Posts Tagged ‘EP Review’

9th August 2019

Gintas K’s bandcamp boasts no fewer than twenty-nine releases. The Lithuanian experimentalist isn’t one to place quantity over quantity either: this almost overwhelming output, as represented by an average two releases a year, is the product of an enquiring mind, a fertile imagination and an unstinting work ethic.

The title gives a hint as to this EP’s creation: recorded live in a single day, without any overdub; using computer, midi keyboard & controller assigned to vst plugins, the three pieces on One Day Journey are exercises in excitable minimalism, skittering glitchtronics and exemplary works in the field of circuitry-based fuckabouts.

The three tracks, distinguished simply in numerical terms, are defined by swampy bleeps, bloops, glops, thumps, pips and pops fly haphazardly flitting and flickering in all directions, surging and swelling, whumping and slumping. Drip, drop, blip, blop, slip, slop, tinkle, tinkle In so many respects, they’re devoid of both structure and substance, and yet it’s this flippant flimsiness that renders them of merit.

Gintas’ flighty, almost fanciful style of experimental electronica is amusing in an avant-garde way, and almost seems intent on being vaguely irritating to anyone who isn’t already entirely on board with this strain of whacky wild synapse-snapping oddness.

The third and final track, ‘Three’ fizzes and foams a mess of electronic froth, foaming and fermenting effervescently over a thirteen-minute sprawl of apparent discoordination. It’s a crazed mass of non-linear noise, an impossible combobulation of sound. And if you are on board with this strain of whacky wild synapse-snapping oddness, One Day Journey has everything going for it.

AA

Gintas K - One Day

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31st May 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

Where We Sleep – the supergroup consisting of Debbie Smith of Echobelly and Blindness, Curve and SPC ECO, Beth Rettig of Blindness, and also Axel Ray of United Ghosts – extend their super status on this outing, with Ben Pritchard, formerly of The Fall and currently Manc Floyd contributing guitar work on ‘Control’.

Despite the more indie-leaning backgrounds of the collaborators, Experiments in the Dark espouse more of a post-punk sound, amalgamated with the blurry shoegaze of Curve. There’s reverb galore as the layers of guitar wash over and bleed into one another: ‘What I Deserve’ has one of those classic slow-building intros that’s built around a strolling bass and dual guitars – one chiming fractal, gothy, the other overdriven and set to stun. And from the emerging murk, Rettig’s voice combines sultry and dangerous to strong – yet simultaneously understated – effect.

‘The Desert’ sits between Curve and debut-album era Garbage – and it’s magnificent: rich in atmosphere, dark, brooding, and again centring around a strong rhythmic framework. ‘Control’ is a standout: after gentle start, it bursts into a mesh of guitars colliding over a woozy bass and metronomic mechanised drum sound. And as the track progresses, the icy vocals and treble snap of the snare become increasingly submerged by the squalling noise. ‘Into the Light’ repeats the form, only with the added bonus of a propulsive chorus and a bassline on a par with The Mission’s ‘Wasteland’ overlayed with howls of feedback.

The title track which draws the curtain on proceedings is sparse, stark, and minimal, and owes more to the ghostly, smoky trip-hop of Portishead than anything remotely post-punk or shoegaze.

If Experiments In The Dark is 75% 80s and 25% early 90s, it’s also 100% representative of the zeitgeist in terms of the aspects of the past it draws on. And Where We Sleep’s strength lies in their ability to absorb those elements and draw them together to forge a sound that’s both familiar and fresh, avoiding sounding derivative and instead delivering an exciting set of songs that demand repeat plays.

AA

Where We Sleep – Experiments In The Dark

19th July 2019 – Buzzhowl Records

Christopher Nosnibor

This quartet from Richmond, VA, may have a name that suggests quiet, introspective contemplation and piety, but their third EP, which follows ‘Touched’ (2015) and ‘ICUP’ (2017) whips up an unholy racket.

It’s a lumbering, off-kilter, shouty discord that defines their sound. Chugging, math-tinged rhythms cut across with angular guitars that evoke the spirit of Shellac, The Jesus Lizard, and the essence of the Touch & Go roster from the late 80s and early 90s. It’s gnarly, gut-churning, challenging – and hits the spot like a punch to the oesophagus.

Should we consider why there seems to be a resurgence of music that recrates that period around the grunge explosion, when alternative music that wasn’t grunge but centred around dirty-as-fuck guitars and difficult rhythms that would come to define ‘math’ rock? Probably. Back then, there was a revolt against radio-friendly rock, the slick sonic paste being pumped out by major labels. Of course, the ‘alternative’ sound very quickly got co-opted, but no-one was ever going to flog acts like Tad or Tar or Helmet or Guzzard to the masses even when Warners were angling Ministry at MTV and A&M had launched Therapy? As a top 40 singles band. The bands who got signed and broke through may have changed the face of the musical scene, but it was always the bands who remained underground who defined the era.

Now, with the chasm between mainstream and everything else wider than ever – and long beyond the point at which it becomes unbridgeable – the underground is more resolute than ever. They’re never going to make on this… but they have every inch of credibility intact as they channel their frustrations against an ever-grimmer world of conformity and vacuity. The bands that matter aren’t in it for the money – but then, they never were, and Prayer Group are admirable in their absolute lack of compromise.

They’ve just unleased the EP’s closer, ‘The Other’ by way of a taster. It’s nicely representative, and trust me, you need it.

AA

Prayer Group - Eudean

Christopher Nosnibor

I love getting weird shit in the post. Not literal shit, of course, not the kind of shit one might have received for panning The Levellers in a review in the early 90s, but the kind of sonic faeces people I associate with might send me when they have a new release or project in the offing.

I clocked the sender’s name on the envelope: one P.A. Morbid of Middlesbrough. Having been moving in the same circles for a while, the arrival of a package in itself was no major shock, but I hadn’t been aware of anything musical in the offing from this North-Eastern master of bleak lines who, having recently published a collection of poetry split with local luminary Harry Gallagher, has also been working on some flash fiction pieces. It’s not entirely clear where this fits in: on-line sources suggest it was released back in 2017, but the infrequently gigging band also look set to make a rare hometown appearance in July.

Morbs is credited as providing ‘vocals, rhythms, noises’ on this three-tracker, produced in collaboration with Peter Heselton, who’s responsible for guitars, electronics, keyboards, and also rhythms.

Most of those rhythms are sequenced pulsations, with the vintage feel of analogue or at least early, primitive digital drum machines, and overall, the production on this experimental electro effort is primitive to the point of condenser mic in the middle of the room standard. But this kind of straight-to-tape DIY approach is integral to both the ethos and the appeal.

Dingy pulsations drive ‘Das Jenseits’, the first cut on here, and it’s pure Throbbing Gristle. Murky drones and extraneous noise that all sits in the mid-range form a drifting sonic fog. There are vocals lurking in the smog, but they’re distorted and low in the mix: the result is that they’re an abstract disorientating addition to a difficult mess of abstract disorientation.

‘Standing by the Grave’ is more direct: a whipcrack snare cuts though the infinite murk of the guitars while Morbid moans and grunts impenetrably. There are hints of neofolk, but equally goth-tinged post-punk in evidence. The atmosphere is oppressive, dense. You don’t really know what it’s about or what’s going on, but it’s like wading through treacle and a suffocating airless smog that lies thick and heavy.

The closer, ‘what light remains’ is a mercifully short four minutes in duration. Rippling shards and quivering synths shimmer through the atmospheric fog. It’s dislocated, difficult, dark ambient; percussionless desert rock, reverby chords echoing out across space and time rippling in a heat haze.

I’m left dazed, feeling strangely alone and wondering what it was all about.

KDB

1st April 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

I can’t recall if my rants about infantilism as the latest tool of oppression in the arsenal of late-to-the-point-of-crumbling capitalism have made it to any reviews or commentary pieces, or if they’ve been contained to nights down the pub with old friends, after which ideas for delivering incisive critiques have evaporated with the fumes of alcohol the following morning. The greatest likelihood is the latter. Anyway. In summary, the term ‘adulting’ is indicative of the millennial inability to deal with life in general (which I get, because we all struggle, but part of being an adult is stepping up and enabling the next generation instead of cowering in the face of responsibility and running to one’s parents for help in filling out forms for car finance or doing a spot of DIY), and the fact that I find myself surrounded by people in their late 20s accessorising with the same all-things-unicorn my seven-year-old daughter is already growing tired of is a clear symptom of a deeper societal issue. Is the unicorn the symbol of the snowflake (a term I abhor, for the record)?

I write from a position which is both central to, and exempt from, the gender wars which are raging all around right now, and will be open in saying that I don’t write from a position of relating. I’ve suffered prejudice simply for that, too, but we’ll not revisit that here. The key point is that inclusivity isn’t about where you’re from, but how you treat others. Irrespective of gender, I’ve always been an outsider, and know that outsiderism from wherever you’re standing is hard.

Maybe I should just shut up with the commentary and stick to the fact that Neverlanded are giving away their debut EP, F.u.U. (that’s Fluffy Unicorns United) in exchange for a donation to Mermaids UK, a charity which ‘offers support to transgender and gender variant children and young people, their families and supporting professionals’. And regardless of the music, I can only give total backing for a band who are willing to launch their recording career with a view to promoting something other than themselves. Alongside Modern Technology (link) who are donating the proceeds of their debut to Mind and Shelter, Neverlanded seem to be leading a new generation of socially-conscious philanthropic artists who are more concerned with making a difference in whatever small way they can than fame and wealth.

It’s a double bonus that the EP’s four tracks, ‘Brainsane’, ‘MesS.O.S.’, ‘This Friend Of Mine’, and ‘Scream 4 Ice Cream’ are more than just solid, but remarkably strong.

They pitch themselves as being for fans of Placebo, L7, Silverchair, Garbage, Nirvana, Cranberries, Pixies, and Refused, which lands them right in the heart of the melee of 90s alternative, and it’s precisely what they deliver.

‘Brainsane’ pounds in with a riff that’s as beefy as hell, the drawling vocals and loud / quiet dynamic straight out of 1993 in the best possible way, because it balances rawness and emotional sincerity with a full gutsy sound. If ‘MesS.O.S.’ is poppier, it’s poppier in the way that Nirvana’s ‘Been a Son’ is poppier. The slower, almost dream ‘This Friend of Mine’ is well-placed, and the lack of angst is no detractor, not least of all with it being followed by the lo-fi grunge-out of ‘Scream 4 Ice Cream’ that drives the EP to a lurching, overdriven close.

Not only is F.u.U total quality from beginning to end, but it succeeds in contributing to a well-explored genre without sounding remotely generic: in fact, it’s exhilarating in its passion and purity.

AA

Neverlanded - FUU

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

cover

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