Posts Tagged ‘Pop’

IHeartNoise – 16th July 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

What am I being sent now? Admittedly, I have some time for IHeartNoise with their championing and general backing – not to mention occasional releasing – of music that most would like file under ‘weird shit.’ As the label remind us, ‘rock music with oddly-tuned guitars, varied rhythms, clouds of dissonance, and bursts of energy wasn’t too hard to come by in the 1990s’.

Howcha Magowcha, the second album by Turkish Delight, originally released in 1988 (and which follows IHeartNoise’s cassette rerelease of their 1996 debut last year), isn’t quite as weird as all that, but it’s hardy accessible or mainstream. In the main, it’s a high-octane, helium-filled punky thrashabout, and really rather fun. And while punk-pop has very clear connotations in contemporary terms, aspects of Howcha Magowcha belong to the time when indie bands like Voodoo Queens and Rosa Mota and Huggy Bear were cranking up the amps and revelling in the juxtaposition of ramshackle punky noise delivered with a pop sensibility. And Howcha Magowcha is bursting with tunes – all delivered with a spiky, angular energy.

The feel is very much of the era. We’re not talking grunge or nu-metal, but are deep in the domains of the weird underground that emerged and occupied the pages of Melody Maker and the NME for a while, and would often be found spun by John Peel. Reference points are likely pointless given this level of obscurity.

Anyway: let’s skip comparisons and get to the music, which is about jolting tempo changes, jarring key switches, contrast between pretty-pretty female vocals with throaty male vocals, as evidenced no more keenly than on ‘Smooth Karate’. ‘Li Cold Vas’ has the jangle of The Wedding Present and blends it with the angularity of The Fall and the obtuse oddness of early Pram, while ‘Sea Quest’ goes Slanted era Pavement with additional full-throttle US 90s noise. ‘Metronome’ creates new levels of angularity, and explores lyrical avenues of abstraction that twist the mundane and really mess with ideas of the ordinary. ‘No Sky’ slows the pace and goes all moody, before it erupts in all directions… extra points for the epic closer, appropriately entitled ‘Close’ that goes from nagging verses to explosive tornadoes of noise by way of choruses and veers all over the place over the course of seven minutes – in contrast to the three-minute blasts of the rest of the album.

There isn’t one song on here that stands out as a single: Howcha Magowcha is very much an album, and a discordant, noisy one at that. There’s no time to settle into any of the songs: mellow moments are torn in half with propulsive drumming and low-slung bass, while the guitars fire off in all directions. It’s music that keeps you on edge, engaged, exhilarated. And however big the 90s revival gets, they’ll never make ‘em quite like this again.

AA

Turkish Delight

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Leeds quintet The Golden Age of TV have shared their contribution to the Leeds based Come Play With Me 7” Singles Club with new track ‘Television’, which will be released on June 22nd.

The Golden Age Of TV have quickly gathered a lot of momentum with razor sharp, whip smart and perfectly crafted indie pop. Their three singles so far have all earned support from Radio 1 with Huw Stephens playing every song they’ve released. They’ve also performed at Reading & Leeds and with bands like Fickle Friends, Toothless & Alex Cameron, and nailed it at Long Division in Wakefield at the weekend.

Get your lugs round ‘Television’ here:

Joining The Golden Age of TV will be electropop quartet ENGINE. Surfing in from the outer rim of Burley and noisily settling on the Meanwood Nebula, ENGINE continue to blaze an individual DIY trail in Leeds. The group combines sampled psychedelics with introverted song-writing of a bygone era. With their recent debut album Cucumber Water now and an ever growing live reputation including support slots with Connan Mockasin, Infinite Bisous and C Duncan under their belts, ENGINE have moved forward with the driving, infectious, electronic groove ridden new flawless pop song ‘And I Say’.

Golden Age of TV -1

The Golden Age of TV

Discrepant – CREP53

Christopher Nosnibor

This double album gathers two previous CD-only releases, both of which focus on Laurent Jeanneau’s love/hate relationship with China.

Soundscape China comprises two side-length sound-collages, with long samples of songs and TV shows, including what sounds like an exercise routine, and street bustle and radio, children’s voices, are overlayed with sounds of the sea and myriad extranea. Jeanneau’s work under the Kink Gong guise is often described as ‘surreal’, as collage works so often are, on account of their tendency to collide incongruence. The effect of displacing objects or text (with sound and moving images included in this category… one could argue that anything and everything is text in some form or another) and relocating it to an unfamiliar setting or alien context has the capacity to instil a sense of the uncanny. ‘Soundscape China Part 1’ doesn’t produce this effect, and feels more like reportage, a work which captures something of the flavour of the county without making any inference or comment, and without affecting any discernible change to the material or what it represents.

The Kink Gong website carries the notice that ‘Under the name KINK GONG you find 2 activities, the 1st one is to record ethnic minority music mostly in south-east Asia, the 2nd is to transform, collage, recompose the original recordings into experimental soundscapes’.

The second piece fulfils these both: it is far more intense, with jarring juxtapositions, crashing percussion. The material is more overtly spliced, the collaging nature of the work more apparent, and the overlaid noise louder, more abrasive. Yet there is still no sense of location in either time nor space. Not that this is a criticism, or something that could be considered a failing of the work: it’s simply its nature, and, more likely than not, my personal reception – Jeanneau’s experience of, and relationship with, China is considerably more deeply engaged than my own virtually non-existent experience beyond television.

Destruction of Chinese Pop Songs, on the other hand, is indeed, surreal. In fact, it’s fucking weird. Recorded (?) between 2000 and 2002, made mostly from skipping CDs of Chinese pop songs and further recomposed in Kunming (China), Vientiane (Laos) and Paris.

Why would anyone do this? And then, why would anyone listen to it? I could defend my choice to stick the album’s full duration – and in a single sitting – as research in the line of duty as a critic, but the truth is, these skipping, jitter, scratched-up, fucked up defacements hold a perverse pleasure, and I listen with bemusement.

‘Car crash’ is a phrase that’s been overused to the point of cliché obsolescence, but it’s appropriate here: not only does it convey the awkward compulsion to continue listening despite the discomfort and the knowledge that it will be impossible to unhear this, but it also reflects the mangled musical wreckage that’s wrapping itself around your ears. That said, having driven past two accidents within a short distance of one another on the A1 on Good Friday, noting my wife’s irritation and snappy frustration at all of the cars slowing as they passed, I made a point of not looking to prove that it is possible to resist. I felt a little cheated at denying myself from observing the Ballardian spectacles, but have no such need for restraint in the face of this exercise in avant-garde appropriation and defacement.

And the collisions keep on coming. ‘Hit Qin Qin’ sounds like R2D2 in the middle of a circuitry meltdown in a sea of distortion and static, while plinky-plonky piano lift music rolls on, despite the notes warping and melting. It’s simultaneously comedic and horrific. Elsewhere, ‘Pingtan’ sounds like a string instrument being slowly pulled apart while a radio plays random stations in the background, and ‘Bai Street Dance’ sounds like it was recorded on a condenser mic and played back through a Walkman speaker with a torn cone.

Everything about these songs is difficult and obtuse. Even when the ‘songs’ aren’t devoured by stutters, glitches, sticks and all other kinds of sonic wobble that’s a variant on the digital stutter, or by distortion and static and fast-forwards – yes, even when the form and sound of the song beneath the fiddling is fundamentally intact and discernible – there’s other shit thrown in to interfere and interrupt it. So yes, it is surreal, and continues the lineage of William Burroughs’ audio cut-ups, while revisiting the questions of context, ownership and defacement raised by Duchamp and the Dadaists before.

It’s obscure, awkward, bizarre, messy. It’s disorientating, destructive and really rather silly, both in terms of concept and execution. But these are all the reasons to appreciate Kink Gong’s commitment to forging his own path.

Dian Long: Soundscape China / Destruction of Chinese Pop Songs present two very different – if closely connected in thematic terms – aspects of the artist’s work, and releasing them together as a single document makes perfect sense, so long as you’re amenable to experiencing a total mindfuck.

AA

Kink Gong - Soundscape

Headcheck Records – 17th February 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

It seems an age since we featured a review of Weekend Recovery’s single ‘Focus’ here at AA. It was, in fact, September 2016, when James Wells noted the band’s ambition and suggested they were probably ones to watch.

Here we are, a year and a quarter later, on the eve of the release of their debut album. They’ve relocated to Leeds, and have an extensive touring schedule and slots lined up at Camden Rocks and Rebellion Festival this year. And it feels good to be able to say ‘told you so.’

Weekend Recovery have certainly done it the hard way: sheer grit and determination, hard plugging, hard gigging and a succession of strong single and EP releases are how they’ve got here in a comparatively short time. It helps that they’re a cracking live act, but ultimately, it all comes down to having songs. And Weekend Recovery have songs.

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They describe the songs on Get What You Came For as being ‘their most mature and personal tracks to date,’ and it’s telling that none of the material from previous releases is included here. As I said, they have songs, and plenty of them. So many bands knock out debut albums that collect their singles and EPs and augment them a clutch of new songs, and leave you wondering if they’ve shot their load before they even got as far as an album. Not so Weekend Recovery: Get What You Came For is a proper album, and it possesses a unity and cohesion. It also maintains the pace throughout, avoiding the all-too-common mid-album mid-tempo slump.

They bail in hard with blustering guitars on ‘Turn It Up’, a grungy / punk tune with a descending chord sequence and some nifty bass runs backing a vocal delivery that’s as much Debbie Harry as anything, and it’s a vintage punk pop vibe that radiates from ‘Oh Jenny’ (again, we’re talking more Blondie or Penetration than any contemporary Kerrang! Radio fodder by way of a comparison if you need one).

Oftentimes, when bands refer to their songwriting as having matured, it usually means they’ve gone safe, and are all about the craft, man. Chin-stroking introspection paired with layered-up acoustic-led laments, soulfulness, an emphasis on musicianship, and all that shit. There’s none of that shit on Get What You Came For: by maturity, they mean they’ve focussed and refined their approach, trimming any trace of fat to produce songs that are sharp and direct, powerful and punchy. Dull, overworked, overthought, it isn’t.

The Paramore / Katy Perry comparisons which applied to their previous works no longer hold here: it’s less pop and more punk, and there’s a hard edge and tangible fury which drives the songs here. Instead of prettying things up with an eye on the commercial, Weekend Recovery have tackled the turbulence of life head on and sculpted it into music you feel. Lead single ‘Why Don’t You Love Me’ is the most overtly commercial and poppy cut here, but the guitars are sharp and there’s a barb to the lyrical angle on dating sites and the inherent narcissism of social media.

When they do slow it down and strip it back on ‘Anyway’, it’s Courtney Love’s solo material that comes to mind. And while it’s not up there with the first two Hole albums, I’d take solo Courtney over the last two Hole albums any day. The title track is a gritty minor-chord crunch with some thumping percussion, singer Lauren snarls venomously, while at the same time displaying a certain sass, before ‘I Wanna Get Off’ wraps the album up with a full-throttle flurry of guitars.

There’s a real sense that Get What You Came For captures the real Weekend Recovery. They’ve broken loose from the mouldings of their early influences and found their true identity here. And, no longer concerned with confirming to a form, or even being so bothered about being liked, they’ve unleashed the rage, harnessed all the pain and the fury that drives that creative urge, and channelled it honestly. The end result is an album that’s driving, immediate, engaging – and exhilarating, exciting, energetic, and very good indeed.

Weekend Recovery - Get What You Came For

30th November 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

It’s their strongest – and yet conceivably their most commercial – effort to date. It benefits from a fuller, denser production, which accentuates the driving guitars. ‘Why don’t you love me / Are you too good for me?’ Lorin asks by way of a refrain. But it’s not needy-sounding: in fact, the delivery is less overtly rock than on previous outings which made clear nods to Paramore and The Pretty Reckless, and instead is borderline bubblegum. It contrasts with the grungy riffery which thunders along behind it.

Pop is not a dirty word, and what Weekend Recovery achieve here is the kind of hooky guitar-based pop Nirvana specialised in (think ‘Sliver’, think ‘Been a Son’, etc.). Catchy as hell and bursting with energy, this could well be – and deserves to be – the release that pushes Weekend Recovery fully into the limelight.

Weekend Recovery - Why

Weekend Recovery

8th November 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

Salvation Jayne’s latest offering, which follows the summer release of ‘Moves that Make the Record Skip’ which got our thumbs up, marks a substantial step both forwards and upwards.

With a nagging clean guitar in the verse and a thunderous overdrive propelling the riffy chorus, all underpinned by a chunky bass, ‘Juno’ is a savvy, sassy rock tune. Chess Smith’s in fine voice, and there’s a vintage post-punk twist in the execution of the song’s grunge dynamics.

And really, what more do you need to know? It’s got guts and is as catchy as hell, and in terms of achieving everything it’s intended to, it’s pretty much impossible to fault. Did I say Salvation Jayne are a band to watch for 2018? No? I did now.

AA

Salvation Jayne - Juno

Christopher Nosnibor

Last time I saw Ming City Rockers, supporting Arrows of Love in Leeds, I wasn’t hugely impressed, and thought that if they put as much effort into the songs as into looking like rock clichés, they might get somewhere. I’m here, in fact, for grungy Australian duo Mannequin Death squad, whose debut EP was one of last year’s highlights. Anyone who caught them on the supporting tour over here, thanks to their Hull-based label, would have witnessed a treat.

Back in the UK once more, they’re gracing York with their presence on the night before dropping their first new material since the Eat, Hate, Regurgitate EP in the form of the track ‘Blue’.

Warming things up are local lads Naked Six. At one time a three-piece, they’re now reduced to a two-piece. But rather than diminishing their power, the guitar / drum combo have focused and concentrated their energy, and with the guitar signal split across two amps, there’s a real depth and solidity to their sound. And it helps that the amps are cranked up loud. It’s the best way to listen to their swaggering, ballsy, hard-edged blues rock. Seb Byford not only has a classic blues rock voice that also works well when they move into grungier territory later in the set, but he’s got a stomp that’s half Angus Young, half frenzied madman as she grinds the riffs into the stage with his heel. It’s a cracking performance.

Naked Six

Naked Six

Mannequin Death Squad certainly don’t disappoint, and it’s telling that the instrument-swapping pair have evolved a set with enough new material to be able to drop killer tracks like ‘KYMS’ from their debut EP without the set being remotely lacking.

The eight-song set, which kicks off with ‘Sick’ from the aforementioned EP boasts almost 50% new and unreleased material. For a band who are yet to really break the market, it’s a bold move, but with a debut album in the offing and so many ace tunes, it means they’re able to arrange the set based not on simply what they’ve got, but to sequence it from a selection that gives the set shape and a dynamic beyond the individual tracks. It’s clear they’ve spent time out and about, on the road, refining their sound, and they benefit from the venue’s appropriate volume to make for an attacking sound.

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Mannequin Death Squad

‘Nightmare’ marks a change of pace and style, bringing a darker hue and a bass-led dirginess to break up the succession of driving grunge tunes with killer hooks which define the band’s sound.

Swapping instruments at the set’s mid-point and again near the end (much to the appreciation of those who thought they were about to finish), they keep themselves and the crowd on their toes, and they work bloody hard to power through a full-throttle set often coming on like Live Through This era Hole, with the added punch of a spiky post-punk edge. They’re fucking awesome.

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Mannequin Death Squad

With a surly-looking female guitarist, a trashy aesthetic, and a slew of uptempo punk tunes, what’s not to like about Ming City Rockers? Regrettably, and despite the consensus of the aged punks going nuts down the front, they still suck. The lack of imagination is the issue. It’s bog-standard spirit of ‘77 4/4 punk, and like many of the bands of the era, at its heart it’s just pub rock played fast with the amps cranked up. The songs are churned out with an abundance of posturing and posing but without any real substance, or tunes, and the sameness gets tedious very quickly.

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Ming City Rockers

They introduce one song as being about playing a gig in Lowestoft where a man chased the singer and ‘tried to pin me down and fuck me, I mean proper fuck me!’ but the lyrics are articulated as something along the lines of ‘wahwahwahwahyaggch’. It’s crass, lowest-common denominator stuff, and much of what happens on stage feels extremely contrived: the walking off stage into the crowd, knocking over cymbals on the way by way of a finale is pretty much emblematic.

Filing out, a few punters could be overheard commenting that Mannequin Death Squad were the best band of the night, and those punters would be right.