Posts Tagged ‘Post-Punk’

Wild Goose Chase Records – 27th April 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Little Musgrave – the vehicle for Brussels-based Joey Wright – was conceived and recorded during the first Coronavirus lockdown, and its homemade, DIY, lo-fi stylings are perhaps representative of the style and form that will, ultimately, prove to define the period from Spring 2020 to Summer 2021 as musicians, twitchy and desperate for release took to recording at home, minus bands, and without access to studios or even half their kit, let along bandmates. Primitive drum machines, apps, recording and even mixing on mobile phones and releasing via Bandcamp has for many been the only way.

Why not wait? You may ask. Because creatives often need to create and to put it out there: creativity is a compulsion, and for many, public reception is validation of their output, even though got many it’s equally a source of anxiety and self-doubt.

‘Matches’ is a no-messing mess of sinewy guitars chopping out some rough and ready post-punk tinged indie that lands, lay-legged and in a heap between The Fall and Pavement. Wright isn’t really a singer in the conventional sense, often adopting a more Sprechgesang mode of delivery – although that isn’t to say he can’t sing, and there are some brief moments of melodic reflection. This is also a fair reflection of the abstract / elliptical lyrical content, which is wildly veering and often abstract, but not without moments of sensitivity.

The lack of polish, while borne out of necessity, is endearing in that it also presents a lack of pretence. And, also of necessity, the fizzing guitars and simple, insistent rhythms that pump away and pin the loosely-played songs together, are found alongside, as the liner notes proffer, ‘sounds which could have been recorded live in the dentist’s chair – we’re talking drills, saws and high-pitched whines’. With trips to the dentist off the table during lockdown, one assumes these extraneous sounds were sourced elsewhere, and primarily around the home. It’s remarkable just how unsettling a blender or electric shaver can sound when recorded and played back out of context, you know.

More often than not distilled into sub-three-minute bursts, clattering percussion and jarring angles are defining features; ‘Your Reputation Precedes You’ pitches a semi-spoken word performance over a clanking industrial-edged backdrop, while elsewhere, ‘Workers’ day’ is dissonant, difficult, and antagonistic, but as a thunking synth bass groove emerges through it all, it takes on an awkward electrofunk vibe that evokes the stylings of early Shriekback – before dissolving into a mess of feedback, whirs, and buzzing, and the scratchy Fall-esque ramble ‘Stick By Stick’ collapses into mangling noise.

And while Matches doesn’t sound like The Fall per se, its wild eclecticism and the levels of discord achieved by the guitars (are they in tune, let alone playing the same key? Just listen to ‘Which of you has done this?’ to get a handle on the stylistic collisions that aren’t just characteristic but define the album.

Weird and wonderful with the emphasis on the latter, Matches is inventive and unusual. At times difficult and brain-bending, it’s also self-aware and interesting, and deserves some time to adjust to. It’s not mainstream, but it’s got real cult potential.

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PNKSLM – 2nd April 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Following the single release of ‘Not Fit For This’, GHLOW unleash Slash and Burn, the album which spawned it – and brimming with dark energy, it does not disappoint. While clearly operating within a genre field, and a comparatively limited instrumental format, it has range. It also packs so much tension and an emotional force that it’s an instant grab. As what you’d likely describe as an old goth (although nowhere near as old as some), I have a predisposition towards this kind of stuff, but by the same token, I’m immensely picky, in that anything overtly cliché I simply can’t muster any enthusiasm for – but GHLOW have got it all: the songs, the style, and the production. In combination, this is a work that resonates on a level that isn’t necessarily easy to articulate: it’s not simply nostalgia – and drawing on the dense electro shoegaze of Curve as much as early 80s post-punk and its lineal descendants. Anyway., it’s hard to feel nostalgic for a time before your own, and even if some of the aforementioned bands soundtracked my teens it’s not a pining pang for that which I feel on hearing this. No, GHLOW tap into something else altogether with their explosive blend of jagged guitars and simple sequencing plat places power to the fore over musical dexterity.

It’s ‘Not Fit for This’ that slams in by way of an opener, a gloriously spiky hybrid of Siouxsie, X-Mal, Garbage, and Savages, a thunderous bass and stuttering beat hammering away beneath a toppy blasty of guitars that provide the tense, fiery backdrop to Emille de Blanche’s commanding vocal performance. It grabs you by the throat and drags you into the seething morass of darkness that follows. There’s texture and depth, for sure, but this is one of those albums that’s best experienced end-to-end in order to appreciate the highs and lows integral to its sequencing. It’s also big on mood and big on dynamics, and the duo ratchet up the atmosphere to create a work of rare intensity.

The slower ‘Sleep’ is a song that drives right through the gut: the primitive drum machine sound stutters and jolts, the kick sound beating like a palpating heart, the snare a whipcrack that slices through the murk – and alongside is a grating bass sound that churns and growls malevolently. Over it all, Emille gives a powerful, full-lunged vocal performance. The title track is a mid-tempo motoric chugger that hammers away somehow unfurls as it progresses, and the repetition, paired with the soaring vocals and some howling lead guitar, becomes more than the sum of its parts, while ‘Hold It’ is a heavy, repetitive droner that’s claustrophobic in its dark intensity.

There’s something magnificently unpolished about GHLOW’s sound and for all its electronics, it’s The March Violets that their dirty, immediate sound calls to mind most, although ‘Hollow’ goes all out on the attack, and with the brittle guitar riding wildly over a furious beat, they sound more like Big Black fronted by Jehnny Beth or Anne-Marie Hurst. Slash and Burn has attack, it has edge, as well as repetition and hooks, and really hits the spot.

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5th March 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

I’ve spent hours racking my brains to fathom what the opening bars of ‘Nouveau Bleach’ – the first track on the eponymous EP by Nouveau Bleach remind me of, and I still can’t bloody make it out. With a name that’s straight out of Nathan Barley, this south London trio are as postmodern as they are post-punk, and the four tracks of their debut EP sets their stall out plainly, with no pissing about.

There’s are elements of The Fall with the ramshackle, rattling guitar that goes here there and everywhere, and especially the yelping, partially atonal vocal, with the simple repetition of the sloganeering refrain ‘Nouveau bleach / Rinse repeat’, conveying the ennui of tedious repetition so succinctly. The baritone vocal has a hint of Editors’ Tom Smith about it, but then, there’s quite a concoction of elements in the mix., and the production being lo-fi and primitive really suits the sound.

‘Pharmakon’ is amore straight head punk tune, and the band soon reveal a simple but effective formula, based on heavy repetition, and ‘Kondonauts’ exemplary – again, The Fall, Public Image, and comparisons to more recent acts from Scumbag Philosopher to Bilge Pump seem reasonable: a propensity for the motoric, for repetitive, cyclical riffs and unmelody still reveal some lovely moments – but mostly jarring, sharp-edged ones that make sitting back and just listening uncomfortable ‘but does it spark joy?’ they ask. In some way, it sort of does, and you join the dots to Gang of Four and snotty, shouty 90s underground and riot grrrl.

If it sounds like an explosive, incoherent identity crisis, it’s because it probably is: Nouveau Bleach are absolute magpies, and not entirely discriminate, which is actually an asset: everything is material, and they bring it together in a broiling melting pot to create a unique and antagonistic fusion, and it kicks ass.

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12th February 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Coventry quartet SENSES have had a stuttering journey to bring them here, with the release of ‘Drop Your Arms’ as a taster for their impending debit album – which has been a long time in coming. There is a classic tale of burgeoning progress being stalled and creativity stifled by label wranglings. Throw in a global pandemic and you’ve got the perfect recipe for a stalled career. It’s almost as if some labels are more concerned with contractual constrictions than the nurturing and promotion of creativity and new music.

But you can’t keep a good band down forever, and regrouping after a hiatus to embark in a multi-media project designed to take their music to the masses and to the next level, and ‘Drop Your Arms’ is the opening gambit that prefaces the debut album Little Pictures Without Sound.

Yes, it’s indie at heat, but it’s also so much more: it’s also big, bold and anthemic – and swings between the throbbing anthemic stylings of Doves with the darker post-punk currents of early Editors (whose producer Gavin Monaghan was involved in the early recording work) – I’m specifically thinking ‘Bullets’ here, particularly when it ratchets up around the mid-point. Then again, I’m equally reminded of The Psychedelic Furs’ debut album and their ‘wall of noise’ that really hit hard.

There’s a darkness and a seriousness about ‘Drop Your Arms’, a track that drives and bounces with an effervescence and energy that’s as infectious as it is undeniable. In short, it’s a cracking single, and if the rest of the album is half as good, it’ll be a corker.

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12th February 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Released digitally last autumn, Para Lia’s Gone With The Flow gets a ‘proper’ physical release this month. The second album from the German duo, consisting of René and Cindy Methner, has already drawn comparisons to Dinosaur Jr, Arcade Fire, and The Mission, as well as referencing in the press release – the hearteningly specific – ‘early Editors’.

It all makes sense with the blistering opener, ‘My Muse’ – a post-punk influenced adrenaline shot that showcases some wild soloing that somehow manages not to sound wanky. See, I’m not one for guitar solos myself, but find that J Mascis’ best efforts are enough to reduce me to tears. ‘Kassandra’ hits that spot: it’s a cutty post-punk revival effort that’s got the pomp of The Mission, complete with the wordless backing vocals Julianne Reagan delivered to absolute perfection on songs like ‘Severina’, and topped with an absolutely melting solo that twists, turns and weeps all over it. I should probably be tired of this by now, but when presented with just the right blend of nostalgia and quality

They don’t always pull it off: ‘Riders on the Dike’ is more ramshackle punk-folk with a ragged vocal delivery reminiscent of Shane Macgowan that simply doesn’t quite sit, and ‘Time and Again’ follows a folksier bent that grates a shade, feeling slightly forces and off-track despite some soaring harmonies from Cindy.

But it’s more hit than miss, as the slow-burning ‘Fools’ brings swathes of mournful strings to the post-rock tempest that swells as the song progresses, and the tense jangle of ‘Fire’ evokes the spirit of 1985, not just instrumentally but with its thick production, where the bass and guitar clump together, cut through by a sharp-topped snare sound.

‘Kaleidoscope’ is every bit as shimmeringly layered as the title suggests, and notes of New Model Army and Red Lorry Yellow Lorry are present as they drive a forward trajectory with an insistent rhythm section and some choppy guitars pinned back in the mix. Last track, ‘No Time for Butterflies’ combines psych-hued 60s pop, folk, and 90s alternative to forge a pleasant and exhilarating finale, and if there’s little about Gone With The Flow that’s overtly ‘new’, it’s a unique combination of older forms rendered with real style and some solid songs.

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Atypeek Muzik

Christopher Nosnibor

Apparently France’s One Arm is a ‘mythical’ band, although the newly unveiled existence of Mysore Pak, their first album which gathers a fill twenty years of work, suggests that’s not entirely true. There’s nothing like a bit of mythology and legend to bolster the status of an obscure cult act – and this particular cult act has managed to score a number of other cult performers to contribute to the recordings here, most notably Little Annie, who adds ‘kosmic vocals’ to ‘Space is the Place’.

Mysore Pak is, it would seem, a collection of recordings made over the last twenty years, but try to delve into the band’s history and details are nigh on impossible to locate or verify. Who said that it was impossible to hide in the age of the Internet? Anyway, Mysore Pak has a truly vintage sound, with touchstones going back far more than two decades, taking grabs from 60s psychedelic, post-punk, and early industrial.

The first song, the vaguely baggy ‘Real’ is dominated by the heavy clatter of two drummers and duelling basses and with its thumping motorik repetition, it calls to mind vintage Fall. ‘ESG’, meanwhile, locks into a slightly psychedelic groove – and with the airy female vocals, I;’m reminded more of the careening drift of Stereolab, as well as the more contemporary Modeerate Rebels who similarly spin classic indie with a Krautrock aesthetic. The slowed down, sedated ‘Space is the Place’ creeps and squirms stealthy around a primitive percussive clatter, and ‘City’ is a standout with it’s locked-in groove and discordant howls of wailing feedback.

Elsewhere, things get murkier and harder edge, as exemplified by the cutty, scrapy, hybrid trudge of jittery noise that is the eight-minute ‘Top Tone’. The guitars are sharp, there’s all the serpentine esotericism and eastern promise you could dream of, making this a dreamy, delirious meandered, and similarly, ‘Step 3’, which comes on like a head-on collision between Suicide and The Jesus and Marty Chain is a deeply compelling mess of noise. Closer ‘Virgule’, too, harks back to Psychocandy while plundering a seem much deeper and darker with its rippling flyaway synths and low-riding bass that meanders as it pleases while vintage snares crack in every whichway.

For the primitive production feel and the simplicity of basslines that just loop endlessly, Mysore Pak is so much more than a hipsterish replica of real life that skips along nicely. As accessible as this album is, it’s got more depth and more instant biteback than you would ever imagine. An album that steps out of time and spans infinite time and space, it’s got a lot going for it.

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PNKSLM Recordings – 2nd February 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

It seems like a long, long time ag now, when I’d listen to the top 40 singles chart on a Sunday evening and be enticed to buy an album on the strength of a single. I didn’t even realise it at the time, as a pre-teen, that this was exactly the point: singles sell albums, and in some respects are as much a promo tool as a video or a TV performance or an instore signing. Time was, of course, that album sales made money, or at least made the biggest dents in recouping advances, although a hit single was always, and remains, the route to royalties.

Despite the devaluation of both the album format and the single trailer in the digital age, the practise persists and sometimes is actually pays off, because you’ll hit on a single release that completely poleaxes you with its brilliance – a song that will grab you instantly and compel you to rush out and buy the album or otherwise leave you on the very edge of your seat for its release.

‘Not Fit For This’ is that single – released ahead of Ghlow’s debut album, ‘Slash and Burn’, due out in April – is a sharp, stabby new-wave attack that comes on full-throttle and packs some real adrenaline in its scratchy squall of trebly guitars that blister and buzz all over a drum machine that palpates frantically as it tries to make itself heard and keep up with the explosive sonic blast. It’s got that early 80s vibe absolutely down, and it’s not just about the songwriting, performance, or the hazy production that positively oozes that dank basement 8-track vibe – it’s about the attitude and the intangibles, too.

Emille de Blanche has all the dark energy of Siouxsie Soux, and she brings all the serrated edges in this gothy tour-de-force, and everything coalesces into a distillation of tension-filled gloom that’s pretty damn special.

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A Projection are a post-punk/darkwave act from Stockholm, who signed to Metropolis Records in 2019 for the release of their well received third album, ‘Section’. Inspired by dark post-punk/proto-goth acts such as The Cure, Sisters Of Mercy and Joy Division along with the electronica of Depeche Mode, the band are known for their compelling and dynamic live shows.

‘Darwin’s Eden’ is a brand new single by the quartet and sees them more fully embracing the electronic realm, placing themselves in the intersection between the ‘80s synth pop and the darkwave hit lists of 2021.

Watch the video here:

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11th December 2020 – PNKSLM Recordings

Christopher Nosnibor

Trapped in a box, a loop of ever-diminishing life, it’s not difficult to comprehend why amidst the confusion, the sadness, the frustration, and anxiety, and general bewilderment, nostalgia should grow its presence. Your life sucks, and it probably always has, but it’s easier to cast a hue of fondness over the past than to accept that if the present’s bad, the future is worse. It’s a natural part of the ageing process, too, of course: kids get younger and the music and fashions get worse by the year.

Katja Nielsen, singer and bassist with Swedish punk act Arre! Arre! had been suffering from bipolar disorder a decade before diagnosis. With the outbreak of a global pandemic, band activity curtailed: she found that writing songs helped her process, and so She/Beast was born, with ‘In the Depths of Misery’ being the first of a brace of EP, both of which derive their titles from quotes from Vincent Van Gogh, another bipolar artist.

The liner notes recount how the songs were ‘written and arranged entirely in Nielsen’s living room’ and ‘mark a dramatic departure from the furious pace of Arre! Arre!’s output, instead evincing a lo-fi, pop-rock sound’.

How it translates is as all the dark side of the 80s distilled into a neat package: it’s very much bass-driven, propelled by a drum machine that thumps away mechanically, with economical programming – no fancy fills or extravagant cymbal work – and laced with stark synths. Throw The Cure, X-Mal Deutschland, Skeletal Family, and all the fringe artists from that 1979-83 period who ventured into the darker realms of post-punk, into a blender and you’ve got the sharply piquant flavour of She/Beast.

It’s poppy, but it’s heavy on shade. ‘I don’t know what to do with myself’, she sings lost and aimless on ‘The Sadness Will Last Forever’. The bubbling ‘Born to Fight’ is exemplary of the way Nielsen brings everything together. A looping buoyant synth line that would have sat comfortably on an early Depeche Mode single is welded to a thudding four-four Craig Adams style bassline that dominates the rhythm section, while Nielsen spins a message of self-affirmation in a dreamy style, her voice compressed and floating in reverb.

The loping drums of closer ‘A Fragile State of Mind’ are murky in the mix, but the snare cuts through in the way that’s characteristic of that 80s sound. It’s so, so evocative that it carries almost as much weight and impact as the tune and the lyrical content combined – meaning that in context, this short, five-song EP speaks and resonates on levels far beyond its constituent parts.

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Fierce Panda – 13th November 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Fierce panda will be forever intrinsically linked to the cutting edge of indie in the 90s, emerging as it did in 1994 and immediately making a name for itself with limited edition 7”singles by big-name contemporaries initially including Ash, Supergrass, The Bluetones, and Baby Bird, not to mention Placebo, Keane, Coldplay, Embrace, and that record by Oasis.

More than a quarter of a century on, they retain that certain sense of cool-by-association, but also continue to release damn good indie singles, breaking new talent with astounding frequency. National Service are a perfect example: the label picked up the London quartet National Service from seemingly out of nowhere, releasing their debut single, ‘A Little More Time’ in the year of their formation. Three years on, and here we have their third single, a song that unpicks he seams of the mundane, the everyday, and the introspective pains of self-expectation.

‘I haven’t had a decent sleep in days / I’m overthinking when I should be happy doing something mundane / But I’m too busy thinking about the long run / That I rarely find the time to enjoy today’ laments Fintan Campbell against a welter of shimmering guitars and rolling drums.

Comparisons to The Twilight Sad aren’t unjustified, and the band mine that seam of post-punk revival / indie crossover that dominated 2002-2006 as represented by Editors, Interpol, The Cinematics and myriad others, and the bassline that cuts in at the midpoint is pure Carlos D circa Turn on the Bright Lights. None of this is in any way to suggest that ‘Caving’ is derivative or locked in time: it’s a genuine rush of a tune, and condenses all the emotional resonance into four and a half minutes. It’s taut, hooky, and packs a punch.

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