Posts Tagged ‘new release’

23rd December 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

This is Nine Inch Nails? That whipcracking Roland snare, thin and snappy, in a landlside of scuzzed-out bass noise, sounds more like Metal Urbain or offshoot Dr Mix and the Remix. Were it not for the distinctive vocals, the throbbing punk guitars of ‘Branches_Bones’ isn’t immediately regonisable as the work of NIN. But then again, it does distil into its explosive one minute and forty-seven seconds all the violent fury of the best tracks recoded under the NIN moniker. Nevertheless, you weren’t expecting that, were you?

Or maybe you were. Trent Reznor had not only promised new material before the year was out but also warned, on announcement of the release of Not the Actual Events, that ‘it’s an unfriendly, fairly impenetrable record that we needed to make’. And it is.

‘Dear World’ is dark, murky, tetchy, twitchy, deeply electronic. Bleepy synths ride the crest of an insistent drum loop, while Reznor croons in a hushed tone. It’s probably the closest they’ve come to looking back to the Pretty Hate Machine days, and I can’t help but think of the stark, claustrophobic groove of ‘Ringfinger’.

The six-minute ‘She’s Gone Away’ is a messy, mid-tempo dirge that, with its dense, dubby bass groove calls to mind ‘Reptile’ from The Downward Spiral (which along with its immediate predecessors in the shape of Broken and Fixed still stand as the band’s artistic apogee, and there’s nothing which quite scales those heights to be found here). ‘The Idea of You’ is a tense affair, and the thunking, leaden guitar slabs border on Nu Metal. Reznor builds layer upon layer of vocal until there’s something approximating an entire arena’s worth of voice – or a choir’s worth, at least, and it’s actually quite uncomfortable. If the cacophony of overdriven guitars, anguished vocals, layered synths and extraneous noise, which build to a cranium-compressing density sounds like classic Nine Inch Nails, that’s because it is.

Unveiled on the same day as the EP to advance purchasers, ‘Burning Bright’ is brutal assault buried in a dense sonic sludge. And yes, it is unfriendly, a grinding bass-led barrage that draws together the pulverizing grate of Melvins with a black metal and the ground between dark ambient and black metal. Don’t come looking for a chorus or nifty hook here: this track is predominantly about battering the listener. Yet for all its weight, there’s a contrarian element to the arrangement, with bombastic synths and an extravagant guitar solo that goes on – and on.

The overall effect of this bears parallels with Foetus’ Butterfly Potion EP; emerging as a standalone studio release, it was a relentless sonic assault, and a productional tour de force. In the same way, Not the Actual Events is evidently a studio-borne project, which utilises the kit available to achieve a bewildering sonic experience.

From reading Linda Hutcheon on postmodernism, and from digesting William Burroughs’ theories of the cut-up, I’m aware that history is essentially a construct, a representation and reinterpretation of events. As such, while it may be entirely coincidental, it’s notable that Not the Actual Events emerges synchronously to a bundle of souped-up, ultra-deluxe expanded and ‘definitive’ reissues of back-catalogue classics, which are a boon for collectors or a cynical and sacrilegious cash-milking exercise, depending on your perspective. It’s interesting, then, that while Reznor rewrites his own history, his latest material also contributes to its development, drawing on elements of the past while very much looking to the future.

Not the Actual Events is a stronger work thanks in no small part to its brevity: having kept it concise and focused, it has impact to match its density.

And if anyone’s ordered the digital version rather than the vinyl, I’d love to know what the ‘physical component’ is when it’s delivered. If it’s simply a CD, I’ll not be impressed.

 

nottheactuaevents

Advertisements

Front & Follow – F&F044 – 8th July 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

With this release, Front & Follow inaugurate a new series of split cassette and download releases. The premise is that the artists are given a side apiece, and while the idea is that they’re encouraged to collaborate, it’s essentially down to the acts involved. This first ‘Blow’ release features a total of nineteen tracks, with ten from Hoofus, seven from IX Tab and a brace of joint efforts.

The ten Hoofus track are first, and if the titles, in their evocations of ancient lore, mysticism and history, seem at odds with the bubbling synth cycles which form their fabric, then it’s a reflection of the infinite contradictions which define Hoofus’ enigmatic sound. Shimmering, throbbing and needling, the scratchy, fuzzy tones cover the full sonic spectrum in infinite, iridescent hues. Occasionally sliding into unusual time signatures and oddly dissonant passages – the wonky keys of ‘Twentythree Seven’ shouldn’t work, but instead it’s rather magical – their ten tracks are beautifully weird, and weirdly beautiful. The notes roll and bend, wobble and warp, layering up to form a rich latticework. The effect is to create music that transcends music, enveloping the listener in a thick, pulsating aural blanket. It’s an immersive, multisensory experience, akin to how I would imagine simultaneously being under water and watching the Arora Borealis.

IX Tab’s eight tracks are quite different in tone: more overtly electronic, bleeping, swooshing and rippling notes scurry across one another in vintage sci-fi style. The dizzyingly hectic compositions are contrasted by sedate ambient segments. Samples – snippets of dialogue and lopped phrases – feature heavily, and there’s an overtly experimental air to the tracks. Trilling pipes and rattling chimes flit alongside woozy, opiate drones and church song. The nine-minute ‘The Herepath Comes Away’ is a magnificently expansive, atmospheric work, and something of a standout as it leads the listener on a curious journey of the mind.

The two collaborative tracks, credited to Hoofus & IX Tab, work precisely because they sound like a hybrid of the two acts. ‘The Ministry of Ontological Insecurity’ features sampled voices repeating the statement ‘I don’t believe in me’ (occasionally interspersed with variants ‘I don’t believe in you / him/ her / them’) over a drifting dark ambient backdrop fractured with incidental sonic incursions. ‘The Ploughs & Machines’, which closes the album also incorporates samples and woozy electro oddness with shifting time signatures to mesmerising and disorienting effect.

Individually and collectively, Hoofus and IX Tab have conjured an album that reaches for the outer limits and transports the listener to them and then beyond.

 

Hoofus   IX Tab