Posts Tagged ‘Drone’

2nd September 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

UK duo Thraa consists of Sally Mason and Andi Jackson, whose bio states that ‘Working without the constrictions of a traditionally structured song, this duo improvise around meditative drones, combining Sunn 0))) influenced guitars with soaring vocals. Making single take recordings, they capture an organic sense of sound that has cavernous textures with minimalism at heart.’

In some respects, this debut EP brings us full-circle in terms of drone evolution, and it’s fitting in the most appropriate, and planetary sense. The most successful and celebrated purveyors of drone, Sunn O))) famously took their moniker as a reference to drone/ doom progenitors Earth, who will, in certain circles, be forever remembered for the tectonic grind of their epic second album, Earth 2, from 1993, which contains just three tracks spanning some seventy-three minutes, with nothing but guitar and bass feedback stretching out, crunching along at a glacial pace and carrying the weight of entire continents. It’s hard to believe that this release will ever be surpassed for all that it is, with two of the three tracks stretching out around the half-hour mark with no shape or form, only an endless, grating, grumbling grind. Into Earth connotes a return to base material, a slow collapse, even a decay into compost form, but also hints at a sonic slide toward this territory carved out by the original and definitive drone act some twenty-nine years ago.

Thraa intimidated at the shape of things to come in June with the release of ‘Move Among Them’, which is the first of the EP’s four tracks. It’s swampy, sparse, beginning with an awkward, gurgling, wheezing, a kind of tentative snuffling grunt in the bass region before soaring, sculpted feedback howls and churns metallic—tinged clouds of scraping ambience. It probably sounds like a contradiction on paper, but hear me out: the screeding layers blur into a whirl without definition and tumble into a vortex of abstraction, and in doing so, create the sound closest to that early Earth whorling wall I’ve heard from any other band.

The title track lacks even more overt form, spurs of guitar feedback screeching as it breaks loose from the dense, rippling wall of undifferentiated noise. There are strong elements of Metal Machine Music here, but it’s around the midpoint that a slow, rhythmic piano emerges, along with a haunting understated vocal from Sally that’s half-buried beneath the noise of explosions and / or tidal waves. It’s both dolorous and ethereal, and BIG | BRAVE comparisons aren’t out of place here, either.

Everything coalesces after the subdued scrape and low-end rumblings of ‘Elgon’ on the seventeen-minute finale ‘Over Warm Stones’. Nothing different happens as such: there is only more, in terms of duration, and in terms of atmosphere. The snaking, rattling notes that swell and shimmer provide a sparse, textured backdrop to a quivering, evocative vocal performance.

Into Earth may not offer anything new, per se, but does provide a strong contribution to the canon of emotive, evocative ambient drone / doom which features vocal, which in this instance are essential to the experience, and it’s an experience which is compelling, immersive, heavy as hell and at the same time heavenly, before it collapses into a landslide of feedback that stretches out to the horizon.

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‘The End of Absence’ is the second single to be taken from Devotional, the new collaborative album from The Lord & Petra Haden arriving on 21st October. The track is the closer of the album, and provides a beguiling mixture of vocals and droning guitar to create a seductive atmosphere as incessant as waves beating upon a shore.

Devotional is a rapturous and heady offering of wordless vocalisations, droning guitars, and heaviness explored in unexpected and intoxicating ways. Inspirations came from deep listening to Indian classical music, as well as a fascinating look at the chaotic and unbelievable life of Ma Anand Sheela and the Rajneesh community.  

Through a haze of incense, flowing robes, and secret mantras, Haden’s voice rings out over constant drones in ecstatic chants throughout this musical investigation into the myriad of ways in which worship can lure and intoxicate.

Listen to ‘The End of Absence’ here:

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Dret Skivor – 5th August 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

In typical Dret style, the accompanying notes are brief and to the point; functional, you may say.

As such, we know nothing of either AU or FDO as individuals – if indeed they are – of their previous works or methods, but then, nor to we need to in order to address the release at hand. ‘When analogue electronic drone meets toy keyboard drone, the results are this.’

‘This’ being a forty-three minute piece of continuous drone. Not that it’s all just one long drone: it’s multiple drones that hang and hover in layers. Despite its lack of overt structure or form, there are clear distinctions and a strong separation between the different layers, that, unexpectedly – and whether intentional or not – bring something of a conventional musicality to proceedings, with a distinct ‘lower’ drone overlaid with a higher ‘lead’ drone, as well as incidental moments of discord and dissonance as the shifting tones interact with one another. And, as the piece progresses, so the pitches change, and consequently, so do the moods. At first comparatively calm and tranquil, the tension rises over time.

Shrill wraith-like whispers flit through a darkening atmosphere as the lower drone begins to thicken and swell in density and volume and the overall sounds grows murkier, forging a more sinister, ominous feel.

Over time – and here, time feels like a vague concept, where seconds stall and minutes moderate and ultimately swing in suspension, slowing, until reaching a point around twenty-five minutes in where nothing moves and a perfect stasis is reached. The interweaving drones remain locked, and there is no movement. Life itself has stopped and the listener finds themselves frozen, like an insect set in amber to be preserved for all eternity. And here – here – the urge for any form of transition or trajectory abates, simply sliding away along with even the desire to move.

Somewhere along the way, you simply forget you exist and the sound becomes everything, and yet, simultaneously, it fades into the background as you find yourself in a fugue-like state, entranced, and barely notice when it ends.

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Cruel Nature Records – 6th September 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

These are interesting times for Nadja, the ‘ambient / experimental / doom metal’ duo comprising Leah Buckareff and Aidan Baker. Luminous Rot was recorded during lockdown, and found a home on the legendary Southern Lord label. Released in the spring of 2021, it’s a veritable beast of a work, which combined metal with post-punk, cold-wave, shoegaze, and industrial.

Lockdown feels like something of not so much a distant memory as an unreality, and if by May 2021 it felt like life was returning to normal, the truth is that the wounds were still raw, and any attempt to move on as if life was back as it was before was simply a wilful act of delusion to stave off the effects of the trauma.

And with every trauma, there is some residual hangover, and you might say that Labyrinthine is the product of that. As the accompanying notes detail, the material was recorded during the pandemic and concurrently with Luminous Rot, and ‘explores themes of identity and loss, monstrosity and regret, extreme aesceticism, the differences between labyrinthes and mazes, taking inspiration from Haruki Murakami’s Killing Commendatore, Ursula K. LeGuin’s The Tombs of Atuan, and Victor Pelevin’s reinterpretation of the story of the minotaur and Ariadne, The Helmet of Horror.’

When a band chooses to self-release an album, it’s no longer an indication that it’s substandard or not worthy of a label release, and the case here is that Labyrinthine, which ‘this might be Nadja’s heaviest, doomiest album to date’, it’s clear that rather than consisting of session offcuts, it stands alone as a separate project from Luminous Rot, featuring as it does, a different guest vocalist on each track, and it’s worth listing them here:

Alan Dubin – legendary American vocalist from O.L.D. and Khanate and, currently, Gnaw

Rachel Davies – vocalist and bassist from the British band, Esben & The Witch

Lane Shi Otayanii – is a Chinese multi-media artist and vocalist in Elizabeth Colour Wheel

Dylan Walker – American vocalist from grindcore/noise band Full of Hell

With such a roll-call of contributors, it’s in no way possible to fee short-changed by the fact there are only four tracks, and ‘only’ is somewhat redundant when the shortest of these is almost thirteen minutes in duration. This is an album alright, and it’s an absolute fucking monster at that.

And while the CD release is on the band’s own label, Broken Spine, there are limited cassette versions by several different indie labels from around the world: Katuktu Collective (US), Cruel Nature Recordings (UK), Bad Moon Rising (Taiwan), Adagio830 (Germany), Muzan Editions (Japan), WV Sorcerer (France/China), Pale Ghoul (Australia), and UR Audio Visual (Canada) – and it’s perhaps noting that the running order differs between formats,  and I’m going by the Cruel Nature tape sequence here rather than the CD. It may be more intuitive from a listening perspective, but limitations off format and all…

This co-operative approach to releasing music is highly commendable, and seems to offer solutions to numerous problems, not least of all surrounding distribution in the post-pandemic, post-Brexit era where everything seems on the face of it to be fucked for any band not on a major label with global distribution and access to pressing plants and warehouses worldwide.

The title track is a lugubrious droning crawl: imagine Sunn O))) with drums crashing a beat every twenty seconds in time with each pulverising power chord that vibrates your very lungs. And those beats are muffled, murky, and everything hits with a rib-crushing density, that’s only intensified by the squawking, anguished vocals that shred a blasted treble in contrast to the thick billows of booming bass sludge, and it’s a truly purgatorial experience.

And then, here it comes, and it all comes crashing down hard over the course of the most punishing nineteen minutes in the shape of the brutal behemoth that is ‘Necroausterity’. In a sense, the title speaks for itself in context of a world in lockdown, and it’s sometimes easy to forget just what terrifying times we endured, watching news reports of bodies piling up in New York and elsewhere while governments and news agencies fed a constant stream of statistics around cases and deaths. It felt truly apocalyptic. And ‘Necroausterity’ is the sound of the apocalypse, tuned up to eleven and slowed to a crawl, the writhing torture of a slow, suffocating death soundtracked by guitar and drums do dense and dark as so feel like a bag over the head and a tightening grip on the throat. The recording is overloaded, distorting, and it’s a simply excruciating experience. And it simply goes on, chord after chord, bar after bar, slugging away… and on in a fashion that makes SWANS feel lightweight in comparison. It’s relentless, unforgiving, brutal, and punishing.

‘Rue’ broods hard with dark, thick strings and a heavy atmosphere, but it’s light in comparison. It’s dense, and weighty, but Rachel Davies’ ethereal vocal drifts gloriously within the claustrophobic confines and conjures another level of melody that transforms the thick, sluggish drones into something altogether more enchanting. It builds to a throbbing crescendo that is – perhaps not entirely surprisingly – reminiscent of Esben And the Witch or Big | Brave.

Wolves howl into the groaning drone of ‘Blurred’ and the guitars slowly simmer and burn: no notes, just an endless am-bleeding distortion before the power chords crash in and drive hard, so low and slow and heavy so as to shift tectonic plates and shatter mountains. Amidst the raging tempest, Lane Shi Otayanii brings an otherworldly aspect that transcends mere words, making for a listening experience with a different kind of intensity as it trudges and churns fir what feels like a magical eternity.

The sum total is the sound of hellish desperation, and while Labyrinthine may offer absolutely no solace in the bleakest pits of deathly despair, you’ll be hard-pressed to find an album that better articulates perpetual pain and anguish better than this.

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27th July 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

The multi-talented, multi-discipline and perhaps, sometimes, not-so-disciplined Benjamin Heal returns in his Cowman guise, under which he’s been operating since 2005 with a new EP, his first in a decade, after previous creative detours with Coaxial and various other projects.

Over the course of a sporadic and low-key career, li-fi, slackerist Cowman has – impressively, whether by fluke or by design – appeared on bills with a slew of cred cult acts, including Ack Ack Ack, Gum Takes Tooth, Cove, Pifco, and John Parish. These notable highlights are well-deserved, but it’s a pleasure to witness cowman making a comeback, instead of simply revelling over former achievements.

Crunch is a magnificently loose knockabout and if Pavement comparisons may seem lazy shortcuts, they’re also entirely justified. But then… then… there’s a whole lot more. The first track, ‘Concrete Eyes # Turpentine’ , with its inexplicable punctuation, starts out a fairly straightforward, if angular indie kicker in the vein of Slanted era Pavement, with wonky, off-kilter guitars that sound vaguely out of key, but then spins off into an epic swirling expanse of psychedelic post-rock. The whole thing is almost ten minutes long, drifting into a long, sluggish drone in the final minutes.

There’s an easygoing picked guitar line that contrasts with jittery drums on ‘Concrete pink Dots’ before the distortion kicks in, and it does so hard, creating a dense whorl of noise that almost buries the drums, until they surrender to the barrage of din, and we find ourselves drifting in a cloud of hazy shoegaze guitar. It’s mellow, but it’s loud, and that’s where the hypnotic ‘Bloody Diffuser’ picks up as it embarks on another ten-minute sonic journey, a slow-smouldering soundscape heavy on delay and reverb. Switching through a succession of segments, where the transitions are jolting, flicking changes rather than seamless transitions, it’s by turns doom drone and psychedelic drone, but ultimately, it’s all the drone – and that’s a good thing.

Ordinarily, two versions of one song on the same release feels a bit lazy, but then again, I spent the 90s buying singles on three formats in order to obtain all the versions and B—sides, and I have a hunch that Benjamin is also well-versed in the maxi-single and the like, and it so happens that the cropped version of ‘Tobacco Eyes’ that rounds it off actually feels like a single that had it been released circa 92 would have been lauded in the press as being in the vein of Pavement and Truman’s Water. And in fairness, that’s just as true in 2022.

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Front & Follow and the Gated Canal Community – 5th August 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

There’s so much to love about Front & Follow and the Gated Canal Community, and I’m absolutely not mocking when I say that Front & Follow have called it a day as a label almost as many times as Status Quo have announced farewell tours, because I deeply admire the fact that label head Justin Watson simply cannot resist a good project, and always returns after every break with a new release beyond bursting with great new music. This leads me to the next reason to love the label: every project that brings the label out of mothballs is for a worthy cause, and to see a label channel its energy into raising funds for charitable causes (without being preachy or holly about it) is truly heart-warming and goes a long way to remining us that human nature is, by and large, giving, and that it’s just the current government and the selfish / stupid anuses who keep voting for them who don’t give a fuck about anyone else. And then there’s the fact that – as previously mentioned – each release contains great new music, and the fact is that Front & Follow’s commitment to providing an outlet to lesser-known acts, including many who’ve not been previously releases, is unstinting. Just as it’s hard to find venues who will give gigs to bands who have yet to play and establish a fanbase, so it’s hard for those same acts to find an outlet other than doing it themselves on Bandcamp and Spotify, with their work being completely buried and diving under all radars in the process.

And so, here we have the first instalment of Rental Yields, a ‘multi-release collaboration project raising money to tackle homelessness in Manchester’. As the press notes explain, ‘Inspired by our current housing system, the project encourages artists to steal (or borrow, nicely) from another artist to create their own new track – in the process producing HIGH RENTAL YIELDS… Over 100 artists are now involved (the spreadsheet is fun), each one tasked with creating a new track from the sounds created by someone else – we are then collating the tracks and releasing them over the course of the next year.’

This is Volume One, and contains twenty tracks, ‘featuring the likes of Polypores, Elizabeth Joan Kelly, The Leaf Library, yellow6, Spaceship and more’, and it’s a cracker. This is no surprise on the basis of the label’s track record, of course. Most of the artists are super-obscure: Solomon Tump, The Incidental Crack, and yol are about the limit of my a priori knowledge, and that’s good: it means the collection is about the music rather than the artists, and people should be interested because it’s good, not because it has some shitty remix of acoustic version of a mediocre name band. It’s good because it’s good. And weird.

And there is nothing mediocre about this. It is a big compilation that showcases the exploratory, the experimental, the oscillating, the avant-garde. Dig, it, and dig it deep.

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RENTAL YIELDS - VOL ONE

Christopher Nosnibor

This is by no means the first time I’ll have mentioned that sometimes, the best gigs are the ones you have to drag yourself to. The dragging here is no reflection on the bands, so much as the fact that when work and life are sapping your soul and you’re not feeling like doing anything ‘people’ orientated, the prospect of venturing out to be among people on a Tuesday night is not one that fires a burst of enthusiasm. You want to stay home. You want to hibernate. But the combination of beer and live music is so often the best therapy – and this proved to be one of those nights.

I have long lost count of the number of times I’ve seen or otherwise written about both Soma Crew and Percy, and while they both fit the bracket of ‘local’ bands, they’re both bands who bring great joy to see, and no-one dismisses London bands who only play a circuit of half a dozen small venues in London as ‘local’, do they? And you can’t watch ‘local’ bands in London with a decent hand-pulled pint in a proper glass for £4 a pint, either.

All three bands are playing on the floor in front of the stage, and The New Solar Drones have a lot of instruments spilling out, including a maraca, triangle, and timpani. It’s quite a sight to behold on entering, and the additional percussion goes a long way to giving the band a distinctive sound. Mellow country flavoured indie branches out in all kinds of directions. The rolling, thunderous drums lend a real sense of drama to the waves of noodling synths. The guitar workout on a song about Hollywood gets a bit Hotel California, but it’s well executed. The final track marks a shift from laid-back easy-going Americana into some kind of post-rock progressive folk that’s rather darker and lasts about ten minutes, complete with clarinet solo. They’ve got some rough edges to iron out, but the songs are solid and it’s an impressive debut.

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The New Solar Drones

With a new album around the corner, this is Percy’s first gig in seven months. Three quarters of the band are crowded to one side of the stage, while singer/guitarist Colin is on the other. Either it’s because he’s a grumpy sod, or perhaps just because his guitar amp is so bloody loud. ‘Going off on One’ kicks off the set energetically and sets the pace for a career-spanning selection that focuses on the more uptempo aspects of their catalogue. Bassist Andy’s post-lockdown look is J Mascis, but he charges around cranking out low end beef, and it’s the rhythm section that dominates, while Paula’s keyboards bring some melody and definition in contrast to the scratchy guitar sound.

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“Fray Bentos pie! With gravy!” The slower, synthier ‘Alice’ sounds more like Joy Division than their usual jagged post­punk grind and graft, but while most of the lyrics are indecipherable, the pie and gravy seem to be the focus. They really attack the snarling ‘Will of the People’, and its relevence seems to grow by the day. Colin comes on like Mark E Smith at his most vitriolic… and there, I failed in my attempt to review Percy without recourse The Fall. Seems it just can’t be done. They close with a brand new song, ‘Chunks’, about ‘chunks in gravy!’ Yep, definitely a theme, and if Percy are something of a meat and potatoes band, it’s in the way The Wedding Present are hardy perennials and brimming with northern grit.

A resonant throb gradually leaks from the PA, and from it emerges Soma Crew’s quintessential motorik pumping. Standing near the front, I reflect on the fact I could use a wide angle lens to get all of them in. They have a lot of guitars. The front man from The New Solar Drones is on keys and lap steel and, later guitar, and the lap steel accentuates the band’s overall drone and gives something of a Doorsy vibe.

They’re on serious form tonight, sounding solid and energetic. Shifting up to three guitars, they hit a swinging rock ‘n’ roll blues boogie groove.

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Soma Crew

While I find myself drifting on this tripped-out repetition, I consider the fact that less is more. Chords, that is, not instruments. Four guitars (if you count the bass) playing three chords in an endless cycle is better than two guitars, which in turn is better than one. The songs and structures are simple: the effect is all in the layering up and the reverb. Listening to bands that are overtly about the technical proficiency is often pretty dull. Passion and mood count for so much more. Volume helps, and with a brutal backline and sympathetic sound man, they hit that sweet spot where it hurts just a bit even with earplugs. Simon’s slightly atonal droning vocals are soporific, and everything just melts into an all-engulfing wash of sound. ‘Mirage’ kicks with volume and solid repetitive groove, while ‘Say You Believe’ is straight up early Ride/Chapterhouse, before ‘Propaganda Now’ is a blistering drive through a wall of Jesus and Mary Chain inspired feedback that brings the set to a shimmering, monster climax.

I stumble out, my ears buzzing, elated. Because everything came together to surpass expectations to make for an outstanding night.

Cruel Nature Records – 27th May 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

Aidan Baker – classically-trained multi-instrumentalist from Toronto (now resident in Berlin), who specialises in electric guitar works – using treated and otherwise non-conventional playing methods – is an artist who I seemingly can’t escape from. His ever-shifting styles and labels may be as difficult to keep pace with as his ever-expanding catalogue, but it seems that whoever’s releasing his work, I’m on their mailing list. This is very much a good thing, as Baker is one of those artists who, despite – or perhaps because – of being impossible to pigeonhole, never disappoints.

Baker’s second release on Cruel Nature, following 2021’s Stimmt, marks something of a shift, from what the accompanying notes ‘was big on atmospherics and abstraction’ to a sound that ‘shoots a bullet straight into the heart of the riff and explodes it, in all its scorching white-out fuzzed-up glory’.

On listening to the album’s grunt and growl guitar assault, the specific meaning of the album’s title remains unclear: ‘tenebrous’ is either obscure, or murky, or otherwise causing gloom, while ‘tenebrism’ refers to ‘a style of painting especially associated with the Italian painter Caravaggio and his followers in which most of the figures are engulfed in shadow but some are dramatically illuminated by a beam of light usually from an identifiable source’. ‘Tenebrist’ seems to lack a specific definition. So is Baker casting himself in the role of an artist whose musical compositions follow in the shadow-casting tradition of Caravaggio, or is this a nod to obscurity, darkness, gloom?

It’s perhaps an amalgamation of all of the aforementioned meanings. The title track, which comes in two parts, lifts the curtain, with a heavy overloading trudge of massive distortion, the guitar too loud of the mics recording, while the drums plod, half-buried but strangely crisp and clear, down in the mix. Unexpectedly, I’m reminded of the production and mix of Moby’s Animal Rights, although the guitar here is much less trebly, angled instead toward the mid and lower ranges, with ‘Tenebrist II’ really plunging deep into psychedelic sludge. The speakers positive crackle with the thick distortion, wrapped in swathes of feedback.

‘Turgid’ is a crackling, buzzing, math-rock explosion: it’s busy and blistering, and somewhere towards the end, the sound thickens, become denser, darker, more abrasive, culminating in a spark-flying meltdown.

The blurb describes Tenebrist as ‘low-down and heavy, and serving up ‘swathes of grunge, pummelling the senses and scattering rhythms through its maximalist energy’, but this is an understatement that only goes so far in conveying the massive sonic impact. ‘Violet Contrast’ is missing an ‘n’: driven by thumping, thunderous drums in a mist of low, slow, smoggy synth drones, it builds gradually to a monumental, percussion-driven climax over the course of a sustained crescendo of drums on drums.

‘Dramatic Illumination’ – in two parts – seems to cast a nod to Caravaggio, and this thirteen-minute suite cuts a dark sonic furrow, as clattering percussion and drones of low, low frequency feedback moan in an avant-jazz mess of calamitous noise, whereby the entire song sounds like the slow wind-down at the end of a set. You wonder when and where it will end… but it doesn’t. Finally, on ‘Dramatic Illumination II,’ the guitar glides in, but it still feels like the end.

The eight-and-a-half-minute closer ‘Chiasroscurious’ is a culmination of the album’s journey; a shuddering, juddering, wall of noise that makes you momentarily think your stereo’s fucked and your speakers are knackered with it’s massively overloading distortion that’s absolutely ruinous, swelling to a sonic tsunami that redefines devastation.

Tenebrist hurts. It’s immense and devastating on every level. The volume hurts. It’s a beast, and exactly the exercise in punishment we all need.

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North Wales Psychedelic rock band Holy Coves announce brand new ‘Druids And Bards’ 24-date UK Tour and are set to release brand new ‘Desert Storm’ single which  on Friday 29th of April via prolific North Wales Label Yr Wyddfa Records.

Dropping swiftly into the slip-stream and following on from the successful ‘The Hurt Within’ which was released last month, ‘Desert Storm’ sets the psych mood with droney riffs, hazy vocals on an epic musical landscape.

Lead by Welsh Singer-Songwriter Scott Marsden, Holy Coves find themselves crossing an unseen threshold on a fantastical new journey where new psych-hazed material spells an exciting new era for the collective.

Through long time friend and Producer David Wrench, Holy Coves were put in touch with Texan Producer Erik Wofford (The Black Angels / Explosions In The Sky) and have built quite a magical working relationship, one where Wofford found himself on Mixing and Mastering duties for the material and certainly contributes to their new sound.

Listen to ‘Desert Storm’ here:

Tour dates are below:

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Southern Lord – 23rd April 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

Covering multiple works in a single review feels like a major short-changing exercise, and I feel I should apologise to the artists involved in advance. It kind of depersonalises and maybe even cheapens the coverage, and I remember how I felt when the book version of my PhD thesis finally received a review, only to find that it was in an article alongside three other books. It may have been a paragraph of praise, but nevertheless, it was a solitary paragraph in a long article. Nine years of work, 90,000 words and 300 printed pages given a one-paragraph thumbs up… meh. But still, better than a thumbs-down or no paragraph.

A decade on, it’s still not settled with me, and I always try to do better. But sometimes, bundling makes sense and feels justified and this is one of those times.

Having spent many a virtual column inch in recent years bemoaning how Record Store day has made a deep descent from being an event that served to raise awareness of independent record shops to another cash-in for major labels cranking out shitty reissues on limited colour vinyl to wring yet more funds from completists while at the same time driving some of the most shameful scalping activity anywhere on line, it’s a relief to find something positive about RSD 2022.

That something comes of course from an independent label in the form of Southern Lord, who, as a sidenote, had commendably stuck to producing outstanding vinyl releases regardless of trends, fashions, popularity, or Record Store Day, and, admirably have continued to release whatever the hell they please, with a catalogue that’s an equal balance of cult hardcore punk re-releases and cutting-edge works of crushing weight that perpetually push the parameters of metal, with recent releases from Neon Christ and Big | Brave highlighting the polarities of the label’s interests.

This pair of RSD releases exemplify this span to perfection, and while admittedly one is a reissue, the other very much is not – and as such, they represent the label’s standard release scheduling. As the press releases outline, ‘The Catatonics were one of NYC and Syracuse’s pioneering hardcore punk bands…While the band’s seminal Hunted Down EP has remained one of the most highly sought-after releases of the genre, the heightening collector’s price made this 7” inaccessible to most people. Southern Lord has now elected to re-release this EP as a 12”, with bonus tracks.” And, meanwhile, Forest Nocturne is ‘the first full length solo venture of Greg Anderson, under the moniker of The Lord. Inspired by the great horror film composers of the 70s and 80s, Anderson turns his back on the riff worship of Goatsnake or SUNN O))) and instead creates a truly unsettling atmosphere heavy with tension, offset by 90s Scandinavian death metal’.

The Catatonics release certainly gives value for money: the original 1984 7” released on Anorexic Nympho Records featured five tracks: this reissue features a whopping eighteen. Following the bonus intro cut if ‘Descending in E’, the original EP accounts for tracks two to six, while the rest is an almost exhaustive gathering of compilation tracks, early demos and live recordings, all remastered from original tapes. Only two of the eighteen songs run beyond three minutes, with most clocking in under two, and this is rough and ready, ball-busting full-throttle, relentless fury, nonstop-pounding hardcore at its rawest and most furious, and the live cuts are particularly raw and brutal, making this a unique and comprehensive document of another underground band’s short but high-impact career.

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The Lord’s debut is a very different proposition: it’s clearly contemporary for a start, although it’s steeped in vintage metal stylings, and driven by an understated and simple but gut-churning bass that digs tunnels beneath your ordinary lives. Forest Nocturne is an album that twists and turns, and more significantly, gnaws like rodents, and like woodworm, at the smooth, flat planes of sonic normal. I say ‘normal’, as if that’s a thing – but The Lord conjure vast aural expanses, broad vistas that invite the listener to bask in the rich density, before tearing it to pieces.

A slow, swelling church organ droned doomily on ‘Church of Hermann’, a piece which is truly awe-inspiring. This is an instrumental album that definitely marks a departure for Anderson and feels more like early Earth than Sunn O))). Then again, it’s doesn’t really sound or feel like either.

Thick swells of strings that build into brooding, megalithic waves, define the power of this instrumental work. ‘Forest Wake’ starts with the wail of a siren, and brings bulldozing bass and power chords wrapped in gut-punching clouds of distortion. Those clouds dissipate for a time, and the atmosphere looms large and heavy as things unfurl, but take a moment to breathe and there’s nothing to see here other than smoke and that absence… It grinds, and it absolutely fucking kills, going full Sunn O))) drone doom on ‘Old Growth’. Forest Nocturne is hard and harrowing, immense, epic, beautiful, and yet at the same time devastating. The last track, ‘Triumph of the Oak’ is a new shade of heavy, an angering mess of thrashing chords that crashes down so, so hard.

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Finally, thanks to Southern Lord, there are releases that are actually worth getting up and queuing for at the weekend.