Posts Tagged ‘Experimental’

Mille Plateaux – 6th February 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Motus is one of those albums that spreads eight pieces across four sides of vinyl. Most of these pieces are around seven minutes in duration, and manifest as grumbling, low-end analogue electronic instrumentals. Indulgent? Depends on your position, maybe. Audiophile quality? Vinyl addiction? While the pieces which make up Motus don’t immediately intimate a need for attention to detail and there’s no scope for the listener to bask in hearing the rich production values optimally through the medium of vinyl, the frequencies and tones that Köner explores probably do benefit from that full-spectrum vinyl sound, the audio uncompressed and benefitting from the full dynamic range, particularly those low-end sounds, some of which are so low as to almost disappear beneath the average listener’s hearing range.

Motus is steeped in theory, which is fitting given its release on Mille Plateaux, which takes t name – and also its ideologies from radical theorists Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, after whose 1980 text Achim Szepanski’s Frankfurt label devoted to minimal techno, glitch, and other various other experimental electronic forms takes its name.

Köner says of the album that ‘Motus is more (to me) than just music made with analogue synthesizers, it is about attitude, a way of relating to sound and the (e)motion it affects. A lifestyle, where movement, being moved and moving become one. My practice is vibrational, about the skin, touch and surfaces and the gaseous medium in between.

Vibrational it is: these pieces tremble and quiver and grate and grind and shudder and shake and judder and growl.

The first piece, ‘EXTENSION (Attack)’ is a low, glutinous throb, a gelatinous bellyache of a pulsation, rent with crackling, grating treble spurs that scrape at the walls of the cerebellum and scratch the lining of the gut. It’s unsettling, and marks the start of the album’s trajectory, which is unexpectedly linear, and follows a slow descent towards sluggish sludge that’s barely a muddy bubble by the end.

Along the way, ‘SUBSTRATE (Binaural)’ is a low, oscillating throb that expands and resonates over seven brain-bending minutes: there’s something about the more subtle of variations having the most torturous effect, especially when there’s a metronomic pulsing beat lurking beneath, while ‘OSCILLATOR (Luminous)’ reduces everything to an ambulating low-end slip and slide, a muddy melt of trudging bumps. The final cut, ‘SYNTHESIS (Carnal)’, takes things lower and slower still, to the point of near subliminality, slowly winding and grinding into the ground.

Motus is an odd one, an album that undermines itself as it evolves, reducing itself to a lesser sonic amount with each piece. And yet, as the sounds shrinks to little more than a gloopy brown puddle, the effect grows.

AA

MP6_front

Ahead of the release of their second album, Inviolate, Dystopian Future Movies release ‘Black-Cloaked’ as a follow-up to ‘Countenance’, which came out in January.

Check it here:

24th February 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Kemper Norton’s kept a steady trickle of releases coming for some time now, and while the last couple – Hungan (2017) and Brunton Calciner (2019) – had bypassed me until now, the consistency of previous works, from Cam (2013), Loor (2014), and Toll (2016) was more than enough to ensure my immediate interest on the arrival of Oxland Cylinder. His music always has an intrinsic sense of place, however elliptical, and if on the face of it Oxland Cylinder appears to break this trend, the accompanying text is informative:

‘In the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century the majority of the world’s arsenic was created in Cornwall and Devon. The “Oxland Cylinder” was one of the methods used and was a revolving iron tube used to process and vapourise arsenic pyrites. None of these devices remain intact.’

Immediately, we’re transported to England’s south coast over a century ago, and not only to a bygone era but a practise essentially lost to history. And in this context, Oxland Cylinder takes on layers of meaning and caries a certain historical weight.

If the first piece, ‘halan 5’, which introduces the album with discontiguous electronic scrapes and buzzes, and a swell of bleeps and bloops, an analogue bubblebath that slowly eddies and swells, feels like so many other post-Tangerine Dream ambient electronic drifts, it’s also an evocation of a process akin to alchemy, only instead of turning lead into gold, it turns minerals into alloys, including lead.

Oxland Cylinder forges temporal spaces through the medium of sound, slow-spun ambience that conjures a certain mental blankness into which the listener is free to project their own sense of alternating coastal countryside and industrial production. Some will likely visualise Poldark, although the ruins that remain today tell little of the intense labour, heavy mining and vast engines involved in the extraction of ores and pyrites and their conversion to various alloys as lined the south coast at this time.

‘Dark as a Dungeon’ finds the first occurrence of vocals: it’s a sparse shanty with ringing electronics building a glistening, metallic backdrop to the lilting vocal melody. Singing about mining against funeral echo-laden rings feels like a sad thing.

Oxland Cylinder is as rich in evocative depth and subtlety as the south coast is in social and industrial history, and an absorbing album irrespective of context or intent.

AA

Kemper Norton – Oxland Cylinder

Christopher Nosnibor

Leeds’ DIY scene is becoming increasingly adept at turning poky rehearsal spaces into gig venues: it makes sense from a funding perspective, but also means that while conventional scenes are struggling to stay open for various reasons (as often redevelopment as being squeezed financially) and new and niche acts are finding it increasingly difficult to get gigs, the Leeds scene is thriving and as diverse as ever.

I’ve previously sung the praises of rehearsal-room-turned venue CHUNK, and it’s Theo Gowans, who does a lot of the stuff there, who’s behind this evening’s show. Tonight, Mabgate Beach (or Madgate Beach, as the poster has it), tucked away in a corner of an industrial estate in an obscure corner of the city plays host to a brace of Newcastle noisemongers, supported by a brace of very different local supports.

I’d been forewarned that the room was small, but that’s something of an understatement.

Intimate isn’t even close.: it’s about the size of my living room, although it’s still probably a few feet bigger than The Hovel in York’s South Bank Social, which has a capacity of maybe 16. The drum kit and back-line fill most of the room, after which we manage to pack in maybe 20. And the lighting is as minimal as the space, only less consistent.

The Truth About Frank have been knocking around for over a decade now, and Alan Edwards’ sets don’t get any more mellow over time. Kicks off the bill with a riot of samples, the set comprises a single continuous improvised soundwerk, a jarring audio cut-up through which murky beats fade in and out through an ever-shifting collage of noise, creating what cut-up originator Brion Gysin would refer to as ‘a derangement of the senses’. Playing in near-darkness with a pencil beam of light emanating from the arm of his glasses to illuminate his minimal digital kit, Edwards’ stubby nicotine-stained fingers manipulate shapes on a touch screen and jab buttons, and with each prod and poke, more strange sounds emerge, and it’s brilliantly bewildering.

DSC_3262[1]

The Truth About Frank

Things start to feel quite cramped when a full band with bass and two guitars play, and I’m less concerned about site lines for photographs than being smacked by the bassist’s headstock, meaning I’m happy to settle for the second row to observe Loro spin a set of mellow post-rock. It’s kinda standard circa 2004 fodder for the most part, but it’s nice, and with twists of mathiness and jazz without being indulgent.

DSC_3265[1]

Loro

Penance Stare prove to be an absolute revelation. Their recent recordings are a hybrid of ethereal shoegaziness with black metal production values, and while those elements are very much present here, witnessing their colossal noise in such an enclosed space is an incredibly intense experience. There’s ferocious reverb on the vocals, and murky as fuck guitar duels with thunderous drumming. The duo explore some deep, dark atmospheres, too, and coupled with Esmé’s brutal anguished shriek, there are comparisons to both Amenra and early Cranes to be drawn here. Some of the soft instrumental segments are achingly beautiful and affecting, and are invariably obliterated by devastating distortion and howling agony. This is music that reaches deep inside and leaves one feeling somehow altered.

James Watts has more bands and projects than I have albums in my review pile, and having met him and performed alongside Lump Hammer in the summer, I was keen to see how things worked with a different slant and lineup, and an absence of knitted head/face garb. Whereas Lump Hammer ae sludgy and repetitive, Plague Rider mine a seam of pounding math metal, with Watts’ vocal veering between shrieking demonic and guttural taking a shit deep grunt. And what the fuck even is his two-string instrument with some kind of touchscreen attached? In the less-than—half-light, I’m struck by how much Watts resembles a young Alan Moore. It’s so dark, I can barely see the rest of the band to know what they look like, but they relentlessly kick out juggernaut riffs that hammer hard.

DSC_3274[1]

Plague Rider

Technical difficulties struck 15 minutes in, with a power outage on the guitarist’s pedal board bringing a halt to the set, but after a brief intermission they resumed as loud and punishing as before, and then some.

In such a confined space, the effect is staggering: every beat, every chord, lands like a punch to the gut. It’s exhausting but exhilarating.

The experimental chamber collective Collectress, who create unique surrealist-tinged chamber pop and have been described as a cross between "the Elysian Quartet and possessed Brontë sisters teasing an unsuspecting dinner party" (Foxy Digitalis) release a video today for new single "In The Streets, In the Fields".

Using dance as a means to explore the nature of the music, and with nods to both psychedelia (particularly 13th Floor Elevators), and the 1937 recording of Virginia Woolf’s “Words”, Collectress play at taking you somewhere imaginary whilst staying grounded in reality- ‘in the streets’ yet also ‘in the fields.’  The band remark "we liked the sense of the transience of language as evoked by the crackly Woolf recordings, of time passing and of spaces shifting, of being in one place yet another at the same time, in “Different Geographies”. In this technological world of ours, Woolf’s “Words” speaks to us from the past, visionary in suggesting we are mere vessels for language to occur, adapt and move around in. “In the Streets, In the Fields” melodically ‘sets off’ and in some way is doing this too, its simple structure unfolding, shifting and developing over the course of the song."
Collectress continue "the film for "Streets" was always going to include dance as a means to explore and express the nature of the music. We talked about parts of the body, colours and ‘elements’ to include. We each gave our interpretation and filmed ourselves dancing at our own respective ‘different geography’. What you see in the film is a layering of those interpretations to the rhythm and layers of the individual parts of the music, to create an indefinable space that we hope has something recognisable and grounded but that also allows for an element of getting lost."

Watch ‘In the Streets, In the Fields’ here:

AA

Collectress Spring Shows:

Friday April 10 – Brighton Album Launch at The Rosehill, Brighton

Sat May 9 – Daylight Session (plus special guests), Union Chapel, London

AA

Collectress

Christopher Nosnibor

The Wonkystuff nights to date may have been a shade sporadic, but that’s what happens when the organisers have day-jobs and families, and more importantly, what they’ve lacked in regularity, they’ve more than compensated in quality, and that’s a major reason why there’s such a respectable turnout to a gig midweek, mid-January, in York. There’s also the warm, welcoming vibe: these nights may be musical showcases, but they’re also a coming together of an oddball community, where we’re all misfits together and it feels good and feels like home. Tonight’s lineup – as usual – demonstrates John Tuffen’s skill for bringing together acts who provide a satisfying balance of contrasting and complimentary.

It’s the Wonkystuff House Band – a collective rather than a fixed entity, tonight comprising Tuffen alongside Ash Sagar and Simon Higginbotham – who warm things up with a set consisting of permutational repetitions delivered by multiple vocals, delivered in a drab monotone over repetitive beats. Comparisons to Can, Cabaret Voltaire circa ‘Nag Nag Nag’, The Fall, Flying Lizards, Girls vs Boys, Young Marble Giants, and the more contemporary Moderate Rebels all make their way into my notes as I watch them crank out vintage synth and drum machine sounds. Cyclical bass motifs and whizzing diodes fill the air as they sit and twiddle knobs and read lyrics from clipboards and the historical leaps into the present for a while.

DSC_3198[1]

Wonkystuff House Band

The start of TSR2’s set crackles and pops fireworks. The trio hunch over customised kit with wires all over to create warped undulations and machine gun fire beats that batter the speaker cones. The set builds into a dense, murky trudge. The second track, ‘What will be’ is more co-ordinated than the opener, and is solidly rhythmic, mechanoid and spacious, and metamorphosises into some kind of glam reimagining of Kraftwerk via DAF. Heavy echoes and tribal beats dominate the third track, and they very much find their groove at this point, at least for a spell, before the construction grows shaky despite solid foundations. Perhaps it’s the sheer ambition of layering up so much at once that’s difficult to keep together. Despite this, the discord and dissonance are part and parcel of an intriguing set.

DSC_3201[1]

TSR2

Rovellasca takes the stage, quietly and understated and stands behind a bank of kit. So far, so standard. The set begins with deep, dark, rumblings, and very soon builds into something shatteringly immense. It’s dense. It’s loud, and fills the room like a thick, suffocating smog. The sound is thick, immersive. Time passes. Unexpectedly, elongated mid-range notes sound out and the underlying dense noise builds. I’m no longer listening: my entire body is enveloped. This is the effect of sonic force. Noise wall without the harsh. Burrs of static, pink and brown noise lurk in the immense billowing noise. The shifts are subtle, and gradual, but present over the course of the single, continuous half-hour piece. People start to become visibly uncomfortable after a time others vaguely bored. I’m loving it, and could listen all night. A slow fade to finish. The hush is deafening.

DSC_3204[1]

Rovellasca

It’s a hard act to follow, but See Monstd – the new musical vehicle of radiofreemidwich’s Rob Hayler is an inspired choice, in that it represents something completely different that thus prevents any risk of comparison. There’s a lot going on here: the set starts with a sample, then breaks into what my notes describe as ‘wtf noise’. It subsequently settles into heavy harsh ambience, with dense, grating drones providing the body of sound, with swerves off trajectory for spells of audience participation, with a phone being passed around for members of the crowd to repeat lines from the sheets circulated prior to the set. This is one of those performances where you never know quite where it’s going to go, and is all the better for the element of unpredictability.

DSC_3212[1]

See Monstd

And this, in a nutshell, is everything that’s great about the Wonkystuff nights.

Midira Records – MD080 – 13th December 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

It’s new year’s day, 2020. Like many, I’ve spent the last few weeks reflecting on the passing year: I usually do around this time, remembering where I was a year ago, two, three, five, ten years previous. Wondering precisely what I’ve got to show for it. that slow, sad, weight of nostalgia as the images captured in memories fade and curl around at the corners. Wondering: was I actually happier then, less prone to panic, or is this simply rose-tinting, psychological refuge in the comfort of the known, the life lived, rather than the fearful prospect of the unknown future? Such conflict, such dichotomy and dilemma.

And so, another year is indeed over, and here we are, staring into the void. Teetering on the brink of the abyss of a new decade in a post-fact, post-truth world where the capitalist world teeters on the brink of self-induced collapse and global climate catastrophe. And there is no success like failure.

We’ve failed as individuals, and as a species. The year is over… so what is there in prospect?

Open to the Sea’s new album, released late December provides the soothing backdrop to my existential strife, and it’s barely there for the most part. And yet, it’s there just enough: understated, yet still clearly stated.

The press release provides some useful insight into the album’s origins and its creators: ‘Open To The Sea is the collaboration project of Matteo Uggeri and Enrico Coniglio and Another Year Is Over is their second album. While Coniglio focusses on guitar, synths and other instruments, Uggeri adds samples and field recordings to create a soundcosmos full of tiny melodies and themes with appereance by some guest musicians on drums, trumpet and cello. That would make a perfect experimental ambient album with jazzy moments, but Uggeri & Coniglio push this release further by adding some vocals to most of the tracks by inviting guest singers like Dominic Appleton (This Mortal Coil) or Lau Nau from Finland.’

Minimal post-rock forged from sparse piano notes which drift into a rarefied air, spun with subtle, near-subliminal swirls of ambience, and stammering, glitching beats that hammer like a palpating heartbeat rattling in a tense ribcage, and picked guitar notes waft into the ether.

With different vocalists contributing to the various tracks, the tone and feel changes: ‘Heavy Like a Falling Leaf’ is soft, airy, yet poised, while ‘Uninvited Ghost’ and ‘Crystal Dog Barks’ feature a spoken word lyrical delivery, which in some respects changes both the dynamic and balance, and the function of the musical accompaniment, rendering the piece less a song and more of a narrative with instrumental backing.

‘Duduk Confession’ is hushed, brooding, with haunting strings and ominous hums lingering in the shadows, and on ‘Tapes and Cows Pt 1’, lonely brass wails softly over low notes to produce the most forlorn jazz imaginable. Scraping strings and frosty synth flickers accompany the deepest woe, which gradually evolves into warped space-age electro that melts into some warbling jazz trumpet.

The penultimate composition, ‘facing the waves’ is by far the most conventionally ‘songy’ of the ten, with a straight-ahead drum rhythm and solid piano providing the primary instrumentation on a whispy indie/shoegaze work. The fading refrain of ‘time now to start again’ is sung by a layered-up vocal set and, unexpectedly, Interpol come to mind.

The final song, ‘Another Year is Over, Let’s wait for Springtime’, with its whispering dialogue and soft dulcimer shimmers and soft, snowy strings that glide smoothly into the darkest corners, reminds me of my urge to hibernate, but also the fact that everything passes in time and everything is cyclical. Yesterday, today, tomorrow – they’re all points on a circle, and as linear as life lived is, as sure as birth and death, one year will follow the last, and so it will go on, whether we’re here or not.

AA

MD080_front