Posts Tagged ‘Review’

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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Cruel Nature Records – 3rd December 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Cruel Nature’s release schedule for December is heavily snake-orientated, with Cavesnake’s eponymous album emerging on the same day as Mitternacht’s The Snake, although the two serpents are very different beasts.

For Cavesnake, the bio informs us that ‘Oxgoat and Sikander Louse came together through a shared love of ugly, blown out Black Metal, achingly beautiful ambient soundscapes, and deep space horror’, and that ‘They use the interstitial zone of Cavesnake to explore themes of loss, emptiness, ontological insecurity and the righteous acceptance of the impending apocalypse.’

It’s seriously fucking dark from the opening, with creeping fear chords and dark ambience drifting slowly across the horizon.

Cavesnake record straight to tape and through a rigorous process of layering, drenching samples in reverb, re-amping guitar drones through monstrous cabinets, they force their music to hang listlessly in a void space akin to an event horizon. And dark it is: ‘Pseudohalo’ may only be four minutes in duration, but it’s a bleak and oppressive opener, although it’s nothing to the whiplash black metal mudslide of ‘Bloodless Weapon’. This is murky, dark, heavy. It growls and grinds and churns and burns, and shrieks howling screeds of sonic lesions, an aural excoriation that scrapes and drones for almost nine minutes.

The ten-minute ‘Posture in Defeat’ is a swirling back hole, a deep, dark eddy of slow collapse, the pretty mid-frequency glimmers rent by earth-shattering sonic donations like planets colliding, while ‘Vipers Dance’ which stretches and twists a full twelve minutes is serpentine, dark, ominous, bleak. Without an explicit context, it’s for the listener to place and utilise this listening experience to suit their experiences, and for the most part, for me, I find myself nervous, anxious, uncertain, as every composition is dark, oppressive, the sound of impending doom. It’s thick, swirling, a dense swirling vortex of airlessness from which there seems to bee no escape as it envelopes your entire being. You simply cannot breathe; all you want to do is breathe. The snake is constricting now, your ribs and lungs are tight. Please…

The final track, ‘Fleshware’, offers no respite, a churning grind and whisper or multi-layered noise that offers no breaks, no moments of calm, only increased tension. It scrapes and screeds and snarls and growls, and near the end, a distorted, impenetrable voice speaks, rasping the album to a close.

It’s pretty heavy, and so intense. Prepare to be bitten.

AA

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Midlands based math-rockers a-tota-so are back though not quite as mathy as you might remember them. When COVID19 hit the UK and the never ending lockdowns and lack of support for the music industry started signalling the end of live music for what many thought might be a very long time, a-tota-so decided to change things up and keep themselves busy working on their second album entitled Lights Out.

The biggest change sees the usually instrumental band enlisting a gang of their vocalist friends from the UK and Irish music scene, putting a fresh spin on their music and create something different this time around. Each of the 8 tracks boasts a different vocalist from the likes of Damien Sayell (The St Pierre Snake Invasion/Mclusky), Ashley Tubb (Sugar Horse), Jake O’Driscoll (God Alone) and Ellie Godwin (No Violet).

With most of the music being written during the first lockdown and recorded over winter 2020 at JT Soar, the legendary DIY venue and recording studio in Nottingham, the band sent a track to each of the vocalists they had in mind and they were given free reign to do what they wanted over the instrumentals. The result is an exciting and eclectic album which covers a wide range of genres and changes the bands sound completely.

Guitarist Marty Toner comments, “The album deals with a variety of themes including depression, anxiety, feeling lost and the general state of the world we are currently living in while providing hope that we can carry on with the things that we all love and enjoy in the future."

Now the band have shared the beautifully animated video for recent single “I Am” which features vocals from Aisling Whiting (Sang Froid). Video director/animator Steve McCarthy comments,

“When Marty from a-tota-so  shared the song with me I knew I had to get involved! initially I’d wanted to keep it simple, but he gave me full creative freedom on the video and as I started experimenting the idea started to grow.

Taking some inspiration from Simon J. Curd’s album artwork, I developed a story around a scene in a forest that changes through the cycle of the seasons and the cycle of life and death.

This was such a great opportunity to really explore some creative ideas and tools, and the whole thing was a learning process. It was a pleasure to work on and turned into a real passion project and a learning exercise for myself.” 

Watch the video now:

7th December 2021

Crimson Brûlée emerged in 2019 as an offshoot of guitar-driven goths The Witch-Kings, after a difference of opinion over the incorporation of synths. No diss to The Witch-Kings, but Tragica presents a magnificent sound.

It’s a pretty awkward band name and so-so title for a great album, but there is context, at least for the latter, in that the EP is delivered in homage to the band’s original bassist, Johan, who passed away in early 2021.

He would likely have been proud. With Tragica Crimson Brûlée really nail their position as a top-notch goth act. It’s billed as an EP, but comes with a stack of remixes which bulks it uo to nine tracks, which is effectively an album or two EPs.

‘I Came Back to You’ is a strong opener, combining trad goth with the sound and feel of early Psychedelic Furs, packing minor chords and an insistent beat in the verses, that burst into something wonderful in the choruses. Light explodes and it feels redemptive. It could easily be a Talk Talk Talk outtake. The intro to ‘Nothing Dies Forever’ invites comparisons to She Wants Revenge: it’s dramatic, bold, bombastic, synth-led but driven by some meaty guitars, and absolutely fucking epic, and never lets up for its five-minute duration.

It’s the strolling bass that dominates ‘Restrained’, which is anything but in terms of its epicness. All bar one of the songs are over the five-minute mark, but ‘Where the Tarantulaa Roam’, extending beyond the six-minute mark, is an absolute beast, and one that calls to mind Susperia, only with swirling backing vocals reminiscent of All About Eve’s Julianne Reagan. With the synths backed off but sweeping all around, the mix is immense.

‘Why I Wear Black’ is more guitars, more SWR-like. Yet for all the references, this feels fresh and innovative: this is not an album that deals in tropes and the lyrics are personal and genuine rather than contrived.

It’s a really, really strong suite of songs, The remixes are pretty good, to be fair, but non-essential.

AA

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Panarus Productions – 3rd December 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

It’s a challenge faced by many artists, and many try but fail to capture the fleeting moments that pass before we even see them. They’re sometimes visual, sometimes auditory, sometimes emotional, and sometimes a combination of all three, like an instant where the lighting is so rare or perfect and you feel a fleeting pang of something inside that you can’t even pinpoint… there is a soundtrack to that somewhere, but it’s so fleeting, intangible, there is simply no way you can grasp it, no way to capture it.

This is where we convene with Sozna and Young Tribe, whose biographical details are sparse but likely irrelevant. Because as the title intimates, nothing is fixed, and details are not important; what matters is chasing the mood of the moment, which is like catching air in a fishing net. It’s a common notion within the spheres of ambience, and more often than not manifests as gentle, ethereal works, with mellifluous trails of vapour drifting softly in attempts to convey the wistfulness of fleeting intangibility.

Where Ephemeral stands out is not only in its heavy use of field recordings and material lifted from various sources – snippets of voices, building work, street sounds – to create a layered collage that quite literally captures and combines fleeting moments and assembles them in a kind of patchwork, bit its darkness and weight. Everything overlaps to crowd the mind, as construction work and idle chatter overlap.

‘Subincision’ is a swampy murk of swirling dark ambient electronica withy rumbling, thunderous grumbles and ominous overtones. Following that, ‘Gods From Saturn’ is particularly dense; part space-age abstraction with hints of Krautrock, [art dark ambient, it’s not a sigh of reminiscence about that brief moment of ecstasy, but the gut-pulling nag of anguish that comes from recalling that social wrong step, that embarrassing misspeak, the sinking feeling of that wrong choice or bad decision. These emotions too are fleeting and ephemeral, and in many ways a more common kind of ephemera. The title track is dark and punishing, a gloomy chant and thud from the depths of a cavernous cave; it’s oppressive and somewhat scary, with monasterial moans and elongated shadows droning and rising. It’s eerie, creepy, and other-worldly. You may feel a pang of fear, but it, like everything else, passes in no time. There is no permanence; everything happens, and exists, in but a moment.

Every moment is just that; a moment, and it’s gone before you realise it. The highs may often prove more memorable and feel more protracted in comparison to the highs and the alrights, but in terms of the period of their existence, all is equal. Sozna and Young Tribe explore this space, and delve courageously into the lows, the throughs, the darker spaces, the moments of discomfort, shame, and embarrassment which are but fleeting which often haunt us forever. Ephemeral grips the corners of fleeting discomfort, the lower reaches of the intestine, and pokes the points of nagging discomfort from fleeting moments which linger there. In doing so, they inch closer to creating art that reflects life.

AA

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COP International – 5th November 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

This is a blast from the past. Ungod was one of those albums that really grabbed hard when I encountered it on release back in 94. They were exciting times, and even the most cursory scan of album charts or any lists of albums released in 94 evidence what an incredible year it was. But that was simply the time, that brief spell in the early 90s where a whole host of new alternative styles emerged and broke through.

With three versions of ‘I Am Nothing’, this EP very much has the feel of CD single releases from the 90s – something I can’t help but feel ambivalent about. Major labels were particularly guilty of this, keen to eke out as many formats and releases from material as possible (preferring to release a second album than an album’s worth of B-sides across singles and EPs).

‘I am Nothing’ in its original album form is a full-gritted beast of a tune, driven by a dense, snarling bass rattle and a phat, sludged-out guitar riff. With a strong chorus – dare I even say anthemic – it’s vintage Stabbing Westward (and the choice of John Fryer, who produced their first 2 records, may have contrinbuted to this).

Chris Hall’s ‘Replicant 2021’ remix goes all-out on the industrial disco groove, and while it’s got that dancefloor-friendly rush about it, it strips out much of the power of the original in favour of making it something to bounce along to. Go Fight’s ‘Taiko Sludge Remix’ is slower, more paired back yet more detailed, and also moodier-sounding, making it the more interesting of the two mixes by some margin.

The three versions are wrapped up with a ‘2021’ remake of ‘Slipping Away’, the final track from their 1996 sophomore album, Wither Blister Burn & Peel. A minute shorter than the original, it places the emphasis very much on the synths aspect of the sound; if the original was reminiscent of Downward Spiral ­era Nine Inch Nails, this reworking is more Pretty Hate Machine. Propelled by a stomping beat, it’s got no shortage of attack, and it will be interesting to hear the direction of the forthcoming album, Chasing Ghosts.

AA

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Christopher Nosnibor

It’s been a while. Back in the mid/late-noughties, Maybeshewill (formed in 2006) carved their own furrow in the world of post-rock, balancing delicate ethereal explorations with some bruising riffs, and, every now and again, in the absence of vocals, incorporating samples int the mix.

They adage that absence makes the heart grow fonder certainly seems to have some currency when it comes to their comeback, seven years after their called time and bade their fans farewell.

‘Zarah’, the first cut from forthcoming album, the appropriately-titled No Feeling is Final, has already found a fan and champion in Labour MP for Coventry South, Zarah Sultana. There’s a reason for this, as Guitarist Robin Southby explains:

“The track is built around an extract of a speech by Zarah Sultana. Zarah’s words encapsulate the anger and frustration felt by younger generations, being denied a say in their own future by an older global elite who are staunchly opposed to taking action on the climate crisis in the name of wealth accumulation and upholding existing power structures. The speech decries the billionaire-led multinational corporations and nepotic career politicians who are desperately clinging on to the status quo of late-stage capitalism in the face of a world that is literally burning down around them.”

It’s easy to dismiss instrumental post-rock acts as pedalling mere atmosphere and wistfulness, but politics can be found beneath the surface of the works of so many artists: Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s music does little to reveal the band’s leftist / anarcho leanings, although there are clues in the titles and artwork and so on. But here, Maybeshewill render their position quite explicit, and it’s a strong thing to do.

It’s also a strong release: on the one hand, it’s classic Maybeshewill, a continuation of form that sees them marry unsettling undercurrents and a moody tension with incredible gracefulness, and, of course, epic building crescendos.

‘Zarah’ isn’t so much a crescendo-orientated composition, but is rich in texture, and packs all the elements of an epic into a succinct 3:45. Maybeshewill aren’t only back, but they’re better than ever.

AA

thumbnail_Maybeshewill - please credit Fraser West

Cae Gwyn Records – 29th October 2021

James Wells

Meh, whatever, right? I wish I could be that laid back, shrug that easily, care less – and not in the American sense. I’ve always been a fan of Dinosaur Jr since my early teens, and ‘Whatever’s Cool With Me; and ‘Let it Slide’ for me encapsulated that slacker style, and the appeal was that it was something I simply couldn’t subscribe to in my own life, however I might try.

This five-tracker from The Mighty Observer is far more laid back than that: it promises ‘warm jangly guitars and a low lazy mumble influenced by the likes of Kurt Vile, Sam Evian and Mac DeMarco’. It delivers all of this, and more, with some reflective compositions and soft-hued guitars and hazy vocals propelled gently and at a sedate pace by vintage drum machine sounds.

‘Sunkiss’ turns the lights down for a laid-back simmering groove of a tune. ‘Aros Am Yr Haul’ strikes a low, slow, stealthy groove that’s got hints of psychedelia about nit as it snakes around in a soft haze – and then there’s a way cool blues-orientated guitar solo bang in the middle, and it’s wonderful, immersive and effortlessly delivered.

What’s perhaps most striking is its range: for all its weary-sounding indie stylings, Okay, Cool is remarkably diverse when You explore the details. The longest track, ‘Y Goffod Inbetween’ is a shimmering, rippling instrumental that plods a long at mid-tempo and casts waves of light as if quavering across the surface of a pond.

Hazy, mellow, and easy on the ear, there’s depth and atmosphere going here, too.