Posts Tagged ‘mood’

Cruel Nature Records – 26th May 2023

Christopher Nosnibor

Having recently celebrated a decade of diversity, Cruel Nature Records continue to release a broad range of non-mainstream music – and the range couldn’t be more pronounced than placing two of May’s releases side-by-side: Gvantsa Narim’s latest offering, Apotheosis Animæ exists on another sonic plane form the grating industrial noise of Omnibadger’s Famous Guitar Licks Vol. III. They’re a sort of Yin and Yang: the world definitely needs both, and I personally need both, too, and it’s testament to Steve Strode’s singular commitment to releasing music of quality regardless of style or genre that they can both find a home on the same label.

Apotheosis Animæ, we learn, takes ‘inspiration from religion, esotericism and Georgian polyphonic music’, and that ‘her latest work was written in late 2022 / early 2023 and tells the dark and cold story of winter’.

It seems very much that winter now is not like the winters of twenty or thirty years ago: instead of two feet of snow, we get seven feet of flash flooding here in the UK. And now, despite it being the middle of May, it’s impossible to predict from one hour to the next, let alone from one day to the next if it will feel more like October or February. But despite this, winter not only has timeless connotations, but also, whether it’s sub-zero or only just a bit chilly, the cold winds and long dark nights do have a profound effect on human activity and our lives as individuals. It’s not only psychological; it’s biological and metabolic, and some of this is genetically coded into us from our prehistoric existence all the way through to as recently as just before electric lighting and mains power. There’s a case that says this is where we went wrong, as a species, and for the planet, in evolving beyond lives in tune with nature.

We each have our own unique relationship with winter, and our own associations and reminiscence. While I’m prone to Seasonal Affective Disorder, presenting as low mood and low energy, my wife would invariably suffer a low ebb in health from late October through the February, often suffering back-to-back colds that would drag on for weeks, the lack of daylight dragging down her levels of vitamin D and her immune system struggling to fend off the endless barrage of bugs and viruses that thrive in the cold months, especially when being breathed around in close-packed environments like offices. I fully acknowledge, then, and actually embrace, the fact that I am coming to this album fully loaded with my own baggage which will colour my experience and interpretation. This is a healthy, a function of music, something which can exist as a vessel for us to pour our thoughts, feelings, memories, and traumas into.

The compositions ‘Apotheosis’ and ‘Animæ’ bookend the album, and as the former lifts the curtain, it’s a slow, simple piano that evokes a slowing, a darkening which paves the way for mournful strings and distant echoes of bass and percussion on ‘Sicut Mortuss’ (which I believe translates as ‘like death’ or similar) conveys that paralysing sensation which descends with the darkness; while on the woozy, disorientating ‘Amnesia’, snippets of speech drift in and out, but instead of giving a sense of human connection, as they echo into the droning hum, there is only distance and detachment. Stretching out past the tend-and-a-half-minute mark, it’s hypnotic and unsettling, a little like the point at which you realise you’ve gone a little too far into your own head and need to drag yourself back to life, if only because it’s scary in there and you’ve got to work and at least appear normal.

There are moments of grand, sweeping ambience, soft and gentle, which convey the comforting experience of watching large flakes fall, heavy and silent, settling thick and deep in a silent white blanket; there are also moments of gritty disturbance, swirling glacial winds and shards of ice. ‘Born in the Mist’ is dark and brooding, shapeless, formless, ominous, impenetrable, the howling scrapes that ebb and flow are unsettling and uncomfortable, and it’s evocative; personally, I’m reminded of slogging across mountain tops in the Lake Diastrict in dense cloud and storm-force wind, and no doubt anyone else would being different mental visuals along.

This is where instrumental, abstract music really does come into its own: listener response simply cannot be prescribed, and has to come from within, and for this reason, we will all hear and experience something different. Following on, ‘Stopwatch’ sounds like the clouds lifting and waking up from a daze to remember that you do know how to live, that sense that perhaps hibernation is over and there’s a world outside, and this applies not only to the winter which is determined by the meteorological and astronomical seasonal changes, but the winter of the soul which can chill even deeper.

It’s soft and soporific: ‘Train’ glances and glides with crisp, crystalline tones into the – sadly missed, proverbial – sunset. The fifteen-minute ‘Codex’ is a big, brooding, bruising storm building in the form of a rumbling drone that’s dark as oppressive. Crackles, bleeps and bubbles rise cautiously on the edges of this mass of dense, dark atmosphere. Over time, it throbs lower and slower, and rippling details emerge and float along on the surface – but that darkness, that threat, is always present. At some point, you find yourself lost in the drift, and a slow thumping beat emerges behind a locked loop of synthesised notes… and then it shifts again, reminding us that nothing is ever static, however much it may seem that nothing changes, however much we may yearn to remain in a moment forever.

There are some truly beautiful passages; but they’re tempered by sadness and tension, which conveys the sense of coldness, darkness, isolation, longing that the long dark nights bring – a yearning for warmth, for comfort, for hot, hearty food, the primitive craving to sit beside a roaring fire.



Kranky – 7th April 2023

Christopher Nosnibor

I had been warned. A fellow reviewer who received this before me had said that this album had made him feel ‘unwell’. It was a compliment, of course. This comes as little surprise: Tim Hecker is an artist capable of creating the most intense and all-encompassing experiences, and while the live performance I attended in 2014 may not have made me feel ill, it did make me feel pretty weird, detached, disorientated. As the only artist I have ever known to use more smoke than The Sisters of Mercy and Sunn O))) combined, filling the room to the extent that it was impossible see your own hand in front of your face, let alone the person next to you, Hecker made me feel uncomfortable, and in some way a little scared in a claustrophobic way.

I’ve had a few records which have had a physical effect on me: listening to PJ Harvey’s Rid of Me for the first time with a brutal hangover is one standout experience, its raw and up-front lurching guitars punching my head and stomach simultaneously with puke-inducing results which went far beyond the post-booze discomfort. Because listening to music is not a passive activity, and as well as requiring focus, it would seem also degree of compassion – you feel its force physically as well as psychologically.

The notes which accompany Tim Hecker’s latest album are bold, to say the least, describing the Canadian composer as ‘a beacon of unease against the deluge of false positive capitalist ambient currently in vogue’ and continues, ‘Whether taken as warning or promise, No Highs delivers – this is music of austerity and ambiguity, purgatorial and seasick. A jagged anti-relaxant for our medicated age, rough-hewn and undefined.’

Clearly, this is exactly what I need, having felt tense and on edge, unable to catch my breath properly for several days now. If the album’s title sets the initial expectation, the track titles reinforce the album’s mood: ‘Monotony’; Pulse Depression’; ‘Anxiety’; ‘In Your Mind’; ‘Total Garbage’ – all the shades of dark, of bleak, of miserable, of self-questioning, panic.

The aforementioned ‘Monotony’ pings a single note back and forth for almost eight and a half minutes. Drones build sonorously behind it and swarm the mind as the volume grows and then shrinks again, and the buzzing and extranea become siren-like. And so, there is movement behind the tedious repetition, but it’s tense and unsettling. Moments of levity which appear to suggest tranquillity is within reach prove to offer nothing but false hope as we’re soon plunged into the gloaming, or otherwise into glitchy, lurching passages of unease. Soft sounds which ought to be mellow and soothing are rendered uncomfortable, or mournful, or both.

‘Lotus Light’ initially intimates a Krautrock pulsation, but some bending frequencies and melting notes swiftly take this trip on a rapid descent. If the lotus flower is supposed to signify rebirth and enlightenment, then this is one which is wilting, poisoned, and if eating the lotus is supposed to provide a conduit to pleasure, this is the soundtrack to picking the wrong plant, as everything rushes forward too fast and you’re not in control. You don’t feel right: you feel drugged, delirious.

‘In Your Mind’ picks and stabs away with tempo changes galore, surging and sweeping this way and that, echoing reverberations around the cranial cavities before booming stabs of synth blast through the drifting haze, before ‘Monotony II’ returns like a waking memory of a traumatic dream from the night before. The trilling saxophone does nothing to calm the mind or the mood. And over the course of more than eight minutes, ‘Anxiety’ recreates the experience if that increasing heartrate and the clenching of every muscle perfectly. That is to say, it’s brilliant, and also brilliantly difficult, and potentially triggering to some. The flickering, fluttering electronic throbs are practically Jean Michelle Jarre reimagined as a fibrillation.

No Highs is a difficult album, but how difficult depends on our headspace: from a certain perspective, it’s a cinematic electronic set, but from various others it’s the soundtrack to being unable to settle, to relentless tension, to jitters and fretting, and worse. The notes oscillate and you clench; sudden spurts of sound burst and you jump momentarily., before ‘Sense Suppression’ pulls you down, slowly, into a sea of sound, before the album drifts away to nothing on the drifting tides of ‘Living Spa Water’.

No Highs is sad and dark and deeply affecting, and not necessarily in the ways you’d expect. Listen and share the suffering.



Northern Spy – 24th February 2023

Christopher Nosnibor

The Necks are never dull: an act that can be depended upon to deliver something different, which is no small feat for a band who’ve been going for more than thirty years. Travel sees them revisit the fundamental methodologies of Unfold, released in 2017 on Stephen O’Malley’s Ideologic Organ label. Admittedly, it’s not an album I’ve revisited all that many times since I wrote about it, but then, that’s true of many records I’ve appreciated. Some of it’s a time thing, but some of it’s an instrumental / jazz thing. I prefer to engage in the moment – and then the moment passes, and I too move on.

Where this album different from the majority of their others is that the format was integral to the form of the content, as the accompanying blurb points out, proving ‘four sub-20-minute pieces – instead of the typical 60+ minute arc for which the band is known – along with an obfuscated track list which leaves play order to the listener’s hand.’

Travel isn’t quite a straight live improv set, but does, they feel, come closest to recreating the live experience, and was recorded – save for some light overdubs and post- production – primarily live. And it’s very much oriented towards slow grooves and rhythmic repetitions. It’s hazy, mellow, almost sultry.

Side one is occupied by the twenty-one-minute ‘Signal’, built around a repetitive bass cycle and some rolling piano that brings with it a classical element, and, propelled by some busy hand drumming which transports the composition some way from what one would ordinarily expect off jazz-orientated works and into the realms of ‘world’ music (a term I try to avoid, with its connotations of western superiority and self-centredness, but sometimes short-cuts are necessary).

On side two, ‘Forming’, which again stretches languorously past the twenty-minute mark, is led by ripping piano, underpinned by some crunching bass stutters and rumbling groans. It’s jazzy in a psychedelic, Doorsy sort of a way. In this sense, it feels more like an extended mid-song workout than a piece in its own right, but it’s both pleasant and tense at the same time as it builds to a crescendo that never fully materialises.

‘Imprinting’, the album’s shortest cut at just over seventeen minutes, brings the multi-layered percussion to a more prominent position, and clanks and trembles along with almost hesitant-sounding keys and twanging strings drift in and out. It’s also perhaps the most overtly ‘jazz’ piece on the album, although it feels stretched out, the pieces pulled apart and as three instruments drift along together on a steady way, the sensation is quite hypnotic.

Organs always create a sense of grand scale and space, and the heavy drone and trill of ‘Bloodstream’ is utterly mesmerising. The piano is soft and ripples along atop the sustained mid-range drone as ethereal notes drift in and out. Part,

The album feels like a moment in time, somehow transient, and yet also something more. Travel may not really go anywhere, but it very much captures a mood – which is, for the most part, whatever mood you project onto it.



In the magical volcanic landscapes of Lanzarote, Jana Irmert found images for the ideas, moods and feelings that fueled the work on the tracks of What Happens At Night: For me this release is a window through which I could express my thoughts and feelings about our planet in turmoil. Starting out from a point of hopelessness, my fascination with travelling into Deep Time and learning about geologic ages grew. After all, what will be left of us will only be a delicate layer in the rock.“

‘Stratum’, named after the word used in geology for a single layer of sediment, attempts to dissolve time and space, merging the abstract and the concrete. The volcanic landscapes, which are very young from a geological perspective, thereby become a place where human existence plays only a marginal role.

Watch the video here:


Jana Irmert _ Stratum _ video still 2

Temple Invisible have unveiled their arresting new single ‘Over My Feet’, taken from new ‘Chiasm’ EP coming next month.

Fusing chiffon vocals with impending electronic beats, ‘Over My Feet’ comes as the third single plucked from Temple Invisible’s forthcoming ‘Chiasm’ EP, and boasts the breadth of the genre-defying duo.

Showcasing the two-piece’s knack for creating evocative electronic-tinged tracks that are as dark as they are diaphanous, “Over My Feet” feels eerie and overcast yet optimistic and inviting all at once.

Speaking of the inspiration behind the track, vocalist Irina Bucescu explains:

“’Over My Feet’ is like a walk in the forest. It draws its roots from the deep and rich life of the underground — the mycelium. As you progress deeper into the forest, you connect with the life force, inside out, and blend the deeper and more disturbing truths into a multi-layered view of reality. The metamorphosis of death can be a beautiful thing when you walk in the forest.”

With its opening moments unfolding like a silken ballad — gauzy vocals and gentle key taps wind themselves around one another with cushiony ease — the docile ambience is soon underpinned by swirling electro rhythms that steadily threaten to erupt, before overflowing into a meticulous amalgam of rippling instrumentals.

Watch the video here:



Lia Hide – Dinner

Conch Town Records – 25th March 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

Such a contentious word. Two syllables, it kind of has a satisfying downbeat in the middle before an inflection, and on the face of it, completely innocuous. But ‘dinner’ is a territory of dispute that denotes and divides regions. It’s all about positioning – whether it’s ‘breakfast, dinner, and tea, or breakfast, lunch, and dinner. This is essentially an English debate, and personally, I believe cricket has the answer the end all debate, stopping for lunch and tea – afternoon tea. That and the fact that no pubs display a ‘dinner’ menu at lunchtime.

So, while Lia Hide is from Greece, I’m working on the premise that the follow up to the absolutely cracking ‘Proposal’, the first single from her forthcoming fourth album, The Missing Fourth Guest, is about an evening meal, with the lighting low – probably candles – and a long evening in prospect.

As she explains in the accompanying notes, “It’s an invitation to dinner , so we can mend things that went wrong. I go from being alone in my own head, in my mess, to reaching out for some communication with someone, anyone, so we can have dinner, discuss and focus on being alright.”

It sounds like a pretty nervy meal in prospect, and the track has an appropriately tense start, which burred whips of electric tension and glitching distortion cutting across the gentle piano and subdued beats. ‘Can we focus on being alright?’ she sings in a low-key, ponderous tone. Beats burst and stutter all around over a rolling piano before, seemingly from out of nowhere, brass bursts and blossoms, introducing an unexpectedly jazz feel to this roiling, multi-faceted electronica.

It’s anything but obvious, but it’s magnificently executed, and makes you hungry for more. Who’s for supper?



Chapter 22 Records – CD December 18th / Vinyl in April 2023

Christopher Nosnibor

It seems hard to credit now, but back in the 80s and early 90s, the BBC’s national radio was a remarkable platform for breaking new music. John Peel will forever be legendary for the countless bands he gave exposure – obscure acts starting out and the likes of which would be unlikely to trouble the top 40… but then again, so many off them went on to do so. But there wasn’t only Peel – Janice Long and David ‘Kid’ Jensen played so many up-and-coming and under-the-radar acts, and they, too, would feature artists by having them record sessions at the Maida Vale studios.

The mid-80s was something of a pivotal period in terms of the evolution of alternative music, particularly here in the UK. In the slipstream of the post-punk acts that would come to be considered the progenitors of ‘goth’ – Bauhaus, Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Sisters of Mercy in particular – followed a wave of bands who developed the style, but with poppier, more indie leanings. Although The Sisters’ ascent meant they developed away from being a ‘Leeds’ band, their presence and rise from the city made Leeds the epicentre of the second generation of goth – or perhaps post-goth indie – with the likes of The March Violets, Salvation, Groovin’ with Lucy, and The Rose of Avalanche all emerging from Leeds around this time.

By the release of their debut album, First and Last and Always in 1985, The Sisters of Mercy had moved a long way from the sound of their first few EPs, a move that coincided with their signing to a major label and Wayne Hussey replacing Ben Gunn. The Sisters were dead by the summer of that year, but rising from the ashes, The Mission’s first singles and debut album, God’s Own Medicine in 1986 added impetus to the rising wave of janglier, more accessible indie-goth.

Both John Peel and The Mission would play a part in the rapid ascendence of The Rose of Avalanche, with the former offering them a session simply on the basis of a track on a compilation album, and the latter inviting them to open for them on tour. That kind of exposure to such a potential fanbase is hard to come by any means, and by 1987 they had Sounds spurting praise all over them. Yet for all this, they failed to break the mainstream or to trouble the charts, and chugged on till the early 90s before calling it a day (although they recently opened a new chapter with some live dates. Never say never, eh?).

The recent release of The Sisters of Mercy’s BBC sessions has caused considerable excitement in the community, being their first official release since their 1992 compilation A Slight Case of Overbombing. The sessions had been in circulation as bootlegs for decades, under various titles and with varying quality. The fact the release left a side of vinyl blank while leaving the audio of the band’s Whistle Test performance – arguably on of their finest – in the vaults has caused considerable consternation particularly considering the 3-sided vinyl cost over £40 on release on Record Store day, while the cut-price CD is flimsily-packaged and feels ‘budget’ in every way.

Exhuming The Rose of Avalanche’s BBC sessions after a 25-year hiatus from releasing material may not send quite the same ripples, but isn’t only a significant event for fans, but a substantial document of the time.

It may have been early cut ‘L.A Rain’ that grabbed JP’s attention, but it’s not featured in their first Peel Session, which features three original cuts plus a cover of The Spencer Davis Group’s ‘Gimme Some Lovin’’ delivered with guts and monster guitar solo work, al driven by a stonking bass.

The band clearly evolved fast, and gained in confidence and competence. It’s the swagger that really makes the impression on ‘Rise of the Groove’ that spearheads the second session, which also features a strong take of one of their most successful singles, ‘Velveteen’. Rougher and rawer than the official version, ‘Never Another Sunset’ packs some heft without the tidal wave of reverb, and ‘Too Many Castles in the Sky’ is all about the up-front rock action.

Because of the nature of the BBC sessions, these recordings are necessarily quick, underproduced, but the positive flip is that they capture thee band in the moment. And it’s a good moment, bursting with energy.

The album wraps with the songs that started it all, an eight-minute sprawling drawling take on ‘L.A. Rain’ that’s pure Velvet Underground.

There are so many good songs on here: now is the time The Rose of Avalanche should be reassessed, and appreciated in a different light.

Artwork - The Rose Of Avalanche

27th August 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Leeds proves once again to be the spawning ground for some interesting experimental music, and this four-tacker from Material Loss is a work of dark, dark ambient, a genre I’ve become increasingly drawn to over time by virtue of its lack of prescription: what I draw from it is as much about my own projections, my own internal state and contemplations as the music itself, although it in turn has the capacity to reflect back at me those internalisations. And what Material Loss convey corresponds with the name – a sense of emptiness, a sensation of being aimless and bereft. Admittedly, these moods do hit from time to time and I know his isn’t something by any means unique to me, but when they descend they do so rapidly, like a storm blowing in from the horizon on a strong wind, building from out of the blue and forcing a sudden pressure drop.

And what is material? Something palpable, tangible. And yes, these four tracks, for all of their vague, effusiveness, they succeed in conveying something more concrete, somehow. It’s all about the atmosphere, which has been carefully constructed and arranged for optimal effect, and while it’s short, it reached seep into the psyche, and into the body, prodding the gut, the bowels, the lungs, and, above all, stealthily creeping around the deeper recesses of the brain.

Such dank murkiness shouldn’t be associated by any means directly with a depressive state, though: the lack of overt form or structure can be quite therapeutic, offering a form of escapism as one allows oneself to drift through the sonic clouds, The first piece, ‘Set’ rumbles and growls, and within those sonic clouds, there’s a storm brewing. It’s a distant rumbling, a dissonance, an almost unquantifiable and most unspecific unease more than anything else.

Following on, ‘UA’ manifests as a barely-audible droning hum for the most part but it’s occasionally rent with tearing shards of nose or rising tides of amorphous sound. The fact that each composition is brief means that none becomes overwhelming, r challenging to the point of traumatic, although in the infinite subtlety, the menace is always present.

‘SD-CLA’ may be brief, but it’s dark and doomy, a single beat repetitively hammered out at a funereal pace amidst fizzing electrics and splinters of breaking glass. Closer ‘Alm’ – the calm without the c – brings a sense of tranquillity, a lifting of the mood and something approximating a sense of lightness and of relief, and a sense that maybe things aren’t so bleak after all.

They are, of course: the reality of living in the now is beyond dismal, but at least, for a couple of minutes, we can perhaps forget and pretend otherwise.



Potomak – 31st January 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

hackedepicciotto is Alexander Hacke (Einsturzende Neubauten) and Danielle de Picciotto (Crime & The City Solution), and The Current is their fourth album It’s pitched as being ‘their most powerful album yet,’ and the press release explains that ‘after composing desert drones for their previous album Perseverantia and dark foreboding melodies for Menetekel, their new album moves forwards, gaining in speed and energy’.

The energy is abundant, but it’s dark and flows in subterranean currents. Recorded in Blackpool, of all places, there is little sense of illumination in a work that’s dominated by shadow, although that’s by no means a criticism.

‘All people / are created equal’ de Picciotto announces in a stilted monotone which echoes out across a bleak and solemn soundscape of atmospheric, picked guitar and dramatic strings which glide and swoop over a swirl of electronic crackles, indistinguishable voices and dolorous bells. Over the course of the piece, she utters various permutations of the phrase, revealing new meanings with each arrangement.

There is very much an exploratory feel to The Current: this is not an overtly linear work, or an album comprised of songs in the conventional sense. These are eleven distinct ‘pieces’ which are more spoken word / narrative works with music than anything, although this misrepresents the fact the words and sounds are very much equal in their billing. And yet there is a sense of progression, as the rhythms become stronger, more forceful, and more dominant as the album progresses.

‘Onwards’ plunges downwards with a grating bass pitched against a relentlessly rolling rhythm; ethereal, choral vocal harmonies and cold, cold synths forge an unusual juxtaposition, and the result is powerful, stirring deep-seated emotions that swell in the chest as the energy rises.

In contrast, ‘Metal Hell’ goes post-industrial with metallic clattering an scraping disrupting a choppy, processed guitar riff that cuts a murky path over an arrhythmic mess of percussion, and the title track thunders a slow martial beat to build a grandly epic piece that conjures images of sweeping vistas dominated by rugged mountains and dense forests.

Things take a turn for the unsettling on ‘Petty Silver’, which finds de Picciotto writhe and wheeze in a sort of little girl lost voice against a backdrop of chiming xylophone and a heavy synth grind that’s pure Suicide. The penultimate track, ‘The Black Pool’ opens with a cluster of samples from news soundbites or similar about ow ‘the UK is fucked’ (fact, not an opinion) over some swirling ambient drone and a Michael Gira-esque monotone vocal trip

When the pair share vocal duties, Hacke’s cracked, grizzled growl is the perfect contrast to de Picciotto’s clean, airy yet tense and high-string delivery. And it’s the contrasts that make The Current: it isn’t any one thing, but a number of things simultaneously and while the rhythm section resonates deep and low, there’s lot going on at the front of the mix, and it’s this dynamic that gives the album a constant movement. To dissect it beyond this would be do damage the effect: The Current is an album that possesses a subtle force and brings submersion by stealth.


hackedepicciotto – The Current