Monday, 12 December 2016
'Bethany' is the new single by Sussex, UK based quartet Imbium, who describe their sound as being a product of "a love of fine wine and old school rock 'n' roll music". Clocking in at just over five minutes, 'Bethany' is a breezy, reverb-laden piece of revivalist pop-rock that bounces straight out of 1989 and the ensuing Brit-pop craze. With Beach Boys-informed harmonies and a penchant for flavours of grunge-tinged fuzziness, it's an anthem which is pulled off with more authenticity than many of their peers manage.
You can listen to the song via the band's Soundcloud page.
Monday, 12 September 2016
Album: Kern Vol. 3
Record Label: Tresor
Release Date: 15th July 2016
In an age where dance music and club culture is one of the most viable gauges of forward-thinking youth abandon and streaming services continue to expand, it makes sense that the art of the mix is ever progressing as well. Berlin-based producer TJ Hertz (aka Objekt) has, since his break-out 12" Cactus/ Porcupine in 2012, become an embodiment of the notion that even in a digital age a vast gap exists between the act of searching for music and the actual listening experience. Kern Vol.3, his debut mix CD, supplies the backbone to the argument that DJ-ing shouldn't be easy, and that the smashing of expectations has somewhat become more exciting on the dance floor than fluidity.
Squeezing thirty-six tracks into just over an hour and fifteen minutes, timing and judgement of execution is pivotal for Kern Vol.3, but it never really causes one to lose focus or track of textures, beauty of time signature changes. Thematically there's a certain sense of disconnection. Many of the transitions, like the stopping dead of the tape between Seldom Seen's 'So So So' and Final Cut's monstrous 'The Escape', don't really make sense, but the tension and eventual eruption is completely seductive.
Whether the mix picks up a banging momentum or pauses for breath, the breaks and gaps often become part of the process. The off-kilter, sax-indebted bounce of Birdland's 'Can U Dance To My Edit?'- in turn a fitting mantra for the entire mix- blends seamlessly into Pollon's atmospherically infectious 'Lost Souls'. The mind-frying acid of TX81Z's 'Googol' into Polzer's searing 'Static Rectifier' is a prime example of the aforementioned pace this record gains.
Arguably the most wilfully deconstructive segment comes a few moments later. The gorgeous, classical bent of Ondo Fudd's 'Blue Dot' arrives with pin-point precision, a transmission from a time and place lost in a whirlwind of techno chaos. It's only to be subsequently upended a few minutes later however, with a fusion of Rully Shabara's disturbing vocal melt-down 'Faring' and the dramatic drones of Yair Elazar Glotman's 'Oratio Continua'.
Kern Vol.3 can seem uncompromising both on paper and in practise, but amid all the alien focus, sensitivity is never completely lost. There's plenty of eerie dystopia in the synth work of Echo 106's '100M Splutter', and the blink-and-you'll-miss-it appearance of Anna Caragnano & Donato Dozzy's 'Love Without Sound' is every bit as reflective as it should be. The deep-end becomes a little too drawn-out within the last fifteen minutes or so, but does very little to degrade Hertz' often faultless understanding as a DJ. It's a mix that ultimately makes its focus the contrast between the light and the dark, the beautiful and the ugly, and in retrospect there aren't many better suited to giving the uninitiated a way in than TJ Hertz.
Thursday, 8 September 2016
|Image credit: Ewan Munro Flickr|
Just this morning, London night-life and youth culture was delivered a heavy blow in the closure of Fabric, perhaps the country's most esteemed venue for electronic music and enjoyment. After a six-hour hearing and vehement, heartfelt support for the club from a multi-tude of venue attendees and DJs alike, Islington Council imposed the verdict, citing two drug-related deaths which took place in June of this year as the chief reason. It described the behaviour of the club's drug-search policy as "inadequate and in breach of the license".
The news has largely been greeted by widespread anger and sadness. To many, Fabric's closure is a signifier of a wider agenda of the Establishment, the latest step in an ongoing campaign against the capital's culture which has seen the decline and closure of many smaller clubs and venues across the city over the last decade or so. Hessle Audio head-honcho Ben UFO- who's addition to the Fabric Live mix CD series is one of the most lauded- tweeted that this was "the end of a long and cynical campaign against the club by the police and Islington Council which started a long time before these recent deaths". Similarly, producer and DJ Bok Bok wrote: "This isn't really about drugs or door searches. Another step towards a city full of extortionate, empty properties and all privatised space".
The inherent argument about drugs and user safety is bound to be more contentious, but the idea that the closure of a night-club somehow makes younger people safer, especially in 2016, seems rather mute. In a world where drugs in the hand of street criminals accounts for a severe portion of drug-related injury and addiction, limiting one's options in terms of community and care-centric safe-spaces is counter-intuitive. The sense of unity that existed at Fabric has been cited by regular club-goers as being rather unlike anywhere else; in a passionate article by April Clare Walsh for FACT magazine, she makes the assertion that "from it's welcoming atmosphere to its zero-tolerance policy on sexual harassment, Fabric was a place for unity".
Thankfully, it seems as though attempts to curtail and re-define London's culture has been dismissed on a powerful level. In a statement he gave this morning, London Mayor Sadiq Khan said "this decline must stop if London is to retain its status as a 24-hour-city with a world class night-life". There's support flooding through from people of many different persuasions and backgrounds, and it seems that people back action, whether it be through lobbying the club's constituency's local MP Emily Thornberry or donating to the Nightlife Matters campaign.
From a purely musical perspective, Fabric's importance and influence cannot be understated. Since first opening on the 21st October 1999 it has been host to some of electronic music's most legendary sets and performances. From its regular Saturday night residents Craig Richards and Terry Francis, to regular appearances from the likes of iconic, forward thinking masterminds like Ricardo Villalobos, Robert Hood and Marcel Dettmann, it has been a place to celebrate the most pounding, challenging and immersive electronic music has to offer. It has achieved wonders for the art of the mix as well via it's long- spanning FabricLive CD series, which for me was a pivotal, romantic board from which to dive into a sub-genre which has now become one that I hold very close to my heart. Ben UFO's Fabric: Live 67, for example, was a gaping gateway into not just the music for me, but the way in which boundaries can be pushed and expectations dissolved in the way records can be played together and bounced off of each other.
With that in mind, I've decided to create a playlist of tunes that I discovered through the legendary Fabric mix series. The playlist starts with The Undertones' 'Teenage Kicks', which was played as a closer by the late John Peel in one of the earliest editions to the series, and has since gone down as a defining moment in London clubbing history. It ends on The Walker Brothers' 'Nite Flights', which Simian Mobile Disco rounded their set off with. The epic sense of sky-gazing melody and doom-laden lyrics seem futuristically bleak. All of theses tunes, from the slinky, irresistible garage of Persian's 'Feel Da Vibe' to Mumdance & Novelist's banging off-kilter grime on '1 Sec', are responsible for some of the most profound moments of listening realisation I've had thus far.
The closure of Fabric may represent a thickening grey cloud over the city and youth's cultural heritage, but the music will always be profound to those who whom it sound-tracked formative experiences for, and people like me, who may not have delved so deeply into the music without it.
You can listen to the playlist via the Spotify web player HERE.
Wednesday, 7 September 2016
|Image Credit: basietrane Flickr|
Cheers, as always, for sticking with me and tuning in this time. Here are five brief reviews of albums released this year that I've been listening to a lot over the last couple of weeks or so. Most of them have been released within the last couple of months, with the exception of Radiohead, which came out in May. I would have loved to have given all these full reviews, but due to work and other commitments I haven't been able to. Hopefully there'll be another one of these within the next fortnight or so. I hope you find something you enjoy here. Happy reading!
Radiohead- A Moon Shaped Pool
XL Recordings, 10th May 2016
Just as lead-off single and album opener 'Burn The Witch' , with its dramatic strings and creeping underbelly suggested, Radiohead's 9th LP A Moon Shaped Pool finds them on haunting, remorselessly bleak and immersive ground. The album of theirs it shares most kinship with sonically is 2001's Amnesiac but in keeping with their most-lauded, rock-orientated '90s output thematically, it's the soundtrack to a keenly felt and deeply personal crisis of self in a time that seems to be drowning in existential doubt and gloom. It's their most coherent, fluid and organic album since Hail To The Thief; the wintry expansion of 'Daydreaming' blending seamlessly into the soft but propulsive apocalypse of 'Decks Dark' is a prime succession early on. Even the less beat-centric tracks ('Desert Island Disk', 'Glass Eyes') come across as more wholesome and immersive than anything on The King Of Limbs. It's a beautiful, sumptuous album for late nights alone and, more importantly, it seems like Radiohead have become exactly what we need them to be again at exactly the right time.
KA- Honor Killed The Samurai
Iron Works, 13th August 2016
In almost all of its sub-genres and idiosyncracies, Hip-Hop is an art form. Whether it be Future's codeine-drenched mumblecore or R.A. The Rugged Man's skull-duggery, all of it is designed to reflect and induce feelings, fears, and in the case of the more verbose rappers, actual proper stories. Despite what the New York Post might attempt to tell you, veteran firefighter-by-day and dark-hearted narrator-by-night KA is one of the most dextrous in the game, and Honor Killed The Samurai might be the best rap record of the year so far. Impeccably cohesive, sewn together by a thorough mining of Samurai culture, wisdom and largely beat-less, cold and beautifully sad instrumentals, Honor... is a depth-ridden transmission from bleak, ground-level New York. Taking in his stride a life brought up in poverty, a community stricken with violence, police aggression and the need for humanitarian care and hope, KA's husky delivery suits the distance and despair on offer here perfectly. A masterpiece.
Self-released, 31st July 2016
Chicago MC Fatimah Warner (formerly performing under the guise Noname Gypsy) last burst in the wider-world's attention proper via her appearance on 'Lost', a track on Chance The Rapper's 2013 break-out mixtape Acid Rap. Telefone is her debut full-length venture under her new moniker and any notion that she might be riding the tip of a commercially acclaimed wave is due to be crushed by the sense of vigour, identity and talent which seeps from the pours of this 10-track tape. Backed throughout by smooth, glistening neo-soul production and endearingly reverent features and vocal hooks, Telefone carries itself with a touch of F. Scott Fitzgerald elegance and class masking personal malcontent and depressed honesty behind the facade of wealth and stardom. Setting this layered and textured precedent, Warner meanders her way through heartfelt nostalgia ('Diddy Bop'), race relations and political anguish ('Casket Pretty') and multiple but captivating odes to vice and romance while barely pausing for breath. All of it is delivered with strident character and candid wordsmithery that ensures Warner has set the foundations for a new identity all of her own.
You can download Telefone for free HERE.
Hyperdub, 2nd September 2016
Given that he's prone to being deliberately obtuse, one wonders how much of an idea of Zomby's it was to leave listeners wanting on his new full-length, Ultra. The star-gazing but doom-laden synth loops of opener 'Reflection' hint at something approaching an odyssey, but unfortunately for the most part this record falls short. Atmospheres and loops either out-stay their welcome without much in the way of progression (the aforementioned opener, 'Fly 2') or are so short that they feel half-finished ('Burst', 'Freeze', 'Yeti') and void what impact they may have had at their respective beginnings. The unstable, light-and-dark see-saw of 'E.S.P.' is a highlight, as is the layered, grime-leaning collaboration with Darkstar, 'Quandary'. 'Sweetz', however, a collab with Burial, is disappointingly dry and dissonant to the point of lacking direction. There's a small handful of tracks with real promise here, but ultimately there's not much to sink one's teeth into.
Jute Gyte- Perdurance
Self-released, June 6th 2016
Man. It's all very well saying that that you like extreme music, or music that sets out to "challenge" you, but even baring those considerations in mind it's hard to imagine anyone with a palette strong and prepared enough for Jute Gyte's Perdurance. Definably a one-man black metal project from Missouri, the music on offer here is more akin to a sleep paralysis- induced nightmare soundtracked part by David Lynch, part by a possessed puppy. Opener 'At The Limit of Fertile Land' sets the stall out early with grinding out-of-tune guitar dissonance, fingernails-down-a-blackboard wails and forays into mindless electronic scree and ambience without ever really amounting to anything other than barbarism. There's some chunky grooves applied here and there but by the time centre-point 'Like The Woodcutter Sawing His Hands' comes around the commitment to discomfort is almost TOO exhausting to see the rest of the record out in one sitting. And none of that even approaches the utter horror of closer 'I Am in Athens and Pericles is Young'. Do I find this album commendable for its visionary ugliness? Absolutely. Will I ever listen to it again? Probably not.
You can download the record from Jute Gyte's Bandcamp on a name-your-price basis HERE.
Thanks for reading guys! Next time: Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, Teenage Fanclub and some more black metal, probably.
Friday, 19 August 2016
|Image Credit: Samantha Marble Flickr|
Albums: All Empires Fall
Record Label: Relapse Records
Release Date: April 1st 2016
Amongst the plethora of bands in any given genre there are always those who seem to constantly have an understanding of quality control. Brooklyn's black/sludge/post-metallers Tombs have just three full-lengths to their moniker, but their driving ambition and staunch lust for experimentation mean that they've already grasped the art of pushing the boundaries without ever really sounding uncomfortable.
All Empires Fall, a five-track EP which succeeds 2014's frankly stunning Savage Gold sees them pushing the boat out further into electronic, dystopian atmospheres and waters, finding them caught in the cross-hairs between Darkthrone and Vertical- era Cult Of Luna. In 'Obsidian' they've produced one of the finest, most scathing Black Metal assaults of the year. Furiously bleak and cascading, Mike Hill's hoarse shrieks cut right to the bone. 'Last Days of Sunlight' slows the tempo to a hypnotic, tribal crawl soaked in cavernous reverb.
'Deceiver' starts life as a pulsating, singly-note synth-driven slice of dark futurism before evolving into a rollicking, mid-paced death 'n' roll banger, and closer 'V' reaches celestial heights as it progresses.
Evolution and progression in BM, although vibrant, has been lauded and propositioned to the heavens at this point. Bands like Tombs, who get their heads down and are unique on their own terms, and the ones who we can trust with said evolution. All Empires Fall may not be as coherent as, say, 2011's Paths of Totality, but its expansive vision and brutal, tangible song-writing make it a fully engrossing listen.
Key Tracks: 'Obsidian', 'Deceiver', 'V'
For Fans Of: Inter Arma, Marduk
Tuesday, 16 August 2016
|Image Credit: Adam B Flickr|
Artist: Wild Beasts
Album: Boy King
Record Label: Domino Recordings
Release Date: 5th August 2016
Kendal quartet Wild Beasts' prospective attitude towards sex and sexuality has always tip-toed along the line between garishness and sensuality, between blunt suggestion and a multi-layered literacy. Their fifth full-length LP Boy King recorded in Dallas and helmed by John Congleton (St. Vincent, Swans) comes equipped with statements from lead vocalist Hayden Thorpe like "it was time to put on the leather jacket", and "we've become the band we always objected to being". In an interview with The Quietus, Thorpe put forward Nine Inch Nails' The Downward Spiral and The Weeknd's Beauty Behind The Madness as chief influences, citing sex as both self-deprecation and as hyper-carnal outrage. Thematically, Boy King indulges in lad culture in the most strikingly direct way, but it's not for want of a healthy (and very necessary) dose of subversion either.
Taking as its stock male sexual entitlement as weakness, insecurity and depravity, on this record it's arguable that Wild Beasts' randiest wanderings get their most tangible and repulsive expression here. On the surface it presents itself as the kind of bravado and braggadocia that holds a mirror up to ugly club antics. The songs do recoil from that aesthetic more often than not, but they also embrace it. The real question is how far do the band go to denounce the hubris of the male front, and do they do it convincingly?
For the most part the answer is that they're self-aware, introspective and understated enough to pull the trick off with texture and dexterity. On 'Tough Guy', perhaps the filthiest, most riff-centric moment the band have laid to tape thus far, Thorpe is almost immediately self-deprecating as he sings "you know the route well, you follow the old path, to a new Hell". The subtle but essential vocal chemistry between Thorpe and co-vocalist Tom Fleming rears it's head clearly on lead-off single 'Get My Bang'; "That's how I get my bang", coos Thorpe before Fleming counters with "we're going darker ages".
Album highlight 'Celestial Creatures' is not so much a rejection of depravity as a positioning of it upon a lofty pedestal ("You're a deity, and I have nothing but my beliefs"). Its imagery of champagne-sipping angels glides perfectly aside the album's most beautifully kaleidoscopic moment compositionally. '2BU' is the first example of Fleming taking on lead vocal duties and he hones in on rather terrifying, stalker-ish sensibilities as he croons "I hope you run... Let's hope I don't find you first... You know that I'm the worst". Most apocalyptic and degrading of all is 'He The Colossus', a double-edged sword of lust and accountability, arrogance and self-pity; "Do I dare to desert the universe, lest I become He The Colossus?".
Chief offender of Wild Beasts' not being sufficiently subversive is the unreservedly shallow 'Eat Your Heart Out Odonis'. Elsewhere 'Alpha Female', despite its deconstruction of male entitlement is lyrically lazy. Although Boy King is a brash and seemingly unrepentant piece of work in many ways, look closely enough through the cracks and the group's deliberate exercising of short-comings and embarrassment are intricately and interestingly dealt with. And as ever, it leaves one wondering whether the band's understanding of human nature at its most base and identifiable will ever run dry.
Key Tracks: 'Celestial Creatures', 'He The Colossus', 'Get My Bang'
For Fans Of: Glass Animals, Radiohead
Monday, 25 July 2016
Artist: Short Fuze & Uncommon Nasa
Album: Autonomy Music
Record Label: Uncommon Records
Release Date: 19th July 2016
There are few in the underground Hip-Hop game who have been as prolific in recent years as Uncommon Nasa. Having been in contact with him for about three years now, a new project is always an exciting prospect- there's always the sense that it'll be a journey, a sort of post-modern re-visitation of ideas and values that are well-cited that then get re-claimed and re-dissected to comply with Nasa's personal achievements and world-view.
Autonomy Music is Nasa's third collaborative project with fellow New York MC Short Fuze. Nasa sits back and takes control of the production reigns, leaving most of the literary character of this record to Short Fuze, whose dynamic rhyming system and sometimes intensely personal lyrical direction mean that Autonomy Music (more often than not) offers exactly the right amount of feel and atmosphere that one has come to expect from Nasa's ever-widening platform, Uncommon Records.
The record's first half (save the sample-lead, reflective and re-constructive intro of 'Art Gallery of Autonomy') serves as a more direct helping, whether it be via Fuze's self-deprecating honesty on 'The Darkest Place I've Ever Been' or the gritty, hard-nosed dissonance of 'EMPD'. The production is brilliantly judged at almost every point, and gives enough space for Fuze's laid-back but urgent tones to take the front and centre stage.
It's on the doom-laden 'Self Distortion' that things begin to get more poetically introspective. "Hell is a ferocious prison", quips Fuze with tangible vulnerability, with Curly Castro coming through with a verse the smacks of loss and disappointment. Though this track (and others before it) re-traces religious iconography, at first it's hard to know whether to take these references as sardonic or not, but on 'Time And Space' any rejection of nihilism is swiftly done away with; "Reaching for the teachings of God, when the hand that feeds is bitten off", jests Fuze cruelly, re-citing the same disdain for spiritual belief on the following 'Addicted to the Horn'. On the penultimate track 'Oddest Future', over Nasa's crushingly stomping boom-bap Fuze is almost reminiscent of Zach De La Rocha in his rapid fire, venomous righteousness.
Though Autonomy Music doesn't ever really drop the ball in terms of its thematic guidance, there are some less memorable moments. When it's at its absolute peak (the last four songs) it's steam-roller momentum comprised of reflection, personality and lyrical providence offers a vast plain of thought-provoking and musically hard-hitting listening. These days, Uncommon Records has basically become synonymous with esoteric quality.
Key Tracks: 'Oddest Future', 'Time And Space', 'The Darkest Place I've Ever Been'
For Fans Of: Aesop Rock, Run The Jewels
Monday, 18 July 2016
Album: Mystical Future
Record Label: Smgs
Release Date: 5th February 2016
Star-Gazing Black Metallers bring spacious, naturalistic but raw euphoria to bear on their second full-length
Star-Gazing Black Metallers bring spacious, naturalistic but raw euphoria to bear on their second full-length
Since the turn of the 21st century it has become increasingly plausible to suggest and even recommend Black Metal to the average music nerd, even if their forays into the heavier end of the spectrum are few and far between. To call it the "Deafheavan" conversation in this instance would be slightly unjust, because Cape Town quartet Wildernessking don't really sound anything like that band. They've far more in common with pre-George Clark USBM than that, and their second LP Mystical Future is a work of Earthy, epic proportions.
Opener 'White Horse' is a slow-burning voyage that sets out the band's penchant for raw but soaring atmospheric favouritism; the guitars are wholesomely thick, the snares crack with lo-fi, primal rootsiness. The rollicking 'I Will Go To Your Tomb' shows off their effortless construction brilliance, validated at the end by a bout of cosmic ecstacy.
'To Transcend' is a restrained but purposeful guidance through shimmering naturalistic atmosphere, the space between the notes both cavernous and barely there, the tone both melancholy and hopeful. Most glorious of all though is the 13-minute closer 'If You Leave', accompanied sweetly in its first four minutes by haunting angelic female vocals, before regaining star-gazing heights via beautiful melodic progressions and masterful tremolo picking.
The spaciousness on the record falls short of being airy and although the aesthetic is nothing particularly new, the craft and sense of emotional fulfilment on offer here carries it rather majestically. There's no question that this is a record that will appease Black Metal fans first and foremost, but there's plenty of feeling and eloquence here that many would find resonance in.
Key Tracks: 'If You Leave', 'To Transcend', 'I Will Go To Your Tomb'
For Fans Of: Agalloch, Winterfylleth
Album: Wriggle EP
Record Label: Sub Pop
Release Date: 13th June 2016
LA noiseniks release another bout of dark, sexually depraved unpleasantness with quick-fire spitting and hooks to boot
Like all the so-called "Noise-Hop" groups, Los Angeles trio Clipping.'s respect for the genre and self-assurance goes back much further and deeper than the mainstream intrigue sparked by Kanye West's Yeezus, or even Death grips for that matter. Their new six-track EP, Wriggle, is another depraved chapter in their relatively singular warp-zone. As has become the case in point with Clipping., it's not so much visionary as it is filthily entertaining.
It starts with 'Intro', a 50-second acapella lightning bolt by MC Daveed Diggs, whose esoteric portrayal of gutter-level violence leads fittingly into the banging 'Shooter', which sees him navigate his way through creative references and one-liners before rounding off hilariously on the line "caught his ass on demand, Netflix". 'Back Up' is deliriously noisy, propelled by head-spinning rhythms and bouts of melody-less scree with great guest appearances from both Antwon and Signor Benedick The Moor. The title track samples UK power-electronics group Whitehouse to near-perfection, complete with destructive snare claps and a murky acid-house inflection with Diggs shamelessly accounting a cross-sexuality BDSM situation.
Though it carries on the EP's reprobate initiative, a stellar Cakes Da Killa verse can't save 'Hot Fuck No Love' from being the least interesting moment in that inflection, and 'Our Time' is a bleak ode to loss and heartbreak that is reflective but feels slightly out of place. But Clipping.'s music has always been more about feel and violence than it has about being overtly profound, and for the most part Wriggle's degenerate oeuvre is thrilling.
Key Tracks: 'Wriggle', 'Back Up', 'Shooter'
For Fans Of: Death Grips, Shabazz Palaces
|Image Credit: Rene Passet Flickr|
Blawan (Jamie Roberts) and Pariah (Arthur Cayzar) have been among UK techno's most staple, sought after purveyors for the last decade or so, but nowhere is their vision, chemistry and sonic tenderness more evident than in their collaborative Karenn project. This hour-and-a-half set, recorded live at the MMA in Munich in April and released as part of Resident Advisor's legendary podcast series is an incendiary bosh of dark, pounding, often twisted and sometimes gorgeous improvised techno that's as banging as it is subtle, as hyper-coloured as it is subterranean. Their thoroughbred understanding is on display here, as even when you can hear them pondering which aural pathway to take next, the journey remains cohesive.
Speaking to RA about the idea behind the set, Cayzar said:
Aside from the way that we approached the tour as a whole, there wasn't really a specific aim for this show. During the tour we really tried to focus on stripping things back a bit, letting ideas roll out for a bit longer and to concentrate more on the sound rather than plugging the machines in and just going for it! We recorded most of the shows we played during the tour and, in general, we've been pretty happy with the quality of the recordings- although the fact that everything is totally improvised means that it can be hard to ever be 100% happy with an entire 90-minute or two hour set.
You can stream/ download the podcast and read the full interview with Cayzar and Roberts over on the Resident Advisor site.
Sunday, 17 July 2016
|Image Credit: digboston Flickr|
Album: The Glowing Man
Record Label: Young God
Release Date: 16th June 2016
Michael Gira's legendary noise-makers sign out with one of the most transcendental records of their career.
It's easy to look at the current state of worldwide affairs and denounce this age as the final downward spiral of humanity. Depressingly, for many of those among the most unfortunate it has all too often seemed as though their fates have been prized from their hands; gone in a millisecond with no confirmation of return or purpose. Together with his band Swans, Michael Gira has been the gutter-level voice of primal anxiety and loss since the early '80s. Since their reformation in 2009, they've continued shamelessly to force their apocalyptic purview into practice, becoming ever more expansive and all-consuming in the process; 2014's To Be Kind was the sound of entire galaxies pushing the self-destruct button. The Glowing Man, which will be their final album in this incarnation, is somewhat a depiction of the aftermath. How have our lives changed now that they're seemingly forfeit? Who is left to pick up the pieces?
Though The Glowing Man doesn't provide archetypal answers to those questions, it does reach pretty transcendental peaks via a number of passages. Lyrically it's bursting at the seams with themes of death and rebirth; not new ground in literary terms for Gira by any means, but in the context of this being a farewell of sorts it's more pertinent. Musically it feels like the band has been lifted as well. Whether it's the unfurling pathos of opener 'Cloud Of Forgetting' or the sprawling, disjointed 25-minutes of 'Cloud Of Unknowing', it's all delivered from a decrepit but lofty pedestal. The latter in particular meanders its way through sudden seismic shocks and propulsive, barren hypnotism.
On 'The World Looks Red/ The World Looks Black' there's a shift from immersive cynicism to nightmarish actualisation halfway through, chants of "Follow! Follow!" accompanied by violent stabs of brass and twisted electronics. There's chemical transcendence too via references to heroin and MDMA on 'Frankie M'. Faith is pulled into the equation sardonically with regards to Gira's Bible-imputing intonations. The monstrous title track traverses from Gira in full mental breakdown mode to the band's skull-crushing instrumental nihilism to the ecstatic peaks of volume and intensity we've come to expect.
Femininity is exuded all over this record, as it was on 2012's The Seer. The hellish female accompaniments to Gira's shamanism on 'Cloud Of Unknowing' are spine-tingling enough, but it's the disturbingly dark 'When Will I Return?' that hits the hardest. Sung by Gira's wife, it opens with the line "his hands are round my throat, my key is in his eye..." in a harrowing depiction of domesticated abuse, before becoming more cathartic as she sings "I still kill him in my sleep" before rounding off with repetition of "I'm alive".
As the glistening, soft-industrial bounce of 'Finally, Peace' reaches it's halfway point and and vocal circulation of "the glory is mine", one has to wonder if Gira is laughing at us. Has he finally been proven right after all these years of doom-mongering? Has he become a spirit, his fate finally back within his reach? And yet it feels like there's more to come from Swans. Exactly what kind of future is in store is still an enigma. It's arguable that no group has used finality more ambiguously than this one, and just as the case seems to be in Worldwide, everyday life at the moment, the hope for restoration is maybe the most profound we have.
Key Tracks: 'The Glowing Man', 'Cloud Of Unknowing', 'The World Looks Red/ The World Looks Black', 'When Will I Return?'
For Fans Of: This Heat, Sonic Youth
Saturday, 16 July 2016
|Image Credit: smokeghost Flickr|
Squelching acid bass-synths lay the basis for interweaving percussive bleep excursions. Despite the track's minimalist, student tech-house-night friendly swerve at it's core, they've maintained their effortlessly organic and analogue sound, ensuring neither boredom nor weightlessness become part of the equation.
You can listen to 'Ya' via the link above. 25 25 is due to be released by DFA Records on August 19th.
Friday, 8 July 2016
One of the latest among a growing list of UK-based wunderkinds being snapped up by South Coast promotion company Close-Up is Brighton based singer-songwriter Luke May. Having recently made waves after the release of his debut EP, Live At St. Bartholomew's Church last month, sets at the likes of the 110 Above Festival have seen his prove his mettle as a talented individual performer.
With a soulful voice reminiscent of that of George Ezra and Ben Howard and a strident sense of melody, May's music is as catchy as his lyrics are clearly written from a personal perspective set against the backdrop of a young man coming of age in a mistifying Britain. 'Home' is a ghostly, poetic homage to heartbreak, while 'Father Father' is a sort of cross-generation examination of back-stabbing, despair and hope.
You can watch the video for the live performance of 'Father Father' from the EP via youtube, and you can stream/ download the whole EP from Bandcamp.
Monday, 13 June 2016
|Image Credit: Metal Chris Flickr|
Artist: Dark Funeral
Album: Where Shadows Forever Reign
Record Label: Century Media
Release Date: June 3rd 2016
In an age where Black Metal seems to have become increasingly about evolution and less about a grass-roots belief system or sonic aesthetic, one might very well hand someone unfamiliar with the genre a copy of the new Dark Funeral album, Where Shadows Forever Reign (their first in seven years), as an archetype of conventional BM in the modern age. It’s crisp, clean production exudes modernity, and while this is not always a negative in the BM prospectus these days, the album is not as sumptuously bleak as its predecessor, 2009’s Angelus Exuro Pro Eternus.
The best moments here are those which come racing out of the starting blocks with macabre presence. The band’s reliance on ‘LaVeyan’ Satanism is still the crux of their dynamic, and married with the cascading, evil melody in ‘Beast Above Man’ and the bone-clenching fury of ‘As One We Shall Conquer’ it’s apocalyptic nihilism sounds as refreshed as you like. But the likes of the title track and ‘Temple of Ahriman’ are devoid of the aforementioned character for the most part, and despite the spiritual bent to the lyrics on the balladry of ‘As I Ascend’ it lacks any real atmospheric peak.
While it suffers from its conservatism, the fact that Dark Funeral continue galloping along with darkness as their ultimate companion is to be appraised. If any listener is of the persuasion that blast beats and maudlin fun are still the four pillars of any great Black Metal record, then Where Shadows Forever Reign is likely to appease them wholesale.
Key Tracks: 'As One We Shall Conquer', 'Beast Above Man'
For Fans Of: Marduk, Watain
Sunday, 12 June 2016
Winchester Indie Rockers Cavaliers have just this evening unveiled a new song entitled 'Gannet', which you can stream via the band's Soundcloud here.
Taking the tricksy math-rock indebted meandering of early Foals and applying some London-in-the-halcyon-mid-'80s atmosphere with layers of reverb, the song seems to be hazarding at the grandiose embellishment of Suede or The Stone Roses. Lyrically the song takes on a more mournful tone, exemplifying the somewhat desperate and introspective observations of someone in the throes of heartbreak. The tight musicianship and glossy sheen mean that the tracks gallops along with a forthright pace, and memorable flavour.
Tuesday, 7 June 2016
Album: Bless The Earth With Fire
Record Label: Self-released
Release Date: 29th April 2016
Metal will never die thanks to bands like Rochester quintet Allfather. Although massive grooves, crushing riffs and lyrics concerning the apocalypse and ugly demises are rather conservative staples of the genre’s sound, when they’re offered as viciously and as well-crafted as they are on their second EP Bless The Earth With Fire it’s not THAT easy to argue against.
Prospering under crisp production and tight musicianship, the 5 songs here follow fairly conventional structures, but are delivered with a sludgy swagger that EyeHateGod would be proud of. ‘The Bloody Noose’ evolves from a nihilistic, swamp-smothered crawl into a rollicking orange Goblin-esque riff-a-thon, while ‘Mouth of The Beast’ brings a brutally fist-pumping Hardcore inflection to bear before venturing into bluesy, slightly cosmic and off-kilter territory. The expansive 11-minute ‘Death, And Hell Followed With Him’ is a testament to the band’s skill at harnessing both atmosphere and a multitude of riffs into a wholesome epic.
There’s nothing particularly new bought to the table here, but there’s enough promise here to somewhat prove that the power riffs and darkness shouldn’t be underestimated when in decent hands.
Key Tracks: 'Mouth Of The Beast', 'Death, and Hell Followed With Him', 'Raskolnikov'
For Fans Of: Crowbar, Orange Goblin
Monday, 6 June 2016
Album: End Of Days
Record Label: Nuclear Blast
Release Date: 28th April 2016
Sometimes it’s important to re-acquaint oneself with the quintessential elements of a musical genre that made you fall in love with it in the first place. It’s been eight years since renowned Hardcore veterans Discharge last released a full-length LP, and although expectations were reservedly high, it’s likely nobody anticipated a release quite as pulverising as End of Days.
In the hands of most bands, 15 tracks with pretty much nothing in the way of variation would be a slog not worth the time, but in true Discharge fashion End Of Days is exhilarating from start to finish. Devoid of both pretension and anything besides the band’s deep-seated expertise, it’s full to the brim with all the vicious anti-establishment vigour, demands for social justice and stories of brutal warfare that you’d expect. Opener ‘New World Order’ has a scintillating thrash-affiliation while lead-off single ‘The Broken Law’ is one of the more outwardly melodic ragers on offer. Take into account the nihilistic electricity of the likes of ‘Hatebomb’ and ‘Looking at Pictures of Genocide’, as well as the skater-prone ‘It Can’t Happen Here’ and this has pretty much all the makings of not just an essential Discharge record, but an essential reversion to what Hardcore is all about.
Key Tracks: 'The Broken Law', 'Hatebomb', 'Looking At Pictures Of Genocide'
For Fans Of: Sick Of It All, Black Flag
|Image Credit: Melanie Levi Flickr|
Artist: Modern Baseball
Album: Holy Ghost
Record Label: Big Scary Monsters
Release Date: 12th May 2016
Emotion is an ambiguous and sometimes disingenuous word. Without wanting to prescribe to an over-analytical, hyperbole-ridden mindset that descends from post-modernism, it’s a word that is often contorted to fit a purview, or enhanced given a particular circumstance. It is, however, quite often easy to tell when emotion is genuine, and on their 3rd full-length Holy Ghost Philadelphia quartet Modern Baseball have certainly tugged on their own heart-strings.
An album which revels in guilt, morbidity and eventually hope, Holy Ghost is a tale of two halves. The first was penned by guitarist Jake Ewald, and the second by fellow guitarist and vocalist Brendan Lukens. Throughout these songs the lyrics run the ringer through themes of giving up, loss and distance, tensions between the band members (sometimes exacted in a fiery manner, as on ‘Note To Self’), depression and both the strains and promise of being a band on the rise.
Musically it would be easy for one to sit here and trace Modern Baseball’s lineage back. Certainly this is an album in awe to early ‘90s emo and alt-rock heritage, but its sense of melody and fire-in-the-gut pace carries it through with a grace that means it doesn’t remind necessarily remind one of how great Rites Of Spring were. It’s always nice when a band take a formula and manage not to re-arrange it but to produce songs and melodies that hit home in terms of their memorability and impact, and for the most part Holy Ghost achieves that in abundance.
It’s the aforementioned lyrical matter that sits at the heart of the record though, meaning that even though investment in a certain amount of emotional tangibility might be required on behalf of the listener, if it strikes one as resonant then it can be completely consuming. “All I found were empty cans and cigarette butts lying in dirty parking lots in Ottawa”, intones Lukens on ‘Note To Self’, before asserting that “pretending we feel safe right now gets harder every day”. The more blood-quickening ‘Mass’ is more direct in its approach to feelings of loneliness and distance from loved ones, and Ewald’s poetic tendencies are at their most forthright on the gorgeous ‘Everyday’; “You need to hide, it’s in your framework, look me in the eyes and tell me I don’t know how shame works”.
‘Breathing In Stereo’ in the record’s latter half is a near-perfect, short, sharp encapsulation of all the disconnection, desperation & hope felt in the given circumstances- “Why does it take 2000 miles for me to say I love you?” delivers Lukens with a rawness in his voice. The progression and recovery becomes most fervent on the final tracks, the excellent ‘What if’ ending in a righteously bouncy discussion of the future, and closer ‘Just Another Face’ will likely be empowering to anyone affected by mental health issues in any way.
It’s a testament to just how intrinsic a narrative Holy Ghost is for the band that it ends on a high note. The documentary they released to accompany the record, Tripping In The Dark, shows the full extent to how heartfelt the band’s journey has been, and the time and detail invested in the story telling on the 11 tracks here is the sort that can only be informed by actual experiences. As is so often the case with decent revivalist records in recent years, naysayers will likely chuck the “overly emotional” tag at this and leave it. Fine; this is a record which succeeds on the basis of its personal delivery and feeling, and for those who can tap into that it’s a total reward.
Key Tracks: 'Everyday', 'Breathing In Stereo', 'Just Another Face'
For Fans Of: Basement, The Wonder Years
Artist: Perc & Truss
Album: Leather & Lace
Record Label: Perc Trax
Release Date: 19th May 2016
Outside of the music itself, Dance music’s community spirit has always been its most fore-frontal winning ingredient. The shared essence of warm, welcoming spirit and collective inclusion that exists at the majority of raves and in the best examples of Resident Advisor’s podcast series has, for the most part, been universal in its attitudes. Fractures do, of course, exist on the periphery; Bloc founder George Hull’s much maligned comments back in March signified some of the more conservative viewpoints not washed out by the sea change. True enough, some would argue that student nights full of curly haired, MDMA guzzling rugby lads may have watered down the rave scene’s initial anti-establishment oeuvre.
However, as times change, so too do the rules of engagement, and in an age where dance music’s cultural acceptance breeds both love from a new generation and disdain from an old guard of whom many may have been simply riding a wave, there’s room for fun and abandon on both sides of the net. The marriage of both aesthetics, however, does rather take the consideration of two dab-hands, and certainly Perc & Truss are those.
There isn’t really a question of chemistry when it comes to Leather & Lace, the pair’s first collaborative project since 2014’s Two Hundred EP, because not only have they proven it’s existence before, but so intrinsic are their shared values and vision in their respective material that one can expect both linear structuring and a melting pot of ideas. Though experimentation is slightly discarded here for the biggest-room techno we’re yet to hear from the duo, almost every aspect is judged and measured to have the right amount of impact and depth. These are hard-nosed bangers for sure, but they don’t shy away from artistry either.
The opening title track is seemingly overwrought but it raises a defiant gesture towards faction development, occupying dark basements and sun-kissed trips at Dekmental simultaneously. The aforementioned restraint is used masterfully here, its trance-flavoured synths pulled back just enough to favour atmosphere over obnoxious volume.
‘Subox’ brings a slightly more feverish sweatbox mentality to bear; it’s still propelled by an enormous kick, it’s predecessor’s euphoria replaced by intoxicating acid skronks, all entwined and acting as the dormant Mount Etna primed to explode before the entire basis is laid to waste by the thunderous discordance. ‘Badman’ is most abstract of all but maintains a direct sense of heaviness, full to the brim with filthy low-end dissonance and a trippy vocal intonation. The track deals the sledge-hammer climax one feels the whole EP has been foreshadowing, consummated by quickening tension and ear-shattering scree.
Crossover appeal is often a tenuous thing, and one should not expect to hear any of Leather & Lace being broadcast on daytime Radio 1. In and of itself that’s a testament to its ability to capture both 4/4 immediacy and the atmospherics that it’s often necessary to mine deeper to find. The three tracks here are as abrasive, nasty and heavy-set as they are fist-pumping. It seems neither dance culture nor dance music can always adhere to that chemistry, so when it does it should always be treated with reverence.
Key Tracks: 'Leather & Lace', 'Badman'
For Fans Of: Blawan, Surgeon
Sunday, 24 April 2016
|Image credit: The Come Up Show Flickr|
Album: Lead Poison
Record Label: GLOW365/ Kickstarter
Release Date: 25th March 2016
In the last 18 months or so the notion of a band asking fans for money via Kickstarter campaigns has become more addressable. There is certainly a debate to be had; some may feel slightly disheartened that a band may ask for funds beyond those received via album sales and the live circuit. There's the tangible rebuttal that artists going to these lengths is a testament to how surviving in the music industry these, especially for the less corporate minded, is a battle largely fought weakened and down on one knee.
Detroit rapper Elzhi is certainly a troop in the elite corps of the latter crowd. It's been five years since the former Slum Village member released his last full-length, Elmatic, and three years since he launched his Kickstarter campaign to fuel a new record. Personal turmoil and a stint in community service for selling weed certainly seem like viable setbacks, but perhaps some people's reservations about crowd-funded projects is actually getting a return on their investment. With Lead Poison, both fans who donated and hip-hop in general certainly get that.
Upon the release of Elmatic, Elzhi's flow and ability to ride a beat became some of the most revered assets in underground hip-hop. His (by that point) lauded ability as a wordsmith was sealed in the consciousness of a wider scale audience too. Fans expecting a similar sonic scale may have to double-take Lead Poison on first listen; save for the classically soulful 'Friendzone' there are no "bangers" as such here. Everything is stripped back and reserved in order to give prominence to El's frankly magical lyrical talent. Instead of an inconsolable rift appearing between music and wordplay though, the more blissed-out and background fug-ish beats, which are at times totally beautiful and reflective, compliment the MC's zealous, heartfelt and fiercely intelligent poetic understanding. The fact that it requires patience and attention is a testament to its inclusion of an ingredient which all the best hip-hop records have; craft.
It won't come as a surprise to any Elzhi fan that soul, honesty and a witty sense of personal trouble has been poured into Lead Poison. The soundbites of pen scratching paper are a clear reference to the toils of writing an (hopefully) entirely worthwhile project. Songs like 'February' and 'Hello!!!!' deal in a modest, often morose, metaphor-laced story-telling, while 'Alienated' documents a relatable and contemporary feeling of inward and societal disillusionment. 'The Healing Process''s drumless, ghostly bleepery walks a fine line between warm and suffocating, and 'Misright' is probably the finest example of Elzhi's meticulous understanding of rhythm, rhyme and emotion.
Dated slice of vampire-based literature 'She Sucks' aside, it's necessary to pay acute attention to almost every moment on Lead Poison, and Elzhi certainly never makes it difficult for you to do so. Captivating, smart and yet down-to-Earth story telling set to a well-judged and carefully produced sonic backdrop, Lead Poison is an album that spans pretty much the whole scope of underground hip-hop. Not flawless, but pretty much always mesmerising.
Key Tracks: 'Hello!!!!', 'February', 'Misright'
For Fans Of: Black Milk, Ka
Album: Blue Wave
Record Label: Last Gang Records
Release Date: 31st March 2016
It's by now an assertion carved in stone, even within the snobbier climbs of the blogosphere and music industry, that music doesn't always have to be innovative to be worthwhile. Given that the title of Operators' debut LP, Blue Wave, may be an unashamedly self-aware bout of navel gazing with regards to the respective band members' own record collections, the desire to write decent, resonant tunes definitely presides over the want to open any new envelopes here. With that thought in tandem, Blue Wave is a record that mostly understands how to make great, simplistic song-writing strong.
At almost every turn, Blue Wave is informed by its heritage; opener 'Rome' is full of reverb-laden, lightweight Cure-esque atmospherics. The title track is a languid, warm venture reminiscent of mysterious Scandinavian synth duo Studio covering a Wham! song, and there's pounding but warped Depeche Mode-esque darkness on 'Bring Me The Head'.
For an album so reverential though it's actually the two most forward-thinking moments that prove to be highlights. 'Control' is a properly banging marriage of futuristic, Daft Punk-style roboticism and synth-work firmly based in the past, while 'Mission Creep' is propelled by tribal, off-kilter drumming and dissonant, slightly industrial-tinged keys.
Though some tunes do pale due to being slightly more in awe and less forthright, much of the craft of Blue Wave is bouncy, catchy and intricate. There are hints of a proper progressive element to Operators' vision on the best moments here as well, meaning that future albums have the potential to be thrilling.
Key Tracks: 'Mission Creep', 'Control', 'Bring Me The Head'
For Fans Of: Holy Ghost!, New Order
Thursday, 21 April 2016
|Image Credit: ManWomanGradyBaby Flickr|
Artist: Parquet Courts
Album: Human Performance
Record Label: Rough Trade
Release Date: 8th April 2016
In 2016, when The Fall aren't always particularly good at being The Fall, the blogosphere's self-imposed necessity to fill their shoes is bordering on the desperate. Parquet Courts are among those who have been shoved towards the pedestal, and ultimately your enjoyment of Human Performance, their fifth full-length, will boil down to how much you still need an annual dose of art-rock that thinks it's more innovative than it is. A few hypnotic moments aside ('Dust', 'One Man No City'), front-man Andrew Savage's dark, anxiety-laced lyricism can't save this from what it largely is; OK-ish background indie.
Key Tracks: 'One Man No City'
For Fans Of: Pavement, The Fall
Wednesday, 20 April 2016
|Image Credit: Graham Berry Flickr|
Record Label: Reprise
Release Date: 8th April 2016
Pieces about the Deftones, whether they be considering new music or otherwise, tend to pay keen attention to the band's forward thinking prowess, or how singular they were within the Nu Metal movement with which they got swept up. For me though, it's a secret of personality, both in and outside of the studio. In the lead-up to the release of Gore, their 8th album, much of the hype centered around guitarist Steph Carpenter's disparaging comments about the track 'Hearts/Wires' (which, ironically, happens to be one of the best examples of how well-oiled and unified the band are musically) and the ensuing "are Deftones breaking up?" hyperbole, only to be shot down vigorously by frontman Chino Moreno as par for the course. It's not the first time that the push-and-pull dynamic between Chino and Steph has been amplified by the press, nor is it the first time that the same tension has informed some of their best work.
In person Deftones are modest, subtly intelligent craftsmen, and that is perhaps the biggest secret to their longevity. Their music lives, breathes and exists in complete harmony with their individual characters and mannerisms. It's why their music can be cerebral, devastatingly beautiful and crushingly heavy at any given time. Though Gore can often take its time to unfurl the power of its charms and presence it offers a well-judged and generous helping of everything that makes THEM the Deftones.
Even the most pedestrian moments on this record, like opener and initial single 'Prayers/ Triangles', have at least a snippet of almost all Deftones' idiosyncracies, the aforementioned tune flitting between reverb-drenched noodling, thick, anthemic chord progressions and Frank Delgado's synths acting (as they do for much of the album) as more of a percussive instrument, goading life out of the surrounding, deeper recesses. The crushing antagonism of 'Doomed User' will appease Deftones fans of all calibres; Steph Carpenter's most monstrously riffy moment working perfectly in conjunction with Moreno's huge vocal melodies and bitter delivery rather than either element overriding the other.
Though they don't readily rely on the off-kilter side of their charm on this record, 'Geometric Headdress' is a stonking example of exactly that with Abe Cunningham's drumming providing plenty of tension in the bridge section while climbing up the intense mountain of liquid sonics with the rest of his band and Chino's lyrics exploring the human condition in direct but typically mystical fashion as he sings "vows, secrets, wake me when it's time to walk through...".
'Xenon' and the subtlety-smothered but increasingly massive '(L)mirl' are two of the more pathos-ridden highlights. In 'Phantom Bride' and 'Rubicon' they have one of the most gorgeous closing couplets of their entire career; the former a layered, slow-burning ballad made more expansive by a glistening guitar solo from Alice In Chains' Jerry Cantrell and the latter an anthemic, romantic slice of Smashing Pumpkins-esque alt.rock loveliness.
Though it's more erratic than 2012's Koi No Yokan and less in-your-face than 2010's revered Diamond Eyes, Gore can claim to be another brilliant example of the chemistry and necessity of Deftones. In a world where subtlety in rock music can either be disastrous or almost non-existent, Deftones use tension, technical proficiency and a deep understanding of both human and musical dynamics to provide a platform for a hundred elements to feed off each other and inform progressive steps forward. Though it may take a while to become clear, in terms of what Deftones ACTUALLY do for rock music there's arguably no one to match them.
Key Tracks: 'Phantom Bride', '(L)mirl', 'Doomed User'
For Fans Of: Failure, Smashing Pumpkins