Posts Tagged ‘krautrock’

Everyday Life Recordings – 30th November 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

“We went into the studio with a couple of songs to record an EP, and we ended up with an album-length EP. We like to just let things happen and for songs to mostly write themselves. It’s a case of mucking around and seeing what feels right and what doesn’t. We say it all the time, but it’s important to note – we don’t intend anything. We don’t feel like ‘artists’ with grand statements to make.” So London-based ‘anti-music’ collective Moderate Rebels say of their second album, Shared Values – proving they’re fairly strongly anti-promotion, too.

Perhaps their lack of giving a shit, their lack of pretence, their self-effacing rejection of artistry is key to what makes Moderate Rebels true artists. It’s in this self-imposed distancing, even more than in their pursuit of repetitious, off-kilter kraut-influenced indie that Moderate Rebels really betray the influence of The Fall. You very much get the impression that if they had a hit they’d immediately bury further underground just to be bloody-minded.

‘The Value of Shares’ kicks it all off with a motoric drum machine – vintage, primitive, muddy and half-buried in the mix – and a chugging, wonky guitar that becomes increasingly swathed in flange and as they plug away at one chord and one line on and on and on, it gets more messy.

‘Stranded in Brazil’ is languid and magnificently sloppy in that early Pavement way, while ‘Eye in the Sky’ pitches a damning picture of austerity, privatisation and the whole morass of economic shit of 2018 against a ramshackle three-chord groove. There’s no shortage of those, with singe cuts ‘I Love Today’ and ‘Faith & Science’ being not so much standout tracks as prime examples of Moderate Rebels’ capacity to push a template to the max and achieve optimum effect.

‘Who will save me from my government?’ they ask – repeatedly – on closer ‘Have to Save Myself’, before answering with the song’s title. Repeatedly. It might not be a grand statement, but in a simple couplet they’ve captured a certain vital essence of the now. The answer encapsulates the culture of privatisation and absolute neoliberalist capitalism. Fuck you: save yourself or die. And in its absolute reduction to the repetition of just two lines, it also reminds us of May’s empty mantras and the soundbite media that dominates every aspect of our lives.

The structure of the album – essentially alternating spaced-out, meandering psychey efforts with straight-ahead, thumping Krauty rockers – swiftly emerges, and if, as a formula, it’s far from subtle, it’s no detraction, just as the fact that Shared Values sounds very like its predecessor, 2017’s The Sound Of Security, with its atonal multi-vocal disharmonies and sparse, repetitive song structures and lyrics, whereby two lines and three chords are stretched past the four-minute mark. And yet it’s not for a single second remotely tedious – and I say that completely without sarcasm, because they’ve totally nailed the trick whereby an infinite sonic loop feels like a kaleidoscopic tunnel that pulls the listener ever forwards despite being rooted to the spot. All of which is to say, it may not be a huge leap but then, if didn’t need to be. In the canon of wonky Kraut-rock, Shared Values is every bit as welcome and necessary as The Sound Of Security. Here’s hoping they continue to release an album a year for the next 40 years, and that they all sound like this. Meanwhile, it’s enough to play the two albums they’ve got out back-to-back and on a constant loop.

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Moderate Rebels - Shared

Alrealon Music – ALRN083 – 20th April 2018

James Wells

The title of Anita Loos’ 1925 novel and the 1953 film starring Marilyn Monroe may have passed into general acceptance, but if gentlemen prefer blondes, I personally prefer brunettes myself. Make of that what you will, but as such, a house of blondes has limited appeal ordinarily, although on hearing this, I’m inclined to make an exception. Time Trip is a varied and expansive electronic-led work which forges expansive spaces with nebulous synths and insistent beats.

‘Discovery #1’ builds ambient eddies of sound around a droning organ synth atop a motoric groove, and there are infinite nods to the likes of Kraftwerk and Tangerine Dream here, as undulation, oscillating synth repetitions bibble and tweet over long, undulating synth drones and insistent, repetitive beats.

There’s some droning, modular crackle and fizz to the yawning oscillations of ‘Mean Solar Time’, and the overall sensation of Time Trip is one of reaching back. It plucks flickers from shoegaze and ambience as well as the origins of electronica, positioning itself within a slow-arcing trajectory without defining its place in concrete terms.

This is music that billows, ripples, throbs and pulses, and is content to loiter on the peripheries of the focus-zone. The beats flicker and click, pitter and patter, while the synths glister and gleam, twisting in flange-soaked zero-gravity. It all feels very familiar, but at the same time, it’s rather nice.

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House of Blondes – Time Trip

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

Everyday Life Recordings – 8th December 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

They’re described as ‘motorik-punk outsiders’. Something about those three words grabbed me. Individually, they’re words I read several times a day in reference to bands being thrust in y direction for a critical appraisal. The world of music PR and criticism – not that many critics seem to be especially critical these days – is awash with cliché. And cliché begets cliché: no-one’s interested in inventing the next big thing: it’s far safer all round to recreate the last big thing in an infinite loop of regression. Punk never died, it just got diluted and turned into guitar-pop for teens too sappy to handle anything heavy. But when did the Krautrock revival begin? When The Fall emerged with their Can-influenced repetitious racket in the second half of the 70s, acts like PiL and Joy Division may have cited leading exponents Can and Kraftwerk as a touchstone, but few really embraced the now-ubiquitous ‘Apache beat’ innovated by Neu! And it is ubiquitous, and has been for some years now.

Still, few punk bands of any strain incorporate relentless, repetitive 4/4 rhythms in an overtly Krautrock way. Moderate Rebels, however, have really made this their signature (if you’ll pardon the pun). Not that they’re ‘punk’ in the sense it’s commonly perceived, nor in any of its contemporary revisions: Moderate Rebels have very much taken the spirit of The Fall as their template, and having set the template, they work the absolute fuck out of it over the course of the thirteen tracks on this, their debut album.

There’s certainly something Fall circa Bend Sinister or Frenz Experiment about the chugging ‘Extraordinary’ with its drawling, monotone an almost off-key multiple vocals, repetitious lyrics and endlessly looping chord sequence and beat. It should be as tedious as hell, but the longer it stretches out, the more it drags you in, and it’s a killer earworm. The only criticism is that it simply isn’t long enough. It’s a trick they repeat on a number of occasions, with guitars that jangle and scrape at skewed angles over strolling basslines and pulsing synths. And all the while, the rhythms hold steady, mid-tempo, stomping along with minimal fills. These aren’t songs that follow verse / chorus structures, evolve, build, or ‘go’ anywhere. The effect is simply cumulative. And that’s only amplified over the album’s duration: dipping in’s fine, but it’s best played as a whole, and better still, on repeat for a full afternoon, to achieve optimal enjoyment and appreciation.

Moderate Rebels are by no means one-trick ponies, though, and there is more to The Sound of Security than calculated monotony and the ploughing of sonic furrows that dig into the psyche by virtue of sheer tenacity.

There are pieces which work spacious atmospherics, with sputtering vintage drum machines bursting through elongated e-bow drones and rippling piano. Elsewhere, the laid-back and loose ‘Waiting for the Water to Clear’, and the slacker country of ‘I’m Feeling the Deep State’ showcase a more indie, Pavement-y vibe.

But mostly, it’s about plugging away, chugging and thumping. The reverb. The repetition. And the repetition. And not to forget the repetition. There is no such thing as too much of a good thing.

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Moderate Rebels – The Sound of Security

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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dark-horses-XIII-artwork WEB

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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GZH79-Baker-Goff-Harris-Noplace-Digital-Sleeve

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.