Posts Tagged ‘The Cure’

Les Disques Rubicon – 20th October 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

This is pretty high-concept stuff. The album’s framework is based around the sci-fi Contoyen, a novel by the band’s own singer, Philippe Deschemin, and the album’s nine tracks are billed as ‘1st Circle’ through to ‘9th Circle’. Not being available in translation, the connection to the book aids my comprehension and analysis of the album not one iota. However, the bigger picture does, at least a little: eternal masters of intertext and referencing, Porn are in fact named after The Cure’s seminal 1982 album, and are influenced by early 80’s electronic noise exponents such as SPK and Esplendor Geometrico, as well as the 80s/90s dark rock lineage of Bauhaus, Fields Of The Nephilim and Type O Negative.

No two ways about it, we’re in dark, gothy territory here, and The Ogre Inside is a desolate wasteland of an album with an icy core. The album is dominated by spindly lead guitars which are backed by throbbing, tearing, juggernaut rhythm guitars and bass which throb and chug.

Chilly synths and rippling electronics provide texture and atmosphere to the opener, lead single ‘Sunset of Cruelty’, which finds a complex, interweaving lead guitar meshing its way over a thunderous metal-edged rhythm. It’s not short on force.

‘She Holds My Will’ has heavy hints of Rosetta Stone on The Tyranny of Inaction, blending industrial guitars and rhythms with swirling gothic synths and atmosphere, and successfully, landing in the space between early Nine Inch Nails and The Sisters of Mercy circa 1985.

The nine-minute ‘May be the Last Time’ is one of two behemoth compositions which dominate the album. It’s expansive, emotive, and with Deschemin’s gravelly baritone howling through the delicately poised darkness, it’s reminiscent of Fields of the Nephilim.

None of this is to suggest that The Ogre Inside is in any way derivative – more simply to frame it within the tropes of the genres from which it’s clearly emerged. Porn also display some range across the spread of the album: while it’s still centred around chorused guitars juxtaposed with chugging metallic rhythm guitar, there’s a strong hook and keen sense of melody. It’s not flimsy or overtly pop, but it is catchy and accessible and enjoyable.

The album’s penultimate track, ‘You Will be the Death of Me’, is dense, hefty and propelled by rapidfire bass pedalling, and raises things to a high level of tension before the megalithic finale, which stands in the shape of the second nine-minute colossus of a title track.

The Ogre Inside is a well-paced and highly structured album, which stands up without any need for a handle on the work on which it’s based. It’s also an album which is consistent and strong, sustaining both the quality and the rich, dark atmosphere from beginning to end – and that’s no minor achievement.

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Porn - Ogre

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23rd June 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

I’m a huge sucker for that strain of Joy Division / Cure inspired 21st century post-punk as exemplified by Interpol, White Lies and early Editors – at least when done well. And On the evidence of their previous releases, Leeds’ Tabloids do it well. Given that they formed in 2013 and have to date only an EP and single to their credit, their debut album has effectively been some four years in the making. In doing so, they’ve created a work that feels meticulously crafted, but by no means sterile or overworked.

It’s also a very ‘Leeds’ affair: produced by Lee Smith and Jamie Lockhart (The Cribs, Pulled Apart By Horses) and mastered by Tom Woodhead, formerly of ¡Forward, Russia!. Their input has certainly been sympathetic to the band’s objectives, and they’ve balanced crisp pop sensibilities with atmospheric, analoguey tones and a vintage 80s snare-led drum sound.

The inclusion of the previous single releases does nothing to diminish the sense of All The Things That You’ve Become standing as a coherent album, although there’s very much a ‘debut album’ feel to it on account of this.

‘Pedestal’ reduces a Smiths-inspired jangle to a minimalist jag of tension skewed across a thumping bassline with a nagging lead guitar line and a falsetto vocal providing the key hooks to a killer alt-pop tune.

‘Circle’ is a magnificent, emotionally-charged slow-burner, and one of the album’s standout tracks. Taking the tempo and the drive back, it’s one of those songs that bursts into a climactic finale at precisely the right point.

Ordinarily, basing an album’s merit, or even its context, within a framework of reference points either smacks of lazy journalism or is otherwise indicative of a band who are painfully derivative. But when you’re looking at something which is knowingly and purposefully steeped in heritage, the touchstones are essentially serve to define the work. When operating in a critical capacity, it’s not necessarily as reductive as noting ‘X sounds like Y’ so much as questioning how the material holds up against the all-important points of influence. It is, of course, emblematic of the nostalgia which dominates our present space. We want bands which remind us, if only in some vague, notional sense of the past.

If heavy hints of Depeche Mode echo through the dark, sparse and soulful ‘Cannibals’, The Cure make an obvious reference point for ‘Vessels’, not least of all in Lloyd Bradley’s pining vocal, but also its funk-tinged but also dark-hued bass groove, but then, I’m also reminded of The Associates and, more contemporarily, The Cinematics. Closer ‘Toothache’ is short, but powerful, and makes for a satisfying finish to a rounded, solid album.

Tabloids

Christopher Nosnibor

Six years ago, I saw Eagulls, alongside Cold Ones, supporting Cerebral Ballzy at A Nation of Shopkeepers in Leeds. Cold Ones were pretty awful but Eagulls were, to be blunt, utterly fucking gash, and I vowed never to see of hear them again if I could possibly help it. It’s a vow I’ve kept until now: there was no way I was going to pass up on Protomartyr playing practically on my doorstep as part of a co-headlining tour.

We’d been advised to get don early doors (7:30) as York (and now Leeds) perennials Fawn Spots were scheduled to play at 7:45 ahead of a 10:30 finish. In the event, I arrived at 7:35 to find a guy with a guitar, miniature keyboard and massive rack of pedals set up in front of the stage in the process of building a layered, loop-based sound that straddled post-rock, post-punk and shoegaze, with some tendencies toward whappy time signatures and general fiddling. It’s really rather good, and on the strength of this brief outing, 99 Watts from Darlington warrants further exploration.

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99 Watts

Fawn Spots are a band I’ve spent a long time exploring, and they’ve evolved so much over the course of their career. Having stated out as a snotty two-piece reliant more on attitude than ability, their debut album, released on Fire Records was testament to their blossoming into a thrashy post-punk powerhouse. Now free of the label and into their next phase, tonight’s set showcases material from in-progress album number two. It’s a new sound again, amalgamating elements of mid-80s Cure, Echo and the Bunnymen and Julian Cope. Early in the set, Oliver’s guitar playing sounds like Marty McFly at the prom, but fortunately, it’s just one broken and one out of turn string rather than a disappearing hand to blame. A switch of guitar later, he’s back to form, and while the songs are yet to bed in fully, it’s clear the next album will be a blinder.

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Fawn Spots

All of Protomartyr’s albums to date have been belters, and the reception they get shows just what an ardent fan base they’ve built with them. The kids – and they are kids – down the front are flopping and flapping uncoordinately, fringes drooping. And they know every single bloody word. It must be gratifying to see, though you’d never gauge it from the faces on the stage: three IT guys in jeans and t-shirts, fronted by their frustrated manager, a guy in his mid-to-late 30s and still in the beaten suit he wore to the office, churn out the tunes with passive expressions. If Mark E. Smith had been into US blues rock and discordant post-punk, The Fall would have sounded like this. While the deceptively detailed guitar parts are big on texture, the powerhouse drumming really drives the energy levels up, in contrast with Joe Casey’s downtrodden baritone grumblings. Repetition and dissonance are integral aspects of their angular sound, and it’s the fact they’re overtly uncool which makes them ultimately and ineffably cool.

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Protomartyr

Eagulls are bloody loud and crank out a dense wall of sound from behind a thick smog, silhouetted by stark lighting. Gone is the shambolic amateurism and apparent lack of identity of six years ago: the bands on stage are slick, confident, and it’s a straight fact that they sound fucking incredible. Immediately, The Cure and A Flock of (S)eagulls come to mind my way of reference points, and everything in their performance is immaculate. I feel like I’m experiencing first hand, at last, the spirit of gigging in 1985 (being born in 1975, I was simply too late to witness bands like The Cure and The Sisters of Mercy in their heyday.

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Eagulls

So why am I not absolutely feeling this, one hundred per cent, to my very marrow? Because it’s not 1985, it’s 2016. While everything about Eagulls is exactly right, it’s only a replica, a reproduction, out of time. It’s convincing, but it’s a carefully-studied fake. I’m not actually questioning their sincerity or integrity here, but their authenticity. Three songs in, and the rush of seeing such an accomplished performance has full hold: by seven songs, it’s becoming apparent that for all the style – and Eagulls have all the style when it comes to presentation – the content isn’t quite on the same level. It’s the same issue as I have with Department M: it’s meticulously observed, perfectly executed but lacking in soul and conviction.

Still, they do put on a show, and are deservedly well-received. But Protomartyr were always going to be the band of the night, and without doubt, they were.

Wrong Way Records – 16th September 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

Described as ‘full to the brim with blood, sweat and tears and intertwined intricacies of the history of the known world’, Byzantium is the debut album from Welsh trio Lights That Change. The title itself brings with it immediate suggestions of ancient history and classical antiquary, while the band’s name is a fair representation of their shimmering, lustrous sound. These are not songs concerned with the everyday or the contemporary, but with timeless themes. Laced with an abundance references and invocations of classical deities and elements and intangibles woven into the lyrical fabric, the songs transcend the lives of mere mortals, conjuring ancient mysticism and long-lost myths and legends. 

It’s an album that doesn’t readily fit into any direct lineage: it’s certainly not in the folk style, traditional or contemporary, and nor is it strictly shoegaze or dreampop, but draws on aspects of them all. The execution is exquisite. The delicate arrangements and washes of reverb which surround Mandy Clare’s magical vocals imbue the album’s opening song, ‘Again’ with an air of mysticism. The guitars remain at a respectful distance, interweaving detailed latticeworks of texture.

‘Dea’ (on which OMD’s Mal Homes, who lends his drum programming skills to the album receives a co-writing credit) is fragile and sparse, with the layers of vocal harmony hinting not only at Slowdive but also Ultraviolet-era All About Eve. There are very few acts which could pen a song which calls to Greek goddess Athena and also quotes from the Latin hymn ‘Dies Irae’ without sounding affected or pretentious: this is intelligent, artful songwriting, evocative and contemplative.

If ‘Voices’ offers a more robust sound, driven by a strolling bass and rolling rhythm, it’s still characterised by fractal guitars that flicker and turn. Elsewhere ‘Golden City’ tells of fallen empires and builds drama and majesty over a Curesque bassline, while ‘Union (For Louise)’ is a perfect dreamy pop song which radiates a sense of joy.

Balancing delicacy and depth, Byzantium is an album not shackled by earth or time, floating in the stratosphere.

 

Lights That Change - Byzantium

Kscope – 29th April 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

Se Delan, a duo consisting of multi-instrumentalist Justin Greaves and Swedish singer Belinda Kordic, have gone for a more natural and human sound on their second album, Drifter, after the stark soundscapes of 2014;’s The Fall. They may consider it to be more raw, but given that their style of music of a dark, new-wave-inspired nature, it’s necessarily controlled, stark and detached.

According to the press release, their collaboration is built on their shared influences of ‘music, film and life.’ I’m in no position to comment on the lives they’ve led or how those life experiences have shaped ‘Drifter’, an album preoccupied with madness, and in particular how the line between sanity and insanity can at times appear frighteningly thin.

The concept may be something of a cliché, but it’s eminently relatable. Mental health is a big topic right now, and it’s a shame that policy and society is so far behind what so many of us already knew: life is challenging, confusing, and in a world gone mad, it’s hard to even know where you are on the sanity scale from one day to the next. The duo articulate this beautifully on Drifter.

The album presents a very personal exploration of the theme, but in the personal lies the universal, and the album benefits from being based around some excellent tunes. Kordic’s vocals are breathy and warm despite the reverb that enshrouds them. Shifting between a tremulous Kate Bush to Toni Halliday via Gitane Demone, she covers haunting, tormented, sultry and more.

Fractal, gothy guitars swathed in chorus and metallic-edged flange chime as they crawl, spindly and tense around throbbing bass tones on the album’s opener ‘Going Home’, and a thick, flanged bass rumble drives ‘Ruined by Them’. Dreamy, seductive and very much cast in shadow, the title track is a song of desolate introspection on which Kordic questions her own very identity. The stark atmosphere is accentuated by a claustrophobic production reminiscent of The Cure’s Faith album.

‘Blue Bird’ finds Kordinc coming on like a cross between Siouxsie and Kate Bush over a hypnotic guitar line that cascades over a rolling bass, while ‘All I Am’ again hits a dense Curesque atmosphere. The seductive ‘Blueprint’ spirals out on fractal guitars, contrasting with the driving ‘In Obscura’ (do I hear hints of ‘Dominion’ in there? Hints of Disintegration?), while the spiky ‘Gently Bow Out’ is far from gentle, bearing serrated edges worthy of Savages.

Album closer ‘No Fear of Ghosts’ is a classic slow-builder which begins low, slow and haunting and ultimately explodes into a crescendo of dark tension, with a tripwire guitar line dominating the swirling tide of sound.

Am I going to throw in comparisons to acts like Ghost Dance, Rose of Avalanche and Sunshot too? Yes. While Drifter is dark and often bleak, it has a hooky accessibility that places Se Delan toward the poppier side of the goth spectrum. Owing far more to 80s post-punk than 90s shoegaze, Drifter showcases a band whose sound is not nearly as claustrophobic as the Sisters of Mercy in their early days, nor as spiky as Siouxsie or Skeletal Family, but who nevertheless capture the sound of 1984. It’s also magnificently executed, and most definitely recommend it.

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Se Delan Online at KScope