Posts Tagged ‘Review’

Cruel Nature Records – 5th March 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

I know next to nothing about Fast Blood beyond the brief biographical info that accompanies this, their debut EP, which follows a brace of singles.

Apparently, the members of the foursome are stalwarts of the Newcastle-upon-Tyne DIY scene, but as a unit they only came together in 2019, performing together for the first time in April of that year. They managed to amass a decent resume of support slots in the eleven months before the world ended for live music, and announced their arrival in November 2019 with the hooky as hell ‘You’, which is featured here as the EP’s second track.

They trade in short – three minutes or less – poppy punk tunes, and for all their ‘nods to 90’s Midwestern indie/emo, hardcore and garage punk’, what actually comes through above anything is how they hark back to a more classic female-fronted punk vintage. That isn’t to say they sound like X-Ray Spex, or Penetration, or Blondie, but there’s certainly something of that vibe infused within their driving, guitar-driven songs which are big on energy.

‘Why do I keep doing this to myself? / I keep telling myself I’m not worthy’ Abigail Barlow sings on ‘Milo’, which was released as their second single in January last year, and while the delivery is accessible, and very much driven by a sense of ‘song’, and ‘melody’, and there’s nothing that’s overtly dark about their songs, there’s an emotional honesty and a sincerity about the lyrics that runs deeper. In this sense, it’s the best of both: a vintage style with a contemporary edge – without the crap connotations of punk-pop dragged along by the likes of shit like Panic! At the Disco, New Found Glory, and All Time Low – they balance bite with something altogether more easy on the ear. Kudos.

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Houndstooth Records – 22nd January 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

‘Transmogrifications’ features a brace of compositions by Guy Andrews reworked, reimagined, decomposed – spin it whichever way – by seminal experimental musician Kevin Drumm, with one from Permanence (which was released in September) and another from his latest, [MT][NT][ET]. Back in the day, this would have been a 12” single, or a CD single / EP. Now, it’s simply a release. Part of me feels that the devolvement – and dissolvement – of the physical format is sad not because of plain nostalgia, but because of the way it’s altered our relationship with music. The release of new music, when it required actually going into town to purchase it, arriving home with a sense of excitement and anticipation to hear something that had required not only the effort of the journey, but the outlay of actual cash, meant that there was an element of deliberation involved in each purchase: you’ve got a tenner (and there was a time not SO long ago when that would likely get you three new 12” singles at £2.99 – £3.50 apiece), and dropping the needle on each was an actual event. The loss of that sense of occasion, that event, is significant, and one that struck me unexpectedly on hearing this. As excited as I was to hear it, the joy was tempered by a certain pang of loss.

Drumm explains the remit he was given, which directed his approach to the project, recounting that “Guy essentially said that he’d rather not hear his own music played back to him…So with that in mind, it freed me up to drastically transform his material…it was a good experience taking something that is quite different than what I usually get up to and turn it into something different than what it is in its original form.” And the title says it all, really: ‘transmogrification’ is defined as the process of complete and usually extreme or grotesque change from one state or form to another.

Each track is an entire album, compressed, condensed, and generally reworked and altered beyond recognition.

And so it is that ‘[MT][NT][ET]’ is seven-and-three-quarter minutes of deep, swirling ambience, a deep mass of sound that eddies and drifts with a drilling metallic edge giving it a slightly uncomfortable sharpness. While it’s a more or less even drone, there are occasional – subtle – dips and twists that add to the understated but quite definite tension. And yet for all that, there is an overall sense of calm, a smoothness, until near the end, when its rich, space-like tranquillity is devasted by a rising blast of extraneous noise.

‘Permanence’ offers a different kind of experience, it’s more deeply textured, and a slower, lower simmering fermentation of sound. It also boils the thirty-two minute album down to eight minutes of overlapping sonic layers. Glistering shards of feedback are worn smooth in a soft wash of pink noise and an undulating amorphous cloud of noise, beneath which a grating sonic wreckage churns at such distance as to be almost subliminal.

And then it stops. Just like that. The abrupt nature of the ending is of note, accentuating the silence that follows immediately, and giving a tangible pause for thought on a release that has a lot more depth than the surface first suggests.

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MC/free iOS app Langham Research Centre LRC001

7th December 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

My last encounter with Langham Research Centre was 2017’s Tape Works Vol 1, an experimental set that evoked the spirit of William Burroughs while also being littered with references to JG Ballard which inevitably piqued my interest. However, on the arrival of Quanta / Signal / Noise, I discover that both a remix of Tape Works Vol 1 as well as Tics and Ampersands and the spectacularly mundane yet dauntingly postmodern-sounding Gateshead Multi-storey Car Park, both released in 2018 had bypassed me.

Quanta / Signal / Noise, a work in four parts seems to offer a fair – and welcome – point at which to reconvene with Langham Research Centre. the press release forewarns of ‘a shift away from the conventional building blocks of music: notes and harmony and rhythms that are mapped onto a grid of steady pulse. Instead, the focus is on a fascination with sound itself; with its unfolding textures, shapes, energies and dynamics’. So far, so much standard avant-garde / experimental fare.

The release contains four tracks, in the form of versions 1 to 4 of ‘Quanta / Signal / Noise’, each of which has a duration of four minutes and thirty-four seconds, two of which were composed by Iain Chambers, and two of which were composed by Robert Worby. ‘Version’ is a misnomer: none of the pieces bear any real resemblance to one another, ranging from heavy discordant clunks and thunks to fizzing circuitry and erratic bleepery, with woozy atmospherics, warped chatter of multiple simultaneous conversations and deep, dark, ominous undercurrents. Explosions shattering plate glass windows behind real-time running documentaries collide simultaneously with birdsong and erratic levels of volume. It’s an interesting sonic collage, but, one might say, largely of its type.

But there’s more to this than immediately meets the ear, as in addition to the standard audio release, there’s an iOS app, ‘Langham Research Centre variPlay: Quanta / Signal / Noise’, produced and developed in collaboration with London College of Music at the University of West London, which presents an interactive version of the release. The pitch is that it may be thought of as ‘experimental cinema for the ear or maybe a tool for dynamic sound painting [which] follows in the musical tradition established by composers, specifically in the middle of the 20th century, when sound recording became widely available… In the app version, by playing with these sonic materials, imaginary auditory landscapes may be created. Sonic narratives, with expressive moods, unfold before the ears and mobile, fluid sound canvases can be brushed and sketched and collaged.’

Such interactivity may not be wholly new, but still, to break the third wall in such a way becomes rare, and inviting the audience to become the artist radically alters the dynamic of the relationship not only between the artist and audience, but also audience and material. The material ceases to be something the audience ‘receives’, but instead repositions the audience as part of the art ad its creation. That breaking down of boundaries utterly transforms the experience of reception. It is quite possible that the concept is more exciting than the reality, but then, playing about with sound can be great fun. Unfortunately, the app only appears to be available for Apple / iPhone users, so I’m unable to confirm or comment either way.

The app version stands in extreme contrast to the physical release, on cassette, a format that was on the brink of obsolescence over twenty years ago, and yet is still going, albeit with a microniche market. The chances are half the interaction with the format involves a hexagonal pencil or a Bic biro.

Nevertheless, it’s an intriguing exercise to witness the evolution of interactive art that strives to question and to redefine the role or artist and audience, as well as the notion of the ‘finished’ or definitive artefact, making this more than just something to listen to, even if only conceptually and for a certain portion of the audience.

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Christopher Nosnibor

2020 has been cack. That’s pretty much a fact. And here we are in December after nine months in varying degrees of lockdown around the globe, and many of us are really starting to feel it now. So what do we need to top off this annum of cack? More cack, of course, courtesy of the prime purveyors – and possibly the sole exponents – of cack-pop, Wevie Stonder.

Founded by Al Boorman in Brighton in 1993, along with Chris Umney, Richard Sothcott, Henry Sargeant, Wevie Stonder’s bio is a combination of tall tales and out-and-out oddness, which pretty much summarises everything they’ve done. Sargeant turned solo and split for Germany, where he’s now massive – or at least Vast – while Boorman operates a ‘music and sound design’ studio called Wevie as his mainline, with a catalogue of adverts and TV credits, spanning Comedy Central, Adidas, Netflix, and even Disney. Hunter S. Thompson said that when the going gets weird, the weird turn pro, and these guys demonstrate that it’s actually possible to go pro without ditching the weird. And make no mistake, they’re way weirder than most.

So this landed with me, and I don’t even know what the fuck it is. It’s a digital file. Is it an album? A podcast? Kinda. A FaceBook post on the Wevie Stonder page announced that ‘While some have been working on a vaccine, Al’s been working on an antidote to 2020 as a whole. To hear the results so far, tune in to the Skam Records live stream’. And so here we have an hour of wild experimentalism – with the emphasis firmly on the mental.

It starts off comparatively sedately with some wibbly synths and some narrative delivered in a prim English accent reminiscent of British 1950s children’s TV shows, but rapidly explodes into a brain-melting collage of all kinds of chaos. Despite the fact I’m personally more than well accustomed to all kinds of

A mere two minutes in, notes are sliding, gliding melting, a sonic equivalent of Dali’s brie-like clocks, before scratches and scrapes collide with mainstream trance and snippets of 80s disco chart hits are cut and spliced with vintage averts and clattering industrial beats. Carpet tile infomercials and grinding techno are glued at completely wrong angles. It’s disorientating, and the juxtaposition of the mundane and the strange creates an experience which is perfectly unheimlich, straddling as it does the familiar and the not-quite familiar just a step or two out of step with one another. It’s this proximity that creates such discomforting dissonance. You almost know where you are with it… but then there are elements which are just so wholly inexplicable.

You begin to feel woozy. You know, you get, that there is no lens into the mind of another person, especially not someone who thinks differently… but what the fuck is this? Suddenly Trout Mask Replica sounds coherent and linear. The thing about Hyperboredom (Vol 1) is just how quickly the scenes cut. It’s dizzying, and often, those cuts aren’t remotely subtle, but as clumsy as they come, calling to mind the primitive collaging of the Justified Ancients of Mu Mu on 1987 and Shag Times.

Daytime YV snippets and wonky jazz collide in a messy mashup. ‘If you get bored of your own boredom, you experience what we call hyperboredom’ a soporific voice explains with almost a yawn. I’m thinking I’m more likely to throw up than suffer from any shade of boredom listening to this.

Whether knowingly or not, Hyperboredom belongs to the cut-up lineage that can be traced back to William Burroughs’ tape experiments of the late 50s and early 60s, and while the anarchic yet quintessentially English leanings may owe more to the Bonzo Dog band, the overall formulation is explicitly around methods of collaging, and the way different source materials play off one another. And in listening to this hour-long cut ‘n’ splice oddity, it’s impossible not to pick out or otherwise listen out for familiar voices and clips, and these in turn trigger recollections and avenues of reminiscence and contemplation, or otherwise the satisfaction of saying to yourself ‘ah, yes, I remember that’ – or frustratingly – aagh, that sounds so familiar, but what is it?’

And ultimately, what is it? It’s everything all at once, and one to explore, however much it might make you dizzy. The forthcoming album looks likely to be a cracker.

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27th August 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Leeds proves once again to be the spawning ground for some interesting experimental music, and this four-tacker from Material Loss is a work of dark, dark ambient, a genre I’ve become increasingly drawn to over time by virtue of its lack of prescription: what I draw from it is as much about my own projections, my own internal state and contemplations as the music itself, although it in turn has the capacity to reflect back at me those internalisations. And what Material Loss convey corresponds with the name – a sense of emptiness, a sensation of being aimless and bereft. Admittedly, these moods do hit from time to time and I know his isn’t something by any means unique to me, but when they descend they do so rapidly, like a storm blowing in from the horizon on a strong wind, building from out of the blue and forcing a sudden pressure drop.

And what is material? Something palpable, tangible. And yes, these four tracks, for all of their vague, effusiveness, they succeed in conveying something more concrete, somehow. It’s all about the atmosphere, which has been carefully constructed and arranged for optimal effect, and while it’s short, it reached seep into the psyche, and into the body, prodding the gut, the bowels, the lungs, and, above all, stealthily creeping around the deeper recesses of the brain.

Such dank murkiness shouldn’t be associated by any means directly with a depressive state, though: the lack of overt form or structure can be quite therapeutic, offering a form of escapism as one allows oneself to drift through the sonic clouds, The first piece, ‘Set’ rumbles and growls, and within those sonic clouds, there’s a storm brewing. It’s a distant rumbling, a dissonance, an almost unquantifiable and most unspecific unease more than anything else.

Following on, ‘UA’ manifests as a barely-audible droning hum for the most part but it’s occasionally rent with tearing shards of nose or rising tides of amorphous sound. The fact that each composition is brief means that none becomes overwhelming, r challenging to the point of traumatic, although in the infinite subtlety, the menace is always present.

‘SD-CLA’ may be brief, but it’s dark and doomy, a single beat repetitively hammered out at a funereal pace amidst fizzing electrics and splinters of breaking glass. Closer ‘Alm’ – the calm without the c – brings a sense of tranquillity, a lifting of the mood and something approximating a sense of lightness and of relief, and a sense that maybe things aren’t so bleak after all.

They are, of course: the reality of living in the now is beyond dismal, but at least, for a couple of minutes, we can perhaps forget and pretend otherwise.

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12th June 2020

James Wells

According to their bio, Milton Keynes based British metal outfit Chasing Ghosts were ‘born of a passion to create dark and melodic music’ and their latest offering ‘is no doubt their biggest and most ambitious record yet, a union of haunting female harmonies and natural sombre strings, resulting in an evolution of all the darker elements in their already present sound since the release of their critically acclaimed debut album in 2018’.

Cynic that I am, was prepared for this to bring me some suffering, with a load of overblown bombastic rock – and make no mistake, there are elements that creep towards being OTT, but they manage to balance it with enough drive and majesty and emotional resonance as to render it an engaging and powerful release.

Opener ‘Until the End’ is a bold, gothic sweep of a song with intricate guitar lines that interweave across choral vocals that evoke the spirit of The Sisters of Mercy, and, moreover, the myriad bands who followed in their wake. The rhythm guitar chugs hard while the lead picks a serpentine thread and the baritone vocals (which aren’t short on a hint of Carl McCoy) cast a mix of gloom and drama over the whole thing.

Brooding violins sway through the intro to ‘A Darker Place’ that pitches somewhere between All About Eve and Evancessence, while the title track, ‘Bring Me Suffering’, which draws the curtain, is what one would justifiably describe as an ‘epic’, a seven-minute, string-soaked rendition of emotional anguish that rides post-rock crescendos while surging to a slow-burning climax that makes you ache as you listen.

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Cruel Nature – CN133

Christopher Nosnibor

It’s not often demo tapes get a ‘proper’ release. Then again, it’s not often you actually get demo tapes these days: cassettes may be making something of a comeback on the underground, but you’re more likely to get a demo recorded on mobiles with the tracks assembled using some smart software than on a four track. I remember my old Fostex X-18 seeming incredibly compact back in ’92. Less true of the X55, but with its double-speed spooling and advanced mixing capability, it was more like having a proper studio on your desk. How times have changed.

But when it comes to black metal, low-grade production is integral to the aesthetic. It’s supposed to be impenetrably murky, the songs emerging from a booming condenser mic recording overloaded with volume, crackle, and hiss.

I was fortunate to catch Petrine Cross virtually live at a Heinous Whining streaming event the other week, and it was devastating: I was blown away by the dark intensity of the performance, and this release confirm this was no one-off or a case of me being carried away with too many cans in my atempt to recreate the gig experience at home.

A solo project for Esmé Louise Newman of emotionally-charged black metal duo Penance Stare (and her resumé is pretty impressive too), Petrine Cross is pitched as ‘Thought-provoking raw ambient black metal, inspired through solitude and literature, that hits hard in all its oppressive glory.’

‘Charred Skirts and Deathmask’ could be read one of a number of was, but it begins with a soft-edged undulating drone, which continues throughout its eight-plus-minute duration beneath a crushing deluge of punishing guitar noise. There are no discernible chords, no clear structure, just a full-on deluge of sludge. There are some vocals in there somewhere, too, I think. I don’t need the details, and that’s perhaps as well, as they’re obfuscated by a dense wall of undifferentiated sound that’s all in the mid and lower ranges.

I’m listening by candlelight and screen glare, and it seems appropriate as the snarling blast of ‘I Beneath a Rougher Sea’ tears from the speakers, a muffled, murky blast of a cyclical chord sequence, overloading with distortion. It takes some time for any form to emerge from the searing sonic wall, and when it does, it’s vague, melting in its blisteringly intense grind.

The recordings may be primitive, but I’m not sure they would necessarily benefit from a more luxurious, layered studio treatment. The context is key: this is black metal – albeit in a stripped-back, ambient form – and doesn’t require polish. These recordings are cavernously dark and dredge the depths of the soul. Search deep.

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Cruel Nature Records / Sapien Music – 6th March 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

This is one of those releases that doesn’t piss about: ‘Mambo’ blasts in with a squall of discordant guitar and shuddering bass that immediately calls to mind Shellac and The Jesus Lizard, and it’s one of those ‘holy shit!’ Moments where you remember why coming into this kind of stuff in the early 90s was such a revelation. It’s the combination of power and unpredictability that was exciting them and still is now, and Tankengine have both in spades, zooming off every which way on the crash of a cymbal.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise: two members of Tankengine were previously in Yourcodenameis: milo, and the disparate elements that defined their work are abundantly in evidence here. And so as not to confuse this, their second EP, with their eponymous debut, they’ve named it twice. Consequently, I no longer quite so strongly feel the urge to form a band and name it Minotaur, with a view to the first tour being labelled the Minotaur Tour, the tour in support of the eponymous album the Minotaur Minotaur Tour, and the tour supporting the stop-gap EP before the second album the Minotaur Minor Tour. I also digress spectacularly.

The point I’m coming to is that Tankegine live up to the connotations of their name from the opening bars of opener ‘Mambo’, which twists and winds its way through a succession of sections that sound like completely different songs smooshed together yet somehow find a flow in some perverse mathtastic way. It’s all topped off with vocals that sound a bit like Jello Biafra, and it’s punk to the max. Hard on its heels, ‘Giant’ is everything all at once, a driving grunge beast with moments that sound like Talking Heads emerge between proggier segments, while there’s more of a John Lydon intonation in the vocals

‘Swagger’ sounds like it’s going to be a ballad, and it maintains a lower tempo, but shifts from being introspective and reflective, into a roaring inferno of anguish and overdriven guitar, and ‘Banshee’ combines post-hardcore aggression and shouting with a heavy goth hue, with a throbbing bass groove and chorus-coated guitars and a baritone croon.

On paper, it portrays as something between an identity crisis and a breakdown, but in the ears, it’s an identity crisis and a breakdown that resolves itself with a strange cohesion, and it’s all manifest in the six-minute closer ‘Flicker’, which begins low-key and strolls along and takes it time with some mellow melodies before finally delivering a squalling crescendo worthy of such a tumultuous, tempestuous EP, climaxing in a deafening roar that can only lead to stunned silence.

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Christopher Nosnibor

I’m both intrigued and vaguely amused by the focus of the press release, which informs us that ‘In anticipation of their upcoming European tour in support of Suffocation, Belphegor and Hate, Italian metallers Necrosy have released a brand-new video for the track “Drown In Perdition” (at 320 bpm)’. But then, in certain circles, presumably including those of Thrash Speed, and Technical Death Metal (the latter being where this Venetian foursome position themselves in genre terms), the pace is of importance.

The album, Perdition, was in fact released back in 2015, and this video single is something of a stop-gap while they piece together album number two and gear up for a significant tur of the European mainland. What no UK dates? Well, no, and it’ probably not necessarily a Brexit thing, but while we’re at it, fuck Brexit and the damage the latest piece of hateful, movement-limiting legislation will do to touring bands and the music industry. Bands and fans and the economy alike will suffer.

On the subject of suffering, ‘Drown Into Perdition (at 320BPM)’ (and yes, the parenthetical element is noted on not only the video’s YouTube post, but also the album’s track list) is pretty fucking punishing, a whiplash blur of frenzied guitars and drumming which provide the backdrop to a guttural howl and while the lyrics are wholly unintelligible, the sound articulates by the medium of sound a fair approximation of the song’s title – a hellish, torturous assault.

The woman in the white dress / sheet who features in the video feels like a bit of a superfluous addition, but provides a nice visual contrast to the hairy, tattooed blokes lunging and prowling while wielding their instruments menacingly. It doesn’t detract from the song though, and of this is any measure, both the live shows and upcoming album should be pretty intense.

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Tour dates are as follows:

March 11th – Legend Club – Milan, Italy
March 12th – Kufa – Lyss, Switzerland
March 13th – Gare De Lion – Wil, Switzerland
March 14th – Le Jas Rod – Marseille, France
March 15th – BT 59 – Bordeaux, France
March 17th – Stage Live – Bilbao, Spain
March 18th – Capitol – Santiago, Spain
March 19th – Hard Club – Porto, Portugal
March 20th – RCA Club – Lisbon, Portugal
March 21st – Independance – Madrid, Spain
March 22nd – Razzmatazz – Barcelona, Spain
March 24th – Grillen – Colmar, France
March 25th – Garage – Saarbrucken, Germany
March 26th – Helvete – Oberhausen, Germany
March 27th – Felsenkeller – Leipzig, Germany

This is it Forever – 14th February 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Since whittling down to just Gavin Miller, worriedaboutsatan’s outut has positively exploded, with the latest offering, which Miller describes as ‘quite an experimental little thing’ sees him share a tape – a side each – with Capac.

‘Orion’ is indeed quite experimental, and marks something of a departure for Miller, transitioning through a sequence of passages that rupture forth unexpectedly. At its heart, the piece is appropriately spacey, with squelchy quirts of analogue phase illuminating the smooth, slow-moving expanse of soft drones. It’s dense and atmospheric, and distant rumbles of thunder register like planets colliding way off in other solar systems before heraldic horns and full galactic marching band parades it way through. Gunned down in a blitzkrieg of lasers and noise, leaving an expanse of desolation, a near-emptiness.

Capac’s ‘A Well-Turned Suite’ is altogether darker, an eerie discord creating an ominous atmosphere. The four-piece describe themselves as creators of ‘sonic explorations of the murkier spaces in and between “new music”, and there’s certainly an exploratory quality to this fourteen-minute aural ambulation. At first there is calm, sustained notes that hover and hum for an age, stretching time itself. Gradually, cracks and fissures begin to appear in the smooth surface, and wheezing organ notes begin to twist and disconnect, and over time, the tension rises as atonality takes over. Muffled beats stutter and thump anxiously, and the sloe fade leaves only the whisper of the breeze.

It’s an intriguing release, and the two pieces are unusual and more than contrasting enough to sustain the interest for the duration.

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WAS and Capac