RIFFS AND RECORDS OF 2018

A SEASONAL LOOK BACK AT SOME HARD HITTING FAVOURITES OF THE YEAR (100% subjectivity alert)

Feastive gratings, deer reader! How was your 2018? What were the chimney-top highs and reindeer-dropping lows in your world of rock?
In the spirit of seasonal listmania, as we await the clattering arrival of ol’ whitebeard, let’s share the gift of listening pleasures with the help of some wildly contrived categories, all in the name of musical goodwill and making our collective music collections EVEN BETTER.

Shall we?

Snowmania!

’tis the season to be chilled

PORCINE PSYCHE SLUDGING BASTARDS of the year
Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs: King of Cowards. For my crummy penny’s worth, Feed the Rats didn’t match The Wizard and the Seven Swines’ basket-cased crash landing. Not quite. This new one does, though. Shockmaster’s Melvins-worthy riff sticks like wet tar, A66 ends with the heaviest moto-pulsing Hawkwind you’ll ever hear and vocalist Matt Baty doesn’t so much sing as expel, right down to the vein-throbbing last ounce. As usual. What do we call this music? Gut metal? Primal scream, howwwwl rock, slam and hurl? Don’t matter. All we need to know is, it’s physical.

70s SOUL POP STOMPING REMAKE of the year
Ty Segall: Every 1’s a Winner (from Freedom’s Goblin). A close one, this. Corrosion of Conformity bagged big 70s cover points with heavyweight Queen – Son and Daughter – dropping a bonus sphere on No Cross No Crown, but for addictive unruly garage pop splendour you gotta go for Ty’s sticky glam-funk fuzz pop. Hot Chocolate makes you feel good.

RUSSIO-FRANCO FALSETTO POST-PUNK ELECTRO-O-O of the year
Shortparis: Nacxa. Big thanks to Mary Anne Hobbs for introducing Shortparis on her 6Music Recommends programme. Worldly beats, goth paranoia, Joy Division shadow play, killer album. Check this review and find some links to the intoxicating Shortparis sound.

TIME-STOPPING TECTONIC PLATE-SHIFTING RIFF of the year
Sleep: The Botanist (from The Sciences). What. A. Statement. I mean, the album’s ace, surely the most cohesive thing they’ve done; Holy Mountain’s too in thrall to Sabbath, and Dopesmoker’s an untouchable one-off that exists in its own category. The Sciences, though, has songs and sequencing, a proper album structure, and the last of those tracks is definitive. Riff heroic, solos cosmic, wholly unshakeable and cool as fuck. Stuff it in your pocket and become invincible.

ODD-NAME OX-PROG of the year
Masiro: Geodesics. Very new, but it’s made such an impression that it goes in as a best-of – let’s see if it stacks up after a few more months. Fits well with TesseracT and Cave In, like an instrumental partner in technical space rock. Mini write-up right here.

BRUTE-FORCE OX-FORGED METAL of the year
Desert Storm: Sentinels.
In March, Judas Priest delivered Firepower and it was so steely – like, consummately metal, the old school way – that it the propelled the metal masters up to #3 on Metal Hammer’s end-of-year list. Rejuvenated Judas or what? But March also gave us Sentinels by Desert Storm, which is also metal but earthier of origin. Less escapist, less fantastical, less clean, a stone-solid riff stack. Eight months on and that Convulsion/Capsized ending still cuts it.

SHOCK LOSS of the year
Caleb Scofield. The serious bit … did Hydra Head dominate your musical discoveries in the early 2000s? It did mine. The Isis/Old Man Gloom/Cave In/Pelican scene felt like a family, and Scofield’s bass was a core member. If you haven’t checked Cave In’s Antenna for a while, do it now. Cue up Seafrost: prime Scofield bass in a track that disintegrates into whiteout, Arctic ambience and guitar wails that climb on chill winds. A fitting, wintry tribute.
INDUSTRIALISED PANEL-BEATING of the year
Gnod: Chapel Perilous. Aka the Album they Ignored at Ritual Union, but even that interminable live effort cannot detract from the overcast majesty trapped within the walls of this perilous factory. Donovan’s Daughter unlocks it with 15 minutes of relentless moto-pounding, Uncle Frank Says Turn It Down slams it shut with untamed Helmet riffage.The rest? Psyche warfare, corrosive effluence and Swans transcendence. A vital sprawl.

SHOEHORNED GNOD PUN of the year
Gnodley & Creme. Aaaah, sorry. Festive indulgence on my part. Then again, Sunn O)) and Scott Walker did Scott O))), so why not ponder a northwest summit of Salford and Stockport? Anyway, Godley & Creme’s Body of Work came out in 2017, but it’s 5 CDs vast so it became a 2018 listen. Still ploughing through to be honest, but it’s a showcase for dazzling pop invention. Why would you buy this? Probably because you’re curious for experimental pop and you’re three and a half decades late for Godley & Creme. Well, that’s my reason. The 80s childs among us will have Wedding Bells and Cry stuck in the unconscious, maybe even the murkier Under Your Thumb. Body of Work packs the whole G&C journey and it’s a precocious trip crammed with ideas, pop smarts and studio-muso innovation … Zappa de doo wop and kaleidoscopic adventures, a massive revelation to the G&C first-timer.

SKRONKY DISTORTED HAG of the year
Nine Inch Nails: Bad Witch. If you’ve ever wished for a more urgent, fired-up, experimental studio outing from Nine Inch Nails after years of brooding perfection, Bad Witch is it. Shit Mirror makes a classically violent start, but after that we get a new Reznor voice with vibrato (pure Chris Connelly), zombie sax, bass space and NIN-style destruction. Bad Witch: faith healer.

PROG MENTAL HEAVY SHREDDIES of the year
Between the Buried and Me: Automata I. ‘kin ‘ell. There is no rest in this 35-minute EP. Technical, progressive metal played with heart and scream, millions of mood and tempo shifts, and just enough scattershot hooks and solos to unleash your arena rock nerd. Pushing a fair few Mastodon/Voivod/Opeth/Porcupine Tree buttons, it’s a shiteload of music packed into half an hour.

PROG MENTAL HEAVY SHREDDIES #2 of the year
Between the Buried and Me: Automata II. Obvs. And although it’s wrong to say that II is less metal, because it is still totally metal, it is right to say that it’s more genre-eclectic. Remember Devin Townsend’s swinging Bad Devil from his Infinity album? That swing is all over Voice of Trespass, a track that spends 13 minutes going absolutely everywhere, as does the rest of Automata II. BTBAM have no limits.

RARE WORD AS ALBUM TITLE of the year
TesseracT: Sonder. Another one for the prog set, but no death growls and less of Between the Buried and Me’s rapid-fire switcheroos – Sonder turns out a clean heavy P-rog with spacey ambience and mid-tempo riffs that lurch, bend, stop and start. Perhaps not immediately striking, but the quality’s obvious and after a few plays, it pulls you right back.

NICE LYRIC BOOK SIGNED BY ARTIST of the year
Franklin Mint: Scrage. It’s been four years since the So….dinosaurs EP and Scrage follows exactly as you’d want – twisting tunes, knotty off kilter riffs and sideways lyricism. Nomeansno always come to mind with Franklin Mint – it’s the vocals, without the Hanson bros’ mania – but beyond that, they’re hard to pin. Just like Tool’s Opiate was.

RE-WRITING THE LIVE PERFORMANCE RULE BOOK of the year
King Crimson. Yep, them. The band that turns 50 next year. How so? Because they delivered a show so exceptional that the words are out of reach. Aware of the contradiction, here are some words from my unfinished notes:
Seeing them live for the first time tells me two things: first, a healthy stack of studio albums is a frakction of the experience this band offers. And second, a live date sends you back to listen again to every bit of Crim you thought you knew, but to do it properly this time. Live Crimson clears the senses. King Crimson showed how intense rock music could be and really … they were just too good. Band of the year.

So, there goes a tiny snapshot of some big impressions in 2018. Time now to crack the shortcrust on some mince pies and hope Santa finds those live King Crimson CDs in time … and with that festive thought, MERRY CHRISTMAS!

MASIRO GO GEODESICS, ALGIERS ON FIRE

NOVEMBER REWIND: METALLIC PROG, DRONE RANGERS, COMET OFFSHOOTS AND RADICAL GOSPEL

It’s the last monthly Rewind of 2018, so what did November bring? A kick-arse new album from Oxford’s Masiro, and a small fistful of righteous first impressions. Let’s go.

MASIRO – Geodesics

What do you do when you can’t make a local gig by local people? Buy the music instead. Masiro supported Ghosts in the Photograph the other week and there was no way I could get to it – ’twas the night after Killing Joke, another unfortunate miss – so Bandcamp did the honours and supplied a Geodesic-sized dose. What play they? Shapeshifting instrumental prog that’s inventive not indulgent, and brisk too – six tracks, oodles of shifts within each one, thirty two minutes total. Andromeda Handshake launches with double-kick hits and post-rock shred but it soon veers off, crossing paths with a chill wind from Cult of Luna (very briefly, in the slowdown) and the supernova soar that Cave In sculpted around Tides of Tomorrow. In fact, it’s that era of Cave In – the ultra clean tone with metallic clang for anchors – that comes back throughout the album, especially on the juddering Grand Trine at Geodesics’ end. Space rock for non stoners. RIP Caleb Scofield.

Got to mention the part dreamy/part brickhouse K-Ursa as well, because its lithe alto sax and non-pop time signatures definitely scratch a post-Blackstar itch for rock-jazz. Fucking love it. Check Masiro and Geodesics here and file under ADVENTURE.

Right, that’s the mini-review done. Time to share a few of those new discoveries from the past month or so.

RANDALL DUNN – Something About That Night

Emerging straight out of The Fog’s creeper glow, Dunn’s atmospheric semi ambient doom-scapes slow the pace mightily, but not oppressively – the avant producer-turned-arteest constructs a world of dark space and layers it up with drones, crackles, voice manipulations and slow-bursting vintage synths. A warming audio chill.

SOCCER 96 – Button Basher

Fading in and out of sharpness – or maybe it’s my cassette doing a warp thing – Button Basher pushes that dense, exotic, vaguely drum and bass vibe Amon Tobin might knock out. Who Soccer 96? Two dudes from The Comet is Coming. No wonder it’s dextrous and restless. And you can bet they’re not sampling, either.

MIRRORS FOR PSYCHIC WARFARE – Tomb Puncher

Best track name of the month. Band name not bad, either. Not heard them before, but if Scott Kelly is half the band and they’re on Neurot, they’ve gotta be worth a poke. Tomb Puncher comes from album #2 and it’s a thick wash of slow, deliberate, beat-heavy tension and electrostatic interference. Not exactly festive, yet if you fancy a pounding of paranormal activity, MFPW do the job.

ALGIERS – Walk Like a Panther

A blaze of a track, loaded with firepower. Heard it through 6 Music’s Black Power Month in October and have since checked some Algiers audio … this lot sound wired in to something very, very real, like this is music as history, as education, as action, as revolution, as human spirit. Maybe I’m caught up in a heady first rush, but check Blood for a full-on mix of gospel power, chain rattles, industrialised beds and discordant guitar fire and see what you first think. What a mix. Algiers KNOW stuff. More time needed with this, for sure.

And there we are, done for another month – and we didn’t even get into King Crimson live (holy shit, gig of a lifetime).

’til next time!

amplifier wordsmith: the monthly rewind

amplifier wordsmith: the monthly rewind

NO JOKE: KILLING = 40

KILLING JOKE ON STAGE IN OXFORD FOR THEIR 40TH ANNIVERSARY TOUR

It’s 16-11-2018 and we’re just dropping in for a minute to acknowledge one of the greats:

Killing Joke, we salute you.

No, forget that – too much like a symbol of establishment-sanctioned respect. Killing Joke, we REVEL with you, gathering in celebratory chaos against the wrongs of the world order.

Irony is, I can’t get to the O2 tonight so no gathering for me, gotta hope they stick it out for a 42nd anniversary tour. Am instead attending vicariously in real time with a shot of Pylon.

Will the gig be as much of a force as their 2015 Oxford showing?

No-one’s going to bet against it. Somebody tell us what’s happening at KJ four-zero!

Soundtrack to these words: CD 2 of Pylon, Apotheosis and Panopticon stoking a supercharged uplift.

Killing Joke - Pylon

HALLOWEEN NOISE PATTONS

GREETINGS, schlock pickers. Ready for some deranged voicework this All Hallows’ Eve? Good.

We’ve said it before but if Melvins are Halloween’s house band then super-colluder Mike Patton is surely one of its top MCs. From loverboy whispers and honeyed sweeteners to lullaby daymares, carnival histrionics and pure fucking gibberish, he does it all – and then some. Never more than a beat away from innocence or insanity, it’s this wanton skittery that makes him the rock-vocal equivalent of cinema’s most amoral psychos: the ones who do bad shit just because.

So, we’re digging the grave (yes) of his more rock-heavy oeuvre. If you’re short of time, hit When Good Dogs Do Bad Things first and fill the gaps later. 11 tracks, audio only, no videos except for our short sharp opening shot of… Will Smith? Too right. Patton is the voice of his I Am Legend post-human nemesis.

SURPRISE! YOU’RE DEAD!
Could have chosen Zombie Eaters for the title alone, but no. For those of us snagged into FNM’s world by We Care A Lot, The Real Thing was our first exposure to the new guy and it takes just four tracks for him to go voco-loco on our No Faith ears. The start of a new era.

GI JOE
Boneyard beats in a street-smart bed. Non-maniacal menace. All in day’s work for a Melvins/Patton/Ipecac project.

CHURCH OF THE MOTHERFUCKERS
It’d be easy to pick the Bauhaus cover from the Dead Cross debut but Bela Lugosi’s Dead is all over Halloween anyway, so let’s gather for a more visceral midnight mass instead.

DER GOLEM
A flawless, monstrous body of classic horror themes skewered and reassembled with grotesque results, The Director’s Cut is one of those albums that’s end-to-end fright-night perfect. It’s why their depraved Omen made our first playlist five years ago because it’s bound for the asylum on a brakeless hell-cart. Anything from this record could make the cut and this year, it’s Der Golem. Slow and Slayer heav-eee with Patton escalating the madness.

WAR SONG
Pace breaker, mood changer, heavy atmos spirited up from the rituals and songs of the Native Americans, Tomahawk style.

SUCKER
Light relief with this voyeuristic hip-pop project, but it still fits the vibe. Check the seductive call-and-response voicework, catchy as balls.

WHEN GOOD DOGS DO BAD THINGS
As if throwing your Salem’s Lot in with Slayer and Melvins wasn’t OTT enough, Patton threw his vocal pyros at this four-track EP back in 2002. Precision mathprogmentalism at its most possessed, Good Dogs is a frenzied attack whose first two minutes leave you savaged. After that, the lull a-bye-bye and slasher false end finale. Mike Patton’s finest six minutes? Maybe. Just load the EP and lose your senses in this one-off detonation of demented genius.

WHEN THE STARS BEGIN TO FALL
Tomahawk goes sneakabout and throws in some theramin? Perfect. Duane Denison’s chords muster the tension, Patton blows and soars.

INVOCATION
Bacteria Cult is a better-named Kaada Patton record, but Romances gives us Invocation, a genteel creep that’s 60s sound-effect spectral and almost the ghost side of Fantomas without the bloody metallic body parts.

MALPRACTICE
A twisted tale of christknowswhat, under-the-knife molestation? Jagged riffage and a symphonic pile-up that’s borderline cacophonous, Malpractice is another of Patton’s most out-there Faith No More moments. APPLAUSE??? Done like a slain beast.

THE HOLY FILAMENT
It’s not their most avant or celebrated album I guess Disco Volante is but California packs some of Mr Bungle’s most potent moments and the score-ish Holy Filament is a mellow supernatural sliver of an ending to this year’s playlist. The first half sweats tension, the second half sweeps a falsetto from the afterlife.

Happy listening? We didn’t even mention perhaps THE most fitting Patton track of all, and that’s because it’s an album: Delirium Cordia by Fantomas (who else?). A score of fragments and wide-open spaces means that between the bursts of Patton garble, Lombardo assault, ghostly ambience and white noise, your mind has much room to roam about in – and if you’ve flicked the album’s artwork, those pristine surgery scenes (dislodged eyeball, intestinal wash) make you feel a wee bit queasy. And there’s no escape, because it’s a 75-minute track. You can’t skip anything. Trapped, imprisoned and captured till you hit the 20-minute vinyl run-out groove at the end. Music for voluntary confinement … keep the lights off if you dare.

For a less sombre listen with some mildly retro metal videos, check Hairy Halloween I and II from the last couple of years, or dabble in the gothic splendour of the late Saint Pete of Steele and Type O’s Sabbath slowdown. PUMPKINS OUT, over.

RITUAL UNION 2018

KIRAN LEONARD, GNOD, GHOSTPOET, WARMDUSCHER, BOY AZOOGA AND GAZ COOMBES among the bands at Oxford’s Ritual Union festival, October 20, 2018

Ritual Union returns for its second year and you probably know the drill by now – four stages of bands on Cowley Road and some in-stores at Truck Store. Bo Ningen destroyed the place last year. Is anyone gonna carry their fearsome torch this time around?

Everyone has their own path through a multi-stage multi-band bill like this, and our path starts at Gnod Central: use the Salford collective as an immovable anchor point and work back, up and around the rest of the schedules.

Ritual Union 2018

Right then, where to start? Being familiar with the tastily grooving Loner Boogie (but nothing else) from Boy Azooga, we might as well head to the Bullingdon for a 1.30-ish kick off with Cardiff’s homegrown. But while getting wristbanded for Ritual Union admission, the doors are leaking a very un-riffy waft. Into the venue itself and it’s full-volume Boy bland. Needs salt – lots of it, and quick. The place is packed to the back though, so they must have got something right somewhere, and that somewhere is evidenced on the next track. Introduced as a new one, it packs the rock salt and jams on a thick, just-dirty-enough riff and yes, ’tis good. And so they go, a likeable young bunch who no doubt finish off with a massive Boner Loogie, but I’ll never know because even that highly tempting proposition isn’t quite enough to sacrifice Ghosts in the Photographs to the Timetable Gods. Time for a polite Azooga exit and a swift dash up to The Library for the last 10 minutes of the Oxford band’s set.

Aaaaaaaaaaah. Downstairs, small room, thick air, thirty-odd people and a bass buzz vibrating your vitals. Feels like home, musically speaking. Ghosts in the Photographs do instrumental post rock, the kind of thing that’s not wildly different from other instrumental post rock but, because you’ve got a leaning for instrumental post rock, you get a kick out of hearing more instrumental post rock. Explosions in the Sky delicacy leavened by bass-force 5ive, if that’s not too shallow a summary. Judging by the spoken sample fading out at the end, I’m guessing the track was their 18-minute Dyslexorcist, but it is a guess. One to explore.

Any band who did a session for Marc Riley on BBC Radio 6 Music last week has to be worth a look, so the next stop is the larger-than-life Warmduscher. Post-punkish angles, sharp endings, shitloads of gothabilly reverb and odd tales that don’t sound remotely serious, relayed by a guy in a sports jacket, shades and a cowboy hat. You gotta love it: party Warm. And with Fat White Family bloodlines running through the band, there’s no doubt a fair amount of muck as well.

Compelling in a very different way is Kiran Leonard who clips some wired, wiry discord that scores pretty high on the awkward-ometer. Spiky jangle jerk and twitch. Leonard’s voice is an acquired taste of often fast yelps that hit and miss while he battles the guitar like he’s plugged into it himself. You have to watch. Great band too, especially the drummer. If Tim Buckley grew up with the New York alt rock underground and hired a Ryley Walker rhythm section, would this be something like? Much to check with Kiran Leonard, and whatever falls out of his albums, it won’t be dull.

Right then, the big one. After all this talk of angles, twitch and flinch, good as it is, you’re ready for a proper fix from the promised land of amplification, riffs, industrial intoxication and body-beating catharsis. You gneed Gnod.

Anything like the oversized Unkle Frank Says Turn It Down would be a welcome flooring, right? But we don’t get it, nor anything close to it. Anyone hoping for Chapel Perilous Gnod or Just Say No…Gnod is not gonna get their fix because tonight’s incarnation of the Salford noisemakers is Heavy Electronic Ambient Gnod – two guys, electronics, subterranean drones and pulses, and a fuzzed-out film backdrop. Art Installation Gnod. Riiiiight. What does it all mean? Let’s open up and wait for the transcendent hit, the doom-shaker resonance, the seismic epiphany

nothing. Boring as fuck. To stand and watch 30 minutes of Nothing Happens – not even a building hypnotic swell – is a mega switch-off, and that time is flushed forever. Hilariously, when they end the set they forget they’ve been scheduled for 45 minutes not 30 so they crank it back up for another 15. Sure, we could leave, but in for a penny in for a pound … of false optimism. Bit gutted, really. Those recent albums make a majestic racket and the prospect of Gnod noise done live was reason #1 for getting the gig ticket.

Anyway, it’s nothing a G&D coffee stop can’t fix and we’re onto just two more bands from the slicker end of the day. Ghostpoet pulls out a goody, his downbeat noir beefed nicely by the live band, and Ghostpoet himself being more animated than expected. Many Moods at Midnight opens the set and a keyboard-heavy Freakshow shuts it, but the penultimate heavy-hitting Immigrant Boogie is what it’s all about. Amped, man. Sol-id. Not ghostly.

Closing the day is Gaz Coombes, and the star quality is obvious. His voice is in top shape, as are the band and backing singers who flesh out his solo gems like Walk the Walk’s delicious falsetto funk and the addictive moto-pulser Deep Pockets. Guitarist Nick Fowler spreads enough grit to rough it up in the right places, and it’s a job well done by a class act. Hats off to the hatted one.

OM: Conference of the Birds

MATT PIKE GOT HIGH ON FIRE. SLEEP’S OTHER TWO WENT OM

When Sleep shed the literal Sabbath-isms of Holy Mountain and truly came into Being on Dopesmoker (nee Jerusalem), they revealed more than a so-deep-it’s-molten devotion to the transcendental power of repetition – they revealed a canny knack for bending time itself. On paper, not much happens in Sleep’s then-final one-track statement: minor variations on a riff, stacks of same-chord bludgeon, scattered solos, spread over an hour and a bit and all at a seemingly sloth-like tempo. Yet somehow, that hour never ever drags. I don’t know why. Sloth is a misnomer because that shit’s a real eye opener, pointing out some sort of Way whether you want it or not, warping your perception as it does so. Things ain’t as slow as you think you think.

On paper, not much happens in Sleep’s then-final one-track statement: minor variations on a riff, stacks of same-chord bludgeon, scattered solos, spread over an hour and a bit and all at a seemingly sloth-like tempo. Yet somehow, that hour never ever drags. I don’t know why. Sloth is a misnomer because that shit’s a real eye opener, pointing out some sort of Way whether you want it or not, warping your perception as it does so. Things ain’t as slow as you think you think.

Sleep’s rhythm keepers, bassist Al Cisneros and drummer Chris Hakius, create exactly the same time-distortion thing with Om. When the trio dissolved, Sleep’s evolutionary end point was Om’s beginning, a beginning which freed them to go for the cosmic jugular with long, meditative excursions laced with heavy reps. Dopesmoker is Om’s template, but with one massive difference:

No Guitars.

Yep, the band that made one of THE most definitive, uncompromising Heavy Rock statements of all time birthed a duo who don’t even put guitars on their records. Question is, does it matter? Nope. This band’s on a trajectory all of its own and that means it demands to be judged on different terms. There’s still a ton of weight in Om’s records, but the difference is more in the way we listen – the lack of axe, the arch metal instrument, compels us to drop any preconceptions about what Om/ex-Sleep should sound like… stoner/drone/doom-lite, none of it makes sense. Om aren’t metal and they’re barely even rock, certainly not on the surface, but with Hakius’s tumbling rhythms and Cisneros’s propulsive distorto bass thickness, they definitely flow. Om’s musical currency is m-Omentum, pure and simple.

OM album cover Conference of the Birds

Atop that glutinous drum ‘n bass brew, the cleaned-up vocals give Om their third definingelement. Now even more of a monotone than it was on Dopesmoker, Al’s voice just sort of hangs there, a soft human drone levelling out any musical peaks and dips underneath. Crucially, this emotional void – in delivery, not literal content – is precisely what makes Om Om. That detachment accentuates the music’s repetition, brings a mantra-like calm to the tracks and threads a Constant through every track, and whether it’s achieved through design, vocal limitation or both, his style works as an effect and breathes a mesmeric calm to the records.

With such an unwavering sense of self and purpose, it’s no surprise that Conference of the Birds offers no real variation on Variations on a Theme, the Om debut. It has two tracks, both around the 16–18-minute mark, but if there’s one argument for picking up a record that’s pretty much the debut continued, it’s in this: At Giza.

Lean, clean and taut, and maybe even a tad delicate for the hardheaded Sleep/Om devotee, side 1’s At Giza marks an evolution of the Om thumbprint.

Floydian in its Set the Controls galactic ambience, dramatic in its pace and tension, At Giza is quiet and spacious, maybe even nimble … unlike the ultra evenflow of other Om tracks, this track actually builds to something. After slowing to a stalker’s near-silence halfway through, soft drums – the warmest, closest drums you ever heard – signal a colossal surge and climax and sure enough, we get one of those Moments. Flip the record over and Flight of the Eagle is Sleep-heavy by comparison, a dense-from-the-off work of low-end bass action that trundles Om-ward with glue on its wheels, true to the debut: the hypnotic pull is complete. Put it on heavy rotation and let it sink … in. Deep.

Released 2006 on Holy Mountain
Tracklist:
At Giza (15:55)
Flight of the Eagle (17:27)

This review was first posted on Julian Cope’s Head Heritage site back in 2010, and I’ve revised it very slightly so it makes sense in a post-Om/reactivated-Sleep world. For a Cope-ian reading of Om’s debut album, gorge on his Album of the Month review of Variations on a Theme.

FROM SIKTH TO SEALIONWOMAN

SEPTEMBER REWIND: SIKTH PLAY OXFORD, PLUS SOFT JUNGLE FUNK, SLIFT ROCK AND THE CALL OF THE SEALIONWOMAN

SikTh play Bullingdon. Bullingdon gets moshed. If you caught the returning tech metal machine on tour, you’ll know that SikTh have zero difficulty getting their crowd shifting, which is no small feat given that a fair-sized chunk of the crowd were SikTh fans the first time around. Djent moshers never die. They just lose hair.

No loss of hair from vocalist Mikee, though. Dreads locked on a lithe frame, he and co-vocalist Joe Rosser interlock, work and jump every bit of stage space they can reach, generating a furious energy on stage and off. A SikTh crowd is very definitely a SikTh crowd – devoted – which (confession time) ain’t me. I’m a dabbler. The vocal styleees put me off back in the day, but the return of SikTh and their raging precision core has piqued interest so here we are, checking out the real thing. The cartoonly vocals are pretty much purged, stage presence is max, performance juicy, crowd mental, job done. Beyond that, I don’t know a fucking thing. Hold My Finger was a beast, though. Would I have regretted not going? Yeah, it’s a full-on show. Did it convert, would I go again? Dunno, but that’s a taste thing, not a performance thing. SikTh killed it, anyone could see that.

For old time’s sake, here’s Hold My Finger (studio version), and vids by Oxford’s Msry and Liverpool’s Loathe if you fancy an aggro double, for ’twas them what did a support on it.

And now for something different completely.

JUNGLE: For Ever
Picked this up under severe time pressure: we’re a year on from a self-made tradition and time is tight for rule #1 – it’s the last day of the allotted week. Thankfully rule #2 is met, with minutes to spare. When asked “Which of these new releases came out this week?”, the ever-helpful Truck Store manager says, “This, this, this, this, this and these.” Which is shit material for a blog post, I know, but if you picture a bearded young record shop keeper pointing at rows of CDs while a bespectacled captain clueless looks on, you get the idea. Low’s new album Double Negative gets bigged up, and it’s verrrrrry tempting but … not quite right for this project – we need something less well established, something more surprising, something new-band-new that’s picked on the fly. Truck Store points out Jungle. What, the genre? (age alert). No, the band. Loose rhythm and soul funk from London, catchy and good, they’ve played it in the shop. Track 1 Smile is cued on headphones for mon delectation. SOLD. This is it. Slick, warm, irresistible. Light sounds for late season sunshine.

Right then, time to get back on a noisier track with short words on new shit. Here are three ear-catchers from this past month.

SLIFT – Doppler Ganger
Wooooaaah! Hyperactive bass and beats and garaged psyche, straight outta the same blocks that White Denim scrawled their names on but spiked with shots of heavier metals. Odd name, maybe it’s a Toulouse thing, maybe we’ll just get used to it. Slift right here.

AUTHOR & PUNISHER – Night Terror
If the onset of autumn flips your mood to Industrial Crush then you’d better submit to a Night Terror beating by one-man machine-man, Author & Punisher. It’s got that sub-sonic depth charge thing welded to its lowest of mid-paced low ends, like Godflesh/Greymachine overloading the underbelly. A menacing yawp and scrape, just in time for Halloween. Night Terror this way.

SEALIONWOMAN – Call
Music for nights at sea, this. Cavernous dark nights free of light pollution, the dark that you lean into from the land’s edge. Kitty Whitelaw sings over Tye McGivern’s ebb-and-surge bass and drones/electronics/effects (no percussion here), and for a moment you think of Warren Ellis. Call drifts in from the wind, cloaked in sea-bound mythos. Beguiling stuff.

til next time!

amplifier wordsmith: the monthly rewind

amplifier wordsmith: the monthly rewind