Posts Tagged ‘Drama’

SPV / NoCut and ADA / Entertainment One

24th January 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

And we’re back once again in the divergent and varied field of what’s come to be goth in the 21st century, and it’s a very far cry from its post-punk roots. The late 70s and early 80s saw the emergence of Siouxsie and the Banshees, Bauhaus, The Cure, The Sisters of Mercy, The March Violets, Christian Death and a slew of bands who would subsequently be labelled as ‘goth’, and who were subsequently joined by the likes of Red Lorry Yellow Lorry, The Cult, Fields of the Nephilim, The Mission, etc., etc. The fact of the matter is, there was little commonality between these acts, and that goth was something of a media fabrication. What about the fans? Let’s not confuse the fans and the artists, or a subculture with its icons. So what was a scene that never was morphed into an evermore diffuse group of subcultures, with an ever-broader range of bands who had little or nothing in common beyond their shared fanbase. After metal, there can be few labels that provide an umbrella for a greater range of styles.

So here we are, presented with The Book of Fire, the eleventh album by German goth-metal act MONO INC. And while it’s goth, it’s not really my kinda goth, and couldn’t be further from the dark post-punk or art-rock stylings of the first wave of bands. Is this evolution, or dilution, cross-pollination and contamination? I suppose that’s a matter of perspective.

The album’s first song, the title track, is over seven and a half minutes long. It begins with a slick guitar that almost manages to sound like a harpsichord, and then it glides into some kind of Celtic folk metal and it very soon starts to become uncomfortable. Uncomfortable because such buoyant energy is more the domain of the hoedown knees-up. The folk-hued power-metal of ‘Louder Than Hell’ brims with positivity about strength and stuff, and explodes with crisp synths and choral backing vocals and it’s fun enough, but it’s also pretty cringy: it’s the kind of thing Germany might enter into Eurovision.

Then again, ‘Shining Light’ has such a massive chorus and a hook so strong that it’s hard to resist even when you’re hating it: it has that uplifting surge that lifts you and carries you away on the tide from the inside.

The euphoria swiftly dissipates with the next song, ‘Where the Raven Flies’, which is the definition of theatrical cliché melodrama. And herein lies the problem, which I accept is entirely personal, at least on a primary level. In short, I think it’s cheesy and naff.

On a secondary level, and one which is more objective, what The Book of Fire represents is very much a commercial take on the genre; theatre and drama don’t necessarily equate to an absence of depth, but this is good-time party goth, and any emotional sincerity is polished away under a slick veneer of pomp and overblown production. In this way, it’s as credible as examples of either folk or goth as Ed Sheeran’s ‘Galway Girl’ or Doctor and the Medics’ rendition of ‘Spirit in the Sky’. It displays all the trappings, but none of the authenticity. For all the theatre, there’s a woeful absence of substance, the brooding is third-rate thespianism rather than the anguish of tortured souls.

Elsewhere, ‘The Last Crusade’ is riven with choral bombast, but is little more than an obvious ‘This Corrosion’ rip-off, that once again leans heavily on Germanic folk tropes, and ‘The Gods of Love’ similarly brings together Floodland-era Sisters with Rammstein. I’m sure plenty will view this as a good thing, but they’d be wrong, so wrong. ‘What have we done?’ they ask repeatedly on the final and suitably epic finale track ‘What have We Done’, and it’s a fair question: whatever it is, it’s not good.

In fairness, it’s not quite ‘Rocky Horror’ bad on the spectrum of play-goth, but it’s not far off, and while it’s sonically ambitious, creatively, it’s depressingly derivative.

AA

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4th September 2019

There are two ways of going about reviewing albums: the easy way and the hard way. The easy way is to crib to the max from the press release, paint yourself as an expert on every artist however obscure they may be, while making on-point comparisons suggested by the band and their PR. The hard way is to ignore all that, listen painstakingly and go out on a limb on your opinions based purely on instinct and past experience. The hard way is to appreciate that however much you yearn to wrote objective reviews, no-one ever responds to music in a purely objective way, and reviews which take a truly objective stance are incredibly tedious to read – and to write for that matter.

So I know nothing about Kristeen Young, and expect that the cover art doesn’t really convey much of what she or her music is about. Then again, expectations exist to be confounded, and while The SubSet isn’t about goth dressmaking, the somewhat baffling choice of image is in keeping with Young’s quirky style.

‘Less Than’ crashes in by way of a starter with everything all at once: Eastern-inspired grooves collide against electronic bleepery while her vocals allude to Kate Bush in their delivery – and that’s a defining feature as she squeaks and soars her way through the album’s ten tracks. It’s an effective style that’s well-suited to the music.

Experimentalism is a prominent factor on The SubSet, and the fact there are hit-and-miss elements are par for the course and in no way detract from the overall experience: ‘Everyday Subtraction’ begins as a rather mediocre mid-pace dance cut, but steps up the drama as Young shifts her vocals unexpectedly into full-on operatic mode, while ‘In 3rd Grade’ is a tense, driving electropop shoegaze effort that throws in nods to early Garbage (back when they were exciting), before playing out on a delicate piano and soft, subtle bass and a sudden, unexpected burst of noise. When I say ‘hit and miss’, there really isn’t much miss: it’s just that some moments are more striking and distinctive than others, and Young strikes what’s probably an appropriate balance between weird and accessible to afford herself the potential of a wider audience.

‘Pretty Twogether’ is vintage electropop with a warping twist and some extraneous noise, propelled by glitchy percussion, while ‘Marine Combo Dadd’ is a semi acappella shanty with dreamy, psychedelic overtones, and it sounds incongruous, that’s because it is: once gets the impression Kristeen Young revels in creating moments of uncanniness, of oddness that are only a fraction removed from the familiar, but far enough to sit just the little bit uncomfortably. It’s a strength she works to, and well.

If The SubSet is a wildly unpredictable affair, it’s all the better for it.

AA

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Sargent House – 13th September 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

(Hiss) Spin it any which way, but following her last two inordinately powerful albums, which saw Chelsea Wolfe expand and deepen the depth of tempestuous noise and emotional force, the ‘eagerly awaited’ cliché was never more apt when Birth Of Violence was announced. Those two albums have left me emotionally raw and breathless since release, and I continually return to them as being simply stunning. It’s the perfectly poised juxtaposition of fragility and full-tilt riffage and noise that has impact on numerous levels and renders them with a special kind of intensity. Did I anticipate more of the same? I did I want more of the same? Could I handle more of the same?

It probably wasn’t entirely strategic, and probably more a reflection of the creative ebbs and lows, but nevertheless it makes perfect sense and sits with Wolfe’s creative arc to pull back the noise to deliver a reflective and largely acoustic album this time around. It does mean that despite what its title suggests, Birth Of Violence is altogether more sedate, and doesn’t grab you by the throat within a minute of hitting play. But then, in a world of noise, some reflection and hush is beyond welcome and necessary.

‘The Mother Road,’ unveiled back in June, opens with extraneous noise, but it’s acoustic guitar and a clean, untreated vocal that stand to the fore. Without the explosive crash of percussion and melting guitars one would reasonably anticipate based on recent for, we’re left to feel the pull of Wolfe’s tone and delicate intonation. But then it builds subtly to a rich swell of sound, a subtle adaptation of the post-rock crescendo that’s not overtly noisy, but isn’t exactly quiet either, culminating in a whirling swirl of noise around her emotionally fragile vocal.

The somewhat folksy title track finds Chelsea soaring, semi-operatic but also breathy and vulnerable and transcending to another plane, while ‘Deranged For Rock ‘n’ Roll’ finds heavy, murky percussion crash in behind her unusual pronunciation of ‘rock ‘n’ roll.’ She doesn’t sound particularly deranged, but more sedated. A lugubrious violin whines while the sound swells and surges and Wolfe soars to deliver a breathtaking climax.

‘Dirt Universe’ climbs slowly down to the gloomy depths of Leonard Cohen around Songs of Love and Hate: dark, lugubrious, and yet quietly intense. So intense.

It may be acoustic-based and considerably less noisy than its immediate predecessors, meaning it has less immediacy and less velocity overall, but Birth of Violence is an elegant and also striking album. Of course it is, it’s Chelsea Wolfe.

AA

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Cleopatra Records / Practical Records – 23rd June 2017

Interdisciplinary artist Rachel Mason has spent the best part of the last two decades carving out her own niche from within the hotbed of the NYC and LA scenes, with music being only one of the many strands of her creative explorations. In between making films, sculptures, and creating performance art pieces which range from the playful to the weird, she’s released quite a lot of albums. Her latest, Das Ram, is billed as ‘a full-blown modern pop-rock album of catchy songs with flamboyant flavor, dramatic vocals in between Siouxsie Sioux and SIA, captivating melodies and poignant lyrics’.

It’s not easy to focus on the lyrics, poignant or otherwise, when there’s so much going on. Das Ram is an album that’s very much geared toward delivering songs with groove and big energy. ‘Rosie’ kicks off with a delicate shoegazey pop verse that blossoms into a glorious chorus propelled by a super-frenetic drum machine with hectic hi-hats and a glistening, glittering energy shimmers.

Rachel Mason 2 - credit Kerwin Williamson

Das Ram is an eclectic set, and wildly varied. The dramatic orchestral strikes which jut and jar through ‘Heart Explodes’ provide a dramatic landscape for Mason to prowl through en route to a soaring chorus which indicates what Florence and the Machine could sound like if Flo Welch and her crew had any grasp on subtlety.

Single cut ‘Tigers in the Dark’ is a flamboyant gothic-hued disco cut that pulls together the danger of Siouxsie with the brooding electropop sensibilities of Ladytron or Goldfrapp. ‘Marry Me’ goes all Disintegration-era Cure in the mid-section, but Mason’s vaguely shrill and increasingly desperate-sounding imploring to form marital unity (part Kate Bush, part PJ Harvey) is actually quite scary. You’d probably agree just to avert the danger of being strangled in your sleep, although it would only be a temporary postponement).

‘Cancer’ is a wild, woozy ride, a blizzard of wibbling electronica and car horns and stammering programmed drum ‘n’ bass percussion providing the sonic terrain for lyrics that veer from the abrasive to the abstract. ‘The end stage is on!’ she squeals as a refrain before a gritty, funk-infused bass cuts in half way through.

Das Ram is good. Really good. It’s a pop album, and one which will evoke myriad comparisons. And it’ll touch them all favourably, because Rachel Mason assimilates her influences in a way which isn’t merely derivative, but innovative, and Das Ram is an album which wanders through infinite shades of weird, and bristles with tension and myriad shades of darkness.

Spiegelman/Rachel Mason