BLANCK METAL

MAY REWIND: OH SEES, KAMASI, BLANCK MASS AND KING OF THE SLUMS NEW SOUNDS

Plenty of May thrills, not least a Bank Holiday live showing by Robert Plant and the Sensational Space Shifters (hello to The May Queen, review is on its way) and a nod to Chris Cornell one year on, but in this Rewind we’ll ponder a few full-on tunes that made the right impression.

Oh Sees – Overthrown
Man alive. Dwyer and co follow a scorched earth policy on Overthrown, channelling some reckless Motorhead speed for a nail-hard tip to the frazzled end of the Oh Sees spectrum. Annihilation psyche. Remember those Westerns where a gunslinger thug makes some poor sap dance for his life by shooting at his soles? The drums are like that guy’s feet. But faster. Dancing on sparks from Comets of Fire, it’s a fine teaser for the next Oh Sees splatter, due in August. Fierce-fried full-on.

Kamasi Washington – Fist of Fury
There is no jazz expertise or know-how lurking in these words. All I know is, Kamasi Washington is pushing my Amateur Jazz Dabbler button, and his kung-fu reworking Fist of Fury from his upcoming album pricks ears because of a lower-down groove poking its nose out – a 70s funking big band swinging it big time. Fusionly full-on.

Blanck Mass – Odd Scene
Released for Record Store Day, Odd Scene pitches a massive surface-level shift for Blanck Mass. Their electronica draws on heavy dark matter anyway (though last album World Eater still hasn’t clicked over here), but this is no electro-fest – it’s a riotous rage of guitar squalling shitstorms, throat shreds and metallized industrials, like Alec Empire’s noised-up fury flogging a horse called Ministry of Bathory. There’s something hollow about it, but deeper meaning is surely not the point. Violence is. Extreme for extreme’s sake, Blanck Mass have lost the plot and gone full metal jacket. Ferociously full-on.

King of the Slums – The Broken English
Having only got into King of the Slums last year with Manco Diablo, I had no idea of their longer history. Serendipity struck soon after when the Barbarous English Fayre record fell into my hands in Dales record shop in Tenby and laid out a stack of tunes laced with violin. QUEL SURPRISE. Why do I mention this? Because the violin is back – but not at the expense of the metallic walls of axe that so impressed on Manco Diablo, at least not on this track. Violin brings drone and density. Band brings new album Artgod Dogs in June. Fiddlingly full-on.

David Jaycock – Browsing (Non-Fiction)
Another Freakzone find this month was David Jaycock, being interviewed about his new album The Decline of the Mobile Library. Never heard the name before, but if John Fahey or experimental Fahey-inspired pickers like Jack Rose are anywhere in your acoustic orbit, this guy could fit right in. Somewhat paradoxically, Mobile Library is on Static Caravan. Anyway, Browsing (Non Fiction) is here for sampling. Fahey full-on.

Thugwidow – Inverted
JUN-GLE! There’s something of Burial’s night-street melancholia in the intro that gives you a quiet anchor against the hyper-end skitter that skids around the rest of Inverted, and it’s a pretty neat contrast. Hard beats. Mary Anne Hobbs played it last week so check it here 46 minutes in, flanked by The Last Poets and GDFX. Jungle-force full-on.

Right, that’ll have to do – out of time this month, which means no overviews of stellar new TesseracT and GNOD albums.

’til next time!

amplifier wordsmith: the monthly rewind

amplifier wordsmith: the monthly rewind

SHORTPARIS: nacxa

Restless moves and fidget dance. The underlit Factory warehouse band, fired up by frag-ment-ology. New waves for the art-house in your headspace.

Talkin’ shite. What is Shortparis?

When Mary Anne Hobbs first played them on her 6 Music Recommends show, gushing with unbound enthuso after seeing them destroy some festival or other, she mentioned Joy Division – something about the shadows and the intensity. The track was Beceno (all the titles are in Russian script, which I can’t type properly), and if Beceno is your first Shortparis exposure then it’s damned hard to shake those joy-di visions from your mind’s eye: robust paranoia, unseen twitchiness, confident uncertainty, rock-not-really. Nikolay Komiagin sings with a high pitch that pulls Beth Gibbons’s tense nervosa to mind, and Beceno’s on-the-run mood could fit Portishead’s Third, though it’s the only track that could. The rest of nacxa is way more up. Way more DANCE.

Shortparis: nacxa

Shortparis: twitchy and addictive

But it’s not dance dance. Track 1’s industrial-retro kick with upfront tight-funk bass bounces right back to post-punk – no particular band, more the era and the experimenting vibe. Post-punk something is at play. And then, taut across the tops, is the voice you don’t understand.

Track 2 drops the Horn (Trevor): massive ZTT-style keyboard stabs over stilted bass, gearing up for the Shortparis percussion collective to ramp it up into a worldly electro rhythm thing. It’s a potent mix, perhaps best shown off on the title track – Parisienne nights with dark exotica throb – and the following track’s John Carpenter menace meets Bowie’s Outside: Wishful Beginnings.

Can you pin Shortparis down? Not really. Not beyond a culture-sample soundclash that feels like a guitar band but isn’t. Shortparis ride the fluid, anything-goes rush of Flamingods and Comet is Coming, maybe even Antidote-era Foals, but with different sources. There’s something of the industrial about this lot: danceable, yet not quite celebratory. Primitive. A bit tense.

Download the album and you get two tracks labelled as B-sides at the end. Ma Russie, sung in French, is a synth-heavy funker, and Yqueen ups the machine-rock action with drums that threaten a Nine Inch Nails storm. Shortparis make a global music not ethno-rootsy but rhythm-heavy, urban and nocturnal.

Music for subway nights.

Communal and solitary.

Body music by head people.

(Bowie would have loved it, surely).

John Doran writ large about this crew in the Quietus – a lot of words, if you want to make sense of them – but the album is steal of the year, just TWO DOLLARS at Shortparis bandcamp. Don’t let that price cheapen the quality of your attention, though. This is not background device-filler. Shortparis are onto something special.

DESERT STORMS AND SKELLINGTONS

APRIL REWIND: THE RETURNS OF RECORD STORE DAY, DESERT STORM AND JULIAN COPE. BUT CALEB SCOFIELD DEPARTS.
It was a wet one, but apart from rain, what happened in April?
Record Store Day 11
We love record shops. Never visit a new town without sniffing them out, never pass the chance to frequent the local, and this is why Record Store Day feels like it should be a big deal but ends up being a bit … contrived frothing over forged rarities? Like a weird-o Christmas Day for reco)))rd shoppers. Weird because the list is dished out by $anta well ahead of the day, weird because the toys have been specially made for the event, weird because none of the toys are trulymadlydeeply drawn from your own well. And if you convince yourself into chasing something from this monopoly of taste, and said thing makes it into the shop that day and you’re able to lay fingers on it, you get the privilege of paying through the nostrils. Some Christmas. If you buy CDs and dare not to have a turntable, forget it – zero specials for you, because you are not part of the Record Store Day M.O. It’s a vinyl-only club, a 7–12-inch exclusivity zone roped off from the Greater Good that is music in physical formats. In shops.
So, 2018 played out exactly the same as 2017, just different records to gloss over once the queues had gone. Tom Waits offered a momentary flutter when the Orphans cover loomed, but it was Bawlers, the zero-interest one of the three,. Anyway, just like last year, salvation came from the vinyl sale box where Cannots by Charles Rumback and Ryley Walker popped up – didn’t even know such a thing existed, so it’s a welcome and timely discovery given that Walker’s new album is imminent. Ace find from proper browse. Bye-bye Record Store Day. Hello record shop, next week, as usual.

Charles Rumback and Ryley Walker - Cannots LP

This year’s RSD pick-up. From 2016

DESERT STORM: Sentinels
Much more rewarding than RSD’s general waxploitation was Sentinels by Oxford’s own Desert Storm. Fuck me, this is solid. And big. And assured. And if you like your rock to be, er, metallic and groovus, Sentinels should be on your list. When I last saw Desert Storm I vowed to catch up with their albums but, like an arse, I didn’t. Didn’t go beyond Forked Tongues, which is why Sentinels feels like a huger jump. This, surely, is Desert Storm fully formed. The sometimes caricatured vocal tics of the Forked days have gone and Matt Ryan now gives us proper gruff metal range more like the live shows, veering from gut-low ferals to Jaz Coleman anthemics to part-spoken calm. Kingdom of Horns does this brilliantly, a quietly drifting trip that swings a 180 to the other extreme and back.
Tracks like Drifter will no doubt satisfy the Clutch crowd, but Sentinels is more metallic and the closing two tracks, Convulsion and Capsized, showcase Desert Storm’s star quality in 2018. Check the former’s multi-riff orgy – part doomed stoner, part thrash, part Entombed-sized roll – then cruise on Capsized’s slick downtuned power to a closing solo soar worthy of Crippled Black Phoenix. Check it all here, best of luck, fellas.
JULIAN COPE: Skellington 3
He’s back! Last time, it was personal (Skellington 2, 1993). 25 years on, we get the third instalment, a new batch of the Drude’s so-called orphan songs and ‘acid campfire spirit’. If you know Skellington, you’ll know Skellington 3. Stripped down, often acoustic, sometimes off-key yet oft-times Cope-classic melodic (Parallel University, Very Krishna, Catch Your Dreams Before They Slip Away), it’s a ramshackle shot of a fast-moving Cope in songwriter mode. As ever, head to Head Heritage.
Hardcore bass loss
If you’re on the Hydra Head email list, you’ll have seen the subject line that came through around a month ago: The Caleb Scofield Memorial Fundraising Preorder. Then you’ll have done a double take. Memorial? Sadly, yes. The bass player for Cave In, Old Man Gloom and Zozobra passed away on March 28th after a car accident a road toll. He was 39. There goes the blood of some core Hydra Head noisery, all vital to the world of heavy. White Silence: crank it up to deafening.
’til next time.