Posts Tagged ‘New Wave’

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

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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

Cleopatra Records – 9th November 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

Pitched as for vans of \the KVB, The Sisters of Mercy, and My Bloody Valentine amongst others, Holygram caught my attention with the second single from Modern Cults, ‘A Faction’. The album’s focus are the themes of big cities, alienation, anonymity, hope and memories, love and identity. It’s in keeping with the band’s post-punk leanings that there’s a darker hue cast over even the lighter themes – you’re more likely to get the anguish of heartbreak and the pull of distance than the bliss of perfection in the musings on love here.

There’s something solid and traditional in an album containing ten tracks – by which I mean it takes me back to me back to my 80s childhood, and if ever a contemporary album had ‘80s vintage’ written all over it, it’s Modern Cults. It begins with dark industrial rumbling, heavy atmospherics, and an insistent bass drumbeat low in the mix, before the title track breaks the levee with a thunder of sequenced tom rolls, churning, distorted bass and heavily chorused guitars. The vocals are half-lost in a wash of reverb and the spiralling guitars and stammering c.84 mechanoid drums.

It’s that drum sound – the massive splash that takes an eternity to decay as it thumps along in a cavern of echo, along with the reverberating vocals and everything else that swirls into a rippling sonic bath – that defines the album. But then, there’s a dense gauze of overt ‘production’ that covers every inch of Modern Cults that may be anything but modern, but is executed with such precision it’s hardly a point of contention.

Modern Cults is loud, deep, resonant, pitched into a swirling vortex void of noise that channels pain and anguish and the banging of one’s head against a wall. ‘Dead Channel Skies’ presents a full-tilt wall of shimmering noise, pure shoegaze but with everything post-punk circa 83 thrown in. then again, other 80s tropes are thrown into the mix: ‘She’s Like the Sun’ comes on like a shoegaze Gary Numan and there’s a deep sense of the retro that permeates every inch of this release. And yet somehow, it rises above the parts to yield a greater sum, arguably despite itself.

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Holygram - Modern

August 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

Every town and city has at least one. One of those bands who knock around for years, are solid, and actually pretty decent, but never moves beyond the local scene. Once of those bands who’ll never be massive, but have all the right credentials and enough decent songs to do well on the pub / small venue circuit, if only…. Well, it’s all the iffs. It’s often not even lack of ambition in many cases – although the 9-5 and family life and mere existence so often take precedence and gnaw away at both ambition and the time available to do the things that make achieving any ambition possible. In other cases, of course, it’s simply lethargy. But is that so wrong? If a band is content to remain local and enjoys doing what they do, and people turn up to shows and enjoy what they do… aren’t they fulfilling a purpose, culturally? Fun is important, and where’s the harm? There’s joy to be had in the simple process of writing, rehearsing and performing songs.

Close to home (for me me) Wakefield and Piskie Sits, who in a parallel universe enjoy a cult status somewhere between Pavement and Truman’s Water. Or something. They’re ace, but will likely never find their audience in their locale. The same is true of PERCY, and it’s not negative to place them in this bracket – after all I first caught them playing the back room of a pub in York in the late 90s (they formed 22 years ago in 1996). Since then, they’ve gone on to pursue a more punk-pop trajectory, been signed, gone back independent, undergone numerous drummer changes, and received airplay from John Peel and Steve Lamacq.

I moved away, returned, did other stuff, and, well here we are: they’re independent again and doing what they do, and so am I. And so it goes.

On this outing, their back-to-basics, Fall-influenced, workaday, hacked-off, angular post-punk pub rock really mines deep into that rough ‘n’ ready Sleepers Wake sees PERCY step out of their comfort zone and at the same time return to their roots to deliver something quite different, while at the same time perfectly familiar.

‘Why Are You Still Here’ kicks the album off in choppy, lo-fi, rough ‘n’ ready style that captures the spirit of The Fall circa 1979. The guitars are raw, the rhythm section is functional but far from pretty in its detail, and the vocals are sneering: it’s more about delivery than musicality. ‘HEP!’ is pure Grotesque (think the Rockabilly of ‘Container Drivers’), and it’s fair to say that Sleepers Wake is a no-fi ruckus.

If the majority of the material fits the form, and is as messy as, with the choppy as ‘It Is Time’ going a bit throatier and noisier but still sounding like a thick-throated Killing Joke cover of ‘How I Wrote Elastic Man’ and ‘Enlightened’ drawing on any shit floating around from Fray Bentos pies to Skegness in the rain; Sleepers Wake is both diverse and coherent.

‘Alice Stone’ – one of two tracks mixed by underground avant-electro / techno legend Tim Wright goes all dubby and builds to a tempestuous racket over the course of its sprawling six-and-a-half minutes.

But ultimately, Sleepers Wake is uncluttered and unpretentious and brings bags of driving energy. Polish? Nah. PERCY don’t piss about with any of that shit, just s they don’t fuss with production, blah, blah. No, this is as it is. And as it is ace, encapsulating the spirit of punk and the band’s blistering live energy.

Sometimes, I just need a night off. And what better way to unwind than going to see a trio of noisy bands? It may be something of a busman’s holiday for a music critic, but a night-off gig means there’s no obligation to produce a review. Which means I can drink all the beer and not care about making notes, about remembering anything other than the atmosphere, the overall experience of whether the bands and the night were any good. Right? Only, I’ve gone and done it anyway. For posterity. Out of habit. And because it’s shows like this that provide the best entertainment, but rarely get the coverage -or attendance – they deserve.

Granted, it’s baking hot and it’s Wednesday night after the universities have split for summer. But it’s free entry, dammit! And the lineup features bands who’ve travelled from Hull! And bloody good bands at that!

Admittedly, I’m here for Cannibal Animal, a band who’ve consistently impressed, both live and recorded: their latest EP is an absolute banger.

Night Owls arrive with squalling feedback and noodling synths, with driving drumming and some melodic hooks. There’s much to like about their brand of sinewy, synthy, post-punk… and beyond ‘I am for real’ their singer hollers ad infinitum during their second song, and nothing in their edgy, angular set gives reason to doubt, although their style is so wide-ranging I do find myself wondering exactly how to position them. But then, it’s not about pigeonholing, but quality of material and performance. And these guys are good on both fronts.

Night Owls

Night Owls

Cannibal Animal’s latest offering marks a significant shift toward the more psych-influenced end of the post-punk spectrum, evoking the sort of surf-goth of obscuritants like The Volcanoes more than the overt rockabilly of, say The Cramps. ‘Ellipsisism’, the lead single from their snarling ‘A Decline in Morality’, which also reminds me of the mega-obscure ‘Genetic Disruption’ EP by Murder the Disturbed (released on Small Wonder, the same label which would release Bauhaus’ seminal ‘Bela Lugosi’s Dead’ 12” in the same year) EP is a clear standout, although it’s the EP’s closer ‘Ripe’ that’s lodged in my head on the train home.

The brittle, flanged, chorus-soaked guitars of the studio renderings are cranked up to the pain threshold and into a thick mess of distortion and shrieking treble, resulting in a set that slams from beginning to end like a sonic battering ram. It’s no criticism to observe that Luke Ellerington isn’t your conventionally appealing front man, but he’s charismatic and compelling and his presence is huge. It’s tense, loud, and thrilling, and I could go home happy after their set.

Cannibal 1Cannibal 2

Cannibal Animal

But then there’s Lumer, who’ve also made their way from Hull. Theirs is a set of angsty, aggressive post-punk with pummelling tom-driven drumming that’s tense and expansive.

I’ve had a few pints by now, since I’m not planning to review the show, and spend some time marvelling at their keyboardist’s dubious moustache and the fact the singer bears a passing resemblance to a young Kirk Brandon.

Lumer

Lumer

The one thing about gig drinking is that there’s always someone way drunker than you, and while I’m conscious of gaps in my notes, I’m more conscious of the fact there’s a really drunk guy who keeps falling over while moshing loosely. People keep picking him up and throwing him back upright, before he lurches toward the stage. But he’s happy and they’re cool with it, and as outstanding as the music, it’s the community spirit. It’s truly uplifting and a joy to witness.

I’m also conscious that the volume is so intense that the sound is mushy, especially standing as close to the speakers as I am… and it doesn’t matter. The energy that crackles from the band, and which is bounced back by the audience is immense.

If you want clean sound, stay home. If you want to get out of your skin, cut loose and live, go and watch live bands in small venues.

I need to take more nights off.

Christopher Nosnibor

Leeds synth-led post-punk outfit FEHM have mellowed a fair bit since they first burst onto stages in and around their hometown three or four years ago. New single, ‘Scarborough Warning’ may lack the abrasive edges and wild, wide-eyed bass-driven gothy mania of early songs like ‘Sinking Sands’, but that isn’t to say this more commercial sound is without edge.

This means that while Paul Riddle’s frenzied holler has softened to a brooding croon, and the instrumentation sounds less like X-Mal Deutschland and more like early Human League with a hefty dash of The Cure in the mix, not to mention a lead guitar part that’s pure (early) New Order, there’s a dark, melancholy edge to this slice of disco-pop. It’s heavy on reverb and imbued with a nagging wistfulness, and it’s also still deeply rooted in the first half of the 1980s.

I dig.

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FEHM will also be playing a handful of dates in August support of the release:

2nd: The New Adelphi, Hull

3rd: The Brudenell Social Club, Leeds (With full supporting line up including Drahla)

9th:The Underground, Newcastle

10th: The Castle, Manchester

11th, The Shacklewell Arms, London

FEHM