LOCKDOWN MUSIC: WEEK 7 – METALLICA

METALLICA UNPLUG, DISCHORD STREAMS FREE ON BANDCAMP. As well as putting out their weekly Monday gig from the archives, Metallica have joined the broadcast-from-home set with an acoustic version of Blackened where you can watch all four players on a four-way split screen. Hilarious to see Kirk Hammett throw arena metal shapes over an acoustic track but it’s a tidy version, especially the verse arrangement and the solo. More acoustica to come? Hope so.

Given the frequent Henry Rollins mentions in these lockdown posts, it’s timely to hear that Ian MacKaye and Jeff Nelson, owners of the Dischord recod label, made the entire Dischord discography available to stream free on Bandcamp this week. Great way to sample their output, looking forward to educating meself in the sounds of Dischord.

How’s it going out there? How are you using music – pleasure? Medication? Adventure? A shield from the world? Probably all of the above and more. I know I am.

Albums played, lockdown week 7.

MAY 2
Killing Joke – Fire Dances

Killing Joke – Night Time

Joke, Fire: Love Killing Joke, never click with this album. Same with two or three of their early ones. Whenever the urge to revisit them rears up, I look forward to it, sure that their magic will be revealed this time. But in Fire Dances, it still hides. Try again next week?

MAY 3
King Crimson – The Elements Tour Box 2019, disc 2

MAY 4
Isis – Wavering Radiant
Ministry – The Last Sucker

Isis, Wavering: Love Isis, never click with this album … hang on. It’s true, though. Musically sublime – it’s the final step on the bridge towards Palms– it’s the album where Aaron Turner’s vocals went to shit or just got badly produced/recorded. Sounds like he’s trying too hard to be gruff and it’s forced, unlike all previous albums. And I hate saying that, because Isis are phenomenal.

MAY 5
Harvey Milk – Life … the Best Game in Town
Carcass – Heartwork
Metallica Monday – House of Vans 2016

MAY 6
Betty Davis – This Is It

Davis, This: Perfectly named compilation. I mean, how much attitude can a person pack into a blistering funk blowout? They Say I’m Different, Your Mama Wants Ya Back, Shut Off the Light, This Is It … the back end of the CD, funk at hard volume.

MAY 7
Boris – Heavy Rocks
Gnod – Infinity Machines, disc 1

MAY 8
Julia Holter – Loud City Song

Keep safe, keep the music ON!

Previous Lockdown Music – Week 6

LOCKDOWN MUSIC: WEEK 6 – SANITY

THE BAG OF SANE. This has been my saviour since lockdown started: a small bag packed with means of playing music. This is what we need to survive a world where personal space has gone missing. Just grab your personal portable music stuff – for me, it’s the ipod, a personal CD player, a personal DAB, headphones, a USB power pack, and a notebook and pen – and stick it in a bag.

Then keep it somewhere you can always get it. Because when the opportunity or the need for music arises, the last thing you want is to be scrambling around for Vital Items from a room that’s about to be out-of-bounds for a conference call, zoom social or whatever. You need to be ready, always. 100% music mobile in the confines of your own house.

And with a Bag of Music Sane, you’re sorted. BOMS will level your head and bring inner peace. Any corner, garage or back step can become your music world.

Sure, the smartphone could do all this, but that’s not the way I listen to music. Nil by Spotify. CDs are the dominant format, which is why I got a new personal CD player a couple of years back – to play them more often. And it’s been a great addition, especially when a creaking laptop renders the ipod less versatile than it once was (it’s still loaded, mind. Just not with any CDs bought in the last two and a half years).

Lockdown Music Week 6, here’s what it sounded like.

APRIL 25
Radio … often the way of the weekend. 6 Music

APRIL 26
Wire – Mind Hive
Nine Inch Nails – Ghosts VI

APRIL 27
Tenesha the Wordsmith – Peacocks and Other Savage Beasts
Bruford Levin – Upper Extremeties

CD skidding like a pigeon landing on a waxed floor? Nope. It’s Bill Bruford being a proficient time-shifting bastard in this high-muso hook-up with fellow King Crimson bass/stick player, Tony Levin. Guitar by David Torn.Trumpet Chris Botti. Impressive. It’s a mistake, nay shameful, not to play this more.

APRIL 28
Music Blues – Things Haven’t Gone Well

Metallica – Hardwired … to Self Destruct
Gnod & Joao Pais Filipe – Faca de Terra (new track)

Gnod: mentioned this track in the Rewind, but then it prompted a little Gnod dig, and … well, Infinity Machines was checked quickly (not heard it before) and sounded too vast not to order. Immediately. A little expensive, but surely worth it.

APRIL 29
Wire – Pink Flag

Listened to this album from start to finish to accompany the end of a book I just finished – Pink Flag from the 33 1/3 Series. Brilliant read, very much recommended. The last section has notes on each track in album order, so OF COURSE you need to play it while you read. Thing is, the tracks are shorter than the time it takes to read the notes. Must go back and read more fully. And yes, it does enrich the Pink Flag experience.

APRIL 30
Didn’t make a note. How remiss

MAY 1
Prince – Around the World in a Day
Henry Rollins – The Cool Quarantine 2

Keep safe, keep the music ON!

Previous Lockdown Music – Week 5

GNORTHERN POWERHOUSE

APRIL REWIND: GNOD GET PERCUSSIVE

Fewer new tracks than usual, as will most likely be the way with these lockdown Rewinds because exploratory radio listening is a little bit reduced, but we’ll give it a go. A couple of new albums got spun though, like Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs. Viscerals is as raging and space fried as you want, further pushing the Pigs’ move from hammer-heavy sprawls to concise beatings, and with Crazy in Blood they’ve gone and done a proper earworm. Not just the riff either, the chorus is knockout.

And Mind Hive by Wire is – on first listen – rich and involving, something that demands proper attention. Which it will get very soon.

OK, on with those tunes.

THE LEAF LIBRARY – An Edge, An Ending
Whirring semi-ambient soundscapes in persistent motion, warm crackles on the beats, not a million miles from worriedaboutsatan’s intimate beats. It doesn’t really need the vocals – by the time they come in, the track is lodged in your head as an instrumental – but the voice doesn’t detract either. Could it be the soundtrack to a free-flowing bike ride through city streets deserted by corona? Yes. It was. Do it.

GNOD & JOAO PAIS FILIPE – Faca de Terra
7-plus minutes of percussive trance and hypno repetitions – intriguing stuff, complete with dark turn and guitar spirals mid track. No bludgeon or infinite punishment, it’s too intricate and upbeat for that, yet the Gnod spirit flows strong in this new collaboration. Check it here.

MINISTRY – Alert Level
Borne out of lockdown, we have all-new Ministry. With Bill Rieflin’s recent passing, there’s been a lot of Ministry played round here so this is timely and EXCITING. Sure enough, apocalyptic visions and a no-messing riff run grooves in your head like mid 90s Prong, then … not much else. Even with former Tool man Paul d’Amour on bass, and even with our sky-high Ministry love wanting it to be great, Alert Level lets your attention go and drops to background. Will its simplicity work better on an album, like NWO does? Or will it never cut the Ministry mustard? Let’s see.

’til next time!

amplifier wordsmith: the monthly rewind

amplifier wordsmith: the monthly rewind

LOCKDOWN MUSIC: WEEK 5 – FRIPP

WHICH MUSICIANS ARE KEEPING YOU GOING? The weekly Metallica Mondays are a welcome treat, especially when Lars does the intro (haven’t seen James and Kirk yet). His rambles are warm and wordy (what else?), and the togetherness of the whole thing just makes you feel good. The chance to see all this live Metallica footage is a very cool gesture.

And if you haven’t done it already, check the way Fuel rips open the Munich 2015 show (2 minutes 30 seconds into the clip). THAT’S how you start a gig. Any band who can make that many people that happy is doing something right. Stick around for Disposable Heroes too, great live version.

A very different type of communication comes from Robert Fripp. As you’d expect. But also very much not as you’d expect. His daily ‘I Advance Masked’ diary updates have routine at their core, and this becomes quietly comforting and part of your own new routine. It’s like reading Henry Rollins’s books, you get the same format every time.

But Fripp occupies a wholly different space with lengthy, thoughtful, analytical explorations and excerpts from past diary encounters. And he sometimes reveals a side you’d never expect – I mean, did anyone see this coming?

It’s the scheduling that works well with these things when we’re locked down. The regularity. Sideways music moments to look forward to. Who are you tuning in to?

Lockdown Week 5. As predicted, no wall-of-metal soundtracks to block out the noise when working, because work ain’t happening. Instead, much more following of whims. The listening went something like this.

APRIL 18
Thom Yorke – The Eraser

Protomartyr – Relatives in Descent

Yorke, The Eraser: Harrowdown Hill was always a standout but the bass-shifting twitch of Black Swan is hard to beat. Forgot how strong this album is.

APRIL 19
Ministry – Rio Grande Blood

APRIL 20
Ministry – Houses of the Mole

APRIL 21
Ministry – Houses of the Mole

Ministry – The Last Sucker

(bit of a theme, this week …}

APRIL 22
Ministry – The Mind is a Terrible Thing to Taste

Gil Scott Heron & Makaya McCraven – We’re New Again

APRIL 23
PJ Harvey – The Hope Demolition Project

Desert Sessions Vol 11 and 12
Gil Scott Heron & Makaya McCraven – We’re New Again

APRIL 24
Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs – Viscerals

New Ministry track, Alert Level

Stay safe, keep the music ON!

Previous Lockdown Music – Week 4

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.