Posts Tagged ‘Independent’

1st December 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Just shy of a year since Cave Suns threw their improvised ‘Surk Skum’ EP into the plague-ridden void, they return with a proper lo-fi DIY release, consisting of four pieces, ‘improvised live one take each song apologies included’ they write. The set was captured on an iPhone and is released on a limited edition cassette (and digitally, of course).

Beyond the world of the major label (and the domain of the indie label with some cash behind it), this increasingly appears to be the future of the little band. With the chances of getting signed and getting bankrolled these days practically nil even for solids acts with some commercial potential and significantly less than zero for artists doing anything without that commercial potential (which isn’t to say there’s no audience or demand), they’re taking thee means of production into their own hands and just getting on with getting their music out there. If one positive thing has emerged from the last couple of years under the pandemic – and let’s face it, it’s been hard to find anything positive, particularly for bands and small venues (I’m hesitant to say ‘the music industry’ because Ed Sheeran and Eric Clapton won’t have suffered too heavily from the lack of touring options in terms of bank balance or their ability to reach audiences or shift units / merch and I’m sure the likes of Warners aren’t questioning their viability right now) – it’s the fact that perhaps finally any stigma around self-releasing has been eradicated. That said, for Newcastle’s Cave Suns, it’s business as usual: they’ve been self-governed and self-releasing since 2014 and haven’t been troubling studios in order to lay down their intrusive improvised sessions, preferring instead to capture live shows and rehearsal room jams

‘Dunder Salt’ is a kind of mellow psychedelic swagger with a buoyant bassline and bopping beat that seems to all cast a nod to the verse of The Beatles’ ‘Come Together’. With minimal progression, there’s a Krautrock element to the vaguely jazzy, vaguely funky groove. It’s a solid jam, but it’s not until the eleven-and-a-half-minute ‘To Who It May Concern’ that they really show us what they’re capable of. Mystical, eastern-inspired scales twist in a slow-building swell of sound, a hum and a drone of bass and tentative drumming before emerging on a vast sonic plateau. It’s one of those compositions that stops and starts so often that it’s hard to decide if it ever really gets going, or if it’s several pieces string together; perhaps more reasonably it’s best described as several movements with a succession of ebbs and flows and sustained crescendos, often with the drums pounding hard with insistent thrashing of cymbals and hitting some solid grooves even with the stretches of meandering guitar.

‘Essesse’ kicks off wide two with something altogether lighter, more technical, with a mathy aspect, and also more overtly proggy, you might even go so far as to describe it as jaunty – but then, you may not. It’s kind of a collision between That Fucking Tank, Muse, and Royal Blood. Maybe it’s more as well, It’s certainly their most ‘muso’ cut to date, and is also highly accessible.

The 11-minute ‘13th Celebration’ that rounds off the EP and the remainder of side two is built around a repetitive bas throb that evokes the monotonous groove of Suicide, but overlaid with a sprawling guitar jam that’s part prog, part space rock, all improv. They lock into a neat groove for a time and really rock out, but then slow it down and trip out, crawling to the close.

Hypnotic, groovy, completely free of the shackles of genre and commerce, No Guards knows no limits and captures Cave Suns on fine form.

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Dret Skivor – DRET008 – 6th August 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

The latest offering from Dret Skivor, a Swedish tape label specialising in drone and various shades of experimental noise, is the new album from Danish maker of electronic noise Thomas Li, who, as Li, has self-released almost a dozen works digitally. Biographical details are less than minimal, and that’s cool. Why do we need to know about the artist, their background or their back catalogue? Do we really need to know the context or the intent, the theory behind a work? Sometimes, when it’s an experimental work informed by theory or a certain concept, it helps, because the concept and theory are integral to both the process and the end product. Then again, there’s a danger that sometimes said theory or concept can impinge on one’s appreciation of the work. Sometimes, it’s best to just be able to listen, and allow oneself to be immersed in the sound, without pouring over lengthy liner notes, researching myriad avenues presented by the references, and straining one’s brain over concepts. This is particularly true of many works of a more ambient persuasion. I’m not remotely anti-academic or anti-intellectual – quite the opposite. But sometimes, you just need a break, and music can be the perfect conduit to vital headspace. An overemphasis on context can detract from the often underrated pleasure of simply listening, and enjoying.

Admittedly, enjoyment of an album like this is the preserve of a small minority: it doesn’t contain any ‘tunes’, it’s beatless, and it’s not always entirely mellow either. But it does have a great deal of texture, and this is something you can really lose yourself in.

Great Leap Forward contains three tracks, with side one occupied with the two-part ‘Olympia’ and the second side containing the eighteen-minute monster title track.

‘Olympia I’ is nine minutes of dense, churning drones, billowing sonic clouds that choke and smother, while counterpart ‘Olympia II’ gurgles and churns a dark whirling cyclone of sound. The latter is more interesting, sonically, with a lot more going on – meaning it’s also more challenging and more tense, as crackles and hums fizz and spin from the dank depths of bubbling noise.

The title track is altogether less tumultuous and more background ambient by comparison. Being eighteen minutes in duration, on the face of it, not a lot happens: there are no climactic blasts of noise, there’s nothing explosive or even overtly disruptive. And yet for all its subtlety, it is engaging, and there is movement, there are shifts and distract and divert. Howling winds blast over barren landscapes of drifting sand and strains of treble and whines of feedback emerge from the eternal mid-range rumble that drones on, and on, and on.

In the context of his output to date, this may not really be quite such a great leap forward, but it does clearly mark an evolution and an expansion on the soundscapes sculpted on previous works. And, played with the accompaniment of a candle and some CBD-infused beer, Great Leap Forward is a well-executed soundtrack to mental recuperation.

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tape label grab for bandcamp

Christopher Nosnibor

My appreciation of the debut album by Leeds noisemongers Irk is already out in the public domain, as is my admiration of their capacity as a live act. It was only fitting that they should launch their debut album at Chunk, the rehearsal space which has become the hub of the new Leeds underground / alternative scene which has begun to emerge since the Brudenell – still the best venue in the country – has become increasingly popular and catering ever more to bigger-name acts. And there’s no escaping the fact that without the tiny venues, the microscenes, the free and cheap spaces where anything goes, there’d be nowhere for the bands of the future to explore and develop ideas free from the limitations of marketability and the pressure to achieve success. Commercialism strangles creativity, and we need the obscure band who want to fuck shit up more than ever in these desperate times in the stranglehold of corrupt, constricting neoliberalist capitalism which is not-so-slowly eroding every real freedom for the ordinary person.

Chunk is so no-budget, so DIY that there’s no licence for tonight’s (free) event: its BYOB, and people file in with carrier bags containing four-packs and the atmosphere is just so laid back that my anxieties about finding the place (Chunk is hidden through a door up some steps (which I worry I may fall down on my way out) next to a car repair place in an industrial area two miles out into the arse-end of nowhere) and all of the other stuff I panic about but tend not to talk about evaporate almost immediately. There are friendly faces, faces I recognise, faces I can chat to, and it feels more like a house party than a gig.

Only, there’s a gig PA and there are bands, and Beige Palace are on first. I note that they’ve been using a quite from a review I wrote of their live debut on my only previous visit to Chunk in the summer of 2016, which says ‘Beige Palace make sparse-sounding music that’s jarring, dissonant and hints at a clash between early Pram and No Wave angularity.’ Two yeas on, it still seems a fair summary. ‘It’s not math-rock’, their diminutive and moustachioed front man, Freddy Vinehill-Clifee forewarns the audience before they begin their set. He’s right. It’s atonal, droney, repetitive noise-rock with an almost spoken word delivery. Kelly Bishop’s flat, elongated vowels are reminiscent of Mark E. Smith in the early years of The Fall. They’re bursting with nagging, awkward guitar lines and clattering percussion playing unusual time signatures, too. So, like math-rock, only not. Or something. But it’s not about labels, but the music, and while they’re still rough ‘n’ ready, their confidence and intuition has evolved a lot over the last two years, and they turn in a more than decent performance.

Beige

Beige Palace

It was the release of BRITN3Y that brought deranged Edinburgh 3-piece Britney to my attention, and I’d been itching to see them live ever since. They don’t disappoint. Comprising bass – through a fuckload of pedals; vocals – through an even bigger fuckload of pedals; – and drums, they deliver sonic riots in the form of blistering sub-two-minute noisefests. Occasionally, chuggy riffs and even grooves emerge from the screaming, spasmodic mess, albeit fleetingly. It hurts after two songs. It hurts a whole lot better after ten. The speaker a foot from my right ear is sounding like it’s fucked and they just fuck it harder with a relentless barrage of explosive, brutal hybridized noise that draws on elements of metal, hardcore, and grindcore and Final Fantasy (the victory fanfare is a recurrent feature throughout their set and closes it, too, while the infamous Tidus Laugh from FF X also features). They’re joined at the end by NALA for some screaming vocals to wrap up set appropriately culminates in an ear-splitting wall of noise, and I’m not the only one blown away.

Britney

Britney

It turns out that Jack Gordon still has the copy of The Rage Monologues from the time we exchanged books. He’s read my review of the album, and during our brief exchange, I’m reminded that so many of the people who make art that pushes extremities, in whatever way, are the most pleasant, polite, and mild-mannered people you could wish to meet. It’s their outlet, and it’s what keeps them sane. Better to make brutal art than commit mass murder. Probably. Jack – bespectacled, sporting jacket and chinos and looking like any other smart-casual office worker – is a nice guy. But with the aid of a PA, a backline, and a bottle of Buckfast, he brings the brutality.

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Irk

If the disappearance of Blacklisters from the Leeds scene following Billy Mason-Wood’s departure for Germany left a jagged, gaping hole, then Irk more than manage it fill it with their own rendition of that Jesus Lizard, Touch ‘n’ Go skewed 90s US noise-rock racket. The trio are quite a different proposition and are very much their own people, but the comparisons and local lineage are impossible to ignore. And in this enclosed space, with the volume at pulverising levels and the warmth of community and camaraderie only adding to that of the proximity of bodies, everything comes together perfectly.