Posts Tagged ‘Intense’

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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Human Worth – 5th March 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

I am, unashamedly, a massive fan of Modern Technology, and have been from day 1. And their DOIY label, Human Worth, too. Not only do they make and release amazing music of immense weight, but they have real principles, donating a cut of the proceeds of every release to charity, and being thoroughly nice guys on top is just a huge bonus.

The label’s latest release – their first 7” single – is absolute gold (despite actually being marbled silver and black) And that’s another thing: the quality of the label’s product is magnificent, from the design to the finish. With vinyl’s resurgence, we’ve witnessed a greater attention to the physical product as an artefact to behold and to cherish, for all the reasons fans of vinyl spent about 20 years going on about at every opportunity while people moved away, first towards CDs and then towards streaming. I suppose aficionados of the ‘physical product’ proffer the same kind of case for vinyl as books, but when Kindle fans counter that ‘it’s just like a book’, the common retort is that what’s even more like a book is a book, and there is simply no substitute. Streaming fans don’t even have that: all they have is ‘convenience’, but they simply don’t grasp how much is missing from the experience when interacting with a physical format.

I may digress, but it’s relevant: when presented with a gut-punching welter of noise, it always hits harder when blasting from a fat chunk of wax through some speakers with a bit of poke. And shit, is this a gut-punching welter of noise.

Modern Tech and 72% crossed paths just days before life was placed on pause in March 2020. Sharing a bill for Baba Yaga’s Hut in London, no-one foresaw the year that was to come. With the prospect of live shows remaining tentative at best, this single feels like a necessary release of energy.

It’s 72%’s ‘Drowning in a Sea of Bastards’ that’s the (nominal) A-side, and it’s a squalling, full-throttle noise attack. It’s actually the drumming that dominates, while everything else collapses in on itself to create a volcanic sonic explosion of frenzies guitars that are played in such a way as to not really sound like guitars as much as a wild cacophony. There’s screeding feedback and all kinds of chaos flying every whichway, and somewhere, buried low in the mix, are some anguished vocals. You can’t make out a word of it, but the sentiment transcends language.

Meanwhile, Modern Technology continue to go from strength to strength. The first new material since their debut album, Service Provider in September, ‘Lorn’ is a six-minute monster. The droning feedback that howls from Chris Clarke’s bass is more mid-rangey than usual, bringing a sharp, brittle edge to their dark, dingy abrasion that’s pushes forward slow and heavy, propelled by Owen Gildersleeve’s crushing percussion. When the chords hit, they hit hard, and – as is now well-established as integral to their distinctive sound, Clarke’s vocals, distorted and buried in a wash or reverb, snarl and growl all the rage, landing somewhere between Lemmy and Al Jourgensen circa Filth Pig. It’s a trudging slow-burner that builds with a cumulative effect.

Oh, and there’s more: a brace of bonus tracks, starting with a head-shredding remix of ‘Drowning in a Sea of Bastards’ by Wayne Adams (Ladyscraper / Big Lad / Petbrick). Unrecognisable against the original, it’s a pulversing mangled mess of clanging metal and industrial-strength overloading distortion. Gnarly as fuck, it’s bloody brilliant. And as a double bonus, the additional cut from Modern Technology is another new track, ‘Ctrl’. In something of a departure, it finds Clarke deliver a spoken-word piece against a backdrop of thick, booming bass and slow, slow drums. As the murky layers build, so does the crushing weight of a track that’s reminiscent of Swans circa 1984: it’s claustrophobic and suffocating, and makes you feel tense.

It may only be fifteen minutes in total for all four tracks, but to describe the experience as intense would be an understatement, and I find myself simply too blown away to conjure a pithy one-liner to wrap up. Yes, it’s absolute dynamite.

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2LP Editions Mego – Digital release date: 4th December 2020 / Physical release date: early February 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Initially – and indeed, oftentimes – On Feather and Wire sounds very like so many slightly noodly minimal electro albums, incorporating elements of pop and krautrock to forge some neat synthy moments, fairly light and accessible and propelled by soft but insistent beats and bubbling bass grooves, and it’s pleasant enough, with the darker overtones providing depth and detail. Rivet’s reverence and enthusiasm for the technology is apparent, as is his appreciation for the likes of both Chris and Cosey and Kraftwerk. The invited comparisons to COH are warranted, and if the synthy explorations of the 70s and into the early 80s with the emerging industrial scene is your bag, then the appeal here is clear: there’s plenty to like, but then again, not a lot to distinguish Rivet from myriad other artists of the era or his myriad peers operating in the same field, which seems to be increasingly populous.

‘Glietende Liebe’ has hints of DAF, but then equally of Cabaret Voltaire, and even Depeche Mode with its buoyant repetitive motif. Vocals are limited just the occasional phrase, more shouted the sung, and it seems Rivet – that’s Mika Hallbäck Vuorenpää – is more than happy for the listener to wrestle – or not – with the questions of intention and meaning, as, according to the liner notes, ‘interpretation is flung open as the audience are invited to gauge what on earth is going on here… Are these songs? Are these lyrics? Words melt as beat perpetually takes us deeper into flight. Throughout this trip sharp snares punctuate ghost melodies as vocals rise and vaporise. Shadows hover the walls leaving holographic traces of the duality between fun and fear, the unexpected drifts diagonally across the audio plane teasing and taunting the listener’.

‘Keloid’ is an out-and-out minimal dance tune, and ‘Mag Mich’ is pretty much straight-up EBM, and all of this is fine and neatly executed by largely unremarkable. ‘Sodden Healer’, on the other hand is stark, clinical, dangerous in its detachment. Fragmented vocals cut across one another against a backdrop of grating analogue bass oscillations.

But ‘Coral Spate’ comes as if from nowhere, a standout and standalone, the absolute distillation of every feature of the album culminating in five minutes of claustrophobically gripping intensity, It’s the sound of anxiety, of agoraphobic panic, in ways that are difficult to pinpoint and even more difficult to express. Whereas the dislocated retrofuturism of ‘Ordine Kadmia’ sounds like so much cyberpunk and so many 80s sci-fi movie soundtracks, and is the kind of composition that’s affecting because there’s a certain sense of the unheimlich about its stark robotic repetitions and whipcrack snare sound, it’s precisely the extreme familiarity of ‘Coral Spate’ that’s so uncomfortable – suffocatingly so. And yet the experience of discovering that physical spasm articulated, given a soundtrack, is perversely comforting. It’s a rare and dichotomous sensation that’s difficult to reconcile – but then, art is at its best when it challenges us. The more it makes us feel, however much it hurts, it’s fulfilling that function of taking us beyond the limited boundaries of whatever comfort zones we may have and challenging us to confront those innermost fears by mirroring them back at us.

For this alone, this track alone, I wholeheartedly recommend this album, but maybe should forewarn those of a weaker disposition that it isn’t all breezy grooves.

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Sargent House – 13th August 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

2020 keeps on crash-landing unexpected new releases, and the first solo release from Alexis Marshall of Daughters is the latest of these.

As noted in the press release, ‘Marshall describes the experience of making the material as “the painstaking process of creating and honouring, pretending to know and asking for aide, questioning and conquering, and the pale, unending anxiety nipping at the heel. This past life come current is at last the realised direction of many excruciating years beneath the wheel. The evaluation process has grown enjoyable, the evaluation process is, at last, its own reward and the hands involved have made me a better human being; without these hands, I would surely have crashed to burn. Thank you all.

I cull the hammer. I wield the hammer. I eat, breathe, sleep, shit, fuck the hammer.”’

As anyone familiar with Daughters, especially anyone who’s caught them on tour will appreciate, Marshall is a whirlwind of intensity, a man capable of the most stunningly potent viscerality.

Beginning with a hefty, hammered drum and low oscillating drone which provide the initial backdrop to Marshall’s manic, frenzied vocals, ‘Nature in Three Movements’ lunges straight into max intensity, a wild-eyed concentrated dose of sonic anxiety that only gets more crushingly claustrophobic as the dissonant noise builds and the percussion crashes harder. Marshall screams, and it’s the raw articulation of mental anguish : listening to this is like having your head placed in a vice while simultaneously being battered with a hammer.

Less a song than a breakdown committed to tape, if it’s representative of the forthcoming album, we’re in for something truly explosive.

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Photo credit: A.F. Cortes

Rock is Hell Records – July 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

At the risk of repetition, there are no two ways about it: these are desperate times. No, not unprecedented. Desperate, dire, and fucked-up. The liner notes to BUG’s latest offering, Nunc finis offer a fair summary:

‘Global warming. Trump. Corona virus. New normal. We are living in interesting times. It is one minute before midnight on the doomsday watch. Nunc finis means end of time, end times or end now. And if you buy the ticket, you gonna take the ride.’

Fucked-up times require some fucked-up heavy shit by way of a soundtrack, and BUG bring it in spades here. I for one am immensely grateful: I’ve found myself frequently returning to Calamitas, and Nunc finis brings the same blend of familiar noise rock tropes and uniqueness, with jarring riffs, sludgy low-end and crazed, gruff-throated vocals. Above all, BUG know how to create tension through music, to articulate that tightening of the chest, evoke that clenching of the jaw, the grinding of the teeth.

The opening salvoes leave no doubt that this is a dark album reflecting darkness back in on itself, a tumultuous tempest of disaffection and (internal) conflict. ‘Happy Pills’ kicks off in pretty savage style, a hell-for-leather raging blast of overdriven guitars and angled vocals. You can barely make out a word, but then, the delivery communicates the sentiment, the manic fury. ‘Hell is Empty’ drops down several shades darker toward sludgy doom territory, before ‘Lost Soul’ takes a more conventionally noise-rock turn. It also provides the first softer moments, as chiming guitars effect a more ponderous perspective before exploding into a ragged riff. Exploiting the quiet / loud dynamic, it’s a classic slow-burner that builds to a killer climax.

‘Leftovers’ is a standout by virtue of its sheer brutality, while the seven-minute closer, ‘Hass gegen Rechts’ is positively schizophrenic, switching between a strolling vaudeville waltz and volcanic, earth-shattering blasts of noise, and is everything the album represents distilled into a single gut-wrenching track. It’s intense, alright.

Jolting riffs and stop-start noodles define the structures, to bewildering, dizzying effect: it’s not a regular bludgeoning, but successive left / right hooks, followed by an upper-cut, a headbutt, and a knee in the nuts for good measure. It’s heavy, hard, harrowing, and, ultimately physically and emotionally draining – just as it should be.

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Christopher Nosnibor

And yet again, after a soaking on my way to see Interpol in Leeds a fortnight ago, the heavens open to deliver a truly tropical downpour, a torrent of fair biblical proportions in stepping out of the station. It’s way to wet to have my phone out to sat-nav to the pub I’ve arranged to meet a mate in, so I take hasty refuge in The Scarboro Hotel.

It’s not hyperbole or dramatic scaremongering to say that this is climate change in effect. It’s been stiflingly hot, we’ve experienced high winds – which is why I left my umbrella at home: Poundland brollies and strong gusts don’t go together – and light showers and some flash downpours. But this precipitation isn’t so much a cloudfall as a monsoon, and as frustrating and mood-despoiling the soaking is, the bigger picture is that this is a sign of things to come. JG Ballard’s 1962 post-apocalyptic sci-fi novel The Drowned World is rapidly looking like future reportage rather than speculation.

It’s a good thing I’m heading to Temple of Boom in my drenched state. Live music invariably proves itself to be a mod-lifter, or at least the best conduit to a window of escapism, and never more than a night of full-throttle metal. It’s a genre I’ve come to appreciate almost exponentially over the last decade after spending years completely disinterested and dismissive. The irony that I considered metal somehow juvenile and primitive isn’t lost as I realise I’ve grown to grasp the sheer diversity of the – infinitely fragmented – genre, as well as the benefits of untrammelled catharsis as a form of therapy.

The tip I’d had ahead of the show suggested Vonnis were pedlars of fairly standard grindy thrash, and musically, this is fundamentally true. It’s all in the delivery, and I’m wondering a day on if their front-man’s antics were the result of drunkenness, insanity, or a combination of the two. Their Facebook bio records a history of ‘dislocated shoulders or open leg fractures’ and a ‘disregard for any kind of personal safety’, and they deliver on that. Tonight’s set found this guy piling up (and falling off) monitors, stumbling wildly, stripping from his boiler suit to socks and boxers and ending the set on the flor in front of the stage with his head in a bin. The whole thing was demented, and was a real horrorshow car-crash of a performance – but it was utterly compelling.

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Vonnis

Bismuth are compelling for all the right reasons, bashing out some monumental noise with drums and bass. By which I mean BASS. Arsequaking bass. Head-shredding bass. Immense bass drones that sound like Sunn O))) and Earth circa Earth 2. Simultaneously. Bass channelled through a pedal board the size of a cruise liner to the point it no longer sounds like bass. An age separates the trike of every chord, every explosive, punishing beat. Bismuth grind it out, low, slow and heavy, but with the full frequency spectrum: bass that sounds like a full band lineup with everything up to eleven, or even twelve.

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Bismuth

Tanya Byrne’s vocals range from a delicate and emotionally-charged melodic to full-blooded howl of pain: it’s all integral to Bismuth’s sound and intensity, and the set concludes with Tanya out in the audience, on her knees, shrieking and howling into a wall of feedback. It feels like the purest catharsis, and the entire room is on edge and close to breaking to bring down a devastating finish.

Whereas Bismuth’s sound is textured, detailed, and atmospheric, Moloch go all out for blunt force trauma. Lumbering riffage provides the backdrop to rasping guttural anguish. There’s something about the vocals, which register in the higher regions, and the way they contrast with the shuddering downtuned sludgefest. There’s also the complete lack of pretence or even any real kind of show involved.

“Hiya, we’re Moloch,” says Chris Braddock as he takes the mic. Cue a wail of feedback before everything crashes in and continues to grind away at a gut-churning crawl for the next forty punishing minutes.

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Moloch

With three guitars dominating the six-piece’s instrumentation, Thou have texture and density completely covered. And despite the fact they’ve been going some fourteen years with only two changes to the lineup, they still appear remarkably youthful. The ever-informative Encyclopaedia Metallum locates them in the bracket of ‘Sludge/Drone/Doom Metal’ and lists their lyrical themes as ‘Despair, Revolution, Societal collapse, Death.’ This does nothing to convey the intensity of their albums or the kind of performance they deliver – or, moreover, the nonchalance with which Bryan Funck – wild-eyed and grey-bearded – delivers his velociraptor vocal scream.

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Thou

It should be harrowing, hellish, but is precisely the opposite. To witness a band so finely-honed, channelling everything into a powerful and relentless piledriving assault is a beautiful and uplifting thing: elating, life-affirming. As they thunder through an immaculate set, I find I’m no longer in the room and everyone else has melted away. There is nothing but this moment, in which I find my mind is empty and I am floating, detached, wired into the music alone. Time stops and the sound becomes everything.

Christopher Nosnibor

The 13th of July is a Friday. It seems like an appropriate date for a show hosted by The Trembling Hellish Infernal Nightmare Generator. And besides, an event that involves standing in a dark pub venue being aurally assaulted by four noisy bands in sweltering heat represents the perfectly antithetical alternative to the populism of a city swarming with racegoers.

It might not exactly be packed for Pak40, who begin their set with a claxon and bass hum, before thumping in with some tom-heavy drumming and thunderous, super-low bass growl that comes on like early Earth, only with percussion. While the duo’s focus is firmly on the creation of maximum noise, the stylistic manifestations are varied, with classic rock elements churned through a cement mixer and a vocal style characterised by elongated vowels that range from pysch-tinged prog to something closer to Bong. The final track is sludgy as hell, but ups the pace considerably, inviting comparisons to Fudge Tunnel.

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Pak40

Saltwater Injection are another drum / bass combo. As last year’s debut single, ‘Vinegar / Cuntryfile Part 3’ revealed, they’re noisy, too, cranking out a mesh of grindcore noise interspersed and overlaid with trebly, distorted samples from films and whatnot. It’s not about innovation, but execution, and after a lengthy intro, the bass feedback howls and they go full-throttle to deliver a set of high-octane aggression. It’s stick-twirling drummer Paul Soames who provides the vocals – predominantly guttural barks to their frenetic attacks. There are flickers of pop, but they’re transmogrified into roaring slabs of rage that go off like a clusterbomb.

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Saltwater Injection

Nottingham’s Bone Cult have been on my radar for a while, and I’ve been quite taken with their brand of hard-edged technoindustrial crossover music. Visually, they’re on a whole other level: with dense smoke, neon skull-masks, a crisp, clinical sound, and laser lighting shooting every which way, they transform the 120-capacity pub venue with a stage a foot high into an academy-type gig experience. They’re so slick, so tight, so immense. For all the intensity and aggression, they do seem a shade lightweight in context, mining more the Pretty Hate Machine era sound of Nine Inch Nails and aping the electro end of the Wax Trax! roster circa 1988. Still, in terms of entertainment, they’re hard to fault.

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Bone Cult

The same is true of headliners, London three-piece Little Death Machine. They neither look nor sound like a band on the lower rungs of the circuit. They’re mechanoid tight, and have a set packed with killer tunes, delivered with nuance, passion, emotion, and panache. A spot of research suggests that this is a new lineup, and while I lack the reference to compare to the old one, they seem to have gelled well. Yes, they do sound a lot like Placebo. A LOT like Placebo. But old Placebo, which is A Good Thing. It’s a punchy set, packed out with songs with massive drive and killer hooks and crackling energy. It’s also the perfect climax to an exciting night.

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Little Death Machine

Uniform hit us with their most powerful, most emotional and bleakest endeavour yet. Vocalist Michael Berdan and instrumentalist Ben Greenberg have joined forces with drummer Greg Fox (Liturgy, Zs) to perfect their vicious post-industrial dystopian cyber-punk and are ready to announce their new studio album The Long Walk incoming via Sacred Bones on 17th August. They’ve also revealed a video for the album’s lead single ‘The Walk’. Created by Danny Perez, the video highlights the cynicism, absurdities and downright bloodlust of our current news cycle. 

Intense doesn’t cut it. Check it here: