Nothing Here EP –  Tombstones in Their Eyes (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

953163There has always been a strange mix of, what should be, mutually exclusive qualities in Tombstones in Their Eyes music. Somehow it is sky scrapping yet graceful, muscular yet intelligent, built from loops and pedals, effects and warped guitars yet it seems primal and ancient. It is dramatic, wide screen and darkly cinematic yet is intimate in that it communicates directly with the listener, often emotively as the lyrics are so far embedded into the music that they are often lost in the sonic storm.

Silhouette kicks off by wandering through soundscapes that balance narcotic intensity with industrial slabs of guitars, that are at once both sonorous and languid and it is such juxtapositions which are the beauty of the band. That ability to make music which goes beyond heavy, which feels like the shifting of tectonic plates or the slow destructive singular intent of a glacier yet never resorting to the usual testosterone fuel gimmickry that often goes hand in hand with such extreme music.

Take Me Away moves in such a strange, uncommitted way that it constantly feels as if it is about to grind to a halt, all anticipation that tantalisingly never delivers and coiled tensions that never resolve and the title track that rounds things off heads into MBV territory, swapping some of that musical weight for beguiling, half-heard melodies and swirling psychedelic patterns.

Tombstones in Their Eyes are masters of such brilliantly conflicted music and over a series of releases have carved their names above the cavernous musical maw that few are brave enough to follow them into. Intense, scary, beguiling and in its own bleak and uncompromising way, quite beautiful.

 

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Stone Tape – The Telescopes (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

The_Telescopes_-_Stone_Tape_(cover)The word drone has some very negative connotations, a word associated with dull, monotonous or consistently boring sound by most people. But The Telescopes are nothing if not arch-dream weavers of the sounds that others are afraid to explore, the delvers in anti-acoustics, sonically pulling the insides out of more easily recognised music and working with its primal urges, its ancient core,its otherness, its drone. With vocals set at a level that buries them deep below the top line of the guitars, this is music not fashioned out of dynamic interplays and vibrant variance but instead uses hypnotic repetitions, industrial textures and slow ponderous pace to travel to the musical cliff edge.

Songs such as Everything Must Be are barely songs at all, not as most people would categories them and almost fall into that “music as art and academia” that the likes of Dave Wesley have been peddling so eloquently over the years, happy to bruise and brood rather than communicate in the conventional sense. At the other extreme, though to be fair the extreme here isn’t much more than a short hop, songs such as Silent Water and Become The Sun sail close to the beat and cavernous beauty of Tombstones In Their Eyes and final song on the record, Dead Inside, almost sounds like Jesus and Mary Chain playing in the building across the street, a swirl of creative cacophony and candescent chaos floating towards you on the breeze.

And much like the academic and scientific influences the aforementioned Mr Wesley uses to pose his musical questions, this album also comes from an interesting place, The Stone Tape Theory being build around the concept that inanimate objects can absorb, store and recall energy it has absorbed as a result of proximity to emotional or traumatic events.

The Telescopes have always worked on their own sonic terms finding beauty in an array of found sound and mimicking them with the tools at hand. Sounds such as radio static and the echos of the big bang, white noise and badly tuned televisions, dying amps and broken guitars all of which they use to fashion their own psychedelic death dirges.

And with every other shoegaze and post-punk band seemingly coming out of retirement for a second bite of the bitter cherry, hopefully The Telescopes will find an audience with a taste for what they have to offer. Yes, their music is dryer, darker and deeper than it has ever been and will confound expectations and confront those looking for their rose-tinted, I was there moment, but that’s the whole point, isn’t it? Nietzsche contemplated staring into the abyss, this is the sound of the abyss staring back.

The album is released via Yard Press, a label whose umbrella ranges beyond just music and into cultural content – visual arts, books and events – and can be found in both digital form and as a limited vinyl pressing

Shutting Down/Take Me Home –  Tombstones In Their Eyes (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

Tombstones In Their Eyese (cover)There was a time when music such as the cavernous and reverb laden sounds that Tombstones In Their Eyes made didn’t come on download, CD or even in the form of a live band. Instead it came in pill form, on blotter paper, in tabs, creating imagined music that hotwired straight into the back of the brain, a revelatory experience but a solitary one also. This double A side is the sound of a band doing its best to capture the insanity and dark haze of just such a  bad acid trip and it is at once scary and beautiful, and primordial and sophisticated.

It plays with Doorsian psychedelia, desert blues stoner vibes, echoing doom and heaviness, and the same arched sub-metal sounds that defined the glorious collection of songs which made up the Fear e.p. earlier this year.  And whilst Take Me Home is a weighty slice of cosmic rock and roll, Shutting Down seems, within these sonically muscular demarcations, to somehow find room for everything to breathe effectively. The result is that the latter feels more in keeping with the psyched out indie of the likes of Echo and The Bunnymen whilst the former is as solid and claustrophobic a piece of work as anything in the Spacemen 3 or The Jesus and Mary Chain canon.

It is the sound of the band continuing their dark crusade to create music which sounds like the after growl of the big bang, the collision of planets, the collapse of mountains and the sound of the history of the industrial revolution all scored as music. Nothing wrong with thinking on a grand scale I guess.

Going around in circles

shoe_gaze_best_songsMusic is cyclical, we all know that, 30 years seems to be the recognised time span for music to drop off the fashion radar long enough to seem cool or cult and be rediscovered and reinterpreted by a new musical generation. Brit-pop was a re-discovery of sixties guitar bands, punk was the distilled spirit of rock’n’roll for generation feeling similarly lost and even grunge had its roots in the garage rock and nascent metal scenes of a previous generation.

My own musical future-nostalgia moments, however, lie in an altogether more ambient place. Once the punks had shown us that making music was not just something for the dedicated, or indeed talented few, a whole movement of back bedroom aspirants began rewiring cheap keyboards and running battered guitars through homemade effects pedals and the result was glorious.

The sonic landscape that they described was one of drifting beauty and sharp angles, of raw guitars and delicate minimalism, of ethereal atmospheres and of industrial noise. It was supported by fledgling record labels such as 4AD and Sarah Records and was gathered into journalistic gangs and given names like dream-pop, shoe gaze, new-wave, underground-pop and new romanticism.

And if the likes of Kate Bush was proving that such new and defiant approaches could sell records via the more traditional model, bands such as The Cocteau Twins, Dead Can Dance and even The Birthday Party where the street corner punk hustlers pushing their own, more confrontational but no less beautiful sonic dreams.

And today, the circle has turned and those once lost, sweet sounds are finding their way into modern music once more as musicians discover that same acoustic beauty in the dusty corners of parents record collections and incorporate them into their own musical visions. Torchbearers such as Shameless Promotions gather and collect both new takes on the past as well as bands that have been carrying the flag for all these years. The Veldt’s reverb soaked soul, Ummagma’s chilled delicacy, the cavernous majesty of Tombstones In Their Eyes and Black Needle Noise building music for movies you haven’t dreamt of yet are the centre of that new exclusive universe.

Bands such as Fassine come at these sounds from another angle, one which links chilled ambient dance with futuristic pop, which is both massively commercial yet effortlessly cool, a chart headed Trojan horse to spread subtle influences through a musical charm offensive.

The one advantage of staying close to music for so long is that you get to see a new generation get excited, deconstruct and redefine the sounds that made you fall in love with music in the first place.

This new wave of bands both pull nostalgic heartstrings and point the way towards a bright new dawn and for that I can’t thank them enough.

 

Fear EP – Tombstones in Their Eyes (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

Tombsones_In_Their_Eyes_-_Fear_EP_(cover).jpgHow can something so ominously cavernous still sound fragile and on the point of collapse? That is the wonderful juxtaposition that runs through Tombstones in Their Eyes, a strange blend of muscle and delicacy, like marvelling at the awesome grandeur of a glacier and realising that it is only so much water.

Metallers take some comfort in their chosen genres being the loudest, hardest and heaviest environments, but they are more than missing the point. Strip away all the showboating and “more is more” approach, the posturing and the clutter, slow it right down almost to a dead stop and what is left is actually the primal spirit of the sound of heavy metal. What is left is Tombstones in Their Eyes! Ambient doom grunge? A proto sludge trudge? Bronze Age metal? Pick your own label, we are in new territory here, there is no wrong answer.

Separate provides the submerged rhythms that Handsel and Gretel would have made had they wandered the woods leaving a trail of cracked Ziljian cymbals and badly wired reverb pedals rather than breadcrumbs and Always There is the missing link between Pink Floyd and Black Sabbath.

The music is sweeping, terrible, claustrophobic, Shamanic and chilling, but it is also majestic, nightmarishly eloquent and beautifully Wagnerian. It is almost music as a dark religious rite, a primordial summoning but far from playing with all the shtick and cliché that most bands opt for, this seems all too real. That’s a bit of a worry to be honest.

 

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