Well, that’s just plain silly. Or perhaps it is a stroke of genius. After all the two are often the same thing and shift from one to the other only depending on how you look at them. It’s probably something to do with Heisenberg’s Uncertainly Principle…well, it all feels a bit quantum to me anyhow. So you have a band who have fashioned a range of homemade instruments largely from cleaning appliances and household detritus including an electric coffee bean can bouzouki, customised laundry rack, wash tub bass, 3-string closet hanger rod bass, melodic kling klang…no, me neither… and a drum kit made from at least 3 washing machines!
Dance music doesn’t have to be predictable. Although a lot of what is produced in that broad genre does seem to follow very tried and tested lines, plays safe and stays within its musical comfort zones. Occasionally you find someone who is deliberately making music without the safety net, who is happier leading than following, challenging rather than toeing the line. Log 57 is that very principle put into practice.
Indie? Possibly not but their music is so weird, genre-hopping and changeable that I’m not really sure where it fits in so this is as good a place as any. Most of my postings in this category have been real blasts from the past so far but as these splendid people are currently on tour and they remind me at their most intense of things like The March Violets and James Ray’s Gangwar, that’s excuse enough to post them here.
Industrial strength synth exploring rock territory? A pop band armed with keyboards and a bag of amphetamine? A trio who don’t care about fad, fashion or where genres start or end? I suspect that they are all of the above.
Check out music and tour dates at – Siblings of Us
I tend to use the word soundscape a lot in reviews because when put together right, when suitably structured, when layered with intricate textures, when music moves beyond the familiar, it has the ability to build new worlds. They may be sonic worlds but they can be as beguiling, as varied, as wondrous as anything you find in the physical realm. Dean Garcia and Preston Maddox, back under the moniker of S T F U, do indeed fall into such a category.
But unlike the more ambient creations of Garcia as SPC ECO or the cinematic electronica of Maddox’s Bloody Knives, instead S T F U fashion more intense, claustrophobic, angular and alien musical worlds. They pile layer upon layer to build crushing weight, shoegaze on cavernous drone, darkwave on art-punk, noise rock on sinister psychedelia and all the while industrial beats and invisible digital forces seem to toil endlessly to push the whole intricate collection forward.
The Same Way is mechanical in its nature, hypnotic factory rhythms meeting barely human vocals in the perfect synthesis of man and machine and The Liar is a blend of scuzzy electro-rock and android pop, a mix of hot oil and cold metal, or perhaps vice versa.
YUM 2 is a collection of remixes mirroring the first album but taking the songs into even more strange places. Secrets We Keep becomes a glitchy and almost arabesque industrial pop piece, Choloro is washed out even further into hazy space noise whilst Blind proves to be even more intense and brooding.
This is dance music built from the detritus found scattered across an industrial wasteland, all sharp edges and jagged design and driven by a relentless powerhouse of bruising beats and searing sparks. It is the white-hot groove of factory noise being rendered onto the night club floor, but not the night club that just anyone can find. This one is probably in a decaying warehouse or dead car plant miles away from civilisation and possibly even in some sort of parallel universe, and as the clock strikes thirteen this is the sound which hits the sky for probably the last party before the apocalypse.
Time spent in Jim Johnston’s mercurial and beguiling musical world is never time wasted. We know by now that genres and other such journalistic short cuts aren’t really going to cut it, you could make a point that his music sits in a left-field, indie-rock world but as the songs move between dance beats, strange electronica, pop infectiousness, prog and so much more, even that becomes less easy to defend. And talking of lazy journalistic labels, let me get this out of the way now, let me say that there is indeed something Bowie-esque in the way that he cuts up sounds and genres, styles and ideas and weaves them through his own core sound. It’s a moniker that every blogger under the sun is currently applying to everything that doesn’t fit into the rigid conformities of the modern musical climate, but here it seems more deserved than most.
Chemical Time wanders between grating, scuzzy guitars and swaggering Madchester grooves, Avon Gorge plays with futuristic, spacious and skittering clubland vibes but connects those dots in ways that would confound even the most off the wall, seasoned dance head. (Is there such a thing as ambient rave? Maybe there should be.) Gamblers throws some industrial textures, rock muscle and hypnotic club culture into the same mixing pot and Your 100th Rock Bottom drives the album briefly though New Order’s early sonic territory.
The fact that I could have picked parallels from almost every contemporary musical era from Ministry and Caberet Voltaire up to modern industrial dance torch bearers such as Multiple Man, shows how unattached to genre or era this album is. It is an album that is both futuristic and primal, detached yet tribal, dance-fuelled but swaggers with rock and indie moves, it is progressive yet familiar, focused yet constantly shifting. It’s tantamount to Jim Johnston’s ability to really give you something to think about that, having started the review saying that genres and labels are no good to us here, I have don’t nothing but draw comparisons. There fact that it takes so many conflicting ones to even begin to set the scene should tell you everything that you need to know.
Cyborg Asylum has always been great at blending a sort of clinical, cold war, drama with a slightly apocalyptic musical vision. Their great art has always lain in their skill for looking at the political machinations and social choices being made today and extrapolating their views of where those decisions might takes us. And to be fair there is no shortage of blatant, sweeping and impactful policies being forced upon an ever more helpless or uninformed (or perhaps wilfully ignorant) population. They may not provide us with answers but it is enough to ask the questions, instigate a conversation and raise concerns.
And what better way to make your voice heard than wrap those worries in slick and cool post-punk infused, industrial dance music? They revel in robust electronica, the sort which replicates the grind and grunt of rock music but which uses the synth palette of electronic glitches and riffs, programmed beats and washes to create their dystopian dance sound. It is Depeche Mode heading into the dark places of their later career, it is Nine Inch Nails gone dance, it is a file sharing, long distance, collaborative process which reflects the times that we live in. With previous release My Metallic Dream having already laid out a stall for their beautiful and bleak sound and a full album Never Finished, Only Abandoned now available it is the perfect time for you aquatinted yourself with the Asylum. You’d be mad not to.
One of the fun things about reviewing new music is the chance to make up intriguing, though ultimately pointless, new generic descriptions about the music under the spotlight. The fact you can do it at all says something about the band in question, to be able to find a new way to describe them in an already tightly labelled and pigeon-holed world speaks of the inherent originality. So ladies and goblinkind, I give you Splatter-punk! One part industrial noise, one part apocalyptic doom disco, one part horror sound track…a few visceral guitar riffs, cheese-grater to the skin bass lines and an avalanche of primal beats and you pretty much have it. And if such a generic title is actually something more than the product of my late night, coffee-wired, sleep deprived brain then Nasty Little Lonely would be its leading light. Or should that be dark.
Charlie Beddoes vocals are suitable manic, unhinged yelps acting as punctuation to the brutal lyrics, a delivery that wanders between sweetly innocent and “look out, she’s got a knife, “ and the music is as relentless and inhuman as you would expect. Throw in a video filled with pomegranates, dolls, scissors, wedding portraits revenge, a cat and a mad goth girl and the nightmare is complete.
No matter what anyone tells you about current musical fashions, what the zeitgeist might happen to be blowing in from cooler taste making circles, what the papers say is the next big thing or any of that sort of rhetoric, one thing never changes. The underground, the outside, the left field, the other…call it what you will, is always a far more interesting place.
It eschews common consent, public opinion and the approval of the masses and just makes music for itself. How great is that? And proof of that can be found in Cream VIII’s (geddit?) arty, electro-punk disco dirge, This Burning. It recalls some of the greats of the outside curve, it updates Bauhaus, sits next to Nick Cave on the piano stool, squeezes the high drama and cliche out of The Sisters of Mercy and wanders the same sonic underworld as the likes of Depeche Mode, once they realised that pop was not where their future lay and sold their souls and synths to a darker power.
Cream VIII, (formally Cream 8 but Roman numerals are more in keeping with the mystique of the band) released a string of CD’s throughout the 90’s and early part of this century and seem to have kept active enough since to keep in the public eye, but a brand new video for the track This Burning is big news indeed.
And as a music and video combination the two fit together perfectly. A striking gothic goddess, sashaying and slinkily grooving her way through decaying urban wastelands and buildings in the process of being subsumed by nature put to industrial beats and clinical synth sounds. It’s a great combination, a vision of mystery and otherworldliness, dystopia and seduction juxtaposed with a sound that feels half-human, half-machine, desolate and dangerous.
Building on the futuristic sounds of those 80’s synth pioneers, This Burning is a slick blend of the cold, clinical, noir-ish musical drama of those originators and a modern darkwave, slow dance vibe. It grafts an electro-gothic undercurrent on to an almost industrial pop sensibility (is that even a thing? I guess it is now!) and the result is the perfect soundtrack to be emanating from our car stereo as we drive into that final sunrise of a dystopian future. The future has never sounded so wonderfully bleak or so horrifically beautiful.
The role of creativity is many and varied, to inform, to entertain, to reassure, to challenge, to confound, to frighten. If you find some of your preferences in the second half of that list then the wonderfully named Silent Disco Sex are probably for you. They come from a dark musical place, one that draws from eerie and edgy electronica, slow, shuffling and doom-laden dance beats, strange swirling synth riffs, heady atmospheres and heavy spoken word top lines. Throw in a video which looks like it was spawned by the Saw franchise and you have something well outside the usual range of pop gloss and dance dross.
Their’s is a playground of dystopian hi-jinks, of night times on the decaying streets, of subversion and protest, of industrial wastelands and underground nightclubs, of shadows and neon, light and shade taken to it’s extremes. It is the collision point of the sound of distant, industrial machinations and transient, clinical digital languages, the distant humming of the modern world and the poetry of decay. It is a distant, disembodied opera, which echoes from our technology reflecting the detachment and unease of the world around us.
They are fellow sonic travellers of the likes of Nine Inch Nails, reminiscent of a mutant coupling of Depeche Mode and Tool, a blend of gothic claustrophobia, industrial bleakness and dark, dance drama. It is easy to see where they come from, where some of their references lie, but the ability to shape those influences into new statements, musically speaking, about the world they find themselves in and comment on where it may be heading is all you can ask of them.
There are times on We Are Fucked, gotta love an album title that honest, that it sounds as if someone has built a machine and programmed it with just the vaguest outline of how to make music and let it just work out the rest for itself. Whilst it follows the basic laws of melody and rhythm, of songwriting and musicality, the sounds it choses to work with owe more to the car plant than the music studio. Ever since that famous thought experiment where a violin was tied to a length of string and dragged down a gravel path, the argument about what music is, and more importantly what it can be, has been a heated place. Flesh Eating Foundation seem to prove that as long as you adhere to some of the most basic tenets, you can fill in the spaces between with anything you like. And if they chose to fill that space with fuzzed out guitars and glitchy electronica, crunching industrial noise and programmed beats, well, so much the better.
Following on from the uncompromising title, they run through a series of diatribes, observations and rants about the seedier and broken side of life. Punch Drunk is a sonic onslaught of searing psycho-synth and warped out interludes and the insightfully named Stand Up And Be Discounted sounds almost like Shakespearean textspeak put to dystopian pop music, possibly recorded using road repair tools rather than regular instruments. The End is a diabolic Vangelisian soundscape and the title track and opening salvo seems closer to synth-pop normality…but not much.
The album comes with some remixes of We Are Fucked and Having Fun which range from pushing the songs closer to the mainstream in the case of XSRY’s take on the former to speed fuelled industrial raves in the case of the Paresis lulz re-working of the latter. Bear in mind that here mainstream is a relative term and given the tricky and challenging ground that these songs start out in, mainstream here still might not be that close to the rest of the musical pack.
It’s a collection of songs which sit on the periphery and hold a mirror up to pop music. But, to be honest, it is a mirror that they have previously shattered, glued back together, sprayed with blotches of black paint and then shot with a Kalashnikov. But a mirror none the less.
If you can tell the character of a person by the company that they keep, you can tell a lot about a band by who they ask to re-mix their music. With the likes of Daniel Ash, Assemblage 23, Rodney Anonymous, Mindless Faith and Gost Remix II all working their magic, or at least re-working it, on the band’s 2016 single it is obvious that …And We All Die move in some very rarefied circles.
It would be easy to be suspicious of a release which is effectively 10 remixes of the same song, but unlike the usual pop trend or commercial dance fad of giving a single a few pointless re-tweaks and changes of beat, and passing it off as a new incarnation, here the various collaborators bring much more to the table. They bring their own personality.
This is no mere make over, this is musical gene splicing, often the complete deconstruction and rebuild of the materials at hand to produce a chimeric facsimile of the original, a whole new sonic beast. Ben Weinman’s take on the song is the perfect example of how far things are taken as he crashes glitchy industrial techno into strange dystopian symphonics and seemingly delivering the whole thing through a broken short-wave radio.
Daniel Ash casts a straighter, darker and brooding spell on the song, a mix of the terrifying and the groovesome, the danceable and the distressing. The Rain Within remix feels like the missing link between post-punk dreams and post-everything futuristic nightmares and Gost Remix II brings a strange mix of clubland vibrancy and synth-wave poise to these dark visions.
Considering this whole album is based around one song, it is amazing how varied, how eclectic and how imaginative this is, but then I guess this is less a collection of remixes in the conventional sense and more in the style of variations on a theme of Modern Day Privateers. As a concept in its self it is destined to return some interesting results, but when you have the best in the game re-imagining, re-inventing and re-building the song, then the quality of the results were never in any doubt.
I love music that confounds me, music which doesn’t fall into easy journalistic boxes. That is one of the things I love about Generation Kill, just one of many. So firstly, where does this fit into the musical landscape? Doom disco? Dystopian pop? Industrial dance? You get to a point where you are just inventing new genres and much as I like doing that it serves little purpose. It is a strange hybrid of heavy dance grooves, hypnotic and industrial electro, the sound of a bleak and blasted future, one where the machines have risen and where mankind is fighting back. It’s just that I’m not sure which side created this music.
This is dance music built from the detritus found scattered across an industrial wasteland, all sharp edges and jagged design and driven by a relentless powerhouse of bruising beats and searing sparks. It is the white-hot groove of factory noise being rendered onto the night club floor, but not the night club that just anyone can find. This one is probably in a decaying warehouse or dead car plant miles away from civilisation and possibly even in some sort of parallel universe, and as the clock strikes thirteen this is the sound which hits the sky for probably the last party before the apocalypse. Disco goes punk? Let’s go with that.
You can always rely on Nasty Little Lonely to throw a spanner in the works, it’s the reason that you have to love them so much. Just when the music scene seems to have found its beige balance of acoustic troubadours in wide brimmed hats, skinny-jeaned alt-rock fashionistas and production line pop liberally sampling the same old same old, along comes the latest single from Bristol’s most interesting noise makers. Howling like post-punk banshees they emerge from their industrial wastelands all sharp edges and challenging defiance, barbarians at the gates of popular culture.
They growl and groove, blast and boogie in equal measure, come on like a tsunami of burning oil and belligerent attitude and lay down musical layers so dense and dangerous that you will drown in its dark back wash. But behind the aggression and musical density is that same tribal groove and mutated melody thatyou might have thought had died with the likes of The Gun Club, Jesus Lizard or the Riot Grrls. Nasty Little Lonely is here to summon that ghost, welcome to the grooviest seance in town.
This is a band that isn’t just welcome, they are necessary, musical thorns in the side of the modern music scene, not only reminding us of a more ferocious and interesting past but beating an alternative route through the cloying commercialism of an era happy to settle for a lowest cultural and creative common denominator. Time to celebrate, that bland party is all but over.
I think the word we are looking for here is intense. Right from the off, as the opening salvo of Some Cop blasts its way into the listener’s consciousness, the album comes on like some sort of New York No Wave nightmare blended with PIL’s darkest and most gritty sonic secrets. I’d hate to be that guy, the one who says, “they don’t make music like this anymore” well, now I don’t have to be, they clearly do. Who knew?
Defeated is a collection of short, sharp shocks, the musical equivalent of being roughed up in a back alley, an onslaught of industrial repetition, crashing percussion, sonic scar tissue and barked, stripped back vocals and I’m not even saying that as if it is a bad thing. It isn’t, the brutality of the record is great and somehow feels creatively from a more innocent time whilst being musically more experienced and world weary.
Obvious nods are given to those head days when punks, having destroyed rock and pop’s status quo…and indeed Status Quo, set about building new sonic structures to take their place, creating along the way everything from the twee new pop, the frantic sound of new wave, goth isolation, strange electronica and much more. Kudzu sits at one extreme of that brave new world, a dark angular and uncompromising polarity and whilst many genres have tried to capture the same brutal nature of those dark and frightening fringes scenes none have come close until now.
Balking The Grave comes on like the punk-gothique experiments of the late seventies, more Bauhaus than Sisters, Burn Yourself is the sound of industrial synth wave having a nervous breakdown and Sleep In Disguise takes pop for a walk down some very twisted paths.
This is music built from the detritus found scattered across an industrial wasteland, all sharp edges and jagged design and driven by a relentless powerhouse of bruising beats and searing sparks. It is the white-hot groove of factory noise being rendered onto the night club floor, but not the night club that just anyone can find. This one is probably in a decaying warehouse or dead car plant miles away from civilisation and quite possibly even in some sort of parallel universe, and as the clock strikes thirteen this is the sound which hits the sky for probably the last party before the apocalypse. Now…what to wear?
AUTOBAHN have created an ambitious album that comfortably sits beside the darker parts of Brian Jonestown Massacre with moments of purposeful hesitation that underpin the self-doubt and uncertainties inherent in understanding the moral crossing.
Leeds based post-rockers AUTOBAHN bring the industrial clatter and howl of their homestead into focus on ‘The Moral Crossing’, which developed organically while they built their own studio space under a disused bridge in Holbeck. Lead singer and principal songwriter, Craig Johnson taught himself how to record as the new studio and album were constructed, allowing the band to create the sound of melancholic, industrial romanticism they were after.
Johnson, along with guitarists Michael Pedel and Gavin Cobb, bassist Daniel Sleight, and drummer Liam Hilton create a sound akin to progressive rockers Secret Machines with a northern England twang that is part Joy Division-like melodic angst undercut with At The Drive In.
The album opener ‘Prologue’ slowly builds into ‘Obituary’, which is fast paced and reminiscent of The Longcut. The track ‘Futures’ then changes gears altogether with a bouncy synth loop more akin to the bands name sake featuring lyrics echoed throughout the song that can only be heard in whispers, letting the instruments do the talking.
Hilton’s big, distorted drums are something to admire on most of the tunes here and are put to good use on songs featuring violins and cellos, such as ‘Torment’ which starts with slow, mournful strings and is suddenly cut through by the pulsing drums as they take control along with a women speaking French, which all coalesces into something beautiful and haunting.
‘The Moral Crossing’ is almost biblical at times, both lyrically and with track titles such as ‘Execution/Rise’, which features a lovely build into a roaring finish, ‘Creation’ and ‘Fallen’. This effect is given more depth by the inclusion of gospel singers from the bands local church on both ‘Low/High’ and ‘Creation’.
AUTOBAHN have created an ambitious album that comfortably sits beside the darker moments of Brian Jonestown Massacre with moments of purposeful hesitation that underpin the self-doubt and uncertainties inherent in understanding the moral crossing.
If someone like Nick Cave best typifies the dark, sweeping and majestic end point of the western blues derived musical experiment; this is the flipside of that coin. Portland/Atlanta trio, We Are Parasols, makes music which comes from a younger, though similarly angst ridden, oddly sultry and intense place, but one that has evolved out of the possibilities afforded by more recent technologies and more likely to tip its hat to Krautrock pioneers and New Romantic non-conformists than the more traditional canon.
And whereas the likes of Cave and the dark hordes which imitate his moves often rely on angular collisions and jarring music to create their apocalyptic beauty, We Are Parasols are driven by a more simpatico heart, one that pulses with an industrial, sometimes motorik beat but one which is also swathed in sumptuous harmonies, delicate synth washes and distant chiming guitars. Even when they rough things up a bit on songs such as the slow building Scoptophilia or the explosive Recoil, their music seems to mesh into post-rock walls of sound and shoegazing, effect drenched noise cocoons, the overall effect crushing rather than cutting.
The music suggests something beyond human a sort of impossible blend of the primitive and ancient and the clinical and futuristic, a hybrid of animal and machine, primordial yet complex as eerie atmospherics and Stygian sounds vie for attention and the end result is a heavy, claustrophobic and nebulous musical collection.
If someone like Nick Cave best typifies the dark, sweeping and majestic end point of the western blues derived musical experiment; Gongkreeper is the flipside of that coin. Joe Cherry, the man driving this creative vehicle, makes music which comes from a younger, angst ridden and intense place, one that has evolved out of the possibilities afforded by more recent technologies and more likely to tip its hat to Krautrock pioneers and New Romantic non-conformists than the more traditional canon.
Sonnets x Sketches is an intriguing sonic package, wandering from smooth, ambient and almost soulful sounds to warped sonic claustrophobia, from a sort of computer brained ethereality to a broken industrial onslaught. And somehow the two ends of the chosen musical spectrum seem to blend remarkably seamlessly.
There is something of the city and the night inherent in the music, it evokes shadowed back streets, rain lashed buildings, neon gaudiness and aged and decaying architecture. Its myriad musical blends of the modern via hip-hop beats and synth wastelands and the more traditional musical structures perfectly reflecting the juxtapositions of the urban sprawl.
But more than anything these five sonic sonnets and skittering sketches paint pictures, not necessarily those intended by the author but music is at its best when it engages and evokes. This dark suite, which sits between cinematic soundtrack and down beat alt-pop, does all of that and more. Now all you the listener have to do is make the film that it suggests.
If Science Fiction in print and on the screen has been the perfect vehicle for discussing and exploring ideas of where society is headed and what the future might look like, it was the Blitz Kids and the New Romantics who best provided the soundtrack to that conversation. As the future, by it’s very definition, is always tantalisingly just out of reach, it is a conversation which we will continue to have and hence it requires a perpetual soundtrack. Cyborg Asylum is the perfect band to provide the music to help further that quest.
Building on the futuristic sounds of those 80’s synth pioneers, My Metallic Dream is a slick blend of the cold, clinical, noir-ish musical drama of those originators and a modern dark dance vibe. It grafts an electro-gothic undercurrent on to an almost industrial pop sensibility (is that even a thing? I guess it is now!) and the result is the perfect soundtrack to be emanating from our car stereo as we drive into that final sunrise of a dystopian future. The future has never sounded so wonderfully bleak or so horrifically beautiful.
Being a reviewer of pretty much any genre that comes at me, obviously there are strengths and weaknesses in my arsenal of scribbled thoughts. Particularly when I see those three little letters in close proximity, E, D and M, I automatically worry about how I am going to find something new and convincing to say about a wannabe DJ remixing the same tired and over-used bass burbles and glitchy beats, enough to fill the allotted space anyway.
Five seconds in to the strange and evocatively titled Philly To Long Branch (part 2) and I realise that I actually have the opposite problem, that EDM is just one small part of this heady, high-octane, electro rock hybrid and that trying to explore, capture and describe the music in mere words is not only going to be a longer job than I anticipated, it is going to be a hell of a lot of fun.
Philly… is built on a beat of fractious urgency, a frenzied, adrenaline fuelled headlong rush where the clinical cold synths of the dance floor are mixed with white hot rock muscle to create a blend of the futuristic and the primordial, the industrial and the elemental, the pre-determined and the organic. It also has a brooding presence, far from the euphoric and joyous nature of the uptown club, it feels as if it has been fashioned from the scattered musical trappings and attitudes that the punks, the goths and the garage rockers left behind after their bubbles burst and they either went underground or learnt to conform.
Those who insist on labels might like terms like Stygian dance music, industrial groove, darkwave, techno-goth, well goth, always a misunderstood term, was very much built on dance grooves and whilst the term now seems to have been re-appropriated into just another sub-genre of metal by a generation who want to live in the Sunnydale of Buffy The Vampire Slayer, this gloriously grim groove manages to pull referential strands from the older, darker heart of the punk-gothique and industrial genres. Knowing where you come from has always been as important as knowing where you are going. But the more you listen to the music, the more labels it manages to conjure, thus reminding you of the limitations of such attempts at pigeon-holing.
This is dance music built from the detritus found scattered across an industrial wasteland, all sharp edges and jagged design and driven by a relentless powerhouse of bruising beats and searing sparks. It is the white-hot groove of factory noise being rendered onto the nightclub floor, but not the nightclub that just anyone can find. This one is probably in a decaying warehouse or dead car plant miles away from civilization and possibly even in some sort of parallel universe, and as the clock strikes thirteen this is the sound which hits the sky for probably the last party before the apocalypse.
We are continually told that “rock music is dead” but maybe, like everything else subject to evolution, it has merely changed and is no longer recognisable to those who still think it is all about long hair and a guitar riff. If we ignore what you actually use to make the music and what you happen to wear whilst you are doing so, then Philly…actually ticks more rock boxes than you might think in terms of power, drive, intensity, groove, ferocity, weight and sensibility. AC/DC it obviously isn’t but in many ways a new form of rock music it certainly makes an argument for being.
I like music that I can’t just hang a sound bite or label on, can’t kick into a well defined generic drawer, music that I didn’t see coming. Well, I didn’t see this coming. I feel like I have been run over by demon-possessed truck, experimented on by extra-terrestrials, battled with denizens of the night, have stood on the edge of the end of the universe itself, been attacked by cyborgs and had a music shop collapse on me. What a way to spend a morning. And the weird part is…I can’t wait to do it all again.
I know I’m always searching for music that is pushing new boundaries, testing the limits, fusing disparate threads into new forms and making truly creative inroads towards new sonic pastures. Occasionally you find it in the fleeting corners of more conventional songs or as fillers on albums between more commercially viable options. And then you stumble across people such as Les Robot who just go for it with reckless abandon.
It takes a few plays; I’ll give you that. Firstly you get that WTF moment, the thought that this is madness, a suicide note to an unbalanced musician’s career. Then you try to work it out, piece together what is actually going on here, tease apart textures and layers to properly understand it. A post-mortem if you will. Then you start to appreciate it. Then you like it, but you are not sure why. Then you love it. Then you realise that this is a work of genius ….and often madness, but it’s pretty much the same thing, right?
I can’t give you labels, but then the best music sits beyond such pigeonholing anyway. Lets start with rock, it’s definitely rock, sometimes runaway, joyous, indulgent guitar rock, technically slick and easy to pin down. But more than often it goes way beyond that, it wanders around proggy soundscaping and structures, it blasts through industrial wastelands treading on broken glass and twisted metal, it offers classical interludes and dystopian soundscapes. Sometimes it does all of that within just one song!
I guess the art is not to be pinned down, to subvert expectation and if you thought that you pretty much knew what instrumental rock sounds like, by the time you have navigated the 5 twisting and mercurial tracks offered up here, the rule book will be a smouldering pile of ash, your pre-conceptions will be cowering in the corner and your mind will be truly broadened.
Headache Machine is an industrial slab of jagged edges and warped architecture whilst Oz takes more familiar routes though does so at breakneck speed. Bumble B Boogie often sounds like machines writing a progressive rock album, making musical choices that conform to some sort of cool, internal logic and Imp at times sounds like nothing less than the end of the world. But it is title-track and finale that sums up best how diverse and off the wall Les Robot’s thinking is as deft and delicate acoustic beauty are slowly subsumed by alien sounds and dystopian drama.
I like music that I can’t just hang a sound bite or label on, can’t kick into a well defined generic drawer, music that I didn’t see coming. Well, I didn’t see this coming. I feel like I have been run over by demon-possessed truck, experimented on by extra-terrestrials, have stood on the edge of the end of the universe itself, been attacked by cyborgs and had a music shop collapse on me. What a way to spend a morning. And the weird part is…I can’t wait to do it all again.
Punk by any other name would smell as sweet. If you know what I mean. If you are one of those people who recognises that punk, like hip-hop, grunge and all those other game changing genres, was an attitude not a fashion, then you are also the sort of person who can spot that subversive creative urge wherever it crops up. If however punk means putting on your old leather jacket to watch 4 white guys with guitars do their best Clash impression then stop reading now.
If you embrace the more progressive and fluid definition of the concept then Gunfight is about as punk as it gets, it’s just that the chosen medium is a heavy, visceral and challenging brand of alternative dance music.
This is dance music built from the detritus found scattered across an industrial wasteland, all sharp edges and jagged design and driven by a relentless powerhouse of bruising beats and searing sparks. It is the white-hot groove of factory noise being rendered onto the night club floor, but not the night club that just anyone can find. This one is probably in a decaying warehouse or dead car plant miles away from civilization and possibly even in some sort of parallel universe, and as the clock strikes thirteen this is the sound which hits the sky for probably the last party before the apocalypse. How punk is that?
I sometimes struggle with music in such an extreme end of the market, a lot of it doesn’t speak to me on a very personal level, that isn’t a problem, not everyone can be the target audience. But then I heard Our Darkest Shadows, a song that sits both comfortably within the sound that In Silent Agony make but also seems to explain to me the scope and potential of the music much better than any of the other songs.
There is a depth, drama and dark theatrical script at work here, a mad combination of Wagner, Jim Steinman, Fields of The Nephilim and Anne Rice; a metal opera for a dystopian world and once I had that key to the music I found I could unlock and appreciate what was going on around this central song.
Approaching the rest of the EP with this new understanding I also realised that a second obstacle had been dealt with. Most of the music I have encountered in recent years that falls into such genres – thrash, metalcore, death metal – has been….now, let me be delicate…not very well conceived, all front and bravado and shown up by a record such as this. Part of the accessibility of Treacherous is the production, separation of sounds, the layering and textures, especially those that wash emotively behind those visceral riffs, textures that help build tension and sculpt otherworldly atmospheres.
Existing fans of metal in all its forms will find a lot to like, the gothic set will appreciate its dark soundscapes and the more industrial minded will find its clinical beauty and cold apocalyptic foreboding to their tastes. But if like me you have been away from the extreme metal trenches for a while and are looking for a way back in, this is the perfect place to start. Okay chaps, over the top we go….
There is a fine line to be walked when making music in the dark, atmospheric realms that Soft Ledges inhabit. Step too far into the gloom and the music enters the po-faced, theatrical world of goth, too far the other way and the sunlight starts to burn away the shamanic cloak of shadows that acts as your guide. Thankfully Soft Ledges are fully aware of this and travel sure-footed through this twilight musical world.
Whilst there is something very Nick Cave about the brooding minimalism of the open salvo, La Nina, like the antipodean Prince of Darkness, Soft Ledges are a tricky beast and if that is the tempting morsel they use to entice you into their world, you soon find that it is a multi-faceted one and very much fashioned to their own design. Contrasts and contradictions begin immediately with Tear Me Down, a song built on heavy bass grooves and skittering drum shuffles but with the same approach to space and emotional tone. The guitar is bravely pushed to the back of the song punching a void where you expect the musical pay-off to be.
And so they continue down a this twisting path, thwarting expectation both in style and structure, delivering piano ballads and torch songs, undertaking post-punk experiments, building soaring post-rock sonic cathedrals, mixing ethereality with aggression, lush soundscaping with wanton destruction.
The clouds clear briefly for Long Way to The Ground, a more conventional alt-rock interlude that sits somewhere between wistful ballad and reflective soul search and acts as a perfect showcase for the positivity that underpins their music but is often lost in the voluminous and distorted music trappings they draw around themselves.
It isn’t until Seven Stories appears majestically before me that the other reference point I have been struggling for looms large. The street rock urges, the hypnotic riff, the staccato vocals – when they head down a more melodic road they remind me of that most underated band Concrete Blonde, not the 90’s MTV version of the band but the voodoo groove and similarly mercurial mix of intelligence, depth, sophistication and aggression that they played with so tantalisingly the previous decade.
To follow a thread I began earlier the term gothic now seems to have been re-appropriated into just another sub-genre of metal by a generation who want to live in the Sunnydale of Buffy The Vampire Slayer but this album manages to pull referential strands from the older, darker heart of the punk-gothique and industrial genres. The Bells and You Beneath is a wash of darkwave patterns that Bauhaus would have sold their soul for, if indeed one could have been found, and around this understated and challenging centrepiece they build their dark-art.
At their most minimal they are happy to merely build delicate musical structures around the atmospheres already present in their nighttime world rather than try to fashion new ones own. The spaces in between the notes, the pauses between the words, all add something, expectation and attentiveness…even entrancement. But at their most driven they are nothing short of glorious. They can take tribal rock beats, power on growling bass lines and willfully savage razor cuts of guitar and between defined musical structures conjure eerie atmospherics and Stygian sounds and the end result is a claustrophobic and nebulous musical collection And just when you think you have them pegged they are still able to throw in a wonderful curve ball such as Don’t Wait which has all the hall marks of a late night, soulful, r’n’b cry against the anguish of loneliness. Well, they are from Chicago; it’s a sound that is probably in their DNA anyway.
Few do it better, it unites the dark hearted followers of earlier musical ages with todays children of a colder, more clinical night and this atramentous crusade has not only had me turning to the thesaurus for suitable descriptive words but is nothing short of a fantastic set of songs that will act as a rallying call to those looking for an alternative to both the mainstream and those wishing for a dark musical resurgence.
Even though we constantly hear that rock music is dead, a recent slew of hefty new music through the letterbox reminded me what I really already knew. All is well and good in that sector of the creative world, it’s just that, like any other genre, the rock fraternity has to move with the times and not everyone is happy about it. Any art form has two options…evolve, adapt, move forward or keep looking over your shoulder and mumble about past glories. It is prevalence for the latter than means that most bands playing grassroots venues on a Saturday night are a classic rock cover bands or worse, a tribute to a band of that era. But when it chooses to move with the times, ahead of the times or not even bother with chronological referencing, great things can happen. Things like the latest album by Losers.
With a CV that includes such wonderfully original bands as Cooper Temple Clause, YourCodeNameIs:Milo, Vennart and British Theatre you know that the potential for good things is beyond dispute, you just might not have expected it to sound quite like this. How To Ruin… is a dark, blasted classic, simple as that. If the label Goth hadn’t been misappropriated by emo and metal listening Buffy fans but stayed true to it’s original musical connotations, it would be the right moniker for Losers second album. The clinical beats, razor wire guitar riffs, the industrial sound washes, the passive/aggressive vocal delivery, the theatrical dynamics…all reference The Sisters of Mercy and Nine Inch Nails more readily than anything in the current crop.
Raw, visceral, brooding, brutal? Certainly.…losers? Anything but.
The Arthur Rackham illustration on the cover of Nasty Little Lonely’s latest musical outing should give some idea to the uninitiated of what lies within. The dark fairy tale nature of the artwork reflects the juxtaposition of the industrial-gothic music vibe that the band does so well with the often-girlish yet sometimes sinister and warped vocals of Charlie Beddoes. But those in the know have been here before and relish these nightmarish soundtracks and broken dreamscapes.
And whilst the term gothic now seems to have been re-appropriated into just another sub-genre of metal by a generation who want to live in the Sunnydale of Buffy The Vampire Slayer, this gloriously grim gang manage to pull referential strands from the older, darker heart of the punk-gothique and industrial genres. Snake Oil is a wash of darkwave patterns that Bauhaus would have sold their soul for, if indeed one could have been found, and around this understated centrepiece they build their dark-art.
Tribal rock beats power on growling bass lines and wilfully savage razor cuts of guitar and between defined musical structures eerie atmospherics and Stygian sounds vie for attention and the end result is a heavy, claustrophobic and nebulous musical collection. Few do it better, it unites the dark hearted followers of earlier musical ages with todays children of a colder, more clinical night and as always this latest atramentous crusade has not only had me turning to the thesaurus for suitable descriptive words but is yet another fantastic set of songs by them.
Rack and Ruin is out on 22nd April.
About 6 months ago Plastique’s electro-noise, darkwave groove and razor wire guitars ripped through Dancing Towers with the appropriately titled Quake and the place has never been the same since. So how do you follow up a single that caused such a shift in perceptions, so much destruction of generic boundaries, so much devastation? You just do the same again, only bigger, that’s how. This time around the pulsing electronic heart beat is joined by industrial strength pneumatic guitar lines, the intensity is dialled up to breaking point and Anelise Kunz vocal performance runs from dark and brooding to demented and frankly quite worrying.
At Quake’s release they were cited as “the band Garbage wanted to be” and whilst that may have been slightly wishful thing then, it is certainly true now. It is hard rock meets an insane club scene, pop music fashioned from angle grinders and earth moving machinery, the death of rock, the saviour of dance or maybe the other way around. Time will tell.