Posts Tagged ‘krautrock’

Christopher Nosnibor

My appreciation of Man of Moon is well-documented: so well so, in fact, that a link to my review of their last show in Leeds, where they supported The Twilight Sad at The Brudenell; featured in their sponsored ad for tonight, which is bang in the middle of the UK leg of a significant European tour, that also coincides with independent venue week.

Oporto isn’t a venue I visit often, other than when it’s Live at Leeds, but I have fond memories of thrashing a few chords at the chaotic end of an Arrows of Love gig here some years ago, and the fact it’s still going and housing shows like this is cause for celebration.

Touring the UK not once, but twice with the Sad has served them well, in many ways: they’ve reached a bigger audience, their songwriting has evolved remarkably, and they’ve followed the lead in inviting artists they believe in to be their touring support.

And so it is that Wuh Oh – the musical project of fellow Scot Peter Ferguson – opens tonight’s show with some thumping electronica: he’s dressed in a superhero cloak and has a bionic arm, and it’s all delivered with high theatre and elements of interpretive dance.

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Wuh Oh

There’s a lot going on, with deep, quivering bass and monster percussion driving it all. Sampled vocals, heavily processed feature prominently in a set of all-out euphoric dance. It’s as commercial as it gets in a club context and this is never going to be to my taste musically. But the execution is outstanding, and besides, it takes some serious guts to pull this kind of DJ / mime karaoke shit off, and it’s a stunning performance with all the energy.

As they did at the Brudenell in October, Man of Moon om take the stage to Suicide’s ‘Ghostrider’, and they’re straight in with driving cyclical chords and propellant drumming on ‘Sign’, before debut single ‘The Road’ from back in 2015 goes full motorik psych.

Despite being only two in number, the sound is full and by no means lacking in depth, with the guitar signal split between a pair of two-by-twelve-inch amps, with the speakers placed facing back to the rear of the stage, resulting in the majority of the sound coming from the PA rather than a blast of backline.

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Man of Moon

The set isn’t much different from their last visit, and is primarily constructed with material from their forthcoming album, but they’re tighter and more solid than ever, and the new songs have had time to bed in and take some proper road-testing.

‘Ride the Wave’ brings some thunderous bass, hefty vocal reverb and an insistent rhythm, and elsewhere. samples drift in by way of an intro, and there’s sonorous sequenced bas that churns the guts and an abundance of spaciously atmospheric guitars. ‘Rust’ brings classic vintage 80s electro with heavy Cure filtered through Twilight Sad influence with smoggy guitars and all the emotion. Dynamic and layered, it reaches the parts other songs can’t reach. And it’s this emotional intensity and increasing maturity that’s one of the most striking things about Man of Moon now in contrast to Man of Moon just 18 months ago.

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Man of Moon

‘Skin’, the penultimate track and which featured on the Chemicals EP is a clear standout: while the studio version is smoothed out and leans toward Depeche Mode, live it’s a sharp, tense, uptempo groove and with a massive nagging bass line carry hints of Placebo, and the only criticism is that it could never be long enough. Throbbing dance grooves and cowbell drive closer ‘Stranger’, which threatens to veer off on an extended ace-rock workout, but instead, stops short leaving us wanting more. The album can’t land soon enough.

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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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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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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