Posts Tagged ‘Southern Lord’

Southern Lord – 14 June 2019

The press release describes Friendship’s second album as ‘merciless’. I’ve barely recovered from their 2017 debut, Hatred.

The one -word titles are indicative of the succinct brutality on offer here. Those titles are as nihilistic as they are stark: ‘Punishment’; ‘Lack’; ‘Abandon’; ‘Plague’; ‘Hatred’ – gruesome, dark, signifiers of absence rather then presence, or otherwise of something sitting at the negative end of the spectrum. And Undercurrent is indeed brutal. The tempo is frenetic, with the drumming a whirlwind of sticks on skins and thrashing, crashing cymbals and the guitars a blurred mess of distortion. As for the vocals… spluttering, spewing, splenetic, this is the sound of inarticulable fury and the tearing down of the strictures of cultural confines, a primal roar that decimates all niceties in favour of pure, visceral release.

With only one of the album’s ten tracks crossing the three-minute mark, and the majority clocking in at under two and a half, it’s a short album that prioritises intensity over duration. And after a mere 22 minutes, Undercurrent has more than left its mark and I’m scarred, bruised, and half-deaf.

There’s no space for conversation here, and critique feels futile in the face of obliteration on such an absolute level. This is the sound of the dirtiest metal, with no soft corners or moments of respite. The only mercy is its brevity, but even in this short time, it’s got more than enough force to inflict serious damage.

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Friendship – Undercurrent

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Southern Lord – 10th May 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

BIG | BRAVE continue their journey by revisiting their roots – as much in terms of principles as sonically. Consequently, A Gaze Among Them is exploratory and dynamic above all else, and herein lies both its strength and appeal: it’s the work of a band pushing themselves, in all aspects of the creative process. and the band pushing themselves pushes the listener, too, leading them through the sweeping vistas imbued with a significant emotional heft. Of course, that’s difficult to quantify, because it’s about the individual. And yet… BIG | BRAVE commutate immediately, transcendentally, and on the basis of their own agenda

Apparently, the album’s creation began with the question “How do we take very little and make something bigger than what we actually have?” Vocalist and guitarist Robin Wattie explains further, “the biggest challenge was to not do what is easiest. i.e. what we knew worked for the last albums or what is, for us, easy to write. With A Gaze Among Them, Mathieu and I put ourselves through the ringer [sic]– I did not want to do what seemed to me to be a ‘logical next step’ in what we could do musically. I wanted to go back to our original concepts and work from there – space, tension, minimalism and voice (finding melody and musicality in pieces that consist of one note for longer than ten minutes, for example) were the primary concentrations I wanted to push.”

The result is – as anyone familiar with their work to date would expect – immense. The emotional power is every bit as impactful as the crushing power chords, which are but punctuation to expansive passages deep in atmosphere.

There is much space and tension to be found both binding and pushing apart the sonic elements that make up the album’s five immense tracks as the drums pound into infinity while the overdriven low-end yawns and surges into peaks and troughs on a scale of a galactic tide.

The nine-minute opener, ‘Muted Shifting of Space’ has all the hallmarks of post-punk melded with shoegaze but performed with the density of hefty sludge, and the raging tempest that explodes in a blistering crescendo at the mid-point of ‘Holding Pattern’ is sublime.

‘Monolithic’ is one of those words that’s slipped into overuse when critiquing music in this field, but it’s apposite in context of the toweringly immense, dense sonic sculptures BIG | BRAVE forge and which cast long, looming shadows into the psyche. There are passages when they sound like a bad, but mostly they sound like something else, something so much greater than the parts. Wattie’s voice is the key defining feature, simultaneously forceful and fragile, calling to mind Cranes’ Alison Shaw as she ambulates and fills the ever-shifting space. It’s a sound that’s haunted, lost, detached, frantic, and other-worldly.

‘Body Individual ’expands that territory, starting sparsely with little more than Wattie; voice ringing out and wrought with an array of conflicting emotions, before a churning mess of noise that builds like latter-day Swans. But the build knows no end: the sound builds, and builds, until it’s all consuming, all-encompassing. It’s something else, and then something else again.

‘This Deafening Verity’ is but an interlude, three minutes of atmospheric organ drone punctuated by distant rumbles of thunder. Robin mewls plaintively, the words unintelligible. It matters not: it conveys so much on its own, inviting the listener to place themselves into the blank spaces, before ‘Sibling’, which prefaced the album’s release grinds its way to the close, a monotonous distorted pulse providing a rhythmic core around which the layers swell from stark to swirling, erupting in dense clouds of nebulous noise around the mid-point. Descriptions and comparisons fall to futility when presented with something this enormous this powerful, particularly when that power stems from a place that’s invisible and impossible to pinpoint.

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Southern Lord – 26th April 2019

A new Sunn O))) album is still an event, even after all these years as the leading exponents of droning doom, a field now crowded with imitators and influences. The sense of ceremony is a major factor: Sunn O))) appreciate and command ceremony in every aspect of their exitance. As good as so many who have emerged to follow in their wake may be, there really is only one Sunn O))). The thing with Sunn O))) is that while they very much do mine deep into their self-made seem, each release offers something different, a variation on that consistent sameness.

And so it is on Life Metal that co-founders Stephen O’Malley and Greg Anderson set themselves a production-orientated goal for realising their immense sound, namely to have their playing captured by god himself, Steve Albini. The story goes that Steve took the call, and said ,“Sure, this will be fun. I have no idea what is going to happen.”

The resulting four tracks, which evolved through time in rehearsal, and with collaborative input from Anthony Pateras, Jóhann Jóhannsson collaborator Hildur Guðnadóttir, guitarist / bassist Tim Midyett, and live mainstay T.O.S bringing Moog action, were laid at Albini’s legendary Electrical Audio studio, and the end product (at least on vinyl) is pure analogue, with an AAA rating.

And it certainly brings the band’s earthy qualities to the fore: the richness, the density of the speakers vibrating in their cabs as displaced air emerges as sound in its most overtly physical manifestation is all captured in a way that conveys the immersive, all-enveloping experience of being a room with the band. As is also the case with Swans and A Place to Bury Strangers, the intense volume isn’t a gimmick but a necessary part of the sound and the experience. Some frequencies simply don’t exist at lower volume, and tones resonate against one another in a certain and quite different way when everything is turned up to eleven and then maximum gain applied. And the effect is transcendental. And whereas its predecessor, Kannon was comparatively concise, with its three tracks clocking in around the half-hour mark, Life Metal goes all out on the expansive, the four pieces running for a fill seventy minutes.

It begins with a distant rumble, before, after just a matter of seconds, the first chord crashes in: thick, dense, so distorted and low-registering as so almost collapse under its own density. But from the slow-crawling swamp-heavy ooze emerges individual notes, the makings of a melodic lead guitar line, and from the darkness radiates a gleam of light. Feedback… soaring notes… grandeur on a galactic scale. And then… Guðnadóttir’s voice. Detached and somehow simultaneously clinical yet emotive, assured yet utterly lost, it possesses an other-worldliness as it drapes dimensions across a simmering drone forged from a lattice of layers reminiscent of sections of Earth on Earth 2.

‘Troubled Air’, which features Pateras’ pipe organ work heightens the impact of volume as well as the ceremonial, ritual undertones which run through every Sunn O))) composition. By turns beauteous and beastly, shifting between moments of monumental grace and churning discord.

The nineteen-minute ‘Aurora’ goes low and slow, a single chord hanging in the thick, muggy air for an eternity until it twists out of shape and becomes a whine of feedback. And then it goes lower and slower still. The suspense builds between each chord, which elongates out to a droning sustain, and when the next lands, it’s with the force of an imploding black hole. Because Sunn O))) don’t do things on a small scale or in light: instead, they amplify darkness until it goes beyond critical mass to become all-consuming.

It ends abruptly in a peak of feedback before a deluge of grinding guitar, overdriven and distorted to a point beyond devastation hits like a tsunami to open the twenty-five-minute closer, ‘Novae’. Again taking clear cues from Earth 2, it’s a heavy drone that occupies the full sonic spectrum as howling strains of feedback whine over bowel-rupturing lower frequencies. Nothing much happens: it doesn’t need to. This is about taking a concept and pushing it as far beyond its logical end as possible, something Sunn O))) have effectively made a career of. And it still works.

And if ever a single album encapsulated the fundamental concept of Sunn O))), Life Metal would be a strong contender.

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Baptists have announced they are heading to Europe for the first time ever – supporting SUMAC, their third album Beacon Of Faith is out now via Southern Lord. Also joining the tour on select dates are Endon and Nordra. Find full dates below:

BAPTISTS EUROPEAN DATES:

08/03/2019    DK    Aalborg    1000fryd    w/ Nordra
09/03/2019    DK    Copenhagen    Alice    w/ Nordra
10/03/2019    SE    Gothenburg    Skjul Fyra Sex  w/ Nordra
11/03/2019    NO    Oslo    Blä  w/ Nordra
12/03/2019    SE    Stockholm  Kafe 44 w/ Nordra
14/03/2019    NL    Dortmund  Junkyard w/ Endon
15/03/2019    BE    Brussels    Magasin 4 w/ Endon
16/03/2019    UK    Bristol   The Exchange w/ Endon
17/03/2019    UK    Glasgow  Stereo  w/ Endon
18/03/2019    UK    Manchester    Deaf Institute w/ Endon
19/03/2019    UK    London    The Underworld  w/ Endon
20/03/2019    FR    Paris    Petit Bain w/ Endon
21/03/2019    DE    Karlsruhe    Jubez  w/ Endon
22/03/2019    DE    Leipzig    Institut Fur Zukunft w/ Endon
23/03/2019   DE    Berlin    Zukunft Am Ostkreuz  w/ Nordra

Listen to Beacon of Faith in full here:

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Baptists - Beacon

Southern Lord – 24th August 2018

James Wells

According to their biography, Jesus Piece ‘have left craters in their path over recent years, quickly developing a reputation as one of the heaviest, most uncompromising acts both on record and on the stage. With the brutal grooves of Y2K-era metallic hardcore at the core, the band also incorporates elements of noise, ominous tones, and haunting atmospheres into their dynamic songwriting.’

‘Lucid’ batters its way out to herald the album’s arrival: rapid pedal-work on the kick drum powers the cutty, hard-edged guitar. Its brutal, regimented, industrial, grinding like early Godflesh, but with snarled, guttural vocals spitting and howling nihilistic dismantlements of personal struggle and loss, racism, police brutality, and social and political injustice.

They distil all of these violent emotions and unspeakabe rage into short explosive packages: the majority of the songs on here are under three minutes. ‘Punish’ brings a sinewy, spectral lead guitar to twist its way over the grinding churn of the rhythm section, hinting at the dynamics of early Pitchshifter.

When they do slow things down, as on the stripped-back ‘In the Silence’ where the bass wanders and weaves a murky path and haunting chorused guitar notes rise from the swamp quite unexpectedly to create an unsettling atmosphere, the impact remains undiminished, and for the most part, it’s the heavy pummelling that defines Only Self.

The album concludes with an immense shift in style and sound in the form of a pair of contrasting but complimentary atmospheric pieces titled by number only: ‘I’ something of a monastic, ritual ambience to it, as voices echo in the mist before the doomy guitars break through in a slow landslide on ‘II’.

With such variations and deviations from the template of howling aggression and blind fury, Only Self stands apart from so many albums of its ilk, and reveal Jesus Piece to be capable of more than just endless anger – although they’ve got the rage in spades, and bring it to devastating effect on what is one hell of a debut.

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Jesus Piece – Only Self

Baptists have shared the mid-paced rock-stomper ‘Victim Service’, which is taken from their third album Beacon Of Faith, out through Southern Lord on 25th May.

Beacon Of Faith broadly follows the same trajectory as the album’s predecessors, Bushcraft (2013) and Bloodmines (2014) – combining raw adrenaline-fuelled emotion, venomous vocal delivery, gigantic guitar sound, and a visceral rhythmic propulsion – a sonic manifestation of desolate rage, bolstered by a palpable sense of urgency.

Beacon Of Faith is densely-packed yet Baptists’ sound is far from claustrophobic, there is melody amongst the dissonance, as the band more deeply explore the noise rock vistas that have always underpinned their sound.  
Lyrics are drawn from their direct experience of a broken society and general discontentment with everyday life. A multitude of issues are in the firing line, from the Canadian court system, issues surrounding substance abuse, mental health, and how the more fortunate “tend to dismiss people who have been dealt a less-fortunate hand” – as guitarist Danny also reflects.

Listen to ‘Victim Service’ here:

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Baptists - Beacon