Posts Tagged ‘Stone’

Christopher Nosnibor

That there is a shortage of grass-roots venues is a widely-reported fact, and the last year and a half has only exacerbated what is, put bluntly, a crisis in the music industry. At the heart of it all, the problem is is that we exist under capitalism. Art and capitalism simply aren’t compatible. We therefore have a model whereby venues need to book acts who will bring punters who will pay for tickets and spend money over the bar. But how do acts who simply don’t have an established audience, or are unlikely to ever attain that kind of audience reach whatever audience they may have? How do acts who need the exposure get the exposure in the first place? The system is flawed. However, recent years have seen the emergence of a different kind of venue, with rehearsal rooms doubling as gig spaces. They maybe small, but that’s for the better – gigs with an audience of maybe 20 people don’t need a lot of space. Unlicensed, BYOB means no overheads or costs there, and because these spaces make their money by other means, any takings from gigs are simply a bonus. They also tend to benefit from being on industrial estates, meaning there’s less risk of neighbours complaining about noise, meaning the only downside is that they’re not so often in prime city centre locations. But how many small venues are these days?

Places like CHUNK and Mabgate Bleach in Leeds and Hatch in Sheffield have led the way, and now Tower Studios in Stone, a little way out of Stoke-on-Trent, presents a ‘proper’ gig following one shot for online streaming as part of the last FEAST event (with FEAST being very much something born out of lockdown with a series of streaming events).

For a place a bit off the beaten track, it’s stunning. Scratch that: by any standards, it’s stunning. A rehearsal space with a stage and meticulously maintained, it’s something else. The PA speakers are halfway down the room in the main room and face the stage, doubling as monitors, meaning the band get to hear the ‘out front’ mix instead of the monitor mix. There is a second, smaller room, but we’re in the main room tonight for a lineup of noise and experimentalism, and if the audience isn’t huge, at least they’re receptive.

Omnibael open with an ear-bleeding blast of space rock feedback with industrial percussion worthy of Godflesh. Jase plays pedalboard predominantly. Brief moments swerve into black metal, but it’s mostly just a relentless barrage of noise. The third track goes a bit Sunn O))), with big hefty power chords paving the way for more raging metal noise. The duo’s experimental explorations may yet to have found a firm stylistic footing but this outing is perhaps their most focussed and most intense live workout yet as they continue to evolve.

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OMNIBAEL

The second act, Vile Plumage, make like performance art, but struggle to keep straight faces, like they know this is audacious and preposterous. The gloved hands over faces cover grins disguised as menacing smirks. Stop start blasts of noise judder and thud. A rattling bean tin. We got given pebbles to toss into a bowl, and it was all quite bizarre and confusing, but entertaining in a strange and ritualistic way.

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Vile Plumage

I must have zoned out or blanked out for the next twenty minutes. Something about some guy cranking out electronic noise reminiscent of early Whitehouse while shouting torrents of vitriol and profanity through squalls of feedback, I don’t know much and I can’t comment on whether or not it was any good. But I think it happened.

Garbage Pail Kids is an experimental duo which features Theo Gowans, aka Territorial Gobbing – meaning that anyone familiar with the scene will have an idea what to expect –namely anything as long as its experimental, noisy, and improvised – and Basic Switches, the experimental side project of Leeds indie act Cowtown. Weirdy drones and feedback strongly reminiscent of Throbbing Gristle dominate the set. There’s echoed vocal oddness and endless pulsations with phasers set to warp and stun. Crazy headgear is of course a signature, and the headgear is particularly crazy here. The ‘anything goes’ oddity is nonstop, and at one point we find Theo playing keyboard barefoot while ululating wildly. It’s a complete headfuck, but a brilliant one.

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Garbage Pail Kids

Final act Ashtray Navigations are far easier on the ear. Predominantly dominated by dark, ambient sounds and gentle ripplings, although these are ruptured by dense synth bass and crushing beats. They venture deep into prog and space rock with vintage drum machine sounds: the snare is pure Roland 606. The set builds with some bumping bass that’s more akin to Chris & Cosey’s Trance era works. After a guitar string change that does slow the momentum just a little, the last piece combines the throb of Suicide with extravagant prog guitaring. It works primarily because of the blistering volume that’s utterly gut-trembling.

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Ashtray Navigations

It makes for a great end to a great night, offering a selection of sounds that have enough in common to be complimentary, but different enough so as to snag the attention. With any luck, this will become the blueprint for nights to come.

New Heavy Sounds – 1st March 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

There aren’t many Welsh-language bands who’ve made much progress beyond the border: Catatonia only really broke through when they switched to English, and they were pedalling accessible indie-pop tunes, not pulverizingly heavy sludgy doom metal.

And so it seems very much against the odds, that the absurdly (and most certainly not mainstream-media-friendly-monikered) Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard broke into chart territory on the release of Yn Ol I Annwn (Welsh for ‘Return To The Underworld’) the third part of the trilogy of albums that began with Noeth Ac Anoeth in 2015 and 2017s Y Proffwyd Dwyll, and is pitched as ‘the final phase of the band’s first intergalactic voyage.’

And ‘intergalactic’ is a fitting description. The band’s intention was to move even further from the standard doom tropes without losing sight of their origins: this involves pulsating, gloopy synths and rippling waves which introduce the album, before a wibbling waft of retro-futuristic analogue wobbles give way to the album’s first megalithic lumbering riffage on ‘The Spaceships of Ezekiel’. It’s every bit as preposterously huge and epic as the title suggests; galactic and of biblical proportions, with fizzing lasers firing left, right, and centre, all framing Jess Balls dreamy, melodic, almost folksy vocals to create something that’s out of this world, but also has clear ties to vintage Hawkwindian space rock.

‘Fata Morgana’ pursues the folksy aspect further, and colours it with picked guitar that’s pure vintage gothy post-punk and wouldn’t sound out of place on a Sisters of Mercy record circa 1984/85 before the power-chords crash in at the mid-point – from which point it builds, and builds, to a sustained crescendo propelled by pounding percussion.

It’s all in the detail on Yn Ol I Annwn. For all the devastating grind, the ribcage-crushing, heart-stopping heaviness, there are layers and details that make it an album to listen to. The nuance doesn’t reduce the force, but simply makes this an album with more points of interest than your average in its field. The spiralling synth incidentals should sound corny but work incredibly well; it’s perhaps because it’s delivered with both conviction and panache, meaning MWWB rise above pretence to drive it home not only sincerely, but artfully.

Significantly, for all the synth and cello, there’s no shortage of repetitive, grinding riffage, with the thirteen-minute ‘Katyusha’ bringing all the overdrive as the band up the pace and really rock out while synthy fireworks blossom and bloom all around. It bleeds into the slow, heavyweight trudge of ‘The Majestic Clockwork’, and the closer, the ten-minute ‘Five Days in the Abyss’ is a full-weight doom crusher of a climax.

With each release, MWWB have broadened the scope of doom, and Yn Ol I Annwn sees them forge another immense expansion, and further solidify their unique place as trailblazing innovators in the genre.

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MWWB