Posts Tagged ‘Nick Cave’

Front & Follow – F&F046 – 1st September 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

Having followed Mark Kluzek’s Doomed Bird of Providence for some time now, I was keen to hear the latest instalment. Over the last six years, he and his collaborators have produced a series of concept albums centred around Australian history, all using the medium of dark folk with heavy echoes of Nick Cave. Burrowed into the Soft Sky is very much an album devised as being suited to a vinyl release, and is perhaps the most challenging Doomed Bird release yet, consisting as it does of just two tracks each with a duration of some twenty minutes. While still pursuing what the bio refers to as ‘Kluzek’s obsessive and singular foray into early colonial history’, Burrowed into the Soft Sky discards the vocal element, meaning the narrative, such as it is, is purely musical.

To understand the objective and the context of the album and the individual tracks, it’s beneficial to quote liberally from the accompanying press release.

‘The underlying themes for each track are contrasting yet tie together via their historical context; a period where indigenous Australian belief systems and day-to-day lives were irrevocably assaulted. The song Burrowed into the Soft Sky is based on a passage from Patrick White’s novel Voss. The book is very loosely based on the final (and fatal) journey through the northern regions of Australia by German explorer Ludwig Leichardt. Kluzek took a passage from the book where a comet passes over and Voss, his team and a tribe of Australian Aboriginals engage with and interpret the experience until it is ‘burrowed into the soft sky’.’

How this manifests is in a piece which exits as a sequence of gradually-shifting transitions, sparse and haunting woodwind drifting across an urgent acoustic thrum, while percussion builds, and then draws back again. Around the mid-point it bursts into a sustained crescendo, with sweeping strings cascading over an insistent, energetic beat, but for the most part, it’s less about overt drama and more about the brooding. The closing segment is a dolorous fanfare, with nostalgia-evoking horns sounding out over a slow march that finally tapers to a twinkling glockenspiel that does evoke something approximating a soft sky.

Mark Kluzek- The Doomed Bird of Providence8

The press release provides the following explication for the track which occupies side B: ‘The Blood Dimmed Tide is Loosed takes a significantly darker turn shining a light on a pattern of atrocity that took place in the north east of Australia at a time where a dynamic of back and forth, invariably initiated by colonists, took place and culminating in a “dispersal” of a tribe, “by shooting them down – men, women and children, the object being to destroy as many as possible.” This is based on accounts of such events in the book Exclusion, exploitation and extermination: race relations in colonial Queensland (Raymond Evans, Kay Saunders, Kathryn Cronin). Attacks of this nature on tribes were commonplace.’

As indicated, the track immediately plunged into darker territory, uncomfortable, tense tones forging a claustrophobic atmosphere. Strings scrape like nails down a blackboard over ominous fear chords before a militaristic imperial march emerges from a tempest of percussion and screeding feedback. This in turn coalesces into a repetitious throb, imposing and intense, which bludgeons the listener’s senses as cymbals crash violently, and by the mid-point it’s collapsed into a wash of hums and drones, interrupted by clattering flickers and subterranean moans and skitters. The closing section again builds an oppressive mood, the thudding percussion partially submerged by a swell of ever-thickening noise.

A priori knowledge of the context is by no means essential to the appreciation of Burrowed into the Soft Sky. It does of course benefit the listener to have a sense of placement, but given that the correspondence between the tracks and their inspiration / meaning is far from obvious in any case, it’s an album which can readily be heard – if not necessarily ‘enjoyed’ – on its own merits. As a work which wanders through a number of instrumental musical territories, Burrowed into the Soft Sky is interesting and rewarding.

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1st March 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

Lusterlit are a duo comprising Charlie Nieland and Susan Hwang. The pair are part of Bushwick Book Club, in Brooklyn, a rotating group of songwriters and performers put who on regular shows featuring new music, art and snacks inspired by a chosen work of literature.

Concept and eclecticism are evidently very much core to their ethos: they promise ‘a mix of styles ranging from indie to soul to shades of shoegaze, reminiscent of PJ Harvey, Nick Cave, U2 and more,’ and, unusually, draw their lyrical inspiration entirely from the literary world. As someone who often bemoans the dumbing down of rock music, while running around shouting about how literature is the new rock ‘n’ roll because literature is the original rock ‘n’ roll and rock ‘n’ roll is dead, this appeals, at least if one perhaps overlooks the mention of U2.

List of Equipment somehow sounds like something Steve Albini would call an album or an EP, and it follow on from their previous releases, Hopeful Monsters and Everything is Sateen: Five Songs Inspired by Vonegut.

The first track, ‘Ceremony (Inspired by Blood Meridian)’ may not be a New Order cover, but does create a slow-building, claustrophobic atmosphere. But with some mournful guitars sliding beneath Hwang’s vocal, which in turn calls to mind the spirit and sound of Portishead’s Beth Gibbons, its haunting darkness is still infinitely more accessible than Cormac McCarthy’s text. The song builds to a swirling climax of breaking tension, the drums rumbling like thunder in the distance.

In keeping with the eclectic sourcing of material, the title track draws its inspiration from Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child. ‘We’re all gonna die,’ Hwang rasps against a nagging, insistent stomp. The gentle middle eight drops into a more baking-friendly zone before all hell breaks loose with frenzied pianos and percussive detonations that punches an angry hole in the coffee table fodder of a book listed on Amazon a ‘a statement, not of culinary intent, but of aspiration.’

The inspiration for the murky The Day of the Triffids – a work I first encountered as a child via the 1970s BBC adaptation – requires no explanation here, and with clattering, minimal beats and a woozy, squirming synth, Lusterlit convey the creeping fear of John Wyndham’s classic novel with disturbing adeptness.

The swing into funk-tinged soul for ‘Fight’, the first of a diptych of songs inspired by Johnathan Letham’s The Fortress of Solitude (a book I’ll admit that I haven’t read) marks a significant stylistic shift, and while it’s not my musical bag, it’s slickly executed, and demonstrates the wide-ranging versatility of Lusterlit’s musical skills, with Nieland’s dextrous picking having as natural a flow as Hwang’s soulful vocals. Its counterpart song, ‘Genius of Love’ lays down a late-night groove with a shuffling drum and over the course of its six minutes, channels a dreamy atmosphere, rounding off a set of songs that are intelligent, articulate and appealing, without any offputting airs of intellectual snobbery.

 

Lusterlit - List of Equiptment Cover

Hallow Ground – HG1606 – 28th October 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

Reiner Van Houdt presents an interesting proposition: a classically-trained pianist who’s worked with John Cage and Luc Ferrari, he also plays in Current 93 and has worked in collaboration with Nick Cave, John Zorn and Antony Hegarty. The fact this release is on the Hallow Ground label should perhaps give an indication that this is no soft neoclassical effort – although I’m in no way criticising neoclassical music here: I’m simply saying that this dos not sit within the field, and is harder, harsher, heavier, at least in places. There are no neat melodic structures to be found on Paths of the Errant Gaze, and no instrumentation which sits within the classical bracket: this is very much an electronic album.

On the face of it, there isn’t much to this. Paths of the Errant Gaze is an album which is extremely quiet, sparse, minimal, and the detail – and the quantity of source material involved in its creation – are not immediately apparent. Just as Burroughs and Gysin theorised on the power of ‘The Third Mind’ through the act of collaboration, so Van Houdt believes the act of recording creates a ‘third ear’. And so it is that Van Houdt built Paths of the Errant Gaze from myriad recordings gathered from a near-infinite array of locations.

‘The Fabric of Loss’ creeps ominously, scraping strings like creaking doors echo in the still air as dust motes descend silently, ‘Orphic Asylum’ introduces the first semblance of rhythms, murky, clanking, developing to extended bursts of bass-end noise and a thumping, trudging beat which plots treacherously through an unnervingly dark sonic labyrinth. Even when near-silence encroaches, there remains a dark, oppressive atmosphere in the air. Sparse piano notes and a Scott Walker-esque vocal emerge briefly from the dense sonic fog on TR 5, but neither does much to orientate or ground the listener.

There is no indication of the sounds captured by Van Houdt being your common or garden field recordings – in fact, the ‘everyday objects, situations and moments’ which Van Houdt records obsessively are all but lost amidst the process of forming a sonic melange. Nor does Van Houdt utilise these soundpieces in a conventional way: one does not get a sense of Paths of the Errant Gaze existing as a collage work. Paths of the Errant Gaze is not a work which is encumbered by a sense of pretence, and nor does its theoretical or conceptual framework impinge unduly on the end product.

The ten-minute ‘Transfinite Spectre’ is an all-out sonic assault worthy of Merzbow, as laser-guided blasts crackle and fizz, top-end treble drilling directly into the brain through the ear to create maximum discomfort.

 

Reinier Van Houdt - Paths of the Errant Gaze