Posts Tagged ‘technical’

1st July 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

London / Brighton quartet Insolace consist of Millie Cook (vocals), Conor Hyde (guitar), Sam Bryant (bass) and Onyi Olisa (drums), and I suppose you could reasonably summarise ‘I Won’t Cry’ as one of those ‘strong’ songs – one whereby the ultimate message is one of empowerment, despite it’s primary theme being of mental struggle. Here, against a backdrop of busy, accessible math-orientated jangle Cook pitches lyrics about being in the place of the supporter to someone who’s struggling.

Sonically, on the one hand it’s kinda buoyant emo, and even a bit poppy, but on the other, it’s got a bit of a 2004/5 vibe that I have a certain nostalgia for, which is something I never expected – a time when every other band was jangly, noodly, mathy, and some if it was fun, but ultimately you only need one Explosions in the Sky, and so many Spokes style acts, and probably only one Wintermute…a nd then my brain pokes me with a reminder of Everything Everything. And then you reach a point where less is more, and actually, just a little variety goes a long way.

But it’s easy to be critical, and over time, things do change. Where’s all the noodly math-rock now? Some of it’s here, it seems, and ‘I Won’t Cry’ feels like a 21st Century response to The Cure’s seminal classic ‘Boy’s Don’t Cry’. I Won’t Cry I Won’t Cry’ is busy, and a shade technical. But it’s crisp, and has a solid hook, and for that alone it deserves a wide audience.

Insolace

InsideOut Music – 6th May 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

There’s been a lot of beefing and bitching about ‘authentic’ indie bands and labels in circulation of late, particularly about bands who have been blasted into the collective conscious seemingly overnight and questions being asked of their ‘indie’ credibility.’ The sceptics question, ‘how can a band go from nowhere, not even a handful of local gigs, to emerging, fully-formed on a national level? Surely there must be finance and machinations behind the scenes?’ Every story is different, of course: Benefits have truly emerged – against the odds – by sheer hard work and grass-roots support via word-of-mouth promotion. The Lovely Eggs have done it 100% DIY, but it’s taken forever for them to achieve the cult status they now have that means they can sell out 50-capacity venues. Wet Leg got snapped up by a large-scale independent label early on, because it happens, just as historically bands would send a demo to a major label and get signed for big money by some A&R dude seeking to be the one who discovered the next big thing (but for every five hundred bands signed, only a handful would even release a single before being dropped). And so it was that Royal Blood weren’t quite the from-the—bottom grafters they may seem, and even Arctic Monkeys weren’t purely word of mouth viral in their ascendency, despite their legend. But is it fair to begrudge bands reaching the audience they deserve? So many great bands have failed to make an impression simply because they’ve not had the backing or exposure required to puh them up to the next echelon.

And what of labels being acquired by majors? Is that selling out? Not necessarily: it depends on the deal, and more than an independent brewery being bought up necessarily means its beer will be brewed under license elsewhere and become more supermarket piss. So InsideOut may be owned by Sony, but they’re seemingly left to do what they do as a channel for all things prog, while benefiting from major-label funding and distribution, which is a win for all concerned.

It’s highly unlikely that Sony would have picked up and given a home to the debut album from Chinese purveyors of progressive metal, OU. Not because it isn’t any good – it is – it’s just a long way from being overtly commercial, and all the better for it, of course.

One of the reasons it’s so far from having mass appeal is because it’s simply too ‘different’. ‘Travel’, the first song of the eight, has many elements of electropop and the darker side of 80s chart rock, but the vocals are bombastic, soaring, everything all at once, incorporating the quirkiness of Bjork with choral stylings and flying at times completely over the top, and the song’s unpredictable structure sees the segments shop and change in a blink. You need hooks to get on the radio, not oddball noodling shit like ‘Farewell’, where Lunn Wu sounds like she’s possessed by the spirit of Billy MacKenzie fronting Evanescence covering Captain Beefheart in a technical metal style. Or a drum ‘n’ bass take on Yes’ back catalogue. Or something. Point is, there’s a hell of a lot happening either all at once or in rapid succession, and it’s a lot to take in, and sometimes it’s too much.

It’s very much the kind of prog that blends math rock and jazz to froth up something that’s busy, to the point of being dizzying. There are some decent tunes and pleasant melodies in the mix here – but they’re in the mix with whirling chaos and some kind of cerebral explosion.

When they do slow things down and bring down the manifold layers of hyperactivity, as they do in the altogether gentler and magnificently mystical mid-album interlude, ‘Ghost’, they reveal a real knack for atmosphere and ethereality. Haunting and evocative, it’s a magnificent piece. In contrast, ‘Euphoria’ begins as a pleasant, rippling piano-led piece that quickly evolves into what sounds like about three songs all playing at once, which is difficult to assimilate.

The musicianship is outstanding, but it sometimes feels as if they’re trying too hard to showcase their technical prowess, and just because you have ideas doesn’t mean you should play them all at once. It’s good, but it’s busy, and the twangy slap bass on ‘Prejudice’ is a little flimsy in the face of the full-on crunch of ‘Light’.

One is indisputably well-realised, both in terms of composition and production. But despite it seemingly being too much in parts, some of it leaves you yearning for more.

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Brood of Hatred, the Tunisian progressive death-metal project led by multi-instrumentalist Muhammed Mêlki, have just shared a new track from forthcoming third album The Golden Age, which is set for release on February 25th via Gruesome Records.

Listen to ‘The Mask of Death’ here:

The follow-up to 2018’s second album Identity Disorder features 8 songs of heavy, technical, blistering and emotional landscapes, merging death-metal with progressive textures. Regarding the album concept as far as music and lyrics go, as well as the cover art, “The Golden Age is an album of musical and thematic growth. It develops a dark and cold atmosphere with elements of rhythmic play. The artwork reflects a parallel universe of post-apocalyptic revival” says Muhammed Mêlki.

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Cruel Nature Records – 3rd December 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

This is one of those albums where the approach to its creation is based around process and technical elements, and the title is not an abstract concept, but precisely the theme around which those technical aspects are centred. Specifically, as the accompanying notes explain, the album uses ‘a custom tuning system’ ‘based upon multiplications of the frequency of the human heart whilst sleeping’.

Or, indeed, not sleeping, as we learn of the composer’s own battles with ‘extreme sleep loss – waking as often as every 15 minutes throughout the night for a period of almost 3 years’ and how ‘the work encapsulates the haze of the perpetual tired’.

It’s relatable, as a near-lifelong insomniac myself, with my sleeping difficulties beginning at the age of five. And not sleeping is both traumatic and debilitating, and sleep deprivation can do awful things to the mind. The paranoia and hallucinations are real. ‘The Cats are Hiding and So Am I’ is a title that hints at this disconnection from the world that goes beyond the mind.

And so The Frequency Of The Heart At Rest is a curious compilation of sounds and sources, fleeting flickers of extranea in the mix beside powerful strings and dramatic drones, at times bordering on neoclassical, others something more industrial, others still folksy, and yet others still approaching ambience. In drawing on an array of sources, and then adapting and mutating them by means of overlays, adjustments of tape speed, this is very much a collage work, and the meticulous attention to detail – the way the sounds interact with one another, the slowing and the reverberations that contrive to create a rare and unique depth and density – is clearly the work of an artist who’s at once focused to the point of obsession, but also has found that point of detachment whereby the creation of such art becomes possible.

The result is incredibly powerful, in that it speaks to those who have occupied this space, where sleep and waking merge into a continuously blurry, bleary, fugue-like state. At times wistful, melancholic, or reflective in a more uplifting way, and yet at others bleak, The Frequency Of The Heart At Rest feels very much like an exploration, a work which strives to navigate this semi-real, half-lives, partially-cognisant existence.

‘6am, The Bathroom, Screaming’ is dark, ominous, heavy beats echo thunderously and captures the essence of the album, and the experience perfectly. No explanation as to why, what, if any story there is behind it, and it may be that the reason is unknown, but the piece transitions from bleak claustrophobia through a spell of ambient tranquillity before blossoming into a passage of soaring, string-led post rock with conventional percussion. The head is not so much a shed, as a cavern of chaos. The whiplash static storm of ‘The Hallways at Home’ is a synapse-blitzing crackle of electricity and fizz of pink noise over which gusts of nuclear wind drift with a desert emptiness. ‘Mealtimes at the Madhouse’ is Chris and Cosey in collision with Nine Inch Nails, a disorientating and hypnotic sketch built around a pulsing synth bass and thudding beat, while the final track, ‘Psalm of the Sleepless Child’ is an extended composition of dark shuffling and rumblings: it’s bleak, and feels very much like the soundtrack to being lost in an anxiety dream from which you can’t wake up, before veering into very different and positively Krautrock territory.

The Frequency Of The Heart At Rest is by no means restful, but is a work of rare intensity, one that prompts palpitations through its woozy, off-kilter other-worldly disorientations. It’s a restless jumble of tension and fatigue, where nothing makes sense, and it’s truly wonderful.

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Christopher Nosnibor

I’m both intrigued and vaguely amused by the focus of the press release, which informs us that ‘In anticipation of their upcoming European tour in support of Suffocation, Belphegor and Hate, Italian metallers Necrosy have released a brand-new video for the track “Drown In Perdition” (at 320 bpm)’. But then, in certain circles, presumably including those of Thrash Speed, and Technical Death Metal (the latter being where this Venetian foursome position themselves in genre terms), the pace is of importance.

The album, Perdition, was in fact released back in 2015, and this video single is something of a stop-gap while they piece together album number two and gear up for a significant tur of the European mainland. What no UK dates? Well, no, and it’ probably not necessarily a Brexit thing, but while we’re at it, fuck Brexit and the damage the latest piece of hateful, movement-limiting legislation will do to touring bands and the music industry. Bands and fans and the economy alike will suffer.

On the subject of suffering, ‘Drown Into Perdition (at 320BPM)’ (and yes, the parenthetical element is noted on not only the video’s YouTube post, but also the album’s track list) is pretty fucking punishing, a whiplash blur of frenzied guitars and drumming which provide the backdrop to a guttural howl and while the lyrics are wholly unintelligible, the sound articulates by the medium of sound a fair approximation of the song’s title – a hellish, torturous assault.

The woman in the white dress / sheet who features in the video feels like a bit of a superfluous addition, but provides a nice visual contrast to the hairy, tattooed blokes lunging and prowling while wielding their instruments menacingly. It doesn’t detract from the song though, and of this is any measure, both the live shows and upcoming album should be pretty intense.

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Tour dates are as follows:

March 11th – Legend Club – Milan, Italy
March 12th – Kufa – Lyss, Switzerland
March 13th – Gare De Lion – Wil, Switzerland
March 14th – Le Jas Rod – Marseille, France
March 15th – BT 59 – Bordeaux, France
March 17th – Stage Live – Bilbao, Spain
March 18th – Capitol – Santiago, Spain
March 19th – Hard Club – Porto, Portugal
March 20th – RCA Club – Lisbon, Portugal
March 21st – Independance – Madrid, Spain
March 22nd – Razzmatazz – Barcelona, Spain
March 24th – Grillen – Colmar, France
March 25th – Garage – Saarbrucken, Germany
March 26th – Helvete – Oberhausen, Germany
March 27th – Felsenkeller – Leipzig, Germany

SN Variations – 5th July 2019

Christopher Nosnibor

Having read the press release, and from my previous – albeit somewhat limited – experience of lock grooves, I had expected something overtly technical and perhaps somewhat tedious:

‘A lock groove is one cycle of one groove on a record. This is 1.8 sec cut at 33RPM and 1.33 cut at 45RPM. Having used lock grooves on film scores for British film Waiting for You and The Have Nots directed by Florian Hoffmeister, Corker wanted to explore their potential further in a standalone more percussive release. He used the cutting lathe currently residing in the living room of The Exchange mastering legend Graeme Durham to experiment with different sounds cut onto acetate and then recorded over different durations back into a computer. The process is similar to print processes in the visual arts where there is a high degree of unpredictability in how the eventual lock groove is recorded and then plays. Also because of the softness of the acetate the lock grooves break down as they are re re-recorded causing unexpected effects as the needle carves away the surface of the vinyl. This generative process adds layers of unpredictable noise culminating finally in white noise. These are combined forming frames for performances of violin, percussion and piano. The pieces reflect on the tension between the mechanical and the human gesture/expression and place where they merge.’

The album is split across two sides: ‘Inflow’ and ‘Outflow’, with each comprising three pieces. Rhythm is at the forefront of the pieces. Not solid, beat-built rhythm, but repetitive swells of sound. The close-packed humming loop that forms the foundation of ‘Inflow Part 1’ is gradually overlaid with a range of other sounds which repeat at varying regular frequencies, an immense, dramatic crash leading to a sustained crescendo. ‘Part 2’ pairs an echoing piano note and a picked string which vibrate off one another in a space between accord and discord, and it’s discord that marks the mood on ‘Part 3’. The album’s longest piece finds Corker develop tension through the juxtaposition of elongated drones and stabs of rumbling piano and sharp strings before building to a large swell of sound that fizzes and hisses white noise around the cavernous conglomeration.

‘Outflow Part 1’ creates a different kind of tension, with harsher sounds – buzzing, grating, distorted sounds looped in short, fast repetitions that get into your skull and raise the blood pressure. I’m actually typing visibly faster, and not for the first time I’m aware of the way music affects the listener in ways beyond subliminal mood adjustments. ‘Part 2’ is subtler, more subdued as an ominous drone hovers beneath scratches and scrapes. and leads into the slowly-shifting ‘Part 3,’ which transitions through a gentle pulsation to a wail of straining violin.

And however technical its construction, it’s far from tedious.

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Adrian Corker – Music For Lock Grooves

Lado ABC – Lado A/18 – 21st March 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

It’s all about the retro vibe. And it’s all about messing with the listener’s brain. Described as ‘an attempt at finding the perfect balance between beautiful and unbearable music,’ the Polish duo’s latest effort, Żony w pracy (trans. Wives at Work) Bringing a carnival of analogue synths to the party in a celebration of the machines of the East (Korg) and the West (Moog). Unfortunately, Żony w pracy often fails to find the balance it seeks, and ends up sounding more like a deranged duel than the homage it’s intended as.

Beneath a throbbing bass track, the time signatures of the percussion on the albums first track, ‘Brasilia’, are ever-changing, slipping the groove with to disorientating results. The track bubbles along nicely, mellow, jazzy easy-listening synth muzak until it sinks underwater into a muffles murk. So far, so middling analogue experimentalism, the likes of which has been done countless times before. It’s fun, it’s clever, but it’s awkward and twisty and difficult to really get into the groove.

But then things go crazy on ‘Torreador Janusz’, a frenzy of synths stab and loop and warp deliriously, descending into a riot of bleeps and squiggles flying in all directions. Wibbly, wobbly and whimsical, it’s smart and techy. But like so much music that’s smart and techy, regardless of genre – from jazz through avant-garde and experimental to post-rock, tech metal and prog rock – the mastery of instruments and a penchant for messing about with convention and form amounts to so much showing off. Yes, you can play – but how about some tunes? Still, XLMP manage to stay on the right side of the precipice that is unlistenable smug muso wank with just enough attention – or concession – to listenability.

‘Kosmos, Teil 1’ is perhaps the album’s most linear piece, a soaring, surging rush of synths in space that hints at Krautrock leanings. There are undeniably rather hipsterish overtones to it all, but it’s well executed and there is a sense that there’s an element of knowingness and self-aware humour at play here: Piotr Zabrodzki and Macio Moretti state that Żony w pracy is an homage to the real working wives, Anna and Zofia, and write, ‘Żony w pracy apart from being an homage to the homages, also, or even above all, ask one question of the “fundamental” sort – “How are you gonna play that live?”.

I’m not going to make any public judgement based on their latest promotional shot, and will keep my attention on the album itself and so, I will say this: guys – maybe you should listen to your wives. Żony w pracy has an indisputable novelty value, and does offer moments of fun, but how enduring its appeal is, well, that’s something that seems less certain.

 

XLMP

 

LXMP on Bandcamp