Posts Tagged ‘Noise’

It may be safe for work / radio, but you certainly couldn’t accuse Benefits of selling out and you’re not going to be hearing this edit of the angry, snarling rant-fest of ‘Flag’ on R1 or Kiss FM or whatever anytime soon or ever.  Which is a shame, because everyone needs to hear these guys: Kingsley Hall and co tell it like it is.

No further preamble required: this gets out vote all the way, now get your lugs round it here:

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Christopher Nosnibor

Lately, I’ve been contemplating the pros and cons of geography, particularly the fact that all the gigs seem to happen in London, and a lot of smaller London-based bands on a perpetual tour of the capital and rarely venturing far beyond. It’s hardly surprising, given so much recent coverage of the costs of going on tour – particularly with the added uncertainty of the ongoing matter of Covid. But then, here in the North, I can travel from York to Leeds in less time than it takes to cross a corner of London, and a pint is about half the price. And in a six-day span when Mclusky, Big | Brave and Melt-Banana all play Leeds or York, I feel pretty spoiled.

And so here we are at The Crescent, York’s answer to The Brudenell, which operates with similar principles of remaining true to its WMC origins with low-priced beer and a focus on decent sound. If you’ve ever wondered what a typical melt-Banana fan might look like, the answer is that there is no such thing. A mad genre-spanning noise band, it seems, appeals to anyone with an open mind and ears that are happy to take a battering, with punks, indie kids, goths, metallers and all sorts from ages twenty to sixty all gathered, and what a wonderfully pleasant, sociable lot they prove to be, and as so often proves to be the case, the more extreme the music, the more friendly the crowd.

Mumbles don’t really benefit from the sound with their primitive (post) punk. It’s played with frenetic energy and packs so many tempo changes they can barely keep up with themselves. It’s an eventful set, where the guitarist/singer’s austerity trousers aren’t the only things worthy of note: technical issues lead to an impromptu clarinet sol, and things get a bit jarring Avant jazz in places. I’m on the fence as to how well it actually works at times, but ultimately, they emerge triumphant. The guys are visibly nervous and some songs seem almost beyond their technical ability, although that’s not remotely a criticism: listen not live recordings of bands in the 70s and 80s, and this is what bands sounded like live. With more or less every band emerging super-tight and polished, it sometimes seems as if something has been lost, and Mumbles won themselves a fair few fans on this outing.

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Mumbles

It’s a welcome return to York for Cowtown and their breezy, caffeine-fuelled bouncy indie. The epic reverb on Jonathan Nash’s vocals adds a layer of depth to their up-front and punchy sound, and he too showcases some more dubious trouserage with plus fours and long socks. But, as always, they’re fun to watch, and the energy of their performance is infectious, getting the crowd warmed up nicely for the main event.

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Cowtown

And what an event it is.

Blam! Grraww! Whap! Pow! Yelp! I’ve absolutely no idea what the fuck is going on, and I’m not even convinced a detailed knowledge of their twenty years of output spanning eight albums would make any real difference. Fast and furious doesn’t come close: everything is a complete blur. The stage is piled high with amps and speaker cabs, so much so that despite it being a large stage, the pair have barely room to move. So much backline! So much volume! This is crazy! No bass, just squalling guitar racket propelled by programmed drums – that actually sound live – at 150mph.

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Melt-Banana

Only Japan could produce a band like Melt-Banana, who infuse high-octane whiplash-inducing grind with a manic pop edge, dirty great sawing guitars and sequencers controlled by some strange handheld device that looks like an 80s disco. For all the raging noise, the technical precision is astounding. Somewhere toward the end of the set, Yasuko Onuki announces ‘nine short songs’, and they’re played back-to-back are blistering grindcore abrasion and over in about three minutes. The mighty moshpit, which has been pretty intense throughout the set, simply explodes.

The atmosphere as the band leave the stage is electric. We’re all dazed, stunned, as if our brains have been used as punching balls for rapid punching exercises. It’s beyond rare for a set to blow away an entire packed venue – but then Melt-Banana aren’t rare, they’re truly unique. What an insane rush.

Having announced their debut album Admire last month with first single ‘Pls, You Must Be a Dream’, LA-based noise duo GHXST has now shared new track ‘Marry The Night’.

‘Marry the Night’ is a love song for nights after hours spent walking through empty streets. The track opens with a lulling atmospheric loop that gradually opens into heavier spaces, with Shelley X’s signature delayed vocals echoing against drop-tuned guitars. Throughout, a drum machine pulses, like beats echoing from outside a Brooklyn warehouse. It’s gloomy listening, but the gloom is somehow warm and inviting. 

The video is a compilation of stories shot on iPhone by friends of the band. Scenes jump from New York to New Orleans to Palau to Los Angeles. There’s no narrative, but the moody, b&w scenes feel like flipping through someone’s lost memories from an endless day.

Watch the video here:

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Dret Skivor – 1st April 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

Another month, another Dret release, and this one, their fifteenth, is from Dormir, a sound artist who lives on the island of Bornholm, near the Stavehøl Vandfald. It’s no April fool.

‘Under isen’ translates as ‘Under the ice’, and consists of two side-long tracks: ‘under isen ligger noget, du ikke kan lide’ (‘under the ice is something you do not like’, apparently) and ‘min indblanding er din afhængighed’ (‘my interference is your addiction’, according to Google translate. It sounds a little clunky, and is perhaps left in its native form,

‘under isen ligger noget’ is a suitably dark, dense blast sound that arrives on an arctic gust, scouring and scourging the bleakness of a whiteout landscape with a roar that strips away the senses with an elongated scrape of treble and a low, resonant booming like a ship’s horn, the sound lost adrift in a blizzard of impenetrable static. It’s disorientating, bewildering. You do, truly, feel surrounded, encased in sound, and if anything has ever recreated the harrowing experience of the time I was caught in a blizzard on top of a mountain in the Lake District and unable to gain any sense of my location in order to navigate down, it’s this. It was one of the most terrifying and traumatic experiences of my life, so suffice it to say, listening to this is something of a challenge on a personal level. It never ends, and you fear there is absolutely no way out. The tone and pitch has barely any variation over the duration; just additional elements thrown into the blistering vortex. It’s not strictly Harsh Noise Wall, but it is a wall of harsh noise that leaves you feeling buffeted, pulverised, punished.

If you’re hoping for something more gentle on the flipside, ‘min indblanding er din afhængighed’ is likely to disappoint: it’s more noise, only this time louder and denser and dirtier, not so much the sound of a blizzard but a washing machine on a spin cycle as it slowly breaks down, as recorded using a microphone thrown into the drum. It grinds and churns, thrums and throbs and swirls, it clatters, clanks and gurgles and swashes along, everything overloaded and distorted. In contrast to side one, it’s a more overtly rhythmic piece that positively pulsates, a dark heart pulsing beneath the eye-wavering curtain of static that crackles and fizzes. But there’s nothing soothing about this rythmicality, and you sure as hell can’t dance to it: it’s like having a wire connected to a battery prod your temple twice a second for almost twenty minutes; it leaves you feeling absolutely fucking fried. But it’s worth it.

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Muzamuza – 8th April 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

Eighteen months on from Alms of Guilt and the prodigious Newcastle sound artist Kevin Wilkinson, aka brb>voicecoil returns with Dissolve into the Now. Active for over a quarter of a century, his field remains staunchly experimental and underground.

Forged from founds sounds subsequently manipulated and mauled beyond recognition, the majority of the seven compositions on Dissolve into the Now are briefer than on its predecessor, with more than half compressed into under five minutes. But what that compression of time also translates to is a compression of density. Wilkinson describes the album as the ‘audio equivalent of a bag of cats’. If only it had even one cuddly feature. Dissolve into the Now is pretty bloody difficult for the most part.

Understanding the title of the first piece, ‘The Great Antagnoiser’ as a play on ‘The Great Annihilator’ (not only a Swans album, but, perhaps more significantly, the name of a microquasar surrounding a black hole in the Milky Way), it seems appropriate for this springing, glitching, fragmentary spray of sound collapsing into atomic particles. It’s like an entire library of samples splintering as they’re dragged along a conveyor belt before being sucked to their doom. It paves the way for increasingly murky, and increasingly fractured, pieces constructed from later upon later of darkness and dissonance.

‘Assimilate 5.1’ is bleak, ominous, dark; sounds that evoke flames and the screams of animals as they flee a forest fire are half-audible amidst a mid-range thrum. Shifting, scratching, rumbling… there’s much by way of atmosphere, and none of it’s pleasant of comfortable, but at the same time, there’s nothing tangible to take hold of through this ever-shifting work. Frequencies sweep in and out, bubble and burst, fizz and fade in the blink of an eye, everything fermenting in a soup of miscellanea. It’s like a neurological explosion. Time and tapes run backwards at his speed in the erasural ‘The Fact it was Removed Doesn’t Mean it Never Existed’. By this point, everything’s really starting to fuck with your head, and that’s before the dubby-bass barrage of ‘Nod to the Mu’, which might be a dance track if it wasn’t subject to being mixed by a strimmer and mastered by a wood chipper and spat out as dust and pulp.

The first of the album’s two longer tracks (running over eight minutes), ‘Sycophant They Are – Watch Them’ is a frothing, foaming, fizzing mess of flickering circuitry spasms which shares common ground with Gintas K’s work. The second of the longer pieces is the closer, ‘Assimilate 5.2’, and it’s here everything is incinerated under the roar of a jet engine, leaving nothing but scorched earth. Obliterated, dissolved, we’re left with nothing but air and the roar of silence.

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BISOU Records/Beast Records – 18th March 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

Sometimes, there’s simply no escaping the fact that grooves and hooks are important. However wearying the conventions of rock and pop are so much of the time, there’s still a vital appeal. Sometimes you just need something to grab hold of, something to grip your short, feeble attention span. But what happens when you bring all the conventions together at once and then mash them, bash them, squash and smoosh them with joyful irreverence? It goes one of two ways: it’s a horrible hybrid mess with no cohesion, or it’s genius. Supersound is genius. It mines many aspects of those conventions to forge an album that’s got groove and hooks, while making unusual takes on country, rockabilly and post-punk, and wrapping them in an abundance of noise that’s pretty gnarly at times. It’s all in the mix – blues rock, alt-rock, grunge, even regular radio rock – but delivered in a twisted, mangled fashion that’s guaranteed to keep it off the airwaves.

The story of the creation of this masterwork is decidedly un-rock’n’roll as it involves Red (Olivier Lambin) suffering from presbyopia and purchasing a bass because it has ‘bigger frets and fewer strings’ and recruiting a collective who can actually see to play their instruments to realise his musical vision. It’s perhaps no wonder it’s a blurry haze of bits and bobs. Said lineup involves ‘two drummers, Néman (Zombie Zombie, Herman Düne) and DDDxie (The Shoes, Rocky, Gumm)’ who Red asked to create their own rhythms, plus Jex, aka Jérôme Excoffier, his lifelong accomplice, who still has excellent eyesight, who played all the guitars on the album.

A strolling bass and jagged guitar slew angular lines on ‘Normal’ that’s spineshaking swamp rock, sounding like a collision between the B52s and The Volcanoes. ‘Ready to Founce’ has all the groove and all the swagger, and has the glorious grittiness of Girls Against Boys at their scuzzy, sleaze-grind best, calling to mind ‘Rockets Are Red’. Then, ‘Shark’ sounds like Butthole Surfers covering an early Fall Song. ‘Screen Kills’ is altogether gothier, with acres of flange swathing the trebly guitar, and all paths lead to the tense, needling jabbing jangle of the final song of the album, ‘Carcrash Disasters’. It could have so easily been tempting fate, but while they veer wildly and screech around every corner on two wheels, DER remain on the road to the end of a crazy conglomeration of an album that buzzes from start to finish.

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Christopher Nosnibor

Almost invariably, when there’s a buzz building around a DIY act, they’ve had some kind of assistance or boost, either via a PR campaign or radio play, and / or some fortunate support slots. Not so Benefits, whose profile has grown with the speed of contagion of the pandemic: they’ve thrived during lockdown without management, any ‘proper’ releases, and next to no press (although that’s changing fast); but instead of them seeking out the coverage they’re the ones being sought out.

On paper, their appeal is limited: shouty sociopolitical spoken word paired with blistering squalls of electronic noise is kinda niche, right? Like Sleaford Mods only more noisy and a bit shoutier, right? Sociopolitical ranting aside, not so much. Mods have very much exploited the affront some people feel about their not being a ‘real’ band, and have turned the lack of performance into a schtick. Benefits are very much a band, and despite the swinging, rhythmic hip-hop style delivery of some of the lyrics, Benefits share more with harsh post-punk noisers Uniform than another other contemporary act that comes to mind.

Steve Albini perhaps sums up the two key, and seemingly opposing elements of what Benefits do in referring to the period of musical foment of the early 80s, with ‘the Crass/Pop Group ranting lefty/anarchist punks, and Whitehouse/TG/Cabaret Voltaire pure noise’. He’s not wrong when he writes that it’s ‘Been a while since something evoked that era as effectively as this Benefits track.’

But Benefits don’t only evoke that era: they’re a band that are precisely of the moment. During lockdown, people were on edge – and they still are as they emerge, blinking, into a world that has changed, and not for the better. More divided, more violent, it’s a difficult place to navigate. People are scared, and they’re also disaffected. Benefits channel and articulate all of this, and the buzz around tonight’s show was positively electric.

Feather Trade could easily be mistaken for being a ‘haircut’ band on face value, but their tousle-topped singer’s vocals invite comparisons to The Cooper Temple Clause’s Ben Gautrey, and the comparison to TCTC doesn’t end there as the trio blast through some jagged alternative rock defined by solid, meaty bass and gritty guitars. With a post punk vibe, great voice, the lineup may have been hastily-assembled, but they boast a truly great rhythm section. Switching between acoustic and electronic drums varies sound, and the line ‘fuck your trust fund’ from closer ‘Dead Boy’ is a sentiment we can get behind. Keeping the set to a punchy five songs, they made for a compelling opener, and I doubt I’m the only new fan they’ve won on this outing. I liked these guys a lot.

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Feather Trade

Some guys I never really liked are La Petite Mort: in fact, my last review of them was pegged to a single line in parenthesis. But this newly-resurrected iteration shows that they’ve evolved massively in the intervening years, transitioning from a novice sixth form indie band to something altogether more challenging, and altogether more powerful. If anything, there are shades of The Young Gods both sonically and visually. Now a duo with laptop and live drums, they’re dense, dark, intense. At some point, just as he has for Avalanche Party on occasion, Jared Thorpe whips out his sax and starts tooting away. No, it’s no euphemism. La Petite Mort embrace a slew of genre styles, and nail them to some tight, technical jazz drumming and lots and lots of reverb.

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La Petite Mort

This all leaves us ultra-hyped for the headliners, and they sure as hell don’t disappoint with their spoken word grindcore hybrid. With some brutal electronics from Robbie Major, they build from sparse, acappella hip hop to a blistering wall of noise. They build and build and rage so, so hard it’s savage. There are some smoochy hip-hop vibes, but they’re a stark contrast to the raving lyrics. ‘You get what you deserve’, Kingsley Hall warns, menacingly. Against the backdrop of Russia invading Ukraine as we look on, we hope it’s true. They venture into post punk / Sleaford Mods-ish territory just the once over the course of an hour-plus long set. Hall reads the lyrics to ‘Meat Teeth’ from his phone in a state of anguish. The song itself is stark, harsh, and it hurts. And yet this pain is what connects us with the band. Hall’s openness and honesty when he speaks between songs is like a body blow. This isn’t a performance, this is real. “What a fucking country, what a fucking state…. Sausage roll man… Tory cunt.” He admits to struggling with the whole being on stage thing, but it’s clear from the way he attacks every line, this is something he feels he simply has to do.

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Benefits

In a recent interview with Loud and Quiet, Hall explained, “I’ve got this pent-up anger and desire to speak and to shout and discuss. But how do I translate that?” On stage, that anger is anything but pent-up: it’s channelled into an eye-popping storm of words dragged from the very soul.

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Benefits

‘Flag’ steps up a level just when there seemed like no more levels to step up, with punishing percussion and snarling noise. It’s harsh, but so, so invigorating and cathartic. The encore / not encore is a perfect example of the way Benefits don’t conform, don’t play the game. And while doing things on their own terms in every way, they stand apart.

There’s no pithy one-liner to wrap this up: I leave, borderline delirious, simultaneously elated and stunned by what I’ve just witnessed – a show that was, frankly, nothing short of incredible.

Human Worth – 4th February 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

Pitched as being for fans of Primus, Lightning Bolt, Swans and Mudvayne, the accompanying text informs us that ‘Regurgitorium was haphazardly constructed with the sole goal of distressing and alienating their few remaining friends and family. Members of Warren Schoenbright, Wren and Deleted Narrative come together to deliver angular drums, discordant bass, and harrowing vocals accompanied by themes of existential paradoxes and day-to-day despair. The result being something best described as “Not Subtle”.’

If there was ever a strong and perfectly nihilistic reason to make music, that has to be it. It’s one of those hilarious band clichés that get wheeled out when they say they make music for themselves, and if anyone else likes it, then it’s a bonus. It’s almost impossible to not to be sceptical, because, well, fuck off. I mean, I believe Nirvana were sincere in not wanting international mega-stardom and that they wrote In Utero to get back to their roots and piss off casuals and their major label, but they still wrote songs to be heard by an audience – just a more select one. Of course, it depends on your ambitions as an artist, but I would say it’s better to have a small but devoted fanbase than one consisting of a larger but fleeting, fickle bunch of casuals whose interest will have cooled faster than their post-gig McDonald’s fries.

Regurgitation is not subtle, but it is high impact, and it’s a monster racket from the outset, with a clunging bass-rattling racket and squalling guitar mess of noise bursting forth with ‘Parapraxis’. It’s a minute and a half of total mayhem.

They hit optimal Big Black drilling grind on second track ‘Bachelor Machine’: the bass sounds like a chainsaw, while the guitar fires off tangential sprays of metallic feedback and harmonics, bringing together ‘Jordan, Minnesota’ and the intro to ‘Cables’. It’s a brutal squall of noise, and it goes beyond guitar: it’s sheering sparks off sheet metal that singe your skin as they fly, and it really makes a statement about both the band’s influences and intent. It’s messy, and it’s noisy. And it’s perfect.

Every track just gets nastier, more deranged. ‘Elective Affinities’ is all about wandering verses and choruses that sound like a seizure. Everything is overloading all the time: max distortion, max reverb, max treble, max crunch: the bass sounds like a saw, the guitar sounds like a drill, the drums sound like explosions: it’s intense, and it’s punishing, in the best possible way. It’s the sonic expression of a psychological spasm, and everything goes off all at once.

There’s no obvious sense of linearity or structure to the songs on Regurgitation. There’s a bass that sounds like a bulldozer grinding forward at the pulverising climax of ‘Bone Apple Teeth’. And then things go helium on ‘Wretched Makeshifts’: it’s like the Butthole Surfers gone avant-garde. And then there’s the stark spoken word of ‘Silentium’, which is tense, dark.

Listening to Regurgitation is like taking blows to the head in rapid succession. It’s not just the hits, but the dazing effect. Everything mists over, you don’t know where you are, and you’ve even less idea what the fuck this is. It’s bewildering, overwhelming. ‘Railways Spine’ is a nerve-shattering explosion of feedback-riven chaos and there is no coherent reaction. ‘Untismmung’ is the epitome of wordless anguish, this time articulated by means of experimental funk that yields to head-shredding noise. Noise, noise, noise: I keep typing it, and that’s because Regurgitation is relentless in its noise. It’s noisy. So many shades of noise. It’s fucked up. It’s deranged. It hurts. There is just so much noise, and no escape from it. Not that you should seek escape: bask in the brutality, the yawning bass grind and King Missile-like spoken-word segments that provide the brief passages between the blasts of noise, noise noise.

Closer ‘Vomitorium’ sounds like a collision between Shellac and Suicide, and the maniacal laughing at the fade sounds like the only sane reaction to all this madness.

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A Place to Bury Strangers find tenderness in the unlikeliest of places with ‘Love Reaches Out’, the fifth single and new music video from their critically acclaimed sixth album, See Through You, out now (digitally) and on March 11th (vinyl) on Dedstrange.

“’Love Reaches Out’ is the hope at the end of the tunnel that concludes this album,” says Oliver Ackermann. “I went through such a traumatic experience writing this record and yet people were there to help me, so this song is about appreciating and thanking them.” With its triumphant marching snare and a hooky bassline, ‘Love Reaches Out’ concludes See Through You on a warm and fuzzy note—though not the guitar kind. No circuit can contain the electrifying joy of two souls united. “Moments like this highlight how much [Ackermann has] grown as a singer,” writes Heather Phares at AllMusic. In her review of See Through You, she praises ‘Love Reaches Out’ as “Ackermann and company’s most empathetic song to date.”

In the music video directed by horror auteur Gabriel Carrier (For The Sake Of Vicious, The Demolisher), the third in a series of horror movie directors the band reached out to, a woman unexpectedly encounters and reaches out to a shapeshifting entity in the most unlikely manner. This entity befriends her after it was left for dead and gives her the support needed to help battle her own anxiety and inner demons. “It reminds us not to turn a blind eye to the small things and that friendships can manifest in the most unlikely ways,” says Carrier.

Watch the video here:

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