Category Archives: album reviews
When I lived in Bristol I would often walk past a building akin to a garage that carried a small sign indicating it contained ‘The Institute of Grinding Technology’. Approximately every thirty seconds, without fail, the building would emit an ungodly hissing grating sound. Lord knows what went on therein. I could probably find out, but I don’t want to. That sound, that weird mechanic emanation, was and remains a source of fascination.
I give you this as a contrived introduction to Emptyset’s latest offering. Hence, if ‘The Institute of Grinding Technology’ are looking for some background music to their next staff party they would find much comfort in Recur.
Throughout Recur Emptyset seemingly act as conductors of a murmuration of mechanical locusts. Armed with serrated wings and antenna, these nine tunes swoop, contract and change shape. The most jagged of noises continually pierce and shred all that is comfort and fluff, leaving only sharp edges and abrasive surfaces behind. It’s relentlessly and incredibly intense like Demiurge, but all the more brilliant for it.
Recur is an album that composes emotions that others steer well clear of. This is why you should buy it.
‘Recur’ (Raagthma re-edit):
If I was going to compile my atlas of super-music cities, Toronto would be on there. I’m not going to, but Berlin and Bristol would be circled as well. Oh and Austin, Detroit, San Francisco, Chicago and New York. Ok, there would be lots of places, but Toronto would definitely be on there – as this release from Fresh Snow proves.
The question of how a place becomes a musical ‘scene’ is something for a different voice, but you certainly can hear the other sounds of Toronto through the orchestral and cinematic flourishes that layer Fresh Snow’s tunes. Yet this is not some apocalyptic neo-liberal revanchist OST that other contemporary Torontonians might wish to score. In fact, on the end-credits rolling ‘Helix Pass’ there’s a real jet-age optimism, infused with a lounge-core shininess, fully amplified by echoes of Stereolab and ‘Theme from Casanova’ by The Divine Comedy.
Fresh Snow can also do scuzz with the best of them – the guitars and electronics on ‘French Horse Hall of Fame’ and ‘BMX Based Tactics’ veritably char (although on the latter these give way to yearning second half, which in turn is mirrored by the Mercury Rev stylings of ‘Los Vientos Del Tiempo’). Elsewhere the compass points to Düsseldorf with the incredible motorik wig-out of ‘Saturation Complete’ and then back to Toronto with the tension fuelled melancholy, and brilliantly entitled, ‘Your Thirst for Magic has been Quenched by Death!’
Sometimes a band comes along and takes what you know and love and infuses it with such warmth and passion that it’s irresistible. Fresh Snow are one of those bands. Buy it here.
There might be nothing more frightening than the passing of time, but it does have some advantages. In this case Ben Parker has had time to record several new Superman Revenge Squad songs, and return to a selection of older ones, with a full(ish) band. The SRS were always much more, musically, than Ben, his guitar, and a whirlwind of words – just listen to Martin Webb’s cello on ‘The Summer We Finally Cut Our Hair’, for example, from Dead Crow Blues. But the addition of a mix of saxophone, accordion, piano and cello gives these songs added depth. As do the drums, of course, because Adam Parker is there too. That, plus the fact that There… is released by Audio Antihero means that this is, in some sense, a bit like getting another Nosferatu D2 album.
If you’re not a regular BBO reader (ha) that might not mean that much, but Nosferatu D2 made one of the best albums of the last ten years (which we reviewed here). One of the reasons I love that album so much is the collision of Ben Parker’s smart, witty, self-conscious lyrics with brother Adam’s busy drumming, both often delivered at some pace. These songs now have that, and are equally good examples of Ben Parker’s songwriting and lyrical brilliance (he’s certainly the only singer-songwriter I’d trust to write about wrestling, or the Rocky films, or Flavor Flav). So the passing of time has been good for something, at least.
This is perhaps the best example, though the drumming is quite restrained: ‘The Angriest Dog In The World’, sounding quite wonderful.
You can pre-order this lovely album, out 14th of October, from Audio Antihero here – digital (£3) or very limited CD (£4) – and if you need any more persuasion, here’s the new song ‘A Funny Thing You Said’, which is also a free download.
“How was that?” Parker asks, at the end of ‘Angriest Dog In The World.’ It was great, Ben. What’s next?
PS – you can stream the whole album at Bearded Magazine here.
We were privileged and honoured to be sent this album ahead of its release on 7th of October on Rocket Recordings. We’ve been kneeling for the MASTER for over four weeks now. Here’s our gushings…
Moments of utter jaw-dropping majesty abound on this album. Such instances of breath-taking scale come early on – around four and half minutes into opening track ‘Reaper’ to be almost precise. And from there, the expansive-cum-cosmic is heralded midway through the brilliant ‘Black Strategy’ or again in the swirling phantasms of ‘Siren Spectre’.
From such a description you might think this is an album all about ascension and transcendence, especially given the Christ like figure that centres the artwork: with all-too-human innards on show, the heavenwards body takes leave of the earthly and the finite. Yet repeatedly this album has a claustrophobia bounded by the skin and the labyrinthine city that is firmly (under)grounded and bound to the earth: the visceral gonzoid noise-filth of ‘All Human Is Error’ being one example of this, or the paranoic poetry of ‘Put Me On Your Shoulders So I Can See The Rats’ being another. Master is composed as much by bodily discharge as heavenly effluvia.
The intriguing and beautifully schizoid nature of Master is again made evident on ‘Pleiades Underground/ Inexorable Master’. Seemingly a travelogue through the underworld and vast caverns of belittling grandeur, all sense of serene drifting and tranquil magnificence is disrupted and humiliated before a hellish vision given shape by a bastard-Beelzebub colossal riff. In the worlds of Teeth of the Sea, everything that seems perfected and at peace is actually diseased and conflicted.
And then there’s final track ‘Responder’. Pensive throbs, cardiogrammatic twitches, skin scorching static and abbreviated riffs meet and mingle with guitar melodies taking flight, the horns of avenging Angelic hordes and a purposive pomp-stomp that hints at a coming redemption. Perhaps here we will see the resolution and synthesis of the beautiful contradictions that shape Master? Perhaps this atonement “will happen in a moment, in the blink of an eye, when the last trumpet is blown. For when the trumpet sounds, those who have died will be raised to live forever. And we who are living will also be transformed” (1 Corinthians 15:52)?
Fat fucking chance! Teeth of the Sea are far too bloody canny to bring about a cosy synthesis and they’re far too shrewd to deliver redemption. And, of course, therein lies Teeth of the Sea’s magnificence and power.
This is an album simultaneously transcendental and primeval in its intent, scope and achievements. This is Teeth of the Sea’s masterpiece.
You can pre-order Master here.
Here’s ‘Reaper’ live at this year’s Roadburn festival:
And a bloody scary preview vid:
And ‘Black Strategy’ live at Café OTO in March 2013:
Chop, or Mr Chop, or Coz Littler (take your pick) seemingly inhabits Ape Recording Studios in Cheshire which acts as a repository for vintage analogics of all shapes, tones and timbres. One assumes that Illuminate has emerged from said space. One thing is for sure – Mr. Chop the curator has made these machines do his bidding with panache and elegance.
One of the trite ripostes to electronic music is that it lacks a “certain humanity” (the equally clichéd “it lacks soul” I completely pompously refuse to deal with any longer). This (surely) can’t be said of Illuminate which charts the interface of humanity and technology with emotion and feeling. Indeed, there is a palpable sense of wry humour here. This is not a po-faced album: it’s one that persistently grins into your face and ear-holes with its multiple musical references, voices vocodered and filtered, and titles (‘Bow Down To The Mutant’, ‘You Want More Life’, ‘Picture Box’).
Illuminate overflows with bubbles and interference, crackles and electro-cackles, with grand symphonic gestures, with ground-shaking mega-chords and more besides. It sits at the glorious intersection of Add N To X and Holy Fuck, or Afrika Bambaataa and Tangerine Dream. It’s really great.
And a great mix here.
The strength of any compilation is equal to the consistency of its content – this much is obvious and true. After the first few listens, too many albums sit in the ‘Various Artists’ folder and get little to no airplay. This is due mainly to that duff track; that track that is always looming and waiting to annoy your ears such that it colours your pleasure irrespective of how speedy your fast-forward finger is. Well, somewhat unsurprisingly the curatorial excellence of The Outer Church and Front & Follow have combined to produce an anthology that requires no readiness to press skip. In fact, there are so many brilliant highlights here I feel duty bound to eulogise as many as possible.
Commencing this epic 28 track collection, Embla Quickbeam produces an incredible study in harmonics meeting a babbling sea. Some Truths (aka Bass Clef) gives an engaging lesson in bass and high end bleepology. BBO favourites, Pye Corner Audio builds the tension superbly with sweeping analogics, filters tweaked and a bass line on the verge of something famously Radiophonic. Black Mountain Transmitter are wonderfully crepuscular in their idiosyncratic musique concrète, whist The Wyrding Module present something even more creeping and shadowy. Position Normal do bubbling flamenco oddness. Old Apparatus harness spooky strings, as VHS Head parades a grinning jittered funk cut-up. There’s skewed and spooked dub-techno from Broken Three and Graham Reznick’s treats the ears to some electro-stomp. Wrong Signals gently build the kosmische weird, Sone Institute time-travel to a time of booty-shaking electric boogaloo and Tidal’s ‘Scry Baby’ is the aural equivalent of luxuriously polished obsidian.
If forced to pick a standout track it would have to be Baron Mordant & Mr Maxted’s ‘Roehampton at Night’ – a throbbing masterpiece with glittering interjections that makes the experience of its title both apparently dreadful and strangely appealing.
Pye Corner Audio ‘Black Mist’:
Hacker Farm ‘Bluebeam’:
Broken Three ’96D’:
Trensmat Records is rapidly becoming my label of the year. Having released GNOD in their Dwellings and Druss formation [review], they’ve now delivered one of the most stupendously intense albums of the last six months in the shape of Whirling Hall of Knive’s Devisions.
This intensity is composed through God-forsaken dirty krautscuzz (‘Wraith/Donn Amokk’ and ‘9xReal’), sustained minimal rhythmic tones (‘Tapheslip’) and fearful buzzdrone (‘Immureme’). Conspicuous in its glow of brilliance is ‘Alternate Devil (Dvaita)’: a ritual melt of scorching and searing fuzz, oblivion pulverized drums and throbbing haze which sounds like the band seeking salvation through noise from eternal damnation. Final track ‘Lonclusion’ threatens to tear out innards and fry them with its fiery and burning electronics.
This is the sort of soul music that might actually deliver on its promise of deliverance and redemption. ‘Devisions’ is a singularly immersive and powerful experience.
‘Alternate Devil (Tamas)’:
From their 2011 release Green Glow Bridge/Red Glow Bridge:
And from a 7” back in 2010:
Big-hearted Jamie Audio Antihero has put together another excellent charity compilation – in fact I think this is the best yet. There’s the big names – well, you know what I mean – who are already Friends of the Label (Jeffrey Lewis, Darren Hayman, both lovely songs); the amazing turn-out of the label’s own stars (Wartgore Hellsnicker, Ben Shaw, Jack Hayter, Paul Hawkins & the Awkward Silences, Broken Shoulder and Fighting Kites… plus new AAH band Cloud, who we will be hearing more from soon); the post-AAH bands (The Jonbarr Hinge); and some established/emerging bands like The Society of Poor Academics and Internet Forever.
That sounds like a lot of tracks? Damn right it is – 31 songs, nearly 2 hours. And it’s great. The mighty Wartgore contribute nearly 8 minutes of craziness, the rest of the AAH roster contribute alternative takes and hard-to-find stuff, and there are other crackers scattered throughout the rest of the collection. It manages to be both a great AAH sampler and an end-of-term report on the class of 2013, like those cassettes you used to get on the front of magazines.
And it supports a very good cause – Rape Crisis England & Wales and Rape Crisis Scotland. You can get the compilation for a minimum donation of £3.99 or you could pay more. £4+ for 2 hours of music. What are you waiting for? Stream the lot then buy it here – though I should warn you that Jamie’s track-by-track guide includes puzzling wrestling chat.
If you want a taster then I suggest these two tracks. First, this lovely version of Jack Hayter’s ‘Sweet JD’, one of my personal favourites from his Sisters of St Anthony singles series, which is also highly recommended; find it here.
And second, this little belter from Internet Forever, from their album of last year. This is perfect pop, somewhere in the vicinity of Helen Love. The album can be found here.
Jon Hopkins is evidently a very talented chap and someone I’ve been meaning to investigate for some time given he keeps blipping across my radar. This, I’m almost ashamed to say, is my first proper foray into his world (apart from the obvious remixes). And my word what a fantastic sortie it has turned out to be.
Immunity is an album that is shaped and crafted from sounds-found rather than sounds-pre-packaged. One imagines Mr. Hopkins sits in his studio carefully picking through boxes labelled ‘sounds of loose wiring and unreliable audio connections’ and another stickered ‘miscellaneous crunchy bits’. These parts are then sequenced with enough beautiful bass to shake your fillings and loosen any jewellery you might have about your person. This is particularly so on standout track ‘Open Eye Signal’ which absolutely begs reception from the writhing warmth of a bog-eyed crowd, most appropriately in a decommissioned power station.
On ‘Breathe This Air’ the tone becomes more suitably aerial with Hopkins managing to expertly resuscitate the too-often used ‘lonely-piano-in-empty-room aesthetic’. The crunching assault of ‘Collider’ counterpoints perfectly with the utter melancholia of ‘Abandon Window’ – a tune which only the heartlessly unemotional would find unmoving.
The brilliance of this album is found in its capacity to string you up in a web of emotional contradictions – of melancholia and joy, of despair and love, of isolation and the need for the warmth of your closest. Such sublime incongruity is something that makes the best music. [BUY]
‘Open Eye Signal’:
Vision Fortune make taught and tense tunes. Filled with an apprehensiveness that signals either, on a good day, a hope for change, or on a bad day, an irritable itch you just can’t reach to scratch, this is music on the edge of something.
Mas Fiestas con el Grupo Vision Fortune is sparse and repetitive. The constant duplication insinuates the emptiness of industrial and tertiary toil. A recurring wooziness fills the album, whether through the drones or the visceral builds of guitar noise. It can be dizzying, akin to that feeling of too much screen-watching.
This is an album of dislocation, disjunction, and more besides. It’s the repetition of a stripped down, skeletal, less sunshine fuelled Wooden Shjips. Most often it reminds of the later Gilded Eternity period Loop.
And it’s got the best album cover of the year by far – perhaps chosen as a reflection of both disconnection and optimism. Buy it here.