Posts Tagged ‘Limited Edition’

Cruel Nature Records – 29th January 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Talk about an ambitious and epic release: Cruel Nature have really gone all out on this one, packaging four – yes, FOUR!!! – Lush Worker albums ‘brought together on a chunky double cassette’. It follows last year’s packaging of three of the 2019 Lush Worker albums as a single cassette, and says ‘hey, why stop at three albums when we can bundle four?’

I mean, it takes some balls to do obscure music on cassette anyway, but this is next level. But then, Cruel Nature have a track record and a clear understanding of their audience and market, with a long line of killer releases in editions of 100 or less that have all sold out by or shortly after the release date. At the time of writing, copies of this extravaganza of solo work by the bewilderingly prodigious Mike Vest (of, among others, Bong, 11Paranoias, Drunk In Hell, Blown Out, Haikai No Ku, and Melting Hand), released as a run of 75 copies, are already running low.

The two cassettes feature an album on each side, and a total of twelve tracks in all. This compendium picks up where its predecessor left off, in filling some gaps from the creative blow-out that was 2019 with Immunosuppression, originally released online in February 2019.

The four tracks from Immunosuppression, which occupy tape one side one, are remarkably varied, despite being developed around heavily echoed guitar, with the emphasis on ambience and space. ‘Powder Relic’ marks a seismic shift from the slow-burning deserts of feedback with a murky squall noise propelled by a drum machine and welded to a throbbing bass and it’s characterised by that lo-fi compression of bedroom demos recorded on a Walkman of old-school cassette four-track and an ambient condenser mic. Then again, ‘Hb1c’ goes super-ambient, spreading formlessly over some ten and a half minutes and sounding like the universe slowly expanding in real-time.

Next, we explore Preacher originally a digital-only self-release, which appeared in November of 2019. Consisting of a brace of swampy paced-out monsters, it’s led by the twenty-minute glooping murk of ‘Zudan’, Metallic scrapes screed and cascade over ponderous bass stroll before it all goes a bit prog and a bit psych, all at the same time, with wiffling drums and rippling waves of synth coalescing with the bass, which switches from stroll-mode to dirty stun somewhere along the line to forge something vaguely motoric. The echoic guitar trip of ‘Suz’, being nine minutes in duration, feels like but an appendix in comparison.

Cygnus was originally released on 7th January 2020, just five weeks previous to Consort, and comprises a trio of longform explorations in the ten to fifteen-minute range, and the tiles alone are clue enough to their sound: ‘Planetary Transit’, ‘Simultaneous Stellar’, ‘Double Star System’ – ladies and gentlemen, we are floating in space. Although with distant cymbals crashing like gongs of violence across the galaxies and sensing rippling waves through the cosmic expanse of slow synth washes and elongated guitar drones that manage to convey the experience of surveying a slow-drifting nebula from a station floating free from orbit, the experience is more in the trippy domains of Kubrik’s 2001 than anything else. There are moments where the sound is more of a heavy, trudging drone reminiscent of Earth 2, but distant and vague, and with additional extraneous sounds ebbing and flowing.

And so arriving at side four of the cassette we’re presented with Consort, dominated by the two-part ‘Empress’: ‘Part 1’ is a twenty-minute space-age epyllia, a microcosm of all the immersivity epic ambient soundtracks imaginable. With vodka and low lighting levels after an arduous day of day-job and parenting, I begin to nod off at my keyboard, and I’m reminded, as I feel the last vestiges of alertness trickle from my body, just what an effect music can have on both mind and body. I can’t remember the last time I’ve felt this still, this serene. I know it won’t last, either but this is a rare moment, as ‘Empress Part I’ drifts into ‘Part II’, there is a confluence of calm. As the swirling vortex of a drone of a drone collides against a wash of heavily-reverbed guitar and what even sounds like some free jazz sax, but it’s hard to know what’s all in the blender on this dense, simmering sonic tapestry, it’s a different kind of vista that expands and leads the listener toward the horizon.

Dronesome as this epic four-album set is in its leanings, like its predecessor, it highlights the broad range of styles and sounds that are all part of the Lush Worker oeuvre. It’s pleasing to know there’s plenty more to go at, and likely plenty more to come.

AA

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Cruel Nature Records – 28th August 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

It would be a flippant cliché to describe this offering by the insanely prolific Whirling Hall of Knives (this is their fourth release of 2020 and their thirteen full-length album) as an album of two halves, split as it is across two sides of the cassette release – but it would also be a valid assessment of its musical contents, also. For while it is consistently atmospheric and droney throughout, the six tracks, which bleed into one another to create the sensation of two longform tracks (the digital version is even mastered as such) consisting of a number of passages, they each bear a distinct character, if not necessarily form.

With such a daunting back catalogue, it’s difficult to know where to begin both on terms of exploration and comparison, but it’s probably fair to say that being neither as harsh as some efforts, or as ominously oppressive as others, Sabre is representative while siting at the more accessible end of their output spectrum.

These compositions are loose, transitional, and while they do lead the listener on a sonic journey of sorts, it’s meandering and non-linear in its trajectory.

The clattering rhythm that marches in the opening bars of the first track, ‘Laid to Rust’, immediately reminds me of the intro to ‘Breathe’ by Ministry, although perhaps a shade dubbier. But the percussion soon fades out and leaves, not grating metal guitars, but tapering whistles of feedback and drones like damaged woodwind. But this is very much a percussive album, at times verging on experimental dance music… and so in fades ‘Those Tracers’, the lead single, accompanied by a video we’re immensely proud to premiere here at AA. This is very much a work of abstract freeform dance music that bumps along in a vortex bubble.

Side A closes off with the altogether more attacking ‘Gutterpressed’, a gritty industrial grating through which bleak winds howl desolately.

Side B’s three cuts are lower, slower, dronier. Before sliding into a sepulchural reverence, ‘Olde Slice (Edit) is ominous and sparse. When the beats do emerge on ‘Ring Dialog’, they’re swampy and backed off, some indistinguishable robotix vocals echoing into a murky mass. The final track, ‘Barkd’ drift and hovers for so long, but suddenly, from amidst distant chords that reverberate hints of the sparsest, most minimal desert rock , percussion rises and drives away at a heavy beat and pulsating industrial bass throb to conjure an intense and oppressive atmosphere as the album inches toward its finale.

Sabre isn’t easy to categorise, and at times, it’s not that easy to listen to, either. But that’s what makes it.

Preorder Sabre here.

AA

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IHeartNoise – 16th July 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

What am I being sent now? Admittedly, I have some time for IHeartNoise with their championing and general backing – not to mention occasional releasing – of music that most would like file under ‘weird shit.’ As the label remind us, ‘rock music with oddly-tuned guitars, varied rhythms, clouds of dissonance, and bursts of energy wasn’t too hard to come by in the 1990s’.

Howcha Magowcha, the second album by Turkish Delight, originally released in 1988 (and which follows IHeartNoise’s cassette rerelease of their 1996 debut last year), isn’t quite as weird as all that, but it’s hardy accessible or mainstream. In the main, it’s a high-octane, helium-filled punky thrashabout, and really rather fun. And while punk-pop has very clear connotations in contemporary terms, aspects of Howcha Magowcha belong to the time when indie bands like Voodoo Queens and Rosa Mota and Huggy Bear were cranking up the amps and revelling in the juxtaposition of ramshackle punky noise delivered with a pop sensibility. And Howcha Magowcha is bursting with tunes – all delivered with a spiky, angular energy.

The feel is very much of the era. We’re not talking grunge or nu-metal, but are deep in the domains of the weird underground that emerged and occupied the pages of Melody Maker and the NME for a while, and would often be found spun by John Peel. Reference points are likely pointless given this level of obscurity.

Anyway: let’s skip comparisons and get to the music, which is about jolting tempo changes, jarring key switches, contrast between pretty-pretty female vocals with throaty male vocals, as evidenced no more keenly than on ‘Smooth Karate’. ‘Li Cold Vas’ has the jangle of The Wedding Present and blends it with the angularity of The Fall and the obtuse oddness of early Pram, while ‘Sea Quest’ goes Slanted era Pavement with additional full-throttle US 90s noise. ‘Metronome’ creates new levels of angularity, and explores lyrical avenues of abstraction that twist the mundane and really mess with ideas of the ordinary. ‘No Sky’ slows the pace and goes all moody, before it erupts in all directions… extra points for the epic closer, appropriately entitled ‘Close’ that goes from nagging verses to explosive tornadoes of noise by way of choruses and veers all over the place over the course of seven minutes – in contrast to the three-minute blasts of the rest of the album.

There isn’t one song on here that stands out as a single: Howcha Magowcha is very much an album, and a discordant, noisy one at that. There’s no time to settle into any of the songs: mellow moments are torn in half with propulsive drumming and low-slung bass, while the guitars fire off in all directions. It’s music that keeps you on edge, engaged, exhilarated. And however big the 90s revival gets, they’ll never make ‘em quite like this again.

AA

Turkish Delight

Christopher Nosnibor

I know very little about this release, at least in terms of specifics. I do know that it’s the work of the prodigious John Tuffen, who also performs as part of Neuschlaufen and Wharf Street Galaxy Band amongst others. I know its physical edition is in a hand-numbered run of 50 CD-R, housed in a paper foldover sleeve in a PVC wallet, with an appropriately blank image by way of cover art. There’s a bleak, quasi-modernist feel to the night-shot photograph of a structure constructed as some kind of shelter. But a shelter without people and a car-park without car is simply dead space. One Year, Two Days is a night-time work. Recorded at night (we’ll return to that shortly), it’s the soundtrack to empty spaces and time without people. And abstract as the sound sequence are on One Year; Two Days, it’s reasonable to summarise the project as a work about time and space and a certain absence.

I do know that John likes his kit, and to fiddle with it, and that a lot of his works are ‘project’ based, centred around either a piece of equipment (e.g. 808 // Whammy (2016) and Field Memory Recorder (2017) recorded exclusively with a novation circuit) or specific times / locations. I also know that John has been working under the Namke Communications moniker for some seventeen years now, and has built quite a body of experimental work in this guise.

The track titles are simply dates and times, and show that the four pieces were recorded over two days in 2016 – as the EP’s title suggests. In some ways, it marks a continuation of the 365/2015 project, which saw Tuffen record – and release – a track a day for the entirety of 2015.

This project and its predecessor provide a considerable insight into Tuffen’s creative modus operandi, which could equally be described as a work ethic. It’s one I can personally relate to, as I strive to produce and publish at least one review a day. This does, of course, raise the inevitable question about quality control, but there are two very different positions on creativity: the first suggests creativity is something which cannot be controlled, is spontaneous. It says you have to wait or the moment, the idea, the impulse. To wait and to go with the flow. The second says that creativity is like a muscle: the more you do, the more you’re able. In time, quantity begets quality as a committed, systematic approach to making art.

‘2016-08-08-2202’ sets the tone, a distorting oscillation provides the backdrop to creeping notes which gradually rise majestically before bleeding into ‘2016-08-08-2318’. It may be growing later, but the mood grows marginally lighter. The sequencing of the tracks is a major factor in the listening experience here, as there is an overall arc from beginning to end. The mid-section, as represented by ‘2016-08-10-1909’ transitions into hushed ambience, before fragmenting into darker territory with fractured distortion and dislocation taking hold. Eventually, it spins into hovering metallic drones, the frequencies touching on the teeth-jangling.

The final track, ‘2016-08-08-2256’ forges a cloud of amorphous sonic drift, a sonic cloud without tangible form. It’s immersive, but at the same time entirely engaging, as the oscillations and quavering notes which fade in and out of the rumbling thunder slowly dissipate in a drifting mist.

While locked in time and space in terms of their creation, in terms of reception, the four tracks on One Year; Two Days transport the listener beyond both time and space. And herein lies the power of this release, in that it both freezes time, and stretches it out over a frame which has no fixed limits.

HHHHH

Namke Communications – One Year Two Days