Posts Tagged ‘Review’

Bearsuit Records – 23rd September 2017

James Wells

Multi-instrumentalist Hayato Takeuchi hails from Japan. Beyond that, I know nothing in terms of biography. No that it matters. It’s all about the music, and the music on this EP is… different. Different from what? Pretty much everything. Yes, it’s a typical Bearsuit Records release.

The five tracks on offer here are dizzying, bewildering, multitonal works which play with time signatures and textures at the same time. There are all shades of oddness here, from the whistling loop over wonky synths and a sparse beat on the piano-led ‘Usan Kosao No Usoushiki’, and the playful theatrical noodles of ‘Mr Henderson No Ai To Replica’ is a fairground waltz that skips lightly through a space that revels in experimentalism. Weird and woozy, dramatic and quirky are Takeuchi’s key themes here. The final track, ‘Anata To Watashi No Kyoukaisen’ sides gracefully into crystalline, cloudlike ambience which tapers and turns subtly in a space of its own creation.

There’s no way of putting a tag on this that’s in any way informative, and to pick it apart is to destroy its intrigue. Weird and special, and special in its weirdness.

AAA

Hayato Takeuchi

Advertisements

Too Pure – 29th September 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

With Billy Blacklister’s recent relocation to Germany, there were likely to be questions over the future of Leeds’ masters of abrasive angular noise. The arrival a new three-tracker as part of Too Pure’s singles club series answers them: their first new material to be released since their second album, Adult, in October 2015, is absolutely fucking blistering.

It may be hard to believe, but they’ve actually gone one louder, one heavier, one more ferocious than the previous release here. A tangle over overdriven guitar wails over drumming that’s up front and pure Shellac leads the assault on Dart. The bass is brutal and Billy’s vocals are sharp and full-lunged. They’ve not gone for hooks, instead going all out for battering ram brutality, all with their trademark hint of mania.

‘Disco’ and ‘Drag’ both clock in at under three minutes (the latter only just breaking two). On the former, sinewy guitars skew angles across a nagging bass groove. Funky it isn’t. On the latter, chords stab like daggers as the whole thing lurches at pace to an abrupt halt.

Lyrically, the songs are largely impenetrable, but this isn’t music to muse to: Dart is a violent, visceral experience – and one of the best things I’ve heard all year.

AAA

Blacklisters - Dart

Christopher Nosnibor

I know very little about this release, at least in terms of specifics. I do know that it’s the work of the prodigious John Tuffen, who also performs as part of Neuschlaufen and Wharf Street Galaxy Band amongst others. I know its physical edition is in a hand-numbered run of 50 CD-R, housed in a paper foldover sleeve in a PVC wallet, with an appropriately blank image by way of cover art. There’s a bleak, quasi-modernist feel to the night-shot photograph of a structure constructed as some kind of shelter. But a shelter without people and a car-park without car is simply dead space. One Year, Two Days is a night-time work. Recorded at night (we’ll return to that shortly), it’s the soundtrack to empty spaces and time without people. And abstract as the sound sequence are on One Year; Two Days, it’s reasonable to summarise the project as a work about time and space and a certain absence.

I do know that John likes his kit, and to fiddle with it, and that a lot of his works are ‘project’ based, centred around either a piece of equipment (e.g. 808 // Whammy (2016) and Field Memory Recorder (2017) recorded exclusively with a novation circuit) or specific times / locations. I also know that John has been working under the Namke Communications moniker for some seventeen years now, and has built quite a body of experimental work in this guise.

The track titles are simply dates and times, and show that the four pieces were recorded over two days in 2016 – as the EP’s title suggests. In some ways, it marks a continuation of the 365/2015 project, which saw Tuffen record – and release – a track a day for the entirety of 2015.

This project and its predecessor provide a considerable insight into Tuffen’s creative modus operandi, which could equally be described as a work ethic. It’s one I can personally relate to, as I strive to produce and publish at least one review a day. This does, of course, raise the inevitable question about quality control, but there are two very different positions on creativity: the first suggests creativity is something which cannot be controlled, is spontaneous. It says you have to wait or the moment, the idea, the impulse. To wait and to go with the flow. The second says that creativity is like a muscle: the more you do, the more you’re able. In time, quantity begets quality as a committed, systematic approach to making art.

‘2016-08-08-2202’ sets the tone, a distorting oscillation provides the backdrop to creeping notes which gradually rise majestically before bleeding into ‘2016-08-08-2318’. It may be growing later, but the mood grows marginally lighter. The sequencing of the tracks is a major factor in the listening experience here, as there is an overall arc from beginning to end. The mid-section, as represented by ‘2016-08-10-1909’ transitions into hushed ambience, before fragmenting into darker territory with fractured distortion and dislocation taking hold. Eventually, it spins into hovering metallic drones, the frequencies touching on the teeth-jangling.

The final track, ‘2016-08-08-2256’ forges a cloud of amorphous sonic drift, a sonic cloud without tangible form. It’s immersive, but at the same time entirely engaging, as the oscillations and quavering notes which fade in and out of the rumbling thunder slowly dissipate in a drifting mist.

While locked in time and space in terms of their creation, in terms of reception, the four tracks on One Year; Two Days transport the listener beyond both time and space. And herein lies the power of this release, in that it both freezes time, and stretches it out over a frame which has no fixed limits.

HHHHH

Namke Communications – One Year Two Days

Metropolis Records – 16th June 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

Since their initial (slight) return with the EP produced in collaboration with Cubanate’s Marc Heal on his guise as MC Lord of the Flies in the spring of 2015, PIG have been on a real (sausage) roll.

Hot on the heels of the remix album Swine and Punishment lands the Prey & Obey EP, which features three new tracks spawned from the same swirling cesspit of sleaze which gave birth to The Gospel, the first PIG album in a decade. Bringing extra meat to the lineup for this outing is Sisters of Mercy guitarist Ben Christo, who also receives co-writing credit for ‘The Revelation’. Meanwhile, the eternal PIG / KMFDM overlap is maintained courtesy of the En Esch, who contributes a remix version of the lead (prime) cut.

‘Prey & Obey’ positively explodes with heavy-duty guitar-led grunt and chug. It’s vintage PIG, drawing all of the elements that define the band’s sound from the span of their career: Watts spits and snarls over overdriven guitars melded to a thumping industrial disco beat while a swirl of strings whip up the layers of drama. It’s all delivered with a knowing bombast and, and as such, sits up there with anything in the substantial PIG oeuvre.

‘The Revelation’ references PIG classic ‘Serial Killer Thriller’ in the sinewy lead guitar part, while Watts, snarling menacingly, juxtaposes bodily fluids and biblical references like only he can (and get away with). The third of the new tracks, ‘The Cult of Chaos’ is also of premium PIG standard; slower, grinding, it twists a goth-tinged lead guitar over a throbbing groove that’s equal parts guitar and electronic, while a brooding piano strolls around in the background

Of the remixes, the Leæther Strip remix of ‘Prey & Obey’ fits the predicable technoindustrial groove version requirement, while the aforementioned En Esch reworking is darker, murkier, grimier, and more atmospheric. Collectively, they make for a rounded representation of what PIG are about. There’s snout wrong with that, and Prey & Obey is not only a rip-snorting effort, but up there with the best PIG releases.

 

PIG - Prey & Obey

17th April 2017

Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: because neither music reviewing nor cranking out postmodern novels no-one reads doesn’t pay the bills, like most writers and people slugging along in the lowest reaches of the music industry – personally, I like to pretty it up by describing it as ‘operating at a grass roots level’ – I’m compelled to endure the drudge of corporate life to survive. After a bad day at the office – which is every day – I like the fact I can either escape into discovering brilliant new music. Equally, it’s immensely satisfying to savage a release just because I can’t get away with calling my boss a cunt and the rage has to find some outlet.

So here I am, unwinding with a pint of homebrew and among the email stack that’s perhaps even more terrifying than my inbox at work, and Plastic Baricades present themselves. I really shouldn’t like this: the band cite an incongruous list of influences including Radiohead, Oasis, The Shins, Biffy Clyro, Coldplay, Muse, Razorlight, and Nirvana.

They’re pitches as being ‘romantic and honest, gloomy and curious, melodic and melancholic’, a band who ‘chronicle life in the troubled yet fascinating XXI century with painstaking sincerity.’ No question: these are troubled and fascinating times. If we entered the new millennium with a sense of trepidation, there was no way anyone could have predicted the shitstorm that is Trump and Brexit and… well, the list goes on.

‘How Goldfish Grow’ is a supremely summery tune with a feelgood vibe. It’s built around a nagging guitar line and buoyant bass groove, and with a huge, hooky, singalong chorus, infectious may be a cliché but the most appropriate word going to describe ‘How Goldfish Grow’.

Plastic Barricades

Burn Church Press – 26th April 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

Just because I’ve spent the last decade whittling down my cassette collction from over 500 to fewer than 50 doesn’t mean that I don’t think the tape renaissance isn’t cool. It represents a return to the appreciation of tactile, physical media, as well as a format that has a certain fragility which adds to its appeal: the idea that the cassette was cheap, convenient but also potentially damageable and disposable means that it’s possible to enjoy something of an ambivalent or even conflicted relationship with cassettes, often on a tape-by-tape basis. The return of the cassette suggests bands are haring back to a bygone age when acts – before the advent of the CD-R – would sell tapes at their gigs. These were often bands too new or too skint or too unsigned to have any vinyl releases.

The title of the debut release by Newcastle post-punk band Lost on Me also reminds us of the pre-internet era when bands would cut a demo and send it around gig promoters and record labels the like in the hope of getting gigs and more exposure, or even a recording contract and the chance to record in a proper studio rather than on a beaten-up four-track borrowed from a mate.

‘Protection’ bursts from the speakers in a blizzard of fractal, interlooping guitars, a mass f chorus and delay, and one might be forgiven for an initial thought which incudes Editors by way of a reference point – I’m thinking forst album era, I’m thinking ‘Munich’ in particular. But then Martin Downing’s dense, dark baritone enters the mix, and its heavy timbre has far more ‘gothy’ connotations, calling to mind Chris Reed from Red Lorry Yellow Lorry.

‘Landslide’ is a chiming pop tune at heart with a nagging guitar line, but the throbbing bass and deep, growling vocal casts heavy shade across its sunny surface. Third track ‘Balance’ brings a sinewy tension and a density that, again, is reminiscent of the Lorries.

The stuttering bursts of drums propel the wistful, emotive closer, ‘New Beginnings’ into territories which bring together contrasting dynamics to good effect, and once more indicate that these guys have studied the darker (and often more drum machine driven) side of the early 80s alternative scene. The production also contributes to the effect in a major way, with deep, deep reverb all over everything and a slightly hazy, murky analogue veil hanging over the guitars, in particular the thick bass tones. It’s all in the details, and they’re certainly not lost on me.

 

Lost on Me - Demonstration

GoldMold Records – 24th June 2017

James Wells

‘The Sinking Feeling is testament to the fact that you can take crushing self-doubts and turn them into something else. With three totally unique personalities and backgrounds, the band converge on subjects of depression and loss. Each with their own trials, each member contributing to the unique dynamic that is proof that there is beauty and worth in every tribulation.’ So says the press release. Who would have known they’d have been from Glasgow? Not that all bands from Glasgow are depressed, miserable fucks,

Even without the blurb, the vocals are a dead giveaway, however murky the production. And the production is seriously murky. It sounds like a sock was stuck over the condenser mic they recorded the songs into while packed into one of their parents’ bedrooms. But beneath the mud is gold: the three songs which comprise the ‘One’ EP are magnificent slices of punky grunge alt-rock with some neat hooks buried like depth charges

There’s the bluster of Bug era Dinosur Jr about the three songs on this EP, particularly opening track ‘Standard’. Closer ‘Mary’ goes a bit more post-hardcore with some angry, throaty vocals contrasting with the slacker drawl that runs alongside.

Would it benefit from better production? No. This is music that’s real, raw, emotionally charged and played from the heart. And no multitracking and crisp EQing can supercede that.

 

 

The Sinking Feeling