Posts Tagged ‘Hybrid’

BISOU Records/Beast Records – 18th March 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

Sometimes, there’s simply no escaping the fact that grooves and hooks are important. However wearying the conventions of rock and pop are so much of the time, there’s still a vital appeal. Sometimes you just need something to grab hold of, something to grip your short, feeble attention span. But what happens when you bring all the conventions together at once and then mash them, bash them, squash and smoosh them with joyful irreverence? It goes one of two ways: it’s a horrible hybrid mess with no cohesion, or it’s genius. Supersound is genius. It mines many aspects of those conventions to forge an album that’s got groove and hooks, while making unusual takes on country, rockabilly and post-punk, and wrapping them in an abundance of noise that’s pretty gnarly at times. It’s all in the mix – blues rock, alt-rock, grunge, even regular radio rock – but delivered in a twisted, mangled fashion that’s guaranteed to keep it off the airwaves.

The story of the creation of this masterwork is decidedly un-rock’n’roll as it involves Red (Olivier Lambin) suffering from presbyopia and purchasing a bass because it has ‘bigger frets and fewer strings’ and recruiting a collective who can actually see to play their instruments to realise his musical vision. It’s perhaps no wonder it’s a blurry haze of bits and bobs. Said lineup involves ‘two drummers, Néman (Zombie Zombie, Herman Düne) and DDDxie (The Shoes, Rocky, Gumm)’ who Red asked to create their own rhythms, plus Jex, aka Jérôme Excoffier, his lifelong accomplice, who still has excellent eyesight, who played all the guitars on the album.

A strolling bass and jagged guitar slew angular lines on ‘Normal’ that’s spineshaking swamp rock, sounding like a collision between the B52s and The Volcanoes. ‘Ready to Founce’ has all the groove and all the swagger, and has the glorious grittiness of Girls Against Boys at their scuzzy, sleaze-grind best, calling to mind ‘Rockets Are Red’. Then, ‘Shark’ sounds like Butthole Surfers covering an early Fall Song. ‘Screen Kills’ is altogether gothier, with acres of flange swathing the trebly guitar, and all paths lead to the tense, needling jabbing jangle of the final song of the album, ‘Carcrash Disasters’. It could have so easily been tempting fate, but while they veer wildly and screech around every corner on two wheels, DER remain on the road to the end of a crazy conglomeration of an album that buzzes from start to finish.

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Constellation – 11th March 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

Kee Avil isn’t an individual, and isn’t really a band, so much as a concept, a collective, a project, the brainchild of Montréal producer and guitarist Vicky Mettler. Debut album, Crease, is pitched as ‘a singular expression of fractured dream logic concretized in chiselled postpunk guitar, sinuous low-end electronics, a panoply of organic and digital micro-samples creating alternately twitchy and propulsive rhythm, and the anxious intimacy of her finely wrought lyricism and vocals’.

It all sounds pretty grand and sets expectations high. Thankfully, Crease doesn’t disappoint. To manage those high expectations, let’s get it established here and now that it’s not a conventional album, with easy songs with obvious or accessible verse/chorus structures.

‘See, my shadow’ starts out with hints of early PJ Harvey but swiftly spins into industrial post-punk with electro/hip-hop beats, more akin to Lydia Lunch fronting Coil remixed by Portishead. It’s a lot to happen in the space of under four minutes, but then, that’s par for the course here: Crease is as jam-packed with ideas as it is sonic strangeness. It’s not an easy album to get a grasp on, and Mettler comes across as quite otherly. Some may say crazy, unhinged, but it’s not that. It’s just apparent she exists on another plane, and Crease shuns conventional structures in favour of exploring avenues of songwriting that more closely reflect an alternative vision and concept of ‘songs’. I certainly don’t mean that as a criticism, but equally, don’t want to sound like a wanker by saying that this is art and therefor superior. I mean, it is superior, but not because of that. To unpack that a bit, Crease is clearly the product of a quite specific mindset, and a determination to find a means of articulating. And sometimes, to articulate is to go beyond language and beyond conventional musical structures. As such, what Crease articulates is a separation from the rest of the world, the turmoil of the mind, the duality of the internal monologue.

‘Drying’ is sparse, glitchy, a clicky clatter and pop of percussion providing an erratic framework for the incidental instrumentation and slowed-down, opiate-haze vocals that are at once sultry and threatening.

‘And I’ is a sparse, scratchy acoustic guitar-based song; the tense picking at times calls to mind early Leonard Cohen, and the atmosphere is muscle-tensingly taut. It’s a masterclass in how less is so much more, and as Mettler’s breathy vocal arcs over the spindly fretwork, a kind of magic happens in the way it draws you in with a hypnotic sensation. ‘Devil’s Sweet Tooth’ lunges and sways, violins teeter on the brink of a breakdown

It’s often difficult to make out the actual lyrics, so you lean in closer in an attempt to get your head and hands around them. You fail, but you’re drawn in closer to the dissonant strangeness that’s more than just music: it’s a world of disconnection and dislocation. It’s unnerving, alien, but likely better than this one right now.

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Not Applicable – 4th March 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

Instant disorientation is the effect of hitting ‘play’ on Isambard Khroustaliov’s Shanzhai Acid. What the hell is this? Woozy drones and amorphous waves or warping wisps ripple and blur, and hums like a swarm of drunken bees weave precariously through an alien soundscape. I’m accustomed to experimental and sci-fi, but this… This, I was not fully prepared for. By fully, I mean at all.

It’s vaguely sci-fi in its strangeness, and I find myself blinking and bewildered in a lack of comprehension as to what it’s all about.

Welcome to the world of artificial intelligence, which may well be intelligent, but in a way that’s so artificial as to have taken leave of intuition. To unpack that, the liner notes explain that Shanzhai Acid is an album ‘produced through artificial intelligence design and interaction with modular synthesisers. Reminders of the complex, granular music of Autechre, Fennesz’s reimagined environments, the deconstructed dance music of Lorenzo Senni, and the expanse, gestures and sheer reach of Gerard Grisey’s spectral master-work: Les Espace Acoustiques, Shanzhai Acid exists in its own intersection of art, design, music and technology where process and function are transcended to produce an album of extraordinary auditory allusions’.

My initial reaction was, if I’m honest, ‘hell yeah!’ Because innovation in music seems to have slowed so badly over the last decade. No, that’s not my ageing and being stuck in the past. I’m not saying there’s been no good or exciting new music. But innovation stalled: I believe that to be pretty much fact. Because it’s pretty much all been done by now. Guitars have been taken to their limits and beyond, meaning most significant advances since the late 70s have been driven by the use and abuse of technology, and while hip hop and dance music have certainly exploited technology, we’ve not seen anything as radical as the advances made by Throbbing Gristle and the like in the last forty years.

There are points during Shanzhai Acid that both Throbbing Gristle and certain dance tropes are evoked, with crackles and fizzes and static shudders and glitches pop and hum and there is circuitry in interplay, whirring and wowing. It’s hard to tell how much meaning to attach to the titles of these pieces, or even how seriously to take it. But then serious music can have a playful element, and ‘Experts v. Shamans’ sounds like R2D2 in communication with a nightmarish fairground ride. It’s a journey – and a disorientating one at that – that leads to the seven-minute slow-grinding drone and stirring swirls and hums that build layer upon layer on ‘Meanwhile Cephalopods’. Meanwhile, cephalopods what? No, there is no what. It simply is.

Shanzhai Acid is a remarkable abstract work that delves into microtonal and glitch territory, swerves wide into drone and ambience, and scratches at the shores of early industrial and vintage avant-garde. With such wide-ranging elements scrunched together, it’s a unique hybrid and a refreshing, if at times challenging listen. And while you should supposedly never judge a book (or album) by its cover, Shanzhai Acid sounds like the cover looks.

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29th October 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

It seems that everyone has a doppelganger. As someone who’s prone to wearing a hat and dark glasses, to be told I’ve been seen in places I’ve not been in a city the size of York is pretty unnerving. But there it is: life unravels by strange and unexpected means.

‘Three Steps South’ is both strange and unexpected, and presents an interesting hybrid. It’s got that nagging repetitive cyclical, sequenced electro element and a noodly synth line that bubbles away and mines a deep seam while drums and guitars crunch away…there’s something about it that reminds of Placebo’s ‘Taste in Men’ to the main riff, but then it’s a slice of swanky, swaggersome indie rock at heart. To add to the eclecticism, the mid-section goes all spacious with a reverby western desert twang.

Most surprising of all is the fact that it not only all first together and works, but that it’s a catchy bugger of a tune.

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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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9th April 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

The remastered re-reissues of avant-experimentalist oddballs Photographed by Lightning continues apace with the emergence of Dust Bug Cecil (or, to give it its full title, The Rise and Fall of Dust Bug Cecil and the Winking Cats, supposedly taken from an obscure book about a direct to disc recording pioneer, and may in turn be a skewed play on Ziggy Stardust. Of course, everything is skewed in the world of PBL, and if Music From the Empty Quarter wasn’t evidence enough of this, then this should be enough to convince anyone: presented here as a whopping thirty-eight track document (2 CDs worth), Dust Bug Cecil is augmented with the entirety of their other 2002 album, Let Me Eat the Flowers. On the strength of this, it vocalist Syd Howells and co (here represented by Dave Mitchell (vocals, bass, keyboards); Bionio Bill (drums & percussives); Roland Ellis (saxophone); Chris Knipe (mandolin & fiddle), and Rev Porl Stevens contributing vocals to ‘White Master’)) had perhaps ingested more than just pansies prior to these sessions.

As Howells recounts it, ‘following the behemoth like Music From The Empty Quarter we went in search of tunes. Found some too. Glued them together with words and somehow found ourselves making a ‘pop’ album.’ In comparison to its predecessor, Dust Bug Cecil is a pop album in that there are none of the sprawling ten-minute epic headfucks on offer here, with most of the songs – and, indeed, they are songs – clocking in around the three-minute mark. It’s ‘pop’ in the style of the dark pop of post-punk, but its values are ostensibly altogether more punk, and its sound is primitive and murky. It’s pop in the way The Jesus and Mary Chain write breezy, surfy pop tunes and bury them in is a squall of noise that renders them almost indistinct.

There are melodies and choruses bursting out from every corner, but in context of 2002, songs like the album’s opener, ‘Eyes on Stalks’ and ‘Numb Alex’ sound like early 80s new wave demos: driving Joy Division-esque bass dominates a rhythm pinned down by a frenetic drum machine that sounds like it’s struggling to keep up with the throbbing energy, and there are hints of The Cure and B-Movie in the mix here.

The guitars buzz like flanged wasps on the vaguely baggy / shoegazey ‘Lady Lucifer’, prefacing the sound that A Place To Bury Strangers would come to make their signature. Elsewhere, the sound swings from almost straight 60s-tinged indie on ‘Let Me Eat the Flowers’, while ‘The Remains of a Tramp Called Bailey’ sounds like a head-on collision between The Pixies and The Psychedelic Furs, and ‘The Risen’ comes on like early New Order. If it reads like I’m chucking in a list of seemingly random and incongruous artists by way of confused and confusing reference points, it’s because that’s what the listening experience is like. None of the elements of the album are unique by any stretch, but their hybridisation very much is. The 60s garage vibe of ‘Untitled (for Dylan’) and the Fall-like scuzz of ‘David Dickinson Said’ (with its obvious but necessary ‘cheap as chips’ refrain) are well-realised, and suit the lo-fi production values.

Sonically, Dust Bug Cecil is nowhere near as challenging as Music From The Empty Quarter, and it was almost inevitable that they had to do something different, having taken the avant-jazz oddity to its limit. Then again, of course, there’s still the customary weird shit, like the squelchy racket with spoken word of ‘Bob’ and ‘Pablo’, and the doomy industrial synth robotix of ‘Be This Her Memorial’, which mean it’s hardly the most accessible album going and it is quite bewildering just in terms of its stylistic eclecticism.

It’s unquestionably a mixed bag, and not all of the efforts are completely successful or gel quite as hoped, something the band themselves acknowledge with hindsight. But it’s still very much a musical, if not commercial, success, showcasing a band capable of wild diversity in their creativity, as well as a band who’ve spent a career making the music that pleases them over anyone else.

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Metropolis Records – 20th November 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Despite their associations with both KMFDM and Foetus (Raymond Watts has been a touring member of both, and En Esch has returned the favour by contributing to PIG), and playing as the main support to Nine Inch Nails on the European leg of the Downward Spiral tour and releasing albums on Interscope around the turn of the millennium, PIG remain something of an obscurity, a band revered by those in the know. I can’t help but think that it’s because, for all their adoption of the aggrotech / technoindustrial stylings of KMFDM, and the grandiose extravagance of Foetus, they don’t really sit comfortably anywhere.

Their recent releases, which have been coming thick and fast in the past few years, while adhering to the fundamentals of their earlier blueprints, with thumping beats and grating, heavily processed guitars, have taken a poppier, and also more glam leaning. It’s a style that suits the flamboyant Watts, who’s always revelled in the theatrical and the performance aspects of rock ‘n’ roll. Pain is God continues to incorporate the glammy elements that first came to the fore on 2016’s The Gospel, particularly on stomping single cut ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Refugee’ – but then, this is being a PIG album, it incorporates so many elements, spanning eurodisco, industrial, and aggrotech, all tessellated together to form a perfect assembly. The ‘Militant Mix’ of ‘Mobocracy’ (the original version of which was the lead track on a limited tour-only EP released last year) melds grating slabs of industrial guitar to a thumping dancefloor beat, breaking down to piano and grand strings.

‘Badland’ brings a bold funk strut and a barrel load of brash brass. Orchestral details lace the slow grinding greasy girth of ‘The Wages of Sin’, while ‘Kickin Ass’ does just that, with a thick bass groove and a guitar line that’s more hair rock than glam rock, but still manages to avoid being remotely corny. The lighter-waving anthemic ‘Suffer no More’ which draws the curtain on the album does teeter perilously close, but gets a pass by virtue of its incongruity and sheer audacity.

If the album and song titles are thin on porcine puns, the themes and tropes are the same as they’ve been since the very start of Watts’ career under the PIG moniker – sex, death, pain, evil – with a generous scattering of religious references, predominantly around Catholicism (the cover art is a reasonable starting point), and a superabundant splattering of sleaze. And with the sultry seduction of ‘Drugged Dangerous & Damned’ Watts manages to shoehorn in one of his signature triple alliterations. For some reason, it never gets tired. I suspect this is, at least in part, because Pig balance all the self-knowing parody, the supersaturation of cliché and repetition with a flair for invention, stylistic range and, above all, decent tunes.

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Weeping Prophet Records – 31st July 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

The facts and the pitch are that Fuse Box City is a new London based band. They combine indie and electronic with noise and melody; the intricate layering of which produces a rich sound that provides a platform for Rachel Kenedy’s fragile yet mellifluous vocals to sit on top. Talking about the stuff that matters all in the same breath.

I like hybridity and eclecticism, and have developed an increasing appreciation of some of the 80s samplist / looping acts that broke through in the late 80s. It wasn’t immediately apparent at the time, but this wasn’t about simply making dance music and turntable scratching and drum machines: this was utilising emerging technology to create a soundtrack to our ever-faster, ever more fragmented experience of life.

Revisiting the spirit of then makes sense to an extent: we’re witnessing even less comprehensible times, even faster, more fragmentary lives, and even niftier tech while in a position to cast an eye back over recent history.

But sometimes blending lo-fi indie and experimental electronica and throwing in bits of prog and 80s hip-hop means the elements don’t always gel especially well, and ‘Shine On’ makes for a shaky, somewhat chaotic and disjointed start.

Maybe it’s a matter of adjustment, or maybe the band really do find their groove better as the album progresses, and it’s when they slow things down a bit as they do first on ‘Pub Licker’ and then on ‘Crossing Swords’ that things begin to feel rather more cohesive, and find FBC explore a territory that sounds like a trip-hop reimagining of Young Marble Giants.

The album’s closer marks another departure: the thirteen-minute ‘Bendy One’ starts out a low, slow semi-ambient work with a murky beat stuttering away like a fibrillating heart, and low in the mix before slowly taking form: the beat becomes ore solid, regular, insistent, and comes to dominate a vague wash of a droning backdrop which stretches and yawns and swells behind Kenedy’s soaring choral vocal. Somewhere along the way it emerges as a new ag stomper with a thumping tribal beat and some squirming electronics that bubble away in the background of some approximation of a celebratory sunset incantation.

The end product seems to be that of a band who are ideas-rich and unafraid to experiment, while still finding their feet and sense of direction. Despite its messier moments, which often boil down to execution as much as concept, it’s a bold debut, and never uninteresting or uninspired.

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26th October 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

‘Dramatic and bold’… ‘driven and experiential’… songs which deliver ‘a perfectly executed sense of tension and release’… I’m No Chessman promise a lot with this, their second release. Do they deliver all of it? Well, it’s a matter of taste as much as opinion.

When I relaunched my reviewing ‘career’ such as it is a decade ago this month, I thought it would be neat to make providing objective reviews my signature. Over time, I’ve come to revise this ambition, having realised that the way one responds to music has precisely nothing to objective matters like technical competence. Granted, poor production can ruin a great set of songs, but the best production in the world won’t transform songs that are technically proficient in terms of musicianship but otherwise predictable and lacking in emotional resonance exhilarating.

Music is intensely personal, and how an individual responds to a composition isn’t purely about the recipient or their tastes, but their headspace and the precise context in which they first hear it.

All of which is to say that this EP is well executed, and despite what the title may suggest, is decidedly not the work of amateurs (just as it has nothing to do with John Niven’s debut novel, which is about golf. And wanking. Well, maybe it’s about wanking. Some of it is a bit Fall Out Boy). It’s that combination of poppy, up-tempo guitar-driven punk with spitting angst that will enthuse or antagonise dependent on your politic.

But yes, throwing in bouncy pianos and widdly guitar breaks in between big, hooky choruses, it’s impossible to deny that they do bring elements of ‘riven and experimental’ and ‘(melo)dramatic and bold’ with their expansive theatricality. All of which is t say that objectively, the band’s appeal is clear. Subjectively… I’m probably not the right demographic.

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Super Secret Records – 25th May 208

Given the album’s title, I wasn’t exactly expecting jaunty jubilance. But then, having heard a million albums since reviewing their 2014 debut, A Mothers Work is Never Done, I wasn’t expecting a wild hybrid of-hop hop and jazz at first.

They’ve upped the edge and intensity for this second outing, going all out with a strong start. An insistent groove, dominated by a relentless ‘vintage’ hip-hop beat, hammered out hard provides the backdrop to the jazz-rap crossover of the eight-minute ‘Attica Black’. Breaking from some nagging guitar and angry vocals, it breaks into a cacophony of discord, with brass honking like braying elephants tooting all over a collapsing barrage of percussion.

‘Black Tar Caviar’ mellows the pace and goes big on the sax and the sleaze in the opening bars. That sax… sax not in the smooth jazz sense, not in the café PA sense, but big bold, raucous, gutsy sax – before a thick, tearing bass grinds in, and… woah. Blackened hop-hop-jazz-metal? It’s like fur songs playing at once. It’s roaring and savage and intense and utterly bewildering. I don’t even know if it’ any good: it’s simply too much to take in. But if a derangement of the senses of the desires effect, then they’ve undeniably achieved it in around two and a half explosive minutes.

The weirdness abates for the start of ‘Bodiless Arms’, but only slightly, as a braying sax honks rudely to disrupt a delicately picked guitar piece that evokes pastoral tranquillity.

And yes, it’s ultimately all about the sax… it’s wild. The two short ‘untitled’ composition are bursts of noise without overt structure or form, but while the drums are all over and there’s

Ironically, ‘Jazz Oppression’ the least overtly jazz tune on the album, manifesting more as a full-throttle hip-hop metal crossover, a driving, two-and-a-half minute bass-driven barrage with throaty hollers and a sinewy lead guitar that’s swiftly buried amidst the chaos and screaming feedback. It’s swiftly followed by the equally attacking (and brief) title track: ‘Fuck all that weak shit’ is the half-buried refrain on ‘Morose’, which barrels headlong from a throbbing, insistent groove into screaming metal noise amidst a cascade of off-key xylophone.

If there’s a formula to be found, it’s a loose one based around shifting perceptions and expectations, the way in which a song can begin as one thing and end completely as another. The moments of accessibility lull and woo the listener, before s sharp left-turn and a sudden swell of noise annihilates all semblance of order and location.

But then, the crooning closer disrupts much of that: despite its extraneous additions, a swirling vortex of feedback in the background, and its awkward industrial trip-hop leanings, it’s a remarkably pleasant and smooth piece of soul-soaked hip-hop. To remark that it’s incongruous feels pretty redundant: everything about this album seems incongruous with the rest of the album. And somehow, it works.

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