Posts Tagged ‘EP Review’

Loyal Blood Records – 9th December 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

When the shit builds to a tsunami, your laptop’s fucked and all you want to do is curl into a ball and forget absolutely everything, noise is the answer. It’s not a cry for help or even a public moan as such, but sometimes it all gets a bit much. The little thing accumulate to the point where they’re a big thing. You feel weak for letting it escalate like that, but it’s sudden. One minute, everything is ok, and ticking along nicely, the next, you’re suddenly overwhelmed.

Having recently experienced a mammoth rush of excitement on discovering Mammock, I’m buzzing all over again having been introduced to another bunch of noisy fucks, namely Hammock. These guys really aren’t into slouching about, and their debut is tense, wired, and packs some furious energy.

The press release tells me that ‘They sound pissed, frustrated and rebellious, and play their instruments with a nasty intensity and nihilistic ferocity. Imagine a mix of Unsane, Chat Pile and Pissed Jeans and you’ll get a pretty good idea of how these youngsters sound like.’ Obviously, I’m sold before I hear a note, and have to say it’s a fair summary of their seven-song set (although the first and last, ‘Intro’ and ‘outro’ respectively are what their titles imply, bookending five back-to-back blasts of riotous racket, all of which clock in between two and a quarter and a fraction over three minutes. They really do keep it tight and punchy, and pack a lot of abrasive noise into those short sharp adrenaline shots.

The vocals are distorted, shouted, gritty, and are pithed against guitars that crash in from all angles – hefty slabs and thick chunks of distortion collide against scribbly, scratchy runs of broken math-rock noodles, while the bass snarls around and booms darkly and the drums roll like thunder, as exemplified on lead single ‘J.D.F.’

It’s jarring, fast-paced, and buzzes and roars, and it’s not just noise – there are some smart bits and pieces all bouncing about in the mix, often happening all at once. It is, at times, bewildering, but above all, it’s awe-inspiring.

There’s a moment around forty-five seconds into ‘Contrapoint’ where the bass and guitars both kick into a monster riff and it punches you right between the eyes as a ‘fucking yesssss!!’ moment that absolutely seals the EP as a bona fide belter.

AA

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12th December 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

The eponymous debut EP by South Carolina indie pop-rock duo The Yets is steeped in the tropes of quintessential vintage alternative pop, absorbing a range of influences, while keeping a clear eye on classic and ultimately accessible forms – embracing Fleetwood Mac and Cocteau Twins in equal measure, as the press release suggests with remarkable accuracy.

Robin Wilson has a superb voice, delicate, emotive, easy on the ear, and at the same time rich and gutsy. It’s key to the sound of The Yets, and the six songs on this debut EP really showcase both her versatility and that of their songwriting.

There’s a weird booming sound – not quite a beat, not quite a bass note – that cuts through the mellow drift of ‘Waterline’, and it’s one of those things that once you’re attuned to it, you can’t detune, like the duck in Whigfield’s ‘Saturday Night’ or the cowbell on ‘Don’t Fear the Reaper’, but if you can ignore it, it’s a superbly-executed song with a clean guitar chug that keep it moving along nicely while the lead guitar chimes and washes melodically.

‘Remember’ is perfection, a layered, easy alt-rock tune that’s Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Dreams’ and it floats along in a dreamy drift that closes out with a delicate guitar solo.

They strip things right back for ‘Lesser Evil’, which swings between brooding indie and moody post-punk with hints of Siouxsie, before spinning into ethereal shoegaze territory on the dreamy ‘Letter to a Boy’, which really does find the band revelling in the misty ethereal shadows of Cocteau Twins.

‘Fades to Grey’ makes an obvious reference to Visage, and the band’s 80s leanings are on clear display, but that’s where the connection severs: this is a smooth, atmospheric rippling piece with chiming, echo-heavy guitar that owes much to Disintegration-era Cure, and ‘Happy Now’ builds on that thickly atmospheric sound with a loping rhythm and layers of vocals that really fill out the sound as the guitars and it’s the most overtly goth song of the set.

With a broad pallet of tuneful wistfulness and textured, layered instrumentation, coupled with some smart and sensitive production, The Yets have landed with a seriously accomplished debut: there’s a lot happening here, and there’s a significant range but at the same time a cohesive feel to it.

AA

The Yets 4 - photo by Gordon Backman

Photo: Gordon Backman

25th November 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

What we all need is a jolt, a shock. Right NOW. You may not even realise it, but consider this: while life and the world seems to be swirling in a vortex of addling bewilderment, a lot of music seems to have become incredibly safe, a retreat. I’m not even talking about that slick, mass-produced mainstream fodder: even so-called ‘alternative’ rock has become increasingly safe in recent years, in the post-emo, post Foos world. And while a few acts on the peripheries are smashing all genre conventions with sledgehammers, they’re pretty niche, and what the world needs is something that can really get into the mix and shake things up. Has anything turned the world even halfway on its head singe grunge?

I’m aware that even reminiscing about grunge places my voice in a time capsule and in the ‘old bugger’ demographic for many, but has anything really been even remotely as evolutionary since? Has there ever been a seismic event since? We talk – or talked – about the zeitgeist, but what is the zeitgeist at the flaccid tail-end of 2022? Disaffection, discontent, strikes? Maybe, but what’s the soundtrack? Ed Sheeran and the new Adele album sure as hell aren’t the voice of disaffected youth.

Brighton’s ‘rising alt-rock rebels’ Fighting Colours might not be the face of the revolution, but they are the band to deliver that much-needed shakeup.

The vibe around the opening of the first of the EP’s four tracks, ‘Your Choice Now’ is a bit post-rock, with a nice, clean, chiming guitar sound – but it yields to some beefy riffage that’s pure grunge, it’s clear from the outset that they’re keen to mix things up and create their own blend, and it’s one that works well. And then Jasmine Ardley’s vocals enter the mix, and with this kind of chunky alt-rock being so male-orientated, to hear a female voice is unusual – and while Ardley has a clean vocal sound, it’s not unduly poppy.

‘The Boat Starts to Shake’ shuffled closer towards the jazzier, noodling end of the post-rock sound that was ubiquitous circa 2004, but the mathy verses contrast with massive slugging grunged-out choruses and a climax that’s nearly nu-metal and beings some hefty noise.

‘The Cure’ is different again, venturing into almost urban territory, while still anchored in jazzy math rock elements, before rupturing into a bold chorus that’s in between Evanescence and Halestorm, both gutsy and melodic and with an ‘epic’ feel, and it’s delivered with style.

The final cut of the EP plays the slower, emotion-filled arena anthem card, but still has more than enough guts and a keen melody, not least of all thanks to Jasmine’s voice, to separate it from the countless Paramore-wannabe alt rock acts out there.

It all stacks up for a strong set with a lot of bold and exhilarating rock action. It’s the kick up the arse alt-rock needs.

AA

Fighting Colours - Wishing Well - EP artwork (Gypsy Rose Design)

23rd September 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

Perhaps it’s that media has a numbing effect, or perhaps it’s simply that however strong the quality of the reportage, it can never truly convey the details in a way that are relatable. I’ve spent the best part of the last year seeing footage or the War in Ukraine and seeing and reasoning about the humanitarian crisis, and, like most people, it’s been quite overwhelming. And yet, ultimately, it’s just more TV, more news media online, on the radio.

I receive missives from around the globe, most containing new music for my ears, and this week, the arrival of Nefas EP by Sora, an offshoot of Kadaitcha piqued my interest with the offer of instrumental southern Ukrainian jazzcore.

Sure, I’m up for a challenge, and hell it’s definitely that. But if the music is a challenge – and if you look up ‘challenge’ in the dictionary, you’ll find it starts playing this EP – the backdrop to its release is even harder to process, with the context of its having been recorded and released shortly before its makers fled Ukraine and decamped to Estonia for their survival, leaving their musical equipment behind and a new Kadaitcha album in the can and in suspense.

Like many, I simply take my home and possessions for granted, writing in my review of the last Kadaitcha release – a lathe-cut 7” ‘with a true physical format, apart from fire or flooding, you have something pretty robust’. It feels pretty crass in the face of everything, in hindsight.

But… but… these guys have continued to make music right up to that moment of departure. It’s not heroic, but a real indicator of just how essential art is, even in the most desperate of time. And more than anything, it shows how strong the need for normality is in the most extreme of situations. The world is seemingly ending, what do you do? Keep going, do as much as you can of what you were doing before. Because it’s a way to cope. Channel that anxiety creatively, and who knows?

Well, we know now. Sora is something special.

The five tracks drag the listener on a wild journey, with the first piece, ‘kings’ but a prelude to the frenetic manic sonic explosion of ‘limit’, a frenzy of crashing drums, jagged guitars, freewheeling bass grooves and crazy brass that brings a whirlwind of discord and by the end, it’s all whipped into a head-spinning cyclone of chaos. It’s a maelstrom of madness, there’s just so much going on all at once, and so much noise and dissonance.

‘Schizoid’ brings some truly nefarious low-end to the party, and it’s hurled against some crashing drums, and in combination conjures a tempestuous storm of sound that rages and pummels, before ‘No’ lumbers heavily onto a hooting, tooting onslaught of mayhem.

There’s a serious risk of a headache with this one, but it’s a headache that need poking: Sora is brain-bending, dizzying, and at times intense and harsh. But that’s why we like it.

AA

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Human Worth – 4th November 2022

That I’m a huge, huge fan of Human Worth is probably quite apparent by now, or really ought to be. As a label, they’re the absolute model of the cottage industry DIY label with a social conscience that’s matched by the quality of the music they release. How many labels can you name where absolutely every single release in their catalogue is an absolute fucking banger? And now, it gets even better, as the community spirit can be seen to be an integral aspect embraced by the acts on their roster, as the assemblage of the appropriately-named Fucking Lovely indicates.

Well, it probably depends on your taste, of course: it’s not lovely in the lilting, floral, melodic sense – more in the ironic or sarcastic sense, as this EP is every inch the gnarly barrage of noise you’d expect from the Human Worth alumni who feature in the lineup, which the bio describes as ‘an evolving noise project brought into being by Joel Harries from 72%. Featuring Luc Hess (Coilguns / Closet Disco Queen) on drums and Thomas Lacey (Cower / Yards / The Ghost of a Thousand) on vocals.’

They go on to detail how this record ‘came together through shared connections with Human Worth and brief meetings playing gigs in 2019’; and that ‘the music grew steadily from the initial guitar and drum machine tracks into the frantic and unnerving songs of “Catalogue Of Errors”’ which were ‘recorded remotely between the UK & Switzerland’. It seems like this is the way collaborations will happen from now on. This is probably a (rare) post-pandemic positive: distance and scheduling are no object when it’s possible record at any time and from any distance.

This feels like there is absolutely no distance: it’s the sound of a band playing at ten thousand decibels and right in your face, so harsh and full on that your eyes pop out of their sockets.

It’s brief and intense. Four tracks of jarring, jolting, stuttering riffs and shouting pitched against one another at obtuse angles and colliding against one another in the most awkward and ungainly fashion, for maximum ugly impact and packed into less than ten minutes. Oh yes, it’s fucking lovely alright. It makes your skin crawl and your hair stand on end, it makes you clench and quiver , makes your shoulders tense and your neck stuff. ‘Billy Boy’ is gnarly and full-tilt Jesus Lizard psycho, all dirty guitars, gritty bass and twisted manic vocals. ‘Maximum Exhaustion’ is a soundtrack of relatability, relaying the staggering, stumbling, lurching delirium of fatigue beyond fatigue – also known as life.

The full-on earth-shattering hardcore of ‘Bricked’ draws the EP to a close with samples echoing around low in the mix and the words inaudible, and while angry, sludgy acts are disparate but numerous, I’m reminded of Blacklisters here.

It’s a gloriously demented racket, and it hurts. And it most definitely is absolutely fucking lovely.

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AA

14th October 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

I’ve likely mentioned it before, but on the one hand, Leeds has quite a distinctive sound, albeit one that’s evolved over the last decade, bit on the other, its scene is characterised by its diversity and eclecticism. It’s too be expected, of course: it’s a big city with two massive universities and a lot of small venues where artists can try out and develop their style and draw influence and inspiration from others. Time was when everyone was either doing instrumental post-rock or making a massive fucking racket.

Leeds based musician and recording engineer Rob Slater AKA Carpet belongs to the eternal production line of acoustic-based artists that’s not so much a Leeds thing but a music thing – but he himself is an integral part f the Leeds scene, having played in a number of standout bands, including Thank, Mi Mye, Post War Glamour Girls, and The Spills, as well as ‘working as a recording-engineer/producer from his own Greenmount Studios in Armley where, this year alone, his credits include Yard Act’s debut ‘The Overload’, as well as debut albums from Leeds peers Thank and Crake (with whom Slater plays drums, and who I reviewed just the other day for Whisperin’ and Hollerin’.

The press release promises ‘four tracks of thoughtful and introspective beauty, offering a compelling and unhurried insight into Slater’s musical world’. And it does that.

There’s nothing remarkable about the songs or their execution: Slater’s songwriting and execution is simply exactly as it should be: tight, emotive, melodic. It’s not exciting or dramatic by any means: it’s overtly introspective and thoroughly accessible, with easy-going songs. It’s clear that Slater simply has no interest in going massive. This may not be his choice, so much as a limitation of the medium. That’s certainly not a criticism: Carpet has a wide, if low-level appeal, and while it is, in many ways, a functional indie folk work, it’s also musically entertaining and easy on the ear, and does the job.

What is the job? Of being music. Yes, sometimes, that’s enough.

AA

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Human Worth – 7th October 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

Since the launch of the Human Worth label, initially as an outlet for releases by Modern Technology, we’ve witnessed the label grow – although never beyond its means and never beyond its principles. Each release sees a portion of the proceeds donated to a nominated charitable cause, and it’s so heartening to see a label and its artists use their platform for social good. With this latest release, a 7” EP from Leeds makers of noise BELK, 10% of all proceeds are being donated to Action Bladder Cancer UK, who work to support patients, raise awareness, improve early diagnosis and outcomes, and support research into bladder cancer.

But let’s never underestimate the social good of music with meaning – and by good, I mean sincere and visceral. Anyone who has ever stood in a room being bludgeoned by a full-blooded sonic attack will likely appreciate the incredible release of the experience, and the sense of community it entails. It’s not easy to articulate the way in which something that’s ultimately private, internal, is heightened by the presence of strangers immersed in that same experience, in their own personal way.

In congruence with the rise of Human Worth, we’re also seeing a satisfying upward arc for BELK, who unquestionably deserve the exposure and distribution, and one suspects that being limited to just 100 hand-numbered vinyl copies, the vinyl release of this is likely to be a future rarity.

This 7” EP packs five tracks into mere minutes. ‘Warm Water’, unveiled as a taster for advance orders on September’s Bandcamp Friday, is a minute and eighteen seconds long. It’s fast, and it’s furious – a focused channelling of fury, no less, distilled to 100% proof, and there’s no holding back on this attack.

There are a couple of additional demo tracks, in the form of ‘Net’ and ‘Question of Stress’ from their 2022 promo as downloads.

It’s all pretty raw, and ‘studio’ doesn’t mean much more polish than ‘demo’, and that’s exactly as it should be BELK trade in proper dirty noise, the likes of which Earache specialised in in the eighties and early 90s, before they went soft and became a rock and blues label, releasing stuff by the likes of Rival Sons. Human Worth have snatched the noise baton in a firm grip, though, and the quality of their releases extends to the artefact as well as the art.

‘Net’ is a stuttering slugfest reminiscent of Fudge Tunnel, only with harsher, higher-pitched squawkier vocals that are more conventionally hardcore, and it all stacks up for one killer release that delivers a ferocious slap round the chops.

AA

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Metropolis Records – 27th May 2022

Christopher Nosnbor

We’re playing serious catchup here: the band have been on such a (bacon) roll of late that I’ve struggled to keep abreast of their output. It’s quite a contrast to the early post-millennium period, which saw the emergence of Pigmartyr / Pigmata in 2004 or 2005 (depending on your location), fully five years after Genuine American Monster, followed by silence until 2016. It looked for all the world as if Watts was washed up, wiped out, sunk, spent, stopped. The phoenix-like re-emergence with first The Diamond Sinners EP, followed by The Gospel flexed muscles only hinted at on the tentative collaborations with Marc Heal and Primitive Race the year before, and found Watts reinvigorated, revelling in the glammier aspects of industrial sleaze and going the whole hog on the alliteration – and it turned out to be just the (re)beginning. It turns out that next month will see the release of The Merciless Light, the fifth PIG album in six years, and it lands hot on the heels of Baptise Bless & Bleed.

Like many recent PIG releases, this EP features four new tracks, accompanied by remixes of three of them, and the lead track is that quintessential PIG hybrid of low, pulsating synth that bubbled, bumps, and grinds while Watts croaks and groans breathless sleazy and seductive about pain and crucifixion, before it bursts into a bombastic blast of extravagant gospel propelled by a thudding kick drum and chugging guitar with serrated edges.

For all of the crossover with KMFDM and various other industrial contemporaries, not to mention Watts’ formative work alongside JG Thirlwell, the bottom line is that PIG sound uniquely like PIG, with a uniquely hybrid sound of techno and industrial at its heart, but then with glam, goth, and gospel all whipped into the mix, while thematically, it continues the thread that runs from ‘Shit for Brains’ on the 1988 debut single.

‘Shooting Up Mercy’ marks a change in tempo, slowing things down and ramping up the gospel chorus, before throwing in an extravagant guitar break of Slash proportions. There really is never a dull moment, and on this outing, Watts has gone proper maximalist, and it’s delightful, despite / because of its dark overtones.

The remixes are tidy enough, particularly the eight-minute reworking of ‘Tarantula’ that trudges and thuds along with bleeps and squelches along the way, before hitting a deep slow dance groove; it’s the most restrained track on the release, but has no lack of grunt or grind, and the solid chorus remains intact and infectious, reminding us – as if we needed it – that Watts has a knack for a hook, meaning that with this latest offering, we are indeed blessed.

AA

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30th June 2022

James Wells

‘i write weird songs for weird folks’ writes alien machine, all in lower case. ‘A solo artist pretending to be a 3 to 5 piece garage punk outfit,’ ‘the sea complains’ is their fourth release. Details of this US-based artist are sparse to non-existent, but it appears that having emerged in 2014, they lay creatively dormant before deciding to reconvene with racketmaking during the pandemic, which seems to be a common thing as people sought ways of dealing with the strangeness and the isolation.

This is raw, primitive, and psychotic. The skewed, angular, murky mess of the first track, ‘math’ sounds like it was recorded on a Dictaphone in the living room while the band play their first rehearsal in the basement. The overall effect is very much early Pavement (pre-Slanted, those EPs collected on Westing were betonf lo-fi) / Silver Jews lo-fi so slack as to not give a shit about being in time / holding a tune / anything at all really, and it’s played with the wild, frenzied mania of Truman’s Water. Then again, ‘coward’ is a pulverising screamo-fest that brings in elements of Shellac, the guitars sliding and jerking in all directions over a loping drum beat, and closer ‘aquaburst’ goes fill Truman’s, with clanging Big Black guitars and everything going off all at once, but not necessarily in the same key or time signature.

It’s a headache-inducing discordant buzz, and it’s wonderful.

There’s nothing particularly weird about this – although fans off mainstream chart music would likely disagree – but it is a hard-on-the-ears trebly racket, that’s so slack it can’t even be arsed raising a finger to production or concessions to clean sound. It doesn’t get much more DIY than this.

AA

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14th February 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

Was I the only one to misread the band’s name on first seeing it? Probably, and I suspect it says more about me than anything. Ah well. Meanwhile, as much as the quality of the band’s new single speaks for itself, the list of collaborators who’ve contributed remixes to this EP says a fair bit about the Chicago ‘post-punk demolition duo’, notably Stabbing Westward and Dean Garcia of Curve / SPC ECO.

It’s the Stabbing Westward remix that’s up first, and it’s a stonking industrial rock chugger. It has a crisp, bright feel and is driven by an explosive snare, the likes of which you rarely hear now, but was popular in the 80s. Of the different versions, it’s arguably the most radical, yet at the same time is also the one with the broadest commercial appeal, in that it is more overtly industrial and metal-edged.

Structurally, the song’s interesting for the fact it consists of several sections rather than a simple verse / chorus, and as each section rolls around, it develops something of a cyclical feel (I usually tend to feel most songs are a linear listening experience. ‘Confusion’ and ‘confusion’ make for a nice rhyming pair, but it’s the bass that’s as strong a hook as any of the lyrics, and it’s the bass that dominates the band’s own single version, which adds ten seconds to the original, which appeared on the Dead Lights five tracker released last year. Said bass is a shuddering low-frequency grind, and the drum machine tips a nod to ‘Blue Monday’ then goes into overdrive, giving the song a real urgency.

The DG Impulse remix grinds harder and longer, stripping it back to the bare bones of that sonorous bass and a pounding beat, to oppressive effect, while the IScintilla Remix is a full-on rabid aggrotech workout, and pretty nightmarish with it.

In contrast, the Loveless Love take on the track plays to the songs 80s electropop roots, coming on like The Human League remixed by JG Thirlwell or Raymond Watts.

It makes for a varied listening experience, and one that marks a neat evolution from the band’s previous releases to date.

AA

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