Posts Tagged ‘Vinyl’

Young God Records

It’s perhaps too much to convey the experience of hearing Soundtracks for the Blind for the first time on its release in 1996. Admittedly, hearing any Swans release for the first time was memorable – I was introduced in the late 80s via Children of God, which, aged 17, was unlike anything I had heard before. It was what one might call a pivotal moment. I was compelled to explore their back-catalogue, which yielded a succession of further pivotal moments, not east of all on the discovery of Cop.

For all its length, The Great Annihilator was pretty straightforward, and represented a continuation of the White Light / Love of Life albums. Just a year later, Soundtracks for the Blind was altogether different, and represented a new expansion on all levels. It was about three hours long, for a start. The third song was over a quarter of an hour long, and there were extensive instrumental passages that bordered on ambient. Elsewhere, reworkings of older songs, bent almost beyond recognition (‘YRP’ and ‘YRP 2’ emerging from ‘Your Property’ from 1984’s Cop), surfaced amidst the churning soundscapes drawn from the contents of the library of tape loops and found sounds gathered by Michael Gita over the band’s whole career. It felt like the culmination of a lifetime’s work. It felt fitting it should be Swans’ final studio album, and it seems appropriate that its remastered reissue should arrive when Gira has again called time on the band. Its arrival gives us cause to reflect on the cyclical nature of the band’s career, and the differences and similarities between their first unbroken span and their later incarnation, which closed with another uber epic in the form of The Glowing Man and followed by a live document (as Soundtracks was accompanied by the conclusive Swans are Dead, so The Glowing Man was accompanied by Deliquescence).

This is the first time Soundtracks has been released on vinyl, and naturally, its formatting and packaging is something else: as the press release and Young God website detail, ‘the vinyl package will consist of four LPs in jackets enclosed in a box with a poster, insert and download card. The box set will be a limited edition of 4,000 copies worldwide and once sold out will be followed later in 2018 by a gatefold LP version. The album will also be reissued on CD featuring a repackage of the original digipak for the 1996 Atavistic release plus a bonus disc of the contemporaneous Die Tür Ist Zu EP (a German language version of some of the material from Soundtracks that also includes unique material) recently released for the first time on vinyl in the USA for Record Store Day 2018. Outside of the USA, Die Tür Ist Zu EP will be released as a limited edition companion piece double vinyl set, also on 20th July’. Yes, as with the previous reissues, they’ve gone all put to render a truly definitive edition.

Listening to Soundtracks now, it seems that Gira, having declared the band spent in 1997, spent a long time cogitating over the directions and possibilities that this album presented, and took them as the starting point for the post-millennial iteration: it certainly shares more with this period than its predecessors, with exceptions like ‘The Yum Yab Killers’ which delivers the same kind of punch as ‘Mother/Father’ on The Great Annihilator (and recoded live, with somewhat muffled sound, it still seems a shade incongruous in its inclusion here, although Jarboe sounds so fucking fierce I’d not want to make to big a deal of it). We’re reminded, too, that Soundtracks emerged during a fairly prolific spell for Gira, and it’s perhaps inevitable that elements of other projects – namely the solo album Drainland and The Body Lovers / The Body Haters. ‘All Lined Up’ is a different version of ‘I See Them All Lined Up’ which featured on Drainland. It’s simultaneously more distorted and weirded-out, and more explosive, more driving, more… Swans.

Some of the rambling monologues are quite disturbing (with recordings of Gira’s father talking about his life and excerpts from FBI tapes, amongst other things), but then so is the musical accompaniment that provides the backdrop: ‘I Was a Prisoner Inside Your Skull’ and ‘How they Suffer’ make for uncomfortable listening.

There are some incredibly tender, raw, emotive moments: Gira’s voice, cracked and plaintive on ‘Animus’, as woodwind bursts around him from a hovering hush, is one of Swans’ most affecting moments. For a band whose back catalogue contains some of the most intense sonic brutality ever committed to tape, it’s quite a contrast, and perhaps all the more moving in context.

It’s a sprawling expanse of sound, and it isn’t entirely cohesive. Gira’s conception of sound as something malleable and his approach to dynamics would evolve immensely in the time away from Swans, and as such, Soundtracks is as much a signpost toward the next phase as a bookend to the one it belongs. At the time, it was almost too much to digest. On revisiting, the same holds true. The density of both sound and ideas, the sheer scale of the album, the fact that it condenses fifteen years into two and a half hours… of course it’s too much to bear. This was always the way with Swans: even their gentler albums are delivered with an intensity that transcends words. And this, of course, is the ultimate objective of music – to touch body and mind in ways that are beyond any form of articulation. Soundtracks for the Blind doesn’t simply touch those parts, but poke, prod, squeeze and stab at them.

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Christopher Nosnibor

We’ve been digging both Salvation Jayne and Chess Smith’s solo work here at Aural Aggro for a while now. With live dates in the offing to support the release of their new EP, Moves That Make The Record Skip, Christopher Nosnibor welcomed the opportunity to have a virtual chat.

AA: Ok, let’s get the lame, predictable, off-the-peg questions out of the way first: why Salvation Jayne?

SJ: No depth to it really. We were once in a cafe in Camden, and there was a sign on the wall that said ‘Previously called Salvation Jane’. We thought it sounded cool, so we just added the Y.

Would you care to introduce yourselves? Who does what?

Chess (pronounced like the board game) is the vocalist, Holly plays guitar and does backing vocals, Tor plays drums, and Dan plays bass/does backing vocals and also records and mixes our stuff.

Chess, you’ve been in music forever and things started happening when you were 17, back in 2008. Having been in electro act Mooli, and then working as a solo artist, what made you want to be in a band again?

I’d always loved being in bands, and had recently tried starting an all-female band of my own which didn’t really work out. Initially I’d agreed to just stand in for SJ, but it really worked and so I decided to stay.

Salvation Jayne

Your bio describes you as ‘a young, female driven alt-rock band with a distinctive dirty sound which combines elements of rock, nu wave and blues’. How do these elements combine to create something that uniquely defines Salvation Jayne?

We have the big fuzzy single note riffs of bands such as Royal Blood, and QOTSA, but often mixed which dark lyrical themes/chord changes and a chorus effect on the guitar/bass! There’s some big brooding sections not unlike Sisters of Mercy!

Anything that’s got big brooding sections that tip a nod to the Sisters gets my vote. Hit me: influences?

It’s really varied for all of us. In our sound you’ll find elements of Wolf Alice, Kill It Kid, Girls Against Boys, QOTSA and even some hip hop influences in terms of the cadances!

These guys get cooler by the second. In the three-and-a-bit years you’ve been in existence, you’ve accumulated some name-droppable fans, including AC/DC drummer Chris Slade, and The Clash drummer Topper Headon. How did that come about?

Slade is actually a customer of Dan’s. Dan records his other band and played him our stuff. Both he (Slade) and his partner have come to see the band live and really enjoy our stuff. Topper is an old friend of Tor’s Dad, and he has known Tor for years too. Tor often hangs out with him and he was keen to hear the EP, which he loved. He then came to see us live and was totally into it!

You recently released a new EP, Moves That Make The Record Skip. Would you like to talk us through the songs on there?

‘Burn It Down’ is the most recent, and the only one that was actually written with the lineup as it is now. That track nicely combines the elements of our sound described earlier. ‘The Jailer’ is probably the most blues influenced. Featuring slide guitar, although very heavy. That one is actually written about a serial killer, really gloomy in terms of the lyrics! ‘Thrillride’ was inspired by the film Natural Born Killers. It’s about a hedonistic couple indulging in a night of sin. Has a cool kind of ‘desert’ feel to it. ‘Whorehouse Down On The SE’ is another one with dirty slide guitar and even dirtier lyrical theme – it’s about the activities inside a Whorehouse!

There are a lot of people under the age of, I dunno, 30, who have never experienced the skipping of a record. Are you fans of vinyl? And what moves have you got?

Everyone loves vinyl right? Holly can moonwalk, that’s about all we’ve got.

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You have a handful of live shows coming up: given the live rep you’ve managed to build, I’m guessing you quite enjoy playing live?

Yeah we love it, get to relieve ourselves of the stress of everyday life! Haha. We always put lots of energy into our performances.

How do you fit playing further afield with non-music commitments, and are you planning more live shows to promote the EP?

We’re pretty fortunate as we all work for ourselves. So taking time off is easy, something we’re thankful for. And yeah, you will catch us all over the UK in the forseeable future!

Final, superfluous and utterly frivolous question, which I’m asking for a friend: what are your favourite crisps?

We had a massive discussion about crisps on the way to a show once. Tell your friend it’s a closely guarded secret.

Moves That Make The Record Skip is out now. Tour dates are listed below.

Forthcoming Live Dates (so far)

Aug 15 The Prince Albert Brighton

Aug 17 Hawley Arms London

Aug 25 The Good Ship Kilburn

Aug 27 Dover Music Festival Dover

Sep 23 Camden Rocks Presents London

Oct 13 Ramsgate Music Hall Ramsgate

Dec 13 NME Presents London

Pelagic Records – 29th January 2016

Christopher Nosnibor

Is the vinyl revival all a part of the mass cultural shift toward nostalgia? Were the ‘good old days’ really better, or is it simply that the present is so unbearable that the majority would seemingly wish to regress to the past? Of course, every generation has its old golden age, and it’s inevitable that the first years spent getting into anything new will sparkle the brightest with the passage of time. And so, for many, the late teens and early twenties are synonymous with ‘finding’ music and a sense of individual identity – but also a commonality. The more disaffected the youth, the more powerful the experience is likely to be.

Times have changed. Social relations are a different kind of minefield, and the music scene and industry more broadly are unrecognisable now from 20 years ago. Having recently turned 40, and as someone who spent a good decade from around the time I turned 14 hanging out and working in independent record shops and record airs, travelling to gigs and reading the weekly music inkies, I miss all of that.

This split EP is very much in the spirit of now bygone times, of record stores, of bands touring together with a shared record, and discovering new bands at gigs and bagging a chunk of vinyl (at an affordable price) at the merch stand on the way out to play at home when your ears had stopped ringing.

Whether or not the Internet has made the dissemination of music easier or better for bands isn’t the question here: it’s more about the fact that it’s stripped out all of the mystery. You can find music by any band on-line without having to venture to a toilet venue and take a punt on four bands for three quid, and similarly, you can ‘own’ the music on your iPod at a single click. Instant gratification has its downsides, and the wonder of discovery and the rush of connecting with a new band simply isn’t there in the digital age.

Cult of Luna and The Old Wind – two bands of significant standing, but too obtuse and heavy to ever trouble even the peripheries of the mainstream – evoke the spirit of the old-school on this vinyl release, which very much rewards the patient listener.

Cult of Luna offer ‘Last Will and Testament’, which is a veritable behemoth of a track which, after a delicate intro, slams in with full force. It’s a brutal beast, clocking in at an epic seven minutes – but it’s not all about the length, check the weight.

The first of the two tracks by The Old Wind, ‘Wooden Scythe’ brings a medieval fury through a barrage of guitars that hit like a battering ram, and the second, ‘Daughters of Cleanse’ delivers more of the same fire and brimstone. It’s gnarly, raw, dense and bloody. And very, very good.

Cult of Luna Old Wind Split