Posts Tagged ‘New Wave’

Bearsuit Records – 9th December 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

It begins with an immense drumbeat and a warped guitar that calls to mind early Swans as it warps and distorts… but then, behind a piston-pumping mechanoid beat, it all goes a bit Stereolab. Within a minute, I’m feeling confused, disoriented, as chimes hang gracefully in the air above a demonic, guttural snarl and discordant synth chimes and eerily chirpy whistles. What the actual fuck is this? And how does the music relate to the title, or vice versa? Nothing about the album is remotely evocative of plump older women with their eyes down, smashing away with their dabbers in the bustling pursuit of the next line, and nor does it conjure any images of the 70s heyday of the bingo hall, the smoke-hazed babbling equivalent of the WMC. Annie & the Station Orchestra’s Bingo Halls is an entity unto itself.

Pitched by the label as ‘a little experimental and challenging in places’, it’s also sold as being ‘very melodic, playful and pretty accessible in its predominantly instrumental context.’ These things are all relative, of course and this is a Bearsuit Records release: these guys are all about the far-out, the whacky, the weird – something I salute them for. There is, most certainly, a degree of melody and accessibility about this release but don’t think it’s some kind of Justin Beiber / Lady Gaga / Little Mix bollocks.

‘King of the Idiots’ is a brilliantly-engineered electro-pop instrumental with a dark edge, minor chords played on analogue synths wend their way over a thumping programmed beat that says ‘1984’. It builds and swerves and builds some more until it’s ascended to the position of towering space-age electro-rock. The lilting melody of ‘The Return of Banjo Williamson’, which amalgamates elements of oriental chimes with a thrumming bass and juddering electronic beats, quite unexpectedly evokes the spirit of latter-day Cure before going all weirdy Muzak electro.

Doodling, noodling guitars and synths, drenched in echo, place the album somewhere between electronica, Tangerine Dream style ambient Krautrock and post-rock. Is there a term yet for electronic post-rock? If not, there bloody ought to be, and someone needs to let me know what it is, like, yesterday. It’s not as if worriedaboutsatan haven’t been straddling these very genre divides for around a decade. Still, Annie & the Station Orchestra offer something that’s distinctive and unique, and while elements of the various tracks lean towards a range of identifiable genre trappings, the overall effect is one of abstraction, of immediate distraction, and of stubborn non-conformity. This makes for an album that’s idiosyncratically innovative, and stands proudly in a field of its own.

 

Annie & the Station Orchestra – Bingo Halls

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Alrealon Musique – ALRN072 – 31st October 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

New York underground act The Strange Walls aren’t conformists or readily categorised: previous releases have been called shoegaze, darkwave, post punk, art punk, experimental, outsider. I’m not even sure what ‘outsider’ is supposed to sound like, but they’re big into their pseudonyms, thus cultivating an air of mystery around the band and their music. Emerging from an ever shifting lineup, core trio of the class of 2016, consisting of Jon V. Worthley, Dan Drogenous and Regna Yates, assisted by Jimmy Ayatollah and John Spreaders have whipped up something appropriately esoteric and wide-ranging for this release.

More significantly, …Won’t Last straddles many genres and yet subscribes wholly to none. A slow, ominous echoey bassline rent with shrieking, ghostly incidentals provide the musical backing to Regina’s vocal, which sings a vaguely familiar melody. But then it’s straight into a squalling lo-fi post-punk racket reminiscent of The Jesus and Mary Chain and A Place to Bury Strangers crossed with The Pop Group. It’s hard on the ears, and the contrast is almost schizophrenic. When an album’s tracks are as diverse as this, spanning psychedelia and folk and sometimes incorporating elements of at least two or three within a single song, it’s inevitable that some tracks will appeal more than others, and this is something which is wholly subjective. Yet the fact that there are some clear standout tracks is an objective observation, and the sequencing of the tracks accentuates this fact. The bleak electro sound of ‘In Time’ combines steely synths with a dash of dark pop sensibility which calls to mind early 80s Cure, and with its primitive, distant drum sound and reverb-soaked synth oscillations, ‘White’ lands somewhere between Cocteau Twins and Silver Apples, and these tracks inevitably sound stronger against the softer, less structured folky strummers. ‘Snow Day’ leans heavily on early New Order, while ‘Yawdons’ fulfils the criteria for obligatory droning experimental piece.

The ramshackle production equally works both for and against the album as a whole. Being better suited to some tracks than others, at times adding space and partially obscured sonic depths, at other simply sounding messy. The result, then, is an album that’s a bit hit and miss. Not bad, and in places brilliant, but a few tracks that will likely become skippers after a while.

 

The Strange Walls

Damnably – 26th August 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

Barnsley: a long way off the musical map, eclipsed by Leeds and Sheffield. Yes, hometown of cult goth rock act Danse Society and a burgeoning post-punk inspired alternative indie scene and generally represented by the micro-label Of National Importance, but nevertheless, pretty much off the radar. Enter Bruja, a band credited with creating a ‘DIY junk-punk scene that has seen them hosting their own gigs, pressing up CDs, booking tours and making their own analogue VHS Videos to lighten the depressing reality of zero hours contracts in the service industry, unemployment and increasing xenophobic hostility’.

This once again returns us to what’s become something of a recurrent theme of late in my reviews on these pages: the depressing way in which austerity Britain and particularly post-Brexit Britain is a dark and dismal place, as depressed and divided as in the late 70s and early 80s. I was barely a child at the time, but essentially grew up against the backdrop of the miners’ strike and the Falkland’s war, followed by the Gulf War. War on TV in the 80s and 90s was a revolution in itself: now it’s wallpaper, but coupled with the effects of a long-term conservative government and the sense that history is repeating with a grim predictability whips up a cyclone of bleak feeling.

Impressively, Bruja have landed themselves on Damnably – home of Shonen Knife, Wussy and Oktoboke Beaver –  for the release of their new single. Promising ‘post-industrial, South Yorkshire modulatory desolation from a young band with a mean age of 24’, ‘Tori’ is a magnificently catchy post-Placebo new-wave influenced tune with a tremolo-heavy flanged-out lead guitar and driving rhythm section. Counterpart ‘Sculie’ is infectiously pop at its core, but propelled by some energetic drumming and a guitar sound that shimmers with the sound of an early 80s chorus pedal.

Times may be bleak, but it’s a good time for music. And this is good music.

 

Bruja

Staubgold – Staubgold 141 –20th May 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

Vivien Goldman knows people. She’s written about so many in her capacity as a widely-published journalist, and she’s worked with a fair few, too, and as such, Resolutionary is a fascinating document of her collaborations, recorded during a particularly fertile period between 1979 and 1982. The roll-call of musicians featured on the eight tracks here is staggering: John Lydon, Keith Levene and Bruce Smith (PiL) Robert Wyatt, Steve Beresford and David Toop, and Vicky Aspinall (The Raincoats), and Neneh Cherry, amongst others, all feature here.

In many ways, Resolutionary is an odds-and-sods effort, a curio, a retrospective exhibition which focuses on the individual artist’s career more than its context, and which represents what was essentially a brief period in Goldman’s career, which has since been devoted to the documentation of music-making, rather than the actual making of music. But Goldman’s musical legacy is noteworthy, however scant. Her brief time with The Flying Lizards remains a career-defining spell, despite the fact that she wasn’t the one who provided the vocals on their biggest hit, ‘Money’. But in many ways, that’s a positive. No-one wants to be pegged as a one-hit wonder, their life spent in the shadow of that singular moment, and more importantly, Resolutionary serves to realign history, to an extent.

It’s an interesting aside to note that Public Image’s ‘This is Not a Love Song’ was inspired, in title at least, by The Flying Lizards track ‘Her Story’, which features here. Indeed, the two Flying Lizards tracks, ‘Her Story’ and ‘The Window’ (both of which feature Goldman on vocals, the latter of which was also composed by her) represent the detached, minimal pop they’re famed for. Big, strolling basslines are again the defining feature of these off-kilter noodles. Although readily available on The Flying Lizards’ eponymous debut, revisiting them in the context of Goldman’s output rather than that of the band offers an alternative context.

The dubtastic quirky kitchen-sink pop of solo cuts ‘Launderette’ and its attendant B-sides, released on the ‘Dirty Washing’ 12”, are worth the money alone. ‘Private Army’ is a colossal six-and-a-half spaced-out dub-based beast, the percussion and sax spiralling into a vortex of reverb. ‘P.A’ Dub’ – the dub version of ‘Private Army’ does dub out the vocals.

The Chantage tracks are the most accessible, with a lighter tone and style, with the pop reggae of ‘Same Thing twice’ proving a buoyant standout. But then, the Gallic theatricality of ‘It’s Only Money’ is equally beguiling and showcases Goldman’s range.

The interview with Vivien, recorded in 1981 and released on a cassette compilation is interesting, articulate, energetic, and insightful, although the audio quality is less than brilliant, and one does have to strain at times to decipher what’s being said. Still, as a historical document, its appearance on the disc is more than justified. The extensive liner notes, too, are pretty good, and overall, this is a quality package.

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Vivien Goldman Online

Cult Records/Custom Made Music -22nd April 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

The album’s intro is immense. I mean, it builds and builds and threatens a blast of noise akin to Prurient, before the tide breaks and a sepulchral goth sound breaks out. Echoic guitars snake through a wash of reverb against a hipswaying bass groove as the mid-tempo opening track, ‘Confusion Hill paves the way for album steeped in vintage post-punk, but with more than enough inventiveness to stand up in its own right.

As much as it’s The Sisters of Mercy around the time of First and Last and Always it’s Suspiria. High on theatrical drama, bathed in reverb, ‘Observed in a Dream’ is an album which closely observes some old-school production values and uses them to good effect. The drums are up in the mix, the bass is low-slung and murky, and the guitars are brittle and fuzzy around the edges as they explore Dorian scales.

There are no shortage of highlights. The tetchy ‘Lovesick’ appropriates The Fall’s ‘My New House; and plays with a swampy psych vibe that’s both 80s Matchbox and The Volcanoes, throwing in a few dollops of Lloyd Cole and The Bunnymen into the mess.

‘Upside Down (the death loop’) plunges into deep psychedelic territory with its repetitive guitar motif and motorik drumming swathed in cavernous reverb, while the shadow of Red Lorry Yellow Lorry hangs long over the driving ‘Weightless’, and the title track sounds like a heavy collision between The Black Angles and The Jesus and Mary Chain, all throbbing bass, squalling feedback amidst an ocean of echo.

Whereas so many of the 90s wave off goth-inspired bands conspired to produce music that was arch and soulless, Mayflower Madame push a much more organic sound that’s geared toward psychedelic rock with a dark, smoky delivery that’s cool as fuck, evoking the spirit of The Doors as filtered through The Sisters, as if The Reptile House EP had been played with a live drummer. They keep it tight and keep it taut, but know how to cut loose and wig out when the mood takes.

Goth ain’t dead, it was just waiting for a new messiah. Mayflower Madame have got the life, and Observed in a Dream is one of the most exhilaratingly atmospheric albums I’ve heard in a while. It’s nice to see some guys wearing hats, too.

Mayflower Madame - Observed in a Dream

Mayflower Madame on Bandcamp

Mayflower Madame

Kscope – 29th April 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

Se Delan, a duo consisting of multi-instrumentalist Justin Greaves and Swedish singer Belinda Kordic, have gone for a more natural and human sound on their second album, Drifter, after the stark soundscapes of 2014;’s The Fall. They may consider it to be more raw, but given that their style of music of a dark, new-wave-inspired nature, it’s necessarily controlled, stark and detached.

According to the press release, their collaboration is built on their shared influences of ‘music, film and life.’ I’m in no position to comment on the lives they’ve led or how those life experiences have shaped ‘Drifter’, an album preoccupied with madness, and in particular how the line between sanity and insanity can at times appear frighteningly thin.

The concept may be something of a cliché, but it’s eminently relatable. Mental health is a big topic right now, and it’s a shame that policy and society is so far behind what so many of us already knew: life is challenging, confusing, and in a world gone mad, it’s hard to even know where you are on the sanity scale from one day to the next. The duo articulate this beautifully on Drifter.

The album presents a very personal exploration of the theme, but in the personal lies the universal, and the album benefits from being based around some excellent tunes. Kordic’s vocals are breathy and warm despite the reverb that enshrouds them. Shifting between a tremulous Kate Bush to Toni Halliday via Gitane Demone, she covers haunting, tormented, sultry and more.

Fractal, gothy guitars swathed in chorus and metallic-edged flange chime as they crawl, spindly and tense around throbbing bass tones on the album’s opener ‘Going Home’, and a thick, flanged bass rumble drives ‘Ruined by Them’. Dreamy, seductive and very much cast in shadow, the title track is a song of desolate introspection on which Kordic questions her own very identity. The stark atmosphere is accentuated by a claustrophobic production reminiscent of The Cure’s Faith album.

‘Blue Bird’ finds Kordinc coming on like a cross between Siouxsie and Kate Bush over a hypnotic guitar line that cascades over a rolling bass, while ‘All I Am’ again hits a dense Curesque atmosphere. The seductive ‘Blueprint’ spirals out on fractal guitars, contrasting with the driving ‘In Obscura’ (do I hear hints of ‘Dominion’ in there? Hints of Disintegration?), while the spiky ‘Gently Bow Out’ is far from gentle, bearing serrated edges worthy of Savages.

Album closer ‘No Fear of Ghosts’ is a classic slow-builder which begins low, slow and haunting and ultimately explodes into a crescendo of dark tension, with a tripwire guitar line dominating the swirling tide of sound.

Am I going to throw in comparisons to acts like Ghost Dance, Rose of Avalanche and Sunshot too? Yes. While Drifter is dark and often bleak, it has a hooky accessibility that places Se Delan toward the poppier side of the goth spectrum. Owing far more to 80s post-punk than 90s shoegaze, Drifter showcases a band whose sound is not nearly as claustrophobic as the Sisters of Mercy in their early days, nor as spiky as Siouxsie or Skeletal Family, but who nevertheless capture the sound of 1984. It’s also magnificently executed, and most definitely recommend it.

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Se Delan Online at KScope

Returning after quite some time away, The Gaa Gaas have unveiled a promo video for their single ‘Close Your Eyes’, released 29th February. It’s a welcome return, and they’re threatening some live dates very soon, too.

Watch the video here.