Posts Tagged ‘EP’

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.

Bearsuit Records – 27th September 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

Edinburgh-based Bearsuit Records has established itself as a reliable source of weird stuff, a large proportion of which comes from Japan, a country renowned for producing some of the most brilliantly bizarre music. Needless to say, I’m a fan, and admire label owner Dave Hillary’s unswerving commitment to giving niche artists a home.

A trilling fairground waltz with stuttering microbeats provides the backdrop to the ethereal vocal on the title track, leading the listener into the weird and wonderful world of Haq, which is a collaborative musical vehicle for Japanese duo N-qia (Nozomi and Takma, the latter of whom is renowned in certain cult circles for his eight albums released under the Serph moniker) and the ultra-prolific Ediburgh based enigma that is Harold Nono.

Evaporator is a quintessential Bearsuit release – meaning, it’s way, way out there, strange and bewildering, in the most otherworldly sense. Evaporator is an album that more or less defines cognitive dissonance. It’s a headfuck, but that’s not a criticism. We need to be challenged: all too often, we’re presented with sonic chewing gum and shrug and think ‘yeah, that’s ok’. Ok is not ok, of course: we’re swimming in a sea of mediocrity and we need to break free of is tireless tide.

It’s all going on – at once – on ‘Dustboy Horrorshow’, which collides dreamy post-rock with pounding double-speed beats before taking a brief turn for the heavy in the midsection, before the industrial grind is dispersed in a ripple of fairy-lit world music to fade. And it only gets weirder and more incongruously juxtaposed from hereon in.

Ballistic beats and floaty mellowness collide, and often, as they explore the space between The Cocteau Twins and the Prodigy and somehow, in their state of dementure, attempt to bridge it by fusion. This shouldn’t work, and in places, it doesn’t, but that’s all the more reason to celebrate their efforts: experimentation and collaboration shouldn’t be about perfection, and even necessarily about the end product. The creative process is what matters.

That said, the end product, weird and baffling as it is, has more than its share of moments, and this five-tacker comes with a bunch of remixes of the EP tracks as well as an alternative mix of ‘Bees in My Feet’ from 2013’s Nocturnals. The approaches to remixing are ide-ranging and varied, and serve to highlight just how eclectic the composite elements of Haq’s original compositions are.

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Haq – Evaporator

30th August 2019 – Retratando Voces

Christopher Nosnibor

This split release, which pairs Leeds solo artist Black Ribbon with Nottingham duo Don’t Try, follows up on the former’s remix of Drahla’s single ‘Twelve Divisions of the Day’ and the latter’s 2018 single, ‘JWAFJ’, emerging on a German label. Mixed and mastered by Wayne Adams of Bear Bites Horse Studios, and featuring artwork by Hayden Menzies (METZ), this has got the lot behind it – and it delivers on all of its promise.

Listening to the dark, goth-tinged post-punk vibes that permeate both contributions, it makes sense: you get the impression that however much there’s been a sustained renaissance for all things goth-tinged and post-punk here in Britain (which, let’s face it, hasn’t been especially great of late), these are artists who will likely fare better on the mainland, especially in Germany.

Black Ribbon’s ‘Interception’ arrives in a squeal of feedback before clattering percussion and angular synth discord pave the way for a driving dark disco groove. It’s a magnificently mangled hybrid of DAF, Gary Numan, The Human League and early Foetus. Take away any one of the elements and it’s a different animal, but it’s the collision of all things at once that make it special. Done differently, it could be a straight-ahead electropop tune, albeit with an industrial production and early 80s vibe. But with incidentals exploding all over the place, while the vocals, heavily treated and low in the mix have a robotic tone and veer between blank monotone and rising desperation.

Transitioning through a series of passages with some expansive instrumental segments, it stretches out to build a masterfully epic listening experience. Fading out just shy of nine minutes, its end brings a disappointment that its not much, much longer.

The Big Black comparisons that have been hovering around Don’t Try are of merit in the context of ‘Melancholy Chapters’, the drum machine pounding relentlessly behind a gauze of guitars reminiscent very much of ‘Bad Houses’ from Big Black’s debut. Notably, this was Albini and Co’s attempt to sound like The Cure. And while it captured the claustrophobia of 17 Seconds, it did so with everything cranked up to eleven. Don’t Try bring the goth via Big Back loop full circle here with a pulverising six minutes of hard-hitting bleakness.

However, something about ‘Melancholy Chapters’ calls to mind other acts, notably to my ear The Screaming Blue Messiahs, particularly in the sneering vocal delivery. It’s kinda punk, kinda something more sophisticated. That doesn’t mean it’s not direct, hard-hitting, heavy: if anything, this is denser and packs more impact than their previous releases, which have focused on primitivism and treble.

It may only contain two songs, but this feels like a massive release, a landmark of sorts, and something deserving of a lathe-cut clear vinyl 12”. It’s challenging and likely divisive, with both acts taking something that could be accessible and rendering it with degrees of difficulty. On a personal level, this is much of the appeal: I crave art that makes demands, and admire the makers of the art that does so. But it’s more than that: art that challenges probes into the soul and the psyche, it alerts the senses and makes you feel. Against a backdrop of sameness that induces a numb torpor, we need that jolt, that kick, that buzz to remind us we’re alive. And this does that.

Hayden Menzies Artwork

Christopher Nosnib0r

The press release froth on about how Milton Keynes pop-punkers Get Your Head Straight have just launched their new single, ‘Swansea’, which is taken from their excellently received debut EP, Contrast.

The fact it’s pop-punk – and I’ll admit a certain genre prejudice here – notwithstanding, ‘Swansea’ is a neatly performed slab of generic bilge. The guitars are up in the mix, but you get the impression that’s more by accident that design, as the production is okay to middling at best. Meaning, what may sit as ‘dynamic’ elsewhere simply conveys ‘slapdash’ in context. Call me choosy.

And it really is a terrible name for a band.

Undogmatisch – UNDOGMA3 – 19th January 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

This all sounds very complicated, both in terms of concept and execution. This is the first in a series of releases which contain remixes of tracks from the album Madame E, by Mirco Magnani and Ernesto Tomasini. So far, so straightforward. Madame E is ‘a free reinterpretation of Georges Bataille’s short novel Madame Edwarda (publ. in France 1941), in which Eroticism, Religion and Death are interlaced.’ Bataille is by no means an easy read. And while I’m yet to hear Madame E, ‘Plaisir’, at least in its remixed form, is by no means an easy listen.

Pink and white noise and strains of feedback which register in the range of bat-hearing jostle against jolting ruptures of panoramic bass frequencies and irregular, thumping, electronic beats. It pulsates and throbs and bristles and jars. With soaring, semi-operatic falsetto vocals drifting over the ever-swelling electro-industrial grind, it comes on like a deranged and super-intense hybrid of Scott Walker and Whitehouse. Maybe that could be a future project, by way of a counterpart to Walker’s collaboration with Sunn O))). Or maybe tis already fulfils that ultra-niche gap in the market.

So where’s the complication? Well, this release is credited to Ken Karter, the remixer, for a start, despite it containing music originally composed by Mirco Magnani and Ernesto Tomasini. So, this release is the first in a series which sits under the banner of MADAME E. Rèintérprétations et Remixes, which will be released periodically as one-sided 12” singles in limited editions of 10 – which is barely a test pressing – and digitally. These are designed to ‘include different points of view from artists somehow close to the album’s topics and atmospheres’. And after the last remix taken from the album, the whole remix series will be published as an album titled MADAME E. Rèintérprétations et Remixes.

I’m not entirely sure of the purpose of the individual digital releases, but that’s a question of economics and practicality. This is clearly less about practicality and convention than it’s about art.

It’s a release which invites meandering dissections and deep, analytical appraisal. It’s a release which likely deserves it, too. But there’s a time and a place, and a work so deeply invested in intertext and context. We’re in the realms of critical theory and reader reception, with a work which purposefully challenges its own place and function. But when high art meets populist electro tropes, anything goes. And with this, anything goes.

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