Sunday, 13 March 2016

The King Is Blind- Our Father

Artist: The King Is Blind
Album: Our Father
Record Label: Cacophonous
Release Date: 29th January 2016

If one listens to frontman Steve Tovey talk about the concept, ethos and building of UK super-quintet The King Is Blind’s debut album ‘Our Father’, his meticulous passion and understanding of the art his band is creating is as riveting as the record itself. Inspired somewhat by John Milton’s legendary tome Paradise Lost, ‘Our Father’, in Tovey’s words explores different ideas of Satan and; “it’s developing him as a literary character from a variety of sources, but predominantly Paradise Lost and the Book of Revelation, and his story from his genesis through the genesis of man to resurrection, to highlight that in us all is the instinct to commit the seven “sins””. 

Through a whirlwind 10-tracks that are loaded with deathly, blackened, instantaneously groovy and doom-laden presence, the intricate narrative unfolds adhering to Tovey’s assertion that the record is “not anti-Christian, not anti-religion and certainly not anti-faith”. His lyricism throughout is bleakly poetic, sitting somewhere between the nihilism of Lovecraft and the hallucinogenic spirituality of William Blake, but musically the quintet excel at creating a suitably bombastic backdrop. Whether it be filthy thrash ‘n’ roll (‘Genesis Refracted’), ten-tonne hammer chameleonic virtuosity (‘Mors Somnis’) or miserable atmosphere (‘Mourning Light’) all of it is delivered with a vitality and instantaneous chew-ability. 

9-minute closer ‘Mesmeric Furnace’ is maybe the best positioned to provide a summation of the record; grandiose, catchy and vast in sonic vision, though ‘Our Father’ most certainly has a formula, it very rarely ceases to be grimly exhilarating. 

Friday, 11 March 2016

Death Index- Death Index

Artist: Death Index
Album: Death Index
Record Label: Deathwish
Release Date: 26th February 2016

Often the most lauded record labels in the world of rock and metal are those that most prolifically take risks; Profound Lore pushing Agalloch and Yob alongside experimental hip-hop group Dalek, or Cacophonous in the UK, pummelling eardrums with fresh sounds across the Metal spectrum via The King Is Blind and Black metallers The Infernal Sea. Deathwish records take pride in both prolificacy and eclecticism, and thus it makes perfect sense for the self-titled record by Death Index, a collaboration between Merchandise’s Carson Cox and multi-instrumentalist Marco Rapisarda, to be released via the US Hardcore haven.

Despite Cox’s frequent recent suggestions that he’s become totally disenfranchised from the punk scene, ‘Death Index’ is a short and sharp slice of murky death-punk that draws most endemically from the lineage of garage-recorded, basement-orientated bands like The Misfits. It’s not like there’s anything new being practised here in terms of dynamic, but so immediate are the songs, no matter the meanderings they occasionally take, and so blood-pumping is the rush that the album’s replay value is bound to be strong. ‘Dream Machine’ is archetypal in that regard; simple and direct but rigorously tight. The discordant distance of the more chaotic moments ‘Fast Money Kill’ and ‘Fuori Controlli’ still find the time to be anthemic, and the ecstatic flow of the sinister ‘Little N Pretty’ into the dystopian dirge of ‘Lost Bodies’ stakes the album’s claim for diversity.

Entirely shrouded in a mystical fog that attempts artistry beyond the band’s simple formula, all the elements thrown together by Death Index work rather immaculately, meaning that it’s a record one could listen to twice in a day and still feel excited for a third round. 

Sunday, 6 March 2016

Charli XCX- Vroom Vroom EP

Image credit: TORLEY Flickr

Artist: Charli XCX
Album: Vroom Vroom EP
Record Label: Atlanta UK
Release Date: 26th February 2016

Those who are au fait with/ regularly listen to Heavy metal critics’ Terry Bezer and Stephen Hill’s fabulous That’s Not Metal podcast will know that a subject of some focus in recent weeks has been The BRITS. While launching a scathing verbal attack on pop-punk has beens Simple Plan’s latest full-length last week, both gentlemen referenced the state of modern pop music as exemplified by The Weeknd’s performance at the awards show, which in their words was “feels like it’s for adults”. Charli XCX seems to be one of the few artists to be launched by the major label-orientated process not confined to a completely sinister craft, and Vroom Vroom, her 4-track new EP, is a release that consummates that assertion if evidence had been lacking previously.

Unlike, for example, Rihanna’s foray into bad girl territory, which initially felt like little more than a marketing man’s exploitative wet dream disguised as redemption, Charli XCX’s sassiness has always been of a serious pedigree, whether it be via stone-faced interviews or shameless references to pill culture (‘Break The Rules’). On this EP, that sassiness finds a totally befitting, X-rated bedfellow in the form of UK producer SOPHIE, whose often mind-bendingly weird full-length LP Product took dance music culture by storm last year. The beats he offers here are also equipped with off-kilter, noisy texture, but those tropes are measured up against a seriously banging quality that, while not necessarily a new mesh in essence, feels totally electrifying.

Something else that speaks volumes for Charli XCX’s authentic approach is the chemistry between herself and SOPHIE, which both on paper and in reality makes good on the idea that their ethos’ aren’t THAT dissimilar. Both have a countenance that pushes back against the force of the radio 1 A-playlist to at least some extent, and while that could so easily have been a recipe for disjointed apocalypse, it actually works seamlessly. The grit and dirt that underpins the production and the bad-ass diatribe of the protagonist would be natural friends in almost any other genre of music, and so Vroom Vroom is a testament to the fact that, when it’s done properly, this can work in pop music too.

There are moments here that exemplify and protrude themselves as nothing more adventurous than banging pop nastiness; the title track, complete with brooding but tongue-in-cheek white girl rapping and a vicious acid synth on the second verse and ‘Trophy’, which is the closest the EP gets to student-night-club-floor conventionality are those, and as idiosyncrasies and swooshes of odd-ball noise fire in and out they maintain their catchy and fiery forte. More extravagant though is the euphoric romance of ‘Paradise’, which flits from piano balladry to a gabba/trance referencing bridge into enormous hyper-coloured Trap. It closes with the pure industrial filth of ‘Secret (Shh)’, which would be a shout for sex jam of the year if it wasn’t so sonically dark and depraved.

It might have been possible to argue that the brevity of Vroom Vroom works in its favour, but actually there’s no sense that the existing paradigms here could be uprooted and twisted to create and make space for more interesting conjectures. The whole calibre of the EP is one of confidence, sexiness and experimentation that, in the realm of the internationally lauded pop, could be a saving grace. 

Saturday, 5 March 2016

Eagulls/ Spectres Live @ Fiddlers, 3/3/2016

Image credit: xkix Flickr

Support from: Spectres
Fiddlers, Bristol
Thursday 3rd March 2016

With quality of product as a backbone, there’s something perennially beautiful about four men on a stage just making a racket, especially if they seem right at home doing it. Spectres are no strangers to the artfulness that comes with shoegaze/noise music, nor do they readily reject it. Their headline appearance at Howling Owl’s New Year New Noise event back in January was surrounded by a graceful air, but tonight, on a stage in the modest Fiddlers with no backdrop or exhibitionistic sensibilities, they excel as an actual rock band. Their deliriously groovy idiosyncrasies as students of both mesmerising krautrock repetition and the art of the riff shine through beneath the fist-clenching swathes of volume, and the energy and presence with which they deliver said bouts is almost punk rock in essence.

Energy and presence are important to keep in mind when considering what is disappointing about Leeds post-punk howlers Eagulls tonight. They begin with recent single ‘Lemon Trees’, and right from off the off they both sound great and play with the kind of precision that shines a new compositional light on their music. They impart a number of new songs, all of which seem to be of a slightly slower, more intricate persuasion, the guitar lines certainly more tame and intricate, their favoured trick of reverb being used to slightly more shimmering effect. The older favourites get an enthusiastic reception, the pit becoming most energetic during a splendid rendition of ‘Hollow Visions’. Aside from vocalist George Mitchell however, none of the band members seem interested in any particular expression, a physical presence swapped out for a willingness to let Mitchell’s reserved but strident fervour to steal the limelight. It’s a slightly disconcerting portrayal of their music, but the tunes are still raw and blood-pumping enough for the set to be enjoyable. 

Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Roly Porter- Third Law

Image Credit: Alter1fo Flickr

Artist: Roly Porter
Album: Third Law
Record Label: Tri-Angle
Release Date: 22/1/2016 

Though there have been various attempts to distinguish the embedded links between science and music using a variety of dynamics, there are few examples of artists whom in the last few years have made it an explicit part of their oeuvre. Since his early work in Bristol dubstep shape-shifters Vex’d, Roly Porter has seemed to have a deep fascination with not only Space, but manipulating it in a way that is just as visual an exercise as it is physical. Extended bouts of his solo material come few and far between, so the level of research and depth with which they’re executed is always central. His third full-length Third Law is loyal to his connection with the final frontier, as well as finding new ways to envisage a journey through it. 

Obviously somewhat indebted to Sir Isaac Newton’s ‘Third Law’ theory (“for ever action there is an equal and opposite reaction”), this LP straddles and intertwines the juxtaposition between reflection and physicality in perhaps Porter’s most wholesome way yet. In his recent Baker’s Dozen feature with The Quietus, Porter based his choices around music that walks hand in hand with depictions of the void; choices which ranged from the sanguinity of Sun Ra’s ‘Twin Stars of Thence’ to the club-friendly oblivion of SUV’s ‘Output’. Third Law is executed from a well-judged position of understanding both realities of space; movements fade until they barely exist before they’re reconvened by depth-ridden shocks to the system, every synth note forcing some kind of emotional reaction out of the next. It makes one feel incredibly small.

 It takes a lot to make the meticulously crafted feel organic and natural, but this record does it resplendently. The vast, eerie beginnings of ‘4101’ are forced out of position by blink-and-you’ll-miss-them ventures into the deepest recesses of ‘90s junglist culture before the merciless stabs of violence hit halfway through. Spaciousness and suspense are married to often anxiety inducing effect, like on centre-point ‘Blind Blackening’, which has a mid-point itself that feels like watching planets collide in slow motion. The industrial weight of ‘Departure Stage’ unfurls into an epic mixture of both triumph and anxiety, the excitement of a momentous happening muted by the fear of what might lie ahead. The bull-dozing bass stabs behind the skittering, star-gazing synths of ‘Mass’ explode with increasingly frantic but colourful narrative, highlighting the track as one of the record’s rare moments of celebration among a wealth of insecurities.

‘Known Space’ rounds the album off with more answers than with which it began; a feeling a familiarity present, even if the accompanying emotion is anticipation rather than joy. Therein lies the absolute thrill of Third Law’s diatribe, and perhaps a welcome point in the argument that Space is there to explore. Porter’s vision is vivid and individualistic, but all of its own hunger for exploration is planted deep inside the listener, majestically fuelling a sense of excitement that, for anyone other than an astronaut, can only really be fulfilled by listening to the record.