Posts Tagged ‘Sargent House’

Sargent House – 29th April 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

If you’re looking for the short version, Helms Alee’s sixth album is a belter – a rich, deep, and intense experience that combines the delicate and atmospheric with thunderous, grindingly heavy riff-driven assaults.

To expand on that… well, it’s hard to know exactly where to begin. It’s not really an album to dissect, because to do so would be to pick apart the magic – and yes, magic is what it is, something conjured from the air and pulling on all of the elements to create something… something beyond, and something bigger. And there are so many great tunes on Keep This Be the Way, too. Yes, real tunes, proper songs.

‘See Sights Smell Smells’ intimates a delicate chime of post-rock that builds to a crescendo, but it rapidly progresses beyond that, into a thunderous blast of tension that leaps out and scorches like a solar flare.

Helms Alee are by no means the first band to combine elements of post rock with a host of other styles and forms – And So I Watch You From Afar and pelican are among the first who come to mind when it comes to post-rock with the emphasis on rock that pack a real punch, but they’re still not particularly close comparisons: ‘How Party to You Hard’ is dreamy shoegaze but hard, like A Place to Bury Strangers covering Slowdive, and ‘Tripping Up the Stairs’ goes all out on the searing racket, explosions of noise that’s every bit as much Nirvana as it is Sonic Youth as they push their way around the dynamic range that flips between heavy and absolutely fucking raging.

Then you’ve got ‘Big Louise’, a soft, gentle, semi-ambient indie wafter that’s nice but unremarkable but for the immense reverb. You can’t exactly complain that there are a couple of cuts that seem to ease off the gas a bit, not least of all because sometimes, it’s simply impossible to any song to really hold its own in such illustrious company, and the fact of the matter is that the majority of the songs on Keep This Be the Way are so, so strong there’s only one way to go.

The seven-minute ‘Do Not Expose to the Burning Sun’ is a slow-burning serpentine twister, building around an insistent and ominous bassline into a dark, hypnotic squaller that calls to mind both The Pain Teens and The God Machine, while the yawning drone of ‘Mouth Thinker’ evokes the spirit of Ride and Chapterhouse, and boasts a breezy melody as well as scorching blasts of overdrive that emerge from nowhere to tower as shimmering walls of kaleidoscopic noise.

These contrasts provide much of the joy in listening to Keep This Be the Way. It’s an album that’s steeped in 90s vintage, and if you were going to pitch it anywhere, it would be in the indie bracket – but to pitch it anywhere, or align it to any one, or even any three genres, would be to sell the album short and grotesquely misrepresent it. Yet for all the hybridization and seemingly incongruous crossovers, Helms Alee manage to melt everything together magnificently, making not just music but pure aural alchemy.

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Seattle three-piece Helms Alee announced a new album Keep This Be The Way for April 29th via Sargent House earlier this month and today they’re back with the final single before it’s release.

‘Tripping Up The Stairs’ pits nightmarish synths against a barrage of distortion and is accompanied with an Apocalypse Now meets Swamp Thing styled video focused on the concept of control. The director Ron Harrell notes:

"The idea that I wanted to convey when we set out filming the video was an uncomplicated yet visually compelling version of finding said control. To me it became as simple as floating at sea and finding sure footing on land. Helms Alee has a pretty hydrous identity as it is, so incorporating that part came naturally. I had an initial cut of the video that was a little cleaner and realistic, visually speaking. The band saw it and, what I heard them say was “that’s great, now fuck it up”. So I fucked it up and this is the result."

On the collaboration, the band says:

"Ron Harrell is one of our dearest friends, so it felt very easy and natural to be directed into vulnerable states by him. Having been by our side through most of the creation of our latest record via assisting with engineering, contributing thoughts and ideas, and generally being a friend to us, it made perfect sense to collaborate with him in this format. Photography and videography are natural ways that Ron expresses his love of life. That is made clear by the visual beauty of this video. He took a complicated feeling and created a weird fever dreamscape story to express that feeling. He applied his empathetic nature to incorporate the feelings/needs of the band while sculpting a story only he knew how to tell."

Watch the video here:

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Photo Credit: Ron Harrell

Emma Ruth Rundle’s lauded new album Engine of Hell is stark, intimate, and unflinching. For anyone that’s endured trauma and grief, there’s a beautiful solace in hearing Rundle articulate and humanise that particular type of pain not only with her words, but with her particular mysterious language of melody and timbre. The album captures a moment where a masterful songwriter strips away all flourishes and embellishments in order to make every note and word hit with maximum impact, leaving little to hide behind.

Just off the heels of its release, Rundle has unveiled another stunning and self-directed video for Engine of Hell’s ‘The Company’. The visual was made on the Isle of Skye.

Rundle reveals, “I dreamed this visual poem about innocence of the spirit, sadness and the dark deceiver I spend my life trying to run from. Or is it a friendly entity? What does it mean? Upon waking – I acquired the equipment and made a plan to film it. I enlisted the help of my dear friend, Blake Armstrong, who helped shoot and plays part in the video as well. It was edited by Brandon Kahn. Written, directed and shot by me.”

Watch the video here:

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Photo Credit: Cintamani Calise

Renowned songstress Chelsea Wolfe has revealed two unreleased songs from her Birth of Violence sessions during which she masterfully returned to her folk roots. Her stunning spin on Joni Mitchell’s eminent single, “Woodstock” and the never before heard, “Green Altar” display Wolfe’s experimental approach as she deliberately ties together her discoveries in rich textures and haunting melodies.

Wolfe recounts, “While preparing for the Birth of Violence tour, I was watching a lot of Joni Mitchell videos. A 1966 Canadian performance that I found of hers ended up inspiring the video for my song ‘Highway.’ One night after working on the live set, Ben and I were hanging out and I was just letting the Joni videos roll.. ‘Woodstock’ came on and I started singing along. After that I simply asked Ben if he’d be into covering it with me for the tour, and we just went back into the studio and started working it out. The cover came together quite naturally and it was a treat to play on stage every night. Joni is obviously such a big inspiration to this side of my music, so it felt right to pay tribute to her.”

“‘Green Altar’ is a cherished song that unfortunately didn’t make it onto the album. It’s a love song I wrote after finding out that my dear friends (artist) Bill Crisafi and (designer) Hogan McLaughlin were engaged. I envisioned them getting married in a lush, green outdoor space outside of some majestic castle ruins.”

Wolfe has also shared an official documentary of her 2019 Birth of Violence Tour which unfortunately came to a halt with the onset of the pandemic. The piece is beautifully shot by photographer/director Bobby Cochran who joined Wolfe at the tail end of the North American leg. Cochran documents the show, stage, and captures moments behind the scenes. The two also sat down to discuss the creation of the album, Birth of Violence, about what it’s like being on tour and her rituals.

Wolfe tells, “It’s not my natural inclination to want cameras around when I’m in my head or doing vocal warmups before a show, or when I’m with friends or family backstage, but Bobby asked, and in the spirit of pushing myself to document that era of my musical life, I welcomed him along. Then, after the COVID-19 pandemic hit and I had to fly home from the European acoustic tour before I got to play a single show of it, I was so grateful that he had this footage and was putting it together. I wanted to share this documentary for that reason as well, for those who had tickets to cancelled shows (I love you!), and as a sort of wave goodbye to the time I spent focused on ‘Birth of Violence’, as I’m now making plans for and in the headspace of the next new album.”

“Woodstock” / “Green Altar” and the Birth of Violence 2019 Tour Documentary are available today via Sargent House.

Check the documentary here:

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Emma Ruth Rundle’s forthcoming Engine of Hell is stark, intimate, and unflinching. For anyone that’s endured trauma and grief, there’s a beautiful solace in hearing Rundle articulate and humanise that particular type of pain not only with her words, but with her particular mysterious language of melody and timbre. The album captures a moment where a masterful songwriter strips away all flourishes and embellishments in order to make every note and word hit with maximum impact, leaving little to hide behind.

A gentle melancholy piano line introduces album opener and lead single “Return,” and when Rundle finally sings, every syllable guided with the utmost intention, she unleashes the ominously cryptic opening lines “A rich belief that no one sees you / Your ribbon cut from all the fates and / Some hound of Hell looking for handouts / The breath between things no one says.” The ambiguity may obscure the muse, but it doesn’t diminish its heaviness.

“Return” is available today via Sargent House and comes accompanied with a striking and introspective video directed by Rundle herself. The visual was heavily inspired by Jean Cocteau’s ‘Orpheus’ and Wim Wenders’ ‘Wings of Desire’, and gives nods to other films and images. Of “Return”, Rundle unfolds, “An examination of the existential. A fractured poem. Trying to quantify what something is definitely about or pontificating on its concrete meaning defeats the purpose of art making. I’m not a writer. I make music and images to express things that my words cannot convey or emote. I’ve been studying ballet and the practice of expression through movement, which I incorporated into the video. I choreographed a dance to the song – some of which you see. Pieces show through. Since completing ‘Engine of Hell’, I’ve stepped away from music more and more and into things like dance, painting and working on ideas for videos or little films. ‘Return’ is the result of the efforts.”

Watch the video here:

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Album artwork. Photo by George Clarke

Sargent House – 6th August 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Here in England – and Britain, as elsewhere further afield – division is rife: views and positions have become increasingly polarised and entrenched in recent years, and man, it’s fucking ugly. From here, it’s perhaps difficult to appreciate just how much uglier it gets when fervent religiosity is added to the mix. And while the white, Christian west expends boundless energy vilifying Islam, much of this feels like so much hypocrisy. For a religion that officially preaches for its adherents to ‘love thy neighbour’, Christianity is prone to being particularly harsh and judgemental, and as the album’s title suggests, there is a strong element of Christian judgment at the heart of the songs here.

The press release describes Sinner Get Ready as ‘an abrasive, unsettling portrait of devotion and betrayal, judgment and consequence, set in the severe and derelict landscape of rural Pennsylvania, a neglected and interstitial region deeply embedded with a particularly austere brand of Christianity, and where Hayter currently lives.’ It goes on to explain: ‘The rigorous and almost procedural site-specificity reflects an obsession with externalizing that site as the locus of great personal pain – pain that is the Will of that region’s presiding God; an atonement for sin that only the blood of Jesus can cleanse’. There is a certain specificity about the songs collected here, but, as is so often the case, the personal radiates out to become the universal, and however specific the subject and inspiration on a personal level to the artist a work may be, true art resonates far beyond.

Sinner Get Ready is an album that proves, demonstrably, that you don’t need noise or volume to achieve levels of devastating intensity. It’s spectacularly simple, raw, and at the same time complex and layered, not least of all in the vocal arrangements, and also hits like a tsunami. Sinner Get Ready is an intensely spiritual work, but it’s also quite simply an intense work, and one that conveys the power of the word of the Lord, that conjures fire and brimstone and that forewarns sinners- and non-believers – what they can expect.

The album begins gently enough, with rolling piano and strong but melodic vocals, operatic and elevating. But it doesn’t take long before things grow dark and disturbing on the nine-minute opener, ‘The Order of Spiritual Virgins’. The delicate, ethereal, choral evocations are rent with crashing, violent blasts of piano – fist-smashing thunderousness. It hits hard.

There is something of the musical about this, at least in terms of there being a narrative thread and a sense of characterisation running through it. It’s certainly more than simply a collection of songs: there is a sense of sequence, of progression. ‘I Who Bend the Tall Grass’ is sparsely arranged around a soft organ drone, and over which Hayter’s vocal cracks and breaks with force and emotion, and harmony melts into warped dissonance. ‘He has to die! There is no other way!’ she barks, rough and raw, before an atonal chorus of voices and drones carry it away.

Contrastingly, ‘Many Hands’ is traditional folk with an element of roots American country. It’s also dolorous, painful, its many-layered beseeching vocal, and ‘The Sacred Linametnt of Judgement’ is similarly folky, with a rich earthiness that speaks of tradition and evokes bygone times. Yet, as ‘Repent Now Confess Now’ brings into sharp relief just how alive some of those traditions still are in certain places, and these aren’t just small pockets, but huge swathes, and while the deep south is most commonly associated with hardline Christianity, it’s a trait of many rural areas. It may be 2021, but fire and brimstone and divine retribution are still dominant in these places, and what may seem strange to an outsider – like the material for a Louis Theroux documentary – this shit is real, and people live and die by their beliefs. There are some well-selected, well-placed samples, too, which accentuate this.

The songs on here soar, but rage with intensity, trembling with the fear of God and the weight of judgement and the threat of punishment. It would be hard to hear Sinner Get Ready and not feel moved in some way or another.

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Sargent House – 23rd July 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Alexis Marshall is an interesting figure, and no mistake. As front man and lyricist of Rhode Island makers of noise, Daughters, he’s emerged as an artist with a rare poeticism matched only by his fierce intensity as a performer. Anyone who caught them during their comeback album, You Won’t Get What You Want – which saw them reconvene after an eight-year hiatus and harness the sheer mania of their previous phased into something with a rather broader appeal without remotely selling out – would likely have been blown away by his manic energy, not to mention self-abuse with a microphone. One got the impression that this wasn’t just performance or for show but a man living every moment with visceral power.

In interviews, he’s said he considers himself a performer first and foremost, although 2017 saw the publication of his first collection of poetry, A Sea Above the Pains of Our Youth, and it’s clear he’s got artistic range and is more than just some lunatic who shouts.

On the release of his book, Marshall was interviewed by Lucas Anderson of No Echo, and said, ‘There are so many guilty pleasures, and mine is combing through bad Instagram poetry. There are so many terrible, terrible, terrible poets on Instagram with like 15,000 followers, just writing fucking garbage. Just absolute souless things you would find on like a doily in a tea room, or a fortune cookie, its just bullshit self-help stuff under the guise of poetry. They use things like hashtags #poetsofinstagram and all this shit.’ This is something I can completely relate to as a writer. This is the reason I don’t even dabble with poetry competitions and the reason I more or less quit as a spoken word performer. It’s not even the lack of reception to anything different: it’s the turgid shit you’d have to sift through that would receive rapturous applause while thinking ‘seriously? But that was crap?’ Yes, art is subjective, but sometimes a turd is just a turd. Thankfully, there is nothing turd about House of Lull, House of When.

August 2020 saw Marshall release ‘Nature in Three Movements’ via Bandcamp, and yes, it sounded a lot like recent Daughters, but that was as much on account of his sprechgesang style, a combination of spoken work, hollering, and manic yelping. Marshall has a rare capacity to convey anguish, and no mistake, and if this first foray into solo work was intense but brief, his first solo album sees him fully explore the space a long player affords, and it feels like a very different kind of beast overall – And came about via a very different process, with Marshall convening with Jon Syverson (Daughters) and former tourmate Evan Patterson (Jaye Jayle, Young Widows) in the studio with absolutely no plan whatsoever. The result is cacophonous, unpredictable, often dark, often percussion-dominated.

House of Lull, House of When is an album of spontaneity, born out of chaos, and out of collaboration – the kind of collaboration where nothing is preplanned or predetermined, and this gives the album a rare immediacy and a sense of unpredictability. Marshall has a distinctive vocal style and a predilection for noise, but embraces all inputs and sets no parameters.

There are some long songs with some sparse instrumentation here: the first, ‘Drink from the Oceans, Nothing Can Harm You’ is a spartan piano piece that’s over seven minutes in duration. With some creeping eeriness and a distant, clattering industrial beat, Marshall’s spoken word is slowly swallowed in the mists and he fades out as he hollers psychological torture into an increasingly murky sonic sea.

‘Hounds in the Abyss’ finds Marshall lunging, lurching, seemingly lost and disoriented as he lunges through a thumping beat and elongated screeding drone, while ‘It Just Doesn’t Feel Good Anymore’ is heavy grind and repetition reminiscent of Swans circa 1985-6, and this is perhaps the closest and most fitting comparison I can reach for here: many of the lyrics take the form of barked instructions, particularly on while ‘It Just Doesn’t Feel Good Anymore’, seems to be a dissection of corporate and covid life, the endless repetition and ordering for compliance that has dominated our lives for the last year and a half, nearly.

‘You are responsible / stay where you are / you are expected to meet your obligations / Don’t get up / don’t touch anything / don’t touch anyone’ he bellows repeatedly like a government press conference or other outlets. It’s painful punishing, and all the more for the avant-jazz horns shrieking shrilly throughout, and that thunderous, grating repetition dominates and defines ‘Religion as Leader’ too. One suspects that religion is a far deeper, more divisive topic in the States than here in the UK, but it’s a global reality that religion is war – and ultimately, we need neither.

The monotone delivery of the reflective ‘Youth as Religion’ is a magnificently measured piece of spoken word, pitched against sparse organ drone and minimal guitar pickings, and it’s a world away from the whirlwind of noise that is Daughters. This is the intrigue and appeal of House of Lull, House of When: the title is obscure, and so is its formation, and there are no overt structures which tie the pieces here to the conventions of ‘songs’ with verse / chorus repetitions. As such, it’s ‘music’ in the broader sense and won’t appeal to many, even fans – but that’s no denigration of its artistic merit. Creatively, in terms of both vision and execution, House of Lull, House of When is special, and doesn’t sound like any other album – and all the better for it.

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Kristin Hayter, the classically trained multi-instrumentalist, performance artist, and vocalist known as Lingua Ignota, has a new album on the way, and here is the next song and video from it.  ‘Perpetual Flame of Centralia’ a quiet meditation on one of the major lyrical motifs of the record, the blood of Jesus; that which can “wash and cleanse every stain,” as tearfully expressed by disgraced evangelist Jimmy Swaggart in a televised confession.

The video, shot by Emily Birds, brings an extraordinary and profoundly moving collaboration between Hayter and acclaimed fashion designer and fellow Sargent House artist Ashley Rose Couture who created the looks specifically for this video, inspiring an entire collection. Prompted with “the blood of Jesus,” the designer created a floor-length, red veil studded with pearls and mountains of tulle. Hayter explains, “I asked her to design a piece indebted to 17th-century Dutch costume, and she returned with a gown with a 20-foot train and a magisterial lace collar exploding with pearls.”  The two artists deal with pain through their art: Hayter through past domestic abuse and Rose through the death of her twin brother, whose encouragement led to her starting her own line.

Watch the video here:

The album, Sinner Get Ready is released on August 6th via Sargent House.

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Clothing by Ashley Rose Couture. Photo by Lisa Birds

Poet, artist, and Daughters vocalist Alexis Marshall has his solo debut on the way, and here is a new song and visual from it. “Open Mouth” is a song devoid of decoration or sheen; an echoic display of experimental arrangement and poetic stream of consciousness lyrics. The accompanying video, directed by UK-based John Bradburn and starring up-and-coming actor Charlie Greenwood, features beautiful yet stirring art house cinematography as Greenwood emotively performs Marshall’s lyrics.

Watch the video here:

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Was the whole thing really just a dream? The Armed, one of the most exciting and innovative experimental hardcore bands of the past decade say maybe it was via their new video for “AN ITERATION”. Featuring a voice-over and cameo from one of the most recognized voices in video game history, David Hayter — the legendary voice behind Solid Snake in the Metal Gear Solid series — the video watches the band’s Dan Greene as he comes to terms with the fact that The Armed may only exist in his head. A fever dream of sorts after one too many times falling asleep playing Metal Gear. A scattered timeline of past music videos that centered around Dan Greene, “An Iteration” is full of easter eggs from the band’s history as well Metal Gear Solid. Stay tuned to the very end.

Dan Greene states “The story of Metal Gear Solid 2–which seemed like convoluted, impenetrable nonsense when we were kids–has turned out to be disturbingly prescient of society in 2021. I would argue that this video game raised more interesting artistic and philosophical questions than a lot of “higher art,” and much earlier too. We are beyond honored to see David Hayter take on the role of Dan Greene within The Armed Cinematic Universe.”

ULTRAPOP, available April 16th via Sargent House features work from Mark Lanegan and Queens of the Stone Age guitarist Troy Van Leeuwen, and is the first album co-produced by the band’s own Dan Greene in collaboration with Ben Chisholm (Chelsea Wolfe). Kurt Ballou remains at the helm as executive producer. Ultrapop is the genre of music that said album features. It reaches the same extremities of sonic expression as the furthest depths of metal, noise, and otherwise "heavy" counterculture music subgenres but finds its foundation firmly in pop music and pop culture. As is always The Armed’s mission, it seeks only to create the most intense experience possible, a magnification of all culture, beauty, and things.

Watch the video here:

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Credit Trevor Naud