Posts Tagged ‘Noise’

Human Worth – 7th August 2020

Tough times for bands, venues, and all things music in general is proving to be a good time for the compilation, particularly the fundraiser. And while many individuals are struggling to cover bills due to lack of work and reduced income, many gig-goers and pub dwellers are finding they’ve got some spare cash going. It also so happens that there are plenty of albums being released to support the causes their enforced absence means are struggling.

Human Worth, as the name suggests, is more about the people than the spaces, and if mental health and poverty were major issues before all of this shit went down, it’s even more vital they’re supported, and the proceeds from this latest release are going to Harmless, a charity that supports metal health, and to assist in the prevention of self-harm and suicide.

The fact that more than half the acts on this release are ones we’ve covered or are otherwise on the Aural Aggro radar is a strong indicator of the style and hopefully the quality of this release. Like its predecessor, Human Worth Vol II is a showcase of premium-grade noisy stuff from across the spectrum.

AJA crash in with a mix of bewildering noise and eerie ethereality before Klämp bring some brutal lo-fi grunge noise. Snarly vocals half-buried amidst a barrage of muffled drums, gnarly bass and space-rock synths It’s challenging, but equally, it’s exciting in its raw viscerality.

Blóm do riot-grrl punk but at a thousand miles an hour, with a hefty dash of black metal / hardcore in the mix, and the resultant blast of noise that is ‘Meat’ is hefty. Meanwhile, masters of heavily percussion-led free jazz racket, Sly and The Family Drone, really churn the guts with ‘Shrieking Grief’, lifted from the new album Walk it Dry. Even on a 20-track compilation of challenging, headfucking din, they manage to stand out, in the best possible way.

Modern Technology’s ‘Gate Crasher’, taken from their upcoming debut full-length is an exercise in intense and claustrophobic tension-filled angst, a dense, roaring bass and pummelling percussion all but burying the vocals. And it’s the low-slung, gritty bass that dominates the dingy grind of Mummise Guns’ ‘Glitter Balls’, before We Wild Blood’s ‘Eat Your Tail’ brings a sandstorm of wild shoegaze / psychedelia with a darker than dark hue. Bismuth and Vile Creature collaborate to create a low-end assault that sounds like the burning pits of hell and make me seriously consider heading to the bog before I shit myself. Elsewhere, USA Nails’ minimal cover of ’Paranoid’ is a hybrid of Big Black and Suicide, but with a dash of Cabaret Voltaire, and its primitivism is compelling.

So how is this kind of sonic torture appropriate for raising awareness of and funds for mental health charities? How can a barrage of noise be a good thing? Well, some of us find comfort in this kind of racket. It’s all about the immersion, all about the catharsis. You can totally bury yourself in this kind of stuff, and feel the pain and anguish being purged. There’s something cleansing about a howling tempest that envelops you and transports you to another place that’s difficult to communicate. It’s intense, and often quite personal, and some distance beyond words. There’s often a real sense of community around the more fringe scenes, and Human Worth is very much a community of artists pulling together to care for one another and not just like-minded individuals, but anyone.

There is joy in the fact that there’s some seriously heavy shit to be found on this album’s twenty tracks, and none of its especially friendly: Lovely Wife, as you’d probably expect given their previous output, seem keen to push the brown. The snarling demonism of ‘My Cup Overfloweth’ sounds particularly close to dredging through the bowels of hell by raging demons playing improv renditions of Hawkwind songs, and it’s a murky, gut-churning blast.

There isn’t a weak – or gentle – track to be found in this collection, but Ballpeen’s ‘Hate Fantasies’ – here in demo form – Working Men’s Club (not the shit indie one) are standouts in a field of standouts.

Sometimes, there’s a sense of obligation to purchase charity compilations because there’s a decent track or two, and because it’s for a good cause, but Human Worth have again curated an album that’s just that unbelievably good you want to buy ten copies.

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Christopher Nosnibor

Soupy exotica that calls to mind William Burroughs’ descriptions of Tangiers winds slowly from the speakers as people filter in, greeting one another in the chat section and the visuals alternate between the event poster and the running order. There’s something quite distinctive about Theo Gowans’ events, and he’s done an amazing job of recreating the vibe of Leeds DIY venue CHUNK on-line. A lot of it’s the culture and the people, of course, and CHUNK’s ethos of accommodating and encouraging the most far-out and fringe makers of music (while having a clear stance against fascists and bigots) is nurturing and community-spirited.

I’m oddly nervous: this will be …(something) ruined’s first on-line airing, and while I’m sort of comfortable shouting at people against a backdrop of extremely loud noise in person, knowing that we’re going to unleash probably our harshest, most experimental piece to date is an unknown.

In an attempt to better replicate the pre-gig experience, I’ve drawn the blind and cracked open a can of 8.5% Belgian lager – a kind of tradition developed when …(something) ruined took to the road (albeit briefly) in February. I manage not to pace the room anxiously, though, which is probably for the best, although it does mean I’m not working toward my daily 6,000 step target.

It’s a prompt start, and BLACKCLOUDSUMMONER pile in hard and strong with shuddering, juddering crackles and blasts of noise that shard from atop a booming, rolling bass. It’s apparently a saxophone, but fucked about with to be a potent, disorientating noise assault, building later upon later of interlooping shrieks of nail-scraping shrillness as the piece progresses. It’s rendered all the more tension-inducing by the cyclical visual consisting of just three rolling gifs. In a gig setting, this by way of an opener would clear the room before it even filled up: in the event, viewers steadily increase… 29… 34… 36…

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Ordinarily, that would be an act you’d not want to follow, but Expose Your Eyes up the noise stakes with thumping percussion and buzzsaw churning electronic noise, some heavy synthy drones with serrated edges bristling all over, intercut with murky pulsations and looped snippets of dialogue. The accompanying videos appear to be clips shot at random while out and about, with the lighting adjusted for maximum dramatic effect, giving the whole thing a horror movie suspense vibe. Only much, much noisier.

The change in style that Labas Krabas being is welcome: the Newcastle duo deliver otherworldly vocal warbling accompanied by disjointed double bass, and we get to watch them perform, albeit with blocky, buffering movement. Said warbling builds to crazed, banshee wailing and shrieking. It is, however, a long set, and it’s perhaps because of its force that it becomes draining some time before the end.

There isn’t a lot to THF Drenching’s set: the beardy avant-gardist shows various artworks close to the camera against an audio backdrop of trilling, twittering and occasional toots, bells, and whistles.

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Carnivorous Plants Trio bring more fucked-up noise-churning double bass action, compacted into a claustrophobic space with experimental guitar sculptures and random percussion. The technique of slapping the bow against the strings produced some interesting sounds, while the guitar work is very much about texture rather than tune. The layered visuals, which place all three musicians in the same space but as ghostly forms, are interesting, and work well.

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Worship My Panther plunder deep drone, which is supplemented by footage of rabbits, mostly: rabbits hopping, fighting and being hunted by birds of prey. Sonically, it’s dark and ponderous and the contrasting visuals add a different dimension.

I can’t really review my own set, but it’s quick and brutal and Paul Tone’s noise and visual collaging feels like a creative success, and I read the silence in the chat comments as positive, like those present being stunned into silence instead of sending virtual missiles and ‘you’re shit’ comments our way. The Whining crowd may be respectful and nice, but they’d say if we were shit. YOL slammed in immediately after with a short sharp shock of a set that was seemingly a guy having a breakdown while straddling a bass drum. I have no real clue what it as about, but it was intense.

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Heavy Lifting’s real-time programming yields tone-shifting phased synth wave sounds reminiscent of some early Whitehouse, minus the vocals. This is a good thing, because the vocals on most early Whitehouse releases were pretty corny, while blasts of distortion and feedback never get tired.

I kinda got distracted for a time in the aftermath of the …(s)r set: for some reason, people wanted to talk to me over various messenger services, but Swarm Front grabbed my attention with a politically-charged mash-up combining no-fi docu-drama and power electronics. Mashed loops played at hyperspeed stutter and whip in between more performance-based segments. The effect is somewhat bewildering, and at times, it’s hard to determine the sense of narrative.

Phil Minton is perhaps the noise equivalent of beatbox master Kevin Olusola, or at least an aspiring equivalent: his vocal gymnastics almost inevitably call to mind Mike Patton’s Adult Themes for Voice recordings, as he replicated the sounds of howling wind, explosions and dark ambient rumbles with his lugs and larynx alone. And it’s pretty impressive.

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Finally, we get to see Mik Quantius do some JG Thirlwell-inspired growling and playing a keyboard with his feet and shake his jowls frantically in front of a mic. Some of it’s ok, some not so much, but the sound quality is pretty poor. And I’m weary and beery. And it feels very like a gig. Only, I’m not rushing for a train at 11pm and after 5 pints or more. Which is one positive over real gigs, I suppose…

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Cruel Nature Records – 3rd July 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

On the face of it, Newcastle has a conspicuously large and thriving scene devoted to all kinds of noisy / experimental metal shit, until you realise that about 75% of the bands feature James Watts and a number of his mates. Ultimately, that’s col, because Watts is a versatile vocalist – maybe not Mike Patton, but more than adept at affecting all kinds of low-throated metal, as well as anguished elongated notes and monastic incantations, and, as the last song evidences, human didgeridoo.

The band are described as ‘a unique weirdo blend of improvised doom with a drunken psychedelic vibe which is anywhere between THRONES to The Melvins to a very pissed off Butthole Surfers.’ The blurb also goes on to detail that ‘They normally play as a 3 piece, with bass, drums, a little sax and vocals which sound like they are coming out of someone’s mouth who has been trapped in a basement for 20 years and staying alive by licking the mould that grows on beer barrels.’

It’s a fair summary, although there’s more than a little sax here. But no violins. For all the sonic assault, they’re very much pacifists.

There’s nothing like easing the listener into an album gently, and the twenty-three minute opener, ‘Ioniser’ is absolutely nothing like easing the listener into an album gently. An overloading crackle and buzz churns and distorts like hell. It eventually settles into a Shellac-like groove, hectic Todd Trainer-esque drumming driving a grungy low-end grind that provides the backdrop for a display of vocal contortions that celebrate all things tortured and guttural.

Christ, that bass! It’s so low and grindy it could relieve constipation within a matter of bars, and against a jazz-influenced rhythm played with explosive force, ‘Shan patter’ is an absolute beast. The vocals are barely audible and as low, if not lower, than the bass, a chthonic gurgle

‘Shenanigans’ has the looping structure of a dance track crossed with the nagging circular motifs that defined Therapy’s sound on Nurse – only it’s a twisted jazz-funk odyssey, and it’s a complete contrast with the ultra-slow, ultra-minimalist drone-plod of ‘Wallow’ that crawls into a droning boom of repetition, a single chord ringing out for an eternity, the sustain twisting to feedback. Any Sunn O))) comparisons are entirely justified, although the percussion has a certain swing that lifts it from the domain of sludgy doomy drone and into that of something more jazz/low grunge in style.

And if the title of the final cut inspires references to Derek an Clive, the thirteen-minute ‘Horn’ is less to inspire a rush of blood to the penis than a crawling sensation over the skin as another lumbering bassline strolls, battered, bruised, dust and dirt-covered from amidst a fizz of noise before a heavy-hearted brass brays, wails, and honks all over.

While the freeform elements of the pieces give them a sense of looseness, or non-conformity, of spontaneity, of disarray, the way they come together so tightly and intuitively on the extended riffy segments is indicative of a real musical competence and a high level of intuition. It’s special and it’s rare. And it’s a defining feature of an album that’s properly heavy, and at the same time, way jazzy without sucking.

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Sacred Bones

Christopher Nosnibor

Fucking yes: the news of a new Uniform album is welcome news. Not that a new Uniform album is ever going to be an uplifting experience, but a soundtrack to the torment of modern life. Few bands – not only now, but ever – have so perfectly articulated that noise in your head, the pain of being alive and completely fucking trapped on this planet with so many examples of a species who seem hellbent on bringing about their own extinction, and what’s more, completely deserve it.

Many fans will be devastated to hear, then, that they’ve gone pop on the lead single for their upcoming fourth album, Shame.

Of course I’m kidding. ‘Delco’ is less gnarly than previous outings, with actual chords distinguishable among the churn, and overall the sound is more balanced, less abrasive. But these things are relative. ‘Less abrasive’ means something approximating Filth Pig era Ministry, only with a shade less treble. It’s still a heavy grind, a relentless trudge of repetitive chord cycles and petulant, pissed-off vocals channelling all the angst. Still keeping it brutal.

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That 2020 has been relentlessly shit requires no qualification. Its shitness is almost as unprecedented as the unprecedented overuse of the word unprecedented. Only, you’d think that meant there’d never been a plague or viral pandemic before, but there has, so what’s unprecedented is the shitness of the way it’s been managed, on a global scale. Despite the unprecedented shitness, or perhaps because of it, it’s been a remarkable year for new music already, and it’s suddenly just got even better, with a new cut from Blacklisters, far and away one of the most outstanding noise rock bands of the last decade.

‘Sports Drinks’ prefaces the arrival of a long, long, long awaited new album, Fantastic Man, due out in August. And it’s a fucking belter. Check the video here:

11th June 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Stoke on Trent’s pottery industry may not be what it once was, and apart from Robbie Williams, who’s not a good advertisement for any city, it’s not exactly renowned for its music. But then, underground artists tend not to be renowned generally, existing as more of a loose-knit and divergent community. It was through this community that I first heard the sounds of Plan Pony, although I’ve known the man behind the project – again, through the community – for some time.

Single release ‘Martyr’, backed with ‘Martyr II’ (and accompanied by a third track, ‘Hipster Soufflé’ on the ultra-limited CD-R edition) is a dank, muffled, chunk of raw experimental noise layering that combines elements of gnarly punk, early industrial, and no-wave.

Created using sampler, delay pedals, voice, loops, guitar and found sounds all recorded to tape, it’s primitive, raw, and the epitome of DIY in the best possible sense: this is the sound of an artist making art out of a need to make art, without having even the peripheral vision of one eye on any kind of audience.

‘Martyr’ thuds in with a muddy sequenced drum that sounds like a wet pair of balled socks being slapped around inside a cardboard box. The guitar sparks like the jack lead’s been plugged directly into the mains, and the shouty vocals are all the echo and utterly impenetrable. The result is an angular, abrasive noise that sounds how I expect some of Uniform’s demos to sound.

‘Martyr II’ is very much a contrast: the same production values and tonal range this time provide the context for a slice of brooding dark ambience, an instrumental (de)composition that creeps and spreads like mildew.

These are dark times, which are evidently inspiring some dark shit: and this is some dark shit right here.

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Cruel Nature Records – 19th June 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Much as I love living in York because of The Fulford Arms, and the ease of access to limitless gigs in Leeds (without having to actually live in Leeds), I’m starting to think that Newcastle is the place to be.

Cruel Nature’s roster is reason alone, and this latest offering from full-throttle noisemakers Ballpeen is exemplary. Three years on from their first live show and, the band have established themselves, ‘through releases on premier DIY punk label, Serial Bowl Records’. As the press release recounts, ‘2018’s ‘Loose Knot’ with its wry nod to Black Flag in title and excellent artwork, rapped five across the listener’s brow from the get-go, with its attention-grabbing power and undulating groove, coursing through the 6 tracks, leaving you thirsty – but not miserable – for more’.

In attempting to capture the energy of their live performances, Pachinko is a relentlessly balls-out, up front amalgamation of all things post-hardcore, with a big, bold 90s slant that evokes the spirit of Touch & Go and Amphetamine Reptile, as well as contemporaneous little UK labels like Eve Recordings and Jackass.

At times, it feels like we’re wading through endless indie sameness, and even so much alternative music, spanning metal, hardcore, post-hardcore and whatever else you’ve got simply fails to hit the spot, and I’ve felt listless, uninspired many evenings while reviewing these last few weeks. And then Pachinko slams in with a proper smack to the chops and I’m instantly reinvigorated and reminded of all of the reasons for music. Pachinko is distilled excitement. The album’s eight tracks are packed back-to-back and are all the guitars, spasmodic, jolting, big distortion. The fact it’s a mere twenty-one minutes in duration indicates the density and hell-for-leather pace of the album, which last less time than it takes some bands to tune up, or in the case of Sunn O))), to strike the first chord.

Pachinko isn’t pretty: it’s direct, and drives straight for the jugular. Following the lurching drive of ‘One Man’s Opinion’, a thorny mess of Killing Joke and early Therapy? with a dash of Milk, ‘Flipper’ brings a downtuned churning riff assault, before ‘Ornate Coleman’ slugs out a messy morass of guitar-driven abrasion.

Blending Trail of Dead and Blacklisters at their most attacking, or to pluck lesser-known but perhaps more accurate reference points, Tar, Guzzard, and Hora Douse all spin into Ballpeen’s sonic blast.

‘Kancho’ goes full-on Bleach era Nirvana with a driving, circular riff and sprays of feedback bursting from the halts in the crushing percussion. It’s heavy in a relentless, churning way. Some songs, like the closer, ‘No Mark’ are straight-ahead hardcore punishers that are Black Flag and all the hardcore releases Southern Lord have released in the last five years rolled together and deep-fried in breadcrumbs that stick in the throat simply to choke you.

No prisoners. No respite. Just full-on fury. The best.

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24th May 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Like many artists during life in lockdown, Foldhead has been enjoying a spell of enormous creativity. Well, enjoying may not be quite the word: immersion in work for therapeutic purposes is as much a necessity as a joy, and moreover, as his recent spate of output highlights, zanntone is a highly political animal, and some recent events have sparked an ire that can only be purged through noise.

Skegdeath, released in March, served up an obliterative wall of noise against hundreds of thousands who reportedly descended on Skegness beach on Saturday 21st, the final days before official lockdown landed, against advice on social distancing. The Guardian ran a headline quoting a local dentist who said that it was ‘a disaster waiting to happen.’ It did happen, of course, and it didn’t wait long.

But that didn’t stop the government’s top advisor from doing the precise opposite of staying at home, saving lives, and protecting the NHS by driving his child, in the company of his wife who was suffering symptoms of Covid-19 some 260 miles from London to Durham to stay on his parents’ property, and taking a 60-mile round trip to Barnard Castle to check his eyesight was ok to make the journey home once they’d all recovered, despite having been barely able to walk the day before. He called it ‘reasonable’ and parental responsibility; half the country called it bullshit.

Foldhead refers to this punchy two-tracker, which would make for a neat 7” single at any other time as ‘A reaction to a piece of shit I will not sully my vocal chords by naming’, although the cover art leaves us in no doubt.

‘Carrion / Carrier’ marks one of Foldhead’s most brutal sonic assaults, five minutes of squalling, head-shredding electrical noise, with infinite layers of static and feedback and more noise on top. You can almost imagine him turning knobs so hard as to almost napping them off, and jamming down pedals and circuitry with brute force in order to channel the fury. Because nothing inspires rage like deceit and hypocrisy, apart from when that deceit and hypocrisy is so brazen and comes from a place of such self-confidence and superiority.

‘Poundshop Gollum’ is a howling, braying racket, somewhere between feedback and the anguished sounds of a dying heifer or maybe an elephant, against a backdrop of metal being crushed in a wrecker’s yard. There are fleeting moments that carry echoes of the most twisted, abstract jazz, but above all, it’s the sound of torture.

Amidst all of the outpourings of anger on social media, and even in the mainstream media, this release perhaps makes the strongest and clearest statement of all: because there are no words. The language of sound is the most articulate.

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Christopher Nosnibor

It’s no secret: I fucking love cheese. To the extent that it’s the single foodstuff that prevents me from being vegan, and to the extent that if I had to live on any one type of food, it would be cheese. Forget pudding, gimme the cheeseboard. In fact, scrap starters and mains, just give me all the cheese. My 4-tier wedding cake consisted of a wheel each of Brie, Stilton, Cornish Yarg, and a truckle of mature cheddar. So I kinda feel that Chronic Johnny’s debut single is a song that should appeal, regardless of actual content.

Harrogate may not be an obvious place to spawn a ‘wild noiserock trio’ like Chronic Johnny, but on reflection, it makes sense: it’s a lovely, leafy, middle-class market town close to York. What could possibly spur a bunch of guys to make angular, guitar-driven racket, the sound of anger and frustration in a setting like this? Well, precisely a setting like this. There’s always something to rebel against, always a reason to feel disenfranchised. And always a reason to make noise.

And Chronic Johnny make a cracking noise of a decidedly 90s alternative vintage, all spiky, overdriven guitars that jerk and jolt, and peppered with a substantial dash of rockabilly / surf spice, not least of all in the manic, yelping vocals. It’s such a frenetic, hybridized racket that comparisons are pretty pointless; it’s more that this furiously dirty din, driven by a growling, busy bassline, draws together the essence of a period in time, and drags it, squalling and brawling into the present. It’s gnarly, and it kicks ass.

1st May 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Pocket Signs is Sly & the Family Drone’s Matt Cargill and UKAEA’s Dan Jones, and according to Matt’s mail, Signs of the Times was ‘fired out in an afternoon with the aid of lager and pepsi max. Lights out, volume up, watch yer face bins.’ He describes it as the result of ‘plugging in all the objects and making a haunted, sprawling, disorientating racket. Blown out electronics, lacerated drums, churning bass and crumbling voices’. Which means I know I’m going to love it, along with at last 50 other people.

The album features two longform tracks, each a magical, mystical 23 minutes in duration, and like the times in which they were created, they’re a confusing mess of incoherence, a fractured and nonsensical sonic collage.

‘What About Obedience?’ starts out with what sounds like an engine roar – but not a real engine, so much as an engine on a racing console game. Then a deluge of clanks, bleeps, whirrs, clicks, pops, shoot-‘em-up laser guns and twanging elastic bands melting in a nuclear storm all pile in, more or less simultaneously and it feels like watching the news while scrolling through social media (as I do around five every evening while cooking dinner). The experience is utterly bewildering and to even attempt to unravel it all is futile, because the world has truly gone mad.

Searching for structures in this chaotic morass of noise is like trying to find logic in the UK government’s strategy for loosening lockdown, but there are some amazing moments to be found here, as snippets of tunes and spacey krautrock synth motifs emerge briefly from the blistering howl of undifferentiated nose that funnels like a gale.

Gurgles and glops and electronic extranea combine to forge an aural blitzkrieg that could easily be the soundtrack to a digital apocalypse. Everything swirls and melts into a maelstrom that builds a physical mass and hits with an impact that’s more than simply sensory.

Where do you go from a piece that concludes with a sustained squalling blast of white noise that leaves you with the sensation of the end of days? More of the same, of course: ‘How to be Saved’ begins with a series of murky vocal samples, echoed and overlaid, atop burrs of electronic discord, and in no time at all, later upon layer of dissonance has emerged to forge a raging torrent of noises. Feedback strains and scrapes, sharp and metallic with knife-like edges while surging currents gurgle and synth sounds squelch and quirt, titter and tweet around a vortex. Abstraction and chaos reigns, pulsing, bouncing, screaming and bumping in all directions. At time, the melee is impenetrable, bewildering, as it echoes around your cranium. Voices emerge and fade again at random: seemingly, everything is at random, and it’s a glorious headfuck. Not so much a dronewerk as a metadrone assemblage, it’s a wild and brain-frying journey, this may just be the perfect soundtrack to the now – or it may just tip you over the edge.

Oh, and the cover art is truly special.

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