Posts Tagged ‘Sly & the Family Drone’

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’.

AA

cover

Advertisements

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.

cover

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