Tuesday, 24 December 2013

East of the Wall - "Redaction Artifacts" album review

“Redaction Artifacts” is the third release from New Jersey’s East of the Wall and sees them further reinventing themselves after their instrumental “Farmer’s Almanac” debut and “Ressentiment” and “The Apologist” albums. The albums opener ‘Solving the Correspondence Problem’ is densely textured yet exhilarating. It almost leads the listener in to a false sense of security however as the mood and atmosphere quickly changes to aggression and bombast. A few minutes later however, the mood changes again and the vocals mellow giving ‘I’m Always Fighting Drago’ an exciting duality of sound. At that may be the beauty of this release in that there are myriad melodies and atmospheres created which appear to seamlessly weave together to create the glorious whole. If one were looking for a release to help with a definition of ‘progressive music” then this would go a long way to help.

‘Obfuscator Dye’ has a level of technical ability that would not look out of place on a late King Crimson release, and mood changes that hold the listeners interest and bring the music up out of the run of the mill “progressive” outfit. The three guitar approach is used to dramatic effect as they hazily weave through the music creating what at one moment may seem to be discordant noise but which effortlessly mutates into delicately arranged yet striking compositions. ‘The Fractal Canopy’ (the song titles themselves are deliciously enigmatic) carries on this theme of melting together technically electrifying musicianship that turns from genre to genre within a matter of moments. Any “prog head” will be more than satisfied with the escalating tension and glorious crescendo to this piece.
‘The Fractal Canopy’ is the track on the album that makes the interested listener think, “This is the track that would make me want to experience East of the Wall live in concert”. ‘Excessive Convulsive’ (another superb track title) is another example of this. Imagine how utterly thrilling it would be to hear these riffs cavorting around each other in a live setting? The production is sharp and allows each individual instrument space to shine, and is somewhat reminiscent of a jazz album production, which may or may not have been the intention, but perfectly suits the compositional style on “Redaction Artifacts”….

Thursday, 19 December 2013

Skies Below - "Prologue" EP review

Occasionally a 3 track EP release can leave the listener hungry to hear more from an unfamiliar name. This is most certainly the case with “Prologue” by Skies Below. Featuring an absurdly fascinating mix of guitar, bass, drums, vocal and…cello, each of the three songs loses no time in creating powerfully moving atmospheres.

The voice of Liz Porcayo is at once deeply expressive and strangely disturbing, almost reminiscent, it could be argued of Grace Slick from Jefferson Airplane. This element to the music lends it an almost “late 1960’s” feel which brings with it its own charisma and appeal. “Hive” for example has a variety of textures and standout instrumental layers, which pull together to retain the listeners’ attention. There are desperate pleading vocals; almost blast beat percussion and intricate guitar lines that form a majestic cohesive whole. Thankfully the use of cello in the arrangements is never used a gimmick, and sits gracefully in the mix alongside its team members creating a dense, luscious soundtrack. There is a slightly chaotic tension to the music here, which is not meant to be said in a disparaging way, as there is obviously control and narrative to the arrangements too…

Mutation - "Error 500" album review

Imagine if you can, an album that features members of Napalm DeathMerzbow,The Wildhearts and The Cardiacs. Do you have that image in your mind now? Imagine if that album also featured, guesting on vocals, Mark E Smith of The Fall. What would that album sound like? Well “Error 500”, the second release fromMutation, is that album, and for any serious lover of music, it is an undeniably essential release. Turning on a sixpence from technically dense guitar riffs and time signatures, to grind core, before adding delicate vocal harmonies, this is a release that defines fusion in its’ purest sense.

‘Bracken’ opens the album with an initial brutality that displays just one element of the sonic palette employed. There is energy and aggression delivered with breath taking technical skill, which leaks over into ‘Utopia Syndrome’. This track however very quickly mutates into a bouncing sing a long, before descending back into a sheer wall of noise. The words here, however, do not do justice to the music on offer. ‘White Leg’ has a thunderous momentum, and a pummelling chord progression that is both exhilarating and cerebral, even with a passage that could almost be taken for a traditional Christmas song. Devotees of The Cardiacs will be more than pleased with the abrupt changes in tempo, time signature and mood of tunes such as ‘Protein’, music totally for the head and heart. Mark E Smith performing on any tune, with his distinctive vocal delivery, can easily transform any piece into aFall song. Not the case with “Mutation” however. The splenic voice most of us love to hear adorning any tune is recognisable, but here we have a demented array of electronic noise wizardry to back it up.

Fans of Devo may recognise a possible Mothersbaugh influence on ‘Computer, This is Not What I…’ whilst ‘Sun of White Leg’ has the listener reeling from the onslaught of flailing blast beats one moment, before checking their music system the next to see if a mid-1970’s Electric Light Orchestra album hasn’t been slipped on by mistake. A good example of how this dense mix of instruments avoids being confused in the production is “Relentless Confliction”, which literally grips the listener by the shoulders and shakes the music into to them. “Innocentes In Morte” appears to blend Frank Zappa’s synclaver compositions with the majesty of black metal, before the album closes on a “comparatively” lighter note with the “Benzo Fury”, ever so slightly less frenzied as the rest of “Error 500” but no less majestic…

Thursday, 12 December 2013

Ephel Duath - "Hemmed by Light, Shaped by Darkness" album review

The first thing that struck me as I set up this album for review was the album cover artwork. Created by visual artists Dehn Sora and Aeron Alfrey the initial effect is striking and in a larger format could captivate the imagination long after the music inside has ended. I first heard “Hemmed by Light, Shaped by Darkness”, the first new album release by Ephel Duath in some five years, directly after listening to some mid-1970’s Frank Zappa. Whilst not an obvious comparison when hearing the music, the complexity and density of the arrangements bear a striking similarity to the way Zappa’s music comes together.

Time signatures and tempo appear chaotic, but closer listening suggests otherwise. It may be considered lazy to categorise the music here as progressive, jazz or black metal. It is all of these things combined, but at the same time it almost creates its own category. The vocal style here is guaranteed to alienate listeners who prefer the unintelligible growl, as each line is delivered just on the brink of lucidity, which somehow makes for a more unsettling experience. There is violence and aggression in the lyrics and their delivery, but also a disturbing clarity. Ephel Duath‘s dual male/female vocals on a track such as ‘Those Gates To Nothing’ add a further dimension of sound to an already rich blend.
In reality, apart from the brief interlude of ‘Hemmed by Light’, which provides respite with its tender cymbal splashes and fragile guitar, there is little to distinguish each of the eight tracks here. There are fiendishly intricate guitar, bass and drum passages, which, in a similar way to how the vocals unnerve, are disarming in their strident production. That is not to say however, that they each conform to an immovable formula, which render them tedious. Each tune appears almost as a building block in a continuous narrative and there is almost a palpable sense that the listener is being taken on some journey, with the destination being a few uncomfortable truths. From the opening of ‘Feathers Under My Skin’ the music screams progressive. A track such as ‘Within This Soil’ has a lot going on within, almost symphonic in nature, and has structure and layering that are reminiscent of some of the finest and longest serving progressive rock bands around. Occasionally it is difficult to pinpoint song structure, but this seems to be the point….

Full review here…

Monday, 2 December 2013

Damnation Festival at Leeds University – Saturday November 2nd, 2013

Watching groups of individuals descend upon Leeds University for the annual Damnation Festival of extreme metal, one gets the overall feeling that the demographic for this type of music is wide. There are men and women who, for the rest of the week, lead extremely responsible and respectable lives. But for them, events like Damnation are an opportunity for them to let down their metaphorical hair and engage with music that is both visceral and inspiring. As is the case most years, the weather outside is miserable but for those willing to spend nine or ten hours inside the labyrinth of corridors, shops and food outlets, the weather outside is immaterial. As is usually the case when entering an event such as this, the first twenty or thirty minutes are spent acclimatising to the layout. This tends to involve arriving at a room in time to see a band that you feel could have been interesting finishing their set and leaving the stage.
This was indeed the case for Black Magician on the Electric Amphetamine Stage, whose blend of doom and psychedelia filled the long, thin venue which was already full to capacity. Round the corner, then, to the Eyesore Merchandise Stage to catch French band Year of No Light, whose powers to crush were no less devastating. The Eyesore Merchandise Stage features a number of different levels and platforms from which to see the stage, and, as has been proved, in the darkness can be a minefield of steps for the music lover who has quenched their thirst more than once at the bar.
Over to the J├Ągermeister Stage for an outstanding set by Norway’s Shining. Framed by laser-thin shards of white light, Shiningplay a rabid mixture of progressive metal and jazz, which is one minute Peter Brotzman shrieking through a saxophone, the next, precision lines of angular metal which fuse together into an exhilarating thirty0five minutes. Bands early on the bill such as this do tend to suffer from only being allowed a shorter time to play, and it could be argued that Shining would benefit from a fuller set to maintain the momentum. This year the Terrorizer Stage is situated in the Riley Smith Hall which is a shorter, wider room that allows for good all-round views for everyone present. Always seemingly packed tight with revellers, the stage proved a popular sight for some of the more extreme black metal of the festival. This was certainly the case for Dyscarnate, whose set was a thoroughly blistering forty minutes, and an absolute joy for anyone who relishes having their face melted to the back of the venue by bands such as Misery Index and Dying Fetus. So impressed by the calibre of brutality on display, this reporter was soon off to the merchandise area to pick up their latest album release.
Liverpool’s SSS (Short Sharp Shock) on the J├Ągermeister Stage next and thrash meets punk over a bass heavy groove. By now everyone seems to be finding their feet around the festival and coming to terms with who they can and can’t manage to fit in. One of the main differences this year is that there are four stages hosting music, giving everyone more of a chance to catch more new music.
Back now to the dark and multi-levelled Eyesore Merchandise Stage for Berlin’s The Ocean. Previously known as The Ocean Collective due to their fluctuating line-up, the band tonight performed their set in front of some rather arresting underwater visuals which proved to be as engaging as the music. Often described as cerebral rock, post rock or any other tag that implies an expansive sound pregnant with power, their presence encapsulated the venue, and proved to be an excellent advertisement for their latest album “Pelagial”. Somewhere within the schedule the festival goer needs food and now was the time to consider the array of supermarket sandwiches, curries and pasties available on offer…

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Pelican - "Forever Becoming" album review

One always has expectations when listening to a new album by an established band for the first time. Chicago’s Pelican have a reputation for expansive oceans of sound that quite literally are the sound track to some gargantuan military like operation. On first hearing “Forever Becoming” those distinctive swathes of sound are still pummelling the ears, but now they have an edge to them. Where once they may have been ethereal in their majesty, Pelican are now showing their teeth. The departure of founding guitarist Laurent Schroeder-Lebec, replaced byDallas Thomas, may possibly have been the catalyst to spark this metamorphosis. It has been argued elsewhere that by 2009’s “What We All Come To Need”, the band had hit a creative brick wall, too comfortable with their niche sound and content to meander. Whatever one’s feelings about this, the arrangement here seem cohesive and feed off many of the elements of their previous releases. Whereas other bands that are known primarily for instrumental sheets of guitar are possibly becoming more melodic in their approach, Pelican have gone back in to the garage.

‘Terminal’ is a lugubrious opener, which draws on an industrial like template to gain its’ atmospherics. It is not until you hear the demented progressions on ‘Deny the Absolute’ that you realise what the band have achieved here. It has tight momentum, an ominous riff and could be argued to be one of the most ferocious pieces the band has ever committed to release. This is no longer music for melancholic contemplation, this is music to unpack the air guitar, close the doors and let go. The pace does not let up either on ‘The Tundra’ which barges forward over its’ five minute duration, before exploding into chaos. ‘Immutable Dusk’ does hark back to a more reflective Pelican, whilst ‘Threnody’ explores the changes in dynamic, which may have come to be associated with bands such as Mogwai….

Monday, 18 November 2013

Cave - "Threace" album review

Chicago band Cave, over their six-year history, have earned themselves a reputation as being the torchbearers of the contemporary “Krautrock” sound. Locked progressions and riffs that repeat just long enough to be irritating to hear, or fascinating to immerse into, depending upon the listeners’ proclivity. In many ways it would be too simplistic to make reference to such seminal, and oft cited names such as CanFaustNeu and Amon Duul. Reference has also been made to the similarities between their style of playing and bands such asStereolab. Sadly comparisons such as this can a hindrance in putting contemporary music such as this into context. Far from harking back to a golden era of repletion in music, Cave brings motorik right up to date.
The five tracks that make up “Threace” each clock in at around the nine or ten minute mark, and palpably push the listeners perception of what may be possible with repetition. The compositions themselves are in no way particularly complex or angular in structure in the way that some “post rock” outfits take on the hypnotic. ‘Sweaty Fingers’ for example is laden with a funky groove, which owes as much to early 1970’s Miles Davis and the relentless momentum of “Rite” by Julian Cope, as it does to the German experimental scene. The repeating motifs genuinely get deep inside the listeners psyche, as sparse guitar and bass lines scratch away for four or five minutes. Again, depending upon the listeners’ point of view, this repetition is absurd, or a deeply spiritual experience.
‘Silver Headband’ quickly puts its’ cards on the table and lets the listener know that what you will be hearing here is unadulterated repetition, with no obvious change in dynamic and no significant layering of sound. Here we have music that is trying its hardest to be interesting and different, but music which is giving the listener space to immerse themselves and allowing them permission to indulge. It could be argued that compositions such as ‘Arrows Myth’ and ‘Shiaawka’, with their suggestion of mystical jazz-rock, do benefit from, and become more accessible because of, layers of instrumentation, which bring to mind the mid-1970’s jazz-rock of Frank Zappa on albums such as “The Grand Wazoo”…

Sunday, 10 November 2013

Dylan Thomas - Poem on His Birthday

A reading of the Dylan Thomas poem "Poem on His Birthday" by Twitter users (including yours truly)...

...as part of the dylanthomas100.org celebrations.


Tuesday, 22 October 2013

Trance Lucid - Palace of Ether album review

Trance Lucid is a suitably enigmatic name for a band that plays music that is defiantly their own. Anyone expecting grandiose metal with gothic imagery, as suggested on the album cover, will be in for a surprise. A three piece from Oakland, California, featuring Dave Halverson on guitar, Terry Lee on percussion and Richard Bugbee on keyboards, “Palace of Ether” is their fifth release, and can be summed up as a carefully crafted collection of memorable, and sharply intelligent, selections of raw funk underpinning complex arrangements, which may be categorised as “jazz funk” or “jazz prog” if such a label were necessary.

Opening with “TM” which scythes a gorgeously angular riff across rock solid beats with attitude and careful consideration, “Palace of Ether” progresses with music that deviates in depth and complexity. “Spyglass” utilises a similar “funk” template but adds guitar soloing of fire and intensity. “Illumination” and “Pocket” bring to mind the work of guitarists such as John McLaughlin or, to some extent, Jeff Beck, albeit with a tension and an abrasiveness that gives these pieces their distinctiveness. Anyone concerned with the possibility that “Palace of Ether” may feature guitar soloing that never fully reaches a satisfactory conclusion, will be happy to know that each piece on this release is no more five or six minutes long. Conversely, anyone concerned with the possibility that these pieces may not be self indulgent enough will be pleased to know that within that tight framework there is economy of composition to allow liberty of expression.
Elsewhere, the album has been criticised for allowing the instruments to disappear before they have fully established themselves in the music, which may or may not be the charm of “Palace of Ether”. Each piece is almost a vignette in sound evoking a mood or situation individual to the listener. Listening to a piece like “The Crossing” illustrates this perfectly, there is space within the piece, almost stark in its’ instrumentation, but the space is used efficiently. There may be a rough edge to the production, but there is also fragility as evidenced on a piece such as “Many Rooms”. Occasionally the essence moves away from what could be described as “jazz rock” to a more straight ahead blues influence. Indeed, it seems as the album progresses, so the myriad influences seem to slide carefully in to place...

Monday, 21 October 2013

Devin Townsend Project - The Retinal Circus album review

ne of the first things to strike this reviewer, on hearing this audio recording of theDevin Townsend Project, is how much of the overall experience is lost without visual accompaniment. Recorded live, in October 2012 at The Roundhouse in London, at a concert that was simultaneously broadcast online and featured circus performers, puppets, fire breathers, pole dancers, a choir and a giant vagina and inflatable penis, all narrated by Steve Vai, there is no doubt that this was a performance that had to be seen to be believed. There is a palpable sense throughout that there is something going on onstage that we the listeners are not a party to, but leaving that potential disappointment aside “The Retinal Circus” is essentially a musical utilising Devin Townsend’s material over the years. But this is in no way a simple “Best Of” project. “It’s a musical, how gay can you get? …Right?” he declares during a thunderous version of “Planet of the Apes”. This is precisely the right way to approach this set. “It was an absurd project to start. But it was an even more absurd project to finish”.
Apparently conceived over a year and rehearsed in one and a half days, “The Retinal Circus” is “a story about a young man who goes to sleep and through characters dreams and the emotional metaphors that climax into the realisation that life is all about relationships”. As the journey begins with “Effervescent/True North”, the songs narrate the saga with equal part humour and sincerity. “Lucky Animals” features a beautifully catchy sing-a-long chorus that bounces along taking the willing riders along with it. This is grandeur theatrics that, in the hands of any other artist, could potentially be an embarrassment, but in the hands ofDevin Townsend is a glorious occasion. “Planet Smasher” is dark and severe but still maintains a tongue in cheek edge and helps illustrate the breadth and depth of Townsend’s vocal ability.
There are some stunning performances cherry picked from a variety of sources throughout Townsend’s catalogue. “Lucky Animals”, “Kingdom” and “Grace” from the more recent “Epicloud” are boisterous in performance, whilst live versions of “The Greys” and “Colour Your World” from his “Ziltoid the Omniscient” project are surely a treat for listeners familiar with his work. The “Infinity” album is well represented by “Soul Driven”, “Truth”, “War” and “Colonial Boy”, with “War” providing evidence again, if it were needed, that Devin Townsend can pull off an unruly good time song with assurance. The atmosphere is given depth however with the inclusion of songs of a more affectionate nature such as “Ih-Ah!” from the “Addicted” album. There are a number of performers who will be familiar to the devotee, Anneke Van Giersbergen is a Devin Townsend Project regular whilstStrapping Young Lad’s Jed Simon takes the stage in the second half of the show....

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Russian Circles - "Memorial" album review

The label “post rock” is one that is rather dissatisfying when it is levelled at so many artists who create broad guitar based soundscapes. This generalisation will most probably be used to define the sound of Chicago based three-pieceRussian Circles. “Memorial” is their fifth release, and far from feeling formulaic, the album shows a band that have many disparate layers of sound at their disposal.
Opening with the gently lilting ‘Memorium’ which weaves an almost sinister guitar line through fragile layers of keyboard, ‘Deficit’ fills the space with a downpour of guitar, bass and thundering percussion. Chord progressions aggressively propel the tune forward, increasing passion and tension, and leaving nothing in their wake.
“Post rock” can be characterised by a sense of drifting in sound and intensity, whereas the overall sense here is impetus and pushing ever onward. The tension is broken on ’1777′ but the underlying unease remains. The overall ambience could not be described as heavy and dense, as the guitars in particular have a heavy lean towards the treble, but the ethereal is never far from the mix. Again, the intensity builds, ebbs and flows, which holds the concentration and the attentive listener....

Monday, 7 October 2013

Momentous - Leeds Millenium Square October 2013

Hawkwind - Spacehawks review

A difficult task, when writing a piece on a band that you have followed for many years is casting an impartial eye on the material presented to you. This latest collection from Hawkwind presents one such initial dilemma; who is the collection aimed as specifically, and can this collection be seen as merely another collection of odds and ends pieced together to form an incoherent whole? Thankfully, for the Hawkwind devotee, and the casual observer, “Spacehawks”, conceivably aimed at the American market, can be regarded as a summing up of where the band are at this moment. It could be argued that such a release is unnecessary, which is a fair point. But with a band such as this, with a back catalogue so enormous and diverse, taking stock periodically may be regarded as essential to their development.
For those intimate with the Hawkwind catalogue there a few treats, “Where Are You Now” blended onto the end of “Assault and Battery” and “The Golden Void” previously available on a “Weird Tapes” release, “The Demented Man” and “We Took the Wrong Step Years Ago”. “Seasons”, which opens this collection, is a reworking of the opening track on their “Onward” album, and in its’ rough and ready format here, is a characteristically forthright introduction to the collection. The version here of “Sonic Attack” is as demented a commotion, and laden with electronic white noise, as any self-respecting fan would expect. “We Two Are One” is undeniable Hawkwindmomentum and repetitive motifs knitted together to create a sonic juggernaut. “Master of the Universe” has the fluidity that comes with familiarity, and again suggests the question “Do we need to hear another version of this tune?” If there is something fresh and innovative brought to each version, then this in itself could be a justification. This particular version also adds poignancy to the collection as it a studio recording featuring guitarist Huw Lloyd-Langton who sadly passed away in 2012...

Monday, 16 September 2013

Thranenkind "The Elk" review

One of the main responsibilities of the music writer, it could be argued, is it inform, entertain and assist the reader in choosing pieces of work which could be to their taste in terms of both musical content and the context from which it was produced. Formed in 2007 in Munich, and essentially the work of Pesten and Nathanael,Thranenkind (which can be translated as “child of tears”) are described in their press release as “vegan and/or straight edge and share interests in the ideas of green anarchism, civilization critic and left wing politics”. So this then may be considered the musical context, whilst the album itself follows a narrative based on the story of two siblings on a journey to their father’s funeral. Whilst on this journey they encounter old friends, memories and a variety of emotional twists and turns.Some may shy away from music that is described in such terms, for the listener who is receptive to dense musical concepts intertwined with carefully considered political ideals, “The Elk” is a rewarding album to discover. To listen to purely on a musical level, with no knowledge of its background, “The Elk” is a handsome collection of songs and instrumentals pieces. One cannot help but conjure up images of a dark, ominous Bavarian landscape in its expansive use of instrumentation and dynamics. The vocals are brutal yet somehow longing and fraught.
The opening ‘Monument’ exists within a framework of distant guitar lines, isolated percussion and desperate vocals barked over each layer of sound, whilst ‘Just Another Way of Expressing Defeat’ features extensive instrumental passages that ache with anguish and melancholia in equal measure. ‘My Transparent Heart’ continues musically the overall mood of profundity and seems to implore the listener to digest and consider its themes and messages. ‘Today, the Sea (Anja’s Song)’ and ‘Deleting Those Three Words’ bring together the brutal vocals, expansive instrumental arrangements and vocal samplings into a poignant mixture of ferocity and anguish. ‘This Story of Permanence’ raises the tempo slightly and brings the instrumental arrangements closer together before the album ends with the naively appealing title track with its brief, yet touching, tale of the experience of observing an elk in the woods....

The Gabriel Construct "Interior City" review


A meta-analysis of comments and reviews posted on this solo release fromGabriel Lucas Riccio suggests that the music is more or less saturated with influences and styles. For the aficionado of avant garde or “progressive” music this is high praise indeed, but for the casual listener the layers and depth of sound here may be problematic. There are certainly elements of rock, metal, jazz and classical music here which will unquestionably tick all the boxes for most readers of ThisIsNotAScene. The sound is by no means a chaotic conglomeration of these influences however, and Riccio, in association with Travis Orbin andThomas Murphy of PeripheryDavid StivelmanSoren Larson and Sophia Uddin, has crafted a signature sound which, despite being reminiscent of the Rock In Opposition (RIO) movement, is identifiably his own.
“Arrival in a Distant Land” which opens the album, develops steadily on a background of dissonant piano before the haunting vocals add a further dimension. The juxtaposition of dissonance and harmony is unsettling initially, but as the listener become accustomed to the construction of sound, the character and elegance trickle through. The percussion is, not surprisingly, very much to the forefront on many of these pieces, and many of the rhythms are densely populated. There are some truly outstanding moments of pomp and grandeur, such as the opening of ‘Curing Somatization’ which leave the listener metaphorically breathless with intrigue. Another extensive track which pushes the ten minute mark is ‘Defense Highway’, which again, is propelled along on dissonance and layers of instrumentation that are bewildering, yet on a level which many, hopefully, will understand, deeply fulfilling....

Friday, 6 September 2013

Talisman - "I-Surrection" album review

Talisman – I-Surrection [Review]

Like any style of music that is fortunate enough to find itself out of mainstream attention, never in fashion so never out of fashion, roots rock reggae is timeless in its appeal and context. An album of new material can sound as appropriate now as it would have done in the 1970’s, 1980’s 1990’s and through into this millennium. A signature bass line, rhythms that are guaranteed to have the most cynical listener “winding up their waist” and deeply conscious lyrics of slavery, emancipation and injustice, are instantly recognised trademarks of the movement.
This latest release from Talisman is a perfect example of the timelessness of this sound, and how music can be used as a force to coerce the listener into thinking more deeply how they and others coexist together. From the opening ‘Things Ah Get Tough’ and ‘Season for Freeman’ the listener is taken on a journey into the sound of Bristol street music, the resonance of urban communities and the soundtrack that binds them together. A recent support slot for a UK tour by The Selector has surely helped audiences begin to acknowledge Talisman.
Talisman – I-Surrection
For those of us who are fortunate enough to be able to immerse ourselves in dub, many of the tunes on “I-Surrection” are followed by their dub counterpart mixed by David Hill of Rootikal Productions. These versions should in no way be merely dismissed as meaningless filler, as these stripped back versions are considered by many to be the definitive way of exposing the sound, or, to paraphrase Lee “Scratch” Perry, think of this as “x-ray music”. Dub can facilitate total immersion in the music, it can allow the listener to explore how the music was shaped and it can welcome the listener in to its most insightful depths. ‘Praise Jah’ is a sumptuous hymn that keeps the mood light but buoyant. Again, the lyrics concern themselves with hope for the future whilst cleverly evoking the spirit of roots rock reggae of the past.
‘Hey Yout’ (Melodica Version)’ is a call for the youth of today to take up the mantle, saturated in dub aesthetics, whilst ‘Help Yourself’ is characterised by a palette of dynamic organ stabs punctuating the distinct chugging rhythm. Throughout “I-Surrection” the sound is given further potency and mass with luxurious layers of brass from the Matic Horns....

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

WOMAD, Charlton Park July 2013 Photos

A selection of photographs taken at WOMAD festival, Charlton Park July 26th-28th 2013

From Mali, the Tuareg Tamikrest

Max Romeo

Lee "Sctratch" Perry

Throat singing from Tuva, Huun Huur Tu

Psychedelic rock from Canterbury  Syd Arthur

The procession

Tiny Tea Tent

Gilberto Gil

Yours truly in festival shirt and hat

Lucy T at the open mic

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

United Ghosts album review

United Ghosts – United Ghosts [Review]
For this particular writer, any band that cites its’ influences as shoegaze, psychedelia and krautrock has attracted the attention from the outset. Originating from California, this is the first full length release from United Ghosts on Tambourine Girl Records. Can the band really amalgamate shoegaze, psychedelia and krautrock into a fully cohesive sound? Surely influences such as those are in danger of producing pedestrian pop, albeit with an edge? Thankfully “United Ghosts” allays any fears and instead delivers ten arrangements of unadulterated joyfulness and spirituality. The key sound is achieved somewhat by the dual vocals of Sha Sabi and Axel Steuerwald who create an almost wraithlike eminence layered upon luscious tunes. “United Ghosts” is a collection of tunes that are immediately accessible on first play, that is not to say they lack depth or authority simply that they are striking to the ears from the offset. Certainly not music to gaze at shoes, more music to gaze at the sky.
The opening ‘Echo Lake’ leisurely throbs onward over dreamlike keyboards and guitar lines, providing the perfect supplement to the ethereal vocals, whilst ‘Unhypnotized’ picks up the tempo slightly whilst losing none of that trademark wistfulness. There is certainly a sense, as the listener moves through the tracks on “United Ghosts”, that this could indeed be music from another era altogether. An almost sinister edge to the chord progression on ‘The Revolution Waiting’ takes the listener momentarily out of their previously established comfort zone. Krautrock credentials are fully recognised on the openings to ‘Modern Crime’ and ‘Holes into the Night’ which go on to develop into a delicious beds of inspirational noise, whilst ‘Sparkle and Fade’ soothes the mood with a restrained naivety...
United Ghosts – United Ghosts

Bangladeafy "The Briefcase" EP review

Bangladeafy’s Facebook page describes the bands interests as,”…to always be a student”, which, as well as being a personal mission statement for this writer, is a perfect summing up of the music on “The Briefcase” EP. With musical influences cited as including John EntwistleJaco PastoriousStewart Copeland and the Beastie Boys, the music here will be hard to categorise, and is all the more agreeable for it.
Bangladeafy - The Briefcase
Bangladeafy are essentially Jonny Germ on bass, vocals and keyboards andAtif Haq on drums who originate from New York and produce music of such joyous intensity that it is hard for the listener not to put down what they were doing and pay close attention. Imagine if you will a version of the band Lightning Bolt playing intricate passages that veer from free jazz to progressive rock via thrash metal and you can start to comprehend “The Briefcase”.
‘Fruit Flies’ features astonishingly complex lines and arrangements providing the framework for dazzlingly intense vocal. ‘Elixir’ and ‘Dumpster Fire’ continue on a similar theme, and without the vocals, showcases the density of the arrangements. Sound is manipulated and tortured on ‘Tubes’, before the listener is teased by what sounds like a familiar spaghetti western theme running through ‘Show Me the Gold’, an absolute tour de force of technical ability and passion.
The brevity of “The Briefcase” may be argued to be a disappointment for the listener who is now transfixed with the mischievousness of the music and the barrage of instrumentation on display. Reading this, the listener should not be put off “The Briefcase”, fearing it to be another collection of technically adept, but ultimately soulless, “mathcore” tunes. Exciting to listen to at home, but one must also wonder, how bracing to experience in the live context...
Bangladeafy – The Briefcase

Monday, 22 July 2013

Baroness - Live at Maida Vale BBC EP

Baroness – Live At Maida Vale - BBC
For many committed music enthusiasts the name Maida Vale is synonymous with John PeelAndy KershawJanice LongZane Lowe and Friday Rock Show sessions and any other number of exclusive sessions recorded for Radio 1 shows. Studio MV1, one of seven spaces within the complex, is one of the largest recording studios currently operational in the UK. It has been used as a venue for recording numerous classical and popular music concerts and dramas, and from 1958 to 1998 it was the home of the legendary BBC Radiophonic Workshop.
In July 2012 Baroness entered the intimate studio 4 to record four tracks from their latest release “Yellow and Green”, and these interpretations are being made available as a limited 12” vinyl and digital release. Baroness has never been a band to retread old ground when it comes to releasing recorded material. It could be said that they have now replaced their hostile, sludgy sound with one of introspection.
Whatever the perspective, the session here opens with ‘Take My Bones Away’ which, to anyone familiar with the “Yellow and Green” version, is a gloriously vigorous riff and hook laden bombardment of the senses. No less riff and hook loaded is ‘March to the Sea’ whose majestic vocal and lead lines are subtly suggestive of the song title itself. More or less psychedelic in nature, ‘The Line Between’ carries the momentum instigated by the two previous tracks into a buoyant blend of thunderous percussion, high-spirited riffs, and grandiose vocals with elements that would not sound out of place on the live Pink Floyd “Ummagumma” material. ‘Cocainium’ builds elegantly into its final riff formation, and although no less prevailing overall, takes time to build into a closing upsurge....
Baroness – Live At Maida Vale – BBC

Friday, 28 June 2013

Shining - One One One

“One One One” is the third release in Norwegian band Shining’s “Blackjazz” trilogy, following on stylistically from “Blackjazz” and “Live Blackjazz”. Successfully fusing black metal and jazz on these two “Blackjazz” releases indicated that Shining had created a sound they could confidently call their own. Metal, punk and jazz fusions have been flourishing in the works of experimentalists such as John Zorn for a number of years, but what Shining have created is a mutant hybrid that dispenses with the gravity often associated with the jazz genre and reintroduced the element of excitement and animation. The first single from this album, ‘I Won’t Forget’, is a raucous, riff-laden romp through straight-ahead stadium anthem territory whilst intermittently taking a break with outbursts of free jazz and mathematically abrupt progressive chord progressions. Despite this incongruous mix of styles, the listener is left with riffs and hooks that stay rattling around the psyche.
Shining – One One One

Having set the listener on course with ‘I Won’t Forget’, the momentum continues for ‘The One Inside’ and ‘My Dying Drive’. These tunes exude vigour and joie de vivre whilst still retaining their intellect and complexity. The hostility and intensity is forefront on tracks such as ‘Blackjazz Rebels’ and ‘The Hurting Game’ whilst ‘How Your Story Ends’ loses none of the strength and pushes forward on those distinguishing angular chord progressions. Opportunities for extended passages of distressed saxophone from Jorgen Munkeby are limited, and may prove a disappointment for lovers of experimental jazz, but those opportunities are more than made up for by nine tracks of contagious and authoritative composition....

Monday, 24 June 2013

Orphaned Land - All Is One album review

Orphaned Land - All is One

Three years since the release of their Steven Wilson produced “The Never Ending Way of Or Warrior” album and Israeli Orphaned Land have created another collection of songs that are serving to introduce music from the Middle East to a wider audience.

In 2012 an online petition was created to help promote a nomination for the band for the Nobel Prize to recognise the work they have done in breaking down musical and cultural barriers throughout the world. Vocalist Kobi Farhi has noted in the past that Orphaned Land have attracted audiences from communities that have often being in conflict but have been brought together in their love of the music,

“If we do a show in Istanbul, Turkey – which is the only Muslim country where we’re allowed to play – people come all the way from Iran, Egypt, Lebanon and Jordan just to see us. These are enemies that are fighting each other coming to see us as one group of people. I’d say that historically the Jews and Arabs are brothers because we are all descendants of Abraham, but the conflict and the differences are so big that we’ve forgotten that. Discovering the fact that our music is the instrument to remind people that we are all one is shocking to me. I never imagined that blood enemies would open their eyes because of it. That’s why the title of the album is All Is One.”

Orphaned Land – All is One

“The Never Ending Way of the Or Warrior” has been criticised contemporaneously for being excessively lengthy and overexcited in its production, and bearing in mind the 6 year gap since the preceding release, more of what had previously been heard. Close followers of the bands output may then be aware of a maturity in their latest release that highlights their ability to develop stylistically...

Read the full review here...

Saturday, 22 June 2013

Dementio13 – Imperial Decimal review

With a musical name that sound suspiciously like a 1963 horror film by a young Francis Ford Coppola, Cardiff based Dementio13 has a further release to add to the collection of sound manipulation based compositions. “Imperial Decimal” utilises the influences heard on previous works and adds into the mix a subtle sense of the hauntalogical.  The opening “Application of Number” in particular gives the listener the slightly disconcerting yet secure sense of their own past, and of memories not quite yet forgotten, but not quite fully remembered. A track such as “Taupe” has qualities that are consoling yet sinister, and conjure up pastoral horror film imagery.   The same can be said for “Known in Hell” which utilises instrumentation and sound qualities that bring to mind half remembered melancholies. There is a sinister, driving element to “Known in Hell” which feeds into a love of repetition based music that is inherent in us all. “Nobutaku”, “The Mains” and “Nought Point Seven” are tender swirling accumulations of electronics and fog, which continue the theme of “unsettling”, whilst “Jester” is a bright and idiosyncratic piece of sound management set to broken beats, producing the rarely heard genre of mutant dance floor music. Fractured passages of incomprehensible speech punctuate “Know Your Place” which otherwise melts along on swathes of keyboard and is somehow reminiscent of an imagined love theme from some late 1960’s or early 1970’s science fiction drama. Subliminal delirious speech and discordant passages feature heavily on “Filed Away” before the hallucination is broken with unyielding percussion.

A track such as “The Data People” features elements and phrases that bring to mind electronic music in the UK in the 1970’s and 1980’s, but not in the sense that these pieces are mere reproductions of that style but more in the sense that they form a tribute to the composers who were producing music at that time with limited amount of resource. “Our Policy on Swearing” begins absurdly with an instructional guide to swear words that are “appropriate” in the workplace; the comedy soon descends into trepidation however, as the words become more unacceptable, and the music that underlies the narrative more disharmonious. Far more than simply a novelty addition as a coda to the main album, “Our Policy on Swearing” is characteristic of how Dementio13 can manipulate mood and outlook within a single piece. “Imperial Decimal” is yet another absorbing collection of compositions and sound sculptures which suggest both the interests and influences of Dementio13.  And one which may, hopefully, encourage the casual listener to follow the lead.

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Mumakil - Flies Will Starve album review


Named after the six-tusked, one hundred feet tall, elephant-like creatures created by Tolkein, Swiss Mumakil release their second album for Relapse, the first in four years since Behold The Failure, and prove that although they may not be extending the margins of grind core in the way that Agoraphobic Nosebleed or Pig Destroyer may be in the process of doing, they are making blast beats and flailing guitar their own. Apparently motivated to get together to play in 2004, “…to have fun and play without any stress” there is evidence on this release suggesting the album was shaped with that mantra in mind.
Recorded by the band themselves in Geneva, an image in itself that destroys any idyllic metaphors associated with that location, Flies Will Starve features twenty four tracks, averaging at ninety seconds to two minutes in length, of devastatingly intense, yet clinically precise, grind. Recording the album, it seems, was a lengthy process due to the fact that their original bass player left due to personal reasons, and a recurrent wrist injury, suffered by drummer Seb, who was also eventually replaced. The apocalyptic cover, designed by Remy Cuveillier of Headsplit Design, is the ideal image to set up the listener for the cacophony within. Tracks such as ‘War Therapist’, despite being disturbingly fast, are propelled forward on a torrent of precision percussion and mathematically exact guitar riffs. Devotees of technical showmanship will be astounded by ‘Fucktards Parade’, whilst listeners who enjoy their grind core with a trouncing edge will be happy with ‘Piss Off (Part 2)’, ‘Army Of Freaks’ and ‘Waste By Definition’. That tightness is unrelenting throughout the whole of Flies Will Starve and will be a summer treat for anyone who enjoys being assaulted by technical wizardry and devastating drum blasts in the way that stable mates Blockheads, Brutal Truth and Rotten Sound excel...

Read the full review at Ghost Cult here

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Coilguns interview for This Is Not A Scene

Jona & Louis Of Coilguns Talk To ThisIsNotAScene

After experiencing their intense live show last year and being blown away by their first full length album “Commuters” earlier this year, ThisIsNotAScene‘s John Toolan had a few questions to put to Coilguns. Jona and Louis took time out of their busy touring schedule to answer them as fully as they could. They talked about the album, recording ‘live’, tour funding and much, much more…

What is the premise behind the tracks (and album in general) “Commuters”?

LOUIS: This record addresses ourselves as commuters; active people constantly travelling from a point A to another one called B. Somehow we, touring musicians, do the same. Point A being here the club we leave in the morning and B the one we discover at the end of the day. It may be a different club, city, country, it’s still a club. Just like these commuters, we’re part of a tribe of nomads, an informal population of rootless monkeys. And yes, we’re proud of our job.

What we usually forget is how static we actually are. We all end up spending most of our time in traffic jams, highways, petrol stations, motels, backstages. This is our C point, the one that’s not our destination but the whole way leading to it. C is the no man’s land.

Ever had the impression that your train is not really moving, but that it is the landscape itself that is moving instead? Well, touring is static. Our house is our bus and you are our visitors, not the contrary. Distances don’t get smaller, they just don’t exist for us. We make friends, they come to our show (they even bring a bottle or two) we entertain them, and they get back to their normal life. Nothing changes for us, we’re still on the road.

I made a few references to late 60′s architecture utopias. First of all because it is trendy and fun, but also because they crystallised the condition of the commuters. Plug-in Cities, No-stop Cities, Continuous Monument. This is how it feels touring the world nowadays, rock ‘n’ roll clubs are a continuum of standard equipment. Wherever we go, we’ll be sure to find what we need to survive and communicate. We’re the new nomads, and our life isn’t that far from what these architects predicted. Our tour van is our private life cell, e-mail English is our Esperanto, the world wide web is our monument.

The artwork makes it obvious : circular shapes, standard subway map colours, ocean tides, didn’t we realize the earth was round staring at the sea horizon ?

I wrote a first text named Minkowski Manhattan Distance and took it as a basis for these songs. I picked a sentence or two per track and paraphrased it into a new proper song. They all share the same theme: distance versus time, urban spaces, human relationships and so on. The usual blah blah. At the same time, these are just songs, you know, raw punk poetry to scream along heavy riffs and frantic drumbeats, there’s not so much space for clever thoughts. Don’t freak out too much if it seems absurd; it is probably meant this way.

What music has helped to inform the sound of Coilguns over the years?

JONA: At The drive-in, Botch, Breach, Deftones, Converge, Dillinger Escape Plan, Don Caballero… For some of these bands we are talking about the riffing, for some others about the production, the way they record their album (or recorded) and the way they play their instrument. Listen to any Breach record and you’ll understand what I’m talking about.

The Coilguns sound is incredibly complex yet abrasive and, particularly when experienced live, almost feral in nature. How does a typical Coilguns piece come about?

JONA: I usually come up with a couple of riffs, a draft of a structure.  I record them, send them to Luc and after a week we meet in the room and start working on it. Then we go with the flow. Luc’s really involved in the song writing at this point. He’s a good guitar player and he gives me his opinion from a drummer point of view and since I don’t know how to count he often straightened my fucked up riffs and makes them more efficient. The very first riff of the very first song ever recorded for this band (Mastoid) was Luc’s riff. We spend a lot of time both seated in the living room with 2 guitars gathering ideas on how to improve the songs.

A good example would be “Commuters Part 2”. At first I had written this song that had this kind of “At The Drive-In” vibe to the main riff (that you can actually hear on Commuters Part 1) and the rest of the song was quiet melodic. It was pretty short with a proper A, B, A, B, C, B kind of structure…But eventually, Luc decided that it was too gay and that we should focus on these 3 chords that were a simple transition. We started jamming them out, looping different guitar lines and these 3 chords ended up being 11 minutes of an unbearable build up.

So we discuss everything and we also record pre-productions. Then we listen to them and meet the next day and share our feelings about them. When we’re happy we just send it over to Louis (who never ever rehearse with us) and he lays down his vocals. Sometimes he asks us to make one part longer or shorter but usually he’s fine with whatever we do.

With the release of the full length “Commuters” do you feel the sound of the band has developed in any way?

JONA: It surely did. All the obvious influences have been well digested I think. They’re still there, but much more diluted, it’s more subtle. Then we naturally went through this unconscious process of pointing at what made us sound like any other band and what sounded like us. We then focused on the latest option and after 3 ep’s, we can say that we wrote the album that will serve as a solid base for what this band will be in the next couple of years. This apply to the song writing as well as the production. We’re just at the beginning of where we wanna lead this band to but I really think that there is a strong identity in “COMMUTERS” and the way we’ve defined COILGUNS with this album leaves us a lot of room to experiment BUT still sound like COILGUNS you know what I mean?