Posts Tagged ‘Various Artists’

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.

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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.

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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.

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Bearsuit Records – 27th March 2020

Christopher Nosnibor

This release acquired a new poignance with the passing of the person who inspired it just weeks before its release. Mark was the editor of Losing Today magazine and his blog, The Sunday Experience was renowned and revered for its coverage of the weird, the wonderful, and ultimately, the underexposed, an ethos I can more than relate to. It’s something you do for the love – and I don’t mean adulation – not the money. But the thing I’ve learned from personal experience is that the more obscure and niche the band, the greater the appreciation for the exposure. Depeche Mode were right: it’s a competitive world, and with a gazillion bands vying for attention, it’s hard to snag coverage if you’re unknown.

As I see it, as a music fan and writer, it’s all about the grass roots and the underground: no-one needs my opinion on the latest Editors or U2, but they do need to know about the great stuff being released by the likes of Bearsuit and Panurus and infinite acts working on a DIY basis. This was also very much Mark Barton’s territory, and the disparate array of contributors to this compilation is testament to his eclecticism and unswerving commitment to promoting all things beyond the mainstream – so much so that this CD reminds me of what it was like to listen to an episode of John Peel in the early 90s. So there’s a shedload of indie and alt-rock, a dash of grunge, all the shoegaze, and some trudging industrial metal. Yep, they’ve even scored a track from Godflesh for this release, in the form of ‘Ringer’, lifted from the ‘Decline & Fall’ EP released back in 2014 and now deleted.

The list of contributors and the track list is remarkable, and testament to Barton’s range and reach, and also respect in the music community. The relationship between music writers and artists can at times be fractious, and so tom observe the reciprocal appreciation for a true champion is something.

It’s pretty cool having The Lovely Eggs up first: they’re one of those quintessential lo-fi indie/ alt-rock bands that could have exited at any time in the last 30 years, but we’re fortunate they exist now to carve out melodic songs with a quirky twist and all the crunchy guitars. And while guitars do dominate the selection – Kiran Leonard’s ‘Pink Fruit’ is rather like early Radiohead but with a major grunge twist, while Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs bring a mess of Hawkwind-like space rock and Yellow 6 and Moon Duo booth melt together combinations of psychedelia and shoegaze together over a motorik groove.

Given Bearsuit’s propensity for the ultra-weird, often with hints of electronica and with a Japanese flavour, this release seems surprisingly regular – but that’ a question of context rather than a case of selling out, as the gloopy ambience of Irkan’s ‘Hirkeskov’, the swampy bedroom trip hop of Fort Dax’s ‘Sakura’ and the presence of an array of unknown acts evidence.

The names and unknowns sit alongside one another perfectly, however, and in balancing knowns and unknowns, it makes for a great showcase of diversity, and a great compilation in its own right. The fact all proceeds are being donated to Macmillan Cancer Support is an additional bonus, and shows the artistic community doing what big businesses so rarely do, namely putting people and causes before profit.

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Christopher Nosnibor

CHUNK is a rehearsal space in Leeds which also puts on live shows. They’re the very epitome of DIY: it’s a couple of damp, crumbly rooms on an industrial estate some 40 minutes’ walk from the train station. They don’t have a license or a bar, so their gigs are BYOB, and they have a solid manifesto that stipulates ‘no bigots’. Divey as it may be, it’s a safe and accommodating space that’s crated its own scene, embracing the weird, the wild, the noisy, a hub for disparate outsiders. And I’ve seen a fair few decent gigs there, a fair few of which I’ve written about here, and in the company of decent people. Hell, I’ve even performed there: CHUNK facilitated my meeting with Paul, aka Foldhead, an event which would mark the arrival of a new musical entity in the form of …(something) ruined.

Spaces like this are rare these days. Everyone’s in it for the money, and no-one else has any. And so you have to love CHUNK for its commitment and integrity.

Sadly, commitment and integrity don’t pay bills, and this release is specifically pitched as a fundraiser for vital repairs. Less sadly, it’s a showcase of the acts who’ve emerged around CHUNK, and a celebration of the thriving underground scene in Leeds, which has recamped to CHUNK and Wharf Chambers now the Brudenell – ever-awesome as it is – has stepped up several notches from the student hangout it was a decade ago to a three-room venue of international standing. CHUNK have also expanded to a label branch – Voice of Chunk – to disseminate the works of the CHUNK community, and this release, on that label, captures the spirt of the scene perfectly.

This compilation reflects both the sense of community and the diversity of the scene centred around this space, and a fair few of the acts featured have been covered here at Aural Aggro.

The first track is a rough ‘n’ ready demo of a song Beige Place – whose debut live show I witnessed in this very venue – have been playing on their recent dates supporting Shellac. Yes, read and digest. Wonky, cronky, oddball, shouty no-image math-rock misfits from Leeds support Shellac on UK tour. And inexplicably divide Shellac fans. Kudos. This doesn’t actually need any more work, beyond perhaps mastering by Bob Weston. Its raw, ragged discomfort is everything it should be.

Cattle – who I’m elated to be featured on a bill alongside in February – bring a crashing swell of nihilistic nose with ‘Found in a Tract of Land’, and Cattle’s drummer Steve Myles also features on the contribution from Groak, who tossed ‘Lemnian Earth’ into the mix because they’re winding down and elected to support the venue instead of holding out hope of a new EP.

Elsewhere, M-G Dysfunction introduce an electronic element to the mix. Black Antlers impressed me when I caught their debut performance at CHUNK (where else?) in June, and the appearance of ‘Insomnia’ here marks their debut release, and showcases some brooding, shuddering electropop that comes on like a goth Goldfrapp or Zola Jesus without the operatics.

I’ve had the pleasure of bringing Territorial Gobbing to York, and as much of that pleasure was derived from observing the bewildered expression of many of the audience members. ‘Whose Big in the Karaoke Underground?’ is a disorientating mess of sounds, incongruous fragments, bleeps and bloops randomly spliced together, and Thank’s ‘Good Boy’ is noisy another highlight, although it sounds like it was recorded from the room next door. Meanwhile, Open’s ‘The Love Machine’ is an overloading, pounding psych racket, and Groak’s curtain closing ‘Lemnian Earth’ is s snarling, blackened assault that’s as raw as roadkill.

Having picked out some highlights, it’s worth pointing out that there isn’t really a duff or dull moment among the fourteen tracks here, and while not every act may be to everyone’s taste, that’s something to celebrate, being indicative of a scene that promotes diversity and where the most disparate acts perform side by side and support one another. Above all, this compilation shows – once again – how the Leeds alternative scene is thriving and continually producing new and exciting music by artists who dare to be different.

CHUNK is a rehearsal space in Leeds which also puts on live shows. They’re the very epitome of DIY: it’s a couple of damp, crumbly rooms on an industrial estate some 40 minutes’ walk from the train station. They don’t have a license or a bar, so their gigs are BYOB, and they have a solid manifesto that stipulates ‘no bigots’. Divey as it may be, it’s a safe and accommodating space that’s crated its own scene, embracing the weird, the wild, the noisy, a hub for disparate outsiders. And I’ve seen a fair few decent gigs there, a fair few of which I’ve written about here, and in the company of decent people. Hell, I’ve even performed there: CHUNK facilitated my meeting with Paul, aka Foldhead, an event which would mark the arrival of a new musical entity in the form of …(something) ruined.

Spaces like this are rare these days. Everyone’s in it for the money, and no-one else has any. And so you have to love CHUNK for its commitment and integrity.

Sadly, commitment and integrity don’t pay bills, and this release is specifically pitched as a fundraiser for vital repairs. Less sadly, it’s a showcase of the acts who’ve emerged around CHUNK, and a celebration of the thriving underground scene in Leeds, which has recamped to CHUNK and Wharf Chambers now the Brudenell – ever-awesome as it is – has stepped up several notches from the student hangout it was a decade ago to a three-room venue of international standing. CHUNK have also expanded to a label branch – Voice of Chunk – to disseminate the works of the CHUNK community, and this release, on that label, captures the spirt of the scene perfectly.

This compilation reflects both the sense of community and the diversity of the scene centred around this space, and a fair few of the acts featured have been covered here at Aural Aggro.

The first track is a rough ‘n’ ready demo of a song Beige Place – whose debut live show I witnessed in this very venue – have been playing on their recent dates supporting Shellac. Yes, read and digest. Wonky, cronky, oddball, shouty no-image math-rock misfits from Leeds support Shellac on UK tour. And inexplicably divide Shellac fans. Kudos. This doesn’t actually need any more work, beyond perhaps mastering by Bob Weston. Its raw, ragged discomfort is everything it should be.

Cattle – who I’m elated to be featured on a bill alongside in February – bring a crashing swell of nihilistic nose with ‘Found in a Tract of Land’, and Cattle’s drummer Steve Myles also features on the contribution from Groak, who tossed ‘Lemnian Earth’ into the mix because they’re winding down and elected to support the venue instead of holding out hope of a new EP.

Elsewhere, M-G Dysfunction introduce an electronic element to the mix. Black Antlers impressed me when I caught their debut performance at CHUNK (where else?) in June, and the appearance of ‘Insomnia’ here marks their debut release, and showcases some brooding, shuddering electropop that comes on like a goth Goldfrapp or Zola Jesus without the operatics.

I’ve had the pleasure of bringing Territorial Gobbing to York, and as much of that pleasure was derived from observing the bewildered expression of many of the audience members. ‘Whose Big in the Karaoke Underground?’ is a disorientating mess of sounds, incongruous fragments, bleeps and bloops randomly spliced together, and Thank’s ‘Good Boy’ is noisy another highlight, although it sounds like it was recorded from the room next door. Meanwhile, Open’s ‘The Love Machine’ is an overloading, pounding psych racket, and Groak’s curtain closing ‘Lemnian Earth’ is s snarling, blackened assault that’s as raw as roadkill.

Having picked out some highlights, it’s worth pointing out that there isn’t really a duff or dull moment among the fourteen tracks here, and while not every act may be to everyone’s taste, that’s something to celebrate, being indicative of a scene that promotes diversity and where the most disparate acts perform side by side and support one another. Above all, this compilation shows – once again – how the Leeds alternative scene is thriving and continually producing new and exciting music by artists who dare to be different. We need this space! Please support it.

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Sounds of CHUNK

Come Play With Me – 8th December 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

I know I’m prone to harping on about how awesome the music scene in Leeds is, but that’s because it is. It’s not just its vibrancy and diversity, but the sheer quality of acts – and all of the other things integral to a thriving scene, including labels and live venues – that make it so exciting. Living in York, I often feel the best thing about my location is its proximity to Leeds.

The label Come Play With Me – named after a 1992 single by enduring Leeds indie legends The Wedding Present (which, peaking at number 10 in the singles charts actually stands as their biggest hit) – have, in a very short time, established itself as an ambassador for the city and surrounding region. It’s worth noting, then, that all proceeds made from this album will be reinvested into supporting people into sustainable careers within music in the Leeds City Region, and it speaks volumes about the label and everyone involved here.

It’s therefore fitting that on this double-CD compilation (the labels first), The Wedding Present should feature alongside a number of artists who’ve previously appeared on single releases, including Officers, Deadwall (who here, somewhat audaciously, deliver an ethereal shoegaze rendition of ‘Come Play with Me’, no less), Esper Scout, Magic Mountain, Furr and RIIB (Roller Trio / Django Django and whose split single we featured here at Aural Aggro back in July).

ZoZo kick it all off with some jagged brass-laced post-punk funk. ‘No Christmas’ was the last in The Wedding Present’s 12-single run in 1992, and appears here re-recorded from a 2015 album session. It’s a strong start.

The inclusion of ‘Ghost Town’ by Fighting Caravans is particularly sweet – one of the city’s most promising bands who split before they really got going, this track makes a welcome addition to their all-too slender discography. Oh, and it’s a dense, slow-burning belter and one of the album’s (many) standouts, which also include a collaboration between Post War Glamour Girls frontman James Konapinski and American inventor Thomas Truax in the shape of the brooding ‘The Best Things’, part 80s Bowie, part Tom Waits, it’s a gritty, growling hybrid of spoken word and white soul. It’s bloody brilliant. And as a completely unnecessary aside, earlier this year I performed an afternoon spoken word event ahead of Thomas Truax playing the same venue in the evening. He graciously watched me stomp around, spewing profanities and tossing spent sheets of paper to the ground in front of fifteen people. I didn’t have the mettle to approach him after.

Officers – another band with a discography that’s frustratingly short, but who clearly favour quality over quantity of output, and who’ve actually released more in the last 18 months than the preceding five years – are on fine form with ‘Animal’, a stealthy groove-driven cut. No Fixed Identity also bring some dark, low-down grooves, but in what I’m vaguely embarrassed to refer to as an ‘urban’ context. With so many guitar-based bands, it’s perhaps easy to forget or otherwise overlook the other musical elements which are, in truth, essential to the city’s diverse culture. The same, therefore, applies to the wibbly jazz stylings of Skwid Ink, who give us an alternate take of ‘Dungeon Politic’.

Parker Lee (how have I never encountered Parker Lee before?) comes on all Pavement, but it’s Jon Jones and the Beatnik Movement who represent the noisy end of the scene – which is perhaps less represented here than is proportional in terms of the kind of bands coming out of Leeds – although Fizzy Blood show the attacking, darker side to their grunge-orientated sound on ‘Animals’. They’re still a new band and young, but they’ve evolved considerably in a short time and are showing the potential to be a serious force.

Napoleon IIIrd is something of a Leeds stalwart, and the version of ‘The Scrape’ which appears here has been remixed by Wild Beasts. It’s an eight-and-a-half minute behemoth, which builds warping electronics around a laid-back but insistent beat. On the subject of remixes, ‘Classic M’ by Team Picture (who are here credited as Group Photograph and are the only act to contribute two songs) is remixed by LPA. It’s a stripped-back dance-up reworking that’s barely recognisable, but works well.

I usually recommend albums where the proceeds are being donated to good causes in principle, but Come Play is an outstanding compilation – beyond outstanding, even.

Come Play

And you can order Come Play here.

Bearsuit Records – 1st December 2017

Christopher Nosnibor

The album’s acknowledgements indicate that the little Edinburgh label has some high-profile and well-respected champions, including Stuart Maconie, Tom Ravenscroft, Gideon Coe, Mark Riley, David Stubbs… and some guy called Nosnibor. I’m deeply flattered to find myself in such prestigious company. It’s no secret that as a music writer, I’m a fan first and foremost, and Bearsuit stand out for their unswerving commitment to the weird and the wonderful – and, indeed, the wonderfully weird.

From minimal, brooding electro-pop to experimental avant-folk via haunting, spectral gothtronica, and space-prog in waltz-time, it’s all here on this latest compilation. Psychedelic dreampop, scratchy, glitchy trip-hop, stark post-industrial noise, and a jumble of all other elements which should never meet cozy up side but side and on top one another. Quirky isn’t in it.

Luscious, sweeping strings glide over a softly pulsating throb, and it’s all very cinematic, very John Williams on ‘Fulfilling Eclipse’, Alexander Storadiau’s contribution to this collection. No two ways about it, it’s a grand opening worthy of JG Thirlwell. But then PoProPo bring a busy mess of high-friction jazz-funk-punk, which just wouldn’t be complete without the wibbly Theremin wails. The weirdy, sultry cabaret of Martian Subculture’s ‘Chewing Gum’ contrasts again.

The reason I love Bearsuit isn’t because I love every tune they release, but because every tune they release opens my ears to something new, and because they’re fearless in pushing the most far-out stuff from the deepest underground. Tthere are some truly ‘what the fuck?’ moments on here. ‘Tous Les Rochers’ by Yponomeutaneko leads the way. Swaggering brass and monotone spoken word breaks into discord and a load of crazed shouting. I haven’t a fucking clue what they’re shouting about, or why, or why the track even got recorded, but the fact it did, and that it’s on here is utterly brilliant. The sing-song vaudeville oompah of ‘World Travel of the Piano Tuner’ by Shinnosuke Sugata is music completely out of time, complete with muffled wax cylinder production.

The Moth Poets offer up some glacial post-punk disco hybrid collision with operatic bombast. Swords Reversed bring a palace of oddball melody and thumping beats, while Petridisch – one of three acts with two tracks featured – cultivate an air of otherness. No two acts featured are alike, and yet they compliment one another perfectly. Sequencing matters as much as selection on a compilation album, and The Invisible & Divided Sea flows nicely.

It’s a gloopy, tangential, often disorientating concoction of disparate sounds that somehow stands as the perfect representation of both the artists involved and the label itself.

AAA

Bearsuit Comp Cover