Posts Tagged ‘Fantomas’

Ipecac Recordings – 26th March 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

It’s been seven years since the last Tomahawk album, but the noise-rock supergroup are marking their twentieth anniversary in style with the crash-landing of album number five in the form of Tonic Immobility.

For those who needs reminding, the lineup – guitarist Duane Denison [the Jesus Lizard, Unsemble, etc.], vocalist Mike Patton [Faith No More, Mr. Bungle, Fantômas, etc.], drummer John Stanier [Helmet, Battles, etc.], and bassist Trevor “field mouse” Dunn [Mr. Bungle, Fantômas, etc.] really is a who’s who of that US 90s / 00s melting pot of alternative that was truly alternative.

Of course, Mike Patton is the biggest name, because, well, Faith No More reached a level of being truly massive. But even at their peak, Patton was always dabbling in weird shit, with the far-out oddball whacky rock of Mr Bungle, and myriad other projects that were as non-commercial as you could get.

That commitment to music of interest rather than mass appeal has driven Ipecac since its foundation, and Patton is, for many, a true hero as not only a champion of all things weird and wonderful – and often harsh and noisy – but also as one of the most eclectic and wide-ranging artists in contemporary rock, and alongside JG Thirlwell, perhaps one of the few living artists worthy of the term ‘genius’.

And so, being Tomahawk, it’s a weird and varied album that’s visceral and noisy, but also so heavily dynamic as to leave you dazed. Opener ‘SHHH’ is exemplary: it begins quietly, gently, before erupting into a blast of mayhem… and going quiet again. It’s like if Björk had done ‘It’s Oh So Quiet’ while… I dunno, working with Tomahawk. Because while The Jesus Lizard and helmet were integral to defining the underground sound of the 90s, there really is no other act that sounds quite like this, and it’s all about the collaboration and cross-contamination, of course.

There’s an intense, gritty heft to the album as a whole, but there’s variety: ‘Valentine Shine’ is a full-on grunge-riff rager, while ‘Predators and Scavengers’ pursues a more math-rock line of attack. ‘Doomsday Fatigue’ meanwhile, is a slow, slinky, twisted blues drawl that’s more Jesus Lizard until it goes all smooth soulful pop, and the FNM influence is perhaps more apparent. The thing is, you never know what you’re going to get next:

If ‘Business Casual’ feels a shade dated, it still hits the mark both sonically and in terms of lyrical relevance, showing that there’s always something to be had here. ‘I’ve never looked as cool as you’, Patton croons on the low-slung ‘Tattoo Zero’, another song that’s divided dynamically between verse and chorus.

Tonic Immobility has everything going on, and even the brief rap-rock passages work because they’re all part of a huge hybrid cocktail of whatever: ‘Howlie’ goes post/math rock melodic and marks yet another departure before it goes all-out heavy, and ‘Eureka’ is a droney ambient interlude, and ‘Recoil’ actually goes a shade dub reggae for a while and at times it does feel a shade bewildering, and even a bit ‘wtf’, but you can’t criticise Tomahawk for a lack of focus or identity – because that’s their identity right there. ‘Sidewinder’ is a genuinely touching piano-led tune – until the noodling math-rock and distorted vocal howl kick in, and there are also some absolutely brutal riffs on offer here, and make no mistake, Tonic Immobility packs a punch.

It’s a crazy album for crazy times, and a complex, mathy, loud album for a time where the best escape is down a rabbit hole of musical weirdness. Tonic Immobility is that rabbit hole. Dig it deep.

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Tomahawk, who recently announced their first full-length album in eight years, Tonic Immobility (March 26, Ipecac Recordings), have shared a second track from the twelve-song album, debuting the graphic video for “Dog Eat Dog.”

"It’s a statement about competition, oppression, and unity–served up with a healthy dose of slapstick humour,” said Duane Denison (The Jesus Lizard/Unsemble) of the Eric Livingston directed clip. Mike Patton (Mr. Bungle/Fantômas) added: "Dogs patiently wait, obediently, for humans to snuff each other out…so they can take over the world. Dogs rule!!!!”

Watch the video here:

Ipecac Recordings –15th May 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Because Melvins’ staggeringly prolific output clearly isn’t enough to keep singer and guitarist Buzz Osborne occupied, he’s gone and put out a second solo album, following on from 2014’s This Machine Kills. This time working with the equally prolific frequent collaborator and some-time Melvin Trevor Dunn, Buzzo offers up nine primarily acoustic songs.

The first thing to point out is that it doesn’t sound remotely like Mevins. There are some stoner / psychedelic twists spun in, but the overall vibe is one of brooding folk. Buzzo’s trademark full-lunged vocal I more often than not replaced by a hushed, breathy drawl. It’s pretty cool and works well in context. Solemn strings swoop and soar and cast long, lugubrious shadows over soft-strummed guitar: ‘Housing, Luxury’, Energy’ has the guitar feel of one of Nirvana’s acoustic songs, but tears into a heft chorus that growls and lurches hard.

There are some moments where the simplicity is stunning in itself: sometimes, when stripping things right, right back, there is time and space to bask in tones and the way notes resonate. There is a rare beauty in the way acoustic notes hang in the air, the details of how a harder or softer pick or strum varies the intonation. And we get this often on Gift Of Sacrifice: the sparse instrumentation is magnificent, notably on the rolling ‘Delayed Clarity’, but across the album a whole it’s a feature. ‘Science in Modern America’ finds Osborn growl-crooning over a cyclical chord sequence. It’s kinda sci-fi, it’s kinda dystopian and suddenly kinda now. Elsewhere, and in contrast, ‘Mock She’ is some kind of drunk country, and the depths and layers of Gift Of Sacrifice continue to reveal themselves, meaning that what may superficially appear ordinary is, in fact, pretty warped.

So, yes, this being Buzzo, things do weird out in places – many places, if truth be told – like on the brief interlude that is ‘Junkie Jesus’, and the frantic warped string frenzy that is the outro, ‘Acoustic Junkie’. Then there’s the fact that the portentous strum of ‘Bird Animal’, to all intents and purposes a psychedelic acoustic motoric minus percussion, dissolves into fluttering R2D2 bleeps a minute or so before the end. Like the way ‘Mock She’ descends into frenzied free jazz for 30 seconds in the middle, while fractured distortion obliterates the vocals in the final verses. You envisage Buzzo sitting in the studio with the producer, leaning over and twiddling knobs here there and everywhere, and everyone present shouting ‘just leave everything alone!’ But of course, then it wouldn’t have that unique twist that transforms some solid songs into works of warped genius. And that’s precisely what this is.

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