THE ARMED: TUNE (IS IT?) OF THE MONTH

AUGUST REWIND: Experimental punks, Norwegian fusion and a St Vincent Metallica stunner – let’s check some hot sounds from a cool summer.

THE ARMED – Faith in Medication

WOW. Chin up now, off the floor… there’s so much overdrive on every bit of this OTT attack that you’ll melt yourself trying to make sense of it, so don’t bother. Just marvel and be withered by the sheer insanity of The Armed’s total hyper-ness. Progressive hardcore noise with hooks buried deep in overstimulation, it’s a mind-bending blast of brutal chaos. Be scared. And happy. And scared again. Faith in Medication right here.

SPECIAL INTEREST – Street Pulse Beat

These New Orleans avant punks have just released their 2016 demos as an album. But this track, from last year’s The Passion Of, leapt out when 6 Music superfan Mary Anne Hobbs aired it the other week. Vocalist Alli Logout introduced it, saying she’d written the song ‘while feeling very lost and in the clutches of co-dependency, and realising that no-one could save me but myself. It’s a love song to the lost.’ Her narrated intro gives way to industrial windscreen-wiper beats where a thick bass throws up a wall of tone more than notes, and deft synths soften the edges to pull you in. Sparse, intense, literate, impassioned: Street Pulse Beat awaits.

HEDVIG MOLLESTAD TRIO – All Flights Cancelled

With moto-riffic pulsations from the off, this track is definitely going somewhere. But where? All Flights Cancelled can only mean one thing: ROAD TRIP – and this is the soundtrack. But when the riff drops out and Mollestad’s solo guitar moves in, it becomes a trip with tone and class and a fiery yet tasteful virtuosity. A new-psyche jam with prog-jazz muscle.

ST VINCENT – Sad But True

What do you make of Metallica’s Blacklist? Curious and wary is the early verdict here, though this is without knowing exactly what it all sounds like. Wary of the number of Enter Sandmen for sure. Wary of all the Nothing Else Mattresses, too. Wary of way too many straight covers … 53 interpretations of 12 tracks is a lot and there’s bound to be some uninspiring duds. Probably from the world of metal.

But St Vincent’s version of Sad But True is bang on. In keeping with her shapeshifting wont, it’s not like the warm 70s analogue of her (excellent) Daddy’s Home album. No, this Sad But True struts a seductive industrial funk groove like a sexy Nine Inch Nails. And the guitar solo? Owned. More like this please. Looking forward to whatever Kamasi Washington does as well.

Don’t forget BANDCAMP FRIDAY

It’s this week, September 3rd – a great chance to support our musicians even more.

’til next time!

amplifier wordsmith: the monthly rewind
amplifier wordsmith: the monthly rewind

OWLMASK: TRACK OF THE MONTH

Been a long time, hello again. Are we well?

This blog is getting a bit of a rethink so these new-sounds Rewinds might not feature much more – changing perspectives and all that. Not sure. But until then, here’s a trio of underexposed catches.

OWLMASK: Gesh Uru

You’re on the run. This is the music that’s over your shoulder.

Like a systematic raygun attack wrapped up in rigid retro electronics, Gesh Uru emits paranoia. Anonymously mechanical – think Portishead’s Machine Gun but strip out all vocal and bottom-end – and awash with electro vibrations and pulses, it expands while you listen. Gets bigger. Creeps up. Or is that the paranoia??? Check it right here. And Boo Cook, aka Owlmask, is half of Forktail too so give them a go for an occult folklore fix.

BORED LORD: The Weapon of Sound

Ah yes … righteous digital artillery from the church of rage – kneel before Bored Lord and submit to a RATM vocal sample pushed through a megawatt drum ‘n bass beat. Perfect for metal heads (sorry…).

LILITH: Deliciously

If things are going a little too well in your world (said no-one, 2020-21), Lilith will put the stoppers on it. Slug-tempo despair and spectral goth, right outta … Arizona. Yep. The desert. Admittedly, funereal punishment ain’t really working for me in these COVID-heavy times, but this airless hole struck a chord – maybe even two – and a track’s worth of oppressive crush is just about do-able.

(while you’re scrubbing about Lilith’s pit, check Oxford’s Undersmile for similarly brutal slo-mo kicks. Just make sure you let a crack of light back in your life afterwards, eh?)

’til next time!

amplifier wordsmith: the monthly rewind
amplifier wordsmith: the monthly rewind

WU-LU: TRACK OF THE MONTH

JANUARY REWIND: WU-LU STOPS YOU DEAD

What day is it? What month? Oh yeah, Lockdown 2021. Time as we once knew it has been rubbed out.

Anyway, VERY short Rewind to kick off the new year coz full lockdown has drained all time and energy and this post really should have 1) been posted in January, and 2) included more stuff. BUT …. what a tune, if you’ve not heard it yet.

Bandcamp Friday is today, don’t forget. Support somebody if you can.

WU-LU: South

There are great tracks. And there are great tracks that stop you dead. South is very definitely the second type. Producer-instrumentalist Wu-Lu’s restless beats are hyper-charged and on the move, loaded with pent-up energy … you just know something’s gotta give. And it does. It explodes in a harsh primal scream you can bodyslam to. Terrace Martin’s Pig Feet was the track of the year in 2020 no question, and South’s street action is already in the running for 2021. FEEL IT. South is this way.

HOLY FAWN: Candy

This is a year old but popped up last week and struck a chord or six so here goes. Cold Mogwai post-isms with dream-state vocals floating/drowning all around, you’d put money on a black metal scream and pace change to rupture the serenity. But Candy doesn’t do that. It just teases it in the background, instead pushing a martial rhythm to up the power. Get their Black Moon EP right here.

What else happened in January? Bowie five years gone, of course, but we don’t have time to reflect on it here. Hopefully a Bowie post soon. And Melvins and Tomahawk announced new albums – Working with God (Melvins, Feb) and Tonic Immobility (Tomahawk, March).

2021 already getting better.

’til next time!

amplifier wordsmith: the monthly rewind
amplifier wordsmith: the monthly rewind

2020 MUSIC: 4 MORE ALBUMS

Did you check these three beast albums of 2020 in a previous post? Feeling stuffed? Nah, course not. IT’S CHRISTMASSSSS…. so here’s some extra musical scoff from 2020. Non-metal this time, but still rocking hard like Rudolph on ‘roids.

JEHNNY BETH: To Love Is To Live

Savages’ Jehnny Beth out-savaged her band with I’m the Man‘s distortion fest, the first single from her solo album. No wonder Atticus Ross pops up throughout. No wonder she was down to support Nine Inch Nails this year. But, as with NIN, there’s a ton more variety and nuance here, from the icy sky-scraping opener I Am to the heart-acher piano and hushed breeze of The Rooms. But it’s Heroine that steals it, the kind of skitty jazz flutter that could have blown out from Bowie’s Blackstar band. A soulful, magnetic trip.

WIRE: Mind Hive

This could be a companion to Jehnny Beth’s album. Articulate, artful and fully capable of menace but opting for classy restraint, it’s well clear of one-dimensional ruts. But this is Wire, so this is obvious. Biggest surprise? The addictive Cactused, whose backing vocals make Wire-y pop perfection.

GIL SCOTT HERON & MAKAYA McCRAVEN: We’re New Again

Gil Scott Heron’s I’m New Here is so good that its 10th anniversary spawned two new collections. One is an expanded version of the original with an extra disc of tracks. The other is this, We’re New Again: a re-imagining by jazz drummer Makaya McCraven. And if that’s not the perfect frame to look again at Gil’s poetic street wisdom, I don’t know what is. The original’s cool electronics get switched for organic beats and tough swing, especially on New York Is Killing Me and Me And The Devil. I’m no jazz buff and hadn’t heard McCraven until this. But it’s a very smart reworking of an already great album.

JULIAN COPE: Self Civil War

Yeah, this was a welcome start to the year. Back when lockdown hadn’t been invented, the Arch Drude dropped Self Civil War and, cliche alert, it was a return to form. Cope is always essential, but not all of his recent projects sustained longer interest beyond the first fawning, as noted here. But this one does. Bookended by a couple of stretched out guitar sprawl epics like wot he used to do, Self Civil War earns repeat listens. Puts a smile on, too – see You Will Be Mist and Berlin Facelift. Much needed this year.

So that’s that for another year, a few highly nutritious non-pork scratchings from 2020. And I couldn’t even write words for Clipping’s album Visions of Bodies Being Burned, because I don’t know how to.

HAPPY CHRISTMAS! And check these other 2020 records and music highlights if you haven’t already.

2020 MUSIC: LOCKDOWN LEGENDS

Everyone knows it’s been a weird year. But who stepped up, musically, to make lockdown bearable and even enjoyable?

Here’s a shout out to those music-world bods who gifted us and made 2020 a hell of a lot more sane.

METALLICA

Of course Metallica. They released S&M 2. They did a drive-in show. They recorded stripped versions of Blackened and Would? from their homes and streamed an unplugged set. But best of all, they launched Metallica Mondays, right at the start of lockdown when we most needed some anchor points to stabilise our confused heads. What a move: put a whole gig online from any year at the same time every Monday. A weekly date. And they did this for the whole of lockdown #1, which meant about 26 consecutive weeks.

Best bits? The rambling, and always touching, Lars introduction brought a smile every time. The way Fuel kicked open the Munich 2015 gig. The House of Vans set from 2016.

But the 2019 Manchester set is the ultimate repeat view. Pissing-down rain made for many dramatic rock band visuals – the water spattered Master of Puppets drums being one, a drenched Trujillo doing Anesthesia (Pulling Teeth) straight after Rob and Kirk’s I Wanna Be Adored doodle being another (find it at 1 hour 6 minutes).

ROBERT FRIPP AND TOYAH WILCOX SUNDAY LOCKDOWN LUNCH

Did not see this coming. The diary entries that Robert Fripp put up during the height of lockdown offered an insight into his dedicated, reflective self. But these Sunday lunch performances with wife Toyah? Insight of a wholly different sort, the warmest of weekly invitations. Toyah always vibrant. And Fripp? Take your pick. Doing odd duets, cranking out Sweet Child O Mine, doing Nirvana… yes, it really happened and much more too. Got to love Fripp’s laugh at the end.

BANDCAMP FRIDAYS

Bandcamp already Do the Right Thing by musicians. And when the pandemic threatened musicians’ survival, Bandcamp stepped in with an initiative to support them: Bandcamp Friday. For any music bought on the first Friday of the month, Bandcamp waived their fees so that artists got more of the revenue. Perfect thinking. I found myself trying to buy something (and mostly succeeding) on each of those Fridays.

PRE-ORDERING NEW MUSIC

OK, not a legend in itself because it’s a verb, but it’s a behavioural change that struck me this year and, like Bandcamp Fridays, became another Right Thing to Do.

It’s Old Man Gloom’s doing. By pre-ordering their new album(s), they said, the record label (Profound Lore) would get some money in. Pre-order and you help keep things afloat. Deal. Same with picking up a pre-order down the local record shop … get some cash their way, help them survive 2020’s financial shitstorm. If you were going to buy the album anyway, be prompt if poss.

And you know what? It’s been fun doing this. It’s revived the excitement from adolescence when you just had to buy an album the day or week it came out. It’s easy to lose that experience as an adult. Reserving some purchases for physical release day brought a bit of it back. Nice.

DANNY CAREY’S PNEUMA DRUM CAM VIDEO

If you need meditation, this is it. This video makes you feel good to be alive. HOW DOES HE DO IT??? And how can watching someone master their craft somehow make it even more mysterious than when you hadn’t seen it? The ‘reaction’ videos get addictive, especially when it’s teachers doing the reacting. This is a great reaction video, mostly for the guy’s valid reason for not getting into Tool, and then his crestfallen expression at the end. You feel for the guy and love the fact that another Tool conversion is made. This drum teacher reacts clip is another goodie. OK, must stop. Wormhole beckons. But the star of all this is Danny Carey.

BBC RADIO 6 MUSIC

Or, whatever your chosen radio station is. Because our broadcasters have been unsung heroes in this shit year as well. Programming was changed just enough to reflect the bigger communal spirit. New features brought in listeners and recognised key workers.

As a listener, at home every day, I felt like we really were in this together. And the broadcasters did a stellar job of getting the balance right without being gauche, superficial or patronising. They entertained and informed and kept spirits up. MASSIVE THANKS TO 6 MUSIC (and not just because we’re friends with this guy).

2020 MUSIC: 3 GREAT ALBUMS

Festive greets to anyone who found this post! If you want exhaustive 2020 music tips, go to a proper source. If scant and quick is more your bag, here are three beasts that go down heavier than a frozen turkey on Christmas Day.

Ready? Let’s get stuffed. More to follow in later posts.

MR BUNGLE: The Raging Wrath of the Easter Bunny Demo

You know what it’s like when you haven’t played Slayer for a while and then, when you do, you’re left grinning and pulverised by their OTT? Giddy disbelief at the relentless ferocity in a song format. And it feels so good because it’s like coming home.

Mr Bungle The Raging Wrath of the Easter Bunny Demo
Mr Bungle: feelgood thrashing

This is what Mr Bungle 2020 captures too. Despite, or maybe because of, the pant-shittingly brisk pace whipped up by three core Mr Bungle mentalists and two Big Four godheads, it’s probably the feelgood album of the year. It’s frantic, vital and comes with a shitload of commitment and prep. Scott Ian said that to nail the complexity of the riffs, he broke them down into 1-2 minute parts and spent days at a time on a single fragment. Said he changes what he’s doing 93 times during Sudden Death. Said that only when he got up to 214bpm in warm-ups was he ready for the shows. Said he got arthritis from practising so hard. Coming from one of the longest serving riff meisters in thrash, this says a lot about the work that went in and you can really hear it. Theory nerd and scales master Trey Spruance had to learn how to play metal again so he could get through a track, then a gig, of intense metallic shreds.

Weirdest of all, they did all this to service a bunch of tunes by their 1986 teenage selves. Could it join the all-time thrash greats given that it’s both 30 years late AND of the time? Who knows. But the one thing you can’t escape is the love and affection oozing out of these speed metal grooves – love for the genre, for the source demo and for each other. This is not a band going through the motions.

And the more you learn about the backstory, the more magical the whole thing becomes. One day it might even become mythical: like, did it actually happen? It’s a proper sideways take on a reunion. But Bungle had the tools, brains and work ethic to do it. Treat of the year.

OLD MAN GLOOM: Seminar VIII Light of Meaning and Seminar IX Darkness of Being

The late Caleb Scofield was honoured post-humously on Cave In’s last album, Final Transmission. Now his distinctive bass force and song-crafting talent is honoured again on this double release by Old Man Gloom. Fucking hell. Every Gloom album is an event, such is their absurd mix of metalcore, drone, static, sci fi terror and primate myth-making, but these two albums hit a combined gear that shifts them nearer to their peak Seminar II-Seminar III-Christmas run. Has the loss of Scofield given the music a heavier purpose? Very likely.

Old Man Gloom Seminar XIII Light of Meaning
Snow Man Gloom: noise to the core

Across the two discs we get the full range of OMG moods and modes, amplified by Nate Newton, Caleb Scofield and Aaron Turner all sharing vocal duties. Also getting a mic spot and shaping the music is Stephen Brodsky – not a previous Gloom member but absolutely blood family. And the Cave In touch is obvious on tracks like Final Defeat and especially Death Rhymes, an acoustic sledgehammer to the gut and a peak moment from both sets. At the other end of the OMG spectrum, By Love All Is Healed‘s lyrical sensitivity is obliterated by Turner’s sub-human roar. And so it goes on. 11-minute sprawls, one-chord hammerings, deep space terror, super short concrete blasts, aching heavy beauty – all the Old Man Gloom elements you know and love, spread across two full-lengthers. Headphone bliss.

HUNTSMEN: Mandala of Fear

Never heard of this band until Stuart Maconie played the track Ride Out on his Freakzone show. Here are my words about the track from that month’s Rewind:

‘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, it 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.’

It’s all still true. And the rest of this double-disc album? A monstrous metallic rock effort. Doom and prog tinged but not remotely downer or indulgent. Aggressive vocals and clean harmonies. Flashes of brutality balanced by space-psyche soar. Everything in its right place. If Pelican had more range AND male-female vocals, this might be where they’d end up. A proper hidden gem.

Huntsmen Mandala of Fear
Huntsmen: just say Yes

So that’s that, three masterful metalworks from 2020. Check the next couple of posts for other 2020 music highlights.

’til then!

BUNGLED, BOWIED AND BLIND EYED

OCTOBER & NOVEMBER REWIND: NEW DAMAGE FROM MR BUNGLE, OUTSIDE LIVE FROM DAVID BOWIE, PUNK RAGE BY BLIND EYE

Halloween feels like an age ago now but it’s worth a mention because it inspired some great BBC 6 Music radio that week. Mary Anne Hobbs declared it Metal Week, which meant that shards of experimental metal shredded her mid-morning playlists – Duma, Sunn O))), Venom Prison, Divide and Dissolve, Boris and loads more. Ace to hear all that cranking out the radio before lunchtime, a proper thrill for the work-at-home brigade.

We got a couple of big-name album releases in October that we just have to celebrate, but first we’ll do our usual Rewind thing with a couple of one-off tracks that leapt pretty high these past few weeks.

LUCIDVOX: Amok

DIY, punk, psych, riffs, Russian folk mystery … these are the words you’ll see in the Lucidvox Bandcamp bio. What Amok delivers is post something, but what? It rocks, but there are no hooks. Not really. Instead there’s insistent, mantra-like rhythm and momentum under rough, semi surf-metal guitars. Maybe even a painterly post-Beefheart lick in the second half. Art punk? Who knows. A curiosity piquer for sure.

PIJN: Denial (worriedaboutsatan mix)

Denial is the first track from Pijn’s 2018 album, Loss – 5 minutes of GY!BE meets Pelican-styled metallics. West Yorkshire’s worriedaboutsatan keep the weight intact but build a mechanical, moodier electro ambience that pushes Denial into the darker recesses of the night.

KLEIN: No More Shubz

Wow. Some music seems to work not in genres but in sculptures, but how can you write that without sounding like a total arse? Summery Jane’s Addiction acoustics and vocalisms dissolve into an amorphous blackened space which folds in and out of its 3D self. Like looking off the earth’s edge. How did we get here? True moment of wonder. Shubz this way.

Right, that’s the tracks done. Now for some longer forms.

MR BUNGLE: THE RAGING WRATH OF THE EASTER BUNNY DEMO

It never made sense hearing Mr Bungle described as ‘Mike Patton’s extreme metal project’ when he first joined Faith No More. As we know, each of their albums is the precocious opposite of one-genre limitations, but now we have the reason: their early The Raging Wrath of the Easter Bunny Demo WAS metal. Thrash. But who knew? Barely anyone – Scott Ian excepted. For everyone else, Mr Bungle were Not Metal.

But 2020 Bungle is. This is Very, Very Metal, as the bastardisation of the logo shows. Anyone looking for Mr Bungle’s cross-genre perversions will be disappointed, but really, who’s not gonna get their oversized old-school grin on to this 56-minute batshit joyride? Mike Patton, Trey Spruance, Trevor Dunn and new recruits Scott Ian (56) and Dave Lombardo (55) annihilate – and they’re having blast. It’ll take a while for the zillion-plus riffs to sink in and the Bungle complexities to surface (surely they’re in there?), but this is one of the least expected and most welcome arrivals of the year. Does it rock? Fuck yeah! Bungle Grind is just one of many full-tilt highlights so buckle up and file it next to your Dead Cross and Anthrax maximum bpms. 100% unlike any other Mr Bungle. 100% Mr Bungle. Of course.

DAVID BOWIE: OUVREZ LE CHIEN

While Mr Bungle are in their fifties playing the music of their own youth, David Bowie was doing no such thing when he approached the big five-oh. In 1995, aged 48, he was doing his last bit of boundary-pushing with Outside and then Earthling a couple of years later.

For anyone who loves mid 90s Bowie and didn’t get to see his live shows of the time, they’re the stuff of dreams – especially the collaborative US tour with Nine Inch Nails. And so this new batch of live recordings from Dallas, October 13th, 1995, is for us. None of the Nine Inch Nails collaborations are included, but the fearless setlist is exactly what we want to hear. No Starman, no Life on Mars, no Ziggy, no Changes, none of the obvious 70s gear. Instead, six tracks from Outside, Look Back in Anger and Nite Flights. Andy Warhol, electrified into jerky, awkward full-rock action. The Man Who Sold the World, revamped bass-heavy atmospheric and miles better. Joe the Lion, roaring. And to hear Mike Garson and Reeves Gabrels lay their untamed gifts all over the show? YES. It’s a crack Bowie band, this.

(the second CD in this live series, No Trendy Rechauffe from Birmingham, December 13th, 1995, has just been released. Similar tracklist but some good switches too. Stream it if you can or check davidbowie.com for whatever comes next).

BLIND EYE: BLIND EYE

Not an October release but definitely new enough to incude is the first release from Nottingham’s Blind Eye. Devoid of all finesse, this is fast, loose punk hardcore with no smooth edges and even less polish. Early Motorhead, Discharge and Minor Threat inform the abrasive pace, except for 9-minute closer End which swerves into the kind of burnout you’d get from The Heads. Wakey wakey.

’til next time!

If Mr Bungle has stoked a Patton revival, here’s a bit more wordage – a Halloween playlist and a quickie Dead Cross write up

KING BUZZO’S OFF-KILTER ACOUSTICS

SEPTEMBER REWIND: NEW BUZZ. THAT’S IT

Yet again, September was Slayer heavy – it often is, don’t know why. Maybe it’s because a fair few of their albums got released around this time of year: Divine Intervention, God Hates Us All and Repentless all came out in Septembers past, Seasons in the Abyss was October. Maybe it’s because my own Slayer initiation was at the start of uni when a second-year student did me a Reign/South tape and Slayer finally clicked. Either way, Slayer fits autumn. Something feels very right about having your cool-aired mornings soundtracked, sped up and brutalised by Repentless and the still insane, still wholly OTT God Hates Us All. Dave Lombardo kills, but so does Paul Bostaph.

Anyway, new stuff? Not got round to much in September, so this will have to do.

KING BUZZO – Gift of Sacrifice
Buzz Osbourne put out his second solo acoustic album late August. Wrapped around Trevor Dunn’s elegant upright bass, it charts Melvins ground – I swear Housing, Luxury, Energy hangs off half a Stoner Witch riff or something, haven’t worked it out yet – but draws different textures and is, at times, mournfully heavy. There are no drums. There is no electric guitar. If you like Melvins, and especially Melvins Lite’s Freak Puke, you’ll take to this. Gift of Sacrifice is pretty short (35 mins) and the last 2 tracks are less essential, but the rest is easily Buzz/Dunn cool enough to justify your time. How his first acoustic album, This Machine Kills Artists, compares, I don’t know. Never bothered with it. But this one channels Melvins’ odd-spook very nicely.

Elsewhere, Budos Band and similarobjects – Amon Tobin psyche with Squarepusher turbo squelch? – barf collider-scopic worldly trips.

And some very exciting new stuff for October:
Robert Plant – Digging Deep: Subterranea anthology, released Oct 3rd
Clipping – Visions of Bodies Being Burned, released Oct 23rd
Carcass – Despicable EP, released Oct 30th
Mr Bungle – The Raging Wrath of the Easter Bunny Demo, released Oct 30th
David Bowie – Ouvrez le Chien (Live Dallas ’95), released Oct 30th

’til next time!

amplifier wordsmith: the monthly rewind

WORLD WENT MAD. JAZ WENT BLACK AND RED

JULY & AUGUST REWIND: JAZ COLEMAN, CLIPPING AND DUMA BRING THE URGENCY

What’s the big metal news of the last month? Metallica’s S&M2, of course – unless you hate Metallica, in which case the simultaneous ending of their Metallica Mondays gigs will be the bigger treat.

The S&M2 release won’t be exactly the same as last October’s cinema version, though I’m not sure what’s changed (haven’t played the DVD yet) but let’s hope it’s nothing too major. The original cut was musical cine-manna to me and damned near untoppable.

Right then, now for some scattered new tunes, including Nairobi noisecore from Kenya’s most extreme musical export. Probably. And you’ve GOT to stick around for that … haven’t you?

FRAN LOBO – Monster

Danceable industrial beats infused with liquid, near-gospel vocals …Fran Lobo’s Monster feeds our musical need for connection, shared experience and movement, somehow blending hard-edged rhythm and soul in a very heavy duty hip shifter. Welcome to a new church.

SHACKLETON/ZIMPEL – Primal Forms

Got 17 minutes to fill? Try this hypnotic body-soul stretch of hum, thrum, clarinet, electronics and shiteloads more. Always moving, always shifting focus, Primal Forms feels like an unfolding voyage through jazz-minded primal trance. To where? Wherever your headspace dictates. And if that happens to be an imagined mountain ensemble with urban tech trappings, fair enough.

CLIPPING – Say the Name

Candlesticks in the dark, visions of bodies being burned. So goes the chorus. No punches pulled, it looks and feels like social comment even though it continues the horror themes of There Existed an Addiction to Blood last year. But you’d expect nothing less from Clipping, and whatever concept drives their next album Visions of Bodies Being Burned (due in October), it will be timely and it will say something. Check the lyric video for Say the Name.

DUMA – Lionsblood

Duma’s album is reviewed in this month’s Metal Hammer. They’re a two-piece from Nairobi. And once you’ve heard this track, you’ll be giving massive credits to Mary Anne Hobbs for playing it on the radio at 2.50pm on a Thursday afternoon on BBC 6 Music. It’s like being trapped under a pneumatic drill with black-metal screams. Total overload and a mind-clearingly hostile assault …. burn your ears through Bandcamp then open your eyes to the lo-fi creepster vid.

BLACK AND RED – On the Day the Earth Went Mad

Jaz Coleman hooks up with didgeridoo ace (yes) Ondrej Smeykal under the Black and Red banner to give us exactly the kind of thing we want and need from His Jaz-ness – social comment with a bruising backdrop. Unlike his Killing Joke voice, there is no roar from JC here. Instead, On the Day…. sees him singing with restraint over crunching electro menace, intermittent shards of distortion and church-like symphonic swells, forging elegance and class from destruction and collapse. It’s the sort of thing Ministry should have grown into but never did. Looks like Coleman stepped up instead. Good job.

If that wasn’t enough of a Coleman hit for the month, he and Youth put out their Occular record – not a Killing Joke wannabe but an ice cool flow of instrumentals. Get a sample.

’til next time!

amplifier wordsmith: the monthly rewind

amplifier wordsmith: the monthly rewind

DESERT STORM SEND HEAVY OMENS

MAY & JUNE REWIND: FINNISH PUNISHMENT, FUTURISTIC FOLK, HARDCORE TRASH AND OTHER NEW SOUNDS FROM MAY AND JUNE

Fancy a bit of Triptykon in a summer solstice heatwave? Nope. Not. At. All. But, now that the clouds and monsoon squalls have returned AND THE NIGHTS ARE DRAWING IN, we’ve got a brief opening to revel in some typically darkened heft from Thomas G Warrior and ensemble. Requiem (Live at Roadburn 2019) is the full Requiem suite, live with the Metropole Orkest, completed specially for a one-off performance at the Roadburn festival. The new piece is the centrepiece: the half hour Grave Eternal, pitched black and long between parts I and III, Rex Irae and Winter. Heavy as a funeral.

Oxford behemoths Desert Storm launched their new album Omens in May. The previous album, 2018’s Sentinels, wasn’t just Desert Storm’s best album to date but one of the best metal releases of the last two years – file under Grizzly Bastard Rage and Groove. How does the follow-up follow that? It might be asking too much of anyone, and on first listen Omens sounds sombre, maybe even serious. Definitely less of the outward bodyrock vibe, if that makes sense. But it is loaded with commanding riffs and starts to reveal itself after a couple more listens. Desert Storm do not fail, more words will follow.

Away from metal, here are some other standout tunes from the past couple of (still weird) months.

TERRACE MARTIN – Pig Feet

OK, this ferocious track got priority status in the Lockdown Music: Week 12, but its power has not waned, even though the news is moving on. Mandatory listening and viewing, I reckon. For all of us.

HELEN MONEY – Coil

Cellist, composer and, on this track at least, post-rock gnarly dronemaker, Helen Money’s Coil takes Thee Silver Mt Zion’s delicate grandeur and smears it with King of the Slums’ canal-water dank. Doesn’t it? Definitely getting a whiff of Manco Diablo in there. But where KOTS linger at street and below, this track also soars way above the grime.

CASPAR BROTZMANN MASSAKER – The Tribe

Continuing the Southern Lord reissues, none of which I’ve got round to yet, The Tribe is another reminder of Brotzmann’s wild noise rock guitar assault from the 80s and 90s. Sheets of noise and moan. Whether we can last a whole album of longer tracks is a different story.

C DIAB – Street Scenes

There’s something both ground-level loco-motive and mountain-high questing about this instrumental, percussion-less voyage. When you learn that C Diab is Canadian and based in Vancouver, you paste your own visions of infinite plains and towering geological spectacle all over it, no matter how reductive that might be. Sigur Ros-ian swirl with tension-built motion.

SHARRON KRAUS – Tell Me Why

Folk melodies, naked vocals, delicate instrumentation … so far, so traditional. But there’s an ish. When the gentle electro (is it?) oscillation pulses ‘neath the acoustic, it somehow transforms the track and turns it into a part-ancient/part-sci fi hybrid that’s wholly addictive.

[struggling to find a Bandcamp link so scroll down here]

ORANSSI PAZUZU – Kuulen aania maan alta

The vocals might be ripped from a ragged black metal hand-me-down, but the beats, drones and processed fuzz on this track nod to Blanck Mass more than black metal. Maybe. Then again, what do I know? Anyway, this one plays out like a rapid exit from a carnival spiked with the bad stuff … metallic psyche with nightmare visions.

SCANNER – Step Ahead

Dreamworld travelscape. Whispered words and constant movement. Spectral flames and stretched realities. Or maybe just a fucking gorgeous slice of semi ambient Scanner. Yeah, that’s it. Transport yourself here.

TRASH TALK – Something Wicked

New hardcore needed ? Here’s a nice little 89-second wakey-wakey. Never heard them before, despite their 15-year life, but seeing that Thomas Pridgen – Pinnick Gales Pridgen, ex Mars Volta – plays drums is pushing the intrigue button a little harder.

’til next time!

amplifier wordsmith: the monthly rewind

amplifier wordsmith: the monthly rewind