Posts Tagged ‘Newcastle’

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

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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