Swedish metal is not something we cover here at BBO terraces. However, when one of said fraternity – in this case David Johansson, front-man of KONGH – delivers a beautifully menacing six tracks of synthscapes, you take note.
The wonder of this album, as with most horror-synth workouts, lies in its affective simplicity: many tracks are constructed through uncomplicated leads dancing with grace across foreboding swirls of sound. The stunning ‘Pioneers’ illustrates this perfectly with eddying and airy melodies giving way to eldritchian peril with real bravura. Three note leads evolve with ominous resonance, as siren-call chords warn of some hideous transformation of matter on ‘Mutation’. And the delightful choral eeriness and zombie pacings of ‘Terminal’ and ‘Cataclysm’ can only spell creeping fear.
Four years on from the also brilliant first album Eclipse, Oscillotron’s return seems to be immensely well-timed: John Carpenter playing ATP in Iceland in July and touring later in the year; Goblin performing their soundtracks live; and the likes of Ubre Blanca, Umberto and Zombi in our midst – this is a very good time to be a fan of the horror-synth nexus.
Buy Cataclysm here (from May 27th or pre-order now). Do it now before some killer virus lays us all to waste.
You’ve been warned.
Happy May Day, readers!
From Darren Hayman’s excellent album of last year, based on William Morris’s Chants for Socialists…
So you go to a pub in another city and drink. Complete strangers (a couple) join you at the table. You somehow get chatting (band T-shirts = the ultimate ice-breaker). The conversation turns (inevitably in my world) to music. “What sort of stuff you into?” the gentleman asks. “Oh, sort of electronic, noisy, rocky stuff”, I respond. “Such as?” [Thinks of best way in]. ”Umm, Teeth of the Sea?” “Oh, I’ve supported them.” “GNOD?” “Yep. Supported them as well.”
Enter Colossloth. A bloke I met in the pub in Birmingham. Who gave me a CD of his latest offerings. Was this chance meeting meant to be? Such musings are beyond our remit.
Outstretch Your Hand for the Impress of Truth has blown me away.
Opener ‘The Flavour of the Weak’ has it all: menaced drones, shards of sharpened static, treated guitar, face-disfiguring crunching oscillators. ‘Your Flag Stands for Nothing’ is a sonic pummelling that sees a jack hammer bass obliterating idiotic nationalism, both overt and banal, whilst knives sharpen and cut away at apparent ‘stirring’ patriotic orchestrals.
What engorges the soul here is the plethora of questions that arise as you experience the assembled noises: where did that sound came from? What was its original form? What variety of torture has been performed upon it? What Hammond Organ was cruelly, yet brilliantly, maimed to make the inserts on the album’s title track? Is this the recollection of a significantly bad day in Blackpool?
The disturbing undertow to ‘The World Keeps Turning (On Me)’ could well be a voice detuned and stretched to intimidating proportions. The riff on ‘Of Talons and Teeth’ is incredible in its visceral abrasions. The circular feedback on ‘Paint Her Face to Simulate the Bloom’ is pure pleasure and the most sublime pain. ‘The Nameless Saint’ stands out with its devastatingly heart-wrenched piano and high frequency whines. It’s the closest thing to soundtracking death’s inevitability that I have heard for a long while. Both terror and redemption are here.
This is superb uneasy listening in the vein of Haxan Cloak, a more considered Merzbow perhaps, with echoes of Fennesz.
It’s essential. PURCHASE
…the world, the tide, the seasons, the wheel, the dial…
Change is a constant. Here we are with a selection of constantly changing releases to change your mind and your habits.
Fatima Al Qadiri is a NYC-based Kuwaiti visual artist and musician. ‘Brute‘ is an album that combines Mark Stewart-like police state recordings with trippy dubstep bits and ethnic flutes. A bit of politics, but cool nonetheless.
BBO’s review of Warning Light’s album XXXI described it as, variously, “just simply beautiful”, “airy propulsion”, “electro-motorisation”, and “sublime awe and cosmic wonder”. D Haddon’s latest EP, ‘Life/Death Suite EP‘ is made up of bits left over from his latest CD, which BBO will get to in due course.
The EP’s two tracks deal with such trivial issues as life and death. ‘Often Chance’ matches swirling strings with a deep pulse, then brings in stuttering back-and-forth percussion which sounds to me like the emerging Martians in Pal’s 1953 War of the Worlds. As the track expands, more elements combine until it turns into a literally entrancing wave. 10 minutes passed while I hardly noticed. ‘Dream Lovers Never Dream Alone‘ is a slower but nonetheless powerful piece, bringing to mind a triumphant funeral march through a village, to a meadow where the ceremony ends. Grab it.
I’ve always loved acid house, but I’ve never seen it as party music. I would listen to my TDK D90 cassettes marked “Dance I”, “Dance II” etc in my bedroom and on my bike, but I was never in a position to go out and shake it as was so often suggested by the music. A combination of age, personality, who knows what. Still, the squelch of a resonant 303 always gets me tingling.
To me, Posthuman embody that ‘headphone house’ aesthetic. Their forthcoming compilation ‘Back To Acid‘ is pretty straightforward. A silver box with knobs, a black box with orange buttons, and a white box with grey buttons – what else do you need? (rhetorical question, I know what you need. Indulge me). 12 tracks of caustic pleasure, from the robotic march of ‘Six Hundred’ to the delicious twang of ‘Beat Down’, via my favourite, the atmospheric throbber ‘Mezzotint’. I will be buying.
Baron Mordant is a name well known to those who dabble in the darker reaches of techno/electronics. Here as Phlekz, he’s released an EP of wondrously deep, dark and dubbed machine music. Shards of glitch and chiptune filtered through a hazy recollection. Rattling bass rhythms meld with rave whistles often mangled beyond bare recognition. Throughout, though, there’s a lightness of touch to the melancholic melodies that find their home in the background – glimpses of light on a dark but rewarding canvass.
Is hauntological Rave a nascent genre where half-remembered events that may not have happened are charted through drone and distanced rhythms? Dunno. But if it is then Body Boys, on the ever-reliable Opal Tapes, are ahead of the game. Over six carefully constructed pieces, Body Boys evoke the sound of a full-on club submerged in a heavy fog of recollection and half-formed memories of loved-up abandon. Spectres reach out of these memories to offer water and sweaty embraces, and ghostly DJs push at the levels but are barely heard through the veil of time. Marvellous stuff. Get it here.
Spring will spring, the grass will riz.
matthewpetty and angrybonbon
I don’t know if it’s age, new fatherhood, some deep psychic need for contemplation and peace, or a combination of them all, but I’ve been drawn to much more quiet and gentle music recently. Now that is not to say boring. You can be raucous, frenetic, and boring, and you can be gentle and quiet, and still capture and hold my attention.
That’s where Debs McCoy comes in. A musician and artist based in the UK NE covering many disciplines, her music is a mix of folk guitar, layered piano, trance-like rhythms, and her own voice, which weaves among the other elements in a quite haunting way.
Her album ‘Silent The Corner’ was released in 2013, but it’s taken me this long to get to write about it. The conditions had to be right (see above). It was released as a collection in two halves: one half acoustic folk with textural elements, one half more cinematic instrumental pieces.
I’m not a big vocals fan, as you may know. I tend to treat the voice in music I listen to as just another sound – I don’t tend to catch lyrics (again, this may be due to age). In addition, I have to admit I don’t have the vocabulary (musical or emotional) to describe this music. I will probably embarrass myself by referencing styles and techniques at odds with what Debs is doing, or revealing I could go my usual route of writing down what the instruments were and how they interlace. But that would not do this music justice (and I’m sure you’re sick of it anyway). So please bear with me as I wade into unfamiliar waters, trying to describe how the songs make me feel.
A spoken phrase, a strummed guitar, a cello, even the “tape” noise adds to the atmosphere of opener ‘Propagate’. The song mentions sunshine, wind, leaves, and brings to mind walking in the stark low winter sun.The strummed guitar is joined by a tambourine in ‘Wendy’ giving a little Western tinge to the song.
‘Beauty, Majesty & Drama’ is something different, and one of my favourite tracks on the album. The instrumentation is the same, but the vocals are more dramatic as the name suggests. The lyrics deal with the artistic process, as a face is drawn and changed. The artist’s relationship with the subject is touched upon. The song is reworked with piano and cello later on the album, to great effect. It transforms into a more melancholic version of itself. Perhaps from the POV of the artist’s subject?
The title track blends close lyrics, simple synth textures and cello into an intimate lullaby, while single piano notes over guitar give ‘Ruben’ a Mountain Goats feel. The subject is lying about their identity, but the singer knows better.
Train rides always provide good backdrops for gentle thoughtful songs. ‘Recoil’ is no exception. This journey is one to a gathering of people, but the narrator still feels alone, trapped outside. This is a very personal song, clearly, and the simplicity of the voice and guitar bring us into her confidence. The voice is closer and gentler than ever, with an almost childlike feel to it, on ‘Sound Carrying Flowers’. The piano beneath sounds like it is taking the singer’s hand and gently guiding and encouraging them as they explore the music room.
The first of the second set of pieces, and definitely a soundtrack , ‘Insufferable’ would work over the final “climactic” scene to a grainy black and white film. Perhaps in the days after a heavy bereavement, as the character emerges back into life, bruised and sore, but somehow renewed, as the credits roll. The processed strings and piano are joined by a momentary harmonica – perhaps memories of the lost one.
Cello, electric piano, xylophone drops like rain in a simple cycling phrase, ‘Spring’ is perfect for sitting at a window with a steaming cup, waiting for the sun to break through a little. Cabin fever is at an end. ‘The Lake’ sounds like a deep family secret being revealed. Tentative piano, rumbling strings, cello, and a sense of realisation. The secret could be good or bad, or both. The excuses anchor the piece, while the repercussions ripple out, affecting many lives, in various ways. In the end, the teller is left alone on the shore.
The beautiful ‘For The Birds’ occupies the same English landscape as some tunes by BBO regulars The Advisory Circle. Trilling flutes, tinkling piano, slow pulsing bass. And finally, album closer ‘Begotten’ opens with a rotating piano line overlaid with xylophone, while the strings below provide an insistent tone. This ending sounds more like an urging or continuation, even as it closes.
Even if my feelings have not been clearly expressed here, it has had an impact on me. ‘Silent The Corner’ is a beautiful album. Buy it here. Buy Debs more recent improvised works here, especially The Therapy Sessions. Buy her box set as well.
HOX is a project from Graham Lewis (Klara‘s dad, Wire bassist) and longtime collaborator Andreas Karperyd, and guess what, surprise surprise, it’s on Editions Mego (a label which seems to have grabbed me recently). This album came out late 2015, and scraped into BBO’s Top Thirty of the Year with a brief mention, but now it deserves some more words.
Duke of York has a lot in common with Lewis’ earlier solo efforts, with some beefy updates and fresher sounds. Many tracks have a definite Wire feel, with Lewis’ buzzing bass and distinctive sonorous vocals. Others lean toward the He Said synthpop style. The first three tracks demonstrate this variation. Opener ‘Anthracite’ dives straight into the He Said/Mute/Ebb/Mode slow tech march territory, with a wry spoken commentary. Rocky guitars introduce my personal favourite ‘Javelin’, leading into a fast beat, driving staccato tune, distinctive Lewis vocals, and stuttering guitars. Then ‘Correct Co-ordinates’ is definitely Wire-y. No beat as such, semi-spoken lyric, mutating into an guitar and synth layered texture.
Tense stuttering synths crash into a driving beat and howling guitars in ‘It’s Too Much’, with the title being the only vocal. Direct and to the point. In a more mellow zone, flutey tones and plucked strings open ‘X In Circle’, then a crunchy groove leads into Lewis’ signature wordplay. Deep horns round off the mixture.
Want tribal drums via Nitzer Ebb with Kraftwerk jabs? Instrumental ‘White Space Conflict’ has you covered, while standout ‘Track and Field’ is a fun exercise in bait-and-switch. What starts out as a synth-driven instrumental on Mute records, suddenly transforms into a Warp-released pulsing workout, before veering back and combining the two.
‘Goodbye’ is a strangely naive song, clearly dedicated to a late beloved friend. Its simplicity and basic rhyming lyrics make it clear that this is a sincere and heartfelt tribute. Other than that, the tune is nice, there are some nice strings and boingy synths, with Lewis’ bass rumbling throughout.
To round off the album, ‘Frequency’ a very He Said sound. Simple bass and guitar with distant sounds, then the vocals appear very close in. The chorus is classic Lewis, with the whole managing to be soothing, tense, relaxed and paranoid all at once.
This album is a good collection of functional and interesting pieces. That sounds like faint praise, and it’s true that it’s hard to get too worked up about it, but in the area they’re working, Lewis and Karperyd deliver (and if you know me, you’ll know I’m not the kind to bandy the word “deliver” about). I will continue to be a fan of the Lewises if this is what I can expect. Buy it if you want.
The most recent album by Maserati actually came out last year, and had I actually listened to it during 2015 it would have stood a very good chance of getting into my top 10 albums of the year. But, such is the life of a downtrodden music blogger such as I, there is so much music I want to listen to that I neglected this until the end of January this year. Sorry lads.
Anyway, Rehumanizer lays down its intent from the very start with 10 minute long opening track “No Cave”, swelling synths eventually segueing into driving space rock. And it’s got a euphoric bass and drums only midpoint which makes me very happy indeed.
“Montes Jura” takes the tempo down, and is an absorbing synth-led epic. It’s dark, it’s portentous and it’s absolutely massive. I want you to listen to this while staring at the album cover. Go on.
After their previous album, Maserati VII, became the first to feature a song with vocals, Rehumanizer has two – and while the overriding feeling I had about much of the album was one of John Carpenter meets Krautrock (in Space), “Living Cell” strays into a post-punk world reminiscent of The Chameleons. The other vocal track, “End of Man” is a tightly driving piece that features heavily processed vocoder singing and is none the worse for it; in fact it sounds like how you were told the future was going to sound in an Atari 2600 sci-fi game. If it doesn’t get you chanting the word “Institutional!” like a demented robot while just walking down the street, much to the surprise of your fellow commuters, then nothing will.
“Rehumanizer I” and “Rehumanizer II” bring the album to a close, both songs paring back the synths to allow twin guitars to fight to the finish, pushed on by a chugging, propulsive bass. And just like that, 40 minutes in, it’s all over and you’re back on earth – but Rehumanizer is an interstellar trip you’ll absolutely want to take more than once.
Look, I don’t want to start out this review in an aggressive tone, but you and me have got to have words. I see you there, looking all smug, banging on about how there are no famous Belgians. Well, smug face, there are loads. LOADS. And hopefully Go March, hailing from the vibrant city of Antwerp, will also be joining that esteemed list of famous Belgians very soon if the quality of their debut album is anything to go by.
Opener ‘The Ship of Bambi’ is a slow burning kick off. Personally, I don’t think I’d want to be on a ship that was being navigated by Bambi. I wouldn’t hold out any great hope of getting to my intended destination. But I defy you to not be smiling by the time the synth organ breaks in around the 3 minute mark.
‘Chase’ takes the tempo up, spiky guitar rhythms and bubbling synths justifying the Krautrock plaudits that Go March have been accumulating, and recent single ‘Rise’ pulls you in from the get go with a hypnotic arpeggio and doesn’t let you go. ‘Like a Record’ follows that, and is a fabulous slab of Motorik which unexpectedly dissolves into a post-rock guitar ending.
There’s no let up in the second half of the album, with ‘Slow Horse’ almost serving as an interlude before you get hit with the 1-2-3 sucker punch of ‘Earthbound’, which steadily builds to a beautifully synth/guitar duel climax; ‘Lighthouse’ (with hints of Modular Synths meets New Wave to it); and finally ‘The White Lodge’ provides a suitably brooding ending to a beast of a record, evoking the feeling of dark clouds and rain over the river Schelde if you’re into that kind of thing (and I am).
If there was one small criticism it would be that a gradual building-style formula is adhered to on pretty much every track on the album. Repetitive? Yes, a little. But is that a bad thing, especially with songs as strong as this? Never. There’s plenty here for Motorik, Krautrock and synth fans. And anyone else interested in Famous Belgians for that matter.
Pick up Go March from the band’s website (or your other favourite retailer, most probably)
I know it’s less than ideal for a reviewer to write about their own projects, but I’m not worried about subjectivity concerns in this case, because this new male-female two-piece is objectively amazing, and their debut is the most exciting thing to land in the satellite suburbs of Abu Dhabi since the British stopped shelling the place.
Before this initial release A&E were in development for nearly nine months, with my co-producer Cassie doing the bulk of the work. We’ve both invested a lot in their development, and as a result, we hope they realize the potential we know they have – in just one short month they have already accrued a devoted following.
I asked the band where they got the title for this album, and was told that it was a very personal, cerebral reason, but would say no more. I decided it would be best not to press them too hard on it.
Their output to date has been quite soft, with varying shades and textures. Despite the gentle, almost fluid consistency of what they produce, it can be quite jarring, and some of it needs a strong stomach to handle. I’m sure that as they mature, the consistency will become more stable, and the soft releases will make way for self-contained, firmer and more structural pieces, which are more palatable and easier to deal with.
A&E are prolific, with several releases per day, if you can believe that. A lot of it is shapeless filler to be honest, but that said, it’s reassuring that they are so regular. One way they keep their rate of production up is by continuing to work and produce through the night. It’s been quite hard for us to keep up with their pace, but it is worth it to discover what amazing new work they have produced. A couple of times I’ve been lucky enough to witness the very moment of creation of a new piece – a moment I would not wish to share with anyone.
Lyrically, A&E come from a much stranger place. On this debut they work not with recognizable words, but with what can only be described as primal emotional utterances. These can range from gentle whispers which wouldn’t be out of place on a Steve Hauschildt piece, to percussive grunts worthy of a darker, rhythmic Klara Lewis, ranging up to nerve-shattering William Bennett/Whitehouse-like shrieking, which brings to mind BBO’s 2015 #2 faves Ubre Blanca.
We expect A&E’s lyrics to become more literal and literate in the future. I’m sure there will be missteps and embarrassments, but I believe that all art must go through these phases and exploratory experiments before the artists can be sure they’ve done what they can.
I’m very proud to be associated with A&E. The members of the group, Arthur Elliott Petty and Edith Lenore Petty, have the looks, the talent, the potential, and the support to do great things. Watch this space.