Posts Tagged ‘Various Artists’

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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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!

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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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