Posts Tagged ‘New Wave’

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Cold in Beerlin - Rituals

Hangman Ho Records – 14th March 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

Every 18 months or so, I get contact from Rick Senley. This has been happening for a good few years now. I like him, and I like his work. There’s a pattern of sorts. He seemingly hibernates for a while, then emerges with a brace of albums, one each from his main projects, Music for Voyeurs and I Am A Man With A St Tropez Tan. Both different sides of the same coin, they tend to be contrasting but complimentary.

So this latest arrives came as something of a surprise: not an album but a single, and representing a new project. Made in Minks sees Senley return to the fold of a band-orientated project after many years operating in a solo capacity, and the international quintet, which initially coalesced in 2014, they’ve been honing their sound before declaring that ‘now is the time’.

Citing influences from Pixies to The Cure, Kate Bush, Black Sabbath and Aztec Camera, Made in Minsk claim to ‘sculpt a unique sound of psychedelic indie thrash folk’. If that sounds deranged, well, yes, it is.

‘Where the Truth Lies’ starts with darkly atmospheric muttering that calls to mind the Cure’s ‘Pornography’, before breaking out into a muscular riff that builds on a thunking bass throb and insistent rhythm that contains elements of The Fall but combines it with the snaking reverby bleakness of The Cure circa Faith and the fiery goth favours of Skeletal Family. It’s retro as, and it’s all the better for it: whereas so many contemporary acts play post-punk through a post-millennial filter of Interpol and Editors, MIM return to source to deliver something that feels authentic in every way, from the sentiment to the production.

Dark, stark, and angular, it’s also hypnotic and catchy, and a really strong song.

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Made in Minsk

Movement-2 Records – 31st October 2018

Some things shouldn’t be rushed. And some things just take time, because. When it comes to the Gaa Gaas’ career and release schedule, both statements apply. 15 years on from their inception, they’re finally on the brink of the release of their debut album, and to build momentum, they’re throwing out a few tasters / reminders. Following a brace of EPs, V.O.L.T.A.I.R.E. was the band’s first single release back in 2010. And finally, it’s received a vinyl reissue, with a limited amount sold exclusively for Record Store Day 2018 prior to the official release date in October.

The physical format matters. For bands – anyone who was born pre-millennium, at least, I would say – the dream is to release music and be able to hold, as well as hear it. Music-making is a multi-media, multi-sensory practise, and how it’s presented is an integral part of the experience where consuming music is concerned. And for fans – the object is the gateway to the sonic experience, the tangible form to which the attachment to the music itself forms, presenting the band and their music and firing an infinite array of subliminal triggers and associations. The black-and-white cover art and labels say budget, independent, underground – and it’s all in the detail, like the hand-stamped number on the label. It gives a sense of artefact, of something to be treasured.

And rightly so: the single itself, it’s a stormer. The drums snake out of a screed of feedback and nagging, off-kilter, shrieking guitar that’s got a bit of Bauhaus about it before the bass cuts in with a funksome groove that again hints at Bauhaus’ ‘Kick in the Eye’ but equally hints at Gang of Four and Radio Four. It’s tense, dark, reverby post-punk with a twisted psychedelic edge that’s claustrophobic, desperate, anguished, the trebly, echoey production capturing the essence of early March Violets and at the same time offering an infectious hookiness.

Flipside – and yes, it’s a genuine, literal, flipside here – ‘Hypnoti(z)ed follows a similar trajectory, with a dense, throbbing bass groove and metronomic, mechanised doom disco drumming providing the skeleton over which they stretch a skin of spindly guitars and echo-soaked yelping vocals. Skeletal Family and The Danse Society’s early work comes to mind, but The Gaa Gaas bring a manic edge that’s uniquely their own, and Gavin Tate’s vocal only accentuates the fevered unpredictability of the skewed, clanging guitars.

The post-punk revival that spawned the likes of Interpol predates the emergence of The Gaa Gaas, meaning they don’t sit within that bracket in terms of timing, but then again, The Gaa Gaas don’t sit within that bracket stylistically, either. While Interpol, White Lies, et al feel somewhat studied, controlled, and produced even in their more formative stages, there’s something warped, unhinged, dangerous about this. And eight years on from its initial release, it feels more vital than ever.

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Gaa Gaas