Posts Tagged ‘Newcastle’

Panurus Productions – 29th May 2020

Mantis Shrimp is the second Shrimp release following their eponymous debut released just over a year ago, in January 2019. A collaboration between various luminaries of the underground scene in Newcastle, England, and Ryosuke Kiyasu, who has enough projects to his credit to render him a one-man music scene in Japan, they describe their sound as ‘chitinous free grind onslaught’.

Now, if ‘Shrimp’ has connotations of small fry, the proverbial puny weakling, and their debut laid waste to those associations with a devastating cacophony , then it’s perhaps worth approaching this instalment with the knowledge that the mantis shrimp is the brutal bastard of the small crustacean world: a violent predator, mantis shrimp typically eat fish, crabs, clams, snails, worms, shrimp and squid, and can take on animals significantly larger than themselves thanks to their ‘calcified clubs’

According to Wikipedia, these hard exoskeletal bastards are sometimes referred to as ‘thumb splitters’ ‘because of the animal’s ability to inflict painful gashes if handled incautiously…—mantis shrimps have powerful claws that are used to attack and kill prey by spearing, stunning, or dismembering’.

This pretty much how it feels listening to the four pieces here.

There’s a strain (and strain is an apposite word choice) of experimental jazz that sounds like the end of a piece, where the instruments all clatter and rumble as they wind down from a climax, only that is the piece, and each piece lasts an eternity. That’s this. Only with grating guitars and bowel-ripping guttural vocals, which add depth and detail to the calamitous, chaotic racket.

‘Sealed Explosion’ eases it in gently, with thirteen minutes of stop / start percussion and stuttering discord that crashes and stumbles in all directions. It’s an absolute headfuck, and it’s only more intensely difficult from hereon in, with the sludgy squall of ‘Grasping Pincers’ bubbling through a relentless racket of crashing cymbals and stammering anti-chords and screeding feedback. The lull after four and a half minutes feels like an immense relief – but then you realise there’s another ten minutes to go as Watts starts up the gasping growl (first mistyped amusingly but perhaps appropriately as ‘sharts up’) that will continues to rasp through the bewildering tempest of noise. There’s some wild funk bass played at a hundred miles an hour around the ten-minute mark, but it’s submerged beneath a brain-shredding wall of noise. That’s no criticism, just a mere statement of fact.

‘Boiling Swamp’ spring and spurs, eddying electronics and guitars that sound more like they’re tuning up than playing actual music dominate the thrumming, humming drone of feedback and bass groans and tweeting sonic contrails. It gradual descends into a bass drone miasma, while shrill top-end feedback shrieks all around. Not a lot happens, but amidst the turbulence, there are wordless howls and hollers. Or, if words, impenetrable. As they ought to be. Watts resorts to guttural snarls in the dying minutes of this chthonic noise dirge that evokes Sunn O))) minus the growling low end crossed with Whitehouse, and which leaves ‘Endless Collapsing Staircase’ in prospect.

It’s 28 minutes of trippy experimental electronica that straddles noise, power electronics and various ambient forms. Percussion rattles erratically amidst trilling industrial scrapes, gradually building through wordless vocal drones and swelling layers of extranea. Anguished howls, shrieks, and barks punctuate a mess of feedback and flailing percussion. It’s a fucking horrible mess of noise: there’s a stab at a fractured bass groove in amongst it all. It never quite gets going, and 14 minutes in, it sounds like it’s all over as it collapses into a mess of pedals, but we’re barely at the midpoint. Watts sounds like he’s being gutted in a ceremonial act that’s been incorporated into a Large Unit performance. Or something. It hurts. But it works.

a3330396040_10

March 28, 2020

No preamble, no slow-building intro: Fret! pile in with everything louder than everything else on the full-throttle set opener, ‘Hillbilly’. It’s got swagger and groove, but it sure as hell ain’t country, and similarly, ‘Surf’ is swampy, repetitive, dingy. And of course, I’m excited.

Recorded live at South Street Arts Centre, Reading (UK) 18 March 2017, Fierce Business On South Street documents a set which comprises a large number of songs from the album

Through The Wound The Light Comes In, released the month before. It captures the feel of a live show brilliantly, being raw, unsanitised, and in your face. Right now, when I’m missing gigs so badly it hurts, Fierce Business On South Street reminds me of everything that’s special and unique about that blast of sound in a confined space, with the immediacy and proximity to both the band and other people being leading factors. It’s perhaps ironic that this live recording does more justice to some of the songs than their studio counterparts, but Fret! are a band who are 100% DIY in their aesthetic, and the zero production applied to the releases to date is integral to that.

‘DK’, the first track on Through The Wound, is built around a cyclical bass riff and some churning guitar that slows to a crawl before bleeding into the lugubrious doomy dirge of ‘Dark as a Dungeon’, a downtuned grinder that which features the set’s first vocals. If you’re looking for melody or hooks, look elsewhere. Cut down to seven minutes from the 14-minute studio version, it’s still epic on every level.

They rip through nine songs in just over half an hour, with a succession of short sharp shocks – ‘Cowboy’, ‘Punch’, and ‘Loop’ are all around two-and-a-half minutes, with the penultimate assault, ‘Tired’ being blasted through in a blink-and-miss-it minute and a half. Closer ‘Sonic’ blasts in with a blitzkrieg of snare shots like machine-gun fire and it drives it all home to the finish in style and with all the energy.

The riffage is relentless, and dingy and packs the same sweaty gunge heft of early Tad, and this is so grimy you’ll probably need to shower afterwards.

AA

a1797549250_10

Cruel Nature Records – 29th July 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

Sometimes, social networking really works. When Facebook isn’t about infighting, trolling, bitching, pissing and moaning, and people accept contact from strangers based on mutual friends and mutual interests, good stuff happens. I can’t exactly recall how I came into contact with James Watts, who runs Newcastle-Upon-Tyne based tape label Panurus productions, but some months after, I ended up performing in London alongside Lump Hammer, one of his numerus musical vehicles, thanks to another mutual friend with a penchant for big, noisy guitars who found me via Aural Aggro reviews. And so it came to pass that said mutual friend – Owen, from Modern Technology – introduced me and Steve Strode, who’s also in a bad and who also runs another Newcastle-based tape label, Cruel Nature Records. Fret! happen to feature Strode on guitar (twang), alongside Rob Woodcock (credited with ‘flails / screams’) and Cath Tyler (‘thrum / la’). And with cover art by Tom McCarthaigh, the design/layout is courtesy of none other than James Watts. It really is a small world. Especially in Newcastle.

This is lo-fi, low-budget, scuzzy. The production is proper rough, the guitar sound fuzzed-out and unpolished – we’re in home-recorded four-track demo quality here, with crackling at the edges and needles pushing the top ends of red, and opener ‘Belly’ comes on like early Fall with its repetitive riffage played rough ‘n’ ready. It seems fitting, not only because this is a cassette release, but because this is underground in every way.

On the lumbering slow-pace riff noise of ‘Hucknall’ (pretty much all of the titles are indecipherable one-worders), there’s a hoarse howl all bit buried in the mix, by accident or design, countered by a drawing monotone counterpoint. ‘Davy’ goes for the all-out screaming racket that not quite metal but is unquestionably all-out in its frenzied brutality, but most of the album favours the frenetic but contained blistering squall of 90s alternative. By which I mean bands like Fudge Tunnel, Terminal Cheesecake, Helmet, are all viable and appropriate reference points, and by which it should be apparent that this is a monster riffageous racket of the highest order. ‘SUSD’ sows it down, grinding away at a repetitive cyclical riff that’s as messy as hell, wash with distortion, reverb, and tremolo, while ‘Cowboy’ piledrives into got/psychobilly/hardcore/crust-punk territory with obliterative fury.

Is there an element of nostalgia in the appeal of this, as a 43-year old fan of grunge and more subterranean 90s alternative? Well, naturally, but that really isn’t the primary appeal here. What appeals about A Vanity Spawned By Fear is the simple fact that it’s raw and uncompromising and blindingly intense. It isn’t pretty or nice, and isn’t supposed to be. It wouldn’t work if it was.

The last track, ‘Country’ is a slow, hesitant cross between early Pavement and Shellac. But A Vanity Spawned is most definitely not derivative, and there’s nothing remotely lifted or directly referential here. Instead, they amalgamate a mass of influences and condense them in a mould of their own making. It’s hard, heavy, and difficult. Stylistically, it isn’t any one thing, but it’s completely ace.

AA

Fret - Vanity

Panurus Productions – 19th November 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

What have we got there, then? It would appear to be a collaborative release from Drooping Finger and Möbius, utilising the former’s lo-fi minimal electronic drone as a setting for the latter’s looped wordless vocal textures.

I must admit that I’m unfamiliar with ‘Newcastle gloomlord’ Drooping Finger, but ‘melancholic vocal duo’ Möbius I am aware of. Their first collaborative work, imaginatively titled Drooping Finger & Möbius is pitched as combining their talents, and consists of their set at The Gosforth Hotel’s Sumner Suite and material recorded during a session at First Avenue Studios in Heaton.

And what does is give us? The BandCamp write-up tells us that ‘Guttural gurgles are embedded in glacial electronics whilst siren songs tumble overhead. The tones hover above the murk at times whilst disappearing into its eddies at others as the collaborative trio draw you into their bleak atmospherics’. And all of it’s true. Although mostly it’s the murk that dominates, with sounds and tonal ranges all but buried beneath a sonic smog.

The live side, (at least corresponding with the cassette release) containing one track simply entitled ‘Sumer Suite’ is first, and is 26 minutes of dark ambient rumblings and janglings and mid-range drones, punctuated at first by stuttering, echoic beats, a shifting soundscape of disquiet. Ominous hums and swells of distant thunder provide the backdrop to disembodied, angelic voices low in the mix and veering between euphoric grace and the anguish of entrapment. Sonorous low-end booms out like a warning signal and cuts through the rising cacophony. But this is not a linear composition, there is no obvious trajectory: instead, the objective is the creation of atmosphere, and while it does naturally ebb and flow, peak and trough, the sustenance of tension is the priority here. Amidst slow crashes and waves of darkness emerge… nothing but nerve-tingling tensions, and even as the piece faded to silence, its hard to settle completely.

The studio side – again, consisting of a single track called ‘Stung’ which spans a full half an hour – provides more of the same, and with similar sonic fidelity at least on my speakers. Heaving drones like distant passing motorcycles drift in and out of range. Ghostly voices drift around nerve-chewing mid-range drones that shimmer and churn like foam on sand. On and on. Again, it doesn’t go anywhere, but that it’s the intention: it funnels and eddies to immersive effect. The tension builds not by any increments within the music, but by accumulation.

It’s a lights off, candle lit, eyes closed type of album, whereby there are no dominant features, and barely any features at all. In context, features are surplus to requirement: Drooping Finger & Möbius makes its presence known subtly, indirectly, creeping under the skin and weaving its dark magic subliminally.

AA

Drooping Finger   Mobius