Posts Tagged ‘math rock’

30th June 2022

James Wells

‘i write weird songs for weird folks’ writes alien machine, all in lower case. ‘A solo artist pretending to be a 3 to 5 piece garage punk outfit,’ ‘the sea complains’ is their fourth release. Details of this US-based artist are sparse to non-existent, but it appears that having emerged in 2014, they lay creatively dormant before deciding to reconvene with racketmaking during the pandemic, which seems to be a common thing as people sought ways of dealing with the strangeness and the isolation.

This is raw, primitive, and psychotic. The skewed, angular, murky mess of the first track, ‘math’ sounds like it was recorded on a Dictaphone in the living room while the band play their first rehearsal in the basement. The overall effect is very much early Pavement (pre-Slanted, those EPs collected on Westing were betonf lo-fi) / Silver Jews lo-fi so slack as to not give a shit about being in time / holding a tune / anything at all really, and it’s played with the wild, frenzied mania of Truman’s Water. Then again, ‘coward’ is a pulverising screamo-fest that brings in elements of Shellac, the guitars sliding and jerking in all directions over a loping drum beat, and closer ‘aquaburst’ goes fill Truman’s, with clanging Big Black guitars and everything going off all at once, but not necessarily in the same key or time signature.

It’s a headache-inducing discordant buzz, and it’s wonderful.

There’s nothing particularly weird about this – although fans off mainstream chart music would likely disagree – but it is a hard-on-the-ears trebly racket, that’s so slack it can’t even be arsed raising a finger to production or concessions to clean sound. It doesn’t get much more DIY than this.

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Xtra Mile Recordings – 8th July 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

She sang it! She sang it! Yes, the hook to the album’s opening song, ‘We are Machines’ is ‘We are machines / it’s how we function’. Simple pleasures and all that. But there are many pleasures packed into this album’s forty minutes.

Having been showcasing BERRIES tunes since the time of their second EP back in 2017, the arrival of their full-length debut is a cause of excitement. And the anticipation is justified, with a tight set of songs that don’t disappoint.

What’s promised is an album ‘rammed with taut, angular guitar lines and packing a gritty, garage-grunge punch’, and that’s what’s delivered. None of the songs are over four minutes in duration, but they each contain so much action, so much traction, so much movement, each takes time to unravel the tightly-woven, knotted, intermingled noodly jumbles of guitar lines. There’s a lot of taut, tense jangling and angling going on here, as they cut across the mathy aspects of the guitar lines and the spiky post-punk chop of Gang of Four, and they marry it all together with strong melodic vocals.

The tension is appropriate for an album that tackles themes of mental health, feeling overlooked and sexism ‘with a searing honesty and intensity’ to present, as the put it, a collection of songs about “growth, strength and rising above all of the negativity and noise”.

There isn’t a duff track to be found here. Yes, the singles are obvious choices and standouts, not least of all the gutsy ‘Haze’, which is more or less representative of the album as a whole with its bold , grungy guitars and dynamic construction, exploding into the chorus after an understated verse, but then ‘Discreetly’ really pushes things hard, and rocks more overtly than much of the album with a monster chorus and driving riff – and frenzied guitar solo – and packs it all into two and a half minutes. ‘Fabricate’ calls to mind Kenny Loggins’ ‘Dangerzone’, and is propelled by a thick, gritty bass, while the guitars stop and start and stutter, and ‘Basic Tables’ starts with some tightly interweaving, stop/spart guitar work before breaking into a breezy chorus.

What BERRIES achieve is a perfect balance of passion and personal honesty, with sass and a pop sensibility. That means that How We Function feels sincere, as it is, but isn’t lecturesome or lugubrious. It doesn’t sugar-coat difficult emotional matters, but isn’t whiney or woeful. How We Function is an album of empowerment, of determination. The songs are both instant grabs and growers, and with this much energy, it’s exciting, not just the first time, but again and again.

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1st July 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

London / Brighton quartet Insolace consist of Millie Cook (vocals), Conor Hyde (guitar), Sam Bryant (bass) and Onyi Olisa (drums), and I suppose you could reasonably summarise ‘I Won’t Cry’ as one of those ‘strong’ songs – one whereby the ultimate message is one of empowerment, despite it’s primary theme being of mental struggle. Here, against a backdrop of busy, accessible math-orientated jangle Cook pitches lyrics about being in the place of the supporter to someone who’s struggling.

Sonically, on the one hand it’s kinda buoyant emo, and even a bit poppy, but on the other, it’s got a bit of a 2004/5 vibe that I have a certain nostalgia for, which is something I never expected – a time when every other band was jangly, noodly, mathy, and some if it was fun, but ultimately you only need one Explosions in the Sky, and so many Spokes style acts, and probably only one Wintermute…a nd then my brain pokes me with a reminder of Everything Everything. And then you reach a point where less is more, and actually, just a little variety goes a long way.

But it’s easy to be critical, and over time, things do change. Where’s all the noodly math-rock now? Some of it’s here, it seems, and ‘I Won’t Cry’ feels like a 21st Century response to The Cure’s seminal classic ‘Boy’s Don’t Cry’. I Won’t Cry I Won’t Cry’ is busy, and a shade technical. But it’s crisp, and has a solid hook, and for that alone it deserves a wide audience.

Insolace

We love mental shit, and this is some mental shit.

Avant group Hifiklub has shared a new track, ‘Weird Five,’ featuring the legendary Iggor Cavalera (MixHell, Cavalera Conspiracy, Pet Brick, co-founder of Sepultura). The song is a part of the French trio’s audio-visual collaboration, ScorpKlub I & II Original Soundtracks, with the Montreal animator James Kerr (Scorpion Dagger). The double-sided record — which features Alain Johannes (Queens of the Stone Age, Them Crooked Vultures, Eleven) in addition to Iggor Cavalera —will be out digitally as well as on different colored vinyl on 27 May 2022 via Electric Valley Records.

Hifiklub bassist Régis Laugier on ‘Weird Five’: “1 Day as A Lion, 2Pac, Spacemen 3, Gang of 4, Electric 6, L7… Something was missing. What about the “Weird 5”? Let us know what’s your favorite band with numbers in their names. In the meantime, here is the first track of Hifiklub’s collaboration with Iggor Cavalera, from ScorpKlub I & II. 18 more videos to come!”

Check ‘Weird Five’ here:

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Midlands based math-rockers a-tota-so are back though not quite as mathy as you might remember them. When COVID19 hit the UK and the never ending lockdowns and lack of support for the music industry started signalling the end of live music for what many thought might be a very long time, a-tota-so decided to change things up and keep themselves busy working on their second album entitled Lights Out.

The biggest change sees the usually instrumental band enlisting a gang of their vocalist friends from the UK and Irish music scene, putting a fresh spin on their music and create something different this time around. Each of the 8 tracks boasts a different vocalist from the likes of Damien Sayell (The St Pierre Snake Invasion/Mclusky), Ashley Tubb (Sugar Horse), Jake O’Driscoll (God Alone) and Ellie Godwin (No Violet).

With most of the music being written during the first lockdown and recorded over winter 2020 at JT Soar, the legendary DIY venue and recording studio in Nottingham, the band sent a track to each of the vocalists they had in mind and they were given free reign to do what they wanted over the instrumentals. The result is an exciting and eclectic album which covers a wide range of genres and changes the bands sound completely.

Guitarist Marty Toner comments, “The album deals with a variety of themes including depression, anxiety, feeling lost and the general state of the world we are currently living in while providing hope that we can carry on with the things that we all love and enjoy in the future."

Now the band have shared the beautifully animated video for recent single “I Am” which features vocals from Aisling Whiting (Sang Froid). Video director/animator Steve McCarthy comments,

“When Marty from a-tota-so  shared the song with me I knew I had to get involved! initially I’d wanted to keep it simple, but he gave me full creative freedom on the video and as I started experimenting the idea started to grow.

Taking some inspiration from Simon J. Curd’s album artwork, I developed a story around a scene in a forest that changes through the cycle of the seasons and the cycle of life and death.

This was such a great opportunity to really explore some creative ideas and tools, and the whole thing was a learning process. It was a pleasure to work on and turned into a real passion project and a learning exercise for myself.” 

Watch the video now:

Wharf Chambers, Leeds, 3rd December 2021

This is a show I’d been revved for for quite some time: on their last visit to this venue, back in 2017, noise veterans Part Chimp blew me away with the sheer quality of their performance, as well as their sheer volume, prompting me to ruminate on how ‘they radiate noise from every orifice and every pore’ and how ‘the guitars serrate your skull and the bass vibrates your solar plexus and every riff is as heavy as a small planet and the drums as hard as basalt.’ Experiences like that are rare, but also addictive: as a gig—goer, you want every show to replicate that level of thrill, that mind-blowing intensity, and it’s a dragon you’ll chase and chase but rarely capture. There’s also a thing about seeing a band for the first time, when you don’t know really what to expect, and then whatever your expectations may have been, they’re confounded tenfold. Second, third, fourth time around, it’s unlikely you’ll feel that same sock in the face.

Anticipation for the evening stepped up a few notches on disclosure of the support act, Objections, being ‘a pair of Bilge Pump’s and a Beards’. ‘Formed in 2007, dispatched in 2018’, the latter splattered their way onto the scene with their sound defined by the explosively angular racket of their debut album ‘Brick by Boulder’, and during their existence, proved to be a stunning live proposition. Meanwhile, the former, revitalised in 2019 after almost a decade’s silence had been reaffirming their status as Leeds legends prior to the pandemic halting their live activity.

Objections is Bilge Pump’s Joe O’Sullivan and Neil Turpin with ex-Beards’ Claire Adams. Claire covers bass and vocals, while Joe’s weapon of choice is a 12-string, which brings some real depth and density to their brand of sinewy post punk. It’s goth meets math rock, and at the same time combines the best of both Bilge Pump and Beards. The guitar provides texture and tone rather than tune, sculpting shapes, and watching O’Sullivan is always a joy, not to mention exhausting: the man is a relentless blur of energy (and impossible to [photograph without better kit than mine), and plays every chord with his entire body, leaping, lurching, and perspiring heavily every whichway. Adams’ bass is stop/start, lumbering, and the choppy, angular songs with their variable time signatures are held together with precision percussion from Turpin. Oftentimes, a relentless repetitive rhythm grinds a backdrop to peeling shards of guitar splinters, and chunk funk bass drives a collision between Shellac and Gang of Four, leading towards an ultimate space rock finale. They are stunning, and the place is busy, and the reception they receive is well deserved: this is one of those occasions where you could leave immediately after the support and feel that you’ve easily had your money’s worth.

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Objections

But then, it’s Part Chimp headlining, promoting their latest album, Drool, their sixth proper in their twenty-year career and the follow-up to 2018’s Cheap Thriller, and it’s the final track from this album that they power into a blistering set that’s a massive barrelling noise of relentless riffery from the off. They’re out as a three-piece sans bass tonight, but make enough racket for infinite members, with enough downtuning to cover the low end. And when I say that they’re loud, I mean they’re seriously fucking loud. Standing front row stage right I’m overwhelmed by the speaker shredding backline of Iain Hinchliffe’s guitar but it’s magical – obliterative, immersive, cathartic.

At this point in their career, they’re no longer young, and they’re not overtly cool, with their beanstalk singer and somewhat squat and unsvelte guitarist, but it’s the music that matters and makes them the coolest guys around: they make the best fucking noise, and may have just released their best album, which occupies half the set and reveals its range magnificently. Battering away at a couple of chords blended with all the distortion and feedback, the vocals buried in echo, and there’s a sample that runs between the songs throughout set in a fashion that’s reminiscent of the loop that runs through Rudimentary Peni’s Pope Adrian 37th Psychristiatric. With guitars like bulldozers blasting out rifferama ear-bleeding volume – did I mention that the volume’s up to twelve or thirteen?

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Part Chimp

There are occasional hints of Hawkwind happening, but overloaded with distortion and howling feedback at a thousand decibels and there’s some bad trip psychedelia slow and hypnotic in the mix. But Once again, it very quickly becomes a haze, and it’s impossible to do anything but yield to the wall of sound and enjoy. Live music fans live for moments like this, and it’s clear that everyone in the room was in the same space. If there is a heaven, it has to be this.

Cruel Nature Records – 24th September 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

The lights that burn brightest tend to be the ones that burn briefest, and it’s something of a conflicting pull on the gut that surrounds reflections on this. The idea that acts who quit and artists who died leaving a small but impactful legacy are somehow unfulfilled and that we’ve been deprived of whatever they may have done is counterbalanced by the contention that perhaps curtailing a career at its peak or even still in its ascendency is the best way, and fans will be forever divided on this topic.

What if Ian Curtis had lived, and Joy Division had mutated into New Order? They would have been just another band whose longevity overshadowed that early career, another Manic Street Preachers. Simple Minds should have called it a day in about ’84, and Kasabian’s early promise was spent after just one album.

ODF never lasted long enough to really break out of the locality of Gateshead. As the liner notes to this retrospective observe, they ‘blasted onto the North East’s harshcore scene in 1998 and were gone in a flash three years later; their 2001 split album with Newcastle’s Jazzfinger the only remaining recorded output’. Everything leans toward the attainment of immortal cult status here, and the changes are infinitely more people have heard of the band, or otherwise heard them posthumously than ever did during that brief but explosive career.

This limited cassette, Harshcore 98-00, documents two live shows, both recorded in Gatehead, with the first seven tracks recorded June 2000 at the Floating Cup, Gateshead, and tracks 8-14 recorded June 1998 at the Soundroom, Route 26 Centre, Gateshead.

It’s pretty fucking brutal. Most of the songs in both sets are around the two-minute mark, and it’s as abrasive as hell. The vocals! Rob Woodcock (Marzuraan; Tide Of Iron; Fret!; Platemaker et al) sounds like a zombie from The Walking Dead on amphetamines, snarling and rasping with the most ravaged-sounding voicebox. There’s a lot going on here: ‘Calisthenics’ brings all kinds of jazz and math elements alongside the full-on, balls-out wild thrasher, and the fifty-five second ‘Aggressive Lowbrow’ brings everything all at once in a racket that suits the title.

Despite the close proximity of the sets, there’s a clear evolution here, so it’s a little frustrating that they’re presented in reverse chronology on the release. The ’98 set is less evolved, less detailed, less jazz, less multi-faceted, and more of its time – brimming with samples and songs that are little short of whirling explosions of whiplash-inducing racket, with ‘O.D.F. Will Kick Your Lame Ass Motherfucker!’ being exemplary, but also marking the band’s first forays into different terrains, with hints of swagger emerging amongst the frenzied racket. It’s gnarly, it’s intense, and it’s fucking punishing. And it really makes you wish you had been there.

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7th May 2020

So, what do you do when your band is forced to take some downtime due to lockdown? Take up crochet? Perfect your breadmaking? Develop a nine-wanks-a-day porn habit? In the case of Chris Garth, guitarist with Post Rock/Metal/Sludge/Progressive Rock act UpCDownC, the answer is ‘work on a new side-project’. And so with an album in the pipeline, he’s unveiled ‘Bricks’ by way of a debut for Dead Mammals.

Immediately, I’m reminded of Shellac, specifically ‘Wingwalker’, but also more broadly of that 90s US noise scene as represented by acts on Touch&Go and Amphetamine Reptile. It’s the dirty, churning bass that really drives it. The drums thump along – more kick and tom, limited cymbal work – and the vocals – crackling through distortion – are half submerged when the angular shards of guitar scream in, a mess of scratchy treble that’s clear in its Steve Albini influence.

‘This song is about a woman / dead woman’ it begins, and judging by the way the monotone verse delivery gives way to anguished howls, the circumstances surrounding this involve some kind of psychopathy, seemingly on the narrator’s part. In context, the obliqueness of the lyrics is integral to the overall experience, which is first and foremost about the sonic compact of that slugging rhythm section and jolting guitar scrape. First impressions count, and ‘Bricks’ is one hell of an introduction.

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