Posts Tagged ‘EP’

Southern Lord & DVL Recordings

12 June 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Reviewing Record Store day releases feels a shade cruel in some respects. Since they pretty much all sell out within a couple of hours, with participating record stores looking like a cornfield stripped by locusts by 11am after hungry collectors and traders have queued round the block since dawn to buy up anything and everything they can get their hands on (more often as not nowadays to resell at massively inflated prices. But who do you blame for this? The system is screwed), reviewing any RDS release feels like a posturing gesture of ‘look what you could have won’. But some releases warrant a wider exposure, ad perhaps, ultimately, a wider release, and this is one of them.

Neon Christ formed in 1983 and having taken a break in 1986, they’ve been more or less dormant ever since, with their career’s recorded output consisting of just one eponymous ten-track EP released in Jube ’84 and an appearance on a compilation album: On Labor Day 1984, the band recorded four tracks in the home studio of Nick Jameson, of Foghat fame, and from this, ‘Ashes to Ashe’" was included on the International Peace/War compilation released by MDC’s R Radical Records.

Guitarist William DuVall wrote an album’s worth of songs in 1985, but only ‘Savior (Drawn In)’ was ever recorded in what would be the band’s final studio session on 26 December 1985 (the master tapes were lost).

And so 1984 contains everything committed to tape by Neon Christ which still survives (which was all recorded in 1984, bar the one 1985 track which doesn’t feature here – which is fair enough, as it sits outside the band’s one explosive year).

Side one features the original Neon Christ 7” EP, and side two contains the four songs of the Labor Day session.

These recordings are over thirty-five years old, but they’re still dynamite. The early-mid eighties really were the apogee of the hardcore punk scene, and it’s perhaps integral to that history that bands burned brightly and briefly. Scenes are rarely best represented by recorded output or longevity, but the immediate buzz. Anything left for posterity is a bonus, and 1984 is that bonus that documents the brief and explosive existence of Neon Christ.

That first EP is fiery, frenetic, and raw as hell. Of the ten tracks, only one breaks tr two-minute mark. It’s rough and ready, the production isn’t so much primitive as non-existent, ad everything really is played at a hundred miles an hour as they blast through back-to-back blasts of fury ass mere minute long each. They do go a bit mellow and indie at the start of their titular track, but in no time it’s hell for leather thrashing, and overall, the pace of this album is blistering.

The Labor Day EP is slower, denser, less primitive. The songs feel more realised, and I would say ‘more produced’ – but it’s all relative, since the production prior was truly zero. The vocals and playing are both still rough and ready and nothing on offer here could ever be described a slick or polished. This is proper hardcore and is more than merely a historical document.

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Christopher Nosnibor

The news just in is that ‘Electro-Industrial band MICROWAVED has just unleashed their new EP, Save Me’, and that ‘The EP contains 16 tracks, 14 of which will be available on streaming platforms June 12th. The Bandcamp release will contain two bonus tracks: a collaboration with LIEBCHEN on a cover of Pink Floyd’s “Comfortably Numb” and an additional remix from the talented and outstanding remix artist Steven Olaf.’

The last I was aware, EP stood for Extended Play, and LP for Long Play, and sixteen tracks is pretty bloody long (unless it’s grindcore, when 16 tracks would likely have a running time of about ten minutes). No matter: I’m being picky (for a change), and they’ve released the title track as a lead single, and it features Kimberley Kornmeier of electrogoth act Bow Ever Down.

‘Save Me’ is a brooding blur – the agitated, fast-paced percussion that pounds and stutters like a palpating heart contrasts with the deep, broad, sweeping synths and a gloomily wistful melody which leans heavily on The Cure’s ‘Pictures of You’. The contrasts work, despite being quite difficult to reconcile on the first listen or two. There’s also a subtle but definite harder industrial edge to it, and it makes for a bold yet sensitive song which reminds us that beneath exteriors, so many of us hold on to pain and suffering and loneliness, and that to feel lonely and to be alone are not the same thing.

It’s when it takes a step away from itself around the three-minute mark and there’s a brief segment that sounds more like Eminem that’s hardest to assimilate in the overall shape of the song. It may be incongruous, but at least you could never describe the song as being predictable, and ‘Save Me’ is pretty damn powerful on multiple levels.

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Six months on from landing the video for ‘The Geneticist’, Vexillary unveil the video for the SPANKTHENUN Remix of the track as the leader for a remix EP.

‘The Geneticist’ was so rich in context and musical raw material that a sequel had to follow. This time, 3 different electronic scientists, Andy Martin, Signal Deluxe, and SPANKTHENUN re-engineered the track like geneticists manipulating genetic code to reach their desired outcomes. Tempos were augmented, beats were mutated, and new basslines were spawned, to unleash a whole new beast – The Geneticist Remixes.

It’s pretty intense, uncomfortable, and gnarly, and you can check the video here:

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Houndstooth Records – 22nd January 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

‘Transmogrifications’ features a brace of compositions by Guy Andrews reworked, reimagined, decomposed – spin it whichever way – by seminal experimental musician Kevin Drumm, with one from Permanence (which was released in September) and another from his latest, [MT][NT][ET]. Back in the day, this would have been a 12” single, or a CD single / EP. Now, it’s simply a release. Part of me feels that the devolvement – and dissolvement – of the physical format is sad not because of plain nostalgia, but because of the way it’s altered our relationship with music. The release of new music, when it required actually going into town to purchase it, arriving home with a sense of excitement and anticipation to hear something that had required not only the effort of the journey, but the outlay of actual cash, meant that there was an element of deliberation involved in each purchase: you’ve got a tenner (and there was a time not SO long ago when that would likely get you three new 12” singles at £2.99 – £3.50 apiece), and dropping the needle on each was an actual event. The loss of that sense of occasion, that event, is significant, and one that struck me unexpectedly on hearing this. As excited as I was to hear it, the joy was tempered by a certain pang of loss.

Drumm explains the remit he was given, which directed his approach to the project, recounting that “Guy essentially said that he’d rather not hear his own music played back to him…So with that in mind, it freed me up to drastically transform his material…it was a good experience taking something that is quite different than what I usually get up to and turn it into something different than what it is in its original form.” And the title says it all, really: ‘transmogrification’ is defined as the process of complete and usually extreme or grotesque change from one state or form to another.

Each track is an entire album, compressed, condensed, and generally reworked and altered beyond recognition.

And so it is that ‘[MT][NT][ET]’ is seven-and-three-quarter minutes of deep, swirling ambience, a deep mass of sound that eddies and drifts with a drilling metallic edge giving it a slightly uncomfortable sharpness. While it’s a more or less even drone, there are occasional – subtle – dips and twists that add to the understated but quite definite tension. And yet for all that, there is an overall sense of calm, a smoothness, until near the end, when its rich, space-like tranquillity is devasted by a rising blast of extraneous noise.

‘Permanence’ offers a different kind of experience, it’s more deeply textured, and a slower, lower simmering fermentation of sound. It also boils the thirty-two minute album down to eight minutes of overlapping sonic layers. Glistering shards of feedback are worn smooth in a soft wash of pink noise and an undulating amorphous cloud of noise, beneath which a grating sonic wreckage churns at such distance as to be almost subliminal.

And then it stops. Just like that. The abrupt nature of the ending is of note, accentuating the silence that follows immediately, and giving a tangible pause for thought on a release that has a lot more depth than the surface first suggests.

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MC/free iOS app Langham Research Centre LRC001

7th December 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

My last encounter with Langham Research Centre was 2017’s Tape Works Vol 1, an experimental set that evoked the spirit of William Burroughs while also being littered with references to JG Ballard which inevitably piqued my interest. However, on the arrival of Quanta / Signal / Noise, I discover that both a remix of Tape Works Vol 1 as well as Tics and Ampersands and the spectacularly mundane yet dauntingly postmodern-sounding Gateshead Multi-storey Car Park, both released in 2018 had bypassed me.

Quanta / Signal / Noise, a work in four parts seems to offer a fair – and welcome – point at which to reconvene with Langham Research Centre. the press release forewarns of ‘a shift away from the conventional building blocks of music: notes and harmony and rhythms that are mapped onto a grid of steady pulse. Instead, the focus is on a fascination with sound itself; with its unfolding textures, shapes, energies and dynamics’. So far, so much standard avant-garde / experimental fare.

The release contains four tracks, in the form of versions 1 to 4 of ‘Quanta / Signal / Noise’, each of which has a duration of four minutes and thirty-four seconds, two of which were composed by Iain Chambers, and two of which were composed by Robert Worby. ‘Version’ is a misnomer: none of the pieces bear any real resemblance to one another, ranging from heavy discordant clunks and thunks to fizzing circuitry and erratic bleepery, with woozy atmospherics, warped chatter of multiple simultaneous conversations and deep, dark, ominous undercurrents. Explosions shattering plate glass windows behind real-time running documentaries collide simultaneously with birdsong and erratic levels of volume. It’s an interesting sonic collage, but, one might say, largely of its type.

But there’s more to this than immediately meets the ear, as in addition to the standard audio release, there’s an iOS app, ‘Langham Research Centre variPlay: Quanta / Signal / Noise’, produced and developed in collaboration with London College of Music at the University of West London, which presents an interactive version of the release. The pitch is that it may be thought of as ‘experimental cinema for the ear or maybe a tool for dynamic sound painting [which] follows in the musical tradition established by composers, specifically in the middle of the 20th century, when sound recording became widely available… In the app version, by playing with these sonic materials, imaginary auditory landscapes may be created. Sonic narratives, with expressive moods, unfold before the ears and mobile, fluid sound canvases can be brushed and sketched and collaged.’

Such interactivity may not be wholly new, but still, to break the third wall in such a way becomes rare, and inviting the audience to become the artist radically alters the dynamic of the relationship not only between the artist and audience, but also audience and material. The material ceases to be something the audience ‘receives’, but instead repositions the audience as part of the art ad its creation. That breaking down of boundaries utterly transforms the experience of reception. It is quite possible that the concept is more exciting than the reality, but then, playing about with sound can be great fun. Unfortunately, the app only appears to be available for Apple / iPhone users, so I’m unable to confirm or comment either way.

The app version stands in extreme contrast to the physical release, on cassette, a format that was on the brink of obsolescence over twenty years ago, and yet is still going, albeit with a microniche market. The chances are half the interaction with the format involves a hexagonal pencil or a Bic biro.

Nevertheless, it’s an intriguing exercise to witness the evolution of interactive art that strives to question and to redefine the role or artist and audience, as well as the notion of the ‘finished’ or definitive artefact, making this more than just something to listen to, even if only conceptually and for a certain portion of the audience.

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After announcing the release of his second EP titled "Continued Survival", the Italian-born electronica musician and producer Souvlaki unveils another piece of this new work, which was preceded by the single “7LUNGS” (featuring Slim Gong) at the beginning of November.

“Isolation” features Deborah Grandi on vocals and is presented with a stop motion video directed by Souvlaki himself, along with Carlo Rodella and Nicola Nolli.

The musician comments: "This is the first song I started working on for this new EP, the one that set the whole songwriting process in motion. Deborah’s vocal lines were written almost on the spot, we found them when we first listened to the base in the practice room and they immediately seemed to work well in the song.

The lyrics match the story of the video, the central theme is people’s incommunicability, and the song title seems to sum it up quite well.
I have to admit that I struggled to finish the arrangements of “Isolation”, but I perceived its great potential right away and I didn’t want to set it aside. Thanks to Simone Piccinelli, who contributed to the production of the EP, I got to find the balance between all the elements in this song.

I am satisfied with the outcome and I hope listeners will appreciate it too; personally, I like the atmosphere it evokes, that slightly “retro” touch; it plays along within a mix between darkness and positive feelings."

The EP "Continued Survival", produced by Souvlaki and Simone Piccinelli at La Buca Recording Club and mastered at Woodpecker Mastering will contain 6 tracks, including the single "Isolation" and the previously released single "7LUNGS" and will be available on all main digital platforms starting January 15th.

Watch the video here:

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27th August 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Leeds proves once again to be the spawning ground for some interesting experimental music, and this four-tacker from Material Loss is a work of dark, dark ambient, a genre I’ve become increasingly drawn to over time by virtue of its lack of prescription: what I draw from it is as much about my own projections, my own internal state and contemplations as the music itself, although it in turn has the capacity to reflect back at me those internalisations. And what Material Loss convey corresponds with the name – a sense of emptiness, a sensation of being aimless and bereft. Admittedly, these moods do hit from time to time and I know his isn’t something by any means unique to me, but when they descend they do so rapidly, like a storm blowing in from the horizon on a strong wind, building from out of the blue and forcing a sudden pressure drop.

And what is material? Something palpable, tangible. And yes, these four tracks, for all of their vague, effusiveness, they succeed in conveying something more concrete, somehow. It’s all about the atmosphere, which has been carefully constructed and arranged for optimal effect, and while it’s short, it reached seep into the psyche, and into the body, prodding the gut, the bowels, the lungs, and, above all, stealthily creeping around the deeper recesses of the brain.

Such dank murkiness shouldn’t be associated by any means directly with a depressive state, though: the lack of overt form or structure can be quite therapeutic, offering a form of escapism as one allows oneself to drift through the sonic clouds, The first piece, ‘Set’ rumbles and growls, and within those sonic clouds, there’s a storm brewing. It’s a distant rumbling, a dissonance, an almost unquantifiable and most unspecific unease more than anything else.

Following on, ‘UA’ manifests as a barely-audible droning hum for the most part but it’s occasionally rent with tearing shards of nose or rising tides of amorphous sound. The fact that each composition is brief means that none becomes overwhelming, r challenging to the point of traumatic, although in the infinite subtlety, the menace is always present.

‘SD-CLA’ may be brief, but it’s dark and doomy, a single beat repetitively hammered out at a funereal pace amidst fizzing electrics and splinters of breaking glass. Closer ‘Alm’ – the calm without the c – brings a sense of tranquillity, a lifting of the mood and something approximating a sense of lightness and of relief, and a sense that maybe things aren’t so bleak after all.

They are, of course: the reality of living in the now is beyond dismal, but at least, for a couple of minutes, we can perhaps forget and pretend otherwise.

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12th June 2020

James Wells

According to their bio, Milton Keynes based British metal outfit Chasing Ghosts were ‘born of a passion to create dark and melodic music’ and their latest offering ‘is no doubt their biggest and most ambitious record yet, a union of haunting female harmonies and natural sombre strings, resulting in an evolution of all the darker elements in their already present sound since the release of their critically acclaimed debut album in 2018’.

Cynic that I am, was prepared for this to bring me some suffering, with a load of overblown bombastic rock – and make no mistake, there are elements that creep towards being OTT, but they manage to balance it with enough drive and majesty and emotional resonance as to render it an engaging and powerful release.

Opener ‘Until the End’ is a bold, gothic sweep of a song with intricate guitar lines that interweave across choral vocals that evoke the spirit of The Sisters of Mercy, and, moreover, the myriad bands who followed in their wake. The rhythm guitar chugs hard while the lead picks a serpentine thread and the baritone vocals (which aren’t short on a hint of Carl McCoy) cast a mix of gloom and drama over the whole thing.

Brooding violins sway through the intro to ‘A Darker Place’ that pitches somewhere between All About Eve and Evancessence, while the title track, ‘Bring Me Suffering’, which draws the curtain, is what one would justifiably describe as an ‘epic’, a seven-minute, string-soaked rendition of emotional anguish that rides post-rock crescendos while surging to a slow-burning climax that makes you ache as you listen.

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1st November 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

So The Shakin’ Nightmares gatecrashed my radar thanks to a message via Facebook from Dan Gott, guitarist and the man wit all the whoops and howls for manic rockabilly duo Snakerattlers. Since he books gigs at my favourite venue as a day-job he sees and hears a lot of bands, so if he reckons I need to hear an act, the chances are I really do.

They do the matching outfits thing – which is a bit Snakerattlers, but also reminds me of The Computers – and the four songs on this, their debut EP are kicking, but with a sense of order and a determined sense of identity.

‘(I’ve Got) The Shakin’ Nightmares’ kicks it off with a slow swagger and a reverb-heavy twang that struts its way into a swampy gothed-up surf riff that reminds me of The Volcanoes – which means I’m instantly sold. It’s very much about a well-worn template that has its origins in the blues and has been kicking around in various mutant forms since ‘The Hippy Hippy Shake’ in 1959, but it gets increasingly wild, twisting 60s psyche with grunged-up alt-rock.

They step up the pace on ‘Revenge’ which brings a frenzied punk aspect to the boogie-woogie wig-out and ‘I Wish’ chops a groove that sashays into the more straight-ahead rock closer ‘A Little Death’. It’s still dominated by a choppy guitar and some deep reverb, and these guys are cruising hard on an obsessive death trip. I can get on board with that. If it’s not sex or drugs, then rock ‘n’ roll needs death. We can’t all get sex or drugs, and don’t even necessarily want them, but we’re all going to die. And given the state of things, sooner rather than later seems increasingly appealing. On that basis, plus the basis of some solid tunes, The Shakin’ Nightmares have all the appeal right now.