REZNOR ON RECORDS

AUGUST REWIND: PHYSICS PSYCHE, BARE-BONES FUNK, CREEPER BEATS AND ODDBALL ROCK, AND 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. Reznor doesn’t dismiss digital or the convenience of non-physical format listening, but he 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.

MARCH OF THE BIG GUNS

MARCH REWIND: CORROSION AND PRIEST DELIVERANCE THE GOODS. TOOL MAN DOES NAUTICAL OFFSHOOT

Some pretty big names came out to play in March, so here are our customary first impressions of a couple or three. Warning: contains heavy metals.

CORROSION OF CONFORMITY: No Cross No Crown
Not strictly – or even slightly – a March release, given that the vinyl came out in February, but who cares? A new record from a Keenan CoC is a 2018 event, so there’s no rush … everything in its own time. A bit like No Cross No Crown itself.

Corrosion of Conformity No Cross No Crown vinyl

No Cross No Crown: no corrosion of CoC values

As soon as Novus Deus’s heart-beating doom-tinged Thin Lizzy lead-in gets underway and into The Luddite, you sense an enormous record opening out ahead, and so it turns out to be. Up-sized rockage, guitar parts multiplied and solos snaking across the many twists of riff, it nabs the best of CoC and gives it the max factor. Corrosion Complete. Keenan’s Down-time must have done them a ton of good as a four because they’re re-fired with vitality – check Cast the First Stone’s raging burn, check the return of the instrumental interludes, check the southernfrieddoompsycheheft of Nothing Left to Say. It adds up to CoC just doing their thing really, really well. No surprises

except Queen.

Yes. Son and Daughter. YES. Grin your head off at the ludicrous brilliance of heavyweight Queen made over by these unglam non-pomp veterans, then submit to a face-gurning rock-out as Brian May’s timeless riff calls time on Corrosion’s studio return. They must have had a blast doing that one. No Cross No Crown: mature, wizened and quite possibly all we’ll need from a heavy rock set in 2018.

JUDAS PRIEST: Firepower
When you get an earworm two days after your first and only hearing of a track, you know something is horribly right or more-horribly wrong: stride forth Children of the Sun, you metallic hooksome bastard. From where? From Judas Priest’s new Firepower set. Seen the reviews? Best since Painkiller, they say. I didn’t buy any post-Painkiller Priest, so cannot join that comparative choir, but just one run-through of Firepower tells you that this album is wholly unadulterated metal, in Priest’s finest un-adult way. If you grew up with Painkiller, Firepower is a mainline to your adolescence – it is EXACTLY of Painkiller’s ilk. Everything feels either like you’ve heard it before or you knew it was coming, and yet somehow it feels right. Halford sounds no older, the twin leads bleed melody and the Allom/Sneap production insulates you from the world’s daily grind, maybe even from time itself. This is escapist listening. The title track and Evil Never Dies burst with thrash speed, but for the most part we get mid-paced metal that has all the metal/Priest tropes. It even ends with a fucking ballad. And you know what? GOOD. Lone Wolf is the biggest diversion, proving that Priest can pen a dirty lurch equal to Metallica’s greasier Load moments. So yeah, press Firepower and give yourself permission to bloody well enjoy it.

LEGEND OF THE SEAGULLMEN: Legend of the Seagullmen
Danny Carey. Brent Hinds. Holy Tool-odon, what’s this Seagullmen shit??? And can I wipe it off without burning my eyes?

If the name sounds like it fell out of a Mighty Boosh brain dump, so do the music’s characters. We’ve got The Fogger, The Seagull God King and a 400,000 year-old pirate called Redbeard, all mixed up in tales about curses and red tides and orcas and giants and oceanic karma. Hollywood director-animator Jimmy Hayward plays guitar. Hmmm. So far so daft, right? Got some decent chops lurking though (Carey, Hinds, Zappa Plays Zappa bassist Pete Griffin), but aside from Masto-man Hinds and his searing solos – Curse of the Red Tide and Rise of the Giant being two current faves – all other muso pretensions are lost to the epic seafarer metal demanded by The Doctor’s concepts. It’s not the mystical prog opus you might expect or hope – Tool meets Mastodon it definitely ain’t, and it sure won’t be challenging Tool in the sobriety stakes. But if you’re a fan of the players involved, you’re going to want to check it out, and because you’re a fan, you’ll look to give it a shade more benefit than doubt, even if it doesn’t match up to its players’ reps.

Right, that’s that. With Between the Buried and Me (Automata I) and Oxford’s own Desert Storm (Sentinel) also kicking out top notch new jams, as well as the still-unheard Mindfucker by Monster Magnet, it’s been a heavy month with no time for avant adventures. METAL ONLY.

Hang on, what’s that? Anthroprophh just put out Omegaville? Right…

’til next time!

EVIL BLIZZARD

REWIND FEBRUARY: NORTHERN STORMY, RUSSIAN FRENCH CONNECTIONS AND RUSTIC LONGFORMS

As we find ourselves frosted up in a Siberian super-ice, what else is there to do but check a few curios and new sounds from the past month? Winter puns fully intended, and if you seek stately gothic grandeur to soundtrack the whitened vistas wherever you are, you can do a lot worse than try Paradise Lost’s Medusa – worked well this morn on a rare drive to work, especially track 4: The Longest Winter. HAVE IT.

EVIL BLIZZARD: FAST FORWARD/REWIND

With all eyes focused on the freeze from the east, we took our opticals off a blizzard from the north … Evil Blizzard. From Preston. With a two-track cassette. Trading in the kind of mania that pigsx7 revel in, these two tunes come off like a PiL/Heads space explosion fired by a Relax-ing Frankie bass thrust (Fast Forward/Rewind) and Killing Joke’s tribal fury (Knock Knock Knock). Sci fi clatter-psyche for 2018, check the Evil maskies right here.

Evil Blizzard: Fast Forward Rewind cover

Tapes of wrath: Evil Blizzard

SHORTPARIS: Beceno

From Russia with glove … shady flickers. Perfect. Hear the voice and recall Beth Gibbons, then it clicks – we’re occupying an electro doom crossover space not unlike Portishead’s Third, but with more scope for going right off the rails. Album downloaded from bandcamp, eager to hear what Shortparis do on a longplayer. Thanks to Mary Anne Hobbs for playing it in the first place.

ELEPHANT9: Actionpack1

Snowegian, innit? The Most Arresting Fusion Award for February goes to this Norwegian three-o who, like countrymen Motorpsycho, live on Rune Grammofon and do a heavy line in prog jazz fusion, at least on this track. You gotta check the drumwork. Cobham Billy, much?

DOPE: DOPE ON DRUGS

The latest escapee from Head Heritage is an album by Dope – that is, Julian Cope and a bunch of his un-usual suspects, including Holy McGrail, ploughing another Rite/Black Sheep furrow of elongation, lo-fi and hi-reps, but we know the slow-burn score for these things by now. Leave Yourself Behind starts with a s.t.a.r.c.a.r. excess but drops it for a quarter-hour chant over a reduced Psycho Killer bass line. The Binding of Loki digs a Rite At Ya groove for even longer but pulls you in, if you let it. Essential? No, not yet, and perhaps not ever, but your inner drude compels you to check and here it is. Decide for yourself.

URTHONA: DESTRUCTION RULES

A far more satisfying Cope-related excursion comes from Urthona and, as ever, they take you OUT … side. Their drone does not oppress. Their drone is Of The Land – frozen moor tops, rusted heath, jagged outcrops, grey-full skies and glacial – yes, let’s use that overused g-word – glacial carve-outs. Tantric, tundric ebbs, this time enriched with non-axe instrumentation. Can’t explain this stuff, you feel it or you don’t, so give Invocation of the Ghosts of the Battle of Roundway Down a go and maybe check these few words on a previous Urthona outing while you’re out-there.

STEPHEN O’MALLEY & ANTHONY PATERAS: iii

Can’t touch this: Malley time. This track, a colossal no-flow from new album Reve Noir, does cut-and-splice for a voyeuristic flit between crackles, hums, pulses and guitar fragments. Glitchy and insular and inhabited by ghosts, get the proper story and snatch an excerpt on Soundohm.

Right then, we’re done – some first impressions from February. Stay warm.

’til next time!

WHO AM ANTHROPROPHH?

REWIND JANUARY: NEW TUNES AND NEVER-HEARDS. BRISTOLIAN PSYCHE AND LEGENDARY FUNK

This always feels like a great time of year for music – still wading through festive gifts and purchases, still digging the old-school retro licks dug out over the hols, and still not quite back in that work-life zone they call n*rm*l*ty. Hibernation is still viable. And now, those 2018 teasers and new arrivals herald a quiet awakening of noise – all the more exotic when the days are still short.

Here are some snatched tracks that have caught the ear this past month. Stay hunkered.

ANTHROPROPHH: Oakmoll
Yeah, who am Anthroprophh? Peddlers of fuzzed-up psycherama, if Oakmoll is any measure. Filthy heavy riffology with freeform squallin’ for a never-ending ending, like Holy Mountain jamming Funhouse or Mudhoney burning up some Space Ritual or whatever other combo brings GARAGE SPACETRIPS and FREE YOUR FUCKING WAH attitude together in one massive beaster. Headed by Heads man Paul Allen, no less. All new to me. Album imminent on Rocket Recordings, get a bandcamping sample right here.

FIRE!: The Hands
Slacker hypno riff over part-moto groove and spiced by Mats Gustaffson’s sax powerage, this is tough-sounding but mightily laidback too – muscular, yet without the need to showboat or flex. Unlike the sprawling free jazz and noise this Swedish three-piece tends to be tagged with, The Hands is a relatively straightforward, disciplined lock-in, but who knows what the album will bring? Check the Rune Grammofon label for Fire! news and sounds.

SKULL DEFEKTS: Clean Mind
So, you hear a band for the first time and they’re putting out their last record? Yep. No matter. Clean Mind breaks off a sparse three minutes of tribal post-punk and gothic no-hope squalor creep that almost caves in on itself. Hear it here.

BLACK MOUNTAIN: Space to Bakersfield
Stuart Maconie has played a couple of tracks from 2017’s IV album on his radio Freakzone lately, and this one’s a beaut. Space to Bakersfield is Black Mountain’s Maggot Brain – a 9-minute drift speared by gut-deep soloing that aches and lifts. More IV here.

PARLIAMENT: I’m Gon Make U Sick O’Me
The voice is cracked, like Gil Scot Heron’s I’m New Here, but it packs the G Force. Rhythm is ultra tight pared-back funk with space invader stabs and sweet brassy uplift. The band is PARLIAMENT. It sounds so now you’d never guess, and I didn’t when it bust out of the radio the other day. Life-affirmingly funked.

Right, that’s it for this Rewind. Don’t forget, new Robert Plant live DVD out in February.

’til next time!

amplifier wordsmith: the monthly rewind

amplifier wordsmith: the monthly rewind