Posts Tagged ‘Hybrid’

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

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.

AA

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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.

AA

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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.

AA

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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.

AA

Im No Chessman

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.

AA

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Young Mothers - Morose

Thrill Jockey Records – 17th November 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

The second collaborative album between The Body and Full of Hell, which collides with the earth like a meteor, and a mere 18 months after its predecessor, and just six months after Full of Hell’s full-tilt annihilation that was Trumpeting Ecstasy, it’s every bit as unremitting and remorselessly heavy as anything previous. It’s the sound of two uncompromising bands finding compromise by amplifying one another to the nth degree, meaning that Ascending a Mountain of Heavy Light is fucking intense, fucking heavy, and yes, even more fucking intense.

The accompanying blurb forewarns that ‘samples, synth, saxophone, and a drum orchestra all throb, and sputter, coagulating under the weight of the two bands. Programmed drum patterns and loops taking cues from hip hop are bent and twisted throughout, flawlessly emboldening the distortion drenched guitars and howling vocals.’ And did I mention that it’s intense?

Beyond the first few seconds of skittering synth oscillations, there is no light on the opening track, ‘Light Penetrates’. The crushing power chords land at tectonic pace, while the vocals – an impenetrable scream of anguish – are nothing more than a primal scream of pain. And then the jazz shit beaks loose, with horns squealing like tortured pigs bleeding in all directions.

There’s nothing pretty about this, but occasionally, from amidst the screeding walls of amorphous racket emerge full-throttle stoppers, like the pounding ‘Earth is a Cage’. Elsewhere, ‘Didn’t the Night End’ is a snarling, grinding, bowel-shaking racket of surging waves of noise that simply hurt. It’s the kind of snarling, grinding, bowel-shaking racket that makes you want to lie on the floor and curl up into a foetal position. It makes you want to die, and it certainly makes you long for the night – and the noise – to end, as it assails the senses from every angle.

The drum intro is nabbed from oh, so many tracks – a simple four-four thump of a drum machine bass – before everything explodes in a tempest of screaming industrial-metal fury. Early Pitchshifter come to mind, at least in the drum programming, but this is something altogether more psychotic in its unbridled fury, and in its amalgamation of paired-back hip-hop and industrial metal, all crackling with overloading distortion, ‘Master’s Story’ invited comparisons to the innovations of Godflesh – at least until it goes all crushing doom halfway through.

As with anything produced by either band, either independently or collaboratively, Ascending a Mountain of Heavy Light is not music for pleasure, and large chunks are little short of anti-music, blistering walls of sonic brutality built on discord with the most challenging of tones and frequencies explored to the max.

AAA

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Ventil Records – V006

James Wells

I know next to nothing about this release. Here’s a moment of transparency: music reviewers receive absolutely shedloads of stuff to review. Press releases are handy, not just as a shortcut when it comes to research, but also for locating inroads into a work. But even with a press release to hand, details surrounding Wealth are sketchy.

Consisting of Michael Lahner (synths) and Manuel Riegler (drums, synths), Wealth draw on a range of different forms of electronic music to create what they consider to be a ‘highly organic mix’. Sonically, there’s very much a preoccupation with soft-edged pulsations: the beats are largely rounded, bulbous, and when more angular rhythms do emerge, as on ‘Plate LXXVI (Diagram for Lilies), they’re countered by altogether less aggressive synth tones with hazy outlines.

Subtle, stealthy, glitchy ambience with backed-off beats are on offer with Primer. Sonic washes and rippling, elongated, undulating bleeps eddy around agitated, juddering rhythms so backed off in the mix as to be barely subliminal. ‘Floor’ lays a deep groove; not so much one to get down to as to lie down and allow total immersion.

Primer is a delicate, balanced work, with considerable range beneath its more subtle, subdued surfaces.

Wealth - Primer

Schoolkids Records – 2nd June 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

The blurb tells me that ‘On the trail of their successful Record Store Day 7” single ‘Symmetry / Slow Grind’, Raleigh-based Schoolkids Records have announced the coming release of ‘The Shocking Fuzz of Your Electric Fur: The Drake Equation Mixtape EP’ by alternative soul and shoegaze pioneers The Veldt.’

The Veldt have been around for a very long time, now – always on the peripheries, but wholly ingrained in the same milieu as The Cocteau Twins, The Jesus and Mary Chain, et al, as well as sharing stags with an impressive roll-call of acts spanning The Pixies to Echo and the Bunnymen via The Manic Street Preachers.

The EP’s title is (in part) lifted from a poem by e.e.cummings, while ‘The Drake Equation’ is a sort of punning gag that’s both intellectual and spectacularly . Cumbersome as it is, it’s quite a tidy literary allusion, and one which illustrates both the band’s overtly arty leanings the and the immense breadth of their spheres of reference: this is, after all, a band whose name derives from a story by Ray Bradbury. If the idea of high modernism coming together with slick 21st century r‘n’b seems like an improbable and unlikely recipe for success, then it’s all down to the execution.

The five tracks on this EP may or may not ‘rage’ with ‘a sound influenced equally by emotional soul of Marvin Gaye, free jazz warriors Sun Ra and Pharaoh Sanders, various Drake hip-hop tracks, long-term musical kin Cocteau Twins, and their own fertile electric imagination.’ But what they do achieve is a compelling hybrid of styles.

Stuttering beats, somewhere between hip-hop, jazz and drum ‘n’ bass jitter and twitch beneath draping, rifting layers of sonic mist define the multifaceted ‘Sanctified’, which glides he EP into a smooth yet detailed launch. It’s the progressive soul element of their expansive shoegaze-orientated sound which renders The Veldt most distinctive:

‘In A Quiet Room’ simmers and chimes, a laid-back rhythm contrasting against the swirl and eddy of layered, FX-drenched blankets of guitars. The tom-orientated drumming on the dreamy ‘One Day Out of Life’ has echoes of early New Order about it, before a rising swell of a drifting sonic cloud.

The EP ends on a super-mellow soul trip in the shape of ‘And It’s You’: with a melody that evokes Bread’s ‘Make it With You’. Perverse as it may sound, it not only works well, but seems entirely fitting, the smooth soul vibes entwine with a slick hip-hop beat to forge a loved-up groove that’s sort of slanted, but at the same time, kinda natural. Nice.

 

Veldt EP