Posts Tagged ‘Single Review’

Cool Thing Records – 19th April 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

BAIT’s eponymous debut last year revealed a very different musical facet of Asylums’ Michael Webster and Luke Branch, switching savvy punky indie for something altogether darker, heavier, and more abrasive.

DLP, the first new material since Bait continues the same trajectory of socio-political antagonism delivered lean and mean. The initialism referring to Disney Land Paris (I wonder if so as to avoid hassle or even litigation, since Disney are notoriously protective of their brand, forcing obscure thrash act Bomb Disneyland to rename themselves Bomb Everything), the song addresses the pressure of life in a society where there is no longer conspicuous consumerism, only a conspicuous lack of consumerism, against the realities of living hand-to-mouth at the very limit of the ever-extending overdraft.

Apparently, we’re all worth it and deserve to be out there, living our best life and making memories to share on social media, while countless people are utterly fucked on zero-hours contracts and even healthcare professionals are reliant on food banks just to eke an existence. And this is where late capitalism has brought us: stressed and conflicted to the point of being semi-functional, alienated and trapped.

The band’s musical reference points – Nitzer Ebb, Depeche Mode, Sleaford Mods, D.A.F, NiN, John Carpenter – are all very much in evidence on this slab of electro-driven frustration-venting.

‘Hooray, hooray, it’s payday’ snarls Webster bitterly over a stark industrial backdrop of stabbing synths and a gut-churningly dirty bass grind that’s melded to a murky, mechanoid beat. It’s as hooky as hell and packs a major punch. It won’t smash capitalism, but channelling anger into a three-minute sonic assault is an ideal way to release some of the tension.

AA

DLP Cover

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Crocodile Records – 26th April 2019

Let’s not deny it: we’re all vain to varying extents. Of course I got a buzz from Amy Studt’s sharing of my review of her last release, ‘I Was Jesus in your Veins’ on Facebook (although more than the buzz, I was genuinely touched by her level of appreciation), and to see Aural Aggravation quoted in the press release for the follow-up – well, that did give me a buzz. That isn’t to say that I crave attention and adulation, and when I say I do this for the love not the money, I mean the love of music, not love I receive for writing all this shit, because, well, it’s not how it is, and I’d kiss a lot more arse if I wanted that kind of adulation and approval.

I’ve digressed before I’ve even begun. ‘Let The Music Play’ is the follow up to ‘I Was Jesus in Your Veins’, and is the second track and chapter in a series of songs that will be released every six weeks and will ultimately make up the overall story / track listing on what Amy’s PR describe as her ‘eagerly awaited new album’, which is ‘a narrative diary of depression, hope and redemption’, and ‘a bold and intimate set of heartfelt songs’ which is set to arrive later this year.

‘Let the Music Play’ begins as an intimate acoustic song, but over its duration, layers up with warping synths and infinite incidentals that coalesce to a rich, dense sonic soup. Amy’s vocal is quavering, quiet, intimate, as she reaches upwards and soars with a joyous freedom tempered by a deep-seated melancholy. A magnificent slow-burner, it’s quite simply a great song.

With some live dates upcoming, the indications are that after some wilderness years and a false start a bit back, Amy’s finally getting her career back on track, and the signs so far for the new album are all shades of positive.

Crocodile Records

Christopher Nosnibor

I thought the title rang a bell when I clocked it in my inbox, and despite kicking out more or less a review a day for the last decade, and despite knocking back at least a couple of units of alcohol for each one, my memory’s not bad, and lo, Amy’s 2019 comeback single was the B-side to her 2015 comeback single ‘Different Coloured Pills’, which I reviewed for Whisperin’ and Hollerin’ at the time. I was quite moved at the time, and I’m equally moved now.

In context, her halting progress is understandable: after immense major-label success aged just 16, before being subsequently being dropped before her 18th birthday, a protracted period of wilderness years plagued by mental health issues are likely attributable to the pressures of fame at a young age, but equally, can be seen as symptomatic of contemporary culture more broadly. Admittedly, it may be a shade contentious to suggest that mental health issues have become a badge of honour or a get-out clause for some, and I need to be clear that I say this as someone who is a strong advocate for bringing mental health issues into the forum of discussion – even though I’m not always the best at opening up myself. We do need to talk about mental health issues – and constructively. And via artistic media is one very positive starting point.

Amy’s slow-phased comeback is an appraisal of her experiences channelled creatively, and this time around, she’s on a different label and the release is part of a bigger project, as outlined in the press release: ‘I Was Jesus in Your Veins’ is the first track and chapter in a series of songs that will be released every six weeks and will ultimately make up the overall story / track listing on Amy’s eagerly awaited new album. A narrative diary of depression, hope and redemption, the new long player is a bold and intimate set of heartfelt songs and is set to arrive later this year.’

It’s telling that the video visuals, and the artwork accompanying the single are blurred, grainy, unflattering, indicating that what we’re getting here isn’t attention-seeking woe-is-me trauma porn, but the work of an artist genuinely using their chosen medium to explore and make sense of their life experience. There’s certainly nothing glamorising suffering here.

It’s an intimate, melodic slice of quintessential indie-pop delivered with an accessible, melodic and easy-going breeziness, but there’s a dark and deeply personal undercurrent that ripples through the fractured lyrical dialogue that also conjures the constant back and forth of the internal monologue of self-doubt and questioning. And in the personal lies the universal, which makes this such a powerful and moving work.

‘I have no expectations as to how it will be received but this album is so deeply personal I feel like I achieved what I was striving for just by creating it,’ she posted n her Facebook page just ahead of release. And that’s the mark of a true artist: this is about the creation rather than the reception. And while deserving of success, it’s also worthy of immense respect. And that’s actually worth more.

AA

Amy Studt

Vile Entertainment – 5th April 2019

James Wells

‘Vile Assembly Unveil The Most Controversial Video of the Year,’ shouts the title of the email which crashed into my mailbox to announce the arrival of the promo for ‘Last Century Man’, the latest from Liverpudlian punks Vile Assembly.

How do you possibly quantify that? Controversy requires debate, often heated, passionate, divided, and while it’s not hard to see why their clip, which intercuts images and clips of Donald Trump and The Pope, defaced with crosses, blood spatter, and swastikas, with images of Hitler are likely to spark indignation in some quarters, the fact hardly anyone appears to have noticed, let alone be talking about, the video, which was posted just over a week ago suggests that while it’s been ‘banned’ from two news networks, the controversy has so far been fairly muted.

It certainly isn’t because people don’t shock or offend anymore: if anything, people in the west seem more like to be more sensitive at this point in time than any in recent history. However, the well-worn approaches to provocation, particularly when the targets are so widely unpopular.

Similarly, VA may describe themselves as ‘a band for our times’ with the objective to ‘disrupt the status quo and interrupt the flow of mass indoctrination with a searing honesty designed to energise and unite,’ but ultimately, they’re just another punk band. They’re a good one, and Paul Mason has perfected a Lydonesque sneer, but retreading the ground of the last 40 years isn’t where the revolution starts in 2019.

AA

Vile Assembly

Hangman Ho Records – 14th March 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

Every 18 months or so, I get contact from Rick Senley. This has been happening for a good few years now. I like him, and I like his work. There’s a pattern of sorts. He seemingly hibernates for a while, then emerges with a brace of albums, one each from his main projects, Music for Voyeurs and I Am A Man With A St Tropez Tan. Both different sides of the same coin, they tend to be contrasting but complimentary.

So this latest arrives came as something of a surprise: not an album but a single, and representing a new project. Made in Minks sees Senley return to the fold of a band-orientated project after many years operating in a solo capacity, and the international quintet, which initially coalesced in 2014, they’ve been honing their sound before declaring that ‘now is the time’.

Citing influences from Pixies to The Cure, Kate Bush, Black Sabbath and Aztec Camera, Made in Minsk claim to ‘sculpt a unique sound of psychedelic indie thrash folk’. If that sounds deranged, well, yes, it is.

‘Where the Truth Lies’ starts with darkly atmospheric muttering that calls to mind the Cure’s ‘Pornography’, before breaking out into a muscular riff that builds on a thunking bass throb and insistent rhythm that contains elements of The Fall but combines it with the snaking reverby bleakness of The Cure circa Faith and the fiery goth favours of Skeletal Family. It’s retro as, and it’s all the better for it: whereas so many contemporary acts play post-punk through a post-millennial filter of Interpol and Editors, MIM return to source to deliver something that feels authentic in every way, from the sentiment to the production.

Dark, stark, and angular, it’s also hypnotic and catchy, and a really strong song.

AA

Made in Minsk

22nd February 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

Everyone wants to be The Fall, everyone rips off The Fall but no-one actually sounds like The Fall – not even The Fall, at least in their first post Mark E Smith incarnation. That’s only half true: ‘No Man’s Land, the lead single from upcoming debut album Gastwerk Saboteurs sounds very much like The Fall in places. Hardly surprising given the musicians involved. How about the slightly flat, nasal vocal? San Curran’s spent a long time around MES’s work, but then again, flat, nasal vocals are common to both punk and indie bands from over the last 40 years, and he doesn’t end a single line with an ‘uh’, so his delivery isn’t entirely a derivative emulation. What’s more, when he steps up and starts gibbering at pace into a wash of reverb, there’s a vocal energy on display here that The Fall were missing for most of the last decade and a half, and from this alone, it becomes apparent that this is something new, something emergent, something born out of a need to create more than out of a desire to trade on legacy.

So, yes, it has heavy echoes of The Fall, because the musicians involved have been The Fall for the last decade or so: muscular riffs, driving drumming, a certain tension and a nagging repetition provide the core elements of ‘No Man’s Land’, a song which probably articulates in some way the position these four men find themselves. But as Imperial Wax, it sounds like they’re establishing a new home and a new identity.

AA

Imperial Wax

22nd February 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

I was – for reasons I forget – watching Alain de Botton’s lecture entitled ‘Why You Will Marry the Wrong Person’ the other week. ‘We seem normal only to those who don’t know us very well,’ he says. ‘In a wiser, more self-aware society than our own, a standard question on any early dinner date would be: “And how are you crazy?”’

Maybe I give off a certain vibe, but increasingly, I find myself encountering people who are more up-front about their defects, and while I find I’m still surrounded by stressers, anxietisers, low-mooders, neurotics, etc., at least I get to choose the ones I feel comfortable sharing my time with instead of discovering way down the line that they’re completely fucking nuts. That’s not actually intended as a flippantly disparaging or critical comment, for the record: we’re all fucking nuts, and I’m as warped as anyone.

It’s not just in my personal life I’m a magnet. It’s in my (second) professional life, too that people approach me from nowhere. Sometimes, it isn’t easy to assimilate. My online persona is just that: it isn’t me. Then again, I write, and I put it – a part of myself – out there, daily.

This epic digression is in fact contextual narrative. Having been approached via Twitter, a PR was angling for a review. Close friends are right: I am soft and maybe I am too nice. But then, I don’t want anyone to think I’m actually the guy who does The Rage Monologues live. Said PR was touting the latest single offering from Miel – who is, in fact, Swiss contemporary art collector, singer-songwriter, psychologist, and philanthropist, Miel de Botton, who lives in London. De Botton is the daughter of the pioneer of open architecture asset management Gilbert de Botton, and the sister of Alain de Botton. It’s a small world.

The cover art illustrates the sentiment of a desire to escape, to be elsewhere, to be immersed in someone else, and this conveys the sentiment of Londoner Meil’s new single ‘It’s been such a long hard road / I wait for you /I need your love to get me through / take me away / to the deepest sea / finally you and me together at last’, she sings in a dreamy pop tone against a backdrop of rippling piano, synth strings and understated beats.

“When I wrote this, I was imagining an ideal man whisking me away to the tropics. Understanding and thoughtful, he would be bringing me joy, ridding me of loneliness,” says Meil. It’s pure fantasy escapism, of course, and in some form or another, it’s a sentiment that has a universality to it that’s undeniable.

Neatly wrapped in some deft pop packaging, ‘Take Me Away’ radiates pure quality, and augers well for her forthcoming second album.