire Records – 22nd October 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

“What does ‘regret’ mean?” “Well, son, a funny thing about regret is that better to regret something you have done, than to regret something you haven’t done.” I have no shortage of regrets, but one is that I saw Come and thought ‘meh’. It was 1993: they were supporting Dinosaur Jr, who’s just released Where You Been?, along with Bettie Serveert in Nottingham. I’d read reviews of, but was still yet to hear Eleven: Eleven at the time. They’d been all over the press with that debut album. And I just didn’t get gripped. Maybe it was because, at seventeen, I was just so revved for the headliners I wasn’t in a place to fully appreciate the supports.

I had no way of knowing that their second album would become one of my absolute favourites. Again, having picked up Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, I wasn’t immediately enamoured. I guess it took me awhile to appreciate the album’s subtlety and emotional depth – and it has so much depth – but investing in listening properly and not holding out for the big riffery of Nirvana or Dinosaur Jr or the general sound of the class of ’93-’94 unlocks Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Some of it’s about maturity, some of it’s about patience – I didn’t really dig The God Machine on the first few spins of Scenes from the Second Storey.

It was a long album, for a start. Only two of the songs are under four minutes long, and half are five or more. The structures aren’t obvious, there’s not a lot that’s straight verse / chorus / verse. It was also a bit slow, and quite country / blues. It really wasn’t the sound of the grunge zeitgeist of 1994. But one day, somehow, something clicket. Quite possibly it was by absently half-listening to it, that moment arrived in ‘String’. I have this thing, whereby a fleeting moment of a song -m a change of key, chord, a single sound, or something else otherwise minor, extraneous, will absolutely make it for me. By which I mean, I am completely obsessive about this. When a moment strikes me as ‘pivotal’ I simply have to hear it, over and over, and that will be a reason to play an entire song – on repeat. That first scrape of fingers on strings at the start of ‘My Black Ass’ on Shellac at Action Park? Yeah, that’s one such moment. That moment at 3:05 on ‘String’ in Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell is another. It just hits an instant of musical perfection, and it’s absolute bliss.

The song is a standout – on the CD, it’s positioned after the slow, blooding ‘Let’s Get Lost’ and picks the tempo up. The fact it arrives after a false ending or sorts and a change in direction is key, and the guitar interplay is sublime… The trouble is, explaining it in words simply doesn’t convey the impact, the way it resonates. But there it is. And now, here it is again, remastered. And it sounds great, all over again, as well as giving reason to revisit what is a remarkable and courageous album, one that represents a band committed to making the music they want to make instead of succumbing to trends or record company or peer pressure. And revisiting it only further highlights the dynamics, the tempo changes and unexpected shifts, and the way those sonic twists can instantly alter the mood, and the way the band imbue every bar with emotion. It’s so, so powerful, and all the more so for the fact it isn’t immediate. In fact, all of the things that made it ‘difficult’, that I struggled with at first, are the reasons I love it now and are the reasons it’s such a remarkable and accomplished album, and one that proved without doubt that volume is not the sole driver of intensity. Thalia Zedek’s vocal with its rich patina has a deep rasp, and carries a greater emotional than tonal range, and it’s perfectly suited to the twisting, restlessness of the songs: these are songs to lose yourself in.

The remastering is nicely done – nothing too intrusive, it just feels that bit crisper, somehow, the details clearer, and that’s nice.

The bonus disc, Wrong Sides contains an entire album’s worth of additional material, and with the exception of the demo version of ‘German Song’ (with some magnificent spiralling guitar work and if anything, this slightly less polished take, with the notable addition of clarinet and piano packs only more aching beauty), it’s not a gathering of alternative takes, radio sessions, and rehearsals, but a truly worthy assembly of contemporaneous material – B—sides, stray compilation tracks, and unreleased material, and it’s fair to say that it’s all killer.

‘Angelhead’ – a ‘String’ 12” B-side was recorded on a stop-off on tour, and is one of the most directly riff-centric grungers of the band’s career. ‘Cimarron’ is up there with the best of Come, with some crunchy guitars augmented by sweeping violin. Their cover of Swell Maps’ ‘Loin of the Surf’ is a groove-led math-rock instrumental workout, while ‘Submerge’ is chunky, crunky, dense, lumbering. This is the version that actually predates the one that appears on Eleven: Eleven, and instead came out on the German Sub Pop 12” and CD of the menacing ‘Car’ (also featured here with its warping guitars alongside B-side ‘Last Mistake’. But what matters most is that every single bonus cut here would have been worthy of the album.

With the additions as strong as the album, what the expanded version of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell reveals is an insight into a great – if massively underrated – band at their absolute peak.

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11th September 2020

Music – and people and individuals – can be positive or negative forces. Often, in the arts, destruction isn’t only a necessary but truly essential part of the creative process, and this can also mean on a long-term cyclical basis also. But ultimately, the title of Arcade Fortress’ debut album makes for a solid recommendation: there has to be some equilibrium, and in destroying more than you create, the result is a negative, an artistic minus, a kind of void or black hole.

There are times I’ve been sceptical about this, though. I mean, creating is ultimately about legacy in some shape or form: what if your output is vast but dismal? What if your legacy is like Status Quo without ‘Matchstick Men’? What if your legacy is Oasis? What if your legacy is the Vengaboys?

Clearly, some people just don’t care, and just want to leave a mark, even if it’s just a skidmark. If the tile of their album is to taken as any kind of statement or manifesto, Arcade Fortress is a band with an eye on their legacy, and they set their stall out without shame, namely to draw together aspects of Biffy Clyro, Foo Fighters and Frightened Rabbit, to produce ‘a collection of eleven festival-ready rock songs’.

And so it’s all about objectives, about ambition. I don’t think these guys have any aspirations or illusions about becoming the next voice of a generation or anything so lofty or pretentious, and once you come around to understanding that, Create More Than You Destroy makes the most sense.

Up first, ‘Oxygen Thief’ is urgent, punchy, and has a poky, up-front production. The chorus is a punk-popper primed to curry favour with Kerrang Radio with a chanty ‘oi-oi-oi-oi!’ hook bridging from a catchy chorus. It’s a surefire moshpit fave in the making, if and when moshpits return – which surely they must, at least one day. We have to cling to some hopes. And hope and aspiration is strongly infused within the songs on here.

‘Crowded’ is a bit Foos-play-pub rock, and for some reason, my ears just hear Meatloaf fronting Biffy Clyro on ‘Erosion’. Elsewhere, ‘In It’ is more Reef / Red Hot Chilli Peppers than appeals to my ear. But then, the driving ‘Nothing to Say’ blends the quiet / loud dynamic of grunge and the raw four-chord stomp of punk to produce a song that’s simple but effective and hits the spot, and with a more melodic slant on gunge than either of the two most obvious touchstones, Nirvana and Dinosaur Jr, ‘Albi’ is a slow-burner that is well-executed.

It’s not hard to hear the appeal of Arcade Fortress here. It’s been a long time in the coming, and Create More Than You Destroy is not an album to be judged on whether it’s revolutionary, but on whether it’s an artistic success based on ambition and purpose: and since their ambition is to produce songs that, quite simply, rock, and in taking on an array of styles, Arcade Fortress show they’re adaptable and have an ear for the accessible: success surely awaits.

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Arcade Fortress Artwork

Play Loud! Productions – 13th April 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

My first thought on hearing the opening bars of the album’s first track, ‘Light & Grace’ is ‘wow, this sounds just like Dinosaur Jr!’ My second thought, on the vocals starting is ‘No way, this really sounds like Dinosaur Jr!’ Sure enough, J. Mascis is listed among the long list of collaborators on this, the first Locus Fudge album in 20 years. Mascis has nothing if not a unique signature sound, often aped but never replicated. The track in question rumbles along for over eleven minutes, the singing soon giving up for the guitar solo to do the talking. Less characteristic of Dinosaur Jr is the way in which the solo comes to battle against a rising tide of extraneous noise, and the song itself finally collapses to a churn of dark ambience and feedback. As it happens, large chunks of Oscillations sound very Dinosaur Jr, and the overall vibe is very much late 80s / early 90s US alternative rock.

This is also very much the sphere to which Locust Fudge belong: their two previous albums, Flush and Royal Flush, released in 1993 and 1995 respectively, were released on Glitterhouse and saw the German duo aligned to the grunge movement. The EP, Business Express (1996), saw them push into more electro/industrial/krautrock territories, and even include overt elements of drum’n’bass in the mix. Those records are almost impossible to find now and the YouTube uploads of the tracks aren’t available in the UK. There’s something strange about the idea of being unable to access something on-line now. Whatever happened to the global village? Marshall McLuhan and Quentin Fiore pitched the global village as the territory of electronic media; with territorial divisions over music rights, it feels much more like a map of war than a plan for peace.

Oscillation reminds of simpler times – but more than that, seems to belong there. It’s not merely a nostalgia work, but a heartfelt return. You can’t exactly criticise a work for being ‘derivative’ when the bulk of the artists it’s derivative of feature.

‘Hormones’ slips into the easy but wonky country vibes of Pavement, while the motoric groove of ‘No Defense’ has some gloriously skewed guitar work. And then…. then there’s a wild frenzy of discordant jazz all over the middle eight. The big sax break on ‘Something’s Wrong’ comes on like The Psychedelic Furs, over a big, crackling valve guitar buzz, a melody reminiscent of Dinosaur Jr’s ‘Turnip Farm’, and lyrics that appear to present a process of self-dismemberment.

It’s a great album – not of its time, but of its spawning era. And now I’m off to revisit You’re Living All Over Me. Just because.

https://playloud.org/archiveandstore/trailers/locustfudge/trailercode.html

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Beacons Metro have revealed the latest acts taking part in this autumn’s invigorating music programme. Having announced Local Natives, Roots Manuva, Hookworms and Anna Meredith earlier last month, this next announcement sees Beacons firming up their forward thinking curatorial muscles.

Leading the announcement is American Alt-Rock and Grunge pioneers Dinosaur JR, who will be performing at the Beacons Metro opening party at Leeds University Stylus on October 26th, joining the Massachusetts titans are Canadian Post-Hardcore heroes Fucked Up who will be performing their highly acclaimed debut ‘Hidden World’ in full at the Belgrave on October 27th joined by one of the brightest lights of Nashville’s thriving DIY rock movement, the quad guitar’d chaos of Diarrhea Planet.

The 27th of October will also see Boxed In, the project of songwriter & producer Oli Bayston descend on Headrow House, hot on the heels of their most recent single, the punchy and electronic ‘Jist’. The reigning Queen of UK hip-hop Lady Leshurr will be returning to Leeds to lay waste to the Belgrave Music Hall, elsewhere Cats Eyes, consisting of the Horror’s Faris Badwan, Italian-Canadian soprano, composer and multi-instrumentalist Rachel Zeffira and a huge supporting cast of musicians will perform at the beautiful Howard Assembly Rooms on November 2nd. Leeds’ own Krrum returns to Headrow House on 3rd November and finally, New York based Singer Songwriter Margaret Glaspy who is quickly establishing herself as an exciting and forward thinking songwriter, will be making her Leeds debut at Headrow House on the 6th November.

Head Booker, Ben Lewis says:
‘‘We are really proud of this new batch of artists we’re announcing. Building on our eclectic first announcement we’re bringing together huge names from the indie rock world; Dinosaur Jr and Fucked Up, alongside Grime Queen Lady Leshurr and freak folk, head turning teenagers Let’s Eat Grandma. It’s going to be a very exciting, very busy week, and with a few more top names still to come at the end of the month, it’s only getting stronger”.

A limited number of Season Pass tickets priced at £50 are on sale now via the link below. This gives you access to all the Beacons Metro show with a significant discount.

 

 

Tickets, full lineup, and more at http://beaconsmetro.com/