Posts Tagged ‘Obscure’

Cruel Nature Recordings – 16th October 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

While the 90s was awash with obscure bands cranking out gnarly, guitar-driven noise, the last decade or so (alright, I mean two decades, because I’m old and still can’t get my head around the fact that 1990 was 30 years ago and that Nevermind is 30 years old next year) has seen such music emerge only in pockets, with the likes of Leeds’ Blacklisters being prime exponents and one of the few to reach a wider audience – and it’s Blacklisters who probably stand as US noisemongers TRVSS’ closest contemporaries.

TRVSS are very much in the early 90s vein: I’m not just talking Am Rep and Touch and Go, but way further beneath the radar. Listening to the grainy, gritty grind of New Distances, I’m transported back, way back, and while I’m hearing The Jesus Lizard, I’m equally hearing Zoopsia, Headcleaner, Oil Seed Rape. Not familiar? To be clear here: I’m not promoting obscurest elitism here, but trying to give a flavour of just how choc-full of rabid guitar bands the underground scene was at a certain point in time – a time when bands like Terminal Cheesecake and Tar would receive coverage in the national music press, back when there was a national music press. They were exciting times, and that’s not the rose-tinting of a 45-year old reflecting on his youth: things were changing, and fast, and there was something in the air, and in your local record shop, in pub gig venues, and even on the radio

New Distances is a nasty mess of guitars driven by low-slung lurching basslines and drums that thud away in the background, half-buried in the welter of noise. Things are still changing at pace, of course, but mostly venues are closing, and there are no solid channels by which to access new and emerging talent. Where are the equivalents of The Tube, Snub:TV, The Word now? The Old Grey Whistle Test wasn’t even entirely the domain of proggy old farts, and now, we don’t even have Jools fucking Holland. There’s no M on MTV, and 4Music is a misnomer as well, but I digress.

TRVSS would probably never have made TV even back then, but it’s almost certain that John Peel, Melody Maker, and NME would have found a bit of room for some exposure for their raging, demented brand of no-wave / noise mania, and New Distances has no shortage of meat to give it appeal to a niche but substantial audience.

‘Stigma’ encapsulates the album’s rabid grunged-up noise-rock vibe, coming on like both side of the Nirvana / Jesus Lizard split ‘Oh The Guilt’ / ‘Puss’ simultaneously with it jarring guitar riffage and raw-throated vocal roar. ‘The Ventriloquist Always has the Last Laugh’ pitches skewed guitars galore, crash-landing in the space between The Jesus Lizard, Shellac, and the criminally underrated and proportionally obscure Milk.

It’s likely that TRVSS will remain forever obscure, although not on account of lack of appeal or lack of ability: sure, their stuff is dark, driving and ultimately extremely niche but all of this is ok: against the backdrop of blanket mass-media and sameness, such deliberately obscure an anti-mainstream music is essential and invigorating: lap it up while you can.

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1st October 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

Velvet Teeth was originally released as a 200 only limited-edition CD through the October issue of TQ Magazine, which is the kind of publication that gives coverage to the likes of Ceramic Hobs and Drooping Finger – not so much competition for Aural Aggravation, but a channel with a shared goal of giving coverage to the kind of acts most won’t, assuming they’ve even heard of any of the artists. The funny thing about niche music is that it has a fairly hardcore set of devotees, and there’s a kind of disparate, disconnected community that’s less of a scene and more of a rhizome-like underground network. And while a lot of fairly niche stuff may still only have a potential market of around 200, it’s often amazing just how many oddballs there are hiding in the cracks demanding the work of some bands that on the surface seem so obscure that even their mates haven’t heard of them. Chlorine – the musical vehicle of Graeme Hopper – certainly has that wider appeal, and moreover, most certainly deserves wider exposure and the opportunity of a larger audience.

Velvet Teeth is experimental in the most explicit sense, a sequence of fragmentary sonic collages. The longer pieces roam around murky depths with ominous fear chords obscured by laced shrouds of sonic fog. ‘Manlines’, with its down-tuned, sinister vocals and groaning, droning dissonance, and ‘The Scenic Route’ exploit dimetric tonalities and the prominent separation of frequency ranges, with rumbling, almost subliminal low-end providing a base for niggling treble. The six-minute ‘Low Hauxley Tide’ pushes further on the resonant low-end pulsations, a low, tidal throb providing the main body of the piece. It’s kinda mellow, but kinda shiversome, too. There’s a creeping fog of darkness that pervades both the piece, and the work as a whole, which creates a certain sense of separation. It’s simultaneously immersive and engaging, but there’s a feeling that you’re not quite in the same room and there’s a force-field preventing entry.

‘Who Pays for This’ is a spine-tingling mess of scrapes and jangles, muffled, slowed speech that’s just on the cusp of indecipherability, and elsewhere, ‘Bubbewraps’ is woozy, wibbly, vaguely disorientating. The album as a whole is built on a loose, drifting fluidity, with compositions that aren’t so much compositions as sonic coalescences which occur as much by chance as design.

Uncomfortable, awkward, unsettling… these are the positive qualities of the oddity that is Velvet Teeth.

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