Posts Tagged ‘Harsh’

Roman Numeral (US) / Wolves And Vibrancy (EU) –13th August 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Linear narrative can be so dull, so predictable, or otherwise lacking in intrigue and imagination. There is so much more challenge – both as a writer and a reader – to a work that doesn’t follow that standard beginning / middle / end convention. There’s nothing predictable or obvious or linear about Fawn Limbs’ their third long player.

‘Day three. I woke up in a bed made of hay and roots. For a brief but fleeting moment, I couldn’t recall the incidents of the past days…’ This is how we arrive in Darwin Falls. It’s a sparse country vibe, a bit True Detective. It’s hazy, hot. The dry, cracked voice of Lee Fisher narrates the scene, and we’re as lost and bewildered as he is. Where are we? Why are we here? What the fuck happened? The picture gets darker as it unfurls, and it’s a slow, languorous build… and then, unexpectedly, everything erupts and shit spews forth as if from a volcano bursting from the very molten pits of hell. It tears with a burning fury at your guts and at your organs, and this is punishment. And then, this is calm, this is tranquillity. This is schizophrenic, unpredictable. It’s too much to process.

How you do describe Fawn Limbs? Odd and experimental is perhaps a fair starting point, and the first track in this is both. ‘Nesting Lumens’ is abstract and ethereal, a shade abstract, but it’s also raging chthonic demon-noise metal and all the brutality delivered with a razor-sharp technicality. It’s perhaps most interesting when the rage dissipates and we’re left with expensive post-rock tropes, and these extend into the majestic

The Transatlantic trio describe themselves as ‘avant-garde mathgrind’ and that seems a fair summary of the blistering hellfest that is Darwin Falls.

We’re still struggling to find orientation amidst the slow-twisting post-rock smog of the opening segment of ‘Wound Hiss’ when things suddenly turn brutal, a battering sonic assault that’s brief but so violent as to cause concussion.

It’s the extremity of the contrasts that render these songs so staggering in their impact. As a post-rock band, they’re outstanding at forging delicate, graceful pastoral pieces, musical passages of delicacy and grace – but instead of breaking into breathtaking crescendos of cinematic beauty, they rampage into howling blasts of anguish that explode on the most frenzied slabs of extreme metal. There are moments of eerie spaciousness, as on ‘Caesura’, a short piece which appropriately provides a moment of respite, and mellow interludes such as the still waters of laid-back jazz at the start of ‘Twitching, Lapsing’ which jolts into life with a haemorrhage-inducing blast of rampant noise and only becomes more impossible as the brass collides with a nuclear storm and a tsunami of noise.

If Justin Broadrick and co successfully combined free jazz with slow, industrial grind as GOD, then Fawn Limbs push the concept to another level, and the spoken word sections provide a fascinating counterpoint to the roaring, blazing sonic blasts that come in between. But ultimately, comparisons simply don’t hold up here. True innovation is rare, and we’re unaccustomed to it: it’s difficult to respond to it appropriately, somehow. It phases us. Shuddering, bemusement, bewilderment. A lack of comprehension. How do you measure it, and how do you process? Darwin Falls is a remarkable album, a sonic supernova, and it’s no mere hybrid: it is truly unique. Prepare to have your mind – and eardrums – blown.

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Darwin Falls ARTWORK

SIGE Records – SIGE103 – 25th June 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

It was The Decline Effect, a full decade ago, which provided my introduction to the work of Jim Haynes. It was an album I described as ‘bleak’, commenting on the way it reminded me of ‘Robert Burton’s 17th Century text The Anatomy of Melancholy, which detailed in the richest language the terrible physical symptoms of melancholy and its effects on the humours of the body. It still stands as a fitting description of a work by an artist whose career is devoted to ‘compositions of corrosion, shortwave radio, and tactile noise’.

Haynes’ inspiration for this latest offering was environmental, circumstantial, situational, as he recounts: “I completed this record in the fall of 2020. Much of the western states of the US was ablaze for months. The anxiety of the collective American psyche was ubiquitous, also due to the Presidential elections in November of that year. And When The Sky Burned became an appropriate title given the environmental and political climate of that particular time.”

But what’s also fascinating is the more subtle use of reference, of intertext: Haynes explains that When The Sky Burned When The Sky Burned is ‘also a reference to Zbigniew Karkowski’ – before going on to explain his ‘complicated, if distant relationship’ and subsequent hostility from both Karkowski and Andrew McKenzie, aka The Hafler Trio, for what appear to be the most disproportionate of reasons.

Haynes dedicates the album to both McKenzie and Karkowski ‘whether they like it or not’, writing on the latter, ‘After his death, I most certainly felt a sorrow that the world has lost this artist, but I was also very conflicted as I wish there could have been a conversation about what happened. I don’t think he was capable of remorse or reconciliation, but I wonder if I was wrong in that analysis. So this album is a tenuous homage to Karkowki’s early works – with the chest, cavity rattling lows and the shrill sustained high frequencies. The title in fact is a direct translation of the opening piece to that aforementioned Silent CD – "Als der Himmel brannte." But of course, I can never leave anything so static alone, and the heaps of noise, junk, and dissonance were required."

Haynes is an absolute master when it comes to noise, junk, and dissonance, and When The Sky Burned is abrim with all three.

As album openings go, the first few seconds of ‘Multiple Gunshots’, are striking, shocking, even, as blasts of percussion – which slam like gunshots – hit the listener without warning. They arrive a succession of hard blasts – some warping backwards, and Haynes manipulates them to forge an erratic but devastatingly heavy beat. I’m reminded of how Swans sampled a nailgun and pitched it up and down for the punishing rhythm on ‘Time is Money (Bastard)’, and this builds a grind of rapidly oscillating drones that flicker and shudder. Seven minutes in, the drones rise to a shriek, before obliterative distortion decimates any semblance of musicality. Everything combines to forge an intense and oppressive eleven minutes where little happens other than the listener suffering a brutal sonic punishment.

Between this, and the ten-minute ‘Appropriate to a Sad, Frightened Time’, Haynes presents a series of compositions that really test the listener’s capacity for noise and overall endurance. ‘Abruptly Scattered’ sounds like an enormous generator’s throb, occasionally rent with blasts of explosive treble noise as if said generator is bursting into flames. The tonal separation is well-defined: the bass sends the most uncomfortable vibrations through the pit of your gut, while the shrill, harsh treble smash makes you clench your teeth and fear for your hearing. You swallow hard, feeling uncomfortable, wondering if you’re going to suffer tinnitus or diarrhoea first, and pray it’s not both simultaneously.

Haynes’ explorations are brutal and harsh, and the set as a whole is truly relentless. Heavy crunches and grinding, gut-churning growls are suddenly ruptured by unexpected thacks and cracks, detonations, and the kind of heavy impact that makes the car-door slams used for punches in films sound like friendly pats on the shoulder. Swirling vortices of noise on noise howl and shriek, violent sonic tornadoes that inflict devastating levels of damage tear from the speakers, and even the moments of calm are unsettling, uneasy.

When The Sky Burned is not a nice album, but it’s a remarkable one, one that quite literally crackles with intensity, and genuinely hurts in places. But while it is relentlessly abrasive and often excruciating, Haynes’ attention to tone and texture, and the way the utilises these elements to forge a work of immense range isn’t only admirable on the technical, sonic, and compositional levels, but also results in an album that has massive impact, and is an outstanding example of well-crafted and intuitive electronic noise.

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Christopher Nosnibor

No two ways about it: coinciding with the NIM compilation album Deprived of Occupation and Pleasure We Feast, FEAST 4 offers the most jam-packed and solid quality lineup they’ve put on yet, with sets from a number of acts featured on the album and a stack more besides.

After some weird woozy shit off Territorial Gobbings’ recent Automatic for Nobody album release (which we covered and coveted here), where Theo Gowans hoarsely whispers corruptions of lines from REM, Rejections Ops kick things off early doors with a blitzkrieg of stuttering beats, squalling bass feedback and squealing, crackling synths: the guitarist’s wearing a veil and there are strobes galore. The noise is complete overload, a devastating mass of distortion, and while it would perhaps benefit from a little more contrast – it’s absolutely fucking full-on from beginning to end – it would just be amazing to witness in a small, sweaty room at proper ear-bleeding volume. I could happily go home now – but of course, I’m already home, and am thirsty for what’s to come.

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Rejections Ops

Hubble’s cover of Swans’ ‘No Cure for the Lonely’ from the aforementioned compilation provides a mellow interlude before Omnibael’s set. It’s another intense work, and probably their best yet. Stark, black and white footage accompany the duo’s low-down, dubby industrial scrapings. There are some mangled vocals low in the mix, while the crashing metallic snare is pitched up high, and driven by a relentless sequenced synth bass groove overlaid with explosive noise, the atmosphere is dark and oppressive.

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Omnibael

Blackcloudsummoner brings more overloading electronica, dark, dense, story, tense, crunching electrodes crackling distortion, occasionally rent by trills of feedback. And it all sounds as if it’s coming from an immense cavern, about a quarter of a mile underground. The bass sounds like a nuclear experiment, and it’s all going off at once, making for an intense and disorientating experience.

AGED’s sound is rather more ambient, and considerably less abrasive, and it’s well-timed. That isn’t to say that this is in any way soft: there’s a crackling decay at the edge of the sound, and distant samples, barely audible, create a disorientating effect. And it’s over in the blink of an eye.

Making a return for …(something) ruined, the full-tilt, all-out noise abrasion with shouting seemed to hit the spot, and the altogether mellower sounds of Pigsticks and the Wonderbra, making droning harmonica noises in some woods arrives just in time to prevent any aneurysms. This is wonderfully weird, with leaves dropping and being raked creating a ‘field recording’ element to this curious experimental concoction. Birds tweet. A helicopter flies over. Atonal woodwind. Random words. What is it all about? The epitome of avant-garde oddity.

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…(something) ruined

Paired with Pressure Cooker Release valve for a collaborative set, Territorial Gobbing bring all the oddball experimentalism you’d expect. For TG, anything and everything is source material, and on this outing we witness some effervescent vitamin tablets fizzing in bowls, the sound contained by a folded IKEA box. And then they bring on the squeezy sauce bottles, which puff and sigh and gasp in their varying degrees of emptiness. Drainpipe and walkie-talkie, toast, toasters, lighters, phone ring tones, egg slicers, books, paint tube, polystyrene packaging, and kitchen sink also provide sound sources in this bizarre object-led experimental set. It almost feels like we’re watching an album being recorded in real-time. Maybe – and even hopefully – we are. With a track per object, it would work well.

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Territorial Gobbing / Pressure Cooker Release Valve

Gintas K’s set is a brain-bending bleepfest, a tangle of jangling synths and collapsing synapses that fray the nerve-endings. Everything squelches and zaps every which way, and we get to watch it all happen in real-time as the notes twitched away on his keyboard are run through software on a dusty Lenovo Thinkpad to create a crazy sonic foam that bubbles and froths all over. But deep, resonant bass tones boom out over the stuttering bleepage and groaning, croaking drones emerge. It all squelches down to a mere drip before finally fizzling out in a patter of rain, and it’s well-received, And rightly so.

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Gintas K

Hubble’s headlining set is accompanied by some eye-opening PoV visuals of a parachute jump and clips of people leaping off mountains, and the footage is so terrifying I actually hope it’s CGI even though it looks like it’s actually real. The freefalling blue sky space is the ideal accompaniment to the disorientating fretwork of the musical accompaniment which sounds like multiple guitars and keys playing interloping lines together and across one another. The rapid ebbs and flows are immersive, hypnotic, and a long, mid-range drone builds and hangs against the dizzying blanket of fretwork that weaves the rich and sense sonic tapestry of this bewildering sound on sound. It couldn’t be more different in sound from Ben’s regular gig as guitarist in NY noise act Uniform, but everyone needs a break, and this is wonderfully, if dizzyingly, realised. It makes for a top ending to a top night packed with all the weird and all the wonderful from the full noise spectrum.

The press email landed with the leader: ‘UK based, anti-facist black metallers Underdark have announced details on their debut album  Our Bodies Burned Bright on Re-Entry which is set for release on 30th July via Surviving Sounds (UK), Through Love Records (EU) and Tridroid Records (US/CAN).’

In a  time where the outgoing US president identified antifa as ‘the enemy’, we here at Aural Aggro are proud to back and provide coverage to any act with an expressly anti-fascist agenda – although it does also help if they produce good noise, and Underdark most definitely do.

After forming in 2015, Nottingham based black metallers Underdark are finally ready to present their debut album to the world. Following their recent ‘Plainsong​/With Bruised & Bloodied Feet’ single release in 2020, ‘Our Bodies Burned Bright on Re-Entry’ is the sound of a new chapter of Underdark, set for release on 30th July via Surviving Sounds (UK), Through Love Records (EU) and Tridroid Records (US/CAN).

While still utilising a dreamlike and heavy mixture of black-metal, post-metal and shoegaze, Underdark’s debut album also packs a renewed punch alongside a ferocity and intensity matched only by the innovative and engaging song structures.

Recorded & mixed with Misha Herring at Holy Mountain Studio (40 Watt Sun, Inhuman Nature, Idles, Spiritualised, Puppy) & mastered by Adam Gonsalves at Telegraph Mastering (Emma Ruth Rundle, Southern Lord Records, Power Trip, Mizmor), the album captures five tracks of intense & emotional progressive compositions, not limited by genre to create a tidal wave of sound; that shift in emotions, drowning you between sections of crushing blast beats and ear splitting vocals to blissful, atmospheric soundscapes that engulf you within them.

On first single ‘Coyotes’ vocalist Abi comments,

“THE ALBUM IS READY. You thought we were dead. At times, we thought we might be too, but we’re here, we’re (mostly) alive, and this is  COYOTES. It’s one of the first songs I wrote in Underdark and it’s about the ongoing humanitarian crisis at the Mexico/US border. Hope you’re as stoked on it as we are.”

Listen to ‘Coyotes’ here:

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Dret Skivor – 7th May 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

The island of Poveglia in the Venetian lagoon, where plague victims were sent to quarantine – and die – is commonly known as ‘plague island’. But the ‘unprecedented’ pandemic that has circulated the globe in the last eighteen months or so has created a new ‘plague island’, where almost every element of dystopian fiction has become a reality.

There’s no question that this is a political album. The cover alone says it all: this is not some fictional place, but an album that’s explicitly inspired by a specific island that is – sadly, for many of us – very real. The UK, the tiny island with one of the highest death tolls in Europe from the COVID-19 pandemic is indeed a plague island – an island ridden with not only literal plague, but metaphorical plague, its seedy government the worst exponents of capitalist excess, and widely reputed as being more corrupt than the mafia, its racist, jingoistic bullshit-by-the-dozen prime minister with more children than he can account for, tossing money at his mistress while in a position of power, slinging multi-million pound contracts to associates to cash in on the pandemic, and misappropriating funds for a lavish refurb on his flat while unable to find the funds for more than a 1% pay rise for medics… A prime minister who would ‘fuck business’ but would still rather let ‘the bodies pile high’ than shut down and further damage his precious economy’. That’s a plague on a plague, a pestilence on an international scale, and also an absolute fucking disgrace.

It’s an island that also seems to have forgotten how small and isolated it is, both by geography and, now, politically: it’s forgotten it doesn’t have the empire it once did, and so, cut loose from the EU, isn’t an economic powerhouse on a global scale… just a tiny pathetic spec on the map, deludedly flexing its muscles and posturing while plunging further into debt by the hour. It’s a scabby scummy pit of self-importance and irrelevance, where the ruling elite trample the rest every second of the day purely out of self-interest. It’s a hellhole of division and decline that would rather cut off its face to spite its nose, all in the name of reclaiming its borders and blue fucking passports – and all of this is neatly encapsulated in the album’s opening blitzkrieg of noise overload, ‘Wading Through the Dead Bodies to Feel the Sovereignty’.

Because words alone cannot articulate the violent disgust at the country’s policies on immigration, welfare, child poverty, this barrage of cranium-crushing overload is the perfect expression of the rage and the fury – fizzing static and electronic sparks fly through a stammering buzz and headlong collisions of explosive distortion. It’s ten-and-three-quarter minutes of sonic annihilation that’s almost unbearable in its intensity and sheer abrasion. It’s weight and intensity feel like being trapped underneath a tank stuck on a mudbank. You’re clinging on as it tries to run you over the edge, where you can only hope to find a sleazy, lying scumbag lying dead in a ditch before you.

The churning earthworks continue unabated on second track, ‘Bring No Pestilence back’, which dissolves into a babbling, streaming gurgle that accelerates in pace and tapes to a treble as a thin, scrawling drone extends out over its final minutes, before fading to silence. It’s unpleasant and uncomfortable, and clearly intentionally so. For all that, it’s not as unpleasant or uncomfortable as living in post-Brexit Britain in a semi-lockdown state and knowing that the future offers no hope on the horizon.

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Dret Skivor – 12th February 2021

While there have been a few shady folks who have dwelt in prominent places on the noise scene through the years, leading to a certain association between noise and the ugliest aspects of the far right, my own personal experience has been, fortunately, quite different, and the noise-orientated circles I’ve found myself moving in are populated by some of the most sincere left-leaning people who devote their time to speaking up for equality, workers’ rights, and railing against bigotry, discrimination, and fascism. In a way, it feels strange that I should even feel the vaguest need to preface a review by setting this out by way of a context. But there we have it: the world is full of cunts, and sadly certain genres have more than their share of prominent ones, and it only takes a couple of mouldy grapes to taint a batch of fine wine. Or to bypass the metaphor, a handful of cunts to tarnish the reputation of a large group.

There’s no question around the politics of Malmö act Noise Against Fascism, the latest additions to the Dret Skivor label, founded by the ubiquitous Dave Procter following his recent relocation from Leeds to Sweden (prompted partly by the shitshow of Brexit). The band’s bio describes the project as ‘harsh noise against all forms of oppression and injustice. A violent non-violent tool of resistance’. And it makes sense: noise, when it’s harsh, can be one of the most brutally violent things around. And The Violence lives up to its title. Released on limited cassette, it features a longform track on each side, and they’re unswervingly optimally harsh.

‘Policemachine’ is a churning blast of mid-range noise, a welter of distortion that’s remorselessly abrasive. It’s difficult to tell it it’s resonance of a rapid phase, but it pulsates at a high frequency, the metallic shuddering racket positively shaking the walls, while occasional snarls and crashes and heavy blows add more horror to the relentless assault. It is, of course, entirely fitting of the title, which is take as a reference to both police brutality – a topic which has been hot for some time now, and never more so than in the last year or so, giving rise to the Black Lives Matter movement. But it’s a trope that reaches back far further. A Clockwork Orange was published in 1962, and forty years, how much has actually changed? The track is a real fucking horrorshow, a nuclear assault of devastating sonic proportions that speaks of every kind of violence. Lasers blast through the tempest toward the end, only accentuating the sensation that this is a war trasmited sonically. It’s an aural battering, a sonic blitzkrieg, a full-on gut-shredding mess of overloading nastiness, that’s sustained for over half an hour, with not a moment’s respite, and it’s enough to leave you feeling absolutely ruined.

And so, still staggering, battered and bruised, the listener is thrown headlong into the engulfing racket that is the title track, a further twenty-five minutes of extreme noise that beings with a sample that’s cut to a loop and separated by some dramatic stereo that feels like a sharp left-right punching before the devastating noise crashes in like a bulldozer. Obliterative is an understatement. The cut loop of ‘the violence’ continues throughout, reminding me of Rudimentary Peni’s Pope Adrian 37th Psychristiatric album, with it’s mind-bending loop of ‘Papus Adrianus’ which runs for its entire duration.

It’s noise, and holy fuck is it harsh. The monotony only accentuates it, of course, but sonically, it’s a howling mess of overloading circuitry that offers not even so much as a microsecond’s breathing space. If you want to lose yourself in body-breaking, brain-shredding noise, then this album is going to deliver. With the added benefit of knowing they’re not nazi cunts.

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24th November 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Black days and even blacker nights call for black metal, and the second track taken from German trio Imha Tarikat’s forthcoming second long player, Sternenberster (which translates literally as ‘burster of stars’) scheduled for release on December 11th. As you might expect from a band whose name is Turkish and translates as ‘extermination sect’, it’s black in the ‘scorched earth, charred remains’ sense.

It begins with a single bass note, a power grunt, and then all hell breaks loose, and it’s fast, furious, and the production is, of course, ultra-primitive. Usually, with black metal, I’m inundated with synonyms for swamps and sludge, here, it’s The Fall that come to mind. Not that Imha Tarikat sound like The Fall musically, but the clattering racket is distinctive by virtue of the instrumental separation. What’s more, that ragged bass sound, particularly the descending run before it all collapses into a frenzied wall of nose, sounds almost exactly like the start of ‘Elves’. It’s endearingly ramshackle, and while it is in time and in key – just about – I think – it’s perfectly unpolished, a one- or two-take demo-quality throwdown. Unusually, it’s possible to distinguish the bass, the guitars, the drums, and the vocals – but not the lyrics, of course – in what is a remarkably bright mix.

With the vocals heavily doused in delay, which repeats and reverberates around among the pulverizing and utterly relentless percussion, it does take on a different feel from so much of the genre. Of course, there’s nothing audible that conveys the song’s concept which ‘metaphorically signifies the violent collision with reality that follows a fall from intoxicating heights’ but it does convey excruciating agony and kinetic energy in abundance. And it’s fucking brutal.

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.

AA

Foldhead - Buffering error