Posts Tagged ‘Various Artists’

Dret Skivor – 21st December 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Initially, this review was to open with the line ‘Dave Procter, the man with more musical projects than the devil has names, has been rather quiet of late’ – but the northern noisemonger doesn’t really do quiet, and doesn’t really do fallow periods either. Procter’s full-time relocation to Sweden from Leeds may mean, sadly, that some of the acts he’s involved with – most obviously The Wharf Street Galaxy Band – are on hiatus, but wherever he goes, he makes noise – quite literally, as demonstrated by his ‘noise walks’. Not that ‘hiatus’ really means anything with lockdown putting paid to so much musical activity anyway. It’s a shame, because Dave’s myriad projects tend to be geared to a live setting – improvised, visceral, and loud. On a personal level, I miss his presence on the scene: a man as comfortable in a pig’s head and lab coat as a red boiler suit, it’s his understanding and acceptance of niche I value almost as much as the noise he makes: no audience? No problem. And so with live performances largely off the table, Proctor’s started out establishing his space in Sweden with the set-up of a new label, Dret Skivor, and this early-doors sampler EP gives a taste of what we can expect – which is, for anyone with a priori knowledge – what you’d expect, namely experimental, and noisy.

On offer here are just four acts with a track apiece, but then, as an EP – which would actually work nicely as a 12” with a different running order – it does the job of showcasing exactly what Dret Skivor is about.

Fern’s ‘Low Pressure Wave’ is minimal lo-fi electro, an erratic pulsation and low-thrumming oscillating drone vibrating against one another to build a headache-inducing tension, fading into a simmering wave with scratchy interference. Claus Poulsen brings the noise and then some, with ‘Machines 2 and 4’yelding an absolutely face-melting five minutes of screeding distortion and treble abrasion worthy of Merzbow. It’s a squall of punishing feedback and overload. IJIN also trades in big, abrasive noise, but ‘OH the JOY’ (which I can’t help but read as sarcasm) takes the form of stop/start slabs of noise, with greater emphasis on lower and mid-ranges – although there’s a gum-curling blast f metallic treble that churns relentlessly throughout somewhere lower in the mix. But this track occupies a different territory from the others being showcased here, being a sixteen-minute behemoth that evolves through a series of transitions – yet for the largest part sustains an undulating, howling sustain that drones in an animalistic anguish against a shifting backdrop. It occasionally tapers ad re-emerges, swelling to a thick, nuclear wind of noise that blasts hard against a grinding sonic earthwork of deep, granular noise.

In contrast, Zherbin’s ‘piece for a router, a tape loop and a plastic bag’ feels a little lightweight, disposable, even. But it’s all relative, and in its own context it’s a grainy bit of noise that digs into the cranium with some surprisingly sharp claws.

More Dret, please!

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Front and Follow – F&F064 – 30th October 2020

It’s taken me a while to get around to this, the fifth and final instalment of Front and Follow’s lockdown fundraising compilation series, Isolation & Rejection, as the last couple of months in particular have found many, including myself in a weird lockdown limbo: schools are back, but I’m not back at the office for the day-job, and regular social activity remains more of less off-limits, even here in tier 2 York. So, not really an excuse, so much as an explanation f how work/ life balance hasn’t been entirely conducive to devoting the time deserved by a mammoth release like this, which certainly deserves more than a cursory glance and a few lines lauding the series’ quality to date and its having raised some £2,000 for The Brick in Wigan.

When I say ‘mammoth release’, Volume 5 contains twenty-four tracks, making a total of 115 tracks released across the whole series. And these aren’t all short efforts, and nor are they of a single genre, so taking this in isn’t like a set of two-minute three-chord punk tunes where the options are ‘yeah, no, ok’.

Yet again, the stylistic breadth, paired with the depth of quality is astounding, and given the open-door policy that was the criteria for this series – namely that submissions must have been previously rejected for inclusion elsewhere – it just goes to show how many remarkable artists there are out there. While there have been some curious and oddly-matched contributions in the mix, it’s fair to say that despite the acceptance of all submission, there hasn’t actually been a duff track in the entire series.

Volume 5 maintains that record. That all important opener this time comes courtesy of Assembled Minds, whose ‘The Eerie Machine Hums a Barley Song to the Sun’ is a lo-fi retro-vibing easy listener in the vein of Stereolab, with all the analogue and some bendy discord to give its Krauty instrumental groove an additional twist. With ‘Mute’, Accidental Tones’ bring the eerie shit, with a dolorous loop of funeral bells, before A.R.C. Soundtracks introduce 80s drum machines to a deep post-punk synth drone, and what ‘Exhibit F’ lacks in duration is packs tenfold in density. It’s a pretty dark opening by any standards, but as a compilation…Not that compilations are never bleak, but there’s a certain expectation that they showcase a certain degree of accessibility: and maybe this is why so many compilations re only so-so: they’re designed with one eye on commercial appeal and drawing a broader audience. Because Front and Follow never even cast a glance at a broader audience and the premise of this series isn’t remotely populist, they’ve remained free to do what they do best.

Cahn Ingold Prelog’s ‘Dwieddon’ is a grainy mess of pink noise and static that crackles like the heavy patter of rain, disrupted by an arrhythmic beat that clunks along awkwardly at first, before a pulsating thud booms in with an incongruously dance feel, while Heat Evolution bring some glitchy, swampy pulsations and some big explosive blasts.

Detailing the entire contents of this would be a task beyond gargantuan, but for the most part this is a set comprised of glitchy oddities and grinding sonic earthworks, with dark, heavy atmospheres – das fax mattinger’s nine-and-a-half minutes of deep, shuddering drone is as much a physical experience as it is cerebral, while contributions from Isobel Ccircle and Jonathan Sharp also explore all the corners of dark ambience. There’s throbbing techno and heavy hip-hop on offer, too, but none of it’s especially gentle or kind. And in saying how dark it is, it’s worth mentioning the gloomy synthy goth of Johnny Mugwump’s ‘the mirror cracked’ and the impenetrably dense black metal murk of Petrine Cross’ ‘Absorbed in Artificial Night’.

If Isolation & Rejection Vol 5 explores a quite focused part of the sonic spectrum, it does so in the kind of detail that reveals its breadth, with all shades of electronica and all shades of darkness and shadow covered in its immense span. It’s a strong end to a strong series, and while Front and Follow aren’t giving any indications that this is more than a one-off, there’s no shortage of back catalogue to explore while we wait for the next wave and, maybe, just maybe, the next collection.

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Gizeh Records – GZH100 – 4th December 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

I’ve followed Gizeh from their very infancy, but first encountered them via their offshoot microlabel, Loom, back in 2007: Her Name is Calla were tour support for iLiKETRAiNS and the only merch they had was a CD-R of ‘Condor and River’ in a handmade sleeve of corrugated card. Around the same time – this was the pinnacle of the post-rock explosion – I bagged a copy of Glissando’s Loves are Like Empires with an actual wax seal on the containing envelope.

I’ve since purchased, hoarded, reviewed, and obsessed over countless Gizeh releases over the following thirteen years, not least of all releases by worriedaboutsatan, Shield Patterns, Last Harbour, Hundred Year Old Man, and Aidan Baker… It’s been a joy to see the label grow while continuing to serve a comparatively small community of musicians, often cross-collaborating with one another, and operating within a broad yet overlapping field that sees their work complimenting and contrasting admirably. The fact that every release has felt special, and has placed a strong focus not just on musical quality, but presentation, with quality artwork printed onto heavy stock

It’s the singularity and keen sense of label identity from founder Richard Knox which has been consistent throughout the eighteen years since the label’s inception, and that probably explains why their 100th release, We Hovered With Short Wings, isn’t a standard retrospective compilation – although it is a compilation, that instead presents twenty-one exclusive tracks from artists who’ve appeared on the label over the label’s lifetime. This is a really strong selling point: anyone who is a fan of the bands and /or the label, will already have the releases thus far, or be working on plugging the gaps in their collections, without the need for duplication.

The press release recommends this be filed under ‘Ambient/Post-Rock/Alternative/Experimental/Post-Metal/Neo-Classical/Drone’, and while most Gizeh releases recommend similar in various permutations, the joy of We Hovered With Short Wings is that represents all genres and pretty much all possible permutations of them too.

Disc one finds Some Became Hollow Tubes’ ‘No One is OK’ make the first plunge into heavy territory, away from delicate orchestral post-rock, although to focus on this is to perhaps overlook or minimise the range of the material on offer here, and the same goes for the second disc also, which opens with a deep, ominous swell of sound: Richard Knox and Frédéric D. Oberland’s live rendition of ‘Requiem for Laïka’, and passing into a rich arrangement of melancholy strings, picked acoustic guitar and soaring operatic vocals, it more or less encapsulates the label’s house style, but then Aging’s ‘Her Mercy’ turns bluesy, and it’s followed by the megalithic eleven-minute live rendition of ‘Ascension’ by Hundred Year Old Man, which brings the bleakest of bleak slow ambient metal. And it’s in this context that you really start to get the full picture.

This compilation isn’t about what they’ve released, but what they represent, and crackles, bleeps, and slow-rippling orchestral swells abound across the span of this immense and ambitious collection. Showcasing a broad range from ambience to doom, orchestral textures and layers of detail are characteristic features for almost all of the contributors featured here. Broad, sweeping strings that strike deep into the heart are Gizeh’s signature, and this is a label unafraid of backing art rather than promoting mere entertainment. That isn’t a matter of snobbery, but a measure of their confidence to stand apart and to cater to a small, niche, but devoted audience, rather than pursuing a larger market.

It’s an approach that’s clearly served well thus far, and this compilation appears to stand as much as a statement of intent as a celebration of achievements to date.

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Front&Follow – 25th September 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

So big a space to fill… the absence of live music leaves an abyss of indescribable scale. Social media has been aflame with outcry over the treatment of this so-called ‘unviable’ industry, crippled by restrictions – an industry that generates many, many billions of pounds for the economy. Over and over, I’ve read articles and personal pleas from those involved about the plight not only of musicians and venue owners, but the invisible but essential contributors, the sound and lighting engineers, the roadies, the studios, and it’s all so, so painful and heart-rending.

The fourth, penultimate instalment of the Isolation and Rejection compilation series which brought the Front & Follow label temporarily out of hibernation contains a further twenty-four contributions from a vast array of artists, known and unknown, assembled here under the common banner of all having been previously rejected by labels. Their loss is our gain and that of Front & Follow, whose inclusive approach to curating this series has made for a truly enriching journey over the last few months.

There is a leaning toward the electronic, and Pulselovers’ ‘Orphans’, which lands early is typical of the atmospheric strain that’s something of a staple of the F&F catalogue. Neither dance nor ambient, it’s understated, rippling, the gauzy layers pinned together by lowkey but insistent beats.

Daphnellc’s ‘Sinker Flies The Plane’ starts out jittery, hyperactive, edgy electronica that tinkles and flutters, before going all out on the hard, pounding beats, and contrasts with many of the more delicate, wispy compositions on offer here. Then again, with ‘Slava Xenoxxx’, Bone Music hit a dense industrial groove, bursting with snappy snare explosions and a blitzkrieg of samples, and for 80s robotix electro, Function Automat’s ‘Data Data’ is proper vintage, and not without a massive nod to not only Kraftwork, but also DAF and Cabaret Voltaire’s ‘Nag Nag Nag.’ In a parallel universe, this was recoded in 1978 and a truly seminal cut that brought its makers international renown.

These more accessible works are countered by the industrial-strength dark ambience brought by Revbjelde and the gouging aggressive dark drone attack of ColdSore, and Howlround push this to the next level with an overloading mess of pulsating distortion.

MJ Hibbert bucks the electro trend with his pithy acoustic indie, and if it seems a shade incongruous it’s all the more essential because of it: the spirit of these compilations is inclusivity, and this is what gives these largely instrumental, experimental, oddball collections soul.

These remain bleak times, and fir many, the long-term prospects continue to grow bleaker, and releases like this are essential not just in terms of bringing high-quality leftfield music to those seeking sonic solace, but also in creating a certain sense of community and collectivism.

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Front & Follow – F&F062 – 28th August 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

This twenty-three track extravaganza marks the third of five compilations for which cult label Front & Follow has been briefly resurrected with a view to supporting artists who’ve had their work rejected while raising funds for The Brick in Wigan, a charity for homeless people, which also operates a food back – more vital than ever, sadly.

What I personally like about the series and its approach to its purpose is that as has always been the case with F&F and the artists it releases, is its understatedness. And while there’s a lot of noise about the anguish of isolation under lockdown in the media and social media, the liner notes stress clearly ‘This is not an isolation project – it’s a rejection project’. This is very much representative of F&F’s singularity: the label was always about operating apart from trends or vogues, and as such, while it would inevitably cater to a niche audience, it wasn’t a fickle one.

While many of the artists are unfamiliar and probably not only to me, Social Oscillations and Sone Institute stand out as acts whom I’ve reviewed on previous releases on F&F.

Musically, and in terms of quality, though, it’s very much a level playing field, and it’s not hard to grasp why, having been inundated with submission for their modest project proposal, they decided to release a full five volumes.

It’s straight in with the eerie, spooky-sounding dark ambient courtesy of Social Oscillation’s ‘Dreich’, a word that’s stuck with me since my time in Glasgow around the turn of the millennium. It’s so descriptive, and yes, the song’s grey, sombre tone fits it nicely.

As with the previous volumes, despite being largely electronic and instrumental in its basis, the stylistic span is impressive: from minimal, dubby-techno to experimental post-rock via the most vaporous ambience, it’s all here, and curated so as to be perfectly sequenced.

With the super-murky ‘Crawling Guardian’, Everson Poe evokes the spirit of The Cure circa 17 Seconds and Faith before it goes crushing doom metal in the final minute, and the dingy production only amplifies the oppressive atmosphere. Elite Barbarian’s ‘Gat Trap’ is particularly unsettling and particularly impossible to pin down as is groans and rumbles; Newlands’ ‘Father Sky’ is a hypotonic chant, and ‘Orla’ by Farmer Glitchy is tense, claustrophobic, uncomfortable. Jonny Domini’s ‘New Pink Shirt’ is a bit of a departure, being a kind of Pavement-meets-The Fall lo-fi indie racket. It’s pretty cool, and John Peel would have loved it. Dolly Dolly’s ‘HEADS’ is a neat, if rather twisted, spoken word piece, and while it’s perhaps understandable why it may have ben hard to home, it’s no reflection on its being a good piece.

And, yet again, you can’t help but think that those who rejected all of these tracks, no doubt with an ‘it’s good, but just not for us’ let-down, are the ones who have missed out, and it’s all to the benefit of Front & Follow with their accommodating policy in curating this series.

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Human Worth – 7th August 2020

Tough times for bands, venues, and all things music in general is proving to be a good time for the compilation, particularly the fundraiser. And while many individuals are struggling to cover bills due to lack of work and reduced income, many gig-goers and pub dwellers are finding they’ve got some spare cash going. It also so happens that there are plenty of albums being released to support the causes their enforced absence means are struggling.

Human Worth, as the name suggests, is more about the people than the spaces, and if mental health and poverty were major issues before all of this shit went down, it’s even more vital they’re supported, and the proceeds from this latest release are going to Harmless, a charity that supports metal health, and to assist in the prevention of self-harm and suicide.

The fact that more than half the acts on this release are ones we’ve covered or are otherwise on the Aural Aggro radar is a strong indicator of the style and hopefully the quality of this release. Like its predecessor, Human Worth Vol II is a showcase of premium-grade noisy stuff from across the spectrum.

AJA crash in with a mix of bewildering noise and eerie ethereality before Klämp bring some brutal lo-fi grunge noise. Snarly vocals half-buried amidst a barrage of muffled drums, gnarly bass and space-rock synths It’s challenging, but equally, it’s exciting in its raw viscerality.

Blóm do riot-grrl punk but at a thousand miles an hour, with a hefty dash of black metal / hardcore in the mix, and the resultant blast of noise that is ‘Meat’ is hefty. Meanwhile, masters of heavily percussion-led free jazz racket, Sly and The Family Drone, really churn the guts with ‘Shrieking Grief’, lifted from the new album Walk it Dry. Even on a 20-track compilation of challenging, headfucking din, they manage to stand out, in the best possible way.

Modern Technology’s ‘Gate Crasher’, taken from their upcoming debut full-length is an exercise in intense and claustrophobic tension-filled angst, a dense, roaring bass and pummelling percussion all but burying the vocals. And it’s the low-slung, gritty bass that dominates the dingy grind of Mummise Guns’ ‘Glitter Balls’, before We Wild Blood’s ‘Eat Your Tail’ brings a sandstorm of wild shoegaze / psychedelia with a darker than dark hue. Bismuth and Vile Creature collaborate to create a low-end assault that sounds like the burning pits of hell and make me seriously consider heading to the bog before I shit myself. Elsewhere, USA Nails’ minimal cover of ’Paranoid’ is a hybrid of Big Black and Suicide, but with a dash of Cabaret Voltaire, and its primitivism is compelling.

So how is this kind of sonic torture appropriate for raising awareness of and funds for mental health charities? How can a barrage of noise be a good thing? Well, some of us find comfort in this kind of racket. It’s all about the immersion, all about the catharsis. You can totally bury yourself in this kind of stuff, and feel the pain and anguish being purged. There’s something cleansing about a howling tempest that envelops you and transports you to another place that’s difficult to communicate. It’s intense, and often quite personal, and some distance beyond words. There’s often a real sense of community around the more fringe scenes, and Human Worth is very much a community of artists pulling together to care for one another and not just like-minded individuals, but anyone.

There is joy in the fact that there’s some seriously heavy shit to be found on this album’s twenty tracks, and none of its especially friendly: Lovely Wife, as you’d probably expect given their previous output, seem keen to push the brown. The snarling demonism of ‘My Cup Overfloweth’ sounds particularly close to dredging through the bowels of hell by raging demons playing improv renditions of Hawkwind songs, and it’s a murky, gut-churning blast.

There isn’t a weak – or gentle – track to be found in this collection, but Ballpeen’s ‘Hate Fantasies’ – here in demo form – Working Men’s Club (not the shit indie one) are standouts in a field of standouts.

Sometimes, there’s a sense of obligation to purchase charity compilations because there’s a decent track or two, and because it’s for a good cause, but Human Worth have again curated an album that’s just that unbelievably good you want to buy ten copies.

AA

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Methodical Movements – 29th May 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

While I’m so desperately missing live music, it seems only reasonable that the least I can do is cover as many fundraiser releases as possible, and there are loads. Hardly surprising, really: there are loads of little venues, and they’re all struggling. And it’s the sub-100 capacity venues and the 100-200 capacity spaces that are the worst affected, and which are the venues that are the most vital for cultivating those communities of underground and unusual artists. That’s certainly not to say that rock, pop, and indie music isn’t suffering, but the market for more obscure stuff means those gig are always going to be held in basement venues in front of 20-30 people – and you might argue they’ve been practising social distancing for years, but while carrying an element of truth, fails to acknowledge the fact that the more niche the music, the more hardcore the following, and moreover, the more the need for its sustenance: often, these are small communities populated by introverts and quietly vulnerable types.

I shall quote from the press release at length, as it feels appropriate here: ‘Music for empty venues is a charitable music compilation in response to the Covid-19 crisis. Independent music venues across the country are struggling more than ever due to the imposed lockdown, with many listings cancelled and the uncertainty over any future bookings. This compilation aims to support some of the affected venues within the city of London through the means of a fund-raising, with all profits of the release going to three chosen independent London venues selected by the featured artists. These venues are: Iklectik, Hundred Years Gallery and Jazzlive at the Crypt.

The compilation features a wide range of forward thinking, electronic based musicians who have graced many of London’s (UK) independent music venues over the years. We’ve all come together in this one moment to support the venues that normally support us.’

I’m reminded of the EMOM nights I’ve attended in York and Leeds: a broad church, and so, so accommodating: they’ve effectively created their own circuit for artists, and a safe space for aficionados of the eclectic electronic music they create. As such, this project isn’t simply one to back in principle, but one that resonates on a personal level. It also helps that the standard of the contributions is outstanding, and the track list is a remarkable showcase for the range of underground electronic music emerging right now.

Blame’s ‘Flummoxed’ is an eight-minute blast of stammering electronic trilling, tweaks and jerks, bleeps and stuttering overload that hovers just below speaker distortion and fried circuitry.

Docor Stevio mines a more conventional, if dark, seam. On the face of I, ‘Another day’ is a throbbing electropop / industrial crossover with a gothy vibe, but there’s a hint of proggines in the vocal delivery and the bridge sections.

This is, incidentally, an absolutely mammoth release: nineteen tracks, many of them way over the six-minute mark, and a few truly behemoth efforts, not least of all, Laura Netz’s ‘Medial Dark Ages’ and the last track, ‘Fragments#1’ by Tony James Morton. Both are expansive and immersive and enjoyable in their own subtle ways.

Adam Paroussos’ ‘Murmurations and the Fool’ is something of a standout, by virtue of the disorientating nature of its collage pile-up of wibbly electronics and overlaid samples colliding in a riot of simultaneity, while Mathr seems intent on dissecting dance tropes to extrapolate aspects of beat, bass, and groove into a shuddering stop-start headfuck. No, you can’ t dance to it. ‘Bloom’s Taxonomy’ by Obrigada Nadamay be almost fragmentary, but with its broad, sweeping drones swishing across Japanese-influenced chimes, it’s textured, layered, and compelling.

‘Desilencing the Sea, Part 1’ by xvelastín contrasts in every way, being a minimal ambient work that’s devoid of beats and overt structure, drifting, without form, without chords… barely there, yet somehow atmospheric. Not dark, not even particularly eerie, but not light or comfortable either, ambulating a sonic no-man’s land, an aural limbo of sorts.

Ambivalence and ambiguity is a positive thing, and the material on this compilation thrives in this space without definition.

AA

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Long Division – 21st August 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

The second of the albums released as a fundraiser for Wakefield’s Long Division Festival presents another mix of established, up-and-coming, and new acts which encapsulates the festival’s egalitarian ethos. With its focus primarily on the local and regional, one may be forgiven for expecting a mixed bag both in terms of style and quality, but local is by no means a byword for low standards around these parts, and while this second collection – like its predecessor – is stylistically varied, the quality is remarkable.

It’s also arranged as an album of two halves, with the second being considerably more commercial, and what you’d probably call summery.

York’s Cowgirl – one of the countess projects from the city featuring the wide-ranging talents of Danny Barton (who’s also just released a new single under his Wolf Solent moniker) makes for a strong start, with its Pavementy slacker indie stylings. It’s got that up-front, full-tilt, everything-loud energy-bursting lo-fi production that delivers the buzz direct into the brain and makes you feel good instantly.

Priestgate’s ‘Now’ is a more 80s vintage style, while ‘Walking Backwards’ by Glasgow’s Life Model’s is a wonderfully poised shoegaze affair. The vocals sound lovelorn, but sign off with a strong and determined refrain of ‘I never liked you at all’ before a swell of rippling guitars surge in.

I’m waiting for a weak track, but Lemon Drink certain aren’t the one’s to serve it, with ‘Manic’ being a tight and lively slice of zesty grunge-tinged indie pop.

Mt Doubt might lack immediacy but bring mood, and HerTiltedMoons’ contribution, the brooding but lightly melodic piano-led folk-pop of ‘Orange Grove’ arrives as quite a surprise in its Coors-like commerciality, and taking a different but equally accessible tack, the quirky electronica of In The Morning Light’s ‘Milk and Honey’ is a groove-orientated tune. Bunkerpop bring a taste of the Caribbean.

It’s back to the 80s again with a dash of Ultravox and a splash of Spandau – and even a hint of B-Movie on Macroscope’s ‘Reveal’, and drawing the curtain on the collection, Little State of Georgia offer up the sparse and intimate ‘Little Tiny Ones’, a devastatingly cool work of brooding minimalist electronica that’s haunting and emotionally resonant, presenting a classic case of less being more, before swelling into a cinematic power-ballad finale.

Once again, there’s something for everyone here, and more significantly, New Addition Vol 2 showcases a wealth of talent that is entirely dependent on grass-roots venues gigs, independent festivals, and indie labels who are willing to take a punt. Because acts who break through are rarely the best ones, but the ones with backing – but getting that backing requires that initial exposure and support. Without that, it all falls apart.

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Front and Follow – 31st July 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

Rejection hurts. Always. Some of us can ride it out, brazen it off, better than others, but always, it stings. Artists in any media tend to be sensitive types, and so the sting is all the harder.

The basis for this series is lovely: it’s relevant, relatable, but also worthy because of its wider context: ‘not an isolation project – it’s a rejection project’. Rejection is isolating in itself, but more specifically, this is a collection of rejections released from isolations.

As the accompanying blurb recounts, ‘Isolation and Rejection was born out of thinking about what happened to all the tracks that didn’t make it onto those fancy compilations, and is now turning into an ongoing project to collect, collate and promote rejected sounds.

With over 100 artists signed up, we are going to release five volumes over the next few months. Each volume will showcase those lost gems, discarded and abandoned but now lovingly embraced and put front and centre for your enjoyment. We’ll also be sharing the stories behind the rejection – funny, weird and sometimes a little heart breaking.’

The beauty of this collection lies not only in the music itself, but its eclecticism. The tracks range from fragmentary snippets to eleven-minute explorations, from bubbling electronica to billowing abstraction. With twenty-four tracks, it is a monumental and truly epic set, and not necessarily one to take in in a single sitting.

Lose a Leg provide the first piece, with a delicate piano snippet of a composition called ‘Thinking About It’. It’s barely a minute and a half, so there isn’t much time to think.

There’s a strong leaning towards mellifluent ambient works, abstract, cloud-like sonic drifts of intangibility, but this being a Front and Follow-curated release, it’s got well-considered range: Time Attendant’s ‘Binocular Visions’ introduces Kraftwerkian robotic electronica into the mix, with a motoric sequenced rhythm underpinning its throbbing electronic structures. Then again, there’s a lot of bleepy electronica centred around cyclical grooves and heavily repetitive beats, as exemplified by Caper One & Vandal Deca’s contribution.

Some pieces straddle both: Audio Obscura’s ‘Castles on Earth’ is big, bold dubby, beaty and ambient all at once, an echoic bath that swells around a dense, booming bass, and elsewhere, Crisp Packet Jacket bring woozy pulsations with ‘Dreadful Own Brand’. No Later’s‘The Revenant Sea’ is spectral and haunting, and in many ways encapsulates the spirit of the release in its hybridity, while ‘Music forBroken Piano’s recalls early Pram in its dissonance and discord.

Sairie’s lilting folk cover of ‘House of the Rising Sun’ stands out by virtue not only of its difference, but its beautiful vocal melodies, which later over a sparse et lush acoustic guitar. Why was it rejected? Did they submit to a death metal or power electronics compilations? But we know that rejection is often more about curatorial taste than quality of submission, and it’s quite apparent with this collection because there simply isn’t a weak track to be found.

It is a colossal collection, and likely not one to play in a single sitting, especially with so much going on. This makes it, along with the first edition, a collection of outstanding quality.

Front & Follow

Christopher Nosnibor

The demise of the label Front & Follow was a sad one, for many reasons. I mean, it was understandable: a one-man enterprise, the degree of effort required to curate, release, and promote music – especially obscure, niche music – is astounding. It’s always going to be a labour of love, but all the love in the world doesn’t pay the bills.

This does mean that the return of F&F, however brief, with a view to issuing a series of lockdown / isolation compilations is extremely welcome, simply in principle. Not only because it’s a reminder of a time before what’s rapidly looking like a collapse of civilisation, not only because it’s a reminder of what a great label it was, but also because despite the tidal wave of lockdown releases that are flooding the virtual world right now, we still need more music like this: music from the fringes, music that coveys the intense cognitive dissonance of the current situation in non-lyrical terms.

To unpack this: the title summarises the situation as it stands for many in the most succinct form. Whether or not you’re officially ‘isolating’, we’re all still isolated for the most part, either alone or with the rest of out household. But it seems that however ‘together’ we are, however connected, however well we communicate, everyone’s individual experience is different, and in many was incommunicable: we’re all islands, isolating inside our own heads. Words get in the way, and impose the experience of others on our own private thoughts, so the fact that this collection is largely instrumental is welcome, and where there are vocals, they tend to be absorbed into the fabric of the sonic experience.

With twenty contributions from a host of artists. Many of whom I’m unfamiliar with, there’s a theoretical pot-luck element to this compilation, but F&F have always been strong on curatorial skills, and while the contribution from Kemper Norton (arguably one of the bigger ‘names’ on the release) is surprisingly brief, it’s positioned in a prominent position opening proceedings, and sets the tone with its tonally-balanced ambience.

Grey Frequency’s ‘Dissolve’ which follows is more what you might expect: almost seven minutes of mellifluous mellowness, but with crackling snippets of static and shadowy undercurrents that run dark and deep.

Picking standout tracks is difficult and also rather to undermine the project, although

‘Basic Design’s ‘Dream Archipelago’ does stand out by virtue of having vocals first and foremost, but also for it’s woozy, fugue-like qualities, something echoed by the ethereal ‘Dining with Phineus’ by Carya Amara.

AZAK BROMIDE bring a more power electronics / industrial slant to the dark ambient party, but it’s the seventeen-minute behemoth that is Boobs of Doom’s ‘Scumbellina’ that really is the ineffable centrepiece here: a towering monolith of a track it’s all the experimental electronica distilled into a single movement of analogue oddness.

Elsewhere, Ekoplex capture the essence of early cabaret Voltaire on the dubby ‘Rejected Replekz’, Thomas Ragsdale delivers some signature ambience with beats with ‘The Light Between’, and Elizabeth Joan Kelly’s ‘Waking Up With a Cat on My Face’ perfectly encapsulates that moment or panic, that abject spasm through a minute and three quarters of swampy discord and sonic confusion. Hibernation’s nine-minute ‘Fragile Times’ is a perfect summary of everything: so fragile and soft as to be barely-present, it’s a mist-like ambient piece that’s impossible to place your hands on it, much less pin it down, and that wisp-like intangibility, that vague ephemerality is the essence of the collective mind right now. However you may think about think about it, whatever your beliefs, pinning down the mood of the moment is nigh on impossible on the tumultuous psychological rollercoaster we find ourselves on.

Thankfully, soothing, spacious sonic wanderings like the album’s final contribution, TVO’s ‘A Wave as the Coast Disappears from View’ offer id to calm, even if the title reminds us we’re only barely afloat and only so far from drowning in an instant.

Isolation & Rejection Vol 1 is a magnificent collection at any time, but also serves as a contemplative soundtrack to strange and troubling times. It’s also classic F&F.

AA

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