Posts Tagged ‘Review’

12th October 2022

James Wells

Alright, so I can’t see ‘bad news’ without thinking of the spoof rock band that was part of the Comic Strip Presents… series, featuring the actors behind The Young Ones who released a parody rendition of Queen’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’, actually produced by Brian May, and got themselves bottled off stage at Monsters of Rock in 1986.

There’s nothing periodic or rock cliché about this, though. As the blurb outlines, ‘Bad News explores dreams and nightmares, forgiveness and damnation. Through dark electronic and industrial rock themes: wailing bagpipes and fragile synths on the likes of ‘Not Enough Bridge’ contrasted with pounding beats and heavy guitars on ‘Wild Girl (Slug Mix)’ the band further develops their self-described ‘alternadustrial’ sound.

Admittedly, bagpipes sound like really fucking bad news, but this six-tracker doesn’t sound nearly as bad as the cover art suggests it might. ‘L’appel du Vide’ comes on like Pornography-era Cure with doomy synths and clattering, crushing drum, but with the bonus addition of crunching metal guitar, with the end result being as heavy as hell.

‘Echo Chamber’ is twitchy and urgent, a vintage snare cutting through stark synths and a murky fog of bass and guitar; elsewhere, ‘Darkest Dream’ is stark and sparse, blending early Depeche Mode and Meat Beat Manifesto with a dash of Wax Trax! industrial-tinged electronica injected with a shot of adrenaline – and it’s all slammed home with that tempo that gets you pumped.

If the dense, dark waves of synth and snarling vocals and stomping beats which dominate the EP seem fairly standard fare, at least the pipes are kept in the background.

AA

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Punk Slime Records – 11th November 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

I sometimes feel a twinge of embarrassment when I see press releases and reviews referencing bands I haven’t heard of, in that it makes me feel like I’m failing in my diligence. So when I see that So Young Magazine has described Manchester quartet Mister Strange as ‘An uncompromising cross between the manic charisma of The Dead Kennedys, and the contemporary fury of Melbourne rockers Civic’, I fleetingly think ‘shit, I’m behind the curve here’.

But then, you work with the reference points you’ve got, and this EP packs no shortage of raw punk energy, and plenty of unexpected turns, too.

There’s very much a vintage vibe to Nothing at All, and while the fuzzy, lo-fi production is an integral part of it, the fact that they play hell-for-leather garage punk with murky guitars and reverb-heavy vocals is the main factor. Back when The Strokes and The Hives and The Vines emerged to lead a garage revival shortly after the turn oof the millennium, I got the urge to dig out the various Pebbles and Nuggets compilations. Listening to this, the urge is sated by the gritty authenticity of the band’s lo-budget sound and full-throttle riiffery.

The title track leads off, starting with a raging feedback inferno before ploughing into a relentless high-octane psychedelic punk groove, before suddenly slowing to a heavy trudge that’s 70s heavy metal melted into 90s noise in the vein of Terminal Cheesecake, before reigniting the tempo and racing to the finish.

The remaining five songs aren’t quite such a rollercoaster, pushing instead a muggy, fuggy, grungy guitar style that pursues more sustained riffery and tempos, at least until they arrive at the relentless closer, ‘Rat Bench Alley’, which slugs hard.

In between, ‘Dead Weight’ is fairly standard garage fair, but it’s loud, scuzzy and punches hard, and ‘Crazy Lemon’ pushes a repetitive riff to the max. It’s pretty damn heavy duty, and it’s a decent racket.

AA

Strange

16th September 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

Bristol alt-rock / grunge duo Miss Kill have been making waves around their Bristol locale both live and with radio play, and, more recently, beyond, gripping us here at Aural Aggravation back in July with ‘Drive’, which had plenty.

It’s the lead track on this five-tracker, the title of which succinctly sends a message of taking no shit, and it sets the tempo and the tone, easing in with a gently rolling reverb-soaked guitar and soft, rolling drum and mellow bassline painting a scene steeped in nostalgia while building the volume and packing a solid yet melodic punch.

‘Twilight’ is darker and denser, more emotionally wrought and fraught, a tension tearing through the thick overdriven power-chords that erupt from the quiet, brooding verses. It is, of course, the quintessential grunge format, and they’ve absolutely got it nailed, and with a song that kicks you in the gut while at the same time pulling the heartstrings with a shoegazey twist. It’s a trick they repeat on the boldly guitar-driven ‘All You Gotta Do’, and again, the verses are hushed, reflective, contemplative, and so when the chorus explodes, the impact is immense.

The vocals are integral: powerful, but not simply belting out the lyrics, but delivering them with palpable passion and emotional integrity, to the extent that they convey more than merely the words themselves. It’s singing with feeling, and you feel it.

There isn’t a weak song on here, and if ‘I Wanna Let You Know’ again calls to mind any classic 90s grunge act you could care to name, there’s that bleakly melancholic undertone with a troubled yearning that’s reminiscent of Come, who always took that sound to another place. The same is true of the final song, ‘Someone New’, which showcases a more downtempo sound, and highlights their musicianship and tightness of harmonies.

Debut releases don’t come much stronger than this, and Don’t Tell Me Twice looks set to place Miss Kill firmly – and deservedly – in the national spotlight. The songs are strong, and their delivery radiates quality, and also passion. This is a band that has the power to touch people, to affect them, and it’s a record (albeit virtual) you want to play over and over again.

Miss Kill Artwork

3rd June 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

The best music is timeless. This four tracker from ‘lady fronted, post-hardcore influenced’ quartet, Fantømex, hailing from Asheville, North Carolina could have been released any time during the last thirty years or more, and that’s definitely a positive.

It slams in with the raging, angular grunge of ‘Fantomcatz’ that’s got strong echoes of early Hole or Solar Race, but amidst the screaming fury, there are some neat dynamics and a solid structure. ‘White Hole’ is lighter, popper – I mean, it’s all relative, it’s hardly fucking Beyonce – but it’s got something of a 90s Sonic Youth vibe to it, but then it goes full-tilt histrionic punk, before leaping back to being more Sonic Youth / Pavementy, and the guitars even jangle a bit, albeit briefly.

‘Gaslight’ is appropriately disconcerting, disorientating, and perhaps the most disjointed of the four tracks, but in context it works. It’s no sleight to draw a line to The Pretty Reckless with its more overtly ‘rock’ sound, before they round it off with a jarring slew off guitars that’s like a mathy mess squished into a melodic tune delivered with punk attitude, but at the same time, when she’s not spilling her guts, Abigail Taylor proves she’s capable of delivering a melody that can really tug at the heartstrings.

And so it is that in the space of around eighteen minutes, Fantømex whip together a whirlwind of musical styles and emotions, and do so with both style and force.

AA

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Fast & Bulbous Records – 22nd July 2022.

They’ve been described as sounding like the nagging repetitions of The Fall mixed with the fury of Black Flag, played at 100mph. band names don’t get much more punk than this. And they’re from Leeds, which has in recent years proved to be a hotbed of guitar-driven musical fury. This is what happens when a large city with lots of little venues finds itself in a different place from the rest of the country. Richly multicultural, innovative and entrepreneurial, with a large student population, it’s both a centre for tertiary industry and mass-scale redevelopment and gentrification as well as a place of terrible deprivation. So much for levelling up; so much for the northern powerhouse. But Leeds has always been apart, as its 80s musical heritage is testament to, and since the millennium, it’s been a hotbed of emerging styles, through post-rock and jerky, quirky indie, through math rock and all-out noisy shit, with countless bands emerging – and quickly fading again – in the process.

Scum have survived the pandemic, having formed in 2018, to drop a second EP, and the trio haven’t spent the time away figuring out how to make their millions writing pop songs.

On For Health and Well-Being, the trio are everything they’ve been described as, with a dash of Trail of the Dead tossed into the mix, and it’s a punky, energetic blend of styles that all point to energetic fury. The title tracks is a 25-second spoken word piece where a swell of noise and feedback rises in the background before halting abruptly and the full-throttle guitar attack of ‘Abuserism’ (the longest song at 3:30) piles in.

Blink and you’ll miss the 32-second ‘Vanity Support’: it’s the furious ‘Hard’ that really grabs the attention with its thick riffage and hardcore attitude, and the closer, ‘Intravenous Inconvenience’ powers it to a close.

Take same time out and give it a blast, and do it on work time. Because employers are all about supporting Health and Well-Being, right?

AA

Scum Artwork

27th July 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

The multi-talented, multi-discipline and perhaps, sometimes, not-so-disciplined Benjamin Heal returns in his Cowman guise, under which he’s been operating since 2005 with a new EP, his first in a decade, after previous creative detours with Coaxial and various other projects.

Over the course of a sporadic and low-key career, li-fi, slackerist Cowman has – impressively, whether by fluke or by design – appeared on bills with a slew of cred cult acts, including Ack Ack Ack, Gum Takes Tooth, Cove, Pifco, and John Parish. These notable highlights are well-deserved, but it’s a pleasure to witness cowman making a comeback, instead of simply revelling over former achievements.

Crunch is a magnificently loose knockabout and if Pavement comparisons may seem lazy shortcuts, they’re also entirely justified. But then… then… there’s a whole lot more. The first track, ‘Concrete Eyes # Turpentine’ , with its inexplicable punctuation, starts out a fairly straightforward, if angular indie kicker in the vein of Slanted era Pavement, with wonky, off-kilter guitars that sound vaguely out of key, but then spins off into an epic swirling expanse of psychedelic post-rock. The whole thing is almost ten minutes long, drifting into a long, sluggish drone in the final minutes.

There’s an easygoing picked guitar line that contrasts with jittery drums on ‘Concrete pink Dots’ before the distortion kicks in, and it does so hard, creating a dense whorl of noise that almost buries the drums, until they surrender to the barrage of din, and we find ourselves drifting in a cloud of hazy shoegaze guitar. It’s mellow, but it’s loud, and that’s where the hypnotic ‘Bloody Diffuser’ picks up as it embarks on another ten-minute sonic journey, a slow-smouldering soundscape heavy on delay and reverb. Switching through a succession of segments, where the transitions are jolting, flicking changes rather than seamless transitions, it’s by turns doom drone and psychedelic drone, but ultimately, it’s all the drone – and that’s a good thing.

Ordinarily, two versions of one song on the same release feels a bit lazy, but then again, I spent the 90s buying singles on three formats in order to obtain all the versions and B—sides, and I have a hunch that Benjamin is also well-versed in the maxi-single and the like, and it so happens that the cropped version of ‘Tobacco Eyes’ that rounds it off actually feels like a single that had it been released circa 92 would have been lauded in the press as being in the vein of Pavement and Truman’s Water. And in fairness, that’s just as true in 2022.

AA

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Gold Mold Records – 7th July 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

Moni Jitchell don’t piss about, and in deference to that attitude, neither shall I: this EP is an absolute blinder. Crashing in somewhere between Blacklisters, and Daughters, or like Pulled Apart by Horses on speed, it delivers five fast ‘n’ furious cuts in as many minutes, and it’s not hard to figure how the Glasgow duo scored a slot supporting Mclusky earlier in the year with their brand of irreverent, full-throttle shouty noise that’s too angular to be punk, but too punk to be metal, and too metal to be math… The fact they’ve appeared alongside Leeds noisemongers Thank is perhaps a fair indication of the kind of racket they make.

Only they make it louder and faster, and distil everything to the most absolute optimum potency. The songs are formed, with defined structures and ‘clear’ shape – but compacted to black-hole density, clanging and slamming every whichway, frenetic, kinetic, jarring, jolting, whiplash-inducing blasts of sonic violence.

Grant Donaldson’s drumming is solid and holds everything together through wild tempests of stuttering, stop/start guitar that veers between driving riffs and splintering shards of atonality. The vocals are manic, screamed, and unintelligible, but it doesn’t really matter, as there’s no time to dwell on these things. There’s no time for anything at all.

‘Not a Change’ is a mere thirty—three seconds long, with guitars that buzz like a helium-filled wasp trapped in a hot greenhouse. ‘Split’ is only a second longer, while the ten-second ‘Skelp’ is over before it’s even started.

It’s one of those short sharp shocks that leaves you stunned and sweating, and completely buzzed.

AA

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6th May 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

This latest four-tracker from Panic Lift continues the trajectory of themed EPs that it’s been pursuing for a while now.

With two new cuts and a remix of each, it’s reminiscent of the old-school 7” and 12” formats, and ‘Every Broken Piece’ accompanied by ‘Bitter Cold’ would make for a perfect 7”, with the additional tracks – remixes respectively from Mechanical Vein and Tragic Impulse – fleshing out a 12” and CD… Such reminiscences are relevant because Panic Lift’s harsh industrial dance sound is rooted in the 90s when multi-format releases were de rigueur. Much as they were clearly a way of milking fans and boosting chart positions, I do kind of miss those days, since the majority of releases don’t even come in a physical format.

For Stitched, James Francis, aka Panic Lift, revisits the kind of sound that defined his debut, Witness To Our Collapse, and talking of the physical, there’s a strong physicality to both ‘Every Broken Piece’ and ‘Bitter Cold’ – not just their thumping hard as nails grooves and pounding beats, but the overall density of the sound hits with a physical impact, while the forced, rasping vocals equally hit hard, the sound of anguish and rage and a host of mixed and conflicting emotions aflame.

‘Every Broken Piece’ was a feature of Panic Lift’s online performances during lockdown, and it’s from this place of inner turmoil that these songs emerge, with the accompanying notes pointing out that they ‘continue with the familiar themes of stress, coping, and concerns of self-image’, and the rippling synth lines, juxtaposed against snarling, abrasive vocals, are the perfect expression of internal conflict. There’s a lot going on here in the arrangements, with churning metal guitar grazing against cinematic synths, and the slower chorus on ‘Bitter Cold’ brings impact by contrast.

AA

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Cruel Nature Recordings –11th March 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

I’m not sure if it’s irony or simply appropriate that VHS¥DEATH should have their latest EP released on cassette, but then London-based Natalie Wardle is also a member of industrial/art-punk band Returning Videotapes, so there’s certainly a vintage media theme here. I write that as someone who remembers when the CD was the future which would render both vinyl and cassette formats obsolete at the end of an era where home taping was allegedly killing music. Who could have predicted that not even home downloading would have killed music, but that the instantly would have killed itself by slowly choking itself with greed and sputtering its death throes over streaming platforms raking in millions while paying artists fractions of a penny per hundred streams?

The relevance of this digression is that the six tracks on Corrupted Geisha – the follow up to ‘La Llorona (Love & All The Hate)’ released last year, sees Wardle incorporate – as the Accompanying notes observe – ‘breakbeats and hip-hop / UK garage stylings alongside spoken-word samples and dark synth-laden bass-heavy soundscapes’.

‘Space Bankers See You, the End is Near’ opens the EP in magnificent style, a near-perfect hybrid of hip-hop and experimental, samplist collaging, and there’s a lot of rants against capitalism in the mix here. It’s a layered piece where the samples dominate the musical backdrop that transitions from chunky hip-hop to minimal country. It’s like flicking through TV channels in the mid to late 90s, like stopping by your stoner uni mates’ house to find them whacked and listening to Wu-Tang.

The Dystropian mix of ‘Falsehood of Man’ works without any familiarity with the original mix: samples and rapid-fire drum ‘n’ bass percussion collide in what is ultimately a rather tensely-delivered list of psychological disorders, and ‘666 Pounds of Zedro Gravity’ follows this trajectory, a dark doom drone of synths providing the backdrop to tense samples.

‘Snakes in the Grass’ makes a sharp left turn into the domain of the weird with its rippling vocal effects and thick,, squelchy beats, not to mention downtuned, dolorous guitars. It’s intense and powerful: it’s not pleasant.

The lo-fi indie-goth of ‘What’s Your Worth, Vampire?’ is of such different sound and sound quality that it feels like a different band. It very much highlights the diversity and eclecticism of VHS¥DEATH, but it’s not a quick or easily assimilation in terms of stylistic mode.

The EP closes with a pretty faithful cover of Ministry’s ‘(Every Day Is’) Halloween – their first on Wax Trax!, but at the point they still hadn’t really evolved beyond Depeche Mode-y electropop. But then, faithful doesn’t account for the additional darkness, murk, and ethereal shades this version brings to the party, and it perhaps tells us more about VHS¥DEATH than is immediately apparent.

Corrupted Geisha isn’t an instantly digestible set by any means, and at times, its range is difficult to assimilate. But that shouldn’t be taken as a lack of focus or identity, so much as an indicator of an act whose sound and style is hard to pin down. And that alone deserves applause.

AA

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Southern Lord – 3rd December 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

I’ve been a little slow getting around to this one, but since the band’s taken more than twenty-five years to do so, I don’t feel quite so bad.

Way, way back, before Sunn O))), before Goatsnake, before Teeth of Lions Rule the Divine (another band referencing Dylan Carlson’s mighty drone-progenitors Earth), before the advent of the Southern Lord label, Greg Anderson made noise with early 90s Seattle-based post-hardcore act Engine Kid, who signed off in 1995 with the Troubleman Unlimited EP, after undergoing countless lineup changes and recording their album Bear Catching Fish album with Steve Albini. Their short but prolific career was recently re-released as a six-album box set.

But I guess sometimes there are itches you just have to scratch, and this is clearly one such instance, with the band reconvening to revisit and rework old songs they never recorded or releases.

A lot has changed in a quarter of a century, and the title is a fair indicator. This isn’t a criticism, and as the accompanying text explains, the ‘cover art is a symbolic metaphor about living one’s best life, and with extravagant swagger. The songs themselves continue the band’s “take on the world” attitude with restless, wild energy’. This is a short blast of a release that’s about empowerment, not dissing the disabled, and it’s a reminder of simpler times, perhaps, when ‘special’ was ok. But ultimately, we’re all special, right?

The songs contained herein – several of which have already been shared here on Aural Aggravation – are blistering blasts of guitar-driven noise: fifty-nine second opener ‘Burban on Blades’ a piledriving blast of warped riffage that’s more akin to Melvins than anything else, and paves the way for the thunderous title track. The drums pound as devastating detonations, while the bass blasts at your lungs and the guitars grind with a gut-churning afterburn. It’s brutal and then some, and ‘The Abattoir’, a mere minute and fifteen in duration, is savage. One thing is clear, and that’s during their absence, they’ve not mellowed, and that they’ve not polished or prettied these songs up with a more technical performance or cleaner production is very much a good thing.

‘Patty : Tania’ (not on the flexidisc edition) marks a massive shift to round off the EP: it sounds like another band entirely, with chiming guitars weaving a dark, late-night, backstreet atmosphere that has somewhat gothic overtones, and these provide the backdrop to a lengthy sampled spoken word intro before, finally, at just shy of three and a half minutes in, the levee breaks and the guitars crash in. That kind of dynamic never gets tired, and here it shows that Engine Kid are more complex, more nuanced, and more versatile, than may initially appear.

This is a storming EP in its own right, and will likely not only elate existing fans, but introduce the band to a whole new set of listeners.

AA

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