Posts Tagged ‘electronic’

Monotreme Records

Christopher Nosnibor

I met my wife as she now is online back in 2000, before it was the done thing. Online dating didn’t exist, and we got chatting in Holechat, the band’s official online chatroom. We were both there because we had an appreciation of Hole, oddly enough. But Celebrity Skin has always been a point of division, in that it was my point of departure, with single ‘Malibu’ being a significant factor. To my ears, it was, and remains, the sound of selling out, and while pop is by no means is dirty word for me, it represented a slide into lazy, poppy commercial rock. From the band that brought us the snarling, spitting mess of noise that was ‘Teenage Whore’, this was the work of a band who’d completely lost their bite.

This is the personal context for my engagement with Stumbleine’s cover of ‘Malibu’, released as the second taster of the forthcoming album ‘Sink Into The Ether’, which promises ‘a deep submergence within a celestial upper region somewhere beyond the clouds’, and on this outing, ‘a lush ambient electro cover of Hole’s ‘Malibu’ featuring Elizabeth Heaton of Midas Fall on vocals’.

According to Stumbleine, ‘Hole’s ‘Malibu’ is the perfect balance of bittersweetness, a golden soundscape of serene melancholy. Tracks which illustrate that symmetry between light and dark are timeless to me, they mirror life with piercing clarity.’

That’s clearly a different perspective on the song from the one I have, and clearly informs this breathy, slow-unfurling drifter of a tune that bears negligible commonality with the original bar the lyrics. It’s slowed to a dripping mellowness that’s pleasant on the ear, but so prised apart and washed-out it’s bereft of chorus, hooks, or any other memorable moments. And in context, it’s nicely done, but it’s perhaps less of a cover than a reworking that’s 99% Stumbleine and 1% Hole. In this instance, that’s not such a bad thing.

Christopher Nosnibor

The Wonkystuff nights to date may have been a shade sporadic, but that’s what happens when the organisers have day-jobs and families, and more importantly, what they’ve lacked in regularity, they’ve more than compensated in quality, and that’s a major reason why there’s such a respectable turnout to a gig midweek, mid-January, in York. There’s also the warm, welcoming vibe: these nights may be musical showcases, but they’re also a coming together of an oddball community, where we’re all misfits together and it feels good and feels like home. Tonight’s lineup – as usual – demonstrates John Tuffen’s skill for bringing together acts who provide a satisfying balance of contrasting and complimentary.

It’s the Wonkystuff House Band – a collective rather than a fixed entity, tonight comprising Tuffen alongside Ash Sagar and Simon Higginbotham – who warm things up with a set consisting of permutational repetitions delivered by multiple vocals, delivered in a drab monotone over repetitive beats. Comparisons to Can, Cabaret Voltaire circa ‘Nag Nag Nag’, The Fall, Flying Lizards, Girls vs Boys, Young Marble Giants, and the more contemporary Moderate Rebels all make their way into my notes as I watch them crank out vintage synth and drum machine sounds. Cyclical bass motifs and whizzing diodes fill the air as they sit and twiddle knobs and read lyrics from clipboards and the historical leaps into the present for a while.

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Wonkystuff House Band

The start of TSR2’s set crackles and pops fireworks. The trio hunch over customised kit with wires all over to create warped undulations and machine gun fire beats that batter the speaker cones. The set builds into a dense, murky trudge. The second track, ‘What will be’ is more co-ordinated than the opener, and is solidly rhythmic, mechanoid and spacious, and metamorphosises into some kind of glam reimagining of Kraftwerk via DAF. Heavy echoes and tribal beats dominate the third track, and they very much find their groove at this point, at least for a spell, before the construction grows shaky despite solid foundations. Perhaps it’s the sheer ambition of layering up so much at once that’s difficult to keep together. Despite this, the discord and dissonance are part and parcel of an intriguing set.

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TSR2

Rovellasca takes the stage, quietly and understated and stands behind a bank of kit. So far, so standard. The set begins with deep, dark, rumblings, and very soon builds into something shatteringly immense. It’s dense. It’s loud, and fills the room like a thick, suffocating smog. The sound is thick, immersive. Time passes. Unexpectedly, elongated mid-range notes sound out and the underlying dense noise builds. I’m no longer listening: my entire body is enveloped. This is the effect of sonic force. Noise wall without the harsh. Burrs of static, pink and brown noise lurk in the immense billowing noise. The shifts are subtle, and gradual, but present over the course of the single, continuous half-hour piece. People start to become visibly uncomfortable after a time others vaguely bored. I’m loving it, and could listen all night. A slow fade to finish. The hush is deafening.

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Rovellasca

It’s a hard act to follow, but See Monstd – the new musical vehicle of radiofreemidwich’s Rob Hayler is an inspired choice, in that it represents something completely different that thus prevents any risk of comparison. There’s a lot going on here: the set starts with a sample, then breaks into what my notes describe as ‘wtf noise’. It subsequently settles into heavy harsh ambience, with dense, grating drones providing the body of sound, with swerves off trajectory for spells of audience participation, with a phone being passed around for members of the crowd to repeat lines from the sheets circulated prior to the set. This is one of those performances where you never know quite where it’s going to go, and is all the better for the element of unpredictability.

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See Monstd

And this, in a nutshell, is everything that’s great about the Wonkystuff nights.

After sharing the track ‘Dysfunctional Helper’ in late January, Joni Void – the avant-garde electronic project of Montréal-based composer Jean Cousin – is unveiling a second song entitled ‘Abusers’ from his forthcoming album Mise En Abyme. ‘Abusers’ highlights Cousin’s ability to craft gorgeously layered sonic collages, dextrously incorporating minimal percussive elements and melodic tones sampled from Ai Aso’s ‘Most Children Do’ with vocal contributions from fellow Montréal artist Sarah Pagé. Minute snippets of sound fit together in tight sequence, eventually giving way to stretched vocal arcs that remind us of the organic, deeply human instincts that root Cousin’s digital explorations.

Listen to ‘Abusers’ here:

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Joni Void

Rocket Recordings – 22nd February 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

Evolution – that’s perhaps the only word when considering Teeth Of The Sea. Their career is defined by it.

Their BandCamp biography gives some sense of context: ‘Since their formation in 2006, London-based Teeth Of The Sea have metamorphosized into the most adventurous psychedelic rock outfit in the UK. Taking on board influences like Morricone, Eno, Delia Derbyshire, Goblin, and the Butthole Surfers, they’ve arrived at an incendiary sound that marries the aural enlightenment of an avant-garde sensibility with the reckless abandon of trashy rock & roll.’

It was with Your Mercury that I joined the trip, sold instantly by ‘The Ambassador’ with its overloading noise intro, spiralling into a slow-paced desert rock weird out.

Each release has been different again, and so there’s nothing of that ilk to be found on Wraith, an album that’s slanted more toward the electronic end of the spectrum, although the guitars, while far from prominent, are very much integral to the texture and depth. But this being Teeth of the Sea, it’s a bit of everything all at once, and this is apparent from the very first track: ‘I’d Rather, Jack’ brings a sonorous bass and droning synth together over a thumping industrial disco beat with crashing snare that stutters and glitches all over, before jazz trumpet and a space-rock guitar fire off on different trajectories. It’s rare for such a maelstrom of ideas and forms to whip together into anything other than a horrible mess, but Teeth of the Sea manage to blend the ingredients into something far greater than the sum of the parts, the atmosphere shifting from oppressive to uplifting.

There’s some of the old Ennio Morricone vibe about the spaghetti western sunset guitar twang of ‘Hiraeth’, before snaking drums and twisted allusions to Asian musical motifs was in and out of expansive layers of brass on ‘Burn of the Shieling’.

There are hints of Tangerine Dream and expansive synthy electronica about compositions like the buoyant, spacey, retro-futurist ‘VISITOR’ and ‘Gladiators Ready’, which combines the tweeky, bleepy Roland sound that echoes Josh Wink’s remixed ‘Higher State of Consciousness’ with some gritty guitar noise off in the background. Equally, the forms belong equally to post-rock, and whereas peers Vessels have gone all-out techno and ditched any vestiges of their origins, TOTS succeed in creating the most dazzling hybrid, discarding nothing and instead assimilating an ever-widening range of elements into their work. There’s so much detail in every bar, from blurred, muttering voices buried in the mix to synth incidentals and shifting reverbs that it’s impossible to take it all in, and oftentimes, Wraith is an overwhelming experience.

The centrepiece of ‘Her Wraith’ and brief counterpart ‘Wraiths in the Wall’ explore more minimalist approaches, the forms vague and vaporous, as echoing piano notes hang in the air over mournful trumpet. Pulling back on the prominent beats and instead allowing ponderous strolling basslines to wander to the fore, they’re as intangible as the album’s title suggests.

An album this eclectic and uncategorizable rarely feels cohesive, but Wraith feels more like a psychotic mind-journey than an album. And it’s nothing short of epic.

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Teeth of the Sea - Wraith

Forking Paths – FP0015 – 5th October 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

The title has very personal origins for Evan Davies, the man who records under the Blank Nurse / No Light moniker. A sufferer of Pure OCD – a form of OCD which manifests with no external behaviours or rituals, with the compulsions being mental rather than physical – and depression, Davies spent his teenage years tormented by the fear of HIV infection.

HIV 1994 sees Davies confront and channel the experience creatively, using what the press release describes as ‘often-overwhelming mental health issues’ to create song which are ‘like exorcisms for emotions and memories’. The context suggests that this was never going to be an ‘easy’ album, and however deftly Davies combines his wide-ranging and, in the face of it, incongruous and incompatible influences, which span ambient and neoclassical, hardcore, black metal, noise, and house, the clashing contrasts would be awkward enough without the anguish behind the compositions themselves. And so it is that on HIV 1994, Blank Nurse / No Light hauls the listener through an intense personal hell.

‘Blood Fiction’ begins with a collage of voices and extraneous noise before lilting string glissandos and a soft bass steer toward a calmer, more structured path. It provides a recurring motif, but one frequently interrupted by passing traffic and low rumbling noises. And so gentle tranquillity and ruptures of disquiet are crunched into one another before ‘Mocking of the Ghost of Crybaby Cobain’ really ratchets up the intensity with unsettling collision of styles, with pounding industrial percussion and expansive electronica that’s almost dancey providing the backdrop to the most brutal screaming vocals. It actually sounds like an exorcism. Or Prurient with more beats.

And it only gets darker, more disturbed and more disturbing from here: the lyrics are unintelligible, guttural screams of pure pain, and the tunes mangled to fuck, glitchy, twitchy anti-rhythms hammer around behind quite mellow synth washes. ‘Flu Breather’ sounds more like a demon dying of plague in a nightclub conjured in a nightmare, or, perhaps more credibly, the outpouring of indescribable, soul-shredding anguish that cannot be articulated in any coherent fashion.

There are some straight-ahead, accessible moments amidst the cacophonous chaos: ‘Outside the Clinic is a Hungry Black Void of Nothingness’ is a brooding electro-pop piece with a real groove and a narrative of sorts, and calls to minds Xiu Xiu, while ‘No Ecstasy’ goes all Wax Trax!, coming on like late 80s Revolting Cocks . But these tracks are very much the exception, as the majority of the others twist, turn, break and collapse in on themselves. Redemption and light are crushed and swept way in a succession of disconnections and claustrophobic dead-ends. It’s deeply uncomfortable from beginning to end, and much of it sounds like opposing sonic forces at war – which probably makes this a successful work, providing a deep insight into the tortured mind of the artist.

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Blank Nurse

Panurus Productions – 19th November 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

What have we got there, then? It would appear to be a collaborative release from Drooping Finger and Möbius, utilising the former’s lo-fi minimal electronic drone as a setting for the latter’s looped wordless vocal textures.

I must admit that I’m unfamiliar with ‘Newcastle gloomlord’ Drooping Finger, but ‘melancholic vocal duo’ Möbius I am aware of. Their first collaborative work, imaginatively titled Drooping Finger & Möbius is pitched as combining their talents, and consists of their set at The Gosforth Hotel’s Sumner Suite and material recorded during a session at First Avenue Studios in Heaton.

And what does is give us? The BandCamp write-up tells us that ‘Guttural gurgles are embedded in glacial electronics whilst siren songs tumble overhead. The tones hover above the murk at times whilst disappearing into its eddies at others as the collaborative trio draw you into their bleak atmospherics’. And all of it’s true. Although mostly it’s the murk that dominates, with sounds and tonal ranges all but buried beneath a sonic smog.

The live side, (at least corresponding with the cassette release) containing one track simply entitled ‘Sumer Suite’ is first, and is 26 minutes of dark ambient rumblings and janglings and mid-range drones, punctuated at first by stuttering, echoic beats, a shifting soundscape of disquiet. Ominous hums and swells of distant thunder provide the backdrop to disembodied, angelic voices low in the mix and veering between euphoric grace and the anguish of entrapment. Sonorous low-end booms out like a warning signal and cuts through the rising cacophony. But this is not a linear composition, there is no obvious trajectory: instead, the objective is the creation of atmosphere, and while it does naturally ebb and flow, peak and trough, the sustenance of tension is the priority here. Amidst slow crashes and waves of darkness emerge… nothing but nerve-tingling tensions, and even as the piece faded to silence, its hard to settle completely.

The studio side – again, consisting of a single track called ‘Stung’ which spans a full half an hour – provides more of the same, and with similar sonic fidelity at least on my speakers. Heaving drones like distant passing motorcycles drift in and out of range. Ghostly voices drift around nerve-chewing mid-range drones that shimmer and churn like foam on sand. On and on. Again, it doesn’t go anywhere, but that it’s the intention: it funnels and eddies to immersive effect. The tension builds not by any increments within the music, but by accumulation.

It’s a lights off, candle lit, eyes closed type of album, whereby there are no dominant features, and barely any features at all. In context, features are surplus to requirement: Drooping Finger & Möbius makes its presence known subtly, indirectly, creeping under the skin and weaving its dark magic subliminally.

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Drooping Finger   Mobius

Acte – Acte 002

Christopher Nosnibor

The press release provides previous little detail about the release, or the artist, beyond a brief summary of his broad interdisciplinary pursuits which include dance, theatre, live electronics improvisations and audiovisual performances and installations. It’s quite an expansion on his biography last time I encountered his work, back in 2011, when he simply described himself as a ‘sound artist’. That was when he released the ambient-orientated exploration usure.paysage.

Transfert/Futur is a long way from ambient. Heavy on the synths, it’s a beaty work that packs some considerable attack amidst the airy pulses and breezy blossoms of effervescence. It contains two tracks, the first of which, ‘transfert (299 792 458 m/s)’ is the audio element of a touring sound/light installation from 2017. On CD, it’s simply sound without the light, and clearly, the interactive and multisensory aspect of the project is nowhere near fully represented. Nevertheless, musically, it works. Over the course of some eighteen minutes, Bernier builds the atmosphere but above all, builds the beats. Scratchy, stuttering, synthetic, exploding in all directions, the rhythms pop and thrum, marching surges halting abruptly to change direction before powering forwards once more embarking on a propellant trajectory. The surround synths glide, pop and bubble, but mostly click and bleep and elongate, morphing and stretching longways, occasionally plunging into expansive, oceanic depths and venturing into eerie subaquatic territories. With so many false starts, false ends, twists, turns and unpredictable stammers, it’s anything but linear.

The second composition, ‘synthèse (299 792 458 m/s)’ has no such obvious context attached, but again is centred around warping synths and woozy bass tones wrapped around bold beats. Over the course of twelve minutes, it swerves from oblique bleeps and minimalist electronic squiggles and arabesques, via slow-building crescendos, to passages approximating straight-ahead dance music that you can actually get down to. As the track progresses, its form gradually dissolves. The soundscape is increasingly rent with bleeps and whispers and tranquillity always gives way to tension after a few uncountable bars. Microbeats and circuit spasms come to dominate the swell of hyperenergetic electrodes in synaptic collapse. Finally, nothing is left but a quivering whistle which slowly decays to nothing.

What does it all mean? Probably precious little. Transfert / Futur is about the journey, and the algorithms, rather than the meaning. It’s not a journey that traverses from A to B, but burrows its way into its own unique space.

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Nicolas Bernier