Posts Tagged ‘fusion’

Thrill Jockey Records – 17th November 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

The second collaborative album between The Body and Full of Hell, which collides with the earth like a meteor, and a mere 18 months after its predecessor, and just six months after Full of Hell’s full-tilt annihilation that was Trumpeting Ecstasy, it’s every bit as unremitting and remorselessly heavy as anything previous. It’s the sound of two uncompromising bands finding compromise by amplifying one another to the nth degree, meaning that Ascending a Mountain of Heavy Light is fucking intense, fucking heavy, and yes, even more fucking intense.

The accompanying blurb forewarns that ‘samples, synth, saxophone, and a drum orchestra all throb, and sputter, coagulating under the weight of the two bands. Programmed drum patterns and loops taking cues from hip hop are bent and twisted throughout, flawlessly emboldening the distortion drenched guitars and howling vocals.’ And did I mention that it’s intense?

Beyond the first few seconds of skittering synth oscillations, there is no light on the opening track, ‘Light Penetrates’. The crushing power chords land at tectonic pace, while the vocals – an impenetrable scream of anguish – are nothing more than a primal scream of pain. And then the jazz shit beaks loose, with horns squealing like tortured pigs bleeding in all directions.

There’s nothing pretty about this, but occasionally, from amidst the screeding walls of amorphous racket emerge full-throttle stoppers, like the pounding ‘Earth is a Cage’. Elsewhere, ‘Didn’t the Night End’ is a snarling, grinding, bowel-shaking racket of surging waves of noise that simply hurt. It’s the kind of snarling, grinding, bowel-shaking racket that makes you want to lie on the floor and curl up into a foetal position. It makes you want to die, and it certainly makes you long for the night – and the noise – to end, as it assails the senses from every angle.

The drum intro is nabbed from oh, so many tracks – a simple four-four thump of a drum machine bass – before everything explodes in a tempest of screaming industrial-metal fury. Early Pitchshifter come to mind, at least in the drum programming, but this is something altogether more psychotic in its unbridled fury, and in its amalgamation of paired-back hip-hop and industrial metal, all crackling with overloading distortion, ‘Master’s Story’ invited comparisons to the innovations of Godflesh – at least until it goes all crushing doom halfway through.

As with anything produced by either band, either independently or collaboratively, Ascending a Mountain of Heavy Light is not music for pleasure, and large chunks are little short of anti-music, blistering walls of sonic brutality built on discord with the most challenging of tones and frequencies explored to the max.

AAA

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6th December 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

Some reviews are seemingly fated. This is one such review: I was slow to get started, and then, having spent several evenings working on a detailed critical analysis, exploring the album’s wild eclectism on a more or less track-by-track basis in a discourse of some eight hundred words, my laptop crashed and most of the work was lost, with the only available version being a collection of notes which were days old. How it happened, when my word processor is set to autosave every five minutes, I have no idea. Thanks Microsoft.

Still, this is an Ashley Reaks album, and a man who can produce three albums in a year – and continue to produce art, and to gig relentlessly, under difficult personal circumstances – deserves the same kind of unbowing attitude from a reviewer.

Because it’s an Ashley Reaks album, anything can happen. And it will. And it does. Following on from Reaks’ ‘punk album’ This is Planet Grot (and a remarkable credible and impressive punk album at that), Growth Spurts, on the one hand, could be considered a return to more familiar territories. But then, on the other, it could justifiably be tagged his ‘jazz album’. The familiar elements of reggae and post-punk inspired dub are present and correct, but this collaboration-based collection of tunes also brings in some wild jazz stylings. The collaborative element is also key here, not only to appreciating Growth Spurts, but to understanding Reaks as an artist, at least as much as it’s possible to grasp such an idiosyncratic and singular individual.

Like his collage artwork, his music is a mish-mash of elements drawn from here, there and everywhere, often bolted together at weird angles and demonstrating incompatible proportions and lines of perspective. He has very much his own slant on things, and his approach is also very much his own: Reaks is one of the few artists who consistently produces work which has the capacity to surprise, to confound, and, occasionally, confuse – which is a healthy response to something which is so staunchly unconventional. You get the impression that Reaks’ raison d’être is to produce art which surprises and confounds himself, as much as any notional audience. His mindset appears to be that if it’s not fresh, unexpected, and if it’s not sincere, then it’s worthless. Collaboration, when done right, yields an output which is greater than the sum of its parts, and draws out facets of each contributor which may not otherwise be known.

As such, Growth Spurts is a world away from his previous collaborative effort, Cultural Thrift (2015) with poet Joe Hakim, on which Reaks stepped toward the rear portion of the stage to provide a background accompaniment (which in itself was a departure given Reaks’ propensity for dizzying soundclashes). Five of the ten pieces – it would be wrong to refer to this as a collection of songs, given that they feature spoken word and poetry – feature writers and poets from a broad and diverse range of backgrounds. They’re disparate characters, as varied as Reaks’ own sources of input, hand-picked to contribute to the album.

The result is dizzying, a rollercoaster journey through a vast swathe of cultural terrain. Each of the collaborative pieces is distinct and different, and finds Reaks attentive to the style of the different speakers. And as the strange, strangles vocal cacophony which introduces the album’s first track, the oddly ominous prog-dub drum‘n’bass neoclassical jazz mixup that is ‘Divorced from the Body’ shows, he’s digging deep to locate new and unexpected hybrids. And yet, amidst the chaos, he still whips up some killer hooks – something so many experimental / genre-smashing artists completely overlook in their quest to innovate, to dazzle with their imagination and technical prowess.

‘The Gentle Art of Ignoring’ with Sylvie Hill is the most outright jazz track on the album, and her sassy vocal delivery and confident Canadian accent brings another sharp dimension to an album which displays almost infinite dimensions, but there’s just so much to take in. But if you need a pointer for where to start, start with the basslines. The crashing jazz-influenced drum ‘n’ bass drumming, the wild brass, the myriad perspectives of the different vocalists all slot into place over those low-down basslines that stroll and groove and leap and boogie. Get on down.

 

Ashley Reaks - Growth Spurts

Inter-Dimensional Recordings – 1st June 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

The greatest pressure for any emerging artist must surely to be to get product out onto the market: something to satisfy new fans and entice prospective fans. The urge to splurge material, whether ready or not, in order to strike while the iron is hot is more than most can resist. Nathassia is indeed a rare artist, and, it would seem, something of a perfectionist. Recording as Nathassia Devine, she had a 13-track debut album recorded, packaged, and in circulation to the press, finding favourable reviews (including one from me). That was 2014. The album was shelved. It’s now 2016, and a lot has happened. Having decided to pull back and regroup, restyling herself as Nathassia, she’s spent the intervening time reshaping her sound and building an enviable audience at home and internationally. Finally, she’s satisfied, and the end product is Light of the World. And yes, it was worth the wait.

Cut back to 10 tracks, only four songs from the original album remain. Having honed her songs with the assistance of Bruce Elliott-Smith, Light of the World finds Nathassia exploring cross-cultural music evermore broadly and evermore confidently. Half Dutch, half Indian and residing in London, Light of the World is very much a 21st century hybrid of these very different cultural backgrounds. It’s an electronic album, but not one that confirms to any one strain or style, leaping hither and thither and picking, magpie-like, from a host of musical strands.

Nathassia’s striking appearance is the perfect visual representation of her sound, and embodies her mixed roots, as East meets West in a perfect amalgamation. But this is no mere marketing schtick: she is very much a self-made package, and one which has immense market appeal both visually and sonically.

Contrast and juxtaposition lie at the heart of Light of the World, but rather than treat this yin and yang as conflicting elements, she embraces them and draws them together to intriguing effect. The sultry ‘Egypt’s Queen’ finds Nathassia rolling her r’s and accentuating the eastern influences of her music. Single cut ‘Turning Headz’ is more hard-edged and showcases a driving, drum ‘n’ bass orientated sound, something which wasn’t present on the original album, and similarly, ‘Parasite’ is driven by a grating bass and insistent, industrial-edged drumming. Melding insistent beats with snarling techno, it’s dark in hue, and paired with Nathassia’s keeningly exotic vocal delivery that’s tinged with a hint of venom, it’s a powerful piece.

Elsewhere, the title track spins out an expansive, cosmic vibe, highlighting the diversity of the material on Light of the World. It certainly isn’t an album that works to a formula, and stands as a truly multidimensional piece. It helps, of course, that the range is matched by the quality of the material.

Light of the World is an album which not only reveals Nathassia to be a fascinating, chameleon-like songsmith and performer, but a distinctive and even unique voice.

 

light-of-the-world-album-artwork

Nathassia Online