Posts Tagged ‘Experimental’

5th June 2020

James Wells

So The Moms is not a bunch of women who meet for coffee or a WhatsApp group about homework, but actually three dudes from Copenhagen who trade in textural noise/free improv, manipulating conventional instruments in self-invented unorthodox ways. On this, their self-released debut which contains a single track of 39 minutes and 34 seconds in duration, they promise ‘no soothing melodies or calming new-age harmonies, yet it can be a meditative experience if you accept the push and let your mind slip through the void.’

It sort of sounds like jazz in its origins, as some kind of brass struggles for breath, honking and parping in a strangled tone. Low-end grumbles and high-end fizzing duel for dominance as the jostle around mid-range drones. The ratio of droniness and rasping horniness and warped jazz dissonance vary as the elements interweave, shifting and mutating.

At times sparse, minimal, subdued and strained toots expectedly from within extended sections of restrained low-level noise, punctuated by thuds and thumps: strains of feedback and scraping are recurring sonic elements as the ever-shifting piece drips from swirling murk to squealing torture, with distortion and discord dominating.

The final minutes build to a climax of shrill, shrieking cacophonous noise before slowly dissipating to draw the curtain on an album that’s restless and difficult, an album that doesn’t allow the listener to settle into a single frame of mind for more than a couple of minutes, as it twists and turns, honks and churns.

It’s by no means commercial, but nor does it have any will to be, and in its field of jazz-orientated experimentalism, Kalipedia is a solid debut.

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Love Love Records

Christopher Nosnibor

It’s no secret I’m quite a fan of Matt Cargill and Co’s oddball, off-kilter approach to freeform experimental weird noisy shit that stubbornly defies genre categorisation – largely on account of the fact that it is weird noisy shit that stubbornly defies genre categorisation (although the blurbage that accompanies Walk it Dry, the follow-up to 2019’s Gentle Persuaders describes them as ‘London’s neo-jazz wrecking crew’.

Sly have trod themselves a unique path, and find themselves in the curious position of being one of the most obtuse bands beloved by almost everyone I know in underground musical circles. I’d like to think it’s a combination of their uniqueness and the fact that they are unequivocally

On this outing, they promise ‘the familiar sound palette of skronked electronics, bulging noise blasts, wailing sax & Kalashnikov drums that was found on ‘Gentle Persuaders’’ but at the same time say that this ‘is a very different beast. The tracks here are shorter and punchier as the band digs deeper than ever to find increasingly potent sonic pockets.’

Mad horns and a crushing, slow-paced jazz beat explode from the speakers the second the ‘play’ button his hit, and with ‘A Black Uniformed Strutting Animal’ they plunge into a collision of heavy rhythms and divergent notes that counteract one another in a battle between order and chaos, where there is no clear winner.

‘Dead Cat Chaos Magician’ is frivolous, glooping electronics, with a fast-paced jitter of tension and some ragged blasts of drums that are nothing to do with rhythm and everything to do with dramatic punctuation, sudden explosions that disrupt any semblance of an emerging flow.

The compositions on Walk it Dry are difficult, dissonant, and while they are indeed more succinct than the bult of the pieces on previous outings, they condense those dank, disrupted soundscapes into dense chunks of ‘Bulgarian Steel’ brings the kind of swampy mess of nose that’s quintessentially Sly, dominated as it is by booming beats and murky mid-range, before ‘Shrieking Grief’ steps the torturous din up a notch, with more thunderous rhythms bashing frantically into a void of grinding greyness while horns flash and flail

The lack of pun-based titles is compensated to an extent by ‘Sunken Disorderly’, while ‘My Torso is a Shotgun’ is a cranium-crushing morass of tension, a bludgeoning battery of hammering and noise.

This all stacks up to an album that’s classic Sly: the same dark industrial clanking, doomy undercurrent and warped jazz overtones, but in much shorter segments. It’s still dark, dingy, difficult, jazzy, otherly, and there’s no other band who quit straddle so many boundaries. Walk it Dry may mark a certain evolution, but more than anything, it’s the work of a band who simply don’t do compromise. And that’s why we love them.

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5th May 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Starless is a new musical project from Yurii Samson of Ukranian industrial noisemakers Kadaitcha. It’s pitched as being ‘less industrial and noisy than Kadaitcha, but more acoustic and lyrical’, although this very much depends on the strain of industrial you’re angling towards.

Admittedly, my first thought is less ‘more acoustic and lyrical’ than Kadaitcha, but ‘fuck me, this is spaced-out experimental jazz!’ ‘Entro’ piles in haphazard and chaotic, as a riot of parping horns hoot and honk seemingly at random though a twittering electronic oscillation with bleeps and quirts, and wandering notes that are difficult to assimilate, stylistically or psychologically. There’s a lot going on at once.

But the title track goes much more industrial / dark ambient, a restless thrumming providing the backdrop to a distanced, echo-heavy vocal and squalls of extraneous noise, swells of feedback and layers of serrated electronica, whole distorted impenetrable vocals ring out with a bold authority. It’s the sound of Big Brother’s dictation, monotone, cold, flat, and impervious, while metallic noise spirals and swirls.

Next up, ‘Chudovys’ka’ begins all aclatter and aflutter, a clicking flicker or delicate beats, before a warped vocal begins to nag away in the background. And then, before long, it goes full Throbbing Gristle with churning electronic rhythms and hard-edged noise butting up against them. And this is a sustained sonic attack, the best part of ten minutes of difficult noise that simultaneously rumbles and screes, a low-end wash that rolls and throbs while clattering percussion ricochets off in all directions.

‘Kiviten’’ goes all-out with the heavy-duty percussion, calling to mind the thunderous battery of Test Dept. It also brings droning church organ and shrieking feedback that hurts the ears and bends the brain, as well as heralding introduction of epic choral voices on the scale of Carl Orff’s ‘Carmina Burana’, only distant and dissonant. It’s big on drama, and also disquiet.

Closer, ‘Saga’ is also impressive in its depth, and equally the depth of the discomfort it discharges as wheezing monotone vocals drone out over a shifting soundscape of hesitant beats, creeping jazz horns and scrapes and bubbling synths. It’s sparse, low, slow, and trepidatious, making for an unexpectedly Low-key conclusion that also happens to leave the listener hanging on the edge of a swamp hidden by fog, wondering what lies beyond.

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Christopher Nosnibor

Pierre Massé, the man behind the Paramestre project, threatens ‘Electronic-ish music with human vocals, guitars (played by a human), and far too many effects (along with a healthy dose of digital manipulation)’. It’s an intriguing proposition, and is it even possible to have too many effects, at least when used well?

As Massé explains in the liner notes, ‘As stated by the opening track, it is nothing “perfect”; there are artefacts from tortured source material, there is noise, there are glitches from randomized effects processing, and there is no pitch correction. But there is also warmth, groove, melancholy, and hope. I hope you find something that speaks to you amidst it all.’

This is, to my mind, a succinct summary of why any artist creates; in the hope of there being a shred of commonality with the receiver in the work. But, at the same time, creating not with the audience at the forefront of the creative process. This, ultimately, is what differentiates art from entertainment. The latter is primarily commercial, designed for the (perceived) audience. Art exists for its own sake, and any audience it attracts finds it.

Rippling post-rock guitars with an almost Spanish vibe cascade softly over a dislocated beat that bumps and bounces and flickers on the aforementioned opening track, providing a supple, mellow backdrop to Pierre’s dreamy, soulful vocals, and it’s a smooth, Gallic air that permeates the lilting synth pop of ‘Elle’. It’s pleasant, but it’s not an instant grab by any means, and much of Conditions Initiales feels in some ways exploratory, tentative. It isn’t that the songs themselves feel incomplete, because they certain don’t: it’s more that one feels Massé is still working towards a sound that is one he’s entirely comfortable with, that translates his sonic ambition into the final recorded output.

‘Conceal/Reveal’ goes a shade darker, but it’s the subdued waltz of the seven-minute ‘Madeleines’, with its echoing sampled background conversation that creates a subtle but clear level of juxtaposition, that really draws the listener in, in search of its evasive heart amongst the layers.

And it’s when Massé goes still darker and brings thudding beats to the fore that Conditions Initiales really becomes interesting: ‘Carry’ and closer, ‘Endless’ are both sparse but feature more prominent percussion, the latter worthy of favourable comparisons to Depeche Mode.

Understated as it is, Conditions Initiales contains no shortage of detail, and it’s an intriguing debut that hints at even better to come.

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Front & Follow

Christopher Nosnibor

The demise of the label Front & Follow was a sad one, for many reasons. I mean, it was understandable: a one-man enterprise, the degree of effort required to curate, release, and promote music – especially obscure, niche music – is astounding. It’s always going to be a labour of love, but all the love in the world doesn’t pay the bills.

This does mean that the return of F&F, however brief, with a view to issuing a series of lockdown / isolation compilations is extremely welcome, simply in principle. Not only because it’s a reminder of a time before what’s rapidly looking like a collapse of civilisation, not only because it’s a reminder of what a great label it was, but also because despite the tidal wave of lockdown releases that are flooding the virtual world right now, we still need more music like this: music from the fringes, music that coveys the intense cognitive dissonance of the current situation in non-lyrical terms.

To unpack this: the title summarises the situation as it stands for many in the most succinct form. Whether or not you’re officially ‘isolating’, we’re all still isolated for the most part, either alone or with the rest of out household. But it seems that however ‘together’ we are, however connected, however well we communicate, everyone’s individual experience is different, and in many was incommunicable: we’re all islands, isolating inside our own heads. Words get in the way, and impose the experience of others on our own private thoughts, so the fact that this collection is largely instrumental is welcome, and where there are vocals, they tend to be absorbed into the fabric of the sonic experience.

With twenty contributions from a host of artists. Many of whom I’m unfamiliar with, there’s a theoretical pot-luck element to this compilation, but F&F have always been strong on curatorial skills, and while the contribution from Kemper Norton (arguably one of the bigger ‘names’ on the release) is surprisingly brief, it’s positioned in a prominent position opening proceedings, and sets the tone with its tonally-balanced ambience.

Grey Frequency’s ‘Dissolve’ which follows is more what you might expect: almost seven minutes of mellifluous mellowness, but with crackling snippets of static and shadowy undercurrents that run dark and deep.

Picking standout tracks is difficult and also rather to undermine the project, although

‘Basic Design’s ‘Dream Archipelago’ does stand out by virtue of having vocals first and foremost, but also for it’s woozy, fugue-like qualities, something echoed by the ethereal ‘Dining with Phineus’ by Carya Amara.

AZAK BROMIDE bring a more power electronics / industrial slant to the dark ambient party, but it’s the seventeen-minute behemoth that is Boobs of Doom’s ‘Scumbellina’ that really is the ineffable centrepiece here: a towering monolith of a track it’s all the experimental electronica distilled into a single movement of analogue oddness.

Elsewhere, Ekoplex capture the essence of early cabaret Voltaire on the dubby ‘Rejected Replekz’, Thomas Ragsdale delivers some signature ambience with beats with ‘The Light Between’, and Elizabeth Joan Kelly’s ‘Waking Up With a Cat on My Face’ perfectly encapsulates that moment or panic, that abject spasm through a minute and three quarters of swampy discord and sonic confusion. Hibernation’s nine-minute ‘Fragile Times’ is a perfect summary of everything: so fragile and soft as to be barely-present, it’s a mist-like ambient piece that’s impossible to place your hands on it, much less pin it down, and that wisp-like intangibility, that vague ephemerality is the essence of the collective mind right now. However you may think about think about it, whatever your beliefs, pinning down the mood of the moment is nigh on impossible on the tumultuous psychological rollercoaster we find ourselves on.

Thankfully, soothing, spacious sonic wanderings like the album’s final contribution, TVO’s ‘A Wave as the Coast Disappears from View’ offer id to calm, even if the title reminds us we’re only barely afloat and only so far from drowning in an instant.

Isolation & Rejection Vol 1 is a magnificent collection at any time, but also serves as a contemplative soundtrack to strange and troubling times. It’s also classic F&F.

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Bearsuit Records – 26th June 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

The latest Bearsuit offering is a single by The Original Magnetic Light Parade, which is a collaboration between Belgian musician, Alexander Stordiau and Edinburgh man, and Bearsuit favourite, Harold Nono.

‘Confusion Reigns’ is surprisingly unweird, at least to begin with, exploring a sort of cinematic synthwave trajectory, a sparse machine drum low in the mix. Then it breaks into something massively bombastic, and it’s faux-epic in tone, sounding as much like someone fiddling with the voice settings on a keyboard, before finally settling on a piano sound and rolling into a space-rock explosion. With about half a dozen passages in all packed into its five-and-a-half minutes, it feels more like a collection of ideas for longer pieces than a single composition. Confusion does indeed reign.

It’s a fitting summary of the now: everything is confused and confusing, especially in the UK, especially in England. I still don’t know under what circumstances I’m supposed to stay at home or meet people, what’s essential or non-essential, and the logic behind any explanations of the changes that seem to be announced by the day seems deeply flawed and downright contradictory, even for the things I think I do know.

Nothing is as it seems and you can’t trust even trusted sources, and counterpart ‘Smoke and Mirrors’ very much hints at this global obfuscation in its title. Who can you trust? What can you trust? Certainly not statistics.

Instrumentally, it brings together acoustic guitar and smoky synths. The transitions are less frequent, resulting in a piece that twists and turns, but flows rather more smoothly. It’s still odd, and angular, just not as brain-bendingly difficult to follow.

And as a set, it’s all good. Just don’t come here looking to make sense of insane times.

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30th May 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Having begun May with a new release in the form of Beyond Life, an exploratory ambient work in the form of a single twenty-six minute track, Ashley Sagar ends the month with a follow-up, and counterpart of similar scope and scale.

If the title suggests something a bit new-age, a bit hippy, trippy cosmic, and a bit pretentious, the music is contains isn’t anything of the sort, although there is a certain haze of mysticism and perhaps a sniff of incense about the album’s slow-drifting atmospherics.

There’s a faint scratching pulsation, like a metal object scraping against scratched glass, that grabs my attention early on: the arrival of slow, sedate, rolling percussion– possibly conga or similar hand drums – provides a new focus for the attention, and changes the tone considerably. With a rhythmic structure providing a framework and solidity, the piece becomes less overtly ambient and abstract. Shifting further over time towards cyclical, non-percussive rhythms transports the listener into a softer pace, before an unexpectedly weighty segment around the eleven-minute mark where the beats crash in and dominate, however briefly.

Thereafter the looming shadows are longer and darker, with rumbling low notes and heavy drones underlying Ian Mitchell’s delicate picked guitar notes and the returning percussion, along with one of Sagar’s distinctively strolling basslines. It may be subtle and muted, but its presence builds depth beneath the numerous shimmering layers which ebb and flow.

The segments are short and the transitions relatively swift, which gives The Temple… a strong sense of movement, movements that’s effortless and natural, since the parts flow seamlessly into one another like a stream flowing through a varied landscape, cascading from a spring-line, down a hillside and through a woodland. This may not be the most fitting metaphor, but you get the idea, and it’s perhaps telling that my mind is drawn to the natural rather than the spiritual, and I’m drawn to the distant horizon as the final notes throb and ripple to the fade.

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24th May 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Like many artists during life in lockdown, Foldhead has been enjoying a spell of enormous creativity. Well, enjoying may not be quite the word: immersion in work for therapeutic purposes is as much a necessity as a joy, and moreover, as his recent spate of output highlights, zanntone is a highly political animal, and some recent events have sparked an ire that can only be purged through noise.

Skegdeath, released in March, served up an obliterative wall of noise against hundreds of thousands who reportedly descended on Skegness beach on Saturday 21st, the final days before official lockdown landed, against advice on social distancing. The Guardian ran a headline quoting a local dentist who said that it was ‘a disaster waiting to happen.’ It did happen, of course, and it didn’t wait long.

But that didn’t stop the government’s top advisor from doing the precise opposite of staying at home, saving lives, and protecting the NHS by driving his child, in the company of his wife who was suffering symptoms of Covid-19 some 260 miles from London to Durham to stay on his parents’ property, and taking a 60-mile round trip to Barnard Castle to check his eyesight was ok to make the journey home once they’d all recovered, despite having been barely able to walk the day before. He called it ‘reasonable’ and parental responsibility; half the country called it bullshit.

Foldhead refers to this punchy two-tracker, which would make for a neat 7” single at any other time as ‘A reaction to a piece of shit I will not sully my vocal chords by naming’, although the cover art leaves us in no doubt.

‘Carrion / Carrier’ marks one of Foldhead’s most brutal sonic assaults, five minutes of squalling, head-shredding electrical noise, with infinite layers of static and feedback and more noise on top. You can almost imagine him turning knobs so hard as to almost napping them off, and jamming down pedals and circuitry with brute force in order to channel the fury. Because nothing inspires rage like deceit and hypocrisy, apart from when that deceit and hypocrisy is so brazen and comes from a place of such self-confidence and superiority.

‘Poundshop Gollum’ is a howling, braying racket, somewhere between feedback and the anguished sounds of a dying heifer or maybe an elephant, against a backdrop of metal being crushed in a wrecker’s yard. There are fleeting moments that carry echoes of the most twisted, abstract jazz, but above all, it’s the sound of torture.

Amidst all of the outpourings of anger on social media, and even in the mainstream media, this release perhaps makes the strongest and clearest statement of all: because there are no words. The language of sound is the most articulate.

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1st May 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

For some years now, I’ve followed Gintas K’s career with interest, for the simple fact that his work is, well, interesting, not to mention varied. This latest release is quite different from anything previous: a 7” single containing the audio, this is ostensibly a multimedia work, which finds the record packaged with a magazine, and was produced in collaboration with Visvaldas Morkevičius as an independent publishing project.

Morkevičius is a Lithuanian photographer, and the print aspect of the release comprises a series of photographs, which are the result of the artist’s visual anthropology research. K’s contribution is that of a soundtrack, as the accompanying blurb explains: ‘7” vinyl performance was made by Gintas K during the process of Visvaldas Morkevicius photographing and was added to Portraitzine as to fulfill the atmosphere in which photographs was made.’

It may be that the audio works better with the visuals, in that it fills out the understanding of both the listener and the watcher, but as a standalone work, Gintas’ two untitled works function successfully in their own right.

The sounds on side A – ‘Cut Piece’ are spare, strange, squelchy, bloopy, gloopy, fractal, disjointed, whistling, bleepy, hyperdigital. There are immense spaces between the sounds, meaning that when thumps, thuds and bangs arrive, they do with maximum impact: more than one I found myself physically jolting n my seat, having been lulled by a digital babble and spells of near-silence.

Side B, featuring the shorter ‘Uncut piece’ is mega-minimal: drips and blips punctuate three-and-a-half minutes of not a lot. And yet that not-a-lot is important: it focuses the attention, and reattenuates the listener’s attention on sound and the spaces in between. It slips and fades to nothing.

I find myself staring into space, barely aware that the ‘music’ has ended. If the ‘music’ ever really began. It’s hard to feel any real emotional or psychological connection with these snippets. But that is not their function. And ultimately, it works, and that’s the objective here.

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Cruel Nature – CN132 – 25th May 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Mike Vest happens to be in several noisy bands I really, really rate, notably Ozo, Bong, Blown Out, 11Paranoias and Drunk in Hell. And now, while I’m wondering if the guy has somehow mastered cloning and not told anyone, you can add to that staggering list Lush Worker, his solo project.

Cruel Nature, one of two Newcastle-based cassette labels who represent the city’s tight-knit but remarkably prolific and outstandingly strong underground scene, which is a melting pot for all shades or nasty noise and dark metal-orientated music, here serves up a whopping portion of Lush Worker, with three albums bundled onto a limited-edition double cassette spanning nearly two hours of what they describe as ‘heavy shockwave drone and dream guitar noise overload, perfect to bliss out to’.

The first of half a dozen Lush Worker releases from 2019, Cruise was first released digitally last February, and essentially comprises the twenty-eight-minute title track, a long, swirling guitar drone that straddles shoegaze and ambience, with a brace of shorter (sub-two-minute) ‘sample’ tracks, omitted here presumably for space, continuity and purpose. Because while this may be three albums, it may s well be one monster album, and is perhaps best approached as such.

Admittedly, no-one is likely (alright, I’m making a substantial assumption here) to listen to this either an album at a time, or as a whole in a single sitting. Not because it doesn’t flow perfectly as a single-sitting piece, but because even in lockdown, does anyone have that kind of time?

So ‘Cruise’ cruises on, slowly, a spiralling cathedral of guitar that simultaneously drones and soars in a mess of wailing feedback and misshapen chords. There’s some distant beat in the mix, but its submerged beneath an undulating tide of treble.

The five cuts of ‘slow burn guitar’ from the appropriately-titled Uplift, released in October 2019, with the exception of ‘Flatliner’ are all around the nine-minute mark, and are more rhythmic, if not necessarily overtly structured: ‘Sub-Ether’ is a heavily psychedelic shoegaze swirl, centred around a repetitive, cyclical motif overlaid with layer upon layer of FX-soaked overdrive, with the album tapering to an elongated buzzing drone on ‘Frozen Egypt’, where it’s the slow-melting bass trip that makes it.

Somewhere in the haze of dubby desert rock, there’s a soaring experimental psychedelic drone on ‘Slow Zone Design’, and howling lead guitars duel against one another, occasionally colliding in a smash of metallic sparks.

Although presented here out of sequence (and the cassette sequence is different again from the digital release), with Hb1c MkII having been released in May, it makes sense for its two half-hour behemoth efforts to round off this release, mirroring its opening counterpart. However, ‘Hb1c MkII’ is a much mellower piece, a near-ambient drift of echo and delay, the chiming notes floating and fading into a rippling haze, before ‘Sobek 110’ delineates things further, a twenty-eight minute single-note drone at heart, it’s a meditative, medicated, soporific experience.

Collectively, these three albums demonstrate different but connected and complimentary facets of Vests Lush Worker output. Dim the lights and explore.

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