Posts Tagged ‘Drone’

March 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

I’m not actually a fan of physical violence. The sight of blood – particularly my own – is enough to make me nauseous or even pass out, and I struggle with pain. And yet I’m also strangely, perversely drawn to violence. I consider the Marquis de Sade’s 120 Days of Sodom to be a comic masterwork. Why? Because violence at that level becomes absurd, as real as Tom and Jerry. It’s also perhaps important to distinguish art and life. So much brutal music and art is an outlet of the darker psychic states channelled by some of the mildest, sanest people you’re likely to meet. I haven’t met Tristan Shone so can’t vouch for his character, but his work under the Author and Punisher moniker is pretty brutal, and appeals precisely because of it.

The Pressure Mine EP, which finds Shone bring everything in-house to deliver five new tracks, all written, recorded, mixed and self-released by Shone himself balances brutality and beauty. What’s more, there’s a definite trajectory which runs over the course of the EP: something of a downward spiral, if you will, which sees each successive track prove darker, bleaker, heavier and more fucked-up than the one before. It may not be quite as gnarly and doomy s some of its predecessors, but that hardly makes this a stroll in the park and if anything, the absence of eardrum-shredding lasts of noise only accentuates the uncomfortable tension Author and Punisher is capable of creating.

First track ‘Enter This’ is a magnificent, mechanised droning industrial trudge, synths interlacing to forge a dark atmosphere over a battering mid-tempo rhythm. It’s all a backdrop to Shone’s vocals, which balance disconsolation and anguish. While reminiscent of Prettty Hate Machine Nine Inch Nails, it’s also rather more emotionally nuanced. ‘Pressure Lover’ lunges deeper into a woozy, nightmarish fugue, a dense, rumbling bassline and clanking percussion dominating.

‘New World’ warps and grinds, a dislocated discord emerging from the echoes and twisted vocals, and the last track, ‘Black Wand’ comes on like Depeche Mode on a cocktail of Ketamine and LSD. It’s not entirely pleasant, but it is unsettlingly awesome.

 

Author and Punisher - Pressure Mine

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3rd February 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

As a band who really grabbed me by the throat with the release of their ‘Nowhere’ EP in 2015, the arrival of the latest offering from GHXST in my inbox was cause for excitement. And rightly so. To cut to the chase, Perish is a masterpiece.

The EP’s first track, ‘Southern Eye’, carries the refrain of ‘nowhere’ and as such, continues the theme of displacement, of outsiderdom, of not belonging which was core to the aforementioned EP. It’s a fair summary of what GHXST are about, musically, conceptually, and lyrically. Their songs deal with darker themes, and the cover art, which seems to evoke the spirit of Joy Division conveys an appropriate sense of bleakness, but also a certain, ineffable serenity and grace.

On the title track, a rushing guitar grind and reverberating samples are counterpointed by a haunting – and achingly beautiful – vocal that has hints of Alison Shaw of Cranes, only less squeaky, and Toni Halliday. The contrast is what defines the sound, and is ultimately what makes GHXST so special: it’s so rare for a band this heavy to convey so much emotional sensitivity. Theirs is not a sonic expression of nihilistic rage, but of something altogether more nuanced, possessing a heart-trembling beauty, rendered all the more distinct in their execution by the use of a drum machine. As such, they’re in an entirely different league from the few doomgaze contemporaries with female vocals one might name, like Esben and the Witch and Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard. And on this outing they expand their sound to incorporate elements of blues and country. How does that sit as a genre? But it’s not merely the fact they exist within their own niche: the tracks on Perish: the quality of the songs, and their spectacularly atmospheric execution is something special.

‘Stories We Tell’ achieves a heart-rending beauty while crushing your skull with punishing guitars and pounding, slow-tempo percussion: the guitars grate and grind, each power chord throbbing with a malevolent afterburn. ‘Summer Moon’ presents a surging pop dynamic, a dash of Jesus and May Chain against a Chapterhouse-y whirl of shoegaziness and ‘Waiting for the Night’ is a slow-surging dirge, riven with the crackling pops of Akai snare bursts which shouldn’t work but actually bring a bleak aggression to the droning. Closer ‘No Wild West’ introduces a droning desert blues element, the chugging guitars drifting over an expansive, barren wasteland as Shelley X drawls into a sea of reverb.

This is by no means inaccessible music: it’s music to lose yourself in. The songs themselves are comparatively short – none extend beyond the five-minute mark – but all bear all the hallmarks of true epics, with a sound which is beyond vast.

 

 

 

 

GHXST - Perish

Essence – 9th December 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

The circumstances of this release are rooted in the kind of rock mythology that usually surrounds cult acts of the 60s and 70s: the kind of band known to only a few people, but spoken of with reverence and a messianic enthusiasm which, through time, finds the band achieving a legendary status which far exceeds their actual audience.

Unusually, Expo Seventy are a post-millennium band. Formed in 2003, this album captures a brief moment in their history from around 2010, when they featured a second drummer. Expo Seventy played only a handful of shows in Kansas City, and Chicago at the Neon Marshmalow festival in this four-piece iteration. Born out of a series of experimental jams laid down in the studio for an at ‘experience’ project in Kansas which would see the funding lost and the project dropped, this release accounts for the entirety of their recorded work. Recorded over the course of three weeks, the album contains two longform movements (with the CD version featuring a third).

The first section builds a steady desert rock vibe and a simmering groove emerges. Through a succession of meandering detours, breakdowns, breaks and diversions, the track holds down a thunderous rhythm, solid, and rides through a series of sustained, surging crescendos. The twenty-six minute second movement begins as a long, slow drone, an interminable hum throbbing on some six minutes in with no sign of abatement. It’s a real patience-tester, but gradually, one becomes drawn into the textures, and then, subtly, synth notes creep into the mix. A flicker of cymbals. Around the ten-minute mark, the slow build begins to step up, rolling toms building tension: it’s only a matter of time before the wall breaks. It’s all about time. And it’s all about the double-drummer lineup. They rumble like thunder, cymbals explode over the deep, augmented drone. The third movement picks up where the second leaves off, pitching a darkly atmospheric rumble. Tribal drumming thunders while analogue synths bubble through the battering beats.

For an album of its length, not a lot happens, but then, it doesn’t need to.

Finally, it’s worth mentioning the artwork and packaging. It’s truly outstanding: not only does it capture the vintage vibe beautifully, but the heavy stock makes this release feel like something special.

http://www.exposeventy.com/

Expo Seventy

6th October 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

How exactly does one locate the work of The Eagertongue? The vehicle of Glaswegian artist Graham Macmillan-Mason, who describes his mode of work style as ‘spoken punk’, there’s nothing remotely Kate Tempest about the gritty poetics of The Eagertongue. There are no limp appropriations of hip-hop stylings for a start, no elongated vowels to intimate a sense of beat, no couplets, no doggerel – no rhymes, in fact – and there’s no pretence of speaking to or for the masses with high-minded socio-political thematics, either. But he does have an undeniable sense of rhythm which carries the pieces along nicely, and arguably, his straight-talking vignettes are far more real slices of life than the more commercially viable Tempest. No BRIT School priming here: the only privilege informing the work is the privilege of life lived as a means of gathering material, which provides instead, a first-hand grasp of the grubby day-to-day. Coupled with Macmillan-Mason’s knack for narrative, it makes for pieces which are vital and ultimately credible. But he’s not John Cooper-Clarke, either. I love JCC’s pithy poems and rapidfire delivery, but Macmillan-Mason’s brand of social commentary is darker, starker, harsher, and he isn’t out for laughs.

I referred to the material as gritty: Graham raps and raves about bodily fluids with a superabundance of cumstains and saliva and a moderate proliferation of vomit streaking his narratives. The characters who populate these insalubrious spaces are three-dimensional, believable, and presented warts and all. “She would always protest it was difficult to speak with a penis inside of her mouth,” he recounts on ‘Jesse’.

MacMillan-Mason has a remarkably calm, almost affable delivery, which is in some ways at odds with some of the dingier, grainier lines. But it’s this calm, measured approach (and that isn’t to say there’s no passion in his voice: there is, as well as a tangible sense of soul) which renders the words most effective: they’re enunciated with crystal clarity and stand out above the murky droning soundscapes – a mangling mix of guitars and amorphous electronic hum – which provide an appropriately unsettling backdrop.

Sharp, direct and unflinching, The Voices in Your Coma Sleep finds The Eagertongue bringing weight to the idea that literature was the original rock ‘n’ roll, and that literature is the new rock ‘n’ roll, too.

 

The Eager Tongue - Voices in Your Coma Sleep

VoxxoV Records – VXVCD011 – 19th September 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

The purpose, primarily, behind Aural Aggravation, was to give coverage to niche music produced by lesser-known artists and little labels. The idea was also to publish reviews geared toward a more long-form format, favouring more journalistic analyses than the soundbite snippets which dominate the mainstream music press (such as it exists now) and many of the more popular websites. Ultimately, of course, the ambition was to run a site which gave myself, as founder / editor and main contributor, free reign, to write about what I liked in a way I liked. It wasn’t so much the cliché that if other people liked it, it’s a bonus: I figure that if I like it, there’s an audience for it somewhere.

Vindication of this approach hasn’t just been in the traffic we’ve received – Aural Aggro will never achieve world-domination but after a year in existence, it’s built a steady and respectable readership – but in the labels and artists who’ve sought us out to submit releases for review because they like what we do. It’s mighty gratifying, and has led to the discovery of some fantastic acts and labels, too.

And so it was that microlabel VoxxoV found us and put their eleventh album, Noise Level by French artist Gaëtan Gromer our way. It’s about drone, noise and ambient music, and that’s what we dig here – amongst other things.

Noise Level is an album to get lost in, but also an album to listen to. The detail is what matters. For what seems like an eternity, so little happens/ but of course, a little is a world away from nothing. Then, amidst the elongated drones, small sounds, water-like drips and ripples disturb the tranquil surface. Barely audible, indecipherable vocal snippets and samples crackle through the airwaves. Notes bubble, drift and turn, wafting formlessly, invisible yet present, the subtlest ebb and flow forms an other-worldly soundscape. Burs of sharp static interfere with the flow, but fail to break out of the shadows. Gradually, so gradually, the notes turn and mutate, pulsate and undulate. Scratches of treble scour away and roughen the edges. Insectoid skitters flicker and clamour as circuitry bleeps, sonar calls and responses. Long, drawling notes sigh in resigned anguish on ‘Le Bibliotheque de Babel’.

The warmth hinted at by the soft-edged swells of sounds on the album’s final track, the ten-minute ‘Always Coming Home’ are countered by grazing guitar drones and clattering, arrhythmic percussive ruptures. Over time, it builds in volume and intensity, the guitar coming to the fore as the album’s only recognisable instrument, a bruising, dense mass of sound bringing the album to a powerful close. With this, Gromer is done, and goes whistling on his way.

 

Gaëtan Gromer – Noise Level

Opa Loka Records – OL160096

Christopher Nosnibor

It begins with a long, low, ominous hum. The movement is so gradual as to be barely perceptible. Slowly, so slowly, it grows, swells, and turns, its density, depth and texture shifting, microtonal layers emerge and fade. Dolorous chimes ring and resonate in the sonic mist. The individual tracks are segued together to form an extended, evolutionary work. Brooding strings strike and organs waver on ‘Stone Ether’, and over the course of the album, Cut Worms stalls time to create space and distance, ethereal soundscapes drift, soft, sculpted, immersive.

The forms and structures are as subtle, fleeting and inscrutable as the infiniteness of space and the existence of dark matter. Equally, the origins of the sounds which fill the album seem wholly removed from one another: Lumbar Fist is an electroacoustic work, created with live generated and processed sounds, without any prefabricated beats or loops, and as such, the process entails considerably more than the all-too-common mechanical laptop machinations of ambient works.

Richard Van Kruysdijk – the man who alone is Cut Worms (and what an evocative moniker that is… not that the album title’s far behind) has spent a long time honing his craft, and Lumbar Fist stands alongside artists like Tim Hecker, Oren Ambarchi, Glenn Branca, Stephan Mathieu, Will Guthrie and Jim O’Rourke not just as an exemplar, but an outstanding example of atmospheric, drone-orientated ambience.

 

Cut Worms - Lumbar Fist

 

A year or so back, maybe, from the ashes of York-based psychedelic drone act Muttley Crew emerged York-based psychedelic drone act Soma Crew. Sort of. The same band in essence, it was undoubtedly time for a change of name, but there’s been something of a lineup reshuffle in the process, and, on the evidence of this, the first Soma Crew EP, a sonic evolution too. This means that while there are still heavy hints of Black Angels, and the songs are still built around two or three chord chugs swathed in layer upon layer upon layer which twist and turn over the course of six minutes or more, there’s new stuff going on which wasn’t present on the Muttley Crew album which came out in the Spring of 2015.

With a ragged guitar sound and Simon Micklethwaite’s vocals adopting a sneering, drawling tone, there’s a punk edge to the EP’s first cut, ‘Pulp’. After a left-turning detour around the mid-point, it bursts into a raging racket of dissonance. And all the while, the drums keep on hammering out a relentless mechanoid rhythm, holding it together while everything else collapses to beautiful chaos. The slow-burning ‘Path With Heart’ brings it down a notch or two and offers a more low-key and introspective aspect. It’s exactly the music you’d expect from a band named after a muscle relaxant which works by blocking pain sensations between the nerves and the brain.

‘Vital Signs’ is perhaps the first track here that’s truly representative of their live sound, a motoric droner, with murky, overdriven and reverby guitars yawning and veering across one another over a thumping locked-in groove with no let up for over six and a half minutes. The eight-minute ‘Prizefighter’ begins at a lugubrious crawl. It takes its time… and then the overloading lead guitar breaks in, noodling in a smog of a chugging rhythm to drive it to the end.

The rough edges and hazy production give the songs an immediacy, and beneath the layers of reverb and cavernous delay, there’s a pulsating energy that gives EP 01 (aka Soma) a rare vitality. Rebirthed, re-energised, this band may be habit-forming and should be used only by the person it was prescribed for.

 

Soma Crew