Posts Tagged ‘Drone’

Hominid Sounds – 30th May 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

Matt Cargill’s project still has one of the best names around: it’s not only an example of punning genius, but also one of those band names which sets expectations as to what you’re going to get musically. I say musically, but that’s very much a matter of perspective. SATFD don’t make music in the conventional sense, and Molar Wrench is as sonically challenging as any of the previous releases SATFD have put out. On this outing, they’re joined by Dutch/British free jazz unit Dead Neanderthals, to form what they describe as ‘the ultimate tag team of the murky European underground’.

Given that the two acts featured on a split release last year, this collaboration seems like a logical progression. It certainly marks a departure for Sly, in that the trademark subterranean grind of endless, dark drones and unsettling atmospherics is matched with and at times consumed by the maddest jazz shit going.

The album contains just four tracks, but packs in a hell of a lot of racket. It all kicks off with a frenetic, a wild, free jazz cacophony, a melange of clamorous, ultra-hyped parping horns, sonorous lowed drone and is dominated by truly frenzied, cacophonous bent. Circuits fizz and hum while the percussion thrashes and crashes arrhythmically, throwing the listener around with reckless abandon a rollercoaster of tempestuous sonic mania.

There are two ‘Muck Man’ tracks and the first is ten minutes of slow, throbbing churn made up primarily of low and mid-range sludge, the drums holding a ragged but hard rhythm amidst a maelstrom of thick, dirty, pulsating noise. It’s almost a riff, but more a succession of waves in a rhythmically surging sonic tide, a with the density of liquid mud. Immersive would be one word.

‘Muck Man Part 2’ is altogether more low-key, a dark, atmospheric piece that manifests as a prehistoric sulphur swamp in sonic form. Slowly, the murky drift builds to a screaming tempest of noise; the brass develops from a low drone to a shrill shriek of pain and the drumming transitions from a sedate trudge to an explosive riot of noise, abrasive blasts of snarling electronica and whatever the fuck else bursting in waves of sonic shock.

The title track closes off the album, and it’s an eleven-minute trudge that calls to mind the claustrophobic brutality of Swans’ ‘Young God’ EP. The plodding percussion provides a doomy and tense prickling spine to the oppressive grind that lumbers on for what feels like a skull-crushing eternity.

There is a definite structure to Molar Wrench, in that it starts off wild and winds down to a grinding crawl, but it by no means feels like the energy displayed at the outset dissipates as the album progresses. It’s more a case that having exhausted the listener with frenetic kinetics and gone all-out on the attack at the front end, the album seeks to bludgeon the listener into submission in the later stages. And highly effective it is, too.

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Consouling Sounds – 23rd June 2017

IIVII – pronounced ‘ivy’ as it so happens – is the musical vehicle for visual artist, multi-instrumentalist and composer Josh Graham. It’s actually quite fitting to the creeping ambience and gradually-expanding soundscapes which develop almost imperceptibly on Invasion. The bio bigs it up as being his ‘enigmatic inter-galactic solo project’, which focuses on ‘sonically engulfing and moody soundscapes, layered with a science-fiction edge.’

Graham has quite a resume: having worked as a designer and director, he has also collaborated with a variety of bands including Mastodon, Neurosis, Jesu, Shrinebuilder, ISIS and The Dillinger Escape Plan.

Invasion is pitched as a work which ‘traverses genre and explores elements of drone, classical, ambient, electronica, and vaporwave’, and it’s very much an album of tonal variety and texture, not to mention compositional and stylistic range – to the extent that sometimes one might wonder if the playlist has moved onto something else entirely.

Invasion is less a collection of individual pieces but a single set which forms an ever0shifting whole; from the lonely piano which echoes across the expansive atmospherics of ‘We Came Here from a Dying World’ through the creeping bassline and fear notes which hang hauntingly on ‘Unclouded by Conscience’, with its distant, rolling drum and post-rock intimations, and through the more overtly beat-driven.

There are extended minimalist moments, like the slow-pule hum which introduces ‘Hidden Inside’ to stark and chilling effect; the glitchy bass and glacial overtones do little to soften the icy bleakness of the funeral bells and amorphous sonic drifts which carry a chilly edge over the occasional bursts of subsonic thunder. Melodic arabesques rise from eddying pools of resonant bass hums and twirling contrails.

The tribal beats and throbbing synthesized bass, draped with icy synth notes, which define the dynamic drive of ‘No More Enemies’ call to mind Movement era New Order: it’s dark, detached, otherworldly, and corresponds with the album’s artwork, which depicts an invading species of alien origin (also completed by Graham, who, poignantly, served as Soundgarden’s art director at the time of the press release).

Nuanced has become one of those words, but there’s a rich detail and infinite texture to be found on Invasion that demands its application. This is an articulate, considered and meticulously-realised work which operates on multiple levels.

 

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Svart Records – 2nd June 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

Depending on your perspective, drone metal masters Gravetemple are either a(nother) Sunn O))) offshoot, or a supergroup. Comprising Oren Ambarchi, Stephen O’Malley and Attila Csihar, the trio have many interconnecting threads, and s Gravetemple, they create something quite different – and arguably more overtly ‘metal’ than any of their other projects.

According to the press release, ‘on Impassable Fears, Gravetemple have refined and diversified their nuanced form of all-consuming, abstract death metal inspired heaviness. The essence of their other-worldly vocal exhortations, the maelstrom of frenetic beats and heavy guitar sounds are ever-present, as is the sheer power of their delivery. Yet Impassable Fears is far from unrelenting, there’s shifting dynamics, revealing an abundance of unexplored sonic detail, across all intersections, deftly balancing minimalist and maximalist sounds with finesse.’

It’s true: there is considerable range in texture and tone, and Impassable Fears is not an hour-long solid wall of excruciating noise. But there is a lot of excruciating noise and punishing volume, and the sonic density of the songs as they’re recorded is optimal for the most part.

Opener ‘Szarka’ begins by melding a strolling, subterranean bassline and blustering beat to a shattering guitar which very quickly goes sludgy, and from thereon rapidly descends into guttural brutality. Shrieking demons flee in terror at the depth of the darkness conjured by the thick, blacker than black guitar noise. Crackling distortion and scraping feedback grate against a rumbling percussive attack on the ten-minute ‘Elavúlt Földbolygó (which translates as ‘World out of Date’). A twisted mess of psychedelic metal dragged from the bowels of the earth, it builds relentlessly, growing ever louder, ever more frantic, and ever more dense over the duration.

The experimental and atmospheric ‘Domino’ offers respite, exploring a throbbing electronic ambient vein to disorientating and unsettling effect, and segues into ‘Áthatolhatatlan Félelmek’, which pulls back on the full-on aural attack, at least during the first minute or so. The track instead proffers forth a sparser, but ultimately more sinister, more subtly atmospheric vision of hell. But eventually, the rolling thunder breaks out, demonic drumming drives a searing scourge of molten guitars and a droning bass that’s so low and so thick it realigns every last inch of the intestinal tract – and then continues to twist malevolent for what feels like a most uncomfortable eternity.

The tranquility of the haunting drift that is ‘Az Örök Végtelen Üresség,’ which closes the album is welcome, but there are darker undercurrents which run through. The final notes are crashing chimes which echo into silence, leaving more of a hanging question mark rather than a resolution or serving the listener with a sense of closure and relief.

 

Gravetemple artwork (by Denis Forkas Kostromitin

25th April 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

National Instruction is Soma Crew’s debut album. This is something of a technicality, as they rebranded shortly after the release of Another Dead Insect in 2015. And while all of the defining features of their previous incarnation remain, Soma Crew, having solidified with their current lineup, can be seen to have made marked progress since then.

The sonic haze which hangs heavy over all of their previous recordings and which defines their live sound is present and correct. On National Instruction, there’s also a wilful raggedness to the performances, with guitars and vocals titling off-kilter every which way, often to quite disorientating effect. It’s also by far the best-realised representation of what Soma Crew are about, showcasing a dense, murky sound, and a climax-centric approach to forging layered songs which plug hard at a single cyclical riff, nailed tight to a simple, repetitive drum pattern. Yet it’s also the work of a band who are evolving, and National Instruction marks a clear progression from their Soma EP release last autumn.

Si Micklethwaite’s vocal style isn’t conventionally tuneful, but then a melodic attenuation is by no means a prerequisite for singing in a rock band. Given the atonal drone elements of Soma Crew’s compositions, which are more focused on creating an atmospheric dissonance than a technically precise, melody-driven musicality, it works, and, bathed in reverb and a kind of fuzzy-edged soft-focus, he sounds more comfortable than on any release he’s featured on thus far.

‘Got It Bad’ features what is probably one of their most overtly catchy choruses to date, with a more clearly defined structure than any previous song – but it’s perfectly offset by a guitar line that heaves off to the left during one of the chord changes which launches said chorus. The nine-minute ‘Pyramids’ finds the band locking into the kind of groove they work the best. A spindly echo-drenched lead guitar wanders, spider-like over a chugging rhythm and spare, motoric beat that typifies their slow-burning brand of Black Angels-influenced psychedelic rock. Elsewhere, ‘Dangerzone’ is tense and angular, with eddying swells of abstract sound and feedback building into a cyclone of immersive noise close to the end. This is something they’ve got a real knack for.

Having heard a fair few of the cuts on Natural Instruction played live, it’s gratifying to observe just how well they’ve replicated the spirit and energy of the live sound on songs like ‘Remote Control’, which carries a shuddering, ramshackle Fall-esque vibe within its jagged two-chord battery. The album’s second eight-minuter, ‘Westworld’ starts of slow, sedate, but simmering: it’s never a case of if it’s going to break, but when, and while maintaining a pedestrian pace, it’s almost halfway through before the drums thud in. And then the guitars get up the volume… and then… and then… By the end, it’s still plodding away but the layers have built up and it’s a big old racket.

There’s something of a trickle toward the tranquil on the last two tracks, with the closer, ‘Maps and Charts’ being a particularly sedate – not to mention accessible indie tune. But rather than being an anti-climax, it reveals newly emerging facets of the bands, perhaps hinting that future releases will see them further extend their range.

 

Soma Crew - National Instruction

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

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