Posts Tagged ‘Underground’

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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Dret Skivor – 1st October 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Dret Skivor continue to provide an outlet for the weird and wonderful, not to mention the obscure and droney with the eponymous release from the enigmatic but somewhat amusingly-monikered twAt klaxon. All we know of twAt klAxon is that they’re a Finnish sound artist – but then, so we really need more (beyond the advice to ‘Play through decent speakers/headphones for best results’)? Sometimes, it’s preferable to engage simply with the music than to become side-tracked by biography and theory.

Being a Dret release, twAt klAxon is an album of two halves, created very much with the cassette format in mind (with just four copies of the limited C45 physical edition produced), and each side contains a single longform track. The first of these, the inspirationally-titled ‘twAt’ manifests as a single, thrumming, humming drone. It hovers predominantly in the midrange, and not a lot happens for a long time. Fleetingly, it stammers and stalls, before pulsing back with a stronger, more overtly rhythmic phase. While the variations are minimal, the sonic ripples yield some good vibrations – not just metaphonically, but literally, sending waved through my elbows and forearms as they west on the surface of my desk as I listen. And listen I do. Sometimes, to focus intently on a single sound can be a quite remarkable experience, one that’s both relaxing and liberating. The sound thickens and sticks, and slowly it creeps over you. It’s a frequency that doesn’t drill into your skull, but instead wraps your head tightly and squeezes, a smothering compression of emptiness.

As a child, I had a recurring dream in which pencil-drawn planes crashed and scrumpled in succession. This dream was soundtracked by a deafening silence. This is not that sound, but it reminds me of it, and in doing do, recalls the anguish caused by that dream, and it’s not pleasant. Even without that association, the tension of that single note that hovers from around the fourteen minute mark and on and on and on for all eternity is challenging. The reason I admire this as a work of sonic art because of the level of patience that must have been required to produce it – unless, of course, they left the room and made a cuppa while the sound continued, in which case I would feel somewhat cheated, and making them a twAt of the highest order.

‘klAxon’ is more drone: there are more vibrations, the sound is thicker, denser, buzzier, and there are intimations of beats of at least regular pulsations that thump rhythmically low in the mix. This slides into some heavy phase and throbs endlessly hard. It’s primitive, with undertones of early Whitehouse, mining that analogue seam minus the pink and white noise. twenty-one minutes of that undulating, slow-shifting bubbling almost inevitably has an effect, and it’s deeply disorientating. Perhaps less klAxon and simply more twAt.

Quippage aside, this album is certainly no accident: it is designed to register physically, while torturing psychologically. And no, torture is not too extreme a word: that isn’t to say that twAt klAxon is intended to inflict any kind of trauma, but it does employ the methods of torture within an artistic context to create a work that’s perverse and purposefully challenging – and it succeeds.

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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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25th April 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

While real gigs still aren’t possible, nim_brut are keeping the fringe noise community together with their ‘FEAST’ streams – and it’s an appropriate moniker, as they offer a veritable smorgasbord of experimental, noisy, and weird shit that fans of this disparate (anti)scene can fill their boots with at one of these events – eclectic, engaging, and inclusive, with something for everyone (as long as they’re into this kind of niche). Admittedly, the lineup was predominantly white and male, but that’s by no means an issue unique to experimental / electronics / noise, and the chat that ran alongside the stream was both welcoming, supportive, and encouraging for all comers. And in terms of replicating the live experience, it’s pretty good: something obscure provides a backdrop as people arrive and there are greetings in the chat, much like turning up at a similar show in person: a fair few people know one another from the circuit, and it’s relaxed and accommodating. In real life, these are some of the places I feel happiest: there’s no pressure as such, and people are accepting and accommodating of others not feeling particularly sociable, and the shared appreciation of diverse and indigestible music is simply accepted as enough.

So we’re here, and it feels comfortable.

The gig poster is replaced by footage of a lot of knobs and wires… a lot of panning and close-ups of this complex kit accompany drippling, blipping, bleeps and whistles, trickling, babbling sounds create a light, skipping mood. It’s Autotross, and they certainly don’t outstay their welcome with this short set. A nice taster, it would be interesting to see what more they make of this setup.

Soloman Tump’s pulsating dark ambient electronica is quite a contrast, and the rumbling, droning groan is accompanied by a walk in the woods, blurred, rasterised and colourised to render it most uncanny and unsettling. Clicks and burrs spike through the murk, the thudding beats thick and heavy, slow and deliberate, while will-o-the-wisp lights flicker and skip in the upper tonal regions, bringing a full sonic spectrum with good separation. The walk ends in a strange place with what looks like pouring paint and the sound winds down slowly like the life is slowly being sucked from it. While it would no doubt he great to see and hear in a real live setting, it does work well through phones.

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Soloman Tump

I was rather anxious ahead of the slot reserved for …(something) ruined: technical difficulties meant that the intended set wasn’t good to go, and I had stepped in last minute with a solo track I’d been working on, which I had about an hour to add visuals to before submission, thus making the debut for instrumental offshoot …(everything) ruined. Seven minutes of gnarly digital distortion accompanied by an eight-second clip of a sink-unblocking chemical in action looped for seven minutes seemed to go down pretty well.

Grating electroindustrial and eye-bleeding, fit-inducing flickering visuals are the order of the day from AGED at the start of the set – and then things start getting really weird as skeletal birds begin to drift back and forth against low oscillating scrapes and hovering drones.

OMNIBAEL had threatened a set involving banging railings and that’s what they delivered. Somewhere between Test Dept and Einstürzende Neubauten, it’s a heavily percussive clanging racket, and it’s brutal and oppressive. Marking a significant shift from their previous FEAST appearance, it’s a short, sharp shock of a set, and its impact is immense.

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OMNIBAEL

Blackcloudsummoner’s set starts out dark and sense with a grimy, distorted bass booming. Not a lot happens: the drone drones on, as shrill whistles of feedback strain through a discoordinated chatter of sound that reminds of being in a crowded place… it’s unsettling and tense. Red lights drop like lava against a dark background in a loop, and in combination, the effect is hypnotic.

There’s a whole lot of gnarly nasty noise from Error Control, and there’s a definite sense of performance here too, as we see him twiddling the knobs on his compact but knob-dense kit while blindfolded. On one hand, this could be taken as a critical comment on the nature of harsh noise and the lack of technical prowess required to create it, as well as the S&M subculture associated with some corners of the scene, but I feel it’s more about exploiting the ransom elements of music making – and he works his patches well, generating some head-shredding tones with some abrupt tonal shifts.

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Error Control

Even if you ‘get’ and dig Territorial Gobbing, Theo Gowans’ outré approach can’t fail to evoke a certain ‘wtf’ response. Sonically, this set is very much standard territory, a series of groans, drones, bleeps, blips, burp and farts, with random samples flying in from all angles to dizzying and bewildering effect. Only this one, he’s dialled in from bed with a hot water bottle and some kind of elephant trunk hat thing made out of foam and paper mache or something. He coughs, splutters, wheezes, mutters, and snores, the din stops and starts and you wonder if he’s perhaps unwell, maybe delirious, but then you remember that’s just how he is, and he’ll probably be doing shit like this on his deathbed. It’s a cracking set that reminds us that there really isn’t anyone else doing anything quite like this.

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Territorial Gobbing

It’s a top end to a top night. At some point in the future, this will happen in a small room, at extreme volume and will be observed and appreciated with a fervent enthusiasm by a dozen or so people, and it will be aMAYzing. For the time being, it’s a real joy that the creativity continues and the sense of community remains.

And you can watch it all here:

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20th of November 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Grunge is dead, so the slogan ran on a T-shirt worn by Kurt Cobain back in 93 or thereabouts. And yet, he we are in 2020 and listening to the third single by Leeds power trio Kath & The Kicks, and the evidence says otherwise.

Like punk, post-punk, goth, shoegaze, and so many genres that are intrinsically tied to a specific period in time, the legacy of grunge reverberates and returns in waves, and one of the joy of being alive now as that cross-genre hybrids of all of these are possible and emerge all the time.

‘Underground’ is all about the thick, overdriven grungy guitar. The sound is dense and dirty, and benefits from an unpolished, no-messing production that accentuates the abrasive edges. It’s the vehicle which carries Kath’s bold, powerful vocal, which, stylistically, sits between vintage hard rock and goth – there’s a dash of Siouxsie in there, while at the same time hinting at being the natural successors to sadly departed Leeds favourites Black Moth.

The dark, ever-so-slightly twisted lyrics dig into a subterranean psyche that’s part goth, part agoraphobe, part obsessive psychopath. It’s a pretty potent cocktail.

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11th June 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Stoke on Trent’s pottery industry may not be what it once was, and apart from Robbie Williams, who’s not a good advertisement for any city, it’s not exactly renowned for its music. But then, underground artists tend not to be renowned generally, existing as more of a loose-knit and divergent community. It was through this community that I first heard the sounds of Plan Pony, although I’ve known the man behind the project – again, through the community – for some time.

Single release ‘Martyr’, backed with ‘Martyr II’ (and accompanied by a third track, ‘Hipster Soufflé’ on the ultra-limited CD-R edition) is a dank, muffled, chunk of raw experimental noise layering that combines elements of gnarly punk, early industrial, and no-wave.

Created using sampler, delay pedals, voice, loops, guitar and found sounds all recorded to tape, it’s primitive, raw, and the epitome of DIY in the best possible sense: this is the sound of an artist making art out of a need to make art, without having even the peripheral vision of one eye on any kind of audience.

‘Martyr’ thuds in with a muddy sequenced drum that sounds like a wet pair of balled socks being slapped around inside a cardboard box. The guitar sparks like the jack lead’s been plugged directly into the mains, and the shouty vocals are all the echo and utterly impenetrable. The result is an angular, abrasive noise that sounds how I expect some of Uniform’s demos to sound.

‘Martyr II’ is very much a contrast: the same production values and tonal range this time provide the context for a slice of brooding dark ambience, an instrumental (de)composition that creeps and spreads like mildew.

These are dark times, which are evidently inspiring some dark shit: and this is some dark shit right here.

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Panurus Productions – 31st March 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

It’s always a pleasure to receive a new release from Panurus Productions, although that perhaps says as much about my perverse tastes as anything, since this cassette-only microlabel specialises in weird, obscure, dark and resolutely underground music. And this one’s a double cassette. So perhaps my pleasure is in torturing the self-loathing facet of my psyche, or perhaps it’s just that I’m wired to appreciate the way sound – and not necessarily songs, and not necessarily conventional melodies and structures – can convey meaning and be imbed with a subconscious resonance that taps into emotions by an alternative means. That’s the kind of pleasure I get from receiving a new release from Panurus: a pleasure that sets a certain churn in the pit of the stomach in anticipation of the dark delights it will offer up.

It’s also something of a pleasure to read the accompanying press releases, which are more or less reviews in themselves, brimming with descriptions not only of the sound, but the sensation. Here, we’re promised a work on which ‘pneumatic pulses crunch over electronic drones, as bestial grunts and gurgles wallow in the synthetic murk. Wordless siren calls weave through the textures, shifting between forlorn and beckoning. The vocal sounds of Möbius and electronics 1727 at times distinct and at others indistinguishable, giving us a sonic insight into something we are not meant to see. This is the soundtrack to grainy footage of cult activity – to newspaper clippings of strange happenings and missing persons.’ I feel as if my work is done, even though it’s only just beginning. It’s a challenge: where do you go from there?

Down, is the answer on this occasion. Down. And further down. Burning the Black Candles is a journey deep underground, and begins with a rapid descent into darkness, and a cold, paranoid space. You can no longer trust your senses: the very air will prod you and whisper painful truths and lies as you flinch and question your mind.

The title track leads the listener deep underground to a dark, dank place. Subterranean earthworks grind, slow-moving, tectonic resonance shuddering. Haunting, disembodied voices echo through distant caverns, echoes of lost souls enacting obscure rituals. It drones, groans, moans and grumbles on for a full twenty-three minutes.

‘A Censer Hanging from Chains’ continues in the same vein: so much so that the tracks bleed not one another in a seeping morass of swirling murk. Dank air gusts thick and heavy through shafts and tunnels, a purgatorial labyrinth.

It’s a low, slow, bowel-churning rumble of a drone that forges the fabric of ‘Smoke Slowly Filling the Chamber’: the title is evocative and the sound dense and suffocating. There’s a noise, far away, echoes of shouting, possibly torture, but it soon vanishes, and all that’s left is the buzzing low-frequency flutter. It’s an oppressive, chest-tightening experience, and by the end of its twenty-minutes, it’s slowed to a shuddering crackle, like a failing heartbeat. Then stops.

The final piece, ‘GinruB’, which isn’t quite ‘burning’ backwards is so barely there ambient it’s practically subliminal. And yet it radiates a dark presence that over the course of twenty-five minutes burrows deeper down, and into the listener’s psyche to unsettling effect. It rumbles, it crackles. It burns. Monastic voices and mournful drones rise and reverberate a way off, but the ceremony feels like a lament, a funeral ode, as the end draws closer. And closer. And then… nothing.

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Christopher Nosnibor

Incredible. I arrived at a gig in Leeds with a dry shirt, thanks to it neither raining nor sweltering. And while it’s not exactly heaving in Wharf Chambers tonight, the eclectic (and international) lineup has drawn an interesting and curious crowd. I decide to take notes on my phone, and not to spend too much time on editing. This is a gig that’ about the moment, and it needs capturing.

DJ Perro, up first, isn’t a DJ, but a band from Mexico. The quintet perform the apex of busy math-rock and they’re buoyant with it. And kinda maybe how you’d imagine Mexican mathy post rock somehow. They clearly love doing what they do, and they’re astoundingly good at it. There’s a lot going on, to say the least. It makes my upper arms itch, and it makes my brain twitch. The songs are incredibly complex and incredibly tight and they’re a pleasure to watch. There’s something transportative and elating about watching five staggeringly good musicians, no egos, and some stellar compositions perfectly executed.

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DJ Perro

Failyer have two synths players and play drony, grating synth noise with live drums from James Islip, gig booker, tonight’s doorman, and perhaps best known as one half of seminal noise duo That Fucking Tank, who I first stumbled upon supporting Whitehouse in Sheffield in maybe 2005. And the blew me away, while pissing on the headliners. It was the same night I discovered Kelham Island beers, so the fact he Duck& Drake where I stopped on the way was serving Easy Rider. Failyer’s sound is sort of Krauty Fall meets Suicide motorik noise. Sinewy, echoey, sparse, repetitive. The skinny singer sits for large segments of the set, leaping up to spit punky vitriol into a sea of rapid reverb while throwing shades of Pete Murphy. It’s an awkward but cool take on The Cramps meets The Fall meets DAF. Or something. They’re the best reminder I’ve seen in ages of why the Leeds underground is an awesome thing. And there is no success like Failyur.

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Failyur

Grey Hairs are the reason I’m here and while I’d remembered they were good, I’d forgotten just how blindingly, blisteringly good. What’s cool about them is that they don’t give a shit about being cool. The press write-up says that ‘their third album Health & Social Care … [is] a scorching reflection on balancing your creative impulses against the commitments of impending middle age’. But the reality is more. Way more.

The riffs are all the grunge with hardcore punk moments high in the mix, and front man James transforms angst and anxiety into performance art: twisting his hands and arms around his face, twisting and pounding his palm against his forehead. covering his eyes and exuding a spectacular awkwardness: his presence is awkward, confrontational, and oddly appealing. It’s a performance you can get into – or otherwise be repelled by, depending on your position and life experience.

I could go home or even die happy already.

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Grey Hairs

But then I’d have missed the awesome spectacle that was Doble Capa, the Spanish duo of whom the event’s write-up describe as being like That Fucking Tank but better. The pair certainly have that Tank vibe, and some serious energy. Thumping drums and what even the fuck is that four-string effort rammed through a trainload of effects (mostly distortion) to crank out a massively messed-up racket is the essence of what they do. It’s punkabilly blues noise making optimal use of a minimal setup. A blur of hair. A blast of noise. It’s compelling. And it’s great fun.

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Doble Capa

And I go home happy, and don’t die.

‘Gravity’ is the first video from the debut of New York-based Ω▽ (OHMSLICE)’s debut album Conduit. One interesting aspect of the video is that it uses footage  from well-known experimental film maker Mark Street’s films with Street’s wholehearted approval. The album was recorded at Ft.Lb Studios in Brooklyn, produced by the outfit’s premium mobile multi-instrumentalist and instrument inventor Bradford Reed (King Missile III, creator of the electric board zither he calls the “pencilina”). The album is being released September 8 by Imaginator Records.

Ohmslice formed around Reed’s experiments in processing percussion  through a modular synth. Layered over a sonic framework of double-drummed syncopated rhythms  and analog pulses and drones are the sultry vocals and driving, often abstract lyrics of poet Jane LeCroy (Sister Spit, Poetry Brothel).  Joined by a rotating crew of collaborators including Josh Matthews (Drumhead, Blue Man Group) on drums, the legendary and ubiquitous Daniel Carter (Thurston Moore, Yo La Tengo) on trumpet and saxophones and Bill Bronson (Swans, The Spitters, The Gunga Den, Congo Norvell) on guitar. The album combines formal structures and heavy grooves with a sonic meditation on the nature of human-electronic improvisation.

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Conduit was recorded live over a two-year period. The album is an organized documentation of spontaneous creation and exploration and moves from the fuzzed-out psychedelic of “Crying on a Train” to the meditative ambient cycles of “Broken Phase Candy” and beyond.  Within this realm, the listener is meticulously guided through beautiful harmonic and rhythmic phase mosaics and held captive by an innovative and violently unquantized approach to groove based electronic music. Combined with LeCroy’s visionary mixture of philosophy, reflection, language and song Conduit illuminates a path to a rare and alluring space that reveals endless layers with each new listen.

‘Gravity’ is a brain-bending piece of jazz-infused experimentalsim, and coupled with the cut-up visuals, the promo makes for quite the multisensory experience.  You can check out the video here: