Posts Tagged ‘Jazz’

SkipStone – SKST024

Christopher Nosnibor

Pun unintended, there’s something groovy about releasing an album as a triple-deck of 10” records. I was never averse to getting up and turning a record over or changing the disc, even though some releases do take the piss a bit in terms of making work by pressing just one four-minute track into a side of a 12” on an album release. But with the 12 tracks clocking in around six or seven minutes apiece and with two per side, Artemisia seems to balance the vinyl experience and the practicalities of playing records.

Artemisia is by turns tranquil and volatile, and this makes sense in context of the album’s inspiration, whereby, as the press release quippingly quotes that cellist Erik Friedlander distills (sic) the brain-bending powers of absinthe, and the darkness of its murky past into his latest project’.

While perhaps one of the most famous works of art inspired by absinthe is Degas’ L’Absinthe (1875-6), followed maybe by Manet’s The Absinthe Drinker (c.1859), it’s Picasso’s absinthe glass sculptures which captured Friedlander’s imagination in 2015 when he visited MOMA.

“The glasses were pretty… kind of innocent on first glance, but as I looked more closely, I found a dangerous side. The front of each glass is exposed – torn away to show its insides. It seemed like Picasso was saying this is what happens to you when you drink absinthe,” says Friedlander. This viewing spurred Erik, who’s played with a host of artists spanning The Mountain Goats, John Zorn, Dave Douglas, and Courtney Love, into ‘an exploration of absinthe’s mysterious history: beneath a glamorous veneer in 19th century Paris lurked accusations of hallucinatory properties and elusive effects that created an atmosphere of addiction and demise’.

That absinthe has – or ever had – hallucinogenic properties appears to be a myth, but the romantic notion of the drink’s properties proliferate in art and writing, and Friedlander’s jazz-orientated representation of the drink and its history is intriguing and at times quite hypnotic. Take, for example the sparsely-arranged, exploratory ‘La Fee Verte’ with its sporadic percussion and mournful strings.

Friedlander’s cello is augmented by a band of collaborators, which includes pianist Uri Caine, bassist Mark Helias, and drummer Ches Smith, and certainly, his cello takes something of a back seat, or at least occupies a less dominant position in these varied compositions which range from the buoyant, focused and direct, to wandering experimental works.

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Erik Friedlander – Artemisia

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Cave – Allways

Posted: 5 December 2018 in Albums
Tags: , , , , ,

Drag City

Christopher Nosnibor

Allways represents an evolution for Chicago-based psychedelic droners Cave. Perhaps not an evolution in spelling, having delivered an album I can’t help but squirm at whenever I see its title, but that’s not the point when assessing its artistic merits. But nevertheless, Allways is very much a different work from its predecessor, Threace

As the press blurb explains, ‘during the making of the last album, Threace, CAVE was in the process of becoming a quintet. They toured the world afterwards, playing on four continents and eighteen countries – as close to everywhere as they could get. Then they took a minute. They recorded it over time, in Chile and then Chicago. You can hear all of this, the energy of liveness, the reps, and consolidating expanded possibilities within their new alignment, the time away, the distance, and the freshness of returning to recorded sounds, everywhere on Allways.’

And here I find I’m torn. The skewed angles of the previous efforts – which admittedly always alluded as much to jazz as math-rock – have been sanded down a bit, so while there’s still a heavily psychedelic aspect to the album’s compositions, they’re very much predominantly of the jazz persuasion. And this is where I get twitchy. Sure, the nine-minute ‘Beaux’ pushes the space-ruck groove, but there’s some ultra-anal wah-wah action that’s pitched at precisely the level marked ‘irritation’.

There’s nothing to match the epic build and driving sustained crescendo of ‘Sweaty Fingers’, for example. And while they pitch Allways with the enthusiastic babble that ‘their inspiration comes from everywhere – Miles, psych, beats, exotica, library music, rock, punk, the Germans, the New York guys too, minimalists, the Dead, music from India, everywhere!’ I mostly get a lot of jazz here. And you know how I feel about jazz, man. Or if not, then maybe you ought to dig that while I don’t hate jazz per se, I’m on the top flight of picky when it comes to how I like it.

Allways kinda slips to the wrong side, the muso side. It gets mellow, and it gets introspective – not in the analytical, self-aware sense, but in the looping grooves with funk-tinged licks that nag and gnaw beyond insistence to irritation. ‘The Juan’ starts off promisingly enough, a bit of a prog riffing and a bold, strolling bassline that then meanders into more math-orientated territory, and then… well, some intriguingly expansive passages are marred by just too much jazz vibing that makes it an album that requires a beard to stroke to be eligible to listen to.

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Cave – Allways

Season Of Mist – 31st August 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

I don’t know what’s more exciting about the proposition of Loved – whether it’s the introduction of ‘decidedly more extreme tone and presence of death and black metal’ into KEN Mode’s palate, or the fact it’s been produced by Andrew Schneider (Unsane, Cave In, Daughters), who has, we’re told, a ‘vision of noise and girth’.

It’s got to be the girth.

And add all this to their existing sources – ‘the desperate noise and industrial sonics of the 80’s and 90’s’ and you’ve got a truly lethal cocktail.

Lead single ‘Doesn’t Feel Pain Like He Should’ sets the tone, a squall of feedback prefacing a deluge of thunderous bass and drums and shouted vocals. The Unsane parallels are immediately apparent. This isn’t just intense, but claustrophobic: less black than steely grey, hard, and with a matt sheen.

A heavy bass trudge and guitar that’s more geared toward texture than tune evoke the spirit of Godflesh and early Swans on ‘The Illusion of Dignity’. However, the braying sax owes more to another Justin Broadrick-related project, the industrial avant-jazz brutality of GOD. It hits hard, both sonically and sentimentally.

And that sentiment is the motivation to produce an album that responds to the fucked-up ties in which we find ourselves, while also revelling in the absurdity of it all. Because the only sane response to such madness as Trump and Brexit and social media and the dominance of global corporations is insanity – to adopt an antic disposition, to appropriate from Shakespeare. In the postmodern climate, an appropriation is appropriate, although Loved lifts more in terms of spirit than anything concrete.

Jesse Mathewson (guitar / vocals) sets out the purpose: “We wanted tones that bash and cut, and for you to feel that desperate part of yourself clawing for a way out. And then, just when things are at their most bleak, you start to focus on what’s actually being said, and you’ll see the humour in absolutely everything that is transpiring before you.”

In surveying the scene that is the socio-political landscape, the humour is pretty bleak – more grim irony and a gallows grimace than a belly laugh. But it is funny in the sense that you couldn’t make any of this shit up. Loved is also pretty bleak and also full-on and brutal. It grinds and points relentlessly, churning guitars carving angularity and discord. And the bass… it hits the guts. Hard.

The tempo and tone don’t alter all that much over the course of the album’s nine tracks (‘This is a Love Test’ notwithstanding, that is – its spacious intro with strolling bass and wandering sax create an eerie calm): like any album by Unsane, it’s a work to simply let pummel you furiously, channelling the fury of US hardcore and beefing it up to industrial strength. And yes, fury is the key: this is the sound of the fury. And while the majority of the songs are fairly short, sharp shots of adrenaline injected with a large dose of acidic bile, the album closes with the eight-and-a-half-minute ‘No Gentle Art’. It goes for the slow build, scratching away, quiet but chugging away on the low end. In that sense, it’s a bit Shellac… and when it breaks out into an explosive cacophony of distortion and braying brass… it’s a bit crazy. And by the end, I’m more than ready to kill everyone. Now.

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878050

Textile Records – May 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

Just as I don’t really do jazz, I don’t much do country, either. But for every rule – or perhaps more of a broad, general guideline – there necessarily has to be an exception. So here I am, sipping hot black coffee having just ejected an album by Marc Sarrazy and Laurent Rochelle, which goes way over the limit on the jazzometer and has left me shaking my head and thinking there’s just no way I can review that objectively, and looking at a plain white paper sleeve stamped with six song titles under the header ‘J.O.M.F BLOOM’.

The biographical commentary that ‘the band is moving more slowly these days, with core members Tom Greenwood and Michael Whittaker living in the more rural corners f Northern California’ is perhaps an understatement: Bloom was a full three years in the making. But it’s not just its evolution that was gradual: compositionally, too, the pieces are slow-growing and sparse. The quietly picked guitar notes resonate outwards as woodwind trills over the hills on the instrumental intro piece, ‘Pipe’ It’s kinda quiet, sort of ambient. A sudden swell of noise ends abruptly to make way for the sedate country ramblings of ‘Radiating’. If you dig downbeat country tines that drag on for over eight minutes, this is going to do it for you bigtime. If you don’t… It’s laid back to the point of horizontal, the lyrics drawled rather than sung, and as such decipherable only in snippets.

But while this is very much a country album, it’s anything but conventional or straight ahead overall. ‘Wreck’ is slow-building, initially just guitar and Greenwood’s cracked croon. But before long, a tumult of crashing cymbals, overloading electric guitar feedback and straining saxophone create a glorious cacophony. Wild brass and woodwind shriek and squeal all over the raucous stomp of ‘Strike’. A sort of country/blues heart pulses beneath the chaotic racket that pummels in all directions and drives toward the horizon of abstraction. ‘Wildgeese’ brings dolorous trudging before the lo-fi plod of ‘Golden Bees’ thuds its way to the album’s conclusion in a muddy haze of echo.

On Bloom, Jackie-O Motherfucker fuse the mellowest, most downcast of country with the most awkward jazz dirges, which drone and wheeze and scrape at divergent angles across the linear country compositions. It may be country at its core, but it’s a whole lot more.

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Jakie-O Motherfucker

Play Loud! Productions – 13th April 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

My first thought on hearing the opening bars of the album’s first track, ‘Light & Grace’ is ‘wow, this sounds just like Dinosaur Jr!’ My second thought, on the vocals starting is ‘No way, this really sounds like Dinosaur Jr!’ Sure enough, J. Mascis is listed among the long list of collaborators on this, the first Locus Fudge album in 20 years. Mascis has nothing if not a unique signature sound, often aped but never replicated. The track in question rumbles along for over eleven minutes, the singing soon giving up for the guitar solo to do the talking. Less characteristic of Dinosaur Jr is the way in which the solo comes to battle against a rising tide of extraneous noise, and the song itself finally collapses to a churn of dark ambience and feedback. As it happens, large chunks of Oscillations sound very Dinosaur Jr, and the overall vibe is very much late 80s / early 90s US alternative rock.

This is also very much the sphere to which Locust Fudge belong: their two previous albums, Flush and Royal Flush, released in 1993 and 1995 respectively, were released on Glitterhouse and saw the German duo aligned to the grunge movement. The EP, Business Express (1996), saw them push into more electro/industrial/krautrock territories, and even include overt elements of drum’n’bass in the mix. Those records are almost impossible to find now and the YouTube uploads of the tracks aren’t available in the UK. There’s something strange about the idea of being unable to access something on-line now. Whatever happened to the global village? Marshall McLuhan and Quentin Fiore pitched the global village as the territory of electronic media; with territorial divisions over music rights, it feels much more like a map of war than a plan for peace.

Oscillation reminds of simpler times – but more than that, seems to belong there. It’s not merely a nostalgia work, but a heartfelt return. You can’t exactly criticise a work for being ‘derivative’ when the bulk of the artists it’s derivative of feature.

‘Hormones’ slips into the easy but wonky country vibes of Pavement, while the motoric groove of ‘No Defense’ has some gloriously skewed guitar work. And then…. then there’s a wild frenzy of discordant jazz all over the middle eight. The big sax break on ‘Something’s Wrong’ comes on like The Psychedelic Furs, over a big, crackling valve guitar buzz, a melody reminiscent of Dinosaur Jr’s ‘Turnip Farm’, and lyrics that appear to present a process of self-dismemberment.

It’s a great album – not of its time, but of its spawning era. And now I’m off to revisit You’re Living All Over Me. Just because.

https://playloud.org/archiveandstore/trailers/locustfudge/trailercode.html

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locust-fudge-oscillation

Christopher Nosnibor

It’s fitting that a band as wildly eclectic and sonically unpredictable as Bearfoot Beware should have a suitably varied and contrasting but complimentary lineup of bands on the bill for their album launch show. And it turns out that tonight is a night of energetic bassists.

Ganglions’ bassist is almost swamped by her instrument, but she kicks out some thumping basslines around which the Sheffield trio forge an unusual blend of grungy post-rock jazz with melody. It’s an unusual blend. Some moments border on the twee, a shade muso, even a touch indulgent in their noodliness, but their tightness carries the complexity of the songs’ structures and nagging, interloping guitar motifs which even incorporate currents of reggae and skiffliness. They’ve also got enough energy and drive – both the songs and the band themselves – to make it all pull together, making their set engaging and entertaining.

Ganglions

Ganglions

It’s quite the leap to go from a compact three-piece unit to the sprawling ten-legged groove machine that is ZoZo. RSI means that front man Tom has had to ditch the guitar and stick to vocals only. The two vocalists are set up in front of the small stage, and Fred really throws himself into the choppy, cutty guitar parts.

However, it’s the exuberant lunges of bassist Joe, who cranks out some driving bass noise, that provide the band’s most striking visual focal point, while sonically, it’s the big, raucous, sax sound that defines the band’s brand of art-rock. Their frenetic funk fusion calls to mind aspects of Gang of Four, Talking Heads, and Shriekback, but their more flamboyant inclinations and pop sensibility perhaps owes more to acts like The Associates, ABC, and Orange Juice. They’re as tight as they are lively, as well as being good fun.

ZoZo

ZoZo

Bearfoot Beware blur final soundchecking with the actual set, lurching headlong into scorching rendition of ‘Point Scorer.’ It’s a hell of a way to introduce the new album to the crowd, and they follow with a couple more newies before touching on the back catalogue. The songs twist, turn, lumber and lurch unpredictably, and as I watch them, I can’t help but wonder just how much they must rehearse to memorise the complex song structures and play every change with such precision. They don’t just play, either, but really perform. Again, it’s the bass player, Richard Vowden, who provides the axis around which the band spins, both as a physical and sonic presence. Energy emanates from him as he bounds and lurches around, legs going all over, a perpetual blur, his contortions almost literal interpretations of the musical compositions, while the chunky grooves hold down the spasmodic, fractured guitars.

Bearfoot Beware

Bearfoot Beware

Their Pavement meets Shellac meets No Age stylings make for an angular racket, but it this somehow suggests a band out of time and hung up on the US alternative scene of the 90s, its delivered with a twist that’s representative of the contemporary Leeds scene. It’s perhaps hardly surprising that a band whose members have established a rehearsal space and studio that lie at the heart of a DIY subscene all of its own should epitomise it.

I’ve digressed, and am no longer focusing on the set, but any launch event is only the beginning of a journey. Bearfoot Beware are here, and they’re now, and they’re kicking ass with Sea Magnolia. Tonight, they’ve thrown it out to Leeds, and tomorrow the world. It deserves to float.

Thrill Jockey Records – 17th November 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

The second collaborative album between The Body and Full of Hell, which collides with the earth like a meteor, and a mere 18 months after its predecessor, and just six months after Full of Hell’s full-tilt annihilation that was Trumpeting Ecstasy, it’s every bit as unremitting and remorselessly heavy as anything previous. It’s the sound of two uncompromising bands finding compromise by amplifying one another to the nth degree, meaning that Ascending a Mountain of Heavy Light is fucking intense, fucking heavy, and yes, even more fucking intense.

The accompanying blurb forewarns that ‘samples, synth, saxophone, and a drum orchestra all throb, and sputter, coagulating under the weight of the two bands. Programmed drum patterns and loops taking cues from hip hop are bent and twisted throughout, flawlessly emboldening the distortion drenched guitars and howling vocals.’ And did I mention that it’s intense?

Beyond the first few seconds of skittering synth oscillations, there is no light on the opening track, ‘Light Penetrates’. The crushing power chords land at tectonic pace, while the vocals – an impenetrable scream of anguish – are nothing more than a primal scream of pain. And then the jazz shit beaks loose, with horns squealing like tortured pigs bleeding in all directions.

There’s nothing pretty about this, but occasionally, from amidst the screeding walls of amorphous racket emerge full-throttle stoppers, like the pounding ‘Earth is a Cage’. Elsewhere, ‘Didn’t the Night End’ is a snarling, grinding, bowel-shaking racket of surging waves of noise that simply hurt. It’s the kind of snarling, grinding, bowel-shaking racket that makes you want to lie on the floor and curl up into a foetal position. It makes you want to die, and it certainly makes you long for the night – and the noise – to end, as it assails the senses from every angle.

The drum intro is nabbed from oh, so many tracks – a simple four-four thump of a drum machine bass – before everything explodes in a tempest of screaming industrial-metal fury. Early Pitchshifter come to mind, at least in the drum programming, but this is something altogether more psychotic in its unbridled fury, and in its amalgamation of paired-back hip-hop and industrial metal, all crackling with overloading distortion, ‘Master’s Story’ invited comparisons to the innovations of Godflesh – at least until it goes all crushing doom halfway through.

As with anything produced by either band, either independently or collaboratively, Ascending a Mountain of Heavy Light is not music for pleasure, and large chunks are little short of anti-music, blistering walls of sonic brutality built on discord with the most challenging of tones and frequencies explored to the max.

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