Posts Tagged ‘Disco’

Christopher Nosnibor

The return of live music remains on a balance beam of managing finances and staff / punter safety, especially in terms of what people are comfortable with. Every gig, therefore, is a gamble, and tonight’s is no exception: for while The Fulford Arms had spent lockdown not only working on making nots own space as safe and accommodating as possible, as well as campaigning hard for other local venues and live music in general, they’ve used the time to make improvements that had been longer-term plans, they still face the challenge of bringing punters in.

Tonight’s event benefits from a Lottery-funded two for one offer on tickets, which has encouraged a respectable showing for a wet Thursday night. It’s all good, but PINS have been struck by (non-Covid) illness and are two members down, and so are playing a stripped-back set as a foursome without a drummer. But they’re troopers, and so the show goes on, and Tides walk on to crashing waves and crystalline ambience, before launching into a set of jangly, melodic indie with a distinctly late 80s / early 90s vibe. The foursome are young, and while not especially outgoing in their performance, play with an assurance that comes across well, and they’re tight and solid, but still with much to learn.

They land the slowie early, with the emotive ‘You’ being third in an eight-song set. Revelling in their poppier leanings is a cover of Lizzo’s ‘Juice’, and it’s well-played, but bland, although well-received by their friends down the front. But two covers in such a short set isn’t best form: either they’re yet to accumulate enough original material or lack the confidence in what they have, but the less said about their competent but characterless rendition of Shania Twain’s ‘Man, I Feel Like a Woman’ the better, as well as the sixth-form handbag dancing it inspired. They feel like a band who haven’t fully decided their identity yet, swinging between a slick contemporary pop and more of a female-fronted Smiths or Wedding Present. Given time, they’ll hopefully figure out how to combine the two, but in the meantime, they prove to be a fun and competent support act.

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Tides

PINS are one of those bands I feel I should know but simply haven’t got to for various reasons, and so I won’t claim in any sense to know the tracks from their three albums – but the strength of any band is to deliver a set than has the capacity to not only please established fans, but to convert new ones from among an impartial crowd.

Admittedly, I took little convincing: the first song of the set lifts a 3-note motorik looping bass groove from Suicide’s ‘Ghostrider’, and they hold that insistent repetition into the second. It’s an instant grab. It actually sounds a bit like 90s indie / shoegaze / goth act Sunshot, who I revisited just the other week. It’s certainly no criticism, so much as an indicator of their post-punk/ shoegaze / crossover sound, propelled by sparse percussion with a vintage drum-machine sound. Landing in at the third track in the set ‘Bad Girls Forever’ brings a country / gospel vibe to the thumping new wave sound that’s counterbalanced by an abundance of electropop sass, while ‘Ponytail’ sashays and swishes through an easy pop that carries a sentiment of girl power 2020s style. They do political, too, with the stomping ‘serve the Rich’ snapping and sneering over a thumping bass groove.

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PINS

In terms of performance, PINS are the epitome of cool, with Faith Verne’s oversized shades positively screaming ‘pop icon’ and Lois MacDonald guitarist affecting the best bored face as she treads on the spot throughout the set.

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PINS

If the sound itself is a well-realised take on preexisting forms, it’s the multi layered vocals that really make PINS stand out here, and it all makes for an engaging show. The women who’d spent the set dancing down the front were up on stage for the final song, and there sense of togetherness was palpable. If any reminder was needed that there really is nothing like live music to nourish the soul, then PINS provided it here tonight.

Live music is back. People are rejoicing. Coming together and feeling the togetherness, the community, the connection has been so sorely missed by many, and for reasons far beyond the industry itself. It’s a way of life and an integral social agent. But it’s clear that coming out of lockdown and navigating the lifting of restrictions is not going to be a quick or easy process: whereas lockdown hit hard and fast, coming out – or, indeed, going out – feels like venturing into unknown territory. Anyone who talks of this being society ‘getting back to normal’ has either forgotten what normal was like before, or is simply trying to convince themselves that we’re anywhere near because it’s preferable to facing the reality. Is this the ‘new normal’ that was mooted back in the strong and summer of 2020?

It’s clear upon arrival that many of us are varying shades of apprehension and social and musical rustiness, and I will admit here a heightened anxiety over making my first journey by train in over a year, ahead of my first outing as a solo performer. Arriving at a familiar venue comes as a relief, but there are numerous elements of unfamiliarity: signs about the venue about the wearing of masks, the bar behind Perspex, and having to show proof of a negative test within the last 48 hours on arrival all combine to present a scene straight out of a movie or series set in a dystopian future – only, it’s not the future, it’s now, and this is real. Plenty find comfort and security ion these measures, but as the messaging has shifted from ‘beating’ the ‘invisible enemy’ to ‘living with covid’, then the question of this being the forever future is a difficult one, as it certainly feels as if something has been lost in the eighteen months since we last had ‘proper’ gigs.

Tonight’s event was also operating on a reduced capacity, but as it transpired, it was far from packed making social distancing no issue, and one suspects that while so many have lamented the absence of live music for so long, fear continues to keep them away.

The joy of EMOM night anywhere in the country is their sense of inclusivity, a broad church for outsiders from a vast array of genres, and the premise is straightforward – short slots, one act setting up while the one before plays, keeping the music going more or less continuously through the evening, and tonight’s brought the eclecticism in spades.

How to Use this Manual was up first. The style is gentle, textured instrumental with nice beats, by turns easy and sturdy, with a dash of funk in the mix. It’s easy on the ear, and deftly executed, and there really isn’t anything to fault here. These nights never fail to amaze with the sheer quality of music and clear talent of the performers.

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How to Use this Manual

There’s always one who has to be difficult, of course, someone who disrupts the flow and uses the tools and forces for dark ends. I think my set went well enough. It was short and harsh, as intended. My head was swimming, I couldn’t see the screen of my notebook clearly and I may have fluffed few lines of lyrics, but no-one died, not even me. I think there was even some applause at the end, which may have been appreciation or relief. Certainly, the latter for me was immense.

The spectrum of electronic-based music never fails to yield new and unexpected permutations, and Chaos Lol spans an immense spectrum, and is rare in the way vocals are such a prominent feature of the set – a set that starts out black metal then gets symphonic and beyond. It’s an unusual hybrid of sounds. Heavily echoed vocals are enmeshed in a swathe of sound and are paired with some bulbous beats that venture into drum ‘n’ bass territory in places. It’s hard to form an opinion or decide whether one actually likes it or not, because it’s like being slapped around the face repeatedly and in quick succession, and you simply have no time to compute. But there are no two ways about it: this is technically accomplished, ambitious, audacious, and gutsy. Kudos.

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Chaos lol

Quiet Fire, aka organiser Joe Kemp, who’s up next, treated us to more mellow, more conventional instrumental with electro vibes, pleasant but undemanding – which is probably what everyone was ready for after the last couple of acts. His sound is softer, leaning toward the accessible, bouncier side of electronica – not quite dance, but danceable, and unquestionably with mass-market potential.

Flaves proves to be the evening’s greatest revelation. This guy has got some serious chops, and brings freeform dubby hip-hop using the most minimal setup of the night – literally an iPad. And it’s sparse but seriously banging. There’s a lot of detail and depth to the arrangements, and a lot of seriously heavy bass. The final track of the set is dark and noisy, borderline industrial, and it’s an absolute killer.

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Flaves

I’d chatted to Matt Wilson earlier in the evening as he’d lugged his suitcase of children’s toys and assorted random kit into the venue, and is so often the case, the nicest, most down to earth people make some of the weirdest, most demented music. Using a sackful of educational toys and the like, he gets down to whacking out some mental circuit bending noise was utterly brain-bending. Circle! Square! Yap! Yap! A primitive drum machine thumps out a simple beat, and it all harks back to the sound of early 80s samplism and tape looping. What it lacks in sophistication, it makes up in impact.

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Matt Wilson

It was around this point I came to realise I can only take so much impact, and having performed myself I was fully out of steam and hit my limit, mentally. While hearing music is usually my priority at the exclusion of all else, I caught up in the bar with a friend I’d not seen since February 2020. Ordinarily, I’d feel guilty or even skip posting a half review, but then I remember – since it’s impossible to represent everyone’s experience, the job it to ultimately document mine. I can aim to be objective, but criticism can only be so balanced, and perhaps my job is to more document what I see as I see it in the moment. So here we are. And if live music is about music, it’s also about connecting with friends. Maybe this, then, is how we will find our way back to normal. Meanwhile, we all just continue to fumble our own individual ways.

Klanggalerie – 18th December 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

There’s no questioning Eric Random’s pedigree, having begun his musical career with The Tiller Boys with Pete Shelley and Francis Cookso before becoming part of the post-punk and experimental milieus of both Manchester and Sheffield, recording his first solo works at Cabaret Voltaire’s studio, and later fronting Nico’s band until her death in 1988. But while many artists dine out on their former glories – and it’s true that since the majority fail to scale to any great heights, a brimming resumé is something to celebrate, there’s equally a certain truth in the belief you’re only as good as your latest work.

No-Go is his fourth album since his return in 2014 following a lengthy time out. Pitched as a step further into an electronic dance direction, and inviting comparisons to Wrangler and Kraftwerk, No-Go is brimming with 80s stylisations, and all the 808 and Akai snare cracks and robotix vocals you could imagine are crammed into these eleven tracks.

A jittery stammer runs through the entirety of the opener, ‘Synergy’, while all over, multiple other synth sounds swipe and bleep over the ultra-retro groove, and all over, Random recaptures not just the sound of the late 70s and early 80s scene in which he was so deeply immersed in, but also the feel of the period. It’s easy to forget just how vibrant the energised spirit of newness was around that time, with the rapidly evolving – and ever-cheaper – technology opening new doors to seemingly infinite possibilities. This was music that sounded like the future in every sense, and while a lot of it may sound dated now, the fact there appears to have been some kind of revival or renaissance under way for the best part of the last 30 years speaks volumes. Of course, where Random differs from the oceans of retro revivalists is that he’s not attempting to reconstruct a fantasy version of a bygone era: he was there, at the cutting edge, doing precisely this.

‘Compulsion’ is a bleak wheezy cut with tinny marching drums and vocal that are oddly reminiscent of early New Order in their flat, distanced delivery. It’d Depeche Mode that spring to mind in the opening bars of the buoyant yet bleak ‘Is the Sun Up’, but then

‘Sinuous Seduction’ leaps out on account of the sample of William S. Burroughs narrating a segment of Naked Lunch, and while one of the numerous passages about giant black centipedes may not be revelatory or even particularly inventive, it does serve as a reminder of Burroughs’ vast influence on music, in particular acts like Throbbing Gristle and Cabaret Voltaire, who swiftly recognised the analogy between the cut-up and the sample, something Burroughs himself had initiated with the experiments he conducted with tape in the late 1950s and early 1960s with Ian Sommerville. But then, equally, there’s just something about Burroughs’ creaking, dry-as-sticks monotone that is just unbelievably cool, and also sends a unique shover down the spine, distinctive to the point of being immediately recognisable, and also really not of this world, that detached, flat intonation about stuff that’s plain weird is perfectly suited to the music of the early years of the electronic age. The track itself is sparse, monotonous, robotic, and while it’s as much an example of doomy Eurodisco in the vein of The Sisterhood’s Gift, it’s not a million miles away from The Pet Shop Boys circa Disco – and that’s by no means a criticism.

Sandwiched between this and the blustery hard-edged disco of ‘No Show’, the ‘It’s come again’ offers some welcome respite with its more loungy leanings. Things get lively to the point of dizzying with the last few tracks, which are uptempo an mega-layered with bewilderingly busy arrangements, and it’s a tense climax to an album that shudders and judders, bubbles, foams, and fizzes with electronic energy.

In going back to his roots, Random has really hit the zone and delivered some old-school stompers in the process.

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Fight the Power Records – 1st October 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Inego, who hail from Manchester, proclaim to channel ‘some of the city’s finest musical heritage such as New Order, James and Oasis; blending them with other influences that range from Daft Punk to Fleetwood Mac, Phoenix to Chic, and meeting somewhere in the mid-Atlantic to create their own unique brand of anthemic leftfield indie dance rock with pop and disco-funk sensibilities’.

I see ‘disco-funk’ and shudder to my core. I expect the problem is with me, and believe it’s biological or neurological. I don’t have a funky bone on my body, and funky shit all too often fuels an almost unspeakable rage that roars from the core of my being. On calmer days, I just get irritated.

But actually, Inego’s Departures draws on elements that appal, perhaps largely on account of their retro elements, most of which hark back to 80s pop. The production is clean and crisp to the point of near-sterility, and I’m frankly in awe: while many dismiss Duran Duran as vapid and overpolished, there are darker undercurrents to be found in their songs, and the production, as smooth as glass, is something else – and that’s what Inego recreate here.

Opener ‘Je Sais Ce Que Tu Ressens’ has heavy hints of The pet Shop Boys in the mix, and there’s a strong pop sensibility that runs throughout. ‘I Need Your Love’ is unashamedly cheesy, a nagging bass and clean guitar defining the sound, and at its best, Departures sounds like Mansun’s Paul Draper fronting The Psychedelic Furs circa 1982. ‘Can You Feel’ throws some bold, arena-friendly cinematic ambition into the mix, hinting at U2, and maybe later Editors and New Order, specifically amalgamating ‘Ceremony’ with the sound of ‘Republic’.

And so I should absolutely detest he slick groove of ‘Coming Up’, but nostalgia prevents me, hearing, withing its hectic shuffle The Associates, Mansun, Duran Duran. The slower, acoustic-based ‘She Don’t care’ is soulful and sincere, and affecting despite being heavy on the brass.

The bottom line is that this is a really, really good, solid album. It’s not challenging, it’s not contemporary, and it’s got the most overwrought bass and slap bass than anyone’s likely to have heard since Top of the Pops circa 1983. But it’s got songs, and they’ve absolutely nailed the sound and the production.

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Inego Album Artwork

Bearsuit Records – 20th April 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

Try as I might – and I do, I really do – I find it impossible to avoid words like ‘weird’ ‘whacky’, and ‘oddball’ in reviews of anything released on the Edinburgh micro-label Bearsuit Records. This is no reflection of a lack of vocabulary on my part: it’s simply what they do. Every boutique label needs some kind of signature or house style, and a micro-label really needs a niche. Bearsuit specialise in stuff that’s so far out it’s beyond.

Fear of the Horizon is actually pretty conventional by Bearsuit standards – but these things are all relative. ‘Eamon the Destroyer’, the album’s first cut, arrives in a flourish of expansive prog-rock guitar and twittering electronics, all on top of a thumping beat that’s pure dark hip-hop. And then the guitars really takeover and we’re in territory that’s suspiciously close to be being categorizable as ‘rock’. But then ‘The Positive Approach of Talkative Ron’ swings into view in waltz-time and goes all weirdy… and then there’s whistling and another epic guitar solo.

Pancultural influence are infused within the glitching electronic fairground fabric of ‘Woman With the Plastic Hand’, with its stuttering beats and woozy organ sound, while ‘Vandal Schooling’ brings with it a crunch of industrial noise and stabs of bold orchestral brass, taking a sharp turn from abrasive to mellow around the mid-point and locking into a metronomic hard, industrial-disco flavoured groove near the end. For the most part, though, the sounds are soft-edged, mellow, supple, analogue.

‘The Horizon Project’ brings together mellow and woozy, its mellow motifs and nod-along beats cracked with a stylophone break and underlying hiss of distortion. It runs contra to the chilled beats and quite accessible lead melody.

‘Weird’ ‘whacky’, and ‘oddball’… they’re all entirely appropriate adjectives, but fail to account for the depth and range of Fear Of The Horizon. As hard as it may be to take seriously an act going by the name of Bunny & the Invalid Singers, there’s real merit to this work that goes far beyond the superficial quirkiness. ‘Weird’ ‘whacky’, and ‘oddball’ don’t convey the wistfulness, the melancholy, the nostalgia, range of emotions, moods and mindsets.

This is where I should sign off with a suitably witty flourish, or some pun-based punchline, but such flippancy would be to only further undermine the true merits of an album which clearly shows no fear. Fear Of The Horizon is a fun, entertaining, and enjoyable work but don’t let the oddness and goofiness lead you to believe it isn’t serious, or art. Because it’s most definitely both.

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Bunny & the Invalid Singers – Fear Of The Horizon

LP/DL Editions Mego eMEGO238

8th September 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

The album’s blurbage tells us that ‘Shit & Shine’s sidestep from percussion led bunny rabbit rock ensemble performance based glee to ultimate heavy fools of the sticky dancefloor remains one of the more inspiring turn around’s in recent years’. They’ve certainly come a long way from the percussion-dominated noise rock racket of their formative years, but Craig Clouse continues to demonstrate a tireless appetite for pushing both himself and the listener.

Some People Really Know How To Live picks up where the 2015 album Everybody’s a Fuckin Expert (also on Editions Mego) left off, and the cover art even serves as a companion piece of sorts. Musically, it combines elements of disco, electro, old-school industrial and classic experimentalism to forge a sound that’s murky, dense, vaguely nauseating and still strangely danceable.

Warping, woozy drones taper in and out against bumping bass and a whip-crack vintage Roland snare sound on opener ‘Behind You Back’, before ‘Dish 2 Dish’ brings the groove. Dark and vaguely dubby, it’s also angular an abrasive, hectic and blustery, with some big bass tones. Its lack of sophistication is somehow a virtue, in that there’s a directness and spontaneity that gives it real punch.

Samples are lobbed in here and there, adding to the dislocation of shivering synths and engine-like growls, atonal incidentals and the fractured, warped grooves which abound. ‘Notified’ brings heavy clattering percussion and low-down grindy bass. With a time signature that’s unpredictable to say the least, it’s disorientating and head-pummelling. Elsewhere, the fucked-up funk of ‘Girl Close Your Eyes’ bumps and grinds its way through the stomach to make you shake. With beats that are propulsive providing the power behind a twisted sonic attack that’s more repulsive, Some People Really Know How To Live is some good shit.

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Bearsuit Records – 24th March 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

Talk about a car crash. This split release between Swamp Sounds / Uncle Pops & The Dumbloods isn’t so much a hybridised sound clash as a head-on train wreck. Bearsuit Records can be relied upon for giving a platform for the most eccentric crossover works going, and this meeting of Japanese electronic/experimental musician, Yuuya Kuno, aka Swamp Sounds, and Scottish musician/artist, Douglas Wallace, aka Uncle Pops & The Dumbloods certainly fits the criteria.

You might broadly call it an experimental avant-disco / elecro album, but then you might equally call it pretty much anything you like, because it’s a brain-bending whirlpool of stylistic elements, thrown together with a wild and reckless abandon, with no regard for the effect it may have on the listener’s psyche.

And so it is that shrill analogue tweeking and frenetic, messy electro beats crash into a wall of screeding, mangled noise that pulses and throbs. The first half of the album belongs to Swamp Sounds, and the opener, ‘Marionette’, piles more ideas and juxtaposing elements into a dizzying three and a half minutes than seems even halfway sane.

When Uncle Pops takes over for the second half and things down to a more sedate groove, the overloading static abates, but as on ‘Harry Smith’s Paper Planes’, there’s still weird, woozy note bending in abundance, along with interruptions of extraneous noise and unexpected incidentals, tempo changes and myriad pan-cultural influences in the mix.

The split works well, as it means it’s not all crazy, deranged noise and mental overload: while switching between shuffling, low-key passages and cinematic sonic bursts, ‘Portrait in an Egg Cup’ brings both atmosphere and impressively expansive aural vistas, and by placing Swamp Soinds’ more manic stuff on what would effectively stands as side one , the album gradually tapers into more ambient territory over the course of the later tracks.

Exploring deep into the seam of the strange and excavating new layers of the uncanny, it’s all spectacularly oddball and wilfully weird, but without being smug or irritatingly zany in execution.

 

 

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Moon Sounds Records – 17th March 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

It’s been almost two whole years since dreampop duo Lunar Twin released a remixed version of their debut EP ‘Champagne’. ‘Night Tides’ offers more mellow, drifting soundscapes over the course of six tracks, which finds supple, rolling synths wash around the grizzled vocals of Bryce Boudreau, which have heavy echoes of Mark Lanegan and Duke Garwood.

If the wooden tones of the percussion which holds the first track, ‘Waves’ in places suggest Jools Holland world music smugness, the heavy patina of Boudreau’s blues tones bring a resonant, resinous counterpoint. ‘Coral Sea’ brings the glacial synths of New Order’s Movement and the coldwave aesthetic and pairs it with a shuffling, understated beat, and again it’s the contrast of the warm, well-worn Cohenesque croon which makes it stand apart from the myriad laid-back electro acts in circulation right now.

‘Birds of Paradise’ pivots on an undulating synthetic 80s disco groove, while ‘Prayers of Smoke’ introduces a more Krautrock element to its spacious, synthy, dub-tinged verses, before breaking into a straight, slow and low, late-night blues chorus.

The title track provides the finale, and despite the absence of beats, it’s a magnificently-realised summary of the EP as a whole: hunting, sparse, yet rich and resonant. Drifting swirls intertwine subtly to create a delicate atmosphere, while Boudreau’s voice drips like treacle. And darkly pleasurable it is, too.

 

Lunar Twin - Night Tides