Posts Tagged ‘Eclectic’

Front & Follow – F&F062 – 28th August 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

This twenty-three track extravaganza marks the third of five compilations for which cult label Front & Follow has been briefly resurrected with a view to supporting artists who’ve had their work rejected while raising funds for The Brick in Wigan, a charity for homeless people, which also operates a food back – more vital than ever, sadly.

What I personally like about the series and its approach to its purpose is that as has always been the case with F&F and the artists it releases, is its understatedness. And while there’s a lot of noise about the anguish of isolation under lockdown in the media and social media, the liner notes stress clearly ‘This is not an isolation project – it’s a rejection project’. This is very much representative of F&F’s singularity: the label was always about operating apart from trends or vogues, and as such, while it would inevitably cater to a niche audience, it wasn’t a fickle one.

While many of the artists are unfamiliar and probably not only to me, Social Oscillations and Sone Institute stand out as acts whom I’ve reviewed on previous releases on F&F.

Musically, and in terms of quality, though, it’s very much a level playing field, and it’s not hard to grasp why, having been inundated with submission for their modest project proposal, they decided to release a full five volumes.

It’s straight in with the eerie, spooky-sounding dark ambient courtesy of Social Oscillation’s ‘Dreich’, a word that’s stuck with me since my time in Glasgow around the turn of the millennium. It’s so descriptive, and yes, the song’s grey, sombre tone fits it nicely.

As with the previous volumes, despite being largely electronic and instrumental in its basis, the stylistic span is impressive: from minimal, dubby-techno to experimental post-rock via the most vaporous ambience, it’s all here, and curated so as to be perfectly sequenced.

With the super-murky ‘Crawling Guardian’, Everson Poe evokes the spirit of The Cure circa 17 Seconds and Faith before it goes crushing doom metal in the final minute, and the dingy production only amplifies the oppressive atmosphere. Elite Barbarian’s ‘Gat Trap’ is particularly unsettling and particularly impossible to pin down as is groans and rumbles; Newlands’ ‘Father Sky’ is a hypotonic chant, and ‘Orla’ by Farmer Glitchy is tense, claustrophobic, uncomfortable. Jonny Domini’s ‘New Pink Shirt’ is a bit of a departure, being a kind of Pavement-meets-The Fall lo-fi indie racket. It’s pretty cool, and John Peel would have loved it. Dolly Dolly’s ‘HEADS’ is a neat, if rather twisted, spoken word piece, and while it’s perhaps understandable why it may have ben hard to home, it’s no reflection on its being a good piece.

And, yet again, you can’t help but think that those who rejected all of these tracks, no doubt with an ‘it’s good, but just not for us’ let-down, are the ones who have missed out, and it’s all to the benefit of Front & Follow with their accommodating policy in curating this series.

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F&0F062 - ISOLATION AND REJECTION - VOL 3 cover

Weeping Prophet Records – 31st July 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

The facts and the pitch are that Fuse Box City is a new London based band. They combine indie and electronic with noise and melody; the intricate layering of which produces a rich sound that provides a platform for Rachel Kenedy’s fragile yet mellifluous vocals to sit on top. Talking about the stuff that matters all in the same breath.

I like hybridity and eclecticism, and have developed an increasing appreciation of some of the 80s samplist / looping acts that broke through in the late 80s. It wasn’t immediately apparent at the time, but this wasn’t about simply making dance music and turntable scratching and drum machines: this was utilising emerging technology to create a soundtrack to our ever-faster, ever more fragmented experience of life.

Revisiting the spirit of then makes sense to an extent: we’re witnessing even less comprehensible times, even faster, more fragmentary lives, and even niftier tech while in a position to cast an eye back over recent history.

But sometimes blending lo-fi indie and experimental electronica and throwing in bits of prog and 80s hip-hop means the elements don’t always gel especially well, and ‘Shine On’ makes for a shaky, somewhat chaotic and disjointed start.

Maybe it’s a matter of adjustment, or maybe the band really do find their groove better as the album progresses, and it’s when they slow things down a bit as they do first on ‘Pub Licker’ and then on ‘Crossing Swords’ that things begin to feel rather more cohesive, and find FBC explore a territory that sounds like a trip-hop reimagining of Young Marble Giants.

The album’s closer marks another departure: the thirteen-minute ‘Bendy One’ starts out a low, slow semi-ambient work with a murky beat stuttering away like a fibrillating heart, and low in the mix before slowly taking form: the beat becomes ore solid, regular, insistent, and comes to dominate a vague wash of a droning backdrop which stretches and yawns and swells behind Kenedy’s soaring choral vocal. Somewhere along the way it emerges as a new ag stomper with a thumping tribal beat and some squirming electronics that bubble away in the background of some approximation of a celebratory sunset incantation.

The end product seems to be that of a band who are ideas-rich and unafraid to experiment, while still finding their feet and sense of direction. Despite its messier moments, which often boil down to execution as much as concept, it’s a bold debut, and never uninteresting or uninspired.

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FBC001_2020WPR_front

Christopher Nosnibor

Coaxial is one of a number of musical vehicles for musician and academic Benjamin J. Heal. For the uninitiated, it’s perhaps worth running some of his biographical information:

His prolific COWMAN project (2005-present) continues to plumb the depths of puerile noise-punk and a lo-fi trash aesthetic, following the footsteps of a more composed Hanatarash and early Boredoms. 2014’s acclaimed Tosokurui-no, under the pseudo-Japanese guise of Hitobashira-ni, illuminated the artistic potential found in exploring the limits of control and chaos in a band environment utilizing guitar, drums, synthesizer, sampler and gong. 2016’s The Brightness on Dead Water (as morimori) showcased contrasts between digital and analog, electric and acoustic, songs and sounds; nudging the chaotic themes of its predecessor into fields of more organic abstraction.

Coaxial represents the outlet for his explorations in instrumental electronica, and on Neo/ism there’s humour and wordplay not just in the song titles, but in the compositions themselves. This is apt, given that the Neoist art movement was largely satirical in its purpose, revelling in the depthlessness of postmodernism, and sometimes defined as ‘a prefix and a suffix with nothing in between’. Accordingly, the atmosphere on Neo/ism is denser than its light and airy predecessor, Ear Kites I (2018), but rather less heavy and sinister than 2017’s Reductio ad Absurdum.

It’s a vintage organ synth sound and even more vintage drum machine track that kicks starts the album with the seven-minute ‘Homobile’ (geddit? Linguistics jokes are always a nonstop laughriot). It lands between chillwave and krautrock, but some subtly de-synced chord changes have a vaguely disorientating effect at the start, before tapering off towards semi-ambience around halfway through and the beats dissolve to vapour.

‘Jocks v. Cocks’ is all about the juxtaposition: the track goes harder on the percussion, while the bubbling synths warp and twist, before ‘The Gay Gun’ plunges deeper into bloopy robotix territory, a melting pot of textures and tones swimming in a kind of sonic Brownian motion. ‘The Lonesome Onanist’ goes darker, and Heal’s application of long, grating drone notes that defines many of the tracks on Neo/ism is very much at the fore here.

There are strong technoindustrial elements in the mix, but then there’s a lot going on throughout, often simultaneously. Moreover, the composition seem to become increasingly strange and dislocated as the album progresses: ‘Homocrcy’ marks the mid-point with some spaced-out, space-age dubtronica, ‘Pink Noise’ crackles and pops in a time-shifting microtonal explosion, and ‘Gay Baby’ sounds like it should have featured on the soundtrack to an episode of Nathan Barley.

This all perhaps leads to the question of how serious any of this is, which in turn leads to the question of whether or not it actually matters whether or not the intent is parodic: one can’t hear intent in a recording, and can only engage with the contents of the recording itself. Given the way in which the sound of Neo/ism is characterised by contrast and variance, the experience elicits no one response, but many. And it’s quite a groove.

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Monotype Rec – MONOLP018 – 14th November 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

However broad one’s mind and tastes, there will inevitably be some artists who will baffle, bewilder and leave one somewhat dazed. Carp’s Head, a collaboration between Ghédalia Tazartès, Pawel Romanczuk, and Andrzej Zaleski is one of those releases. So much so, that my first reaction was one of borderline horror, a recoiling, an internal cry of ‘what the hell is this?’

‘Danse Inverse’ begins with a bleep. Minimal electro? Nope. A grizzled yet semi-operatic yellering starts up, almost simultaneous with a strolling bass, wonkily-played and a woozy accordion. Tazartès whoops and grunts, growls and emotes wildly like a drunken French opera singer impersonating Tom Waits, while the cacophonous musical backing veers and weaves all over. The weirdness only continues and as the album progresses, taking the listener on a bizarre journey around the globe and as observed through the eyes of three madmen. ‘You’ll Be Wise’ comes on like Scott Walker on acid, while the quietly crooning ‘Zither Song’ is sparse and eerily haunting in a mystical, dream-like way. ‘Orient Calling’ marks a continental shift in terms of the musical inspirations and influences, a droning sitar accompanies Tazartès’ yodelling ululations and low, chesty quaverings.

The album’s centrepiece is the nine-minute epic ‘Wolves and Birds’, a bleak and disorientating expanse of dark ambience. The wordless vocalisations convey a sense of lack, of absence, as they float, wailing and disembodied through the sonic wastelands. There’s plenty of weirdness on the other side of the bridge, too, with tweeting, trilling pipe notes and scratchy layers of sound by turns tickling and teasing the listener’s senses.

Jazz percussion breaks out unexpectedly at various points, bringing an odd and somewhat incongruous swing to proceedings. With its ‘Trout Mask’ connotations and overt otherness, Carp’s Head is many things: it is, in fact, remarkably focused and feels extremely cohesive in its order, less experimental and more built on musical intuition between the players. I’m not sure I recommend it, or if so, to whom, but there’s no question that it’s interesting or different.

 

Carps Head

Alrealon Musique – ALRN072 – 31st October 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

New York underground act The Strange Walls aren’t conformists or readily categorised: previous releases have been called shoegaze, darkwave, post punk, art punk, experimental, outsider. I’m not even sure what ‘outsider’ is supposed to sound like, but they’re big into their pseudonyms, thus cultivating an air of mystery around the band and their music. Emerging from an ever shifting lineup, core trio of the class of 2016, consisting of Jon V. Worthley, Dan Drogenous and Regna Yates, assisted by Jimmy Ayatollah and John Spreaders have whipped up something appropriately esoteric and wide-ranging for this release.

More significantly, …Won’t Last straddles many genres and yet subscribes wholly to none. A slow, ominous echoey bassline rent with shrieking, ghostly incidentals provide the musical backing to Regina’s vocal, which sings a vaguely familiar melody. But then it’s straight into a squalling lo-fi post-punk racket reminiscent of The Jesus and Mary Chain and A Place to Bury Strangers crossed with The Pop Group. It’s hard on the ears, and the contrast is almost schizophrenic. When an album’s tracks are as diverse as this, spanning psychedelia and folk and sometimes incorporating elements of at least two or three within a single song, it’s inevitable that some tracks will appeal more than others, and this is something which is wholly subjective. Yet the fact that there are some clear standout tracks is an objective observation, and the sequencing of the tracks accentuates this fact. The bleak electro sound of ‘In Time’ combines steely synths with a dash of dark pop sensibility which calls to mind early 80s Cure, and with its primitive, distant drum sound and reverb-soaked synth oscillations, ‘White’ lands somewhere between Cocteau Twins and Silver Apples, and these tracks inevitably sound stronger against the softer, less structured folky strummers. ‘Snow Day’ leans heavily on early New Order, while ‘Yawdons’ fulfils the criteria for obligatory droning experimental piece.

The ramshackle production equally works both for and against the album as a whole. Being better suited to some tracks than others, at times adding space and partially obscured sonic depths, at other simply sounding messy. The result, then, is an album that’s a bit hit and miss. Not bad, and in places brilliant, but a few tracks that will likely become skippers after a while.

 

The Strange Walls