Posts Tagged ‘Doom’

Southern Lord – 10th May 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

BIG | BRAVE continue their journey by revisiting their roots – as much in terms of principles as sonically. Consequently, A Gaze Among Them is exploratory and dynamic above all else, and herein lies both its strength and appeal: it’s the work of a band pushing themselves, in all aspects of the creative process. and the band pushing themselves pushes the listener, too, leading them through the sweeping vistas imbued with a significant emotional heft. Of course, that’s difficult to quantify, because it’s about the individual. And yet… BIG | BRAVE commutate immediately, transcendentally, and on the basis of their own agenda

Apparently, the album’s creation began with the question “How do we take very little and make something bigger than what we actually have?” Vocalist and guitarist Robin Wattie explains further, “the biggest challenge was to not do what is easiest. i.e. what we knew worked for the last albums or what is, for us, easy to write. With A Gaze Among Them, Mathieu and I put ourselves through the ringer [sic]– I did not want to do what seemed to me to be a ‘logical next step’ in what we could do musically. I wanted to go back to our original concepts and work from there – space, tension, minimalism and voice (finding melody and musicality in pieces that consist of one note for longer than ten minutes, for example) were the primary concentrations I wanted to push.”

The result is – as anyone familiar with their work to date would expect – immense. The emotional power is every bit as impactful as the crushing power chords, which are but punctuation to expansive passages deep in atmosphere.

There is much space and tension to be found both binding and pushing apart the sonic elements that make up the album’s five immense tracks as the drums pound into infinity while the overdriven low-end yawns and surges into peaks and troughs on a scale of a galactic tide.

The nine-minute opener, ‘Muted Shifting of Space’ has all the hallmarks of post-punk melded with shoegaze but performed with the density of hefty sludge, and the raging tempest that explodes in a blistering crescendo at the mid-point of ‘Holding Pattern’ is sublime.

‘Monolithic’ is one of those words that’s slipped into overuse when critiquing music in this field, but it’s apposite in context of the toweringly immense, dense sonic sculptures BIG | BRAVE forge and which cast long, looming shadows into the psyche. There are passages when they sound like a bad, but mostly they sound like something else, something so much greater than the parts. Wattie’s voice is the key defining feature, simultaneously forceful and fragile, calling to mind Cranes’ Alison Shaw as she ambulates and fills the ever-shifting space. It’s a sound that’s haunted, lost, detached, frantic, and other-worldly.

‘Body Individual ’expands that territory, starting sparsely with little more than Wattie; voice ringing out and wrought with an array of conflicting emotions, before a churning mess of noise that builds like latter-day Swans. But the build knows no end: the sound builds, and builds, until it’s all consuming, all-encompassing. It’s something else, and then something else again.

‘This Deafening Verity’ is but an interlude, three minutes of atmospheric organ drone punctuated by distant rumbles of thunder. Robin mewls plaintively, the words unintelligible. It matters not: it conveys so much on its own, inviting the listener to place themselves into the blank spaces, before ‘Sibling’, which prefaced the album’s release grinds its way to the close, a monotonous distorted pulse providing a rhythmic core around which the layers swell from stark to swirling, erupting in dense clouds of nebulous noise around the mid-point. Descriptions and comparisons fall to futility when presented with something this enormous this powerful, particularly when that power stems from a place that’s invisible and impossible to pinpoint.

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Southern Lord – 26th April 2019

A new Sunn O))) album is still an event, even after all these years as the leading exponents of droning doom, a field now crowded with imitators and influences. The sense of ceremony is a major factor: Sunn O))) appreciate and command ceremony in every aspect of their exitance. As good as so many who have emerged to follow in their wake may be, there really is only one Sunn O))). The thing with Sunn O))) is that while they very much do mine deep into their self-made seem, each release offers something different, a variation on that consistent sameness.

And so it is on Life Metal that co-founders Stephen O’Malley and Greg Anderson set themselves a production-orientated goal for realising their immense sound, namely to have their playing captured by god himself, Steve Albini. The story goes that Steve took the call, and said ,“Sure, this will be fun. I have no idea what is going to happen.”

The resulting four tracks, which evolved through time in rehearsal, and with collaborative input from Anthony Pateras, Jóhann Jóhannsson collaborator Hildur Guðnadóttir, guitarist / bassist Tim Midyett, and live mainstay T.O.S bringing Moog action, were laid at Albini’s legendary Electrical Audio studio, and the end product (at least on vinyl) is pure analogue, with an AAA rating.

And it certainly brings the band’s earthy qualities to the fore: the richness, the density of the speakers vibrating in their cabs as displaced air emerges as sound in its most overtly physical manifestation is all captured in a way that conveys the immersive, all-enveloping experience of being a room with the band. As is also the case with Swans and A Place to Bury Strangers, the intense volume isn’t a gimmick but a necessary part of the sound and the experience. Some frequencies simply don’t exist at lower volume, and tones resonate against one another in a certain and quite different way when everything is turned up to eleven and then maximum gain applied. And the effect is transcendental. And whereas its predecessor, Kannon was comparatively concise, with its three tracks clocking in around the half-hour mark, Life Metal goes all out on the expansive, the four pieces running for a fill seventy minutes.

It begins with a distant rumble, before, after just a matter of seconds, the first chord crashes in: thick, dense, so distorted and low-registering as so almost collapse under its own density. But from the slow-crawling swamp-heavy ooze emerges individual notes, the makings of a melodic lead guitar line, and from the darkness radiates a gleam of light. Feedback… soaring notes… grandeur on a galactic scale. And then… Guðnadóttir’s voice. Detached and somehow simultaneously clinical yet emotive, assured yet utterly lost, it possesses an other-worldliness as it drapes dimensions across a simmering drone forged from a lattice of layers reminiscent of sections of Earth on Earth 2.

‘Troubled Air’, which features Pateras’ pipe organ work heightens the impact of volume as well as the ceremonial, ritual undertones which run through every Sunn O))) composition. By turns beauteous and beastly, shifting between moments of monumental grace and churning discord.

The nineteen-minute ‘Aurora’ goes low and slow, a single chord hanging in the thick, muggy air for an eternity until it twists out of shape and becomes a whine of feedback. And then it goes lower and slower still. The suspense builds between each chord, which elongates out to a droning sustain, and when the next lands, it’s with the force of an imploding black hole. Because Sunn O))) don’t do things on a small scale or in light: instead, they amplify darkness until it goes beyond critical mass to become all-consuming.

It ends abruptly in a peak of feedback before a deluge of grinding guitar, overdriven and distorted to a point beyond devastation hits like a tsunami to open the twenty-five-minute closer, ‘Novae’. Again taking clear cues from Earth 2, it’s a heavy drone that occupies the full sonic spectrum as howling strains of feedback whine over bowel-rupturing lower frequencies. Nothing much happens: it doesn’t need to. This is about taking a concept and pushing it as far beyond its logical end as possible, something Sunn O))) have effectively made a career of. And it still works.

And if ever a single album encapsulated the fundamental concept of Sunn O))), Life Metal would be a strong contender.

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BIG | BRAVE share the first full track ‘Sibling’ from their incoming album, A Gaze Among Them (Southern Lord, 10th May) by way of a brilliant video by Mathieu Ball & Robin Wattie.

Since their inception in 2012, BIG|BRAVE have explored terrains of experimental rock with a clear focus on the key principles; space, volume, and raw emotion. The essence of BIG | BRAVE’s magic has always been the way they balance these dynamics, and particularly how much sheer power comes from the beautifully quiet moments.

The same principles are the starting point for the new album, only the approach is different, beginning with the question "How do we take very little and make something bigger than what we actually have?" vocalist and guitarist Robin Wattie explains further "the biggest challenge was to not do what is easiest. i.e. what we knew worked for the last albums or what is, for us, easy to write. With A Gaze Among Them, Mathieu and I put ourselves through the ringer – I did not want to do what seemed to me to be a ‘logical next step’ in what we could do musically. I wanted to go back to our original concepts and work from there – space, tension, minimalism and voice (finding melody and musicality in pieces that consist of one note for longer than ten minutes, for example) were the primary concentrations I wanted to push."

In the process of revisiting their early intentions, BIG | BRAVE have boldly evolved, emerging with a thrilling new body of work that is all at once refreshingly new, explosively heavy, dynamically loud, beautifully minimal, carefully repetitive, and totally and utterly cathartic. 

A Gaze Among Them features Robin Wattie (vocals, electric guitar, guitar amp, bass amp), Mathieu Ball (electric guitar, guitar amps) and Loel Campbell (drums) with guest appearances from Thierry Amar (Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Thee Silver Mt Zion) on Contrabass and Seth Manchester‘s synth overdubs. The album was recorded with Seth Manchester at Machine with Magnets in Pawtucket Rhode Island.

The beautiful image adorning the cover (created by Robin Wattie) further demonstrates that BIG | BRAVE have blossomed. The trio sound rejuvenated and confident, and A Gaze Among Them is the sound of a band truly honing their craft, and feeling totally satisfied with it.  Compelling. Necessary. Important.

Watch the video here:

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BIG | BRAVE LIVE DATES WITH MYDISCO:

16/05 DE Nurnberg Kantine *venue change

17/05 DE Berlin Urban Spree

18/05 PL Poznan LAS

19/05 CZ Prague Altenburg 1964

21/05 NL Haarlem Patronaat

22/05 BE Antwerp Kavka

23/05 FR Lille La Bulle Café

24/05 UK Bristol Rough Trade

25/05 UK London Raw Power

26/05 UK Glasgow Stereo *new addition

27/05 UK Newcastle The Cluny

28/05 UK Brighton East Street Tap *new addition

29/05 FR Paris Instants Chavirés

30/05 BE Brussels Magasin 4

31/05 DE Mannheim JUZ *new addition

01/06 CH Winterthur Gaswerk

03/06 DE Wurzburg Cairo

04/06 DE Hamburg Schute

05/06 SWE Malmo Plan B *new addition

07/06 SWE Gothenborg Skjul Fyra Sex *new addition

08/06 SWE Stockholm Slaktkyrkan *new addition

Details of US tour dates with Dreadnought & Primitive Man can be found here.

Big Brave

New Heavy Sounds – 1st March 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

There aren’t many Welsh-language bands who’ve made much progress beyond the border: Catatonia only really broke through when they switched to English, and they were pedalling accessible indie-pop tunes, not pulverizingly heavy sludgy doom metal.

And so it seems very much against the odds, that the absurdly (and most certainly not mainstream-media-friendly-monikered) Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard broke into chart territory on the release of Yn Ol I Annwn (Welsh for ‘Return To The Underworld’) the third part of the trilogy of albums that began with Noeth Ac Anoeth in 2015 and 2017s Y Proffwyd Dwyll, and is pitched as ‘the final phase of the band’s first intergalactic voyage.’

And ‘intergalactic’ is a fitting description. The band’s intention was to move even further from the standard doom tropes without losing sight of their origins: this involves pulsating, gloopy synths and rippling waves which introduce the album, before a wibbling waft of retro-futuristic analogue wobbles give way to the album’s first megalithic lumbering riffage on ‘The Spaceships of Ezekiel’. It’s every bit as preposterously huge and epic as the title suggests; galactic and of biblical proportions, with fizzing lasers firing left, right, and centre, all framing Jess Balls dreamy, melodic, almost folksy vocals to create something that’s out of this world, but also has clear ties to vintage Hawkwindian space rock.

‘Fata Morgana’ pursues the folksy aspect further, and colours it with picked guitar that’s pure vintage gothy post-punk and wouldn’t sound out of place on a Sisters of Mercy record circa 1984/85 before the power-chords crash in at the mid-point – from which point it builds, and builds, to a sustained crescendo propelled by pounding percussion.

It’s all in the detail on Yn Ol I Annwn. For all the devastating grind, the ribcage-crushing, heart-stopping heaviness, there are layers and details that make it an album to listen to. The nuance doesn’t reduce the force, but simply makes this an album with more points of interest than your average in its field. The spiralling synth incidentals should sound corny but work incredibly well; it’s perhaps because it’s delivered with both conviction and panache, meaning MWWB rise above pretence to drive it home not only sincerely, but artfully.

Significantly, for all the synth and cello, there’s no shortage of repetitive, grinding riffage, with the thirteen-minute ‘Katyusha’ bringing all the overdrive as the band up the pace and really rock out while synthy fireworks blossom and bloom all around. It bleeds into the slow, heavyweight trudge of ‘The Majestic Clockwork’, and the closer, the ten-minute ‘Five Days in the Abyss’ is a full-weight doom crusher of a climax.

With each release, MWWB have broadened the scope of doom, and Yn Ol I Annwn sees them forge another immense expansion, and further solidify their unique place as trailblazing innovators in the genre.

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MWWB

Midira Records

Christopher Nosnibor

The press release informs us that Four Movements Of A Shade is the second solo album by Sarram, and that it ‘features four haunting tracks, that move through different genres like doom, drone, ambient and somehow minimal post-rock, played with just a guitar and some synths. The idea behind that album was to go to the studio without having tracks, just an idea and the mood he had in mind to play an improvisational session. The result was recorded in one day and turned out as a very dark and intense soundjourney. You can feel the temper of the recording session by listening to that record. Sarram recommends very loud volume.’

I can’t recall an album that mentions volume which actually recommends playing at a reduced level, although increased volume can definitely increase or even optimise the level of impact and appreciation, depending on context. Music played and recorded at high volume is definitely best heard at the volume intended: there’s a distinct relationship between volume and frequency, and certain frequencies and notational interplays only occur with the amps up. Many of the bands which stand out as purveyors of dangerous decibels – MBV, Sunn O))), Swans, A Place to Bury Strangers – simply wouldn’t work quiet: and I say that as having witnessed Swans’ show at Leeds Cockpit (no longer in existence) a few years ago. At regular gig volume, they sounded like a band rather than a transcendental sonic force capable of shattering atoms.

Listening to Four Movements of a Shade, the benefits of increased amplification soon becomes clear. It’s got some heft, and while these are countered by extended quieter passages which are often delicate and nuanced, and chime along nicely at ordinary levels, it’s when the crescendos climax that Sarram’s music really needs to be felt vibrationally as well as sonically.

The first movement begins quietly, rising to a bowel-trembling wall of low and mid-range dark ambient droning sonic cloud. Big, barbed, sonorous swells of sound scrape sharp edges, while other aspects of the resonant whirling blackness cast sinister shadows, long and deep: hints of the billowing drone of Sunn O))) build into tempestuous thunder and rumbling, grating storms that cast unsettling atmospherics into the psyche and resonate around the gut, but this is very much a composition of ebb and flow. Nevertheless, while the underlying menace remains undiminished, around the mid-point the darkness yields to dappled sunlight and soft strings, hinting and optimism and freedom. For a fleeting moment, one actually feels somehow lighter, despite the inescapable sense that it’s only the calm before the next storm – an instinctive drag that proves – of course – to be correct. It’s always a matter of when, rather than if….

The album’s second half – comprising the megalithic, fifteen-minute third movement and the final, eight-minute forth – focus on the atmospheric layers and the drifting clouds of drone on drone, occasionally straying into expansive post-rock territory.

If it feels like the grip of darkness is being released, the dying minutes swirl into a deep, dark vortex that leave the listener drained, shattered.

The success – and ultimate power – of Four Movements lies in Sarram’s attention to detail and the compositional awareness: it’s not just the way the crushing weight contrasts with the graceful levity, but the timing of the transitions. Everything is exquisitely poised and placed to yield the greatest effect – cerebral, emotional, physical – and that effect is most moving.

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Sarram – Four Movements of a Shade

Christopher Nosnibor

It may only be nine minutes on foot from the station according to Google Maps, but despite having probably been maybe twenty or even thirty times, I still find myself struggling to find it, even with GPS assistance. I have no idea why: it’s like I have some kind of mental block, or the venue has some kind of cloaking device that blocks my internal geographical radar. And so I’m disproportionately pleased when I find myself within yards of the venue without taking a single wrong turn. And then I remember the bar doesn’t take cars, and despite having intended to get cash at York station, then Leeds station, then en route, I’ve sailed past all of the cashpoints and only have about four quid on me. Even with beer at £2.80 a pint, I might be a bit thirsty at the end of the night.

I still make it back, with cash, before doors, and they’re not quite done soundchecking. The fact I’m considering plugging up just for the soundcheck brings a small buzz of anticipation: we’re here for some hefty riffage, and it’s best experienced at an appropriate volume. If it doesn’t hurt, it’s not loud enough.

Leeds drums and bass duo Calm are an interesting proposition on paper, consisting of John Sutcliffe from Canvas, Humanfly, Kings, Natterers, and Paul Handley from The Plight, Kings and Ladies Night. In the flesh they’re interesting, too: at the opening, oscillating sequenced synth lines bubble along beneath woozy bass before the distortion crashes I like a tidal wave of sludge. The drums are more energetic than the low-BPM grind of the chords. Structurally, the compositions are segmented and almost sound like three or four pieces glued together, but the transitions make for a set that holds the attention well, and as Sutcliffe, on drums, intones mystical droning incantations into a sea of reverb against a wall of low-end that sends vibrations through my steel-toed boots, the experience takes on an almost spiritual quality.

Calm

Calm

A Headless Horse bring a much more sedate atmosphere with mellow female vocals and delicately layered, meticulously structured songs. Their songs are keenly focused on texture and melody. In contrast to Calm and the rest of the lineup, there’s significantly less weight, and less emphasis on volume overall: that isn’t to say they’re quiet, but when they bring in the riffs, they’re not obliterative, but simply denser. Comparisons aren’t everything, but The Cure and Cranes provide fair touchstones here, and Headless Horse demonstrate that they’re capable of delivering mathy post-rock with emotional resonance. Given that this is only their second outing, they show a lot of promise.

A Headless Horse

A Headless Horse

There’s a proliferation of beards tonight, and Dystopian Future Movies are very much a beard band (singer / guitarist Catherine Cawley clearly excepted). They’re also a very much an atmospheric band, and a band who exploit the dynamics of volume to optimal effect, as abundantly demonstrated by the choppy stop/start lumbering riff of ‘Dulled Guilt’ which opens the set powerfully. Their description of themselves as ‘taking a Sonic Youth approach but arriving at some dark place between Neurosis and Chelsea Wolfe’ is pretty accurate, and they pull the listener in with slow-burning ethereality that yields to punishing riffery, without at any time falling into the trap of formula.

Dystopian Futuere Movies

Dystopian Future Movies

This four-date joint tour sees DFM and Grave Lines unveil a collaborative / split EP, and they’re joined on stage by Jake Harding for a killer rendition of ‘Beholden, which begins a brooding whisper, almost folky in feel, before erupting into thunderous power chords The vocal duet is magnificent: the two singers intertwine with Hardin’s baritone croon underpinning Cawley’s graceful, evocatively gothic intonation to conclude a mesmerising set.

Grave Lines stand out as being very much different from their peers by virtue of the exploration of extended quiet passages that are as much dark folk as post-anything, while exploiting tropes commonly associated with post-rock. This imbues the songs with a palpable emotional depth, and when they crash in with the u-to-eleven distortion, it hits hard.

With ragged hair and beard, wrists and shoes wrapped in grubby shreds of bandage, and a dingy off-white vest, Jake Harding cuts a dramatic and tortured figure as he spews anguish and nihilistic fury, his body tense and wracked, over low, slow sludginess; then again, guitarist Oli, with Alan More hair and beard and sporting a torso so tatood as to appear to be wearing a heavily patterned shirt brings a stoic intensity that’s in stark contrast to the laid-back drumming of Julia Owen, who has an airy style of playing that belies the force with which she delivers stick on skin.

Grave Lines 2Grave Lines

Grave Lines

And yet it’s when Harding ceases words and spits a guttural ‘urrggh’ that most succinctly articulates all the pain and frustration the band channels.

Caroline from Dystopian Future Movies returns the favour of providing additional vocals on Grave Lines’ contribution to the new EP, the epic ‘False Flame’, and they take things right down for the penultimate track of a remarkably concise – but suitably hard-hitting – set with the minimal ‘Loathe / Disgrace’, pairing a droning organ sound which quavers against a vulnerable, melancholic vocal performance.

My notes blur to nothing as the band drive the set home with crushing force with ‘The Greave’. And in this high-volume release lies the uplifting joy of catharsis.