Posts Tagged ‘Pavement’

31st May 2019 – Constellation Recods

Christopher Nosnibor

The album title may be as soaked in sickly-sweet dripping niceness as it is cliché, but it’s very much a contrast to the name of the Montréal trio responsible for it, just as it is with the music it contains. It’s pitched as ‘an exhilarating and relentless barrage of astringent noise-punk driven by the ferociously wide-screen tri-amped guitar squall of Kaity Zozula, the brawny pummel of Joni Sadler’s drums, and the wry subliminal/phenomenological sing-speak of vocal phenom Ky Brooks’, and one for fans of Au Pairs, Harry Pussy, Magik Markers, Melvins, X-Ray Spex, Life Without Buildings, Sonic Youth, and Perfect Pussy. All of which is to say that it’s a squalling, slanted, angular, gritty, snarling bastard of a record. Noisy? Oh yes, but it’s noise that’s not only about volume but extreme discord, about tones and abrasion that drills into the skull and hammers and the head and kicks at the kidneys and spits in the face while screaming ‘fuck you, motherfucker!’

It kicks off with the title track, a jolting, sinewy mess of choppy, trebly guitar that strains away at a repetitive riff that collapses into an angry buzz before everything goes haywire, any semblance of a tune crashing into an atonal mess of crashing cymbals and whiplash guitar noise that carries the listener away on a mudslide of underproduced sonic discomfort.

Stuttering, jarring guitars that buzz like swarms of furious hornets create crashing discord against calamitous bass and crashing percussion that can’t even pretend to be jazz: it’s wayward, deranged, demented, arrhythmic and difficult, and all better for it. The vocal is more spoken word than singing, the lyrics narrative rather than overtly lyrical. Rhymes ae even further out of the window than melodies, and everything about Honey is challenging and confrontational and rejects all notions of musicality and accessibility – which means it’s bloody great.

All of the reference points and comparisons are so underground that they’re probably worthless if attempting to pitch this to a wider audience, but if you dig Pram, Voodoo Queens, Lydia Lunch, then you’re going to be so into this. Then again, The Fall and Bleach era Nirvana, Siouxsie, Solar Race, and early Pavement are equally in evidence on a scuzzing raketmongous mess of an album that’s magnificently raw and not so much underproduced as delivered as is. This is a band that would work well with some Steve Albini action, but then again, you feel that Honey captures the band perfectly and as intended.

‘Flat White’ is a dirty dinge of spoken words that boil down contemporary hipsterized consumerist culture: ‘flat white and scummy’, although the majority of the album is fast and furious and emerges through a lurching, gut-churning murk. ‘Intrinsic’, unveiled ahead of the album, is a drawling, sprawling ugly mess of guitar-driven disaffection. Flat, trudging, bleak: Brooks’ dry vocal picks apart a repetitious, circular ponderance in a barren monotone against a grinding guitar for an age before the drum thumps in and then everything blasts off into all shades of sharding splinters of screaming nasty.

Nothing about this album is comfortable. I’ve spent the last few days searching for the perfect simile, but there isn’t one. It’s not like being punched in the guts or picked repeatedly in the abdomen, and nor is it remotely like an incision from a sharp blade – more like being hewn into pieces with a rusty saw while being beaten about the torso with a lump of rock. It’s not the volume that’s hard to handle, but the sheer relentless angularity. Nothing fits, and everything grates. Honey is the most awkward and abrasively serrated record I’ve heard all year. It’s so dissonant, atonal, and messed up, listening to it makes me want to puke. And that’s precisely why it’s probably the best thing I’ve heard so far this year.

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Lungbutter - Honey

Everyday Life Recordings – 8th December 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

They’re described as ‘motorik-punk outsiders’. Something about those three words grabbed me. Individually, they’re words I read several times a day in reference to bands being thrust in y direction for a critical appraisal. The world of music PR and criticism – not that many critics seem to be especially critical these days – is awash with cliché. And cliché begets cliché: no-one’s interested in inventing the next big thing: it’s far safer all round to recreate the last big thing in an infinite loop of regression. Punk never died, it just got diluted and turned into guitar-pop for teens too sappy to handle anything heavy. But when did the Krautrock revival begin? When The Fall emerged with their Can-influenced repetitious racket in the second half of the 70s, acts like PiL and Joy Division may have cited leading exponents Can and Kraftwerk as a touchstone, but few really embraced the now-ubiquitous ‘Apache beat’ innovated by Neu! And it is ubiquitous, and has been for some years now.

Still, few punk bands of any strain incorporate relentless, repetitive 4/4 rhythms in an overtly Krautrock way. Moderate Rebels, however, have really made this their signature (if you’ll pardon the pun). Not that they’re ‘punk’ in the sense it’s commonly perceived, nor in any of its contemporary revisions: Moderate Rebels have very much taken the spirit of The Fall as their template, and having set the template, they work the absolute fuck out of it over the course of the thirteen tracks on this, their debut album.

There’s certainly something Fall circa Bend Sinister or Frenz Experiment about the chugging ‘Extraordinary’ with its drawling, monotone an almost off-key multiple vocals, repetitious lyrics and endlessly looping chord sequence and beat. It should be as tedious as hell, but the longer it stretches out, the more it drags you in, and it’s a killer earworm. The only criticism is that it simply isn’t long enough. It’s a trick they repeat on a number of occasions, with guitars that jangle and scrape at skewed angles over strolling basslines and pulsing synths. And all the while, the rhythms hold steady, mid-tempo, stomping along with minimal fills. These aren’t songs that follow verse / chorus structures, evolve, build, or ‘go’ anywhere. The effect is simply cumulative. And that’s only amplified over the album’s duration: dipping in’s fine, but it’s best played as a whole, and better still, on repeat for a full afternoon, to achieve optimal enjoyment and appreciation.

Moderate Rebels are by no means one-trick ponies, though, and there is more to The Sound of Security than calculated monotony and the ploughing of sonic furrows that dig into the psyche by virtue of sheer tenacity.

There are pieces which work spacious atmospherics, with sputtering vintage drum machines bursting through elongated e-bow drones and rippling piano. Elsewhere, the laid-back and loose ‘Waiting for the Water to Clear’, and the slacker country of ‘I’m Feeling the Deep State’ showcase a more indie, Pavement-y vibe.

But mostly, it’s about plugging away, chugging and thumping. The reverb. The repetition. And the repetition. And not to forget the repetition. There is no such thing as too much of a good thing.

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Moderate Rebels – The Sound of Security

GoldMold Records – 10th February 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

Once upon a time, everything was tapes. The romanticism of a frustrating and often inconvenient medium has endured perhaps largely on account of the potential impermanence of their nature: how many music fans of the cassette age mourn the loss of a beloved recording on account of a moment’s forgetfulness which resulted in overrecording, or some freak event which resulted in demagnetisation? How many hours spent spooling and respooling tape which had become mangled in the heads, or otherwise stretched or snapped? The albums of yesteryear, all recorded to quarter inch tape, slowly decaying are an integral backdrop to our appreciation of the existence of the sounds they contain.

But is with books in the printed medium over digital text, it’s easier to form a bond with an artefact which feels somehow personal and personalisable. Just as a book with various creases and marks, perhaps even annotations develops a tangible, unique sense of ownership a Kindle edition never can, a playlist can never have the same resonance as a lovingly-sequenced mix-tape with hand-scribbled notes accompanied by a creased post-it or page from a spiral-bound notepad containing a covering note, folded into quarters and stuffed inside a scuffed case. On an emotional level, at least, sonic fidelity counts for less than fidelity to a pure moment, and it’s the thought that counts: those analogue documents of yesteryear can contain the entirety of a crush that dissipates in weeks or the early stages of a lifelong relationship on any level.

While the debates over the nostalgia ‘industry’ continue to rage, it’s fair to say that the renaissance enjoyed by the cassette is not a purely economic one. After all, the costs involved in burning a bunch of CD-Rs and stuffing them into handmade sleeves is negligible, and even though a bulk batch of 100 C30 cassettes can be obtained for in the region of 55p per unit, the time and effort required to dub even a small run of tapes is proportionally greater than any number of CD-R burns. But the changing nature of the music industry means that where it’s at now is in the small-scale, the personal, and the idea that an artist or label has invested time and personal attention on a product imbues the object with an instant emotional resonance.

The debut release from Glasgow’s Forehead – the vehicle of Sean Garrett (said to be ‘the shyest frontman you’ll ever meet’ and mother goose of the Lovely Ladies) – is appropriately named, as it is being released – if you hadn’t already deduced – on (baby blue) cassette, in a limited edition of just 15. It’s also being released as a download of course. Because no artist makes a release exclusively for 15 people.

The blurb notes that the four tracks contained herein ‘have been about for a while but are only being released now, a testament to Sean’s wholly unwarranted modesty’. And yes, the songs are superb, in a sketchy, nervous, hesitant yet achingly sincere way. You get the impression that Garret’s shyness is integral to the material, to the extent that its awkwardness defines what makes it special. And by no means interpret awkward as clumsy: there’s a skilled songwriter hiding behind the sonic fog here.

Regardless of the protracted journey between conception, recording and release, in keeping with the EP’s title, Bedroom Tapes conveys the spirit of 90s analogue enthusiasm. Low-key, lo-fi indie rock songs, reminiscent less of Pavement and more of Silver Jews, define the Forehead sound. This only serves to amplify the nostalgic quality of the release, evoking the excitement of hearing something stubbornly lo-fi, dubbed from a cassette or a record, the grind of a worn stylus on cheaply-pressed vinyl, for the first time.

Forehead also captures the awkward shyness of J Mascis on ‘Honest’, and the swampy plod of ‘Corner Pieces Falling Apart’ bursts into slanted psych-hued noise before crawling off to hide under the table.

 

Forehead

Too Pure Singles Club – 30th September 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

I’ve been saying that Post War Glamour Girls are one of the best bands to have emerged from anywhere ever since I first clapped ears on their debut single, and never once have they disappointed since, thus justifying my opinion. Actually, it’s not an opinion, it’s a fact. And here they are on a split 7” in the mega-cool Too Pure Singles Club series on a Leeds showcase edition shared with Menace Beach. The occasion? The 45th anniversary of legendary Leeds record store, Jumbo Records. I’ve spent a fair few quid in there over the years, and the fact they’re still trading is a testament to the fact it’s as great an independent music outlet as you’ll find.

The two tracks couldn’t be more different: Menace Beach’s ‘Hex Breaker’ is a hazy, fuzzed-out lo-fi drifter, a mid-tempo slow-burner that sounds like it was recorded on a condenser mic. With laid-back vocal and hefty, plodding riff, it’s something of a departure from their conventional feedback-drenched motoric slacker indie. That said, it’s still a brilliantly loose performance and boasts an effortless melody that’s breezy and accessible. File alongside your early Pavement EPs if you do that ‘by style’ thing. If, like me, you file your vinyl alphabetically, you might struggle with this.

Despite what the title might suggest, the PWGG offering on the other side, ‘Welfare by Prozac’ is anything but sedated, a characteristically tense and angular burst of post-punk that’s over and done with in a fraction over three minutes. It packs so much in, too: a nagging, jangling rhythm guitar is cut by a howling angular lead. A stonking bassline and thumping tom-led drum track meld together to provide the backdrop to the contrasting vocals: Alice’s nonchalant monotone is the perfect counterpoint to James’ wired hectoring, calling to mind the best of Brix era Fall and then adding a twisted pop sensibility.

This is a perfect example of why 7” singles are cool, and why not only records, but the split single endure. A split MP3 release just doesn’t cut it.

 

PWGG Menace Beach Split