Posts Tagged ‘instrumental’

Constellation – 26th August 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

One’s perception of time changes with its passage. As you get older, it seems different, and passes differently too. In childhood, there’s the sense that summers are long and sunny, school holidays stretch out in front of you like a playing field the size of Wembley Stadium, whereas in adulthood, six weeks is no time, and the summer means it’s nearly time to start considering Christmas. But even in adulthood, while there’s a keen and pressing awareness of the rapid passing of time, it’s easy – and perhaps it’s how we’re psychologically wired – to ignore the overall narrative span while focusing on the rapid cycle of existing in the present. You get caught up in the infinite and swift cycle of the working week, thee routine, you complain about how time flies as New Year becomes Easter becomes Hallowe’en becomes Christmas, even how every birthday marks the passing of another year. But for all the talk of making the most of life and living every day or week like it could be your last, that’s what it is – talk. Because it’s almost impossible to comprehend there being an end, not just of life, but of anything. It’s simply human nature to take things for granted, that the sun will always rise, that you will always be able to buy the same bread and crisps and whatever in the supermarket.

And then they stop making a certain brand of crisps or chocolate and there are mutters of discontent, and then, twenty years later, online forums are oozing nostalgia for these things. These things of no consequence.

Over the course of seven previous album since 2001, Canadian quintet Esmerine, co-founded by percussionist Bruce Cawdron (Godspeed You! Black Emperor) and cellist Rebecca Foon (Thee Silver Mt. Zion, Saltland) have, as their bio notes, straddled the boundaries of ‘contemporary classical and late 20th century Minimalism’ and ‘more visceral and lyrical sonic terrain born from post-rock, folk and global.’

Such a broad palette is the perfect base from which to paint scenes of shifting perspectives that explore the theme of the title.

Time stalls during the nine-minute ‘Entropy: Incantation – Radiance – The Wild Sea’ – a piece which transitions through numerous parts and brings a range of atmospheres, from quietly brooding piano solo to soaring, majestic post-rock, trickling into the brass-orientated ‘Entropy: Acquiescence’ which evokes that sepia toned Hovis advert kind of nostalgia. And so it’s here I discover that that isn’t an exclusively English thing, but still – there is a cultural heritage of a nostalgia for a golden age of simplicity and innocence. It is, of course, a fallacy: past times were difficult, flawed. It’s easy to hanker for a rose-tinted rendition of a past you never knew, and ‘Imaginary Pasts’ seems to acknowledge this, wordlessly, via the medium of slow drones and rippling piano.

And so it is that Everything Was Forever Until It Was No More mines a golden post-rock seem of evocativeness, conveyed by means of slow-burning epics, interspersed with fragmentary pieces, which, while under three minutes in duration, give the album a certain sense of pace amidst the spic sprawlers, which culminate in the seven-and-a-half minute ‘Number Stations’. The brooding ‘Wakesleep’ is tense and eerie, with a sense of foreboding, that paves the way for the dolorous funeral chimes that herald the arrival of the closer.

There’s a sadness to it, and it’s this sadness which permeates the album as a whole. It’s a sadness that speaks of lost time and fading pasts. And when they’re gone, they’re gone. And yet there are soft hints of redemption, that nothing is entirely finite. Nothing is forever, but memories linger longer than life.

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Expert Sleepers – 25th August 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

Fallout 4 is, as the title suggests, the fourth album in Darkroom’s Fallout trilogy.

Darkroom have been going for more than twenty years now, and have built up an extensive catalogue centred around fluid ambient work, which they’re keen to point out ‘stretches the definition of the genre to its limits in many directions: from quiet, introspective and naturalistic through celestial and melodic to intense, abrasive and synthetic.’

In presenting three longform compositions, Fallout 4 affords the collective to fully explore all of these elements.

As the accompanying notes explain, ‘Darkroom’s music has always been played not programmed, with a focus on human interaction and capturing the magic of live performance’, and the first two pieces hark back to the last performance of their 2012 tour. ‘It’s Clear from the Air’ is hypnotic, rippling, mesmerising, low, undulating drones providing a subtle low end to the textured interweaving synths that overlay subtle yet complex rhythms.

It bleeds into the twenty-five minute ‘Qaanaak (Parts 1 & 2)’ and immediately the tone is darker, denser, with a grumbling low and needling pulsations that create tension within the suffocatingly thick, beatless smoggy atmosphere. You find yourself lost, in suspension, somewhat bewildered as the tones twist and change. Electronic flares whip and lash as stuttering beats emerge through the relentlessly nagging pulsations, and continue to shift and mutate to a broiling, bubbling larva as booming bass tones surge and swell. The rhythm grows in urgency, but it’s muffled, constrained, which heightens the experience of a sense of airlessness and entrapment and as much as the throbbing oscillations are indebted to Can and Tangerine Dream, their abrasive edge hints at the uneasy, wheezing synth grind of Suicide.

The third piece, ‘Tuesday’s Ghost’ is perhaps the most conventionally ambient’ of the three, and is certainly the most overtly ‘background’ as is swims and floats and chimes along fuzzy lines of slow decay and loose, vague forms that have no shape, rise and fall. There is a discreet linearity to it, as it gradually, and subtly builds in depth and density, and it’s here that it become clear just how essential that human element is to Darkroom’s work – that sense of musicians bouncing off one another and understanding one another through intuition. There is no substitute for it, and you simply can’t programme the dynamics of form. It’s this intuitive, natural fluidity that breathes life into the compositions, and in turn, it’s this sense of life that the listener connects to and engages with. Fallout 4 may be ambient at heart or by genre… but it’s also far beyond the frontier of ambient.

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Christopher Nosnibor

Everything Was Forever Until It Was No More is such a quintessentially post-rock album title: without hearing a note, it evokes the spirit of 2003-2006 or thereabouts. On listening, it’s perhaps not as overtly post-rock as all that – it’s not a slow-building crescendo-fest with chiming guitars like Explosions in the Sky or even lesser-known acts like And So I Watch You From Afar, but with ties to legends in the field, it is every inch of that milieu, with ‘the cello of Rebecca Foon (Saltland, Set Fire To Flames, Silver Mt Zion) and the marimba of ex-Godspeed You! Black Emperor percussionist Bruce Cawdron at its core’.

It’s been a full five years since their last album, 2017’s Mechanics of Dominion, and during this time the Montreal-based collective have been doing what, it seems, the Montreal post-rock scene does best – detaching themselves from the world and conjuring magnificent, magical soundscapes that offer a conduit to planes of pure escapism.

Everything Was Forever Until It Was No More presents a rich sonic tapestry that incorporates a broad range of elements. The press released makes mention of ‘emotive chamber works using threads of post-classical, post-rock, Minimalism, neo-Baroque, jazz, pop and a wide array of folk traditions’ as being Esmerine’s palette.

‘Blackout’ opens the album with a soft, elegant piano draped with brooding strings that’s graceful, subtly emotive, and easy on the ear. ‘Entropy: Incantation – Radiance – The Wild Sea’, the first of the two-part ‘Entropy’ suite is a nine-minute journey through atmospheric ambience, where one treads with trepidation, uncertain of what may be hidden in the shadows. There’s an aura of ancient mysticism that echoes before eventually, the track refocuses toward a driving prog rock finale.

The beauty and joy of such a work is that while there are undoubtedly inspirations and emotions poured into the compositions, such wide spaces without words offer the listener a vessel into which to empty their own experiences and interpretations, and as such, a piece like the seven-minute ‘Imaginary Pasts’ with its lilting piano, roiling drums, and textured guitar work which trips out into hazy space offers so much scope for the listener to invest and reflect upon their own imaginary pasts. Such invitations to meditate on life and to journey into inner space are extremely welcome when life is so relentless.

Despite the title seemingly alluding to a sense of nostalgia, Everything Was Forever feels more like a work that creates its own space in time, rather than reflecting on a time past. Three of the four final tracks are under three minutes each in length, and as such, are almost dream-like fragments, and the listener finds themselves wandering through chiming bells and rippling notes that dapple like sunlight through trees in a breeze on ‘Wakesleep’, before ‘Number Stations’ guides the way not towards the light, but through a murky sonic swamp or eerie echoes before taking its final magnificent form, and reminds us that, ultimately, nothing is forever, and everything is just a fleeting moment in the scheme of eternity.

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We love mental shit, and this is some mental shit.

Avant group Hifiklub has shared a new track, ‘Weird Five,’ featuring the legendary Iggor Cavalera (MixHell, Cavalera Conspiracy, Pet Brick, co-founder of Sepultura). The song is a part of the French trio’s audio-visual collaboration, ScorpKlub I & II Original Soundtracks, with the Montreal animator James Kerr (Scorpion Dagger). The double-sided record — which features Alain Johannes (Queens of the Stone Age, Them Crooked Vultures, Eleven) in addition to Iggor Cavalera —will be out digitally as well as on different colored vinyl on 27 May 2022 via Electric Valley Records.

Hifiklub bassist Régis Laugier on ‘Weird Five’: “1 Day as A Lion, 2Pac, Spacemen 3, Gang of 4, Electric 6, L7… Something was missing. What about the “Weird 5”? Let us know what’s your favorite band with numbers in their names. In the meantime, here is the first track of Hifiklub’s collaboration with Iggor Cavalera, from ScorpKlub I & II. 18 more videos to come!”

Check ‘Weird Five’ here:

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Human Worth – 13th May 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

I don’t often give advice or tips, but sometimes it’s appropriate, and this is one of those times. If you’re into noisy music that’s inventive and of a consistently high quality, make sure you get hold of everything Human Worth release. Ever. I’ve been vaguely amused by sponsored ads on Facebook recently for Vinyl Box, a subscription service that delivers pre-selected records and enables the clueless to amass a ‘cool’ collection of instantly collectable editions of ‘cred’ albums as selected by ‘tastemakers’. As if. You want a cool record collection, and one that’s worth listening to as well, start here.

Human Worth haven’t been going all that long, but they’ve very swiftly established, if not a house style, then an ethos and a sense of curation, and every release this far has been outstanding, both musically an in terms of product, with each vinyl release feeling, looking, and sounding special. What’s more, they don’t just talk about ethics and causes, donating a percentage of the profits from each release to a worthy cause. It’s a hell of a way from the greed that fuels Records Store Day – which so happens to be today, where I’ve spent the day at home not regretting spending £30 on reissues of albums I already have two copies of. Frankly, it stinks, when you can pick up, for £16, a brand new clear vinyl release – with only 200 copies pressed – of something new and exciting that you can cherish for being more than simply an artefact. Steve Von Till is a fan, and while I may not have as much clout, so am I.

The new eponymous from Bristol-based instrumental trio Olanza is a most worthy addition to the Human Worth discography. It’s kinda mathy, kinda post-rock, but it’s got all the crunch. The guitars chop and change, twist and bend, swerving between picked lead detail and chugging riffs, but if the focus is on the guitars, it only works because of the force of the rhythm section, which isn’t only solid but as heavy as hell.

The album’s first piece, ‘Accelerator’, packs in all of this into less than three and a half explosive minutes. But they have so, so much more up their sleeves, and this is why Olanza is such a magnificent album – they’re clearly not a band to set themselves up for pigeonholing, as they simply don’t conform to any one, or even any two or three genre forms.

‘Boko Maru’ is deft, light, even, jazzy, but also a shade country, and fun… and then crashes into discord when the overdrive slams in, while ‘Descent’ is a full-on riff-driven beast with a psychedelic twist. Then there’s the nine-and-a-half minute monster that is ‘Lone Watie’ which is more indie, with hints of early Dinosaur Jr, at lest before it goes angular crunching riff-racket. With its shifts of style and tempo over such a duration, it’s practically an album in its own right, and certainly packs in more ideas and solid chunks than many bands manage over multiple albums – but the beauty is that it isn’t too hectic, and every segment flows into the next without jarring or sounding forced. This is intelligent, articulate, and magnificently crafted. So many bands try to pack in loads of stuff into each song, with the end result being cluttered, awkward, lacking in cohesion and just that bit too much. Not so with Olanza. This is masterful and compelling stuff.

‘Navarone’ lands between Oceansize and Pavement, epic neoprog and jangling indie, and builds nicely through a cruising riff. Angular, sinewy guitars a la The Jesus Lizard or Blacklisters skew in on ‘Joust’, before the minor key dissonance of ‘Constant’ brings things to a tense conclusion.

Put another way, it’s got the lot, and there’s so much range and dynamic action here, it makes for a gripping listen the absence of vocals is such a non-issue you barely notice it. What you do notice, and can’t escape, is that Olanza have landed an exciting album, where the quality of the musicianship is matched by the passion and the channelling of energy through the medium of music. It’s pretty special.

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Southern Lord – 25th February 2022

For many, the days of the longest, hardest lockdowns are, it would seem, behind us. And yet the shadow of the pandemic continues to hang long as dark; it’s hard to move on and truly put it behind us when life continues to be anything but normal; signage and masks and booster reminders are the new normal, and we face a new normal carrying scars of a personal nature, each and every one of us. Successive lockdowns, periods of isolation, have all affected us in different ways, and we’ve all suffered some form of trauma or psychological damage in living through conditions we’re simply not equipped for.

For many creative types, working through the experience has manifested in new artistic output. There’s something about channelling that anxiety into something, even if not direct or specific in addressing the issue, that helps to somehow minimise, contain, or otherwise manage it. Thurston Moore’s latest project, like so many was born out of a lockdown environment, and it’s an exploratory work, in so many ways. A series of instrumental guitar pieces recorded during the summer of 2020, it’s a document of, as the liner notes outline, a period where, ‘as the world confronted the pandemic shutdown and as the people of good conscious stood up against the oppression of racist police oppression and murder.’ It goes on to ask, ‘How much screen time does a parent allow a child? How much screen time does a child need to realise a world which has the means to coexist as a community in shared exchange?’

This feels like numerous issues, simultaneous but separate, have collided to inspire this album, and raises as many questions as answers. Moore is clearly placing his flag alongside Black Lives Matter, and it struck me – and surely many others – that the protests should have taken place when the world, pretty much, was in lockdown. How could this be? This was a moment in time when protest felt impossible. In fact, anything felt impossible. But the murder of George Floyd was a trigger and it marked a tipping point of something far, far bigger for so many. This was about centuries of oppression and division. The scenes aired over the news channels, globally, were electrifying. But how does this relate to monitoring the screen time parents should grant their children? Surely it’s less about the amount of time, but parental control, and the extent to which parents grant their children exposure to current affairs? That said, it’s something I’ve wrestled with myself. As a child, I had no interest in anything on the news; my own daughter, aged 10, is genuinely interested and has her views on our prime minister, our government, and the pandemic, and more. While I feel a duty to protect her from scenes of violence and endless report of rape, murder, abduction, and brutal crimes against women and children, I also feel that a certain degree of exposure to ‘the real world’ is beneficial, just as I’ve come to see that many computer games encourage problem-solving and eye-hand co-ordination. Screen time isn’t all bad if you can get over the generational differences. But.. but… no doubt, it’s a conundrum.

Screen Time offers no answers. As is often the case with instrumental works, there is little to be gleaned from them in and of themselves, and the titles offer little by way of interpretive guidance. The only thing that really struck me about the titles, in fact, is that several share their with cure songs: ‘The Walk’; ‘The Dream’. ‘The Upstairs’ feels like an allusion to ‘The Upstairs Room’ (the title of the 12” EP version of ‘The Walk’; but then again, all of the compositions are ‘the’ something: ‘The View’, ‘The Neighbour’, and these reflect the shrunken worlds we inhabited during this time: four walls, the view from the window, and the TV as the window to the world. There was nothing else but to look, and to ponder. Screen Time is a work of ponderance. It doesn’t have to be coherent, because coherent thought isn’t the state of the world right now. Show me someone who has a firm handle on everything that’s going on and I’ll show you a bullshitter. No-one knows anything, and we’re all just fumbling, stumbling through.

Many of the pieces on Screen Time are short, fragmentary, and sparse, only half-formed, but evocative and atmospheric: ‘The Walk’, a minimal piece consisting of a heavily chorused and echoed guitar trickling a cyclical motif for a minute and fifty-one seconds is exemplary. Elsewhere, ‘The Upstairs’ is a haunting piece led by disorientating, discordant piano that tumbles along.

At times reminiscent of Earth, or more specifically Dylan Carlson’s more recent solo work, Screen Time borders on ambience in its slow, soft unfurlings. The final piece, the nine-minute ‘The Realization’ is almost hypnotic; slow, with deep, resonant notes that reverberate and hover while harmonics chime and soar.

As a listening experience, Screen Time is pleasant, absorbing. I like it. But what does it say? It speaks for Thurston Moore alone, just as any such release can only speak for its composers and performers. That’s ok. When stitched together, in time, all the voices will combine to present the full picture. For now, what simply matters is that each voice keeps adding to the tapestry of documenting the present, a time unlike any other.

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Ghosts Of Torrez released their first single (The Return) during the second lockdown in 2021 to critical acclaim and the follow up ‘Closer’ following later in that year.

In 2022 the band will release their debut LP and have already started taking their cinematic style, psychedelic, electro-folk to the live arena (more live dates TBC).

Their new single ‘The Wailing’ is due to be released on the 11th February on all streaming services, followed by a limited free, Flex-Disc release in early March.

‘The Wailing’ is accompanied by a Manga style video, “The Legend of Billy The Whale” (The Wailing/Whaling – who doesn’t love a play on words), which depicts the desperation of a broken, Captain Ahab type figure, vengefully taking on the beast he holds responsible for the death of his loved ones.

Taking their lead from bands such as Explosions in the Sky, Joy Division, Sigur Ros and Mogwai, GOT build their songs from soft, slow beginnings into cinematic style wonders.

Watch the video here:

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Cruel Nature Records – 3rd December 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Still moving. We are still moving, despite the fact that the last couple of years have, at times, been characterised by a stifling, crushing inertia. Life on hold. It’s impossible to plan anything, from meeting friends to attending gigs, or going on holiday. Anything and everything could be subject to cancellation or postponement at the last minute. What do you do? Mostly, sit tight, and wait. But in waiting, although the sensation is of time standing still, it isn’t. You’re standing still, half the world is standing still, but the world is still moving; life is still moving.

Still Moving was, in fact, recorded back in 2017; between Slump (2016) and Vent (2018), meaning its original context has no relation to the current situation. And yet, perhaps it does, in some way, with many artists dredging up items from the vaults to create the appearance of movement during a spell of stasis.

Combining elements of ambient, post-rock, and much, much more, Still Moving is a difficult album to pin down stylistically. Sonically, it’s showcases considerable range: from the soft, piano-led ‘Wide Open’, is drifts directly into the altogether more between-space ‘Wherever’, which brings both shades of darkness and light within a single composition, mirrored later in the album by ‘Whenever’, which envelops the lingering piano with mist-like sonic wraiths that swirl in all directions, like will-o-the-wisps flittering, detached and shifting between planes. There are so many layers, so many textures, and so much of it’s mellow, evocative, dreamy, and none more so than ‘Think Through’ where a lonely piano echoes out into a drifting wilderness like a sunrise over a desert.

Darker rumblings underpin the delicate notes of ‘Well Within’, where subtle beats flicker in and out, and each composition brings something new, yet also something familiar. Trilling woodwind drifts in and out as echoes knock against tapering drones and soft-focus synth sounds.

‘Present’ starts dark, but then is swiftly rent by beams of light as grumbling ambience of found sound yields to the most mellow of post-rock moods, with a lot of reverse tape sounds adding to the vaguely unheimlich atmosphere; it’s not weird or creepy, just not comfortably familiar in its subtle otherness.

The title track draws the album to a close, but somehow leaves a sense of inconclusion as the notes hover and hang in the air. Distant waves wash to shore and barely perceptible beats emerge fleetingly, and then immediately fade. Is this it? Where do we go from here? There’s a hint of sadness, but also a sense of stepping forward, hesitantly, towards the new dawn. Breathe. Take in the air and the daylight. We’re still moving.

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4th February 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

Nordic Giants are one of those acts who seem to exist almost mythically. Listening to their recordings, watching their visuals, even witnessing their live shows, does little to render them any more concrete or real. The duo go by the names Loki and Rôka, but beyond that, we know nothing. That they have managed to remain so shrouded in mystery is a remarkable achievement, especially in the Internet age. In doing so, they remind us of so much of what is missing in contemporary culture. Celebrities used to be distanced, unobtainable, out of reach, while underground acts were entirely obscure. It was possible to control the limits of what was in the public domain, by means of mailed or faxed press releases. Any kind of presence was optional, as radio play and word of mouth did the job of promotion. Times have changed, expectations have changed, and not necessarily for the better. Artists are expected to be so much more public now, buy to what benefit, ultimately?

Kudos, then, to Nordic Giants for being Nordic Giants, and doing what they do on their own terms. Symbiosis follows their debut album, A Sèance of Dark Delusions (2015) and their documentary / soundtrack project, Amplify Human Vibration (2017), and as such, it’s been a fair time in coming. So much so, that one worries how things will stand up in a contemporary context. A fair few bands making their post-lockdown return haven’t fared so well, largely because they still sound like their old selves – and times have changed, life had moved on. There may be nostalgia for the old times., but… we don’t need to relive the past times. This is not the early 00’s heyday of post-rock.

But Nordic Giants exist in their open space, and their own time.

According to the accompanying blurb, ‘Symbiosis represents the interdependent relationship of all life. The union and blending of polar opposites, the harmony created when two different elements combine, not just in nature or in a philosophical sense, but at the root creative level… This collection of songs blends light with dark, moments of ambience with power and the subtle with the mysterious – themes that Nordic Giants continue to experiment with extensively over the years.’

The first track, ‘Philosophy of Mind’ comprises many features typical to Nordic Giants: heraldic horns, vocal samples, resonant bass and rolling drums, depth, layers, atmosphere. It’s a mesmerising piece, spacious, moody. Rene Descartes’ famed quote (in translation) ‘I think, therefore I am’ echoes over the lilting piano, ahead of a roiling crescendo, and the closing couple of minutes grow in tension And scale. This is classic Nordic Giants, and the album progresses neatly from here. It may not present may serious surprises, but it does present a succession of immaculately-conceived and perfectly executed compositions, from the driving ‘Anamorphia’ to the supple, subtle melody of ‘Hjem’.

The featuring of guest vocalists – Alex Hedley on the expansive ‘Faceless’ and Freyja on ‘Spheres’, with its delicate, poised atmosphere and cinematic sound – add to the diversity of sound and also the stylistic range of Symbiosis, an album that really reaches deep into the emotional space. It’s lusciously-produced, but at the same time poignant, and you ache on hearing the soaring strings and the nagging piano trills. There are moments of ambience, of mind-sprawling semi-ambience, and of absolute magnificence.

Symbiosis is dateless, ageless, marvellous.

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