Posts Tagged ‘Joy Division’

Cardiff electronic producer Conformist and gloom wave duo H O R S E S. ‘Heddiw’ ( ‘Today’ in English) collaborate for a collision of electronica and ominous post punk,  on a inventive framework of crunching beats and blips, haunted synth samples  and infused with the ominous vocals of duo H O R S E S, that bare more than a passing resemblance to Joy Division. A collaboration forged in the depths of lockdown, this haunting and bracing release is just a teaser of what’s to come in 2023.

Conformist says of the collaboration, it’s “a project that began by exchanging audio files between myself and H O R S E S on WhatsApp during the depths of Covid lockdown; I’m really pleased we can finally get this track out.  Vocals are by H O R S E S and production is by myself.  Hopefully this is just the beginning; we’re looking to follow up Heddiw in 2023 with a bunch of new ideas.”

Listen to ‘Heddiw’  here:

Conformist is one of the most respected names on the Electronic music scene in Wales, with early demos immediately catching the attention of Steve Lamacq, Huw Stephens, John Kennedy and Eddy Temple Morris.

Subsequent Conformist albums "Paid To Fake It" (2013) and "Lifestyle Bible" (2016) earned lavish praise:

"Paid To Fake It" is the sort of record that will take your breath away…bloody brilliant" The 405

"A musically kaleidoscopic head f***…brilliant" Louder Than War

"a head-spinning deluge of audacious beats and samples…staggering" Wales Online

Conformists’ production work is distinguished and full of unique character; staying leftfield but fresh and ahead of others; meticulous, dense and layered, revealing hidden detail with every listen – taking inspiration from Public Enemy’s Bomb Squad and cut n’ paste pioneers Coldcut, Steinski and The Dust Brothers to name a few.

Purveyors of dark hearted electronic music and inventors of the Gloom Wave genre, H O R S E S are formed by two gentlemen from a southeasterly part of Wales.

Casting a longing gaze on early 70s German electronica, mournful vocals escorted gently by cold beats and balmy synths evoke a brutalist image of Berlin, as the melodies wash between the brash concrete structures of your mind.

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25th March 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

For the uninitiated, JW Paris is a band, rather than a person, and a band who’ve been described by 6Music’s Chris Hawkins as sounding like Joy Division.

It was around fifteen years ago when there was a huge buzz around emerging acts Interpol and Editors where all the hype was that they ‘sound like Joy Division’, and I rushed to check them out, and while I immediately loved both bands, my first reaction was ‘no, they don’t really.’ Yes, baritone vocals and post-punk guitars, throbbing bass… the elements were there, the influence was clear… but neither band sounded like Joy Division. But then, such is the length and darkness of the shadow cast by Joy Division, comparisons are invariably likely to build unrealistic expectations.

So I don’t expect ‘Electric Candle Light’, the fourth single from the ‘90’s grunge and Britpop inspired three-piece’ to sound like Joy Division – which is perhaps as well, because it doesn’t. But I’m not disappointed, and there’s certainly a Manchester vibe about them, despite their London base.

‘Electric Candle Light’ is a ramshackle lo-fi chunk of shaking rockabilly post-punk with a raucous lead guitar line that needles its way over a loose swaggering rhythm and has some catchy backing vocals zooming around in the mix.

‘Are you / see thru?’ Danny Collins questions, sounding more Mark E Smith than Ian Curtis, although the overall effect is a collision of The Fall and The Dandy Warhols. forging a zesty, spirited tune with bags of energy. Woohoo indeed.

JWParis _5 by c24photography

Pic by c24photpgraphy

Ghosts Of Torrez released their first single (The Return) during the second lockdown in 2021 to critical acclaim and the follow up ‘Closer’ following later in that year.

In 2022 the band will release their debut LP and have already started taking their cinematic style, psychedelic, electro-folk to the live arena (more live dates TBC).

Their new single ‘The Wailing’ is due to be released on the 11th February on all streaming services, followed by a limited free, Flex-Disc release in early March.

‘The Wailing’ is accompanied by a Manga style video, “The Legend of Billy The Whale” (The Wailing/Whaling – who doesn’t love a play on words), which depicts the desperation of a broken, Captain Ahab type figure, vengefully taking on the beast he holds responsible for the death of his loved ones.

Taking their lead from bands such as Explosions in the Sky, Joy Division, Sigur Ros and Mogwai, GOT build their songs from soft, slow beginnings into cinematic style wonders.

Watch the video here:

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10th December 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Sense of Scenery first came to my attention way back in 2009 with the release of The Disaster of Imagination which landed with me for review. I fucking loved it, and still love it now: it’s an album that’s stuck with me, and still gets regular play now, although it carries a certain weight of nostalgia now as it comes bearing memories of past, perhaps simpler times, and it also reminds me of people and places, and how things have changed.

But then, it always hit me with a certain level of emotional resonance, there was just something about it.

Sense of Scenery have been slow in their subsequent output: an EP in 2012, a remix EP the following year, and an instrumental single in 2017 has ben the sum of the output prior to the emergence of ‘Through the Walls’ as a single in August as a taster for an upcoming album. And now there’s this, a second single and accompanying B-side.

SOS come out swaggering with bravado about this one, claiming it to be ‘Like a direct injection of Viagra into the flaccid, shriveled wiener of Rock’. Which is pretty fucking bold, however you look at it.

It arrives on a wibbly wave of organ with some warping tape stretches, and a crisp metronomic drum sound, and while it’s immediately apparent that their style is unchanged in its post-punk leanings, it is very much evolved. Sean Douglas’ compositions still revolve around cyclical chord repetitions and choruses that step up the vocals and pack a mean hook, but things are altogether slicker, especially the production.

The drums are bordering on the mechanical, and there’s a tightness and smoothness about the overall sound that brings polish, but more than that, it brings a sense of paranoia and heightened tension. B-side ‘Smokescreen’ really brings this all to the fore, bordering on dance, especially with its blooping synth line, but it sounds like the soundtrack to an 80s car chase sequence, and it’s dynamic and exciting.

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4th August 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

In the ever-expanding world of microgenres based on hybrids and crossovers, Montreal-based trio Boar God may be onto something as close to unique as you could imagine, describing their style as drone-punk. That said, drone takes many forms, ranging from the elongated notes that tend to feature in electronic works, to the dirgy, doom sustain of Sunn O)), with the kind of Psychedelic drone of The Black Angels in between.

Boar God’s sound belongs to none of these areas, and as such, does stand apart as different. The EP’s four tracks all sit around the six-minute mark, and blend driving alt-rock with a dash of shoegaze, and amp it all up with a spiky edge that’s as much post-punk as punk, but then I’d always say it’s the attitude that counts more than the sound in defining what’s punk.

Echoed tremolo tones shimmer like a heat-haze around guitars that scratch like sandpaper on the intro to ‘Life Eternal’. It’s a long, gradual build. The tempo quickens as the bass begins to run, faster and faster, the guitars chiming and swirling before everything breaks into a punchy clamour of everything, with Eric Bent’s vocals adding to the urgency. If it’s reminiscent of anything that immediately springs to mind, it’s Trail of Dead.

‘Azrael in Crisis’ goes all-out for the epic, with atmospheric synths swirling and wafting in the background, but still remains tightly-structured and punchy and dominated by a gritty guitar and booming bass. The energy is tempered by a chill, a bleakness, reminiscent of early Joy Division (think the outtakes that appeared on Still). The production is murky, and this is actually a good thing, as its low-budget, unpolished feel gives it an immediacy as well as replicating the late 70s’ / early 80s 8-track recording sound.

The pace and the angst are amped up on ‘The World Set Free’, a pounding amalgamation of Killing Joke and Red Lorry tallow Lorry, and again, it’s the thick, floor-shaking bass that defines and dominates the sound. Things take a twist for the gothic around two-thirds in, and as the fractal guitars glisten, the song acquires a dream-like quality.

Everything comes together at once on the closer, ‘The Tar Pits’, which locks into a motoric groove and drives it home with a searing guitar break and shrieking strains of feedback.

I know I’m a complete sucker for this kind of new-wave stuff, but as dark, angry, claustrophobic and steely-grey musings on loss go, Boar God bring a rare intensity on Near Extinction.

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2nd December 2019

On its release in 2008, the second album by New Zealanders Die! Die! Die! received critical acclaim from the NME and The Guardian here in the UK. But the artwork wasn’t quite as intended, and, well, there’s always room for improvement with a remastering in hindsight. This version comes fully remastered courtesy of original engineer and co-producer Kevin McMahon (Swans, Fat White Family) and with the artwork restored to its full glory, and emerging just a few months after their new EP, it’s seems like Die! Die! Die! are at not so much at a crossroads, but a point of reappraisal while entering a renaissance period.

I reckon I have fair ears and am capable of a fairly obsessive attention to detail when it comes to it – although it’s easier to be obsessive when your listening is limited to a narrow range of bands and albums. Nowadays, I rarely get to listen to albums more than a couple of times, and having – shamefully – not heard the original release, I’m not in a position to explore the details that differentiate this from the original. But I do have ears, and am in a position to consider how a 12-year-old album stands up now.

As a set, in terms of production and mix, Promises Promises pitches the rhythm section very much to the fore, which apparently was ‘partly due to the influence of new bassist Lachlan Anderson, but also because a broken hand limited Wilson’s guitar-playing’ if Wikipedia is accurate. What this achieves is a real solidity of sound, and imbues the songs with a particular sturdiness.

The album is very much geared to uptempo, high octane punky, shouty thrashabouts that are dispensed in two or three frenetic minutes, but elsewhere, there are a number of more considered songs that show – beneath the fuzz and crashing cymbals – a degree of craft in the compositions, despite the fundamentally primitive arrangements.

‘Britomart Sunset’ nicks the bassline to Joy Division’s ‘Isolation’ and whacks up the tempo and steers it back into the driving dark punk territory of JD’s Warsaw years, and it’s killer. There is absolutely nothing more exhalating that a thumping bass groove placed front and centre. ‘Whitehorses’ is a standout with its mechanised, motoric drumming which thumps away as the rest of the band push away at a couple of chords with remarkable patience. The again, the title track lays sinewy guitars interweaving over a driving bass and powerhouse percussion, a collision of frenzied punk and icy new wave paranoia to create a perfect tension.

Promises Promises – reissued, remastered, whatever – is simply a corking album, and if its being remastered and reissued gives it a new lease of life, then it’s all to the good.

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Buzzhowl Records – 18th October 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

What came first, the music or the mindset? I’m going to put it down to how some of us – myself included – are wired, and will forever be drawn to that tense, dark sound that came out of the late 70s and early 80s that was a reaction to – and against – everything that was happening at the time. Just as punk was a reaction to – and rebellion against – prog and the beigeness of the times, so post -punk and its various strains, including (dare I whisper it?) goth harnessed the frustration and the dejection that was a product of the first years under Thatcher and the political climate of the second cold war and rendered it in a more articulate, and perhaps more musically resonant way (because let’s face it, 90% of so-called punk bands were just playing pub rock with the amps up).

To revisit briefly an observation I’ve made variously in recent years, these are bleak, bleak times, and the future is well out of hand. The post-punk renaissance that began around 2004 with the emergence of Editors and Interpol grew from an underground which was there long before, but now it’s in full spate. Reading’s Typical Hunks fully embrace all of this as a guitar bass duo backed by a drum machine.

The guitar on ‘Snakebit’ is spindly, reverb-heavy, weaving one of those tense post-punk guitar-lines that’s pure Joy Division, and it snakes its way around a tight, insistent bass that booms and drives along with the insistence of the grooves Craig Adams laid down to define the sound of The Sisters of Mercy in the early years. That in turn is wenled to thumping beat that’s a distillation of all things Yorkshire circa 1983-4. It’s all in the programming: nothing fancy, no attempt to make it sound like an actual drummer, no flash fills or flourishes, just a hammering repetition and a snare sound that’ll slice the top off your head. Those Boss Dr Rhythm machines really are unbeatable. The vocals are tense, paranoid, and channel disaffection.

Strains of feedback and a hesitant bass hover before everything locks in around another relentless rhythm on ‘Unravelling’ with elements of March Violets, Red Lorry Yellow Lorry, and early Danse Society all spun into a solid block of discomfort. Vintage in its roots yet ultimately providing the soundtrack of the zeitgeist, this is a cracking Aside / B-side combo housed in a suitably barren sleeve, that showcases Typical Hunks at their strongest and most focused yet.

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Front & Follow – 15th November 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

Front and Follow is a label that’s carved a special niche in the cassette release corner of the industry, and has, for those in the know, become a trademark of quality. But sustaining such consistency – or even anything – as a one-man operation is hard work, and often with little reward. As such, while I was sad to learn they’re taking a break, they’re signing off with an incredibly strong release, courtesy of Ekoplekz, who is also embarking on an indefinite break.

The album’s pitched as ‘drawing parallels between present day Britain and that of the turn of the 80s, Ekoplekz looks back to that era’s industrial and post-punk soundtrack for inspiration,’ and the press release continues: ‘In a land increasingly brutalized by austerity and divided by nationalism, the tensions that informed some of the post-punk era’s most important works (Red Mecca, Unknown Pleasures, Metal Box) haunt this collection of bleak postcards from the present’. The present is indeed bleak, unless, of course, you perhaps run a hedge fund with billions backing a no-deal Brexit or you’re a major corporation invested in climate change denial or pharmaceuticals. But then, if you’re in that bracket, you’re probably on your private jet grabbing bitches by the pussy and going gammon about these smelly hippy protestors or somesuch. For the rest of us these ae dark times that require a dark soundtrack, and as I’ve said elsewhere, it’s no surprise that we’re experiencing a different kind of 80s revival at the moment. Brutal and divided pretty much sum up both UK and US politics and cultures , as well as further afield. Who actually feels safe on the street? Who actually feels safe as a career artist? Who isn’t remotely concerned, doesn’t feel concerned, panicked, anxietised? We don’t need Duran Duran replicas like The Bravery, and even Editors and Interpol’s take on post-punk feels lightweight in the face of the crises that define the current – and so Ekoplekz plunge deep back to the late 70s source to dredge real darkness and despondency here, and in doing so, In Search of the Third Mantra soundtracks the present – bleak as it is.

With In Search of the Third Mantra, Ekoplekz sets his spheres of reference out early, with ‘High Rise Dub’ carrying Ballardian connotations and ‘K-Punk’ taking its title from the seminal blog of the early noughties by the late Mark Fisher, to whom the album is dedicated. This, then, without wanting to sound elitist, is no mindless replication of an array of retro tropes, but a considered assimilation of myriad sources, distilled into something wilfully challenging. We would expect nothing less of K Craig, filmmaker and front man of currently-resting Last Harbour. This is quite a departure, but works in context: while we don’t get brooding vocals and arch-gothic sonic structures, there’s a brooding nihilism that rumbles at the core of In Search of the Third Mantra in the same way it lurks so many albums of the period, and a lot has to be credited to the production.

It’s got grooves and danceable beats, but it’s also possessed of a dehumanised detachment, a sense of distancing and dislocation: you’re in the zone and in the space where you’re feeling the distance, the disfunction. The fact that this doesn’t fit, the fact that you don’t fit.

The spartan electronica of the former, with its dubby bass and rhythm that shuffles and clatters conjures a sense of alienation and otherness, while the latter brings things down a notch darker, laser bleeps and eerie vaporous notes hover ominously. ‘Do the Meinhof’ goes full motoric, channelling the insistent industrial grooves of DAF and Cabaret Voltaire into a tense death disco pounder laced with icy synths.

The sonic touchstones are all very much in evidence as the listener is led through a haunting desert of sound, dark, murky, menacing. ‘Accept Nothing’ has hints of The Cure’s Carnage Visors soundtrack, and the atmosphere which permeates all ten compositions is unforgiving and inhospitable.

There’s a degree of linearity to the album’s sequencing, and each track feels sparser, less defined, and with this progression there comes an increasing sense of collapse, of emptiness, and while sonically, the pieces are spacious, the atmosphere is evermore paranoid. One feels as though familiar structures are falling away, disintegrating. By the time we arrive at ‘Heart Addict (In Make Up)’, there’s little left beyond an almost subliminal, stunted dub bass that twitches anxiously alongside a barely perceptible beat, and we’re left, alone, disorientated, and teetering on the precipice just inches from the void.

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Unknown Pleasures Records – 14th February 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

Given the band’s name and that of the label they’re signed to, it’s only fitting that they’re exponents of bleak synth-driven post-punk. Sure enough, as the Italian five-piece’s biography notes, Stefano Bellerba (vocals, guitar), Leonardo Mori (synth), Matteo Luciani (bass), Saverio Paiella (guitar), and Daniele Cruccolini (drums) formed in 2010, and united over their love of Joy Division, The Cure, Nine Inch Nails, and Depeche Mode. The bio adds that ‘their music is also strongly influenced by Bauhaus, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Japan, The Damned, Interpol, Suicide, CSI, CCCP, and Massimo Volume.’

One of my favourite poems of all time is Philip Larkin’s ‘This be the Verse’, and the fact they put it to music for single release in the summer of 2017 -and made a decent job of it – got me on-side ahead of the new album.

The album in question, Santa Sangre is a lot more guitar-orientated and edgier: while the synths are still very much in the mix, the sound is dominated by brittle, metallic-edged guitars drenched in reverb and flanged hard. It’s the sound of 1982-1985. I’d be hesitant to use the term ‘gothic’ or any variant, despite the snaking atmospherics of tracks like ‘Rejoice’, with its strolling bassline and vocals all but lost in an ocean of echo, which allude to the likes of The Danse Society and acts of similar vintage.

I make no apologies for being an old goth (although I’m not nearly old enough to be a proper old goth, having been born in 1975 and only discovered alternative music in any form in 1986/7). Similarly, I make no apologies for not being a purist, or for my knowledge of second-wave and beyond bands being limited. There’s so much else out there in the musical sphere. Yet, at the tail end of the year, feeling weary and wintery and withdrawn, I find myself here – as I did late last year, and the year before – with a crop of albums which betray gothier leanings which leap out as among the strongest and most compelling releases I’ve received all year.

Lead single, ‘Circle’ was a blast of buzzing bass and squalling guitars, with elements of The Jesus and Mary Chain and A Place to Bury Strangers, pitched with chilly synths and vocals with a grippingly desperate edge. It’s placed up front in the track listing, and serves the purpose of demanding the attention with its urgency and serrated edges.

Snaking basslines, choppy guitars and tribal drumming abound, but there’s a pop edge to a number of the songs: ‘Blown Away’ melds fractal guitars to an insistent flanged bassline that’s as pure Cure as the synths which eddy at a respectful distance in the background. There’s a certain bounce – and even catchiness – to the richly-layered shoegaze-goth of ‘For Every Flaw’.

When they do lugubrious, it’s as sparse and bleak as anything on Faith, and when they do slow-build, they really go for delayed gratification, forging a dense atmosphere along the way.

Santa Sangre is taut, tense and crackles with dark energy.

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Japan Suicide - Santa Sangre (cover)