Posts Tagged ‘Noise’

After a lengthy hiatus from 2013 to making a return to the fray this summer, Benjamin Heal’s Cowman alter ego is back with a vengeance: hot on the heels of the Crunch’ EP, which was essentially the salvage from an aborted album project, we have a full-length album proper in the form of Slaughter.

The title may or may not be a fairly off-the-cuff and easy reference to its being recorded at a studio by the name of The Slaughterhouse – evidently not the one in Driffield, favoured by Earache acts back in the day, since it was destroyed by a fire in the 90s – but it equally seems appropriate to the tense, tortured atmosphere that pervades this release.

Kicking off energetically with ‘Hydrant’, this is the sound of Cowman reinvigorated. It’s still gloriously lo-fi, and still warrants Pavement comparisons I effortlessly tossed at its predecessor, but this carries the unbridled excitement of those early EPs which preceded Slanted. But moreover, it’s fuller, scuzzier, dirtier, somehow more adrenalized, and also more frenetic, more angular, as if Trumans Water had witnessed the apocalypse. In this sense, it’s very much a return to the gnarly grind of 2013’s Artificial Dissemination and Palpating the Rumen (2009).

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This tension carries on into ‘Rinka’, two and a quarter minutes of multi-layered mumbling vocals largely submerged beneath a hefty chug of rhythm guitar and a lead guitar that just about carries a motif, but wanders and around as if half-blinded and disoriented by a spinning compass on a map that’s missing bits.

‘Blackstock’ is a full-on wall of sound, the mangled vocals echoing impenetrably in a churning cyclical riff, and it’s not until ‘Kissing the Rock with Eyes’ that we get something approximating a groove, but even then, it’s impossible to settle into it for long. The beat may be vaguely baggy, but it’s urgent, thwacked out at a hundred miles an hour while the guitars are cracked up, overdriven and grungy. Something has happened here, and perhaps perusing the 2010 Cowvers album, which includes rough-as-fuck renditions of songs by Big Black, The Fall, yes, Trumans Water gives a clue of the roots to which Cowman is returning to here, but there’s also a newfound sense of purpose here, as if there’s a real need to channel some post-pandemic angst into big, bad, noise.

‘Itch’, clocking in at a minute and forty-one is pure Big Black, with a squall of treble-to-the-max guitar clanging over a pummelling blast of drum machine, before the dark, dank mass of the lumbering closer, ‘Wichita Black Sun’ rolls in and mines a mid-tempo motoric groove for over a quarter of an hour. The nagging monotony is integral to the experience, like a feedback-strewn reimagination of Lard’s ‘Time to Melt’ and the entire back catalogue of Terminal Cheesecake pulped into a single document.

While ‘Crunch’ was fun, Slaughter feels like the real Cowman. It’s not an easy or accessible record; in fact, it probably requires four stomachs to fully digest, but it’s a magnificent set of dingy alt-rock noise with firm roots in the early 90s, the likes of which is rare these days, yet seems fitting for these challenging times.

Listen EXCLUSIVELY to album tracks ‘’Blackstock’ and ‘Sticks, Stones, Fingers and Bones’ here:

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Human Worth – 7th October 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

Since the launch of the Human Worth label, initially as an outlet for releases by Modern Technology, we’ve witnessed the label grow – although never beyond its means and never beyond its principles. Each release sees a portion of the proceeds donated to a nominated charitable cause, and it’s so heartening to see a label and its artists use their platform for social good. With this latest release, a 7” EP from Leeds makers of noise BELK, 10% of all proceeds are being donated to Action Bladder Cancer UK, who work to support patients, raise awareness, improve early diagnosis and outcomes, and support research into bladder cancer.

But let’s never underestimate the social good of music with meaning – and by good, I mean sincere and visceral. Anyone who has ever stood in a room being bludgeoned by a full-blooded sonic attack will likely appreciate the incredible release of the experience, and the sense of community it entails. It’s not easy to articulate the way in which something that’s ultimately private, internal, is heightened by the presence of strangers immersed in that same experience, in their own personal way.

In congruence with the rise of Human Worth, we’re also seeing a satisfying upward arc for BELK, who unquestionably deserve the exposure and distribution, and one suspects that being limited to just 100 hand-numbered vinyl copies, the vinyl release of this is likely to be a future rarity.

This 7” EP packs five tracks into mere minutes. ‘Warm Water’, unveiled as a taster for advance orders on September’s Bandcamp Friday, is a minute and eighteen seconds long. It’s fast, and it’s furious – a focused channelling of fury, no less, distilled to 100% proof, and there’s no holding back on this attack.

There are a couple of additional demo tracks, in the form of ‘Net’ and ‘Question of Stress’ from their 2022 promo as downloads.

It’s all pretty raw, and ‘studio’ doesn’t mean much more polish than ‘demo’, and that’s exactly as it should be BELK trade in proper dirty noise, the likes of which Earache specialised in in the eighties and early 90s, before they went soft and became a rock and blues label, releasing stuff by the likes of Rival Sons. Human Worth have snatched the noise baton in a firm grip, though, and the quality of their releases extends to the artefact as well as the art.

‘Net’ is a stuttering slugfest reminiscent of Fudge Tunnel, only with harsher, higher-pitched squawkier vocals that are more conventionally hardcore, and it all stacks up for one killer release that delivers a ferocious slap round the chops.

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30th June 2022

James Wells

‘i write weird songs for weird folks’ writes alien machine, all in lower case. ‘A solo artist pretending to be a 3 to 5 piece garage punk outfit,’ ‘the sea complains’ is their fourth release. Details of this US-based artist are sparse to non-existent, but it appears that having emerged in 2014, they lay creatively dormant before deciding to reconvene with racketmaking during the pandemic, which seems to be a common thing as people sought ways of dealing with the strangeness and the isolation.

This is raw, primitive, and psychotic. The skewed, angular, murky mess of the first track, ‘math’ sounds like it was recorded on a Dictaphone in the living room while the band play their first rehearsal in the basement. The overall effect is very much early Pavement (pre-Slanted, those EPs collected on Westing were betonf lo-fi) / Silver Jews lo-fi so slack as to not give a shit about being in time / holding a tune / anything at all really, and it’s played with the wild, frenzied mania of Truman’s Water. Then again, ‘coward’ is a pulverising screamo-fest that brings in elements of Shellac, the guitars sliding and jerking in all directions over a loping drum beat, and closer ‘aquaburst’ goes fill Truman’s, with clanging Big Black guitars and everything going off all at once, but not necessarily in the same key or time signature.

It’s a headache-inducing discordant buzz, and it’s wonderful.

There’s nothing particularly weird about this – although fans off mainstream chart music would likely disagree – but it is a hard-on-the-ears trebly racket, that’s so slack it can’t even be arsed raising a finger to production or concessions to clean sound. It doesn’t get much more DIY than this.

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3rd June 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

The best music is timeless. This four tracker from ‘lady fronted, post-hardcore influenced’ quartet, Fantømex, hailing from Asheville, North Carolina could have been released any time during the last thirty years or more, and that’s definitely a positive.

It slams in with the raging, angular grunge of ‘Fantomcatz’ that’s got strong echoes of early Hole or Solar Race, but amidst the screaming fury, there are some neat dynamics and a solid structure. ‘White Hole’ is lighter, popper – I mean, it’s all relative, it’s hardly fucking Beyonce – but it’s got something of a 90s Sonic Youth vibe to it, but then it goes full-tilt histrionic punk, before leaping back to being more Sonic Youth / Pavementy, and the guitars even jangle a bit, albeit briefly.

‘Gaslight’ is appropriately disconcerting, disorientating, and perhaps the most disjointed of the four tracks, but in context it works. It’s no sleight to draw a line to The Pretty Reckless with its more overtly ‘rock’ sound, before they round it off with a jarring slew off guitars that’s like a mathy mess squished into a melodic tune delivered with punk attitude, but at the same time, when she’s not spilling her guts, Abigail Taylor proves she’s capable of delivering a melody that can really tug at the heartstrings.

And so it is that in the space of around eighteen minutes, Fantømex whip together a whirlwind of musical styles and emotions, and do so with both style and force.

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Dead Cross, the four-headed Hydra featuring Mike Patton, Dave Lombardo, Justin Pearson and Michael Crain, return with the abrasive 9-song album, II, on Oct. 28th via Ipecac Recordings.

The album, while both a raucous hardcore collection, and at times, a politically-charged opus, has its roots in friendship, with the band rallying together after Crain received a surprise cancer diagnosis.

"Words can’t even begin to describe how much this album means to me. It’s birthed of pain and uncertainty,” explains Crain. “The slow, excruciatingly painful, and nauseating recovery from cancer treatments were the catalyst for every riff and note on this album. However, my will to live and be with my brothers Justin, Dave, Mike, and co-producer Ross Robinson, got me out of bed and running into the studio every day to get it all on tape.”

Watch ‘Reign Of Error’ here:

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Gold Mold Records – 7th July 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

Moni Jitchell don’t piss about, and in deference to that attitude, neither shall I: this EP is an absolute blinder. Crashing in somewhere between Blacklisters, and Daughters, or like Pulled Apart by Horses on speed, it delivers five fast ‘n’ furious cuts in as many minutes, and it’s not hard to figure how the Glasgow duo scored a slot supporting Mclusky earlier in the year with their brand of irreverent, full-throttle shouty noise that’s too angular to be punk, but too punk to be metal, and too metal to be math… The fact they’ve appeared alongside Leeds noisemongers Thank is perhaps a fair indication of the kind of racket they make.

Only they make it louder and faster, and distil everything to the most absolute optimum potency. The songs are formed, with defined structures and ‘clear’ shape – but compacted to black-hole density, clanging and slamming every whichway, frenetic, kinetic, jarring, jolting, whiplash-inducing blasts of sonic violence.

Grant Donaldson’s drumming is solid and holds everything together through wild tempests of stuttering, stop/start guitar that veers between driving riffs and splintering shards of atonality. The vocals are manic, screamed, and unintelligible, but it doesn’t really matter, as there’s no time to dwell on these things. There’s no time for anything at all.

‘Not a Change’ is a mere thirty—three seconds long, with guitars that buzz like a helium-filled wasp trapped in a hot greenhouse. ‘Split’ is only a second longer, while the ten-second ‘Skelp’ is over before it’s even started.

It’s one of those short sharp shocks that leaves you stunned and sweating, and completely buzzed.

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Christopher Nosnibor

It may sound perverse, but I find metal gigs to be highly therapeutic. I suppose it’s the escapism – the release of fury from the stage working like some kind of Reiki, drawing the tension out and casting it into the air.

I didn’t really do much research beforehand – because sometimes, it’s nice just to rock up, see some bands, and drink some beer. Especially on a Sunday afternoon. It’s bloody boiling, which means I’m going to bee needing quite a bit of beer to keep hydrated, and I arrive just in time to get a pint in before the first act.

Grunk are pretty much classic grind, with two vocalists. They’re raw and ragged, with a lot of drum, but not a lot of guitar. They’ve plenty of grunt and humour, too. They’re not very good, but aren’t trying to be, quipping about the proper bands being on after, and they’re a fun opener, their set concluding with the rotund main shouter rolling around on the floor in front of the stage.

It wouldn’t be a proper dirty metal gig in / near Leeds without Steve Myles doing something, and here he’s Sulking, doing shouting instead of drumming for a change. Instrumentally, Sulk are another guitar and drum setup, but sound altogether more meaty, and consequently all the more grindy. Their tightly-structured songs pack all the heft, all the pace, and Myles pages the stage menacingly while delivering raw-throated rage. They’re absolutely brutal, and one of the best bands of the night.

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Sulk

It’s been a few years since I last caught Deathmace. They’re very much at the thrash end of the spectrum, with some frenzied guitar solos, and a sound filled out with a second guitar and bass, too. Too earnest to be truly menacing, the singer speaks normally between songs but growls the song titles when announcing them, and made me think of the recent movie, Metal Lords. They’re very obviously complete metal nerds (although the drummer is wearing a Yes T-shirt), singing about death, coffins, maggots and large fish, but can genuinely play, and being a local band with a strong following, go down a storm.

It’s truly oven-like in the venue by now, and everyone clears out to the beer garden, and consequently most of them miss the first half of Wolfbastard’s set, which is definitely their loss. The trio’s scratchy bass sound blends into the incendiary treble of the overloading guitar wall of noise. Bassist Si’s barking vocal contrasts with the guitarist Dez’s sandpapered screech, and it’s a stonking set off crusty black metal, which is exactly what I came for.

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Wolfbastard

Cryptic Shift are big hair and pointy guitars, and the first thought is ‘Megadeth’. It so happens that’s also my second thought, too. Granted, they’re a bit more death/black than that, but seem to take the remainder of their cues from Venom. They’re supremely technical and super-serious and megafast, but the bass sounds like arse and there’s so much endless harmonics and fretwanking it’s… well, of course it’s a matter of taste, but the singer plays every inch of the fretboard, and uses all 36 pedals, and it’s impressive and all, but it’s just not particularly fun. They drink a lot of water.

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Cryptic Shift

For Foetal Juice front man Dez, this is his second set of the night, and what a set it is. Foetal Juice are grind heavyweights in every way. Without the restriction of an instrument, Dez charges back and forth across the stage, fist pumping and finger pointed. There’s little commentary required: it’s death metal, played as it should be, and they sound exactly as the name suggests. They slam down the heavy noise relentlessly, and it’s a magnificently riffy, gnarly affair, and a mosh frenzy ensues. Fucking yes. This is what we came for.

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Foetal Juice

We’ve been tracking Plan Pony’s progress since the release of ‘Martyr’ back in the summer of 2020. Now, two years on, we’re getting another slice of experimental electroacoustic noise conjured from the array of vintage kit in Plan Pony’s stable in the form of the Creative Writing EP, released on Nim Brut.

Exploring the interplay between electronic sounds (courtesy of an old Korg ER1 drum machine) and acoustic sounds (from a variety of percussion, including a set of African dun duns) with a variety of samples captured on a Boss SP303. Recorded on a Tascam 488mkii cassette multitracker, pushing the levels high and experimenting with mic placement, the ingredients are a recipe for something exciting.

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Artwork from a photograph by Takafumi Otsuka.

Cruel Nature Records – 27th May 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

Aidan Baker – classically-trained multi-instrumentalist from Toronto (now resident in Berlin), who specialises in electric guitar works – using treated and otherwise non-conventional playing methods – is an artist who I seemingly can’t escape from. His ever-shifting styles and labels may be as difficult to keep pace with as his ever-expanding catalogue, but it seems that whoever’s releasing his work, I’m on their mailing list. This is very much a good thing, as Baker is one of those artists who, despite – or perhaps because – of being impossible to pigeonhole, never disappoints.

Baker’s second release on Cruel Nature, following 2021’s Stimmt, marks something of a shift, from what the accompanying notes ‘was big on atmospherics and abstraction’ to a sound that ‘shoots a bullet straight into the heart of the riff and explodes it, in all its scorching white-out fuzzed-up glory’.

On listening to the album’s grunt and growl guitar assault, the specific meaning of the album’s title remains unclear: ‘tenebrous’ is either obscure, or murky, or otherwise causing gloom, while ‘tenebrism’ refers to ‘a style of painting especially associated with the Italian painter Caravaggio and his followers in which most of the figures are engulfed in shadow but some are dramatically illuminated by a beam of light usually from an identifiable source’. ‘Tenebrist’ seems to lack a specific definition. So is Baker casting himself in the role of an artist whose musical compositions follow in the shadow-casting tradition of Caravaggio, or is this a nod to obscurity, darkness, gloom?

It’s perhaps an amalgamation of all of the aforementioned meanings. The title track, which comes in two parts, lifts the curtain, with a heavy overloading trudge of massive distortion, the guitar too loud of the mics recording, while the drums plod, half-buried but strangely crisp and clear, down in the mix. Unexpectedly, I’m reminded of the production and mix of Moby’s Animal Rights, although the guitar here is much less trebly, angled instead toward the mid and lower ranges, with ‘Tenebrist II’ really plunging deep into psychedelic sludge. The speakers positive crackle with the thick distortion, wrapped in swathes of feedback.

‘Turgid’ is a crackling, buzzing, math-rock explosion: it’s busy and blistering, and somewhere towards the end, the sound thickens, become denser, darker, more abrasive, culminating in a spark-flying meltdown.

The blurb describes Tenebrist as ‘low-down and heavy, and serving up ‘swathes of grunge, pummelling the senses and scattering rhythms through its maximalist energy’, but this is an understatement that only goes so far in conveying the massive sonic impact. ‘Violet Contrast’ is missing an ‘n’: driven by thumping, thunderous drums in a mist of low, slow, smoggy synth drones, it builds gradually to a monumental, percussion-driven climax over the course of a sustained crescendo of drums on drums.

‘Dramatic Illumination’ – in two parts – seems to cast a nod to Caravaggio, and this thirteen-minute suite cuts a dark sonic furrow, as clattering percussion and drones of low, low frequency feedback moan in an avant-jazz mess of calamitous noise, whereby the entire song sounds like the slow wind-down at the end of a set. You wonder when and where it will end… but it doesn’t. Finally, on ‘Dramatic Illumination II,’ the guitar glides in, but it still feels like the end.

The eight-and-a-half-minute closer ‘Chiasroscurious’ is a culmination of the album’s journey; a shuddering, juddering, wall of noise that makes you momentarily think your stereo’s fucked and your speakers are knackered with it’s massively overloading distortion that’s absolutely ruinous, swelling to a sonic tsunami that redefines devastation.

Tenebrist hurts. It’s immense and devastating on every level. The volume hurts. It’s a beast, and exactly the exercise in punishment we all need.

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