Archived content from Nemesis To Go Issue 11.
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|Front page from issue 11.|
|Interview from issue 11: Tying Tiffany|
Live reviews from issue 11:
CD/Vinyl/Downloads reviews from Issue 11:
Jah Wobble & Julie Campbell
Psychic Life (Cherry Red)
Here we have Jah Wobble's twenty-first century take on post-punk - a musical area Wobble, PiL's original bassist, has more claim to than most, of course. Wob is joined here by Julie Campbell, aka Lone Lady, and his old Pil colleague Keith Levene, making a rare apperance above the parapet. Levene's off-kilter guitar is instantly recognisable, especially on the decidedly Metal Box-esque 'Phantasms Rise'.
In some ways, this album hints at where PiL could have gone after Metal Box: a deep, dark, mutant club-dub hybrid, driven by Wobble's nimble, implacable, poke-in-the-guts bass. Fuzzy electronics duck and dive between the beats, and Julie Campbell's vocal - a spooked croon that manages to be sardonic and soulful at the same time - skates effortlessly over the top.
The post-punkery is put on hold for 'Slavetown' (parts 1 and 2, which is probably 50% more than we really need). It's an MOR-ish soul-jazz ballad of the sort Wobble's been doing, on and off, at least since his 1984 album Snake Charmer. It's nice, but the real strength of Psychic Life is in the heavy-duty grooves and Cimmerian atmospheres that make up most of the music here. Apparently Wobble was approached to join the recently-reforned Pil, but declined - a shame in a way, because Psychic Life's ectoplasm would've been an interesting addition to the Pil brew. But then, I suppose, we wouldn't have this album: a compelling, bass-heavy dance into the heart of darkness.
'Tightrope' from Psychic Life. Vocals by Julie Campbell, Keith Levene on guitar (and skulking about in the video). Jah Wobble looks bizarrely like Spike Milligan here, don't you think?
Illusion (Self release)
Second album from the brilliantly bonkers Italian metal band named after Queen Mab, Shakespeare's "miniature creature who drives her chariot into the noses and into the brains of sleeping people", as Wilkipedia would have it. There's nothing miniature about this Mab, though. This album is entirely created by Alice Dionis (vocals, guitar and bass) and Jessica Dionis (dums), but just because Mab is (temporarily?) a two-piece band these days doesn't mean there's anything minimalist about the noise.
Illusion comes at you like a tidal wave of roaring guitar, vocals swooping like flying fish, the whole huge surge breaking on the rocks of precise, powerhouse drumming. At times the tide ebbs, and Mab's roar deconstructs itself into interludes of delicacy, all filigree and lullaby, before the music gathers for a new assault and Queen Mab gets large and loud again. If it's dynamics you want, Mab have certainly got 'em.
Mab also have an other-worldly, surrealist approach which means that Illusion is a bit like having a rock opera version of Alice In Wonderland blasting at you with everything on eleven. It's that element of Mab's art which appeals to me - because, much as I dig loud guitars, and lots of 'em, I don't do metal. But the band push everything into the freak zone, and that's where Mab and I meet. By way of an example, try this snatch of lyric from the manic caterwaul of 'Motherfucking Magic': "Welcome to the motherfucking magic/Hope you can relax/You can have a motherfucking ice cream/With shit on top". Now, you don't get that with Nightwish, do you?
Again Into Eyes (Mute)
Three years on since I first encountered S.C.U.M touting their darkly flamboyant sonic art around the back rooms and basements of London's East End, here's the band's debut album. S.C.U.M have certainly moved on from their early days as reverb-heavy noise terrorists. Now the rhythm is all important.
S.C.U.M's drums are never less than upfront, giving structure and shape to the band's songs - and, yes, now we can talk of S.C.U.M in terns of songs, for the billowing waves of spaceyness which once dominated the band's sound have been corralled into tightly disciplined song-units, where the ever shifting electronic atmospherics float and stream like tendrils of fog as the bass and drums march around the perimeter like soldiers on patrol. Thomas Cohen's vocals, enunciated with elocution professor precision, are at once dryly deadpan and curiously empyrean. It's a bit like listening to a psychedelic theology lecturer holding forth over an Echo And The Bunnymen-esque rolling, rhythmic tumble.
There's a quiet assurance about this album, a sense that S.C.U.M know exactly where they're going with their art: into outer space, maybe, but always with a steady hand on the controls.
S.C.U.M perform 'Whitechapel', from Again Into Eyes. There's some nifty hi-hat work going on in there, you know.
Mona Mur and En Esch
Do With Me What You Want (Artoffact)
This is something of a sidestep from the territory ex-KMFDM man En Esch and post-punk diva Mona Mur staked out with their first album, the Brechct-on-eleven punk rock cabaret that was 120 Tage: The Fine Art Of Beauty And Violence. Now, the cabaret's closed. It's time to hit the post-industrial dystopian disco.
If this music was a movie, it would be a film noir remake of Saturday Night Fever. Call it Sunday Morning Comedown, perhaps. It's a dance into a gone-wrong future; deep, dark, bass-heavy stuff, loaded with a sense of foreboding and claustrophobia. The beats hit hard, but they claw at the feet. It's elegantly and scarily done. Sure, you'll dance - but you'll find yourself casting nervous glances over your shoulder as you do so.
Anyone seeking standard modern industrial - you know, all that blokeish stompo beatz 'n' shouting stuff - should look away now. En Esch and Mona Mur's dancefloor is an unsettling and oddly hypnotic place to be, a world away from the industrial scene's artless noise. 'Touch' hums and swells on a dragging disco beat, with Mona Mur growling mightly in the basement of the mix, as electronics bob and weave. It sounds like a nightmare take on Donna Summer. I'm sure they've even got syndrums in there.
'Silly Romance' is a guttering torch song, the rhythm resigned and weary. En Esch strangles his guitar in the background, kicking up a distant ruckus like a fight half-heard through a party wall. 'Guilty' is bad-trip hop - a sultry prowl 'n' growl through a musical landscape as atramentous as anything Tricky's ever done. 'Do Widzenia' wraps things up with an oriental-flavoured glitch-jazz instrumental, like the Modern Jazz Quartet gone stoner-techno. Yes, we're a long way from familiar territory here, but this dark dancefloor has its own appeal.
As reasons to reform go, it's certainly a doozy. Artery were prompted to regroup by Jarvis Cocker, one of the band's old-school fans from their original incarnation on the Sheffield post-punk scene of the 80s. But I dare say even Jarvis didn't anticipate that Artery would reboot themselves to the point of making a new album and staking out their territory in the post-punk scene of today. The early 80s is a key influence on much of today's music, of course, so Artery find themselves in the curious position of being at once old-school heroes and a new band in town, sounding simultaneously of then but also, implacably, of now.
There's an almost scary tension running through the eleven songs here. Tension in the spiralling, circling guitars, tension in Mark Gouldthorpe's end-of-my-tether vocal yelp, tension in the punctuating keyboards. The vintage organ stabs in 'The Prediction', like the measured tread of an executioner on his walk to work, are nerve-wracking in themselves.
This is not easy music, in a way that today's post-punk influenced bands sometimes seem to put a gloss on their influences. Artery have a direct line to the source, and you can hear it in the forboding clang of the guitar on 'Is It All For Real?' and the menacing, prowling, bass and drums on 'Waiting In Subway', possibly the most unsettling song ever written about a sandwich bar. The synths on 'Unfaithful Girlfriend ' are as warmly melancholy as Pil's 'Radio Four', while 'The Night An Angel Was Raped' is disquieting apocalypse - a song that you almost don't want to listen to, but, somehow, you have to. Not easy listening, then. Not even close. But is it all for real? It certainly is.
Artery with the title track of Civilization. That guitar riff is coming to get you.
Find the Artery interview from Issue 9 here.
No Thyself (Wire-Sound)
If ever there was a band that shamelessly, gleefully, engineered a colision between rock 'n' roll and art, surely that band must be Magazine. When the band first emerged in 1978, most of their punk scene peers had barely got beyond the stage of safety pins and shouting. Magazine, cerebral and enigmatic, musically inventive and lyrically gnomic, were clearly a step beyond all that.
We're many steps beyond all that now, of course. And we know what to expect from Magazine, now reformed after a gap of twenty-odd years. This, the band's comeback album, is in many ways classic Magazine. The bass still forms the agile underpinning of everything, the guitar - now played by Noko, Magazine's fourth guitarist, if I'm counting correctly - still has the crackle and schlang of the band's original six-string man, John McGeoch. And, of course, vocalist Howard Devoto is still his recondite, inimitable self, reciting his lyrics - which mostly seem to be about ageing and sex, in as much as it's ever possible to tell with Devoto - in his eccentric, pedantic, university don's quaver of a voice.
So it's Magazine business as usual - to a point. The main difference between Magazine now and Magazine then is that this time round there's an uncomfortable dearth of memorable hooks and choruses - previously a key part of the band's art, and the factor that ensured that even at their most out-there Magazine were never wilfully inaccessible. Only 'Holy Dotage' - perhaps significantly, the only full-throttle rocker here, the only inheritor of the DNA that went into 'Shot By Both Sides' and 'A Song From Under The Floorboards' - has that stick-in-the-brain quality. Elsewhere, there are moments of entertainingly phrenic oddness, but too much of No Thyself amounts to Magazine kicking their sound around, without ever quite nailing the songs.
Red Painted Red
I Am Nothing (Self Release)
Not so much an album, more a pice of DIY art that just happens to exist as a collection of songs. Those songs arrive as part of a charmingly naif artifact that looks like it was assembled on Red Painted Red's kitchen table. The textured-parchment style CD envelope unfolds to reveal some hand-painted miniature postcard prints, and a lyric sheet on which everything is hand-written (it must've taken almost as long as making the music) and illustrated with meticulous, spindly flower drawings, like a 19th century botany book.
The music itself is introspective yet counter-intuitively warm. It's always rhythmic - sometimes heavily, compulsively so - and never less than assertive, even when it all gets atmospheric and twilit, like the countryside at dusk. Vocalist Yvonne Neve sounds like she's sitting next to you. Sometimes her voice is a commanding, up-front element of the sound, at other times a skittering whisper amid roiling electronics. Sometimes she's a vocal valkyrie, riding before the sonic storm; then she's a delicate flower in the avant-rockery. 'Safe In Sleep' wraps its tendrils around you like ivy, but 'God Song' is downright scary. Sepulcheral rumblings give way to an urgent, nervous beat. 'I see him coming now,' rasps Yvonne's vocal, and it sounds like looming doom.
It's frustrating that Kate Bush's latest collection of vaguely hippyish AOR has been treated with such reverence when the real deal is being created on a kitchen table somewhere in Manchester. Long live kitchen tables, is what I say.
Acceptance Of Existence (Self release)
Honey Bane's career has been more of a rollercoaster than most. It's taken her from punk-era outings as the vocalist of the Fatal Microbes (with whom, as a teenager, she cut the brilliant slice of spacey dub-punk 'Violence Grows') and as a Crass Records recording artist (for whom she made the 'You Can Be You' EP with Crass as her backing band) to the hallowed halls of EMI, no less. Honey's sojurn with EMI was a bit of a mixed blessing: it got her into the charts (and on to Top Of The Pops), but EMI's attempts to turn her into the new Toyah never quite worked.
But here's Honey's unexpected comeback. Now based in Austin, Texas, she's been recording new material for a while. Now the new stuff is gathered on this DIY-release album, which should at least please her former colleagues in Crass. But I think it'll also please anyone who's ever been a fan: the music runs riot between all sorts of styles, but still couldn't be anyone other than Honey Bane.
I confess I was a little worried that Honey would've gone all transatlantic on us, but as soon as she sets up her Petticoat Lane holler over the crazed orchestral-sample frenzy of 'The Right Thing To Do!' she sounds exactly like herself. You can take the punk out of London, but you can't take the London out of the punk, folks.
The album spreads its musical net, from the slo-mo slice of loping, fuzz rock that is 'Down Thing' - "I can be happy, I know I can!" says Honey, as if she's trying to convince herself - to the claustrophobic trip-hop of 'Whose Hell Am I In?'. From the glam-rock stomp-rap (I think Honey just invented a genre there) that is 'This ain't Reality', to the low-slung bump 'n' grind of 'Don't tell Me', with its bravura vocal performance and relentless Jah Wobble style bassline. (This one could almost be an outtake from the Damage Manual sessions - it's got some very Martin Atkins-ish hi-hats going on there). But the top track here has to be the updated 'Violence' Grows', now retitled 'Violence Grew' and loaded with righteous venom. The original was glacial and observational: this one's spitting rusty nails. Honey's back, and she's mad as hell.
'Violence Grew', updated for a new century of violence. Now available on Honey Bane's new album, Acceptance Of Existence.
Tropic Of Cancer
The End Of All Things (Self Release)
This release, a compilation of sorts, came out to tie in with Tropic Of Cancer's recent European tour. However, I assume you can track these tunes down by standard empirical methods, as Pere Ubu would say, now that the tour's over.
Tropic Of Cancer come from Los Angeles (in the tropic of cancer, handily enough) but there's a great deal of 80s Sheffield in their music - the Sheffield of early Cabaret Voltaire, Clock DVA, Vice Versa. There's also a Brian Eno-style approach to ambiences and rhythm: some of the tracks here would sit easily alongside Eno's ambient works, and also - interestingly enough - his latest excursions into beat poetry 'n' atmospherics (reviewed below).
Electronic primitivism with deliberately, meticulously blurred edges and artfully fuzzy boundaries is Tropic Of Cancer's thing, and they do it with a glacial coolness which makes the band seem out of time, rather than of any particular time. Tropic Of Cancer sound stripped-down and overcast, like a cloudy day. Electronics pulse and swoon. Voices float in and out, used as instruments, as sounds, rather than to deliver lyrics.
'The Dull Age' and 'The Distorted Horizon' are almost a proto-techno Gregorian chants: the sound of electric monks at their devotions. 'Awake' could be the J&MC's 'Just Like Honey' heard at a distance, from the far end of an echoing cathederal. 'Chrome Vox' picks up the rhythm a bit and hints at the band's live sound, which packs more of a punch - without going anywhere near the usual wham-bam of rock 'n' roll. But here, the clouds roll in.
'The Dull Age' by Tropic Of Cancer. Unofficial video by Technoviking. Self-hypnosis in the comfort of your own home.
Garden Of Dilmun (Out Of Line)
Of all the bands I promoted, back when I was in The Showbiz, I probably wouldn't have tipped Seventh Harmonic for success. Which isn't as churlish as it sounds, for while I always felt the band had the whole Dead Can Dance-esque filigree and shadow thing down to a fine art, and brought all sorts of counter-intuitive influences to the table to boot (Bollywood beats, no less!) it wasn't like there was ever a big audience for that particular musical strand in the UK. And what there was of it, Dead Can Dance owned.
But elsewhere, there's room to manoeuvre. After their earlier career of DIY releases, Seventh Harmonic are now friends with Deutsche Schwarze Spezialität label Out Of Line, and now they're picking up attention across Europe. It's at once the culmination of everything the band has worked for, and a whole new start. Certainly, Seventh Harmonic have been comprehensively rebooted, with Ann-Mari Thim now providing the arias and canticles over Caroline Jago's swooning orchestral lushness and outbreaks of percussive drama.
And yes, you do instinctively reach for words like 'arias' and 'canticles' when listening to Garden Of Dilmun. It's almost short-changing Ann-Mari Thim's cinematic, operatic, effortlessly aerial vocals to describe the results as mere songs. There's a luxurious sense of space in the sound, coupled with a sure sense of when to step back and let a certain folkie minimalism hold sway - as on 'Eostre' - and when to give it some welly, as on the slam-blam of 'Aoide', where the percussion department cuts loose and gets its Stravinsky on. But I think my favourite track here has to be the nimble bhangra-sinfonietta of 'Equianimi', which works with an almost cheeky assurance. It's the kind of mash-up that I doubt anybody else would even think of attempting, but it's a very Seventh Harmonic moment.
I don't know who the mysterious Dilmun might be - some sort of empyrean Alan Titchmarsh, I expect. But I know this: his garden has come impressively into bloom.
Conatus (Souterrain Transmissions)
When we first encountered Zola Jesus she was fresh out of the boondocks, and her towering gothic anthems were like nothing we'd heard before. Well, not since the first Cocteau Twins album, anyway.
Fast forward to now, and she's something of a star. In a way it's surprising that the music biz has been so keen to embrace an artist who wears her heart of darkness so blatantly on her sleeve. But then, as we've noted before, bands with a little something of the night about them are actually considered quite cool these days. I dare say she didn't plan it this way, but Zola Jesus finds herself occupying the exact spot where the right place intersects with the right time.
On Conatus the trajectory she began with her previous album, Stridulum, continues. Conatus, by the way, means 'striving'. Stridulum means something very loud. Two words that define what Zola Jesus is all about. Those towering gothic anthems still reach for the night sky. If Tropic Of Cancer rmake proto-techno Gregorian chants, Zola Jesus brings on the full cathedral choir (and it's all her). The sound is huge, overarching, all swoop and soar. The vocal is a mighty thing, a studied soulful holler, always under control - but when Zola Jesus lets rip, you know about it.
Everything is nailed to insistent rhythms, the secret weapon that ensures Zola Jesus is always accessible, even at her most stentorian. 'Vessel' has a good old bomp and sizzle behind the vocal thermals; 'In Your Nature' brings on the big beats and syncopation (it's even got handclaps) to keep things groovy even as the vocal wheels overhead like a gathering tornado. In all this, Conatus feels very much like Stridulum part two - there are no radical departures here. Zola Jesus doesn't do anything we didn't already know she does. But I'm rather partial to her brand of Diamanda Galas gone disco.
People's Temple (Trisol)
Abrasive and in-your-face, yet also slinky and gleaming with an electronic sheen - People's Temple joins the style-dots with a punky verve, a techno head's obsession with The Beat, and an unexpected nod or two in the direction of the post-punky end of goth.
Tying Tiffany's vocals move with her shifting styles. Sometimes she lets rip an artfully messed-up bawl, as on 'Show Me What You've Got' - a killer shoutalong that's surely first cousin to CJ Bolland's disco-punk distort-o-fest 'Sugar Is Sweeter'.
Or try 'Still In My Head', where the chorus builds to a primal scream over an unruffled new wave dance workout. At other times, Tying Tiffany adopts a disco diva's croon - as on 'Miracle', a choice slice of synthpop that New Order are probably kicking themselves that they didn't write. Meanwhile, 'Cecille' is a winsome confection with an almost ethereal voice peeking through the electronic clouds like a glimpse sun on a rainy day.
It says much for Tying Tiffany's force of personality that she can cover such a range on one album, and yet have it all hang together as a cohesive whole, without any hint of contrivance or awkwardly glued-together joints. Everything on People's Temple is unequiviocally her own, from the electro minimalism of 'Borderline' to the unexpectedly proto-gothic stylings of 'Lost Way'. Here it sounds as if Tiffany borrowed Doktor Avalance from the Sisters Of Mercy round about 1983, and never gave him back. Yes, Tying Tiffany casts her influence-net wide, but everything is fuel for her own cool groove.
Mueran Humanos (Blind Prophet)
From Argentina, with equal quantities of nihilism and art. That's Mueran Humanos. The name translates as 'Death To Humanity', so right from the start it's clear that we're not exactly walking on the sunny side of the street.
The album's cover art (by programmer/percussionist Carmen Burguess) isn't quite the stuff of which High Street record store displays are made, either. When a friend of mine saw the album in my living room, he insisted I turn the cover to the wall. Mueran Humanos would probably count that as a victory. Without even hearing the music, their art has an effect.
Apparently, Carmen Burguess and bassist/programmer Tomás Nochteff have been described as the garage punk Chris and Cosey - but I'd say they're more like a krautrock Lux and Ivy. The Mueran Humanos sound is triangulated by slo-mo psytrance, the reductionist relentlessness of Neu, and the dead-eyed gonzoid rumble of the Velvet Underground. It's a tangent to rock' n' roll, and yet totally rock 'n' roll. Listen to the way 'Horas Tristes' inexorably builds its wall of fuzz. Dig the distort-o-pulse of 'Cosmetics For Christ' - "Because being stupid costs nothing", says the sardonic lyric. 'Home Altar' (now available from Wickes, I believe - right next to the fitted kitchens) is a cellar full of distortion. Here, Mueran Humanos become a a downtempo Devo, descending into a world of drone.
It's all tangental to rock 'n' roll, and yet, in its mutionous otherness, it's totally rock 'n' roll. Mueran Humanos probably have most in common with nu-krautrock practitioners Death In Vegas, but their shredded grind puts them a long way out on their own limb. Who needs sunshine, anyway?
Strangely, for a band with a strong visual sense, there seem to be few Mueran Humanos videos out there. But try this non-video for 'Cosmetics For Christ'.
Work (work, work) (Blast First Petite)
Let's take things down a bit. Right down. Way on down. HTRK don't deal in upbeat, poppy, singalongs at the best of times, and this album - completed after the death of the band's bassist, Sean Stewart - was clearly not made at the best of times. Here, HTRK are even less inclined than usual to party.
But there's something compelling about HTRK's humming darkness and funeral procession beats, something oddly inviting about their slow-motion clang and thrum. This music is deep, dark, dense, but warm with it - a bit like swimming in the Dead Sea at midnight. Maybe it's the way the electronics ebb and flow, build and retreat; maybe it's the way Johnnine Standish layers her vocal through and around the music, a hazy murmur in the mix. There's something here that pulls you in.
It must be said that there's little in the way of tunes you can whistle on Work (work, work). It's all about the sound, the ambience, the overall feeling, the beats descending like blows from a rubber mallet - hard and yet strangely muted. In a way, HTRK are ploughing the same sort of furrow as Tropic Of Cancer, whom we met above. It's surely no coincidence that the bands have toured together. But HTRK's plough bites into a darker soil.
Sick Note (Self Release)
They've been kicking their punky-glammy sound around London for a while, but now you can take home your own parcel of Healthy Junkies noise in a handy wipe-clean package.
This, the band's debut album, contains thirteen brash, immediate bursts of spunky, punky, pop, played with a fine appreciation of the full-fat glam-rock guitar sound. Just to make the point, the band include a cover of T.Rex's '20th Century Boy' here, but their own songs stake out the territory with plenty of crash and dash.
There's a pop sensibility at work here, too, courtesy of Nina Courson's clear-as-a-bell vocals, which work rather well as a counterpoint to the chunky, fuzzy guitars. In a way, the Healthy Junkies are a twenty-first century Transvision Vamp, in that they blend their glam swagger with an accessible pop approach. At any rate, you'll be shouting along with 'Copycat' and joining in the chorus of 'Manifesto' within a couple of listens, I betcha.
'Trash My Love' by Healthy Junkies, from Sick Note. Lots of stuff getting trashed. Don't try this at home, kids.
Gilded Thralls (EDM)
A thrall, you'll be keen to learn, is Old English for a slave. A gilded thrall is...what? A slave in a comfortable berth, surrounded by luxury, living an easy life, but still a slave? Perhaps Mortal Clay are telling us something about the human condition. The name of the band hints that they're all too aware of what it is to be human. And if all that seems rather oblique - well, that suits Mortal Clay's vaudeville neo-folk stylings rather well. And I bet you've never seen the words 'vaudeville' and 'neo-folk' in the same sentence before.
Mortal Clay's rhythmic skeletons are stark and meticulous. They're fleshed out by drones and tones, with guitar and (synthesized?) harpsichord in the mix, but kept on a short leash. It all sounds like the orchestra in the pit at some weird old theatre, gamely playing on long after closing time. The vocals, principally by Zsephyr Lyre with a occasional interjections by Marco Macabre, swing beteween quasi-classical theatrics and music hall melodrama. 'My Poor Nora' sounds like a Hillaire Belloc cautionary tale: "Hot molten lava! Hot molten lava!/Crashing down the mountainside and into our home/I've lost my sister, my dear Nora". Surely Nora must be a cousin of Belloc's Matilda, who told lies and was burnt to death.
But Mortal Clay don't shy away from confronting the issues of today. "Through the privatisation of our central banking system exclusive right to print currency. That's how the few control the many," they inform us on 'High Treason', and somewhat incredibly manage to make a lilting to-and-fro nursery rhyme out of that subject matter. Mortal Clay's skewed creativity is splendidly odd. We should all join them in their strange theatre of the human condition. Gilded thralls in the stalls, that's us.
The Spiritual Bat
Cruel Machine (Danse Macabre)
'Bat' must be the most overused word in the world of goth these days. I blame Specimen: if they hadn't called their club the Batcave, the goth lexicon would have been very different. As it is, 'bat' is now so overused as a shorthand way of saying 'Something gothic this way comes' that it now seems rather naff. But at least if you call your band The Spiritual Bat everyone knows you're not about to do trad jazz. With a name like that, you've got to be a goth band.
These days, of course, there's goth, and there's goth. Fortunately, The Spiritual Bat don't do that flowery-lyrics-over-a-sub-Sisters-beat stuff that we've all heard too often. Nor do they make the gormless heavy metal that half the goth scene seems to think is goth these days. This band drinks from the source, and they're all the better for it.
The sound is dominated by Dario Passamonti's guitar, that uber-flanged six-stringed squall which, in its way, is just as much part of goth's musical lexicon as 'bat' is on the verbal side. The guitar schlangs and sprangs, the audio equivalent of ripples on water, making reflections wobble and distort. The bass rumbles purposefully, Joy Division-dark. Electronics blow through like chill winds. Over all this, Rosetta Garri's vocal is an assertive caterwaul, a purple wail, flying through the sonic stormclouds like a bird of prey (you thought I was going to say 'bat', didn't you?).
The Spiritual Bat mine the darker side of post-punk with impressive panache, although in many ways the band are covering familiar territory - Faith And The Muse, among others, have travelled this way before, and they're clearly an influence. But the Bats have a sure grip on their dynamics and dramatics, and, in Rosetta Garri, an expressive singer who can really nail it. Cruel Machine is an effective distillation of much that is good about goth.
Interestingly, what The Spiritual Bat do isn't a million miles from the stark melodramas of Zola Jesus, who essentially replaced the flanged guitar with massed synths, and hit paydirt. I don't know if The Spiritual Bat could grab similar success. A crucial part of Zola Jesus' strategy is that she operates outside the goth scene, while The Spiritual Bat ply their trade entirely within it, thus ensuring that they remain invisible to the wider world. But in or out, the bats are rising.
'Empty Halls' by The Spiritual Bat, from Cruel Machine. Alas, no video (and an absence of flanging on this one, too) - but you can see what I mean by sonic stormclouds.
Brian Eno and Rick Holland
Drums Between The Bells (Warp)
It's surprising how many people know only two things about Brian Eno: that he was an original member of Roxy Music, and he invented ambient music. But that blips over the greater part of Eno's career - his early solo albums, on which he created a counter-intuitive hybrid of cerebral surrealism and glam, and his current stuff, which ranges from whacko avant-dance to egghead post-rock, all done without the slightest hint of po-faced worthiness. Eno can indulge in unrepentant intellectualism while making you groove, and there's plenty of that going on here.
It wouldn't be Eno if there wasn't a concept somewhere in the equation. Essentially, Eno provides musical settings for the poetry of Rick Holland, and if that sounds earnest and dull, think again. The words are spoken by 'found voices' - a disparate collection of people recruited on an ad-hoc basis (apparently Eno met one of his vocalists at a bus stop) who recite, with careful precision, a series of poems which, if they have any common thread, is the lurking weirdness in the everyday.
The music runs the gamut: now a roiling brew of jittery beats, now a minimalist piano figure. Here a slice of post-industrial soundscape, there a scrabble of angular guitar. Ideas that would sustain lesser artists for a whole album - hell, a whole career - are casually tossed off in one song. That's typically Eno, too. You can't help wondering how he does it.
There's the poignant drift of 'Pour It Out', a slo-mo sonic bookend to 'Taking Tiger Mountain', reinvented as a wistful gaze down from a New York skyscraper - "People as small as the pigment in your eyes". There's the spooky ticking minimalism of 'The Airman', a lyrical zoom-out from earth to outer space, from - it's hinted between the lines - life to death. If this is Eno's soundtrack to a soul being set free, he's my guru.
'A Title' is is a muse on the theme of no man being an island, but Caroline Wildi's dry delivery over the circling stomp-beat and swelling, fuzzy electronics, makes it seem like a surrealist self-help tape. The killer floor filler, however, has to be 'Sounds Alien'. Sounds like The Prodigy being gleefully beaten with fuzzy drumsticks, more like. The outbreak of thrashy guitar is worth the price of admission by itself, but at less than three minutes the track is frustratingly short. I'd like to hear a 12" mix. Actually, it's a pity Eno doesn't play live, because I'd like to witness a band thrashing this one around on stage. Perhaps Proxy Music could oblige.
On Monster Island (Three One Three)
If Detroit monsta-rockers Crud were a movie, they'd be made by John Waters. Or Russ Meyer. Or both at once. They're a late-night double feature of monsterous riffs and vocals that sound like they've been marinated for six months in Essence Of Sleaze.
Crud have their roots and kinky boots firmly planted in punk - let's face it, any band on a label named after CBGB's address is going to be at home to The Punk. But this album is all about low-slung, down-home guitar riffin', built on killer dancefloor beats with samples sprinkled on top like hundreds and thousands on chocolate cake. It's a bit like listening to a sleaze-techno version of ZZ Top...but without the beards. And with more girls.
Co-vocalists Vinnie Dombroski (with a name like that he could only be an East End gangster or a fetish-rock frontman) and Danielle Arsenault trade lines like a runaway couple arguing in a fleapit motel room, while the guitars churn like cement mixers. 'Balaam's Ass Speaks' is a full-on nightmare groover, while 'The Devil Is A Patient Man' sounds like a hellfire preacher working his mofo on the dancefloor at the Torture Garden. The bass sidles in low and slinky on 'Fire', a horn section unexpectedly starts squawking, and it's as if Crud are taking Kid Creole And The Coconuts on a tour of Detroit's fleshpots.
It's these dance-rock excursions that work best, and musically define Crud. When the band rows back on the dance stance and goes for a more straight up rock sound, as on 'We'll Not Be Broken', they sound like they harbour a secret desire to be Pearl Jam - which isn't quite what I want from Crud (I didn't even want it from Pearl Jam). Crud are much better when they give way to their sleazoid tendencies and get low and dirty with their samplez 'n' guitarz on the dancefloor. Fortunately, there's plenty of that stuff here.