Posts Tagged ‘Single Review’

Clue Records – 22nd November 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

The thing about Team Picture is that they just don’t fit. Anywhere. Stylistically, they’re a bit of this, a bit of that. A bit indie, a but pop, a bit shoegaze, a bit Krautrock. To see them performing, they don’t even seem to fit together. They’re like a satirical homage to The Village People: despite the uniform, they present as a selection of characters / caricatures with no obvious connection, separate, pulling in different directions.

And yet somehow this most disparate bunch work, and incredibly well. They’re incredibly adept at forging strong songs – which ultimately, is what being a band is about (unless it’s an avant-garde jazz band, where the objective is to make as discordant a racket in as many different tie signatures as possible). Their songs manage to represent their divergent personalities, pulling apart as much as together. And yet they work, and this latest single is no exception.

‘Another Always’ starts with space-age synths before shifting into some new-wave / indie crossover that smooshes together jerky, quirky vocals and chorus-tinged guitar to forge a sound that’s a collision of The Cure and The B52’s with a post-millennial retro sass and a certain yet oddly distinctive Leeds twist.

AA

Team Picture - Another, Always (artwork)

Buzzhowl Records – 24th January 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Masks are generally used to either obscure, hide, or otherwise present an alternative identity. The press blurb which accompanies the debut release by Masks, which arrives in the form of a two-track (lathe-cut) seven-inch gives little away, beyond the ‘fact’ that Masks is a New Zealand based artist. Singular. Although this is immediately thrown into question by the statement ‘We’re very excited to be putting out Masks’ debut release. We’ve been fans of the people involved for some time now.’ This doesn’t discredit the singular aspect, but does compel questioning. Toward the end of any interrogation, it’s perhaps worth asking ‘does or should it matter?’ Probably not, although our instinct is to seek something upon which to pin an identity or similar concrete elements as identifiers, as a means of basing experience and engagement.

Most songs about weekends I’m aware of are jaunty, jubilant, celebratory tunes. Take Michael Gray’s 2004 chart smash ‘The Weekend’, accompanied by a video with a sultry secretary busting moves around a photocopier, for example Reverend and the Makers’ ‘Living for the Weekend’ was irksome wank, and ‘The Weekend’ by Interpol is one of their weakest tracks by yards. The emphasis is very much on the separation pf the working week, and the weekend, which for many is not the reality of how work and life balance.

Masks sounds like their weekend contains back-to-back funerals as they grind and hammer their way through a murky mess of guitar that’s more about atmosphere than definition or tune. The percussion is pure punishment, industrial-strength pounding, while a synth howls an anguish-inducing drone around a monotone vocal that carries hints of Brian Molko. Yes, ‘Our Weekend Starts Tomorrow’ comes on like a bleak industrial / post-punk Placebo and packs some serious punch in a lugubrious, mid-tempo but thunderously dense sense.

There’s a change of mask for ‘Broken Glass’, a drifting, beat-free swell of instrumental ambience. It’s pleasant, but dark and contrasts starkly with ‘Our Weekend Starts Tomorrow’ in its overt formlessness. Is it a different face of the ‘band’ / ‘artist’, or another identity altogether? It’s unquestionably a departure, and if nothing else, suggests that Masks are multi-faceted.. complex. Unpredictable. Subject to change. What lies behind the mask? Maybe all will be revealed in good time…

Artwork Credit_ Sven Soric

29th November 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

Ahead of the release his seventh solo-album, Exo, in January next year, Swiss electronic artist Bit-Tuner indicates a significant change in direction with this single release. The two pieces on offer here are brief and – here’s the headline – beatless, as Bit-Tuner goes fully ambient.

It’s also a surprisingly succinct sonic document, the two tracks combined clock in at a mere fraction over seven minutes. ‘Passage’, the press release tell us, is ‘based on field-recordings, synthesizer pads and fluttering arpeggios,’ and ‘resembles a winding descent into a weightless but fragile science fiction world.’ The music in itself conveys almost nothing of this yet at the same time, succeeds in creating its on psychological space through the language of sound. It’ hushed, subdued, fragmented. Sounds like seagull calls drawl across ethereal twistings. Sometimes, abstractions conveys more than anything concrete or specific.

Virtual flipside / counterpart ‘Irisia’ is described as ‘a call from way below’ in which ‘a thunder-like growl from the underworld wraps itself around a floating choir-drone’. At a mere two-and-a-quarter minutes, and consisting of echoed notes and a mist-like sonic mist swirling directionless, it’s barely an interlude. And yet, despite its lack of substance, it has atmosphere and a certain depth.

I am left pondering the oddity of a ‘single’ release in the context of an ambient work that’s most likely designed to be consumed as a single while, but this showcases Bit-Tuner’s latest work in a digestible and readily accessible, bite-sized format, and it works nicely.

AA

OUS022_cover

Buzzhowl Records – 18th October 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

What came first, the music or the mindset? I’m going to put it down to how some of us – myself included – are wired, and will forever be drawn to that tense, dark sound that came out of the late 70s and early 80s that was a reaction to – and against – everything that was happening at the time. Just as punk was a reaction to – and rebellion against – prog and the beigeness of the times, so post -punk and its various strains, including (dare I whisper it?) goth harnessed the frustration and the dejection that was a product of the first years under Thatcher and the political climate of the second cold war and rendered it in a more articulate, and perhaps more musically resonant way (because let’s face it, 90% of so-called punk bands were just playing pub rock with the amps up).

To revisit briefly an observation I’ve made variously in recent years, these are bleak, bleak times, and the future is well out of hand. The post-punk renaissance that began around 2004 with the emergence of Editors and Interpol grew from an underground which was there long before, but now it’s in full spate. Reading’s Typical Hunks fully embrace all of this as a guitar bass duo backed by a drum machine.

The guitar on ‘Snakebit’ is spindly, reverb-heavy, weaving one of those tense post-punk guitar-lines that’s pure Joy Division, and it snakes its way around a tight, insistent bass that booms and drives along with the insistence of the grooves Craig Adams laid down to define the sound of The Sisters of Mercy in the early years. That in turn is wenled to thumping beat that’s a distillation of all things Yorkshire circa 1983-4. It’s all in the programming: nothing fancy, no attempt to make it sound like an actual drummer, no flash fills or flourishes, just a hammering repetition and a snare sound that’ll slice the top off your head. Those Boss Dr Rhythm machines really are unbeatable. The vocals are tense, paranoid, and channel disaffection.

Strains of feedback and a hesitant bass hover before everything locks in around another relentless rhythm on ‘Unravelling’ with elements of March Violets, Red Lorry Yellow Lorry, and early Danse Society all spun into a solid block of discomfort. Vintage in its roots yet ultimately providing the soundtrack of the zeitgeist, this is a cracking Aside / B-side combo housed in a suitably barren sleeve, that showcases Typical Hunks at their strongest and most focused yet.

AA

Artwork

31st October 2019

It’s a thick, lumbering riff that piles in at the start of Neverlanded’s latest effort and the grab is absolutely immediate. You remember, in just a few short seconds, why you got excited about guitar-driven alt-rock in the first place. You remember why grunge was a revelation and a revolution. You remember why roaring noise didn’t necessarily mean unlistenable shit, and when paired with a killer hook, it distilled all of the feelings you couldn’t articulate in as week of talking and letters scribbled late at night in a pre-Internet age.

The thing is, while Kurt Cobain opined, at the ripe old age off 25 or so, that ‘teenage angst has paid off well, now I’m bored and old,’ angst never completely settles, and instead simmers away until prodded. And this prods it, hard, reawakening the anguish, but in a good way. A way that doesn’t inflict new pain, but reminds you that the pain was more bearable when it had some kind of outlet, some kind of mirror. Angst never dies, it simply reforms, refocuses.

Less than six months after their F.u.U EP, Neverlanded prove that the driving force and primal angst they whipped up in the spring was no fluke, and signal their career’s forward trajectory. Bring it.

Crocodile Laboratories – 9th August 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

After a faltering start a couple of years ago, Amy Studt’s comeback is properly under way and in full flow now. Over the last few months, she’s unveiled a new track every six weeks from her upcoming album, The Happiest Girl in the Universe which will finally see the light of day after a long gestation and almost equally long run-up.

Building momentum after any setback is hard, and Amy’s had a protracted spell of continuous setbacks after her initial flurry of fame back in her teens. I mean it sincerely and without a hint of patronism when I write that to see her pushing through all of the sludge to emerge a stronger artist with a clear sense of self is inspiring.

Moreover, ‘Overdose’ more than delivers on the promise of an album that gives us ‘a narrative diary of depression, hope and redemption’ and ‘features eleven bold, intimate and heartfelt tracks’. Amy herself describes the song as ‘one of the most personal songs on the album (also one of my favourites)’.

It’s a simple piano-led song with an intimate vibe: Amy’s vocals are close-mic and mumbled in the lower registers, but she soars and imbues every syllable, whether intelligible or not, with emotion. The difficulty in deciphering the lyrics is perhaps significant. It’s not about embarrassment, but about the difficulty of actually committing to verbalising the intensely personal, dredging through those dark places. Digging deep is a purge, and painful. But where the words aren’t clear or audible, the sentiment remains, as does the melody and the

They say that time heals all wounds, but time is a variable quantity which differs for everyone. Some find they’re never ready, never equipped. ‘Overdose’, it’s fair to say, is another document of Amy’s self-help programme, the channelling of creativity as therapy of sorts. The result is wonderful – dark, but ultimately uplifting, conveying a fragility and humanity, not to mention a sense of personal proximity that’s beyond touching, and instead offering something to cling to. And we all need something to cling to, whether we acknowledge this publicly, or even privately.

The Minus Pool is a new project from members of Nasty Little Lonely and friends. ‘Safety In Numbness’ is their first release, inspired by TV series Peaky Blinders. And because I’m a firm fan of Nasty Little Lonely’s style of noise, my interest was instantly piqued by the prospect of another related project.

On the strength of their debut, The Minus Pool seem more restrained in comparison to NLL’s squalling barrage, instead distilling the fierceness into something dark and brooding. ‘Safety in Numbness’ is queasy and uncomfortable, built around a low-slung, repetitive bassline. Coming on like Foetus slithering around with Gallon Drunk, the atmosphere is grimy, dirty and airless. Wallow and enjoy the suffocation.