Posts Tagged ‘Rock’

Overdub Recordings

Christopher Nosnibor

There aren’t many bands whose instrumentation features an 8-string guitar. Italian quartet Søndag, however, feature two eight-strong guitar players. Not that you should ever judge a band by its strings to guitars ratio. The band I saw to feature a quantity of guitars with additional strings were proggy muso posers who delivered a whole lot of tedious fretwanking but no real tunes – or riffs, for that matter.

On Bright Things, Søndag bring the riffs – and tunes. The vocals may be clean, but the guitars are plenty dirty.

According to the band’s biography, ‘the inspirations come from the need to mix very “low modern rock metal tunings” with something more dated, to form a blend of classical and contemporary rock sounds.’ It actually seems like a fair summary: Bright Things is a rock album, but the metal influences are clearly apparent, woven as they are deftly into the layered sonic cloth of each of the nine songs. The album was recorded and mixed by Riccardo Demarosi, and mastered by Alan Douches, who’s formerly engineered for bands including Converge, Mastodon, Swans, and Dillinger Escape Plan, and their input has been sympathetic to the band’s chunky dynamics.

Opening track ‘Sweet’ begins with an atmospheric build before the guitars drive in. Yes, there’s a technically complex interloping lead guitar that’s heavily processed, but it’s pitched against a dense, gritty riff.

There are hints of Oceansize in the arrangements on ‘Back in Town,’ but there’s nothing proggy about their concise and overtly rock-orientated songs, and the grungy ‘Polite Rebel’ brings a stomping beat to an unrepentantly unreconstituted slab of hard rock. I can’t help but think of Alice in Chains when listening to ‘Wax’. It’s in the harmonies. For the most part, though, Soundgarden and Baroness are perhaps more obvious comparisons.

‘Spitfire’ boasts some sinewy guitars with a searing afterburn, sparking across a tense and low-slung snaking bassline that spits and snarls and registers somewhere around the pelvis.

Expansive and ambitious in sound, but focused and striking an appealing balance between sonic density and melody, Bright Things is far from lightweight or flimsy, but at the same time, it’s accessible and has hooks by the shedload. While they’re yet to make an impression UK, given the touring schedule which has seen them make inroads into mainland Europe, it’s surely a matter of when, rather than if.

 

Søndag – Bright Things

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Exile on Mainstream – EOM082 – 23rd June 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

So, are Tricky Lobsters anything like Scottish indie band of the 1980s, Close Lobsters? No. They may share a crustacean genus, but sonically, Rostock-based rockers Tricky Lobsters swim in very different waters indeed. They’re little known outside their native Germany, where they have a substantial following, but it’s well known that the Germans really do like their rock and that British acts who enjoy only cult status domestically are huge over there (take, for example, The Sisters of Mercy and Placebo, who regularly headline festivals there while receiving comparatively little attention back home).

Worlds Collide delivers everything you’d likely want from a proper rock album that has no pretence of being anything else. Opener ‘Bitter Man’s Fame’ sets the tone, with big, ballsy blued-based rock riffage amped up to eleven. Think Mötörhead covering 70s ZZ Top. Or perhaps the other way around: like ‘Just Got Paid’ played with gnarly aggression. And then with a big, greasy dollop of psychedelic biker attitude spat in on top.

‘Big Book’ is a quintessential heard rock tune: it’s not subtle, and it’s not especially clever, but it is big, especially in the chugging rhythm guitar and twiddly breaks department. But what separates Worlds Collide from so many albums of its ilk is just how dense it is, just how thick and up-front the guitars are, how much attack these guys bring to the performance.

They’re a proper power-trio, and it’s the thunderous rhythm section that holds it all together as they piledrive though riff-led behemoth after riff-based behemoth. The slower, quieter moments, like the reflective first section of ‘Dreamdiver’ with its picked guitar and sad-sounding strings only serve to accentuate the meaty heft of the bulk of the album’s nine cuts.

It may, on the surface, seem like rather weak summary to state that Worlds Collide is a rock album you can really rock out to, but given just how diluted and limp so much so-called rock music is these days (I’m not being an old fart: we exist in a time where PVRIS and Linkin Park are classified as rock bands. I mean… seriously), it’s refreshing to hear something as unapologetically old-school and played with energy and guts as Worlds Collide.

 

Tricky Lobsters - Worlds Collide

Young Thugs Records – 12th May 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

Straight out of the trap, DOG sounds like …And the Hangnails. They have a knack for blasting out of the speakers, full-throttle, from the first bar at the start of every album. There’s no preamble, no atmospheric or suspenseful intros, no slow-build and no pissing about: they’re in there, immediately, all riffing and explosive drumming.

That’s actually all there is: this grungey garage-pop duo have spent their carer to date maximising the impact of a comparatively limited format, namely the fact they’re a guitar and drums combo. But the trick is that they don’t sound like a duo, especially on this, their third album: the production is phat and full and with the treble backed off just a shade in comparison to their previous efforts, Martyn Fillingham’s split-signal guitar sounds thicker, denser meatier and more like both a guitar and bass simultaneously.

Steven Ried’s exceptional powerhouse drumming (this is a man who drums hard, and at a hundred miles an hour, and who makes Dave Grohl sound like some jazz tapper), sounds even more exceptional than ever on DOG. I mean, really. The guy’s a one-man percussion explosion. And again, while it’s commonplace for music critics – myself included, on occasion – to criticise little, grungy, lo-fi bands for ‘selling out’ by cleaning up their sound, aligning higher fidelity with a betrayal of their roots, in this instance at least, it would be a mistake. DOG is the work of a band which has evolved. This means that while there isn’t anything as explosively raw as ‘Fear Only Fear’ or ‘Everybody’s Luck’ from the previous albums, their edge has by no means been dulled. Yes, the songs do feel more crafted, more developed and less primal, bit it’s an incremental thing. It’s still loud, brashy, thrashy and rough around the edged. There’s still fuzz and feedback by the shedload.

But more than anything, on DOG, it’s possible to actually hear the detail and the sonic range. The result is that the full force of their live sound can at last be heard in a recorded format. Besides, it’s not as though they’ve gone super slick and delivered an album of radio-friendly r’n’b. DOG may be an album busting with hooks, but it’s also a serious alt-rock racket, and alongside the breezy surf-pop backing vocals are driving riffs galore.

DOG is without question their most accessible album to date, but that doesn’t mean that it’s overtly commercial or in any way a sell-out. There isn’t a weak track on the album, and there sure as hell isn’t a big ballad at the end of side one. DOG is ferocious, relentless, sharp, to the point and represents the realisation of everything …And the Hangnails have been building up to.

It contains just ten songs, the majority of which sit around the three minute mark. And so, as is their trademark, DOG is a short, sharp blast of post-grunge garagey punk bursting with killer hooks and belting tunes from start to finish. If this doesn’t see them make some kind of breakthrough, the world is even more fucked up and wrong than I’d imagined.

 

DOG artwork

21st April 2017

James Wells

Being a cynical motherfucker, and living in an era when everything’s not only been done, but done to death, diluted, fucked about with, hybridized and rendered beyond obsolete, I was a bit dubious when I read Salvation Jayne’s Facebook page, on which they describe themselves as being ‘four musicians who play their own unique style of dirty rock n’ roll’. Unique? Show me something unique and I’ll eat my own head.

But then I also note that the line-up features pop chanteuse Chess Smith, who’s previously featured on Aural Aggro in a solo capacity. And while image only goes so far, Salvation Jayne not only look like a proper band, but they look bloody cool, too.

‘Burn Down’ is a kickass blues-based rock tune with a dark edge countered by a carefully-crafted accessibility. If it harks back to the 80s, and therefore isn’t exactly unique, it’s forgivable: they don’t make tunes like this any more, and the lamewads at Kerrang should get their lugs round this and remember what a proper rock band sounds like instead of plugging all that pop-punk cack and dance music not even disguised as rock b acts like PVRIS. Smith’s vocals are gutsy, the guitars throb and the production is meaty. This means that while I’m not feeling any obligation to eat my own head, I do have to take my hat off to Salvation Jayne for delivering a quality single with a strong sense of identity.

Salvation Jayne

Salvation Jayne are on Facebook.

28th April 2017

My first encounter with Cinema Cinema was in 2012, when I received their sprawlingly epic double album Manic Children and the Slow Aggression for review, and landed an interview for Paraphilia Magazine with Ev Gold. Not only was it a remarkable album, but Ev proved to be a great interview subject: enthusiastic, affable, conversational, and I recall him singing ‘cinema, cinema,’ as he explained the origins of the band’s name to me. I didn’t recall the scene, but I knew the film in question: the dark, Belgian-made, parodic documentary, Man Bites Dog. As the press info accompanying the release of their latest album, ‘after years of explaining… the duo felt compelled to further affix it to their story by naming the new album after the film.

With the band’s gear – including all of their guitars – being stolen just two days into the recording sessions, Man Bites Dog is testament to the sheer determination and bloody-mindedness of one of the hardest-working bands around. Brooklyn duo Ev and cousin Paul Claro have gigged pretty much relentlessly since their formation, and it’s on the road that the material has been evolved and honed. This adherence to the punk ethos, based on the simple premise of two guys in a van, showing up, plugging in and playing hard. So, using borrowed gear, the album’s recording went ahead regardless. Never mind making lemonade from lemons, the very existence of this album proves that Cinema Cinema thrive in the face of adversity, and are completely unstoppable.

Man Bites Dog continues the trajectory of its predecessors, from the aforementioned Manic Children and through 2014’s Night at the Fights. That is to say, it’s a noisy, guitar-driven beast of an album, that veers wildly between crunching riffs and expansive experimental space-rock sections. On this outing, they expand their sound with the addition of saxophone, courtesy of NY jazz musician Matt Darriau.

The first track, ‘Bomb Plot is a lurching, low-slung racket, a crazed hybrid of US hardcore punk and math-rock, with a snaking groove and a fuck-ton of other stuff going on too.

‘Run Until Your Out’ packs a pot-punk vibe in the verses, then explodes into a roaring grunge chorus. It’s a complete riot, and while all sorts of incidentals whizz and whirr in the background and Gold comes on like Jello Biafra one moment and Kurt Cobain the next, it’s remarkable just how direct and accessible it is. It’s no small achievement that they can pen and perform a song that possesses such an overt pop sensibility without sidelining either their full-throttle rock sound or reining in the experimentalism. And it’s this fine-honing that makes Man Bites Dog their most powerful and potent work to date.

‘Exotic Blood’ represents the album’s first foray into more overtly experimental territory: a six-minute stoner rock work out, there’s a hefty riff, but it’s warped and bends all over the place in a way which invites comparisons to Melvins – until the sax comes in and takes it somewhere else completely while a whole heap of stuff goes off in every direction. Indeed, the album’s mid-section marks quite a change in tone from the opening salvoes, with the discordant riffs, tinged with free jazz flavours and riven with unpredictable tempo changes swathed in drifting noise and wandering sax. ‘You talkin’ to me?’ Gold yells dangerously on ‘Taxi Driver’, another song which reflects the duo’s equal appreciation of film and music. It’s also a song which chops and changes and stops and starts and judders and drives. The end result is little short of deranged: tense and strange and forceful, it packs a lot into a short time.

The thunderous, trudging ‘Mask of the Red Death’ is the soundtrack to a truly purgatorial experience that breaks into a monster stoner riff that’s hard to resist, picking up the pace and beefing up the density until hitting a frenetic peak around four minutes in. The obligatory ‘Shiner’ improvised jam track – the album’s closer being the fifth in the series – typically explores the band’s most experimental tendencies, and it’s nine minutes of angular guitars, wild effects and even wilder sax.

It all adds up to a focused, concise and yet still strangely divergent album, and in this way, Man Bites Dog is perhaps the most perfect encapsulation of Cinema Cinema’s sound, scope, and ethos to date.

 

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We love  a bit of Soma Crew here at Aural Aggravation. ‘Got it Bad’, which prefaces the release of their new album, is perhaps the most definitie statement of their sonic capabilities yet. Check it hre:

 

Christopher Nosnibor

I struggle to find Bad Apples, even with my phone’ sat-nav. Talk about underground! There’s nothing like being in the know for more niche events. Hunkering down with a Newcastle Brown and Jean-Paul Sartre’s The Age of Reason, there’s a relentless thunder of thrash and grinding metal hammering out of the speakers in the upstairs bar while I wait for the first act.

It’s pretty quiet in terms of people, but then it’s the Thursday before payday and storm Doris is raging hard outside: it’s cold, it’s wet, it’s windy, and generally unappealing. Storm Doris is also the reason the headliners – who are bringing the drum kit – have still to arrive at the venue five minutes after the first act is due on, and our planned interview hasn’t happened. Music writing isn’t all cut-and-thrust, hob-nobbing and ligging: it involves a lot of hanging around, a lot of waiting, a lot of time sitting, drinking beer alone in a corner and reading books. It also involves a lot of standing, a lot of cross-city legwork, and a fair amount of train travel.

In a change to the advertised bill, which listed Sinkers (who are nowhere to be seen), and Lincoln ‘soul punk’ four-piece Striped Sight as the first act on the bill, Conrad Ashton steps up to play some acoustic numbers. This comes as quite a relief, because the write-up for the aforementioned ‘soul punk’ act sounded truly heinous. Durham Yakka Conrad Ashton – who handed me one of his plectrums sporting a Newcastle Brown logo on the flipside having clocked me supping a bottle of Broon – knows how to bash out a heartfelt punk tune solo on an acoustic guitar. Balancing keen melodies with a real sense of attack, he’s an engaging performer. He pings a string during the third song, ‘Straight to the Man’. “I’ve not got a spare guitar, like,” he apologises. Thankfully, one of the guys from Lost in Winter is on hand, and armed with a seven-string electric guitar, Conrad picks up precisely where he left off to play the last six bars. He wrapped up his acoustic -now-electric set on yet another guitar after another string met its end, and its credit to him for carrying it off with self-effacing humour. A true pro, and with some decent songs to boot.

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Conrad Ashton

Lost In Winter scream ‘technical’ and ‘rich middle-class posters’, with their haircuts, clan suede boots, neat beards, a five-string bass and two guitarists both geared up with seven strings. One of the guitarists spends an age clamping a camera to the PA speaker stand while the drummer fiddles with his cymbals and the singer, in a shiny new-looking biker jacket performs head-rolls. Christ, the kit they’ve got probably cost more than I earn in a year – and of course, they sound absolutely fucking incredible. They need to, of course: their brand of atmospheric, melody-driven neo-prog is crafted with near-infinite attention to detail. It wouldn’t work without those microscopic nuances, the fifty shades of delay and delicate tube crunch. But what does it all amount to? Not a lot. Lost in Winter prove slick but dull in their overly serious emoting of lines about how we ‘crumble to dust’ and how ‘we must fight our way out and into the light.’

There’s no such pomposity where Maidstone five-piece Weekend Recovery are concerned. They set up swiftly, and Lorin rocks up in a long animal-print coat which she whips off to reveal a crop top that says she’s read to rock. And rock they do. This is a band with power, passion and an infectious energy, and watching them pour everything into every song, you’d never guess they’d just spent eight hours stuck in a van and piled on stage with barely three minutes to soundcheck.

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Weekend Recovery

And while Lorin is the band’s clear focal point – she’s got real presence and never stays still for a second, as she struts her stuff and tosses banter like she was born to do it – it’s clear that this is a band who operate as a unit: they’re tight, cohesive and look like they’re having a blast up there. The songs themselves are punchy: banging out solid rock tunes with a keen pop sensibility, Weekend Recovery know their way around a hook, and no mistake. The set concludes with single cut and reason for the tour, ‘Don’t Try and Stop Me’, and it’s ace.

It’s a strong start to an ambitious tour, which should – if there’s any justice – see them expand their fan base considerably.