Posts Tagged ‘Noise’

Human Worth – 19th June 2023

Christopher Nosnibor

I’d love to avoid tedious repetition but it’s hard to review yet another Human Worth release without mentioning just how fucking great this label is, because the name means what it says – it’s a label of rare integrity, which always donates a percentage of proceeds to charitable causes, more often than not one local to the artist, and for this release by ‘shape shifting south London noise rock outfit Thee Alcoholics’, 10% of proceeds from this record will be donated to the south London based charity The Lewisham Primary Care Recovery Service.

They’re also outstanding with their radar for quality noise, and Thee Alcoholics sit comfortably on the label’s roster, delivering ‘songs that rail against injustice, intolerance and institutionalised Great British apathy – neatly wrapped around screeching, trash guitar riffs and blast beat driven bass synths. Mixing the gnarly, outsider big muff energy of early Tad and Mudhoney with the industrial crush repetition of Godflesh. Ugly vocals are buried somewhere between the Brainbombs and Girls Against Boys.’

Could it get any better? Well, actually, yes! The EP’s artwork, by Tony Mountford, tips a hat to Therapy?’s live 7inch ‘Opal Mantra’, while the recording itself is pitched as ‘a document of the journey so far – 30 minutes of agro [sic] drunk rock n roll. In the red sizzle of a load of broken equipment. The band barely holding it together in their chaotic element.’ Oh, and it’s mastered by Jon Hamilton of Part Chimp.

Human Worth may be a young label, but the sense of musical history and heritage that informs their choices is remarkable, and all of the references trace a solid lineage to the early 90s – and it’s hard to overstate just how exciting those short few years were. Because as much as it was about Nirvana and Pearl Jam and Soundgarden and Rage Against the Machine breaking the mainstream, it was about a current of alternative guitar-based music which occupied John Peel’s playlists and infinite column inches in Melody Maker (if not so much the NME). And the live ‘Opal Mantra’ EP is absolutely fucking blinder and makes for an admirable reference point, packing as it does raw and ripping renditions of ‘Innocent X’ and ‘Potato Junkie’ alongside one of the best non-album tracks ever. That a band could chuck a song like that out in such a fashion was a revelation at the time and it’s interesting to see all of these references come together here.

For me, Tad was always way more the quintessence of grunge than, say, Pearl Jam, the gritty, sweaty metal heft of songs about farming and manual labour really getting to grips with the reason the Seattle scene emerged representing the blue-collar – or perhaps more accurately the plaid-collar demographic who needed to vent after several hours of slog and grind. And Thee Alcoholics really capture that mood, often at a frantic pace that suggests a strong influence from mid- to late-eighties hardcore melded with nineties noise and grunge.

Live recordings can be difficult: too crisp and clean and so polished and overdubbed it doesn’t sound live, or otherwise just dingy and shit; this one is great because it’s not dingy and shit, but isn’t exactly ‘produced’ either: it’s dense and you can hear the audience – sometimes shouting to one another during the songs, because they’re tossers – and it all makes for a document that’s perhaps flawed to some ears, but is, as a document, absolutely perfect because you really do feel like you’re there.

Live At The Piper features live renditions of songs from their debut album released on cassette, and seven-inch releases, and it’s warts-and-all in the vein of The Fall’s Totale’s Turns – and it needs to be: it’s a proper live document rather than some polished-up, super-dubbed-up, hyper-clean fictionalised reimagination of events, as they power through eight songs in twenty-four minutes.

‘A Ghetto Thing’ is two minutes of throbbing, thrashing fury, rushing its way to the safety of a pub car park in blitzkrieg of noise, while ‘Turn on the Radio’ is built around a driving riff which switches up a key for the chorus; the vocals are half buried and the drums dominate everything and it’s all over in less than two minutes, which is time enough to do the job of grabbing you by the throat and kneeing you in the nuts several times. It’s a hell of a racket, but amidst the frenetic crashing of cymbals and general murk is a song that’s strong enough to lodge in your brain, and it’s rare for bands this noisy, this messy, to incorporate ‘catchy’ elements, favouring instead sheer force and sonic impact – which they do elsewhere, not least of all with the high-impact forty-one second detonation that is ‘Sweetheart’. Then again. ‘She’s the Man’ is built around a nagging locked-in industrial groove, but it’s also scuzzy as hell, and it’s not hard to see where the Godflesh and Girls Against Boys references come in, and it’s arguably the strongest song on the set, a low-sling grinding wheeze emerging from shards of feedback.

Six-and-a-half-minute set closer ‘Politicians’ is low, slow, and grimy – which is extremely fitting, really, and the booming, sludgy bass is just magnificent.

As with the B E L K release, Human Worth have adhered with the old hardcore ethic of releasing a band in its rawest, most unadulterated form, and it works because it preserves the energy and integrity of the moment. It ain’t pretty, but it’s real.



Dret Skivor – 5th May 2023

Christopher Nosnibor

The liner notes to Trowser Carrier’s A Flower For My Hoonoo, originally released in some form or another back in 2013, say everything you need to know about Trowser Carrier – the duo consisting of Dave Procter (Voice) and Java Delle (Noise) – and their purpose.

‘Noise and vocal delivery tend to occasionally focus on edgelord taboo subjects. Trowser Carrier are not like that. After 10 years, Trowser Carrier once more ask the following question – why can’t noise be nice? Find the answers amongst harsh noise and insipid words.’

Procter in particular is no stranger to the noise scene, performing as Legion of Swine and Fibonacci Drone Organ, among others, not to mention countless collaborations. and he’s no doubt encountered more than his fare share of edgelords along the way. Like many makers of noise, he’s also a fan, but not incapable of critique and criticism, and not without humour. And as such, A Flower For My Hoonoo is something that you could describe as a humorous act of rebellion – and since noise and all of the serial killer and pervo shit that is often the subject matter of noise that’s designed to shock ‘normal’ society – this is a rebellion against rebellion, an attack on cack cliché, a parody of po-faced posturing.

The result is a collection of pieces that resemble Alan Bennett fronting Whitehouse, and the track titles largely speak for themselves: ‘a nice cup of tea’; ‘this ketchup is nice’; thanks for hoovering’; and ‘I remain you humble servant’ are all representative – and it’s perhaps as well the titles do speak for themselves since most of the actual words are, in true noise fashion, largely inaudible for blasts of intense pink, white, and brown noise layered up with distortion and overloading synth meldown. ‘sausages for supper’ extols the virtues of vegetarian sausages, with lines like ‘my body is a temple… and I don’t eat The Lord’s creatures.’

From the words it is possible to make out, ‘nice’ is probably the word which appears with the most frequency after ‘the’, and the bland lyrical niceness, a porridge-slick spill of pleasantry worse than saccharine sweetness in that it’s a world of magnolia in word form. It’s like being forced to sit in a corporate ‘wellbeing’ room plastered posters of motivational quotes, only instead of pictures of beaches and sunrises as the backdrop, there are images of crashed cars and slaughterhouses as the ear-shredding electronic racket blasts relentlessly. The fact that they’re short bursts – most around the minute mark – doesn’t make it any easier on the ear: if anything, it’s worse, as the stop-start nature of the sonic assault has the same effect as various methods of torture. The ear-shredding blasts are of the bubbling crackling fucked-up analogue kind.

The ‘mix’ versions of the tracks – which double up the sixteen tracks to thirty-two place the vocals up to the fore and back off the noise (which is different), meaning Dave’s sappy words are nauseatingly clear as he gushes gratitude for tine spent washing dishes together and courteous manners.

The contrast between the aural punishment and the fist-clenchingly pleasant banalities of the lyrics is amusing and frustrating in equal measure. Procter utters these grovelingly insipid lines in a blank monotone, often repeating a singe verse twice to fill the minute of noise as it froths and sloshes and foams and bubbles and drives the meter needles to the upper limits of the red.

It’s overtly silly, but does make serious points about the genre trappings and songs lyrics and musical forms more broadly.



Seismic Wave Entertainment – 3rd April 2023

Christopher Nosnibor

Now That We Are All Ghosts is the second album from Milwaukee’s Resurrectionists. It was self-engineered, recorded and produced; and mastered by Bob Weston at Chicago Mastering Service. The blurbage describes the album as featuring ‘nine songs of Doom Chamber-Americana, all powerfully cinematic and ripe for video treatments, leading the group to take the unusual and ambitious step of commissioning videos for every one of them.’ And we were privileged to premier the clip that accompanies ‘Let Me Talk You Through This One’ at the start of this week. Privileged because it’s really something special, not to mention unique.

It’s a crazy project for a crazy album. Returning with a different lineup and different approach to songwriting from their 2019 debut What Comes In, Now That We Are All Ghosts is, on the one hand, a set of accessible and somewhat folksy Americana songs. On the other…it’s dementedly intense and anything but the accessible Americana it presents as.

It’s noisy, and it’s intense, and the first song, ‘A Classic Dictionary of the Vulgar Tongue’ (also my first encounter with the band) is a magnificent work, an example of songwriting that gets the slow-build, the power of transition, evolving from a sparse and gloomy to a rip-roaring soul-purging in no time, and it paves the way for a tempestuous, tumultuous album that drags the listener through some tough and unexpected twists and turns. ‘Hobnobbing With High Value Targets’ is superficially docile but channels darker undercurrents, both sonically and lyrically.

Whatever this album seems to be, it’s always so much more. The songs always end up in a very different place from there they begin: ‘The Ghost This Time’ is a slow blues-crooner, but it’s bruised and raw and there are some tendrils of post-rock tendencies which tickle their way around the wandering bassline. Joe Cannon sounds fraught, wracked, caught in a turmoil, and to draw an obscure reference, it brings together the most fucked-up evangelism with the psychological spasms of Mark Eitzel’s sole turn at fronting Toiling Midgets on the album Son.

‘The New Winter’ starts out with some vintage 70s US rock swagger, but rapidly shifts somewhere else and winds up coming on like Dinosaur Jr, while ‘Blue Henry’ begins softly, before erupting in a tide of anguished emotion, Cannon practically choking on his words as he wrenches them from his throat. Thew downtempo ‘Let me talk You Through This One’ is two minutes of wistful, reflective slackerist Americana, with hints of The Silver Jews.

The album’s final – and finale – track ‘(hotel with pool)’ may sit in parenthesis, but it encapsulates all aspects of the album and amplifies them further in a monumental six-minute monster, that grows and grows, from a somewhat tentative and soulful start to climax as a raging tempest, where instruments and vocals alike are pushed to the limit.

Now That We Are All Ghosts is one of those albums that really does take you by surprise, curving in first from one way and then the other, sliding in gently before tearing shreds in its own very fabric. Understated yet intensely potent, this is a powerful and accomplished album.



Christopher Nosnibor

It’s been quite a week for Benefits. Kicking off an extensive UK tour in the same week as the release of their debut album, which has landed to universal critical acclaim, they’ve come a long way, and they know it better than anyone. It’s small wonder they’re fired up for this return to Leeds, which is where it all started in terms of their journey as a live act, and which has seen them transition from a homespun lockdown project into a national act with a following that’s growing by the day, due in no small part to their formidable live performances.

But to step back a moment and consider the album, of which myself I wrote a suitably efficiently enthusiastic review of just the other day: ‘universal critical acclaim’ is no mere hyperbole. Sometimes, a release by a major artist will receive a set of (very similar) reviews in the major press which almost feel like there’s been some kind of advance agreement on a consensus that this is one of their ‘good’ albums or a ‘return to form’ or whatever, with only one or two outliers, more often than not in more alternative channels. These moments strike as somewhat suspicious, since you clearly can’t please all of the people, even some of the time when it comes to something as subjective as music.

And yet Benefits have defied all of everything with the reception for Nails. Sure, an interviewer for Louder Than War suggested that the album was ‘depressing; and admitted it wasn’t something he envisaged listening to much, but the site’s review was roundly positive.

This unanimity is testament to the band’s unifying message: while some may find the barrages of noise challenging, there is absolutely no denying their sincerity, passion, or the power of the truth spoken in the lyrics, making Benefits THE voice of the disaffected here in Shit Britain. You might think that having just expended nearly a thousand words on the album the other day I’d be all out of words for benefits, but I’m just warming up, because the more I see and hear them, the more I have to say.

As the place packs out and the queue at the bar packs as deep as the clamour for the front, guitar / drums duo Scrounge entertain us with a vigorous set. They’re a pleasant surprise who start out suggesting that they’re ramshackle punkers with a murky distorted guitar sound, before, over the course of their set, revealing that they’re so much more. Unexpectedly melodic, with some chiming guitar tones, they deliver some proper songs with tunes and choruses, and incorporating both acoustic drums and drum pads, they vary the sound and style throughout the set. They’re indie, but with guts, and remind me in places of A Band of Susans.



Something has changed since Benefits last came to Leeds, and it’s not just the drummer – although Cat Myers is stunning, and her contribution can’t be overstated. This is my third time seeing the band, and the third drummer I’ve seen them with, and Cat really brings a rare level of sonic articulation to the dynamic of the sound. She doesn’t just drum: she drives the colossal walls of noise blasted out by the Major brothers. They’ve never sounded better: the dual-synth noise assault is crisps and clear and subject to perfect separation tonight, meaning the tones and frequencies really hit hard; the bass shakes the bowels while the treble vibrates the nostrils (I take it’s that’s not something only I experience) as they blast through ‘Marlboro Hundreds’: just as it’s the perfect album opener, it’s the perfect set-opener, too, and following with ‘Empire’ again delivers that antagonistic blast of noise and rage that’s utterly flooring.

But as I said, something has changed. They seem more confident – not cocky by any stretch, still as humble as ever – but assured, while the crowd – perhaps there are more here who’ve been swayed by the acclaim – is a but chattier in pockets, which is irritating, but contrasted by the number of people who are shouting the lines back to the stage. There are more calls out, too – not heckling, per se as it’s not critical, but a keenness to engage, bantz (perhaps not best recommended, but indicative of the level of exuberance in the room) and even hands out for high fives (perhaps not best recommended, but indicative of the level of exuberance in the room).

‘Divide and Be Conquered’ delivers a deep dance groove while Kingsley throws rockist mic stand poses, before they take it down a notch with ‘Shit Britain’ with its shuffling beats and splashes of samples.



As I said, the more you listen, the more you discover: they’re not just shouting and walls of noise, and the set’s variety is something that stands to the fore, perhaps more so with the benefit (boom) of familiarity: ‘Warhorse’ is a raw punk, while ‘Council Rust’ is sparse; ‘Thump’ brings a white noise blitzkrieg ahead of a muscular rendition of fan-favourite ‘Flag’, which is utterly devastating.

Kingsley sits, slumped on the drum riser or on all fours between songs later in the set: he pours every ounce of energy and emotion into every line, and while there is clearly an element of performance about a Benefits show, more than anything, it’s about giving it all to every show, every song, every line, every word. This is fucking real. And that’s what people respond to. The music may be aggressive, harsh, delivered right in your face, but it’s unifying.



Hall can barely stand after an extended and ultra-intense rendition of ‘Traitors’, but still just finds the juice for the (not really) encore of ‘Taking Us Back’, which swings into arena rock and which shouldn’t work, but does in fact provide the perfect finish to a set which eschews genre limitations and showcases a band channelling by whatever means, and doing so with colossal force. The experience leaves me too socked in the mouth to wrap up with a pithy one liner or anything smart. Just… fuck, yeah.

Everest Records

Christopher Nosnibor

Guess it pays to learn to trust your sources: if I’d seen pics of these guys or simply seen mention of this release in passing, passing is precisely what I’d have done, without a second thought. It would have vert much been my loss.

A skim over the press release cause me to take pause as I read that ‘Two Dogs are Beat Keller on guitars and Joke Lanz on turntables and voice, both based in Berlin. An uncompromising union of two musical individualists who are shaking up the noise world.’

Shaking up the noise world, are they? In that case, I’m all ears to hear what these two Swiss musicians who ‘oscillate between perfect dissonance and intelligent harmony’, and who, ‘with their stripped-down instruments, Lanz and Keller create a unique language somewhere between pavement poetry and free improvisation.’ The pair both have impressive resumes, which even mention artists I’ve heard of.

‘Mom’s Birthday’ is the first track and lead single from their debut album, Songs from the Trash Can. It’s a short (sub-two-minute) glitched-out collage of whacky shit which finds Lanz half-speaking, but almost shouting, about the events which befell him on waking, namely his inability to find his toothbrush or toothpaste. But, here’s the real wince moment: he got drunk and forgot his mum’s birthday. Ah, shit. So he sings an off-key rendition of ‘Happy Birthday’ by way of a belated apology. As you do when you’re probably still drunk from the night before.

‘Mom’s Birthday’ is discordant and chaotic and sits very much at the experimental end of noise: it’s also very much of the lineage from early 80s tape-looping noisemaking – think Foetus’ Deaf!.

It’s a fitting companion to ‘In the Pub’, the quirky track that’s available to stream as a taster for the album, which, with tongues firmly in cheeks, pokes droll fun at English pub culture with an astuteness of observation that should shame most natives, and in just two minutes, they capture the reasons why I avoid town pubs and miss Europe, and why these guys are great.


Two Dogs (uncredited photo)

Invada Records – 21st April 2023

Christopher Nosnibor

‘Eagerly-awaited’ and ‘hotly-anticipated’ are phrases which are often tossed about with abandon when it comes to albums, but Benefits’ debut really has had a lot of people on the edge of their seats for months, and it’s no wonder the limited vinyl and less limited CD sold out well ahead of the release.

Their rise has been truly meteoric, but if ever a band deserved to be catapulted from nowhere to selling out shows up and down the country, it’s Benefits, who’ve done it all by themselves and on their own terms, garnering rave live reviews and scoring interviews in the NME and The Guardian and, well, pretty much everywhere. They don’t only deserve it because of their DIY ethic: they deserve it because they’re an unassuming bunch of guys from the north of England (which in industry terms is an instant disadvantage), and moreover, they’re fucking incredible. And it’s not hyperbole to say that they are the voice of the revolution. It’s unprecedented for a band this sonically abrasive to rocket into a position of such widespread appreciation, and even more so when they’re not readily pigeonholed.

Attitudinally, they’re punk as fuck, but musically, not so much: while there are elements of hardcore in the shouted sociopolitical lyrics and frenetic drumming, there isn’t a guitar in sight, not anything that remotely sounds like one. They’re certainly not metal. And you can’t dance to their tunes – because ‘tunes’ is a bit of a stretch (although that’s no criticism). If their subject matter and modus operandi share some common ground with Sleaford Mods – disaffected, working class, ranty, sweary – they’re leagues apart stylistically. Whereas the Mods will joince and jockey and nab the listener with a battery of pithy one-liners, Benefits are an all-out assault, ever bar a sucker-punch of anger blasted home on a devastating wall of noise.

A fair few tracks here have previously been released as singles, although several previous singles, including the recent ‘Thump’ are notably absent to make room for previously unreleased songs, and the sequencing of the ten tracks which made the cut is spot on.

The first, ‘Marlboro Hundreds’, is a massive blast of percussion that grabs the listener by the throat with its immediate impact. Reject hate! Question everything! Success is subjective! The messages may be simple, but they’re essential, positive, and delivered with sincerity and all the fire that cuts through the bullshit and mediocrity. The grinding electronics take a back seat against the drumming, and the vocals are quite low in the mix, but with a clearly enunciated delivery and a crisp EQ they cut through with a penetrating sharpness that really bites.

The album takes a very sharp turn into darker, less accessible territories: ‘Empire’ is a dark, mangled mess of agonising noise, and defines one of the album’s key themes, namely of the dark terrain of patriotism and nationalism which defines and divides Brexit Britain, while warning of the dangers of passivity and blind acceptance of the echo-chamber of social media and the shit pumped out by the government and right-wing media outlets.

Lead single ‘Warhorse’ is the most overtly song-like song in the set. It’s raw punk with electronics, and the one that could legitimately be described as a cross between Sleaford Mods and IDLES, but with a raging hardcore punk delivery. The slouching dub of ‘Shit Britain’ offers quite different slant, spoken word rap groove.

‘What More Do You Want’ swipes at critics of ‘political correctness gone mad’ and the ‘anti-woke’ wankers and it minimal musical arrangement with stuttering percussion renders it almost spoken with an avant-jazz backing, before horrendous blasts of noise tear forth with such force as to threaten to annihilate the speakers. This is Benefits at their best and most unique.

‘Meat Teeth’ is sparse and plain fucking brutal as Hall rants and raves over a growing tide of distortion and feedback. The track packs so much fury that its impact is immense, especially in its tumultuous climax.

Arguably the definitive Benefits cut, ‘Flag’ incorporates rave elements to test through jingoism and nationalistic bullshit, taking down the kind of cunts who voted Brexit while owning a second home in Spain, the monarchy-loving casually-racist flag-shaggers who sup Carling and love an Indian while bemoaning all the ‘coloured’ doctors in hospitals and surgeries, and the Poles ‘coming over here and taking our jobs’ despite no-one else being willing to sweat it out behind the counter at Costa or pick strawberries for less than minimum wage. It’s the same duality of these so-called ‘patriots’ and past generations that provide the focus of ‘Traitors’ ‘We get the future you deserve’ Hall rages at the boomers who’ve sold out the subsequent generations for buy to let homes and destroying the planet for greed, share dividends, and skiing holidays. His voice cracks as he spits the words, the fury at this fucked-up mess. It’s powerful, and it really does occupy every inch of your being listening to this, because it ignites every nerve in our body to connect with such raw intensity.

‘Council Rust’ brings a more tranquil tone, but it’s not a calmness that comes from seeing the light at the end of the tunnel but from a sense of hopelesness, of feeling battered and bereft. Nails leaves you feeling drained, but uplifted. Yes, everything is fucking shit, but you are not alone: Benefits know, and articulate those tensing muscles and clenching fists and heart palpitations and moments where you feel as if you can’t quite breathe into incendiary sonic blasts. Benefits are without doubt the most essential band in (shit) Britain right now. And with Nails, they have, indeed, nailed it.



Human Worth – 17th March 2023

Christopher Nosnibor

God Pile is the debut release from Leeds duo Grub Nap, a duo consisting of Dan Barter (Dvne, Joe Pesci) on guitar and ‘back mouth’ and Steve Myles (Cattle, Groak, Thank, Khuda) on drums and ‘front mouth’. As if their joint pedigree isn’t recommendation enough (and having witnessed the majority of the aforementioned acts playing life for myself, I can vouch for that), it’s being released on Human Worth, and the limited run of fifty tapes has gone in advance of the release date.

And being Human Worth, 10% of all proceeds are being donated to charity, in this instance Leeds Mind, promoting positive mental health and wellbeing and providing help and support to those who need it most.

Now, I’ve mentioned this variously before, but for mental health and wellbeing, music can be – and certainly is for me – an immense help, and it’s the gnarlier, noiser stuff I often find provides the greatest comfort, especially in a live setting. It’s all about the escape, the release, the catharsis of raw emotions pitched against raging noise.

And Barter and Myles, who, according to the band bio ‘first played together in a hardcore band in their late teens and have teamed back up to churn out sludgecore for folks with short attention spans and no interest in wizards or flag waving’ definitely bring the noise, and the describe God Pile as ‘a golden brown, 15 minute, crumbly, introspective riff lattice. Snappy(ish) songs about greed, crippling anxiety, suburban nuclear mishaps and flagellant rozzers. 6 knuckle dragging clods of down tuned insolent rage.’

The longest of the six songs on here is three minutes and eighteen seconds long: the rest are all between a minute and two-and-a-half minutes long.

They pack a lot of action and a lot of noise into those short spans. The guitars are so thick and gritty the riffs churn your guts, so you don’t miss the bass, and Myles’ hard-hitting drumming is dynamic and varied, with shifts in both volume and tempo keeping the songs moving well, and the Raw-throated vocals are absolutely brutal. There’s a late 80s / early 90s feel to their brand of dingy noise, landing somewhere between early Head of David and Fudge Tunnel, then going full grind on the minute–long ‘The Daily Phet’.

Slowing to a downtuned crawl and ending with a howl of feedback, one suspect the title of the last track, ‘Crowd Pleaser’ is likely ironic – you can’t really have a go-nuts mosh to this. But then, after the intensity of the preceding cuts, you’re a knackered sweaty mess already – and that’s just sitting at home listening. Oh yes. Grub Nap hit the spot.



‘White Rose,’ the new track from Leeds drum machine-driven racketmongers La Costa Rasa, is about the ‘White Rose Group’ in WWII Germany and specifically about Sophie Scholl.

A German student and anti-Nazi political activist, she was She was convicted of high treason after having been found distributing anti-war leaflets at the University of Munich with her brother, Hans. For her actions, she was executed by guillotine.

Never Forgive, Never Forget.

Human Worth – 3rd March 2023

Christopher Nosnibor

Irish foursome Hands Up Who Wants to Die feature members of Shifting, No Spill Blood, and Wild Rocket, and – as you’d expect from an album released on Human Worth – it’s heavy. But it’s not just lumpen-headed thumping: there’s a lot to absorb on Nil All – and so much more than noise.

The opening of ‘Clothbound’ is atmospheric, subtle, intriguing. And then the bass slams in like a lump hammer. The guitar, rather than following with any direct riff, creeps around, twisting and turning, while the vocals are those of a strangled gargoyle – ugly, menacing, perturbing.

There’s a fair array of stylistic variation across the album’s eight tracks, and it’s this unusual relationship between the guitar and bass that is most intriguing. ‘0-0’ is a deconstructed jazz semi-spoken word piece where neither bass nor guitar confirm to the time signature of the drumming: Enablers may be a touchstone, but ultimately, this is something unique. The same is true of the low and slow theatrical math-rock of ‘L’inconnue’ that comes on like a dreamed reimagining of Shellac that lumbers its way into a howling psychodrama before slowly falling apart over the course of an eight and a half minutes that will make you feel like your limbs are slowly being separated from our body.

Satre famously wrote in Nausea that ‘hell is other people’ and this messy-sounding gut-churning bass-driven, feedback-strewn behemoth is a worthy soundtrack which corresponds with the urge to purge after too much time among the masses – like the excruciating torture of a trip into town on a weekend or lunchtime. It’s a crushingly heavy dirge, and the guitars nag and gnaw at your skull while the bass kicks you hard in the guts. And then it goes off-kilter and lumbers and lurches all over, and that hellish throb continues into the grainy drone of ‘Hell Is Just More Of What’s Already True’. It may only be a couple of minutes long, but it’s lugubrious as fuck.

‘God’s Favourite’ is like a three-way pileup of Shellac, Pavement, and Her Name is Calla, and these guys seem determined to drag the listener through some dark and difficult places – sonically and emotionally. This, of course, is the selling point for Nil All. It’s an album that rages, raves, groans and sighs as it explores those uncomfortable spaces and challenges the listener in a way that delivers optimal rewards. It channels the pain, anguish, and confusion of being alive and articulates it in a way you didn’t realise was possible.

Signing off with the blasting noise-fest that is ‘Ludger Sylbaris’ – a morass of booming bass and sinewy guitar havoc – Nil All is not overtly uplifting or cathartic. It’s schizophrenic, twisted, dark, unpredictable, deranged. And absolutely fucking top.



Cruel Nature – 6th January 2023

Christopher Nosnibor

It’s something of a relief to discover that Score’s seventh long player for Cruel Nature isn’t some gentle exercise in self-help and mental health wellbeing, or otherwise the soundtrack to some existential post-pandemic breakdown – because the former are utterly fucking nauseating, and the latter, while I’m all for those primal screams of anguish, which I often find relatable, at least to an extent, variety isn’t only the spice of life but the key to staying within the marginal parameters of sane in an insane world. No, COPE, recorded in six weeks at the end of 2022, which somehow feels like a long time ago now already, takes its title from Julian Cope.

As the blurb explains, ‘the album was directly inspired by the musical descriptions to be found in the autobiographies of Julian Cope: Head On and Repossessed. Using Cope’s impassioned words as instructional starting points for each track, COPE references Mott the Hoople, Patti Smith, CAN, Duane Eddy, The Doors, Suicide, Dr John, Sly & The Family Stone and more.’

Julian Cope of one of those people who I’ve long been somewhat perplexed by, and, truth be told, haven’t spent too much time investigating, either musically or biographically. He has always struck me as having a career less centred around his relatively low-key musical output following a degree of commercial success with The Teardrop Explodes, and more around the fact that he’s Julian Cope. Some may want to set me straight on this, but right now, I don’t need to hear it, and a familiarity with the source material shouldn’t be a prerequisite of my ability to critique the work at hand, which interestingly, in drawing on his biographies, only serves to further indicate that Julian Cope spends more time writing about being Julian Cope than making music I need to hear.

COPE is a document to creativity under intense circumstances. To quote from the accompanying notes, COPE was ‘recorded as it was written, in one or two takes in a tiny garage and drawing on an old quote from the arch-druid himself as a creative manifesto: “It had to be very cheap, very fast, very loose. I needed to be an ambassador of looseness”’… ‘COPE is an exercise in embracing limitations and existing in the moment, a lyric-less love letter to Rock ‘n’ Roll itself, and a one-word command to the fried modern human.’

Containing nine instrumental compositions, COPE is a pretty demented journey, an absolute rollercoaster of a ride, that swings between psychedelia and krautrock, twangy desert rock, swampy jazz, with the six-minute ‘Brick’ bringing it all together with a Doorsy kind of trip with the added bonus of some woozy brass in the mix. ‘On The One’ goes deep into a funk workout that grooves hard, but ‘Old Prick’ stands out for its darker post-punk feel that suggests it could almost be a Psychedelic Furs or The Sisters of Mercy demo. The twelve-and-a-half-minute ‘Softgraundt’ is more than just expansive in terms of duration, and is a multi-faceted musical exploration that wanders hither and thither, shifting, evolving, a dozen or more songs in one. And perhaps this is the key to COPE – both the album, and the man. It’s everything all at once, and it’s more than you can really keep up with. It’s a challenge, and one I’m not entirely sure I’m up to, but there’s never a dull or predictable moment here.