Posts Tagged ‘Intense’

Christopher Nosnibor

Lately, I’ve been contemplating the pros and cons of geography, particularly the fact that all the gigs seem to happen in London, and a lot of smaller London-based bands on a perpetual tour of the capital and rarely venturing far beyond. It’s hardly surprising, given so much recent coverage of the costs of going on tour – particularly with the added uncertainty of the ongoing matter of Covid. But then, here in the North, I can travel from York to Leeds in less time than it takes to cross a corner of London, and a pint is about half the price. And in a six-day span when Mclusky, Big | Brave and Melt-Banana all play Leeds or York, I feel pretty spoiled.

And so here we are at The Crescent, York’s answer to The Brudenell, which operates with similar principles of remaining true to its WMC origins with low-priced beer and a focus on decent sound. If you’ve ever wondered what a typical melt-Banana fan might look like, the answer is that there is no such thing. A mad genre-spanning noise band, it seems, appeals to anyone with an open mind and ears that are happy to take a battering, with punks, indie kids, goths, metallers and all sorts from ages twenty to sixty all gathered, and what a wonderfully pleasant, sociable lot they prove to be, and as so often proves to be the case, the more extreme the music, the more friendly the crowd.

Mumbles don’t really benefit from the sound with their primitive (post) punk. It’s played with frenetic energy and packs so many tempo changes they can barely keep up with themselves. It’s an eventful set, where the guitarist/singer’s austerity trousers aren’t the only things worthy of note: technical issues lead to an impromptu clarinet sol, and things get a bit jarring Avant jazz in places. I’m on the fence as to how well it actually works at times, but ultimately, they emerge triumphant. The guys are visibly nervous and some songs seem almost beyond their technical ability, although that’s not remotely a criticism: listen not live recordings of bands in the 70s and 80s, and this is what bands sounded like live. With more or less every band emerging super-tight and polished, it sometimes seems as if something has been lost, and Mumbles won themselves a fair few fans on this outing.

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Mumbles

It’s a welcome return to York for Cowtown and their breezy, caffeine-fuelled bouncy indie. The epic reverb on Jonathan Nash’s vocals adds a layer of depth to their up-front and punchy sound, and he too showcases some more dubious trouserage with plus fours and long socks. But, as always, they’re fun to watch, and the energy of their performance is infectious, getting the crowd warmed up nicely for the main event.

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Cowtown

And what an event it is.

Blam! Grraww! Whap! Pow! Yelp! I’ve absolutely no idea what the fuck is going on, and I’m not even convinced a detailed knowledge of their twenty years of output spanning eight albums would make any real difference. Fast and furious doesn’t come close: everything is a complete blur. The stage is piled high with amps and speaker cabs, so much so that despite it being a large stage, the pair have barely room to move. So much backline! So much volume! This is crazy! No bass, just squalling guitar racket propelled by programmed drums – that actually sound live – at 150mph.

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Melt-Banana

Only Japan could produce a band like Melt-Banana, who infuse high-octane whiplash-inducing grind with a manic pop edge, dirty great sawing guitars and sequencers controlled by some strange handheld device that looks like an 80s disco. For all the raging noise, the technical precision is astounding. Somewhere toward the end of the set, Yasuko Onuki announces ‘nine short songs’, and they’re played back-to-back are blistering grindcore abrasion and over in about three minutes. The mighty moshpit, which has been pretty intense throughout the set, simply explodes.

The atmosphere as the band leave the stage is electric. We’re all dazed, stunned, as if our brains have been used as punching balls for rapid punching exercises. It’s beyond rare for a set to blow away an entire packed venue – but then Melt-Banana aren’t rare, they’re truly unique. What an insane rush.

Dark alternative innovators GGGOLDDD have revealed an impactful new single from their upcoming release album This Shame Should Not Be Mine. Entitled ‘Invisible’, the track is about feeling alone and unseen after experiencing sexual assault. It’s about keeping it all to yourself. Which makes it impossible to process the trauma. This makes you feel isolated and alone – as is laid bare in the filming of the video, which features vocalist Milena Eva positioned in an isolated frame of nothing but black.

Milena elaborates: “I’ve struggled to say out loud that I was hurting. You can hear this vulnerability in the super intimate electronic parts. And you can hear the overwhelming effect of such trauma in the huge, bombastic choruses… The assault happened to me years ago and I kept it a secret out of shame and guilt. Every time I met somebody new or if I felt insecure I got really paranoid. I was so scared people could tell from my face I wasn’t doing alright. I tried to keep it all together. Faking my way through everything. Now I know that this was really toxic for my mind and body. It literally made me sick. The shame and the fear really take their toll. I think we should all take a good look at ourselves. How can we make sure that the assault doesn’t happen any more? But also how do we evolve into a world where people can live without shame?"

Watch ‘Invisible’ here:

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The band’s most ambitious and masterful work to date, This Shame Should Not Be Mine was conceived in the silence of 2020’s pandemic lockdown, partly as a way for GGGOLDDD lead singer Milena Eva to confront parts of her past and partly in response to the Roadburn Festival’s invitation to propose a commissioned piece for its 2021 online edition.

This Shame Should Not Be Mine is out on April 1st via Artoffact Records.

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Cool Thing Records – 14th January 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

Asylums offshoot band Bait mark their return in blistering style with the ball-busting, ballistic blast of tension that is ‘Drama Drama Drama Drama’. Having dropped – or perhaps more accurately detonated – their explosive eponymous debut in 2018, showcasing a post-punk industrial crossover that crash-landed somewhere between PiL and Killing Joke, they reminded us of their existence in the spring of 2019 with the gritty grind of the single ‘DLP’ before falling silent.

In fairness, a global pandemic and a succession of lockdowns and limitations was never going to be conducive to the creation of new output, especially when core members Michael Webster and Luke Branch have been busy beavering away on a new Asylums album.

But, inter alia, they’ve also been working on the new Bait album, Sea Change, which is set for release in April, and ‘Drama Drama Drama Drama’ is one hell of a way of announcing it, distilling all of the pent-up frustration, fury, and anxiety of two years kept on edge into just under two minutes of eye-popping, adrenaline-fuelled sonic catharsis.

If the sneering edge of the vocal delivery sounds like it’s a put-down to those who’ve been panic stricken by the pandemic, it’s likely more a swipe at those who’ve chronically mismanaged the public’s expectations, left them separated, isolated, financially insecure, and unable to seek solace with friends or family while keeping them apart while quaffing drinks and generally having a jolly old time as well as getting minted off slipping multi-million pound contracts for unusable PPE and all the rest at the taxpayers’ expense. The reason the parties have particularly tipped people is because they missed the final moments of loved ones and suffered the immeasurable torture of enforced isolation.

The ‘drama drama drama drama’ in question here isn’t some lame Eastenders shit, this is life. The swirling turmoil and endless uncertainty of everything… On a personal level, when lockdown hit, I was inundated with messages at first, from friends, from family and especially work as WhatsApp groups were set up while we got sent home to work, and the channels of communication were beyond buzzing as everyone flipped out and I witnessed – and participated – in their panics in real-time. It was hectic, a blizzard, a blur… but it was when it went quiet I lost it. You get thrown into something so hard you have to swim. But when the armbands deflate…You text with no reply – that anguish is real and it’s intense. The minutes feel like hours. The tension rises, the panic rises, the palpitations flutter and the perspiration flows and in no time you’re a dishevelled, disoriented mess. You know it’s irrational, but panic is irrational. You struggle to steady your breathing. You can’t face the supermarket because it’s full of people. You can’t face meeting anyone. You can’t breathe. This is the drama, and it piles up and piles up and increases in intensity until it’s unbearable.

‘Drama Drama Drama Drama’ steps up the gritty edge of previous outings, and this time arrives somewhere between Killing Joke and Black Flag, which means it’s absolutely furious and relentlessly raging. It’s a killer tune with all the intensity, and the soundtrack to the now.

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By Norse – 26th November 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Hildring is the second album by Wardruna vocalist Lindy-Fay Hella with musicians Dei Farne. It’s been a long time in the making, with ‘Taag’ dropping as a single back in the summer of 2020. But what is time when the world is off its keel and the world is spinning at a different pace, one so rapid we’ve lost touch with our innermost selves? Lindy-Fay Hella and Dei Farne connect with a past world, a time before technology: not necessarily a more primitive time, but a time in which there was a closer connection to earth and nature, and also to the inner self, the core spirit.

‘Hildring’ is the Norwegian word for mirage, and it’s fitting, for despite the solid, tribal percussion that dominates the sound, paired with solid, chunky basslines, the remaining musical elements are fleeting, flitting, mellifluous, transient, impossible to grasp a firm hold of.

That isn’t to say the album is all airy atmosphere and no substance: quite the opposite, in fact, there’s a sturdiness and density to the richly layered compositions, and it’s a very fine balance of the seemingly separate elements, namely the solid, and the ethereal and airy. The drumming is immense, ribcage-rattling, rousing. There is a wonderfully rich, earthy quality to Hildring. In keeping with Wardruna’s quest to explore Norse cultural and esoteric traditions by delving into ancient history and mythology, so in this collaborative project Lindy-Fay Hella continues that focus. The sound is modern, but the album is deeply evocative as echoes of the ancient resonate forward through every note, and you feel the aura of generations past around your being as you listen. It resonates in ways beyond expression, beyond lived experience. It’s deep, and it’s powerful, and strikes a resonant chord from the off with the percussion-led title track, where soaring vocals and a driving bass melt together amidst spacious waves of sound, and it sets the bar and the form.

In something of a shift from the overarching style, ‘Insect’ feels rather more overtly electronic, with skittering glow-worm flickers flitting hither and thither, but it’s still packing a rare emotional intensity.

‘Compositionally, ‘Briising’ is minimal; drums, bass, sweeping, droning synth, and incidental cymbals accompany a balanced, inwardly-focused vocal performance. There’s a menacing, growling vocal that is again otherworldly, and if not scary, then unsettling. ‘I return to fire’, he repeats in a dark, gravelled monotone.

‘Taag’ goes big on the expansive sound, and it’s sweeping, immense, immersive. It’s bordering on the grandiosity of post-rock, and propelled by urgent drumming. Elsewhere, the sparse, looping synth of the appropriately-titled ‘Otherworld’ is relentless and resonant.

Throughout, Lindy-Fay’s vocals are outstanding, and the album showcases her remarkable vocal dexterity. Often light and airy and floating and soaring above all layers of human perception, Hildring is magical, mystical, beautiful, majestic, and powerful. There, I managed to not to use ‘epic’!

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Emma Ruth Rundle’s lauded new album Engine of Hell is stark, intimate, and unflinching. For anyone that’s endured trauma and grief, there’s a beautiful solace in hearing Rundle articulate and humanise that particular type of pain not only with her words, but with her particular mysterious language of melody and timbre. The album captures a moment where a masterful songwriter strips away all flourishes and embellishments in order to make every note and word hit with maximum impact, leaving little to hide behind.

Just off the heels of its release, Rundle has unveiled another stunning and self-directed video for Engine of Hell’s ‘The Company’. The visual was made on the Isle of Skye.

Rundle reveals, “I dreamed this visual poem about innocence of the spirit, sadness and the dark deceiver I spend my life trying to run from. Or is it a friendly entity? What does it mean? Upon waking – I acquired the equipment and made a plan to film it. I enlisted the help of my dear friend, Blake Armstrong, who helped shoot and plays part in the video as well. It was edited by Brandon Kahn. Written, directed and shot by me.”

Watch the video here:

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Rundle

Photo Credit: Cintamani Calise

Hypershape Records – 22nd October 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Chronology can be a real bitch sometimes. Linearity is incredibly overrated. How can it be that even now, the world can be so far behind William S. Burroughs’ concept that the conventional novel in its staid, conventional, linear form is passe, and ultimately fails to represent life as it’s lived? Iron Speaks is a release that may trouble some sequential obsessives, as it was in fact recorded before 2020’s Deathless Mind, the fifth album from Stephen Āh Burroughs, formerly known as Stephen R. Burroughs of heavy makers of noise Head of David. Since 2013, he’s pursued subterranean channels of darkness via the medium of fundamentally ambient music, but with an ancient and spiritual undercurrent.

As the press release explains, ‘Iron Speaks has become known as the ‘lost’ Tunnels of Āh album since it was abandoned as the fifth album release due to it sounding ‘unengaged’ to writer Stephen Āh Burroughs; until now. After reworking the original material, Iron Speaks emerges as a rediscovered official sixth album release.’

This is perhaps to overstate the album’s mythology – being shelved for a time is one thing, but to attain ‘lost’ status within three years another. Nevertheless, fans who’ve been keen about this album’s development will likely be happy with both its eventual emergence and its content, which is predominantly a dark whorl of bleak, churning ambience laced with a ghoulish shriek of feedback and general top-end tension. And tense it is: the six pieces bleed together to forge a continuous work that offers no respite and continually works at the psyche and the gut, twisting and gnawing at both. Time stalls, and you find yourself sucked into a subterranean space that’s dark and disorientating.

According to the accompanying blurb, ‘The material deals with the transitional stages of life and death, and it’s an ominous possessive piece of work. As ever though, the darkness of Tunnels of Āh’s output stems from and towards a place of infinite light.’ None of this is so readily apparent on listening, with any light feeling particularly distant as Burroughs leads the listener deeper and deeper through tunnels that rumble and surge with dense walls of noise – and sometimes, it hurts as the weight of it all bears down on the listener. It’s a rich, dense, elemental sound, born of earth and minerals.

We’re told that ‘The title, Iron Speaks, is a reference to the chapter in the Koran which states that iron emerges from the heavens as a gift to mankind. This is often graphically depicted as a blazing ball of molten fire approaching its earthly target, and that image perfectly encapsulates the sonic dynamism of this album. This album is a consuming experience as it slowly enters its intended orbit to its chosen point with inevitable crushing impact.’ The tile track does indeed pack that crushing impact, an oscillating tumult of treble atop layers of rhythmic squalling; in contrast, ‘Every Hour Wounds’ inflicts a different kind of pain as the lower-end notes bounce like oxygen bubbles in murky water in a deep, dark pool. Ominous drones and hums hover before an industrial slash of sheet metal strikes.

The album’s six pieces all sit around the seven- or eight-minute mark, and are densely-textured, and often quite oppressively heavy works. The first, ‘Wardens’ is a smog of bubbling murkiness, where the sound churns ad churns, like dense cloud and uncomfortable gut churning. Long strains of feedback scrape out over a barren wasteland, and ominous hums and drones hover over heavily-textured earth-shifting grind. It’s ultimately not really about ‘engagement’, but about tone texture, and atmosphere, and this is bleak, dense, and uncomfortable, and in a way that draws the listener in. Thunder rumbles, and the experience is quite discomforting. It’s more than that: it’s claustrophobic, suffocating. ‘Terminus Est’ clanks and chimes and booms out dolorous, depressing notes that offer no space to breathe or to reflect. It leaves you feeling compressed, and if not necessarily anxious, then far from relaxed or soothed, but instead on edge and unsettled – and this is why Iron Speaks is a strong work: it has the capacity to have a palpable effect on the listener.

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Sargent House – 6th August 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Here in England – and Britain, as elsewhere further afield – division is rife: views and positions have become increasingly polarised and entrenched in recent years, and man, it’s fucking ugly. From here, it’s perhaps difficult to appreciate just how much uglier it gets when fervent religiosity is added to the mix. And while the white, Christian west expends boundless energy vilifying Islam, much of this feels like so much hypocrisy. For a religion that officially preaches for its adherents to ‘love thy neighbour’, Christianity is prone to being particularly harsh and judgemental, and as the album’s title suggests, there is a strong element of Christian judgment at the heart of the songs here.

The press release describes Sinner Get Ready as ‘an abrasive, unsettling portrait of devotion and betrayal, judgment and consequence, set in the severe and derelict landscape of rural Pennsylvania, a neglected and interstitial region deeply embedded with a particularly austere brand of Christianity, and where Hayter currently lives.’ It goes on to explain: ‘The rigorous and almost procedural site-specificity reflects an obsession with externalizing that site as the locus of great personal pain – pain that is the Will of that region’s presiding God; an atonement for sin that only the blood of Jesus can cleanse’. There is a certain specificity about the songs collected here, but, as is so often the case, the personal radiates out to become the universal, and however specific the subject and inspiration on a personal level to the artist a work may be, true art resonates far beyond.

Sinner Get Ready is an album that proves, demonstrably, that you don’t need noise or volume to achieve levels of devastating intensity. It’s spectacularly simple, raw, and at the same time complex and layered, not least of all in the vocal arrangements, and also hits like a tsunami. Sinner Get Ready is an intensely spiritual work, but it’s also quite simply an intense work, and one that conveys the power of the word of the Lord, that conjures fire and brimstone and that forewarns sinners- and non-believers – what they can expect.

The album begins gently enough, with rolling piano and strong but melodic vocals, operatic and elevating. But it doesn’t take long before things grow dark and disturbing on the nine-minute opener, ‘The Order of Spiritual Virgins’. The delicate, ethereal, choral evocations are rent with crashing, violent blasts of piano – fist-smashing thunderousness. It hits hard.

There is something of the musical about this, at least in terms of there being a narrative thread and a sense of characterisation running through it. It’s certainly more than simply a collection of songs: there is a sense of sequence, of progression. ‘I Who Bend the Tall Grass’ is sparsely arranged around a soft organ drone, and over which Hayter’s vocal cracks and breaks with force and emotion, and harmony melts into warped dissonance. ‘He has to die! There is no other way!’ she barks, rough and raw, before an atonal chorus of voices and drones carry it away.

Contrastingly, ‘Many Hands’ is traditional folk with an element of roots American country. It’s also dolorous, painful, its many-layered beseeching vocal, and ‘The Sacred Linametnt of Judgement’ is similarly folky, with a rich earthiness that speaks of tradition and evokes bygone times. Yet, as ‘Repent Now Confess Now’ brings into sharp relief just how alive some of those traditions still are in certain places, and these aren’t just small pockets, but huge swathes, and while the deep south is most commonly associated with hardline Christianity, it’s a trait of many rural areas. It may be 2021, but fire and brimstone and divine retribution are still dominant in these places, and what may seem strange to an outsider – like the material for a Louis Theroux documentary – this shit is real, and people live and die by their beliefs. There are some well-selected, well-placed samples, too, which accentuate this.

The songs on here soar, but rage with intensity, trembling with the fear of God and the weight of judgement and the threat of punishment. It would be hard to hear Sinner Get Ready and not feel moved in some way or another.

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5th March 2021

It’s Friday afternoon: it’s been a tough week in a succession of tough weeks because lockdown, home working and home schooling since January has felt like an eternity. But arriving at the weekend alive and intact as the rain stopped and the sky cleared felt like some small-scale event, and an uplifting one.

Cracking open a beer, I experienced a brief moment of okayness: nothing nearly as extreme as euphoria, but something above calm. In the current climate, what could be better? What more could I ask for? The answer lay in my inbox with an email informing me that ‘Today Uniform launches an ongoing series of remix collaborations with digital releases exclusively on Bandcamp. Kicking off with Uniform X Zombi, new releases between Uniform and another artist remixing each other will continue over the coming months. In this first installment, Zombi gives Uniform’s ‘Shame’ an ominous rework and Uniform gives Zombi’s ‘XYZT’ a searing spin’.

It may seem perverse that I should experience such a surge of excitement at the prospect of being assaulted by gnarly noise, but there’s an inexplicable thrill with imminent catharsis, which of course is realised with the achievement of said catharsis.

The Zombi remix of Uniform’s ‘Shame’ isn’t a disappointment, but it’s not the raging racket one would anticipate. Everything is pulped down to a murky swamp of malevolence, Michael Berden’s vocal a slowed-sown metallic slur that finds itself enveloped in slow, gloomy synths that drone and grind as the drums plod dolorously. At times reminiscent of The Cure’s Carnage Visors, it melts toward abstraction, but the atmosphere is dank and oppressive. It may not be cathartic, but it is suffocatingly dense. It’s pretty much the perfect remix in that it isn’t kind or reverent, and instead takes the original material in a completely different direction, while still preserving its essence – in this case, the bleak anguish and soul-crushing nihilism – of the original.

Uniform return the favour by mangling the expansive math-tinged progressive ‘XYZT’ from Zombi’s last album 2020. The soaring guitars and intricate ‘Tubular Bells’ like synth motif is compacted down to a grainy murk of distortion, propelled by a hectic, stammering beat that’s pure tension. Again, it doesn’t bring the catharsis, but it does bring a whole lot of shade and discomfort. It seems right for the times: nothing is certain, it’s impossible to really settle and the light at the end of the tunnel remains shaky and may yet still be just a guy with a torch who’s lost. As we all are. But at least more Uniform provides some solace.

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