Posts Tagged ‘Noise Rock’

Formed in 2018 over a mutual appreciation for ugly rock music, MUSCLE VEST, have been making waves across the London alt rock scene with their brand of abrasive sardonic noise rock.

Comprised of veterans of London’s music scene (Massacres, Lull, Thunder On The Left, Bourgeois & Maurice etc.) and taking influence from bands such as Pissed Jeans, Melvins, McLusky, The Jesus Lizard and Whores, MUSCLE VEST aim to reflect the struggle of the average person against an exploitative system within a crumbling state.

After 2020’s debut EP Human Resources – described as “leading the charge for noise rock in the UK” (gbhbl.com) – MUSCLE VEST return in 2021 with follow-up EP Live Laugh Loathe, encapsulating feelings of worthlessness, anxiety and desperation endemic to modern working culture.

Like its predecessor, Live Laugh Loathe was recorded, mixed and mastered by Wayne Adams (Petbrick, Big Lad, Death Pedals) at Bear Bites Horse Studio in London.

Recorded in the final week of October 2020 under the spectre of increasingly harsh lockdown restrictions, sophomore EP Live Laugh Loathe sees Muscle Vest following in its predecessor’s footsteps, exploring oppressive elements of modern society from morals-free corporatism to toxic masculinity, cults of personality and a dash of Lovecraftian horror.

‘Creepy Crawlie’ provides a taste of the EP, and you can stream the video here:

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Human Worth – 5th March 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

I am, unashamedly, a massive fan of Modern Technology, and have been from day 1. And their DOIY label, Human Worth, too. Not only do they make and release amazing music of immense weight, but they have real principles, donating a cut of the proceeds of every release to charity, and being thoroughly nice guys on top is just a huge bonus.

The label’s latest release – their first 7” single – is absolute gold (despite actually being marbled silver and black) And that’s another thing: the quality of the label’s product is magnificent, from the design to the finish. With vinyl’s resurgence, we’ve witnessed a greater attention to the physical product as an artefact to behold and to cherish, for all the reasons fans of vinyl spent about 20 years going on about at every opportunity while people moved away, first towards CDs and then towards streaming. I suppose aficionados of the ‘physical product’ proffer the same kind of case for vinyl as books, but when Kindle fans counter that ‘it’s just like a book’, the common retort is that what’s even more like a book is a book, and there is simply no substitute. Streaming fans don’t even have that: all they have is ‘convenience’, but they simply don’t grasp how much is missing from the experience when interacting with a physical format.

I may digress, but it’s relevant: when presented with a gut-punching welter of noise, it always hits harder when blasting from a fat chunk of wax through some speakers with a bit of poke. And shit, is this a gut-punching welter of noise.

Modern Tech and 72% crossed paths just days before life was placed on pause in March 2020. Sharing a bill for Baba Yaga’s Hut in London, no-one foresaw the year that was to come. With the prospect of live shows remaining tentative at best, this single feels like a necessary release of energy.

It’s 72%’s ‘Drowning in a Sea of Bastards’ that’s the (nominal) A-side, and it’s a squalling, full-throttle noise attack. It’s actually the drumming that dominates, while everything else collapses in on itself to create a volcanic sonic explosion of frenzies guitars that are played in such a way as to not really sound like guitars as much as a wild cacophony. There’s screeding feedback and all kinds of chaos flying every whichway, and somewhere, buried low in the mix, are some anguished vocals. You can’t make out a word of it, but the sentiment transcends language.

Meanwhile, Modern Technology continue to go from strength to strength. The first new material since their debut album, Service Provider in September, ‘Lorn’ is a six-minute monster. The droning feedback that howls from Chris Clarke’s bass is more mid-rangey than usual, bringing a sharp, brittle edge to their dark, dingy abrasion that’s pushes forward slow and heavy, propelled by Owen Gildersleeve’s crushing percussion. When the chords hit, they hit hard, and – as is now well-established as integral to their distinctive sound, Clarke’s vocals, distorted and buried in a wash or reverb, snarl and growl all the rage, landing somewhere between Lemmy and Al Jourgensen circa Filth Pig. It’s a trudging slow-burner that builds with a cumulative effect.

Oh, and there’s more: a brace of bonus tracks, starting with a head-shredding remix of ‘Drowning in a Sea of Bastards’ by Wayne Adams (Ladyscraper / Big Lad / Petbrick). Unrecognisable against the original, it’s a pulversing mangled mess of clanging metal and industrial-strength overloading distortion. Gnarly as fuck, it’s bloody brilliant. And as a double bonus, the additional cut from Modern Technology is another new track, ‘Ctrl’. In something of a departure, it finds Clarke deliver a spoken-word piece against a backdrop of thick, booming bass and slow, slow drums. As the murky layers build, so does the crushing weight of a track that’s reminiscent of Swans circa 1984: it’s claustrophobic and suffocating, and makes you feel tense.

It may only be fifteen minutes in total for all four tracks, but to describe the experience as intense would be an understatement, and I find myself simply too blown away to conjure a pithy one-liner to wrap up. Yes, it’s absolute dynamite.

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29th January 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

This is one hell of a broiling blender mix of shit all going off at once: there’s a 90s noise rock vibe with a heavy psychedelic twist – like Fudge Tunnel covering Gallon Drunk in duet with Terminal Cheesecake. If that means nothing or otherwise doesn’t float your boat, you may want to step off the moving pavement now. Call me perverse, but a large part of the appeal is just how messy and unpretty this is, the guitars so thick and dirty.

After the sludgy sprawl of ‘Designer Smile’, ‘Panic Laps’ shudders in on a dense bass and manages to bring a lumbering Sabbath-esque fiff in the style of Melvins while at the same time bringing a jarring, mathy aspect.

Despite being Australian, their irreverent style of noise has a very British feel to it, and while pretty much every aspect of every track can be referenced back to something without too much effort, it’s about how it all hangs together – and thanks to a dominant rhythm section that delivers nothing fancy, instead keeping everything straightforward and geared toward the bottom end – it hangs together nicely, despite the songs often veering off in different directions, with a chiming picked post-punk guitar part here and a soaring solo there.

‘Cut the Slack’ is slower and built around a sedated reinterperetation of the kind of cyclical riff that featured so heavily on Nirvana’s Bleach – only more psychey. It’s a dense, heavy buzz of a racket, and it doesn’t stop driving forward, hard and loud for so much as a second as the band power through seven tracks before the closer, ‘Don’t Laugh’, a six-minute throbber.

Their third album and their first album in some four years has – deservedly – been getting some attention already, and could be the one that sees them break out of Australia, albeit not physically for the foreseeable.

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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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