Posts Tagged ‘Lockdown’

17th September 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

Manchester’s Dirty Laces have been away for a while, and not through choice. The pandemic skittled most bands and brought an abrupt halt not only to gigs, but working in general, since most bands don’t live together and when it comes to music-making, it’s simply not always feasible to work remotely, tossing audio files back and forth virtually. I shan’t labour this too hard, but what was The Great Pause for some was The Great Anxietor for many – whether it be because of having no work or being furloughed on reduced pay, or working and home schooling at the same time, or simply dealing with isolation, fear of the virus, or being cooped up with people who weren’t people to be cooped up with, so many of us had something to keep us awake at night and which probably hasn’t fully left us yet.

For many, emerging out of the other side of it all, we’ve found that we’re not the same as before, and there’s some re-evaluation has taken place, albeit not necessarily on a conscious level. Good, I say. Life’s too short to expend what little life you have on pintless crap and people who give nothing in exchange for taking everything.

Recorded in the fallout of the pandemic in solitary rural Wales, ‘Midnight Mile’, essentially speaks of that re-evaluation and the realisation that it’s time to dump the fucking rubbish: the band say the song is about ‘Escaping toxic people, toxic habits, embracing happiness and learning how to ‘free your mind and bathe in love’. It might sound a bit hippie for a band born out of punky garage rock – but ultimately, when you boil it down, punks and hippes alike share the aesthetic of sticking it to the man and people who suck.

This outing is a hybrid of garage and grunge and brings a stadium rock swagger and a dash of industrial and calls to mind Headswim and Filter – it kicks in instantly with a nagging riff and chunky bass. It’s not just the drawling vocal that sounds more American than Mancunian: the production is pretty slick, rendering the gritty, emotionally dense, sincere performance radio-friendly and digestible for a more commercial market – and the big chorus absolutely seals its broad appeal. It’s better than Headswim, but not quite as good as Filter.

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Dirty Laces Artwork

5th August 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

Lately, I’ve been seeing people on the Internet bemoaning the number of ‘lockdown’ albums, and even the emergence of ‘lockdown’ novels, questioning the need for anything that recreates, recounts, reflects upon or is otherwise set during the most recent of historical events. They all seem to make more or less the same case – that we all went through it, it was bad enough, and there’s no need to harp on or relive it. But artists tend to process and comprehend the world and their experiences of it through the act of creation, and just because we all experienced the pandemic and various lockdowns, no two people will have had the exact same experience or the exact same psychological response. Besides, isn’t more or less all art some form of response or reaction to the human condition, or otherwise a reflection thereof? No-one beefs about an excessive amount of war novels or poems or various genre novels, like crime or sci-fi or fantasy. Perhaps it’s because they prefer escapism to real life.

As the accompanying blurbage explains, ‘This album is a reflection of the dark days the world has seen in recent years. It’s about the tragedies many of us have faced and the effort to find the will to fight on. We remember those we have lost because it is through them that we carry on into tomorrow’.

Strange Days is pitched as ‘a symbolic re-birth for the project, returning with a new zeal to create and perform’, and it’s not short on pumping beats and rippling synths. What sets it apart from so many other industrial / electropop / darkwave hybrids is Voicecoil’s vocal: it’s in that gothy baritone region, but for all of that, and the sense of performance and theatre that comes with those well-established genre tropes, his delivery had a certain emotional depth and sincerity that lifts the songs to another level.

So where ‘Versterbrogade’ comes on like a dance remix of a Depeche Mode in terms of its musical arrangement, and the verses observe the popular style of singing in the throat, a wheezy, grit-edged monotone, the verses unleash the hook and some ‘proper’ singing with heart and soul, and in doing so breathes life into the bleak experience of life where days drift and fade into one another. ‘Speak in Sine’ brings a harder-edged beat and a starker atmosphere, and it sits well with the themes of dislocation and alienation which run through the lyrics. ‘No Easy Reply’ is remarkably sensitive, not to mention accessible, and Strange Days has some great tunes, from the expansive, pulsating yet reflective ‘Why’ to the brooding piano-led curtain-closer of ‘Drift’.

While electronic music – particularly of that dark pop / industrial / goth disco persuasion – can often suffer from feeling sterile, detached, robotic, and impersonal, Strange Days is anything but. It possesses a certain warmth, a humanity, that resonates on numerous levels.

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Lo Bit Landscapes – 7th July 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

Life has felt somewhat relentless of late. I do mean this on a personal level, although this is perhaps as much a result off external factors as anything else. The pandemic turned me into an addict. An addict of 24/7 steaming news, of doomscrolling, of relentless checking of social media. When things are constantly happening constantly evolving, it’s easy to find yourself dragged into the whirlwind, and ultimately to depend on the maelstrom. Silence becomes scary. You’re overwhelmed by the volume of emails, texts, FaceBook messages and WhatsApps and find yourself begging for them to stop, but when they do, you panic that something is wrong, that there’s something more sinister afoot, something isn’t working, or that perhaps you’ve died and haven’t realised.

Lately, there’s been a tidal wave of music that’s been created as a reaction to life in lockdown, to social tension, to the mental health pressures of contemporary living. And I’ve been lapping it up, I’ve been loving it. Because people are bringing issues out into the open, and speaking in their own voice about the difficulties we’ve all been facing, relaying those relatable traumas. But I’ve started to feel more like a silent counsellor rather than a music critic. It’s a truism that a problem shared is a problem halved, unless you’re the recipient of all of the sharing. Sometimes, you need a break. Sometimes, you need to let all the tension go, and to simply float.

Nihiti’s Sustained is the perfect antidote to all the tension. It consists of three slow-moving ambient works, extensive in their duration. The shortest, ‘Tetrachrome’ is almost ten minutes long, and it opens with the immense, twenty-one-and-a-half-minute soft soundscape of ‘Stellar Observer’. I sit back by candlelight and close my eyes, and feel my jaw slowly unclench, and my shoulder blades gradually begin to loosen. It’s soporific, deep ambience that washes over you and with washing waves of sound and soft, elongated mollifies drones that drift like vapour. It isn’t without turbulence, but said distortion and treble waves crash a way in the distance and charge against a backdrop of slow undulations. The broad, textured sounds are indeed sustained, for what feels like eternities, and the yawn that swells in my jaws is one of relaxation rather than boredom.

There are glitches and switches in ‘If the Colour’ that disturb the flow, and you almost feel yourself tripping momentarily, like a sleep twitch, but things soon right themselves again, and you resume your calmness, despite scratchy samples and moments of dissonance, because in the overall sensory experience, Sustained is slow and gentle.

Breathe it in, absorb the vapours. Ignore the distant voices as they whisper and echo, and assume they mean no harm, despite the darkening sky toward the end. Let it simply hang in the air: sit back, turn down the lights, and tune in to your inner voice instead of the inaudible mutters. Trust your instruct. Trust the space. Absorb the calm.

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June 2022 – Ten Foot Records

Christopher Nosnibor

Most bands start out splurging output and slow down over the course of their career. Percy aren’t most bands, and over the last decade have accelerated their output. And also, contrary to the common trajectory, instead of mellowing, they’ve got angrier, gutsier, ragier. Monorail really does find them at the top of their game, bursting with zeal and brimming with vitriol, kicking arse like never before.

‘Chunks’, premiered at their recent York show supporting Percy slams in hard and angular, landing between Grotesque era Fall and Truman’s Water. Jagged, jarring, it’s a full-throttle it’s an instant headache. ‘We’re all just chunks in gravy’, Colin Howard snarls and sneers, and it’s punchy – a very different kind of throbbing gristle. There’s no let up as they pile into the scorching ‘I.C.U.’ and it’s immediately clear that Percy have hit a new level.

They haven’t changed fundamentally: they’ve always been sociopolitical, and they’ve always cranked out driving riffs with a choppy, discordant edge, accentuated by Howard’s Mark E Smith influenced slightly nasal sprechgesang, and there’s a clear continuity that’s run from their self-released 2013 debut album, A Selection of Salted Snacks, through their debut album proper, Sleepers Wake on the esteemed Mook label and 2020’s Seaside Donkeys, which featured the Brexit demolition anthem, ‘Will of the People’.

Monorial isn’t so much about evolution or progression as it is about hitting that sweet spot – which really isn’t so sweet. In other words, their two years out from gigging during a tumultuous time socially and politically has seen them really hone their frustrations into their most attacking material yet. Same style, same form, just harder, faster, more pissed off. It’s not only their best work to date, but it’s absolutely essential listening, especially for those who still reminisce about John Peel and the golden age of indie, because these guys are everything you could want and Monorail has future cult classic written all over it.

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5th May 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

The pandemic may be over – or not, depending on your viewpoint or your government – but there’s no question that the pandemic affected us all in some way, shape, or form, and that as much as people are getting on with their so-called ‘normal’ lives, we’re not all fully over it. Some of us may never be.

‘The Day the Drum Stopped’ was penned during the height – or depths, depending on your perspective – of the UK pandemic lockdown, and captures the instantaneous psychological spasm of the moment everything halts abruptly. ‘The Day the Drum Stopped’ is perhaps another way of phrasing ‘the great pause’, and it was a strange time to say the least.

For many – not least of all musicians, those in hospitality and retail – everything stopped. For others, who continued to work from home, while also trying to manage home-schooling, the pause was less pronounced, marked more by the absence of people and traffic in the street when venturing out for the prescribed daily exercise or trip to the local supermarket in the hope of scoring both loo roll and pasta. But no question, it was strange, a plunge into the unknown, the unpredictable, and this was a cause of major anxiety for so, so many.

Kristina Stazaker has articulated this succinctly and in a most accessible fashion on her new single, propelled by some sturdy percussion and ‘builds up to a powerful ending where the drums restart and the electricity of life flicks into action again’. It starts with a solid march, before loping away like a galloping horse, and there’s optimism there, as Stazaker remains positive that ‘the drums will come back again’, and it’s a rush and then… it stops, and you’re left, vaguely nonplussed, wishing there was more. Which seems like life, really. Cracking single, though.

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 Artwork - Kristina Stazaker

Cool Thing Records – 1st April 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

BAIT exists as a side-project for Asylums’ Michael Webster and Luke Branch, and they couldn’t be much different, with Webster using this vehicle as an outlet by which to channel all his angst and anger through sharp-eyed and sharp-tongued social observation and critique.

This debut long-player has been a long time in coming. Their eponymous mini-album landed back in March 2017, and apart from the standalone single release of ‘DLP’ in the spring of 2019, they’ve seemingly been dormant, at least in the public domain. But despite the obstacles of geography during lockdown, they’ve been busy, and the last couple of years have provided an abundance of grist to their mill.

The band describe it as ‘a digital post-punk lockdown docu-record which watches the clock, gets the jitters & lashes out just like the rest of us. It’s an internal monologue that accounts the anxiety, the struggles, the pressures experienced living by the sea during an international pandemic’.

Most struggled in one way or another during the pandemic, some unspeakably, and for a great many, the lasting effects of the trauma of lockdown and isolation are every bit as bad as those of the virus itself. Many lost loved ones, but were unable to gain closure or grieve with friends and relatives due to restrictions – while, it turns out, the government of ‘Great’ Britain partied on. It was often hard to know what to make of anything: conspiracy theories abounded, but over time, some of those theories began to look rather less far-fetched, and under such close surveillance, people could be forgiven for getting paranoid, for being angry.

Sea Change is one angry record. But to describe it as such is to overlook the emotional range it articulates: it’s an album that gives voice to anxiety, panic, fear, trauma. Perhaps it’s the ‘internal monologue’ aspect of its evolution is why it really speaks. As is so often the case, in the personal lies the universal, and it conveys the rapid changes in mood and general state of confusion, questioning, and self-doubt that defined the lockdown experience for so many of us. And just because we’ve left lockdown doesn’t mean that we’ve left lockdown behind, psychologically, meaning that Sea Change’s resonance goes far beyond that defined period in time which spawned it (‘inspired probably isn’t the word).

The mood is tense and dark throughout, and the production has that mid- to late-80s Wax Trax! Industrial feel to it: the guitars are gritty, but everything is condensed into a dense lump of sound that batters rather than saws at the senses. ‘No Sleep for Light Sleepers’ is more minimal, haunting, but also ominous, the processed spoken word like the mutter in your ear that just won’t let you settle.

It’s not entirely without humour, either: if the frenzied, pounding ‘DRAMA DRAMA DRAMA DRAMA’ encapsulates the way in which a heightened state of anxiety is a shortcut to a loss of perspective, whereby the smallest, most trivial things give cause to great panic (things you know are irrational, like, say, getting twitchy when your phone battery drops below 49%), it also highlights just how self-obsessed and microfocussed we are as a society (that that incident at the Oscars totally engulfed the internet against a backdrop of war, a cost of living crisis, and rising Covid cases and hospitalisation is perhaps the definitive moment in our culture of self-absorption, and perhaps, in the wake of lockdown panic, the need to have something to fret and opine over obsessively just to fill the gap). It’s not all completely oppressive, either: ‘Electric Murder’ is a straight-up dark electropop tune that would comfortably sit in Depeche Mode’s catalogue.

‘The Weight of the Water’ finds them punching through a steely grey mesh of guitars, and it’s dense and tense; the jitters amp up tangibly on ‘Somewhere to Be’. ‘I’ve got somewhere to be… I’ve got somewhere to be’ Webster repeats as if a mantra, like the White Rabbit trapped in a postmodern world in which all holes have been concreted over and gentrified in the name of ‘progress’. ‘Sugarlumps’ leaps from a queasy, claustrophobic wheeze to a roaring metal blast reminiscent of Ministry’s Filth Pig, and the album ends with a ferocious finale with ‘We Will Learn to Bark’, the sound of pure catharsis.

It’s pretty much an instant grab, but Sea Change is definitely an album that offers up more over repeat plays.

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Sea Change

Christopher Nosnibor

Snakerattlers are BACK! Almost two years to the day since their last show, the ass—kicking psychobilly duo are back on the circuit, and landing in style to launch a new album, The Left Hand Path at the same time.

Snakerattlers have always embraced their DIY position as something that enables them to do things their own way, and this event is exemplary: whereas album launches are often massive blow-outs with loads of bands and balloons and gimmicks, which mean you’re knackered by the time the headliners take the stage, they’ve gone for something that’s truly special and personal, in the form of an afternoon show with no supports, playing the album live in its entirety for the first ad only time, with some talk about the inspiration for each song before its played. It’s also noteworthy that said album is only being released on CD and vinyl: no downloads or streaming. A proper album, old-school.

The times on the door list Doors as 2:30 and Snakerattlers 3-4pm, and it’s getting busy when I arrive at 2:40, and while I am not tall, I’m amazed by the fact that practically everyone in the place is a fucking giant, so I grab a pint and get down the front, quick. Dank ambient atmospherics rumble over the PA.I figure there’s probably not much point trying to photograph the scribbled set list since the pitch of the launch event is to play the new album through as a one-off. So I suppose this is something of an in-the-moment first-hearing album review as well as a live review.

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They’re punctual, and Dan’s grin is something to behold. He may be shitting his pants nervous, but I don’t think I’ve seen anyone look happier to be onstage before. As a band who usually play around a hundred shows a year, a two-year enforced break probably felt like having their limbs amputated.

They’re straight in with a swampy reverby tune with no lyrics beyond ‘wooh’ and ‘huh!’ by way of an intro, and it feels like they’ve picked up precisely where they’ve left off, although it very soon becomes apparent that there’s been a significant shift in the world of Snakerattlers as they start working through the album. That’s what happens when there’s a global pandemic and successive lockdowns, and Dan is a lyricist who very much writes about the moment, meaning there’s a lot of contemplation and a darker atmosphere across the album as a whole. And while Dan is the voice and the mouth of the band, Naomi’s contribution should never be underestimated. Quiet, serious-looking, she’s the perfect counterpoint in terms of character, while her drumming has a natural feel to it, and a nice, easy swing, even at pace.

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‘One Hand’ is a song not about wanking, but about friendships (or lack of) and in some ways, independence, echoing the sentiments of The Fall’s ‘Frenz’. It starts gentle and sensitive, then goes blamm! ‘No Friend of Mine’ continues the theme of friendship, “All relationships are empty and temporary,” Dan comments in the song’s preamble, nabbing a Mansun lyric in the process, before launching into a rambunctious country-punk knees up. It’s about a minute long.

The songs feel evolved, and show a keen attention to changes in tempo and pacing, and the album sequencing also feels considered – which corresponds with the formats of choice, with the jangly ‘Rattle in my Bones’ ahead of the darker, gothy ‘I Remain’, with hints of The Gun Club. It’s slower, and fully anthemic, and I find myself prickling with goosepimples. ‘In the Ground’ is a contemplation on death penned during the pandemic, and it’s mid-tempo, minor key punk, and utterly magnificent to boot.

Taking the “darkness dial to 10” as he puts it, ‘All Hope is Lost’ emerged from a dark place during lockdown. It’s tense, and while it’s not quite Joy Division, it’s pretty damn bleak – but still manages a hook. ‘Small’ is more old school rock ‘n’ roll, while ‘It Comes’ (if that’s what it’s actually called) is a churner about insomnia, while ‘Spooks’, which emerged last year is more standard Snakerattlers uptempo Fall-esqu rockabilly – or rattle rock, as they prefer to call it.

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There’s another switch with the twangin’ instrumental boogie ‘Wolf Dance’ that paves the way for the final double salvo of kick-ass tunes, culminating with the fast, angular ‘We are Your Hell,’ inspired by a dickish punter facing off to the band at their last gig in Leeds on 5th March 2020. It’s a storming finale to the album, and to the set. It’s been exactly forty-five minutes, and it’s been a blast from beginning to end.

And with that, they’re off to man the merch stall. Rock ‘n’ roll! Yes, Snakerattlers are most definitely BACK!

Southern Lord – 25th February 2022

For many, the days of the longest, hardest lockdowns are, it would seem, behind us. And yet the shadow of the pandemic continues to hang long as dark; it’s hard to move on and truly put it behind us when life continues to be anything but normal; signage and masks and booster reminders are the new normal, and we face a new normal carrying scars of a personal nature, each and every one of us. Successive lockdowns, periods of isolation, have all affected us in different ways, and we’ve all suffered some form of trauma or psychological damage in living through conditions we’re simply not equipped for.

For many creative types, working through the experience has manifested in new artistic output. There’s something about channelling that anxiety into something, even if not direct or specific in addressing the issue, that helps to somehow minimise, contain, or otherwise manage it. Thurston Moore’s latest project, like so many was born out of a lockdown environment, and it’s an exploratory work, in so many ways. A series of instrumental guitar pieces recorded during the summer of 2020, it’s a document of, as the liner notes outline, a period where, ‘as the world confronted the pandemic shutdown and as the people of good conscious stood up against the oppression of racist police oppression and murder.’ It goes on to ask, ‘How much screen time does a parent allow a child? How much screen time does a child need to realise a world which has the means to coexist as a community in shared exchange?’

This feels like numerous issues, simultaneous but separate, have collided to inspire this album, and raises as many questions as answers. Moore is clearly placing his flag alongside Black Lives Matter, and it struck me – and surely many others – that the protests should have taken place when the world, pretty much, was in lockdown. How could this be? This was a moment in time when protest felt impossible. In fact, anything felt impossible. But the murder of George Floyd was a trigger and it marked a tipping point of something far, far bigger for so many. This was about centuries of oppression and division. The scenes aired over the news channels, globally, were electrifying. But how does this relate to monitoring the screen time parents should grant their children? Surely it’s less about the amount of time, but parental control, and the extent to which parents grant their children exposure to current affairs? That said, it’s something I’ve wrestled with myself. As a child, I had no interest in anything on the news; my own daughter, aged 10, is genuinely interested and has her views on our prime minister, our government, and the pandemic, and more. While I feel a duty to protect her from scenes of violence and endless report of rape, murder, abduction, and brutal crimes against women and children, I also feel that a certain degree of exposure to ‘the real world’ is beneficial, just as I’ve come to see that many computer games encourage problem-solving and eye-hand co-ordination. Screen time isn’t all bad if you can get over the generational differences. But.. but… no doubt, it’s a conundrum.

Screen Time offers no answers. As is often the case with instrumental works, there is little to be gleaned from them in and of themselves, and the titles offer little by way of interpretive guidance. The only thing that really struck me about the titles, in fact, is that several share their with cure songs: ‘The Walk’; ‘The Dream’. ‘The Upstairs’ feels like an allusion to ‘The Upstairs Room’ (the title of the 12” EP version of ‘The Walk’; but then again, all of the compositions are ‘the’ something: ‘The View’, ‘The Neighbour’, and these reflect the shrunken worlds we inhabited during this time: four walls, the view from the window, and the TV as the window to the world. There was nothing else but to look, and to ponder. Screen Time is a work of ponderance. It doesn’t have to be coherent, because coherent thought isn’t the state of the world right now. Show me someone who has a firm handle on everything that’s going on and I’ll show you a bullshitter. No-one knows anything, and we’re all just fumbling, stumbling through.

Many of the pieces on Screen Time are short, fragmentary, and sparse, only half-formed, but evocative and atmospheric: ‘The Walk’, a minimal piece consisting of a heavily chorused and echoed guitar trickling a cyclical motif for a minute and fifty-one seconds is exemplary. Elsewhere, ‘The Upstairs’ is a haunting piece led by disorientating, discordant piano that tumbles along.

At times reminiscent of Earth, or more specifically Dylan Carlson’s more recent solo work, Screen Time borders on ambience in its slow, soft unfurlings. The final piece, the nine-minute ‘The Realization’ is almost hypnotic; slow, with deep, resonant notes that reverberate and hover while harmonics chime and soar.

As a listening experience, Screen Time is pleasant, absorbing. I like it. But what does it say? It speaks for Thurston Moore alone, just as any such release can only speak for its composers and performers. That’s ok. When stitched together, in time, all the voices will combine to present the full picture. For now, what simply matters is that each voice keeps adding to the tapestry of documenting the present, a time unlike any other.

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24th September 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Pink Turns Blue have been around practically forever, having formed in 1985, and while they may not be widely regarded among the first wave of goth acts, they very much emerged from that milieu as a duo with a drum machine, and what they’ve achieved over so many of their peers while lingering on the peripheries is longevity. Having re-emerged in 2003 after an eight-year hiatus, they’ve continued to mine the classic post-punk seam that’s distinctively theirs, due in no small part to Mic Jogwer’s vocals. And of course, what goes around comes around. Their return in the early years of the new millennium was well-timed, coinciding with the point at which the post-punk renaissance bloomed with the likes of Editors and Interpol breaking through. There were of course countless also-rans, and bands who emerged but failed to fulfil their promise, but nevertheless, time has proven that the style has remained current, and the darker the times, the greater the craving for dark tunes, and this is where Pink Turns Blue really prove to be as contemporary and vital as ever.

Their eleventh album was written, recorded, mixed, and mastered during lockdown in their Berlin studio, and the first thing that strikes about Tainted is just how bleak it is. It’s achingly majestic, it’s magnificent, and possesses some wonderful hooks and choruses, but there’s an all-pervading atmosphere of sadness, of melancholy that’s draped over every beat and radiates from every note. Glimmers of positivity are dampened by an air of resignation, optimism doused with defeat. The next thing that soon becomes apparent is just how consistent the album is. It’s not only all killer, but had a remarkable cohesion. It’s true that that for cohesion you might interpret sameness, and they do operate with a fairly limited sonic palette. One suspect this is at least in part the result of the material being the product of three guys in a studio without any external input or interference.

But working within such limitations places the focus on the songwriting, on the tunes, on the delivery, instead of throwing in all sorts of fancy stuff.

The guitar to opener ‘Not Even Trying’ evokes the into to ‘Severina’ by ‘The Mission’, and it’s got that same solid four-four strike on every beat bassline that Craig Adams made his signature back in the early days of The Sisters of Mercy, and which has become something of a defining feature for so many gothy post-punk bands, and it makes the song an instant grab. ‘I’m not even trying’, Jowger admits blankly, as if admitting defeat from the outset, and setting the pessimistic tone that echoes through single cut ‘There Must Be So Much More’. It’s a song of yearning, of questing, and of determinism, and a song Editors would have likely killed to have penned for one of their first two albums.

This isn’t an album of depression, but the sound of downward-facing defeat, of staring at the ground and wondering where it all went wrong. ‘Never Give Up’ encapsulates the conflict, the inner turmoil of staring emptiness and defeat straight in the face and realising there are only two choices. But to never give up is not a positive thing, merely the stubbornness that comes from not knowing what else to do.

The bass and guitar are melded together in a tunnel of chorus and reverb, and tied to a relentless drum track, and it’s gripping and compelling. ‘Why Not Save the World’ has heavy echoes of mid-80s Depeche Mode and would sit comfortably on a She Wants Revenge album, while ‘I’m Gonna Hold You’ comes on like New Order as covered by A Place to Bury Strangers, with a nagging bass and brittle guitar that grips hard.

Just as Robert Smith can make a skippy pop song sound tear-jerkingly sad, so when Jowger sings of the joys of ‘a new day’, it’s with a wistful melancholy that aches deep and you feel something tug in your chest as you swallow it down, that inexplicable sadness. ‘Listen to the bumble bee’ he sings on ‘Summertime’, and it’s carried a way on a chiming jangle of guitars that are so wistful, while the tone is of deep nostalgia. A perfect sunny day can have its joy marred by the realisation that it isn’t quite as perfect as sunny days of a time gone by, happy, carefree times that will forever be trapped in the memory as magical, but now faded and never to be recreated.

The song structures are comparatively simple and straightforward, and built around repetitive chord sequences and guitar motifs, and there’s nothing fancy about any of the playing – which is absolutely key to the success.

Any fan of Interpol or Editors would do well to explore Tainted – but then again, so would any fan of not only post-punk, but anyone with ears and with a heart and soul. It’s a masterful work in music of the mood. The mood is low, the mood is sad, and this is an album of real depth that speaks and resonates beyond the immediate.

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Demo Records / Crossness Records – 30th April 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

While I’m no fan of remix albums as a rule, the last year or so has clearly made it difficult for artists to create new material, and since touring’s been off the table, options for maintaining profiles – or making sales – have be limited to say the least. And with time to reflect and review, revisiting and revising previous output through fresh eyes seems more than reasonable.

It’s also refreshing to see ‘Could Divine, Remembered’, the release from anrimeal (the recording project of Ana Rita de Melo Alves), described not as a remix album, but a ‘meditative companion piece to her debut album ‘Could Divine’’. As the blurbage explains, ‘‘Could Divine, Remembered’ refuses the limits of the traditional ‘remix album’ – sure, there are remixes here, but amongst them you’ll find demos, reflections, confessions, rituals, and the artist’s own heartbeat. The sum of these parts is an immersive audio documentary about the making of Ana’s debut. For those familiar with ‘Could Divine’, this is a chance to look behind the scenes and magnify its meticulous detail; for those unfamiliar, it allows a first visit to an abundant internal world.’

I fall into the latter camp, although drawing lines across between the tracks on this new reworking and the original proves an informative exercise, and the reworked titles provide some insight into the inspirations or ideas behind these alternative renditions of each song (notably ‘Encaustic Witches’ returns here as ‘Encaustic Witches as an Ambient Track to Help Me Sleep’ and ‘Headrest’ appears as ‘Headrest, A Story About Feeling’. Elsewhere, explanatory or embellishing details appear, as ‘Death’ becomes ‘Death is a Burning Ritual’.

“When I think of nature, nothing happens,” she says at the very start of the album on ‘Hello and a Half’: it’s quite a contrast to the twitter of birdsong and lo-fi acoustic guitar that heralds the arrival of ‘Marching Parades’, the opener on ‘Could Divine’, and immediately we’re parachuted into the documentary aspect of this fascinatingly multi-fascinated work, which lays Ana’s workings out bare. Cars pass as the speech takes on an almost spoken word narrative form – but even that’s not straightforward as delays double-up her voice and as she explains how the album is about her ‘going into the wild’, it seems that some of that wild is more psychological than literal, an exploration of internal territories hitherto uncharted. At times, it ventures into the kind of disorientating cut-up tape works of William Burroughs and Brion Gysin in the late 50s and early 60s, and elsewhere, her monotone voice, against a sift, dappled backdrop is soporific and sedative.

This is an album of ideas and of origins, of snippets and sketches, as well as of reworkings and revisions. It’s bitty, but somehow hangs together remarkably well as an insight into Ana’s creative process. At the same time, in straddling the before and after that sit either side of Could Divine, it questions the notion of the ‘end product’, the idea that there is ever a ‘finished article’.

The demo of ‘Could Flower’ reveals the early shoots of the idea that would become the album’s title track. It’s a haunting acoustic folk piece, which would subsequently metamorphosise into a fragmentary, multi-segmented work that transitions as if through a dream sequence. There’s an ethereal, evasive quality to Could Divine, Remembered, and it places the album in a realm all of its own.

As an aside, all profits from the release will be donated to Plataforma de Apoio aos Refugiados, a Portuguese refugee support organisation. In bleak times, we once again see art being used as a conduit for good – and this, it has to be said, is good art.

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