Posts Tagged ‘Steve Albini’

Pelagic Records – 25th January 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

I’m something of a latecomer to the Mono party, although given their credentials, I can’t fathom for the life of me why I haven’t explored a single one of the nine albums they’ve released over the last twenty years. Too much music, too little time, is probably the only real reason. And, witnessing them live by way of an introduction, my initial impression was only middling: on the night, I found more in Jo Quail’s surging waves of cello and the gritty abrasion of A Storm of Light. But context matters, and I had gone for the other two acts, and so now, with a large gin and a candle for light, I’m ready to approach their latest, the Steve Albini-recorded Nowhere Now Here with fresh ears.

‘After You Comes the Flood’ lifts the curtain on a proggy post-rock crescendo that offers up every shade of grand. It’s a crescendo that doesn’t only sustain, but swell to even more monumental proportions, with layer upon layer of sound and richer, dirtier distortion filling the background.

Quite a deal was made when Mono featured vocals for the first time not so long ago, and the performance of songs with singing seemed to be a major topic of conversation when I caught them in Leeds last year. They’re used sparingly here, and on the vaporous, shoegaze drift of ‘Breathe’, they serve more as another instrument than a focal point.

The string-soaked epic that is the title track again follows what is by now a well-established post-rock formula of long, gradual builds and rapid drops that pull back from the precipice, but it’s so magnificently executed that it would be churlish to criticise. And herein lies the album’s success: much of the material does fall under the broad umbrella of ‘standard’ instrumental post-rock (although acknowledging that Mono were one of the bands who contributed to the creation of a genre whose tag they reject is important), the compositions and their performance are masterclasses in shifting dynamics and delayed gratification. As they lead the listener through ponderous passages of awe-inspiring grace only to reveal towering cathedrals of sound just around the corner, even the predictable forms hold unexpected twists, like the sonic supernova that explodes at 5’39” on ‘Sorrow’.

Steve Albini is perhaps more commonly associated with ‘noisy’ music, but his reluctance to be credited as a producer is a reflection of his abilities as a technician, and the fact he strives to capture the essence of any given band’s sound rather than impose his own vision on their work. With Mono’s method involving playing live in the studio, the pairing makes complete sense, and it’s fair to say that Nowhere Now Here very much captures not only the sound, but the feel of a live show, with the shifting tension, emotional resonance of chiming guitars brooding in the dark, and the exhilarating rush of catharsis that effuses through a truly blistering crescendo. It’s those indefinable, unmanipulable details which make Nowhere Now Here.

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Mono - Nowhere

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MONO are building towards the January release of their new album as well as next year’s 20th anniversary tour with a run of Europe dates in October, with support from Jo Quail.  The band has recently finished working on the new record with Steve Albini and new drummer Dahm. The first single, ‘After You Comes The Flood’, will be released this September.

MONO also has plans to release a short film in collaboration with director Julien Levy coinciding with the release of the first single. In the meantime they have shared a trailer for the tour here:

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Tour dates as follows:

Oct 1, 2018 / The Fleece / Bristol, UK

Oct 2, 2018 / Arts Centre / Norwich, UK

Oct 3, 2018 / Classic Grand / Glasgow, UK

Oct 4, 2018 / The Cluny / Newcastle, UK

Oct 5, 2018 / Left Bank / Leeds, UK

Oct 6, 2018 / De Central / Ghent, BE

Oct 7, 2018 / Tivoli De Helling / Utrecht, NL

Oct 8, 2018 / Tower / Bremen, DE

Oct 9, 2018 / Beatpol / Dresden, DE

Oct 10, 2018 / Schlachthof / Wiesbaden, DE

Oct 11, 2018 / Kiff / Aarau, CH

Oct 12, 2018 / Hard Rock Cafe / Lyon, FR

Oct 13, 2018 / AMFest / Barcelona, ES

Oct 14, 2018 / Le Rex / Toulouse, FR

Oct 15, 2018 / Krakatoa / Bordeaux, FR

Oct 16, 2018 / Astrolabe / Orleans, FR

Oct 17, 2018 / Nieuwe Nor / Heerlen, NL

Oct 18, 2018/ / Drucklufthaus / Oberhausen, DE

Oct 19, 2018 / Into The Void / Leeuwarden, NL

Oct 20, 2018 / Fuzz Club / Athens, GR*

Oct 22, 2018 / Zal / St. Petersburg, RU*

Oct 23, 2018 / Zil / Moscow, RU*

Support by A Storm Of Light & Jo Quail

(* without Jo Quail)

MONO Live in 2016 (Photo by Muto)

Happy Happy Birthday To Me Records – 18th November 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

I’ve been a fan of The Wedding Present for a long time. That said, I did rather lose track of their output at some point. It happens. For some reason, I felt that they’d somehow become mired in a template-based middle-ground. Nevertheless, one of the things I always admired about the band was their ability to constantly reinvent themselves while still sounding like The Wedding Present. Going, Going… released in Europe in September and now receiving a US release, is a perfect exemplar of the way in which they achieve this: it’s an immense 20-track double album, full of overtly Wedding Present songs and songs that explore a host of different forms.

The dense guitar trudge which drives the post-rock instrumental of ‘Kittery’, the opening track on Going, Going… does not sound like The Wedding Present to my ears. But it is compelling. ‘Greenland’ features a female radio voice reading out co-ordinates over a thundering drum beat and very little else. It sounds more like Shellac than The Wedding Present. And yet, as a slow-building rumble of noise builds in the background before the track fades out slowly without anything actually happening, it shouldn’t come as a surprise: The Wedding Present called in Steve Albini to rework breakthrough single ‘Brassneck’ from their 1989 album Bizarro¸ and he ‘recorded’ one of their biggest albums, Seamonsters in 1991. The Wedding Present also covered Pavement long before Pavement were cool – before anyone had even heard of them, in fact.

In some respects, given David Gedge’s longstanding interest in the obscure and his impressively long career spent cultivating a distinctive sound has paved the way for tis radical departure. Because, while words like ‘workmanlike’ and ‘jangling’ have long been associated with the band, they’ve always been more than their critical reception, and have long gone out of their way to do something outlandish or perverse – like a single a month for a year. Put another way, The Wedding Present have always espoused the indie aesthetic on the absolute sense, in that they’ve always indulged their contrary side because, well, simply, they can.

With a haunting, wordless, female vocal and soaring post-rock guitar sound, ‘Marblehead’ is a far cry from the twangy, three-chord thrashabouts that are the band’s trademark, and the string-soaked, piano-led chamber orchestra piece that is ‘Sprague’ finds Gedge lead his crew – not to mention their fans – further from familiar territory.

It’s not until the fifth track, ‘Two Bridges’ that we get a song that showcases Gedge’s familiar gruff northern tones amidst a choppy guitar attack. It’s a thick, rough and ready and in many ways primitive indie tune that could only come from one band, even when it lumbers off on an extended riffy workout after a couple of minutes. What we can take from this is that while The Wedding Present can sound like pretty much anything, no-one else can make songs that sound like The Wedding Present. There are plenty of thumping guitar tunes – more carved from the hefty riff-driven template of Seamonsters and beyond than their jangly indie early years – and they’re decent tunes. ‘Bear’ is one of several classic examples of the Pixies-like grungers which exploit the quiet/loud dynamic. Lumbering riffs about, driving the lurching alt-pop of ‘Fifty-six’ and the all-out stomp of ‘Emporia’, which is pretty heavy and fires up a roaring guitar racket while retaining a keen sense of melody.

‘Secretary’ brings some jangle, but also a fuckload of noise all bound up with a post-punk sensibility and a jarring angularity that’s unexpectedly exhilarating, while ‘Bells’ is a standout by virtue of simply being a great song with a cracking melodic hook.

Who would have thought that some 30 years into their career, The Wedding Present of all bands, would produce something as ambitious and as impressive as this? If anything, rather than being an exercise in indulgence for the band and a drag for the listener, Going, Going… is as strong as anything The Wedding Present have ever released, and the longer format finds Gedge really going all-out to try new sounds and shapes. It’s also an album which reveals a band really concentrating on tight and varied songwriting, and when paired with a focus on tone and dynamics it makes for an unexpectedly great record.

 

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