Posts Tagged ‘krautrock’

Tricky Spirits Records – 24th November 2017

Having just been listening to Safer with the Wolves… by Pete International Airport (aka Peter Holmström of the Dandy Warhols), which features Lisa Elle of Dark Horses and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club’s Robert Levon Been, it seems somewhat serendipitous that the new single by Dark Horses should be the next item I clock in my inbox. And I’m very glad it is.

Much as I dig Holmström’s effort, Dark Horses’ comeback track has just so much more bite, its glistening motoric groove grabbing the listener in the first few seconds.

It’s pitched as being ‘underpinned by an insistent, pulsing synthesizer,’ while ‘singer Lisa Elle paints a ghostly dystopian scene in which every one of us is broken down into data, our individuality and expression stripped back to numbers and algorithms’.

It’s all in the delivery, of course. The vintage synth throb and spiralling cascade of sweeping fx, paired with the guitars set to stun and blank monotone vocals, collide retro-futurism and contemporary postmodern living to forge a thrilling hybrid.

A nagging four-chord riff kicks in three-quarters of the way through and nags the fuck out of the senses to the end. I could easily bleat on about crafting and construction, but is anyone really interested? Bottom line is that it’s a cracking tune.

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Gizeh Records – 10th November 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

This is certainly quite the collaborative lineup, featuring as it does Aidan Baker (Nadja / Caudal / B/B/S/), Simon Goff (Molecular, Bee & Flower), and Thor Harris (Swans, Shearwater, Thor & Friends). What renders Noplace all the more impressive is that it’s an improvised work, recorded in a single day.

As the press release recounts, ‘having known each other for a number of years and previously contributed to one another’s recordings this trio finally came together as a whole on May 7th 2017 at Redrum Studios in Berlin. In a short, improvised session of just a few hours they set about laying down as much material as possible which was then subsequently edited and re-worked (without overdubs) to form this album.’ And the results are quite something, and I very quickly manage to put aside the thought that the cover art reminds me of the film Up, minus the balloons.

Rippling strings quaver over softly swelling undercurrents while rolling percussion provides a subtle, unobtrusive rhythm as ‘Noplace I’ introduces the album before creeping into the darkness f counterpart piece ‘Noplace II’. And yet it’s very much only the beginning: having been moulded post-recording, the album’s seven individual pieces are structured and sequenced so as to lead the listener on an immersive journey which gradually and subtly moves from one place to entirely another.

‘Red Robin’ builds a pulsating, looping groove overlaid with creeping stealth. Its repetitious motif may owe something to the hypnotic cyclical forms of Swans, but its trance-inducing sonic sprawl also alludes to a hypnogogic reimagining of dance music – and this filters into the spacious ‘Noplace III’, which draws together expansive ambience and, in the distance, shuffling, tranced-out beats, to create something that stands in strange, murky Krautrock / dance territory. Yes, it sounds electronic. Yes, it sounds unique, but at the same time, yes, it sounds familiar in terms of the individual genre tropes. It’s ‘place’ is precisely ‘noplace,’ in that it belongs nowhere specific, yet appeals on many different levels and in many different ways.

Interweaving motifs continue to feature in ‘Tin Chapel,’, but the rhythm here is much more prominent, a weighty four-four bass/snare beat driving a linear road through the sweeping, strings that glide from mournful to tense. The locked-in psyche-hued desert rock bass groove pushes the piece forwards, while at the same time holding it firmly in one place. In turn, it tapers into the bleak, murky expanse that is ‘Northplace’.

The final composition, ‘Nighplace’, brings things down and almost full circle as the percussion retreats into the background amidst a wash of elongated drones which ebb and flow softly.

Noplace certainly doesn’t feel improvised, and while it’s remarkably cohesive, as well as possessing a strong sense of structure, it also reveals a remarkable range, both sonically and compositionally. And irrespective of any context, it’s an engaging and immersive aural experience.

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Christopher Nosnibor

This is one of those lineups that has cult appeal written all over it. It’s also wall-to-wall quality. So while The Crescent may not be rammed – it was always going to be challenge to fill a 350-capacity venue in York on a Tuesday night in August with a lineup specialising in experimental and Kratuy workouts – those present are enthusiastic and know they’re in for a treat.

As I absorb Neuschlaufen’s immersive set, I’m increasingly aware of how much they sound – and even look like – so many of the improv-led experimental rock acts from mainland Europe I hear, courtesy of one Berlin-based PR in particular. These bands have substantial but ultimately underground and disparate cult followings, and release their albums on microlabels in batches of numbered editions of 300 or so, and perform in cool but nice venues around Germany and The Netherlands. Neuschlaufen are as good as any of them, and watching the trio manipulate sound – sometimes intuitively, sleekly, and sometimes by using electrical tape to pin keys on a synth down to sustain a note for ten minutes uninterrupted – is a real treat. An extended two-chord workout around the set’s mid-point – and the whole thing is magnificently and intuitively structured – is pinned together with piercing synth and clanging metallic guitar forging serpentine shapes Ash Sagar weaving a strolling six-string bassline. At times they mine a seam that brings together Bauhaus, PiL and The Fall, with shuddering bass grooves underpinning clanging, repetitive guitar-lines which are so angular as to cause flesh wounds.

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Neuschlaufen

It seems that every time I review Soma Crew, I comment on how they’re better with every outing. It’s not just my ears, or forgetfulness: it’s a fact. It’s been a long and slow ascent, but everything about them is totally cohesive, and tonight they spin their hypnotic brand of pulsating psychedelic rock in the tightest, most mesmerising style I’ve yet witnessed. The sound is rich, dense textured, and they’re brighter, clearer, groovier and trippier than ever.

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Soma Crew

Dave Keegan, standing in on bass, does a fantastic job: he holds the rhythm down perfectly with a heavy tone, pinned to Nick Barker’s insistent drumming, and the occasional nifty run for variety. The drumming is a defining feature, and I’m not the only one to note that Nick has, seemingly, one T-shirt and one rhythm. It’s this consistency and his complete lack of drumming ego which places him as one of my all-time drumming heroes.

On ‘Danger Zone’, they amalgamate Joy Division, The Back Angels, and The Doors to forge a unique sonic compound that encapsulates the brilliance of Soma Crew, and closer ‘Celluloid’ builds to a full-throttle sonic attack.

I can barely read a word of the notes I took during Chris Forsyth & The Solar Motel Band’s set, and there aren’t many. I was too busy standing, absorbed, by the trio’s seamless and utterly compelling performance. With elements of psych and prog and 70s rock and out and out rhythm-driven jamming, and songs like ‘The First Ren Minutes of “Cocksucker Blues”’ to groove out on, there’s a lot to get lost in.

They have a simple setup: drums, bass, guitar, a single amp apiece. Nothing fancy. And yes, there are epic guitar solos comparable to Neil Young and Dinosaur Jr (one track even bears more than a passing resemblance to ‘Like a Hurricane’ in its chord sequence, and the emotion Forsyth wrings from those six strings is almost tear-jerking in places). But – and here’s the important point of note – nothing is overdone. However exemplary the musicianship – these guys can’t just play, thy can fucking play – at no point during the set do things ever descend into self-indulgence. This is a major, and extremely rare, feat. But not a bar passes without an ear to structure, and a remembrance of the importance of the audience’s entertainment.

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Chris Forsyth & The Solar Motel Band

At no point to these guys go too far out on a limb, lose the crowd with tangents or indulgence. They’re well-rehearsed and tight as hell, but equally, they’re not so slick as to feel like they’re going through the motions, and this is when wigging out is at its best. Chris Forsyth & The Solar Motel Band define intuition, and play with an understated showmanship that’s something special.

Sub Rosa – 6th March 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

Hey, I’m a sucker for any band who mixes rock, new wave, psyche, kraut, experimental and repetitive music. Consequently, I was sold on the pitch or Babils’ fourth album even before I’d slipped the disc into the player. Reduced to a five-piece following the passing of co-founder Michel Duyuck in November 2014, Ji Ameeto represents the first release of the Brussels-based collective without Duyuck.

The album contains just two tracks, each around the sixteen-and-a-half minute mark. The title track is one of those swirling psych-hued expanses which find layer upon layer of sound emerge, converge and diverge at an infinite array of angles. And all the while, the rhythm section keep on plugging away, thumping out a hypnotic, motoric beat and locked-in bass groove. If my opening sentence reads sarcastically or as being somehow facetious, that’s only partly the case. There is something about long songs that go on and on and on that I find hard to resist. Perhaps it’s an extension of Henri Bergson’s theories on comedy, whereby he suggested that repetition was a key facet of successful comedy, to music that render such heavily repetitious grooves so compelling. Or perhaps it’s the fact there are effectively two songs going on here: the unstinting, relentless rhythm section which hammers on down an unswerving path, countered by everything else, not so much a hotchpotch of incidentals but a succession of fragments and slivers of songs overlaid in top of said rhythm section.

‘C’est la raison pour laquelle nous ne cesserons jamais de recommencer’ throws together a spaced out baggy bassline and shoegaze guitars – and production values – with dark, gothic overtones. Honking horns bleat wildly at incidental junctures, while spiralling guitar breaks rupture from the vast foggy vistas conjured from the swirling sonic depths. At times a cross between The Cure’s Carnage Visors and early Ride, but at the same time altogether more immersive and ‘druggy’ sounding, it’s a disorientating composition which not only celebrates but positively hinges on the contrast between the dissonance and weirdness of the lead lines, and the consistent solidity of the bass and drums as they drive onwards towards the horizon, holding down the same grove for an eternity and more.

 

Babils

25th April 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

National Instruction is Soma Crew’s debut album. This is something of a technicality, as they rebranded shortly after the release of Another Dead Insect in 2015. And while all of the defining features of their previous incarnation remain, Soma Crew, having solidified with their current lineup, can be seen to have made marked progress since then.

The sonic haze which hangs heavy over all of their previous recordings and which defines their live sound is present and correct. On National Instruction, there’s also a wilful raggedness to the performances, with guitars and vocals titling off-kilter every which way, often to quite disorientating effect. It’s also by far the best-realised representation of what Soma Crew are about, showcasing a dense, murky sound, and a climax-centric approach to forging layered songs which plug hard at a single cyclical riff, nailed tight to a simple, repetitive drum pattern. Yet it’s also the work of a band who are evolving, and National Instruction marks a clear progression from their Soma EP release last autumn.

Si Micklethwaite’s vocal style isn’t conventionally tuneful, but then a melodic attenuation is by no means a prerequisite for singing in a rock band. Given the atonal drone elements of Soma Crew’s compositions, which are more focused on creating an atmospheric dissonance than a technically precise, melody-driven musicality, it works, and, bathed in reverb and a kind of fuzzy-edged soft-focus, he sounds more comfortable than on any release he’s featured on thus far.

‘Got It Bad’ features what is probably one of their most overtly catchy choruses to date, with a more clearly defined structure than any previous song – but it’s perfectly offset by a guitar line that heaves off to the left during one of the chord changes which launches said chorus. The nine-minute ‘Pyramids’ finds the band locking into the kind of groove they work the best. A spindly echo-drenched lead guitar wanders, spider-like over a chugging rhythm and spare, motoric beat that typifies their slow-burning brand of Black Angels-influenced psychedelic rock. Elsewhere, ‘Dangerzone’ is tense and angular, with eddying swells of abstract sound and feedback building into a cyclone of immersive noise close to the end. This is something they’ve got a real knack for.

Having heard a fair few of the cuts on Natural Instruction played live, it’s gratifying to observe just how well they’ve replicated the spirit and energy of the live sound on songs like ‘Remote Control’, which carries a shuddering, ramshackle Fall-esque vibe within its jagged two-chord battery. The album’s second eight-minuter, ‘Westworld’ starts of slow, sedate, but simmering: it’s never a case of if it’s going to break, but when, and while maintaining a pedestrian pace, it’s almost halfway through before the drums thud in. And then the guitars get up the volume… and then… and then… By the end, it’s still plodding away but the layers have built up and it’s a big old racket.

There’s something of a trickle toward the tranquil on the last two tracks, with the closer, ‘Maps and Charts’ being a particularly sedate – not to mention accessible indie tune. But rather than being an anti-climax, it reveals newly emerging facets of the bands, perhaps hinting that future releases will see them further extend their range.

 

Soma Crew - National Instruction

Play Loud! Productions – PL063LP

Christopher Nosnibor

Mark E Smith is not Damo Suzuki. Only Damo Suzuki is Damo Suzuki. Damo Suzuki requires no introduction, of course. However, his vast and almost immeasurably influential output seems to exist almost in the ether, his own name and that of CAN being names to conjure with, but perhaps carrying more connotations than actual connection.

Suzuki’ status as an innovator and a one-off requires no comment, either. The fact he’s been going for multiple eternities, and continues to perform sets that are completely off the wall means his reputation remains unharmed, and this release – one more addition to already impressive body of work which essentially stands to define Krautrock – won’t dent that.

As the title suggests, this set was recorded live at Marie-Antoinette, Berlin, Germany, on 24th November 2011. Damo Suzuki was joined on stage by a stellar lineup, consisting of Dirk Dresselhaus (Schneider TM, Angel) on electric baritone guitar and effects; Ilpo Väisänen (Pan Sonic, Angel) on electronics and effects; Michael Beckett (kptmichigan, Super Reverb) on electric guitar and effects; Claas Großzeit (Saal-C) on drums and percussion, and Tomoko Nakasato (Mio, JINN) on dance and electric rake. No, I have no idea what an electric rake is, but on vinyl, each of the album’s half-hour tracks occupies a side of the two-disc set.

Ordinarily, live releases take the best cuts, or the single best night of a tour. Dirk Dresselhaus’ comments which accompany the release suggest that this recording doesn’t necessarily follow that rule, and instead presents an honest account of a singular event: “I find it fairly difficult to say something about how the music in this concert came about, cause we didn’t plan or rehearse anything and hardly were able to hear each other on stage. Wherever it came from, the energy and course of this concert is very much based on group dynamics and an almost telepathic sort of communication, like a swarm of fish. When I mixed the sound later on in the studio I discovered a lot of weird things on the separate tracks: for example Kptmichigan’s guitar signal is changing level for about +/-30 dB once in a while which is a lot and was probably caused by a broken microphone cable. Luckily the fucked up parts made the sound even heavier and more distorted instead of destroying it,” he says.

At times the lack of planning and rehearsal is apparent, but in the main, Live at Marie-Antoinette captures a collective who are capable of a rare musical intuitiveness. And whatever it may have sounded like on stage, and regardless of the occasional stab of feedback and errant extraneous intrusion, the recording captures a tense, atmospheric musical soundscape which transitions across the various parts with a creeping stealth.

To draw attention to any one passage would be to entirely misrepresent the overall arc of the performance. From the tribal chants to the undulating synth-like tones to the slow-building crescendos and the sustained sonic blitzkriegs which absolutely tear through the curtains of sonic decency, each and every aspect of the set is integral to the overall experience, which is built around a series of ebbs and flows, often rising from next to nothing to a whorling tempest quite unexpectedly. And it’s true that the colossal peaks are accentuated by the shuddering volume and crackling distortion they produce. Sometimes, fucked up is good.

This is all part and parcel of the live medium: while the studio affords total control over every aspect of every element of the sound, when playing live, anything can happen. The real test of a band’s capabilities is how they deal with the unexpected eventualities and how they deliver the show to a crowd under adverse circumstances. There is no audience sound on Live at Marie-Antoinette, which means it’s impossible to gauge the audience reaction to the show. But the sound balance suggests the audience were subjected to a punishingly loud and challenging set. It’s probably one of those rare live albums where the recording is more pleasurable than the actual event.

http://playloud.org/archiveandstore/trailers/damosuzuki/trailercode.html

 

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Village Green – 13th January 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

For those who aren’t down with technospeak, a ‘soft error’ is computer language for a faulty occurrence in a digital memory system that changes an instruction in a program or a data value. And so it is that the duo – known simply as Tim and Rupert, both of whom have musical backgrounds in dance music/DJ culture and composition for film, theatre and TV respectively – who make up Soft Error, strove to evoke the idea of happenstance and serendipity in the naming of their collective output.

I’ll not squander space scoffing at the middle-class connotations of a hipster electro duo called Tim and Rupert, and shall instead concentrate on the fact that Mechanism is very much an album born out of experimentalism and improvisation, and balances organisation with random, contemporary with vintage as it folds together modern electronica with classic Krautrock.

While delicate piano notes hang in the air to create a serious, ponderous air at the start of the albums first track, ‘Silberblik’, the introduction of cinematic synths, with tightly modulated oscillations and soaring sweeping expansive notes spreading to forge a richly-coloured panorama, the tone soon changes.

Mechanism demonstrates a preoccupation with contrast and evolution. Gloopy synths bibble and bubble in looping motifs to create a muzzy atmosphere. Synthetic strings sweep and slide over the busy electronic sequences, and it’s this juxtaposition of the (ersaz) organic and mechanical which defines the album’s sound. But Soft Error are by no means content to tie themselves to any one genre. Propelled by a classically 80s drum machine beat, and as such a much sturdier, straight- ahead groove than the album’s other tracks, ‘You Caught Up’ is a post-punk electro stormer with gothy shadows around the corners.

‘Turncoat’ brings some sturdy beats against a monotonous, undulating bass groove, and contrasts with the hypnotic sway of the desert electronica of ‘Motorbath’, which has a smooth spaceyness about it.

Surging, swelling synth abound, building rich layers of sound over interlooping, shivering shimmering rhythmic backdrops, but the tracks ae neatly clipped, trimmed and pinned back to exist within remarkably concise time-frames. And this is good: when a track locks into a grove, sometimes it’s fun to get carried away, but often, it can become tiresome. Soft Error don’t flog a groove indefinitely or push it past the six-minute mark and there’s never a sense that they’re looking to simply fill air here.

That doesn’t mean every track’s a gem: the closer, ‘Everybody Run’s is a bit of a standard, smug analogue-tweaker Krautrock dance effort, but that’s more a criticism of the soft-edged sounds used to render an accessible and rather hipsterish looping motif than the overall shape of the tune. And across the album, Soft Error show they’ve got a knack for decent tunes, as well as for textures and subtle melodies. Smarter than your average, and a whole lot less indulgent.

 

Soft Error