Posts Tagged ‘Post-Punk’

Cruel Nature Records – 24th June 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

Hot on the heels of second album Can’t Be Arsed, Cruel Nature have repackaged the eponymous debut from the Manchester makers of ‘kitchen sink punk for the 21st century with a whole side’s worth of remixes from both previous releases – including two pretty radical reworkings of snarling single cut ‘Brain Driver’.

First, to revisit the debut – it’s a primitive, noisy document of disaffection. Adam Stone’s drawling, sneering vocal style is vintage punk, less about holding a tune as conveying attitude, and from the off they set the tone with the seven-minute ‘Food Chain’. A thick, dirty bass grinds out just a couple of notes over a plodding drum while Stone vomits vitriol. If ever a track encapsulated the monotonous drudgery of existing in Boris Johnson’s Britain, this is it. Most of the songs churn away for around seven minutes, but if you’re wondering just how far a band can push low, slow, trudging bass repeating the same simple motif atop a plodding beat, then the answer lies in ‘Half Priced Chickens’ – and the answer is just shy of fourteen minutes. This quarter-hour slog is a gloomy, dark, monotonous trudge: the kick drum sounds like a wet lump of wood, and the sneering shoutiness is replaced by a blank monotone spoken word, and in combination, they create an oppressive sonic fug. The scenes depicted are mundane. Words drift in and out – mobility scooters, office, boyfriend, cough mixture, cheese pasty – and these objects assume bleak resonance as you ask yourself, ‘is this it? Is this life?’ and the answer is there, slumped, devoid of energy, eyelids half closed: yes, this is life. And this is as good as it gets. And it’s fucking endless. Until it ends, in a swampy morass of slow decayed distortion and noise.

The final track, ‘Bunker’ locks into an uptempo groove, but while the drums rattle and bounce away, the mood remains tense, equal parts The Fall and Uniform. As the track progresses, so the anguish builds, and the effect is cumulative Stone hollers roughly about world war as feedback wails and the bass and drums just batter on, and on. Same old, same old…

There’s nothing pretty about Pound Land – the band or the album – and this is a good thing: they deal with the gritty reality of living in shit times. Pound Land articulates the languorous torpor of demotivation, of waking daily to feel the aching anguish of being beaten by life, every minute of every day. Sonically, it’s a long, long way from early Swans, but the density and oppression are very much shared aspects.

By the end of the five tracks, you’re absolutely harrowed and drained.

The remixes are a nice addition, though. The Ruffians on the Train Remix of ‘Brain Driver’ ventures into swampy, almost avant-jazz / trip-hop territory, before kicking into gnarly space-rock swirl. The drums are crisp but overloading, while the bass is pure punishment. Where remixes for most other bands are either dancier or more ambient or whatever, this set – with three of the six from R.O.D., these are primarily exercises in accentuating the gnarliness of the originals, with everything simply sounding even heavier, more crushing.

Pound Land is the real soundtrack to the now. They may have to change their name to Tenner Land before the year’s out the way things are going, so you’d be wise to bag this while you can, and hunker down before things get really tough…

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Electronic project NADJIA celebrates 25 years of releasing music with their new single ‘Spy vs Spy’, a biographical song commemorating the life of frontman and founder M’s father, who passed from COVID-19 in December of 2020. The track is a continuation of NADJIA’s Bat-O-Matic, their full-length album being released one song at a time. ‘Spy vs Spy’ is the second single.

While M handles lead vocals, percussion, samples and synths, he is joined by Angela Denk on the track. Denk, who sings and plays guitar for Chicago rock project Pretty Cliques, lends her vocals on the hook. NADJIA cofounder Paul Jansen sings backup and provides a symphonic touch with the violin, and Johnny McAndrew—of Baton Rouge’s goth rock group Kali Yuga—plays guitar.

“I wanted to capture the truly cinematic scope of remembrance on this track. There’s no way to encapsulate a whole life inside one song, but I wanted to give the feel of that sweeping span of time if possible, and I feel like Paul’s strings really brought this there,” said M.

The single comes out as both audio and video. The video, a black and white visual nod to mid 20th century espionage films, was directed by New Orleans visual artist Opus Mercury.

Watch the video here:

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June 2022 – Ten Foot Records

Christopher Nosnibor

Most bands start out splurging output and slow down over the course of their career. Percy aren’t most bands, and over the last decade have accelerated their output. And also, contrary to the common trajectory, instead of mellowing, they’ve got angrier, gutsier, ragier. Monorail really does find them at the top of their game, bursting with zeal and brimming with vitriol, kicking arse like never before.

‘Chunks’, premiered at their recent York show supporting Percy slams in hard and angular, landing between Grotesque era Fall and Truman’s Water. Jagged, jarring, it’s a full-throttle it’s an instant headache. ‘We’re all just chunks in gravy’, Colin Howard snarls and sneers, and it’s punchy – a very different kind of throbbing gristle. There’s no let up as they pile into the scorching ‘I.C.U.’ and it’s immediately clear that Percy have hit a new level.

They haven’t changed fundamentally: they’ve always been sociopolitical, and they’ve always cranked out driving riffs with a choppy, discordant edge, accentuated by Howard’s Mark E Smith influenced slightly nasal sprechgesang, and there’s a clear continuity that’s run from their self-released 2013 debut album, A Selection of Salted Snacks, through their debut album proper, Sleepers Wake on the esteemed Mook label and 2020’s Seaside Donkeys, which featured the Brexit demolition anthem, ‘Will of the People’.

Monorial isn’t so much about evolution or progression as it is about hitting that sweet spot – which really isn’t so sweet. In other words, their two years out from gigging during a tumultuous time socially and politically has seen them really hone their frustrations into their most attacking material yet. Same style, same form, just harder, faster, more pissed off. It’s not only their best work to date, but it’s absolutely essential listening, especially for those who still reminisce about John Peel and the golden age of indie, because these guys are everything you could want and Monorail has future cult classic written all over it.

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Percy-2

Christopher Nosnibor

This is probably – no, certainly – one of the oddest events I’ve attended in a while. I came because I wanted to see La Costa Rasa, who I caught a couple or so times in their 90s heyday supporting The Sisters of Mercy at Birmingham NEC and at the Off the Streets Shelter benefit at the Town & Country where The Utah Saints headlined, with a guest vocal appearance from Andrew Eldritch, in ‘93, and because their 1994 album, Autopilot, released via Merciful Release has been an enduring favourite of mine. I had been a shade perturbed by the 80s ‘theme’ element mentioned in the event description, but figured my everyday clothes should pass.

On arrival, I ordered a pint of Lagunitas IPA, got something completely different from what I’d asked for – some lager or other – then headed upstairs – and then the weirdness hit as I commandeered as table just inside the door.

Everyone here seems to know each other, not in a club or college reunion way, but more like a birthday party for someone’s granddad, with three distinct generations, none of whose age brackets correspond with my own. The middle generation all look to be around 50-odd and more, which would probably fit with the clientele of the legendary 80s club venues which provide the night’s theme. Then there are some really decrepit old buggers who look like their parents, and then a bunch of women in their early 20s. No-one looks remotely goth. It’s mostly middle-aged and older men with beer guts in check shirts. Apart from me, sitting here in black jeans, jacket, shades and Stetson. It’s the first time I’ve felt so completely out of place at any gig, let alone a supposedly goth gig. This isn’t a matter of nostalgia not being what it used to be, this is a bewildering experience where I truly have no idea. I feel lost, confused, and with maybe twenty people here early doors, I feel exposed, conspicuous, like I’ve gatecrashed someone’s private do, like… like… Like I’m a miscast extra in a bar scene.

Here’s the convoluted but relevant bit. The evening it pitched as a celebration of legendary Leeds clubs, Le Phonographique, et al, with DJ sets capturing the spirit, as well as live sets from Power to Dream and La Costa Rasa.

La Costa Rasa seem an odd choice for an 80s night, being an overtly 90s band – grunge with a drum machine, as I tend to describe them. Of course, there’s the Merciful Release connection, and Mills is, or was, with legendary F Club and Le Phonographique DJ Claire Shearsby (who is significant in Sister circles as Andrew Eldritch’s ex, and who isn’t one of tonight’s DJs, who spin a mix of 80s tune and more recent stuff like Garbage from their laptops at the back of the room). And despite having released a run of three of singles in the mid-80s, this is Power to Dream’s live debut.

La Costa Rasa’s bassist Jim Fields is wearing a Bivouac t-shirt. It seems fitting that not only has it been almost thirty years since I last saw La Costa Rasa, and about the same since I saw a Bivouac T, and within seconds of their starting La Costa Rasa transport us back to back then with their strolling basslines, wall-of-sound guitars, and thumping sequenced drums.

No-one claps. They all just carry on chatting. A huge Jabba of a grandma sits on a sofa by the stage and bangs her stick on the floor in time – or not- for a bit and waves to the people sitting on the window bench. Eventually, three or four songs in, people seem to catch on that there is a band on.

Only two of the songs in tonight’s set are from Autopilot, the first of these being ‘Like a Machine’ which lands early. Slower than the album version, it’s followed by a raging ‘Burning Idols’.

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La Costa Rasa

Mills switches to violin for new song ‘White Rose’, a raging industrial stomper, and some guy looking like uncle fester sits on the sofa and starts clapping like a seal for the second half of the set, while mopping his bald head frequently with a handkerchief and waving to some of the oldies on the other side of the room. The closer is a squalling epic where Mills again switches to violin – played through his guitar FX units to build a screaming climactic wall of noise. It’s blistering, and elating to see – and hear – that after all this time, they’ve not lost the fire.

Oops. Sweaty Fester is Terry Macleay, the singer with Power to Dream. He plonks his red felt hat on and steps into character. Well, he tried, but he can’t stop grinning and gurning. He’s one of those flamboyant goths. Grating dense, dark ambience heralds the start of the set. They open with a cover of Alex Harvey’s ‘Faith Healer’, released as their second single back in the day. It’s surprisingly soulful, more Depeche Mode than Foetus.

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Power to Dream

1986 single  ‘Frantic’ is second, and lays down some taut grooves, although the style is somewhere in the region of Culture Club with more funk. ‘Fountain of Youth’ lands ironically. With just trebly guitar and drum machine, they sound really thin, and there’s just way too much vocal. But you can barely hear any of it over the chat. No mean feat when there are about 20 people in the room in total, all at the back. Fuck’s sake, they should turn their hearing aids up, or fuck off.

Guitarist Alex Green plays a solo rendition of Steve Harley’s ‘Sebastian’ while Macleay takes a seat. It’s barely audible above the babble. Terry keeps looking around, irritated, but to no avail, and I’ve seen enough. It’s time to split.

BERRIES have unleashed a third cut from their debut album ‘How We Function’ (out 8 July 2022).

Rhythmic and rambunctious in equal measure, meticulous new track “Haze” seesaws between infectious and antsy in a beat — and evokes how unexpected the onset of intrusive thoughts and mental hurdles can be.

Just as biting as earlier tracks “We Are Machines” and “Wall of Noise”, albeit with a more measured edge, the new track showcases the band’s tight musicianship and ability to find optimism — and craft an arresting melody — in a tough time.

Of the new release, Berries explain: “”Haze” represents the barriers we often put up and how scary but also uplifting it can be when they break down. The “Haze” descends when least expected and is hard to fight through, but it’s important to recognise the strength it takes to open up and fight past the intrusive thoughts and be the best version of yourself.”

Listen here:

BERRIES – UK DATES

July

8 – 2000Trees Festival

31 – Kendal Calling

September

17th – Lost Evenings V Festival in Berlin

October (Headline)

19 – Nottingham, Bodega

20 – Bristol, Mr Wolf’s

21 – Hull, The Adelphi

22 – Leeds, Santiago Bar

25 – Manchester, Gulliver’s

26 – London, Oslo

November

9 – Newcastle, Cluny *

10 – Glasgow, Drygate *

11 – Sheffield, Leadmill *

12 – Manchester, Gorilla *

23 – Oxford, O2 Academy 2 *

24 – Birmingham, O2 Academy 2 *

25 – Bournemouth, Old Fire Station *

26 – London, Islington Assembly Hall *

Berries

Credit: Caetano Candal Sato

3rd June 2022

James Wells

Moses – described as a ‘genre-fluid proverbial rollercoaster’ – are impossible to place. Their latest single sound nothing like its predecessors. But they still have a distinctive sound, marked by energy and exuberance. That, and a knack for nagging, stomping basslines.

‘Mad’ has hints of Jane’s Addiction woven into its rambunctious (post) punk infusion, but then there’s a lot going on in this effervescent cocktail, from fast-moving organ work that calls to mind The Stranglers to anything post-millennial indie with some zip, and no, I can’t put my finger on specifics – because as the Jubilee procession on Sunday illustrated, everything post-nineties is simply a cultural blur and no-one knows where much of the last thirty years has gone or what defines any decade.

Moses aren’t set in any time or space – they somehow bring everything together and sound so very now. Dig ‘em? You’d be mad not to!

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M O S E S

1st June 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

It’s not often I’m on the fence, but here I am, the splynters stabbing into my arse. Opening bars of the new single form Wylderness, taken from second album Big Plans for a Blue World (out 1 June vi Succulent Records)  suggest dreamy, chyming shoegaze, but y’know, I’ve heard it a myllion tymes before doing this. And much as I lyke it, much as I dig Slowdive, Ride, Chapterhouse, and later exponents like The Early Years (criminally underrated and sadly failed to really make their mark), I have to admit that so much is wishy-washy, winsome and airy to the point of lacking in enough substance to really prove compelling.

Past the opening bars… layers and aspects reveal themselves. ‘Wet Look’ is still dreamy, wynsome, wystful, but there’s a brooding steeliness infused within it, with hints of Interpol and post-millennium post-punk, and it just nags hard enough to draw you in for a second listen. Something about that reverb, that interplay between the guitars, that spaciousness, that melancholy… sigh.

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Wy

14th February 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

Was I the only one to misread the band’s name on first seeing it? Probably, and I suspect it says more about me than anything. Ah well. Meanwhile, as much as the quality of the band’s new single speaks for itself, the list of collaborators who’ve contributed remixes to this EP says a fair bit about the Chicago ‘post-punk demolition duo’, notably Stabbing Westward and Dean Garcia of Curve / SPC ECO.

It’s the Stabbing Westward remix that’s up first, and it’s a stonking industrial rock chugger. It has a crisp, bright feel and is driven by an explosive snare, the likes of which you rarely hear now, but was popular in the 80s. Of the different versions, it’s arguably the most radical, yet at the same time is also the one with the broadest commercial appeal, in that it is more overtly industrial and metal-edged.

Structurally, the song’s interesting for the fact it consists of several sections rather than a simple verse / chorus, and as each section rolls around, it develops something of a cyclical feel (I usually tend to feel most songs are a linear listening experience. ‘Confusion’ and ‘confusion’ make for a nice rhyming pair, but it’s the bass that’s as strong a hook as any of the lyrics, and it’s the bass that dominates the band’s own single version, which adds ten seconds to the original, which appeared on the Dead Lights five tracker released last year. Said bass is a shuddering low-frequency grind, and the drum machine tips a nod to ‘Blue Monday’ then goes into overdrive, giving the song a real urgency.

The DG Impulse remix grinds harder and longer, stripping it back to the bare bones of that sonorous bass and a pounding beat, to oppressive effect, while the IScintilla Remix is a full-on rabid aggrotech workout, and pretty nightmarish with it.

In contrast, the Loveless Love take on the track plays to the songs 80s electropop roots, coming on like The Human League remixed by JG Thirlwell or Raymond Watts.

It makes for a varied listening experience, and one that marks a neat evolution from the band’s previous releases to date.

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8th June 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

I was an inch away from typing ‘we can all relate to this situation…’ when I realised that, no, that is absolutely not the case, and in fact, that’s fucking bollocks.

We have Conservative MPs saying that if we can’t make ends meet we need to work more hours of get better jobs, while other still suggesting that it’s possible to make meals for 30p per portion and the main reason people use foodbanks is because they can’t cook and can’t budget. It’s sickening and also maddening to see in such stark relief the chasm between the haves and the have-nots, and just how incapable those with money are of seeing things from the perspective of those without. When you’ve got a prime minister anguishing over the wage cost of a nanny and £840 a roll wallpaper (that’s a month’s wage for many people) when pensioners are spending the day on the bus because they can’t afford to heat their flat, it’s apparent just how fucked-up and how far the division has split in contemporary capitalist society.

So it’s a situation probably about half of us can relate to, when the band detail how their latest single is based on their own experience of “the doldrums of being skint, working your arse off to be able to afford a postage stamp-sized flat, only to have to shave in the kitchen sink because the landlord won’t fix the one in the bathroom. Take that and then put it in lockdown, it felt like the walls were closing in – very claustrophobic. You can’t escape to anywhere apart from your own daydreams. The song is an anthem of escapism in the modern era.”

Your head is really the only safe haven left, the only space where you can spread out, and where you can go without fear of being captured on CCTV surveillance – at least for now. It’s also the only place most of us can actually afford a holiday (I often wonder just how the fuck so many of my ten-year-old daughter’s classmates get to go off on skiing holidays and spend Easter in the Maldives when we have to scrape for three nights self-catering off-grid in Wales… like how do people have so much fucking money?).

What’s not fucking bollocks is this tune, which is absolutely top. Because ‘Holiday in my Head’ is about escapism, it’s not completely bleak – but it’s two and a half minutes of driving indie / post-punk, a collision of Asylums, early Editors, and Radio 4, with a strong serving of Gang of Four on the side. Hooks? Hell yeah, it’s got hooks to tear you apart, the choppy guitar duelling with the big, bold chorus that grabs you by the throat and blows your socks off – simultaneously.

Short, sharp and punchy, it’s an absolute blinder of a single, and quite an evolution from their previous outings. It may be more of an afternoon off and a quick pint in your local than a week on a beach in Greece, but then again, if the week in Greece involves being around other holidaymakers and temperature above 20C, I’d take what The Velvet Hands are offering every time.

The Velvet Hands - Artwork

28th April 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

While physical formats for music may not be especially popular these days, there really is no substitute for holding an article in in your hand. It’s not just about the artefact or the possession – although increasingly, I feel that actually ‘owning’ your music seems like a sound move as acts pull their music from popular platforms – particularly Spotify – and acts who no longer exist cease to maintain their websites and BandCamp profiles and their works simply disappears. Nothing is permanent, but when it comes to things which are virtual, their ephemerality is even more pronounced. This is a long way to coming around to saying that the CD for Abrasive Trees’ new single is magnificent as an item, and it’s very much a fitting way to present the musical contents, and with three tracks including a remix of ‘Moulding Heaven with Earth’ by Mark Beazley (Rothko), it’s a proper 12” / CD single release, the likes of which are sadly scarce these days.

I don’t just love it for the nostalgia: this feels like a proper, solid package in every way, and ‘Moulding Heaven with Earth’ is very much cut from the cloth of sparse, minimal shoegazey post-rock, which provides the backdrop to a stirring spoken word performance before spinning into a slow-burning extended instrumental work. It builds and it broods, the atmosphere growing denser and tender as the picked guitar lines unfurl and interweave across a slow, strolling bass. A reflection on life and death, earth and afterlife, it’s a compelling performance, and the words would stand alone either on a lyrics sheet or as a poem. From there, it’s a gradual, and subtle journey that culminates in a crescendo – that’s strong, yet restrained.

B-side / AA side ‘Kali Sends Flowers’ is moving: again, it’s understated, and yet so very different, spinning a blend of post punk – even hinting at the gothier end of the post-punk spectrum – and psychedelia that in places hints at Spear of Destiny in the way it’s sparse yet rousing. It’s one of those songs that simply isn’t long enough, and that demands for ‘repeat’ to be hit immediately to keep it going.

Mark Beazley’s remix of ‘Moulding Heaven with Earth’ accentuates the atmospherics, and while it retains the rhythm – and if anything it highlights the beef of the bass – and is generally quite respectful in its treatment, and somehow expands the vibe and introduces a more ambient feel, while at the same time shaving over a minute off the time of the original. It’s an interesting – and I mean that positively – reworking, and one that most definitely brings something fresh to the track, rounding off what’s as close to a perfect EP as you’ll hear all year.

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