Posts Tagged ‘Post-Punk’

Cleopatra Records – 29th December 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

Duran Duran without Simon le Bon? Yes, indeed. Their earliest iteration featured Stephen ‘Tintin’ Duffy. Andy Wickett, formerly of TV Eye subsequently stepped in on vocals, before Simon joined the band. And yes, however synonymous with slick veneer 80s style and pop music, Duran Duran very much always were a band. Real musicians playing real instruments. Le Bon’s vocal talents may have played second to his image, but his voice played an integral part in their overall sound.

This four-track demo, recorded in 1979, includes an early version of ‘Girls on Film’ and, ‘See Me Repeat Me’ would later be reworked to become arguably the band’s defining song, ‘Rio’.

These cuts showcase a more new wave orientated sound, accentuated by Wickett’s more ragged and less overtly melodic vocal style. While the busy funk-laced bass that would feature in their later work is clearly in evidence, especially on ‘See Me Repeat Me,’ the vibe is more reminiscent of Gang of Four. The middle-eight is a chaotic, jazz-noise workout, and there’s a sharp, dark edge to it. The production (the songs were recorded at UB40s home studio) is altogether more direct and more raw than that which came to define the band’s sound on signing to EMI, and it’s in keeping with the more attacking style of playing.

‘Reincarnation’ is positively gothy, with Wickett taking his cues from Bowie and sounding more like Peter Murphy as he snakes his way around some chilly synths and urgent tribal percussion.

There’s a real urgency to ‘Girls on Film,’ the chorus of which is immediately recognisable when it emerges from the furious flurry of nagging clean guitars and driving funk-infused bass. But the verses aren’t only different musically and lyrically, but convey a very different perspective, with Wickett, who co-wrote the song, explaining that “the lyrics were actually inspired by the lives of the stars of old black and white movies…. It is important for people to understand the true origins of the song ‘Girls on Film’ and to hear the edgy sound that Duran Duran had in the beginning,” he says. “This song was inspired by the dark side of the glitz and glamour, where these perfect idols suffered tragedy and addiction. The film Sunset Boulevard was also a big influence with its tale of a fading movie star.” Shiny pop, it is not.

The last track, ‘Working the Steel’, is again percussion-heavy, with hints of Adam and the Ants, and the vocal hook is a howl. Duran Duran would never sound this angry or intense again, and of course, had they continued in this vein, they’d have likely achieved minor cult status with a couple of EPs and that would have been that.

As 80s icons, however polished and on-trend, however deeply they seemed to revel in surface, Duran Duran have, throughout their career, had darker currents and certain depths beneath the gloss. This – maybe – or, one would like to think – has played a significant part in their enduring popularity. That, and their capacity for great pop songs, of course. This release is very much a sketching out of ideas, rough, incomplete, unevolved. But it captures an energy, and, with the elements which would subsequently become prominent in their sound in place, does sound like the beginning of something: rather than simply a piece of juvenilia, it’s a relevant and insight-giving piece of history.

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Unknown Pleasures Records – 14th February 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

Given the band’s name and that of the label they’re signed to, it’s only fitting that they’re exponents of bleak synth-driven post-punk. Sure enough, as the Italian five-piece’s biography notes, Stefano Bellerba (vocals, guitar), Leonardo Mori (synth), Matteo Luciani (bass), Saverio Paiella (guitar), and Daniele Cruccolini (drums) formed in 2010, and united over their love of Joy Division, The Cure, Nine Inch Nails, and Depeche Mode. The bio adds that ‘their music is also strongly influenced by Bauhaus, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Japan, The Damned, Interpol, Suicide, CSI, CCCP, and Massimo Volume.’

One of my favourite poems of all time is Philip Larkin’s ‘This be the Verse’, and the fact they put it to music for single release in the summer of 2017 -and made a decent job of it – got me on-side ahead of the new album.

The album in question, Santa Sangre is a lot more guitar-orientated and edgier: while the synths are still very much in the mix, the sound is dominated by brittle, metallic-edged guitars drenched in reverb and flanged hard. It’s the sound of 1982-1985. I’d be hesitant to use the term ‘gothic’ or any variant, despite the snaking atmospherics of tracks like ‘Rejoice’, with its strolling bassline and vocals all but lost in an ocean of echo, which allude to the likes of The Danse Society and acts of similar vintage.

I make no apologies for being an old goth (although I’m not nearly old enough to be a proper old goth, having been born in 1975 and only discovered alternative music in any form in 1986/7). Similarly, I make no apologies for not being a purist, or for my knowledge of second-wave and beyond bands being limited. There’s so much else out there in the musical sphere. Yet, at the tail end of the year, feeling weary and wintery and withdrawn, I find myself here – as I did late last year, and the year before – with a crop of albums which betray gothier leanings which leap out as among the strongest and most compelling releases I’ve received all year.

Lead single, ‘Circle’ was a blast of buzzing bass and squalling guitars, with elements of The Jesus and Mary Chain and A Place to Bury Strangers, pitched with chilly synths and vocals with a grippingly desperate edge. It’s placed up front in the track listing, and serves the purpose of demanding the attention with its urgency and serrated edges.

Snaking basslines, choppy guitars and tribal drumming abound, but there’s a pop edge to a number of the songs: ‘Blown Away’ melds fractal guitars to an insistent flanged bassline that’s as pure Cure as the synths which eddy at a respectful distance in the background. There’s a certain bounce – and even catchiness – to the richly-layered shoegaze-goth of ‘For Every Flaw’.

When they do lugubrious, it’s as sparse and bleak as anything on Faith, and when they do slow-build, they really go for delayed gratification, forging a dense atmosphere along the way.

Santa Sangre is taut, tense and crackles with dark energy.

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Japan Suicide - Santa Sangre (cover)

Japan Suicide are a dynamic post-punk alternative rock band from Italy. ‘Circle’ is the first single from their forthcoming album Santa Sangre, due in February. We’re digging very much indeed.

Enjoy!

Christopher Nosnibor

A few weeks ago, before the start of a spoken word night, another performer approached me and opened with the line ‘these people hate you.’ She went on to explain the specifics of why they hate me, citing a piece that was – but wasn’t – about suicide that I performed in August, and how the ferocity of my sets in general were not appreciated at this particular night. I was taken aback, shaken, and rather wounded. My confidence was rattled. It took me some time and reflection to realise that not only did I not care, but was actually pleased – elated, even – that people could react so strongly to my work. After all, it’s not hate speech or anything nearly so insidious, and ultimately, if you’re pleasing all of the people all of the time, you’re not making art, but entertainment.

The reason this is relevant is because Arrows of Love make art. They refer to themselves as art-rock, but there’s nothing pretentious about them or their music. In person, they’re some of the friendliest, most approachable and generous people you could wish to meet. On stage, they’re as challenging a band as you’re likely to see – or half-see: tonight, they play in near-darkness to a depressingly small crowd, moving shadows cranking out a fearsome wall of angular noise that straddles grunge and goth-tinged post-punk. And they don’t care: if anything, they revel in the perversity and play as hard as ever.

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Arrows of Love

With more time than usual on account of the original co-headliners cancelling, they dig deep to deliver an attacking extended set which features the majority of the new album, Product. As well it should: while its predecessor, Everything’s Fucked was a snarling, sprawling squall of an album, Product is more focused, denser, more intense, and even more pissed off. The first song of the set is also the album’s opener and single cut ‘Signal,’ a sinewy slice of tension that explodes in every direction.

‘Desire’ is deep, dark, and brooding, and The Knife’ from the debut is deadlier than ever, with added guitar noise and played with a blistering ferocity at its searing climax. The grinding dirge that is ‘Restless Feeling’ invites comparisons to Swans circa 1983/84, and the jarring, grating sonic backdrop is rendered literal as Nuha swaps her bass for a plank of wood and coping saw, which she proceeds to gnaw away at while drums and bass shudder along at a glacial pace. It’s mighty, but hardly moshable.

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Arrows of Love

Nimah would later tell me that he was tired and – on account of having to drive after the show – completely sober, but he still fires into it with unbridled fury, spitting the lyrics like they’re his last words as he’s being dragged off to his execution, and the band crackle with dark energy.

It’s this unstinting, uncompromising, total bloody-mindedness that makes Arrows of Love the band that they are, and as they churn out a juddering, sneering rendition of ‘Predictable’. The only thing predictable about the band is the intensity of the performance (as if to illustrate the point, guitarist Alex, who stepped in when Lyndsey left, is now Alice, who’s perhaps less flamboyant than her predecessors, but still cranks out a mean overdriven six-sting racket), and this highlights the contrast between them and the evening’s support act, Naked Six. The York duo kick out a fiery and energetic set of heavy, balls-out, stomping blues rock with big nods to Led Zep, and having seen them a handful of times, they’re incredibly solid and consistently entertaining. But it’s not art.

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Naked Six

Art is dangerous, risky, uncomfortable. With the roaring attack of ‘Toad’ and the tempestuous closer ‘Beast’, Arrows border on the unlistenable, presented in a style that borders on unwatchable, with no concessions to commerciality. There is something about the lack of illumination which renders them even more inaccessible, more untouchable tonight. If Arrows of Love’s latest album really is the ‘soundtrack to the impending societal collapse’, then bring it the fuck on if it means more shows like this.

ITN Corporation – 3rd November 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

In the Nursery – or ITN as they’re sometimes referred – have been in existence for some thirty-five years but the Sheffield act centred around core duo of brothers Klive and Nigel Humberstone have existed well beneath the radar for the duration of their career. This hasn’t prevented their music being featured on Game of Thrones, Interview with a Vampire, The Aviator, and Beowulf, amongst others, and 1961, which follows over two dozen previous albums after some six years’ silence, showcases a set with a cinematic quality which is ideally suited to TV and movie soundtracks.

While the album’s title and overarching theme is significant on a number of levels, not least of all it being the year of the birth of the Humbertstone brothers – as well as landmark historical events including the construction of the Berlin Wall – its sound exists out of time, and if it does betray a link to any period, it’s the 1980s. Post punk collides with orchestral grandeur across the album’s nine tracks, which explore a broad array of atmospheres and spaces, with judiciously placed samples and – occasionally – vocals bringing variety and range.

A stocky bass enveloped in eddying synths, cool and spacious dominate the marching beat of ‘Until Before After’, the album’s opener, which hints at the kind of brooding, atmospheric post-rock of early iLiKETRiANS. If the comparison seems dissonant in terms of time-frame, it’s testament to ITN’s ever-shifting sonic form and their endless capacity for evolution.

If the idea of a choir of soaring operatic vocals reminiscent of Karl Orff’s ‘O Fortuna’ atop a sweep of dramatic strings by what sounds like a full orchestra sounds ostentatious, the execution of ‘Torschlusspanik’ elevates is miles above pretention to true art.

Rippling pianos, soaring, graceful strings, chiming guitars and murky percussion all form the fabric of an intriguing album: ‘Grand Corridor’ conjures a claustrophobic intensity worthy of Joy Division, while the acoustic guitar led ‘Pacify’ has echoes of Bauhaus on Burning from the Inside and ‘Solaris’, with its pounding percussion and a bassline that’s pure Peter Hook, is a major standout.

There’s a lot going on, and it’s all good: 1961 is a spectacularly articulate album that never ceases to reveal new layers, new corners, new depths.

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1961

I’m Not From London Records

Christopher Nosnibor

It’s a fucking miracle Arrows of Love are still here, let alone that they’ve managed to nail a second album. But then, to watch them play live, it often seems like a fucking miracle that they can make it to the end of a set. Everything about Arrows of Love, from day one, had had an air of precarity, teetering on the brink of implosion. Every song carries that same sense of danger. It’s their wild volatility that sets them as one of the most exciting bands of the last decade, but ultimately, it’s the songs that matter. They’ve always had songs: sprawling, messy, noisy, fucked up and perversely challenging songs, underpinned with some lean grooves.

Product has been a long time in coming and the line-up on this, their second album, is quite different from the one which recorded their debut. In the period between the delivery of aforementioned debut the nihilism-in-a-nutshell noisefest that was Everything’s Fucked (May 2014) Arrows of Love have evolved, and perhaps some of it’s a natural progression and some of its… not so much an increasing maturity as a refocusing of energy, and some if it’s a result of the personnel changes. One obvious shift is the absence of shared vocals: Lyndsey Critchley’s departure has certainly altered the dynamic of the band in that sense (bassist Nuha Ruby Ra’s vocal contributions are a lot less prominent, and she only leads on one track, the surprisingly sultry and almost tender ‘Come With Me’), and Product is a lot less direct and attacking than its overtly grunge-orientated predecessor.

That doesn’t mean that Product is any less confrontational or antagonistic, and the nihilism which drove Everything’s Fucked is apparent in the subtitle ‘Your Soundtrack To The Impending Societal Collapse.’ Moreover, the use of the definite article shows an absolute confidence in what lies ahead – Arrows of Love are certain we’re past the tipping point and freewheeling toward the end of the world as we know it. Product is certainly a darker, more claustrophobic affair than its predecessor, and finds Arrows exploring wider, deeper territory in the process.

‘Signal’ is dark, dense, disturbing, and desperate, and is heavily hung with a curtain of goth which drapes over the violent (post)punk energy. ‘Did you ever see this coming?’ Nemah challenges through a fuzz of distortion ‘Let the lunatics run the asylum,’ he spits, and we know that this isn’t the future he’s predicting, but a plain observation on the present. The tension builds into a squalling racket and the vocals reach fever pitch as the track reaches its explosive climax.

It feels like an eternity since ‘Predictable’ first aired on-line – and while the band articulate their ennui at the daily shit that is life in the 21st century, as a musical work it’s anything but predictable. The vocals transition from drawling boredom in the verse to screaming mania in the chorus, while the guitars lurch and swerve every which way.

Marking a change of pace and direction, ‘Desire’ is dark, brooding, stripped back, introspective. At near the six-minute mark, it’s a seething mess of emotions: Arrows of Love are a band who’ve always emanated a gritty sexuality, but this channels it in a very different way, and it’s not comfortable or snuggly.

‘Tidal’ is perhaps the most overtly ‘art-rock’ song on the album, as well as being the most classically ‘grunge’ composition, with its quiet / loud verse / chorus juxtaposition. At the same time it encapsulates the dual character of Product, and album that swings – quite effortlessly, and thus with maximum impact – between classic post-punk trappings and raging noise, with exploratory experimentalism informing the process.

‘Beast’, which premiered some months ago now, is a swampy, squalid mess of seething abrasion a throbbing mess of bass that sonically calls to mid Melvins in places but ultimately stands as the soundtrack to a riot. The shrieking ‘Toad’ is equally uncompromising, and ‘The Parts That Make the (W)hole’ comes on like a hybrid of The Fall, Shellac and The Cooper Temple Clause. ‘Restless Feeling’ captures the dark, dirgy doom of Swans circa 1984 and makes for one hell of a low ending to the album: if anything, it’s the sound of society after the collapse as its low-end swell builds to an all-consuming tsunami of noise.

Product bridges the gap between Bauhaus and Nirvana, but ultimately, any comparisons are but signposts to an album which is unique in its standing. Product avoids pretence and overblown portentousness: it doesn’t make lofty statement about the future, but instead stands as a painfully intense document of the present. If any album of the last five years articulates the dizzying, anxietised state of contemporary life, it’s Product.

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AOL - Product

Warren Records

Christopher Nosnibor

Lumer follow up ‘Futile’ (which we bloody loved, and which was picked up by BBC Introducing and a host of other tastemakers even more influential than Aural Aggro) with another serrated slice of dark, angular post-punk. ‘Gruel’ is propelled by a bulbous bassline drenched in chorus and flange and distilling the essence of 1983 as represented by bands like The Danse Society and Xmal Deutschland, but with a violent, rabid edge, and the gothy overtones collide with the manic art-rock of Bauhaus circa In the Flat Field as well as heavy hints of 90s grunge with some explosive, driving guitar and crashing drums. 

The lead guitars are fractal, echo-heavy, sinewy. The frenzied, menacing, and borderline psychotic vocals are mashed by effects. There’s a claustrophobic tension that’s almost suffocating and an energy that positively crackles.

Lumar are shaping up to be one of the most exciting new bands around, and ‘Gruel’ has set the bar for future releases. Check the video here:

Lumer are on tour in the coming weeks, too. Dates are as follows:

Thursday 20th July – Fuel Café, Manchester
Friday 21st July – Rough Trade, Nottingham
Saturday 22nd July – Shacklewell Arms, London
Sunday 23rd July – Tramlines Festival, Sheffield

Saturday 5th August – BBC Introducing Stage, Humberside Street Sesh

Tuesday 8th August – Huw Stephens presents at The Social, London

Lumer - Gruel