ALBUM REVIEW: Boris – Dear

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Boris are now 25 years into a career that has stretched from the barren expanse of doom to hazy dream pop renderings and onto avant garde soundscapes and blistering, psychedelic punk rock. They hone in on a style and explore it to its logical extreme. On Dear they again hit the heavy button but this time they go deep into the detail, exploring both heaviosity and spaciousness.

There is usually a reactionary element to the way Boris approach a new album and given that their last release, Noise (2014), blended space rock, grunge and prog it was to be expected they’d retreat into the shadows again and dispense with traditional rock song structures. Dear is post-metal deconstructed and amplified. The drums sound like they were recorded in a cavernous tomb, the guitars are distorted to the point where they sound like sonic locusts and the bass rumbles with tectonic gravitas.

Boris haven’t abandoned their rockets tendencies altogether though. ‘Absolutego’ lumbers and crashes with both punk and metal ferocity, ‘Biotope’ is weighty shoegaze not dissimilar to Smashing Pumpkins, ‘Dystopia (Vanishing Point)’ sounds like J Mascis shredding over Pink Floyd and ‘Beyond’ pushes the limits of quiet/loud dynamics. Boris are at their best in these kinds of songs, where they find that sweet spot between noise and melody and where those contrasting elements blend and overlap, combining to produce emotional and physical music.

The rest of the album is much more introspective and indulgent, albeit in a fascinating way from the perspective of sonic architecture and sound design. Thunderous and screaming chords hang in the air, crashing drums enter and exit at seemingly random moments and Wata’s lead guitar is gloriously alien in the way it is played and processed. The ideal way to experience these songs would be standing directly in front of the band’s amplifiers, all on 11, feeling the sound as much as hearing it. ‘Karego’ threatens to melt speaker cones with the density and drone of the guitars while ‘The Power’ sounds like an attempt at inter-dimensional communication with everything in the red, bristling and pushing at its digital fabric.

The human voices in closer ‘Dear’ are guttural and exultant. A primitive greeting card and the most organic moment on the record. It sounds like Boris laid bare, a monumental encapsulation of their music and given that initially Dear was intended as a possible farewell record, it’s an open-ended way to finish the album and leaves both Boris and their fans asking where the trio will go next.

Chris Familton

 

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ALBUM REVIEW: The Tall Grass – Down The Unmarked Road

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Jamie Hutchings (Bluebottle Kiss, Infinity Broke) and Peter Fenton (Crow) have come together as The Tall Grass, which began as a live acoustic duo project before being expanded upon and sonically coloured in the studio with a wide-ranging band sound.

It’s still on the laid-back vibe though – wistful, poetic, and melancholic. The sound of their other bands is still evident, particularly Hutchings with his more distinct vocal stylings but it’s wholly a collaborative effort with the pair playing off each other with a melodic ebb and flow, tension and release.

Songs are expertly built on close harmonies and traded lines, guitars that weave in and out and springboard off each other amid melodic bass lines, field recordings and jazz-leaning drums and percussion. It all comes back to the songs though, and Moller, The Buyer Beware, The Two O’Clock and Little City in particular, match the best either has written in the past.

I keep mentioning the strength of songwriting and the interplay between the two musicians but it is the hallmark of a collaborative project when the creative lines between the artists are blurred, carry equal weight and ultimately the art is the sum of its parts. There’s a delicate tenderness to the music here, built on mutual respect and the willingness by both Hutchings and Fenton to explore the shadows and sunlit corners of emotion and experience.

Chris Familton

ALBUM REVIEW: Thurston Moore – Rock N Roll Consciousness

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The Sonic Youth guitar slinger and solo artist returns with a new album, his second with his current group which includes My Bloody Valentine’s Debbie Googe, Sonic Youth drummer Steve Shelley and guitarist James Sedwards. Familiarity with those players on-stage and in-studio pays off in spades with this confident, relaxed and expansive new record.

Moore has always vacillated between skewed punk/art-pop and experimental soundscapes and here he finds an immersive and endlessly fascinating balance between both worlds – whether it’s billowy, dreamy textural passages, hypnotic Krautrock trances or screes of distortion. It all adds up to an invigorating widescreen listen that more than lives up to Moore’s consistently high quality artistic output.

Chris Familton

LIVE REVIEW: My Disco @ Newtown Social Club

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My Disco, Marcus Whale, Hviske @ Newtown Social Club, 11 February 2017

Minimalism shaping grand emotion was the order of the night at NSC for My Disco’s last stop on their summer tour. From the headliners down through Marcus Whale and opening duo Hviske, there was a common thread of space, intensity and the blurring of technology and organic instrumentation to create dramatic musical pieces.

Hviske are Kusum Normoyle and Ivan Lisyak and they generated a densely rhythmic mix of techno and cold wave electronica that hit the occasional peak but for the most part settled into a rewarding mix of hard surface sounds and minor melodic excursions. Live, Normoyle’s vocals were the weak-point compared to the more layered and integrated sound on their recordings and she seemed unsettled and distracted, never fully immersing herself in the music.

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Marcus Whale

 

Marcus Whale’s solo work seems to go to another level every time I see him live. Flanked by two drummers with stripped down kits (tom, snare, ride cymbal) and performing over backing tracks Whale took us deep into his album Inland Sea, his voice urging, consoling and serenading the audience with conviction and passion. The closest comparison is Bjork’s more recent work crossed with avant hip hop and dark electronica. A compelling performance.

My Disco have progressively peeled back the layers of their sound with each new album, whilst simultaneously ratcheting up the tension and their avant garde leanings. They are still a band of guitar, bass and drums but they now sound like a raw machine, ominous and commanding with their instruments often bathed in as much silence as coruscating noise, relentless drones and repetition. King Sound set the scene with Liam Andrews intoning those two words like an android with a glitch in its system while guitarist Benjamin Andrews scattered shards of distortion across the audience at high volume. The heartbeat of the band is still Rohan Rebeiro who brings the most humanistic element to their music, he controls the machine with his blend of doom and jazz-tinged tribalism. Their intensity and commitment to their sonic aesthetic is what defines My Disco, from throwing in an overlong drum solo to the complete lack of audience interaction, they have their own musical eco-system which made their set feel like we were temporary visitors to their fascinating, hypnotic and shadowy world.

Chris Familton

FILM REVIEW: Once More With Feeling

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Music documentaries often follow one of a few common narratives, whether documenting the rise (and often) fall of a band or musician, or following the making of an album or tour. Once More With Feeling fills a couple of different roles in that it acts as a preview and scene-setter for Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds’ new album Skeleton Tree, released the day after the worldwide screening of the film, as well as a raw and intimate insight into negotiating the cycles of grief and how real-life tragedy can inform creativity.

Filmed on exquisite black and white (and in 3D), Andrew Dominik takes a layered approach of performance, voiceover, evocative and inventive establishing shots and straight interview footage. The result is a documentary of a documentary. He’s produced a film that looks magnificent and most importantly, conveys the range of emotion when Cave’s family unit is fractured by the accidental death of his son Arthur who fell from a cliff in 2015. Cave is confused and frustrated, seesawing between self-doubt and resilience while he and wife Susie immerse themselves in their work as one way of dealing with the trauma.

Warren Ellis is portrayed as a loyal and steadfast friend and musical partner and there is a strong sense that their music – and the physical process of making it – is a critical way forward, a beacon through the darkness. Cave comes out of the film as an utterly human figure, creatively paralysed by his loss but knowing that the music and his family are also his saving grace.

Chris Familton

NEW MUSIC: Lambchop –The Hustle

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Lambchop have been fairly quiet of late with their last LP (Mr. M) coming out in 2012. In the intervening years the band, among other things, performed their landmark album Nixon in full and head honcho Kurt Wagner released an electronic album (The Diet) under the name HeCTA with Lambchop members Ryan Norris and Scott Martin in 2015.

They’ve now announced that a brand new Lambchop LP will be released on November 3rd via Merge Records. Titled FLOTUS it sees them delving further into avantgarde electronic soul, based on this 18 minute track The Hustle. Below you can also check out a brief album trailer clip.

Pre-orders available HERE

 

ALBUM REVIEW: Sophie Hutchings – Wide Asleep

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Rating8In recent years there has been a wealth of composers that fall into the loosely-aligned world of modern-classical, post-ambient, avant-electronic and instrumental post-rock. They draw from all of those styles and explore their compositional meeting points. Locally, our leading light is Sophie Hutchings and on her third album she again finds new and fascinating ways to create cerebral and emotionally rich and ornate arrangements – led by her piano but greatly enhanced with strings and ghostly, layered voices.

The album title suggests the deepest state of sleep where our mind is both at its most imaginative and vulnerable. Suppressed thoughts are exposed and tested, fantasies are lived out in suspended reality and our fears are briefly made all too real in dream. Memory I feels like a wash of romantic nostalgia, a light dance through the past while Memory II adds choral voices to the increasing tension like a rising anxiety entering the fray before subsiding to a slow calm. Falling and Living Light are high points with their contrasting approaches to twilight melancholia and fine examples of the way Hutchings varies her technical approach to her instrument. Flurries of notes can either form ethereal phrases or bolder statements, merely through variations in pressure and intensity. There’s a lyricism to her piano playing that draws you in, providing equal fascination for how she plays and what she is playing.

Hutchings’ ability to work in the light as eloquently as she explores darkness marks Wide  Asleep as her most expansive and resonant work to date.

Chris Familton

Wide Asleep is out now via Preservation Music

ALBUM REVIEW: M. Craft – Blood Moon

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Rating8Martin Craft has created a holistic and moving third album. Born from time spent on the edge of the Mojave desert, these piano-based meditations on time, space and nature feel both intimate and expansive with hushed, dreamy vocals that blossom into much larger orchestrated sections. There are all manner of ambient environmental sounds in the mix, lurking below the surface of the recordings and adding to the album’s haunting and sometimes pagan mystic vibe. Craft hasn’t eschewed songs for atmosphere though. Tracks such as Chemical Trails emerge from the desert haze with rich melodies, choruses and verses like Mercury Rev in a sad and beautiful dream-state.

Chris Familton