Posts Tagged ‘Power Electronics’

Christopher Nosnibor

This is a show I’d been looking forward to for weeks, even months. Arranged as a benefit gig for Mind and Shelter, Aural Aggro and personal faves Modern Technology have pulled together a truly killer lineup for their official hometown EP launch show.

So I arrived at The Victoria a full two hours before loading in and soundcheck was due to begin. Ordinarily I’d be positively crapping myself, a mess of perspiration and palpitations, but unusually, the only reason I’m sweating is because it’s bloody hot. But kicking back with my book in the beer garden outside The Victoria, I’m decidedly chilled.

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I get a message from Owen, Modern Tech’s drummer, asking if I want a pint since he’s arrived and getting a round in. Of course I do: I’m sweating them out faster than I can sink them, and I finally meet him and Chris in person after months of to-and-fro and co-producing a tabloid zine for tonight’s event, which I’ll soon see has tuned out brilliantly.

I walk in during Bruxa Maria’s soundcheck. The snare alone is punishing, and the full band’s run-through is devastating. This isn’t a venue that’s afraid to turn it up. It’s also a really nice space, too, something Owen and Chris comment on as we riff bout work, mental health, merch, and whatever else. The rest of us soundcheck. We’re all buzzing with anticipation. The sound is fucking incredible. And I realise I’m in a room with some of the nicest, most decent people you could find. No bullshit, no posing, just mutual respect and support.

Tim, aka Cementimental, and I take the floor – literally. We’re playing in front of the stage at 8:20. The plan really is as simple as ‘you do what you do, I’ll do what I do. I’ve got maybe 15-18 minutes of material including gaps, and I’ll drop the mic and walk off when I’m done.’ And we stick to the plan. It works better than I could have ever dreamed.

Nosnibor v Cementimental

Nosnibor vs Cementimental – photo by Phil Mackie

I’d been genuinely concerned about my ability to perform, wrestling with a cold that had affected my ability to speak for a full week. Friends had advised me not to perform, but I don’t ‘do’ defeat. I don’t know how long we played for, but I managed all six of the pieces I’d planned – ‘Thoughts for the Day’ / ‘News’ / ‘Ambition’ / ‘Punk’ / ‘Cheer Up… It Might Never Happen’ / ‘Alright’. Tim’s racket was punishing, and spanned broad sonic range, tapering down and going full nuclear with remarkable intuition. It was brutal, and it broke me. And we went down a storm: I was inundated with people – perfect strangers – enthusing about the set, how well it worked. They were all incredulous when I croaked, squeaked, or barked at them that we’d not even met properly, let alone rehearsed even once beforehand.

Lump Hammer – whose front man James I’ve has been sending me stuff from his label for review for a while, but who I’d also not met in person previously – are a different kind of punishing. With pounding drums, and guitar – churning, overloading with distortion – providing the music from the stage, James is in front of the stage with some kind of sacking over this head and eyes. He’s a tall guy with big presence and a lot of hair, and he howls impenetrable anguish into the churning aural abyss of dirgy downtuned grinds, some of which last an eternity. And yet for all the agony, the unremitting catharsis, there’s something immensely enjoyable in this kind of torture.

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Lump Hammer

Exploiting the limitations of a drum ‘n’ bass (no, not that kind) duo arrangement, Modern Technology focus heavily on the rhythmic and the low-end. It’s the perfect backdrop to Chris’ dramatic vocal style: there’s an arch-gothic hint to it, and it lends a sense of detachment and alienation to the heavyweight blasts of disaffection and desolation. Tonight’s show is the first of three of a mini-tour to officially launch their debut EP, and while on record they’re intense, live, they take it to another level. There’s nothing fancy, or even pretty about their performance. There’s no great showmanship, no empty chat between songs, just hard riffs played at hard volume.

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Modern Technology

Things are starting to catch up with be a bit during Bruxa Maria’s set: I get to witness it from the front row, next to the right-hand speaker stack, which is both an optimal spot and handy as my voice is so fucked I can barely speak. And Christ, they’re noisy and intense. The guitars are dirty and distorted, and they play fast and furious, a relentless frenzy of punk and no-wave that tears your ribs open and punches your intestines, laughing at the blood. Gill Dread may be diminutive but she’s one hell of a presence – just on the other side of deranged, her raw-throated scream goes right through you. If I was close to being finished before, I’m utterly spent by the time they bring their set to a roaring close.

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Bruxa Maria

People hang around afterwards to chat, and the merch stall does steady trade. I’m struck by the levels of enthusiasm and appreciation for all of the performers, and not only has the evening drawn a respectable turnout, but a bunch of really great people, the likes of whom collectively demonstrate that however bad sit gets, not everyone is bad shit.

We have more beer, and Owen finds a late-night wrap joint where I join him and the Lump Hammer guys for what I realise is my first proper meal of the day. It’s 3am when I finally hit the hay. Rock and fucking roll. Yeah!

16th June 2019

Of course I was always going to be sold on an album with a title like Southern Phlegm. I mean, what’s not to like? Kadaitcha’s third release straddles ambient, drone, industrial, and power electronics to deliver four tracks driven by throbbing pulsating grooves welded to repetitive, cyclical guitar lines, and rent with the gnarliest, nastiest treble-shredded distorted vocals.

The first, ‘Phagocide’ pumps away for over nine minutes. The guitar and synths form a messy sonic fusion, a thick mass of distortion while wibbling space-rock blasts of analogue send blurred neon arcs through the heavily-grained backdrop like shooting stars. ‘Sewerbound’ is appropriately titled as it plunges deeper into impenetrable murk. It’s dominated by clattering percussion, the edges distorted and decayed, while screeding noise howls a vortex of sonic agony. Frequencies collide to create an endless flux of aural incompatibility. Everything is distorted, dirty, there’s malice in every note. The lyrics are impossible to decipher from amidst the sonic blitzkrieg, but there’s nothing about the delivery that suggests there’s any comfort or kindness on offer here.

Slow, brooding ambience builds an unsettling atmosphere during the opening minutes of ‘Datura’, before the overloading guitar crashes in. It’s got the low-end distortion of Sunn O))), but grinds away at a repetitive motif with the bludgeoning brutality of Swans. It’s a full-on kick to the diaphragm.

Closing off, ‘Vulpine Sacrifice’ arrives almost by stealth, a snaking bassline strolls in slow and slow, a stop/start stammer gives it an almost hesitant feel. Circuits fizz, crackle and hiss all over the place, before the final two or three minutes find the conglomeration of elongated hums coalesce to create something approximating ‘music’, akin to a swelling organ drone. But you couldn’t exactly call this brief moment of musicality that draws out to the fade the light at the end of the tunnel: it’s low, slow, and ominous and seems, if anything, to point toward another darkened door which opens onto stairs leading to an eternal abyss.

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Kadaitcha – Southern Phlegm

MC/CD/DL – Nakama Records –NKM012 – 22nd September 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

I’m not entirely sure what a no-input mixer is, and I’m not sure I have the energy or motivation to find out. But it’s one of the ‘instruments’ Utku Tavil ‘plays’ on this album, in addition to snare drum and sampler.

What I do know is that Juxtaposition is a studio work of four Oslo based improvisers (and not the indie mongs who went by the same name who came round to my flat in Glasgow in 2000 to be photographed by my achingly hip flatmate) recorded in the spring of 2016. Various timbres of opposite extreme, as a result of each musicians’ different approach and background, coexist without hierarchical restrictions. Having that in mind during playing, the mixing process played a crucial role to deliver a concrete body of equalitarian sonic output. Without compromise, moments of joy and pain, screams, feedback and bird sounds are layered on top of each other.

This is not music that’s easy to listen to, let alone love. Scraping, distorted clanks and clatters echo atop growling, prowling, near subsonic bass intrusions and an elongated howl of sustain. And that’s just the first thirty seconds. An overloading mass of shuddering, screeding extranea rapidly builds to skull-crushing intensity, as shrieks of treble erupt like solar flares from amidst the tempestuous racket.

‘Pakistansk Mango’ is a fiendish mash of vocals – Natali Abrahamsen Garner does not sound of this world, and it’s hard to compute that the sounds emanating from her being are untreated, unprocessed – shudder and judder to a babble of stuttering repetition, against a backdrop of bubbling synths, ear-shredding bursts of pink and white noise, and nail-scraping feedback reminiscent of Total Sex era Whitehouse. Pleasant it is not. In fact, as distorted metallic bangs and hammers batter through a sonic riot of indeterminate origin, I’m feeling pretty fucking tense.

A yammering percussion that sounds like a cross between a locomotive and a nailgun provides the spine behind a whirling aural assault for ‘Revolver’.

Natali Abrahamsen Garner and Agnes Hvizdalek’s voices exist outside the realm of the human, and serve to add a disturbing, unheimlich aspect to the already hellish, grating sonic torture. Screams, shrieks howls and growls are all integral to the traumatic experience. ‘1000 Poeng’ features a host of primal screams over growling synth bass and brutal, waspish feedback. On ‘Enkle I’, a deranged bleating entwines with a surging skitter of overloading electronics and a swirling vortex of nastiness, and a mess of brown noise buzz blasts in around five minutes into the final track, ‘Trost’.

Juxtaposition is a cruel and punishing work, which exploits the full sonic spectrum and every texture, from grainy abrasion to the razor-sharp to inflict maximum pain.

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- dsn - JUXTAPOSITION - VIDEO titles

Sacred Bones – 20th January 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

‘Nasty’ is a word you’re likely to hear or read in relation to dark, gnarly, mangled black metal or crust punk, or perhaps some particularly unpopulist industrial effort, or some particularly savage techno. But on Wake In Fright Uniform offer something that’s a different kind of nasty. And yes, it really is nasty, brutal, savage, uncompromising and unfriendly. And while there are elements of metal, thrash, industrial and power electronics, Wake in Fright – described as ‘a harrowing exploration of self-medication, painted in the colors of war’ – throws down the challenge of a noise all of its own.

Preview cut ‘Tabloid’ doesn’t so much open the album as tear the lid off the thing in a squalling, brutal frenzy. The drums are pitched to a frenetic pace but largely buried under the snarling, churning mess of guitars, feedback and distortion. Michael Berdan sneers and hollers venomously like he’s in the throes of mania, and to describe it as raw would be an understatement. It’s still on the bone and walking around. A gnarly mash of early Head of David, Foetus, Godflesh and the most obscure hardcore punk demo tape you’ve ever heard, it’s anything but easy on the ear. It is, however, a real blast of adrenaline, not so much a smack around the mouth as a succession of steel-toed boot jabs to the ribs.

The earthmoving bass grind of ‘Habit’ is coupled with the dirtiest, dingiest guitar noise you’ll hear all year. ‘The Lost’ combines the harsh edge of late 80s Ministry with an old-school punk feel, New Order trampled under the boots of a thousand-strong army of brutalists. It’s a stroll in the park compared to the thousand-mile-an-hour rage explosion that follows in the shape of ‘The Light At the End (Cause)’, which is nothing short of brutal, a black metal assault. There’s nowhere to take refuge with this album: cover your face, the blows land in the ribs, the back, the legs. Uniform are fucked off, and are going to vent their unremitting ire on anything, everything, and everyone.

The most striking thing about this album – short as it is, with just eight tracks and a total running time of thirty-eight and a bit minutes, (aside from its eye-popping intensity, that is) is its diversity. ‘The Killing of America’ is a full-tilt industrial metal slogger which evokes the spirit of Psalm 69, and packs a truly wild guitar breaks. The tempo is off the scale, to, and th third most striking thing about Wake in Fright is its sustained attack. There’s no let up. Not even for a second. Just when you think there might be a moment’s respite, the buggers up the tempo and the volume and the fierceness by at least another ten per cent. By ‘Bootlicker’ (track six), it’s all reached an almost unbearable level of noise, as the drums pound like machine gun fire through a gut-churning barrage of guitars. Seriously, with Wake in Fright, Uniform make Strapping Young Lad sound like Mike Flowers Pops.

Curtain closer ‘The Light At the End (Effect)’ may slow the pace at last, but the murky Swans-like dirge, with its scratched spoken narrative, remains anything but an easy exit or an uplifting finale. It’s six minutes of postindustrial grind, and a fitting close to an album that comes out, fists flailing, whirling chains and spitting venom.

Don’t come to Uniform looking for a hug. Wake in Fright is utterly terrifying, a horrorshow of a record with not a moment of calmness or humanity. It’s horrifying, squalid, beyond harsh: a sonic kick to the gut. You bet it’s already one of my albums of the year.

 

Uniform - Wake in Fright

Wharf Chambers, Leeds, 4th April 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

Despite there being a fair few middle-aged blokes in black jeans milling about, the demographic of the crowd who’ve turned out to Wharf Chambers on a Monday night is pleasingly diverse.

Knifedoutofexistence is one man, Dean Robinson-Saunders. A lone artist with a substantial array of pedals and electronic bits and pieces and a bleak outlook. A fairly standard stereotype on the noise scene. He’s dressed in black, long hair down over his face as he hunches over his spread of kit, laid out on a table on the floor on front of the stage, in near darkness, growling and howling impenetrable intonations of pain and anguish amidst a wall of raging noise. But Knifedoutofesistence stands out by virtue of being making a raging wall of noise that’s texturally interesting, and by the sheer intensity of the performance. He clutches a chain, which he wields and occasionally thrashes against the ground in nihilistic fury.

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Knifedoutofexistence

A common shortcoming of noise and power electronics shows is that the lineup will be packed out with acts all doing pretty much the same thing, which ultimately gets wearing long before the headliners take the stage. So, credit is definitely due in recognition of the diversity of the bill here.

Circuit Breaker, who’ve been supporting Harbinger Sound label-mates Consumer Electronics around Europe may have proven somewhat divisive amongst the audience members, but the Milton Keynes duo’s brand of dark synth pop, overlayed with screeds of murky guitar provided vital contrast. Wirth his eyes obscured by his hair, and an idiosyncratic style of enunciation which reminds me of Brian Ferry (think the footage of Roxy Music performing ‘Virginia Plain’ on TOTP), I find myself spending much of the set looking at the singer’s teeth. Musically, they’re more like a guitarier, gothier Gary Numan.

Circuit Breaker

Circuit Breaker

Sarah Froelich – aka Sarah Best – has very nice teeth. She also has some serious lung capacity, and opens both her lungs and mouth wide to vent streams of lyrical abrasion. Flipping in a blink of an eye between sultry poses and a serene expression to raging banshee, she presents a formidable and fearsome presence on the stage. Her whole body tenses as she hollers maniacally, giving her performance a ferocious physicality. Wild, unpredictable, dangerous, she’s the perfect foil to Philip Best’s splenetic tirades.

Having seen Best perform with Whitehouse on four occasions between 2003 and 2007, it’s reasonable to expect some crossover in his stage act, but while he still throws the occasional power pose and postures with parodic lasciviousness as he tweaks his nipples, it’s the differences between Consumer Electronics and Whitehouse which are most evident tonight.

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Consumer Electronics

First and foremost, the thudding beats which drive many of the tracks mark a clear separation from the largely arrhythmic noise of the overlords of the Power Electronics genre. There’s a more overt sense of structure and trajectory to the compositions, and while there is noise, there’s also a greater diversity of texture, and a sense of restraint. More than anything, the sonic attack is used as a means of adding emphasis to the lyrical content, rather than something that buries it.

Best’s lyrics have a poetic quality. We’re not talking pretty pastoral vignettes or vogueish socio-political commentary with a hip-hop vibe, but nevertheless, this is not just some guy shouting obscenities in a blind, inarticulate rage. In fact, you’d be hard-pressed to find rage more articulately expressed, and on numerous occasions during the set, I felt like the Consumer Electronics live experience is in many respects a (brutal, vitriolic) spoken word performance, with the emphasis very much on performance, bolstered by beats and extraneous racket.

Russell Haswell’s contribution to the dynamic shouldn’t be undervalued, either, and his featuring in the current lineup brings new dimensions to the sound. Standing unassumingly at the back, and often nipping off stage, as he unleashes shards of sharp-edged analogue fire.

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Consumer Electronics

There are some tracks that go all-out on the assault – ‘Co-opted’ finds Best and Froelich duelling over the most ferocious delivery of the refrain ‘Cunts! Co-opted by cunts!’, but much of the set, culled largely from the two most recent albums, Estuary English and Dollhouse Songs, shows just how much Consumer Electronics have refined Power Electronics and the extent to which they explore nuance and contrast. Tonight, they’re nowhere near as loud as many Power Electronics acts, not least of all Whitehouse at their most explosive, but the impact of the set is truly immense.