Posts Tagged ‘Fret!’

Cruel Nature Records – 29th July 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

Sometimes, social networking really works. When Facebook isn’t about infighting, trolling, bitching, pissing and moaning, and people accept contact from strangers based on mutual friends and mutual interests, good stuff happens. I can’t exactly recall how I came into contact with James Watts, who runs Newcastle-Upon-Tyne based tape label Panurus productions, but some months after, I ended up performing in London alongside Lump Hammer, one of his numerus musical vehicles, thanks to another mutual friend with a penchant for big, noisy guitars who found me via Aural Aggro reviews. And so it came to pass that said mutual friend – Owen, from Modern Technology – introduced me and Steve Strode, who’s also in a bad and who also runs another Newcastle-based tape label, Cruel Nature Records. Fret! happen to feature Strode on guitar (twang), alongside Rob Woodcock (credited with ‘flails / screams’) and Cath Tyler (‘thrum / la’). And with cover art by Tom McCarthaigh, the design/layout is courtesy of none other than James Watts. It really is a small world. Especially in Newcastle.

This is lo-fi, low-budget, scuzzy. The production is proper rough, the guitar sound fuzzed-out and unpolished – we’re in home-recorded four-track demo quality here, with crackling at the edges and needles pushing the top ends of red, and opener ‘Belly’ comes on like early Fall with its repetitive riffage played rough ‘n’ ready. It seems fitting, not only because this is a cassette release, but because this is underground in every way.

On the lumbering slow-pace riff noise of ‘Hucknall’ (pretty much all of the titles are indecipherable one-worders), there’s a hoarse howl all bit buried in the mix, by accident or design, countered by a drawing monotone counterpoint. ‘Davy’ goes for the all-out screaming racket that not quite metal but is unquestionably all-out in its frenzied brutality, but most of the album favours the frenetic but contained blistering squall of 90s alternative. By which I mean bands like Fudge Tunnel, Terminal Cheesecake, Helmet, are all viable and appropriate reference points, and by which it should be apparent that this is a monster riffageous racket of the highest order. ‘SUSD’ sows it down, grinding away at a repetitive cyclical riff that’s as messy as hell, wash with distortion, reverb, and tremolo, while ‘Cowboy’ piledrives into got/psychobilly/hardcore/crust-punk territory with obliterative fury.

Is there an element of nostalgia in the appeal of this, as a 43-year old fan of grunge and more subterranean 90s alternative? Well, naturally, but that really isn’t the primary appeal here. What appeals about A Vanity Spawned By Fear is the simple fact that it’s raw and uncompromising and blindingly intense. It isn’t pretty or nice, and isn’t supposed to be. It wouldn’t work if it was.

The last track, ‘Country’ is a slow, hesitant cross between early Pavement and Shellac. But A Vanity Spawned is most definitely not derivative, and there’s nothing remotely lifted or directly referential here. Instead, they amalgamate a mass of influences and condense them in a mould of their own making. It’s hard, heavy, and difficult. Stylistically, it isn’t any one thing, but it’s completely ace.

AA

Fret - Vanity

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Panurus Productions – 25th January 2019

Is it a supergroup if the members of a collective all belong to acts no-one has ever heard of? Shrimp is a project which represents the coming together of Jon O’Neill (The Smokin’ Coconuts, The Shits, Skronk et al), Chris Watson (Snakes Don’t Belong in Alaska, Forest Mourning), James Watts (Plague Rider, Lovely Wife, Lump Hammer et al),Rob Woodcock (Plate Maker, Fret!) and Ryosuke Kiyasu (Sete Star Sept, Fushitsusha, Kiyasu Orchestra et al). Initially converging to perform on the bill at a Ryosuke solo show in Gateshead, this eponymous release captures the intensity of that performance in a studio setting – at least, so they claim.

Listening to this, it’s probably a claim that’s justified: it is, indeed, intense. They promise ‘a maelstrom of clanging, shrieking guitar, relentless frenetic drum savagery and inhuman vocals’, and forewarn that ‘Shrimp, in direct contrast to the weakness implied by its moniker, is the sonic equivalent of being trapped within a chitinous storm of pincers and consists of a thirty minute studio onslaught and a live recording, featuring additional electronic noise.’

Yep. It’s brutal and harsh from the outset. A cacophony of guitar feedback and whiplash explosions of extraneous noise whirl into a tempestuous frenzy around smashing percussion. The first five minutes sound like the climactic finale of something immense. And it just keeps on going from there. On and on, notes and beats and crashing cymbals flying in all directions, slowly bringing things down only to resurge and burst into a raging sonic storm once more. Deranged shrieks lie half-buried in the mix amidst all kinds of chaos that combines stoned desert rock, psychedelia and free jazz.

Twenty-two minutes in and the speakers are melting with a blistering stream of frenetic noise, formless, atonal, punishing in its complete lack of shape or musicality. After half an hour it bleeds into second piece, ‘Light as Hell’. It’s more of the same – an ear-bleeding aural tidal wave that continuously threatens to break but never does. It’s dizzying, and difficult. And yet, supergroup or not, it is definitely super, in a wild, chaotic, insane way.

Shrimp