Posts Tagged ‘math rock’

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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It has been a busy year of touring for Daughters, who have recently completed their third and final European dates in support of their highly-praised album, You Won’t Get What You Want (Ipecac Recordings), and today the Providence-born outfit debut their third video from the album, “Guest House."

“It is always exciting to see our work interpreted by talented artists.” says vocalist Alexis Marshall of the A.F. Cortes directed video. “We first became familiar with Andres through his wonderful photographic work. His ability to capture unique moments, often missed by other photographers, is uncanny and we trusted him to be able to bring the same abilities as a director.”

The “Guest House” visual continues Daughters’ exploration into the world of black and white photography and film. Both of the band’s previously released videos from You Won’t Get What You Want, “City Song” and “Less Sex”, used the colour-free palette to create stunning, thought-provoking pieces that played on darkness and light, shadows and shading, to impart a variety of emotions, from the magic of a flickering candle to the beauty of the human form, and with “Guest House,” the exploration of psychological tension.

The “Guest House” video arrives as the band launches a three-week North American tour, kicking off the trek this Saturday with a sold out show at Neumos in Seattle. The tour follows two prior sold out North American outings, a nod to the band’s riveting, and intimate, live performances.

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Daughters North American tour dates:

November 30 – Seattle, WA @ Neumos # [SOLD OUT]
December 1 – Vancouver, BC @ Rickshaw Theatre *⁣⁣⁣
December 2 – Portland, OR @ Bossanova Ballroom *%⁣⁣⁣
December 4 – San Francisco, CA @ The Fillmore ^%
December 5 – Los Angeles, CA @ The Belasco Theater +⁣⁣⁣
December 6 – San Diego, CA @ SOMA Sidestage ^ ⁣⁣⁣
December 7 – Phoenix, AZ @ The Pressroom ^⁣⁣⁣
December 8 – Albuquerque, NM @ Sunshine Theater ^⁣⁣⁣
December 10 – Austin, TX @ Emo’s ^⁣⁣⁣
December 11 – New Orleans, LA @ One Eyed Jack’s ^⁣⁣⁣
December 13 – Birmingham, AL @ Saturn ^⁣⁣⁣
December 14 – Atlanta, GA @ The Masquerade ^⁣⁣⁣
December 15 – Tampa, FL @ The Orpheum ^⁣⁣⁣
December 17 – Carrboro, NC @ Cat’s Cradle ^⁣⁣⁣
December 18 – Washington, DC @ 9:30 Club ^⁣⁣⁣%
December 19 – Brooklyn, NY @ Brooklyn Steel ^⁣⁣⁣
December 20 – Philadelphia, PA @ Union Transfer ^⁣⁣⁣
December 21 – Boston, MA @ Paradise Rock Club ^⁣⁣⁣
⁣⁣⁣
^ w/ HEALTH, Show Me The Body
+ w/ Protomartyr, Show Me The Body
# w/ Lingua Ignota
* w/ Lingua Ignota, Haunted Horses
% Merch bundles not available

Cruel Nature Records – 29th July 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

Sometimes, social networking really works. When Facebook isn’t about infighting, trolling, bitching, pissing and moaning, and people accept contact from strangers based on mutual friends and mutual interests, good stuff happens. I can’t exactly recall how I came into contact with James Watts, who runs Newcastle-Upon-Tyne based tape label Panurus productions, but some months after, I ended up performing in London alongside Lump Hammer, one of his numerus musical vehicles, thanks to another mutual friend with a penchant for big, noisy guitars who found me via Aural Aggro reviews. And so it came to pass that said mutual friend – Owen, from Modern Technology – introduced me and Steve Strode, who’s also in a bad and who also runs another Newcastle-based tape label, Cruel Nature Records. Fret! happen to feature Strode on guitar (twang), alongside Rob Woodcock (credited with ‘flails / screams’) and Cath Tyler (‘thrum / la’). And with cover art by Tom McCarthaigh, the design/layout is courtesy of none other than James Watts. It really is a small world. Especially in Newcastle.

This is lo-fi, low-budget, scuzzy. The production is proper rough, the guitar sound fuzzed-out and unpolished – we’re in home-recorded four-track demo quality here, with crackling at the edges and needles pushing the top ends of red, and opener ‘Belly’ comes on like early Fall with its repetitive riffage played rough ‘n’ ready. It seems fitting, not only because this is a cassette release, but because this is underground in every way.

On the lumbering slow-pace riff noise of ‘Hucknall’ (pretty much all of the titles are indecipherable one-worders), there’s a hoarse howl all bit buried in the mix, by accident or design, countered by a drawing monotone counterpoint. ‘Davy’ goes for the all-out screaming racket that not quite metal but is unquestionably all-out in its frenzied brutality, but most of the album favours the frenetic but contained blistering squall of 90s alternative. By which I mean bands like Fudge Tunnel, Terminal Cheesecake, Helmet, are all viable and appropriate reference points, and by which it should be apparent that this is a monster riffageous racket of the highest order. ‘SUSD’ sows it down, grinding away at a repetitive cyclical riff that’s as messy as hell, wash with distortion, reverb, and tremolo, while ‘Cowboy’ piledrives into got/psychobilly/hardcore/crust-punk territory with obliterative fury.

Is there an element of nostalgia in the appeal of this, as a 43-year old fan of grunge and more subterranean 90s alternative? Well, naturally, but that really isn’t the primary appeal here. What appeals about A Vanity Spawned By Fear is the simple fact that it’s raw and uncompromising and blindingly intense. It isn’t pretty or nice, and isn’t supposed to be. It wouldn’t work if it was.

The last track, ‘Country’ is a slow, hesitant cross between early Pavement and Shellac. But A Vanity Spawned is most definitely not derivative, and there’s nothing remotely lifted or directly referential here. Instead, they amalgamate a mass of influences and condense them in a mould of their own making. It’s hard, heavy, and difficult. Stylistically, it isn’t any one thing, but it’s completely ace.

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Fret - Vanity

19th July 2019 – Buzzhowl Records

Christopher Nosnibor

This quartet from Richmond, VA, may have a name that suggests quiet, introspective contemplation and piety, but their third EP, which follows ‘Touched’ (2015) and ‘ICUP’ (2017) whips up an unholy racket.

It’s a lumbering, off-kilter, shouty discord that defines their sound. Chugging, math-tinged rhythms cut across with angular guitars that evoke the spirit of Shellac, The Jesus Lizard, and the essence of the Touch & Go roster from the late 80s and early 90s. It’s gnarly, gut-churning, challenging – and hits the spot like a punch to the oesophagus.

Should we consider why there seems to be a resurgence of music that recrates that period around the grunge explosion, when alternative music that wasn’t grunge but centred around dirty-as-fuck guitars and difficult rhythms that would come to define ‘math’ rock? Probably. Back then, there was a revolt against radio-friendly rock, the slick sonic paste being pumped out by major labels. Of course, the ‘alternative’ sound very quickly got co-opted, but no-one was ever going to flog acts like Tad or Tar or Helmet or Guzzard to the masses even when Warners were angling Ministry at MTV and A&M had launched Therapy? As a top 40 singles band. The bands who got signed and broke through may have changed the face of the musical scene, but it was always the bands who remained underground who defined the era.

Now, with the chasm between mainstream and everything else wider than ever – and long beyond the point at which it becomes unbridgeable – the underground is more resolute than ever. They’re never going to make on this… but they have every inch of credibility intact as they channel their frustrations against an ever-grimmer world of conformity and vacuity. The bands that matter aren’t in it for the money – but then, they never were, and Prayer Group are admirable in their absolute lack of compromise.

They’ve just unleased the EP’s closer, ‘The Other’ by way of a taster. It’s nicely representative, and trust me, you need it.

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Cave – Allways

Posted: 5 December 2018 in Albums
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Drag City

Christopher Nosnibor

Allways represents an evolution for Chicago-based psychedelic droners Cave. Perhaps not an evolution in spelling, having delivered an album I can’t help but squirm at whenever I see its title, but that’s not the point when assessing its artistic merits. But nevertheless, Allways is very much a different work from its predecessor, Threace

As the press blurb explains, ‘during the making of the last album, Threace, CAVE was in the process of becoming a quintet. They toured the world afterwards, playing on four continents and eighteen countries – as close to everywhere as they could get. Then they took a minute. They recorded it over time, in Chile and then Chicago. You can hear all of this, the energy of liveness, the reps, and consolidating expanded possibilities within their new alignment, the time away, the distance, and the freshness of returning to recorded sounds, everywhere on Allways.’

And here I find I’m torn. The skewed angles of the previous efforts – which admittedly always alluded as much to jazz as math-rock – have been sanded down a bit, so while there’s still a heavily psychedelic aspect to the album’s compositions, they’re very much predominantly of the jazz persuasion. And this is where I get twitchy. Sure, the nine-minute ‘Beaux’ pushes the space-ruck groove, but there’s some ultra-anal wah-wah action that’s pitched at precisely the level marked ‘irritation’.

There’s nothing to match the epic build and driving sustained crescendo of ‘Sweaty Fingers’, for example. And while they pitch Allways with the enthusiastic babble that ‘their inspiration comes from everywhere – Miles, psych, beats, exotica, library music, rock, punk, the Germans, the New York guys too, minimalists, the Dead, music from India, everywhere!’ I mostly get a lot of jazz here. And you know how I feel about jazz, man. Or if not, then maybe you ought to dig that while I don’t hate jazz per se, I’m on the top flight of picky when it comes to how I like it.

Allways kinda slips to the wrong side, the muso side. It gets mellow, and it gets introspective – not in the analytical, self-aware sense, but in the looping grooves with funk-tinged licks that nag and gnaw beyond insistence to irritation. ‘The Juan’ starts off promisingly enough, a bit of a prog riffing and a bold, strolling bassline that then meanders into more math-orientated territory, and then… well, some intriguingly expansive passages are marred by just too much jazz vibing that makes it an album that requires a beard to stroke to be eligible to listen to.

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Cave – Allways