Posts Tagged ‘vintage’

MFZ Records – 24th June 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

Conceived and recorded between the end of 2021 and the beginning of 2022, this set reflects ‘the everyday troubles Davide [Nicosia, aka Acid Youth], deals with as an individual but also as part of a community’.

The title refers to his ‘desire to get out of the gloom and seek for a reassuring light’, and explores this theme by the vehicle of dance music exploiting the vintage Roland TB-303, produced only for a short time between 1981 and 84. It was supposed to sound like a bass guitar. It didn’t. Of course, it would later come to be appreciated, and Reverse Darkness is a concise encapsulation of the appeal of these vintage analogue machines.

Against shuffling drums – heavy echoed with some thudding bass beats – there are simmering synths that drift and wash, and a flock of fluttering tweets, all underpinned by a thick, bouncing bass groove, ‘Vibrato Brilliance’ is simultaneously sparse yet dense, and Nicosia really starts to warp things up on the dislocated retro-futurist title track.

Acid Youth very much captures not only the sound but also the feel of those early 80s dance cuts, the kind of meandering, gloopy synth works that appeared on soundtracks of movies where computers had green text on little monitors and neon lights were synonymous with the future. Being nine or ten in 1985, it felt exciting; with hindsight, it feels like the future we ended up with is a whole lot less of a rush, but hearing this inspires a kind of nostalgia, not for anything specific, but for a feeling, a sense of a near future, thanks to rapidly evolving technologies, that held near-infinite potential. Setting aside any gloom over the disappointment that those potentials now feel chronically unfulfilled as we stumble through every dystopia ever envisioned rolled into one colossal morass of shit on shit, Reverse Darkness tugs me back to the crackle of excitement that once coursed through culture.

He goes really deep on the uptempo ‘Modded Dub’, full-on bass squelch wobbling and rippling atop an insistent kick drum – but it’s toppy, and really packs a punch towards the chest rather than the gut, and in context creates a different kind of tension by way of the contrast with the thick, bassy bass, and it’s true – they don’t make ‘em like they used to.

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Southern Lord – 23rd April 2022

Christopher Nosnibor

Covering multiple works in a single review feels like a major short-changing exercise, and I feel I should apologise to the artists involved in advance. It kind of depersonalises and maybe even cheapens the coverage, and I remember how I felt when the book version of my PhD thesis finally received a review, only to find that it was in an article alongside three other books. It may have been a paragraph of praise, but nevertheless, it was a solitary paragraph in a long article. Nine years of work, 90,000 words and 300 printed pages given a one-paragraph thumbs up… meh. But still, better than a thumbs-down or no paragraph.

A decade on, it’s still not settled with me, and I always try to do better. But sometimes, bundling makes sense and feels justified and this is one of those times.

Having spent many a virtual column inch in recent years bemoaning how Record Store day has made a deep descent from being an event that served to raise awareness of independent record shops to another cash-in for major labels cranking out shitty reissues on limited colour vinyl to wring yet more funds from completists while at the same time driving some of the most shameful scalping activity anywhere on line, it’s a relief to find something positive about RSD 2022.

That something comes of course from an independent label in the form of Southern Lord, who, as a sidenote, had commendably stuck to producing outstanding vinyl releases regardless of trends, fashions, popularity, or Record Store Day, and, admirably have continued to release whatever the hell they please, with a catalogue that’s an equal balance of cult hardcore punk re-releases and cutting-edge works of crushing weight that perpetually push the parameters of metal, with recent releases from Neon Christ and Big | Brave highlighting the polarities of the label’s interests.

This pair of RSD releases exemplify this span to perfection, and while admittedly one is a reissue, the other very much is not – and as such, they represent the label’s standard release scheduling. As the press releases outline, ‘The Catatonics were one of NYC and Syracuse’s pioneering hardcore punk bands…While the band’s seminal Hunted Down EP has remained one of the most highly sought-after releases of the genre, the heightening collector’s price made this 7” inaccessible to most people. Southern Lord has now elected to re-release this EP as a 12”, with bonus tracks.” And, meanwhile, Forest Nocturne is ‘the first full length solo venture of Greg Anderson, under the moniker of The Lord. Inspired by the great horror film composers of the 70s and 80s, Anderson turns his back on the riff worship of Goatsnake or SUNN O))) and instead creates a truly unsettling atmosphere heavy with tension, offset by 90s Scandinavian death metal’.

The Catatonics release certainly gives value for money: the original 1984 7” released on Anorexic Nympho Records featured five tracks: this reissue features a whopping eighteen. Following the bonus intro cut if ‘Descending in E’, the original EP accounts for tracks two to six, while the rest is an almost exhaustive gathering of compilation tracks, early demos and live recordings, all remastered from original tapes. Only two of the eighteen songs run beyond three minutes, with most clocking in under two, and this is rough and ready, ball-busting full-throttle, relentless fury, nonstop-pounding hardcore at its rawest and most furious, and the live cuts are particularly raw and brutal, making this a unique and comprehensive document of another underground band’s short but high-impact career.

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The Lord’s debut is a very different proposition: it’s clearly contemporary for a start, although it’s steeped in vintage metal stylings, and driven by an understated and simple but gut-churning bass that digs tunnels beneath your ordinary lives. Forest Nocturne is an album that twists and turns, and more significantly, gnaws like rodents, and like woodworm, at the smooth, flat planes of sonic normal. I say ‘normal’, as if that’s a thing – but The Lord conjure vast aural expanses, broad vistas that invite the listener to bask in the rich density, before tearing it to pieces.

A slow, swelling church organ droned doomily on ‘Church of Hermann’, a piece which is truly awe-inspiring. This is an instrumental album that definitely marks a departure for Anderson and feels more like early Earth than Sunn O))). Then again, it’s doesn’t really sound or feel like either.

Thick swells of strings that build into brooding, megalithic waves, define the power of this instrumental work. ‘Forest Wake’ starts with the wail of a siren, and brings bulldozing bass and power chords wrapped in gut-punching clouds of distortion. Those clouds dissipate for a time, and the atmosphere looms large and heavy as things unfurl, but take a moment to breathe and there’s nothing to see here other than smoke and that absence… It grinds, and it absolutely fucking kills, going full Sunn O))) drone doom on ‘Old Growth’. Forest Nocturne is hard and harrowing, immense, epic, beautiful, and yet at the same time devastating. The last track, ‘Triumph of the Oak’ is a new shade of heavy, an angering mess of thrashing chords that crashes down so, so hard.

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Finally, thanks to Southern Lord, there are releases that are actually worth getting up and queuing for at the weekend.

Elli Records – 21st May 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

Mathematic graduate turned musician (Conservatory of music and jazz studies) Daniele Sciolla has, it would seem, found a suitable home on Elli Records: just look at those precise, diagrammatic, geometrically-precise cover designs.

There was a time I’d have likely dismissed all of this as one massive nerdgasm, and have been largely unimpressed by the tale of his ‘trips all around Europe searching for rare synthesisers’, but through exposure I’ve come to appreciate the minutiae that are the obsessional objectives of works like this, which really probe deep into the tiniest nuances of sound which can be achieved through the working of these machines.

This EP goes deep into the relationship between sounds, tones, and individual notes, and as the notes explain, ‘On each track, synthesisers are either presented as a timbrical mass, or left alone by themselves, in which case even the smallest details of a single synth become audible.’

Once acclimatised and accustomed to the granular, detailed explorations, it’s not difficult to grasp why there is such a fascination with analogue equipment: the extraordinary versatility they offer when all of the variables are tweaked, even infinitesimally, is a thing of wonder.

Sciolla’s five comparatively short pieces – only one extends beyond four minutes, and the whole EP is under fifteen – retain a sense of musicality that’s often absent from many experiments in analogue, and while there are many wows and flutters, and rapid-bouncing stammers that sound like ping-pong being played at a million miles an hour, there are structural elements that give the pieces shape. There are even brief moments that fleetingly call to mind Hot Butter’s ‘Popcorn’, although to be clear, there’s nothing quite so buoyant or cheesy on offer here. But there is a sense of fun, a certain playfulness – or perhaps it’s the sound of sheer joy.

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14th February 2021

Christopher Nosnibor

A Sunday is an unusual day to release a single but then, the ‘Teetering’ single release is can be considered a Valentine’s gift of sorts, from polyartist Carmina Budworth. It’s a love song, a song about falling in love, that point on the brink of uncertainty, the excitement and anticipation of something new, told vividly through hazy images of the kind of drunken night out with music and people that seem so very long ago. And as such, it’s not only a love song to an individual, a song about that moment, but can be taken as a love song to the time before everything stopped.

Recorded in between lockdowns back in June of last year, it’s a song of optimism, of new beginnings. It lands at a time when after what has been for many the longest, hardest winter, there is a growing sense of optimism for new shoots of life concurrent with the coming of spring, and ‘Teetering’ conveys that spirit of optimism tempered by trepidation.

There’s a timelessly old-fashioned or vintage feel to the song that goes beyond the traditional Argentinean tango and 60s pop vibe that’s laced with soul, and it stands in contrast with the swelling drum machine beats that eventually grow to lead the backing and propel the song to a blossoming flourish of a finish that’s entirely contemporary.

Carmina has a distinctive and unusual vocal style, which is at once soft and strong, delicate and powerful. That’s not to mention her impressive range, that spans a ponderous whisper to sky-soaring freedom, and it’s enthralling. Carmina carries the listener on a wave that builds and lifts and stops before the drop. It’s a wonderful experience.

The ‘Malica Surprise’ mix pins down a smooth electropop groove with a crisp, solid beat and bulbous bass that brings new dimensions to a song that’s already multi-dimensional, making this quite a package.

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