Posts Tagged ‘Post Rock’

Christopher Nosnibor

“Are you a journalist?”

I nod. I don’t like talking when a band is playing. I don’t like other people talking when a band is playing, so why would I do it? It’s rude. And I’m there to watch the band. And so I don’t explain that no, I don’t consider myself to be a journalist or a music journalist, but a writer who happens to write about music often.

She’s already asked me what I’m doing and tried to get a look at my notes – a spidery scrawl barely legible to myself, to which I’d responded by wordlessly waving my A7 pad at her.

Some people just don’t get hints.

Following on from opening acts Steve Hadfield, who’ delivered a set of proficient but slightly static electronica and Dean McPhee, who performed some ethereal, atmospheric guitar instrumentals with the assistance of a bank of pedals that almost filled the venue’s small stage, worriedaboutsatan built their set nicely. One of their trademarks is intelligent structure, and while they’ve woven segments of their latest album’s more delicate parts into their set, they swiftly transitioned from drifting ambience through subtle rhythmic pulsations to propulsive beats, all the while conjuring rich layers of atmosphere. Gavin Miller’s guitar sounds even less guitar-like than ever, as he conjures rippling waves of sonic abstraction from six strings.

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Steve Hadfield

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Dean McPhee

It’s been a long and taxing day, and I’ve consumed more beer than intended, than is wise, I’m switching between tenses, and I’m trying to decipher the narrative of the film projected at the back of the stage. It’s intercut with various black-and-white footage that conveys nothing in itself, but is evocative in its bleakness, and there are flickering light segments, too: beyond this, they play in darkness, visible only in silhouette. Their stage show hasn’t changed dramatically in recent years, but it’s visually striking and effective, and places the immersive music to the fore.

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worriedaboutsatan

Then, halfway through, a couple of women appear at the front and get down to some mum-dancing: fair play, but they don’t need to be exchanging comments about it. I have my earplugs in and am in the zone, perhaps more even than usual in my state of inebriation. It’s the short, chubby one who starts nebbing at my pad – not that I’d have been any happier had t been her taller, slimmer friend.

“Who do you write for?” she shouts in my ear. It’s a shame earplugs only reduce volume and cut top-end rather than muting irritants.

“Me.” I want to tell her to fuck off, but even seven pints in, I’m mindful of manners.

This throws her but she seems to think it’s cool, and she asks yet more questions, and then she starts going on about how she’s worried about my eyesight, writing in the dark and all. I appreciate the concern, but my liver and blood pressure and anxiety are probably more of an issue than my eyes, and besides, I’m wearing tinted glasses at a gig, and if perfect strangers feel the need to worry about anything, I’d say climate change, Brexit, the stranglehold of capitalism, and the simple fact we’re all doomed are more worthy of that worry. Ok, so I don’t appreciate her concern one bit.

Eventually, she leaves me in peace and I’m able to watch the guys bring their set to a triumphant climax to an appreciative response from a home crowd. And deservedly so: the fact they don’t tour often, and when they do, they’re reliably solid, consistently engaging and dynamic in both set formation and performance, and perform with such incredible energy, makes an intimate show like this all the more special.

Burning Witches Records – 20th February 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

No, it’s not a reference to the movie. A revenant is ‘a person who has returned, especially supposedly from the dead.’ It’s a fitting title for the Yorkshire duo’s fourth full-length album: having disappeared, mutating into Ghosting Season and perusing solo projects following their initial flurry of EPs and debut album. It was six years before they would return with Even Temper in 2015, and since then, they’ve maintained a pretty strong work-rate. But, not so healthy as to feel like their output is a constant spate, and as such, a new album still feels like an event.

The write-up says that Revenant ‘marks a slight departure from their previous album, the critically acclaimed Blank Tape, by venturing into more synthesiser heavy pieces, based around dark, brooding atmospheres and switching from the bouncing arpeggios and slow, hypnotic rhythms of 10 minute album opener ‘Skylon’, to the jittering, cinematic rush of ‘Making Your Masks’’.

Revenant in fact begins with a brief introductory passage in the form of the soft-focus, minimal, and haunting ‘Hawk’ with muffled, distant voices echoing over almost subliminally-hushed droning notes, before the aforementioned ‘Skylon’, which inches its way in discreetly with subtle rippling rhythms and slowly building layers and textures. It’s a semi-ambient opus that carries heavy shades of Krautrock: the beats are s backed off as to be non-existent, but the pulsating notes coalesce to a steady, insistent rhythm.

Both the shoegazey, post-rock guitars and glitchy, flickering beats that characterise so much of their work, are largely left in the background and are sometimes virtually absent. Revenant is extremely subtle, low-key, and favours muted hues and abstract shades.

‘Strax’ is propelled by a flickering heartbeat, while the wispy contrails of ‘Making Your Masks’ are underpinned with a slow, deliberate beat and definite notes, and it marks the beginning of a closing sequence which sees a growing solidity of form, segueing into closer ‘Wasteland’, which is more overtly structured, beat-driven. The effect is like swirling mists solidifying, a phantom taking corporeal form.

Revenant is very much an album: a beginning-to-end experience. What it lacks in immediacy, it more than delivers in detail: the attention to subtle forms and also the overarching structure is impressive, but, one also feels somehow intuitive. There’s something special and unique about the interplay between Thomas Ragsdale and Gavin Miller, and it’s this which has always made worriedaboutsatan an act without peers, an act who effortlessly amalgamate styles and forms to create a space outside of time-frame and genre. Rarefied and refined, Revenant represents another step in the evolution of worriedaboutsatan, without denting the arc of their developmental trajectory.

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WAS - Revenant

Midira Records

Christopher Nosnibor

The press release informs us that Four Movements Of A Shade is the second solo album by Sarram, and that it ‘features four haunting tracks, that move through different genres like doom, drone, ambient and somehow minimal post-rock, played with just a guitar and some synths. The idea behind that album was to go to the studio without having tracks, just an idea and the mood he had in mind to play an improvisational session. The result was recorded in one day and turned out as a very dark and intense soundjourney. You can feel the temper of the recording session by listening to that record. Sarram recommends very loud volume.’

I can’t recall an album that mentions volume which actually recommends playing at a reduced level, although increased volume can definitely increase or even optimise the level of impact and appreciation, depending on context. Music played and recorded at high volume is definitely best heard at the volume intended: there’s a distinct relationship between volume and frequency, and certain frequencies and notational interplays only occur with the amps up. Many of the bands which stand out as purveyors of dangerous decibels – MBV, Sunn O))), Swans, A Place to Bury Strangers – simply wouldn’t work quiet: and I say that as having witnessed Swans’ show at Leeds Cockpit (no longer in existence) a few years ago. At regular gig volume, they sounded like a band rather than a transcendental sonic force capable of shattering atoms.

Listening to Four Movements of a Shade, the benefits of increased amplification soon becomes clear. It’s got some heft, and while these are countered by extended quieter passages which are often delicate and nuanced, and chime along nicely at ordinary levels, it’s when the crescendos climax that Sarram’s music really needs to be felt vibrationally as well as sonically.

The first movement begins quietly, rising to a bowel-trembling wall of low and mid-range dark ambient droning sonic cloud. Big, barbed, sonorous swells of sound scrape sharp edges, while other aspects of the resonant whirling blackness cast sinister shadows, long and deep: hints of the billowing drone of Sunn O))) build into tempestuous thunder and rumbling, grating storms that cast unsettling atmospherics into the psyche and resonate around the gut, but this is very much a composition of ebb and flow. Nevertheless, while the underlying menace remains undiminished, around the mid-point the darkness yields to dappled sunlight and soft strings, hinting and optimism and freedom. For a fleeting moment, one actually feels somehow lighter, despite the inescapable sense that it’s only the calm before the next storm – an instinctive drag that proves – of course – to be correct. It’s always a matter of when, rather than if….

The album’s second half – comprising the megalithic, fifteen-minute third movement and the final, eight-minute forth – focus on the atmospheric layers and the drifting clouds of drone on drone, occasionally straying into expansive post-rock territory.

If it feels like the grip of darkness is being released, the dying minutes swirl into a deep, dark vortex that leave the listener drained, shattered.

The success – and ultimate power – of Four Movements lies in Sarram’s attention to detail and the compositional awareness: it’s not just the way the crushing weight contrasts with the graceful levity, but the timing of the transitions. Everything is exquisitely poised and placed to yield the greatest effect – cerebral, emotional, physical – and that effect is most moving.

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Sarram – Four Movements of a Shade

Rocket Recordings – 22nd February 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

Evolution – that’s perhaps the only word when considering Teeth Of The Sea. Their career is defined by it.

Their BandCamp biography gives some sense of context: ‘Since their formation in 2006, London-based Teeth Of The Sea have metamorphosized into the most adventurous psychedelic rock outfit in the UK. Taking on board influences like Morricone, Eno, Delia Derbyshire, Goblin, and the Butthole Surfers, they’ve arrived at an incendiary sound that marries the aural enlightenment of an avant-garde sensibility with the reckless abandon of trashy rock & roll.’

It was with Your Mercury that I joined the trip, sold instantly by ‘The Ambassador’ with its overloading noise intro, spiralling into a slow-paced desert rock weird out.

Each release has been different again, and so there’s nothing of that ilk to be found on Wraith, an album that’s slanted more toward the electronic end of the spectrum, although the guitars, while far from prominent, are very much integral to the texture and depth. But this being Teeth of the Sea, it’s a bit of everything all at once, and this is apparent from the very first track: ‘I’d Rather, Jack’ brings a sonorous bass and droning synth together over a thumping industrial disco beat with crashing snare that stutters and glitches all over, before jazz trumpet and a space-rock guitar fire off on different trajectories. It’s rare for such a maelstrom of ideas and forms to whip together into anything other than a horrible mess, but Teeth of the Sea manage to blend the ingredients into something far greater than the sum of the parts, the atmosphere shifting from oppressive to uplifting.

There’s some of the old Ennio Morricone vibe about the spaghetti western sunset guitar twang of ‘Hiraeth’, before snaking drums and twisted allusions to Asian musical motifs was in and out of expansive layers of brass on ‘Burn of the Shieling’.

There are hints of Tangerine Dream and expansive synthy electronica about compositions like the buoyant, spacey, retro-futurist ‘VISITOR’ and ‘Gladiators Ready’, which combines the tweeky, bleepy Roland sound that echoes Josh Wink’s remixed ‘Higher State of Consciousness’ with some gritty guitar noise off in the background. Equally, the forms belong equally to post-rock, and whereas peers Vessels have gone all-out techno and ditched any vestiges of their origins, TOTS succeed in creating the most dazzling hybrid, discarding nothing and instead assimilating an ever-widening range of elements into their work. There’s so much detail in every bar, from blurred, muttering voices buried in the mix to synth incidentals and shifting reverbs that it’s impossible to take it all in, and oftentimes, Wraith is an overwhelming experience.

The centrepiece of ‘Her Wraith’ and brief counterpart ‘Wraiths in the Wall’ explore more minimalist approaches, the forms vague and vaporous, as echoing piano notes hang in the air over mournful trumpet. Pulling back on the prominent beats and instead allowing ponderous strolling basslines to wander to the fore, they’re as intangible as the album’s title suggests.

An album this eclectic and uncategorizable rarely feels cohesive, but Wraith feels more like a psychotic mind-journey than an album. And it’s nothing short of epic.

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Teeth of the Sea - Wraith

Pelagic Records – 25th January 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

I’m something of a latecomer to the Mono party, although given their credentials, I can’t fathom for the life of me why I haven’t explored a single one of the nine albums they’ve released over the last twenty years. Too much music, too little time, is probably the only real reason. And, witnessing them live by way of an introduction, my initial impression was only middling: on the night, I found more in Jo Quail’s surging waves of cello and the gritty abrasion of A Storm of Light. But context matters, and I had gone for the other two acts, and so now, with a large gin and a candle for light, I’m ready to approach their latest, the Steve Albini-recorded Nowhere Now Here with fresh ears.

‘After You Comes the Flood’ lifts the curtain on a proggy post-rock crescendo that offers up every shade of grand. It’s a crescendo that doesn’t only sustain, but swell to even more monumental proportions, with layer upon layer of sound and richer, dirtier distortion filling the background.

Quite a deal was made when Mono featured vocals for the first time not so long ago, and the performance of songs with singing seemed to be a major topic of conversation when I caught them in Leeds last year. They’re used sparingly here, and on the vaporous, shoegaze drift of ‘Breathe’, they serve more as another instrument than a focal point.

The string-soaked epic that is the title track again follows what is by now a well-established post-rock formula of long, gradual builds and rapid drops that pull back from the precipice, but it’s so magnificently executed that it would be churlish to criticise. And herein lies the album’s success: much of the material does fall under the broad umbrella of ‘standard’ instrumental post-rock (although acknowledging that Mono were one of the bands who contributed to the creation of a genre whose tag they reject is important), the compositions and their performance are masterclasses in shifting dynamics and delayed gratification. As they lead the listener through ponderous passages of awe-inspiring grace only to reveal towering cathedrals of sound just around the corner, even the predictable forms hold unexpected twists, like the sonic supernova that explodes at 5’39” on ‘Sorrow’.

Steve Albini is perhaps more commonly associated with ‘noisy’ music, but his reluctance to be credited as a producer is a reflection of his abilities as a technician, and the fact he strives to capture the essence of any given band’s sound rather than impose his own vision on their work. With Mono’s method involving playing live in the studio, the pairing makes complete sense, and it’s fair to say that Nowhere Now Here very much captures not only the sound, but the feel of a live show, with the shifting tension, emotional resonance of chiming guitars brooding in the dark, and the exhilarating rush of catharsis that effuses through a truly blistering crescendo. It’s those indefinable, unmanipulable details which make Nowhere Now Here.

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Mono - Nowhere

Mono have released a new the video for ‘Breathe’ taken from their new album, Nowhere Now Here, which is set for release on 25th January (Pelagic Records). Filmed and directed by French film director Julien Levy, this is the first ever Mono track to feature vocals from bassist Tamaki. You can watch the video for ‘Breathe’ here: