Posts Tagged ‘instrumental’

This is it Forever – 14th February 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Since whittling down to just Gavin Miller, worriedaboutsatan’s outut has positively exploded, with the latest offering, which Miller describes as ‘quite an experimental little thing’ sees him share a tape – a side each – with Capac.

‘Orion’ is indeed quite experimental, and marks something of a departure for Miller, transitioning through a sequence of passages that rupture forth unexpectedly. At its heart, the piece is appropriately spacey, with squelchy quirts of analogue phase illuminating the smooth, slow-moving expanse of soft drones. It’s dense and atmospheric, and distant rumbles of thunder register like planets colliding way off in other solar systems before heraldic horns and full galactic marching band parades it way through. Gunned down in a blitzkrieg of lasers and noise, leaving an expanse of desolation, a near-emptiness.

Capac’s ‘A Well-Turned Suite’ is altogether darker, an eerie discord creating an ominous atmosphere. The four-piece describe themselves as creators of ‘sonic explorations of the murkier spaces in and between “new music”, and there’s certainly an exploratory quality to this fourteen-minute aural ambulation. At first there is calm, sustained notes that hover and hum for an age, stretching time itself. Gradually, cracks and fissures begin to appear in the smooth surface, and wheezing organ notes begin to twist and disconnect, and over time, the tension rises as atonality takes over. Muffled beats stutter and thump anxiously, and the sloe fade leaves only the whisper of the breeze.

It’s an intriguing release, and the two pieces are unusual and more than contrasting enough to sustain the interest for the duration.

AA

WAS and Capac

Metropolis Records – 24th May 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

Dark, slithering atmospherics – the sound of a postindustrial, postapocalyptic, Bladerunner cityscape, with twitching broken cables fizzing sparks showering into anonymous alleyways – mark the opening of Nero Bellum’s solo debut. A low, gut-churning bass grinds in against hefty beats – not snare drums, but blasts of distorted noise, and as such, ‘Another Prayer to Lucifer’ sets the tone.

Representing two years’ work, with each piece being recorded live, ‘improvised, with no overdubs, and without the use of computers in the creative process’, NFRNº marks a clear departure from the industrial metal of Psyclon Nine.

It’s still got an industrial feel, but it’s about atmosphere rather than brutal attack. Everything is dank, murky, indistinct, and while many of the arrangements are sparse, there’s an oppressive density which permeates the album as a whole. Monotonous, hammering beats thud dolorously, pounding relentlessly against whirring electronics with serrated edges, and each piece bleeds into the next to forge a sprawling mass of discomfort. The album’s impact stems not from its range, but precisely from it’s lack, bludgeoning the senses with trudging repetition and tonal similarity. There is next to no light here, only varying shades of darkness and inhuman bleakness.

‘An Angel’s Offering’ hints at some sort of redemption, with blooping, skittering interloping synth lines that venture into (comparatively) accessible dance territory, before ‘The Beauty in Something Broken’ offers the first pang of melancholic yearning from amidst the relentless stream of emotionally-desensitised machine-made noise.

The reprieve is but brief, though, and ‘Stranded’ wavers back down the path toward darker territories, casting an air of uncertainty and trepidation with its quavering drones. The closing pairing of ‘A Candle Once Burned’, which is more the sound of hope being extinguished rather than light, and the onset of a purgatorial emptiness, and ‘Never Good Enough’ wanders in shadow, formless, with no sense of closure as it fades to nothing.

AA

Nero Bellum – NFRNº

Pelagic Records – 25th January 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

I’m something of a latecomer to the Mono party, although given their credentials, I can’t fathom for the life of me why I haven’t explored a single one of the nine albums they’ve released over the last twenty years. Too much music, too little time, is probably the only real reason. And, witnessing them live by way of an introduction, my initial impression was only middling: on the night, I found more in Jo Quail’s surging waves of cello and the gritty abrasion of A Storm of Light. But context matters, and I had gone for the other two acts, and so now, with a large gin and a candle for light, I’m ready to approach their latest, the Steve Albini-recorded Nowhere Now Here with fresh ears.

‘After You Comes the Flood’ lifts the curtain on a proggy post-rock crescendo that offers up every shade of grand. It’s a crescendo that doesn’t only sustain, but swell to even more monumental proportions, with layer upon layer of sound and richer, dirtier distortion filling the background.

Quite a deal was made when Mono featured vocals for the first time not so long ago, and the performance of songs with singing seemed to be a major topic of conversation when I caught them in Leeds last year. They’re used sparingly here, and on the vaporous, shoegaze drift of ‘Breathe’, they serve more as another instrument than a focal point.

The string-soaked epic that is the title track again follows what is by now a well-established post-rock formula of long, gradual builds and rapid drops that pull back from the precipice, but it’s so magnificently executed that it would be churlish to criticise. And herein lies the album’s success: much of the material does fall under the broad umbrella of ‘standard’ instrumental post-rock (although acknowledging that Mono were one of the bands who contributed to the creation of a genre whose tag they reject is important), the compositions and their performance are masterclasses in shifting dynamics and delayed gratification. As they lead the listener through ponderous passages of awe-inspiring grace only to reveal towering cathedrals of sound just around the corner, even the predictable forms hold unexpected twists, like the sonic supernova that explodes at 5’39” on ‘Sorrow’.

Steve Albini is perhaps more commonly associated with ‘noisy’ music, but his reluctance to be credited as a producer is a reflection of his abilities as a technician, and the fact he strives to capture the essence of any given band’s sound rather than impose his own vision on their work. With Mono’s method involving playing live in the studio, the pairing makes complete sense, and it’s fair to say that Nowhere Now Here very much captures not only the sound, but the feel of a live show, with the shifting tension, emotional resonance of chiming guitars brooding in the dark, and the exhilarating rush of catharsis that effuses through a truly blistering crescendo. It’s those indefinable, unmanipulable details which make Nowhere Now Here.

AA

Mono - Nowhere

3rd August 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

A decade in existence and with three previous albums to their credit, instrumental prog band Tides of Man from Tampa, Florida, deliver album number four. While their first two albums featured vocals courtesy of Tilian Pearson (who, since his departure in 2010 has provided the ‘clean’ vocals for craply-named post-hardcore act Dance Gavin Dance and enjoys a solo career as Tilian), 2014’s Young and Courageous saw the band emerge as a very different, instrumental, entity.

This means that Every Nothing has been four years in the making. It’s an expansive post-rock / prog crossover, with the twelve compositions spreading and exploring in various directions, both in terms of mood and instrumentation. Ranted, the majority of the album weaves reverby soundscapes from chiming guitars, rolling drums and understated, strolling bass, breaking into the occasional sustained crescendo that alludes strongly to the slow-build and big-burst stylings of Explosions in the Sky. And while they do really work hard to delay gratification, to the point that there are moments the album borders on frustration, and much of the album is so much standard template form, when they do break out, as on ‘Old 88’, and the explosive, choppy breaking on ‘Everything is Fine, Everyone is Happy’, which veers into Shellac territory, it proves to be more than worth it.

Elsewhere, the spacious, wistful piano of ‘Far Off’ – a song that exists more in the echoes between the notes than in the notes themselves – reveals a band who are comfortable with giving the structures and sounds room to breathe, and the piano-led ‘Death is No Dread Enemy’ which slows the pace, lowers the tempo and conjures a reflective mood marks an atmospheric shift.

Every Nothing is by no means a high-impact album, or a set which even stands out as an exemplar in its field. It’ll never set the world alight, but is solid, and a pleasure to listen to. And that’s probably enough.

AA

Tides of Man

Room40 – RM481 – 13th July 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

Norman Westberg’s first full-length album since the termination of SWANS in its most recent configuration marks something of a departure, both in terms of sound and approach. Having previously recorded his solo works by what he calls his ‘one take; it is what it is’ method, After Vacation is a project of evolution, and also of collaboration, with Lawrence English acting as producer, weaving together the parts to create rich layers. The press release refers to Westberg’s ‘web of outboard processes, with delays, reverbs, and other treatments all transforming the sound of the instrument’s output. And yet After Vacation feels like so much more than this, as the guitar itself fades into the distance beneath the effects. The results are evocative, with careful details overlaid onto the broad washes of sound which define the compositional forms.

The album begins in expansive and haunting style, with what sounds like brooding, atmospheric orchestral strings and tense piano, but the shadowy shade of ‘Soothe the String’, like all of the album’s six pieces, features nothing but guitar. And with it Westberg creates lustrous layers of sound, drifting sonic mists and hazy hues. ‘Sliding Sledding’ forms an immensely deep, slow-turning swirl that moves like vapour, through which single notes ripple as they echo and fade.

The individual compositions are formed through subtle shifts and delicate transitions, and offer distinct and separate moods. However, they melt into one another, to create a vast vista of soft-edged ambience.

The title track which draws the curtain on the set marks a departure from the rest of the album, as Westberg picks at his guitar in an almost folksy fashion, and it sounds like a conventional guitar, although it’s accompanied by an organ-like drone that hovers in a long, unchanging note, which gradually rises to the fore as the plucked notes fade into the distance.

There’s a certain comfort in this conclusion, bringing the listener as it does to more familiar ‘guitar’ territory while still emblematising the experimental, treatment-orientated approach to reconfiguring the sound of the instrument.

#

AA

Norman Westberg - After Vacation

Oh yes…. Known first and foremost as the lynchpin of instrumental band Earth, Dylan Carlson has become one of alternative music’s most ambitious pathfinders. It seems beyond appropriate, then, that Carlson’s new solo endeavour is titled Conquistador. The five-track record channels the indulgent drone of Earth while traversing uncharted sonic terrain. Listen to the album’s first single, ‘Scorpions In Their Mouths’.

,

AA

DylanCHollyCarlsonlores--1

Dylan Carlson by Holly Carlson