Posts Tagged ‘electronica’

Room40 – DRM475 – 24th July 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

In one of a brace of releases on Lawrence English’s Room 40 label in July, Australian minimalist Todd Anderson-Kunert presents a selection of Moog synthesiser compositions, which we learn are ‘exercises in intimacy, restraint and unerring patience. Past Walls And Windows plays with how sound emerges and decays. It is an edition that celebrates the ephemeral nature of the medium and the way sound’s immateriality invites a constant sensing and seeking on behalf of those that encounter it’.

These are indeed minimal works, so sparse at times as to be barely audible, and they’re a long way from presenting any sounds conventionally associated with the vintage Moog. Instead of jangly, trilling tones, Anderson-Kunert teases hovering single notes that evoke a sombre, even funeral atmosphere for the most part. There are flittering oscillaations and low, diminishing drones, and they make up much of the fabric of this set, comprising six pieces, most of which sit over the five-minute mark.

It’s quiet and delicate: ‘Better Left’ begins with distant grumbles of thunder, before low ominous notes drone in and halt abruptly, while ‘An Echo’ brings slow pulsations and haunting drones like a trilling church organ ringing out dolorous notes in a sepulchral setting. It’s gloomy, and it’s ambient in the background sense, yet it has the capacity to send the listener inside themselves on a contemplative course.

It’s no criticism to remark that there isn’t a lot to say: this is an album that requires not commentary, but peace, and time: to be listened to without interruption or distraction, and ideally in semi-darkness. It isn’t an album that really raises questions, and it doesn’t offer answers: it simply is. An as a sonic vehicle for contemplation and tranquillity, it’s ideal.

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Christopher Nosnibor

Pierre Massé, the man behind the Paramestre project, threatens ‘Electronic-ish music with human vocals, guitars (played by a human), and far too many effects (along with a healthy dose of digital manipulation)’. It’s an intriguing proposition, and is it even possible to have too many effects, at least when used well?

As Massé explains in the liner notes, ‘As stated by the opening track, it is nothing “perfect”; there are artefacts from tortured source material, there is noise, there are glitches from randomized effects processing, and there is no pitch correction. But there is also warmth, groove, melancholy, and hope. I hope you find something that speaks to you amidst it all.’

This is, to my mind, a succinct summary of why any artist creates; in the hope of there being a shred of commonality with the receiver in the work. But, at the same time, creating not with the audience at the forefront of the creative process. This, ultimately, is what differentiates art from entertainment. The latter is primarily commercial, designed for the (perceived) audience. Art exists for its own sake, and any audience it attracts finds it.

Rippling post-rock guitars with an almost Spanish vibe cascade softly over a dislocated beat that bumps and bounces and flickers on the aforementioned opening track, providing a supple, mellow backdrop to Pierre’s dreamy, soulful vocals, and it’s a smooth, Gallic air that permeates the lilting synth pop of ‘Elle’. It’s pleasant, but it’s not an instant grab by any means, and much of Conditions Initiales feels in some ways exploratory, tentative. It isn’t that the songs themselves feel incomplete, because they certain don’t: it’s more that one feels Massé is still working towards a sound that is one he’s entirely comfortable with, that translates his sonic ambition into the final recorded output.

‘Conceal/Reveal’ goes a shade darker, but it’s the subdued waltz of the seven-minute ‘Madeleines’, with its echoing sampled background conversation that creates a subtle but clear level of juxtaposition, that really draws the listener in, in search of its evasive heart amongst the layers.

And it’s when Massé goes still darker and brings thudding beats to the fore that Conditions Initiales really becomes interesting: ‘Carry’ and closer, ‘Endless’ are both sparse but feature more prominent percussion, the latter worthy of favourable comparisons to Depeche Mode.

Understated as it is, Conditions Initiales contains no shortage of detail, and it’s an intriguing debut that hints at even better to come.

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MUZAI Records – 12th June 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Theo Gowans, aka Territorial Gobbing, is a frenzy of wild creativity at the best of times. Not only are his frequent live performances bewildering displays of manic energy and cacophonous noise, but his recorded output is less a constant stream than a relentless spate. He’s still doing posters and virtual gigs, but with no actual gigs to promote or do sound for, he’s seemingly got time on his hands which he’s filling with the production of even more intense noise than ever, and this collaboration with Newcastle artist Plastiglomerate is exemplary.

Packing five cuts of swirling sonic soup, a chaotic collage of samples, rolling tones and extraneous blasts of noise, it’s all churning like mad in kaleidoscopic postmodern blender. The first track, ‘Crocodile Mayonnaise’ chucks everything in up front, with clanking chimes and rattling cutlery and electronic foam and twanging elastic and just a completely brain-bending blizzard of random shit, and some extreme stereo panning only makes it more nausea-inducing.

It doesn’t get any easier or more accessible thereafter, with the ten-minute ‘Government Gloves’ being an utterly head-shredding stuttering blast of noise that surges and splurges so hard and so fast as to cause whiplash. The question is, of course, is it really 10 minutes and 43 seconds long, or is it 643 seconds long? Or do we count left and right channels separately, making it 1,286 seconds long? Or should we also include the tracks either side, or the soundchecks and outtakes in that statistic? Should we amplify it by the frequency range? I have no answers. I have no thoughts. I have too many thoughts, all of them conflicting, none of them coherent. In that context, The Internet Made Me Parkour is a perfect soundtrack.

Lockdown – and moreover, the circumstances surrounding it, and the (mis)management of information in an already difficult situation – is enough to drive anyone round the bend. These guys were already several corners further on than many, and this weird, whacky wig-out is perhaps as sane as response to life as it is right now as any: certainly, ‘Total Lobby’ is total nonsense, but makes perfect sense if you’re looking to purge your brain of everything else, and the obliterative blast of white noise that is the final track, ‘A Generous Fly on that Mascot’s Outfit’ is cleansing: it’s impossible to consider anything while the inside if your cranium is being scoured by such abrasion. No-one knows what the fuck is going on: every message is scrambled, and you can’t trust anything – certainly not your government, and probably not even your instincts. But you can trust these guys to make a crazy racket. And we love them for it.

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1st May 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

For some years now, I’ve followed Gintas K’s career with interest, for the simple fact that his work is, well, interesting, not to mention varied. This latest release is quite different from anything previous: a 7” single containing the audio, this is ostensibly a multimedia work, which finds the record packaged with a magazine, and was produced in collaboration with Visvaldas Morkevičius as an independent publishing project.

Morkevičius is a Lithuanian photographer, and the print aspect of the release comprises a series of photographs, which are the result of the artist’s visual anthropology research. K’s contribution is that of a soundtrack, as the accompanying blurb explains: ‘7” vinyl performance was made by Gintas K during the process of Visvaldas Morkevicius photographing and was added to Portraitzine as to fulfill the atmosphere in which photographs was made.’

It may be that the audio works better with the visuals, in that it fills out the understanding of both the listener and the watcher, but as a standalone work, Gintas’ two untitled works function successfully in their own right.

The sounds on side A – ‘Cut Piece’ are spare, strange, squelchy, bloopy, gloopy, fractal, disjointed, whistling, bleepy, hyperdigital. There are immense spaces between the sounds, meaning that when thumps, thuds and bangs arrive, they do with maximum impact: more than one I found myself physically jolting n my seat, having been lulled by a digital babble and spells of near-silence.

Side B, featuring the shorter ‘Uncut piece’ is mega-minimal: drips and blips punctuate three-and-a-half minutes of not a lot. And yet that not-a-lot is important: it focuses the attention, and reattenuates the listener’s attention on sound and the spaces in between. It slips and fades to nothing.

I find myself staring into space, barely aware that the ‘music’ has ended. If the ‘music’ ever really began. It’s hard to feel any real emotional or psychological connection with these snippets. But that is not their function. And ultimately, it works, and that’s the objective here.

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Christopher Nosnibor

Much as I think the live stream shows that have become a thing during lockdown are a great way for bands to stay connected with their fans when tours have been cancelled, and artists and fans alike are frustrated and apart, I’ve struggled to get into them as an experience.

Discussing this with a gig-mate, I explained that I’d tried a few guitar bands doing streams from bedrooms , and found the experience of just one or two band members doing acoustic stuff and chatting a fair bit in between may create a certain sense of an intimate setting, but lacks the multisensory aspects, as well as the impact of music at gig volume.

‘I did do a couple early on’, my friend replied, adding ‘It’s not really what I want. I want to go to a gig.’

It struck me that that was it, in a nutshell. A stream is not a gig. TV, radio, YouTube, a live album… is not a gig. It’s like arguing that a Kindle is like a book. It may well be, but it isn’t, and the things it lacks are the reason it will never be a convincing or authentic sensory substitute. When it comes to live music, the cliché ‘you had to be there’ is ineffable. Yes. You do actually have to be there.

Nevertheless, with friends whose music I’m into on tonight’s lineup, I decided to invest a little more in recreating the live experience, starting with a pre-gig pint, which I texted pictures of to various people. Being a warm night, I didn’t put the heating up, but I did draw the blind and shut the door to my office, and put the display full screen (The streaming chat is irritating and detracts from both the music and the visuals, however sparse) and cranked the speakers up, and sat back to witness low rumblings and slow-decaying chimes that marked the start of Möbius’ set. The visuals consist of a dark background and shining points of yellow-white light. Wordless dual vocals ring out and resonate against one another, generating a subtle power, somewhere between Gregorian chanting and Jarboe at her most ethereal. The drones grow denser, louder, the effect of a single note sustained for an eternity increases as time passes: my body hums at the same frequency for a time, before the resonant echoes are gradually swallowed in a swell of distortion. Chances are, if played at the same volume, a recording would have the same effect, but it’s an immersive set nevertheless.

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Möbius

Between-acts, there’s some obscure noise mix streaming, and Plan Pony is up next, blasting out speaker-mangling low-end distortion. If the noise is impressive, it’s matched by polarised visuals. Manipulating blasts of harsh guitar sampled in real-time and thrashed through an immense table fill of effects, the output is a sonic blitzkrieg. The quiet passages don’t translate quite as well, partly because my neighbour’s got a mate round and they’ve got the radio on in her back yard, but some snarled-up samples and snippets of music emerge from the grumbling electronics as he twiddles knobs, before long building again to a shattering wall of harsh noise.

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Plan Pony

Zad Kokar takes things to next-level wtf, with bewilderingly nightmarish visuals that ae probably best described as max Headroom on acid, accompanying a blizzard of audio mashup that’s like early Prodigy in collision with early cabaret Voltaire. Both on acid. Diverting from the in-yer-face mental shit, we’ve got Clean Wipe, a guy in shorts stroking a doorframe while tweaking knobs on effects pedals at a circular kitchen table while the background changes colour constantly. It takes me an age to realise there must be contact mics on the door frame, and I can’t decide if I need more beer or I’ve had too much already.

It’s been a strong start, and TCH, on at number 4, take the mood and volume down a bit, but in a good way. The noise is dark and dingy, and reflects the setting in which we see a hooded figured tweaking minimal kit in a small, mildew-stained room. It’s more like watching a documentary on heroin withdrawal than a musical performance.

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TCH

I clock 61 viewers, which is probably about the capacity of CHUNK, and the nights thy host are usually BYOB, so cracking a can of ALDI’s The Hop Stepper that I fetched from downstairs between acts seems consistent with being there.

Petrine Cross is Esmé of Penance Stare doing one-woman black metal at a million decibels. The set’s an ear-shattering mess of noise and distortion and visually, it’s stark, dark and black and white. The sound is overloaded, borderline unlistenable, but that’s likely intentional, and it’s clear some effort’s gone into this. Each song has its title on-screen at the start, there’s a plug for a charity compilation (again, on-screen text means no need for awkward chat) and songs are intercut with footage of the cat. It’s belting. And her room as some nice cornice work.

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Petrine Cross

It’s a distorted dictaphone tape recording – a fractured ranted monologue about life in isolation under lockdown – that provides the material for Duncan Harrison’s set. It captures the mental tension of the moment so well, it’s uncomfortable listening. It’s followed by Energy Destroyer’s barrage of noise accompanied by video footage of him swinging either nunchucks or lengths of rubber in his back garden, and it’s the bodywarmer that makes it.

It’s disorientating watching the back of a performer’s head as they play and seeing them again on the PC monitor before them, with the whole scene framed by leaves and soundtracked by birdsong and incidental rumblings. But this is what we get from Garden Magik, whose set evolves gradually into a digital storm. At some point in the gale-force distortion, I realise my mind isn’t entirely on the set, but then, in a live setting, I would have likely enjoyed the sonic experience but found my mind wandering to maters of work and other stuff – and that’s no criticism. Under lockdown, in my office, it’s even easier to become distracted by text messages and FaceBook.

Content’s ‘If Hard Work Pay Show Me Rich Donkey’ leaps out as a feature of the between-act PA tunage before Sadistic Statistic, who give us more garden footage and a full-on Merzbow blast of obliterative sonic carnage. The images of cats are unrepresentative: the melting digitisations less so: at times, it sounds like it looks: brain-shredding, difficult, and impossible to pin down. Harsh is the new norm here: this is one of those sets that leaves you feeling utterly wrung out by the time the last sparking crackle fades.

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Sadistic Statistic

Stuart Chalmers takes us on a mesmerising tour of a cave, before Otherworld bring gloopy, cracking electronics accompanied by swirling pixelated patterns that aren’t exactly easy on the retinas. It’s low-level noise that’s centred around slow-, hypnotic pulsations. It’s pitch-black in the room now bar the screen and I’m staring fixedly at the shifting shapes as the sound ripple around me, and the experience is quite gig-like until Mrs N returns an extension lead, which isn’t quite the same as being handed a final pint before the train.

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Otherworld

In terms of lineup and performances, this was a hell of a night. It would, unquestionably, have been infinitely better to have witnessed it in person, surrounded by other people also witnessing it in person: atmosphere is interaction, but also an unspoken feeling that passes between people in a room. Virtual claps posted on a chat stream simply cannot replace real time reactions. But, while it’s the best we’ve got, it’ll have to do. What I took from tonight is that some genres seems better equipped to operate differently, and experimental electronic odd shit, with its propensity for visuals and playing in darkness, seems to have less work to do to adapt than conventional rock formats, making this the closest to the live experience I’ve yet witnessed. And yes, I had a blast. And made it home with no problems, too.

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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farmersmanual – 17th April 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

‘Tissy solves for x, called tsx by friends, is the youngest avatar used by Oswald Berthold of farmersmanual, CD_slopper and pxp. Despite so many pseudonyms already available it became necessary once more to spawn a new ID because simply better fit.’ So begins the press release for recur² by tsx. I don’t even know what the fuck that means, and I haven’t even hit ‘play’ yet.

The press blurb informs us that ‘recur² is tsx’s third release since the debut recur published 2017 in the Trust label’s e-series – recur² is nine tracks sparkling and brut, four of them iced with as-usual awesome vocals by Sue Tompkins taken through farmersmanual’s autovoice tool – finished off by an amazing hi-speed hi-res video for the featured instrumental ’shallow miswant no rid’’. I’m still little the wiser.

The majority of this album’s nine tracks consists of clanking, bleeping, blooping sythniness and shuffling, melting beats that mine deep grooves that warp and weft, pinning themselves to a small space and focusing on the tonal and the textural over linearity or progression. The result is somewhat claustrophobic, even frustrating – or maybe I’m just projecting. I may not have been on the level of lockdown that prevents me leaving the house to exercise or to acquire foodstuffs, but frustration and claustrophobia and a sense of stasis have seeped into every corner of my life at the time of writing, and it’s bound to colour my perception, especially when presented with a musical suite like this, which presents a combination of depersonalised electronic instrumentation and veritable gibberish that speaks to the incoherent internal dialogue of imprisonment.

The pieces, with their impenetrable and oftentimes nonsensical titles, are all short, almost fragmentary, the majority spanning two to three minutes ‘uouh’ is the first of four which feature Sue Tompkins’ vocals, here manifesting as a sort of cracked, witchy drawl which, given its organic feel, sits at odds with the crisp digital tones. ‘Been Fly Void’ ripples digital abstractions, pulsations and undulations that stop, start, and stutter haltingly while Tompkins’ breathy vocal croon contrasts on an other-worldly level.

It’s hard to know precisely what to make of this under any circumstance, but in the context of a world gone mad, it probably makes more sense than perhaps it otherwise would.

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Base Materialism – 12th January 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Nothing says ‘niche’ and ‘underground’ more than a limited edition of 17 copies. Pitched as a work of ‘radical ideology for fans of Crass, Pet Shop Boys and Nitzer Ebb from the rotten half of Normal Man’, this six-tracker is a gnarly mess of electronics, popping beats and a disorientating sonic swirl.

It’s an aggressive spluttering nailgun blast of percussion that assaults the ears first on ‘Permanent Contract’. There’s a bumping bass beat beneath it, but it’s the clusterfuck of cranium-splitting treble that dominates. The vocals veer between Sprechgesang and wavering atonal singing as layers of extraneous noise build and passages of warped discordance provide the breaks, before everything slides into a buzzing whorl of flange.

‘If Hard Work Pay Show Me Rich Donkey’ is more minimal, an ominous multitonal drone providing the primary backdrop to the repetition of the title for two minutes and twenty-one seconds. ‘No Big Idea’ and ‘Nu Cringe’ grind out gritty, primitive synths geared toward the lower end of the sonic spectrum over insistent bash-bash-bash electronic percussion, and ‘What You Want’ doesn’t exactly deviate too much from the same formula. ‘You’re Stupid and So Am I’ presents a more overtly punk sound – although it’s punk with the mechanoid twist of Metal Urbain or Dr Mix.

The production is ultra DIY, the audio quality is murky and clangs with swampy reverb, and Content very much channel the spirit – and the sound – of Throbbing Gristle here. Lyrically, when decipherable, they’re keen exponents of the three Rs – repetition, repetition, repetition, and the ethos and aesthetic is very much in line with that of post punk and the origins of industrial, with slogans and soundbites welded to cyclical motifs.

Combining vintage sounds with contemporary politics, it’s not necessarily ‘clever’, but it’s uncompromising and highly effective, and gets my vote.

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Christopher Nosnibor

It’s all about the work / life balance, right? That’s what I tell myself, and my colleagues, an anyone who will listen. The truth of maintaining a work/life balance often – at least in my experience – means killing yourself to meaningfully fulfil the life element. Because life isn’t about resting, it’s about doing the things that matter, pursuing your passion, not binging on Netflix. That isn’t life, that’s hiding from work, finding a mental space in which to escape and decompress. But no-one ever lay on their deathbed saying ‘I wish I’d watched more TV’. I haven’t watched a single episode of ‘Love Island’, ‘The Voice’ or ‘X Factor’ and am fairly confident my life isn’t in any way deficient because of it. Being a writer is more than tapping out a few jolly lines while sitting on the sofa watching a nice rom-com with the wife after the kids have serenely taken themselves to bed straight after dinner, and being in a gigging band, however infrequently you may gig, takes some serious effort, especially in addition to full-time dayjob and family commitments and all the rest.

And so I disembarked in York, where I live, after a two-day work trip to Norwich, and seven minutes later was on a train to Leeds. Some people are accustomed or otherwise adjust readily to travel: I’m not among them. People laugh at me when I use the term ‘train-lagged’, especially when in the context of a day-trip to Sheffield from York, but believe me, I feel it on a molecular level or something.

Another thing I’ve discovered recently is that reviewing and performing are very different disciplines, more so even than leading a meeting and taking minutes – which is pretty much what I’m attempting here.

Performing requires beer, and I had a couple on the train, and a couple more while grabbing some food and plotting a vague strategy for mayhem before going to set up. Unusually, we had a proper soundcheck, although I hate vocal soundchecks. As long as things work, I’m more concerned about volume and tonal impact than mix, given that what happens during the performance rarely resembles the soundcheck anyway, and the while white noise and shouting only works at speaker-shredding, tinnitus-inducing volume. You don’t need to hear the words, you just need to feel the force, ad anything less than freight-train impact falls short. We made noise. We nodded, retreated to the back with more beer.

The Truth About Frank’s set started unusually gently, with an ambience that wasn’t even particularly dark, before murk and muffled samples edge in. Before you know it, the PA is blaring a surging swell of beats and a wash of noise, oscillating washes of discoordinated sound layers meld with off-kilter techno. This is one of TTAF’s more structured-sounding sets, and it builds well and culminates in a fragmented flurry of fractured noise.

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The Truth About Frank

…(something) ruined crash-landed by happy accident, and once again, in the squall of brutal noise, I ruined myself. This simply seems to be how it is. This was probably our strongest and most brutal, tinnitus-inducing set yet. I told the sound guy during soundcheck that I wasn’t fussed if my vocals got buried in the barrage of noise, and unlike some, he respected that. There are fantastic audio and video recordings of the set: I’m barely audible for large portions, but Paul Tone is on absolute A1 peak form for brutal electronic noise, and the volume, it would seem, was pretty much excruciating. So I’m happy.

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…(something) ruined

My sketchy notes state that Black Alert play Tangerine Dreamy Krautrock with samples. It’s an evolutionary electro set that’s heavy on vintage synth and drum sounds, with the drums pumped up in the mix. It’s a nice contrast, and the emphasis on melody is welcome at this point in the evening.

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Black Alert

And then there’s Un Sacapuntas. The solo noise project of Alice Nancy, this performance – and it’s all about the performance – is something else. There’s a reason I prefer to play early, an acts like this are all the reasons why: you wouldn’t want to follow this. Alice is mesmerising and intense as she fastens a contact mic to her throat while unlacing her shoes. What follows is an intense and hypnotic show, both sonically and visually: burrs of treble and shrieks of feedback break through a dank rumble while she shrieks unintelligibly and wafts around the stage, a ghostly presence.

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Un Sacapuntas

It’s a superb end to a great night which is exemplary of the Hogwash experience: Dave Procter’s curation is both considered and intuitive, bringing together a road range of unusual non-rock acts from near and far. With a respectable and enthusiastic audience, Leeds underground scene is very much kicking.

Mille Plateaux – 6th February 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Motus is one of those albums that spreads eight pieces across four sides of vinyl. Most of these pieces are around seven minutes in duration, and manifest as grumbling, low-end analogue electronic instrumentals. Indulgent? Depends on your position, maybe. Audiophile quality? Vinyl addiction? While the pieces which make up Motus don’t immediately intimate a need for attention to detail and there’s no scope for the listener to bask in hearing the rich production values optimally through the medium of vinyl, the frequencies and tones that Köner explores probably do benefit from that full-spectrum vinyl sound, the audio uncompressed and benefitting from the full dynamic range, particularly those low-end sounds, some of which are so low as to almost disappear beneath the average listener’s hearing range.

Motus is steeped in theory, which is fitting given its release on Mille Plateaux, which takes t name – and also its ideologies from radical theorists Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, after whose 1980 text Achim Szepanski’s Frankfurt label devoted to minimal techno, glitch, and other various other experimental electronic forms takes its name.

Köner says of the album that ‘Motus is more (to me) than just music made with analogue synthesizers, it is about attitude, a way of relating to sound and the (e)motion it affects. A lifestyle, where movement, being moved and moving become one. My practice is vibrational, about the skin, touch and surfaces and the gaseous medium in between.

Vibrational it is: these pieces tremble and quiver and grate and grind and shudder and shake and judder and growl.

The first piece, ‘EXTENSION (Attack)’ is a low, glutinous throb, a gelatinous bellyache of a pulsation, rent with crackling, grating treble spurs that scrape at the walls of the cerebellum and scratch the lining of the gut. It’s unsettling, and marks the start of the album’s trajectory, which is unexpectedly linear, and follows a slow descent towards sluggish sludge that’s barely a muddy bubble by the end.

Along the way, ‘SUBSTRATE (Binaural)’ is a low, oscillating throb that expands and resonates over seven brain-bending minutes: there’s something about the more subtle of variations having the most torturous effect, especially when there’s a metronomic pulsing beat lurking beneath, while ‘OSCILLATOR (Luminous)’ reduces everything to an ambulating low-end slip and slide, a muddy melt of trudging bumps. The final cut, ‘SYNTHESIS (Carnal)’, takes things lower and slower still, to the point of near subliminality, slowly winding and grinding into the ground.

Motus is an odd one, an album that undermines itself as it evolves, reducing itself to a lesser sonic amount with each piece. And yet, as the sounds shrinks to little more than a gloopy brown puddle, the effect grows.

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