Posts Tagged ‘No Wave’

7th January 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

I like Modern Technology before I’ve even heard a note. Drummer Owen approached me through Facebook having clocked Aural Aggravation with a link to the East London duo’s debut EP. Most bands starting out want to get on the radar, and get some cash back for the hard graft they’ve put in trying to get to the point of putting music out into the public domain, especially as a physical release – and this comes in limited-to-200 clear vinyl in addition to the digital version – but they’re donating all profits between Mind and Shelter, perhaps two of the most vital charities in the age of austerity.

I may not have written much about the plight of the homeless, although the fact we have a massive problem here in Britain right now requires no qualification, but I have touched on mental health on more than one occasion here in the past. The oft-shared statistics are just statistics, but in my day-job (yes, I work for a multinational who deal in insurance and investments, because, incredibly reviewing bands no-one’s heard of and writing books no-one reads doesn’t pay the bills) I’m often required to step out of my role to help people and to listen to people. They all have trouble. They’re all stressed. They’re all anxietised. Some are depressed. I know how they feel, and they know it. It really is good to talk. No, not just good: vital. This is my daily reality. So the fact that the bulk of CD I get sent for review which I don’t choose to keep end up at my local Mind charity shop is just something I do. Because it’s important to do what you can, right?

According to their bio, Modern Technology formed through ‘a shared frustration of the post-truth society and political unrest that is currently suffocating our global conscious’. The one positive of political turbulence is the spur to creativity: it’s no coincidence that that post-punk emerged during the Thatcher era, and it’s fair to say that the parallels between then and now are strong. One major difference now, however, is that it’s practically impossible to sign on and form a band: zero-hours contracts and the benefits system mean that even looking for work is a full-time job, and the economics of making music simply don’t stack favourably. But regardless of economics, all that shit has to go somewhere. You need to process. You need to vent. Modern Technology sound like a band who are doing this not for fun, but because they need to.

The EP’s opener provides a theme tune of sorts: entitled ‘Modern Technology’, it launches with an ear-shredding blast of splintering noise, before pulverizing drums, grating bass and squalling feedback hammer out a sonic landslide of a backdrop to a hollering vocal, half-lost in an avalanche of reverb. Christ! They’ve got the savagery of early Head of David coupled with the goth-noise mania of The Birthday Party.

It certainly sets the tone and tempo: ‘Project Fear’ is two minutes of overloading, distorted fury that makes optimal use of lo-fi production values for maximum impact. It hits like a punch in the guts. Deciphering the lyrics isn’t easy and at times is pretty much impossible, but the sentiment is more than adequately conveyed by the medium. Besides, the titles speak for themselves in many respects, as they take the most mundane aspects of contemporary capitalist living and attack them with shuddering sonic barrages. Shades of psych filter through the scuzzed-up tumult of no-wave noise. And deep from within that sonic cyclone screams the painful truth: everything is fucked.

When they do slow it down, as on the grinding ‘Select Retail’, they bring out the brooding theatricality and highlight the depthlessness and superficiality of consumerism with the blank slogan / refrain ‘Select retail / reject detail’. But then they also do choppy, bass-led Shellac-tinged angularity on ‘Queue Jumper’. Closer ‘Modern Detritus’ distils every last ounce of frustration and compresses it into a dense roar of thunder.

Modern Technology are the real deal: this isn’t music being made with one eye on a commercial ticket, but music that’s born out of compulsion, the urge to purge. It’s art. It’s raw, it’s visceral, it’s painful. And in expressing the agony of frustration, it’s perfect.

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Christopher Nosnibor

My appreciation of the debut album by Leeds noisemongers Irk is already out in the public domain, as is my admiration of their capacity as a live act. It was only fitting that they should launch their debut album at Chunk, the rehearsal space which has become the hub of the new Leeds underground / alternative scene which has begun to emerge since the Brudenell – still the best venue in the country – has become increasingly popular and catering ever more to bigger-name acts. And there’s no escaping the fact that without the tiny venues, the microscenes, the free and cheap spaces where anything goes, there’d be nowhere for the bands of the future to explore and develop ideas free from the limitations of marketability and the pressure to achieve success. Commercialism strangles creativity, and we need the obscure band who want to fuck shit up more than ever in these desperate times in the stranglehold of corrupt, constricting neoliberalist capitalism which is not-so-slowly eroding every real freedom for the ordinary person.

Chunk is so no-budget, so DIY that there’s no licence for tonight’s (free) event: its BYOB, and people file in with carrier bags containing four-packs and the atmosphere is just so laid back that my anxieties about finding the place (Chunk is hidden through a door up some steps (which I worry I may fall down on my way out) next to a car repair place in an industrial area two miles out into the arse-end of nowhere) and all of the other stuff I panic about but tend not to talk about evaporate almost immediately. There are friendly faces, faces I recognise, faces I can chat to, and it feels more like a house party than a gig.

Only, there’s a gig PA and there are bands, and Beige Palace are on first. I note that they’ve been using a quite from a review I wrote of their live debut on my only previous visit to Chunk in the summer of 2016, which says ‘Beige Palace make sparse-sounding music that’s jarring, dissonant and hints at a clash between early Pram and No Wave angularity.’ Two yeas on, it still seems a fair summary. ‘It’s not math-rock’, their diminutive and moustachioed front man, Freddy Vinehill-Clifee forewarns the audience before they begin their set. He’s right. It’s atonal, droney, repetitive noise-rock with an almost spoken word delivery. Kelly Bishop’s flat, elongated vowels are reminiscent of Mark E. Smith in the early years of The Fall. They’re bursting with nagging, awkward guitar lines and clattering percussion playing unusual time signatures, too. So, like math-rock, only not. Or something. But it’s not about labels, but the music, and while they’re still rough ‘n’ ready, their confidence and intuition has evolved a lot over the last two years, and they turn in a more than decent performance.

Beige

Beige Palace

It was the release of BRITN3Y that brought deranged Edinburgh 3-piece Britney to my attention, and I’d been itching to see them live ever since. They don’t disappoint. Comprising bass – through a fuckload of pedals; vocals – through an even bigger fuckload of pedals; – and drums, they deliver sonic riots in the form of blistering sub-two-minute noisefests. Occasionally, chuggy riffs and even grooves emerge from the screaming, spasmodic mess, albeit fleetingly. It hurts after two songs. It hurts a whole lot better after ten. The speaker a foot from my right ear is sounding like it’s fucked and they just fuck it harder with a relentless barrage of explosive, brutal hybridized noise that draws on elements of metal, hardcore, and grindcore and Final Fantasy (the victory fanfare is a recurrent feature throughout their set and closes it, too, while the infamous Tidus Laugh from FF X also features). They’re joined at the end by NALA for some screaming vocals to wrap up set appropriately culminates in an ear-splitting wall of noise, and I’m not the only one blown away.

Britney

Britney

It turns out that Jack Gordon still has the copy of The Rage Monologues from the time we exchanged books. He’s read my review of the album, and during our brief exchange, I’m reminded that so many of the people who make art that pushes extremities, in whatever way, are the most pleasant, polite, and mild-mannered people you could wish to meet. It’s their outlet, and it’s what keeps them sane. Better to make brutal art than commit mass murder. Probably. Jack – bespectacled, sporting jacket and chinos and looking like any other smart-casual office worker – is a nice guy. But with the aid of a PA, a backline, and a bottle of Buckfast, he brings the brutality.

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Irk

If the disappearance of Blacklisters from the Leeds scene following Billy Mason-Wood’s departure for Germany left a jagged, gaping hole, then Irk more than manage it fill it with their own rendition of that Jesus Lizard, Touch ‘n’ Go skewed 90s US noise-rock racket. The trio are quite a different proposition and are very much their own people, but the comparisons and local lineage are impossible to ignore. And in this enclosed space, with the volume at pulverising levels and the warmth of community and camaraderie only adding to that of the proximity of bodies, everything comes together perfectly.

Brooklyn duo GHXST have released ‘Gloom’, the third EP in their Nowhere trilogy, mixed by James Aparicio (Nick Cave, the Horrors).

The EP is the final iteration of a sonic journey that has taken the duo across America: from the sonorities of hyper-real deserts, back to New York’s no-wave.

The Sabbath-inspired riffs of their previous releases have faded in ‘Gloom’ into droning guitar feedback and reverb-drenched drum machines. Shelley X’s melancholy vocals serve as a anchor in the frozen emotional haze.

They recently released, ‘Ride’, the first single from the EP, a southern doom track with the paranoid swagger of Suicide’s electronic beats. The video features footage from New Orleans’ “Krewe of Boo” parade projected in a flickering, Lynch-esque dream.

Watch ‘Ride’ here:

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Trace Elements Records – 3rd August 2018

Frozen Flowers Curse The Day is the latest release from pioneering avant-guitarist Robert Poss, founding member of the legendary wall-of-guitars group Band Of Susans, who (in)famously started out with three members named Susan and usually maintained three guitarists in their ever-shifting lineup, which at one point featured a pre-Helmet Page Hamilton.

The development of the album Frozen Flowers Curse The Day was performed, recorded and mixed by Poss at Trace Elements Records studios in New York City with guest drummers including Dahm Majuri Cipolla (Torres, Lydia Lunch, Japan’s Mono) helping out on two tracks.

Being a solo release rather than a full-band effort, Frozen Flowers Curse The Day isn’t an overtly ‘rock’ album in terms of material or instrumentation and primarily features guitar and loops of strings, to sometimes woozy and disorientating effect. But Poss’ approach to guitar playing, lauded by none other than Steve Albini, is certainly distinctive.

Much of the material here is jangling drone, drifting, chiming indie shoegaze. It’s pleasant, easy on the ear, undemanding. In a good way. Frozen Flowers Curse The Day is an album which explores texture, tone, and mood, but above all, it follows the distinctive compositional template of Band of Susans in that the songs tend to bludgeon away at a simple three or four chord sequence while layers of droning chords or feedback build over the top as the song progresses.

This approach is very much to the fore on the album’s second track, ‘The Sixth Sense Betrayed’. Elsewhere, on ‘Partial Clearing’, Poss works the eddies and streams of swirling drone and exploits the basic mechanics of the instrument to create something quite compelling.

While much of the album is given to switch-flicking, string-tamping, knob-tweaking. It’s not so much about the simple chord motifs or notes which hang in the air, but more about their manipulation. But however much this an album shaped by technique you’d never call it a ‘technical’ album. Nores ripple and chime and collide against one another in washes of reverb in the most dreamy, immersive of fashions.

‘Time Frames Marking Time’ hints at ‘Elizabeth Stride’ from Band of Susans’ final album, 1995s Here Comes Success, and even echoes ‘Frere Jacques’, but these are fleeting moments, and that’s the whole point: this is really about transition ad ephemerality and the effects of the briefest of memory triggers from an artistic point of view. ‘I’ve got a Secret List’ is more up-front, a thunderous drum track thumping away beneath multiple layers of guitars, over which Poss strains over a repetitive lyric, while closer ‘I’ll Curse the Day’ comes on like Springsteen in a 4-track tape portastudio.  And yes, while battering away a single motif and simple chord structure, it does invite comparisons to BoS. Significantly, it holds up to those comparisons: Poss certainly hasn’t lost it.

Robert Poss

Loner Noise – 9th February 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

The second in their series of singles for Loner Noise, ‘Glitter’ finds Bristolian purveyors of post-punk / industrial racket mining a full-on grunge seam. And Christ, do they bring the weight on this outing. A thunderous, churning riff, as dark as hell and twice as dense, provides the backdrop to Charlie Beddoes’ angst-filled reverb-drenched vocal.

‘Glitter’ is pitched as ‘an introspective and poetic take on the mental strains of being a performer, with the moments of exhilaration on stage often coming at the cost of a great deal of stress and in some cases depression, ruminating on whether the highs would be as powerful without the lows’.

Lyrically, it’s introspective, but sonically, it throws it all out there, and slams it down, hard. And then kicks it around a bit. While Nasty Little Lonely have always had attack, ‘Glitter’ is perhaps one of their hardest, heftiest, and most unforgiving cuts to date. While instrumentally they’ve never been soft, the melodic vocal elements common to their previous outings are relegated in favour of all-out abrasion here. And it’s absolutely bloody storming.

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NLL - Glitter

Loner Noise – 13th October 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

Now, I’ve been digging Nasty Little Lonely for a while. Clearly, this is because I’m a music reviewer who gets to hear about everything in advance and I’m infinitely cool because of it.

But seriously, I was introduced to these noisemongerous mofos three years ago, by means of their Bad Jack & Other Stories EP. And they’ve only continued to get better – by which I mean more intense and visceral – ever since.

‘Ugly Vitamin’ is a seething, squalid eruption of-guitar-driven derangement that calls to mind not only Hole at their best, but also the sneering ferocity of Lydia Lunch the rather more psychotic Queen Adreena. It writhes into the skull and penetrates hard. A choppy, chunky bass and hammering rhythm drives through squalling, treble-smash guitar and Charlie Beddoes does sweet but dangerous on the vocal front. You don’t want to fuck with NLL, that’s for sure: but you do need them in your life.

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Nasty Little Lonely - Vitamin

We don’t normally replicate press circulations wholesale, but this… well, this is huge It just had to be shared, and requires no input from us here at AA:

‘WHERE DOES A BODY END?’ is the first-ever authorized documentary of the band Swans. A Kickstarter fundraising effort is being launched to raise production funds and help see the project to fruition.

The film will not only focus on the various historical stages of the band’s career but also investigate band founder/leader Michael Gira’s vision and determination, which have been the powerhouse that has fueled this group’s run of unprecedented, explosive art for 35 years, a burden shouldered by him for better or worse the entire time.

The aim of the documentary is not to be just a traditional music documentary about a band but more of an artistic piece to help put the band and its music in their rightful place in the annals of cultural history. Marco Porsia, the filmmaker, has gained great personal insight into the band by filming them live since 2010.

…and collected hundreds of hours of never before seen archival video and photographic documentation of Swans from 1982 to 1997.  This will capture the intensity of the band throughout the years and will be supported with interviews from past and present band members and journalists, as well as importantimportant musical figures of the music industry – Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore and Lee Ranaldo, JG "Foetus" Thirwell, Karen O, Amanda Palmer, Kid Congo Powers, Daniel Miller (Mute), Jehnny Beth (Savages), and Jarboe among them.

Consistently at the vanguard of music, as Swans in its current incarnation approaches its ‘end’ with a final album and tour, it is important to capture one of the most influential, unique and powerful bands in history at its peak.

35 years of perseverance, creativity and self reliance has seen the band Swans maintain a unique position in modern music.  From its inception as a NYC ‘noise experience’ to its current maelstroms and intensely focused grooves, Swans have not only survived the music industry, they have transcended musical preconceptions by consistently delving into new musical territory.  This is a band of collaborators, linked by one man, its leader, Michel Gira.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1000942931/where-does-a-body-end-a-documentary-on-the-band-sw