Posts Tagged ‘Noise’

Panurus Productions – 25th September 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

The liner notes forewarn us of ‘a relentless free form noise rock onslaught from Dwindling’ with ‘Four tracks of wild soul purging absurdity extracted from strings, sticks and throat for your unsuspecting ears.’

But no forewarning could ever be enough to prepare even the most hardened fan of wild experimental noise shit for this frenzied sonic riot. Wretch – Memento is difficult to digest, and in the moment, it’s utterly bewildering.

Dwindling is Robert Glew (Drums), Giblet Gusset (Voice/Circuits), and Michael Waters (Guitar/Mix), and it’s a discordant cacophony from beginning to end. Mostly is a mess of feedback and clearing, clamorous arrhythmic percussion It all sounds like a drunken din, three people playing five different tunes all at once, all largely buried in feedback and reverb, at a rehearsal played in someone’s garage and recorded on a condenser mic on a 90s Walkman. The vocals are shrill, shrieking, demented banshee howls, ululations and barks, inhuman, demonic. Cathartic, and no mistake, but skin-crawlingly uncomfortable and otherly, it’s a sound that’s unsettling – that experience of unheimlich that unsettles the psyche – it’s identifiable as human, but it doesn’t feel quite human, and so instils a sense of unease that’s not readily articulable. Of course it isn’t: it’s that squirming, awkward sensation in your stomach that’s actually quite unrelated to the matter at hand. The tracks on here my well be a million miles from any sense of conventionality, but ‘Wretch – Memento’ takes discomfort to another level. Everything about it, from the impenetrable, tortured vocals to the nasty treble that never stops is uncomfortable.

‘Alphas Rind, O!’ is a mass of treble, wailing and ululating vocals pitched against a churning mess of noise, the sound of a kitchen blender and some ugly bass, and things get even more intense on the thirteen-minute ‘Axed RailKnell’, which in turn bleeds in to the seventeen-minute finale, ‘GARES’, a squall of noise that actually hurts.

It’s not hard to figure out how this found a home on Panurus: this is a label that trades in noise and has few limits, and if you’re on the market for extreme, Dwindling deliver it with Wretch – Memento. So who wants some more pain?

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Human Worth- 26th November 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

This one’s been cropping up in my Facebook feed a fair bit lately, and I’m quite ashamed by how long it took me to get around to playing it, given the great work Human Worth do both in terms of music and charitable donations – plus the fact they’re decent guys who I’m proud to know. Shit happens, even in the midst of Lockdown 2.0 where it’s shit mostly because there’s only shit and nothing happens, and mostly it’s simply that there just aren’t enough hours in the day. In the event, it turns out the greatest loss is mine, because this album really is something else. How was I to know that this was the album I’d been looking for, that I needed in my life the last few months?

Given the pedigree of the performers who make up Cower – namely Wayne Adams (Pet Brick / Big Lad), Gareth Thomas (USA Nails / Silent Front) & Thomas Lacey (Yards / The Ghost of a Thousand) – it would be a reasonable expectation for their debut album to contain a fair bit of noise, but then equally, it would be reasonable to expect it to be a bit experimental, a bit electronic, and a bit weird. How do all of the elements brought by the component parts marry up?

The short answer is remarkably well, and Cower sound like all of the component pats simultaneously, but equally none, as they morph together to forge something truly unique, and also quite unexpected.

It begins in a pretty understated fashion, with ‘Tight Trousers and a Look of Intent’ following the path of a dense, woozy, but accessible dark electro tune. Admittedly, that pulsating bass throb is something you could drown in, but the incidentals and the vocals are quite accessible – although all hell breaks loose just halfway through and it’s wild. Initially, I was inclined to say that as an opening, it was ‘tame’, but that would be unjust: restraint isn’t an indication of weakness, but of controlling the beast. But then, when the beast breaks loose… ‘Proto-Lion-Tamer’, brings the noise, and does it in proper full-on style, a squalling, brawling mess of din – old-school noise merchants like The Jesus Lizard are in the blender with contemporaries like Daughters and Blacklisters to whip up a nasty maelstrom of noise.

Tribal drumming dominates the bleak, eerie soundscape of ‘Arise You Shimmering Nightmare’, while the downtempo mid-album slowie, ‘Saxophones by the Water’ finds them coming on like Violator-era Depeche Mode, and this trickles through into the next song, ‘Midnight Sauce’ that combined a rich, soulful vocal with some chilly synths and blasts of percussion-led noise and cinematic drama that goes fully 3D, to the extent that it gives JG Thirlwell a run for his money.

If BOYS pursues a dark, brooding, electro road as its dominant style, it’s the album’s range and diversity that is its real selling point, and the songs are all far darker than most of the titles suggest. And if much of the album feels pointed, challenging, ‘For the Boys’ is outstanding in its emotional sensitivity. Closer ‘Park Jogger’ in particular sounds like it might be light, even vaguely comedic by its title, but no: it’s a colossal electroindustrial behemoth tat packs some seriously pounding force into its short running time.

With BOYS, Cower surprise and excel: the quality of the songs is remarkable: there’s a real sense of everything having been carefully crafted for accessibility, to the extent that this is actually a pop album – making for the darkest, heaviest pop album you’re likely to hear in a long time.

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Gas Lit is the new album by the multidimensional duo Divide and Dissolve, incoming on Invada Records on 29th January, and produced by Ruban Neilson of Unknown Mortal Orchestra. The album is preceded today by the second single and powerful video “Denial” which encapsulates their message behind the music: to undermine and destroy the white supremacist colonial framework and to fight for Indigenous Sovereignty, Black and Indigenous Liberation, Water, Earth, and Indigenous land given back.

Divide and Dissolve’s mighty new single “Denial” is a potent blend of ominous and unsettling sax that blows wide open into colossal riffs for almost eight glorious minutes. The accompanying video was shot in Taupo, Aotearoa by notable indigenous music video director Amber Beaton at the end of the southern hemisphere’s winter.

The vibrant, unfolding colours and delicate personality of the flowers at the beginning of the film have the potential to be in contrast with the intro of the song, but it’s actually escorted by it perfectly. It’s further varied with the colossal boom signalling the arrival of the guitars and drums while visually we start to explore the thermal grumblings of the Taupo volcanic zone. We follow the Huka falls/Waikato awa (Waikato river) up stream to settle into Taupo-Nui-A-Tia moana (Lake Taupo) as the return of the sax lulls us gently after being nourished so generously by Divide and Dissolve’s signature gargantuan tone. Thanks are given to the local Iwi\tribe Ngāti Tūwharetoa, the rightful guardians of the whenua/land and to Rūaumoko the god of volcanoes, earthquakes and the seasons.

Watch ‘Denial’ here:

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Divide and Dissolve image by Billy Eyers

Hummus Records – 23rd October 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Well of course my interest was piqued: Convulsif’s fifth album, pitched as a work of ‘self-inventing gloomy rock in the abyss between such subgenres as noise, metal, jazz and grindcore’ likely to appeal to fans of GOD, Godflesh, Swans, Naked City, Napalm Death, Painkiller, Boredoms, and Neurosis. It doesn’t get any more of my noisy industrial-favouring bag than that – not least of all because the referencing of short-lived Godflesh / Techno Animal offshoot GOD seems wilfully perverse. Let’s face it, what is the real scope for techno-hued jazz/grind crossover?

The Swiss quartet eschew conventional rock instrumentation with a lineup featuring bass, drums, bass clarinet and drums, and I can already hear many wailing about the lack of guitars. Hearing the cacophonous freeform racket they conjure, however, would be enough to make even more wail, and certainly not just about their unconventional band makeup, and just to enhance the album’s commercial appeal, the bleak set’s titles are all cut up and mashed up lines of Charles Darwin’s Beagle Diary.

The first cut, the seven-minute ‘Buried Between One’ is dominated by the gut-churning, nausea-inducing rhythm section stylings of Swans circa Filth and Cop – the drums explode like volcanic detonations, slow and sporadic, and the lumbering low end stops and starts and lurches woozily, while everything else on top is just discord, and as the track progresses, it all whips into a hellish maelstrom, a brutally sustained crescendo that leaves you wondering ‘where’s left to go from here?’

The elongated drone, low, sonorous, ominous, that introduces ‘Five Days of Open Bones’ provides some respite, , before dolour bass and brooding violin drift in; the atmosphere is dense and grows from a mist to a fog as the drumming builds… the tension increases… they sustain it, but you now it’s surely a matter of time before something yields… the clarinet ebbs and flows like a layer of synth, but the fact this is organic and orchestral somehow ads something else… and then… and then… Anyone familiar with the last incarnation of SWANS will now what it’s like to endure such a seemingly endless build. It’s exhilarating and torturous in equal measure. Your heart’s palpating and your lungs feel ready to burst and you think you might vomit… and then it all breaks into a frenetically frenzied jazz noise of parping horns and hundred mile-an-hour drumming. No, that’s not right. Surely. But then, this isn’t SWANS, this isn’t your regular avant-industrial: this is the kind of experimental freakout that’s right at home at Café Oto, and ‘Five days’ feels literal in its timespan.

A couple of brief, lurching interludes make for more difficult listening, with ‘Surround the Arms of the Revolution’ sounding like ‘A Screw’ played by a drunk jazz ensemble, paving the way for the fourteen-minute finale that is ‘The Axe Will Break’, which is constructed around a tight, cyclical bass motif, which is again, decidedly jazzy in a Sly and the Family Drone sense. The endless repetition is mesmerising, hypotonic, and the tension builds almost imperceptibly… but build it does. It grinds it way through a merciless squall of noise through which filters mournful woodwind that flickers hints of post-rock reflection before being submerged in the swelling surge of chaos. The final five minutes – an eviscerating sustained crescendo of monolithic proportions – is little short of devastating. Jazz isn’t always nice.

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Outsider Art / Nim-Brut – 4th December 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

I should probably apologise in advance for this one: my mind has a habit of sprouting off on tangents of word association at the best of times, and with the turmoil that is 2020, a year that’s been – and continues to be – an endless conveyor belt of shit on shit, none of which makes any fucking sense, there are many days and evenings when I am absolutely all over the place. Not literally, of course, since I can’t really go anywhere or see anyone. The weirdy collage sprawl of ‘Carving Another Flute’, the first of three compositions on this split / collaborative effort by BlackCloudSummonerand the hypermanic, uber-prolific Theo Gowans, aka Territorial Gobbings is the perfectly bewildering soundtrack to these brain-foggingly bewildering times. So ‘Carving Another Flute’ just makes me think, inexplicably, of the slang term skinflute. That’s probably the only instrument not in the mix in this chaotic cacophony of an album, that’s got everything else going on, probably including the kitchen sink.

‘Peaches and Crayons’ sounds soft and playful, but is in fact droney and dark, and there’s no easy access point here. But they save their harshest noise for last: ‘Playing All My Black Dice Records At The Same Time’ is a 15-minute assault that is pretty much what the title says, meaning it’s a squalling blitzkrieg of screaming feedback and mid-and low-end that growls and bangs around erratically midst metallic crashes and a fizzing circuitry. It’s utterly excruciating, and probably one of the most intense and sustained blasts of noise I’ve heard in a while, being nothing short of an explosive sonic firework display – but, unchoreographed and untamed, it’s more like a blaze in a firework factory, with everything going off all at once, and it’s incendiary and blinding and overwhelming. Crash-landing somewhere between Merzbow and Whitehouse around the time of Never Forget Death, it’s a fucking nasty mess of abrasive noise – which of course means I love it.

There’s no sitting on the fence with this one: if you do noise, you will love this. If you don’t, it’s your worst nightmare.

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16 November 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

The latest six-tracker from GHXT goes for the slow-building intro with the low, slow ‘Shimmer’, where the murky, distorted guitar drone and twang cascading out over a retro drum machine stutter that’s backed off in the mix but cuts through sharp as a whip. It’s the Sisters of Mercy’s Reptile House EP slithering into a stranglehold of The Black Angels on ketamine with a dash of Barbed Wire Kisses era Jesus and Mary Chain.

Two years on from the appropriately-titled Gloom EP, the New York duo return with another batch of weighty, dark material which demonstrates their continued evolution, and the fact the EP format is one which suits them particularly well.

While operating from a comparatively limited sonic palette – dense, overdriven guitar that’s got a big, thick valve sound, minimally-programmed drum machine, and reverb-swamped female vocal they manage to do a lot with it: ‘Come Home’ is Curve-y shoegaze, while ‘It Falls Apart,’ released as a single in October, is a big, bollock-swinging swagger of messy blues, boasting a monster lead solo that sprawls over the entire track. Gloom and blues and murk dominate, casting heavy shadows and a hint of goth over the mood, but there’s so much more besides: the rich timbre of the guitar as it spins a slow-unfurling picked riff on closer ‘Die High’ calls to mind recent works by Earth and Dylan Carlson.

As the nights draw in on the approach to winter and the world feels like an increasingly apocalyptic hellhole, there’s something comforting about GHXST’s brand of immersive darkness.

19th October 2020

Christopher Nosnbor

The title – Meander – intimates something that not only lacks a clear, direct trajectory, but to my mind at least, something ambling and aimless, like a leisurely walk on a Sunday afternoon in summer, a story narrated at length and via an array of detours and diversions, or a river reaching the later stages of its route towards the sea, when its force has dissipated and it weaves in a sedate series of s-bends through gentle lowlands.

Interlard’s new album may not be defined by a distinct or direct linear trajectory, but it’s anything but sedate, barrelling in with a sonic assault from the outset, with ‘Getting in the Van’ a churning wash of cyclical repetition. Yes, it may well resemble the swashing slosh of a washing machine with additional top-end bleeps, but it also stands as the opening to a passageway that heads downwards into a dark network of tunnels and caverns, an underground maze of the mind and off twisting soundscapes.

It soon becomes apparent that Meander is one of those albums that’s designed specifically to perturb, to disturb, to disrupt, perhaps in any which way it can, and to achieve this, there’s an element of chaos, or the random, as an array of sounds are collaged together, overlapped and overlaid.

‘Jonny Staccatto Does Cold Turkey’ packs all the weirdness into just over three and a half minutes, with woozy bass and discordant twangs and looped vocal samples emerging from snippets of laid-back jazz. Elsewhere, thunderous martial drumming and whirrs like drills buzz through reverberating feedback on the short but intense ‘Power Walking Holding a Claw Hammer’ that batters its way into the space between Test Department and Nurse with Wound. ‘Ugly Socialite’ ploughs a thudding furrow of bleak monotony as it trudges on, and on, and ‘Griefcase’ is dank and murky, oppressive.

Sonically, Meander is big on both texture and tone and moreover, where it stands apart from so many other works that slot into the broad field of experimental / industrial / electronica is in its stylistic range: Interlard explore far more than shades of noise and abrasion. In some respects, this actually renders it more challenging, as reconciling the more mellow passages and out-and-out incongruences within the context of a ‘noise’-oriented set isn’t easy: it goes against the grain of convention, but that’s all the more reason to appreciate the project’s broad artistic vision.

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13th September 2020

Christopher Nosnibot

Barnyard Baptism’s biographical info is nil, but the cover art to their new EP, 9:58 is probably all the info you need: it’s dark and disturbing, and it’s not entirely clear what you’re looking at beyond a face and a door. Mostly it’s a blur, but a blur that positively screams mental derangement, anguish, psychological torture, distress, and pain.

And this is precisely what Barnyard Baptism articulate with their full-on sonic assault: pain and anguish and a soul-sapping sense of being utterly overwhelmed yet fermenting a frenzied disquiet, burning from the inside is what’s conveyed by the tempestuous tumult that tears from the speaker from the offset, with ‘Dead on the Water’ plunging us deep into the harshest of harsh noise explosion, a blizzard of white noise ruptured by blasting nuclear winds and the occasional piercing shriek of ultra-sharp, shrill feedback that cuts through like a rapier puncturing a gauze drape, tearing to shreds in an instant any smoothness of surface.

‘Negative Headspace’ is a gouging blast of mid-range nastiness, a full-force blast of frequency with a tearing, serrated edge. There’s nothing to be extracted here, no musical revelation: this is nothing but all-out sonic horror, noise on noise.

The title track is mined from a seem of vintage power electronics with an experimental edge, with a thrumming oscillating drone crackling into snarling distortion. As a child, I used to suffer a recurring nightmare, where things would present as line drawings, smooth and silent, before being crumpled like paper and destroyed in a black scribbly mess. These dreams were silent – conspicuously so – to the extent the silence filled my head to a roar, and the crumpling of the lines actually hurt, crumpled my cranium like distortion expressed without sound. These dreams still haunt me now, at 45, and the way these gliding hums crunch into a distorted mess of noise reminds me of that. On a personal level, it’s painful, traumatic. In its own context, it’s still painful and traumatic: this is head-shredding abrasive noise of the highest order, and it hurts, both physically and psychologically.

The noise swells and grows in pace, volume, and sheer nastiness over the course of the last couple of tracks, which bled into one another in a billowing bluster of pulverising distortion.

Barnyard Baptism don’t do breaks or contrast, and there are no tranquil segments or rests here; no spaces between songs, no breaks in which to restore a sense of equilibrium: this is relentlessly brutal, and there isn’t a moment to breathe during the crackling horror of 9:58 – no so much as a moment of calm, and Barnyard Baptism are utterly obliterative.

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Hex Records (USA) / Bigout Records (Europe) – 23rd October 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

For what is essentially a side-project for some of its members, USA Nails have sustained a remarkable output since their inception in 2014, with Character Stop being their fifth full-length release.

It is less full-on, less manic, and less of a messy blur than the bulk of their previous works, but the energy is still very much present, manifesting in a sound that’s more defined, more sharply focused. Which means, in short, it’s more like being attacked with a saw than a hammer. That said, there’s no shortage of blistering punk assaults: ‘I Am Posable’ is a furious flurry of slurry, and hits the spot hard.

We’ve already been given a flavour of the album with the short sharp shocks of ‘I Don’t Own Anything and the opening track ‘Revolution Worker’ both of which combine the growling bass rumble of Shellac with skewed guitars and a motoric beat, and consequently comes on like an early Fall outtake being covered by Tar, and it’s fair to say they’re wholly representative of the album as a whole. Well, don’t you just hate it when you buy an album because of a great single only to find the rest of the album is absolutely nothing like it, and it’s crap to boot? Maybe it happens less now in the digital age, but I used to find that a lot back in the 80s and 90s. Anyway, what this means is that if the prefatory releases appealed, then you’ll be happy to get lots more of the same, while conversely, if the singles didn’t do it for you, then you’re really going to find this a chore.

Recorded in just four days at Bear Bites Horse in London with producer Wayne Adams, Character Stop is urgent, immediate, and raw, and the songs are all brief and more angular than a great-stellated dodecahedron. And yet for that, it’s not math-rock, nor does it really belong to any specific genre, unless jolting, jarring, slightly discordant shit is a recognised genre now.

The album’s longest track, clocking in at four and a quarter minutes, ‘How Was Your Weekend?’ slows the pace and darkens the tone, with a stark, post-punk feel, a tone vocal paired with a thumping metronomic beat at tripwire tense guitars, and likewise the stark, jittery ‘Preference for Cold’. The bass shudders as it runs hither and thither, while the guitars crash in splintering shards. Elsewhere, if ‘No Pleasure’ filters The Stooges through Black Flag and slips its way through at a hundred miles an hour in a torrent of sweat and angst, it’s still got a vaguely post-punk tint to compliment its hardcore hue, and ‘Temporary Home’ is all about the motoric thud. It’s also got something that sounds like a chorus and a bit of melody, although it’s soon swallowed up in a scream of nail-scraping feedback and racketous riffage.

You wouldn’t exactly call Character Stop a minimalist work, but it is often stark, almost contemplative, going beyond all-out thunderous noise to explore dynamics and contrast. In short, it’s a cracking album.

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Cruel Nature Recordings – 16th October 2020

New York’s Lip Critic return with their second album, imaginatively titled Lip Critic II. Now, I have a tendency – and I know it’s spurious – to associate numbered albums with prog and indulgence, ranging from Peter Gabriel to Led Zeppelin. But there is nothing remotely proggy or indulgent about Lip Critic’s second eponymous release, which crams nine tracks into 21 minutes of genre hybridity and maniacal mayhem. And make no mistake: this is intense and crazy shit, all going off in a boiler at once.

The lazy hookline would be that the album’s first track, ‘Why Not’, sounds like The B52s on acid, but more accurately, it sounds like The B52s on acid and meth imitating a fictitious Dead Kennedys / obscure hip-hop collaboration for the Judgement Night soundtrack. But none of this really convey just how frantic, frenetic, fucked-up and actually quite how wrong this all is. Yes, the world of Lip Critic is a bewildering one that absolutely defines the concept of ‘crossover’, and the closest comparison I can think of is Castrovalva, who were ace but niche and probably for a reason. It’s so far into niche crossover it’s hard to determine the level of seriousness behind the hybridized mess of noise that is Lip Critic II: this is an album that goes beyond so many boundaries all at once.

I don’t know what this is, and I suspect it doesn’t either. And nor should it: music should exist for its own sake, free from any constraints of genre. But with Lip Critic, it’s brain-bending and bewildering: there is simply so much going on, and all of it’s incongruous and seemingly incompatible.

‘Dreamland I’ is out-and-out mad, not so much a mash-up or hybrid as a multi-genre pileup with gas tank explosions and flames and wailing sirens and probably some people being cut from cars by fire and rescue and others being abducted by aliens.

‘Like a Lemon’ brings garage, grime, and industrial-strength hip-hop together with mangled beats a punishingly heavy groove that provides a backdrop to a more narrative-orientated approach to the lyrics, describing a guy with ‘A double-breasted suit and tight shorts / they’re so tight they cut off the circulation to his legs / … he said ‘I’m going to fill you up with rhinestones’.

At every turn, Lip Critic deliver mind bombs of every shape and form: sonically, stylistically, lyrically, Lip Critic II is simply an explosion. With every song being so brief, one barely has time to realise it’s started before it’s finished, and by the end, the listener is left punch-drunk, bewildered and dizzy. I think it’s good. I think it’s horrible. I think it’s a mess. But I can’t be sure.

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