Posts Tagged ‘Various Artists’

Front & Follow and the Gated Canal Community – 25th June 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Independent cassette label Front & Follow disbanded a bit back, some time before the pandemic hit. Said pandemic changed a lot of things for a lot of people, and certainly not just those immediately affected by the virus itself, through either contracting it themselves or friends or family. This is, after all the first time in history where governments have quarantined the healthy, and even during the world wars, while artistic activity was curtailed, society did not completely grind to a halt for any sustained period of time.

Having un-mothballed the label in order to release a series of compilations under the title Isolation & Rejection, which gathered tracks submitted and rejected for compilations on other labels, showcasing not only a wealth of amazing material over the course of five releases, but also creating a sense of community a month the rejected during the isolation of lockdown (a simple but effective premise that was a different kind of novel from the one everyone was talking about on the news).

Then, the label fell dormant again – for a few months, before this, pitched as ‘One final final FINAL project from F&F’. It may be a statement akin to Kiss announcing another farewell tour, but I know I’m by no means the only one who’s happy about the arrival of another release on the label, whose exceptional knack for curation has been a distinguishing feature of a thoroughly outstanding catalogue, and this, their sixty-firth release is no exception.

As label founder writes, ‘Another not planned but a nice thing happened so we went for it’. You Can Never Leave offers ‘alternative soundtracks to a luxury apartments advert’ taking its cue from an ad for Deansgate Square, Manchester, ‘comprising elegant spacious apartments across four carefully designed towers’ which ‘delivers a new level of city centre living’. With its slick visuals and sterile technoambient soundtrack, it’s a contemporary image of hell, JG Ballard’s High Rise for the 2020s. I’ve suggested previously that postmodernism is dead, and theorised that the post-postmodern age is marked by the end of irony. The fact this video exists, unironically, is surely proof of my hypothesis.

For their sign-off, F&F have assembled an immense thirty-one artists, many of who have featured on previous releases, including Field Lines Cartographer, Kieper Widow, and Polypores.

So, all of the tracks are around the 2:15-2:20 mark, and are intended to be played simultaneously with the video, and it’s perhaps unsurprising that each presents a different perspective on dystopian horror, from the sterile dark ambience of Bone Music’s ‘Reality Will No Longer Burden You’ with it’s clipped, android voiceover, via the tense trance-inducing electronica of Field Lines Cartographer’s ‘Consume and Prosper’, which is an outstanding piece of marketing sloganeering that we can imagine being a part of the UK government’s post-lockdown reinvigoration promo push (it’s snappier than ‘Eat out to help out’, and is a succinct summary of the late capitalist agenda they’ve espoused over the last decade), and the eerie waves of aural otherness that drift through courtesy of Von Heuser who give us ‘Pass Through The Tear’.

F-Lithium’s take is a cold Kraftwekian analogue rumble that ripples and churns around the solar plexus, while Guerrilla Biscuits’ ‘Manchester, So Much to Answer For’ dismantles the city’s musical and architectural heritage in one fell swoop with its space-age bleepery. WELTALTER bring some pulverising black metal to the party, and its bleak, dingy gloom that pounds insistently paves the way for more gnarly darkness in the form of the industrial ambience of ‘The Assimilation’ by The Metamorphe. Acid Wilhelm’s ‘The Changing’ is particularly unsettling, as rolling piano gradually evolves into a dense rumble of thunder, with ghostly voices muttering, while the cut-up / found-sound collage of Her Majesty’s Coroner for Wirral’ also pursues a haunting vibe, with ‘Contemporary City Living’ sounding like ‘Carmina Burana’ performed by a spectral clamour wailing to break through from the other side. With ‘Find Your Epic’, Friends, Business Colleagues or Family present the most torturous two and a bit minutes going, a howling shriek of purgatorial pain during which every demon rises from the flames to wreak havoc for all eternity on the living.

As is typical for a F&F compilation, You Can Never Leave is eclectic and yet for all its stylistic divergencies, fits together very nicely indeed, and collectively create a document which presents a multifaceted aural interpretation of the next level of gentrified hell, spanning epic prog and industrial. Oftentimes, it’s spooky, unsettling, and the album presents a powerful and ultimately terrifying vision. But is it any more terrifying than the original promo clip? Probably not, no.

Here’s the video that inspired all of this….

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As an aside, for the record, the project is not affiliated with Deansgate Square in any way – the video was our inspiration for this project, and for each artist’s soundtrack.

All sales from this release will go to Coffee4Craig, which provides vital support for Manchester’s homeless and people in crisis. Find out more here – coffee4craig.com.

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F&F065 - YOU CAN NEVER LEAVE - cover

Come Play With Me – 11th June 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

These are difficult times, fraught with division – not just the well-established social and economic divides, but with infinite fragmentation and fallout over issues and identities. It seems unfathomable that there should be any need for debate when it comes to racism and sexism, and yet here we are in 2021 and still these topics are divisive, and while Pride events have done much to raise awareness, gender issues are not only grounds of immense discrimination, but also division, and, in some quarters, infighting. It’s difficult, and for many, incredibly painful.

Over the five and a bit years since its inception, Leeds label Come Play with Me has done a lot of work to represent the under-represented, primarily in giving a platform to local artists. Its latest compilation is billed as ‘a callout to support women, marginalised genders and LGBTQ+ artists based in Leeds and further afield around the north of England’, and as such has a specific and explicit agenda, and above all, serves to provide a platform and to send a message of unity and solidarity.

The blurb informs us that ‘The album features a collection of 12 brand new diverse tracks from an exceptionally talented group of artists including emerging shoegaze/dreampop sensation Bored At My Grandma’s House, renowned composer and Carnatic vocalist Supriya Nagarajan, art-rock collective Dilettante (led by multi-instrumentalist Francesca Pidgeon), and soul/pop singer-songwriter Tyron Webster.’ And it’s true: Side By Side showcases an eclectic range of artists, which is a solid representation of the diverse, cross-cultural melting pot that is the scene in and around Leeds.

Tryon Webster isn’t the kind of artist you’re likely to see playing in any venues like The Brudenell or Wharf Chambers or Oporto: they may have a local slat, but are more geared towards guitar bands and alternative acts, and Webster’s smooth r’n’b is decidedly more mainstream, as is the smoky would of Dilettante’s soulfully smoochy ‘Single Sleeve’.

Then, in contrast, Bored At My Grandma’s House’s ‘China Doll’ demo is a magnificent sliver of lo-fi indie with some effortless low-key harmonies over a sparse acoustic-guitar-led backing and minimal arrangements.

Long Legged Creatures were the last band I saw perform a proper gig, back on 14th march 2020, and I was impressed by what I referred to as their ‘electro/post-rock/psych hybrid’, and ‘Creatures’ is certainly a drifting, dreamy number – but then again, Witch of the East mine a dreamy post-punk / post-rock seam with ‘Something’s Wrong’. Shauna’s ‘Modes of Thinking’ welds the iciness of The Flying Lizards withy some deep dance groove action that’s half nightclub, half industrial motorik grind.

The chances are, not everyone will love every track on here, and adherents of the live Leeds scene will likely be surprised by just how much non-noisy, soul and jazz-flavoured sounds are on offer here: Day 42 are leagues away from, say, Pulled Apart By Horses, and sound more like Sugababes. But that’s not only ok, it’s the very point of this release. Regardless of musical preferences, it’s impossible to fault the quality of any of the acts showcased here. Moreover, this goes beyond genre and style and musical preference. This is a statement of inclusion. Embrace it.

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Christopher Nosnibor

No two ways about it: coinciding with the NIM compilation album Deprived of Occupation and Pleasure We Feast, FEAST 4 offers the most jam-packed and solid quality lineup they’ve put on yet, with sets from a number of acts featured on the album and a stack more besides.

After some weird woozy shit off Territorial Gobbings’ recent Automatic for Nobody album release (which we covered and coveted here), where Theo Gowans hoarsely whispers corruptions of lines from REM, Rejections Ops kick things off early doors with a blitzkrieg of stuttering beats, squalling bass feedback and squealing, crackling synths: the guitarist’s wearing a veil and there are strobes galore. The noise is complete overload, a devastating mass of distortion, and while it would perhaps benefit from a little more contrast – it’s absolutely fucking full-on from beginning to end – it would just be amazing to witness in a small, sweaty room at proper ear-bleeding volume. I could happily go home now – but of course, I’m already home, and am thirsty for what’s to come.

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Rejections Ops

Hubble’s cover of Swans’ ‘No Cure for the Lonely’ from the aforementioned compilation provides a mellow interlude before Omnibael’s set. It’s another intense work, and probably their best yet. Stark, black and white footage accompany the duo’s low-down, dubby industrial scrapings. There are some mangled vocals low in the mix, while the crashing metallic snare is pitched up high, and driven by a relentless sequenced synth bass groove overlaid with explosive noise, the atmosphere is dark and oppressive.

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Omnibael

Blackcloudsummoner brings more overloading electronica, dark, dense, story, tense, crunching electrodes crackling distortion, occasionally rent by trills of feedback. And it all sounds as if it’s coming from an immense cavern, about a quarter of a mile underground. The bass sounds like a nuclear experiment, and it’s all going off at once, making for an intense and disorientating experience.

AGED’s sound is rather more ambient, and considerably less abrasive, and it’s well-timed. That isn’t to say that this is in any way soft: there’s a crackling decay at the edge of the sound, and distant samples, barely audible, create a disorientating effect. And it’s over in the blink of an eye.

Making a return for …(something) ruined, the full-tilt, all-out noise abrasion with shouting seemed to hit the spot, and the altogether mellower sounds of Pigsticks and the Wonderbra, making droning harmonica noises in some woods arrives just in time to prevent any aneurysms. This is wonderfully weird, with leaves dropping and being raked creating a ‘field recording’ element to this curious experimental concoction. Birds tweet. A helicopter flies over. Atonal woodwind. Random words. What is it all about? The epitome of avant-garde oddity.

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…(something) ruined

Paired with Pressure Cooker Release valve for a collaborative set, Territorial Gobbing bring all the oddball experimentalism you’d expect. For TG, anything and everything is source material, and on this outing we witness some effervescent vitamin tablets fizzing in bowls, the sound contained by a folded IKEA box. And then they bring on the squeezy sauce bottles, which puff and sigh and gasp in their varying degrees of emptiness. Drainpipe and walkie-talkie, toast, toasters, lighters, phone ring tones, egg slicers, books, paint tube, polystyrene packaging, and kitchen sink also provide sound sources in this bizarre object-led experimental set. It almost feels like we’re watching an album being recorded in real-time. Maybe – and even hopefully – we are. With a track per object, it would work well.

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Territorial Gobbing / Pressure Cooker Release Valve

Gintas K’s set is a brain-bending bleepfest, a tangle of jangling synths and collapsing synapses that fray the nerve-endings. Everything squelches and zaps every which way, and we get to watch it all happen in real-time as the notes twitched away on his keyboard are run through software on a dusty Lenovo Thinkpad to create a crazy sonic foam that bubbles and froths all over. But deep, resonant bass tones boom out over the stuttering bleepage and groaning, croaking drones emerge. It all squelches down to a mere drip before finally fizzling out in a patter of rain, and it’s well-received, And rightly so.

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Gintas K

Hubble’s headlining set is accompanied by some eye-opening PoV visuals of a parachute jump and clips of people leaping off mountains, and the footage is so terrifying I actually hope it’s CGI even though it looks like it’s actually real. The freefalling blue sky space is the ideal accompaniment to the disorientating fretwork of the musical accompaniment which sounds like multiple guitars and keys playing interloping lines together and across one another. The rapid ebbs and flows are immersive, hypnotic, and a long, mid-range drone builds and hangs against the dizzying blanket of fretwork that weaves the rich and sense sonic tapestry of this bewildering sound on sound. It couldn’t be more different in sound from Ben’s regular gig as guitarist in NY noise act Uniform, but everyone needs a break, and this is wonderfully, if dizzyingly, realised. It makes for a top ending to a top night packed with all the weird and all the wonderful from the full noise spectrum.

NIM – 17th May 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

As labels go, Iowa-based NIM is pretty new: established only last year during lockdown, it has to date put out just five releases, initially showcasing the work of those directly associated with the label or otherwise close to its contacts – which is so often how DIY labels begin. Artists unable to find an outlet, or otherwise feeling no affinity with any particular label or scene, decide to carve their own niche by setting up for themselves. And before long, they’re not only putting out their own stiff, and stuff by their mates, but have started to build a roster.

It’s all about ethos and ethics: labels who start up because there’s a gap in the market for the music they want to hear and therefore make it themselves are very different from labels who set up with the express purpose of being a label. But NIM clearly have some ambition, as the release of the debut from Health Plan earlier this month indicated: featuring members of Blacklisters, Dead Arms, USA Nails, and The Eurosuite, they’re something of an underground noise supergroup, and the release felt like quite a coup for the label. And then, there’s this…

Again, it’s a million miles from mainstream, but in terms of pulling together some highly respected – and incredibly exciting – cult acts, this is a flagship release, the kind of thing that is almost certain to put the label on the map, in the way that the first couple of Fierce Panda compilations did in the 90s, and thee On The Bone collections some 20-odd years later, showcasing acts as diverse as That Fucking Tank and The Twilight Sad alongside Wild Beasts, Pulled Apart by Horses and Dinosaur Pile-Up. On the one hand a snapshot of the time, but on the other, an incredible document and a testament to ambition.

And so it is that Deprived of Occupation and Pleasure We Feast opens with a cover of Swans’ ‘No Cure for the Lonely’ by HUBBLE, which happens to be the ambient side project of Uniform guitarist Ben Greenberg, and also features a contribution from Rusty Santos, renowned for his work with Animal Collective, among others, and Obviate Parade, aka Paul McArthur, singer from Damn Teeth – not to mention a contribution from the mighty Health Plan.

Alright, so none of them may be household names, but they all carry some considerable cred in those more niche circles. And, alongside an array of obscuritants, they set out the NIM stall nicely, with an array of dark ambience and noisier efforts. This isn’t about establishing a ‘house’ style or otherwise making a specific statement: instead, this is as celebration of diversity, a divergent array of artists united by their lack of conformity.

HUBBLE’s cover is an almost psychedelic folk, semi-acoustic effort, while Rusty Santos wanders through quite mellow if deep trancebient territory, in contrast to the unapologetic noise abrasion of Health Plan’s ‘Food Grief’ lifted from their eponymous debut. If your tastes are narrow, avoid this: this is one for the eclectivists, and the first three tracks alone are enough to shred most brains.

Gareth JS Thomas’ ‘How You Feel’ stands out as a masterclass in thunderous, percussion-driven abrasive noise, and provides a particularly stark contrast to Obviate Parade’s noodlesome lo-fi neoclassical jazz-tinged meanderings and the frenetic post-punk squall of ###’s contribution, which lumbers hard with a Shellac-style riff and changes direction multiple times over the course of its three-and-a-half minutes.

Deprived of Occupation and Pleasure We Feast is challenging, both sonically and in its diversity: the chances are that few will like everything, and many won’t like anything at all. But those who like some will likely find more to like, because it’s a smorgasbord of weird and wonderful, and is a shining example of artistic collectivism, and Deprived of Occupation and Pleasure We Feast shows how NIM is a hub for a disparate array of artists who are doing very different things, but respect and celebrate that diversity.

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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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28th March 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

While online streams have become quite a thing as a gig substitute during lockdown, I’ve personally struggled to really connect and haven’t been all that engaged with the virtual gig scene.

In classic real-life style I arrive a few minutes in (although due to technical difficulties rather than a late train or being at the bar over the road) to find a man –Stale Cooper, apparently – sitting cross-legged with a guitar in front of an immense back of effects pedals. The lighting is hazy, noise is droney.

A mass of monochrome blurring and squalling feedback drone combine to conjure a vast, expansive soundscape as OMNIBAEL take the virtual stage: there are hints of Jesu in this immersive, transportative wash of noise. The sound and visuals compliment one another perfectly. When there are vocals, they low in the mix, buried in a tempestuous whorl of sound that’s a blend of Swans and Throbbing Gristle. The set culminates – or at least it maybe should have – in a motoric throb of a repetitive riff that ultimately dissolves in a mess of noise, and it’s absolutely fan-fucking-tastic The set goes on a further ten minutes or so, and would have probably been more impactful with a shorter duration. Nevertheless, it was one of those sets that if it were a real gig, you would be able to go home happy, safe in the knowledge that you’ve probably seen the band of the night.

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OMNIBAEL

The best way to follow a hard act to follow, and it’s no brag that …(something) ruined are different. Yes, it’s my band, and we have a knack of standing out like a sore thumb in any context, not least of all because there are so few noise acts with vocals. Watching back our 3:22 of obliterative noise was a challenge, but only a couple of people left. I don‘t know if I’m pleased or disappointed by this.

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…(something) ruined

Lovely Wife make a monstrous blackened din: dark, dense, pitched at the low-end, low-tempo and with bowel-churning vocals, there’s an other-worldly, ethereal quality to their music. Featuring members of a number of other prominent noisy / doomy / sludgy / etc acts from the city, the trio combine elements of their other projects to conjure something powerful and intense. The Band of the night crown has been passed on.

The dark ambience of AGED is well-placed, changing the tone and the tempo, and the visuals contain a neat narrative, too, while Lost Music Library drift into softer terrain that slows the pulse, and paired with some hypnotic digital visuals, it’s a gripping experience.

Despite the rainbow discoball visuals, Blackcloudummoner’s set is a brain-shredding blast of feedback, a thrumming squall of dank electronics. Heavy low-end drones are disturbed by glitches and ruptures, and it’s heavy but mellow, in a harsh way. If that makes no sense, then, well, maybe you had to be there to appreciate how the scrape of nails down a blackboard against a dense fog of static and blistering, billowing noise can somehow be soothing.

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blackcloudsummoner

Neuro… No Neuro’s short set leads us into more minimal territory, with glitchy crackles and pops defining the sound of a brief set that would have been quite acceptable had it continued for an eternity. No matter, ‘Flower of Flesh and Blood’ bring an array of pink and white and brown noise and endless reverberations and humming circuitry, occasionally exploding into some difficult noise.

Forest Friends lead us through a leafy woodland as soundtracked by a crunching crackle of overloading noise: again, there are heavy hints of Throbbing Gristle, and with some woozy synth brass that trills away, their set is deeply lo-fi in its leaning. The vocals and drums are both a horrible mess of distortion, thick and dirty and it’s the sound of decay and disintegration that define the set as it gradually crumbles into a pulp of derangement. It’s a fitting end to a night of intense and challenging music, and credit goers to Nim Brut for assembling a varied, contrasting and complimentary lineup.

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Forest Friends

See you down the front for FEAST #3!

Fierce Panda Records – 24th February 2021

Here we are: it’s the end of February 2021, and COVID-19 isn’t still a thing, but just a few weeks short of a year after the first lockdown was announced here in the UK, it’s pretty much the only thing, and it dominates and dictates our lives in ways we could never have predicted back then – or, arguably, even in September, or at Christmas.

In a time when the music industry isn’t as much in crisis as halfway on its knees and wondering what the actual fuck to do while touring remains off-limits both home and away on account of the pandemic and Brexit meaning the future of the foundations of musicians’ livelihoods is in question, while at the same time the debate over the equity of streaming services for artists has stepped up several notches, the need for an indie label like Fierce Panda seems even more vital. They’ve never gone with the grain and have continued to carve their own niche, focusing on single and EP releases.

The Covid Version Sessions EP is a classic case in point: bringing together a selection of artists you probably haven’t heard of alongside a selection you really ought to have even if you haven’t, it showcases six standalone cover (Covid) version (boom boom) releases, recorded during the pandemic by acts striving to find ways of working together while apart or otherwise unable to operate as normal.

It’s an eclectic mix, with some interesting takes on some well-selected tunes. While we’ve already given praise to National Service’s stripped back, haunting take on The Twilight Sad’s ‘Last January’ (released this January), it’s Moon Panda’s slick, sultry jazz-tinged cover of ‘Call it Fate Call it Karma’ by The Strokes that raises the curtain on the EP. It captures the essence of the original, but somehow manages to sound more authentic, perhaps because of the lack of self-consciously ‘retro’ production.

I’ve long had a soft spot for Pulp’s This is Hardcore album, not least of all because of the admiration inspired by their apparent commercial suicide in following one of the biggest albums of the Britpop era with such a desperately dark pop record. But also, because it has so much more depth and resonance. Desperate Journalist have an ear for drama, so their covering ‘The Fear’ is pretty much faultless: again, it’s a straight rendition, but magnificently executed. The same is true of Jekyll’s rendition of Japan’s ‘Nightporter’, which captures the understated, brooding theatrics of the original.

After Johnny Cash, is there any point on covering ‘Hurt’ by Nine Inch Nails’? Ghost Suns arguably step back closer to the original with electronic instrumentation, and in fact swing more to the other side, landing in ambient / synthwave territory. It’s not as good as Cash, and nor is it a good as the original, but then, it was a hugely ambitious undertaking and yes, it stull brings a lump to the throat – because it seems no matter what spin you put on this song, it is a classic that can’t be contained or twisted to be anything other than a blow directly against the heart.

The Covid Version Sessions may not offer much cheer: in fact they’re draped with sadness and remind us of all we don’t have – but they also remind us that we’re not alone in being alone, that it’s ok not to be ok, and that sometimes, the solution is to just take some time out, listen to some haunting melodies and remember that tomorrow is another day, and that for better or worse, nothing is forever.

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!

AA

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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.

AA

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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.

AA

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