ALBUM REVIEW: Protomartyr – Relatives In Descent

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Protomartyr immediately stood out from the rest of the anguished post-punk pack when they first emerged four years ago with their debut album All Passion No Technique. They went from strength to strength over their next two albums, twisting Joe Casey’s mantra rants over caustic punk, dark indie guitars and tumbling drums before arriving at their most realised set of recordings to date.

Relatives In Descent stands as their most exploratory and wide-ranging album in that they’ve pulled apart their sound, and reconstructed it with the same elements but a new and revitalised sound. Greg Ahee’s guitar is less all-encompassing. Now it slashes with intent on ‘Here Is The Thing’, spirals in woozy circles on ‘My Children’ and sparkles with chiming funk stabs in ‘Corpses in Regalia’. That diversity allows the rhythm section to conjure all manner of grooves; from the rapid fire jerkiness of opener ‘A Private Understanding’ to the catchy melodic swagger of ‘Caitriona’ and the taut post-punk propulsion of ‘Don’t Go To Anacita’. Elsewhere there’s the introduction of subtle strings and synths that take the songs to endlessly intriguing places.

Joe Casey is often the focal point of Protomartyr with his nihilistic blue collar vibe and barking vocal delivery akin to a transatlantic Mark E. Smith. Here he maintains the speak/sing/howl approach but lyrically he’s followed the lead of the rest of the band and upped his game. Thematically the album takes a look at contemporary America under the mismanagement of Trump and the state of society that Casey’s witnessed from tour van windows and coast to coast trips. It paints a dystopian vision of gluttony, excess and despair but you can still hear the glimmer of hope and humanity in the songs, framed and enhanced by the life-affirming creative intellectualism of Protomartyr.

Chris Familton

Read our recent interview with Joe Casey of Protomartyr

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ALBUM REVIEW: Jen Cloher – Jen Cloher

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This is album number four for Jen Cloher and in keeping with the title and stark artwork, featuring her naked and with guitar, it is her most honest, clear-cut and autobiographical release to date.

So many songwriters cloud their ideas and experiences in metaphors and diversionary tactics but Cloher goes straight for the literal and personal, detailing the trials and tribulations of extended periods apart from her partner (and guitarist) Courtney Barnett, suburban malaise, gay marriage, Dirty Three and the shallowness and strain of the music industry. It amounts to an internal and external state of the nation address, delivered with poetic poise and intellectual observation.

Musically, Cloher and her band frame her songs with a loose indie rock sound that can be locked and direct, with a gentle toughness (Shoegazers), drifting and dreamy (Regional Echo) or noisy and surging like Sleater-Kinney (Strong Woman). That stylistic range creates a flow and dynamism to the album and complements the songs perfectly, ensuring the focus remains on Cloher and her lyrics. That intimacy takes the listener right to that place side-of-stage at a Dirty Three show or a kitchen table with your loved one 17,000 km away.

It’s hard to distil one’s thoughts and emotions into song with such self-awareness, artistic confidence and lack of pretence but Cloher has, quite wonderfully, done just that.

Chris Familton

NEW MUSIC: Tropical Fuck Storm – Chameleon Paint

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Gareth Liddiard and Fiona Kitschin (The Drones), Lauren Hammel (High Tension) on drums and Erica Dunn (Harmony, Palm Springs) have unveiled the sound of their new band Tropical Fuck Storm. It’s a jerky, catchy post-punk song that swaggers and slithers along, sounding like it could collapse at any moment. It’s a glorious collision of chaos and euphoric rock.

The debut TFS 7″ single, “Chameleon Paint” b/w “Mansion Family”, will be released on September 22 as a label collab between TFS Records and Mistletone Records. This limited edition 7” is the first of a series; each 7” featuring an original Liddiard A-side and a B-side cover of “songs we love and wish we had written”. The “Mansion Family” B-side is lifted from Melbourne band The Nation Blue, who released the original less than a year ago. Each 7” will feature phantasmagoric cover art by Montréal artist Joe Becker.

PREORDER

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

 

ALBUM REVIEW: Hollow Everdaze – Cartoons

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Artistically speaking, pop art is an apt description of the style and approach that Hollow Everdaze have near-perfected on Cartoons.

A decade into their career they’re still uncovering lush, sun-kissed pop nuggets that swoon, sway and deftly swagger through 60s eccentricity, 80s/90s British indie and right up to the modernism of a band such as Spoon. There’s a wistful quality to the songs yet they invest just the right amount of grit and depth to keep them grounded.

The distorted guitar on the title track and Flat Battery, the bass and reverb on Running Away, and the violin on Same Old Story and the warped psychedelia of Still Ticking all add fascinating tangents and layers to their sound.

This is sophisticated pop music par excellence, endlessly inventive, devoid of schtick and all class.

Chris Familton

Cartoons is out now via Deaf Ambitions.

 

ALBUM REVIEW: The Terminals – Antiseptic

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New Zealand rock unit The Terminals have been operating under various iterations for 30 years and at the band’s core, Stephen Cogle and Peter Stapleton (with Mick El Borado) have kept the ship on course and sailing a straight line into dark and swirling post punk and psych-laden garage rock.

Antiseptic finds the band on top of their game once more. If anything their music inhabits even darker territory, the songs collapsing in on themselves as they chug and career along on the back of Stapleton’s often urgent drumming. Compared to the slightly more twee and pop-considered sound of Uncoffined, their album from 1990, Antiseptic operates more in the shadows, with that bruised melancholic vibe that is such a recurring streak through their contemporaries such as The Chills, The Clean and Able Tasmans.

El Borado’s organ amplifies the kinship with The Clean and The Chills, its primitive, off-kilter psychedelic circus sound adding layers of swirling melody and disconcerting chaos. Beneath that the guitars are webs of fuzz and screeching distortion, moody gothic strumming and distant discordant soloing – the perfect backdrop to Cogle’s ominous, stentorian voice that bleeds anguish and pleading across songs that only hint at the core of their subject matter.

The highlights of the album are aplenty, there isn’t a weak track among the eight. The title track possesses a nervous insistency courtesy of Nicole Moffat’s violin, the undulating rhythm of ‘Edge Of The Night’s’ verses segues into a glorious see-sawing chorus while the grinding metal and anxiety-inducing sound of ‘Runaway Train’ drives the tension skyward before the heavens open with the glorious, open-ended ‘The Rain Has Come and Gone’ and its warm and comforting Velvet Underground/Krautrock drone. From there the template is set as they conjure wonderfully skewed soundscapes and art rock diversions through to the closing pulse of ‘Light Years Away’.

The Terminals have never been creatively stronger than they are on Antiseptic. It’s their finest album and the sound of musicians digging deep and exploring a lifetime of musical influences and experiences without concession to anything outside of their own ideas and instruments.

Chris Familton