Posts Tagged ‘New Wave’

Only Lovers Records – 4th February 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Sometimes, it doesn’t take much to change the mood of the day, and for me, it’s often the case that the ping of an email containing a release by an act I like that can be that mood-lifter on a barren or otherwise unremarkable day. The arrival of Mayflower Madame’s latest offering was today’s: having been snared by their debut album, 2016’s Observed in Dream, I’ve been on the edge of my seat for more, and while 2018’s Premonition EP was more than welcome, it felt like something of a placeholder ahead of the next event proper.

With album number two, Prepared for a Nightmare around the corner, they’re offering a taste of what’s to come with single ‘Vultures’, a song about ‘desire, gluttony and vanity – both on a personal level and as a general symptom of the excesses of modern society’ which is ‘partly inspired by the art of George Grosz and Hieronymus Bosch’.

‘Vultures’ very much cements the style and sound they’ve showcased previously, with reverby guitars dominating a psych/goth hybrid form that’s got tension and drama by the spade, but also a brooding, doom-laden atmosphere. The pessimism isn’t explicit, but hangs heavy in the air. But while retaining that psychy / dark surf twang, ‘Vultures’ is harder-edged than anything they’ve released to date, pinned down by an insistent beat with the vocals low in the mix and soaked in reverb and angst. The production more muscular, too, and it all stacks up for a belting blast of tense, dark contemporary post-punk that says the album is going to be a corker.

AA

Mayflower Madame - Vultures (cover)

Christopher Nosnibor

8th November 2019

The bio bit tells me that ‘NAUT is a 5 piece dark rock band from Bristol, whose shared love of classic rock and metal, alongside reverence for the post-punk pioneers of the late 70s and 80s makes itself known from the start. Their songs switch from raw tribal tom beats to uplifting anthemic synth in a moment, but always stay danceable and perhaps most dangerously, catchy’.

Fan comments on their bandcamp shed a little more light on their sound, observing the band’s ‘unique ability to recreate the original sound and feeling of 80’s uk goth rock. Sisters, Red Lorry Yellow Lorry, the Rose of Avalanche, early Nephilim…’ and their offering ‘the perfect mix of Post Punk with old school Goth Rock… Killing Joke meet The Wake & Love Like Blood.’

It’s no secret that I’m a rabid Sisters / Lorries / Nephs / KJ fan, but it’s equally documented that I consider most of the bands who’ve taken them as influences are generic and derivative, and that includes the mid-late 80s acts like Rose of Avalanche who traded in diluted forms of blueprint-based accessible alternative rock. This means I’ve no idea who The Wake or Love Like Blood are, but judging by the referential monikers, I probably don’t need to.

The EP’s title track kicks things off with a classically ‘gothy’ rhythm that’s dominated by a quickfire snare attack and defined by spindly guitars, trebly and awash with chorus. And talking of Chorus, it does boast a strong, hooky chorus, and there’s real energy behind it, which pushes it over the line from template-based to credible and sufficiently possessed of a band identity while still very much drawing well-studied inspiration from their precursors.

‘Spirit Horses’ steps down both the tempo and the individuality, and there’s a chord progression that’s lifted straight off The Sisters’ ‘Marian’, but the third and final track, which slows the pace further to a sluggish mid-tempo resembles ‘Blasting Off’ era Lorries, and works remarkably well with a looser feel but a grainy greyness that brings a certain weight.

On the strength of this outing, Naut are at their best when they go deeper and darker, and if they continue to evolve their songwriting in the directions demonstrated here, there’s a good chance they’ll break out beyond the trad-goth scene and into wider alternative circles.

AA

NAUT

Clue Records – 22nd November 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

The thing about Team Picture is that they just don’t fit. Anywhere. Stylistically, they’re a bit of this, a bit of that. A bit indie, a but pop, a bit shoegaze, a bit Krautrock. To see them performing, they don’t even seem to fit together. They’re like a satirical homage to The Village People: despite the uniform, they present as a selection of characters / caricatures with no obvious connection, separate, pulling in different directions.

And yet somehow this most disparate bunch work, and incredibly well. They’re incredibly adept at forging strong songs – which ultimately, is what being a band is about (unless it’s an avant-garde jazz band, where the objective is to make as discordant a racket in as many different tie signatures as possible). Their songs manage to represent their divergent personalities, pulling apart as much as together. And yet they work, and this latest single is no exception.

‘Another Always’ starts with space-age synths before shifting into some new-wave / indie crossover that smooshes together jerky, quirky vocals and chorus-tinged guitar to forge a sound that’s a collision of The Cure and The B52’s with a post-millennial retro sass and a certain yet oddly distinctive Leeds twist.

AA

Team Picture - Another, Always (artwork)

Christopher Nosnibor

It’s fitting that noisy-post-punk London duo Modern Technology should have recorded a live session at the Shacklewell Arms under the banner of Exploding Head: everything about the band to date has been explosive, from the sonic blitzkrieg of the eponymous debut EP to their growing fanbase, due to a committed live schedule which has seen them deliver some killer performances. The fact they’re thoroughly decent guys whose sociopolitical message extends beyond the lyrics and into the active donations of proceeds and profits to charitable causes hopefully counts for something, too: they’re not Bono about it: they just fucking get on and do it. and so the proceeds from this release are going to Crisis at Christmas ‘to help support the homeless during this critical time of year and to help fund and support Crisis’ vital year-round work with homelessness’.

Hearing the nihilistic fury of the music, it’s clear that this philanthropy is born almost entirely of frustration and despair at social injustice and inequality, and this six-tracker captures the live experience very well indeed, with four tracks culled from the aforementioned EP along with a brace of new cuts in the shape of ‘All is Forgiven’ and ‘Bitter End’.

It packs full-throttle viscerality from beginning to end, and two things stand out on this release: 1) the colossal noise they churn out with just bass and drums 2) how faithful to the studio renditions the EP songs are.

2) is a testament to how tight and well-rehearsed they are, with metronomic grooves holding everything together 1) is about ore than just pedals. Modern Technology do volume and appreciate that effects and all that stuff only fill so much space. Ultimately, there is no substitute for hard volume. There is a 3), as well. What’s unique about Modern Technology’s sound is that for all the thunderous density, they create a vast amount of space, and the way the air hangs between the notes, between the punishing snare hits, creates a stark, yet simultaneously oppressive atmosphere.

‘I ain’t quick, I ain’t cheap’ Chris Clarke barks on ‘Queue Jumper’, against a backdrop of tumultuous drums and a grating bass chord that sustains into infinity. It’s a simple but effective refrain that’s instantly memorable. It’s all in the delivery, of course.

The new material is monumentally dense and abrasive, with the downtuned, sinewy riffage of ‘All is Forgiven’ reminiscent of Melvins, while ‘Bitter End’ is sparse, slow and bleak and throws in a vaguely psychedelic twist in the verses, crashing into a grinding low-tempo riff for the chorus, such as it is.

One of my bands of 2019, and with dates booked for 2019 already (I may have something (ruined) of a vested interest in the February dates), Modern Technology are a band on the up because they’re a band for our times.

AA

cover

2nd December 2019

On its release in 2008, the second album by New Zealanders Die! Die! Die! received critical acclaim from the NME and The Guardian here in the UK. But the artwork wasn’t quite as intended, and, well, there’s always room for improvement with a remastering in hindsight. This version comes fully remastered courtesy of original engineer and co-producer Kevin McMahon (Swans, Fat White Family) and with the artwork restored to its full glory, and emerging just a few months after their new EP, it’s seems like Die! Die! Die! are at not so much at a crossroads, but a point of reappraisal while entering a renaissance period.

I reckon I have fair ears and am capable of a fairly obsessive attention to detail when it comes to it – although it’s easier to be obsessive when your listening is limited to a narrow range of bands and albums. Nowadays, I rarely get to listen to albums more than a couple of times, and having – shamefully – not heard the original release, I’m not in a position to explore the details that differentiate this from the original. But I do have ears, and am in a position to consider how a 12-year-old album stands up now.

As a set, in terms of production and mix, Promises Promises pitches the rhythm section very much to the fore, which apparently was ‘partly due to the influence of new bassist Lachlan Anderson, but also because a broken hand limited Wilson’s guitar-playing’ if Wikipedia is accurate. What this achieves is a real solidity of sound, and imbues the songs with a particular sturdiness.

The album is very much geared to uptempo, high octane punky, shouty thrashabouts that are dispensed in two or three frenetic minutes, but elsewhere, there are a number of more considered songs that show – beneath the fuzz and crashing cymbals – a degree of craft in the compositions, despite the fundamentally primitive arrangements.

‘Britomart Sunset’ nicks the bassline to Joy Division’s ‘Isolation’ and whacks up the tempo and steers it back into the driving dark punk territory of JD’s Warsaw years, and it’s killer. There is absolutely nothing more exhalating that a thumping bass groove placed front and centre. ‘Whitehorses’ is a standout with its mechanised, motoric drumming which thumps away as the rest of the band push away at a couple of chords with remarkable patience. The again, the title track lays sinewy guitars interweaving over a driving bass and powerhouse percussion, a collision of frenzied punk and icy new wave paranoia to create a perfect tension.

Promises Promises – reissued, remastered, whatever – is simply a corking album, and if its being remastered and reissued gives it a new lease of life, then it’s all to the good.

AA

DDD

1st November 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

So The Shakin’ Nightmares gatecrashed my radar thanks to a message via Facebook from Dan Gott, guitarist and the man wit all the whoops and howls for manic rockabilly duo Snakerattlers. Since he books gigs at my favourite venue as a day-job he sees and hears a lot of bands, so if he reckons I need to hear an act, the chances are I really do.

They do the matching outfits thing – which is a bit Snakerattlers, but also reminds me of The Computers – and the four songs on this, their debut EP are kicking, but with a sense of order and a determined sense of identity.

‘(I’ve Got) The Shakin’ Nightmares’ kicks it off with a slow swagger and a reverb-heavy twang that struts its way into a swampy gothed-up surf riff that reminds me of The Volcanoes – which means I’m instantly sold. It’s very much about a well-worn template that has its origins in the blues and has been kicking around in various mutant forms since ‘The Hippy Hippy Shake’ in 1959, but it gets increasingly wild, twisting 60s psyche with grunged-up alt-rock.

They step up the pace on ‘Revenge’ which brings a frenzied punk aspect to the boogie-woogie wig-out and ‘I Wish’ chops a groove that sashays into the more straight-ahead rock closer ‘A Little Death’. It’s still dominated by a choppy guitar and some deep reverb, and these guys are cruising hard on an obsessive death trip. I can get on board with that. If it’s not sex or drugs, then rock ‘n’ roll needs death. We can’t all get sex or drugs, and don’t even necessarily want them, but we’re all going to die. And given the state of things, sooner rather than later seems increasingly appealing. On that basis, plus the basis of some solid tunes, The Shakin’ Nightmares have all the appeal right now.

New Heavy Sounds – 11th October 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

Cold in Berlin’s evolution has followed a fairly steady but swift arc: having emerged in 2010 with the spiky attack that was Give Me Walls, Rituals of Surrender represents their fourth album. That’s a respectable work rate, and over that time they’ve remained true to their dark, post-punk gothy roots, but have become progressively slower and heavier, the guitars growing sludgier, doomier.

In musical circles, there is always a ‘new strain’ emerging, even if said strain is a revisioning of an older strain. Not so long ago, it was post-punk revivalism, then there was a vintage heavy metal return, which in turn spawned the emergence of a stoner / doom / sludge hybrid. Cold in Berlin, having crashed in on the post-punk tidal wave are now more closely aligned to another more niche strain of the latter, namely colossally heavy female-fronted bands who bring an ethereal and emotive aspect to the sludgy / stoner / heavy template. Is it lazy journalism to bracket Cold in Berlin’s latest offering alongside Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard and the last couple of albums by Chelsea Wolfe? Perhaps, but the references are at least instructive in terms of establishing a certain thread of stylistic commonality. But for every similarity, there are equal differences, and Cold in Berlin are most definitely a unique proposition in the way they balance the instrumental heft with Maya’s powerful vocals.

The album gets straight down to business with ‘The Power,’ which prefaced the arrival back in early September, accompanied by an appropriately moody, horror-hinting video. The bass and guitar grate and saw in unison over a slow tribal march. The tension builds and breaks in a landslide to a mammoth chorus.

The nine tracks on Rituals are heavy – plenty heavy – with some killer riffs. But that weight and the overloading overdrive is not at the expense of accessibility: the songs are clearly structured and benefit from strong and defined choruses.

Lyrically, the album is strewn with funereal imagery of death and decay, coffins and caskets, yet somehow manages to avoid cliché. The songs also pour anguish. ‘There is grief that tastes good in your mouth / there is grief that takes years to scrub out / There is darkness buried beneath my skin / there is darkness at the heart of everything’, Maya sings, pained, at the start of ‘Avalanche’ against a sparse sonar-like bass boom and a weeping drone of feedback before the drums and power chords come crashing in with crushing force. Can there be onomatopoeic instrumentation? If so, Cold in Berlin have mastered it, the pulverizing

The ritual aspect of surrender is never far from range: ‘You could string her up / you could string her up her body’s a temple for your love’ Maya sings commandingly on ‘Temples’ against a thunderous grind of heavily distorted guitars. Elsewhere, ‘Monsters’ is tense, intense, and grand, drama radiating from every note, and Rituals of Surrender is outstanding in its consistency.

Blending hefty riffology with full-lunged brooding, Rituals of Surrender sees Cold in Berlin occupy the space between doom and goth, emerging like Sabbath fronted by Siouxsie. And they do it so well: this could well be their definitive album.

AA

Cold in Beerlin - Rituals