Posts Tagged ‘Post-Punk’

After 3 albums Antwerp’s noisiest outfit The Hickey Underworld evaporated. They never announced a break up, they just ceased to be… but the genie’s back out of the bottle. Well sorta… Frontman and main songwriter Younes Faltakh is the sole survivor and teamed up with ex Das Pop member Niek Meul. The pair set up camp in Niek’s studio in Oslo and recorded 10 eccentric, mysterious and groovy tracks. Guitars do a lapdance wrapping their tormented strings around a worked up rhythm section while Younes’ hoarse growl sounds as familiar as it does threatening.

Birthed in post-punk, heavily infused by Eastern psychedelica, and described by their record label [PIAS] as alternative world music, most refer to Arabnormal as ‘a manically zonked-out flying carpet ride’.

Read the above and listen to Arabnormal’s new single ‘Digital Veil’ and you’ll know that doesn’t make any sense at all… ‘Digital Veil’ is a sweet, sophisticated and too cute to cuddle soft rock gem. To honour the late Hickey Underworld tradition of psycho-facemelting video’s, Arabnormal’s visual companion for their latest single is quite something. Does your mouth get wet thinking of a make-up sandwich? Well, here’s the recipe!

Adult Swim Singles – 30th January 2020

Christopher Nosnbor

This one’s crashed in seemingly from nowhere, and because it’s Uniform, it crashes in hard. Promising ‘the first taste of a new song cycle that doubles down on the most immediate aspects of the band’s sound’, with shouter Michael Berdan drawing attention to the more dance-orientated sound.

And indeed, the groove is built around a steady, monotonous dance beat, but it’s a pounding industrial beat that’s reminiscent of Nine Inch Nails. The opening segment is sparse, with just drum and vocal and some rumbling extranea forging a claustrophobic tension before everything goes classic Uniform with a pulverizing blast of noise that packs all the abrasion, and again, it’s Broken era NIN that comes to mind as they meld devastating guitars to live drums hammering out mechanoid rhythms.

The guitar overdrives to the point of overload, and Berdan’s anguished holler channels the anger and anxiety of the song’s focus: “‘Awakening’ is about the daily frustrations of a complacent existence in late capitalism. Some might take it as a protest song. However, it’s to be implied that waking up with a deep seeded anger is something that happens every day. We know they are mad, but we don’t know if anything will ever change.”

If any band articulates the suffering that living in the present can create: the relentless sense of pounding your head against a wall, screaming into a void, unheard, in the face of endless idiocy and sheer brutality at the hands of a capitalism so hard that it’s beyond dehumanising. Compassion and care are out of the window as everyone is too busy climbing over everyone else just to survive, while the upper echelons crow and don’t even bother to pretend to cast down their crumbs as the pretence of any trickle-down is erased in the face of sheer greed. The power elites hold all of the power, and the rest of us are powerless to effect change.

And so many of the oppressed are oblivious to all of this, enabling the oppressors in supporting the Trumps and the Johnsons, feeding the instruments of their own oppression while failing to see the cycle they’re perpetuating, blind to the fact that ‘foreigners’ aren’t ‘stealing’ their jobs and sapping the welfare coffers, but propping up a fragile boom and bust economy by doing the minimum wage, zero-hours, per-delivery drudge jobs no-one else will take.

You wake up, burning with incendiary rage that these people, who’ve swallowed the propaganda wholesale wont; fucking wake up, and you veer wildly between wanting to kill ‘em all and killing yourself, but in the end you do neither because you’ve got bills to pay and mouths to feed so you do nothing but work and hate yourself for it until you crash out to suffer nightmares and then rinse and repeat the next day and the next.

That sense of confinement, of futility, and endless fury, that is what Uniform distil into four minutes of pounding anger.

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Uniform - Awakening

Uniform US Live Dates (all w/ The Body):

March 01: Portland, OR – Doug Fir Lounge

March 02: Vancouver, BC – Biltmore Cabaret

March 03: Seattle, WA – Laser Dome at the Pacific Science Center

March 05: San Francisco, CA – Rickshaw Stop

March 06: Los Angeles, CA – Zebulon

March 07: Las Vegas, NV – Bunkhouse Saloon

March 08: Phoenix, AZ – The Rebel Lounge

March 10: San Antonio, TX – Paper Tiger

March 11: Dallas, TX – Three Links Deep Ellum

March 12: New Orleans – Gasa Gasa

March 13: Atlanta, GA – Food Court

March 14: Durham, NC – The Pinhook

March 15: Washington, DC – Black Cat

March 16: Philadelphia, PA – Boot & Saddle

March 18: Brooklyn, NY – Market Hotel

March 19: Somerville, MA – Once Ballroom

March 20: Providence, RI – Columbus Theatre

March 21: Montreal, QC – La Vitrola

March 22: Toronto, ON – The Garrison

March 24: Chicago, IL – Empty Bottle

March 25: Minneapolis, MN – Turf Club

June 05 – 07: Austin, TX – Oblivion Access

Only Lovers Records – 4th February 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Sometimes, it doesn’t take much to change the mood of the day, and for me, it’s often the case that the ping of an email containing a release by an act I like that can be that mood-lifter on a barren or otherwise unremarkable day. The arrival of Mayflower Madame’s latest offering was today’s: having been snared by their debut album, 2016’s Observed in Dream, I’ve been on the edge of my seat for more, and while 2018’s Premonition EP was more than welcome, it felt like something of a placeholder ahead of the next event proper.

With album number two, Prepared for a Nightmare around the corner, they’re offering a taste of what’s to come with single ‘Vultures’, a song about ‘desire, gluttony and vanity – both on a personal level and as a general symptom of the excesses of modern society’ which is ‘partly inspired by the art of George Grosz and Hieronymus Bosch’.

‘Vultures’ very much cements the style and sound they’ve showcased previously, with reverby guitars dominating a psych/goth hybrid form that’s got tension and drama by the spade, but also a brooding, doom-laden atmosphere. The pessimism isn’t explicit, but hangs heavy in the air. But while retaining that psychy / dark surf twang, ‘Vultures’ is harder-edged than anything they’ve released to date, pinned down by an insistent beat with the vocals low in the mix and soaked in reverb and angst. The production more muscular, too, and it all stacks up for a belting blast of tense, dark contemporary post-punk that says the album is going to be a corker.

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Mayflower Madame - Vultures (cover)

SPV / NoCut and ADA / Entertainment One

24th January 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

And we’re back once again in the divergent and varied field of what’s come to be goth in the 21st century, and it’s a very far cry from its post-punk roots. The late 70s and early 80s saw the emergence of Siouxsie and the Banshees, Bauhaus, The Cure, The Sisters of Mercy, The March Violets, Christian Death and a slew of bands who would subsequently be labelled as ‘goth’, and who were subsequently joined by the likes of Red Lorry Yellow Lorry, The Cult, Fields of the Nephilim, The Mission, etc., etc. The fact of the matter is, there was little commonality between these acts, and that goth was something of a media fabrication. What about the fans? Let’s not confuse the fans and the artists, or a subculture with its icons. So what was a scene that never was morphed into an evermore diffuse group of subcultures, with an ever-broader range of bands who had little or nothing in common beyond their shared fanbase. After metal, there can be few labels that provide an umbrella for a greater range of styles.

So here we are, presented with The Book of Fire, the eleventh album by German goth-metal act MONO INC. And while it’s goth, it’s not really my kinda goth, and couldn’t be further from the dark post-punk or art-rock stylings of the first wave of bands. Is this evolution, or dilution, cross-pollination and contamination? I suppose that’s a matter of perspective.

The album’s first song, the title track, is over seven and a half minutes long. It begins with a slick guitar that almost manages to sound like a harpsichord, and then it glides into some kind of Celtic folk metal and it very soon starts to become uncomfortable. Uncomfortable because such buoyant energy is more the domain of the hoedown knees-up. The folk-hued power-metal of ‘Louder Than Hell’ brims with positivity about strength and stuff, and explodes with crisp synths and choral backing vocals and it’s fun enough, but it’s also pretty cringy: it’s the kind of thing Germany might enter into Eurovision.

Then again, ‘Shining Light’ has such a massive chorus and a hook so strong that it’s hard to resist even when you’re hating it: it has that uplifting surge that lifts you and carries you away on the tide from the inside.

The euphoria swiftly dissipates with the next song, ‘Where the Raven Flies’, which is the definition of theatrical cliché melodrama. And herein lies the problem, which I accept is entirely personal, at least on a primary level. In short, I think it’s cheesy and naff.

On a secondary level, and one which is more objective, what The Book of Fire represents is very much a commercial take on the genre; theatre and drama don’t necessarily equate to an absence of depth, but this is good-time party goth, and any emotional sincerity is polished away under a slick veneer of pomp and overblown production. In this way, it’s as credible as examples of either folk or goth as Ed Sheeran’s ‘Galway Girl’ or Doctor and the Medics’ rendition of ‘Spirit in the Sky’. It displays all the trappings, but none of the authenticity. For all the theatre, there’s a woeful absence of substance, the brooding is third-rate thespianism rather than the anguish of tortured souls.

Elsewhere, ‘The Last Crusade’ is riven with choral bombast, but is little more than an obvious ‘This Corrosion’ rip-off, that once again leans heavily on Germanic folk tropes, and ‘The Gods of Love’ similarly brings together Floodland-era Sisters with Rammstein. I’m sure plenty will view this as a good thing, but they’d be wrong, so wrong. ‘What have we done?’ they ask repeatedly on the final and suitably epic finale track ‘What have We Done’, and it’s a fair question: whatever it is, it’s not good.

In fairness, it’s not quite ‘Rocky Horror’ bad on the spectrum of play-goth, but it’s not far off, and while it’s sonically ambitious, creatively, it’s depressingly derivative.

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MONO-INC.-The-Book-Of-Fire-1500x1500px

Christopher Nosnibor

8th November 2019

The bio bit tells me that ‘NAUT is a 5 piece dark rock band from Bristol, whose shared love of classic rock and metal, alongside reverence for the post-punk pioneers of the late 70s and 80s makes itself known from the start. Their songs switch from raw tribal tom beats to uplifting anthemic synth in a moment, but always stay danceable and perhaps most dangerously, catchy’.

Fan comments on their bandcamp shed a little more light on their sound, observing the band’s ‘unique ability to recreate the original sound and feeling of 80’s uk goth rock. Sisters, Red Lorry Yellow Lorry, the Rose of Avalanche, early Nephilim…’ and their offering ‘the perfect mix of Post Punk with old school Goth Rock… Killing Joke meet The Wake & Love Like Blood.’

It’s no secret that I’m a rabid Sisters / Lorries / Nephs / KJ fan, but it’s equally documented that I consider most of the bands who’ve taken them as influences are generic and derivative, and that includes the mid-late 80s acts like Rose of Avalanche who traded in diluted forms of blueprint-based accessible alternative rock. This means I’ve no idea who The Wake or Love Like Blood are, but judging by the referential monikers, I probably don’t need to.

The EP’s title track kicks things off with a classically ‘gothy’ rhythm that’s dominated by a quickfire snare attack and defined by spindly guitars, trebly and awash with chorus. And talking of Chorus, it does boast a strong, hooky chorus, and there’s real energy behind it, which pushes it over the line from template-based to credible and sufficiently possessed of a band identity while still very much drawing well-studied inspiration from their precursors.

‘Spirit Horses’ steps down both the tempo and the individuality, and there’s a chord progression that’s lifted straight off The Sisters’ ‘Marian’, but the third and final track, which slows the pace further to a sluggish mid-tempo resembles ‘Blasting Off’ era Lorries, and works remarkably well with a looser feel but a grainy greyness that brings a certain weight.

On the strength of this outing, Naut are at their best when they go deeper and darker, and if they continue to evolve their songwriting in the directions demonstrated here, there’s a good chance they’ll break out beyond the trad-goth scene and into wider alternative circles.

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NAUT

Christopher Nosnibor

It’s fitting that noisy-post-punk London duo Modern Technology should have recorded a live session at the Shacklewell Arms under the banner of Exploding Head: everything about the band to date has been explosive, from the sonic blitzkrieg of the eponymous debut EP to their growing fanbase, due to a committed live schedule which has seen them deliver some killer performances. The fact they’re thoroughly decent guys whose sociopolitical message extends beyond the lyrics and into the active donations of proceeds and profits to charitable causes hopefully counts for something, too: they’re not Bono about it: they just fucking get on and do it. and so the proceeds from this release are going to Crisis at Christmas ‘to help support the homeless during this critical time of year and to help fund and support Crisis’ vital year-round work with homelessness’.

Hearing the nihilistic fury of the music, it’s clear that this philanthropy is born almost entirely of frustration and despair at social injustice and inequality, and this six-tracker captures the live experience very well indeed, with four tracks culled from the aforementioned EP along with a brace of new cuts in the shape of ‘All is Forgiven’ and ‘Bitter End’.

It packs full-throttle viscerality from beginning to end, and two things stand out on this release: 1) the colossal noise they churn out with just bass and drums 2) how faithful to the studio renditions the EP songs are.

2) is a testament to how tight and well-rehearsed they are, with metronomic grooves holding everything together 1) is about ore than just pedals. Modern Technology do volume and appreciate that effects and all that stuff only fill so much space. Ultimately, there is no substitute for hard volume. There is a 3), as well. What’s unique about Modern Technology’s sound is that for all the thunderous density, they create a vast amount of space, and the way the air hangs between the notes, between the punishing snare hits, creates a stark, yet simultaneously oppressive atmosphere.

‘I ain’t quick, I ain’t cheap’ Chris Clarke barks on ‘Queue Jumper’, against a backdrop of tumultuous drums and a grating bass chord that sustains into infinity. It’s a simple but effective refrain that’s instantly memorable. It’s all in the delivery, of course.

The new material is monumentally dense and abrasive, with the downtuned, sinewy riffage of ‘All is Forgiven’ reminiscent of Melvins, while ‘Bitter End’ is sparse, slow and bleak and throws in a vaguely psychedelic twist in the verses, crashing into a grinding low-tempo riff for the chorus, such as it is.

One of my bands of 2019, and with dates booked for 2019 already (I may have something (ruined) of a vested interest in the February dates), Modern Technology are a band on the up because they’re a band for our times.

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cover

2nd December 2019

On its release in 2008, the second album by New Zealanders Die! Die! Die! received critical acclaim from the NME and The Guardian here in the UK. But the artwork wasn’t quite as intended, and, well, there’s always room for improvement with a remastering in hindsight. This version comes fully remastered courtesy of original engineer and co-producer Kevin McMahon (Swans, Fat White Family) and with the artwork restored to its full glory, and emerging just a few months after their new EP, it’s seems like Die! Die! Die! are at not so much at a crossroads, but a point of reappraisal while entering a renaissance period.

I reckon I have fair ears and am capable of a fairly obsessive attention to detail when it comes to it – although it’s easier to be obsessive when your listening is limited to a narrow range of bands and albums. Nowadays, I rarely get to listen to albums more than a couple of times, and having – shamefully – not heard the original release, I’m not in a position to explore the details that differentiate this from the original. But I do have ears, and am in a position to consider how a 12-year-old album stands up now.

As a set, in terms of production and mix, Promises Promises pitches the rhythm section very much to the fore, which apparently was ‘partly due to the influence of new bassist Lachlan Anderson, but also because a broken hand limited Wilson’s guitar-playing’ if Wikipedia is accurate. What this achieves is a real solidity of sound, and imbues the songs with a particular sturdiness.

The album is very much geared to uptempo, high octane punky, shouty thrashabouts that are dispensed in two or three frenetic minutes, but elsewhere, there are a number of more considered songs that show – beneath the fuzz and crashing cymbals – a degree of craft in the compositions, despite the fundamentally primitive arrangements.

‘Britomart Sunset’ nicks the bassline to Joy Division’s ‘Isolation’ and whacks up the tempo and steers it back into the driving dark punk territory of JD’s Warsaw years, and it’s killer. There is absolutely nothing more exhalating that a thumping bass groove placed front and centre. ‘Whitehorses’ is a standout with its mechanised, motoric drumming which thumps away as the rest of the band push away at a couple of chords with remarkable patience. The again, the title track lays sinewy guitars interweaving over a driving bass and powerhouse percussion, a collision of frenzied punk and icy new wave paranoia to create a perfect tension.

Promises Promises – reissued, remastered, whatever – is simply a corking album, and if its being remastered and reissued gives it a new lease of life, then it’s all to the good.

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DDD