The Issue 13 sound assortment starts here. Scroll down...
The Bleach Room (Speed)
Second album from our favourite machine-beat noiseniks, and let me reassure you - just in case you thought Ulterior might have gone all easy-listening on us - that the band come crashing through the walls as powerfully as ever on the ten tracks here. The Bleach Room manages to be cinematic, apocalyptic, bristling with attitude - and entirely rock 'n' roll, even as the electronix shoulder their way to the front of the mix and throw their weight about like toughs in a pub.
The Bleach Room splashes Ulterior's Suicide-flavoured electric soup around like a robot waiter with a grudge. It's all over the hurtling churn of 'Psychic Chic', which practially counts as an impressionist painting of an Elvis song, and in the vocal yelps on 'Cool TV', which sounds like the sort of thing Alan Vega and Martin Rev might come up with after watching Bladerunner twelve times over. But, for all that, Ulterior have very firmly staked out their own territory now. Their songs are a soundtrack to their own dystopian, neon-lit urban otherworld, where a towering sci-fi city of sound looms over the rock 'n' roll romances being played out by the doomed urchins on the canyon-like streets. Well, that's how it seems to me, anyway. But I did have a cheese sandwich for supper.
At any rate, you'll quail before the bass-heavy menace of 'Skydancing', you'll gaze wistfully into the ether to the nihilistic love song that is 'Hello Andromeda', and your inner punk will stage a break-out to 'Bodyhammer', with its rush of Sex Pistols guitars, as if Steve Jones just gatecrashed Ulterior's brutalist disco.
Ulterior's after-dark techno-rock is a glorious creation - manic, white-knuckled, and sometimes shamelessly OTT. Just the way rock 'n' roll should be. Shrug on your leather jacket, give the world a hard stare, and turn The Bleach Room up loud. And pass the cheese sandwiches.
|'The Locus Of Control' from Ulterior's The Bleach Room. Machines of loving grace.|
Fangs On Fur
Headhunter (Collapsible Personalities)
On transluscent pink vinyl (which, of course, always delivers the best sound), packaged in a hand-screened sleeve that recalls Mike Coles' Malicious Damage label artwork, this mini-album is as much a DIY art object than a hard-copy delivery system for Fangs On Fur's taut, post-punky weirdness and gleeful glam-slam wildness.
As a delivery system, it works just fine, mind. Apply your ears to the A side for a romp through Fangs On Fur's tribal-punker showstopper, 'Headhunter', all spiralling guitars and drums like a bunch of outlaws riding over the hill. Then there's 'Robber Baron', on which massed guitars tug the vocal through a swamp of reverb, while the drummer gives the hi-hats a good seeing-to. On 'Tokyo Meltdown' the band come over all Penetration for a short, sharp, burst of no-frills riffing, the sound of Fangs On Fur nailing their punk rock credentials to the wall and daring anyone to rip 'em down.
But it's on the B side that things get really interesting, for here Fangs On Fur stretch out and take some different influences for a shimmy around the park. 'Counting In 3s' is a dubbed-out rhythm workout, with an ethereal vocal floating over a chunky bass thrum and a fuzz of Elmore James guitar. 'Battleships' is a whimsical indie thing, the guitar ever-moving like an ocean swell, the vocal wheeling above like an albatross. In a way it recalls old school John Peel show faves like Bang Bang Machine - a curious connection for a band from California who are, surely, coming at this stuff from a very different angle.
And finally, the instrumental 'Crooked Beak Of Heaven' sidles into view on a sample-bazaar of sounds and a thunking pulse of a rhythm, like Transglobal Underground heading out into the peyote zone. Now that's an interesting tangent. But I'm up for the trip.
Cheshire Cat (The Bouncing)
Shows Its Tail (Alone Prod)
Minimalism and surrealism in a strange kind of harmony. Cheshire Cat (The Bouncing) have a baffling name (why isn't it 'The Bouncing Cheshire Cat'?) and a neat line in equally absurdist song titles - you've got to love a band that can call a song 'Twerp' without flinching. Mind you, someone should take their label aside and tell them that 'Prod' isn't necessarily a great abbreviation for 'Productions'. The phrase 'Alone Prod' sounds like some sort of solitary sex game.
Well, that's the surrealism. Now, how about the minimalism? There are only two Cheshire Cats: bass and vocals by Sabatel, drums by The Lady Of Altamont (we're obviously not quite finished with the surrealism yet). No guitars, no keyboards, just that stark bass 'n' drums rhythm and Sabatel's mannered, melodramatic, Nina Hagen wail of a vocal. It's a combination that works rather well. The production pushes everything forward, every bass-thunk and drum-thump walloping home with a hefty impact, the space around the sounds as much a part of the music as the noises themselves. It's angular but forceful, a stripped-to-the-bone punk rock opera of a racket.
The wonderfully named 'Twerp' is probably the nearest thing to conventionality here, in that it's a bit of a rocker. Sabatel conjures sustained tones and drones out of her bass, and the drums pile in like a playground fight. The band's ability to kick up a rattling, rhythmic racket with only half the hardware of a normal outfit is impressive, as is the rolling thunder of the tom-toms on 'Borderline' and the Klaus Nomi vocal acrobatics on 'Lyric', possibly the best Cinema Strange song Cinema Strange never wrote. You know that legendary line between genius and bonkers? Cheshire Cat (The Bouncing) walk it with feline sure-footedness.
Why Not Just Be Solo (Fabrika)
More minimalism - but this time served with a frosting of Lebanon Hanover's trademark chilly reserve. In fact, Lebanon Hanover couldn't be more frosty if you left them out on the lawn on a cold night in winter.
Here, the band continue what they started on their first album - a stark, exiguous, bare-bones bump and grind. It's as bleak as a North Sea sky, as precise as the geometry of a snowflake, as introspective as a spell in solitary confinement. Bass, guitar, programmed rhythms - and plenty of alienation. Not exactly your good-time rock 'n' roll, then, so don't come here if you're looking to par-tay.
But there's nevertheless a cold-eyed groove at work, and a certain grimly sardonic humour, too - just listen to the spartan disco of 'Cadaverously Quaint', on which a pulsing sequencer hammers away behind a vocal as wearily deadpan as a monk reading the day's lesson. It's as if New Order entered a monastery. 'No One Holds Hands', with its outbreaks of Chameleons guitar, makes Lebanon Hanover sound almost incongruously like a conventional rock band, until 'Why Not Just Be Normal' reins things in again and brings us back to the band's gaunt musical landscape, where the band obviously feel most at home. Normality is overrated. Lebanon Hanover stare balefully into the face of the world, and you know the world is going to blink first.
Lebanon Hanover: Facebook
Look in the Archive or use the search box below to find Lebanon Hanover live reviews.
For photos, go here.
|Lebanon Hanover are 'Cadaverously Quaint'. Live from Lindisfarne Priory.|
The Unraveller Of Angels (E-Klageto)
Following their own trajectory like a guided missile gone rogue, Attrition are, as ever, magnificently unrelated to anything else that's happening in the world of electronic music. On this, their 21st album (or 33rd, counting compilations - if you fancy being an Attrition completist, you're in for a long haul), Attrition bring their roiling atmospheres and heartbeat pulses to the party, and end up sounding like something enticingly weird going on in the cellar of the witch house.
Notwithstanding that daunting back catalogue, if you're new to Attrition this album is just as good a place to dip in as any. Because The Unraveller Of Angels is very, very Attrition. The band has an identity that endures, no matter how many collaborators and guests the band's main man, Martin Bowes, might surround himself with. This album features contributions from TyLean, Mona Mur, Matt Howden and Annie Hogan, to name but a few - and yet, in its eddies and swirls, its undulations and convulsions, it's entirely Attrition.
Let's jump into the analogue bubblebath. Dip into the driving space-disco of 'Narcissist', the nervy breakbeats and spooky bass-pulse of 'Karma Mechanic', the after-dark claustrophobia of 'One Horse Rider'. Martin Bowes murmers a deep, grumbly vocal, close to the mic, unruffled, reserved, right there, in the room with you. TyLean's fragmented opera-wail provides a counterpoint - and, interestingly, a rhythmic element too, as the vocals trade lines, to and fro. Strings sidle in and out, sequences cut and run. Basslines drive everything forward - Attrition are the ultimate professors of urgent, authoritative synth bass, and it's deployed to great effect here.
At times, The Unraveller Of Angels feels like being immersed in a deep, dark, underwater disco...with a chamber quartet, the local opera society, and the Patrician of Ankh-Morpork. Yes, this is Attrition's world: wayward and immersive. And - rare though it is to say this about any band - utterly unlike anybody else.
The Tiger Lillies
Either Or (Misery Guts)
Here's the latest instalment in the Tiger Lillies' ever-expanding ouvre of macabre cabaret jolly-ups and affecting ballads of Dickensian tragedy. And you've got to love an album upon which the first line of the first song, the ghastly travelogue that is 'Blood Alley', is the bald statement "Cancer's got a grip upon you".
Martyn Jaques, Tiger Lillies lyricist, vocallist, pianist, accordianist and all-round gleeful pessimist, obviously hasn't acquired a view of the world any less jaundiced than usual. For that, we can all give thanks. He's joined by a slightly different cast of merry degenerates this time round: long-standing (I'm almost tempted to say long-suffering) drummer Adrian Huge is taking a sabbatical from the band at present, so the drums here are credited to Mike Pickering. Not the Hacienda DJ, as far as I know, although that would be a rather wonderful collision of worlds. But, regardless of any line-up changes, Either Or shows the Tiger Lillies' world to be as grubby and glorious and bittersweet and downright funny as ever.
The jaunty knees-ups rattle along with sprightly abandon, with Martin Jaques never happier than when he can enunciate a filthy couplet in his precise falsetto. "I'm a sailor, I'm full of fun/I'm bulging now and full of cum," he warbles cheerily on 'Sailor', and if that's hardly his most incisive lyric or cleverest rhyme, it's very, very Tiger Lillies - and he duly gets away with it. Thousands wouldn't.
Elsewhere, the ballads mix wistful, whimsical piano with lyrics that muse thoughtfully on life - as on the affectingly matter-of-fact 'Depression' and the acrid, cynical, title track, half-spoken in Martin Jaques' dryly pedagogic natural voice. In that, we have the two sides of the Tiger Lillies - the scurrilous tales of brothels and back alleys, and the caustic dissections of the human condition. Here, the band combine these strands with deceptive ease. Either Or is not a case of either, or.
The Deadfly Ensemble
An Instructional Guide For Aspiring Arsonists (Projekt)
It must be an odd business, being The Deadfly Ensemble. Fronted by Cinema Strange's Lucas Lanthier, and containing representatives of Scarlet's Remains and Christ Vs. Warhol, the band's connections with Californian deathrock guarantees a fanbase among the mohawks 'n' ripped fishnet of the deathrock scene - a bizarre mismatch of artist and audience, surely.
Because The Deadfly Ensemble are not rampaging deathrockers. They're more like - well, what would you say? On the evidence of An Instructional Guide For Aspiring Arsonists, I'd say whimsical, west coast folk rockers. Which is about as far as you can possibly get from guys with big mohawks singing punk songs about zombies.
This album is shot through with acousticky twingle-twangles and wistful, keening strings - plus some lengthy and rather inconsequential folk-rock instrumental passages. That's odd, given that the identity and appeal of The Deadfly Ensemble is largely based around the singular lyrics and tiptoe-round-the-tulips vocal delivery of Lucas Lanthier. Maybe his decision to remove himself from the spotlight in favour of frankly rather forgettable instrumental interludes is a deliberate ploy to focus attention on the band. But it results in the Ensemble pulling its own best punches.
On 'Dog Vs. Postman, in B' we're treated to over five minutes of jaunty intermission music, before the song slows down and the Lanthier operatic wail is at last deployed. The acoustic instrumental 'St Nick's Sugar Hill Sanitoirum' sounds like an intro in search of a song: I almost expected it to kick off like 'Stairway To Heaven', but it proves to be a gentle stroll to no particular destination. As for 'Commercial Success' - well, I get the joke of the title (The Deadfly Ensemble are a resolutely uncommercial combo) but as for the tune itself, I'm sorely tempted to use the F-word. Which, in this case, is Filler.
The best bits are when Lucas lets himself go on his swooning faux-Victorian melodramas, like 'Marvelous Murderess', which could almost be one of Martin Jaques' laudanum nightmares, and 'Hammer, Anvil, and Stirrups', reviewed as a crackly vinyl single last issue. Here, The Ensemble plays to its strength as a surrealist vaudeville troupe on a cheery song concerning a very particular bone collector. It's on odd little story songs like these that the Ensemble makes its unique mark. An entire album of Lucas Lanthier's after-dark parlour tales, fully realised and piled high, would be a delight. Alas, we don't quite get that here.
El Circulo (Vanity Case) / Culpable (Louder Than War)
Two releases here. Two singles, on two different labels - and two different sides of Mueran Humanos. 'Culpable', released as part of the Louder Than War singles club, represents the accessible side of the band. 'Accessible' is relative, of course, but this is the tune I'd recommend for newcomers to the strange and terrible world of Mueran Humanos. It's a nagging, hypnotic, krautrock-goes-synthpop thing, fit to make even the most dour nihilist get on the dancefloor. Flip the biscuit for 'Amuleto', in which Mueran Humanos get their art-apocalypse on. It's all drums and chant, layered sampled voices fighting to be heard, a nightmare psalm set to a heavy-duty bass grind.
'El Circulo', a taster for the band's forthcoming album on Vanity Case records, is a slow-build, slow-burn sepulchral groover that nods in the direction of Can and Neu while always remaining entirely Mueran Humanos. Over eight minutes and four seconds it constucts an elegant air of escalating menace - something Mueran Humanos do very well. They probably eat escalating menace for breakfast. Flip this biscuit and hunker down for 'La Langosta', a near twenty-minute ambient odyssey, a slow spiral of unfurling ideas that reveal themselves like figures emerging from mist as the tune progresses. We're a long way from rock 'n' roll, that's for sure, and the landscape is certainly strange. But I like the scenery.
Mueran Humanos: Website | Facebook
Look in the Archive or use the search box below for Mueran Humanos live reviews.
For photos, go here.
|Home movies with Mueran Humanos. 'Culpable', from the Louder Than War single release.|
The Bellwether Syndicate
The Night Watch (Self release)
A new project outta Chicago, although denizens of the goth scene will recognise the principal protagonists: William Faith, of Faith And The Muse, and Sarah Rose, better known as DJ Scary Lady Sarah.
The band's website namechecks a string of genres. Punk, post-punk, electronica, glam, shoegaze, indie, goth. Even, rather incongruously, chamber music. Are The Bellwether Syndicate in search of an identity - or just trying have all their generic cakes and eat them, too?
As a matter of fact, The Bellwether Syndicare seem torn in three, between gothic rock, hands-in-the-air synthpop of the kind that tends to fill the dance floor at goth clubs these days, and post-punky indie of the 80s and 90s: The House Of Love, Felt, Love And Rockets, Throwing Muses. It's as if the band are caught between the need to give the goth scene what it wants, and a desire to follow their own instincts. The result is sometimes rather odd.
'All Fire' deploys a hefty electronic bombination as background for a touch-all-bases uber-goth anthem, as if the band want to be the Mission and Apoptygma Bezerk at the same time. There's certainly no shortage of melodrama: "Revel in the ashes/That fall like winter snow", indeed. That's winter snow as opposed to summer snow, presumably. Underneath it all, there's a driving post-punky song trying to make itself heard above the sound of hands being stapled to foreheads, but the drama-llama wins this one, I think.
'The Night Watch' is an unholy alliance between an ecstasy-rush synthpop barnstormer and a robust indie-guitar rattler. It's almost as if two different songs have been unceremoniously nailed together. On every chorus the massed forces of the synth army suddenly swoop in like death from above. '101 Go' is the guitar fightback: a breakneck rifftastic grind, like 'Waiting For The Man' after a dose of performance enhancers. Curiously, an unexpected squawk of electronics erupts in the middle of the song - just once, as if someone pushed up the wrong fader and hastily pulled it down again. Even here, at their most rocky, The Bellwether Syndicate feel they have to throw the synthpoppers a bone.
Best song, interestingly and significantly, is 'You Can See Through Me', on which the band stop trying to tickle the G-spot and just go with their own flow. Sarah takes the vocal on a haunting slice of post-punk dreampop which instantly transforms The Bellwether Syndicate into a classic 4AD band that never was. There's a natural ease to the song, as if the band are - finally - doing just what they want, and to hell with keeping the goth scene on side.
The goth scene, of course, provides The Bellwether Syndicate with a home base and fanbase. I can see why they want to trick out their tunes with styling cues that the goth scene might like. But they should trust their instincts. Goth is great, but sometimes it gets in the way.
Lazarus Under Glass (Self releasse)
Last issue, I reviewed the Partly Faithful's previous release, the 'Beehive' EP. Hot on the heels of that comes this, the band's debut album. There's been a slight adjustment in the personnel department 'twixt then and now - new guitarist Anouska Haze is on board after the band's original plank spankeuse became a full-time Savage. Her presence, I think, has a lot to do with the sound of Lazarus Under Glass. It's very much a guitar-driven album.
In a way I'm reluctant to say that, because now you'll be imagining a stack of hoary old pub-rock riffage interspersed with show-off fret-frotting. But not so. Perish the thought. Here, the guitar is employed more like a surrealist noise unit - no mean feat in itself, in a band that is all noise units.
Listen to the way the guitar comes skidding sideways at you on 'Amen', like an army of severely pissed off Lee Ranaldos, while the bass paces the perimiter like a security guard and the vocal scales a teetering tower of angst. Dig the careering other-pop of 'Underset', a song which manages to weld a lilting chorus to an angular clamour. Hear the Partly Faithful get their Gang Of Four grind on, as the bass clanks its way through 'Collapsing'. Cling on as the band kick out the jams in the rush and push of 'Stop'. Marvel as the guitar turns into a theremin before your very ears on the hurtling scramble of 'Obsession'. The bass and drums circle the racket, asserting their authority like boxing referees; the vocals are a precisely-enunciated oration, a counterpoint to the seething mass of the music.
The Partly Faithful have fielded assorted comparisons with Bauhaus in their time (not least from me, I admit), and I'm sure there will be those who'll say Lazarus Under Glass is the band's answer to In The Flat Field. Well, maybe. There's certainly a connection there, in the roiling tension, the sense of urgency, the taut rumble of the rhythm. But that skewed, slithering, bite-and-scratch guitar drags it all in another direction. If you ask me, the Partly Faithful have come over all Evol. I don't know if that's by accident or design, but I like the results.
|'Underset' by the Partly Faithful - the pure pop moment from Lazarus Under Glass. They've only partly made a video for this one.|
...And The Bleak Shall Inherit (Watertight)
I know what you're going to say. With an album title like that, they've got to be a goth band, right?
Well, yes...and no. Back in the 90s Waterglass carved out something of a niche for themselves among fans of austere, nimble shimmer-pop that nevertheless wasn't averse to putting its big boots on and getting a little assertive, in a flanged-guitars-at-twenty-paces kind of way. A debut album came along in 2002 - following which, not much. Waterglass spent the next decade firmly ensconced in the Where Are They Now file, and have only just re-emerged with this, an unexpected album number two.
You can hear the passage of time in some of the songs here, for there's a measured, mature feel to much of this material. This is not a bunch of hungry young tyros, eager for the world to listen. This is a band of grown-ups, at ease with what they do, and doing it - I guess - primarily for themselves. For Waterglass, I suspect, the words 'well crafted' would count as the ultimate accolade.
And yes, ...And The Bleak Shall Inherit is extremely well crafted. 'Like Raindrops' is a judicious, measured, excursion into ethereal AOR. 'Bleak' is a one-song masterclass in the creation of plangent, celestial folk-rock, like Fairport Convention after a good going-over with furniture polish - even if the fidgety drums do rather sound as if they've got an urgent appointment in another song entirely.
But a few scratches and splinters show through the polish. 'Message Ends', in which our heroine documents her disintegration on her former beau's answering machine, has plenty of frazzled guitars and a vocal as stark as January. 'Only You', all brushed drums and an unsettling half-whisper of a vocal, is a love song with a cold heart. There's more going on in that relationship than the lyrics tell, mark my words. 'Station One' is slo-mo and staccato, a Bowie-esque excursion into alienation. 'Seventeen', rather unexpectedly, reminds me of Pauline Murray And The Invisible Girls, with its flighty vocal flitting over the marching drums and guitar army.
On ...And The Bleak Shall Inherit Waterglass prove they can do exquisite angst better than anyone. But it's those scratches and splinters that catch my attention and provide the points of interest, rather than the polish and the sense of a steady hand on the tiller. 'Well crafted' is good. But you should never let the craft get in the way of the art.
This Is Radio Silence
Soon, Much Of This Will Have Been Destroyed (Disconnected)
Well, they're obviously fans of The Big Music. This Is Radio Silence station themselves somewhere between I Like Trains and The Twilight Sad - purveyors of brooding introspection to soundtracks of looming intensity.
There's certainly plenty of brooding and looming going on in This Is Radio Silence's music. Basslines rumble like the people downstairs moving furniture around. Drums circle and shuffle. Guitars and keyboards combine to create a dense, intense, thrum. Vocals are set back in the mix, part of the overall sound rather than a focal point. That might make it hard to get a handle on This Is Radio Silence: the band retreat into the music to the point where they become lost in the towering stormclouds of sound that come billowing out of their sonic weather machine. This is not a personality band. You could never imagine putting a poster of This Is Radio Silence's lead singer on your wall. A poster of a hurricane racing across a stormy sea would be more like it.
Still, if it's intensity you want, they've got it, delivered with a certain downbeat melancholy that pervades even outwardly upbeat songs. "Wasted years are over", they sing on 'Your Saving Grace', a cheery enough sentiment in itself - until you remember that in order for the wasted years to be over, there must've been some wasted years in the first place. That's This Is Radio Silence all over. Every silver lining has a cloud.
'In A Cage' sees the band get a little more accessible, with a soaring croon of a song - and that's no paradox. This Is Radio Silence really can make a croon soar. 'Swansong' sees the angst-levels racked up to the red line, as the song builds to a massive surge of baleful vehemence. Curiously, the lyric mentions wasted years again, this time not at all in a cheery context. Those pesky wasted years are back, it seems, as This Is Radio Silence take their soul-searching for another walk on the dark side of the street, to that Big Music soundtrack. Here come the clouds again.
Vampire Junkies Featuring Texas Terri
Vampire Junkies Featuring Texas Terri (Angels In Exile)
Right now I bet you're saying, enough with all this angst and introspection. Give us something we can understand, for God's sake. Give us some PUNK ROCK!
Well, here come some people who can help with that. This 5-song EP is the result of a collaboration between the Vampire Junkies, rock 'n' roll reprobates from London, and Texas Terri, punk rock queen of, erm, Texas. There are no frills and fancies in the sound here. Iit's a raw but impeccably tight guitar-bass-drums kickabout, with Terri's vocal - sometimes a sardonic drawl, sometimes a blues-diva rasp - ripping it up over the top. It's a very Stooges-ish thing: there's more than a touch of the Iggys in Terri's elemental blare, backed with the band's unadorned crash-bash.
The classic rock 'n' roll break-up song 'Denmark Street' immortalises what is probably now the last remaining rock 'n' roll thoroughfare in London W1, but it's on 'With My Machines' that the band take Iggy Pop by the scruff of his neck and give him a big sloppy kiss...while shamelessly stealing his best moves out of his back pocket. Gotta love 'em for it, though. It's no secret where Terri and the lads are getting their juice from, but they swig it down with style.
Vampire Junkies Featuring Texas Terri: Website | Facebook
Seven inches o' noise from tribal-industrial punks Dogfeet. But 'noise' can hide a multitude of sins. Some of his stuff might surprise you, if you've got Dogfeet pegged as that heavy-duty drums 'n' hollerin' bunch.
Mind you, if it's drums 'n' hollerin' you want, 'Shade' showcases exactly that aspect of Dogfeet's art. A pounding rush of rhythm, counterpointed by a metallic clatter like a menacing gang of Hare Krishnas parading down the road (and I bet that's the first time you've seen Hare Krishnas described as 'menacing'), a hoarse shout over the top - "ALL EYES ON YOU!" - it's a huge rhythmic surge, but always tightly controlled. The beats hit home with pinpoint accuracy. It's as if Dogfeet have invented organic techno.
Over on the B side, another, perhaps rather unexpected aspect of Dogfeet. 'The Sycamore' is all thrumming and mumbling, the rhythm hinted at in the sonic to-and-fro rather than being slapped in our faces. It's like one of Brian Eno's excursions into cerebral introspection - and, now that we've mentioned Eno, get a load of 'Rise', in which Dogfeet fully immerse themselves in ambience, to the sound of heavily treated guitar and accordian. Dogfeet do hammering rhythms better than anyone, but there's more to this band than just a big beat.
The Anxiety Of Love
One (aufnahme + wiedergabe)
An EP available on cassette, for all you old schoolers, and as a download, for children of the digital age. The Anxiety Of Love position themselves as post-punk outsider artists, garage-industrialists with their heads in 1979 but their feet stomping all over the twenty-first century. With layered drum machinery, plenty of bass, assorted sweeps of distortion, and a vocal soaked in equal parts truculence and neurosis, The Anxiety Of Love drag their alienation down the disco and dance their mess around.
And yes, for all that this music wears a sardonic frown, you can dance to it. The Anxiety Of Love are actually pretty good at laying down a syncopated beat, building a riff around it, pulling sounds in and out, racking up the tension with an influx of distort-o-noise, and then dropping it all out again in an unexpected release. Hear this to its best effect on 'Raped By Light' - behind the cheery title, which is very Anxiety Of Love, lurks an after-dark groove that sounds like an unholy alliance between Throbbing Gristle and Blancmange. "The cold light of day/It's just seconds away," intones the vocal, as if the dawn is something to be greeted with dread, while the beat cracks on and massed guitars mix it on the dancefloor. It's grim, but it's groovy, too.
The Anxiety Of Love: Facebook
Maria & The Mirrors
Vision Quest (51 Records)
A compilation of Maria & The Mirrors' singles so far, released on Tokyo-based 51 Records, a label which seems to have an uncanny feel for the coolest noisemakers in London (check them out here....it's almost as if they read this very webzine).
I was going to rehash the usual guff that always seems to get trotted out when compilations are reviewed - you know, "If you're unfamiliar with the band's work, this is a great place to start!" However, I don't think that'll do on this occasion. Because this is the strange and scary world of Maria & The Mirrors, a tribal-dub otherworld soundtracked by pounding drums, post-techno bass bin pumping, purple noise and primal screams (as opposed to Primal Scream, for which we can all be very thankful).
In short, this is wild and glorious dancefloor-destroying stuff, and not for the faint hearted. If you are unfamiliar with the tropical swamps and sonic rainforests of the Maria & The Mirrors sound, I'd recommend easing yourself in gently with one of their singles, which, like a ride on a rickety rollercoaster, have the saving grace of being over within a few bloodcurdling minutes. Here we have 59 bloodcurdling minutes and 2 scary seconds of madly brilliant post-industrialism: all the hits and assorted remixes, from the bottom-end wallop of 'Gemini Enjoy My Life' and the manic, hypnotic, 'Travel Sex', to the haunted house of 'Ayia Napa Reunion' and the mentalist powernoise of 'Fuckmoney'. All your disco nightmares in one package. Unwrap with caution.
Maria & The Mirrors: Website | Facebook
Look in the Archive or use the search box below for Maria & The Mirrors live reviews.
For photos, go here.
|'Travel Sex' with Maria & The Mirrors. Ease yourself in gently. This counts as gently.|
The Murder Act
Traum (Self release)
Here's a bunch who sound like they've been locked in a Dalston basement for a week with nothing but Velvet Underground and Birthday Party albums to eat. Triangulate the influences: the nihilistic pulse and drone of the Velvets - those circling basslines, the blank-eyed repetitions of the rhythm - and then, at times, outbreaks into leering, freaking, bad-end-of-town rock 'n' roll, all filtered through an East London post-punk sensibility. Not a bad mash-up, and indeed The Murder Act mash it with aplomb.
Get a load of 'He'll Never Have A Name', with its wall of grumbling bass and slabs of frowning guitar, vocals declaiming a recalcitrant mantra. It builds and builds, until it's a veritable sonic radar sweep, implacable in its constant circling. The Murder Act do like their build-ups - 'I Sing' similarly escalates into a storm of intensity, before 'Sew My Eyes' reins things in with an extended, growly-bass stretch-out of a song.
Over on the B side, 'Repulsive Acts Of Penetrative Entertainment' has a title that frankly tries a bit too hard, but you can't beat that Mo Tucker floor tom thunder. 'Traum' is a long, loping, electronics-infested workout, the band remaining uncharacteristically controlled as the vocal scrabbles up into a freaked-out shriek.
I suspect The Murder Act's relentless angst might become a little wearing over a full-length album. But here, over a tidy six tracks, there's just the right amount of room for the band to make their fretful, restless point.
Lady From Shanghai (Fire)
It's not often you can start a review with the words "Here we have the fifteenth album..." - but this is Pere Ubu we're talking about. Normal rules do not apply. It's even rarer to be able to say that a band's fifteenth album is as full of wayward creativity as their first - in Pere Ubu's case that'll be the justly acclaimed The Modern Dance of 1978. But, yes, they've pulled off that trick, too, with suitable levels of so-what insousciance.
Lady From Shanghai is not, it must be said, one of Pere Ubu's accessible, commercial-crossover, alterno-scene-friendly albums. There is nothing here with the immediacy of 'Waiting For Mary' or the punker swagger of 'Final Solution'. Pere Ubu can pull that stuff out of their pockets any time they like, of course - but here, they dig a different groove.
And groove is the operative expression in the case of 'Thanks', which takes the form of an extended, dubby, outer-space disco, with David Thomas wailing "You can go to he-e-ell", to the melody of Anita Ward's 'Ring My Bell' (the CD sleeve, by the way, asserts 'All songs written by Pere Ubu', as if daring the lawyers to do their worst). Then there's the otherworldly croon of 'Mandy', with a fuzz of distortion running in the background like leaking electricity; the clank and scritter of 'Musicians Are Scum', over which David Thomas intones fatalistically, "Get in line, with all the others whose lives I've ruined," while another voice pops up to holler "Time!" at intervals, in what must be a direct steal from the Chambers Brothers' psychedelic hit, 'Time Has Come Today'. That'll be another set of lawyers on you, guys.
But Pere Ubu plough on: 'Another One (Oh, Maybelline)' sounds like the ghost of a rock song, plucked from the ether. 'Lampshade Man' is a galumphing post-Beefheart almost-blues. 'The Carpenter Sun' is an assemblage of atmospherics, loosely held together by the occasional rhythmic plunk, David Thomas' vocal coming in, as often on this album, via a phone line from another, weirder, world.
You wonder where Pere Ubu's heads are at. You wonder what on earth they think they're playing at. Here, at any rate, Pere Ubu play themselves right through rock 'n' roll and emerge some way out on the other side, brushing the dust and debris from their clothes - but certain they're in the right place to be.
First Prom (Self release)
Five tracks of moody ambiences and slo-mo technopop from Laura Clock, she who is Butterclock. Five tracks which have a curiously remixy feel to them, with their weirdly drifting EQs and effects constantly floating in and out. It's almost as if you could de-mix these songs, and end up with a 90s track by Portishead, or something.
It's a self-consciously modern sound, right down to that nasal, vocoder-ish Auto-Tune effect which slaps itself over the vocal at times, like an over-friendly drunk being ingratiating at a party. Now that's one aspect of Laura's art that I'd definitely de-mix out of existence - not only because it's tediously over-used these days, but also because tunes which employ that kind of vocal treatment are going to sound very dated any moment now.
Still, 'Sorry Love' (which is, of course, what you say when you step on someone's toe in Huddersfield) has a nice, trip-hoppy feel, and 'Milky Words' pirouettes with a certain wistful delicacy. In a way, Laura Clock isn't doing anything that Switchblade Symphony didn't do on their third album - the one where they came over all trip hop and alienated the goths. She's just doing it with updated software, and a lot more effects. Nice stuff in its ghostly, ethereal way, but I can't quite get rid of the thought that First Prom is really just trip hop reworked for the witch house generation.
|Butterclock performs 'Don't', from the First Prom EP. Laptop trip hop with a title that's a hostage to fortune for smart-arse reviewers.|
Brave Exhibitions Compilation Volume One (Animals As Automata)
"Music that nobody wants to listen to," says the slogan on the CD inlay. Well, there's a challenge in that - and also a certain staking out of territory.
Brave Exhibitions will be familiar to the inhabitants of the sonic art underworlds of London, Berlin, and New York, as organisers of events that showcase left-of-left-field performers, out-there artists and interesting weirdos of one sort or another. Not, in short, your normal rock 'n' roll gigs. Now this 20-track compilation brings the Brave Exhibitions noise to the world at large. Whether the world wants to listen or not.
Inhabitants of the sonic art underworld will meet a few old friends along the way. The Sixteens crop up with the loping groove of 'Paper Feathers' (I was under the impression that The Sixteens had quit shiowbiz. I'll be pleased if this sudden reappearance means they're still in the fray); Maria & The Mirrors crank the rhythm 'n' noise rampage that is 'Travel Sex'. Mueran Humanos contribute the menacing minimalism of 'Exito De Una Santa', a looming bass-heavy thing that makes you cast nervous glances over your shoulder. Velvet Condom channel Kraftwerk on 'Dirty Me', while Gertrud Stein invites us to 'Tanze Samba Mit Mir', while leaning heavily on the claves button on her vintage beat box.
Then there's the deconstructed, dessicated Joy Division of 'Ex Yugoslavia' by Table Manners, and the oddly commercial (for the Brave Exhibitions value of 'commercial') dreampop of 'Journey' by Daybed. And you'll be suitablty chastened by Jemek Jemowit, who delivers 'Mein Tabletten' with all the stern dourness of the scary bloke out of Laibach giving a statement to the police.
So, territiory well and truly staked out, then, and in spite of Brave Exhibitions trying to defuse criticism by getting a sideswipe in first, there's stuff here that I suspect you will want to listen to. Let's face it, if you're reading this, you're already in the sonic art underworld. Too late to get out now. Might as well just turn the music up. And let's hear it for the interesting weirdos.
Linea Aspera (Dark Entries)
Ah, the transience of pop. In the last issue of this here webzine, I reviewed Linea Aspera as a brand-new band. In this issue, I'm reviewing their posthumous debut album. In the space between those two issues, the band have wrapped up their career and called it quits.
It's not like I want every band to go trundling on for decades like the Rolling Stones, but Linea Aspera's brief life and sudden death does rather leave their fans in an abrupt limbo. They could've given us another six months and a few more gigs, surely - not least to promote this album, which now lies abandoned by the very band that made it. I bet they're loving it over at the Dark Entries label, where they've now got to flog the product of a non-existent artist.
What makes it all the more galling is that Linea Aspera is actually rather good, in a slinky, punchy, retro-electro kind of way. Sometimes it's haunting, atmospheric and introspective. Sometimes it extends a cautious foot in the direction of a DAF-esque dancefloor as the synthi-pulses build and the beats kick up a gear. The sound is rooted in early 80s post-punk electronica - there's a drum roll on 'Eviction' which is first cousin to the one the Cabs used on 'Nag Nag Nag', and I'm sure that's not an accident. But the production is entirely twenty-first century in its clarity.
Alison Lewis sings with an offhand, glacial cool as the electronix loop and swirl around her. "He's just a filthy protozoan", she assures us in the baleful put-down that is 'Malarone', and there's something rather neat about that biological insult, enunciated over the lab-clean sound of jittering synths. Nice use of the singular of 'Protozoa', too. Not a lot of people know that.
Well, if you blinked, you missed them. But Linea Aspera's after-the-fact album is still worth your attention. And who knows, next issue I might be covering the comeback tour.
|'Malarone' by Linea Aspera. The protozoa now all have solo careers.|
And You Will Find Them In The Basement (Desire)
Linea Aspera and Lebanon Hanover also crop up on this compilation of twenty-first century new wave electronix from some of the bands that have inhabited the basements and back rooms of London over the last few years. You'll have read about some of those bands, and visited some of those basements and back rooms, via this very webzine, of course. Now here's the soundtrack album.
Lebanon Hanover, of course, are as much a guitar band as an electronic outfit, but the downbeat New Order-isms of 'Cadaverously Quaint' fit in rather well. Linea Aspera give us the Front 242-ish pulse of 'Attica', while Mild Peril's 'Alpha Zone' has a kind of 80s Detroit techno feel to it, mid-tempo and soulful - rooted in that time before techno became techno. Team Pi$$ give us a meaty, beaty, Throbbing Gristly workout, a contrast to Gertrud Stein's taut, twitchy, but ultimately engagingly poppy 'U-Bahn'.
Női Kabát have fun with chuntering sequencers on 'I Corrode' - an entire song based on the sound effect The Damned tacked on the end of 'Curtain Call'. Now there's a comparison I bet Női Kabát didn't expect to get. Soft Riot's 'Cinema Eyes' could be a long-lost track from the Cabs' Micro-Phonies, right down to the drum sound. A Terrible Splendour have the best band name on the album, and their 'Garcon Dans Le Vent' is a rather nifty slice of Nouvelle Vague-inflected minimal synthpop.
It's a paradox that much modern electronic music sounds distinctly 80s. Today's bands employ technology vastly superior to the limited kit available in the past to make it sound like they haven't got much technology. That's certainly the overall feel on this album. But this is 80s-style electro as an artistic choice, rather than a logistical imperative - an interesting concept in itself. And it certainly makes for some cool sounds coming up from the basement.And You Will Find Them In The Basement: Website
(This link emphasises the limited edition (and expensive) vinyl version of the album. Scroll down for the digital release).
Use the search box below to find earlier reviews and photos of Lebaon Hanover.
You Owe Me Nothing But Love (Tigertrap)
If it's true that noise is for heroes, as The Damned contended, then we should carry Comanechi shoulder high. You Owe Me Nothing But Love comprises 12 slabs of distorted rockblast, which, in the Great Rock Music Catalogue Of The Universe, should ensure Comanechi are slotted in somewhere among the likes of L7 and Silverfish, Babes In Toyland and Th Faith Healers.
So, a kind of punky, grungy, grubby old fuzzfest, then? Well, yes, it's certainly all that and more. But Comanechi have a secret weapon in the shape of vocalist/guitarist and (sometime) drummer, Akiko Matsuura, whose vocal delivery always has enough exhilarated vivacity to prevent the band's noise descending into a grunge-hole and never getting out. Comanechi's songs, too, are tightly structured things, so even when the guitars start strangling each other in a flurry of filthy riffs, there's always a touch of pop sensibility to steer things away from the sludge. It's a fine line between out and out rock 'n' roll rampage and accessibility, but Comanechi manage to walk it.
Comanechi's other secret weapon is the band's unexpected way with a disquietingly memorable lyric: "Hi, I’m Patsy/I show my pussy to everyone/My brother fucked me/He’s a model” sings Akiko on 'Patsy', matter-of-fact over a massive Pretty On The Inside guitar-slam, and all of a sudden Comanechi seem a deeper and darker proposition altogether. Noise-pop it is, but with an edge that trips you up.
|'Dream Of Dream', from Comanechi's album You Owe Me Nothing But Love. Who needs the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, anyway?|
Why Diet When You Could Riot (Riots Not Diets)
"Riots Not Diets began life as a (then unconscious) effort to sublimate a collective feeling of dysphoria into one of collective euphoria," explains the sheet of part-typewritten, part-hand-drawn notes that came with this nifty purple vinyl compilation from Brighton's Riots Not Diets club. From this we can conclude that Riots Not Diets is nothing if not a high-concept enterprise. But perhaps it would be better for our collective sense of dyphoria if we just listened to the music.
Thirteen tracks by thirteen bands, and a lo-fi, garagey aesthetic prevails throughout. Thrill to the rolling and tumblling dub-psych of 'Ice Father Nation' by Cover Girl, the no-fi dreampop of King Alfred Man Of Leisure - I was going to remark that their 'Wishes' sounds like it was recorded in a bedoom, but that does the acoustics of the average bedroom a disservice. The cupboard under the stairs is more like it. Ste McCabe kicks the buzzsaw, Buzzcocks pop of 'Queer Clubbing' around in lairy style; Houmousexual's 'Go West', a gawky acousti-folk tribute to Bristol, is quite touching, and The Ethical Debating Society inject a dose of angular fuzztone strop--pop with their 'Kill You Last'.
Skinny Girl Diet dominate the B-side with the bass-buzz and attitude of '14 16 18'. But honourable mentions go to Town Bike's 'Lipa', which jangles like the Janice Long Show on Radio One, circa 1987, and Milky Wimpshake, who seem to be posessed by the spirit of Jilted John on 'Uncool Jerk'.
The Riots Not Diets garage is a fun plce to be, even if the production values of some of the bands are more wilfully rasmshackle than I suspect they really need to be. In the age of the soft studio, lo-fi is an aesthetic more than anything, and it's embraced with enthusiasm here. But some rickety punky-poppy gems lurk in these purple vinyl grooves.
Oh, and a final mention must go to Jarvis Cocker, who pops up here and there between the songs as an uncredited - and, I suspect, entirely unofficial - sort-of narrator. Collective euphoria duly achieved. Riot on.
For earlier CD/Vinyl/Download reviews, look in the Archive.