Posts Tagged ‘Jazz’

Cruel Nature Records – 3rd July 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

On the face of it, Newcastle has a conspicuously large and thriving scene devoted to all kinds of noisy / experimental metal shit, until you realise that about 75% of the bands feature James Watts and a number of his mates. Ultimately, that’s col, because Watts is a versatile vocalist – maybe not Mike Patton, but more than adept at affecting all kinds of low-throated metal, as well as anguished elongated notes and monastic incantations, and, as the last song evidences, human didgeridoo.

The band are described as ‘a unique weirdo blend of improvised doom with a drunken psychedelic vibe which is anywhere between THRONES to The Melvins to a very pissed off Butthole Surfers.’ The blurb also goes on to detail that ‘They normally play as a 3 piece, with bass, drums, a little sax and vocals which sound like they are coming out of someone’s mouth who has been trapped in a basement for 20 years and staying alive by licking the mould that grows on beer barrels.’

It’s a fair summary, although there’s more than a little sax here. But no violins. For all the sonic assault, they’re very much pacifists.

There’s nothing like easing the listener into an album gently, and the twenty-three minute opener, ‘Ioniser’ is absolutely nothing like easing the listener into an album gently. An overloading crackle and buzz churns and distorts like hell. It eventually settles into a Shellac-like groove, hectic Todd Trainer-esque drumming driving a grungy low-end grind that provides the backdrop for a display of vocal contortions that celebrate all things tortured and guttural.

Christ, that bass! It’s so low and grindy it could relieve constipation within a matter of bars, and against a jazz-influenced rhythm played with explosive force, ‘Shan patter’ is an absolute beast. The vocals are barely audible and as low, if not lower, than the bass, a chthonic gurgle

‘Shenanigans’ has the looping structure of a dance track crossed with the nagging circular motifs that defined Therapy’s sound on Nurse – only it’s a twisted jazz-funk odyssey, and it’s a complete contrast with the ultra-slow, ultra-minimalist drone-plod of ‘Wallow’ that crawls into a droning boom of repetition, a single chord ringing out for an eternity, the sustain twisting to feedback. Any Sunn O))) comparisons are entirely justified, although the percussion has a certain swing that lifts it from the domain of sludgy doomy drone and into that of something more jazz/low grunge in style.

And if the title of the final cut inspires references to Derek an Clive, the thirteen-minute ‘Horn’ is less to inspire a rush of blood to the penis than a crawling sensation over the skin as another lumbering bassline strolls, battered, bruised, dust and dirt-covered from amidst a fizz of noise before a heavy-hearted brass brays, wails, and honks all over.

While the freeform elements of the pieces give them a sense of looseness, or non-conformity, of spontaneity, of disarray, the way they come together so tightly and intuitively on the extended riffy segments is indicative of a real musical competence and a high level of intuition. It’s special and it’s rare. And it’s a defining feature of an album that’s properly heavy, and at the same time, way jazzy without sucking.

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limitedNOISE – 10th July 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Eleven whole years on from Third One Rises, World Sanguine Report crawl bloodied and bruised from a dark, dingy back alley to stagger into the light and toss down onto the rain-soaked, blood-spattered concrete their new album, Skeleton Blush. It’s a haggard, battered beast, a collection of songs that wheeze and puff pain from every pore. Whether it’s whisky-soaked introspection of staggering, brawling bleariness, it’s grainy, gritty, and often bleak, dredging emotions from the pits of the city’s sewers.

The various members have been keeping busy in the meantime, with various projects, notably with vocalist / guitarist Andrew Plummer having detoured for a few years with the grizzled no-wave racket of Snack Family. The various projects are clearly different, but at the same time their creative roots are abundantly clear.

Across the spread of the album, the band swing psychotically, schizophrenically, between dirty jazz-tinged blues that draws together The Doors and Tom Waits in a deliriously drunken swagger of swinging rhythms (you could never call it an elevated or euphoric mood – more an upswing in a maniacally volatile moodset) and boozy, brawling horns, and seedy, low-down lugubriosity.

The title track is as close as thing get to flamboyant, with a flamboyant jazz cacophony delivered with a Beefheartian mania and taste for dissonance, and ‘Drip Driven’ is similarly crazed in his riot of jolting, discordant horns that spirt every whichway over a low-slung stop-start funk groove, while ‘Aou’ trudges through dark, soup waters of brass-tinged gloom, sounding like Gallon Drunk on Ketamine.

Skeleton Blush brings derangement to a big band setting: it’s absolutely wild, and also low-down and seedy – and absolutely fucking ace.

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Love Love Records

Christopher Nosnibor

It’s no secret I’m quite a fan of Matt Cargill and Co’s oddball, off-kilter approach to freeform experimental weird noisy shit that stubbornly defies genre categorisation – largely on account of the fact that it is weird noisy shit that stubbornly defies genre categorisation (although the blurbage that accompanies Walk it Dry, the follow-up to 2019’s Gentle Persuaders describes them as ‘London’s neo-jazz wrecking crew’.

Sly have trod themselves a unique path, and find themselves in the curious position of being one of the most obtuse bands beloved by almost everyone I know in underground musical circles. I’d like to think it’s a combination of their uniqueness and the fact that they are unequivocally

On this outing, they promise ‘the familiar sound palette of skronked electronics, bulging noise blasts, wailing sax & Kalashnikov drums that was found on ‘Gentle Persuaders’’ but at the same time say that this ‘is a very different beast. The tracks here are shorter and punchier as the band digs deeper than ever to find increasingly potent sonic pockets.’

Mad horns and a crushing, slow-paced jazz beat explode from the speakers the second the ‘play’ button his hit, and with ‘A Black Uniformed Strutting Animal’ they plunge into a collision of heavy rhythms and divergent notes that counteract one another in a battle between order and chaos, where there is no clear winner.

‘Dead Cat Chaos Magician’ is frivolous, glooping electronics, with a fast-paced jitter of tension and some ragged blasts of drums that are nothing to do with rhythm and everything to do with dramatic punctuation, sudden explosions that disrupt any semblance of an emerging flow.

The compositions on Walk it Dry are difficult, dissonant, and while they are indeed more succinct than the bult of the pieces on previous outings, they condense those dank, disrupted soundscapes into dense chunks of ‘Bulgarian Steel’ brings the kind of swampy mess of nose that’s quintessentially Sly, dominated as it is by booming beats and murky mid-range, before ‘Shrieking Grief’ steps the torturous din up a notch, with more thunderous rhythms bashing frantically into a void of grinding greyness while horns flash and flail

The lack of pun-based titles is compensated to an extent by ‘Sunken Disorderly’, while ‘My Torso is a Shotgun’ is a cranium-crushing morass of tension, a bludgeoning battery of hammering and noise.

This all stacks up to an album that’s classic Sly: the same dark industrial clanking, doomy undercurrent and warped jazz overtones, but in much shorter segments. It’s still dark, dingy, difficult, jazzy, otherly, and there’s no other band who quit straddle so many boundaries. Walk it Dry may mark a certain evolution, but more than anything, it’s the work of a band who simply don’t do compromise. And that’s why we love them.

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5th May 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Starless is a new musical project from Yurii Samson of Ukranian industrial noisemakers Kadaitcha. It’s pitched as being ‘less industrial and noisy than Kadaitcha, but more acoustic and lyrical’, although this very much depends on the strain of industrial you’re angling towards.

Admittedly, my first thought is less ‘more acoustic and lyrical’ than Kadaitcha, but ‘fuck me, this is spaced-out experimental jazz!’ ‘Entro’ piles in haphazard and chaotic, as a riot of parping horns hoot and honk seemingly at random though a twittering electronic oscillation with bleeps and quirts, and wandering notes that are difficult to assimilate, stylistically or psychologically. There’s a lot going on at once.

But the title track goes much more industrial / dark ambient, a restless thrumming providing the backdrop to a distanced, echo-heavy vocal and squalls of extraneous noise, swells of feedback and layers of serrated electronica, whole distorted impenetrable vocals ring out with a bold authority. It’s the sound of Big Brother’s dictation, monotone, cold, flat, and impervious, while metallic noise spirals and swirls.

Next up, ‘Chudovys’ka’ begins all aclatter and aflutter, a clicking flicker or delicate beats, before a warped vocal begins to nag away in the background. And then, before long, it goes full Throbbing Gristle with churning electronic rhythms and hard-edged noise butting up against them. And this is a sustained sonic attack, the best part of ten minutes of difficult noise that simultaneously rumbles and screes, a low-end wash that rolls and throbs while clattering percussion ricochets off in all directions.

‘Kiviten’’ goes all-out with the heavy-duty percussion, calling to mind the thunderous battery of Test Dept. It also brings droning church organ and shrieking feedback that hurts the ears and bends the brain, as well as heralding introduction of epic choral voices on the scale of Carl Orff’s ‘Carmina Burana’, only distant and dissonant. It’s big on drama, and also disquiet.

Closer, ‘Saga’ is also impressive in its depth, and equally the depth of the discomfort it discharges as wheezing monotone vocals drone out over a shifting soundscape of hesitant beats, creeping jazz horns and scrapes and bubbling synths. It’s sparse, low, slow, and trepidatious, making for an unexpectedly Low-key conclusion that also happens to leave the listener hanging on the edge of a swamp hidden by fog, wondering what lies beyond.

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Unsounds 65U – 15th June 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

While Andy Moor’s distinctive guitar playing is central to this collaborative work, it’s worth stating from the outset that this is a challenging listen. Spacious and eerie, above all it’s atonal and discordant, as if the two musicians are playing against one another, rather than with, and, moreover, against themselves, particularly in Moor’s case as he digs deep to pick notes in counter-time and counter-melody.

How this album came to be is worth recounting, so I shall quote directly: ‘In 2017 Andy Moor and Yannis Kyriakides were invited to participate in Xavier Veilhan’s ‘Studio Venezia’ at the French pavilion for the 57th Venice Art Biennale. This was a space where a series of musicians were in residence throughout the six month duration of the festival, recording and performing there in an open environment. The two musicians had access to a variety of instruments and machines including Moog, Buchla and Vermona synths which were used for some of the recordings. The unusual situation here was that they were working in a studio, experimenting, trying out ideas while at the same time being a part of an ongoing art installation. So they were part of the space, yet not really knowing whether they should play for the crowds who were constantly passing through the pavilion or just ignore them.’

‘The result was nine hours of recorded material mostly improvised or based on a few basic rhythmic patterns that Kyriakides had prepared as starting blocks. For this album they selected 45 minutes of what they considered to be the strongest material after several listenings and editing sessions.’

That’s a lot of material, and a lot of whittling and editing, but the end result is well-assembled and flows together nicely – while at the same time mining a seam of arrhythmia and clanging dissonance. Moreover, each piece is distinct and distinctive, with different textures, tones, and moods, and as such, Pavilion represents a disorientating, difficult journey.

The layers on ‘Camera’ build at different rates, crossing over one another and interfering with one another’s time signatures so as to become bent out of shape, colliding against one another in a clutter of discoordination. The synth bass on ‘Dedalo’ warps and scratches and scrapes away as low grooves that trip and curl, wow and flutter. There’s a playful side to it, with the rhythmic swing and metallic clattering that sounds like pots and pans, which contrasts with the more ponderous atmospherics of ‘Concha’, a nine-and-a-half minute exercise in detuning and retuning, as notes bend and bow with a slow, resonant decay.

‘Diluvio’ is unpleasantly tense and prickly, and the album ultimately drifts towards an uneasy conclusion with the last couple of pieces, which are simultaneously dolorous and soporific, albeit in a dark, horror-movie dreamscape sort of a way.

Pavilion leaves you feeling… not quite bewildered, but spaced, separated, as if standing half a step behind your own body or your own shadow. It’s less about if this is a good thing in itself, as much as the fact that this is a work which has a degree of psychological resonance, which marks it as a creative success.

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Yannis Kyriakides Andy Moor – Pavilion

London experimental metal 4-piece Asian Death Crustacean (who have perhaps one of the best names we’ve seen here at AA all year) have shared another new track taken from their debut album. Released this summer ‘Baikal’, combines their breadth of influences in extreme metal, electronic/ambient music and the London underground jazz scene into an exploration of the themes of metamorphosis and self-transformation.

Listen to new single ‘Baikal V’ now:

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Panurus Productions – 29th May 2020

Mantis Shrimp is the second Shrimp release following their eponymous debut released just over a year ago, in January 2019. A collaboration between various luminaries of the underground scene in Newcastle, England, and Ryosuke Kiyasu, who has enough projects to his credit to render him a one-man music scene in Japan, they describe their sound as ‘chitinous free grind onslaught’.

Now, if ‘Shrimp’ has connotations of small fry, the proverbial puny weakling, and their debut laid waste to those associations with a devastating cacophony , then it’s perhaps worth approaching this instalment with the knowledge that the mantis shrimp is the brutal bastard of the small crustacean world: a violent predator, mantis shrimp typically eat fish, crabs, clams, snails, worms, shrimp and squid, and can take on animals significantly larger than themselves thanks to their ‘calcified clubs’

According to Wikipedia, these hard exoskeletal bastards are sometimes referred to as ‘thumb splitters’ ‘because of the animal’s ability to inflict painful gashes if handled incautiously…—mantis shrimps have powerful claws that are used to attack and kill prey by spearing, stunning, or dismembering’.

This pretty much how it feels listening to the four pieces here.

There’s a strain (and strain is an apposite word choice) of experimental jazz that sounds like the end of a piece, where the instruments all clatter and rumble as they wind down from a climax, only that is the piece, and each piece lasts an eternity. That’s this. Only with grating guitars and bowel-ripping guttural vocals, which add depth and detail to the calamitous, chaotic racket.

‘Sealed Explosion’ eases it in gently, with thirteen minutes of stop / start percussion and stuttering discord that crashes and stumbles in all directions. It’s an absolute headfuck, and it’s only more intensely difficult from hereon in, with the sludgy squall of ‘Grasping Pincers’ bubbling through a relentless racket of crashing cymbals and stammering anti-chords and screeding feedback. The lull after four and a half minutes feels like an immense relief – but then you realise there’s another ten minutes to go as Watts starts up the gasping growl (first mistyped amusingly but perhaps appropriately as ‘sharts up’) that will continues to rasp through the bewildering tempest of noise. There’s some wild funk bass played at a hundred miles an hour around the ten-minute mark, but it’s submerged beneath a brain-shredding wall of noise. That’s no criticism, just a mere statement of fact.

‘Boiling Swamp’ spring and spurs, eddying electronics and guitars that sound more like they’re tuning up than playing actual music dominate the thrumming, humming drone of feedback and bass groans and tweeting sonic contrails. It gradual descends into a bass drone miasma, while shrill top-end feedback shrieks all around. Not a lot happens, but amidst the turbulence, there are wordless howls and hollers. Or, if words, impenetrable. As they ought to be. Watts resorts to guttural snarls in the dying minutes of this chthonic noise dirge that evokes Sunn O))) minus the growling low end crossed with Whitehouse, and which leaves ‘Endless Collapsing Staircase’ in prospect.

It’s 28 minutes of trippy experimental electronica that straddles noise, power electronics and various ambient forms. Percussion rattles erratically amidst trilling industrial scrapes, gradually building through wordless vocal drones and swelling layers of extranea. Anguished howls, shrieks, and barks punctuate a mess of feedback and flailing percussion. It’s a fucking horrible mess of noise: there’s a stab at a fractured bass groove in amongst it all. It never quite gets going, and 14 minutes in, it sounds like it’s all over as it collapses into a mess of pedals, but we’re barely at the midpoint. Watts sounds like he’s being gutted in a ceremonial act that’s been incorporated into a Large Unit performance. Or something. It hurts. But it works.

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Karlrecords KR073 – 24th January 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Aidan Baker and Gareth Davis are no strangers to Aural Aggro: both feature in the roll-call of post-rock collective A-Sun Amissa, led by Richard Knox, and Baker’s myriad collaborations and contributions have received coverage here, and with good reason. Their contributions to the field of post-rock / ambient / brooding neoclassical orchestral avant-garde are substantial, to say the least.

It was two years ago that Canadian guitar player Aidan Baker and Belgian clarinettist Gareth Davis came together to release Invisible Cities, which, as the press release notes, ‘the duo explored the calmer side of things – from chamber jazz to ambient / drone and back, giving much space and air to breathe to their respective instrument’.

And so to the sequel: more of the same, yes, but different. Because there is always evolution, and never stasis.

Ominous. Unsettling. Slow-moving. Atmospheric. Resonant. The adjectives bubble up through the mist of ‘Hidden’, the album’s first composition as strings scrape and moan through a gauze-like haze and layers build and drift. Everything is vague, the elements fading into one another, with brief incidentals bringing tension and disquiet to an otherwise tranquil but strangely indefinable atmosphere.

‘Eyes’ rumbles into darker territory, rumbling, billowing darkness providing an undercurrent for wisps of otherworldly drones – forged on strings, but detached from the context of specific instrumentation

When listening to ambient works, I do, at times, find myself pondering the source or the various sounds. ‘That’s a violin’; or ‘that’s a cello’; or ‘that’ll be the clarinet’. It’s a distraction I could do without, especially when effects – and sometimes just reverb and the way notes and sounds rub against one another to create seemingly unnatural sounds – mean that instruments don’t sound like the instruments they are, and often don’t even sound like conventional instruments. It’s better just to let it all wash over you, and to let the sound swell and envelop your being.

This is very much true of the dense, malevolent sonic swirl of ‘The Dead’, which tapers down seamlessly into ‘Continuity’, where drones hover and piano notes crash as if sliding down a staircase and metallic drones slide and it’s a minimal approach to instrumentation that creates the greatest tension, which ultimately dissipates in the altogether warmer climes of ‘Names’.

Baker and Davis bring out the best in one another, combining their creative capabilities to forge ambience with depth and the power to affect mood rather than merely hover, and Invisible Cities II is strong, moving, and evocative while at the same time conjuring a perfectly distracting aural fog.

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Buzzhowl Records – 26th July 2019

Left Limbs are Raul Buitrago (drums) and Jake Saheb (guitar), and Hexes is an album of two halves, two sides, two tracks, each sprawling over ten minutes apiece in duration. And they pack a lot of challenging noise into that timespan. At times uncoordinated, at times harsh, it’s very much a journey.

At the risk of infinite repetition, I’m a fan first and foremost and critic on the side, and of the many people I work with doing this, the PR and labels – and artists – who are clearly in it for the love are my favourites by miles. The passion invariably shines through. And so I’m disproportionately excited when, during a Twitter exchange, I’m told ‘In the second track, about half way through some kind of beat emerges and if you listen all the way through it’s a really great moment, but I just like the sound, distorted guitar and drums – but dismantled.’ And I get it. sometimes -often – the ‘ow!’ of a rack lies in a fleeting transitional moment, where something = often something random or incidental – happens. You notice it. And once you’ve noticed it, you can’t unnoticed it. But it something special and sweet and it’s a ‘moment’. Your moment, a personal insight and intersection between creation and reception. And it becomes everything, the moment on which the entire piece hangs and pivots from good to magical.

And so I’m on the edge of my increasingly-worn suede-covered chair, which I’ve sat in to write reviews for the best part of a decade now, squinting in the darkness at the screen as erratic, irregular beats clatter and clank and feedback screeches, howls and whistles among echoing unevenness. And ‘dismantled’ is the word. It’s spectacularly disjointed, difficult in the most glorious of ways.

Where is this all going? It’s a clash of experimentalism, avant-garde and jazz without the groove, a messy exploration of sonic incongruity, rich in atmosphere and angularity. It meanders, thumping and bumping and squawking and screeching… and then suddenly, there it is, crashing in around the nine-minute mark. A dolorous bass booms in and the drumming picks up and it’s like Filth-era Swans for a moment as things get frenetic and the sound rapidly descends into a distorted mess of speaker overload.

It’s the crushing, headache-inducing unprettiness that’s precisely the appeal: Hexes may not be remotely political or even engaged in anything about anything, existing in its own microcosmic sphere, but it’s an ugly album for ugly times. It helps release the pain.

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Left Limbs - Hexes

Wonkystuff

What do Neuschlafen do? The York / Leeds collective which features member of myriad other bands and projects seem to exist more in the ether and in theory than as a tangible entity, despite the existence of a handful of recordings, most of which capture live improvisations in collaboration with other artists.

It’s been some time since the trio, comprising John Tuffen (guitar, synthesiser, vocals), Ash Sagar (bass, percussion, synthesiser, vocals) and Jason Wilson (drums, percussion, synthesiser) combined forces to release anything ‘proper’, although What We Do – a rehearsal room recording committee to (virtual) tape on a Tascam DR07-mkII (with no overdubs) at House Of Mook, Leeds on March 24th, 2019 adheres to their improvised, zero-budget, DIY ethos to the letter. Some of the sound is a little muffled and muddy, and the balance isn’t quite what studio ix would aim for, but it does capture the band’s essence and approach a vast expanse, before

With the exception of the twenty-five second ‘Breath #1’ the eight pieces here are all long-form explorations that sit toward the ten-minute mark. The first, ‘The Set-Up’ could be a literal rendition of its title and is more f a soundcheck than a song, with a wild crash and slash of cymbal mayhem and frenetic jazz percussion over a gloopy, strolling bass.

‘A Slow Hand’, with its wandering, repetitive motifs, has echoes of latter-day Earth and conjures a spaced-out-desert rock / folk hybrid played under sedation. It meanders along, before the playing becomes quieter, and it finally sort of peters out. And yet it doesn’t feel remotely disappointing, because it sounds somehow intentional.

The tracks tend to follow a similar flow in fundamental terms: the drums plod along with frequent and explosive, unpredictable fills punctuating the rhythmic line while the bass wanders around casually while returning to its root motif by way of an anchor just when things start to look like the structure is losing shape and the guitar lays down layers of abstraction and textured atmospherics rather than affecting any semblance of melody or tune.

The title track is a definite standout: landing at around the albums mid-point, it steps up the tempo and goes straight into a chunky jazz-tinged krautrock groove. It’s the rhythm section that dominates, while synths waft and ripple and heavily echoed guitar rings out crisp and clean but at a distance. And whereas the other pieces tend to drift, ‘What We Do’ drives and maintain a linear, forward-facing trajectory as it builds through successive slow-burning crescendos.

It’s the percussion that comes to the fore on the closing tryptic, with the 15-minute ‘Divisions’ constructed around a relentless rhythm around which pulsating synths grind and drone in way that calls to mind Suicide’s debut. Somewhere, maybe about halfway through, when the drums have hit an optimal thump and the cymbals are crashing all over, the bass boosts into an approximation of Joy Division’s ‘Isolation’, while monotone vocals, the words inaudible, drone away in the background as the instrumentation stretches out into a vast expanse, before the final cut, ‘to the end’ breaks loose with a thunderous clatter of freeform percussion and sprightly bass that bounds around freely and fluidly to conclude a set that’s simultaneously tense and mellow, an amalgamation of so many disparate elements that renders it difficult to place. And that’s all the more reason to rate this effort, that broadly sits in the brackets of avant-garde, experimental, jazz, and even post-rock and math-rock, albeit at their most minimal and most deconstructed. And that is what they do.

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Neuschlafen – What we do