Posts Tagged ‘Shoegaze’

1st June 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

It all starts with an air-raid siren. A historical sound with connotations of WW2 for many, but still heard in places like South Korea and Japan, it’s a sound which provokes an almost biologically-wired shudder of unease. They may only be tests, but the sound of sirens in the last 12 months reminds us that stability is but precarious. And then the snaking, surfy bass strolls in, awash with reverb… and then the guitars… It’s all pinned to a locked-down groove, and Trond Fagernes’ voice rises up from amidst it all as if from the back of a cathedral. You saw it all coming, right? They obviously did and approach by stealth, before building to a whiling cacophony by way of a climax. But for all of its noise and tension, this feels more introspective than anything they’ve done before.

Norway’s Mayflower Madame draw heavily on post-punk influences – music born out of the dark days of the early 80s, corresponding with the period when cold war tensions escalated to warrant the labelling of ‘the second cold war’, and the economic boom years widened the chasm between the haves and have-nots was rendered more conspicuous by the rise of the yuppie. And so on.

What Mayflower Madame bring to the gothy party is a potent dose of Nordic noir psych and a dash of shoegaze, all doused in massive reverb, and the four tracks on Premonition continue the trajectory of their 2016 debut album, Observed in a Dream.

The claustrophobic focus continues on the swirling, shoegazy ‘Before I Fall’; the guitars twang through a gauze of drifting synths and echoey fx that create a certain distance between the listener and the actual song, an unusual sense of both space and an absence of space. ‘Alma’s Sermon’ is centred around a backed-off yet insistent motoric beat and has greater immediacy and – it’s all relative – upbeat vibe. But then closer ‘Siders Seek’ plunges deeper into darkness: a paranoid shiver runs down the spine of the track’s tremulous guitars, and everything about the song’s construction seems to be about concentrating the tension. And yes, this is tense.

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Mayflower Madame – Premonition EP

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Neurot Recordings – 11th May 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

The band’s biography locates them as ‘standing at a crossroads of light and dark’, and we learn that Chrch create ‘epic, lengthy songs, with a massive low end, and a supernatural vocal presence, in a perfect blend of height and depth’.

Epic is the word: this, their second album contains just three songs, the shortest of which is just shy of ten minutes in length.

It begins with the twenty-two minute behemoth that is the appropriately-titled ‘Infinite’. Slow-picked notes, bathed in chorus and reverb hang in suspension. Dust motes drift in the spaces between them, and time stalls in a freeze-frame. Gradually, the percussion begins for form rhythm in the background, and some semblance of form begins to emerge. It’s around the five-minute mar when the dual vocal – a banshee howl and chthonic growl – tear through a landslide of trudging guitars so slow and low as to be positively subterranean. The mid-section is delicate as a butterfly’s wing, before the second heavyweight segment proffers forth some kind of doom rendition of classic rock, like Clapton on Ketamine, multiple lead guitar lines intertwining at a fraction of the conventional tempo.

‘Portals’ focuses more on the infinite power chords, screeding feedback, bowel-shaking bass and screaming demon vocals. It’s the soundtrack to a descent into the infernal abyss. The trudging riff that dominates the second half is enlivened by a majestic lead part and Eva Rose’s captivating vocals which soar and glide magnificently. I shan’t deny it: I’m a sucker for a shoegaze voice pitched against slabs of guitar as heavy, grey, and grainy as basalt.

The final cut ‘Aether’ is by far the lightest and most uplifting in its tone, and pushes further into shoegaze territory, despite its agonizing 40bpm pace and the anguished screams in the background. It feels like a crawl toward the light at the end of the tunnel, and despite the thunderous weight and the howling agony which permeates every note, it feels somehow redemptive.

The heavy passages – and they’re seriously heavy – are broken by protracted periods of tranquillity, of mesmeric beauty and delicate grace. But, truth be told, the format’s growing tired, the tropes of the dynamics embedded to the point of predictability now. And so it all comes down to execution and the details. On Light Will Consume Us All, Chrch venture – subtly – into different territories, territories which exist beyond the template of what’s now the doom standard. And it’s well executed. Really well executed.

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Irish band The Altered Hours have released their latest EP ‘On My Tongue’ on Art For Blind/Penske Recordings.

They have now shared the video for EP title track ‘On My Tongue’, which is a hypnotic slice of shimmering, motorik, psyche-hued shoegaze. You can watch it here:

‘Lost In Space’ is inspired by the novel My Life As A Dog by Reidar Jönsson, and the character Ingemar’s meditations on Laika the space dog. It was written for Bushwick Book Club, and it taken from the EP Hopeful Monsters.

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Listen to the EP in full here:

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Lusterlit - Hopeful

Alex Kretov and Shauna McLarnon are Ummagma. We like their dreamy brand of shoegazey pop here at Aural Aggro.

Since their inception in 2003, the duo have given birth to 3 albums (2 from Ummagma and 1 collaboration with Sounds of Sputnik), 4 EPs, many videos and remixes, as well as one awesome daughter (now 11 years old). ‘Music continues to be the glue that keeps us together, providing us symmetry and fuelling our dream machine’, they write.

In the past few years, they’ve worked with some really amazing producers and musicians – genuine icons in the field of dream pop and shoegaze – including Dean Garcia (CURVE and SPC ECO), Robin Guthrie (Cocteau Twins), Rudy Tambala (A.R.Kane, M/A/R/R/S), Malcolm Holmes (Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark), and Graham Bonnar (Swervedriver, BJM).

Compass finds them back out on their own: ‘Once again, we return to this fine place of equilibrium for this album, which will feature 12 original tracks’.

Compass has been five years in the making,  and their Indiegogo campaign has stacks of packages – which start from a credit for just a dollar. You can chip in here.

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Ummagma

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Ummagma Band

Avalanche Recordings – 17th November 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

We’re used to press releases gushing with superlative verbiage, so the short statement which accompanies the second post-return Godflesh album stands out by virtue of its brevity and factuality. It simply reads: ‘Over two years in the making, Post Self explores a different side of Godflesh, taking in their formative influences to conjure something informed by late 70’s/early 80’s post-punk and industrial music. The album deals with themes of anxiety, depression, fear, mortality, and paternal/maternal relationships’.

It’s entirely fitting. Godflesh require little introduction as pioneers of stark, brutal music, paired with lyrical brevity.

We live in a post-everything world, and Justin K Broadrick has long crated music that’s post most things. His solo album, Post-Human, released under the JK Flesh moniker, saw Broadrick draw together various threads of his extant output into a ferocious sonic assault. Post Self­ manifests as a different kind of post-dissection from the solo release, and also brings a different shade of grind from A World Lit Only by Fire. Post Self is unmistakeably Godflesh, and incorporates all of the elements that make Godflesh Godflesh. Thudding, mechanical percussion, snarling bass, lead-guitar motifs built on feedback and minimal, repetitive riff structures and relentless brutality define the album. And in contrast to the certain sameness that overarched its predecessor in terms of texture and tempo, Post Self­ has all the dynamics and attack of much earlier works, as the thick sludge ‘n’ scrape pounding is replaced by space, a greater separation of top and bottom, and altogether more diverse sounds and structures – and with serious impact.

The title track is he first cut, and booming, dubby bass and mechanised percussion pound beneath squalling guitars, with murky rhythm juxtaposed with super-toppy lead. The vocals are practically impenetrable, throaty, splenetic snarls drawled out over a full bar. The relentless thud of ‘Parasite’ again explores tonal range and difference, a mangled interloping treble-edged lead threading a spindly web of pain over a bowel-churning bottom-end. ‘No Body’ has all of the vintage Godflesh tropes, with brutal digital percussion and trudging riffing dominating everything. ‘Be God’ is a sonic bulldozer, the bass grind an earthmoving shovel and scrape which yields to gentle musicality, the strum of a reverby, indie guitar into the fade before ‘The Cyclic End’ washes into dystopian shoegaze that’s more reminiscent of Jesu than Godflesh, but for the booming bass throb and creeping darkness. Combining glacial coldwave synths, mangled vocals, and a grating, trudging bass, ‘Mortality Sorrow’ is as unrelentingly stark and unforgiving as it gets.

I constantly find myself facing the question about the balance of objectivity and subjectivity. Objectively, Post Self is painful, breathtaking to the point of discomfort brutal, punishing. Of course it is: it’s a Godflesh album. But subjectively, it feels both more vital and equally more bleak than its predecessor. There’s a passion here, but the mechanical, dehumanised detachment that characterises Godflesh is equally present. Subjectively, I’ve always been drawn to Godflesh because of just how removed from human input they’re capable of sounding, forging a sound that emanates rage and despair while stripping every last sinew of humanity from the end result.

And buried and largely indecipherable as the vocals are, the themes are less conveyed by the lyrics than the delivery. The atmosphere is intense, claustrophobic, oppressive, and every inch of the album is imbued with implications of depression, anxiety, fear and self-loathing. It gnaws away cerebrally, while working away at the pit of the stomach and kneeding away at the intestines.

Post Self is Godflesh on form: nihilistic, pulverizing, and ploughing their own deep furrow of dark, furious despair. No other band can create work quite like this, and rejuvenated, reinvigorated, they continue to push the parameters.

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Godflesh - Post Self