Posts Tagged ‘Noise Rock’

Rock is Hell Records – July 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

At the risk of repetition, there are no two ways about it: these are desperate times. No, not unprecedented. Desperate, dire, and fucked-up. The liner notes to BUG’s latest offering, Nunc finis offer a fair summary:

‘Global warming. Trump. Corona virus. New normal. We are living in interesting times. It is one minute before midnight on the doomsday watch. Nunc finis means end of time, end times or end now. And if you buy the ticket, you gonna take the ride.’

Fucked-up times require some fucked-up heavy shit by way of a soundtrack, and BUG bring it in spades here. I for one am immensely grateful: I’ve found myself frequently returning to Calamitas, and Nunc finis brings the same blend of familiar noise rock tropes and uniqueness, with jarring riffs, sludgy low-end and crazed, gruff-throated vocals. Above all, BUG know how to create tension through music, to articulate that tightening of the chest, evoke that clenching of the jaw, the grinding of the teeth.

The opening salvoes leave no doubt that this is a dark album reflecting darkness back in on itself, a tumultuous tempest of disaffection and (internal) conflict. ‘Happy Pills’ kicks off in pretty savage style, a hell-for-leather raging blast of overdriven guitars and angled vocals. You can barely make out a word, but then, the delivery communicates the sentiment, the manic fury. ‘Hell is Empty’ drops down several shades darker toward sludgy doom territory, before ‘Lost Soul’ takes a more conventionally noise-rock turn. It also provides the first softer moments, as chiming guitars effect a more ponderous perspective before exploding into a ragged riff. Exploiting the quiet / loud dynamic, it’s a classic slow-burner that builds to a killer climax.

‘Leftovers’ is a standout by virtue of its sheer brutality, while the seven-minute closer, ‘Hass gegen Rechts’ is positively schizophrenic, switching between a strolling vaudeville waltz and volcanic, earth-shattering blasts of noise, and is everything the album represents distilled into a single gut-wrenching track. It’s intense, alright.

Jolting riffs and stop-start noodles define the structures, to bewildering, dizzying effect: it’s not a regular bludgeoning, but successive left / right hooks, followed by an upper-cut, a headbutt, and a knee in the nuts for good measure. It’s heavy, hard, harrowing, and, ultimately physically and emotionally draining – just as it should be.

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7th May 2020

So, what do you do when your band is forced to take some downtime due to lockdown? Take up crochet? Perfect your breadmaking? Develop a nine-wanks-a-day porn habit? In the case of Chris Garth, guitarist with Post Rock/Metal/Sludge/Progressive Rock act UpCDownC, the answer is ‘work on a new side-project’. And so with an album in the pipeline, he’s unveiled ‘Bricks’ by way of a debut for Dead Mammals.

Immediately, I’m reminded of Shellac, specifically ‘Wingwalker’, but also more broadly of that 90s US noise scene as represented by acts on Touch&Go and Amphetamine Reptile. It’s the dirty, churning bass that really drives it. The drums thump along – more kick and tom, limited cymbal work – and the vocals – crackling through distortion – are half submerged when the angular shards of guitar scream in, a mess of scratchy treble that’s clear in its Steve Albini influence.

‘This song is about a woman / dead woman’ it begins, and judging by the way the monotone verse delivery gives way to anguished howls, the circumstances surrounding this involve some kind of psychopathy, seemingly on the narrator’s part. In context, the obliqueness of the lyrics is integral to the overall experience, which is first and foremost about the sonic compact of that slugging rhythm section and jolting guitar scrape. First impressions count, and ‘Bricks’ is one hell of an introduction.

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Loyal Blood Records – 22nd May 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Nothing says metal like calling your band Barren Womb. And nothing says DIY like making that metal / noise-rock hybrid racket like being a duo. Norwegian noisemongers Timo and Tony have been hard at it for nine years, and Lizard Lounge is their latest effort: it’s pitched as being for fans of Quicksand, Melvins, Clutch, Refused, and Big Business, and the work of a band who capture ‘their raw and unpolished live energy in studio recordings’.

‘Raw and unpolished’ perhaps does them a disservice, with implications of amateurism and a certain shambolicism. Lizard Lounge is cranked up, the production direct, unfiltered, but they’re tight and everything is perfectly balanced. They know what they’re doing, and they fucking nail it here.

Bringing the intense blast of 80s hardcore but with a twist of humour (as titles like ‘Crop Circle Jerk’ and ‘Karma as a Tour Manager’ indicate), and elements of mania that so indeed call to mind Melvins and also contemporaries Cinema Cinema, they burst out of the traps at a hundred miles an hour with ‘Cemetery Slopestye’, a sub-two-minute punk roar that sounds like a full band.

‘Hairy Palms’ brings a loose swaggering groove and grunge pop flavour that combines Pulled Apart by Horses with DZ Deathrays, and this pretty much encapsulates the playful edge that brings light to the hefty riffery that defines their sound.

The aforementioned ‘Crop Circle Jerk’ is jaunty, almost indie, in its funk-tinged style, but its delivery is more like Melvins or JG Thirlwell covering Tom Waits, while ‘Molten Pig’ brings the sweaty, grungy heft of Tad: it’s dirty, dingy, the cyclical overdriven riff simple but effective and played hard and fast, while the vocals grunt and snarl, and it certainly captures the essence of that late 80s / early 90 Sub Pop sound. ‘Nerve Salad’ continues along the same vein. It’s not pretty, but it’s got a vital energy.

Likewise, ‘Be Kind, Have Fun, And Try Not to Die’, which is the poppiest song on here by a mile. Fuck me, I might even call it ‘anthemic’, but it’s anthemic in the way bands like, say, hawk Eyes’ do anthemic, and melds Kerrang! Radio with full metal edge that borders on a mid-90s Ministry kind of grind, and closer ‘Hydroponic Youth’ carries that Filth Pig vibe to the close.

It’s no criticism to say that for all the lyrical intents and purposes, this is an album you just allow to pummel you. The sentiments are articulated through the medium of sound more than the words themselves, the delivery of which conveys more power in context. Lizard Lounge is wild and loud and absolutely hits the spot.

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One Little Indian – 1st May 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Like many, Daisy Chainsaw’s incursion into the singles chart with ‘Love Your Money’ in 1992, was my introduction to KatieJane Garside. I’ll admit that I wasn’t immediately sold, and it wasn’t until I caught Queenadreena supporting The Rollins Band in the early noughties that I came to appreciate her as a performer, at once captivating and terrifying. Queenadreena, and, subsequently, Ruby Throat charted an artistic and musical progression, and Liar, Flower is a continuation, a new iteration of Ruby Throat, consisting of Garside and multi-instrumentalist Chris Whittingham.

The band moniker intimates the kind of juxtapositionality of Daisy Chainsaw: pretty, delicate, and brutal, and it proves to be most fitting. Geiger Counter is mostly delicate, if not necessarily pretty, and definitely presents those elements of juxtaposition and opposition with serenity colliding with screaming abrasion in a varied set of songs.

‘9N-AFE’ is sparse, eerie, a mesmeric beatless trip-hop backing accompanies a lost, haunting vocal, and it calls to mind early Cranes. It’s followed by the slow-skipping chamber-folk of ‘baby teeth’ and the stark country hues of ‘blood berries’, which finds Garside weaving and soaring stratospheric notes and evoking Kate Bush.

Geiger Counter may be geared toward the quieter, more introspective end of the sonic spectrum, but it’s stylistically varied. The instrumentation is subtle, delicate, and remains very much in the position of accompaniment, placing Garside’s voice to the fore.

There are exceptions: ‘doors locked, oven’s off’ is a lilting acoustic instrumental just a couple of minutes in duration, while the stripped-back vaudeville ‘broken light’ suddenly breaks into jazz-tinged piano discord, and ‘even though the darkest clouds’ goes full electric, sucking hints of Neil Young and Dinosaur Jr into its maelstrom of guitars. Garside is on fire, sounding dangerous and demented. The lyrics are often difficult to decipher, but ‘don’t worry darling, I’ve got to wash my hands’ breaks through the chaos and screams OCD. Or maybe that’s just me. They rock it up again on ‘little brown shoes’ too, a scuzzy blues stomper with a solid groove where KatieJane wails like a banshee witch and growls like all the menace. The swampy ‘Mud Stars’ plunges into a miasma of soulful blues that becomes increasingly uncomfortable as it slides into a haze of noise.

The simple acoustic arrangements are understated, Garside’s vocals haunting in a way that slides beneath the skin: the brooding post-rock atmospherics of ‘Hole in my Hand’ are moving, but in an almost imperceptible way. It feels like the reflective calm after protracted spell of emotional turbulence.

There’s a clear and strong arc that carries Geiger Counter, an album which builds in volume and intensity as it progresses, culminating in the all-out abrasion of the no-wave noise rock riot that is ‘My Brain is Lit Like an Airport’. As a journey, it becomes increasingly challenging as it goes on, and as an album it’s stunning.

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7th December 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

Irk have been tearing it up on the Leeds scene for a little while now, and are a band at the epicentre of the DIY scene surrounding the CHUNK studio / rehearsal room space, tucked away in a rough and dilapidated industrial estate a good half-hour hike out of the city centre. It’s an apposite location for the thriving creative community of metal / sludge / noise bands.

The band describe themselves as ‘three polite wee rascals…. who make ugly, angular, noise-fused, math rock, consisting of drums, bass, and vocals’, and as such, belong to the city’s now well-established post-millennium tradition for producing seriously noisy bands who are bloody good. Many have fallen by the wayside, but a lineage of acts that includes Blacklisters, Hawk Eyes, That Fucking Tank, Holy State, Hora Douse, and yes, we’ll throw in Pulled Apart by Horses here, because they’re hardy quiet or genteel, speaks for itself.

I’ve caught them live a few times in the last couple of years, and have even performed on the same bill, exchanging books with front man Jack (I think Life Pervert is ace; I’ve no idea what he makes of The Rage Monologues). I’ve never once been disappointed by their performances, and it’s a reasonable expectation that Recipes from the Bible should sound like the work of a band who’ve been honing their material live for some time.

But by Christ, Irk really give it some here, and forge the title: this is a sonic concoction that cooks up the most unholy racket going. ‘I Bleed Horses’ begins with a howl and a barrage of frenetic drums and a mass of guitar racket. While you’re picking your jaw off the floor, check that tight, compressed, springy bass sound and the churning throb it produces that just about holds the whole squalling mess of discord together. Less that two and a half minutes in duration, the bled horses bleed out into ‘Life Changing Porno’, another unintelligible blizzard of noise that’s so chaotic it’s not always entirely clear if they’re all playing the same song: the tempo lurches unpredictably and whole racket collides in a spectacularly ugly explosion.

The seven-minute ‘The Observatory’ built around a choppy, cyclical riff reminiscent of Bleach era Nirvana, and again, it’s the menacing bass that dominates as they forge a suffocatingly claustrophobic density. It’s about as close to respite as it gets: with the only other exception being the verses of the lumbering ‘The Healer’, Recipes from the Bible is relentless in its screaming mania and brutal angles. The wild sax action on ‘You’re My Germ’ could be free jazz in another context, but here, it just adds another level of crazed hysteria to the mix.

Taking obvious cues from Shellac and Blacklisters, it’s a set of sharp-cornered, serrated brutality that stops, starts, shudders, judders, jolts and jerks – but unlike Shellac, Jack’s raving, gibbering, rabid vocals break free from the tight limits of the coiled tension of math-rock tropes and instead cut loose and careen into the wild noise of The Jesus Lizard. Snarling, howling, drawling and slavering, there’s something cracked, even psychotic. In combination, it’s a tense, intense set that sound deranged, dangerous: at times, its really quite uncomfortable. That’s a clear measure of success.

Chances are, reviews will tout this as being ‘uncompromising’, not least of all on account of it’s being self-produced by the band (of course). But Recipes from the Bible goes beyond that. Way beyond. It harnesses the full force of the band: so often, bands draft in producers only for the sound to be polished, slickened, rendered overtly ‘studio’. By keeping things in-house, they’ve retained the rawness, and the sheer velocity and unbridled power that defined them, and the sonic vision remains unadulterated. And beneath all of distortion and dirt, the ragged, jagged edges and the feel of a style of playing that’s loose and uncontained, there’s a remarkable and deceptive degree of precision.

It’s hard to find fault with Recipes from the Bible: there isn’t a weak track or an ounce of fat. There’s no filler, and no slack. There’s not a moment of tameness or timidity, and instead, they bring top-level ferocity and relentless fury, and the chances are you’ll be hard-pushed to find a better noise-rock album this year.

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KEN mode share a new video for ‘Learning to be too cold’ from their new album Loved which is out now via Season Of Mist. Plus, European tour dates are incoming, full dates below.

About the song Jesse comments ‘Learning To Be Too Cold’ was the last song written in the session for this record. We salvaged a few riffs from a track that we demoed in May of 2017 with the working title of ‘the moody idiot’, and added three new parts that we wrote just after Skot found out that his father died. The riffs are like scraping bones and metal together, and the lyrics are some of the most demeaning and harsh of the entire album. Skot claims the song does not make him feel good by association, and is consequently his favourite song on the record. Watch the video here:

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EUROPEAN LIVE DATES:

w/Birds In Row & Coilguns

Nov 15 – Joué, FR @ Temps Machine

Nov 16 – Orléans, FR @ Astrolabe

Nov 17 – Bordeaux, FR @ Void

Nov 18 – Toulouse, FR @ Rex

Nov 19 – Montpellier, FR @ Blacksheep

Nov 20 – Clermont, FR @ Raymond

Nov 21 – Lausanne, CH @ Romandie

Nov 22 – Besancon, FR @ L’Antonnoir

Nov 23 – Kalsruhe, DE @ Die Stadtmitte

Nov 24 – Gigors, FR @ CBGC’s

Nov 25 – Milano, IT @ Magnolia

Nov 27 – Nantes, FR @ Le Ferrailleur

Nov 28 – Le Havre, FR @ Fort de Tourneville

Nov 29 – Paris, FR @ Le Petit Bain

Dec 1 – London, UK @ Macbeth

Dec 2 – Brussels, BE @ Magasin4

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Leeds based noise-rock outfit Irk have announced details of their debut album ‘Recipes from The Bible’ which will be released on 7th December. They’ve also shared an 8-bit styled video for ‘Spectre At the Fiesta’ created by PSTL CSTL, which you can watch here:

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Irk

Ex Records – 23rd March 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

‘We always start from zero when we make a new album,’ the band explain of their creative process. This could well be the essential factor in their enduring nature: in avoiding the trap of becoming predictable to either their audience or themselves, they’ve remained fresh and innovative, continually testing their creative limits. Almost forty years and twenty-odd albums since their formation as an anarcho-punk band, The Ex are noteworthy for their eternal evolution and their refusal to stands still or to retread old ground. Collaborations, side-projects, and shifting lineups have also proven integral to this ethos, and it’s been almost eight years since their last album together as a quartet.

27 Passports sees them return once again reinvigorated, refreshed and ready to reinvent rock once more. And they do, in the way only a band with three guitars (but no bass – Moore’s baritone guitar provides essential tonal range here) and infinite vision likely can.

As the title suggests, this is an album of movement. Or, moreover, perhaps an album that creates the illusion of movement. 27 Passports is accompanied by a 40-page booklet of photos shot by Andy Moor. They’re odd, devoid of context or narrative meaning. Simultaneously eye-catching and mundane, they’re snapshots of life, devoid of perspective or implication: a row of feet on a train; a rusting car; a swan with its head under water; a traffic jam. These images provide an appropriate visual accompaniment to the disjointed, semi-abstract and immensely oblique lyrics and the musical content.

The first track, the six-and-a-half-minute ‘Soon All Cities’ is driven by a loping rhythm and crashing cymbals and builds a hypnotic groove slashed through with angular guitars which clang and scrape and layer up with volume and distortion. More than the choppy guitar work that often strays into the atonal and discordant, as do the vocals, it’s the percussion that really provides the focus of 27 Passports, pinning the loose and purposely obtuse guitar work in place and holding everything together.

If the claim that ‘there are some remnants of their African adventures’ (a reference to their collaborations with Getachew Mekuria) sits at odds with the spiky post-punk schematic, ‘The Sitting Chins’ subtly and strangely weaves ‘world’ music elements into the jolting barrage of chaos. If there was ever an antithesis of Paul Simon or Sting, this is it, and this fact alone makes 27 Passports an essential album.

For the most part, the compositions eschew linearity in favour of locking into a space and pushing away at a single motif for as long as seems reasonable, and sometimes beyond. This is very much a selling point. At to B is overrated: it’s about the journey. And it’s less about the distance than the motion itself. Take a walk: multiple laps of the block will not only achieve the same exercise effect as walking for miles toward a destination, but new details will reveal themselves with each circuit. No two circuits of the same short route will ever be the same. 27 Passports may be transcontinental in intent, but looking the wrong way down the binoculars is what it’s really about.

Barrelling bass scours the lower sonic realms on the robotic, motorik, ‘New Blank Document’; equal parts Gary Numan and early Swans, with heavy hints of The Fall’s ‘Spector vs Rector’ in its messy fabric. Such discord scratches away at the psyche, drills into the cerebellum, and unsettles the equilibrium.

In contrast, ‘Footfall’ deploys the same methodology and the same instrumentation, but against the relentlessly thumping beat, there’s a nagging aspect to the cyclical riff which has an intuitive emotional drag, a certain resonance. There’s something special about a certain descending three-chord sequence… and of course, they almost bury it beneath layers of jagged trebly noise. And that only renders it all the more beautiful and captivating.

There are some wonky pop moments present, too, with the Pavementy ‘The Heart Conductor’ bouncing along nicely, with a catchy vocal melody riding on top of the off-kilter guitars that are reminiscent of early Fall. Of course, when it comes to The Ex, comparisons are vaguely pointless beyond providing guidance for the uninitiated: with such an expansive career, it’s their work which has influenced many of the acts that stand as useful reference points. Of the surviving bands of the period – The Fall being no more and having arguably plateaued a good few years ago and Pere Ubu only offering occasional sparks – it seems like The Ex are the last ones standing who continue to really extend their reach and to challenge themselves and their listeners. 27 Passports is an absolute stormer, and an album which stands up against anything else going – period.

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Interstellar Records – INT043

Christopher Nosnibor

And suddenly, one cold, wet, dark, depressing November night, an album arrives that slaps you round the face, hard, and makes its presence known. And within three songs, you know it’s probably one of the best things you’ve heard all year. And it’s a concept album.

I’d been thinking that 2017 hasn’t been a great year for music, while chewing on the irony of the fact I often berate people making the same complaint for their failure to look in the right places: there is always good – awesome, exciting – new music emerging from somewhere. Admittedly – and this shouldn’t be about me, but I find that reception of music is an intensely personal and individualism – I may not have in the most receptive of moods, or have kept up with as much of the music passed my way this year, but 2017 simply doesn’t feel like one of the greats, despite having a handful of clear highlights. But these highlights are less about objective merit and commercial success, and what’s actually stuck. This, however, is an album with immediate impact. It grabs the listener by the throat in the opening bars. And it doesn’t let up.

According to the liner notes, ‘Calamitas deals with danger babe Ruby, who stole Silvio Berlusconi’s heart, Satan deceiving us all by using the purgatory doctrine, dictator Kim Jong Senior (II), the sexiest man alive back in the days, beautiful femmes fatales with a look that kills, the man who cut off his own leg to get disablement pension (he didn’t succeed), personal misery, the best days of my life, the abyss that is staring back, etc.’ So, it’s a true story, albeit one where the narrative is buried beneath a strain of sinewy guitars and barked vocal delivering impenetrable lyrics. And that’s all good.

‘Calamitas’, we also learn, means ‘loss, disaster, damage, harm, defeat and misfortune’. These things, the album’s ten tracks convey with crystal clarity through the medium of raging, guitar-driven noise. And as much as Calamitas is a snarling, gnarly mess of brutality, it’s gritty, tense, and cut from a different cloth from so much murky metal thrashing.

I’m reminded as much of anything of the swagger of Girls vs Boys on their debut album, Hey Colossus, and Henry Blacker, and there’s a strong flavour reminiscent of Helmet and The Jesus Lizard and the Am Rep / Touch and Go label styles. There’s noodly, Shellac-meets-Tar math-grunge on ‘A Knife for Every Heart’ and ‘Best Days of Our Lives’, which builds a tripwire tension. ‘Fuck me Blind’ is darkly claustrophobic, built around a cyclical riff, sinewy top guitars and ballistic hollering. There’s also a gnarly blues undercurrent to many of the songs here, and for all the messy guitars, the bass is pure thunder and lays down some irresistible grooves over the course of the album’s ten cuts. There’s a dark, gritty vibe and a gloriously ragged edge to it all, and Markus Dolp’s gruff, Cookie Monster vocals have hints of Tom Waits and JG Thirlwell.

Some cuts do venture into all-out hardcore punk / metal attack, like the squalling black mass that is, opener ‘Anti’ but what makes Calamitas such a corking album – beyond the fact that it simply is a corking album – is its range. Yes, it’s all a bloody, brutal, guitar-driven mess of noise, as becomes a band who’ve spent two decades exploring the terrains of noise-rock, but it’s sonically articulate while it rages blindly and incogently. It’s the perfect balance, and the frenetic and the furious drive that defines Calamitas makes for a gloriously intense listen.

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