Posts Tagged ‘Spoken Word’

Preston Capes – PCT001 – 1st July 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

The Front & Follow label may have reverted to mothballed status (at least for the time being), but that doesn’t mean that Justin Watson is doing nothing these days, despite the title of the latest release from three-way collective The Incidental Crack, who we’ve been following – and covering – for some time here at Aural Aggravation. For this outing, they’ve found a new home on newly-established cassette label – and these seem to be springing up all over now – Preston Capes (and I’m guessing no relation to Geoff).

As the notes explain, ‘The Incidental Crack began with Rob [Spencer] recording himself wandering around in the woods and finding a ‘cave’ – Justin put some weird noises to it, and then Simon joined in. The rest is history. The Incidental Crack are joined again by Dolly Dolly / David Yates on this album.’ Indeed, however much The Incidental Crack may evolve, they remain fundamentally unchanged, their albums assemblages of random field recordings and strangeness melted and melded into awkwardly-shaped sonic sculptures that unsettle the mind and by turns ease and tense the body.

The Incidental Crack Does Nothing follows the two albums they released in 2021, the second of which, Detail, was a challenging and expansive work, and this very much continues in the same vein.

With The Incidental Crack, it very much feels as if anything goes, and reflecting on the name of the collective, this seems entirely appropriate. What their works represent is a crack, a fissure, in time, in continuity. Their methodology may not be specifically influenced by William Burroughs and Brion Gysin’s cut-ups, but are, very much, open to, of not specifically channelling and incorporating, the assimilation of random elements, and have a collage aspect to their construction.

‘Shitload of Rocks’ is comparatively airy, and serves as a brief introductory passage before the dank, gloomy ambience of ‘The Worst Party’. It’s a dark, ominous piece that hovers and hums, echoes, clanks, and rumbles on for a quarter of an hour; it’s cold, clammy, and unsettling. But is it the worst party ever? While it does sound like hiding in a cave while an armed search party charged with the task of your erasure stomp around in adjacent tunnels off in the distance, I don’t actually hear any people, laughing drunkenly or loving the sound of their own voices while holding court with tedious anecdotes, so I don’t think so.

‘Hair falling from our bodies clogs up the sewers,’ we learn as a clattering beat clacks in and rattles away on the industrial chop-up churn of ‘Hair’, featuring Dolly Dolly, who’s clearly no sheep. It’s the album’s most percussive cut, the monotone spoken-word narrative somewhat surreal, and looping eighties synths bubble in around the midpoint, although it’s probably too weird for the Stranger Things retro adopters.

‘Couch Advantage’ is the album’s second longer piece, a sinuous, clattering workout almost nine minutes in duration. It’s minimal, yet somehow, there’s enough stuff going on as to render it all a blur: is that jazz drumming, a groove of sorts off in the distance? Or is it simply some clattering chaos, the sound of bacon sizzling? What is going on? And following the brief interlude that is ‘Belting’, the final piece, the ten-minute ‘Photography’ with more lyrical abstraction from Dolly Dolly depicting random fragmentary images against a backdrop of clicking sparks and evolving, supple sweeps of drifting clouds of sound. It’s all incidental, every second of it: fleeting, ephemeral – and in the cracks, is where it happens. As they open wider, you peer in, and observe. There is movement. There is life. Because life is what happens between the events, among the random incidents and accidents.

The Incidental Crack Does Nothing may be confusing, bewildering, difficult to grasp – but it is, without doubt, a slice of life. You can do with that what you will.

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28th April 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

While physical formats for music may not be especially popular these days, there really is no substitute for holding an article in in your hand. It’s not just about the artefact or the possession – although increasingly, I feel that actually ‘owning’ your music seems like a sound move as acts pull their music from popular platforms – particularly Spotify – and acts who no longer exist cease to maintain their websites and BandCamp profiles and their works simply disappears. Nothing is permanent, but when it comes to things which are virtual, their ephemerality is even more pronounced. This is a long way to coming around to saying that the CD for Abrasive Trees’ new single is magnificent as an item, and it’s very much a fitting way to present the musical contents, and with three tracks including a remix of ‘Moulding Heaven with Earth’ by Mark Beazley (Rothko), it’s a proper 12” / CD single release, the likes of which are sadly scarce these days.

I don’t just love it for the nostalgia: this feels like a proper, solid package in every way, and ‘Moulding Heaven with Earth’ is very much cut from the cloth of sparse, minimal shoegazey post-rock, which provides the backdrop to a stirring spoken word performance before spinning into a slow-burning extended instrumental work. It builds and it broods, the atmosphere growing denser and tender as the picked guitar lines unfurl and interweave across a slow, strolling bass. A reflection on life and death, earth and afterlife, it’s a compelling performance, and the words would stand alone either on a lyrics sheet or as a poem. From there, it’s a gradual, and subtle journey that culminates in a crescendo – that’s strong, yet restrained.

B-side / AA side ‘Kali Sends Flowers’ is moving: again, it’s understated, and yet so very different, spinning a blend of post punk – even hinting at the gothier end of the post-punk spectrum – and psychedelia that in places hints at Spear of Destiny in the way it’s sparse yet rousing. It’s one of those songs that simply isn’t long enough, and that demands for ‘repeat’ to be hit immediately to keep it going.

Mark Beazley’s remix of ‘Moulding Heaven with Earth’ accentuates the atmospherics, and while it retains the rhythm – and if anything it highlights the beef of the bass – and is generally quite respectful in its treatment, and somehow expands the vibe and introduces a more ambient feel, while at the same time shaving over a minute off the time of the original. It’s an interesting – and I mean that positively – reworking, and one that most definitely brings something fresh to the track, rounding off what’s as close to a perfect EP as you’ll hear all year.

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Crease is the debut full-length album of deconstructed electroacoustic postpunk songcraft by Montréal guitarist and producer Kee Avil, whose touchstones range from Scott Walker and Coil to Fiona Apple; (early) PJ Harvey and (later) Juana Molina to Eartheater, Pan Daijing and Smerz—or like Grouper produced by Matmos.

Chiselled twitchy minimalist guitar, sinuous electronics, industrial and prepared-instrument micro-samples, furtive rhythmic propulsion, all galvanised by the anxious intimacy of finely wrought lyricism/vocals: Crease is one of those debut records that excites a wide range of peerless references precisely because it’s so compelling and convincing in its own idiosyncratic originality, vision, detail and execution.

To coincide with the album’s release comes the video for ‘HHHH’. Watch it here:

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Christopher Nosnibor

Almost invariably, when there’s a buzz building around a DIY act, they’ve had some kind of assistance or boost, either via a PR campaign or radio play, and / or some fortunate support slots. Not so Benefits, whose profile has grown with the speed of contagion of the pandemic: they’ve thrived during lockdown without management, any ‘proper’ releases, and next to no press (although that’s changing fast); but instead of them seeking out the coverage they’re the ones being sought out.

On paper, their appeal is limited: shouty sociopolitical spoken word paired with blistering squalls of electronic noise is kinda niche, right? Like Sleaford Mods only more noisy and a bit shoutier, right? Sociopolitical ranting aside, not so much. Mods have very much exploited the affront some people feel about their not being a ‘real’ band, and have turned the lack of performance into a schtick. Benefits are very much a band, and despite the swinging, rhythmic hip-hop style delivery of some of the lyrics, Benefits share more with harsh post-punk noisers Uniform than another other contemporary act that comes to mind.

Steve Albini perhaps sums up the two key, and seemingly opposing elements of what Benefits do in referring to the period of musical foment of the early 80s, with ‘the Crass/Pop Group ranting lefty/anarchist punks, and Whitehouse/TG/Cabaret Voltaire pure noise’. He’s not wrong when he writes that it’s ‘Been a while since something evoked that era as effectively as this Benefits track.’

But Benefits don’t only evoke that era: they’re a band that are precisely of the moment. During lockdown, people were on edge – and they still are as they emerge, blinking, into a world that has changed, and not for the better. More divided, more violent, it’s a difficult place to navigate. People are scared, and they’re also disaffected. Benefits channel and articulate all of this, and the buzz around tonight’s show was positively electric.

Feather Trade could easily be mistaken for being a ‘haircut’ band on face value, but their tousle-topped singer’s vocals invite comparisons to The Cooper Temple Clause’s Ben Gautrey, and the comparison to TCTC doesn’t end there as the trio blast through some jagged alternative rock defined by solid, meaty bass and gritty guitars. With a post punk vibe, great voice, the lineup may have been hastily-assembled, but they boast a truly great rhythm section. Switching between acoustic and electronic drums varies sound, and the line ‘fuck your trust fund’ from closer ‘Dead Boy’ is a sentiment we can get behind. Keeping the set to a punchy five songs, they made for a compelling opener, and I doubt I’m the only new fan they’ve won on this outing. I liked these guys a lot.

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Feather Trade

Some guys I never really liked are La Petite Mort: in fact, my last review of them was pegged to a single line in parenthesis. But this newly-resurrected iteration shows that they’ve evolved massively in the intervening years, transitioning from a novice sixth form indie band to something altogether more challenging, and altogether more powerful. If anything, there are shades of The Young Gods both sonically and visually. Now a duo with laptop and live drums, they’re dense, dark, intense. At some point, just as he has for Avalanche Party on occasion, Jared Thorpe whips out his sax and starts tooting away. No, it’s no euphemism. La Petite Mort embrace a slew of genre styles, and nail them to some tight, technical jazz drumming and lots and lots of reverb.

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La Petite Mort

This all leaves us ultra-hyped for the headliners, and they sure as hell don’t disappoint with their spoken word grindcore hybrid. With some brutal electronics from Robbie Major, they build from sparse, acappella hip hop to a blistering wall of noise. They build and build and rage so, so hard it’s savage. There are some smoochy hip-hop vibes, but they’re a stark contrast to the raving lyrics. ‘You get what you deserve’, Kingsley Hall warns, menacingly. Against the backdrop of Russia invading Ukraine as we look on, we hope it’s true. They venture into post punk / Sleaford Mods-ish territory just the once over the course of an hour-plus long set. Hall reads the lyrics to ‘Meat Teeth’ from his phone in a state of anguish. The song itself is stark, harsh, and it hurts. And yet this pain is what connects us with the band. Hall’s openness and honesty when he speaks between songs is like a body blow. This isn’t a performance, this is real. “What a fucking country, what a fucking state…. Sausage roll man… Tory cunt.” He admits to struggling with the whole being on stage thing, but it’s clear from the way he attacks every line, this is something he feels he simply has to do.

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Benefits

In a recent interview with Loud and Quiet, Hall explained, “I’ve got this pent-up anger and desire to speak and to shout and discuss. But how do I translate that?” On stage, that anger is anything but pent-up: it’s channelled into an eye-popping storm of words dragged from the very soul.

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Benefits

‘Flag’ steps up a level just when there seemed like no more levels to step up, with punishing percussion and snarling noise. It’s harsh, but so, so invigorating and cathartic. The encore / not encore is a perfect example of the way Benefits don’t conform, don’t play the game. And while doing things on their own terms in every way, they stand apart.

There’s no pithy one-liner to wrap this up: I leave, borderline delirious, simultaneously elated and stunned by what I’ve just witnessed – a show that was, frankly, nothing short of incredible.

Swedish microlabel Dret Skivor marks its first birthday with another suitably challenging release, in the shape of a split release featuring spoken word artists Dale Prudent and Christopher Nosnibor. As both artists also purveyors of harsh noise, they’ve combined the disciplines to create complimentary pieces of some of the harshest noise-backed spoken word around.

As the accompanying notes detail, ‘This release brings together two spoken word artists who also do harsh noise. These are the results. Nosnibor rants and raves in the York area of England and elsewhere. Prudent performs no audience spoken word in (in)appropriate spaces around Hammarö in western Sweden. ‘

Available as an audiocassette in a limited edition of six, and also as a download, Dret 12 is an instant underground classic.

Listen to the dense blast of Nosnibor’s ‘A Psychological Spasm’ and Prudent’s sprawling, feedback-soaked ‘på bunkern’ here, and follow the label’s advice – Listen through decent headphones or decent speakers for the full horror of what lies within……

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Crow Versus Crow – 29th October 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Yol is, unquestionably, a definitive presence of the self-professed ‘no-audience underground’. If you’re unfamiliar with this (and there’s no shame in that, because the clue’s in the name), it’s a term coined by Rob Hayler who blogs at radiofreemidwich, who says ‘there is no ‘audience’ for the scene because the scene is the audience’. If it sounds incestuous and self-involved, then maybe it is, but in a good way: that is to say, it’s more of a community than a scene, and one defined not by sound or style, but an ethos of mutual support, and it’s an incredibly broad church. Global domination isn’t on anyone’s agenda: this is art for art’s sake, free expression, experimentalism because. No-one is judged on technical competence – in fact, no-one is judged at all. Anything goes, and yol absolutely encapsulates that, with ‘music’ that’s utterly off the wall.

The blurb advises that viral dogs and cats offers ‘five tracks that revolve around the essential ‘found objects / mouth noise / mangled language’ core of yol’s practice, brimming with razor-sharp observations, absorbed and regurgitated to form absurd, looping, distending cantillations. Visceral, cathartic and piss-funny in equal measure!’

The first piece, ‘chunks of tongue’ (it’s not a song, by any stretch), is deranged, demented, with what sounds like some kind of contact mic slattering and random tweets providing the backdrop to some utterly dented shouting and yelping and gargling about expensive ice cream being sold as strawberry, but… well, he doesn’t believe it. The strawberry pieces are chucks of tongue! He splutters and spews like he’s choking on the offensive material, and as amusing and Dadaist as it is, it’s also quite disturbing. Context counts, of course: this is an album (albeit a short one that’s more of an EP), so it’s art, but if you found someone doing this in the street, they’d likely be sectioned.

There’s very little musical backing on here, apart from whistles and trills of feedback and random extranea, meaning that it’s almost a spoken word album of sorts. But it’s crazed, cracked spoken word – there’s no narrative, only crazed spluttering and yelping. More than anything, I’m reminded of Mike Patton’s Adult Themes for Voice album. The simplicity and sparseness is a major feature here: yol shows that you don’t really need anything to make an impact, and when we’ve become accustomed and conditioned to polished, produced song-orientated music , to be assailed by something so primitive as almost nothing but a human voice, contorting every way possible is an unusual experience, and one that will likely freak some people out. Good, I say.

‘eat out to help out’ isn’t only representative of the album as a whole, but a standout. He stammers and mumbles around, catching his breath, panting, while struggling to verbalise some deep, frenzied anguish about a plastic fork with a nugget on it. The repetition of a single phrase with varying emphasis is very much an extension of the permutational technique initiated by Brio Gysin in the late 1950s and early 1960s, only here, the sequence of the words remains unchanged, with the delivery and emphasis changing on each repetition instead. The effect of the repletion is quite challenging and ultimately disorientating.

‘Viral cats and dogs get bored… Get back to shitting everywhere!’ he screams on the title track. ‘Yes, but not in my backyard!’ I want to shout back after waking to frequent turds from neighbourhood cats on the sliver of AstroTurf at the end of my yard. Bastards. And immediately, I find myself foaming at the mouth with fury, and realise that this is it. Tapping that vein into raw emotion and unspeakable fury, I’m seconds away a fit of from inchoate screaming abdabs – which is precisely what yol serves up here.

viral dogs and cats isn’t an album to be judged on technical competency – in fact, it’s not an album to be judged on any scale of merit of whatever, beyond ‘does it have an impact?’ Of course it does. It leaves you feeling weird. Because it is weird. And that’s the fun of it.

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Human Worth

Christopher Nosnibor

Since their formation in 2002, Enablers have forged a career that has truly defied categorisation, and they’ve maintained a steady output, delivering eight albums – occasionally in flurries, sometimes with longer pauses between – each of which has pushed different directions and different boundaries.

But while their debut saw them showcase a sound that was different, it was their second album, released on Neurot in 2006, that really made a definitive statement that set Enablers in afield of their own creation. 2006 is now a whole terrifying fifteen years ago, and so, just as the time is right to reflect and reappraise the feat that is Output Negative Space, so the time is also right for a magnificent reissue courtesy of Human Worth. And being a Human Worth release, 10% of the proceeds plus Bandcamp cut going to charity – on this occasion, Sounds of Saving, who aim to improve mental health and reduce suicide rates by celebrating the power of human connection to music and directing people to the resources they need before it’s too late – in respect of drummer Joe Byrnes, with this release also marking the tenth anniversary of his passing.

The album features the lineup of Joe Byrnes (Drums), Pete Simonelli (Words ), Kevin Thomson (Guitar), and former Swans bassist Joe Goldring (Guitar & Hammond), and they really do cohere as a unit: the interplay between the four is outstanding; everything flows, so fluid, so natural, so intuitive. The chemistry and the electric vibe is immediate from the opening track, ‘Five O’Clock, Sundays’, which touches so many areas, crosses so many boundaries, and yet belongs to no one genre.

Simonelli’s delivery certainly isn’t rap, but then, it’s not singing either; it’s spoken word but with a sort of poetical, beat slant, with rhythm and a wonderful cadence that’s calm, even, but dynamic, too. The instrumentation is a bit jazz but it’s not jazz, it’s a bit mathy but doesn’t have quite that cutty, choppy, angularity, instead meandering and noodling, but without ever hinting at indulgence, and then there are crests and waves and low-level crescendos.

Most spoken word with backing feels very much like that – spoken word with fumbled instrumentation or otherwise awkward and juxtaposed. Not so Output Negative Space. This feels like a band, a complete collaboration, where each contributor is fully cognisant of the bigger picture, that their part is just that – a part of a whole, where nothing works unless everything works. And everything does work. There isn’t a second that doesn’t hit a sweet spot in terms of the performers coming together.

Output Negative Space is a stunning journey, and it’s wildly unpredictable. And yet it works.

There are moments when riffs break out and things get as almost conventionally rock; elsewhere, as on ‘Mediterranean’, everything happens all at once and comes in from all angles, and there really isn’t a moment that’s predictable – but at the same time, it’s not unduly jarring, and it doesn’t feel disorientating or chaotic. What it does feel is remarkably balanced; all of the elements combine to forge a real sonic synergy, and the music is so, so sympathetic and intuitive in the way it provides an understated backdrop to Simonelli’s nonchalant, world-weary vignettes, brimming with observations, details, and aa palpable sense of humanity.

Fifteen years on, it still sounds fresh, unique, and absolutely amazing.

With a small and selective roster and a keen focus on quality, Human Worth have done a super job, to, producing a limited edition run of heavyweight 180g vinyl, packaged in a gatefold sleeve which includes a hand numbered booklet featuring writings by vocalist Pete Simonelli and friends of the band remembering drummer Joey Byrnes 10 years after his passing, accompanied by rare tour photography by Owen Richards.

In all, it’s pretty special.

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Potomak – 31st January 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

hackedepicciotto is Alexander Hacke (Einsturzende Neubauten) and Danielle de Picciotto (Crime & The City Solution), and The Current is their fourth album It’s pitched as being ‘their most powerful album yet,’ and the press release explains that ‘after composing desert drones for their previous album Perseverantia and dark foreboding melodies for Menetekel, their new album moves forwards, gaining in speed and energy’.

The energy is abundant, but it’s dark and flows in subterranean currents. Recorded in Blackpool, of all places, there is little sense of illumination in a work that’s dominated by shadow, although that’s by no means a criticism.

‘All people / are created equal’ de Picciotto announces in a stilted monotone which echoes out across a bleak and solemn soundscape of atmospheric, picked guitar and dramatic strings which glide and swoop over a swirl of electronic crackles, indistinguishable voices and dolorous bells. Over the course of the piece, she utters various permutations of the phrase, revealing new meanings with each arrangement.

There is very much an exploratory feel to The Current: this is not an overtly linear work, or an album comprised of songs in the conventional sense. These are eleven distinct ‘pieces’ which are more spoken word / narrative works with music than anything, although this misrepresents the fact the words and sounds are very much equal in their billing. And yet there is a sense of progression, as the rhythms become stronger, more forceful, and more dominant as the album progresses.

‘Onwards’ plunges downwards with a grating bass pitched against a relentlessly rolling rhythm; ethereal, choral vocal harmonies and cold, cold synths forge an unusual juxtaposition, and the result is powerful, stirring deep-seated emotions that swell in the chest as the energy rises.

In contrast, ‘Metal Hell’ goes post-industrial with metallic clattering an scraping disrupting a choppy, processed guitar riff that cuts a murky path over an arrhythmic mess of percussion, and the title track thunders a slow martial beat to build a grandly epic piece that conjures images of sweeping vistas dominated by rugged mountains and dense forests.

Things take a turn for the unsettling on ‘Petty Silver’, which finds de Picciotto writhe and wheeze in a sort of little girl lost voice against a backdrop of chiming xylophone and a heavy synth grind that’s pure Suicide. The penultimate track, ‘The Black Pool’ opens with a cluster of samples from news soundbites or similar about ow ‘the UK is fucked’ (fact, not an opinion) over some swirling ambient drone and a Michael Gira-esque monotone vocal trip

When the pair share vocal duties, Hacke’s cracked, grizzled growl is the perfect contrast to de Picciotto’s clean, airy yet tense and high-string delivery. And it’s the contrasts that make The Current: it isn’t any one thing, but a number of things simultaneously and while the rhythm section resonates deep and low, there’s lot going on at the front of the mix, and it’s this dynamic that gives the album a constant movement. To dissect it beyond this would be do damage the effect: The Current is an album that possesses a subtle force and brings submersion by stealth.

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hackedepicciotto – The Current

CD/DL Fourth Dimension Records/Foolproof Projects FDCD107/PRJ049

7th September 2018

Christopher Nosnibor

The blurbage: Void Axis is Brighton duo Map 71’s fourth album. The previous one, Gloriosa, released on Fourth Dimension as both a limited edition cassette and, later, a CD featuring bonus material, saw them garnering more praise and attention than before. During the interim they have continued to play live regularly and have a few more shows planned around the UK in September and October, including an appearance at the Fourth Dimension Records’ label night at Cafe OTO on 19/10/2018, where they share the bill with Alternative TV, Richard Youngs and EXTNDDNTWRK (Andrew Fearn of Sleaford Mods’ solo endeavour). A 2×7” compilation will appear to coincide with this likewise featuring a track by them. Lisa Jayne (words and voice) and Andy Pyne (drums and electronics) are based in Brighton and became Map 71 in 2013.

The critique: This is glorious. It’s not accessible, easy, light. In fact, it’s anything but either. Atonal vocals and clattering motoric percussion dominate. We’ve moved a long way from The Fall and Kraftwerk, but at the same time, MAP 71 call to mind the sparse simplicity of Young Marble Giants, but synthier and dronier.

Blank, monotone narratives about nothing in particular drift out over repetitive synth oscillations and cyclical synthesised rhythms. For ever.

‘Nuclear Landscapes’ presents a thunderous, murky, barrelling noise by way of a backdrop. The rhythms are messed-up, sound bouncing against sound to build a dark mess of noise like tennis balls in a tumble dryer. Elsewhere, ‘The Future Edge’ goes murky and dips into Suicide territory with its dark, dank, throb which provides the sonic backdrop to Lisa’s expressionless spoken-word narrative.

‘Armour and Ecdysis’ goes spacious and eerie, with fear chords and heavy echo and infinite delay creating an unsettling atmosphere, while ’21:12’ goes dark and robotic in in its plundering of early 80s post-punk electronic works for inspiration. And it works Void Axis is tense and dark, and clinical and difficult in a stark analogue way.

Void Axis isn’t an album to engage with on an emotional level: there’s no engagement or resonance here.

Sonically, I’m reminded in some ways of Dr Mix and the Remix’s Wall Of Sound – the album released by Eric Debris post-Metal Urbain through Rough Trade in 1979 and which provide a blueprint for both The Jesus and Mary Chain and Big Black. Being one of my all-time favourite albums, this is a good thing: Void Axis is spectacularly primitive and claustrophobic and insular. And in its revisiting the technologies and production values of almost 40 years ago, Void Axis is also imbued with a certain sense of authenticity, despite its being spectacularly out of step with, well, pretty much any zeitgeist. Let’s face it, no-one else sounded like Dr Mix back then, and nor has anyone before or since, and the same is true of the drum-machine thump-led treble overload of Big Black.

But ultimately, what sells Void Axis is that is doesn’t sound like any other album. MAP 71 have found their niche.

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MAP 71 – Void Axis

It’s not often that an evening of live music begins with spoken word poetry. It’s a shame, as the two media can often prove complimentary. John Cooper Clark supporting The Fall and KJ Farrington supporting Sleaford Mods stand out in my mind for all the right reasons.

Self-professed punk poet and nerd, Henry Raby, gets things going with a couple of pieces. A seasoned performer who seamlessly rides out any fluffed lines (and can turn forgetting a line into a plug for his book), he’s relaxed and emanates an energy that’s infectious, and which is paired with a disarming affability.

Katie Watson’s poetry is personal, confessional, brimming with anxiety and keen observations, and rendered with fine details and a certain self-effacing humour. Her delivery is superb: having previously caught her not s long ago at a spoken-word night in a small room, she seems to revel in the bigger space, the challenge of a larger audience, and being faced with a microphone.

What Henry has a knack of bringing to events he’s involved in is a spirit of inclusivity, of equality, of unity. We’re all misfits together here. So, the board gaming nerds, the varied shades of gender and a range of musical and literary tastes are all catered for here.

Crumbs describe themselves as ‘a post-punk pop party pack’ who like ‘pets and puns’ (and alliteration, on this evidence). The four-piece blend jangly 90s indie with a grunge sensibility. Pavement would be an obvious, but fitting touchstone, and at one point I find myself thinking about a collision between The Cure and Carter USM, while elsewhere, there’s a new song that boasts a chunky, funky bass groove and choppy, fractured guitar worthy of Gang of Four. It’s an eclectic and compelling mix. The guitarist has some of the dirtiest overdrive I’ve heard in a while, creating a strong contrast to the crisp, chiming tone that features in most of the songs’ verses. It’s a simple dynamic, but highly effective. Playing on the floor in front of the stage, the sound in the front rows is mostly backline, and this only heightens the experience of the band being in such close proximity to the audience.

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Having only caught the second half of Dream Nails’ set at Live at Leeds, and found it to have been good fun, I was keen to see how they’d go over the duration of a full headline set.

They’re high-octane and high-energy from the get-go, and if there was any question over whether or not they could sustain it for a full set, they answer it with a resounding yes. There really is no let-up in their four-chord poppy punk thrashabouts. The lyrics veer between vulnerability and vehemence, and while they may lack overt depth or subtlety, the directness is part of the appeal. And behind the effervescent performance style, and the bouncy, accessible tunes, there are some serious issues, largely centring around the challenges of being a woman in the world today.

And these are the reasons why I’m here. I go to gigs to watch and listen to bands. As a music critic, I write about them, and because we live in a very visually-orientated age, pictures accompanying a review are often useful. But Dream Nails don’t like having their pictures being taken by men, and since I didn’t have any female company in tow to shoot a pic on my behalf, there’s no image here.

Men snapping away make them feel uncomfortable. Especially men in my demographic with certain types of camera (I’m 42, although the post on their Facebook page which appeared within a short time of the show’s ending would suggest they think I’m older, and I prefer t travel light). Fair enough. Although generally, if you’re going to implement a policy, such as no photography without consent, it’s better to state it up-front. But when that policy is called during the show, and applies only to a few – well, men, actually – the issue becomes rather thorny under scrutiny.

Nobody likes to be singled out, especially not based on an assumption, and even less when the assumption is incorrect – because that’s prejudice. To be singled out as one of two men with cameras, with the justification that they hadn’t given consent, and fuck the male gaze, was not comfortable. I can live with uncomfortable: I’m aware that my own performances have a tendency to evoke a very tangible sense of discomfort and awkwardness. But no-one is ever singled out or humiliated, and it’s not about ‘unlearning oppressive behaviours’.

But more than anything, I found not only the approach troubling, but what it represents. Now, the battleground of gender is one of which I have only a cursory knowledge, but I am acutely aware of the divisions and infighting between the various identifiers. But ultimately, being a straight white male, I’m in the bracket which is the worst of the worst on the enemy scale. As we mark the centenary of The Representation of the People Act 1918, which gave British women over 30 the right to vote, at the same time as picking through the fallout of the events that led to the #metoo campaign, it’s clear we’ve still got a long way to go and that male oppression is rife.

However, the ‘calling out’ of ‘creepy’ guys taking photos of a band performing assumes that all men are creepy and only go and see bands with women in because they want to go and ogle women. Which also seems to undermine the idea that as women making music, people –regardless of sex / gender (I’m aware the correspondence between the two varies considerably) – may simply appreciate their art, and, like so many others, shoot snaps for posterity or social media because it’s the age we live in. To judge an individual based on the behaviour of a number (not even necessarily a majority) is prejudice in action.

This – literal – finger-pointing may have been well-received by a sector of the audience, but even if it hadn’t been directed at me, it would still have sat uncomfortably on a personal level: publicly humiliating someone based on an assumption is very much a knee-jerk response, the likes of which result in heated arguments. My knee-jerk reaction was to omit Dream Nails from the review altogether, but precisely what would that achieve? Certainly nothing productive. First, what’s actually needed is rational debate and mutual understanding of commonality. Second, they played a decent set, and went down well with a crowd of a respectable size, which is no small feat – especially in York on a Thursday night.

Moreover, feminism, at its heart, is about attaining equality for women. To substitute misogyny with misandry is not a push for equality, but to simply invert and replicate the behaviours of the guilty, and thus perpetuate division. Dream Nails generously commented on their Facebook thread, ‘Also if u r a male fan who is feeling affronted by this, pls remember you are still always welcome at our shows without your cameras.’ So, credit where it’s due, they’re still espousing equality. But is conditional equality really equality? Not really. Obviously, I’m grateful for the concession to be allowed to attend their shows in the same way anyone else is.

I shouldn’t feel the need to state that I’m not anti-feminism; quite the opposite. Moreover, I’m fundamentally opposed to any -ism that promotes inequality, discrimination, prejudice. And so, while Janey Starling may have provoked something personal in her actions, my beef isn’t so much directed at her or the band, but at the way complex and difficult issues are addressed, without any attention to the details or any sense of nuance, with too many people shouting about the lack of consideration they’re shown by others without showing that same consideration in return.

They ended their set with a blistering rendition of ‘Deep Heat’.