Posts Tagged ‘Self-titled’

12th June 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect from Cyborg Amok’s eponymous debut. Sure, there’s the press release, and no, it’s not lazy journalism to take cribs and pointers from press releases. This one forewarns that Cyborg Amok ‘resides somewhere between the brilliance of twilight and the apocalyptic darkness. Their gothic infused synth-rock sound delivers the listener to a panorama of synthetic waves, twisted organic tones and a slightly pop crust … the language angels speak in the darkness.’

I don’t entirely compute the implications of this, can’t even really unravel them, not least of all because I can’t always grasp what passes for ‘gothic’ these days having lost the thread some time in the mid to late 90s with the emergence of cybergoth, which sounded just like so much bad techno to me, and a million miles from the post-punk origins of the genre, and the subsequent ‘waves’ of goth which coincided with myriad hybrid mutant strains. Perhaps I am something of a pursuit in my personal tastes, but as a critic, I try to be more accommodating. But sometimes, you just have to accept that music is music and it’s either good or bad, because your audience are unlikely to share your prejudicial quirks.

Cyborg Amok is Greg Bullock (formerly the keyboardist with RealEyes and Shamen) and drummer Brydon Bullock (no relation as far as is obvious), and their debut album is in fact bringing together their first two (now deleted) EPs, so, if I’m being picky it’s not really a debut album but a compilation (which is also true of The March Violets’ Natural History among others. Not that it detracts from the force of these seven songs pulled together in one place. Oh no. Cyborg Amok kicks.

‘Burden Away’ brings bulldozing bass and stuttering mechanised drums. The rhythm guitar trudges and grinds, while Greg’s brooding baritone vocals registers in the ribcage – but while it’s so much industrial grind, the lead guitars are warped country, and there’s a twangy inflection in the vocals to match. It’s solid, but if you’re looking for a pigeonhole, you’re going to struggle. Things get even more complicated with ‘Still Too Far Out’, which straddles Nightbreed-flavoured second/third wave goth with its organ synth sounds evoking sepulchral gloom against guitars that fizz in a swathe of chorus and flange… and then there’s a fuck-off keyboard solo that’s B-Movie and Ultravox and it may be incongruous by 2020s standards, but perfectly in place in context of those precursors.

With its space-themed title and snarling, bulbous, electronics, ‘Dancing on the Floor of the Sea of Tranquillity’ provides more of the vibes the moniker and title perhaps evoke, and if it suggests extravagant prog enormity, it’s no criticism to say that after its dark, stark intro, it slips towards 80s electropop in the vein of A-Ha.

There are some Cure-esque moments scattered about the album, too, but then this is an album, that assimilated huge swathes of 80s that’s not exactly band-specific, but the zeitgeist.

There’s some overblown prog guitar that’s Yngwie Malmsteen overdone, but once they’re done with the moments of indulgence (‘Choice Not Taken’ is perhaps the greatest showcase of guilt), they deliver some impressive musical moments, where the ambition is equalled by the ability.

They’re at their best when they keep it minimal, sparse, nailed down: last track ‘Another Turn’ bears solid – and favourable – comparisons to Red Lorry Yellow Lorry, with its steely beats and grey, steely guitars backing a gruff, ragged vocal delivery. It’s a style that works well, and while this compilation must provide a point at which to assess the trajectory of their career, the evidence here is that they’re doing everything right and need to forge ahead and capitalise on their work so far, because this is a strong dark album.

AA

240381

26th February 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

LA instrumentalists Teethers, centred around drummer and composer Andrew Lessman, brings together an unusual fusion for their debut release. With contributions straddling jazz, avant garde, and indie pop, for Teethers, Lessman has brought together an eclectic lineup, consisting of Graham Chapman on bass, guitarist Alexander Noise, Joe Sanata Maria and Ted Faforo on saxophones and Stefan Kac on tuba. The results are, as you might expect, unusual.

There’s a smooth, jazzy, swingy pop vibe that permeates the EP#s three tracks, and as ‘Goose Chasing’ indicates, they can locks down a tidy groove and create music you can bop to, nod along to, even dance to… and then they’re more than capable of – and willing to – drive that train straight off a cliff into a wild frenzy of horn-driven discord and madness. This is bit a brief introduction that sets the scene for what Teethers are really all about: the twelve-minute ‘Monopoly on Violence / Mushroom dance’ is a multi-faceted, shifting exploration of rippling shades and expansive soundscapes.

It’s rambling, at times immensely proggy in a vintage sense, and at times it just can’t seem to make up its mind as it ambles and weaves hither and thither, a mellow jazz meandering that hits some frenzies peaks and altogether more sedate intersections. It’s one of those pieces that transitions enticing and irritating in a mere blink – and that’s not even a criticism. Condensing so many elements into its space, it’s difficult to keep up.

The third track, ‘Love Poem’ is seven-and-a-half minutes of dappled sunlight painted in music, with a clean, picked guitar chiming in a simple, hypnotic sequence that’s a post-rock / contemporary prog crossover laced with soft, delicate strings. It’s perhaps the most focused and conventionally coherent of the three compositions, on what is a fairly wide-ranging set – so wide-ranging that it’s not easy to immediately assimilate, and even more difficult to pin down – not just stylistically, but in the most basic terms of formulating an opinion. Is it any good? Do I like it? Does it matter? There’s certainly no doubting the technical proficiency on display here, and having the confidence and audacity to make music that straddles so many boundaries and genuinely challenges the listener is an achievement worthy of recognition.

AA

a3152339815_10

2nd October 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Having been brought into Talk Talk to assist with remixing on ‘It’s My Life’ in 1984, Tim Friese-Greene became an integral contributor to the band on their subsequent albums. Short Haired Domestic sees Tim come together with his wife, Lee, formerly of 90s act Sidi Bou Said and currently lead vocalist and guitar player for Pavlova.

As the liner notes explain, the vocals for each song are sung in a different language, and ‘have at their heart a breakbeat loop, sampled fragments, scratching, insistent funk and Latin rhythms, surprising appearances of acoustic guitar and just about every sound it’s possible to wring from a WASP synthesiser’.

This manifests as a collection of songs with a quirky charm to their style, which has something of a mainland European, vaguely gallic feel to it, and their touchstones of Stereolab and Francois Hardy, among others, sit comfortably. It’s so not my regular bag, but sometimes I need something to chill to, and a complete change of scene by way of a pallete-cleanser.

The titles are helpful in their explanatory nature but disclose little about the stance on the subjects being sung about – but that probably speaks more of a global Anglocentrism when it comes to song lyrics than anything – and also highlights that you don’t necessarily need words to appreciate a song.

It’s a laid-back sashaying groove and swinging beat that sets the scene with ‘A song in Latin about the importance of comfortable shoes’, and without a lyric sheet and translation, it’s hard to be certain, but it sounds like they rather like them. And who wouldn’t? Who says you can’t have style and comfort?

They hit an insistent funk groove of ‘A song in Spanish addressed to men who drive big cars’, and work it hard, while ‘A Song in Bulgrian for Lovers of Gin; is positively loungey in its laid-back jazziness, a head-nodding groove as smooth as the silkiest chocolate. Things get a bit Prince on ‘A song in Italian saluting his mother’, and there’s even a dash of piano reminiscent of Talk Talk on the slower, sparser head-nodding A song in Hindi for insomniacs’.

For their sugared pop coating of sunny melodies, these simple-sounding and accessible tunes are layered and steeped in experimentalism, and they pull it off with a deceptive ease.

AA

Short-Haired Domestic (album cover)

Ipecac Recordings – 1st November 2019

You could look at this from two different angles: one – some people never grow up. Two – some people never sell out. Cunts’ eponymous debut is the product of both simultaneously. The ‘snarling LA-based punk band’ features guitarist Michael Crain (Dead Cross/Retox) and singer Matt Cronk (Qui), with drummer Kevin Avery (Retox/Planet B), bass player Keith Hendriksen (Virginia Reed) and guitar player Sterling Riley (Hepa.Titus).

So they all have other projects, and so the fact Cunts will never achieve radio play or mainstream attention simply by virtue of being Cunts isn’t an issue. Then again, their other projects won’t achieve major-league success and radio play either, despite not being graced with a media-blackout moniker, meaning that none of them has anything to lose or gain here. So yeah, fuck it: Cunts are keeping it real and keeping it antagonistic, and forget being cynical, they’re doing this for the right reasons: they’ve got the rage. Rage used to be for the young, descending into the impotent bitterness of the cliché grumpy old man. But times have changed. Older, wiser, more furious and better equipped to articulate that rage, Cunts represent the new generation of over-40s who, rather than mellowing and settling into midlife, have all the anger and need to vent or suffer an aneurysm. These are the worst of times, and we live in a divided world.

This is proper old-school gnarly US hardcore punk shit, played at a hundred miles an hour, and if song titles like ‘Ass to Grind’ and ‘He’s a Lady’ carry distinctly un-PC connotations, the lyrics reveal the band as being on the right side of consideration for difference. They’re not afraid to venture into Unsane gore territory, but shock tactics aren’t entirely without merit in a desensitized society. There’s noting subtle about an of this, least of all the over art.

‘Goin’ Out West’ gets a bit Ministry, but with glammy / goth overtones to its thudding stomp, while a number of the frenzied thrashabouts, like ‘Fail at Failure’, clocking in at 1’46”, and the 1’ 26” ‘Seagulls’ bear hints of Dead Kennedys, while ‘For the Greater Good’ lunges messily into Unsane territory, and there are a fair few tracks that clock in well under three minutes, with the longest song on the album being just 4’08” and no other songs being much over three-and-a-half minutes.

Cunts is fiery, shouty, fast and furious with the emphasis on the furious. Primally raw and brutally uncompromising, it’s harsh but vital, and punk at its best.

You could look at this from two different angles: one – some people never grow up. Two – some people never sell out. Cunts’ eponymous debut is the product of both simultaneously. The ‘snarling LA-based punk band’ features guitarist Michael Crain (Dead Cross/Retox) and singer Matt Cronk (Qui), with drummer Kevin Avery (Retox/Planet B), bass player Keith Hendriksen (Virginia Reed) and guitar player Sterling Riley (Hepa.Titus).

So they all have other projects, and so the fact Cunts will never achieve radio play or mainstream attention simply by virtue of being Cunts isn’t an issue. Then again, their other projects won’t achieve major-league success and radio play either, despite not being graced with a media-blackout moniker, meaning that none of them has anything to lose or gain here. So yeah, fuck it: Cunts are keeping it real and keeping it antagonistic, and forget being cynical, they’re doing this for the right reasons: they’ve got the rage. Rage used to be for the young, descending into the impotent bitterness of the cliché grumpy old man. But times have changed. Older, wiser, more furious and better equipped to articulate that rage, Cunts represent the new generation of over-40s who, rather than mellowing and settling into midlife, have all the anger and need to vent or suffer an aneurysm. These are the worst of times, and we live in a divided world.

This is proper old-school gnarly US hardcore punk shit, played at a hundred miles an hour, and if song titles like ‘Ass to Grind’ and ‘He’s a Lady’ carry distinctly un-PC connotations, the lyrics reveal the band as being on the right side of consideration for difference. They’re not afraid to venture into Unsane gore territory, but shock tactics aren’t entirely without merit in a desensitized society. There’s noting subtle about an of this, least of all the over art.

‘Goin’ Out West’ gets a bit Ministry, but with glammy / goth overtones to its thudding stomp, while a number of the frenzied thrashabouts, like ‘Fail at Failure’, clocking in at 1’46”, and the 1’ 26” ‘Seagulls’ bear hints of Dead Kennedys, while ‘For the Greater Good’ lunges messily into Unsane territory, and there are a fair few tracks that clock in well under three minutes, with the longest song on the album being just 4’08” and no other songs being much over three-and-a-half minutes.

Cunts is fiery, shouty, fast and furious with the emphasis on the furious. Primally raw and brutally uncompromising, it’s harsh but vital, and punk at its best.

AAA

Cunts

7th January 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

I like Modern Technology before I’ve even heard a note. Drummer Owen approached me through Facebook having clocked Aural Aggravation with a link to the East London duo’s debut EP. Most bands starting out want to get on the radar, and get some cash back for the hard graft they’ve put in trying to get to the point of putting music out into the public domain, especially as a physical release – and this comes in limited-to-200 clear vinyl in addition to the digital version – but they’re donating all profits between Mind and Shelter, perhaps two of the most vital charities in the age of austerity.

I may not have written much about the plight of the homeless, although the fact we have a massive problem here in Britain right now requires no qualification, but I have touched on mental health on more than one occasion here in the past. The oft-shared statistics are just statistics, but in my day-job (yes, I work for a multinational who deal in insurance and investments, because, incredibly reviewing bands no-one’s heard of and writing books no-one reads doesn’t pay the bills) I’m often required to step out of my role to help people and to listen to people. They all have trouble. They’re all stressed. They’re all anxietised. Some are depressed. I know how they feel, and they know it. It really is good to talk. No, not just good: vital. This is my daily reality. So the fact that the bulk of CD I get sent for review which I don’t choose to keep end up at my local Mind charity shop is just something I do. Because it’s important to do what you can, right?

According to their bio, Modern Technology formed through ‘a shared frustration of the post-truth society and political unrest that is currently suffocating our global conscious’. The one positive of political turbulence is the spur to creativity: it’s no coincidence that that post-punk emerged during the Thatcher era, and it’s fair to say that the parallels between then and now are strong. One major difference now, however, is that it’s practically impossible to sign on and form a band: zero-hours contracts and the benefits system mean that even looking for work is a full-time job, and the economics of making music simply don’t stack favourably. But regardless of economics, all that shit has to go somewhere. You need to process. You need to vent. Modern Technology sound like a band who are doing this not for fun, but because they need to.

The EP’s opener provides a theme tune of sorts: entitled ‘Modern Technology’, it launches with an ear-shredding blast of splintering noise, before pulverizing drums, grating bass and squalling feedback hammer out a sonic landslide of a backdrop to a hollering vocal, half-lost in an avalanche of reverb. Christ! They’ve got the savagery of early Head of David coupled with the goth-noise mania of The Birthday Party.

It certainly sets the tone and tempo: ‘Project Fear’ is two minutes of overloading, distorted fury that makes optimal use of lo-fi production values for maximum impact. It hits like a punch in the guts. Deciphering the lyrics isn’t easy and at times is pretty much impossible, but the sentiment is more than adequately conveyed by the medium. Besides, the titles speak for themselves in many respects, as they take the most mundane aspects of contemporary capitalist living and attack them with shuddering sonic barrages. Shades of psych filter through the scuzzed-up tumult of no-wave noise. And deep from within that sonic cyclone screams the painful truth: everything is fucked.

When they do slow it down, as on the grinding ‘Select Retail’, they bring out the brooding theatricality and highlight the depthlessness and superficiality of consumerism with the blank slogan / refrain ‘Select retail / reject detail’. But then they also do choppy, bass-led Shellac-tinged angularity on ‘Queue Jumper’. Closer ‘Modern Detritus’ distils every last ounce of frustration and compresses it into a dense roar of thunder.

Modern Technology are the real deal: this isn’t music being made with one eye on a commercial ticket, but music that’s born out of compulsion, the urge to purge. It’s art. It’s raw, it’s visceral, it’s painful. And in expressing the agony of frustration, it’s perfect.

AA

cover

Panurus Productions – 25th January 2019

Is it a supergroup if the members of a collective all belong to acts no-one has ever heard of? Shrimp is a project which represents the coming together of Jon O’Neill (The Smokin’ Coconuts, The Shits, Skronk et al), Chris Watson (Snakes Don’t Belong in Alaska, Forest Mourning), James Watts (Plague Rider, Lovely Wife, Lump Hammer et al),Rob Woodcock (Plate Maker, Fret!) and Ryosuke Kiyasu (Sete Star Sept, Fushitsusha, Kiyasu Orchestra et al). Initially converging to perform on the bill at a Ryosuke solo show in Gateshead, this eponymous release captures the intensity of that performance in a studio setting – at least, so they claim.

Listening to this, it’s probably a claim that’s justified: it is, indeed, intense. They promise ‘a maelstrom of clanging, shrieking guitar, relentless frenetic drum savagery and inhuman vocals’, and forewarn that ‘Shrimp, in direct contrast to the weakness implied by its moniker, is the sonic equivalent of being trapped within a chitinous storm of pincers and consists of a thirty minute studio onslaught and a live recording, featuring additional electronic noise.’

Yep. It’s brutal and harsh from the outset. A cacophony of guitar feedback and whiplash explosions of extraneous noise whirl into a tempestuous frenzy around smashing percussion. The first five minutes sound like the climactic finale of something immense. And it just keeps on going from there. On and on, notes and beats and crashing cymbals flying in all directions, slowly bringing things down only to resurge and burst into a raging sonic storm once more. Deranged shrieks lie half-buried in the mix amidst all kinds of chaos that combines stoned desert rock, psychedelia and free jazz.

Twenty-two minutes in and the speakers are melting with a blistering stream of frenetic noise, formless, atonal, punishing in its complete lack of shape or musicality. After half an hour it bleeds into second piece, ‘Light as Hell’. It’s more of the same – an ear-bleeding aural tidal wave that continuously threatens to break but never does. It’s dizzying, and difficult. And yet, supergroup or not, it is definitely super, in a wild, chaotic, insane way.

Shrimp

Ipecac Recordings – 23rd November 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

Planet B finds Justin Pearson – of Dead Cross, Retox, and more bands and projects than even he could probably name – pair up with hip-hop producer Luke Henshaw. The result is a gloriously mangled hybrid of punk and hip-hop that’s more in the vein of the crossover collaborations that featured on the Judgement Night soundtrack than anything thrown up subsequently by nu-metal or anything else that’s followed. No doubt this is something Ipecac head honcho Mike Patton considered when the album landed with the label, having delivered the belting ‘Another Body Murdered’ with Faith No More in collaboration with Boo-Yaa T.R.I.B.E. back in ’93.

Having spent what seems like forever criticising people for becoming fogeys prematurely and becoming locked in an era that corresponds with their late teens / early twenties and bemoaning the fact that there’s no new music that’s any good, I’ll confess with no small disappointment that just typing that gave me a major pang of nostalgia, and that I haven’t listened to any mainstream or chart music in about eight years now, and I really don’t know who’s who or what the kidz are listening to now (and although I have been subjected to ‘What Does the Fox Say?’, Pingfong’s ‘Baby Shark Dance’ and ‘Skibidi’ by Little Big, I’m not sure how representative these are of anything). But the notion that there’s no new music that’s any good is patent bollocks. The fact of the matter is there’s more good new music emerging now than ever before – it’s just a matter of taste and knowing where to find it. Ipecac, it has to be said, are pretty consistent as a source of things both noisy and strange, and while the styles and forms may not be entirely predictable, the quality usually is. Planet B’s eponymous debut is illustrative, and while it’s new music with roots in older music, it still doesn’t sound quite like anything else current.

Political and pissed off, Planet B is an album with attack, taking not the mellowed out doped-up end of hip-hop but presents a fiery force-for-change antagonism that’s more Body Count or Beastie Boys at their best. As one would reasonably expect from an act featuring Justin Pearson, the result isn’t pretty, but it is pretty intense, and ‘Crustfund’ makes for a strong start: deep, pounding hip-hop beats and snarling synths provide the backdrop to an uncompromising and aggressive vocal courtesy of Kool Keith, (one of a roll-call of inspired guests featured on the album).

Things take a turn for the more direct and driving with the fast-paced pulsating groove of ‘Join a Cult’ – the backing sounds like Sigue Sigue Sputnik, while the vocals are a pure punk whooping holler, brimming with anger and nihilism. ‘Manure Rally’ and ‘Come Bogeyman’ are also thunderous stompers reminiscent of Ministry (the latter featuring the percussive talents of Martin Atkins), and big mid-tempo beats and dense, looping low-end are one of the defining features of the album as a whole. This certainly contributes to providing Planet B with a sense of cohesion – which is much-needed given its eclecticism.

Like many, I’m wary of covers of songs I really, really like, and am often heart howling in despair ‘Sacrilege! How could they do that?’ or, conversely, ‘why did they bother? It doesn’t do anything different.’ The cover of Depeche Mode’s ‘Never Let Me Down’ is unexpected – slowed down, stripped down, it’s brutal and ugly – and quite outstanding.

Although the production is significantly cleaner and the overall, and the vibe altogether less violent, Planet B shares shouty, sneering, snotty common ground with Uniform’s The Long Walk. And as The Long Walk is one of my favourite albums of the year (despite its relentless fury and clanging noise invariably leaving me physically and emotionally drained and with a headache), it’s a big thumbs up for Planet B.

AA

469426