Posts Tagged ‘Pandemic’

15th July 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Lately, being goth isn’t so much of a cause of derision, since everyone has been facing some existential angst about isolation and death in some form or another. It may sound a shade facetious, and the truth is, it is, but the point stands: circumstances have forced many people to reflect differently on life, and to experience a kind of alienation, as a result of separation and distancing in the most literal of senses.

And it is upon this thought that Johnathan|Christian singer/co-writer, Christian Granquist reflects when considering this new EP: “Unlike previous releases, the lyrics and inspirations on this one is a bit of a paradox” he says. “Some of our ‘usual’ vocal topics like loneliness, isolation and of course death have become so much more relevant during the pandemic. And for the exact same reason they appear less relevant, as they become less metaphorical.’

This EP may only contain four tracks (which feels like the optimal EP set, corresponding with vinyl 12” from the 80s), but does showcase some considerable stylistic range.

With ‘My Dying Words’, the duo spin a brooding goth tune that’s in keeping with the second wave style, and would be quite at home on a Nightbreed release. Lyrically, it’s one of those ‘big ego’ protagonist songs ‘You’ll never meet someone like me again’, he bombasts in the chorus.

The title track is a piano-led piece, that brings with it a certain theatricality and some moody strings. With live-sounding drums, the feel of the production is quite different, too. Recorded as a duet, it works well, presenting as a dialogue that plays out the themes of absence and missing, and the way those feelings can interplay, and drag on the soul.

After the brief string-draped interlude if ‘My Beautiful, Broken Butterfly’, ‘Never Trust a Man (With Egg on His Face)’ pitches a drably spoken-word vocal delivery against a sparse backdrop of spindly guitars and a remarkably danceable beat, coming on like a goth Pest Shop Boys and building to a majestic finish.

A strong EP doesn’t only have strong songs, but is also sequenced in such a way as to have a flow, and Together, We’re Alone very much has that. It feels like more than simply four songs in the same space, but a self-contained unit.

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Lo Bit Landscapes – 3rd December 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

A New Kind of Weather was composed in New York City in the first months of the pandemic, against a backdrop of global panic, and with refrigerated trucks were parked at the hospital a few blocks away from the band’s residence while the city racked up in the region of 1,000 deaths in just a few weeks in March and April. Around the same time, the brother of Nihiti’s primary songwriter committed suicide. This is the bleak space in which the band found themselves – one which, to varying extents – we can all relate to.

Here, at the end of December after an interminable year, the spring of 2020 feels like another lifetime. If anyone thinks we’ve adjusted to some ‘new normal’, they’re simply thinking wishfully. Yes, we may have been ground down into trudging through the day-to-day, existing, but the separation and isolation, the ongoing restrictions and mask-wearing has a cumulative effect. Unlike the curve, our moods may have flattened out and we may well have all but erased the spasm that was late March and early April as lockdowns began to be enforced around the globe, and what had seemed like a distant issue in distant countries suddenly became the reality on our doorstep.

The title tracks sets the tone, but also represents an early album peak as a dark, blank monotone reminiscent of Michael Gira, croons against a woozy, eerie bassline – again reminiscent of Swans: ‘There are words on Christmas day, just living right in your eyes / Asking you if you will fall to the ambulance’s siren songs’. Painting a scene of tension and claustrophobia, it grows in darkness and density with rolling tom-based percussion and layered guitars. If a track ever captured the creeping paranoia that swept so much of the western world via the news media and social media in those first few months, this is it.

Slow-oscillating synths spin slow ambient mists at the start of the twelve-minute epic that is ‘Shudder into Silence’, robotix vocal snippets cutting through the cascading crystalline digital droplets that fall like dew. A heavy throb pulses low in the mix, but rises and falls again in an ever-evolving transition of sound layers. Turning, soft, smog-like, a slow-wailing siren rings out a lonely cry. The tension is palpable.

The more conventional post-rock instrumentation of ‘Into the Sands’, with it’s metronomic drums and chiming guitars marks a significant shift – if it’s gentle and vaguely shoegazey / psychedelic it’s spun through shades of Jesu, and a maudlin, almost sepulchral feel casts a long shadow over its gothic melancholy.

The percussion-free interpretation of Roy Orbison’s ‘I Drove All Night’ is different again, and perhaps the least comfortable fit on the album – if comfortable is a word that’s appropriate for describing any of the heavy atmosphere of A New Kind of Weather. Following on, ‘The Practice of Injury’ builds heavy swirls of ambience that washes and eddies in abject desolation.

Despite only containing five tracks, A New Kind of Weather clocks in at around forty-five minutes, and fill this space with a remarkably broad range of styles, while making every moment count in terms of maintaining the darkly oppressive atmosphere throughout.

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Criminal Records – 18th December 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

For many, 2020 has been a year to forget, next-level dismal, in ways that it’s hard to relate from our isolated boxes. Those of use fortunate enough to be working from home struggle to fully grasp the hardship of furlough or redundancy, to fully appreciate the impact of mass poverty and the pace of its spread.

Christmas is always difficult for so many people, and if Whammagedon is enough to be an issue for you, then you’re probably in a really, really fortunate position. Seeing artists rallying round at a time when many of them are themselves struggling due to a lack of gigs, which in turn means no merch sales and so on, is heartening in a time of seemingly eternal bleakness, and The Kut’s first new material in a while, in the form of Christmas single ‘Waiting for Christmas’ sees 100% of profit from sales and streams being donated to the Red Cross, supporting those affected by poverty as a result of the pandemic.

‘Waiting for Christmas’ may be a Christmas single, but it’s not, if that makes sense: it’s more about intent than profile or publicity, and as the press release notes, ‘while independent musicians are usually discouraged from releasing at Christmas, due to expected lack of ‘impact’ in comparison to major label peers, The Kut affirmed, “We know the single is an underdog, by the design of the music industry, but I am appealing to our supporters and to Christmas and music lovers in our community… If we can raise even a few hundred pounds for those affected by poverty during the pandemic, and support families, we would love to do that. We have lost so many people before their time, and so many families are suffering and feel alone. With the single, we are collectively raising a candle for all those we have lost and showing solidarity with our wider community this Christmas.”’

It’s a slow-burning ballad, which is seasonally / charity single appropriate and Where ‘Waiting for Christmas’ differs from the norm is that straight into the first verse, Maha reflects ‘It’s Christmas, why do I feel so low?’ Confronting those so-common-but-less-commonly-addressed mental health issues in a Christmas single is practically unheard of, but we need more of this: this is what makes ‘Waiting for Christmas’ an essential Christmas single, even more than the fact it’s a decent tune.

Released across digital formats and CD via a dedicated website, it’s not about the Christmas charts but raising few quid.

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FORTÍÐ have unleashed a video for a hard hitting track with the prophetic title ‘Pandemic’, which is taken as the second single from the Icelandic pagan metal duo’s forthcoming sixth full-length, World Serpent, which has been slated for release on December 11th.

Einar Eldur Thorberg comments: "The lyrics of ‘Pandemic’ were sparked by the news of a virus outbreak in China last winter", writes the Icelander. "In those early days of the epidemic, I did not foresee that this would develop into a global crisis. Therefore ‘Pandemic’ was never meant as a commentary on the current situation. It just hits the mark somewhat accidentally. My lyrics rather revolve around diseases, plagues, and viruses as a universal threat. Tiny microbes, bacteria, and other germs that are invisible to the eye can bring down the biggest and strongest among us humans. This song serves as a reminder that no matter how much we alter this planet to suit our lifestyle, nature can always strike back without mercy and much harder than we care to consider. The supposed anthropocene might just be brutally ended by an age of microbes."

Watch the video for ‘Pandemic’ here:

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The Crescent, York, 14th March 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

It doesn’t seem real now. It was the night before everything changed, before everything changed again a couple of days later. While cancellations were accelerating, advice and clarity was sparse, and what constituted ‘the right thing’ was very much a matter for debate. The Crescent were very much doing ‘the right thing’ based on the advice: punters were steered to washing their hands on arrival at the venue: those without e-tickets advised to pay by contactless card, while also paying contactlessly at the bar, being served by staff in gloves, pints being served in cans or single-use plastic vessels. Social distancing wasn’t yet a specific thing, and there was scant information which suggested that in excess of 15 minutes in close proximity may increase the risk of transmission. We greeted with elbows and nods. In the main, we respected the guidelines.

I’d be interested to know how many of those who attended have subsequently fallen sick with Covid-19. Not all of us were in the ‘young’ demographic; none of us was being wilfully irresponsible. The virus has become divisive in the way that Brexit was: on social media, in particular, anyone leaving the house risks being subject to vilification, abuse, and even police interrogation. We now live in a climate of fear – an unprecedented climate of fear, dominated by an unprecedented overuse of the word ‘unprecedented’.

The middle of March: a mere month ago, but another lifetime. Gig attendances were already beginning to drop off sharply as the fear spread. And with everything amping up, there was a certain sense of occasion about this: I sense that many of use attended as much out of a sense of solidarity and support: solidarity and support for the bands, the venue, the local scene, and one another. And because we knew, if only subconsciously, that the opportunities to convene like this would be numbered. Gatherings like this are what keep communities together, and keep many of us sane. I’m elated to see numerus friends, including some I’ve not seen in far too long: we catch up about parenthood and our concern for our elderly parents under the creeping shadow of the virus. We drink beer, and we watch bands.

Viewer haven’t been out in a while, and apart from time down the pub, have almost been on a self-imposed isolation for I don’t know who long. I’m not even sure Tim Wright would notice a 12-week lockdown. But here he is, hunched over a laptop, cranking out beats and backings and migraine-inducing visual backdrops while AB Johnson – still suffering the effects of concussion and sporting a black eye and struggling to remember the lyrics after a recent accident involving his face and the pavement – pours every ounce of energy into his performance. They’re the primary reason I’m here, and given the quality of the songs, the visuals, and the people they’ve dragged out of the woodwork, every moment is a joy. Johnson’s lyric sheets are scattered around the stage and his difficult relationship with mic stands is evident tonight. But despite any shakes or glitches, they remain one of the most essential acts around, and just need for the world to catch up.

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Soma Crew are showcasing (another) new lineup tonight, with a minimal drum set-up and lap steel dronage and slide bringing new dimensions to their deep psych chugging repetitions driven by varying between two or three guitars. My notes begin to descend into sketchy incoherence around this point, but the memory-jogging ‘RRR’ reminds me that they’re masters of the three ‘r’s – repetition, repetition, repletion, and they slug away at three chords for five or six minutes to mesmeric, hypnotic effect. It seems that every time I write about Soma Crew, I remark that they’re better every time I see them. And yet again, it’s true. They’re denser, more solid, more muscular, and tighter than ever, and on this outing they feel like a band who should be playing to way bigger crowds, capable of holding their own at the Brudenell or the Belgrave.

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Leeds’ Long-Legged Creatures are new on me, and they impress, with a fluid bass and big washes of texture defining the sound. An eletro/post-rock/psych hybrid, they lay down some hypnotic grooves, and my sketchy, increasingly beer-addled notes remind me that their performance is frenetic, kinetic, with some strong – and complex – drum ‘n’ bass / jazz drumming driving the songs.

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Things take a major left-turn when some poet guy steps up to the mic and spews lines and rhymes like John Cooper Clarke on a cocktail of drugs. A spot of digging suggests he may be Joshua Zero, but I may be wrong. He’s a compelling presence, though: he’s wild, he’s crazed, and his staggering vitriolic attacks are in stark contrast to the coordinated post-rock jams of the band. It’s as exhilarating as it is unexpected. It’s great.

Maybe you had to be there. Maybe you were better avoiding it. But I’ve no regrets. I miss gigs, I miss pubs, I miss live music, and I miss people. At least my last experience of all of these was truly wonderful and encapsulated everything I love about this.

Following the release of their debut self-titled album, Human Impact have kept busy and continued writing and recording more songs they will be releasing over the coming months. The first of those new singles, "Contact" (which debuted via Louder Sound), was written and recorded shortly before the outbreak of Covid-19.

An eerie premonition, it predicts the new reality we all currently inhabit. In anticipation of this release, and as an act of connection in this time of isolation, the band put a call out to fans across the globe for video footage to use in the video for "Contact" showing how the Coronavirus has affected all our daily lives and environment. Asking the question: What does this new reality look like for you?

About the music and video, Human Impact remark: "We’d like to write songs about humankind living in harmony and balance with the world, about governments and corporations being of and for the people. But those songs would be narcotic lullabies spitting in the wind of what’s real. We wish this song were wrong. "Contact" was written, recorded and mixed just before the global COVID-19 pandemic hit. Originally written as a response to a feeling of international vulnerability to the spread of disease via air travel, the song’s lyrics proved to be an uneasy and uncanny prediction, foreshadowing our current quarantined reality."

As residents of North America’s hardest hit city, the band has earmarked their proceeds from the song to be donated to the NYC COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund. Human Impact ask fans to consider donating to this or their local charities as well.

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Human Impact

Photo credit: Jammi York