Posts Tagged ‘Review’

16th November 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

The latest offering from gothy New York duo GHXST is appropriately titled. That said, ‘gloom’ carries connotations of moping, listlessness, and the six tracks here are anything but mopey or listless: the downcast, foreboding bleakness of atmosphere is matched by a crackling tension which provides a more complex dynamic.

It begins with a dark pulsating throb and a heartbeat bass drum, distant, buried. Guitar excess howls over the top before settling to a dirge-like crawl of spindly, echo-soaked twang reminiscent of latter-day Earth with hints of Neurosis-inspired post-metal. Shelly X croons and whispers, a combination of ethereal longing and menace as shoegazey washes of sound carry her disembodied voice through the clouds towards the stratosphere.

‘Ocean is a Desert’ is still atmospheric, and combines searing country an psychedelia into the mix to create something epic and immersive Moreover, it brings a greater sense of solidity and a more obvious structure as they start getting riffy and the mechanised drums kick through the murk, and things grow denser still on ‘Vaquero’, which invites comparisons to Chelsea Wolfe and Esben and the Witch at their most sonically dynamic with its brooding drama.

Samples and strings and quivering synths pave the way for the 80s-shaded synth-goth of ‘Bad Blood II’, a chilly, steely grey song that’s both graceful and tense and calls to mind Curve at their best. Single cut ride is dark and dense, taking cues from The Jesus and Mary Chain’s ‘Mushroom’ and offering hints of A Place to Bury Strangers to deliver a deep, dark buzzing throb of mid-tempo droning guitar noise, before ‘Ride’, unveiled in advance of the release, is a gritty, grainy, mess of low-slung low-end riffage swamped in reverb and dirty distortion. And that’s the appeal of GHXST right there. Music to get lost in and to drag you down into the undertow of those dark, deep currents.

AA

GHXST - Gloom

Advertisements

Pak40 – Crusts

Posted: 14 September 2018 in Albums
Tags: , , , , , , ,

5th September 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

I practically creamed my pants over Pak40’s live show in York, just up the road from my house, a few months back. I didn’t exactly know what to make of them, which was part of the appeal – they didn’t conform to any one style, but they were bloody good. And noisy. And now they follow up their live show with a ‘live in the studio’ EP. ‘Crusts’ was recorded live in one take, and released it the same day, the band leaving it ‘warts and all for a loud, crunchy listening experience’. And that’s exactly wat they deliver. While this type of set-up rarely works for guitar-orientated bands, York-based Pak40 prove the exception to the rule with their crossover style and experimental, big-noise approach.

A spot of research reveals that the 7.5 cm Pak 40 (7,5 cm Panzerabwehrkanone 40) was ‘a German 75 millimetre anti-tank gun developed in 1939-1941 by Rheinmetall and used during the Second World War.’ It figures: these guys sound like total war, a sonic blitzkrieg from beginning to end.

The first track, ‘Sausage Roll,’ is formed around a rolling, strolling, trippy psychedelic bass groove. It’s hefty, trudging, a mid-temp sludge-soaked stoner workout that emerges from a hum of feedback before it slows and speeds and grunts and grinds and powers along with some packed-in density. And when it slows to early Melvins pace around two-thirds in, it truly sounds like a Sabbath 45 played at 33. If you’re expecting some laddish indie jauntiness based on the title, with its connotations of working-class / low salaried simple pleasures in Gregg’s and various greasy spoons, think again.

It bleeds through a humming sustain into the ten-minute centrepiece ‘Rain’, a slow-burner that begins quietly with more strolling bass and some understated percussion. It goes nowhere fast, and in fact doesn’t do anything fast, burrowing deeper into darker depths as the squirming bass worms its way down, down, down. Time stalls: it trickles along and tapers away.

‘Pyramid’ hits a powerful groove and also calls to mind That Fucking Tank, only gnarlier, messier, more downtuned and bottom-heavy. In concluding with a definite finale, the EP has the shape of an inverted bell-curve in terms of the listening experience, and Pak40’s obtuse approach is something to be admired.

AA

Pak40 - Crusts

Ipecac Recordings – 15th June 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

Having teased us with the Cure cover which accompanies four remixes from their Seismic LP and provides, in part, the EP’s title, Spotlights deliver the rest of the tracks.

There’s substantial range here: Kris Dirkson’s remix of ‘Hang us All’ (retitled ‘The Hanging’) hinges on cinematic shoegaze, ethereal but, whittled to half its original length, feels focused and tightly structured.

Mario Quintero’s remix of ‘Ghost of a Glowing Forest’ (‘Till Darkness Comes Out’) is quite the contrast: a sprawling, murky, dubby beast that transitions from near-ambience to slow industrial thud, it sits between NIN and Portishead.

‘The Size of a Planet’, here reworked by Void Mains and retitled ‘I’ve Giant’ accentuates the heavy, bass-led doom drone that lies beneath the graceful lead parts on the album version, and draws it out to almost seven minutes. It’s pretty hefty. In combination, they make for a strong release, and while standing well in their own right, serve to return the attention to the album that spawned them.

The rendition of ‘Faith’ is utterly breathtaking. They’ve not messed with the original in terms of form or structure, and it’s remarkably faithful (sorry) and respectful – but with the heavy guitar work and even heavier drumming, it amps up the intensity to epic levels.

AA

SpotlightsEPcoverlores1

1st June 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

It all starts with an air-raid siren. A historical sound with connotations of WW2 for many, but still heard in places like South Korea and Japan, it’s a sound which provokes an almost biologically-wired shudder of unease. They may only be tests, but the sound of sirens in the last 12 months reminds us that stability is but precarious. And then the snaking, surfy bass strolls in, awash with reverb… and then the guitars… It’s all pinned to a locked-down groove, and Trond Fagernes’ voice rises up from amidst it all as if from the back of a cathedral. You saw it all coming, right? They obviously did and approach by stealth, before building to a whiling cacophony by way of a climax. But for all of its noise and tension, this feels more introspective than anything they’ve done before.

Norway’s Mayflower Madame draw heavily on post-punk influences – music born out of the dark days of the early 80s, corresponding with the period when cold war tensions escalated to warrant the labelling of ‘the second cold war’, and the economic boom years widened the chasm between the haves and have-nots was rendered more conspicuous by the rise of the yuppie. And so on.

What Mayflower Madame bring to the gothy party is a potent dose of Nordic noir psych and a dash of shoegaze, all doused in massive reverb, and the four tracks on Premonition continue the trajectory of their 2016 debut album, Observed in a Dream.

The claustrophobic focus continues on the swirling, shoegazy ‘Before I Fall’; the guitars twang through a gauze of drifting synths and echoey fx that create a certain distance between the listener and the actual song, an unusual sense of both space and an absence of space. ‘Alma’s Sermon’ is centred around a backed-off yet insistent motoric beat and has greater immediacy and – it’s all relative – upbeat vibe. But then closer ‘Siders Seek’ plunges deeper into darkness: a paranoid shiver runs down the spine of the track’s tremulous guitars, and everything about the song’s construction seems to be about concentrating the tension. And yes, this is tense.

AA

Mayflower Madame – Premonition EP

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

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