Posts Tagged ‘gloomy’

Cathedral In Flames were slowly preparing for live shows and writing their next record during the Covid pandemic when Vladamir Putin and Russian armed forces invaded Ukraine.

The band immediately decided to take action. They will donate all royalties and proceeds from their Hang Me High And Bury Me Deep record to support Ukraine, specifically to run Nexta, an independent news channel that brings the breaking news from across the battlefield.

In order to draw attention to the cause and raise additional funds for Ukraine from their fans, the band decided to record a cover version of Nick Cave and Blixa Bargeld’s duet ‘The Weeping Song’.

Phil Lee Fall says of the whole thing, "The war in Ukraine is horrible, the terror on children, innocents, the helpless. This song is maybe about crying, but at the end it sings "… we won’t be weeping long" because I’m convinced that Russia will be defeated in the end."

"Support Ukraine, Putin udi na chuj," ads Gatsby.

Listen and purchase here:

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11th March 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

When it comes to goth, you might say that the apple never falls far from the tree: there’s a long history of references and recycling, with bands often taking their names from songs or otherwise referencing other bands, and there is, or at least should be, a goth band name generator somewhere on the Internet, with ‘Children’, ‘Sisters’, ‘Grooving’, ‘Dead / Death’ and ‘Ghost’ featuring prominently in the not-so random permutatable word selections. Funerals and marionettes are pretty popular, too, from as far back as 1986, when The Marionettes began life as The Screaming Marionettes.

Taking their name from the Charles Gounod composition of the same name, best known as the theme music for the television program Alfred Hitchcock Presents. The Funeral March of the Marionettes go back to that mid/late eighties heyday (broadly 84 or 85 to 87 or 88) that saw ‘goth’ solidify from being a nebulous array of post-punk bands (The Sisters of Mercy, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Bauhaus, Alien Sex Fiend) being lumped under an umbrella by a lethargic press into an actual genre with more defined stylistic boundaries, typically drawing on the aforementioned acts, but with more indie-leanings typical of The Mission and the style of guitar Wayne Hussey introduced to The Sisters on his arrival in 1984

The Funeral March of the Marionettes, from Rockford, Illinois, cite The Cure, Bauhaus, Joy Division, Siouxsie and the Banshees, and others among their influences, and while they describe their latest offering as something of a departure, it’s still dense with latter-day gothic tropes, albeit leaning more towards the atmospheric post-punk/industrial crossover space, whereby you’ve got Depeche Mode covering Joy Division, a brooding atmosphere as cool synths drift in an ocean of reverb while angst oozes from every corner of the dense, gloomy production.

Yet for all its adherence of those tropes, for all its stylistic familiarity (just look at that cover art, that’s The Sisters of Mercy / Merciful Release meets Joy Division via Rosetta Stone), ‘Slow’ hits a spot, because it’s dark, dark, dark, and the execution is spot on, sending a shiver of torment down the spine that entices you to bask in the gloom.

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Cruel Nature Recordings – 11th March 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

Following on from their eponymous debut, Pound Land – the duo consisting of vocalist/lyricist Adam Stone (Future Bomb/Holy Ghost People/frequent collaborator with Dead Sea Apes) and multi-instrumentalist Nick Harris (Reverends of Destruction/ ex-Dead Sea Apes) return with what they describe as ‘eight tracks of post-industrial post-hardcore dead-pan misery – a ‘kitchen-sink’ punk for the 21st century’.

The album title isn’t one that’s likely to see Pound Land crashing the charts, and it’s one that runs the risk of drawing easy criticism, if its contents doesn’t hit the mark for some. But then, it’s a double-bluff, because ant critic who criticises the band for sounding like they can’t be arsed clearly can’t be arsed to critique with any effort.

They slap in straight away with the blunt and subtle as a brick ‘Twatted’, and it’s a six-minute barrage of top-endy guitar racket, a simple chord sequence put through the wringer after a succession of pedals with distortion and reverb and maybe a hint of flange. The lead guitar is sinewy, a snaking twang of treble and it’s so, so raw. A primitive drum machine sound thwacks away and Stone mumbles the expletive-laden lyrics in a northern drawl: ‘You know what I’m fucking saying, mate? Everyone’s a fucking twat, mate.’ It’s raw and it’s real. The production values are bargain basement and then some, and around the mid-point they come on full Fall circa 1983 as they bludgeon away at their wonky guitar racket.

‘Brain Driver’ is a dingy mess of seething, writing no-wave and industrial racket by way of a backing to a monotone vocal performance, and this time it’s six-and-a-half minutes of dirge-like scrapings and discomfort, but they’re just warming up for the album’s thirteen-minute centrepiece, ‘Tony Ex-Miner’. It’s a sparse, grating synth effort, like Suicide without the rhythm. It’s an atonal droning expanse of bleakness that saps your very soul. This is a reason to appreciate it, in case you’re wondering. A sampled narrative about Margaret Thatcher is almost, but not fully, audible.

The sneering grunge squall of ‘Tapeworm’ follows more conventional punk/rock structures; drums, bass, guitar come together to grind out a thunderous wall of noise, and it’s early Head of David that comes to mind as they slowly tug your entrails out and squeeze the mess of guts as they spill. There is nothing pretty or pleasant about this, not the dingy murk of the title track or the dislocated electronic dissonance of the disorientating slur of ‘Total Control’, that sounds like Stone retaining control of his bowels and bladder is no small feat. ‘I look after my mind’, he drones, detached, alone on the dark.

The compositions, such as they are, are sketchy, minimal, and there’s little to cling to by way of melody: instead, Pound Land drag you through city back alleys clogged with litter, smeared dog shit and the puddled piss of street drinkers – mate. The subject matter may be kitchen sink, but the atmosphere is abject and apocalyptic. It’s an album for out times. You’re not supposed to like it.

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Cruel Nature Records – 24th September 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Cruel Nature’s September releases are all about lost classics from Gateshead. Every local scene has those bands who had so much potential to go further afield, and who, given the right exposure, the right breaks, could – and should – have been (inter)national cult icons.

‘Local’ bands so often get a bad rep, as if they’re somehow inferior because they haven’t broken out. Sometimes, it’s misfortune. Sometimes, it’s because of life – dayjobs, family, personal circumstance. And sometimes, it’s simply a lack of ambition to do anything more than make music and play locally, and that’s not reason to judge an act. Not everyone wants to be a global superstar, and of the tend of thousands who do, hardly any make it anyway, so maybe accepting your limitations is a good thing to do, and far healthier than throwing yourself not the rat-race running on the vaguest of hopes of ‘making it’ – whatever that is.

Like turn-of-the-millennium purveyors of brutal harshcore, ODF, R.Y.N. demonstrate a remarkable range and quality of non-mainstream music being played around Gateshead. R.Y.N. was the drone / void ambient project of Gateshead duo Pete Burn and Dean Glaister, active from 2003 to 2011. Like the simultaneous ODF release, Cosmic Death is a retrospective which puts their 2008 albums Astral Death and Cosmic Birth together for the first time as a double cassette package.

Cassette one contains the six tracks from Astral Death, and the eight-minute ‘Conscious Patient’ provides a wonderful introduction into their world of dense, dark, grating dronescaping. Things delve deeper and darker with the nine-minute churning drabness that is ‘The Cleansing’: cleaning is appropriate, and it’s the sonic equivalent of as colonic irrigation. It feels gentle in comparison to the grating metallic oscillations of the third track, ‘Mind Over Mind’. It’s a fifteen-minute thrum, where nothing happens, nothing changes, and it’s not quite harsh noise wall – not least of all because there are shifts in texture and tone – but it’s limited, and a piece that achieves its effect through its sheer relentlessness and lack of variety, the effect of the dense wall of sound being cumulative psychologically.

It’s readily apparent that R.Y.N. had global potential, but for an audience so niche they’d have probably have needed to relocate to Japan to play to an audience of more than fifteen people, unless they’d scored a support with a noise giant like Merzbow or Whitehouse – in which case they may have got to play to 75 or a hundred people on a good night. But quality and quantity are rarely contiguous, and when it comes to creating dark atmosphere, these guys were clearly masters.

‘Cosmic Research Unit’ is still a heavy drone work, but feels softer and leans more toward ambience. It doesn’t get such bleaker than ‘Astral Death’. It sounds like a recording of an engine or a lawnmower, played at reduced pace. It’s like HNW with additional layers of swampsome murk that shift and provide some sense of movement, however slow and lingering.

Cosmic Birth opens with the title track, and picks up where its predecessor left off, with a harsh scraping metallic drone like a machine churning and grating on and on, over which whispering drifts of sonic smoke linger – and it very much sets the tone for the remaining seven tracks, which include two twelve-minute epics in the form of the dank and murky ‘Brain Pictures’, and ‘Creation of Infinity’, both of which lead the listener inside themselves to contemplate those darkest inner recesses, and the fifteen-minute ‘Gravity Drain’, which really pushes the oppressive atmospherics to the limit.

‘Catacombs’ plunges through sonorous and penetrating darkness to arrive, with a bone-rattling percussion way off in the background, at an empty space. And ultimately, the final destination: the somehow incomplete yet equally finite ‘Serpen’, which swirls around ominously and maintains a knife-edge suspense.

After wandering through endless tunnels without light and without any real hope of escape from this claustrophobic aural subterranean, it becomes clear: this is the face of the abyss – from which, there is nothing and no return.

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Hallow Ground – 10th September 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Breathing is important. If this sounds flippant or facetious, well, perhaps it is a little, but there is a more serious undertone. It’s something we do subconsciously, and something we take for granted will just happen as our brain keeps the bellows pumping. We only really notice breathing when something disrupts it, it becomes laboured, or we’ve exercised hard.

And yet the importance and benefits of controlled breathing as part of meditation, for managing anxiety, and for dealing with panic attacks is widely documented and promoted. But even for those who have been taught the techniques, how often do we remember to deploy them at moments of peak crisis? Moreover, beyond those specific settings, breathing properly is something that’s chronically neglected as we slouch over our keyboards, taking short, shallow breaths that fail to fully expand the lungs and oxygenate the blood stream.

The ever-innovative and ever-intriguing Lawrence English’s Hallow Ground debut finds the composer working ‘exclusively with an organ for four compositions that are exercises in »maximal minimalism,« as their creator himself notes in a nod to Charlemagne Palestine, who coined this term.’ The liner notes explain further that ‘While it seems somewhat fitting that those four pieces based on a steady flow of air were conceived and recorded in a situation of accelerated standstill caused by a respiratory disease, the Room40 founder is not so much concerned with capturing the zeitgeist than rather incorporating the spirit of time itself. »It is a record about presence and patience,«’.

Patience is indeed required when listening to Observation of Breath. It stands to reason that there is a concerted focus on elongated, quivering drones, and the first of the four pieces, the ten-minute ‘The Torso’, with its dank, dark rumblings and extraneous interference carries sinister allusions, particularly when reflected upon in context of the album’s cover art. The torso may well house the lungs, the system of breathing, but all too often finds reference in stories of murder and dismemberment, and we’ve all wanted to strip off our own skin at some point, right?

The theme continues its trajectory in the titles of ‘A Binding’ and ‘A Twist’ which follow. These are short pieces, both sparse, droning works that are overtly organ, with the latter in particular taking the form of a gloomy funereal church recital. There’s nothing like a funeral to make you contemplate your breaths, and to consider how many you may have left in your body. Perhaps this is one of the reasons we ignore and avoid thinking about breathing: the moment we notice it, be it short or irregular, we worry, in the same way as we panic about palpitations. To become cognisant is likely to observe an irregularity, a difficulty, in a most fundamental function, and rightly or wrongly, doing so reminds us of our mortality. We hate to be reminded of our mortality: it terrifies us half to death. The irony.

In context, the album’s finale, the twenty-minute title track, which occupies the entirety of the album’s second side, on which all elements of the previous three compositions coalesce and distil into something monumental and epic. Not a lot happens: it’s simply a quavering continuum of sound that undulates and eddies slowly, unfalteringly, less like a stream than a crawling flow of larva. But to go with the flow is to fully engage with the album and its slow-shifting textures. It’s perhaps around halfway through ‘Observation of Breath’ that I finally realise I am becoming aware of my breathing at last. Conscious, I slow it, inhale to full expansion through the nose, hold, then equally slowly release out through the mouth.

Observation of Breath is a well-realised exploration of expansive territory in altogether smaller detail, and one that offers more the more you allow it to become a backdrop.

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Front and Follow – F&F064 – 30th October 2020

It’s taken me a while to get around to this, the fifth and final instalment of Front and Follow’s lockdown fundraising compilation series, Isolation & Rejection, as the last couple of months in particular have found many, including myself in a weird lockdown limbo: schools are back, but I’m not back at the office for the day-job, and regular social activity remains more of less off-limits, even here in tier 2 York. So, not really an excuse, so much as an explanation f how work/ life balance hasn’t been entirely conducive to devoting the time deserved by a mammoth release like this, which certainly deserves more than a cursory glance and a few lines lauding the series’ quality to date and its having raised some £2,000 for The Brick in Wigan.

When I say ‘mammoth release’, Volume 5 contains twenty-four tracks, making a total of 115 tracks released across the whole series. And these aren’t all short efforts, and nor are they of a single genre, so taking this in isn’t like a set of two-minute three-chord punk tunes where the options are ‘yeah, no, ok’.

Yet again, the stylistic breadth, paired with the depth of quality is astounding, and given the open-door policy that was the criteria for this series – namely that submissions must have been previously rejected for inclusion elsewhere – it just goes to show how many remarkable artists there are out there. While there have been some curious and oddly-matched contributions in the mix, it’s fair to say that despite the acceptance of all submission, there hasn’t actually been a duff track in the entire series.

Volume 5 maintains that record. That all important opener this time comes courtesy of Assembled Minds, whose ‘The Eerie Machine Hums a Barley Song to the Sun’ is a lo-fi retro-vibing easy listener in the vein of Stereolab, with all the analogue and some bendy discord to give its Krauty instrumental groove an additional twist. With ‘Mute’, Accidental Tones’ bring the eerie shit, with a dolorous loop of funeral bells, before A.R.C. Soundtracks introduce 80s drum machines to a deep post-punk synth drone, and what ‘Exhibit F’ lacks in duration is packs tenfold in density. It’s a pretty dark opening by any standards, but as a compilation…Not that compilations are never bleak, but there’s a certain expectation that they showcase a certain degree of accessibility: and maybe this is why so many compilations re only so-so: they’re designed with one eye on commercial appeal and drawing a broader audience. Because Front and Follow never even cast a glance at a broader audience and the premise of this series isn’t remotely populist, they’ve remained free to do what they do best.

Cahn Ingold Prelog’s ‘Dwieddon’ is a grainy mess of pink noise and static that crackles like the heavy patter of rain, disrupted by an arrhythmic beat that clunks along awkwardly at first, before a pulsating thud booms in with an incongruously dance feel, while Heat Evolution bring some glitchy, swampy pulsations and some big explosive blasts.

Detailing the entire contents of this would be a task beyond gargantuan, but for the most part this is a set comprised of glitchy oddities and grinding sonic earthworks, with dark, heavy atmospheres – das fax mattinger’s nine-and-a-half minutes of deep, shuddering drone is as much a physical experience as it is cerebral, while contributions from Isobel Ccircle and Jonathan Sharp also explore all the corners of dark ambience. There’s throbbing techno and heavy hip-hop on offer, too, but none of it’s especially gentle or kind. And in saying how dark it is, it’s worth mentioning the gloomy synthy goth of Johnny Mugwump’s ‘the mirror cracked’ and the impenetrably dense black metal murk of Petrine Cross’ ‘Absorbed in Artificial Night’.

If Isolation & Rejection Vol 5 explores a quite focused part of the sonic spectrum, it does so in the kind of detail that reveals its breadth, with all shades of electronica and all shades of darkness and shadow covered in its immense span. It’s a strong end to a strong series, and while Front and Follow aren’t giving any indications that this is more than a one-off, there’s no shortage of back catalogue to explore while we wait for the next wave and, maybe, just maybe, the next collection.

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Texas goth-rock band IN A DARKENED ROOM has unveiled their new video for the song, ‘Final Vows.’  This is the third single off of their debut album slated for release in 2021. Check the video here:

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Karlrecords – KR077 – 24th April 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

For those unfamiliar (and that may well be many), die ANGEL is the collaborative project of Ilpo Väisänen (ex Pan Sonic) and Dirk Dresselhaus, which began in 1999 on a joint tour with Pan Sonic and Dresselhaus’ Schneider TM, with an objective to ‘use electronics, string instruments and effect loops to develop a sonic world that goes beyond fixed structures and clearly defined genres’. 30 years and 10 albums on, they’re still pushing those boundaries, and on this outing, the duo are joined by Oren Ambarchi.

It’s interesting to note that the material was recorded between December 2015 and January 2016, with Ambarchi adding overdubs in the spring of 2016, and the album being edited and mixed in the May of the same year, meaning it’s languished for the best part of four years., although it’s unclear as to why.

The album, available only on digital formats, comprises four longform tracks that would commonly correspond to a double 12” format

The album starts with ‘Epikurous’, which begins with a long, quavering drones that oscillates menacingly and ambulates directionless, a dark ambient cloud that drifts into the minimal throb of ‘Cargo Cult’. This piece is loosely formed around a rhythmic pulsation, a long, sonorous drone, interspersed with occasional interjections of ranging textures and frequencies. Sharp clustering bleeps and squiggling electronic fizz disrupt the smooth flow as echoic explosions and fractured rattles skitter and scuttle and scrape in and out of the frame.

‘Coup d’État’ is a bubbling foment that foams and froths unsettlingly, like a rumbling gut: it’s queasy, uncomfortable, a difficult, awkward churning that nags and grumbles, and filters into the dank miasma of the fourth and final piece, the ten-minute ‘Khormanoupka’. This is the deepest and darkest of the set, and rumbles almost subliminally, creating a deep, subterranean atmosphere, and as it crackles to a close, the listener is left empty and alone.

There is nowhere to go after this. The world didn’t end but what are you left with? An uncomfortable silence after half an hour of uncomfortable noise, noise that’s dissonant, difficult, and murky. And it works well.

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