Posts Tagged ‘feedback’

2nd September 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

UK duo Thraa consists of Sally Mason and Andi Jackson, whose bio states that ‘Working without the constrictions of a traditionally structured song, this duo improvise around meditative drones, combining Sunn 0))) influenced guitars with soaring vocals. Making single take recordings, they capture an organic sense of sound that has cavernous textures with minimalism at heart.’

In some respects, this debut EP brings us full-circle in terms of drone evolution, and it’s fitting in the most appropriate, and planetary sense. The most successful and celebrated purveyors of drone, Sunn O))) famously took their moniker as a reference to drone/ doom progenitors Earth, who will, in certain circles, be forever remembered for the tectonic grind of their epic second album, Earth 2, from 1993, which contains just three tracks spanning some seventy-three minutes, with nothing but guitar and bass feedback stretching out, crunching along at a glacial pace and carrying the weight of entire continents. It’s hard to believe that this release will ever be surpassed for all that it is, with two of the three tracks stretching out around the half-hour mark with no shape or form, only an endless, grating, grumbling grind. Into Earth connotes a return to base material, a slow collapse, even a decay into compost form, but also hints at a sonic slide toward this territory carved out by the original and definitive drone act some twenty-nine years ago.

Thraa intimidated at the shape of things to come in June with the release of ‘Move Among Them’, which is the first of the EP’s four tracks. It’s swampy, sparse, beginning with an awkward, gurgling, wheezing, a kind of tentative snuffling grunt in the bass region before soaring, sculpted feedback howls and churns metallic—tinged clouds of scraping ambience. It probably sounds like a contradiction on paper, but hear me out: the screeding layers blur into a whirl without definition and tumble into a vortex of abstraction, and in doing so, create the sound closest to that early Earth whorling wall I’ve heard from any other band.

The title track lacks even more overt form, spurs of guitar feedback screeching as it breaks loose from the dense, rippling wall of undifferentiated noise. There are strong elements of Metal Machine Music here, but it’s around the midpoint that a slow, rhythmic piano emerges, along with a haunting understated vocal from Sally that’s half-buried beneath the noise of explosions and / or tidal waves. It’s both dolorous and ethereal, and BIG | BRAVE comparisons aren’t out of place here, either.

Everything coalesces after the subdued scrape and low-end rumblings of ‘Elgon’ on the seventeen-minute finale ‘Over Warm Stones’. Nothing different happens as such: there is only more, in terms of duration, and in terms of atmosphere. The snaking, rattling notes that swell and shimmer provide a sparse, textured backdrop to a quivering, evocative vocal performance.

Into Earth may not offer anything new, per se, but does provide a strong contribution to the canon of emotive, evocative ambient drone / doom which features vocal, which in this instance are essential to the experience, and it’s an experience which is compelling, immersive, heavy as hell and at the same time heavenly, before it collapses into a landslide of feedback that stretches out to the horizon.

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Dedstrange Records – 4th February 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

A Place To Bury Strangers have been pigeonholed variously in the brackets of noise-rock, shoegaze, indie, space-rock, and psychedelic rock. All of these are fair and accurate, but fail to represent the band’s expansions of these genres, and the fact that for all the noise, there is nuance. Listening to their catalogue of ear-bleeding sonic squalls reveals far more depth and range than this reductive characterisation implies.

The last few albums have tracked quite a journey, and See Through You resumes the trajectory of Worship and Transfixiation, whereby the production became evermore wayward and unconventional ahead of the rather safer-sounding pop-orientated Pinned (these things are relative, and it was hardly R1 mainstream pop). With each release, they’ve stepped further and further away from the accepted conventions of production and mixing, not only going evermore lo-fi, but also shunning by stages the conventions of balance, of tone. The vocals are way down, the drums are way up, and the EQ is utterly fucked as everything wallows in a murky midrange. It’s not an easy listen, and the song structures are far from obvious or clear either

So while recent single release ‘I’m Hurt’ leans heavily on The Jesus And Mary Chain’s ‘The Living End’ (and it’s by no means the first time they’ve taken cues from JAMC), the reverb echoes into a cavern of murk, as if a mudslide has slipped into said cavern. The chaotic crescendo that explodes by way of a finale still splinters the eardrums, but it’s not in the kind of blistering wall of treble that defined their sound up to Worship.

This evolution was necessary: they’d taken the limits of blistering psychedelic shoegaze wall of noise to – and beyond – its limits, with Worship standing as something of an apogee. But this was the album that also saw them recognise their limits while pushing beyond them. They have returned to more overtly structured songs for this outing in comparison to Transfixiation, while testing boundaries once more after the comparative retreat of Pinned. In short, it’s A Place to Bury Strangers at their best. That’s to say, it’s a squalling, blistering racket and it hurts, and there’s a fait bit going on, and beneath the crazed noise, there are some tunes. In fact, there are a fair few tunes, and some good ones at that.

The first track, ‘Nice of You to be There for Me’ feels like sarcasm and the guitars sound like melting cheese, the sonic equivalent of Dali’s clocks, a warping, dripping mess. And fucking yes. It’s as exhilarating as it is fucked up. ‘So Low’ does return to the spiralling explosive bass-driven racket of Worship and Transfixiation, but then things start to get really fucked up on ‘Dragged into a Hole’ as the frenetic disco beats are all but buries beneath a driving wall of obliterative bass and screaming guitar feedback. The distorted vocals only add to the head-smashing experience.

‘I Disappear (When You’re Near)’ is another bass-driven doomer, the pairing of a metronomic mechanised drum beat and throbbing bass that’s booming, grainy, distorted, and swathed in reverb is powerful. The guitars merely add texture, screams of feedback occasionally breaking through, while the vocals float in the swamp of noise. If It’s not already apparent, this is a noisy album. ‘My Head is Bleeding’ is kinda subdued, kinda electro, kinda pop, but in a Suicide sort pf way, and when the guitars explode in a fizzy mess, it’s an absolute rush, and everything that’s good about APTBS.

Closer ‘Love Reaches Out’ is essentially ‘Everything’s Gone Green’ merged with ‘Ceremony’: it’s the closest they get to commercial pop on this crazy roller-coaster of post-punk noise – and there is certainly a lot of noise.

So what to make of See Through You overall? It’s a solid album and quite daring, on many levels. When a band of this statute releases an album half their fans probably won’t like, you have to give respect to their prioritisation of their artistic vision.

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Room40 – EDRM419 – 30th November 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

Despite having released about a thousand albums since first emerging in 1979 (Wikipedia states ‘over 400 recordings’, which still makes for a completists impossible dream), a new Merzbow album still instils a certain glimmer of excitement and anticipation. Perhaps it’s the fact that while Masami Akita’s work sits squarely in the domain of ‘noise’ and the element of surprise is limited when it comes to a new release – there’s no dropping of a sudden and unexpected pop or country album, for example – his capacity to push the parameters of a genre he almost singlehandedly defined means that there’s always something to warrant interest.

Writing on MONOAkuma, a live recording made in Brisbane in 2012 at the Institute Of Modern Art, Lawrence English, the man behind the ROOM40 label, recalls ‘this was the second time I had the pleasure to present him live in Australia. To me, this performance epitomises the physiology of Merzbow’s sound work. He creates in absolutes; sonically he generates a tidal wave of frequency that sweeps across the spectra with tireless frenzy. Merzbow’s capacity to conjure a massive swirling mesh of analog and digital sources is without comparison. His work is one of physiological and psychological intensity; a seething, psychedelic and utterly visceral noise-ocean.’

English continues by noting that ‘2019 marks the 40th anniversary of the commencement of Merzbow. This recording, which epitomises Merzbow’s 40 years as arguably the most important noise musicians of our time, demonstrates the intense and complex audio world Merzbow has created. It’s the perfect starting point from which to wade into the noise ocean that is Merzbow’s vast output.’

Sidestepping the fact Merzbow has been in existence almost as long as I’ve been alive, I’d be inclined to agree: MONOAkuma is quintessential Merzbow and encapsulates all of the defining features of said vast output.

I’ve personally only witnessed Merzbow once, performing in Glasgow in 2004 – a set which saw him split the signal between the PA and a massive – and I mean immense stack of Marshall cabs. Akita was barely visible, perched atop a wall of speakers that made the combined backline of both Sunn O))) and the Quo look like they’re travelling light. The sound he produced through this set-up was a face-melting, brain-bending, tone-shifting wall of noise. I’m not sure I’ve ever been quite the same since.

MONOAkuma, then, contains 50 minutes of classic Merzbow. It begins with s few seconds of scratchy feedback. It tweaks at the nerve-endings. And then the levee breaks and the sonic deluge explodes. All the frequencies, all the tones, all the textures erupt simultaneously and blister and burn and fire in all directions. It’s so dense, so immense, so all-encompassing and immersive: the experience is overwhelming. There is noise, and then there is Merzbow. There is so much detail here… although it’s almost impossible to absorb even a fraction of it with so much, and delivered at such volume. Everything is tossed and churned in a barrelling tempest of relentless abrasion that scours the skull’s interior – select cement mixer / blender / washing machine / oil drill / swirling vortex / apocalypse simile of choice here. Whiplash blasts of funnelling distortion howl and scream in a churning tunnel of overloading distortion, and within six minutes it’s hitting the lower levels of pain and by 21 minutes aural and psychological ruination is achieved. The power lies in the ever-changing textures and tones: there isn’t a second were the sound doesn’t change, and it’s this constant shift that makes it so powerfully challenging, with layer upon layer of howling racket tearing the air to the point of atomization.

Few artists – if any – have the capacity to inflict brain-pulping anguish like Merzbow. This isn’t just nose: it’s all the noise. All at once. Amplified to the power of ten to create screeding, screaming, multi-tonal, multi-faceted blitzkrieg. There is no respite, no space to make shelter. It hurts. And until you’ve experienced Merzbow in full effect, you really haven’t experienced noise. And MONOAkuma is relentless in its assault. This is total noise, relentless, obliterative, devastating.

But as punishing and oppressive as it is, there’s something cleansing and cathartic about it. And herein lies the pleasure of the pain and the ultimate joy of Merzbow.

Please note: All proceeds from MONOAkuma will be used to fund research and preservation attempts for the Tasmanian Devil, which in recent years has suffered greatly due to effects of a transmissible facial cancer.

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