Posts Tagged ‘EP Review’

7th January 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

I like Modern Technology before I’ve even heard a note. Drummer Owen approached me through Facebook having clocked Aural Aggravation with a link to the East London duo’s debut EP. Most bands starting out want to get on the radar, and get some cash back for the hard graft they’ve put in trying to get to the point of putting music out into the public domain, especially as a physical release – and this comes in limited-to-200 clear vinyl in addition to the digital version – but they’re donating all profits between Mind and Shelter, perhaps two of the most vital charities in the age of austerity.

I may not have written much about the plight of the homeless, although the fact we have a massive problem here in Britain right now requires no qualification, but I have touched on mental health on more than one occasion here in the past. The oft-shared statistics are just statistics, but in my day-job (yes, I work for a multinational who deal in insurance and investments, because, incredibly reviewing bands no-one’s heard of and writing books no-one reads doesn’t pay the bills) I’m often required to step out of my role to help people and to listen to people. They all have trouble. They’re all stressed. They’re all anxietised. Some are depressed. I know how they feel, and they know it. It really is good to talk. No, not just good: vital. This is my daily reality. So the fact that the bulk of CD I get sent for review which I don’t choose to keep end up at my local Mind charity shop is just something I do. Because it’s important to do what you can, right?

According to their bio, Modern Technology formed through ‘a shared frustration of the post-truth society and political unrest that is currently suffocating our global conscious’. The one positive of political turbulence is the spur to creativity: it’s no coincidence that that post-punk emerged during the Thatcher era, and it’s fair to say that the parallels between then and now are strong. One major difference now, however, is that it’s practically impossible to sign on and form a band: zero-hours contracts and the benefits system mean that even looking for work is a full-time job, and the economics of making music simply don’t stack favourably. But regardless of economics, all that shit has to go somewhere. You need to process. You need to vent. Modern Technology sound like a band who are doing this not for fun, but because they need to.

The EP’s opener provides a theme tune of sorts: entitled ‘Modern Technology’, it launches with an ear-shredding blast of splintering noise, before pulverizing drums, grating bass and squalling feedback hammer out a sonic landslide of a backdrop to a hollering vocal, half-lost in an avalanche of reverb. Christ! They’ve got the savagery of early Head of David coupled with the goth-noise mania of The Birthday Party.

It certainly sets the tone and tempo: ‘Project Fear’ is two minutes of overloading, distorted fury that makes optimal use of lo-fi production values for maximum impact. It hits like a punch in the guts. Deciphering the lyrics isn’t easy and at times is pretty much impossible, but the sentiment is more than adequately conveyed by the medium. Besides, the titles speak for themselves in many respects, as they take the most mundane aspects of contemporary capitalist living and attack them with shuddering sonic barrages. Shades of psych filter through the scuzzed-up tumult of no-wave noise. And deep from within that sonic cyclone screams the painful truth: everything is fucked.

When they do slow it down, as on the grinding ‘Select Retail’, they bring out the brooding theatricality and highlight the depthlessness and superficiality of consumerism with the blank slogan / refrain ‘Select retail / reject detail’. But then they also do choppy, bass-led Shellac-tinged angularity on ‘Queue Jumper’. Closer ‘Modern Detritus’ distils every last ounce of frustration and compresses it into a dense roar of thunder.

Modern Technology are the real deal: this isn’t music being made with one eye on a commercial ticket, but music that’s born out of compulsion, the urge to purge. It’s art. It’s raw, it’s visceral, it’s painful. And in expressing the agony of frustration, it’s perfect.

AA

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Silber Records – 6th December 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

The five soundscapes on Internecine Vampires are exploratory and carry an air of the vague and tentative. That isn’t to say indecisive or uncertain: Fisher has a clear sense of purpose here, and this mellifluous ambient work ventures into some interesting sonic territories, not least of all in the juxtapositions of texture and tone.

The liner notes describe the EP as ‘a free wheeling exploration of un-winnable situations & social conflict that drew inspiration from everything from chess, Star Trek, & Timothy Leary to considering the ways in which social groups too often fail to connect in meaningful ways’, and explain how ‘Fisher was also thinking about how queer & trans individuals are too often placed in the unwinnable situation of being evaluated on their ability to “pass” & considered inauthentic in relation to the “authentic” dominant culture… The unwinnable situation is an invitation to redefine the terms of success; to imagine different ways of being & of relating to the world & those around you; to reject simple binaries & to reject the internecine vampires that lurk within ourselves & our culture. Individuals are meant to be recognized as just that, individuals.’

I may have a doctorate in English literature, but ‘internecine’ is a new entry in my vocabulary. Meaning ‘destructive to both sides in a conflict’, it’ a strong addition and it’s the perfect selection for describing the gender wars which are currently raging in all directions, wreaking havoc with destructive infighting around what very much ought to be a common cause. The wider narrative is that gender conflict is a convenient distraction from everything else, particularly given that those battling it out tend to be left-leaning individuals. While I’m not about to suggest which battles anyone should choose, I do have a certain personal interest in the lines marked out between the sides, for reasons I’m disinclined to retread and labour here. Individuality should be a given right: what the world needs is for those individuals to unite against the enemy of governmental tyranny, etc., etc, etc.

On ‘Maps Of Loss And Longing’, soft xylophonic notes hover in a mist of reverb and slowly twist and warp. It’s subtle, but tangible. ‘Maru’ offers elongated, scraping drones of feedback and low, sonorous hums below, which twist together and twist apart. It’s delicate, graceful, sans form, and undirected. ‘Zugzwang’ brings a mournful violin, a banjo picked in a sparse, mournful fashion, against a dolorous, funereal beat and the occasional blurt of extraneous noise, while closer ‘Soon’ is a slow-turning sonic drift, a soft, supple cloud that changes form slowly, almost subliminally. It’s perhaps analogous to the EP and its message, in that it works as a piece of music, but its intent isn’t necessarily apparent. Objectively, this is no obstacle to the appreciation of what is a neatly-gathered and carefully-poised ambient instrumental assemblage that flows naturally and fluidly to form a cohesive piece of work.

AA

Luka Fisher – Internecine Vampires

Armalyte Industries – 7th December 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

However dark, gritty and sleazy <PIG> have gone over the course of their lengthy (try 30 year) if sporadic career, there’s always been both a wry humour and an appreciation of pop in evidence. This has been thrust to the fore in the latest releases in the shape of the grimy but shiny glam of ‘Risen’ and Raymond Watts’ most recent collaboration with Sasha Grey for a cover of KC and the Sunshine Band’s ‘That’s the Way (I Like It)’ which was pure pop and pure filth in equal measure.

The three covers on offer here – Wham’s ‘Last Christmas’, Elvis’ ‘Blue Christmas’ and ‘Happy Xmas (War Is Over)’ (John Lennon) – are quite surprising in their straightness, but that isn’t to say there isn’t a twist. That is to say, it sounds like <PIG> covering some Christmas classics. Of course, the instrumentation is a little different, and Watts’ gravelly, low-throated style is distinctive to say the least – meaning that George Michael’s heartbroken lament is transformed into a leery come-on with more than a hint of Tom Waits about it, not to mention guitars that sounds like a Status Quo 45 played at 33.

‘Blue Christmas’ trudges and grinds, with Watts delivering his best snarling, sneering JG Thirlwell imitation against a backdrop of Bryan May guitars and soaring chorals. The incongruity is both genius and magic. Wrapping things up with ‘Happy Xmas (War Is Over)’, Watts backs off the irony, the sleaze, and the bombast. There’s no knowing wink behind the gravelly croon here, and it’s genuinely touching. And with all of the profits from this release going to

International Rescue Committee, the purpose of which is to ‘reunite refugee families torn apart by war, persecution or harmful policies’, we get to see a different side to <PIG>: for all of the theatricality, for all of Watt’s near-preposterous showmanship, there’s a real sense of humanity not even a scratch beneath the surface. With Black Mass Watts proves he’s not only the God of Gammon but a decent human being, spreading the real spirit of Christmas in these particularly bleak, Trump and Brexit-dominated times.

AA

Pig - Black Mass

House Of Mythology – 7th December 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

Having unveiled the Sic Transit Gloria Mundi EP via their Bandcamp page last November – and subsequently on all of the usual digital platforms, Ulver are finally giving the EP a physical release. The initial release was somewhat hurried as the band were about to embark on a lengthy tour to support the album The Assassination of Julius Caesar – so now, in addition to the three studio tracks (two originals which had lain dormant, incomplete for a time, and a cover of Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s ‘The Power of Love’) – they’re giving fans four live tracks recoded on the aforementioned tour as an added bonus.

The studio material – offcuts from The Assassination of Julius Caesar – continue the band’s pop-orientated evolution, and as with the material from album which spawned them, there’s a very mid-80s synth-rock style in evidence. Now, some aspects of 80s revivalism make sense: the dark times in which we find ourselves seems to demand bleak post-punk inspired sounds. But is there anything that can truly justify the revisitation and recreation of radio-friendly pop-rock, the overproduced sound of mullets, hair gel and rolled jacket sleeves? Ulver have fully made the transition into purveyors of sleek, slick and ultimately overtly commercial. I’ve no objection to pop per se, but let’s not pretend that sonically or lyrically, Ulver 2018 are any more challenging than Bastille. Then again, there are shades of darkness in a lot of 80s chart music that are often overlooked, and Ulver still brood, with hints of Depeche Mode and Disintegration-era Cure in the many-layered mix. And the cover – a song that feels somewhat underrated in the FGTH discography – is done justice with an extremely faithful rendition.

The live tracks are, as one would expect, pristine in both performance and production. It’s perhaps easier to marvel at the fidelity and the quality than it is the dynamics and the passion, and there’s nothing that connects the silent scream of pain of Francis Bacon’s ‘Study After Velasquez’ used on the cover art, but music where synths are dominant tends to sound a lot cleaner and more polished live anyway.

The Assassination of Julius Caesar opener, ‘Nemoralia’, is presented here in extended form, its dreamy disco on sedatives groove stretching past the six-minute mark, and ‘Rolling Stone’ is allowed to breathe in all its epic glory. ‘Southern Gothic’ (which does bring some atmosphere and emotion to the partly) ‘Transverberation’, both recorded at Labirinto Della Masone, Fontanellato showcase the band’s stadium-filling, reverb-soaked sound to optimal effect. And the fact of the matter is, I can’t fault it. I’m just not really feeling it, either.

AA

Ulver – Sic Transit Gloria Mundi

26th October 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

‘Dramatic and bold’… ‘driven and experiential’… songs which deliver ‘a perfectly executed sense of tension and release’… I’m No Chessman promise a lot with this, their second release. Do they deliver all of it? Well, it’s a matter of taste as much as opinion.

When I relaunched my reviewing ‘career’ such as it is a decade ago this month, I thought it would be neat to make providing objective reviews my signature. Over time, I’ve come to revise this ambition, having realised that the way one responds to music has precisely nothing to objective matters like technical competence. Granted, poor production can ruin a great set of songs, but the best production in the world won’t transform songs that are technically proficient in terms of musicianship but otherwise predictable and lacking in emotional resonance exhilarating.

Music is intensely personal, and how an individual responds to a composition isn’t purely about the recipient or their tastes, but their headspace and the precise context in which they first hear it.

All of which is to say that this EP is well executed, and despite what the title may suggest, is decidedly not the work of amateurs (just as it has nothing to do with John Niven’s debut novel, which is about golf. And wanking. Well, maybe it’s about wanking. Some of it is a bit Fall Out Boy). It’s that combination of poppy, up-tempo guitar-driven punk with spitting angst that will enthuse or antagonise dependent on your politic.

But yes, throwing in bouncy pianos and widdly guitar breaks in between big, hooky choruses, it’s impossible to deny that they do bring elements of ‘riven and experimental’ and ‘(melo)dramatic and bold’ with their expansive theatricality. All of which is t say that objectively, the band’s appeal is clear. Subjectively… I’m probably not the right demographic.

AA

Im No Chessman

16th November 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

Salvation Jayne are going from strength to strength at the moment, and kicking off with lead single ‘Cortez’ which drives hard with an amalgam of grunge guitars, solid, hard-rock riffage and pop-tinged rock-solid vocal sass their eponymous six-tracker sees the band take stock, refocus and capitalise on their work to date to mark the trajectory of the next stage of their emerging career.

‘Juno,’ which surfaces as a standalone track a year ago showcases a poppier groove in the med-section, but is primarily about the hefty, bass-driven, riff-centric chorus, and at the risk of reductionism, it’s the riff and the rock vocals that define the EP as a whole. There’s no lack of heft to ‘Black Heart’, either, which is propelled by some attacking drumming and thickly overdriven guitar, while Chess belts out the lyrics with full lung.

If the verses of ‘Tongue Tied’ suggest a slight lifting of the foot from the pedal with its layered, chorused guitar and easy disco beat, the chorus kicks it back up a notch or two. The slide guitar and strolling bass of ‘The Art of Falling’ marks the biggest shift as they slip comfortably into country grunge that expands into stadium space-filling emotionally-charged rock epic territory. It may be vaguely template and conventional, but it’s got a captivating sincerity, it’s well-placed and works well, and more importantly, it’s what you might reasonably call a ‘big’ tune that indicates the band’s mass-market potential

Yes, the Salvation Jayne EP is on the more accessible side of whatever: it’s not nasty or gnarly or dirty or fucked. But is does pack some riffy, guitar-based punch, at least for the most part: the ‘stripped’ version of ‘Juno’, with its aid-back, sultry beats is pleasant enough but my views on remixes and alternative versions are strewn about the Internet for those who remotely give a fuck. Suffice it to say that while it’s actually quite nice, it still feels like quite nice filler, and perhaps five tracks would have done the job just as well.

That said, it’s a fair inclusion and not a terrible addition to an EP that’s got some guts and showcases a band with game.

AA

EP GOLD large

Latenight Weeknight Records – 6th July 2018

Stuart Bateman

“I have been developing this story for 3 years now. A science fiction romance gone wrong, where two astronauts finding a spark for each other get thrown into an unexpected event that puts the two into a fight for survival. With a hallucinatory and confusing vibe, the visuals follow along with the theme of the lyrics, where when you wait for something to happen, that time sometimes backfires and creates a situation that is far from ideal”, says Ryan Policky., front man with Colorado-based shoegaze proponents A Shoreline Dream.

While the accompanying video conveys the concept directly, how this translates in musical form is another matter, although it’s fair to say the chiming, reverby, effects-drenched guitars convey the concept, at least in an abstract form.

The title track builds through shimmering latticeworks of echo and reverb into a scorching crescendo of overdriven, melting guitar noise that calls to mind ‘Nowhere’ era Ride and MBV. There are some echoes of The Cure, too, lurking in a song that twists and turns and bucks and burns, slow but effervescent. ‘In the Ready Sound’ surprises with a sudden explosion of throbbing bass near the end, and while the remainder lacks the soaring power and drive, what the songs do offer is quintessential 90s shoegaze delivered with real aplomb: ‘New York’ offers layered harmonies and big guitars over a baggy beat. It’s very much about the atmosphere; the guitars are diffused in a sonic gauze. It doesn’t grab your attention, but drifts by like high-stratosphere clouds in a summer sky.

‘Projections’ finishes the EP in sturdy style, a walloping big drum beat driving a gothy, post-punk take on the shoegaze template and building a dark tension that contrasts with the breezy hues that dominate the EP overall. The contrasts and mood changes make the EP, indicating the work of a band with range and depth.

AA

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