Posts Tagged ‘Review’

Jahmoni Music – JMM209 – 23rd February 2018

James Wells

Straight into weird shit territory here. Wordless, atonal vocals layer up, ululating and droning and whatever, the tape stretched and slowed and generally fucked about with, while a monotonous bass throb and thumping industrial beat holds an insistent four/four. Think The Fall crossed with Throbbing Gristle. It’s not the full picture, but is a flavour of ‘To Evacuate is Difficult and Infrequent’. It may or may not be a song about bowels. But probably is.

DJ Marcelle is certainly not a DJ in either the conventional or contemporary sense: nor does she present the image of the club DJ throwing down bangin’ tunes for the euphoric masses. Her website uses a kind of Scooby Doo Mystery Machine typeface, and her tour photos all document the soups she’s consumed. This explicit lack of coolness is a cause to celebrate her as an artist. This is not about trends or commercial endeavours: this is about making art with sound.

‘To Reveal the Secret’ is a lo-fi mess of sample loops and clattering drums, and calls to mind the jittery experimentalism of the early 80s avant-garde scene: again, the shadow of TG looms, but equally, the playful oddness of early Foetus and lesser-known acts like Meat Beat Manifesto offshoot Perennial Divide. It pretty much bleeds into ‘Walking Around Aimlessly’, another mash-up of looped samples and old-school tape effects, mining that seem of William Burroughs cut-up inspired audio experimentalism that marked Cabaret Voltaire’s first few albums. Firecracking percussion and wild analogue bleeps provide the fabric of the frenetic finale, which lands in the form of ‘To Sing Along’. The irony is as heavy as the bass, and it rounds of a set that’s noteworthy primarily for its weirdness and apparent celebration of the random.

And random’s where it’s at. Psalm Tree is weird but groovy.

AA

DJ Marcelle

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16th March 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

I have to eject and check the disc to make sure I’ve not bobbed in New Order’s debut after hitting ‘play’ on this CD. I haven’t, but The Vaulted Skies have that whole c.1980 sound down to a tee, with the clinical rhythms and steely synths shaping the landscape.

The Vaulted Skies – as if the band name wasn’t indication enough – plunder the seam of the dark post punk style that occupied the first half of the 80s, and – while a roll-off touchstones and reference points feels a shade reductive, it’s entirely relevant and appropriate to namecheck The Rose of Avalanche and Rosetta Stone.

The opener, ‘Does Anyone Else Feel(Strange)? culminates in an explosive kaleidoscope of retro synth and thunderous drums that calls to mind ‘Walk Away’ by The Sisters of Mercy and this overtly gothy groove carries through the other three songs on this EP. ‘The Night’ lurches and lunges and bucks over a thick, warping bass groove.

When they slow it down and do the sparse atmospheric thing, as on ‘The Falling Man’, The Cure’s Faith looms large as an influence, with heavy traces of Japan in the mix. Whoever described them as ‘the lovechild of Robert Smith and Boy George’ was at least half right.

And this is where, as a critic, the duel between objectivity and subjectivity sets its markers and gets to tussling. Objectively, it’s derivative and by-numbers. Subjectively, it’s got a gloomy emotional draw and a certain tension. Objectively, it’s well-executed. Subjectively, those nagging guitar parts and basslines hit the spot. So where you do go?

From a purely personal perspective – and if truth be told, and response to music has to be personal – the technicalities and matters of production count for nothing when a work hits and resonates on a personal, emotional level, which is never remotely objective or rational, but always instinctive, gut-driven. And when aspects of my personal life are difficult, I invariably find I’m prone, if not to regression per se, but to a certain tendency toward nostalgia. And all of the acts The Vaulted Skies draw on, intentionally or otherwise, pull me back to being 15-21. My formative years, my musical discovery years, my goth years – years I never fully left.

Do I get a sense of actual nostalgia from this? No. members of The Vaulted Skies probably weren’t born when any of the aforementioned bands were in existence, or even in the early 90s. It’s not their fault they were born too late. They cannot control time or style. But they cannot control their musical output, and it completely does it for me.

AAA

Vaulted Skies

Wolves & Vibrancy

Christopher Nosnibor

German label Wolves & Vibrancy is predominantly given to releasing metal, which makes worriedaboutsatan something of an unusual choice. Still, any release by the genre-straddling electronic duo is welcome regardless of who releases it. With two tracks spanning twenty-five minutes, Shift sits somewhere between an EP and a mini-album. And while it’s categorically not metal, because it’s worriedaboutsatan, it does, most definitely, err toward shades of darkness is places. But equally, because it’s worriedaboutsatan, it’s a work built on contrasts and detail.

On ‘Shift 1’, the rendering of those contrasts and details is analagous to a pencil sketch drawn with a relaxed, free hand, the shading effortlessly contoured by a smooth, easy, and relaxed wrist action to form soft, organic shapes and subtle movement.

A throbbing, low-to-mid drone swells dark, sombre. The first beats are but scratches. Paired, isolates. Hanging n space amidst the dense swirl. But they pick up – almost imperceptibly at first – and slowly, so slowly, begin to approximate a sedated heartbeat. From the building tension and growing density, just as it threatens to reach a critical mass of claustrophobia, emerges a soft, supple, rippling sound of light. Toward the end, a stippling, dappling pattern of light in the form of an interweaving motif rises on a slow wave.

‘Shift 2’ is more about stark contrast, black and white op-art flickers: the interweaving motif that surfaced, spectral, in ‘Shift 1’ takes on a new dynamic, a new tone, and dominates the front end of composition. The result is the sonic equivalent of a monochrome kaleidoscope, the patterns shifting in time and sequence with disorientating effect. Simultaneously calling to mind the vintage works of the likes of Tangerine Dream, Mike Oldfield and contemporary microtonal experimenters, it’s immersive and powerfully hypnotic. In time, it tapers away, and the temp slows, returning to the heartbeat bass and echoic click, before resurging around the mid-pint to weave a mesmerising sonic latticework.

Shift is appropriately titled given its endless evolution and morphology. In context of their oeuvre, its one of their ostensibly less ‘beaty’ releases, but it’ still displays the dynamism and sense of atmosphere that was have made their trademark since their emergence as premier purveyors of music that crosses post-rock and electronica. And as such, while it marks yet another evolutionary progression and expansion, Shift is quintessential worriedaboutsatan.

worriedaboutsatan – Shift

AA

The Fulford Arms, York, 14th January 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

Two weeks into the year and I haven’t had a single night off writing CD reviews to drink beer and check out some live music. The simple fact is, times are hard and I’m in the mod to hibernate. But tonight’s extravaganza is one of four nights of epic showcase events to mark the fourth anniversary of the current management – Messrs Sherrington and Tuke – taking over the venue. It’s something that deserves to be celebrated.

Time was that there was nothing much to be found in York apart from acoustic blues. York became synonymous with blues. You couldn’t walk into a pub without some bloke with a guitar doing blues. Some of it was good. Some of it was extremely good. Some of was less good and the less said about the remainder, the better. It’s all too easy to have too much of a good thing, let alone a middling samey thing. The Fulford Arms, as was, was integral to the scene for a time. Then, everything changed. Under new management, The Fully Arms really started putting on proper gigs. Taking chances with less obvious artists. Sorting out proper lighting. And with a decent PA, upping the volume.

Tonight is one of four gigs showcasing the expansive range of local talent which is anything but centred around gentle acoustic blues. Of the four nights, this is perhaps the most eclectic, with everything on offer from quirky, theatrical avant-art folk pop to droning psyche, via hard-groove electro and post-punk pub-rock.

Having still been cooking with my own fat spatula at 6pm, I’m too late to catch the band Fat Spatula. Shame, because their brand of US-influenced alt-rock / indie is rather cool. I was also too late for the electro pop of Short Dark Stranger who I heard good things about. I suspect he was the gut standing to my left in the conspicuous silk shirt while I supped my first pint to the strains of Jonny Gill’s acoustic alt-rock which furnished the space between sets ahead of the arrival of Percy. These guys have been knocking around since forever, and still hit the mark (E. Smith) with their post-punk, Fall-influenced sneering takes on the workaday life.

In fact, the first time I heard Percy was circa 1998, at a pub just over the river. They were on the same bill as a band called Big Vicar, who were fronted by AB Johnson, who now forms one half of tonight’s headliners, Viewer, who meld sociopolitical lyrics and indie sensibility to driving dancefloor-friendly beats courtesy of Tim Wright, who in another world is the seminal TubeJerk.

There’s so much more than blues, and so much more than Shed fucking Seven going on here. Meabh McDonnel’s self-effacing kitchen-sink folk tunes are good fun: she’ll probably not take the compliment, but her voice is superb and her lyrics are funny and often poignant, and unstintingly honest and direct. The delivery is an integral part of the charm of her performance: it’s not about polish, but relatability and being real.

Soma Crew’s set is abridged due to apparent technical difficulties but out front their psych-drone attack had been sounding good, while Naked Six – the closest to blues it gets tonight – crank out the kind of vibrant, full-tilt set melding AC/DC and Led Zeppelin with a grunge twist that they’ve made their standard.

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Naked Six

It’s been a while since we’ve seen Viewer, seeing as they called it a day before re-emerging as Stereoscope a while ago – and playing in darkness for the majority of their set, or otherwise illuminated only by stark backlit images. I’ve watched – and reviewed – these guys more times than I can recall, and not because I invariably drink too much beer at their shows (AB is one of those guys who is just the best for sinking pints and talking bollocks with – but, miraculously and ever the professional, he always manages to deliver the lines, cast the poses, and, just as miraculously, stay upright during their sets). They’re late starting, but this seems to work n their favour: the audience is even more buzzed up and ready and they groove hard as Johnson throws his shapes and wry commentaries into the space before him. They get down, albeit a bit tipsily – to Wright’s insistent beats and grinding synths. And Viewer were – are – ace because they straddle the line of playing dumb and acting up to dumbness.

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Viewer

Every single last one of the acts playing on tonight’s bill could go far given the right breaks and adequate effort. But this is the time to simply celebrate a landmark moment for a venue that’s spent the best part of its four-year existence punching well above its weight (Ginger Wildheart? Wayne Hussey? The March Violets? to name but three) while providing a space for some far-out and emerging acts. Hell, they’ve even had me on, more than once. But this is what small independent venues are for. It’s so hard to get a break these days, and it’s venues like this, with open doors and open minds, which keep new music alive.

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.

AA

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Undogmatisch – UNDOGMA3 – 19th January 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

This all sounds very complicated, both in terms of concept and execution. This is the first in a series of releases which contain remixes of tracks from the album Madame E, by Mirco Magnani and Ernesto Tomasini. So far, so straightforward. Madame E is ‘a free reinterpretation of Georges Bataille’s short novel Madame Edwarda (publ. in France 1941), in which Eroticism, Religion and Death are interlaced.’ Bataille is by no means an easy read. And while I’m yet to hear Madame E, ‘Plaisir’, at least in its remixed form, is by no means an easy listen.

Pink and white noise and strains of feedback which register in the range of bat-hearing jostle against jolting ruptures of panoramic bass frequencies and irregular, thumping, electronic beats. It pulsates and throbs and bristles and jars. With soaring, semi-operatic falsetto vocals drifting over the ever-swelling electro-industrial grind, it comes on like a deranged and super-intense hybrid of Scott Walker and Whitehouse. Maybe that could be a future project, by way of a counterpart to Walker’s collaboration with Sunn O))). Or maybe tis already fulfils that ultra-niche gap in the market.

So where’s the complication? Well, this release is credited to Ken Karter, the remixer, for a start, despite it containing music originally composed by Mirco Magnani and Ernesto Tomasini. So, this release is the first in a series which sits under the banner of MADAME E. Rèintérprétations et Remixes, which will be released periodically as one-sided 12” singles in limited editions of 10 – which is barely a test pressing – and digitally. These are designed to ‘include different points of view from artists somehow close to the album’s topics and atmospheres’. And after the last remix taken from the album, the whole remix series will be published as an album titled MADAME E. Rèintérprétations et Remixes.

I’m not entirely sure of the purpose of the individual digital releases, but that’s a question of economics and practicality. This is clearly less about practicality and convention than it’s about art.

It’s a release which invites meandering dissections and deep, analytical appraisal. It’s a release which likely deserves it, too. But there’s a time and a place, and a work so deeply invested in intertext and context. We’re in the realms of critical theory and reader reception, with a work which purposefully challenges its own place and function. But when high art meets populist electro tropes, anything goes. And with this, anything goes.

AA

Plaisir

Cold Spring Records – 23rd January 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

Never mind the cat, listen to the whale! There’s a rather trippy, dubby crossover feel to the trilling new-age rhythmic bass-led groove of ‘Thee Whale’, one of the three tracks on the second disc of this two CD plus DVD extravaganza of a release, which includes the film Dead Cat, which was released in 1989, and shown only at a handful of cinemas that year, including once at the infamous Scala Cinema in London. According to the accompanying blurb, ‘it was never issued on general release and has only recently been uncovered by David Lewis (writer & director).’ This release finally presents the full film, re-authored from the original source. The film itself features unique starring roles from cult film director Derek Jarman (who also worked with TG on In the Shadow of the Sun back in 1980), Andrew Tiernan (The Pianist, 300, The Bunker, and Derek Jarman’s Edward II) and Genesis P-Orridge. The film features the music of Psychic TV, included here on CD1, in its complete form.

On the one hand, it’s classic Psychic TV. On the other, I’m reminded why I parted ways with Psychic TV and much of the industrial movement, when, post-TG, everyone seemed to disappear up their own arses, otherwise ceased making music that felt either challenging or essential. It’s not that none of the members of Throbbing Gristle made any decent music after the initial split, because they clearly did, and early PTV and Chris and Cosey releases are proof of this. But at what point is enough enough? At what point does it all become so much indulgence?

That the material here is lifted from the archive provides only so much justification or defence. There’s very much a sense that all of the early groundbreakers have been surpassed, and that the myriad artists they’ve influenced have advanced far beyond the parameters their forebears pushed to new places. And they were already pushing on in 1989. Listening now, in 2017… ‘Dead Cat’ is a gnarly mess of humping and pumping, grind and drone, a seemingly formless throb of grating dissonance, and it sits well enough as a soundtrack. As a musical piece, the short (23-minute) version which closes CD2 is preferable: the plaintive mewlings stretched across the shuddering scrapes, punctuated by obliterative detonations, are challenging to the ears, but in some respects it feels all rather predictable. Whereas Throbbing Gristle still sound dangerous and deranged, ‘Dead Cat’ sounds like a safe assimilation of the template.

‘Thee Whale’, recorded on 23rd January 1988, is the soundtrack to the film Kondole, which was never made, although if it had been, it would have been 23 minutes long. ‘Thee Shadow Creatures’, the track which sits between ‘Thee Whale’ and the short ‘Dead Cat’ is also 23 minutes in duration. It’s dank and ominous, muffled rumblings and disembodied voices buried amidst swampy echoes. And way off in the distance, low in the mix and submerged by the distorted tribal rhythms, tortured jazz horns honk their anguish into the subterranean depths. While recorded some years later than the other tracks – in 1993 – it’s arguably the most successful, not least of all by virtue of being the most menacing, sustaining its atmosphere to the end.

As a whole, it is a nice set. As unsettling and noisy dark ambient works go, it delivers precisely what you would expect. And, regardless of my opinions as to whether or not it’s essential on any level, it is, unquestionably, a valuable and intriguing archive document. And on that basis, it’s very much worthwhile as an addition to the PTV catalogue.

AAA

PTV - Kondole