URTHONA MEETS THE OTHER WITHOUT: calm meditations

APRIL REWIND: ALBUM #2 FROM URTHONA/OTHER PROJECT, BLACKENED BEATS BY GHOSTS AND TEMPLE, AND NEW RACKET FROM RAKETKANON

April kicked arse in terms of gigs. Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs bulldozered the Bullingdon and then, just two days later on the same stage, Jim Jones let us into his headspace. Of those two bands there’s no question that Pigsx7 have got more going on, but a sharp-dressed Jim Jones and the Righteous Mind made a rollicking Friday night. With tracks like Sex Robot and Satan’s Got a Hard-On for You, knocked out with righteous holler, how can they not entertain? They do. Right on.

OK, on with the show with new sounds.

THE OTHER WITHOUT: 2

If you’re partial to Urthona‘s heavy rural distortions then you probably already know about an Urthona-related project that’s on album #2 already, but I didn’t. It’s The Other Without.

Who they? Neil Mortimer and Michael J York. What they do? Penetrate your head with space – an hour and five minutes of it, to be exact-ish. Four long trips of quiet motion, field recordings, keyboard swells and guitar arcs. Birdsong. Waves. Motifs tinkling, slow planetary turns, not a shred of Urthona-styled violence. A Novel Method for Determining Galaxy Orbits serves a hushed ambience for outer space cinematics, while Albion Light Vessel strips all mass from its electronics. Galactic or not, everything is earthbound. Beat-less but pulsing. The nature of things? The things of nature. Tune in for a transporting shimmer.

The Other Without 2 cassette

Reel calm: The Other Without 2

That was the light. Now for the dark – a trio of lo-viz highlights.

SNOW GHOSTS: Rip

Industrialised beats push Hannah Cartwright’s vocal haunt into a dense, dark, edge-land trip that tips a nod to JK Broadrick’s heavyweight grim. Rip is a dream going wrong, the kind you definitely want to wake from. Run. Away. It all drags downwards.

PAULA TEMPLE: Post-Scarcity Anarchism

Hi-energy electronic DOOOOM …. you know how Underworld’s King of Snake has that white-hot scrape of a subway train hurling past at full tilt? Take that vibe, pound it heavier and pack those unstopping carriages with no-soul people-oids, aka the bodysnatched. Now you’re in the Post-Scarcity Anarchism zone. And no, the wonk euphoria ending does not lift the tension. Temple, next stop.

RAKETKANON: Ricky

RKTKN #2 was and is a non-sticky album – noise rock shot through with quiet-loud spaces and a bad-tripping carnival gothic. Short on hooks, big on stubborn twists, these Belgians are very much their own thing and now we’ve got a new album, RKTKN #3. From it, here’s Ricky doing what Raketkanon do but thickened by a synth underlay. Somewhere near Shortparis and New York art noise, perhaps?

And if you never knew you needed desert trance, electronics and guitar distortion from south Tunisia, wrap your e-holes round Moola Nefta by Ifriqiyya Electrique. Intense.

til next time!

PIGS PIGS PIGS PIGS PIGS PIGS PIGS: live review

PIGSX7 AT THE BULLINGDON, OXFORD, APRIL 10, 2019
One of the most anticipated Oxford gigs of the year, surely. The Bullingdon is sold out, the vibe is super charged and the fact that the support act gets a bigger crowd than many headliners here tells you that something is very definitely in the air.
And the support is? A duo. Mesange. Violin plus guitar drones and loops. Intriguing mix. Ethereal Myrkur meets wannabe Boris. Stage presence … less convincing. But the music, yes. Violin takes the lead and soars. Fresh. An ambient, gothic contrast to what’s to come.
Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs kick off like it’s a King of Cowards run-through: GNT first, The Shockmaster second, and by doing that, the gig is already won. Shockmaster was one of THE riffs of last year, definitely one of my favourites, and to get this slow-moving bruiser in your face is a proper highlight. And do they tweak the riff, adding a bit of time-shifting drag on the back end? Wrong-footing bastards. Nice.
At this point, Matt Baty breaks out of his slow-moving zen intensity to admit that at this stage of a gig, he usually starts complaining about being too hot or having too much smoke on stage or whatever else is bugging his moanself. Not tonight, though. “There’s air-con up here – fucking brilliant! Top marks Bullingdon. And there was Scott Walker on the PA before the gig. SCOTT WALKER. Again, top marks Bullingdon. You’ll get a 5-star* review from us on TripAdvisor.”
We get a new song, ‘co-written with Jay Z and Beyonce’ – which packs a huge hooky riff – before something old (Sweet Relief) and a pair of KoC staples (The Gloamer and Cake of Light) take us home. Crowd is bouncing. Band has one more for us.

You’ll get your money’s worth, it’s 10 minutes long. It’s a fucking workout.”
It can only be A66, right?
And so it is, a full-pelt space-rock burn-up to the end and a ringing earworm for the rest of the week. Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs: the People’s Champions. Over and out.
*later downgraded to 4 stars because, “It’s bloody hot up here.”
A couple of Pigsx7 album reviews this way

PIGS PIGS PIGS PIGS PIGS PIGS PIGS: Feed the Rats

PIGSX7 OXFORD GIG APRIL 10, 2019. HERE’S WARM-UP REVIEW #2

  1. Psychopomp 15.06
  2. Sweet Relief 4.39
  3. Icon 17.00

Look at those numbers. Look at the bloody LENGTH of it. Exciting, eh? Especially when you’ve already capitulated to Pigsx7’s debut release The Wizard and the Seven Swines, which is itself a 22-minute purge of damaged psyche and slamming riffs.

Debut full album Feed the Rats looks like it does a similar thing, even before you play it. This is a Good Sign because Wizard’s stretched-out scorch was a win win win win win win win. Can Rats match it?

Pigsx7 Feed the Rats CD cover

Feed the Rats: ugly thrills

With Psychopomp, you don’t have time to think about that – straight in with a no messing, bam-bam-bam riff and Baty in immediate full vocal hurl. It’s an abrupt, Pigsx7-style wake-up that picks up exactly where The Wizard and The Seven Swines disintegrated.

Thing is, your head tells you it’ll calm into a purer Sabbath-influenced groove

no chance. Psychopomp shakes that kind of lame-o conditioning right out, and Pigsx7 aren’t Sabbath knock-offs anyway, are they? Too rough, too jam-based, too psyche/d. You sense that, like it is for many of us, Year Zero for direct heavy influences is somewhere in the 90s at the noisier, more ragged end of the desert/psyche/drone scenes.

Psychopomp rams all that stuff together in a quart-hour charge: early Desert Sessions twists (flickers of Fatso Jetson?), Heads-like space-rock afterburn, Kong-sized mega riffs (six minutes in, ‘kin HELL) and brief Boris-worshipping ponderosa are all there, shoved in a bag and dragged without care up a northern peak. Bruising. By the time you reach pomp’s end you’ve had four minutes of squalling heavy charge and galactic wah. Fucking magic.

Did that meet expectations?

‘course it did. We know what we’re getting by now. Sweet Relief does what it says, but it’s relief in length only. Rammed with tarmac-splitting bounce, it shoves you through to a storm-force battering from all sides.

The beyond-massive Icon starts with a riff classick, Baty gets buried by guitar leads, the rhythm’s uber-tight and we’re caked in Pigs glory all over again – an over-amplified shitstorm you don’t wanna leave. The last five minutes is pained repeat and jarring battery:

HOLD ME ….

ICON ….. FESS”

Meaning? Dunno. But the lyrical fragments that come through match the music’s exhale, and even without knowing the words, Baty’s delivery gushes existential.

In a 2018 round-up, buzzed by the enormity of King of Cowards, I wrote that Feed the Rats perhaps didn’t quite match The Wizard and the Seven Swines. Wrong. The Wizard crash landed from nowhere and had surprise on its side. Feed the Rats had summat to live up to and it went for the Full Ugly: gut-busting endurance with a soul-cleansing pay-off.

Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs. Worth repeating: it’s physical.

.

  • File next to Gnod, Sleep, The Heads, Part Chimp, Drore, Rollins Band, early daze Monster Magnet
  • Feed the Rats: released 2017 on Rocket Recordings, get it on Bandcamp
  • No time for a King of Cowards review before the gig, so we’ll see you on the other side. Unless Shockmaster bulldozers us first (pleeease)

PIGS PIGS PIGS PIGS PIGS PIGS PIGS: The Wizard and the Seven Swines

PIGSX7 PLAY OXFORD THIS WEEK. HERE’S THE FIRST OF A COUPLE OF REVIEWS TO GET US WARMED UP

Nothing says WE’VE ARRIVED quite like sticking a 20-foot monolith outside your house on the day you move in, and this track is very much on those making-a-statement lines – an immovable, rough-edged pasting of fried motorik, asteroidal burnout and howling catharsis. Punk Sabbath for the post-Sleep generation? Welcome to the first shot from Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs.

But if you got here by GNT or some other radio darling from album #2 King of Cowards, strap in and gear up for something far less concise.

This little brutey clocks in at 22 minutes. All one track of it.

the-wizard-and-the-seven-swines

Prog? No. Primal? Shit yeah. The opening riff is coiled, up on the balls of its feet and ready to shift, like rock-ist Oneida launching one of their head-fucking long-forms but, as you’d expect, much rougher in its horizon-bound momentum.

Then comes Baty. Matt Baty. The Voice. Less a vocal than a hurl into the Spent Zone, he forces total lung capacity into every word and is vein-bulger hoarse before he even gets going, yet it’s not a macho metal hard-fest scream or anything contrived like that. His is an all-too-human bellow and is a massive part of what makes this band the way it is. No-one else sounds like them.

So, after the opening repetitions and moto rhythmics, what happens in 22 minutes of TWATSS?

(after two years with this track, I literally only just noticed that acronym when I typed it here. An accident? Maybe. But then again, these guys also have/had a band called Khunnt, so who knows?)

5 minutes: RIFF DROP. Floor-opening bottom end, a hulking motherfucker bulked by four-string filth, lifted by post-rock arcs and then fully grooved by insistent badass bass.

By now, Pigsx7 are beginning to sound apocalyptic. We’re in a transition to somewhere – or steeling ourselves for something.

8 minutes: ANOTHER RIFF DROP. Heavy as – ah shit, it’s gone again. Is this the bridge? As if. But change is a coming, you can smell it.

10 minutes: PSYCH’S OUT. Spacier, less dense, almost krautrocking were it not for Baty’s clipped yelps and barks.

12 minutes: SLEEP. The slowdown. The beating. A one-chord pounding, straight outta Dopesmoker and (we now know) the sound of Pigs to come.

18 minutes: FALSE ENDER. One last gasp in this endless end and we’re almost back to that Oneida trance thing, but by now everything looks and feels different.

We’ve been through the mill. And so have Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs. It’s like they came of age during the track, starting out lithe but ending it burned, hardened, scarred, thicker set, complete. They’ve been somewhere and taken us with ’em, but no-one quite knows where. It’s all about the journey, man – and the sheer bloody force of it all: a turbulent, never-ending blast. Whatever it is that’s driving Pigsx7, it’s made a merry hell of a first release.

How can they follow it?

The Wizard and the Seven Swines: released in 2013, get it on Bandcamp

Cover image taken from my download from Pigsx7 bandcamp site

NO FOPP, NO BROWSE

FEBRUARY REWIND: INTENSE AMBIENCE AND U-BAHN PSYCHE FROM GERMANY … BUT NO FUTURE FOR FOPP

This time last year it was the beast from the east that struck us cold. This year, it’s … the loss of Fopp in Oxford.

HMV was saved by a buyout which keeps the name and livelihoods alive, but there were always going to be casualties. The flagship HMV store on London’s Oxford Street was one. Fopp stores were another. And, of those, Fopp in Oxford went.

This looks like the end of high street music retail in this place. Fopp’s compact nature meant that, in a post-megastore world, it was the only chain contender for city centre presence, but this is the second time it’s closed down now. Sad days. Independent shops are always number 1, but of the big names, HMV has been a long-time favourite and I bet it’s the same for a lot of music buyers. HMV’s massive divergence into entertainment felt wrong for those of us not seduced by accessories, games and tech, but in the better shops the music section was still pretty good. Oxford’s HMV had a small basement. Down there, at its best, it felt like a high street haven.

And Fopp was even better. Was it a threat to a local independent like Truck Store? I don’t think so. To keep physical-format music shops alive, you need both a high street presence and an independent presence. Where they once competed, they now complement. You gotta support the bigger thing: music. To buy. In shops.

Where Fopp really excelled, though, was back catalogue titles and the volume of choice within genres. The week before it shut, I had a Thin Lizzy compulsion. I worked out what I was after, knowing that Fopp had a fair few Lizzy items in stock. Of course, I couldn’t get them. Fopp closed in haste, four days after my previous visit and three days before the planned Lizzy binge. But my purchase wasn’t transferred to Truck Store – it went online. Sorry? No, not for that. Truck doesn’t hold a lot of back catalogue and it didn’t have any of my Lizzy most-wanteds anyway. For all its brilliance, Truck Store’s increased emphasis on vinyl pushes CD buyers elsewhere for some things. And Truck’s metal section is non-existent these days, down to just two CD widths on the racks.

This is why Fopp scored big points: browsability. It also had some great promos where you could sample stuff for a bargain, like last year’s Rocket Recordings special. That one got some Gnod, Teeth of the Sea and Hey Colossus albums into my hands and ears. Gold.

So yeah, gutted to see Fopp go. It was the best of the high street groups/chains from recent years. Best of luck to the staff who kept it going.

FEBRUARY NEW RELEASES

Apart from a late-80s Black Sabbath fixation and, sadly, an unexpected Talk Talk rewind – RIP Mark Hollis – what’s caught the ear of late? Here’s a trio of new tunes that made a mark.

BLACK TO COMM – Lethe

Grainy ambience, looped on a glitch. Part of this rolling instrumental sounds backwards, the rest of it is a persistent rumble. Stop-motion storm clouds churning over an abandoned industrial estate. Got rhythm but no dance. Check it here, file under dark intrigue.

GUNTER SCHICKERT – Ceiling

Schickert has just released a new solo album, Nachtfalter, 40-odd years after his first. I didn’t know that. Then I again, I don’t know this guy. It’s why I stole that fact. You can get his kosmische credentials and his role in Germany’s music scene from people who know their stuff, but this track, Ceiling? To a Schickert newcomer like wot I is, it makes a hypnotic pull. With the kind of ultra simple backbeat that informs many a Julian Cope Rite project, Schickert lays guitars that pass like underground trains, vanishing round bends. Extra percussion ticks away. Clock work. Seven minutes of subterranean movement.

MOTORPSYCHO – Psychotzar

From the tiny DAB radio in the kitchen, Psychotzar‘s opening riff channeled prime time non-downer Sabbath … who the holy Iommi is this???? Aaaaaah yes, the non-psycho’s psycho. Delicious. And not too Sabbath really, because Motorpsycho really really aren’t, but Psychotzar rocks its prog-ness with a hard 70s crunch. New album The Crucible is out now on Rune Grammofon.

’til next time!

amplifier wordsmith: the monthly rewind

amplifier wordsmith: the monthly rewind

DESERT STORM and DRORE: live review

DESERT STORM with DRORE at The Bullingdon, Oxford, February 1, 2019 (oh, and Conjurer headlined)

Is it the Deuchars IPA? The Guinness? The proximity of Conjurer?

Is it balls. The reason why Desert Storm turn out yet another magnificent support set is because Desert Storm just fucking are. How do they do it? Every time they take the stage you end up having the best half hour, so in some ways there’s little point reviewing the gig – go read any previous one. But that’s not fair, because we’ve got a duty to be in the moment to share the good stuff in this world, and this is definitely the Good Stuff. And we’ll get to it in a minute, because first, there’s the small matter of brute filth to get through: Drore.

As the band themselves put it on bandcamp, Drore is Drore. No-one can argue with that. What you want is what you get, and what you want is their uber growling scuzz-toned aggro all over your face. Job. Done. With pulverisers like Happy Accident and Skinjob loaded in the arsenal, the only losers are those who don’t get here early enough.

After that, what do Desert Storm do? Same as always: make you do your body-rocking swing thing through the Divine Power of Grooving Metal Riffs. The fact that the band feed off their creations as much as we do just adds to the vibe, like this kind of rock is not just a way of life but the very essence of life. Journeys End, Too Far Gone and The Brawl are among the Sentinels album airings, though there’s no room for the massive Convulsion tonight. Instead, the last two tracks are pulled from two Sentinels predecessors: we get Queen Reefer’s stupendous swing and thrash headcharge, and a closing Enslaved in the Icy Tundra, a track so confident that it drops a brief Clutch-funk break before remembering how metal it is.

Not much else to say really, is there? Desert Storm deal a proper metallic hit – again – and you WILL be rocking like a bastard to Sentinels at home the next day. Again.

Other Desert Storm and Drore wordage:

Almost forgot: Conjurer headlined. Who? Nah, not for me. Not that OTT scream thing. Maybe check Nightshift in March for a write-up.

Desert Storm and Drore

Desert Storm and Drore: no regrets

DOES THIS MUSIC SMELL FUNNY?

JANUARY REWIND: NEW EXPOSURES FROM NORWAY AND SOUTHERN LORD, AND A BRACE OF WINTER SOUNDTRACKS

If wild instrumentals are the way to blast those Jan-Feb blues, check this trio of wordless other-worldlies and set your radar to stun, scorch and shift. Verse-chorus-verse they are not. Don’t know anything about the bands (yet) so excuse mon ignorance and lack of detail, just feel the buzz instead. Much to trip on.

HEDVIG MOLLESTAD TRIO – First Thing to Pop is the Eye

STUN. Heavyweight new-jazz post/prog artillery from Norway. Dazzling. HM3’s First Thing… fairly fires up a wintry night with urgent, hypnotic bass loops and guitars that strike with small-hours cool. Musicianship absolutely not in question, neither is the r.o.k. attitude, and that’s more than enough to keep us happy BUT… check the drumming. Is that a player or what? New album Smells Funny is out now on Rune Grammofon.

CASPER BROTZMANN MASSAKER – The Call

SCORCH. OK, not new – 31 years not new, since you ask – but reissued right now on Southern Lord and, of course, Casper packs the same ferocious intensity on guitar as dad Peter does on sax. What comes to mind? A splatter of King Crimson Red to start maybe, but mostly a Killing Joke wall of fury roughed up by free-forming six-stringer squall. Primal psssyche out.

SONAR – Vortex

SHIFT. Why? Because of the mood. Because of the tension lurking from the opening Tortoise lope. Because of the pristine dark urban space conjured by metronomic polyrhythms, slow-rising urgency and part-glitch percussive energy. Get a shift on – enter the vortex with Sonar right here.

WINTER AMBIENCE FROM 2018 LEFTOVERS

By leftovers, we mean the 2018 music bought late last year – like ace albums by Clutch, Mark Lanegan & Duke Garwood, Donny McCaslin and Pijn – that have fed the new year and which we’re only just digesting. And for some moody atmos on grey-day hibernations like these, you can do a lot worse than sink into these two highly-recommendeds. First, https://annavonhausswolffmusic.bandcamp.com/album/dead-magic Magic by Anna Von Hausswolff. Drones, possession (spiritual) and pipe organs (massive) from Sweden make for a gothic mood piece that signals a storm’s arrival, though it never does. The Mysterious Vanishing of Electra comes close, but its rock-solid haunt is more of a summoning. File next to your Sunn O)))/Ulver crossovers. Or Myrkur. Or your pipe organ collection. Or maybe even this lot …

.Low. Can’t get enough of critics’ favourite Double Negative at the moment. Even when you flick your hype-alert switch on after the gushing reviews, all that talk of noise, crackle and avant is just too seductive … can Low really be pushing it that far out, this far into their career? So you give it a go. And nothing prepares you for just how outside Double Negative is. Something very special, disorienting and rare at work here … semi lucid states, heavy distortion and fractured warps, cloaked by unshakable Low-floating harmonies. In and out of focus. One for dark nights, immersion and submission. The beauty is buried deep.

BULLY FOR DRORE AND DESERT STORM

Friday 1 February, 2019 – Drore and Desert Storm at the Bullingdon, who needs a headliner? Not them, but there is one anyway: Conjurer, on the Holy Roar label. Metal Hammer have said good stuff about their Mire album, let’s see what they’re all about.

’til next time!

P.S. Desert Storm and Drore review done, see next post

amplifier wordsmith: the monthly rewind

amplifier wordsmith: the monthly rewind