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 from the Oxford band, 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 outta Oxford, 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 GEODESICS, ALGIERS PANTHER

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

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

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

REZNOR ON RECORDS

AUGUST REWIND: PHYSICS BAND PSYCHE, BARE-BONES CHAKA FUNK AND ODDBALL MINT ROCK, PLUS THE NIN VINYL MISSION STATEMENT

You can work on an album for two years and it’s judged, consumed, forgotten in an afternoon [laughs]. Then it’s onto the next Kanye West think piece. Which is, y’know, depressing for an artist. ‘Is anyone even listening out there?’”

That was Trent Reznor speaking to the Quietus and it’s an interview that’s well worth your time (though you’ll have to get past John Doran projecting his own narrative all over the shop and managing to diss Queens of the Stone Age as auto-piloting cash grabbers trading off past albums … what???? Odd example. In no sense do I hear Homme’s gang pushing out by-numbers records just so they can tour the old stuff. What is Doran on?)

Anyway, Reznor’s quote struck me because it’s something that’s crossed my mind before, and I say that as a music nut. Are we really listening to music? Not in terms of sound quality, because that’s a whole other issue, but in terms of time quality.

Do we give enough to music?

Most likely not, if we’re honest, no. We’re swirling in the tyranny of immediacy. I’m not even signed up with Spotify or anything and I still can’t keep up with the CDs I buy and the radio programmes I like.

Go to the Nine Inch Nails website and you’ll see a statement that you can’t really dispute, even if the idea of ‘a vinyl mission statement’ first sounds like a pomp-ass thing to do. Reznor doesn’t dismiss digital or the convenience of non-physical format listening. He just articulates a preference and a hope and, coming from the artist, it’s a worthy notion, I reckon. Makes us reflect on our relationship with music, and whether we consume and judge too quickly because the Now Culture is what we are. The very existence of that statement, and the quote at the top of this page, are reminders that there are creators at the other end of the music.

And they care a fucking lot.

All of which is a roundabout way of acknowledging NIN’s awesome Bad Witch EP and telling you there’s no review.

Not listened to it enough. Let’s meet later for that one.

OTHER NEW STUFF
Right then, here’s how to undermine the above point – throw out a few new earcatchers from recent weeks.

The Physics House Band – Surrogate Head

Play this power trio loud as hell.” So said Julian Cope on the sleeves of his Brain Donor albums and it’s top advice for this Brighton instrumental three-o too, especially on this 2017 track – a muscular, space-scraping trip that’s packed with muso prowess yet still beholden to the bludgeoning power of a gutsy riff ‘neath a prog manifesto. Other tracks might take in more moods, musicality and Battles quirk, but Surrogate Head is not afraid to rock.

Chaka Khan – Like Sugar

Sparse, lean and stripped-to-the-trunk funk, Like Sugar is as clean or filthy as you want it to be. Is there a more addictive big-name bass line out there this summer? Comes off like one of those futuristic late-‘70s deep cuts that’s been unearthed to reveal its timeless self because it’s straight from The Source. Maximum groove from minimal moves. Sweet.

Forktail – Beast ’82

Play this straight after Like Sugar and you get a neat flow going. It’s funky but it’s not funk, built instead on metronomic beats topped off by creeper atmos creak-and-haunt that takes you to the fringe of the unknown without hurling you in … this time. Rhythm and dance for the witching hour. The Forked one is right here.

Lark – John Berger’s Wild Shirt

If a less hinged Karl Hyde stabbing lyrics over big beats and dissonant bursts of sticky, beaten bent guitar fancies your tickle, artist Karl Bielik and Lark might be your next stop. Turmoil rock? A track this ragged could never be played the same way twice. Lark about this way.

Franklin Mint – Animal Balloons

Where have you been, Franklin Mint? Four years since the so…dinosaurs EP and it’s pretty fr*nkl*n exciting to hear there’s now an album of oddster rock twists. Hailing from Bristol but feeling like a lost band from the alt-rock underground before it broke bigger, Animal Balloons is a first scratching of Scrage, whatever the fuck that means, and it’s wholly Mint-y. CD ordered, cannot wait, not cheating with further online listens.

’til next time!

amplifier wordsmith: the monthly rewind

amplifier wordsmith: the monthly rewind

RETURN OF THE PIGS

JUNE REWIND: ISRAEL NASH ON STAGE. PIGSX7 RETURN.

Israel Nash plays Oxford, so do Karma to Burn (review on its way), QOTSA hit London (ditto), and we’ve two – count ’em – chunks of brutish rage to skid-mark for thine ear. They’re not exactly heatwave music, but Israel Nash is, so let’s go there first.

Israel Nash – The Bullingdon, Oxford, June 14 2018
Looking for the sound of summer? You can do a lot worse – and maybe not a lot better – than plug into Israel Nash’s Silver Season, his 2015 album. It captures the sliding, gliding country peaks and pedal steel that Neil Young/CSN scaled on select tracks, but Nash (Israel) makes a complete album’s worth of these near-cosmic shimmers.

Tonight’s show is just Nash, his acoustic and harmonica, and his new-found friends (us). He’s such a generous presence – one of the world’s people people – that you can’t help but like the guy, and his home-on-the-ranch tales of recording, touring and parenthood confirm a nature-loving music-loving spirituality. Here’s a guy who wants to create moments and make them special, which is probably why he steps off stage and into the middle of the crowd to play a couple of tracks with audience accompaniment. Tambourine Jam, he calls it, putting a call out for two percussionists to join him, though the Bullingdon is clearly short of wannabe musos tonight as it takes a bit of coaxing to get the volunteers. “Do what feels right” is the only instruction to his new two-song backing band, and they do. It works.

While Nash is a magnet for warmth and exudes mellow positivity, the music – to me – loses something when reduced to a one-man acoustic strum-only, because the very thing that makes the last two albums such a draw is the richness of a big-sounding, expansive band playing with blissed-out restraint. Still, the chance to hang out in Israel’s company is not one to pass up. There’s a lot of feelgood in here.

OK, on to a couple of new tunes with a more raucous bent – something international, something north east England.

Advent of Bedlam – A Human Farm
Swept up in Stuart Maconie’s World Cup Freakzone, which featured music from all the countries playing in the group stages, this corrosive discharge of extreme metal cuffed the ear more than many this month. Advent of Bedlam are from Costa Rica, their third album is out now, and this track is a precise, punishing fix of blackened deathly thrash. Advent of Bedlam bandcamp right here.

Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs – Cake of Light
big big big big big big big noise from Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs – Cake of Light, the lead single from their forthcoming new album, has been aired in a world exclusive by Mary Anne Hobbs on BBC 6Music (2 hours 49 minutes in, after the Manics), and it doesn’t break the previous Pigs’ mould, thank fuck – slamming post-Sabbath doom mono-liffic that just about stops short of collapsing into the void. A howling, raging catharsis. Splendid. They’ve just stuck it up on Bandcamp, album due out in September.

Right, that’s it for June – a short fast ugly Rewind, live reviews on the way.

’til next time!

amplifier wordsmith: the monthly rewind

amplifier wordsmith: the monthly rewind

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

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.