Posts Tagged ‘Sly & the Family Drone’

London based noise/punk band USA Nails have launched the 2nd single from their upcoming album ‘Character Stop’ which is set for release on 23rd October through Hex Records (USA) and Bigout Records (Europe). You can watch the video for short and sharp single ‘I Don’t Own Anything’ which clocks in at just 1 min 23 seconds.

USA Nails feature current and ex-members of Sly & The Family Drone, Blacklisters, Kong, Oceansize, Silent Front, Death Pedals, Future of the Left and Dead Arms.

Guitarist Gareth Thomas comments,

At the risk of sounding like a dick; this song is about millennials and zoomers. Generations who have been shafted by their parents, who can’t afford anything, who live on zero hours contracts, and who are currently experiencing a mental health epidemic. They are blamed for their own misfortune because they like to eat avocados sometimes. It’s also got a beat that’ll get your toe tapping.

And with all music being streamed via Spotify and YouTube, no-one even own their own music collection any more. Which also massively sucks.

Check the vid here:

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Human Worth – 7th August 2020

Tough times for bands, venues, and all things music in general is proving to be a good time for the compilation, particularly the fundraiser. And while many individuals are struggling to cover bills due to lack of work and reduced income, many gig-goers and pub dwellers are finding they’ve got some spare cash going. It also so happens that there are plenty of albums being released to support the causes their enforced absence means are struggling.

Human Worth, as the name suggests, is more about the people than the spaces, and if mental health and poverty were major issues before all of this shit went down, it’s even more vital they’re supported, and the proceeds from this latest release are going to Harmless, a charity that supports metal health, and to assist in the prevention of self-harm and suicide.

The fact that more than half the acts on this release are ones we’ve covered or are otherwise on the Aural Aggro radar is a strong indicator of the style and hopefully the quality of this release. Like its predecessor, Human Worth Vol II is a showcase of premium-grade noisy stuff from across the spectrum.

AJA crash in with a mix of bewildering noise and eerie ethereality before Klämp bring some brutal lo-fi grunge noise. Snarly vocals half-buried amidst a barrage of muffled drums, gnarly bass and space-rock synths It’s challenging, but equally, it’s exciting in its raw viscerality.

Blóm do riot-grrl punk but at a thousand miles an hour, with a hefty dash of black metal / hardcore in the mix, and the resultant blast of noise that is ‘Meat’ is hefty. Meanwhile, masters of heavily percussion-led free jazz racket, Sly and The Family Drone, really churn the guts with ‘Shrieking Grief’, lifted from the new album Walk it Dry. Even on a 20-track compilation of challenging, headfucking din, they manage to stand out, in the best possible way.

Modern Technology’s ‘Gate Crasher’, taken from their upcoming debut full-length is an exercise in intense and claustrophobic tension-filled angst, a dense, roaring bass and pummelling percussion all but burying the vocals. And it’s the low-slung, gritty bass that dominates the dingy grind of Mummise Guns’ ‘Glitter Balls’, before We Wild Blood’s ‘Eat Your Tail’ brings a sandstorm of wild shoegaze / psychedelia with a darker than dark hue. Bismuth and Vile Creature collaborate to create a low-end assault that sounds like the burning pits of hell and make me seriously consider heading to the bog before I shit myself. Elsewhere, USA Nails’ minimal cover of ’Paranoid’ is a hybrid of Big Black and Suicide, but with a dash of Cabaret Voltaire, and its primitivism is compelling.

So how is this kind of sonic torture appropriate for raising awareness of and funds for mental health charities? How can a barrage of noise be a good thing? Well, some of us find comfort in this kind of racket. It’s all about the immersion, all about the catharsis. You can totally bury yourself in this kind of stuff, and feel the pain and anguish being purged. There’s something cleansing about a howling tempest that envelops you and transports you to another place that’s difficult to communicate. It’s intense, and often quite personal, and some distance beyond words. There’s often a real sense of community around the more fringe scenes, and Human Worth is very much a community of artists pulling together to care for one another and not just like-minded individuals, but anyone.

There is joy in the fact that there’s some seriously heavy shit to be found on this album’s twenty tracks, and none of its especially friendly: Lovely Wife, as you’d probably expect given their previous output, seem keen to push the brown. The snarling demonism of ‘My Cup Overfloweth’ sounds particularly close to dredging through the bowels of hell by raging demons playing improv renditions of Hawkwind songs, and it’s a murky, gut-churning blast.

There isn’t a weak – or gentle – track to be found in this collection, but Ballpeen’s ‘Hate Fantasies’ – here in demo form – Working Men’s Club (not the shit indie one) are standouts in a field of standouts.

Sometimes, there’s a sense of obligation to purchase charity compilations because there’s a decent track or two, and because it’s for a good cause, but Human Worth have again curated an album that’s just that unbelievably good you want to buy ten copies.

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Love Love Records

Christopher Nosnibor

It’s no secret I’m quite a fan of Matt Cargill and Co’s oddball, off-kilter approach to freeform experimental weird noisy shit that stubbornly defies genre categorisation – largely on account of the fact that it is weird noisy shit that stubbornly defies genre categorisation (although the blurbage that accompanies Walk it Dry, the follow-up to 2019’s Gentle Persuaders describes them as ‘London’s neo-jazz wrecking crew’.

Sly have trod themselves a unique path, and find themselves in the curious position of being one of the most obtuse bands beloved by almost everyone I know in underground musical circles. I’d like to think it’s a combination of their uniqueness and the fact that they are unequivocally

On this outing, they promise ‘the familiar sound palette of skronked electronics, bulging noise blasts, wailing sax & Kalashnikov drums that was found on ‘Gentle Persuaders’’ but at the same time say that this ‘is a very different beast. The tracks here are shorter and punchier as the band digs deeper than ever to find increasingly potent sonic pockets.’

Mad horns and a crushing, slow-paced jazz beat explode from the speakers the second the ‘play’ button his hit, and with ‘A Black Uniformed Strutting Animal’ they plunge into a collision of heavy rhythms and divergent notes that counteract one another in a battle between order and chaos, where there is no clear winner.

‘Dead Cat Chaos Magician’ is frivolous, glooping electronics, with a fast-paced jitter of tension and some ragged blasts of drums that are nothing to do with rhythm and everything to do with dramatic punctuation, sudden explosions that disrupt any semblance of an emerging flow.

The compositions on Walk it Dry are difficult, dissonant, and while they are indeed more succinct than the bult of the pieces on previous outings, they condense those dank, disrupted soundscapes into dense chunks of ‘Bulgarian Steel’ brings the kind of swampy mess of nose that’s quintessentially Sly, dominated as it is by booming beats and murky mid-range, before ‘Shrieking Grief’ steps the torturous din up a notch, with more thunderous rhythms bashing frantically into a void of grinding greyness while horns flash and flail

The lack of pun-based titles is compensated to an extent by ‘Sunken Disorderly’, while ‘My Torso is a Shotgun’ is a cranium-crushing morass of tension, a bludgeoning battery of hammering and noise.

This all stacks up to an album that’s classic Sly: the same dark industrial clanking, doomy undercurrent and warped jazz overtones, but in much shorter segments. It’s still dark, dingy, difficult, jazzy, otherly, and there’s no other band who quit straddle so many boundaries. Walk it Dry may mark a certain evolution, but more than anything, it’s the work of a band who simply don’t do compromise. And that’s why we love them.

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1st May 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Pocket Signs is Sly & the Family Drone’s Matt Cargill and UKAEA’s Dan Jones, and according to Matt’s mail, Signs of the Times was ‘fired out in an afternoon with the aid of lager and pepsi max. Lights out, volume up, watch yer face bins.’ He describes it as the result of ‘plugging in all the objects and making a haunted, sprawling, disorientating racket. Blown out electronics, lacerated drums, churning bass and crumbling voices’. Which means I know I’m going to love it, along with at last 50 other people.

The album features two longform tracks, each a magical, mystical 23 minutes in duration, and like the times in which they were created, they’re a confusing mess of incoherence, a fractured and nonsensical sonic collage.

‘What About Obedience?’ starts out with what sounds like an engine roar – but not a real engine, so much as an engine on a racing console game. Then a deluge of clanks, bleeps, whirrs, clicks, pops, shoot-‘em-up laser guns and twanging elastic bands melting in a nuclear storm all pile in, more or less simultaneously and it feels like watching the news while scrolling through social media (as I do around five every evening while cooking dinner). The experience is utterly bewildering and to even attempt to unravel it all is futile, because the world has truly gone mad.

Searching for structures in this chaotic morass of noise is like trying to find logic in the UK government’s strategy for loosening lockdown, but there are some amazing moments to be found here, as snippets of tunes and spacey krautrock synth motifs emerge briefly from the blistering howl of undifferentiated nose that funnels like a gale.

Gurgles and glops and electronic extranea combine to forge an aural blitzkrieg that could easily be the soundtrack to a digital apocalypse. Everything swirls and melts into a maelstrom that builds a physical mass and hits with an impact that’s more than simply sensory.

Where do you go from a piece that concludes with a sustained squalling blast of white noise that leaves you with the sensation of the end of days? More of the same, of course: ‘How to be Saved’ begins with a series of murky vocal samples, echoed and overlaid, atop burrs of electronic discord, and in no time at all, later upon layer of dissonance has emerged to forge a raging torrent of noises. Feedback strains and scrapes, sharp and metallic with knife-like edges while surging currents gurgle and synth sounds squelch and quirt, titter and tweet around a vortex. Abstraction and chaos reigns, pulsing, bouncing, screaming and bumping in all directions. At time, the melee is impenetrable, bewildering, as it echoes around your cranium. Voices emerge and fade again at random: seemingly, everything is at random, and it’s a glorious headfuck. Not so much a dronewerk as a metadrone assemblage, it’s a wild and brain-frying journey, this may just be the perfect soundtrack to the now – or it may just tip you over the edge.

Oh, and the cover art is truly special.

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Love Love Records – 26th April 2019 – LOVLP03

Christopher Nsnibor

However you remember Sly and the Family Drone, whatever your past experience, and whatever you may expect, the reality of each new entry in their catalogue brings something slightly different.

My first encounter with them was in a live setting, and I was left reeling with images of a bloke in boxer shorts pummelling drums and getting half the audience to join in. I remember noise, rhythms and chaos. Various YouTube footage confirms this is pretty much representative.

All of those elements are present on their studio recordings, but in different measures. It works: it’s a different medium. And moreover, each release reflects an evolution, usually a subtle but nevertheless key shift. And so it is on Gentle Persuaders, the collective who describe themselves as a ‘neo-noise-jazz outfit’ (one suspects that as apt as the description is, there’s an element of tongue-in-cheek here, just as their absurdist track titles aren’t entirely straight-faced) ‘vomit forth a smooth serving of curious and clattering noise not devoid of fun’.

Smooth is perhaps one thing it isn’t, and for that we should all try and be grateful. Challenging, angular, tonally and structurally abrasive, Gentle Persuaders finds Matt Cargill and co. playing to their ever-growing strengths.

The album opens in suitably uncompromising style, with the longest of the four compositions, the fourteen-minute ‘Heaven’s Gate Dog Agility’. It takes its time to get going, and with minimal instrumentation save for elongated sax drones, it has something of a sparse, free jazz feel. The percussion is restrained, distant, muted, and the emphasis seems to be on atmosphere, and – so it would seem at this stage – musicianship. But by the mid-point the drums are full-blooded, and the sax is battling amidst a barrelling wall of extraneous noise. The closing minutes find the rare emergence of an overt structure, a form, with repetition and a coalescence of sound that could almost be mistaken for a tune.

Crashing, head-blasting industrial beats worthy of Test Dept or perhaps reminiscent of Revolting Cocks’ ‘Beers, Steers & Queers’ shatter the air on ‘New Free Spirits Falconry & Horsemanship’. And they continue to pound away for the duration, while the sax screeching becomes ever more strangled and frenzied.

‘Votive Offerings’ ventures into murky, dark ambient territory, and reveals glimmering flickers of light shifting amidst the shadows of sombre drones and unsettling incidentals. It’s a mosaic of fragments: forms start to emerge, solid rhythms kick in, only to halt after a few bars, and if it’s jazz with noise, it’s jazz with noise penned as a soundtrack to the fragmented hallucinatory anti-narrative of Naked Lunch.

It’s this change of mood that renders the finale all the more impactful: beginning stark, sparse, eerie, with single notes ringing out into a sea of black echo and swampy low undercurrents, the spectacularly punny (and so very typical) ‘Jehovah’s Wetness’, a low-end bass grind begins to build the foundations of a swirling sludge-trudge climax. It’s not gentle, but it’s extremely persuasive.

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Gentle Persuaders

Christopher Nosnibor

The missive which contains a link to the album lays out the facts. ‘August 2015: On a sweltering summer evening, Sly & the Family Drone brought their sweat-soaked carnival of chaos to east London. This is a recording of that night.’

Café Oto seems to be the venue of choice for weirdy, avant-garde experimental acts to capture their live sound – or perhaps it’s one of the few venues that truly embraces all that it weirdy, avant-garde and experimental in the first place. This, of course, is one of the benefits of operating on a not-for-profit basis. Art takes precedence over capital. It’s also an intimate space, where even a small crowd will make the place feel like it’s heaving, and it’s possible to really feel that connection between performer and audience in an up-close setting. Truly, here’s no substitute for being able to smell the sweat and see the whites of a perfomer’s eyes

Sly and the Family Drone have been pushing the parameters of messy noise for about eight years now, and while their recoded output explores all areas of murkiness and abrasion, their live shows are something else. Chaotic and cathartic, the only predictable part is percussion – that is to say, a lot of percussion.

This particular outing is heavy, and percussion-heavy from the outset. Thick, low-end blasts thunder through pounding drums. The percussion intensifies in both power and pace, while the droning bass frequencies bottom out to a place below the pelvic region while explosions of top-end squeal painfully. Less than ten minutes in, and they’ve hit total overload. Over the course of the album’s hour-long duration, they maintain it, and if anything, continue to push further, harder, louder, harsher. Crescendo hits after crescendo, and cumulatively, it’s punishing – in the best possible way.

It’s not just a hell of a noise: it’s all the noise. Even when the noise abates and the relentless battery of snare halts temporarily, eardrum-perforating feedback and whirring, hissing shards of treble fill the space. Through speakers, it hurts. Once can only imagine the impact and potential damage inflicted on those actually present. This is less a case of ‘you probably had to be there’ and more about ‘damn, I wish I’d been there’.

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Hominid Sounds – 30th May 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

Matt Cargill’s project still has one of the best names around: it’s not only an example of punning genius, but also one of those band names which sets expectations as to what you’re going to get musically. I say musically, but that’s very much a matter of perspective. SATFD don’t make music in the conventional sense, and Molar Wrench is as sonically challenging as any of the previous releases SATFD have put out. On this outing, they’re joined by Dutch/British free jazz unit Dead Neanderthals, to form what they describe as ‘the ultimate tag team of the murky European underground’.

Given that the two acts featured on a split release last year, this collaboration seems like a logical progression. It certainly marks a departure for Sly, in that the trademark subterranean grind of endless, dark drones and unsettling atmospherics is matched with and at times consumed by the maddest jazz shit going.

The album contains just four tracks, but packs in a hell of a lot of racket. It all kicks off with a frenetic, a wild, free jazz cacophony, a melange of clamorous, ultra-hyped parping horns, sonorous lowed drone and is dominated by truly frenzied, cacophonous bent. Circuits fizz and hum while the percussion thrashes and crashes arrhythmically, throwing the listener around with reckless abandon a rollercoaster of tempestuous sonic mania.

There are two ‘Muck Man’ tracks and the first is ten minutes of slow, throbbing churn made up primarily of low and mid-range sludge, the drums holding a ragged but hard rhythm amidst a maelstrom of thick, dirty, pulsating noise. It’s almost a riff, but more a succession of waves in a rhythmically surging sonic tide, a with the density of liquid mud. Immersive would be one word.

‘Muck Man Part 2’ is altogether more low-key, a dark, atmospheric piece that manifests as a prehistoric sulphur swamp in sonic form. Slowly, the murky drift builds to a screaming tempest of noise; the brass develops from a low drone to a shrill shriek of pain and the drumming transitions from a sedate trudge to an explosive riot of noise, abrasive blasts of snarling electronica and whatever the fuck else bursting in waves of sonic shock.

The title track closes off the album, and it’s an eleven-minute trudge that calls to mind the claustrophobic brutality of Swans’ ‘Young God’ EP. The plodding percussion provides a doomy and tense prickling spine to the oppressive grind that lumbers on for what feels like a skull-crushing eternity.

There is a definite structure to Molar Wrench, in that it starts off wild and winds down to a grinding crawl, but it by no means feels like the energy displayed at the outset dissipates as the album progresses. It’s more a case that having exhausted the listener with frenetic kinetics and gone all-out on the attack at the front end, the album seeks to bludgeon the listener into submission in the later stages. And highly effective it is, too.

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17th May 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

The ever-awesome Sly & the Family Drone return with another puntastically-labelled slab of awkward noise. Sticking to their staunchly DIY ethos (although, and I mean it as no criticism when I say that this may well be a choice but their options are likely to be limited), this latest effort is released on translucent green C33 cassette in a limited edition of 50, and digitally.

Apart from being a killer live band, their offbeat humour, not least of all as manifested in the referential titles have always been an integral part of their appeal (at least to me): 95 Minutes Over England documented their first tour, and all three of the recorded sets lasted longer than Suicide’s notorious show, and the band are willing participants in the ensuing percussion-led riots.

Understanding Appetite in any context of chronology is rather difficult, given that it originally appeared as a digital-only release a few months before their colossal full-length album proper, Unnecessary Woe. It’s not so much a companion piece but a contemporaneous standalone counterpart. But the main thing is that it contains a whole lot of dark noise.

While each of their other releases features at least one long-form sprawler, Appetite For Tax Deduction is an unusually concise work, with none of the four tracks crossing the ten-minute mark. Still, the first track, ‘Favour for a Favour’, is a dank, rumbling semi-ambient piece. Heavy, shuddering low-end sounds and growling vibrations sound like subterranean earthworks. It bleeds into ‘Wine into Water’. A mangling mesh of distortion and a continuous bottom-end drone that tears the air provides the gut-churning backdrop to extraneous electronic noise, shrieks of feedback and indecipherable, distorted to fuck vocals. It’s pretty sinister stuff, and its claustrophobic intensity is a world away from the cathartic and communal live performances.

With a title worthy of That Fucking Tank, ‘Simply Red Stripe’ is a classic example of the Sly humour. Its nine-minute sonic assault is built around an insistent, low-end throbbing, dense and immersive. Tonal shifts trick the ears into thinking there are fleeting moments of melody submerged in the hum, only for it to become apparent that it’s little more than a rising wail of feedback and the fizz of melting electrodes. It’s by far the most rhythmic track of the set, and, with nods to Suicide, Throbbing Gristle and Whitehouse, it’s magnificently uneasy listening.

‘Your Mum’s a Provincial Rock Club’ features what appear to be horse’s hooves – the only overt percussion to feature on Appetite – beneath a cement-mixer mess of collages sound, booming bass blasts and fractured tweets and flutters of treble spiralling in a vortex of echo and infinite delay, building and building until the sound coalesces into a vast tidal wae of white noise that ultimately swallows itself.

 

Sly and the Family Drone - Appetite