Posts Tagged ‘Review’

Cruel Nature Recordings – 27th August 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Grunge isn’t dead. Not by a long way. Although, the trouble with grunge is that even at its height, most of the bands weren’t that impressive, and the ones who were achieved the widest success were the weakest, most accessible of the crop. Without the polished and ultimately marketable Nevermind, Nirvana would have never achieved global domination, although both Bleach and In Utero were, and remain, far superior albums, while the like of Tad and Mudhoney are the true sound of grunge, and capture the gritty, sweaty toil of blue collar labour channelled into aural catharsis. These bands never set out to change the world, but to vent their frustrations and ultimately their sense of powerlessness through music.

Perhaps it’s an age thing, but being in sixth form when grunge exploded it felt like not only an exciting time for music, but that this was a wave of music that actually spoke both to and for my generation at the time. In a way I feel rather sorry for the Millennials and Gen Z; the blandness of contemporary music speaks of nothing but surface. Even when addressing genuine issues, there feels like not only an absence of depth, but an absence of real emotion, of soul. Perhaps it’s just that the mainstream industry, represented by the mainstream charts, dominated by mainstream artists on major labels is simply giving the entirety of its focus on monetising slick sonic wallpaper. It seems odd that generations so riven with pain and angst (and who can blame them?) should find solace in this kind of anodyne slop. It can’t just be the numbing effects of antidepressants: something is clearly awry. Small wonder, then, that some delve into their parents’ collections in order to find music that contains what’s missing for them.

New York’s Cronies formed in June 2020 by brothers Jack and Sam Carillo, the press pitch describes the project as ‘the creative offspring of Covid and isolation’. Creative is the word: having pulled in a couple of mates to render this a full band, they’ve already banged out a brace of Eps in the last year ahead of this, their eponymous debut, which Cruel Nature are releasing on another Bandcamp Friday, with Proceeds going to charity.

It’s a bowel-shaking bass note that strikes first, and the sustain is something. And then in lurches a grimy guitar that’s welded to a stumbling rhythm section – and it’s heavy. Then the drawling vocal rips into a fill-throated roar that’s pure Cobain. These guys have taken the relentless battery of Bleach and the nihilistic squall of In Utero as their template, with a dash of thrash and some of the grimy heft of Tad in the mix (‘Slush Fund’ even leans on the riff from Tad’s ‘Behemoth’ but chicks in some stun synths and some manic hollering that’s more reminiscent of The Jesus Lizard), and ‘A Slippery Slope’ throws all of these in at once, along with a sudden change of pace and direction two-thirds of the way in. On ‘Ritchie from Lebanon’ they build a massively dense bulk of noise, the guitars and bass churning, overloading at great volume.

What Cronies have that their peers lack – well, there are many things, if we’re analysing (and of course we are: that’s the purpose of music criticism). But first and foremost, it’s raw passion and energy. There’s nothing slick or ultra-processed about this: Cronies are unashamedly ragged, and really embrace the grunge ethic of the time when most of the bands from Nirvana to Mudhoney were still on labels like Sub Pop. It’s perhaps because of the band’s origins – confined, trapped – that the songs on Cronies teem and seethe with abject frustration. Sometimes, words simply cannot articulate those feelings, and all there is to do is scream and unleash howls of feedback instead of neat chords. And this is what Cronies do, and this is why they speak to us: it’s accepting the limitations of articulation and unleashing a primal howl. It’s powerful because it’s real.

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Christopher Nosnibor

Having established the FEAST nights as a coming-together of noise and experimental artists during lockdown, burgeoning label NIM BRUT has expanded its remit for this fifth event, with a live show in front of a live audience in Derby on August 1st, and streaming the performances alongside contributions from those who were unable to make it to play live for tonight’s online stream – making this something of a hybrid gig, especially as the event also doubles as a listening party for the release of Zero Gap’s eponymous debut. A collaboration between Ryosuke Kiyasu (the ‘Japanese snare drum guy’) and (James) Watts, growler for Lump Hammer, Lovely Wife, and most of the other gnarly acts circulating the Newcastle scene, it’s out at the end of the month, and segments from the album got spun between acts.

Walking in (virtually), I’m assailed by a whole load of messy noise that bleeds into some disorientating ambience. This, of course, is very much designed to set the mood, and in no time, Lost Music Library are pumping out spurts of mustard gas ambience, accompanied by oddly animated and eerie images shot in a children’s playpark. With no children (for probably obvious reasons) the scenes take on an uncanny aspect, with empty swings swinging, while randomly struck xylophone notes plink and plonk in a childlike fashion. It’s inexplicably moving as slow-drawn strings taper down through the emptiness. It feels like something is wrong, something has been lost. It feels apocalyptic, but also rather close to home and the scenes of the last year or so. At the end, everything blurs and fades.

The collaborative set between Thurmond Grey and Aged is an interesting dark hip-hop effort that harks back to the turn of the millennium, but with the steady beats and keyed-up rapping duelling with some grating electronic noise. The vibe is very much ‘in the moment’, and first take – which works well, as it adds to the ‘live’ feel. Grey’s vocals at times sound like mark E Smith, and not everything is completely finished, and that’s ok: like the BBC radio sessions in the 80s, this is an ideal platform to test material out to a select audience.

Thurmond Grey

Thurmond Grey

OMNIBAEL have been using these sessions to evolve their sound. Tonight’s effort is a gnarly whorl of abrasion: Kester’s vocals are mangled by a rack of effects against a grinding tumult of nasty synth abrasion, and it hurts – so much anguish, so much pain – so much noise, so much Throbbing Gristle. When the guitar enters the mix, things reach a whole new level of punishing overload, and the volume is absolutely fucking brutal.

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OMNIBAEL

Leeds-based noisecore duo Rejection Ops, who’ve recently (lathe) cut a 10” with Territorial Gobbings were there on the night a week ago. With guitarist / synth player / shouter Colin Sutton wearing a wedding dress and veil – and finished off with a head torch, they’re quite a sight, and the duo’s frenetic grindy noise is simply explosive from the first bar. It’s a relentless barrage from beginning to end, and with the addition of electronics, this set is all about the noise. It hurts: there’s no form, no obvious structure, but a relentless assault driven by a nonstop drum attack. It’s free noise in full effect, and it’s not for wimps. And it builds to a sustained crescendo that’s pure tinnitus.

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Rejection Ops

So where do you from there? To some harsh noise dialled in by a couple of clowns operating as …(something) ruined, of course. It’s impossible for me to review this objectively, but suffice it to say we were pretty happy with the latest instalment of anti-corporate power electronics that looks like featuring on an EP pretty soon, and those present seemed to dig it.

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…(something) ruined

Neuro… No Neuro present a short, shifting wave of glitchronic ambience, before six-piece This Sun No More packed onto the tiny venue stage and slugged their guts out with a set of riff-slinging post-metal: expansive, textured, they really flex some muscle. The structures are tight, well-arranged, and well-executed. When they hit a crescendo, they really kick, and there are – occasionally – some howling vocals half-buried beneath the tempest. They may be very much school of 2004-2006 in nature, but they hold up in comparison to masters of the genre like Pelican. Live, they’re tight and super-solid, and they look like a band to see in the flesh.

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Neuro… No Neuro

Aged’s solo set in unnerving because it’s is so literally in your face: Nate Holdren’s bearded visage looms and while the drones and hums trickle and trail. He can be seen talking to himself, stroking his beard, immersed in either making of the sound… but as a work of droning ambience, it’s a solid one.

It’s a truly packed bill, and Error Control, – performing live from the venue – wearing a blindfold, delivers a set that, predictably, hurts. It’s a lot of mangled noise. And more than being ‘just’ noise, it’s bursts of noise. This somehow accentuates the impact, the harshness, and man, it’s fucking ugly. But it’s also ace. Blackcloudsummoner makes some dark noise accompanied by some eye-bleeding, brain popping visuals,

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Blackcloudummoner

Headlining, Territorial Gobbing is mental as ever, as you’d expect from a guy who’s performed sets from bouncing a basketball and playing a cabinet he’d liberated from a skip on the way to the venue one time. Theo Gowans is truly the king of noise improv: he will render sound from quite literally any object, and will select that object on a whim. Clatters and clumps, bumps and wails, his is a world of off the wall mental shit, and the only thing you can predict it that it’ll be unpredictable and bewildering.

It all adds up to another great night of ultra-niche obscure noise: the amalgamation of life and dialled-in works well, and could well be a format that will be the shape of things for a good few months yet. It’s good to see things evolving in keeping with shifting rules and attitudes, and this is certainly an event that continues to accommodate all. Here’s looking forward to the next one.

Dedstrange Records – 16th July 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

It’s been a while since we last heard from New York’s purveyors of treble-blasting psychedelic post-punk noise – they slipped album number five, Pinned out back in the spring of 2018, since when they’ve been relatively quiet. Not that one of the contenders for the ‘loudest band in the world’ tag ever do quiet, in terms of volume of output, with an EP and self-released single in 2019.

The Hologram EP is the first release with a new lineup, whereby core member Oliver Ackermann is joined by John Fedowitz (bass) and Sandra Fedowitz (drums) of Ceremony East Coast, and comes from a difficult place at a difficult time, ‘with songs addressing the decay of connections, friendships lost, and the trials and tribulations of these troubled times, Hologram serves as an abstract mirror to the moment we live in’, details the press release. The tone is pretty apocalyptic: ‘Written and recorded during the on-going global pandemic and in the midst of the decline of civilization, Hologram is a sonic vaccine to the horrors of modern life.’

And if Pinned was perhaps their most overtly 80s-sounding release, Hologram pushes the experimentalism that began to become pronounced from Transfixiation while amalgamating all of the elements that have featured across their career to date.

Previous singles ‘End of the Night’ and ‘I Might Have’ provide the opening salvoes: the former’s murky percussion-driven blast of noise is a bassy, booming, raw slice of fucked up psychedelia. Everything is warped, melting, overloading, like MBV covering The Monkees, and the latter being pretty much classic APTBS, a blur of three-chord rock ‘n’ roll riffing – the Jesus and Mary Chain as filtered through Black Rebel Motorcycle Club – minus any desire for even the slightest hint of polish.

‘Playing the Part’ is short, a melodic indie jangle with a light, easy melody and a melancholy that belies the breeziness as it emanates from the frayed edges. ‘In My Hive’ revisits the form of ‘Now It’s Over’ from Transfixiation, only it goes somewhere else – and if Transfixiation pushed the boundaries of songs that felt incomplete, fragmentary, as if the structures are only partial and prone to cracking and splintering apart as they go, then the Hive is being used as a piñata by some crazed maniacs, and all the while the insistent beat hammers away like a palpating heart in the midst of a panic attack.  

Things gets slower and dreamier with the slow-unfurling shoegaze wisps of closer ‘I Need You’. With a Cure-like wistfulness, it’s again familiar territory, particularly in context of Pinned, but also songs like ‘Dissolved’ from Worship. Where this differs, again, is in the production: the brutal shards of feedback still swirl and soak the bass and vocals and at times almost bury the sparse drums, but whereas before the EQ was geared toward the top-end and walls of ear-splitting treble, there’s a lot of mid- and lower-range present here, which creates a more subdued and less attacking sound.

As with everything APTBS do, it sounds distinctively like ABPTBS, but once again, sounds and feels different, and the mood on Hologram is as much the departure as any aspect of the songwriting or sound itself. Whereas there has historically been a sense of obliterative catharsis about the shattering noise that defines their catalogue, Hologram feels darker and more introspective, and it feels fitting.

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16th July 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

One of my mates enjoys expounding on the opinion that all band names are inherently and fundamentally crap, at least when taken on face value and interrogated for their meanings and connotations. He invariably takes it back to The Beatles – a shockingly bad pun if ever there was one, and I would have to say that point is hard to argue. It’s not even especially clever.

Any band with a one-word name prefixed with ‘the’ is, unquestionably terrible (even allowing for the fact that The Melvins is purposefully bad), and existing and acts who’ve added a definite article have gone rapidly downhill on doing so – take The Offspring, for example. But maybe not so much The Verve, because they were gash to begin with, with their overblown, flappy indie shoegaze flailings.

Recently, we discussed Death by Unga Bunga and Ender Bender, and unanimously agreed that they were both terrible names. But then, objectively, pretty much every band name – even your favourite – is poor and difficult to defend.

But we were divided over Weston Super Maim, which he deemed a bit shit, and which, objectively, is based on a terrible half pun that only UK residents and only then a percentage will grasp. But, despite knowing this, I can’t help but find amusement and a certain admiration for it and the audacity.

Their latest offering, the 180-Degree Murder EP isn’t so much a source of amusement, but more of a brutal industrial battering. Tom Stevens (All Of Space, Brown Stratos) teams up with US-based Seth Detrick of Los Angeles thrash outfit PDP to handle vocal duties. It’s an EP in the 80s tradition, where two tracks too long for a 7” would make up a 12” release. The two tracks on offer here both extend beyond the six-minute mark and pack all the punch.

It’s been a long time in the making, as the press release details: ‘Written as a single track, 180-Degree Murder traverses caveman heaviness, tech-driven grooves and shifting melodic patterns to create an immersive experience that rewards multiple listens. The writing process for the EP began in 2019. By the time the pandemic hit, an early instrumental draft had already been recorded, but it wasn’t until Detrick joined the project in June 2020 that things really began to take shape. Making use of extra time at home in London during the first UK lockdown, Stevens retracked instruments for the EP at his home studio while Detrick developed lyrical ideas and vocal patterns from his home in Eugene, Oregon. Vocal tracking was completed in early 2021, and the mix not long thereafter.’

‘180 Degree Murder’ is a cacophony of hard slabs plus squalling bleeping fretwork, roaring, ground-razing vocals and an air of explosive violence as guttural roars set against the most pulverising of riffs. Strapping Young Lad is the comparison that comes to mind, but then there’s also the relentless mechanised industrial blast of Wiseblood and Swans that’s also hard to ignore. Oh yes, this is hard and heavy, alright.

‘We Need to Talk About Heaven’ offers a graceful intro and the breaks are remarkably light and melodic in context, but the chug never stops, and cuts loose into violent distortion-driven fury at precisely those crucial points, and it’s not for wimps. In fact, it may only be some fifteen-and-a-bit minutes in duration, but 180 Degree Murder is a savage and brutal affair.

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Gates of Hypnos  – 4th July 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

This is a split release by, as the title suggests, Sado Rituals and Mass Grave, who each bring approximately twenty minutes of harsh noise wall to the dark, antisocial party.

Sado Rituals’ ‘Funeral Pile of the Nameless’ is a murky cloud of tearing, rumbling devastation.

As I listen, I contemplate whether they mean pile or pyre, but conclude it maters little, especially not least of all to the couple of hundred people who will even ever hear it. We’re in ultra-niche territory here, and no mistake. But it’s a niche filed with a truly hardcore following.

It’s deep, dark, dank, a rumbling morass of formless darkness that billows and rumbles, and over the course of its precise twenty minutes, it sucks the fucking soul from you as it churns away at the guts without shift and without mercy. It feels like standing beneath the rotors of a helicopter, or on the edge of a cyclone spiralling down and drawing all matter into the pits of hell, the sonic equivalent of a black hole. A vortex of bleakness, of dense matter without form. And then, bang on the twenty-minute marks, it stops.

As purveyors of self-labelled ‘blackened noise wall’, Mass Grave’s nineteen-minute gut churner sounds like the tail end of a piano being rolled down a flight of stairs, a rolling crash of dissonance. It’s even darker and dinger than Sado Rituals’ contribution, a low rumble reduced to a slow, low drone that gradually warps as it billows like smoke from a fire on a wrecker’s yard, all types burning and cars slowly melting in the suffocating black smog.

The lack of treble on these two pieces tempers the harshness, in many ways: it’s a real gut-rumbler but neither track feels particularly attacking or abrasive: it’s a noise wall, and no mistake, but one which is more designed to smoother and suffocate than penetrate the flesh and the psyche with its harsh intensity. It’s still punishing, and it’s still gnarly as fuck, and its power lies in just how oppressive, stifling, the two pieces are.

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Christopher Nosnibor

No two ways about it: coinciding with the NIM compilation album Deprived of Occupation and Pleasure We Feast, FEAST 4 offers the most jam-packed and solid quality lineup they’ve put on yet, with sets from a number of acts featured on the album and a stack more besides.

After some weird woozy shit off Territorial Gobbings’ recent Automatic for Nobody album release (which we covered and coveted here), where Theo Gowans hoarsely whispers corruptions of lines from REM, Rejections Ops kick things off early doors with a blitzkrieg of stuttering beats, squalling bass feedback and squealing, crackling synths: the guitarist’s wearing a veil and there are strobes galore. The noise is complete overload, a devastating mass of distortion, and while it would perhaps benefit from a little more contrast – it’s absolutely fucking full-on from beginning to end – it would just be amazing to witness in a small, sweaty room at proper ear-bleeding volume. I could happily go home now – but of course, I’m already home, and am thirsty for what’s to come.

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Rejections Ops

Hubble’s cover of Swans’ ‘No Cure for the Lonely’ from the aforementioned compilation provides a mellow interlude before Omnibael’s set. It’s another intense work, and probably their best yet. Stark, black and white footage accompany the duo’s low-down, dubby industrial scrapings. There are some mangled vocals low in the mix, while the crashing metallic snare is pitched up high, and driven by a relentless sequenced synth bass groove overlaid with explosive noise, the atmosphere is dark and oppressive.

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Omnibael

Blackcloudsummoner brings more overloading electronica, dark, dense, story, tense, crunching electrodes crackling distortion, occasionally rent by trills of feedback. And it all sounds as if it’s coming from an immense cavern, about a quarter of a mile underground. The bass sounds like a nuclear experiment, and it’s all going off at once, making for an intense and disorientating experience.

AGED’s sound is rather more ambient, and considerably less abrasive, and it’s well-timed. That isn’t to say that this is in any way soft: there’s a crackling decay at the edge of the sound, and distant samples, barely audible, create a disorientating effect. And it’s over in the blink of an eye.

Making a return for …(something) ruined, the full-tilt, all-out noise abrasion with shouting seemed to hit the spot, and the altogether mellower sounds of Pigsticks and the Wonderbra, making droning harmonica noises in some woods arrives just in time to prevent any aneurysms. This is wonderfully weird, with leaves dropping and being raked creating a ‘field recording’ element to this curious experimental concoction. Birds tweet. A helicopter flies over. Atonal woodwind. Random words. What is it all about? The epitome of avant-garde oddity.

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…(something) ruined

Paired with Pressure Cooker Release valve for a collaborative set, Territorial Gobbing bring all the oddball experimentalism you’d expect. For TG, anything and everything is source material, and on this outing we witness some effervescent vitamin tablets fizzing in bowls, the sound contained by a folded IKEA box. And then they bring on the squeezy sauce bottles, which puff and sigh and gasp in their varying degrees of emptiness. Drainpipe and walkie-talkie, toast, toasters, lighters, phone ring tones, egg slicers, books, paint tube, polystyrene packaging, and kitchen sink also provide sound sources in this bizarre object-led experimental set. It almost feels like we’re watching an album being recorded in real-time. Maybe – and even hopefully – we are. With a track per object, it would work well.

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Territorial Gobbing / Pressure Cooker Release Valve

Gintas K’s set is a brain-bending bleepfest, a tangle of jangling synths and collapsing synapses that fray the nerve-endings. Everything squelches and zaps every which way, and we get to watch it all happen in real-time as the notes twitched away on his keyboard are run through software on a dusty Lenovo Thinkpad to create a crazy sonic foam that bubbles and froths all over. But deep, resonant bass tones boom out over the stuttering bleepage and groaning, croaking drones emerge. It all squelches down to a mere drip before finally fizzling out in a patter of rain, and it’s well-received, And rightly so.

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Gintas K

Hubble’s headlining set is accompanied by some eye-opening PoV visuals of a parachute jump and clips of people leaping off mountains, and the footage is so terrifying I actually hope it’s CGI even though it looks like it’s actually real. The freefalling blue sky space is the ideal accompaniment to the disorientating fretwork of the musical accompaniment which sounds like multiple guitars and keys playing interloping lines together and across one another. The rapid ebbs and flows are immersive, hypnotic, and a long, mid-range drone builds and hangs against the dizzying blanket of fretwork that weaves the rich and sense sonic tapestry of this bewildering sound on sound. It couldn’t be more different in sound from Ben’s regular gig as guitarist in NY noise act Uniform, but everyone needs a break, and this is wonderfully, if dizzyingly, realised. It makes for a top ending to a top night packed with all the weird and all the wonderful from the full noise spectrum.

New Heavy Sounds – 26th Mar 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

It was supporting the mighty Black Moth at their final gig at Leeds’ Brudenell a couple of years ago where I first encountered latest New Heavy Sounds signings Sky Valley Mistress. If the world hadn’t gone off the rails, if live music hadn’t been halted, there’s a very good chance that Sky Valley Mistress would have been well on the way to stepping into the gap left by Black Moth, with their no-messing riff-centric brand of rock, having honed their sound and style in front of more live audiences. Because this is how bands so often evolve, and build fanbases. Everything was perfectly positioned…

Still, credit to the band for not resting on their laurels or simply waiting for life to resume, and for maintaining their profile with this new EP, picking up the slack after their lockdown tribute cover of Nine Inch Nails’ ‘Every day s Exactly the same’ back in June of 2020, which feels like a lifetime ago. Back then, lockdown still had an element of novelty, it felt like there was an opportunity to use the time gifted creatively, and that maybe the ‘new normal’ could afford something beneficial despite the closure of public spaces.

That optimism has given way to fatigue and a widespread sense of emptiness, , and the acoustic sessions EP very much feels like the stop-gap that it is. Unable to write, rehearse, record, and perform together as a full band as they usually would, laying down an EP containing acoustic versions of songs from their debut album, Faithless Rituals, and coincidentally – or otherwise – marking the anniversary of its release.

To their credit, they’ve done something a bit different: there’s a synth bass that growls in the low-end regions on ‘You Got Nothing’. It returns to bookend the EP on the reworking of ‘She Is So’. In between, acoustic guitars and piano provide the main musical accompaniment to these stripped back reworkings. And they are well-executed, and as such, hard to fault – and makes you long even harder for live shows and for new material proper.

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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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