Posts Tagged ‘Experimental’

Editions Mego EMEGO292 – 6th November 2020

Nineteen years on from the release of his first audio document, Russell Haswell’s latest effort is a typically wild collection of vintage synth sounds whipped into crazy cacophonous cocktail.

The objective titles of the release echo the statement on artistic commodity made by Public Image Limited on their 1986 release, which went by the titles Album, Cassette and CD (although technically, all three formats contain the album, making the vinyl edition something of a misnomer). In the digital age, and notably in the year which has seen UK vinyl sales hit a thirty-year peak, the format is an integral part of the experience.

As the press release notes, ‘12" channels the original role of the medium with 2 tracks of beats that present themselves in unpredictable ways. 12" also features the head shattering bonus cut, Always Check Their Instagram. LP cut at 33rpm allows explorations into broader territories with deep ambience running into twisted acid and splattered shapes bouncing amongst rapid fire rhythms’. The 12” single in the 80s and 90s did very much acquire a unique position, accommodating extended mixes and longer songs, and often an additional B-side.

That the tracks on 12" are exclusive to the format and not available on the digital release may deprive many listeners of the pleasure of three Haswell classics may seem rough, but on the other, is fair play, because context counts and the medium really is the message. Moreover, while I’ve amassed a hard-drive groaning with digital audio files over the last decade for review purposes, if I’m going to buy music, I’ll still always favour a physical format, despite increasing problems when it comes to storage, and, with vinyl, my medium of choice, actually getting to play it on account of the stereo and record collection being in the living room where the TV is, which is occupied by the family pretty much every waking moment.

So, for review I have just seven tracks, namely the set which comprises LP and Digital. In digital format, naturally: I tend not to get much vinyl in the mail for review these days, funnily enough.

The dark, dank rumblings of ‘Ambient Takedown’ register low in the gut, with heavy tones like a distant jet, and the sound hovers for a time that feels significantly longer than its two-minute duration. It does nothing to prepare the listener for the polyrhythmic drum-machine frenzy that of ‘r-809’, a ten-minute riot of tinny synthesised percussion which bounces along and around in hyperspeed. There’s a thrumming bass and insistent, repetitive squelching sound and there are moments when everything goes off all at once, and it’s as if someone dropped a match in a firework factory. It’s the first of two extended workouts, the second being the album’s closer, ‘End of Eternity’. It’s a sprawling mass of squalls and tweets, a foaming froth of sine waves and howling analogue torture that wows and flutters and goes on, and on, stopping, starting, fizzing and scraping churning and stammering wildly as it scrawls and scratches its way through the terrain of Power Electronics and headlong into an aural apocalypse.

In between, the remining tracks ae fairly concise, with only ‘The Bottom Line of Safety’ running past the five-minute mark. ‘Pulsar 2’ is an overloading crackle of noise, a wibbling modulation rendred unrecognisable by being cranked up beyond distortion: it’s the kind of gnarly mess one tends to associate with Haswell, and precisely what you’d expect from an artist who’s been a member of Consumer Electronics, both live and on record in recent years. If these pieces feel fragmentary, and vaguely frustrating in their lack of a firm form or obvious trajectory, then it’s fair to say it’s entirely intentional.

Some of it may sound like so much dicking about, but Haswell’s grasp on tonal contrasts – and beats – is firm: this is very much about exploration rather than entertainment.

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Panurus Productions – 4th December 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Some of these experimentalists, they’re real buggers, you know. Awkward sods. Wilfully obtuse, intentionally unlistenable. Sindre Bjerga & Tanto sure as hell aren’t aiming for mass appeal on this absolute monster of a cassette release. In fact, I’d go so far as to suggest their primary goal is mass-alienation, because this is pretty fucking horrible. And it never stops.

Sindre Bjerga & Tanto’s collaboration contains two pieces which fill a C90. It’s an experimental mash-up, a cut-up, fold-in audio experiment that if not inspired by William Burroughs’ 1960s tape experiments, lots inevitably can be traced in terms of lineage and influence, conscious or otherwise. And for all the levity of the title, it makes for some seriously hard listening.

Amidst crackling fizz and stretched tape discord, there’s a warped, off-key rendition of ‘Don’t Cry for me, Argentina’, that’s buried in an underwater bubbling, a blur of blender nose and a mess of detuned radios. Shrieking feedback emerges and lingers on after grating clanks, and serrated droned, pulsing washed of analogue noise and sharp static blasts that cut through bubbling torrents and crude farting noises and a collage of contrasts and contradictions.

It becomes more challenging as it progresses: ‘Crashing Sonic Pepper Waves’ delves deeper under water and begins to take on the feel of a long underwater swim – the sound of a frenzied splash after being toppled overboard from a liner or destroyer. Beepling wipples fracture and disrupt a narrative of long, dark tones that rumble and scrape and intonate a truly post-industrial, post-apocalyptic soundscape – bleak, desolate, rusted, decayed.

If the first forty-five minutes feel like an endurance test then the second – ‘Tabasco Mist Prescription’ feels even more intensely so. What do you actually do with this? A masochist can enjoy it to an extent, and anyone with an appreciation of Throbbing Gristle and any of the myriad acts of all strains of genre style influenced by TG likewise. TG represent the closest reference here, with the heart of industrial music being less about the stylized appropriation of factory noise and the like than an attitude based on perversion of what was even considered ‘music’ delivered with a confrontational, antagonistic attitude – and Sneezing Waves From The Peppered Oceans is antagonistic, and then some.

35 minutes into ‘Crashing Sonic Pepper Waves’ is shrill blasts of treble are being amped up against all kinds of found-sound dissonance and difficulty, and it only gets messier, more brain-pulping with the messy murk of ‘Crashing Sonic Pepper Waves’. It’s unsettling, uncomfortable, and those are the compliments. It’s not even particularly dark, it’s just a nasty conglomeration of disparate sounds, collaged together to render something that’s uncomfortable, and never-ending, and quite enough to induce heartburn.

It’s good, but don’t expect to like it.

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Constellation Records share the eighth entry in their Corona Borealis Longplay Singles Series. "Je Vois / Non-Dit" by Montreal based avant-electronic artist Joni Void and featuring vocals by poet/singer and frequent collaborator N NAO, with an experimental film by Sonya Stefan.

"Je Vois / Non-Dit" combines live recordings by the duo into a single track longform where N NAO’s vocals are given unearthly yet organic treatments through Void’s warped manipulations, sampling, atmospheric textures and deconstructed beats – joined by Eddie Wagner on flute about halfway through the track’s 21-minute running time.

Listen to ‘Je Vois / Non-Dit’ here:

…and stream the video here.

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Photo by Thomas Boucher & Sonya Stefan, 2018

Human Worth- 26th November 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

This one’s been cropping up in my Facebook feed a fair bit lately, and I’m quite ashamed by how long it took me to get around to playing it, given the great work Human Worth do both in terms of music and charitable donations – plus the fact they’re decent guys who I’m proud to know. Shit happens, even in the midst of Lockdown 2.0 where it’s shit mostly because there’s only shit and nothing happens, and mostly it’s simply that there just aren’t enough hours in the day. In the event, it turns out the greatest loss is mine, because this album really is something else. How was I to know that this was the album I’d been looking for, that I needed in my life the last few months?

Given the pedigree of the performers who make up Cower – namely Wayne Adams (Pet Brick / Big Lad), Gareth Thomas (USA Nails / Silent Front) & Thomas Lacey (Yards / The Ghost of a Thousand) – it would be a reasonable expectation for their debut album to contain a fair bit of noise, but then equally, it would be reasonable to expect it to be a bit experimental, a bit electronic, and a bit weird. How do all of the elements brought by the component parts marry up?

The short answer is remarkably well, and Cower sound like all of the component pats simultaneously, but equally none, as they morph together to forge something truly unique, and also quite unexpected.

It begins in a pretty understated fashion, with ‘Tight Trousers and a Look of Intent’ following the path of a dense, woozy, but accessible dark electro tune. Admittedly, that pulsating bass throb is something you could drown in, but the incidentals and the vocals are quite accessible – although all hell breaks loose just halfway through and it’s wild. Initially, I was inclined to say that as an opening, it was ‘tame’, but that would be unjust: restraint isn’t an indication of weakness, but of controlling the beast. But then, when the beast breaks loose… ‘Proto-Lion-Tamer’, brings the noise, and does it in proper full-on style, a squalling, brawling mess of din – old-school noise merchants like The Jesus Lizard are in the blender with contemporaries like Daughters and Blacklisters to whip up a nasty maelstrom of noise.

Tribal drumming dominates the bleak, eerie soundscape of ‘Arise You Shimmering Nightmare’, while the downtempo mid-album slowie, ‘Saxophones by the Water’ finds them coming on like Violator-era Depeche Mode, and this trickles through into the next song, ‘Midnight Sauce’ that combined a rich, soulful vocal with some chilly synths and blasts of percussion-led noise and cinematic drama that goes fully 3D, to the extent that it gives JG Thirlwell a run for his money.

If BOYS pursues a dark, brooding, electro road as its dominant style, it’s the album’s range and diversity that is its real selling point, and the songs are all far darker than most of the titles suggest. And if much of the album feels pointed, challenging, ‘For the Boys’ is outstanding in its emotional sensitivity. Closer ‘Park Jogger’ in particular sounds like it might be light, even vaguely comedic by its title, but no: it’s a colossal electroindustrial behemoth tat packs some seriously pounding force into its short running time.

With BOYS, Cower surprise and excel: the quality of the songs is remarkable: there’s a real sense of everything having been carefully crafted for accessibility, to the extent that this is actually a pop album – making for the darkest, heaviest pop album you’re likely to hear in a long time.

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Gas Lit is the new album by the multidimensional duo Divide and Dissolve, incoming on Invada Records on 29th January, and produced by Ruban Neilson of Unknown Mortal Orchestra. The album is preceded today by the second single and powerful video “Denial” which encapsulates their message behind the music: to undermine and destroy the white supremacist colonial framework and to fight for Indigenous Sovereignty, Black and Indigenous Liberation, Water, Earth, and Indigenous land given back.

Divide and Dissolve’s mighty new single “Denial” is a potent blend of ominous and unsettling sax that blows wide open into colossal riffs for almost eight glorious minutes. The accompanying video was shot in Taupo, Aotearoa by notable indigenous music video director Amber Beaton at the end of the southern hemisphere’s winter.

The vibrant, unfolding colours and delicate personality of the flowers at the beginning of the film have the potential to be in contrast with the intro of the song, but it’s actually escorted by it perfectly. It’s further varied with the colossal boom signalling the arrival of the guitars and drums while visually we start to explore the thermal grumblings of the Taupo volcanic zone. We follow the Huka falls/Waikato awa (Waikato river) up stream to settle into Taupo-Nui-A-Tia moana (Lake Taupo) as the return of the sax lulls us gently after being nourished so generously by Divide and Dissolve’s signature gargantuan tone. Thanks are given to the local Iwi\tribe Ngāti Tūwharetoa, the rightful guardians of the whenua/land and to Rūaumoko the god of volcanoes, earthquakes and the seasons.

Watch ‘Denial’ here:

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Divide and Dissolve image by Billy Eyers

Pelagic Records – 20th November 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

The Swedish quartet’s fifth album finds them freely drawing on myriad genre references to conjure a cocktail that extends far beyond even the broadest perimeters of post-rock to render this a truly hybrid work. The scale of the ambition is immense, and for a band who rarely spent time together and only rehearse ahead of tours or to write and record albums, the way they’ve drawn everything together so organically is remarkable.

The title is quite fitting as they swing back and forth across the forms and styles, with a brooding electroambient introduction in the form of the title track which builds by stealth over the course of seven and a half minutes to a grand-scale swell of cinematic hypnotism with rolling drums driving a cyclical synth motif.

‘E22’ brings the guitars to the fore and is more overtly conventionally post-rock, but it’s got a certain progressive edge, not to mention some weight, breaking into some hefty bass-dominated riffage around the five-minute mark. There’s a pace-rock / psyche twist to ‘Mindtrip’, by far the album’s most accessible and buoyant tune, and it contrasts with the altogether more tense ‘Shelter’, which emanates a simmering tension. The absence of vocals actually accentuates the mood and renders it all the more relatable, as the listener pours the emotional contents of their own experience into the empty vessel the band present.

This, for me – and doubtless for many, having attended countless instrumental post-rock shows in the decade spanning 2002-2012 – is the draw of the genre, at least when well-executed: post-rock presents sonic expanses without authorial steer, without any insistence on specific meaning, leaving the listener to fill in the spaces. And with vast, expansive spaces in which to wander, into which to pour one’s thoughts and experiences, this is music that opens its arms to a world of freedom.

They don’t do short songs: Oscillate only contains eight tracks, but only two of those clock in under six minutes, and the final pairing of ‘Eraser’ and ‘The Headless Man’, both of which extend well past the eight-minute measure. The first of these is a dynamic rush of a tune, with propellant drumming and a solid bass throb, while the second is a redemptive sunburst of a tune, the light of dawn breaking over the horizon.

Oscillate is a strong set, and the album will indubitably appeal to fans of MONO, Explosions in the Sky, and Godspeed You! Black Emperor, but in context, comparisons are reductive: this is an album that stretches far wider than its influences and is truly impressive in its breadth and scale.

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Outsider Art / Nim-Brut – 4th December 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

I should probably apologise in advance for this one: my mind has a habit of sprouting off on tangents of word association at the best of times, and with the turmoil that is 2020, a year that’s been – and continues to be – an endless conveyor belt of shit on shit, none of which makes any fucking sense, there are many days and evenings when I am absolutely all over the place. Not literally, of course, since I can’t really go anywhere or see anyone. The weirdy collage sprawl of ‘Carving Another Flute’, the first of three compositions on this split / collaborative effort by BlackCloudSummonerand the hypermanic, uber-prolific Theo Gowans, aka Territorial Gobbings is the perfectly bewildering soundtrack to these brain-foggingly bewildering times. So ‘Carving Another Flute’ just makes me think, inexplicably, of the slang term skinflute. That’s probably the only instrument not in the mix in this chaotic cacophony of an album, that’s got everything else going on, probably including the kitchen sink.

‘Peaches and Crayons’ sounds soft and playful, but is in fact droney and dark, and there’s no easy access point here. But they save their harshest noise for last: ‘Playing All My Black Dice Records At The Same Time’ is a 15-minute assault that is pretty much what the title says, meaning it’s a squalling blitzkrieg of screaming feedback and mid-and low-end that growls and bangs around erratically midst metallic crashes and a fizzing circuitry. It’s utterly excruciating, and probably one of the most intense and sustained blasts of noise I’ve heard in a while, being nothing short of an explosive sonic firework display – but, unchoreographed and untamed, it’s more like a blaze in a firework factory, with everything going off all at once, and it’s incendiary and blinding and overwhelming. Crash-landing somewhere between Merzbow and Whitehouse around the time of Never Forget Death, it’s a fucking nasty mess of abrasive noise – which of course means I love it.

There’s no sitting on the fence with this one: if you do noise, you will love this. If you don’t, it’s your worst nightmare.

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Geins’t Naït + L. Petitgand – Like This Maybe Or This

Ici d’ailleurs – MT012 – 13th November 2020

I must have fallen into a black hole in recent times: I hadn’t even realised that Ici d’ailleurs were still running their ‘Mind Travels’ series, which I’d followed from its inception, and have the first seven or eight releases on CD in a neat pile. Although, it would seem that apart from a couple of releases in 2017 and 2018, the series has lain largely dormant since 2015 – until now, so maybe I’m not quite as far out of the loop as I’d first thought. Its return is a welcome one, and arrives at a time many will be grateful. I am among the grateful, although providing a valid commentary to this – or anything – feels vaguely inappropriate.

These ‘Mind Travels’ releases were always strong by virtue of their otherness. The series was appropriately named, as the music each release contains is transportative, lifting the listener out of mind and body and to another realm. Like This Maybe Or This is no exception.

The pair came together in 2014 for the release of Je vous dis, which stood as a remarkable intersection of two very different artists – and yet it worked because of, rather than in spite of their disparity. Like This Maybe Or This is the duo’s second collaborative contribution to the series, and once again, it’s unsettling and awkward, although magnificently executed and greater than the sum of the parts. It seems that these two superficially divergent and disparate composers have found a certain commonality, and this, their second collaboration for the series, is a perfect merging of forms and ideas.

‘Hac’ brings clattering drums, undulating synths and a whole tumult of extraneous noise and voices not a slow-turning blender, while ‘22’ is a soft, supple semi-ambient effort, with mellifluous synth washes drifting in waves around a slow, metronomic wooden thud. Elsewhere, ‘uido 10’ is spare, grating, industrial: muffled vocal samples are partially submerged beneath murky sloughing waves of analogue noise that rises and falls like waves lapping against the shore.

It’s a brooding piano and stealthy sine waves that sculpt the tense mood of ‘Bagd’, before ‘Pecno’ brings an insistent oscillating throb that’s pure Suicide, while strings and piano grace the atmospheric ‘Dustil’ with an overtly orchestral / classical flavour, which contrasts with the expansive 80s electro stylings of ‘Liber’ which immediately follows. The final moments of the penultimate track, ‘37’ sounds- and feels – like the shoot-out at the end of a movie where everyone dies, and the desolate closer, ‘Aphro’ is a sullen-piano-led elegy at the end of everything. And it’s at the end of everything that we stand, or so it seems.

The world is on a knife-edge, and nothing feels safe, and nothing feels certain. And since, right now, the only travels many of us can undertake are in the mind, this album makes for a fitting soundtrack to a stationery journey.

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Bearsuit Records – 31st October 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Because life had been getting a bit predictable – y’know, with nothing happening but the same old same old, work / life at home / going nowhere schtick – it was without time to mix things up. A second lockdown and a new release from Bearsuit certainly fits the bill there, since after another half-arsed, muzzy bag of mumbling waffle from that tousle-haired tosser who probably couldn’t even give a straight answer to the question of whether or not he knew what a straight answer was, no-one really knows what the fuck’s happening, least of all half the government, a bewildering array of discombobulating sonic collage courtesy of Bunny & the Invalid Singers feels positively coherent by comparison.

This single – featuring a remarkably conventional A-side and B-side – comes as a taster of an album, The Flight of the Certainty Kids, scheduled to land in January.

Delicate, picked acoustic guitar that combines elements of classical and folk paves the way for a mellow, easy-listening vibe, with a meandering horn weaving its way across a slow, slouchy beat, and it comes on like latter-day JG Thirlwell compositions melting into Groove Armada. If that sounds like a curious and not altogether complimentary combo, think again: it’s a coming together of aspects of cinematographic vision and a breeziness of a bygone era, that bright, skippy 60s pop style with a subtle psychedelic twist. It’s mellow, and it’s well-executed, and lifts the listener towards a tranquil space.

It’s probably the distortion of history as played through the filters of 21st century retrospect – you know, all those ersatz Kodachrome-filtered scenes of joyful skipping around, weaving daisy chains and carefree living in microdresses, flares, flowing locks, beards and sideburns… How we idealise the past. The swinging 60s bypassed most of those there at the time, just as punk wasn’t the revolution that’s endlessly eulogised for the majority grinding away at day jobs or otherwise blissfully unaware in the suburbs. Nevertheless, a semi-fabricated 60s lounge and ultra-chill vibe is the main flavour of flipside ‘None of this Happened’, and maybe the clue is in the title: maybe it’s a wilful misremembrance, a distortion. It’s pleasant enough, of course, and perhaps appropriately, it all goes off in every direction toward the end, and we’re left in a sonic whirlpool of weird.

It’s another creative success for Bunny and Co, and augers well for the album, at least if you’re on the market for a full set of psychedelic pop strangeness.

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19th October 2020

Christopher Nosnbor

The title – Meander – intimates something that not only lacks a clear, direct trajectory, but to my mind at least, something ambling and aimless, like a leisurely walk on a Sunday afternoon in summer, a story narrated at length and via an array of detours and diversions, or a river reaching the later stages of its route towards the sea, when its force has dissipated and it weaves in a sedate series of s-bends through gentle lowlands.

Interlard’s new album may not be defined by a distinct or direct linear trajectory, but it’s anything but sedate, barrelling in with a sonic assault from the outset, with ‘Getting in the Van’ a churning wash of cyclical repetition. Yes, it may well resemble the swashing slosh of a washing machine with additional top-end bleeps, but it also stands as the opening to a passageway that heads downwards into a dark network of tunnels and caverns, an underground maze of the mind and off twisting soundscapes.

It soon becomes apparent that Meander is one of those albums that’s designed specifically to perturb, to disturb, to disrupt, perhaps in any which way it can, and to achieve this, there’s an element of chaos, or the random, as an array of sounds are collaged together, overlapped and overlaid.

‘Jonny Staccatto Does Cold Turkey’ packs all the weirdness into just over three and a half minutes, with woozy bass and discordant twangs and looped vocal samples emerging from snippets of laid-back jazz. Elsewhere, thunderous martial drumming and whirrs like drills buzz through reverberating feedback on the short but intense ‘Power Walking Holding a Claw Hammer’ that batters its way into the space between Test Department and Nurse with Wound. ‘Ugly Socialite’ ploughs a thudding furrow of bleak monotony as it trudges on, and on, and ‘Griefcase’ is dank and murky, oppressive.

Sonically, Meander is big on both texture and tone and moreover, where it stands apart from so many other works that slot into the broad field of experimental / industrial / electronica is in its stylistic range: Interlard explore far more than shades of noise and abrasion. In some respects, this actually renders it more challenging, as reconciling the more mellow passages and out-and-out incongruences within the context of a ‘noise’-oriented set isn’t easy: it goes against the grain of convention, but that’s all the more reason to appreciate the project’s broad artistic vision.

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