Posts Tagged ‘Soul’

11th May 2021

(kröter) don’t do things by halves. Back in 2018, the landed not just one album, but three, all culled from the same sessions, with two of those albums arriving simultaneously. Fifteen minutes of (kröter) can be quite the headfuck, but three hours? (kröter) are a melting-pot of madness, and how much of their derangement does anyone need?

Well, from seemingly out of nowhere, they’ve dropped a further two albums, *d and *e, again drawn from the epic sessions in 2017-18.

‘avantgarde’, the first piece on *d is typically whacky, and knows it. A picked guitar, hesitant, and sounding more like tuning up than an actual composition, is immediately obliterated with a squelchy squirt of digital diarrhoea. ‘How much water does an avocado need to grow?’ they ponder by way of an introduction to some abstract lyrical ponderances. ‘This is avantgarde’. And yes, it is: and this is also an exercise in avantgarde self-reflexivity, art reflecting on art reflecting on art.

‘soul monkey’ does have that cack pop vibe of associated act Wevie Stonder and Mr Vast’s solo works, white soul played limp and strange, before a really dingy bassline grinds in like a bulldozer and distorted vocals rant and yelp half-submerged in the mix. The ten-minute ‘flattening shades’ marks a distinct shift of style and pace, manifesting as a slow, ponderous, piece with chorus-heavy guitar and a sparse, strolling that combine to create some palpable atmosphere. Despite some odd vocal segments, there are some moments of both menace and beauty, which show that beneath all the zany shit, these guys have some real talent and ability.

Not that you’d know it from the discordant chaos of ‘lambs brain’, which is twelve minutes of demented racket and shouting, and a bunch of twanging and sampling and whatever else happens to be at hand that ended up bring tossed into the blender. Then there’s ‘tomatos’ and ‘omatose’, companion pieces that are daft, quirky interludes. Because.

The album really only has one song that’s recognisable as such, and that’s ‘up to chance’ which incorporates elements of country and prog and autotuned Radio 1 chart pop, and of course, it gets pretty weird pretty quickly.

*e, described as ‘another bucket full of toad spawn fished out of the kröters sessions’ is more of the same, only more, containing four longform tracks that showcase leanings towards more spacey-electro and jazz. Tinkling synths and a wandering horn amble all over an insistent beat that in combination provide the disjointed backdrop to monotone chanting vocals on borehole (prelude), which provides an extended introduction to another aspect of their oddball stylings. It paves the way for the twenty-minute ‘borehole (suite)’, which is both more and the same, an extended drone of froth and foam and bubbling electronics, propelled by a swampy, looping, pulsating bass. It’s certainly darker in hue, and the expansive forms only add to the bewilderment.

The hypnotic weirdness continues through the snickeringly-titled ‘glandfather’, culminating in the eighteen-minute ‘coloumns’, another off-kilter spoken word piece accompanied by minimalist instrumentation that scratches and scrapes

If some of this feels like the whacky weirdness is something they’ve worked on, it’s equally something that they feel comfortable with, as if they derive pleasure from making you feel uncomfortable. As such, while there’s a certain self-awareness about all of this, it doesn’t feel particularly contrived or forced, and we leave this duo of albums with the conclusion that this isn’t a gimmick and that these guys are genuinely fucking barmy. And we should embrace that: while people all around us are losing the plot, (kröter) celebrate the idea that plot is overrated and they never had any grasp on it to lose in the first place. At their best, (kröter) evoke some of Bauhaus’ more experimental moments,, but mostly, (kröter) just sound like (kröter), and utterly deranged. Which is all the reason to like them, even if their music isn’t for everyone.

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Secret Warehouse Of Sound Records – 15th December 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Here we are at the fading fag-end of the shittiets year in living memory and yet as energy levels and any prospect of salvaging anything of real merit fades faster than that of a satisfactory deal on Brexit, some are keeping those flickering flames of optimism alive. With venues having been closed since March, the odd socially-distanced all-seated show notwithstanding, live music has been largely off the table in 2020, leaving not so much a gap as a gaping chasm in the lives of many, and not only gigging musicians and venues and the staff who work in those venues in their various capacities.

Music is more than music: music is community, music is a place of retreat, of escape, music is personal freedom. But music is also… music, an outlet for its makers and a conduit for its fans, and Muca & La Marquise are determined to wring the very last drop of accomplishment from this bleak year with their fourth single of the year in the shape of ‘Devil’s Dance’.

An acoustic homage to long summer days spent lounging under the gaze of an unrelenting sun, it feels like a real misfit in what feels like the darkest week of the darkest month of the darkest year, but maybe that was the plan – to break through the deep-set mopology and lift the spirits with something bright, buoyant, and above all, summery – think Bobby McFerrin, think Macy Gray, think Paolo Nutini’s ‘New Shoes’, think laid-back soulful jazz-flavoured mellowness. Think maybe about not thinking for a bit and giving your brain a rest. I know it’s not aggro. It’s time for a night off. With a large whisky and some candles lit, this one’s working for me.

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Devil_s Dance Artwork

Schoolkids Records – 2nd June 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

The blurb tells me that ‘On the trail of their successful Record Store Day 7” single ‘Symmetry / Slow Grind’, Raleigh-based Schoolkids Records have announced the coming release of ‘The Shocking Fuzz of Your Electric Fur: The Drake Equation Mixtape EP’ by alternative soul and shoegaze pioneers The Veldt.’

The Veldt have been around for a very long time, now – always on the peripheries, but wholly ingrained in the same milieu as The Cocteau Twins, The Jesus and Mary Chain, et al, as well as sharing stags with an impressive roll-call of acts spanning The Pixies to Echo and the Bunnymen via The Manic Street Preachers.

The EP’s title is (in part) lifted from a poem by e.e.cummings, while ‘The Drake Equation’ is a sort of punning gag that’s both intellectual and spectacularly . Cumbersome as it is, it’s quite a tidy literary allusion, and one which illustrates both the band’s overtly arty leanings the and the immense breadth of their spheres of reference: this is, after all, a band whose name derives from a story by Ray Bradbury. If the idea of high modernism coming together with slick 21st century r‘n’b seems like an improbable and unlikely recipe for success, then it’s all down to the execution.

The five tracks on this EP may or may not ‘rage’ with ‘a sound influenced equally by emotional soul of Marvin Gaye, free jazz warriors Sun Ra and Pharaoh Sanders, various Drake hip-hop tracks, long-term musical kin Cocteau Twins, and their own fertile electric imagination.’ But what they do achieve is a compelling hybrid of styles.

Stuttering beats, somewhere between hip-hop, jazz and drum ‘n’ bass jitter and twitch beneath draping, rifting layers of sonic mist define the multifaceted ‘Sanctified’, which glides he EP into a smooth yet detailed launch. It’s the progressive soul element of their expansive shoegaze-orientated sound which renders The Veldt most distinctive:

‘In A Quiet Room’ simmers and chimes, a laid-back rhythm contrasting against the swirl and eddy of layered, FX-drenched blankets of guitars. The tom-orientated drumming on the dreamy ‘One Day Out of Life’ has echoes of early New Order about it, before a rising swell of a drifting sonic cloud.

The EP ends on a super-mellow soul trip in the shape of ‘And It’s You’: with a melody that evokes Bread’s ‘Make it With You’. Perverse as it may sound, it not only works well, but seems entirely fitting, the smooth soul vibes entwine with a slick hip-hop beat to forge a loved-up groove that’s sort of slanted, but at the same time, kinda natural. Nice.

 

Veldt EP

Sê-lo Net Label – 12th May 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

This isn’t an album that’s easy to position, but I’m not about to labour any hyperbolic proclamation that it’s genre-defying or even unique in its hybridity. The press blurb pitches Stars are a Harem as a modern day answer to Miles Davis ‘Kind of Blue’, where the music is steeped in the avant-garde tradition while being accessible to the public ear thanks to “pop” recording techniques and a softening of the harsh sounds associated with the 1960s avant-garde amidst American jazz music.

I’d actually go so far as to say that aside from some unconventional structure as some unusual and incongruously explosive percussion – and perhaps a tendency to incorporate unexpected stops and starts to stutter the flow of the subtle, mellow and overtly jazz-inspired instrumentation – Stars Are A Harem is a raw and soulful work which has mass appeal.

Gaugh has one of those voices that wows people: you just know that casual listeners catching him perform a low-key club show (and I rather suspect that’s the kind of show Gaugh tends to perform) would absolutely melt and rush to the merch stall once they’d done clapping their hands off, even if they hadn’t quaffed a quart of prosecco. Yes, he has soul: deep, deep soul. And however wayward or experimental some of the songs are in their conception, and however ‘jazz’ the pieces are stylistically, the execution is smooth.

Alongside urgent, arrhythmic drumming, not to mention segments of deftly created and technically impressive drumming, strolling soothing and strolling basslines, pegged back and considerate (even when they build to the calamity of thunder) are a consistent feature of Stars Are A Harem.

While Stars Are A Harem clearly and explicitly exploits the wilder tendencies of avant-garde jazz stylings, it also does a while lot more. Moreover, while Stars Are A Harem excitingly finds Micah Gaugh mine an avant-garde seam, the more experimental tendencies are kept rigorously in check. And herein lies the album’s greatest achievement, in that it’s an overtly accessible and enjoyable album, but one with unconventional undercurrents, pitching to the underground and the overground at the same time.

 

 

 

Micah Gaugh – Stars Are A Harem

Leonard Skully Records – 9th December 2016

James Wells

I’m growing rather weary of arty shots of naked or semi-naked women adorning the covers of releases by post-rock and shoegaze bands. And shit post-metal and post-hardcore bands. Everything’s post-something now, and I’m beyond weary of that. But we live in a click-bait world where adolescence is suspended in perpetuity, and despite the fact that everything’s freely available and as hardcore or strange as you want it at the click of a button, there’s still a certain lure in the risqué.

Call it art – and it should be possible to do so – but the prevalence of the practice makes it feel hollow, cheap and exploitative. ‘Yeah, let’s slap a chick on the cover of our meandering, ponderous post-rock EP… it’ll make us look arty and interesting and like we know photographers who can get girls to pose for them. Incidentally, I hate photographers as a rule, especially the ones who manage to make like they’re ‘safe’ aren’t sleazy… and no, not because I’m jealous. I really do just think they’re cunts.

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In a Quiet Room’, the single cut from The Veldt’s preposterously-titled The Shocking Fuzz of Your Electric Fur: The Drake Equation has an arty black and white head and shoulders shot of a woman, or a girl, by way of a cover. Apropos of absolutely bloody nothing. It certainly says nothing of the layered, textured, murky, glitchy, drum ‘n’ bass influenced soulful post-rock sonic expanses they conjure, the trickling cymbal work which grips a tight tension over squalling, drifting guitar treble on the EP’s opener ‘Sanctified’ or the shimmering post-rock / r’n’b crossover of said single ‘In a Quiet Room’.

Quite how comfortable I am with their seemingly incongruous but seamlessly smelted hybridity, I’m not sure, but there’s no faulting its execution. The Veldt get atmosphere, and they get sleekness. I’m not sure I get it, or the appeal, but it’s neatly executed and sounds nothing like the cover art suggests.

 

Veldt EP