LOCKDOWN MUSIC: WEEK 4 – ROLLINS

NEED A LOYAL MUSICAL COMPANION? Load up The Cool Quarantine, one of the best – and literally the longest – strips of Pure Listening Pleasure the lockdown has given us. Punk and post-punk orientations, precision anecdotes, rare bootlegs and more musical minutiae than you could hurl a Damned acetate at, it’s Henry Rollins doing what he does best: fanatic-ing about music. Great company. I took a couple of chunks out of it this week (while reading Stay Fanatic!!!) and still have major chewing to do.

Among the first-class oldies/rarities heard so far are Hendrix, Minor Threat, Led Zeppelin live 1977, Joy Division’s first EP, The Panic, the Stains, the Fall and loads more, but it’s the links and fanboy enthusiasm that really brings these records to life. Best of the new sounds so far? Lair of the Minotaur. Primal thuggery gone wild.

***just saw that episode 2 has just gone up***.

So. What’s the point of this post? Not sure, really. Documenting the home-based times through music, I guess. Continuity, stability, getting a few words down, sharing music tips. If it gets tedious, we’ll end it. In the meantime, week 4.

APRIL 11
Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs – Viscerals
Huntsmen – Mandala of Fear, disc 1

APRIL 12
Radio day

APRIL 13
Ministry – Dark Side of the Spoon
Sunn O))) – White 1
Ministry, Dark Side: How insane is Supermanic Soul? And how far beyond heavy is that second guitar riff? Like Animositisomina last week, Dark Side of the Spoon sounds as vital as ever, despite the deteriorating health and relations of the people who made it. Never understood why this album and Filth Pig get middling/bad reviews. This is bold stuff. Industrial metal corroded, sinking in a toxic swamp.

APRIL 14
Algiers – There is No Year
Henry Rollins – Cool Quarantine radio

APRIL 15
Killing Joke – Pylons, bonus disc

APRIL 16
REM – Accelerate
Tool – Fear Inoculum
Black Midi – Schlagenheim

APRIL 17
Kamasi Washington – The Epic, disc 1
Bossk – I
Dead Cross – Dead Cross
Henry Rollins – Cool Quarantine radio
Cool Quarantine: St Vitus recorded at a house party in 1982??? YES. Audio like this puts you right there. It’s as close to time travel you can get.

Stay safe, keep the music ON!

Previous Lockdown Music –  Week 3

LOCKDOWN MUSIC: WEEK 3

Lockdown music
Caught in a trap
No turnin’ back
Lockdown music

This is why we call it Lockdown Music – so you can sing it to Sister Sledge and feel good.

Speaking of things to make you feel good, who wrote the best metal album of all time, Metallica or Slayer? Check the link later on for a music mag feature that thrashes out (sorry) that very issue in a lockdown special.

In the meantime, more adventures in home-bound hi fi.

APRIL 4
No albums … Saturday. Radio all day, BBC 6 Music.

APRIL 5
Ministry – Animositisomina

Maaaaan, that was a well-chosen revisit. Bill Rieflin’s passing has prised open a Ministry hole and it’s been years since this 2003 ace got an airing. Good era. The mid-tempo swamp-industrial years: Filth Pig, Dark Side of the Spoon, Animositisomina. Though not packing the fireworks of earlier albums, it grows from track to track and may even peak at the very end with Impossible, Stolen and Leper. More Ministry revisits will follow, no doubt.

APRIL 6
Prince – Lovesexy
Clutch – Strange Tales from the West
Discharge – Hear Nothing, See Nothing Say Nothing
Nine Inch Nails – Ghosts V

Discharge, Hear Nothing: Brutal, relentless. If you need a proper system cleanse, this’ll flush your toxins.

APRIL 7
The Huntsmen – Mandala of Fear, disc 2
Ministry – Animositisomina (last three tracks)

New Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs album Viscerals landed today from Piccadilly Records, Manchester. Nice one, Piccadilly. Local heroes Truck Store have ceased mail order because of coronavirus so I sent my money back up north to a landmark of my youth. Top service.

Just heard about Henry Rollins’s internet-only radio show, The Cool Quarantine. Four hours of music and stories, unfiltered. Definitely going to check that.

Oh yeah, got furloughed by work today. So, listening will change next week. When working at home, you need music as a barrier – which is why a lot of metal/punk has figured lately. It blocks the world out. Listening quantity will soon be reduced, but more selective.

APRIL 8
Devin Townsend – Deconstruction
Ministry – Filth Pig

Deconstruction has a song called Pandemic. Metal histrionics and machine-gun beats. Of course.

APRIL 9
Henry Rollins, The Cool Quarantine radio show

Loaded the show and listened to the first 40 minutes while reading Stay Fanatic!!! High energy raconteur radio, inspiring stuff. Am making notes of tracks/bands to follow up, go find it through KCRW.

APRIL 10
Kamasi Washington – The Epic, discs 2 and 3
1349 – The Infernal Pathway

This popped up on the Quietus: Low Culture 2. Master of Puppets versus Reign in Blood. Pure indulgence from the writer so bear that in mind, but who’s your money on?

Stay safe, keep the music ON!

previous: Lockdown Music Week 2

LOCKDOWN MUSIC: WEEK 2

CONTINUING THE CORONAVIRUS LISTENING

How’s it going? Week 2 felt calmer and more stable here than week 1’s total upending, and the scatterbrain distraction has subsided. But it still feels best to just enjoy music and log it instead of trying to be creative with any expression.

Here’s the soundtrack to the days.

SATURDAY MARCH 28
The Huntsmen – Mandala of Fear, disc 2
Wire – Pink Flag
Wire – Chairs Missing
Ministry – The Land of Rape and Honey

Sabbath and Earth yes, but have Wire ever been cited by SunnO))) as an influence? Check those ringing drone fragments in Practice Makes Perfect and Marooned from Chairs Missing and tell me there’s not a hint of White 1. Anyway, Chairs Missing is blowing my mind a bit now I’m listening to it properly.

More Rieflin, too: Ministry’s best. From a drum/Rieflin tribute perspective, Deity’s got to be the place to go. Think it was 1992/3 when I bought the album and I’d never heard anything like Hizbollah. Still hypnotic. A perfect, damaged, mind-bending album.

[note: just discovered today that Hizbollah is a bonus track, as is I Prefer, on the CD version. They’re not marked as bonus tracks and they’re threaded into the running order. Wonder what the non-CD sequence sounds like? Must give it a go but an album without Hizbollah is pretty unimaginable right now]

MARCH 29
King Crimson – Live in Toronto 2014
King Crimson – Live in Chicago 2017 (21st Century Schizoid Man, immediate comparison)
Sad Cafe – Fanx Ta-ra
Michael Stipe – No Time for Love Like Now (youtube demo)

Stipe: How great to hear that voice again. Check the youtube demo of this solo track for some pandemic reflection and grace as he sings to a pre-recorded backing track in what looks like his conservatory. And his expression at the end of the clip is a picture.

MARCH 30
Bad Brains – Rock for Light
Wire – Chairs Missing
Pantera – The Great Southern Trendkill
Ministry – The Land of Rape and Honey
Miles Davis – In a Silent Way

Wire connection: I’m reading Henry Rollins’s latest book, Stay Fanatic!!! Vol. 1, and by chance on tonight’s pages he diverts to a bit of Wire. In his words their fourth album, the live Document and Eyewitness, is THE statement, even allowing for the art-some genius of the first three records. Looking forward to that, no idea when I’ll get there. 154 not purchased yet.

Pantera, Southern Trendkill: THIS is their album. With those Down elements creeping in, you get a more complete statement. More hostile, more reflective, more range, more mileage.

MARCH 31
Archie Shepp – Attica Blues
The Meters – Rejuvenation

Shepp, Attica Blues: The only Shepp album in the collection. Love the intense funk soul of the title track and Blues for Brother George Jackson, not really into the melodic jazz pieces. And of course, it’s got a righteous protest backdrop. Important Music, far bigger than a 3rd-rate rockhead like me can comprehend. Clumsily pawing the first rung.

Some big music news right here so tonight, Nine Inch Nails Ghosts V and VI were downloaded and Old Man Gloom x2 pre-ordered. Huge gifts, THANKS GUYS.

APRIL 1
Paul Young – Chronicles
Dr John – Locked Down
King Crimson – Vroom Vroom, disc 2
The Specials – Encore

Dr John, Locked Down: Not chosen for the title, no …. just needed a rich, spacious, highly musical groove. This album is all that and the drumming is phenomenal. Speaking of drums, The Specials’ Encore is nimble in that area funky too and, of course, yesterday’s Meters album is a drum masterclass. Infinite funk.

New Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs album Viscerals is out on Friday. CD pre-order done. Got to support the bands and the shops.

APRIL 2
Melvins – The Bulls and the Bees
Mastodon – Emperor of Sand

APRIL 3
Beak – >>>
Nine Inch Nails – Add Violence
Nine Inch Nails – Bad Witch
Godley & Creme – L

That’s it, that’s Friday – week 2 done. We’re 2 weeks nearer.

Stay safe, keep the music ON!

Lockdown Music Week 1

LOCKDOWN MUSIC: WEEK 1

STABILITY THROUGH MUSIC IN THE COVID-19 LOCKDOWN

I think it’s the need to be able to control something, isn’t it? That’s where this post comes from – a way to document wildly uncertain times through the stuff we love the most: MUSIC.

So, that’s what this is. Nothing big, nothing clever, just a note of albums being played every day each week with occasional music notes or thoughts on the way. A short-term (we hope) list of listening, a music log for the lockdown. Let’s see how it goes. Maybe you’ll dig some out of your collection, too.

MARCH 23
Rush – Snakes and Arrows
Julian Cope – 20 Mothers

Cope, 20 Mothers: This would make a great desert island disc, and not just because it’s fckn oarsome. No two tracks really sound like another so it covers a ton of genres and moods while still making you think and feel, thanks to the Drude’s class-A lyrics and always-present Vibe.

MARCH 24
David Bowie – Never Let Me Down (2018)
I’m a Freak Baby: A Journey Through the British Heavy Psych and Hard Rock Underground Scene 196872, disc 1

Bowie, Never Let Me Down. One of the Bowie albums you never really get into, but the re-recorded 2018 version – from the box set – isn’t at all bad. Reeves Gabrels’ guitar is avant-ing all over those pop tunes, pushing the solos further out.

MARCH 25
Pantera – Far Beyond Driven
King Crimson – Live in Toronto 2014, disc 1

Bill Rieflin died yesterday, aged 59. Brain cancer. Another pivotal drum figure leaves us in 2020. Crimson live? Sublime. Pantera FBD? One dimensional.

MARCH 26
Satyricon – Now, Diabolical
Venom – Black Metal
Julian Cope – Self Civil War

Satyricon the big surprise here. Not overly familiar with this album but familiar enough to know that it’s a go-to for precision drums, pace and snarl. But the trippy cold-desert intro of Delirium and mid-tempo cruise through To The Mountains? Hit like new discoveries.

MARCH 27
The Refused – The Shape of Punk to Come

That’s it, that’s Friday – the end of Lockdown Week 1. Weeks 2 and 3 pretty much done and coming soon.

Stay safe, keep the music ON!

NEW NIN, NEW GLOOM

MARCH REWIND: CORONAVIRUS LOCKDOWN

We’re all in it, but still … fucking hell. That was the month that was, still is and will be for all our foreseeables. The COVID 19 lockdown, thee mighty psyche scrambler.

Which means that the appetite (and time) for All New Sounds is a tad reduced, but there we go. Fewer tunes and words than usual this month, sign o’ the times. Music is ever-present but we’ve got different needs and moods right now, and that’s why new gear from Nine Inch Nails (YES), Old Man Gloom (DITTO THAT) and others feel like such colossal gifts, so let’s celebrate those in a min. First, a couple of worthy new underground sonics.

TORPOR – Two Heads on Gold

Nippy this is not. Earth-paced beats slip between dense sheets of surging, droning distortion that make for a deliberate, imposing slab of machine doom, given depth and space by the spoken word. Ready?

THAMMUDU & MISHTI – Body Negativity

Industrial meditation music. For one. Chase the haunting, just-out-of-reach melody while never quite escaping the nightmarish pull … check it here.

NINE INCH NAILS – Ghosts V / Ghosts VI

Big, big surprise, this – NIN just announced they’ve put 2 new albums out ahead of their planned release dates and made them free to download. Go read their statement at nin.com, thoughtful and concise as ever.

OLD MAN GLOOM – Light of Meaning / Darkness of Being

Another established name serving double-release treats is simian-core terrorists Old Man Gloom and, like NIN, their statement comes from exactly the right place, but with added dicking about. How can we resist? We can’t. Pre-order done and paid for.

These are generous moves from our musicians, and we’ll no doubt be seeing a lot more (Metallica Mondays and Michael Stipe’s touching No Time for Love Like Now demo are two more things keeping spirits high), but what can we, the fans, do?

Keep being fans. Keep sharing tips and buying music. Use your local record shop’s mail-order service (if they have one) to help them survive this crisis, buy the merchandise that you might not normally. Order albums in advance from record labels, as encouraged by Old Man Gloom, because it gives the label some money up front. Check the #loverecordstores campaign.

Music wins.

Finally, a brief last word for Bill Rieflin RIP. Anyone who plays on stage with King Crimson is among the most gifted musicians around, so this is another big drum loss for 2020. For a more brutal Rieflin hit, head back to this landmark album.

’til next time!

amplifier wordsmith: the monthly rewind

amplifier wordsmith: the monthly rewind

MASIRO: live 2020 – review

MASIRO AT THE LIBRARY, OXFORD, FEBRUARY 27, 2020

Leave them wanting more. Is this why Masiro only give us 30 minutes of their virtuoso math rock attack?
Nah. It’ll be a scheduling curfew thing in The Library, but the end result is the same. This is nowhere near enough.

Oxford’s Masiro forge a space/mathcore collision that’s loaded with proficiency, technical aggression and melody, but to see it hammered out in real time is a proper thrill. Where Masiro’s albums conjure a precise, sometimes detached machine-like force over a sci-fi backdrop, here we get to see it done with humanity and earthiness – the sweat, the dropped drum sticks, the heat, the body-rocking and the big fuzzy ballsy bass, all without missing a metallic prog beat. It’s why we come to gigs like this: the chance of witnessing a little underground special.

As for the track titles … search me, instrumentals are kinda hard to put names on, but Grand Trine is definitely the final one (isn’t it?) and before that we get ‘a new track that’s pretty complicated … so we’ll try not to fuck it up too much.’ If they did, no-one noticed. Mesmerising.

Masiro don’t seem to gig too often and have had a personnel change recently, but why they aren’t a bigger draw than this is beyond me. Twenty-something people down here tonight? This music deserves many more ears.

Check this short Geodesics album review, hit the Bandcamp link within and load yourself a juddering Masiro shot.

DAVID BOWIE’S NUTS

FEBRUARY REWIND: BLACK-HELL INDUSTRIAL… PROGRESSIVE DEATH AND YES-CORE METALS… CAVERNOUS POST JAZZ… TRIP-HEAVY MINDMELTS AND POST-SCHLAGENHEIM COMEDOWNS. AND DAVID BOWIE.

Some mildly cheerless fare scattered throughout this Rewind – Sightless Pit, Blood Incantation, Pulled by Magnets – but then again, it is still winter. If that’s not your thing, there is at least some new David Bowie. And if new David Bowie leaves you cold …

best not even go there.

SIGHTLESS PIT – Kingscorpse

Grimmest first. Skitter beats carry disembodied harmonies, industrial noise buries them and a black-metal styled death voice burns through. The sound of humanity’s incineration? Nuclear winter? We have destroyed ourselves and are face to face with hell. That’s what this is. Lingua Ignota is in the band, corpse stench right this way.

BLOOD INCANTATION – Inner Paths (To Outer Space)

Nothing about this says death metal. The first four minutes are aggressive metallic prog, but then we get the escalation and then we get the DM hit – briefly. Like John Carpenter’s The Fog, the threat recedes. Much is hinted at, so it’s no wonder that Denver’s Blood Incantation are top 10 in Kerrang’s Top 50 Death Metal Bands Right Now list and in Metal Hammer’s New Noise feature. Death metal isn’t my thing, but have this lot got crossover appeal? Maybe. Hidden History of the Human Race is their second album.

HUNTSMEN – Ride Out

YES. Not the opposite of no, but Yes the band – because if that early vocal doesn’t remind you of Jon Anderson, you’ve never heard Jon Anderson. And if you have heard him, you’ve never heard him over a super dense prog thrash attack that’s Rush-taut (how tightly packed is that rhythm guitar?) but way heavier. Shit me, this feels good. Of course, Huntsmen’s Anderson is part-time and gets blown into next decade by a metalcore breakout, making this one of the most exhilarating tunes of the month. Mandala of Fear album is out in a couple of weeks.

PULLED BY MAGNETS – Those Among Us

We’re going wholly non-riff now, but this track has a heaviness that comes from metal’s fringes. Jazz drummer Seb Rochford – Polar Bear, Sons of Kemet, gazillions of others – pushes cavernous dubby slo-mo here which, for a non-jazzer like me, seems within sniffing distance of Metal Box and an avant Sunn O))) voyage. Check it here.

DODMEN – Drawn Circle

Stuart Maconie played this on his Freakzone this Feb. Turns out it’s not 2020-new, more a 2015 vintage, but when you chance on stuff this good, who’s counting?

Play this straight after Pulled By Magnets and it’s a pretty neat sequence – Drawn Circle has a similar pace, same drone backdrop, same massive sense of space and time. But Dodmen have guitars. And they use their loose, heavy slacker attack to hypnotic effect, piling on the layers and distortion to reach some sort of transcendent frenzoid. It’s nearly 11 minutes but everything is underplayed. Everything except the volume and the anticipation.

BLACK MIDI – Sweater

Another 11-minute sprawl, this time from musical eggheads black midi. Nothing like the instant mania of Schlagenheim, though it was part of the same sessions, Sweater just got released and is … calm. Deliberate. Possibly meditative. Possibly feeling around for a direction. But when those first, awkward guitar notes land, you know exactly who you’re cavorting with. Stick around for a midi life catharsis.

DAVID BOWIE – Nuts

The February Big One. Nuts is the fifth of six drip-feeds from the Is It Any Wonder? EP of Bowie rarities, and Nuts is the one that grabs. Why? Because it’s an Earthling extra, and 90s Bowie surely scores highest on the thrill-ometer for unreleased material (Black Tie, Buddha, Outside and Earthling unearthings? Yes please).

According to Mary Anne Hobbs, who played it first and is a Proper Insider for Earthling-era Bowie, Nuts was meant to be a bonus track on Earthling but then the idea was dropped. Would it have worked? Not as an album track, no, and Earthling definitely doesn’t need a bonus track to ruin the flow. This belongs on a bonus EP or mini album. Nuts is pretty much instrumental with spoken fragments (‘What would you rather be doing?’) – if you think of that break in Little Wonder where the whole track drops a bit and loses the voice, the piano and the big beats, Nuts motors along with that kind of vibe. Inner calm amid the superficially frantic. Drum ‘n’ bass, Bowie style. And that, obviously, is more than gift enough.

’til next time!

amplifier wordsmith: the monthly rewind

amplifier wordsmith: the monthly rewind

JULIAN COPE live 2020 – review

JULIAN COPE AT SUB89 IN READING, FEBRUARY 2, 2020

Because Oxford no longer seems to figure on Julian Cope’s tour roster, and because yours truly wasn’t up for travelling anywhere – not quite fired up enough after Skellington 3 (patchy good) and Dope on Drugs (erm ….) – it meant a Live Drude Experience was casually written off when the tour was announced. Some other time, eh?

But then, Self Civil War came out. Bastard. Seems this most vital of rock and roll forces still packs a ledded HB, which prompted a lengthy Archdrude listening fest and shit-shit-shit – are there any tickets left for Reading???

Yep. Panic over. Let’s go see Julian on tour. Exciting.

Was it worth it?

The first quarter hour answers that question: the first track is Jehovahkill’s Soul Desert, SOUL BLOODY DESERT, and then a few minutes later we get Autogeddon Blues, not just all-time greats but also big-time responsible for my own initiation into Cope’s alterna-world back in the day. So yes, already worth it, and shame on me for not being arsed enough in the first place.

Anyway, the gig. There’s nothing radical in the set-up, it’s the tried-and-tested No Band format, just Cope solo with a semi-electric acoustic, plenty o’ pedals and rich prickings from his vast body of song. My Facebook Your Laptop and Immortal are the Self Civil War airings, Drink Me Under the Table‘s lusty one-nighter is the Drunken Songs rep, and beyond that we get disparates like Greatness and Perfection, Out of My Mind on Dope and Speed, Culture Bunker, Passionate Friend, They Were on Hard Drugs and Great Dominions.

And Cunts Can Fuck Off. Really. Childishly catchy, it’s a winner because of its explanatory tale starring Cope, a lost stone circle and an Irish saviour on a John Dere tractor. There are loads of barely-hinged tales like this. It’s why his shows always make for a great night out.

Back to the music and the home run: Pristeen crackles with Urthona-styled pedal mania overdrive, Sunspots is more raucous than fried, and the ‘too professional to be a folk song’ zinger World Shut Your Mouth shuts the door on a gig buzzing over with good vibes, as we’ve come to expect from this most on-it of performers.

Question is, will we ever see him with a band again, firing multi-instrument shots of widescreen musicality? Self Civil War’s unfettered axe breaks by Christopher Holman, who is Cope’s tech/support/accomplice tonight, tempted the idea that a band tour might emerge … it’s been a while since we had a gig like this, and maybe it is too late now, but a deep-cuts fully-plugged tour of his Head Heritage albums? Or something like? That’d be worth the travelling, no hesitation.

COPE’S SELF CIVIL WAR

JANUARY REWIND: NEW JULIAN COPE. RAGING NEW PSYCHE/PROG/MATHCORE (and more) from SLIFT, ANIMAL SOCIETY, AZUSA (and more)

Decade of aggression? Art decade?

Whatever 2020 signals the start of, its first month has been fast. Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs pushed Reducer out and promised a new album Viscerals in April. Algiers – a band who exist on a different plane of energy, intelligence and fury – put electro-powered gospel soul riot on the new year’s map with There is No Year.

And, beards ahoy, the Archdrude put a full-lengther out, so …

JULIAN COPE: Self Civil War

Like the Algiers album, Self Civil War is way too new to review – haven’t done the listening miles yet. But the first impressions are that Julian Cope is back.

Julian Cope Self Civil War

He’s back

He’s never been away, we know that, and he’ll always be a buy-immediately arteest for those of us who absolutely love the guy. But the recent Rites and Dopes and Skellingtons and John Balances have been less essential than Cope’s steam-hot streak from Jehovahkill through to Psychedelic Revolution, so it’s with a mix of hope and mild trepidation that you plug the new one in. Does another bunch of bass drum and chants beckon?

13 tracks and a way-generous 70-minute run time suggests not.

An untamed guitar break on That Ain’t No Way to Make a Million confirms not. Ladies and gents, we is entering into a Proper Cope Album. One with a bit of heft. It’s got the poetic roots, the too-catchy hooks, the uber smart lyrics, the Cope-class titles – My Facebook, Your Laptop is one, but even better is You Will Be Mist – but now, on this album, the return of some epic song-based sprawl (Requiem for a Dead Horse passes 11 minutes) and a questing, vibing six-string foil with Christopher Holman taking the Donald Ross Skinner/Doggen slot of Cope bands past.

As said above, these are just loose words and first impressions, but Self Civil War looks promising. Can’t wait to get stuck right in. JC gig review February 2020 if you fancy it.

Right, let’s pick off some other January ear manglers.

SLIFT: Ummon

How better to kick 2020 off than with a riotous jam that’s blastoid supernova? Set the guitar to the heart of the sun with Ummon’s six minutes of Earthless/Oh Sees frazzle and part-Motorhead depth charge. Is Toulouse known for its flame-throwing power trios? Doubt it, but that’ll change if Slift crack a new scene open. Until then, go air-guitar the shit out of this freewheeling space ripper.

ANIMAL SOCIETY: Rise

Instrumental heavy new prog. Slint-y post-rock creep. Drummer’s delight. Non-blues, high muso. With Rise, Animal Society grope a spidery route round the metallic jazz end of prog, luring you down any number of cracks and cave-holes, all of them dank. Something’s hidden and you skirt its presence. EP out now on bandcamp.

SQURL: Robbie’s Theme

Away from the psyche pyrotechnics and jazz-metallic fingerings of Slift and Animal House, we find Squrl, a.k.a. Jim Jarmusch and Carter Logan. What play they? On this track it’s a beguiling strand of lush, melancholic Americana that distorts and bends with distortion. Notes ring, bleed, swell and cling. Beautiful heartbreak? Like recent Low, it’s one for the winter.

AZUSA: Memories of an Old Emotion

OM-FCKN-G. The award for Most Two-Faced Shred of the Month goes to Azusa, no question. Dillinger Escape Plan hostility one minute, Cocteau Twins sweet-pop dream-wooziness the next. And back. And back again. And converge the two … easily the most arresting sound of the month.

(Turns out ex Dillinger Escape Plan bassist Liam Wilson is in there, which is a pretty fair explanation for half the sound)

ELEPHANT TREE: Sails

When going back to this track for a second listen, I wondered why I’d bookmarked it in the first place. Why put this on my tape? (Various Radio 57, since you ask). Pleasant enough heavy trance riffage with clean floater vox, sure, but too average to make the cut. Something must happen. Hang on, riff change, bit of a drop. Not bad. Oh shit, yes … THAT BIT. The rockist solo, the divergent mass below. Flying and drowning. Serene, liquid metal. A bit too clean? Nah, something about Sails really sticks its claws in. Give it a go.

Downer sign-off

It’s been a shit month for rock RIPs on the drum front.

Rush’s Neil Peart and Corrosion of Conformity‘s Reed Mullin both left, as did former Death and Cynic drummer Sean Reinart. So, it’s been a Rush-heavy month round here. Grace Under Pressure onwards, special warmth for Power Windows. Mystic Rhythms …. why not?

’til next time.

5 GREAT 2019 ALBUMS pt II

THE FESTIVE LIST THING CONTINUES (BUT IT’S SHORT, C’MON … )

Holly Herndon and Pelican starred in 5 Great 2019 Albums part I, but what else stormed our senses this year? Check these three, see if you agree.

RAKETKANON: RKTKN #3

Raketkanon 3

Appearing nowhere (why?) on any end-of-year lists are Belgian noise-art rock post-post punk ish provocateurs Raketkanon. More varied, catchy and moody than #2’s non-stick abrasions, RKTKN #3 inhabits a world all of its own where twisting riffs, carousel keyboards and Cold War espionage vibes co-habit with icy post-metal breaks, awkward discord and unplugged breakdowns. Vocals shift from whisper to hardcore and back. Really can’t place it.

The gentlest track – the addictive Melody – tiptoes through a post-grunge downer on an art-pop tip, while Hannibal is the exact opposite, a repetitive no-depth one-chord blare. Harry rides a killer machine-funk beat. Nothing sticks for long yet nothing’s twitchy either. RKTKN #3 is only 33 minutes but rides an ever-moving narrative through a weirdo urban/rural hinterland where anything goes … that’s Raketkanon.

 

KXM: Circle of Dolls

KXM Circle of Dolls

King’s X didn’t manage to release their new record this year – we’ll have to wait till 2020 for that – but the ever prolific Dug Pinnick did get an album’s worth of downtuned riffs and heavy melodics out with album #3 from the KXM groove machine. And there are no great changes from the first two KXM albums, thankfully. It’s just a bit harder, a bit richer.

What’s great about KXM is the adulterous kick you get from hearing Pinnick’s liquid, lived-in vocals and bass backed by tough Ray Luzier beats and the timeless George Lynch tone. It’s a metallic King’s X, though it’s not really fair to make out that King’s X are the parent band because it’s Lynch who kicks everyone into action. KXM don’t reinvent rock, but they do put their individual prints on it. Kinda like Rush do. And if you liked Dokken’s guitar sound but not the band, KXM is the right place because Lynch is all over it. He’s set up home in a place you actually want to visit.

Standout tracks? War of Words and Mind Swamp kick it off with aggression, but the softer, darker Lightning showcases everything – pure King’s X vocal lines while the deft solos and mood-setting percussion hint at voodoo. Class.

 

In the previous post, we said No Rankers. But the last album in this very short list is pretty damned special so if there was to be a favourite, it might just be this:

CAVE IN: Final Transmission

Cave In Final Transmission

Following the still-unbelievable death of Caleb Scofield in 2018, Cave In finished the in-progress tracks in tribute to their bass brother and as a fundraiser for his young family.

It’s an emotional listen. The usual Cave In spectrum of noise, hardcore, spacerock and loose acoustics is covered but, with the loss of an active musician top of mind, the bass parts are loaded with significance. Consciously or not, we notice them even more.

Final Transmission is a great Cave In album.

Shake Your Blood throws an absolute monster of a Cave In hook, but it’s bitter sweet – the lyrics knock you back, especially being clean-sung (screams and roars are absent). Lunar Day‘s soft burned drones and Strange Reflection‘s doom-heavy riff show the range on display, yet it’s the calamitous bone-rattler Led to the Wolves that ends the tribute. Chaotic perfection.

Bold, heavy, intense and defiant. And, through it all, THAT bass.

 

Festive rocks off to all, see you in 2020.