Posts Tagged ‘Greg Anderson’

Southern Lord – 23rd April 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

Covering multiple works in a single review feels like a major short-changing exercise, and I feel I should apologise to the artists involved in advance. It kind of depersonalises and maybe even cheapens the coverage, and I remember how I felt when the book version of my PhD thesis finally received a review, only to find that it was in an article alongside three other books. It may have been a paragraph of praise, but nevertheless, it was a solitary paragraph in a long article. Nine years of work, 90,000 words and 300 printed pages given a one-paragraph thumbs up… meh. But still, better than a thumbs-down or no paragraph.

A decade on, it’s still not settled with me, and I always try to do better. But sometimes, bundling makes sense and feels justified and this is one of those times.

Having spent many a virtual column inch in recent years bemoaning how Record Store day has made a deep descent from being an event that served to raise awareness of independent record shops to another cash-in for major labels cranking out shitty reissues on limited colour vinyl to wring yet more funds from completists while at the same time driving some of the most shameful scalping activity anywhere on line, it’s a relief to find something positive about RSD 2022.

That something comes of course from an independent label in the form of Southern Lord, who, as a sidenote, had commendably stuck to producing outstanding vinyl releases regardless of trends, fashions, popularity, or Record Store Day, and, admirably have continued to release whatever the hell they please, with a catalogue that’s an equal balance of cult hardcore punk re-releases and cutting-edge works of crushing weight that perpetually push the parameters of metal, with recent releases from Neon Christ and Big | Brave highlighting the polarities of the label’s interests.

This pair of RSD releases exemplify this span to perfection, and while admittedly one is a reissue, the other very much is not – and as such, they represent the label’s standard release scheduling. As the press releases outline, ‘The Catatonics were one of NYC and Syracuse’s pioneering hardcore punk bands…While the band’s seminal Hunted Down EP has remained one of the most highly sought-after releases of the genre, the heightening collector’s price made this 7” inaccessible to most people. Southern Lord has now elected to re-release this EP as a 12”, with bonus tracks.” And, meanwhile, Forest Nocturne is ‘the first full length solo venture of Greg Anderson, under the moniker of The Lord. Inspired by the great horror film composers of the 70s and 80s, Anderson turns his back on the riff worship of Goatsnake or SUNN O))) and instead creates a truly unsettling atmosphere heavy with tension, offset by 90s Scandinavian death metal’.

The Catatonics release certainly gives value for money: the original 1984 7” released on Anorexic Nympho Records featured five tracks: this reissue features a whopping eighteen. Following the bonus intro cut if ‘Descending in E’, the original EP accounts for tracks two to six, while the rest is an almost exhaustive gathering of compilation tracks, early demos and live recordings, all remastered from original tapes. Only two of the eighteen songs run beyond three minutes, with most clocking in under two, and this is rough and ready, ball-busting full-throttle, relentless fury, nonstop-pounding hardcore at its rawest and most furious, and the live cuts are particularly raw and brutal, making this a unique and comprehensive document of another underground band’s short but high-impact career.

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The Lord’s debut is a very different proposition: it’s clearly contemporary for a start, although it’s steeped in vintage metal stylings, and driven by an understated and simple but gut-churning bass that digs tunnels beneath your ordinary lives. Forest Nocturne is an album that twists and turns, and more significantly, gnaws like rodents, and like woodworm, at the smooth, flat planes of sonic normal. I say ‘normal’, as if that’s a thing – but The Lord conjure vast aural expanses, broad vistas that invite the listener to bask in the rich density, before tearing it to pieces.

A slow, swelling church organ droned doomily on ‘Church of Hermann’, a piece which is truly awe-inspiring. This is an instrumental album that definitely marks a departure for Anderson and feels more like early Earth than Sunn O))). Then again, it’s doesn’t really sound or feel like either.

Thick swells of strings that build into brooding, megalithic waves, define the power of this instrumental work. ‘Forest Wake’ starts with the wail of a siren, and brings bulldozing bass and power chords wrapped in gut-punching clouds of distortion. Those clouds dissipate for a time, and the atmosphere looms large and heavy as things unfurl, but take a moment to breathe and there’s nothing to see here other than smoke and that absence… It grinds, and it absolutely fucking kills, going full Sunn O))) drone doom on ‘Old Growth’. Forest Nocturne is hard and harrowing, immense, epic, beautiful, and yet at the same time devastating. The last track, ‘Triumph of the Oak’ is a new shade of heavy, an angering mess of thrashing chords that crashes down so, so hard.

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Finally, thanks to Southern Lord, there are releases that are actually worth getting up and queuing for at the weekend.

Southern Lord – 3rd December 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

I’ve been a little slow getting around to this one, but since the band’s taken more than twenty-five years to do so, I don’t feel quite so bad.

Way, way back, before Sunn O))), before Goatsnake, before Teeth of Lions Rule the Divine (another band referencing Dylan Carlson’s mighty drone-progenitors Earth), before the advent of the Southern Lord label, Greg Anderson made noise with early 90s Seattle-based post-hardcore act Engine Kid, who signed off in 1995 with the Troubleman Unlimited EP, after undergoing countless lineup changes and recording their album Bear Catching Fish album with Steve Albini. Their short but prolific career was recently re-released as a six-album box set.

But I guess sometimes there are itches you just have to scratch, and this is clearly one such instance, with the band reconvening to revisit and rework old songs they never recorded or releases.

A lot has changed in a quarter of a century, and the title is a fair indicator. This isn’t a criticism, and as the accompanying text explains, the ‘cover art is a symbolic metaphor about living one’s best life, and with extravagant swagger. The songs themselves continue the band’s “take on the world” attitude with restless, wild energy’. This is a short blast of a release that’s about empowerment, not dissing the disabled, and it’s a reminder of simpler times, perhaps, when ‘special’ was ok. But ultimately, we’re all special, right?

The songs contained herein – several of which have already been shared here on Aural Aggravation – are blistering blasts of guitar-driven noise: fifty-nine second opener ‘Burban on Blades’ a piledriving blast of warped riffage that’s more akin to Melvins than anything else, and paves the way for the thunderous title track. The drums pound as devastating detonations, while the bass blasts at your lungs and the guitars grind with a gut-churning afterburn. It’s brutal and then some, and ‘The Abattoir’, a mere minute and fifteen in duration, is savage. One thing is clear, and that’s during their absence, they’ve not mellowed, and that they’ve not polished or prettied these songs up with a more technical performance or cleaner production is very much a good thing.

‘Patty : Tania’ (not on the flexidisc edition) marks a massive shift to round off the EP: it sounds like another band entirely, with chiming guitars weaving a dark, late-night, backstreet atmosphere that has somewhat gothic overtones, and these provide the backdrop to a lengthy sampled spoken word intro before, finally, at just shy of three and a half minutes in, the levee breaks and the guitars crash in. That kind of dynamic never gets tired, and here it shows that Engine Kid are more complex, more nuanced, and more versatile, than may initially appear.

This is a storming EP in its own right, and will likely not only elate existing fans, but introduce the band to a whole new set of listeners.

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Almost 30 years since their inception, the members of Engine Kid got together in 2021 to hang out and record new music. The result of which arrived by way of the Special Olympics EP flexi-disc/digital EP, released last December on Southern Lord.

The band has shared a music video for the EP’s second single, ‘Patty : Tania’ alongside a Q&A with Engine Kid’s Greg Anderson.

Watch the video here:

The tracks on the Special Olympics EP are re-workings of old material which were never recorded. The music represents the sonic direction that Engine Kid were heading before they disbanded. With this EP, the band commemorates the joy of playing music together for the first time in 26 years, and pick up where they left off. As Jade Devitt comments, "The musical commitment and connection that we forged in the 90’s has held like a magnet, finally pulling us together after 26 years! The newly recorded songs were dusted off blueprints from our very last practice tapes from the summer of ’95. Now enhanced with experience & age and new arrangements. The Kid flies again."

Earlier this year, the 90’s post-hardcore collective featuring Greg Anderson (Southern Lord label owner, also in Sunn O))), Goatsnake & Thorr’s Hammer) released a 6-LP box set of their career-spanning recordings on colour vinyl LP’s for the first time titled Everything Left Inside (find out more about that here) Engine Kid’s Brian Kraft adds, "Greg, Jade and I spent the summer and fall of 2020 gathering old photos, flyers, artwork and audio rehearsals /remixes/remasters for the Everything Left Inside box set. This remote reunion of the Kid made me realize how important Greg, Jade and Engine Kid was and is in my life. The reconnection led to recording some new material. It felt as if we were continuing right where we left off.”

Engine Kid’s first new material since 1995, the Special Olympics EP’s cover art is a symbolic metaphor about living one’s best life, and with extravagant swagger. The songs themselves continue the band’s “take on the world” attitude with restless, wild energy.

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Photo Credit: Vaga Bond

Composer and curator Greg Anderson (Southern Lord Recordings; Sunn O))), Engine Kid, Goatsnake & more) has unveiled a new song as a part of his forthcoming explorative compositions and collaborations as THE LORD available on Bandcamp.

The first track to surface is the thunderous song “Needle Cast,” which features BIG|BRAVE guitarist/vocalist Robin Wattie.  Wattie’s striking, shimmering vocals pair perfectly with Anderson’s multi-faceted instrumental approach.  Anderson comments: “I’m extremely honoured to have been able to collaborate with Robin Wattie on this track.  I’m a massive fan of BIG|BRAVE especially Robin’s emotive vocals and infectious melodies.  Immediately after composing this track I was envisioning her dynamic vocals within the piece.  The performance she recorded went beyond what I had imagined. Robin also created the amazing artwork that accompanies the music."  All proceeds from “Needle Cast” will go directly to The Native Women’s Shelter of Montreal.

Listen to ‘Needle Cast’ here:

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"Needle Cast" cover art by Robin Wattie

Engine Kid, the 90s post hardcore collective featuring Greg Anderson (Southern Lord label owner, also in Sunn O))), Goatsnake & Thorr’s Hammer) share the previously unreleased track "Angel Dust" appearing on their special Record Store Day 6 x LP boxed set release Everything Left Inside

About this track Greg Anderson comments, "during the process of unearthing Angel Wings master tapes a previously unreleased/unheard track from the session was discovered.  Our recollections of this song were extremely foggy and the reason it was left off the full-length album remains a mystery! Vitality was injected into the track by wizard producer Brad Wood."

The boxed set includes other unreleased/unheard recordings as well as hard to find/sought after albums including the “Novocaine/Astronaut” 12”, Bear Catching Fish 2xLP, Angel Wings 2xLP and Split w/ Iceburn / Everything Left Inside 12” – all remastered and with an extensive 12-page booklet.  A black vinyl version of the box is set for RSD on June 12th (not available outside the US) with additional versions of the record for the rest of the world to arrive at a later date TBC. Digital for the time being available via bandcamp:

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Southern Lord – 26th April 2019

A new Sunn O))) album is still an event, even after all these years as the leading exponents of droning doom, a field now crowded with imitators and influences. The sense of ceremony is a major factor: Sunn O))) appreciate and command ceremony in every aspect of their exitance. As good as so many who have emerged to follow in their wake may be, there really is only one Sunn O))). The thing with Sunn O))) is that while they very much do mine deep into their self-made seem, each release offers something different, a variation on that consistent sameness.

And so it is on Life Metal that co-founders Stephen O’Malley and Greg Anderson set themselves a production-orientated goal for realising their immense sound, namely to have their playing captured by god himself, Steve Albini. The story goes that Steve took the call, and said ,“Sure, this will be fun. I have no idea what is going to happen.”

The resulting four tracks, which evolved through time in rehearsal, and with collaborative input from Anthony Pateras, Jóhann Jóhannsson collaborator Hildur Guðnadóttir, guitarist / bassist Tim Midyett, and live mainstay T.O.S bringing Moog action, were laid at Albini’s legendary Electrical Audio studio, and the end product (at least on vinyl) is pure analogue, with an AAA rating.

And it certainly brings the band’s earthy qualities to the fore: the richness, the density of the speakers vibrating in their cabs as displaced air emerges as sound in its most overtly physical manifestation is all captured in a way that conveys the immersive, all-enveloping experience of being a room with the band. As is also the case with Swans and A Place to Bury Strangers, the intense volume isn’t a gimmick but a necessary part of the sound and the experience. Some frequencies simply don’t exist at lower volume, and tones resonate against one another in a certain and quite different way when everything is turned up to eleven and then maximum gain applied. And the effect is transcendental. And whereas its predecessor, Kannon was comparatively concise, with its three tracks clocking in around the half-hour mark, Life Metal goes all out on the expansive, the four pieces running for a fill seventy minutes.

It begins with a distant rumble, before, after just a matter of seconds, the first chord crashes in: thick, dense, so distorted and low-registering as so almost collapse under its own density. But from the slow-crawling swamp-heavy ooze emerges individual notes, the makings of a melodic lead guitar line, and from the darkness radiates a gleam of light. Feedback… soaring notes… grandeur on a galactic scale. And then… Guðnadóttir’s voice. Detached and somehow simultaneously clinical yet emotive, assured yet utterly lost, it possesses an other-worldliness as it drapes dimensions across a simmering drone forged from a lattice of layers reminiscent of sections of Earth on Earth 2.

‘Troubled Air’, which features Pateras’ pipe organ work heightens the impact of volume as well as the ceremonial, ritual undertones which run through every Sunn O))) composition. By turns beauteous and beastly, shifting between moments of monumental grace and churning discord.

The nineteen-minute ‘Aurora’ goes low and slow, a single chord hanging in the thick, muggy air for an eternity until it twists out of shape and becomes a whine of feedback. And then it goes lower and slower still. The suspense builds between each chord, which elongates out to a droning sustain, and when the next lands, it’s with the force of an imploding black hole. Because Sunn O))) don’t do things on a small scale or in light: instead, they amplify darkness until it goes beyond critical mass to become all-consuming.

It ends abruptly in a peak of feedback before a deluge of grinding guitar, overdriven and distorted to a point beyond devastation hits like a tsunami to open the twenty-five-minute closer, ‘Novae’. Again taking clear cues from Earth 2, it’s a heavy drone that occupies the full sonic spectrum as howling strains of feedback whine over bowel-rupturing lower frequencies. Nothing much happens: it doesn’t need to. This is about taking a concept and pushing it as far beyond its logical end as possible, something Sunn O))) have effectively made a career of. And it still works.

And if ever a single album encapsulated the fundamental concept of Sunn O))), Life Metal would be a strong contender.

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This White Light is the name of a new band featuring Greg Anderson/ guitar (Sunn O))), Goatsnake) and Jade Devitt/drums (Lucky Me, Gale Forces), Bryan Herweg/bass (Pelican) and vocals from Jen Wood (solo artist and formerly of Tattle Tale and collaborator with the Postal Service).

The four-piece have been working on material and plan to record on April 9th to the 13th at Josh Hommes’ Pink Duck studios, with him producing the recordings. Meanwhile, we can hear one of the demo tracks, ‘Winter Flowers’, here:

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