Posts Tagged ‘Harsh’

Sacred Bones – 11th September 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Regular readers will likely have spotted Uniform featured on numerous occasions here at Aural Aggro, and in may ways, they encapsulate everything that inspired me to start this in the first place – namely that reviewing music that moves and affects me isn’t quite enough, because only half of it’s about the music, and the remainder is about that personal reaction, and that’s more of an essay than a review. To some this may seem indulgent, and maybe it is, but the intention is that in explaining my own personal response, there may be something relatable there for other readers – and also, potentially, something for the artist, namely an insight into how their music resonates with fans, what it means to them.

I’m not dismissing the merit of reviews that endeavour to quantify the quality of a release based on various merits and so on, but when confronted with music that exists to convey the most brutal emotions in a way that almost physically hurts, you just have to go deeper, and pick it apart properly, much as in the way you’re compelled to pick at an itchy, crusting scab until it’s weeping and raw and bleeding once more in some wrongheaded attempt to understand the nature of the wound.

The particular thing about Uniform is the way in which they balance unbridled rawness, a rage so explosive and nihilistic that words cannot even begin to convey even the outline of the sentiment, one so deeply enmeshed with a choking fury that renders words worthless, and a rare literacy.

“Thematically, the album is like a classic hard-boiled paperback novel without a case,” says front man Michael Berdan. “It focuses on the static state of an antihero as he mulls over his life in the interim between major events, just existing in the world. At the time we were making the record, I was reading books by Raymond Chandler, James Ellroy, and Dashiell Hammet and strangely found myself identifying with the internal dialogues of characters like Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe.”

These are all authors I have an immense admiration for, on account of the pace of their narrative, their economy, their capacity to deliver plot at pace, and their writing methods. Writing is one discipline. Writing to deadlines and producing quality and quantity quickly entirely another, and one I genuinely aspire to.

Uniform have demonstrated an impressive work ethic since their inception, and have been cranking out an album a year either on their own or in collaboration with The Body on an annual basis for the last few years. And never once has the quality or intensity dipped one iota, and Shame continues this unblemished record.

They have evolved over time, replaving the drum machine with a human drummer, but this hasn’t rendered them any more ‘ordinary’ and even without the harsh, pounding electronic battery of percussion, they’re still cranium-crushingly intense and head-shreddingly harsh.

Admittedly, I’ve had The Long Walk on heavy rotation for some two years now, with ‘The Walk’ not only defining that raw, aggro, nihilism that IS Uniform, but also being something of a soundtrack to life. Because life is short, cruel, and painful an there aren’t many acts who convey this as accurately as Uniform.

Shame explores all of the pains and anguish of shame and humiliation, the desire to bury one’s face or to disappear, and for all its harshness, all its abrasion, and all its brutality, Shame is an album that speaks on a deep emotional level. Shame hurts. It’s also harsh, abrasive, brutal, and as visceral an album as you’re likely to hear, and not just in clusterfuck 2020, but period.

The singles released online in advance of the album certainly give an idea of where it’s headed, but Shame needs to be heard in full – and at full volume of course – for maximum impact.

It crashes in with lead single ‘Delco’, possibly the most accessible of the ten cuts. It’s all relative, and by ‘accessible’ we’re looking at Ministry circa Psalm 69, with driving guitars dominating mangled vocals pegged low in the mix. The album swiftly descends into the depths of darkness, a murky blur of metal fury that combines the detached mechanisation of Ministry and Godflesh with the screeding impenetrable guitar noise.

The title track is tense, bleak, but there are hints of redemption at least in the intro before it turns dark and self-flagellatory. The refrain ‘That’s why I drink / That’s why I weep’ is another intertextual reference, this time made in homage to Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone episode ‘Night of the Meek’. But it distils a dark intensity that is the essence of an internal pain that can only be soothed by a chemical anaesthetic. It’s so succinct, and so absolutely magnificent, despite being painful and ugly. We’re all fucked up, and personally, I’m more wary of those who present themselves as happy and normal than anyone else. Who are they rely lying to?

‘Dispatches from the Gutter’ is a sub-two-minute blast of gnarly noise that is virtual onomatopoeia, while ‘This Won’t End Well’ is a slow-paced, industrial trudge, and closer ‘I Am the Cancer’ is just horrible, a mess of frantically-paced guitars, mangled to fuck, and vocals, distorted beyond impenetrability, all cranked out fast and hard. And this is how this album would always have to end. It would have to be painful. It would have to be like peeling flesh. It would have to be like murder.

Shame sees no sign of Uniform softening, Moreover, as they try to make sense of this ugly, violent world, their music more conveys the confusion and the pain of being alive. Embrace it or don’t, but with Shame, Uniform captures the spirit and the anguish of life right now.

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24th May 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Like many artists during life in lockdown, Foldhead has been enjoying a spell of enormous creativity. Well, enjoying may not be quite the word: immersion in work for therapeutic purposes is as much a necessity as a joy, and moreover, as his recent spate of output highlights, zanntone is a highly political animal, and some recent events have sparked an ire that can only be purged through noise.

Skegdeath, released in March, served up an obliterative wall of noise against hundreds of thousands who reportedly descended on Skegness beach on Saturday 21st, the final days before official lockdown landed, against advice on social distancing. The Guardian ran a headline quoting a local dentist who said that it was ‘a disaster waiting to happen.’ It did happen, of course, and it didn’t wait long.

But that didn’t stop the government’s top advisor from doing the precise opposite of staying at home, saving lives, and protecting the NHS by driving his child, in the company of his wife who was suffering symptoms of Covid-19 some 260 miles from London to Durham to stay on his parents’ property, and taking a 60-mile round trip to Barnard Castle to check his eyesight was ok to make the journey home once they’d all recovered, despite having been barely able to walk the day before. He called it ‘reasonable’ and parental responsibility; half the country called it bullshit.

Foldhead refers to this punchy two-tracker, which would make for a neat 7” single at any other time as ‘A reaction to a piece of shit I will not sully my vocal chords by naming’, although the cover art leaves us in no doubt.

‘Carrion / Carrier’ marks one of Foldhead’s most brutal sonic assaults, five minutes of squalling, head-shredding electrical noise, with infinite layers of static and feedback and more noise on top. You can almost imagine him turning knobs so hard as to almost napping them off, and jamming down pedals and circuitry with brute force in order to channel the fury. Because nothing inspires rage like deceit and hypocrisy, apart from when that deceit and hypocrisy is so brazen and comes from a place of such self-confidence and superiority.

‘Poundshop Gollum’ is a howling, braying racket, somewhere between feedback and the anguished sounds of a dying heifer or maybe an elephant, against a backdrop of metal being crushed in a wrecker’s yard. There are fleeting moments that carry echoes of the most twisted, abstract jazz, but above all, it’s the sound of torture.

Amidst all of the outpourings of anger on social media, and even in the mainstream media, this release perhaps makes the strongest and clearest statement of all: because there are no words. The language of sound is the most articulate.

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Christopher Nosnibor

Something is wrong. Seriously wrong. That there is something wrong with the enigmatic Paul T, who is Foldhead, almost goes without saying: purveyor of strange and dark noise via means of a multitude of collaborative projects as well as solo channels, creator of avant-garde visual art, William Burroughs nut, and passionate left-winger, Paul is the epitome of the fringe polyartist who confuses and confounds all things mainstream and normal. These are all the reasons I like the guy and so enjoy collaborating with him whenever we manage to get our shit together. He gets it: he lives and breathes cult and outsiderdom, and has both the means and the theoretical comprehension. Which in the eyes of the many, makes him wrong. He doesn’t fit and neither does his work, and his output as Foldhead is just so much noise to most ears.

The (at least on the surface) inexplicably-titled liveBufferingErrorTimeout (I must clean the black milk with brine) is typical, and wrong on every level. This is electronica that splinters the peripheral senses. It focuses on frequencies that register almost subliminally and that hurt the most, with shards of brain-piercing treble attacking from all sides while whipping whorls of stuttering circuit crackling prod the synapses like needles. It’s a relentless crackle, pop, hiss and fizz, like a firework display exploding inside your cranium exploding over a wash of analogue froth.

Recorded on 19 October 2019, the recording features just the one piece – ‘rotting tongue: nature’s assailed’. It’s as brutal as whiplash and ten times more likely to induce tinnitus, and with a running time of only 7’34” – instead of a classically Burroughsian 23’ that’s more typical, something is very wrong indeed. The noise stops abruptly, and in the absence of information accompanying the release itself, the clue, I suspect, is in the title.

Equipment malfunction or failure is one those things that plagues the recording artist in the digital age. And so what was mapped out to be an hour of racket has emerged as a mere seven minutes; a single rather than an album. But what it lacks in duration, it makes up in pian infliction. A short, sharp shock indeed.

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Foldhead - Buffering error

Focused Silence – FOCUSED0065 – 7th June 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

Shrill. Treble. Not so much chiming as trilling, a sound between a rapid ringing bell and an alarm that drills into the cranium introduces ‘Colophon’, both the album and the title track on this release by ifitisn’t, a duo comprising Robinson & Kalnars – who both have musical pedigree. It’s the jangle of shattered glass and continues for what feels like an eternity, even though it’s only five minutes or so, before dissipating, dispersing into fragments amidst soft clouds of sound punctuated by near-subliminal bumps and scrapes.

According to the press release, ‘ifitisn’t is about the interruptive noise that exists between transmission and the intended reception of the message, the fragments of concrete experience that interrupt hegemony. it is the mapping of emotional and political territories. ifitisn’t is cartographer and rhetoricican’.

They probably realise that absolutely none of this ‘mapping of emotional and political territories’ actually translates through the work itself: the transmission conveys none of the intended reception. They’re probably more than aware that art’s capacity to ‘interrupt hegemony’ is limited at beast, especially in the current climate, especially when that art is obscure and inscrutable. The disparity between the medium and the message are immeasurable, and all that we have to process is ‘interruptive noise’. It’s quite conceivable that that’s the entire point. The fact they’ve gone ahead and done it anyway is what matters. Artistic statements count for less than pissing in the wind, but its through persistence and perseverance and a steadfast refusal to bow or quit that art will ultimately rise above its societal and cultural backdrop. And it’s art, in all of its myriad forms across all media, which makes life worth living.

I’m by no means saying that with Colophon, ifitisn’t are going to have any impact on my life praxis, or make any waves even within artistic circles. But that doesn’t matter.

Random sounds abound on the second piece, the eleven-minute ‘Denity’, which finds whistling digital feedback, dd snorts, disembodied voices and sounds of unidentifiable origin rifting in and out and intersecting with irregular chanking chimes and glooping ripples of analogue waves frothing impatiently. Nine minutes in, some gallic-sounding vibes enter the mix: it sounds at first like an accordion or concertina of some kind, but could equally be a melodica, but it’s soon washed away on a tide of fuzzy extraneous sound whatever it is.

And whatever it is, it’s worth hearing at least once.

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FOCUSED0065_front

Christopher Nosnibor

3pm on a Sunday afternoon may seem like an odd time for a noise gig, but one of the many great things about this rehearsal space that sometimes puts on live music is that being truly independent, it can do whatever the fuck it pleases. Noise aficionados tend to be undercatered for in general, and while it’s fair to say the Leeds scene is pretty healthy, even the most nocturnal of creatures have crawled out of the woodwork for this afternoon’s session of sonic torture. And being in the middle of an industrial estate, they don’t have to worry about the neighbours, meaning they can really crank it up at CHUNK.

The thing about a small scene is that you get to know or otherwise at least recognise people, and while we’re all misfits, we’re all misfits together, and the atmosphere – as promoted by the organiser, Theo, who incudes a ‘no bigots!’ stipulation on the poster – is inclusive, accommodating, and friendly. And we’ve all brought our own booze. I exchange dialogue with strangers and friends alike, and it’s incredibly relaxed. There’s a lot to be said for the fans of more extreme music – mostly that most of them are really decent people.

Duo Black Antlers are making their first appearance here and there’s no information to be found about them anywhere. Thunderous echoing beats and stray bleeps coalesce to form a dreamy but solid backdrop to emotive vocals buried in all the reverb ever. Some crisp electropop is massacred by wall of echo and murk which has an intensity when delivered at ear-shredding volume. Their singer is given to performing some form of interpretive dance when she’s not pacing and singing, and has a strong yet understated presence. It’s a stunning debut, and the warm reception is well-deserved.

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Black Antlers

Long, spacey tones, rapid bleeps and blistering noise, paired with slow bass beats and explosive sampled snare cracks dominate a dizzying, disorientating wall of digital noise that flies off in all directions. This is Early Hominids. They know all the most brutal, pain-inducing frequencies, with blistering treble and squalling feedback howling from the speakers. Bleeps, blips, twitters, wow and flutter are crushed into an excruciating wall of distortion for what feels like a torturous eternity. They endlessly dick about with swapping bits of kit and moving wires, and while this isn’t a conventional ‘rock’ performance, there is an element of deconstructed performance to something like this.

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Early Hominids

My notes become shorter as the afternoon progresses: partly because I hadn’t really considered that 7% Polish lager on an afternoon might have quite an effect, but moreover, because it becomes increasingly difficult to consider note-taking when you’ve got brutal noise blasting in your face and you’re so immersed in the experience that documenting it seems vaguely futile. Because as a fan, it’s about being present, feeling it. Process and assimilate later – if at all. And this is something you feel even more than you hear, where sound takes on a physicality.

Glasgow’s Stable serves up looping echoes, woozy synths and relentlessly thudding uptempo beats… Hints of Suicide, only nastier glitchier, treblier performed by a guy with a mask with two faces… Slightly disturbing… Harsh. Noise. Stop / Start. Brutal. Unintelligible vocals.

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Stable

Headliners PURPURA are not so harsh, but definitely crank out a noise wall. It’s punishing, and it hurts. Burrs of blistering treble break through the speaker-breaking noise.

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PURPURA

It feels far later than the hour, and my brain and ears feel they’ve been thoroughly assaulted when I leave. And it’s been great: if ever a lineup reflected the diversity of the brad umbrella of ‘noise’, while hosting a show in a great space with a great vibe, it’s this.

Störung – str011 – 7th July 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

I need to work a better filing system for my to-review albums. As it stands, it’s literally a pile, with new deliveries being tossed on top of the pile or otherwise littering the floor next to my desk. The chaotic disorder doesn’t sit comfortably with my innate sense of order and organisation, but the pile has a life of its own. Logically, new arrivals should go to the bottom of the pile, but lifting the pile, precarious as it is, is a risky operation. The teetering stack reached a height and degree of instability this morning that lifting the disc and accompanying press release from the top caused the whole thing to slide in several directions at once. Gathering the strewn and scattered discs and press releases, many of which had become separated from one another, I happened upon The Broken Glass. This seems to be something of a recurring theme, with Miguel Frisconi’s Standing Breakage standing out as a work centred around the exploitation and exploration of a cracked glass bowl. Rather later, I located the press release, too.

The pieces on The Broken Glass aren’t nearly as haphazard as my filing, but there’s a loose and spontaneous, improvised feel to much of the album, whether the composition is a sparse (dis)arrangement of electro / acoustic instruments (‘The Broken Glass v1’) or rippling, rhythmically pulsating electronica (‘The Broken Glass v2). There is a strong sense of variation and variety between the two complimentary yet highly contrasting versions – so much so that it’s difficult to discern how it’s the same piece performed differently. On the face of it, their commonality lies in the organic incorporation of Asférico’s field recordings and the subtle washes of sound.

The album’s third and final track (a CD-only bonus), ‘Sonidos del Subconsciente II’ (‘Sounds of the Subconscious II’) is different again, and has a running time of some forty minutes. An exploratory piece which evolves gradually and naturally, it begins with what sounds like the sound of the wind, a hushed and distant rumble. way off, distant machines clank and grind, the sound of heavy industry blown many miles on the breeze Brooding string notes creep in. The low tones surge and grow and build… and then there is silence. Abrupt, unexpected and unexplained silence. It simply arrives after nine minutes. The disc is still playing. Straining my ears for the faintest hint of sound above the whirring of the CD player and my hard-drive. I stop typing, so as to listen for sounds buried by the clatter of keys. But no: there is nothing.

Is this the sound of my subconscious? How long do I resist skipping the track forward thirty seconds, a minute? Why does the silence unsettle me so? Suddenly, I’m called to leave the room. On returning, the track is at the fourteen-minute mark, and there is sound. I skip back to discover where sound resumes I turn up the volume, to discover that there had been no silence, only extreme quiet. I go back to the beginning.

And from the so-quiet calm slowly, almost imperceptibly builds a funnelling storm of noise, a howling gale of tempestuous noise, amidst which crashing explosions of metallic noise, like sheet steel against sheet steel, reverberate. And the volume and intensity continues to grow and swell, to a level that’s difficult to bare. It’s no longer mere sounds, but a physical force. It’s all-encompassing, and I find myself cowering as though on a small boat in the middle of a violent storm, while the only land is an erupting volcano.

And yes, sometimes my subconscious does sound like this: a raging barrage of relentless, surging noise, amorphous, indistinct, it’s abrasive and it hurts. Not so much the sound of breaking glass, but sound to break the psyche.

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Mia Zabelka & Asférico – The Broken Glass

Neurot Recordings – 25th March 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

Full of Hell seem to be an act who thrive on collaboration, with their previous release, Full of Hell and Merzbow proving to be a magnificent if suitably challenging meeting of strains of noise which nothing if not effective.

Small wonder that the press release states that Neurot Recordings is very pleased to announce a full-length collaborative debut between apocalyptic doom duo, The Body, and grindcore/harsh noise sculptors, Full Of Hell.

I’ll admit that the title is something of an obstacle for me, reminding me as it does of Hole – specifically, ‘Doll Parts’ but the squalling barrage of percussion-led noise that explodes in the first minute of the title track obliterates all reminders of anything other than the need to continue breathing. From the fury emerge grand, mangled powerchords that sweep against a sombre march.

The cover version of the Leonard Cohen track ‘The Butcher’ is a real standout track, despite being barely recognisable in this dank, droning mutant form. But yes, beneath the gut-churning 10bpm sludge and barely audible, Cohen’s barren lyrics are howled and snarled.

The drums are back to the fore on ‘Gerhorwilt’, a thunderous, speaker-smashing tumult combine with tortured, and torturous, vocalisations that barely sound human, while ‘Himmer and Holle’ is a wall of noise that’s the very definition of infernal. Incredibly, the punishment ratchets up another notch or three on the desolate grind of ‘Bottled Um’, and there’s a sense of relief on arriving at the end of the album’s final track, the blackest of black ‘The Little Death’.

That this album is beyond noisy – a pretty relentless assault from beginning to end – is only half the story. The individual tracks display a polarity of pace, with crawling dirges buttressing hundred-mile-an-hour thrashout frenzies. As such, the extremities of the dynamics of tempo are accentuated, hurling the listener back and forth while continually battering the senses with violent sound.

Is it a coincidence it’s being released on Good Friday? Probably not. It does, after all, feel like the sonic equivalent of crucifixion. Hellish, heavy and even more hellish, the day you hear this album is the day you will ache in ways you never imagined possible.

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The Body & Full of Hell at Neurot Recordings