Monday, 31 December 2012

Bristol December 2012

Stokes Croft, Bristol, and a weekend visiting the sister in law and her family

Typical Montpelier hallway.

The entertainment leaves a little to be desired....

Bearpit Outdoor Gallery, and some examples of the local graffiti in and around Stokes Croft.

Relaxing by the fire.

It doesn't get much better than this surely?....

Monday, 17 December 2012

Damnation Festival, Leeds University 2012 review

The Day At Damnation Festival 2012

As the cold weather finally sets in for the year, Leeds University is once again host to the Terrorizer Damnation Festival. For the devotee of intense and experimental metal, ten hours within the corridors of the university union building is a small price to pay for a feast of extremity. Facilities are however, plentiful, and there is no shortage of bar or food space from which to take solace. Adjusting to the layout of the festival, and familiarising oneself with the amenities done, the first aural treat of the day was on the Terrorizer Stage. The Atrocity Exhibit are based in Northampton and Milton Keynes, and to an already crowded venue, performed a ferocious display of high-speed and hostile grind. Those lucky enough to get hold of a copy of their limited seven track EP “What Time the Hidden Death?”, available at the festival, will be in possession of a magnificent reminder of their performance. Bands who appear early on a festival line up may suffer from depleted audience numbers, but The Atrocity Exhibit did an admirable job of engaging the eager. The same can be said for London’s Hang the Bastard who, again on the Terrorizer Stage, performed a frenzied and brutal set. There is intense, and there is intense, but Hang the Bastard almost leaves the listener violated. A number of attempts were made to investigate the activity on the Eyesore Stage at this point, but due to its elongated shape and the volume of people packed inside, any meaningful evaluation was virtually impossible.

Back to the Terrorizer Stage then for Manchester based black metal giants Winterfylleth. With material influenced by the English heritage and landscape, their performance this afternoon was tight and exhilarating, and will no doubt send many young (and old) consumers out looking for their latest release “The Threnody of Triumph”. As their name is derived from “winter full moon”, the first full moon of the winter and the end of summer, this event at this time of year made their show all the more poignant. As a resident of Leeds, it was felt crucial to return to the crowded Eyesore Stage to take in the joyous racket that is Leeds based Blacklisters. Soaked in the beer and sweat of a number of dates supporting Pig Destroyer, Blacklisters confronted the audience, grabbed them by the throat and beat them about the head with thirty minutes of unhinged and disquieting tunes. Stalking the audience with microphone wire wrapped around the limbs is the way forward in engaging the audience, as is hanging at the front of the stage shouting the lyrics to ‘Trickfuck’. A spectacular set, as usual, and in no way a biased review. Back again to the mighty Terrorizer Stage for a set by the grindcore legends Extreme Noise Terror. There are extremes in music and there are extremes in music, but Extreme Noise Terror take aggression and speed one step further. Dedicating a tune to the sadly departed Phil Vane, the band also displayed warmth and camaraderie with audience, crew and fellow band members which appeared touching in its honesty. Passing their supply of beer around the audience only goes to reinforce the respect that the band have for their followers.

After your intrepid reporter being reinforced with a cheese and onion pasty, the Jagermeister Stage was the scene for the Irish thrash metal titans Gamma Bomb. Not only purveyors of fine, intensely driven, tunes, there was also an element of enjoyment to the band which can sometimes be lacking in a performance, and was sure to lift the mood of the weary punter who has been on their legs for the last few hours. Engaging the audience as old friends is nearly always indicative of a confident band who remembers why they are on the stage in the first place. As can so often be the case at a festival event, there are several bands playing simultaneously who spark curiosity. Ten minutes of Irish extreme metal from Primordial, followed by the last ten minutes of a set on the Eyesore Stage from the emotionally charged 40 Watt Sun, led to a murderous set on the Terrorizer Stage from Norway’s black thrash heavyweights Aura Noir. If their latest album “Out to Die” is indicative of their performance at Damnation, then the reader would be well advised to seek out a copy. If old school thrash, such as that delivered by Slayer or Venom is of interest, then look no further....

Read the full piece here

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Isis - Temporal review

isis - temporal

For anyone who has an intricate knowledge and understanding of the thirteen year career of Isis, and the benefit of hindsight, “Temporal” presents itself as a history of a band who steadily evolved their sound and aesthetic to a point in which they became the epitome of “post-rock”. Layers of glacial guitar spread thickly over booming percussion, intermittently interspersed with isolated landscapes of sound, punctuated with voices that are occasionally brutal and at other times reminiscent of long forgotten, forsaken nightmares.

The first disc of this two CD set is made up chiefly of demo versions of previously available material. As we have highlighted, this provides the Isis historian with a plethora of interesting and valuable material such as the wordless version of ‘Ghost Key’ from the band’s final release “Wavering Radiant”. With this, and “Threshold of Transformation”, the account of the development of the Isis sound is charted over the disc in reverse chronological order. It may be argued that only the real Isis aficionado may be able to differentiate and appreciate the subtle differences between the versions here and the officially released versions. The percussion may come across as more lucid and less foggy in these embryonic versions and the vocals may be less distinctive and prominent in the mix. One of the previously unreleased tracks closes the first disc, the seventeen minute marathon ‘Grey Divide’. Here we have, encompassed into one piece of music, everything the Isis aesthetic encapsulated. Lumbering, yet focused tension, increasingly mounting by way of grandiose power chord progressions, which ebb and fade only to return with additional vitality and fury. ‘Carry’ and ‘Wills Dissolve’ are an intriguing insight into a band honing their sound, but in this primitive format obviously lack the stately production that uplifts the final releases....

Isis – Temporal

Read full review here....

Monday, 10 December 2012

Jez Carr, Simon Little and Mike Haughton “Foreground Music Vol.1”

For many the word “improvisation” conjures images of severe and merciless jazz musicians assaulting the audience with discord, disharmony and disrespect. For anyone interested enough in music in itself and how it can be composed and developed, improvisation can be argued to be composition in its purest form. When pianist Jez Carr, saxophonist Mike Haughton and bass player Simon Little came together for a performance they realised that, in the brief time they had to soundcheck, that channels of communication were opening and that a shared musical discourse existed between them. Keen to exploit the possibilities suggested, the trio met again and spontaneously recorded over the course of a day, one hundred and forty minutes of music that had no agenda or pre-existing intent. Remarkable considering that this was only the second time this group of musicians had actually met “Foreground Music Vol.1” is the result of apportioning down that meeting into eight pieces of music that may help the listener, who may be unacquainted with the nature of improvisation and composition, to develop an insight into its potential. Each piece is numbered I-VIII, and, from the opening delicately naive piano phrasing, the willing listener is taken on a journey across a landscape of innocent and intimate engagements. With most of these pieces apportioned seven to thirteen minute episodes, each has the opportunity to build its own character and frame of mind from the opening phrases through to the final accumulation of instrumentation and influences. The overall sensation, after hearing “Foreground Music Vol.1” from beginning to end, is one of contemplative calm, and if the listener is willing to become immersed in each piece, the opportunity for personal reflection and appraisal.  
If one needs a comparison to ground the music here, think of John Surman, Eberhard Weber, Jan Garbarek, Keith Jarrett and any other number of musicians releasing evocative music on the German ECM label founded by Manfred Eicher. That is not to say that the music here is derivative, far from it. It meanders and glances at a wide assortment of influences and techniques. So often, when discussing improvised music, clich├ęs such as “telepathy” seem inadequate, and whilst there is an apparent empathy between the players, there has also been a certain proficiency and perception in editing these vignettes down to a respectable finished product. So often, in an era of downloaded music, album cover art work can be overlooked, but special attention should be given to Simon Little’s cover which perfectly encapsulates the atmosphere of the music it represents.  As the name “Foreground Music Vol.1” suggests, this may not be merely considered to be background music that defines a space in time, but music worthy of specific consideration and scrutiny, and, hopefully, there may be more to be heard from this session on future releases.