Posts Tagged ‘Drums’

Love Love Records – 26th April 2019 – LOVLP03

Christopher Nsnibor

However you remember Sly and the Family Drone, whatever your past experience, and whatever you may expect, the reality of each new entry in their catalogue brings something slightly different.

My first encounter with them was in a live setting, and I was left reeling with images of a bloke in boxer shorts pummelling drums and getting half the audience to join in. I remember noise, rhythms and chaos. Various YouTube footage confirms this is pretty much representative.

All of those elements are present on their studio recordings, but in different measures. It works: it’s a different medium. And moreover, each release reflects an evolution, usually a subtle but nevertheless key shift. And so it is on Gentle Persuaders, the collective who describe themselves as a ‘neo-noise-jazz outfit’ (one suspects that as apt as the description is, there’s an element of tongue-in-cheek here, just as their absurdist track titles aren’t entirely straight-faced) ‘vomit forth a smooth serving of curious and clattering noise not devoid of fun’.

Smooth is perhaps one thing it isn’t, and for that we should all try and be grateful. Challenging, angular, tonally and structurally abrasive, Gentle Persuaders finds Matt Cargill and co. playing to their ever-growing strengths.

The album opens in suitably uncompromising style, with the longest of the four compositions, the fourteen-minute ‘Heaven’s Gate Dog Agility’. It takes its time to get going, and with minimal instrumentation save for elongated sax drones, it has something of a sparse, free jazz feel. The percussion is restrained, distant, muted, and the emphasis seems to be on atmosphere, and – so it would seem at this stage – musicianship. But by the mid-point the drums are full-blooded, and the sax is battling amidst a barrelling wall of extraneous noise. The closing minutes find the rare emergence of an overt structure, a form, with repetition and a coalescence of sound that could almost be mistaken for a tune.

Crashing, head-blasting industrial beats worthy of Test Dept or perhaps reminiscent of Revolting Cocks’ ‘Beers, Steers & Queers’ shatter the air on ‘New Free Spirits Falconry & Horsemanship’. And they continue to pound away for the duration, while the sax screeching becomes ever more strangled and frenzied.

‘Votive Offerings’ ventures into murky, dark ambient territory, and reveals glimmering flickers of light shifting amidst the shadows of sombre drones and unsettling incidentals. It’s a mosaic of fragments: forms start to emerge, solid rhythms kick in, only to halt after a few bars, and if it’s jazz with noise, it’s jazz with noise penned as a soundtrack to the fragmented hallucinatory anti-narrative of Naked Lunch.

It’s this change of mood that renders the finale all the more impactful: beginning stark, sparse, eerie, with single notes ringing out into a sea of black echo and swampy low undercurrents, the spectacularly punny (and so very typical) ‘Jehovah’s Wetness’, a low-end bass grind begins to build the foundations of a swirling sludge-trudge climax. It’s not gentle, but it’s extremely persuasive.

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Gentle Persuaders

Aagoo Records / REV. Lab Records

21 September 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

French experimental drum outfit PILES are pitched as being for fans of Neu!, Can, Trans Am, Hanged Up, Beak>, Captain Beefheart, Edgar Varese, This Heat. Yes, a drum trio. Which means dominant percussion, and then some. But hen, anyone who’s heard Japanese drum combo Voordoms will appreciate the power of percussion as a dominant aspect.

And so we have eight tracks, all as drummy as it gets. Often, drums with little more than drones and hums or hovering feedback or sustain. But all the rhythmic complexity under the sun, with two or even three kits battering away.

‘Decay’ comes in hard and heavy, the opening bars reminiscent of The Fall’s ‘Muzoweri’s Daughter’ before dispersing in myriad directions as it spills directly into ‘Ulrick’. And just as things threaten to get tedious, ‘Mort aux cons’ brings new dimensions of noise, with sludgy bass and cacophonous guitar accentuating a different range of racket. And yes, it is a racket, albeit a good one.

‘Kraut and Piles’, the first of three nine-minuters eschews accessibility in favour of relentless pudding beats and extraneous noise. In venturing into industrial territory amidst shards of feedback, PILES reach a point at which the overall weight of the album tips into that of the heavy: there’s not much let-up here as the beats pound away at the cranium and the raring noise buidls to the sound of a jet engine preparing for take-off. The sonic barrage of ‘Kraut and ‘Piles’ is immediately followed by nine minutes of cut-up sound arrangements and drone with ‘Material in US’, which creates a very different atmosphere and casts the band in a very different light, even when things burst into an explosion of drums neat the end – because this about so much more than drumming. Then again, ‘Chambre d’echo;’ suddenly erupts from brooding atmospherics into a barrage of beats before shifting into a tinkling lullaby, which is pleasant if incongruous.

The final composition, ‘Marie’ is another nine-minute-plus beast that begins with ominous drones and conjures an unsettling darkness for its duration and culminates in a weird sort of semi-climax on a cymbal that rings out to eternity.

Una Volta confounds expectations and forges a strange mix of percussive assault and ambience, and does so through unexpected forms. It makes for an album that isn’t remotely what you might expect, but is all the better for it.

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PILES – Una Volta

Christopher Nosnibor

The missive which contains a link to the album lays out the facts. ‘August 2015: On a sweltering summer evening, Sly & the Family Drone brought their sweat-soaked carnival of chaos to east London. This is a recording of that night.’

Café Oto seems to be the venue of choice for weirdy, avant-garde experimental acts to capture their live sound – or perhaps it’s one of the few venues that truly embraces all that it weirdy, avant-garde and experimental in the first place. This, of course, is one of the benefits of operating on a not-for-profit basis. Art takes precedence over capital. It’s also an intimate space, where even a small crowd will make the place feel like it’s heaving, and it’s possible to really feel that connection between performer and audience in an up-close setting. Truly, here’s no substitute for being able to smell the sweat and see the whites of a perfomer’s eyes

Sly and the Family Drone have been pushing the parameters of messy noise for about eight years now, and while their recoded output explores all areas of murkiness and abrasion, their live shows are something else. Chaotic and cathartic, the only predictable part is percussion – that is to say, a lot of percussion.

This particular outing is heavy, and percussion-heavy from the outset. Thick, low-end blasts thunder through pounding drums. The percussion intensifies in both power and pace, while the droning bass frequencies bottom out to a place below the pelvic region while explosions of top-end squeal painfully. Less than ten minutes in, and they’ve hit total overload. Over the course of the album’s hour-long duration, they maintain it, and if anything, continue to push further, harder, louder, harsher. Crescendo hits after crescendo, and cumulatively, it’s punishing – in the best possible way.

It’s not just a hell of a noise: it’s all the noise. Even when the noise abates and the relentless battery of snare halts temporarily, eardrum-perforating feedback and whirring, hissing shards of treble fill the space. Through speakers, it hurts. Once can only imagine the impact and potential damage inflicted on those actually present. This is less a case of ‘you probably had to be there’ and more about ‘damn, I wish I’d been there’.

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